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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
May 11 2015 1:09pm
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The first Modern Masters was rather unexciting for Pauper. Bound in Silence sees some fringe play in Rebel decks but beyond that there was not much for those who battle with commons. Vintage Masters showed us what was possible with the addition of Battle Screech. Modern Masters 2015 Edition does not suffer from the same fate as its paper ancestor with 18 cards shifted to common and a third of them seemed poised to see play. One in particular is going to sucker punch the format and change the way things are done.

I am speaking, of course, about Gut Shot. Shifted down from uncommon, this New Phyrexia instant is going to make its presence felt almost immediately. Pauper is a format defined by its creatures and quite a few of them have exactly one toughness.

The elephant in the room is Delver of Secrets. The Delver deck, while now playing second fiddle to Mono-Black Control, is still a force to be reckoned with that exerts a unique pressure on the format. The cold hearted opening of Delver of Secrets into Cloud of Faeries with a Spellstutter Sprite backup has slammed the door on more two drops than one can reasonably count. The sequence sets up an environment where aggressive strategies have to focus on high power one drop creatures to play around such an opening (by playing two on turn two) or hope to win the coin flip. Gut Shot breaks up the party. For free.

Consider the same opening from Delver. At any point a single Gut Shot can ruin their plan. You hand is soft to an Insectile Aberration? Gut Shot it before it is flipped. Need to resolve a two drop? Run it into their Spellstutter Sprite and Gut Shot the flash faerie with the trigger on the stack. Sure, Delver still gets to run Counterspell and other fantastic cards, but one of the most soul crushing openings has now been rendered less effective. On top of this Delver itself gets to run Gut Shot, making the mirror a high stakes game of “is my 1/1 going to die?”

Gut Shot changes everything.

I’m only scratching the surface here. Gut Shot has huge implications in attacking Stompy’s engine in Quirion Ranger. Stompy uses the Visions staple to help reset land drops, trigger Landfall, and generally pull all sorts of shenanigans. While Stompy is well suited to run both Gather Courage and Mutagenic Growth, it has shied away from these cards recently. I expect to see Gather Courage back in force once Gut Shot becomes legal.

And that’s the biggest change - Gut Shot is going to have an impact on how decks are built, not only how they are played. The prospect of facing a tempo loss for casting a one drop changes the entire pace of play. Now a one toughness creature is going to have to either be resilient to Gut Shot or trade at value. Here we see where a card like Jeskai Sage can shine. Jeskai Sage is a creature that can invalidate Gut Shot on two different axes. Squadron Hawk and Battle Screech also make sense in this new metagame. Finally, cards like Sultai Emissary and Brindle Shoat could see more play all because decks now have to respect the truth that their one drops are not long for this world.

There has been some talk of Gut Shot finding home in the Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops blitz deck. I am not so sure that this will actually come to pass. The goal of this deck is to chain spells together to connect with a sufficiently large creature, aided by Artful Dodge, Shadow Rift, or Temur Battle Rage. The deck often runs Gitaxian Probe as a free spell, card draw, and threat assessment. Gut Shot, however, does not do any of these things. The trick is that the Izzet Blitz deck does not actually care about blockers or opposing creatures. Izzet Blitz also has the advantage of running both blue and red and has access to powerful cards like Dispel and Pyroblast which are excellent at fighting Delver. Will there be times that running Gut Shot in this deck is correct? Absolutely, but I do not think it will be the baseline. 

Thief of Hope and Plagued Rusalka deserve to be discussed together because in all likelihood they will be found side by side. These two cards represent some of my favorite things in Magic. In Thief of Hope we have a grindy long game card that also has graveyard synergy. Plagued Rusalka, on the other hand, is a sacrifice outlet that can affect an opponent’s board - something that Pauper has lacked until this point. Together, along with Hana Kami (from the first Modern Masters) they can form the backbone of a grindy Golgari deck. Thief of Hope, in conjunction with Hana Kami, Soulless Revival, and another Arcane spell, represents an inevitable end game.

