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By: Doctor Anime, Tomer Abramovici
Jan 28 2010 9:23am
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In my first article I discussed the basic attributes of the best pauper cards. Now I'd like to start talking about specific cards that approximately fill the same "role" in their respective decks. The goal in this series is to help you learn how to analyze cards and identify which ones work best in different situations. By learning how to choose the best cards to combat specific threats you anticipate you'll play against, you will end up with a deck better equipped to defeat the current metagame.

Please keep in mind that for every category I am only discussing a very limited selection of cards out of a pile of sometimes hundreds in pauper. My intention is to compare what I feel are the best cards that can be used in "generic" decks and fulfill the same role as closely as possible, which usually includes having the same casting cost. I'll be intentionally ignoring cards that are only good in specific deck archetypes, like cards with the Madness mechanic.
Enough introductions. Let's sit down, relax, and get some R&R:
Red Removal: 
Red hogs a large chunk of the best targeted removal in the format, giving you access to a whole bunch of cards that are able to deal with your opponent's creature threats for a mere 1cc. Let's look at some of the cards I consider the best of the best for this purpose, break them down, and see what matchups they're optimal against:
 Burst LightningSkredFireboltLightning BoltChain Lightning
Burst Lightning: Zendikar's update to Shock, burst does everything the old staple could do but with the added bonus of doing extra damage in the late game. Two damage is enough to kill any creature the popular "Rats Teachings" runs, as well as anything outside of Mogg Flunkies in Goblin's list. Against WW, however, the non-kicked version cannot deal with their Razor Golem, Aven Riftwatcher, or Kor Skyfisher, and you will be hard-pressed to use it to kill their Shade of Trokair against a smart pilot that doesn't leave himself tapped out. The kicked version can kill just about anything in the format. The fact that burn spells like this one have the added versatility of being able to be aimed at the opponent's face is always a welcome benefit as well, making them less dead weight against decks like burn and combo where your opponent isn't playing creature threats.
Instant speed offers the potential for tricks, which I feel is most noticeable when you are dealing with decks that rely heavily on creature enchantments such as the various Mimic decks and Angel Stompy / GW Cloak. These decks slap on incredibly powerful enchantments like Armadillo Cloak on their weak creatures, allowing you a small opening to 2for1 them before the enchantment resolves. But with the lack of these decks in the meta, this advantage is currently less useful than it used to be.
Also undermining the benefit of instant speed are Goblins, where again instant speed isn't as big a benefit as you'd expect, because if they have a goblin sledder on the board they will sacrifice the target of your removal to pump a different creature for that turn. This usually means you want to use your removal on your turn rather than theirs if one of the sledders show up, and they usually do. I'm not saying instant speed is bad, it's always great to have, but if you're up against a bunch of Goblin decks in a PE you probably won't notice the benefit too much.
Something else I'd like to mention that will be a recurring theme with these removals is their impact against MBCu and "come into play" creatures in general. When MBCu plays a creature like Mulldrifter, as soon as it lands on the board it has an immediate strong effect for its pilot. If you cast a removal spell on it, like Burst Lightning, you've only dealt with half the card -- the other effect has already taken place. This is essentially a 2for1 in the MBCu player's favor. So, while Burst Lightning can kill all of MBCu's creatures, it's not exactly a good trade. The only redeeming fact of lightning in this matchup is that you can still aim it at the opponent's face for straight damage.
Summary: Good against Goblins, Combo, and Burn. Decent against WW and MBCu.


Skred: Of all the 1cc removal spells we have in pauper, this card represents the highest damage potential. After all, it becomes more potent as the game progresses, eventually able to take out any target with ease. This is highly relevant against WW because it can snuff out even the pumpable shades for a mere R. When I was new to the pauper format I thought this was undoubtedly the strongest 1cc removal, regardless of color. And while this could be true in some cases (especially other formats!), I feel that currently it's rather lackluster. Being able to do tremendous amounts of damage to a creature doesn't really mean much if the vast majority of the threats you want to dispose of only have 2 toughness. Skred also lacks the versatility of a true burn spell and cannot be aimed at the opponent's dome, making it dead weight against combo, burn, and quite poor against MBCu as well.
Though it can eventually deal with all of Goblin's creature, it actually cannot respond on the first turn to one of Goblin's regular plays, a Goblin Cohort or Mogg Conscripts. If Skred was your only turn 1 play and you have a 2cc card to play on the second turn, it will hurt your mana efficiency, resulting in tempo loss. Doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's painful. Still, if you want some insurance against the rare fat creatures of the format, run two of these.
Summary: Great against WW. Good against Goblins. Bad against Combo, Burn, and MBCu. 
Firebolt: This removal spell sets itself apart from all the rest with the inclusion of the potent flashback ability. Being stuck at Shock damage, it suffers the same problem as Burst Lightning in not being able to kill some of WW's creatures. But, like Burst, if you have enough mana you can "kick" it (play it and the flashback) to kill just about anything if you really need to. 
