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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Feb 08 2016 1:00pm
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 Instead of looking at the developing Pauper metagame, today I am going to examine two cards and talk about their applications in the new environment. The banning of Cloud of Faeries has opened the door for old cards to matter in different ways, so I believe that as the weeks go on we will begin to see windows for other established cards to get a chance in the spotlight.

First up is Read the Bones. This is what I had to say about the card when it was released:

 

“Read the Bones is not Sign in Blood. It is not Foresee. The new black card-drawing spell falls somewhere in between the two and reminds me of Compulsive Research. Read the Bones will not replace Sign in Blood in mono-black decks, as the three slot in Rats and MBC are both heavily clogged. What Read the Bones does do is makes nonblue control decks viable. Compulsive Research was a key card in Izzet Post and Fissure Post decks and lets the caster see three cards, netting two live cards. Read the Bones only nets one but gives the caster the ability to see up to four cards. Two dead on the top? Dig deeper. This is something that has not been seen on nonblue cards in Pauper ever. Read the Bones opens up deckbuilding options, letting non-Island decks draw cards as well. Expect to see this one pop up immediately—it is that good.”

-Theros Pauper Set Review, StarCityGames.com

 

While I may have been wrong about it seeing play immediately, the card has started to find its way into decklists as supplements to Sign in Blood. In a world where multicolor decks are the norm rather than the exception, it should follow that Read the Bones should see more play.
Breaking it down, Read the Bones will see between two and four cards on any given casting. This places it right between the two seen on Sign in Blood and the potential six on Foresee. It also costs one less than the blue Scry 4 spell making it a more attractive option on pure mana efficiency. Read the Bones always nets one card, unlike Compulsive Research which will often put the caster up one but sometimes simply break even. Compulsive Research is also worse in the developing state of the game when one actively wants to keep all lands drawn.
So what does this mean? Read the Bones is best in decks that can afford to take turn three off while also setting up for impactful plays on turns four and beyond. It is also ideal for decks running narrow sorcery speed cards, like Warren Pilferers, as a way to dig for these bullets in the mid-to-late game. Read the Bones also thrives with cheap answers like Dead Weight, Ghastly Demise, and Lightning Bolt. What Read the Bones does not want is to be the main source of card advantage in a reactive control deck. Instead Read the Bones works best in a midrange “tap-out” style control decks that wants to make the most of its mana every turn. Such a deck wants to capitalize on its opportunity to stick a threat that is just better than anything the opponent could muster. Gurmag Angler fits this bill as does the aforementioned Warren Pilferers.
Why Warren Pilferers? Black decks are often clogged at the three due to Chittering Rats, Phyrexian Rager, and Liliana’s Specter. Chittering Rats is the best of the three in these decks as it advances your own plan while delaying the opposition. Phyrexian Rager is next up but with the life loss piling on from Read the Bones, trading health for cards can get dangerous quickly. Enter Gravedigger and its ilk. These creatures “draw” a card and can be chained together if needed. I’m keen on Warren Pilferers at the moment because it matches up so well with all the creatures in Kuldotha Jeskai. The ability to win combats with Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher matters currently, so 3/3 is the where sweet spot starts.
But what about life loss? Read the Bones does come with a cost that is somewhat mitigated by Gain Lands. That is not enough, however, as if the sorcery is to be our main source of card advantage then we need to be doing some more. Radiant Fountain helps if our color commitments are not too great and Pristine Talisman can help recoup the loss over the course of a game. Tendrils of Corruption is another option if our mana base can routinely turn it on for four or better. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Pharika’s Cure also remain as options.
Here is a potential take on a Read the Bones fueled Rakdos list:

 

 

 

 

This deck is unpolished but has the capability of going long. Here Read the Bones mimics Painful Truths for its ability to outclass other threes in the format while also winning attrition wars. If there is one thing this deck is set up for it is an attrition fight.
As long as we are comparing commons to other cards, Corpse Churn is the black Impulse. It will often see four cards and at times you know the worst possible card you will “draw” with the instant. Having a known floor cannot be underestimated as it makes it easier to cast Churn for value - if there is a reasonable target in the graveyard than anything else flipped over is just gravy. Corpse Churn also happens to be in the same color as Gurmag Angler. In these cases it acts similar to Pyretic Ritual adding a mana specifically for Delver. When cast as an instant it can mimic Mana Drain for its ability to add mana during your main phase, if you are casting Angler that is.
My experiment with Corpse Churn in a Golgari shell showed me that while the card is powerful, it is much better suited to be paired with other instants. This deck wanted to both hold up mana for Churn but also tap out for threats. As such it was conflicted. Dimir Delver with Angler and Sultai Scavenger make sense as home for Churn. It is possible that Dimir Delver should run more creatures if it wanted to fully take advantage of Churn. I am also interested to see if it can work in a Tortured Existence shell with Auramancer to help retrieve any binned copies of the namesake enchantment.

 

 

Corpse Churn Golgari
 
Creatures
4 Putrid Leech
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Chittering Rats
1 Llanowar Elves
3 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Shambling Shell
2 Pit Keeper
1 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Undead Servant
3 Gurmag Angler
1 Invasive Species
21 cards

Other Spells
4 Unearth
4 Corpse Churn
1 Moldervine Cloak
2 Echoing Decay
14 cards
Lands
4 Jungle Hollow
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Swamp
1 Bojuka Bog
6 Forest
3 Crumbling Vestige
1 Mortuary Mire
13 cards

Sideboard
1 Moldervine Cloak
3 Duress
2 Moment's Peace
2 Doom Blade
2 Chainer's Edict
2 Brindle Boar
3 Caustic Caterpillar
12 cards
Pit Keeper

 

The Golgari deck was not a total failure. Corpse Churn and Pit Keeper was a match made in heaven. Those two cards in concert allowed the deck to keep up with opposing removal. The ability to regrow Chittering Rats, Putrid Leech, and Gurmag Angler proved troublesome for many adversaries. It was the power of Pit Keeper that turned me on to Warren Pilferers in the current metagame.

I also have a new appreciation of Moldervine Cloak. Outside Angler, Myr Enforcer, and Carapace Forger, every creature is basically the same size. The ability to take any creature, no matter how small, and transform it into a legitimate threat, and continue to do so, is attractive given the current Pauper landscape.

Painful Truths and Impulse are two powerful cards. It just so happens they both have an analogue in Pauper in black. While blue and red seem to be the best colors today, I see a bad moon rising soon.
 

Keep slingin’ commons-

-Alex
 

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