Spiritcraft Rock
Proposed Pauper deck Alex Ullman
4 Hana Kami
4 Plagued Rusalka
3 Disowned Ancestor
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Thief of Hope
4 Putrid Leech
23 cards

Other Spells
3 Rend Flesh
2 Soulless Revival
1 Death of a Thousand Stings
3 Kodama's Reach
1 Death Denied
2 Nameless Inversion
1 Chainer's Edict
4 Jungle Hollow
1 Polluted Mire
18 cards
3 Golgari Rot Farm
8 Swamp
8 Forest
19 cards
Hana Kami


Black-green? Check. Putrid Leech? Check. Graveyard engine? Check. There are very few decks that will come as close to this one in representing how I want to play a game of Magic. The goal is to set up a game state where you are simply looking Arcane spells and spirits to eventually put the game away. The fact that this deck gets to use Satyr Wayfinder as part of its engine excites me to no end.

Plagued Rusalka is poised to play in other decks as well. While it does not have a home immediately, the ability to turn investments (creatures) into removal at a low cost, while also turning on death triggers, is something new and exciting for the format of commons. 

Sphere of the Suns presents another option for multicolored midrange decks. While Prophetic Prism may draw a card, Sphere of the Suns accelerates. Suddenly playing a midrange deck with two-colors-and-a-splash becomes viable. Pauper also seems to have a love affair with Perilous Research and Sphere is tailor made to go with the blue instant.

Sphere of the Suns adds another layer to the progression of these decks. Played on turn three it can allow the controller to leave up counter magic. On turn two it allows turn three to be a threat (or two) while also leaving up a response. It is not impossible to imagine a deck that uses Sphere of the Suns in conjunction with Kor Skyfisher to get to a chromatic late game. 

The last card that excites me is Viashino Slaughtermaster. Double strike is not an ability we see on commons very often and with good reason - it’s about the curve. Slaughtermaster can hit hard thanks to cards like Titan's Strength and Brute Force and with red removal the path will often be clear. The trick is looking beyond the activation cost - Viashino Slaughtermaster is not a card that requires black and green mana; it is mono-red.

Now that does not mean the Conflux uncommon needs to be in a deck with only Mountains. When paired with green it can wear Rancor very well. White provides cards like Ethereal Armor or Hopeful Eidolon. Of course red gives Furor of the Bitten and Madcap Skills, all of which turn Viashino Slaughtermaster into a serious threat.

Red Deck Wins
Proposed Pauper deck Alex Ullman
4 Vault Skirge
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Viashino Slaughtermaster
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Borderland Marauder
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Titan's Strength
3 Madcap Skills
3 Furor of the Bitten
2 Fireblast
4 Chain Lightning
20 cards
20 Mountain
20 cards
Viashino Slaughtermaster


As for the other cards, here are some quick thoughts: 

Conclave Phalanx: Interesting sideboard option and top end for token strategies. 

Skyhunter Skirmisher: Does not do enough for three mana, but it’s very close. 

Telling Time: An interesting option that could see play, but the threshold for cards like this in Pauper is Mount Everest level. 

Thrummingbird: Interesting, but probably not. 

Vigean Graftmage: Too slow. 

Ghostly Changeling: It is a zombie, which may matter. 

Dragonsoul Knight: Someone will try to make this work. That person will fail. 

Inner-Flame Igniter: Too expensive. 

Scion of the Wild: This card is exciting, but looks like it will only be one power behind where it needs to be to see play. 

Alloy Myr: Scuttlemutt isn’t seeing play. 

Cathodion: Maybe sees play as a three drop in a multicolored deck. 

Runed Servitor: Giving your opponent a card is pretty bad. 

Sickleslicer: Could be a top end aggro mirror breaker, but likely too slow. 

All I know is that if Modern Masters 2015 Edition has half as much impact as I hope, I will be eagerly awaiting the 2017 rendition of Magic’s greatest hits. 

Keep slingin’ commons-


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