Of the bunch, this is the only burn that actually has built in card advantage, which really sets itself apart as a truly powerful card. Sorcery speed hurts, but as I stated earlier, instant speed isn't as crucial in this current meta as you'd expect. The bottom line of this card is it generally kills two creatures for one card, which is stellar versus any deck creature-based deck that you'll come against. This is huge against goblins, giving you more answers to their deck's high density of threats. It's also an amazing answer to all those CIP creatures like the ones MBCu uses, because just like their creatures are card advantage, so is this one, so it negates their advantage over you. Just like the other burn spells, it can be pointed at the face for clutch reach to win games. 
Summary: Great against Goblins and MBCu. Good against Combo, Burn, WW.
Lightning Bolt: The king of burn is in the house! The new measuring stick of burn spells since replacing the longtime standard of Shock in M10, this removal spell wipes out 99% of the creatures in the meta, including those pesky Kor Skyfishers. Instant speed is good, and so is burn versatility. This means it has no bad matchup, only good ones.
Summary: Great against Combo and Burn. Good against Goblins, MBCu, and WW.
Chain Lightning: This is Lightning Bolt as sorcery speed. This makes it a strictly worse card, but certainly not bad. If you've already filled your deck with Lightning Bolt and Firebolt and still want more, this card is something you should consider.
Summary: Great against Combo and Burn. Good against Goblins, MBCu, and WW.
Deck Spotlight: UW Blink
My favourite blink deck so far, this UW list has been making a splash in recent PEs, usually piloted by Dust_ aka Andrea Lassi for strong results. Last time I checked, he has taken a 1st place win with it and has also top 8’d on another occasion. You can watch Andrea discussing the deck in-depth over here: 
Here we have a list that is quite capable of handling aggro with a healthy amount of lifegain from riftwatchers and crossroads, a roadblock in deft duelist, and counters to stop the nastier spells. All this is complimented by very strong card draw from the awesome synergy of mulldrifter and momentary blink, keeping your hand nice and full in the late game. Pestermites solidly live up to their name, annoying the opponent by delaying their alpha strikes or their ability to cast spells by tapping their lands (tapping an early karoo is especially painful). Guardian of the Guildpact is another underrated card these days, which can cause headaches to most decks you come across as it can only be removed by WW's Unmake, black control's Diabolic Edict or Innocent Blood, and UB's Agony Warp. Goblins can only pelt it with harsh language. All this leaves you with a deck that stomps on aggro and burn and is no chump against control decks, especially post-SB with access to all those Circle of Protections where it can easily stall the match long enough to drop it on the board.
I chose to talk about this deck so I could also sing my praises for the hands-down best reason to play UW, Momentary Blink. I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the top 5 strongest cards in the format. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most played cards in pauper history, being the key card in Orzhov Blink, Grand Entrance, Stars n’ Cogs, Cogs n’ Stripes, Battlefield Pauper, Blinksicle, and every other Blink deck that are basically all the same but people decided to give a separate name for.
Why is it so good? Well, it’s instant speed, meaning you can use it as a pseudo Negate against the majority of removal in the format, like Disfigure, Tendrils of Corruption, Lightning Bolt, Journey to Nowhere, Unmake, Agony Warp, etc. You can chump a fat creature and then blink your blocker, acting as a pseudo Fog too.
Even if we ignore the amazing benefits of instant speed here, it's still the best bounce spell in the format. I think a lot of people neglect the fact that most bounce cards puts the creature you bounced back into your hand. This beauty puts it right back into play for you without the need to pay the creature’s cost again, which is enormous tempo gain. Then for the cherry on top, you can use this card twice for built-in card advantage. Simply awesome.
Now thankfully, UW has more than enough creatures to abuse Blink to its fullest. Blink a spellstutter sprite and you can counter another low-cost spell. Blink pestermite and you’re either locking down lands or creatures. Riftwatcher gives you a healthy lifegain boost against aggro and burn, and makes the creature stay on the board longer. A solitary skyfisher on the board can even be saved from Diabolic Edict by blinking it and bouncing itself to your hand. You could also use a well-timed blink with skyfisher to re-use journeys by (ab)using the stack. And of course, the unquestionably best blink target, mulldrifter, conveniently fits in the colors too. A lot of goodness here.
The other slots for this deck are very easy fills; draw, counters, and removal are all things UW has a strong selection of. With all slots filled with good cards, there's no reason to splash a third color like black, which is a trend in some blink decks like Orzhov Blink. I really dislike the idea of splashing a third color in pauper in general, due to the unavoidable slowness and mana inconsistencies you'll run into. The exceptions to this, of course, are combo decks and green ramp decks, which do not rely on karoos or terramorphic expanse to mana fix. This deck is a great example of how dual-color is more than enough.
