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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jan 12 2015 1:00pm
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It’s that time of year again. The calendar has turned and it is time for those of us who cast commons to devour a spoiler only to find that most of it is gristle getting lodged in between our teeth. It is a reality of Eternal formats - the barrier to entry is incredibly high.

In Pauper this is exacerbated. It is very rare that commons have access to abilities that spawn entirely new archetypes or give credence to the fringes. Rather the rarity is used to showcase the basest implementation of mechanics and reinforce the color pie. Logically it follows that the decks we tend to see in Pauper tend to reflect the different zeitgeist of the colors and guilds - going with the flow makes sense given the card pool. For a study in the philosophies of the color wheel one only needs to look at Pauper to have a rather comprehensive understanding of the basics.

So we come again to the past in Fate Reforged. Being a small set that needs to serve both Khans of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir the chance for some off the wall card is low. Commons in this set are restricted in that they have to support two (allegedly) different draft formats while feeling cohesive with both. While ambitious for Magic design and awesome from a fan perspective it can leave Pauper mages wondering “What does this set have for us?”

The answer is not much. Do not misunderstand me - this set looks awesome and I cannot wait to get my hands on the cards for limited, Cube,and Commander. Pauper acquires a few options yet nothing appears to have a capacity of impact of a Gray Merchant of Asphodel or a Treasure Cruise. No cards in Fate Reforged matter in fighting my current vote for monster under the bed in Esper Familiar Combo.

Pauper, being an Eternal format, has the aforementioned high bar to entry. When looking at a set for the first time I am on the watch for cheap cards - ones that cost one or two mana - that have an immediate impact. At three mana and above the amount of impact has to scale, almost exponentially, with cost. Now there are all sorts of mitigating factors involving cost - delve is a recent example of this but expensive green cards also fall into this camp - but more often than not for a new card to matter it has to have an excellent rate.

Fate Reforged does include some cards of this nature. Abzan Advantage is one such card that can take out a pesky enchantment while increasing the threat potential of a small creature. In Hexproof mirrors such a card is an interesting, albeit blunt, option. On the play this can neuter a Utopia Sprawl or Abundant Growth while making a Gladecover Scout more dangerous. Abzan Advantage may have some utility in decks seeking to fight blue control that sides into Curse of the Bloody Tome kills. Abzan Advantage’s shortcoming is that it cannot target and therefore gets weaker the longer the game goes for decks featuring multiple enchantments. While I would not be shocked if a deck eventually picks this for its way to fight enchantments, the added flexibility of older options makes them more attractive at the moment.

Sandsteppe Outcast represents three power for three mana in all situations. While not the best rate this is acceptable in both varieties of White Weenie. The modal nature of the Outcast gives it some extra oomph. The ability to split three points of offense across a 2/1 creature and a 1/1 with flying is actually quite good. Compare this to Attended Knight and Mardu Hordechief - both which provide the same amount of power but only on the ground. As cards like Doomed Traveler and Battle Screech have demonstrated the ability to get a “free” 1/1 creature with flying is not to be under estimated. Sandsteppe Outcast, in split mode, comes with added Chainer’s Edict protection. This alone makes it worthy of another look.

White Weenie, at its core, is a deck about obsoleting opposing removal. The traditional version plays creatures that act as an army in a can. In turn every Lightning Bolt and Disfigure pointed at a Loyal Cathar only does half the job. Sandsteppe Outcast fits this mold to a T except it also is a better threat at 3/2 against decks that do not overload on kill spells. While not a game changer at all Sandsteppe Outcast provides a very strong contender for a competitive slot in aggressive white decks.

Prowess presents in interesting Pauper puzzle. Cards like Delver of Secrets, Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops show the benefit of a spell based offense. Prowess is similar except the +1 bonus reduces the chances of a one shot kill. Instead it adds a kicker of one damage to many cheap spells. My love affair with Jeskai Student is documented and I am not nearly as high on Jeskai Sage. Sage is clearly more fragile but is in a better color for spells. On top of that it trades very well with removal. I can easily see Jeskai Student being a two drop in more aggressive Delver of Secrets decks by replacing Frostburn Weird or slotting in fine if Cloud of Faeries gets banned.

Jeskai Student’s has two main points in its favor. The first is a natural resiliency to Lightning Bolt - any spell becomes a good foil to the red staple. The second is the ability of the white deck to run Gods Willing. While not a format staple Gods Willing does work with Jeskai Student, saving it from all manner of removal spells while setting up future prowess triggers. In this way Gods Willing acts as a situational all-star, precisely the kind of card most sets add to Pauper.