Although I like this deck, I do have some disagreements with some of the card choices. One card I’m not too thrilled about is Deft Duelist. She’s certainly not bad, but just not as good as you’d believe. You could say that she’s tough to block because the 2power first strike can kill most creatures in the format, and you’d be right, until your opponent drops a second creature on the board and double blocks the duelist, turning the combat into a 1for1 trade. This is a very likely scenario in pauper. The duelist is also praised for being a strong defense against decks like Goblins and WW. In fact, when talking about WW, Andrea Lassi said the duelist, "laughs at their creatures." While it's true the duelist can be a thorn in Goblin's side, they can easily skirt over the problem as soon as they play one of their eight goblin sledders, sacrificing one of their goblins to turn their 2/2 creatures into 3/3's to kill a blocking duelist, another likely scenario. And WW is actually the one that laughs at Deft Duelist, since Razor Golem, Shade of Trokair, Kor Skyfisher, Aven Riftwatcher, Order of Leitbur, and Benevolent Bodyguard all easily deal with her. Personally, I'd cut this card for more counters or draw spells.
Next up is a certain SneakyMcBluepants, aka Ninja of the Deep Hours. In my second article I discussed my dislike for my ninja, especially in decks without evasive beats or ways to protect your card-drawing bear once he's in play. Thankfully he's much better off here, with tons of evasive creatures to get him in play easily and counters to protect him. This is a big step up from his poor inclusions in decks like Rat Teachings and Parlor Tricks. When testing him in the deck though, I still didn't like him and ended up replacing him with Kor Skyfisher, which also provides the role of bounce but offers a far nicer 2/3 flying body. I guess it's up to personal preference here.  
Finally, by Andrea’s own account, Storm is a bad matchup for this deck. I think an easy solution to this without devoting too many SB slots would be Hindering Touch. It doesn’t get played often these days, which is a shame, because nothing feels better than stopping the grapeshot they spent 5minutes of your time preparing with one simple spell. I wouldn’t recommend UB decks to run this card since hand disruption spells are just as good and are useful in other matchups too, but UW is really boned over here and hindering touch does the trick.
Hindering Touch
Let your tears flow, storm players! They’re a healthy part of my diet!
You Make The Play:
Here’s the second installment of what may become a regular feature of my articles. This artificial scenario was a collaborative effort by me and First Strike. Please be courteous and don’t post the answer in the comments section. I’ll have the answer posted in the following article.
The Scenario:
You are playing a UW control list similar to the one featured in this article’s “Deck Spotlight.” Your opponent, Jimmy, is playing MBC. It’s been a grueling first game that has nearly decked you both, and though you’ve been putting up a good fight, things are looking grim. Jimmy finished his last turn by playing crypt rats. His next turn he can burn away your remaining life with the rats, but if you're up to any funny business this turn he can still activate it for 1. To make matters worse, you know Jimmy runs four Corrupts maindecked and you’ve only seen one so far. With only three more cards in his library, you’re quite certain that after his next draw he’ll be casting one at your face and there’s nothing you can do to counter it.
It’s your turn. You draw Mulldrifter. You have one more card in your library, and looking at your decklist, you know it’s Deep Analysis. Your first main phase starts right now. Win this turn.
Life total: 3
Lands: 4x Kabira Crossroads, 10x Island, 5x Plains
Cards in library: 1 Deep Analysis
Useful cards in graveyard: None
Life total: 7
Lands: 24x Swamp (1 untapped)
Cards in hand: None
Cards in library: 3
Useful cards in graveyard: None
Doggie Style:
One last thing to wrap things up: congrats to fathom for piloting Dead Dog to 10th place last PE! I was told about this player while the PE was still underway and got to see a replay of him steamrolling a goblins deck 2-0. He ended up going 4-2. When I asked him what the losses were, he told me he went 1-2 against a goblins deck due to mana screw and lost to storm due to a mull to 5 and not seeing any discard cards. Hard luck, but I'm proud to see that my list is doing well.
Here's a revised list that I'm working on right now. Gone are the Rancors, making room for maindecked Festercreeps, which are strong against WW / Goblins / Elves / Storm that have been showing up last PE. Keep in mind the only reason to play the creep instead of Crypt Rats is because it destroys WW's prot black creatures, the maindecked Order of Leitbur and sideboard Obsidian Acolyte. If you have no fear of those cards and want a more powerful sweep, go for the rats.
The maindecked creeps added more room in the sideboard which I filled with more combo-specific hate (Okiba) and more Stinkweed Imps as an answer to this deck's weakest matchups, flyer-heavy decks like UWcontrol and Faeries.
I'm also still tweaking the madness / discard ratio, adding in two Brain Gorgers. 4/2 creatures are amazing and their only real poor matchup are against goblin decks. Just remember that if your opponent has a chump blocker, use the hounds / mongrels to play the gorger BEFORE the "declare blockers" step, or else you'll be chump blocked and the opponent will gladly sacrifice the already doomed blocking creature. 
That's all for now! If you want a specific topic addressed in the future, feel free to make a request in the comment section.



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