As alluded to previously, delve performs some serious magic turning an expensive spell into something far more reasonable. Gurmag Angler is one such card. Sultai Scavenger and Hooting Mandrills are similar except that they have three and four toughness respectively, making both susceptible to Flame Slash and a metalcrafted Galvanic Blast. Grumag Angler mitigates this with five toughness. At 5/5 it has the potential to be the cheapest possible beater in Pauper. Looking at other formats let us take a moment to compare the zombie fish to Tarmogoyf. The Modern and Legacy staple is most regularly a 4/5 for two mana. Ideally Gurmag Angler should cost the same for a similar level of efficacy, meaning at least five cards in a graveyard. How can one make this happen?

Blue seems like a reasonable starting point. Starting on turn one with a Terramorphic Expanse and Gitaxian Probe, we are just one Thought Scour away from a turn three Angler. It does not seem outside the realm of possibility for Gurmag Angler to team up with Delver of Secrets in a Dimir flavored tempo deck. For example: 

UB Delver
A sample deck
Creatures
4 Delver of Secrets
4 cards

Other Spells
4 Jeskai Sage
4 Gurmag Angler
3 Treasure Cruise
4 Mana Leak
4 Vapor Snag
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
4 Thought Scour
3 Ghastly Demise
2 Lose Hope
28 cards
Lands
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Dismal Backwater
7 Island
5 Swamp
20 cards
 
Treasure Cruise

 

There are other options, of course. Green provides Satyr Wayfinder, Commune with the Gods, and other graveyard enables. Red can give Faithless Looting and cheap burn to clear the path. However the ability to turn enablers into extra damage via Jeskai Sage and Delver of Secrets is rather exciting.

Red is the color that stands to gain the most from Fate Reforged. Collateral Damage is another in a long line of Lightning Bolt variants with a drawback. Here the downside is the voluntary loss of a creature. While Burn can make great use of Shard Volley and that card’s cost of a land, Collateral Damage is more at home in Goblins thanks to cards such as Mogg War Marshal. Normally Goblins will run a supplement for the ubiquitous Lightning Bolt and sometimes settles for Chain Lightning. Against opponent’s opting not to run Mountains Chain Lightning is fine, but Collateral Damage is a safer choice in an open metagame. The fact that Collateral Damage is in instant also makes it easier for a Goblin deck to close out the game at the end of an opponent’s turn.

That subtle difference becomes important with the addition of two goblins with dash to the fold. Goblin Heelcutter is interesting in that it can help Goblins force through damage in the late game against decks with solitary blockers such as Mono-Black Control or Spire Golem decks. Mardu Scout, on the other hand, is fine at all stages of the game acting as a reasonable threat while also repeatedly turning on Foundry Street Denizen. Mardu Scout also lets Goblins make better use of its mana in the late game while not hindering board development. While untested a potential post-Fate Reforged Goblins list might look something like this: 

Goblins Reforged
A sample deck
Creatures
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Mogg Raider
3 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Cohort
4 Mogg Conscripts
3 Sparksmith
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Mogg War Marshall
3 Mardu Scout
1 Goblin Heelcutter
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Death Spark
2 Collateral Damage
6 cards
Lands
18 Mountain
18 cards
 
Goblin Bushwhacker

 

Whisperer of the Wilds is an intriguing green card except that it lacks a home. The jump from one to two extra mana is huge but the speed of Pauper makes it so that this mana dork is just a tad too slow. Similarly Frontier Mastodon might comfortably into Stompy decks that can make ferocious thanks to a Rancor on a one drop but there may simply be more mana efficient options.

The cycle of gold cards gives Pauper Harsh Sustenance. Best suited for a black - white tokens strategy the core already exists thanks to Battle Screech and Triplicate Spirits. It will not take much imagination to find space for some Scoured Barrens or Orzhov Guildgates to enable an instant-speed token ball of doom.

Before wrapping up this review I want to talk about Manifest. Appearing on six commons, on in each color and again on Ethereal Ambush, this new ability seems powerful in Pauper, but I am uncertain exactly how powerful. For the purpose of this discussion I will be looking at Soul Summons, Sultai Emissary, and Write into Being as they are the ones most likely to see play thanks to their mana cost.

Manifest takes a card from the top of your deck and turns it into a creature. That alone is enough to make it notable as it removes a card from the library, and while it is a stretch it can be said that it draws a card directly to the battlefield. Combined with scry or other library manipulation, cards with manifest can turn any creature into something with proto-morph.

Going back to White Weenie let's look at Soul Summons. White Weenie is traditionally a creature dense deck so Soul Summons has a good shot of hitting a creature. This can be exciting if the creature manifested is a Doomed Traveler or a Loyal Cathar. A 2/2 can often draw a removal spell but turning it face-up into one of these two creatures means that you are up a card in a sense because often a Shock style card would not be spent to deal with such a resilient creature.

Write into Being operates as a creature for the sake of attacking but as a spell when in relation to Delver of Secrets. Combined with ability to mimic scry it is not out of the realm of possibility that Write into Being sees play. That being said Write into Being needs a different home than Delver and probably isn’t good enough to get Voidmage Apprentice to see play.

Sultai Emissary is a lot like Butcher Ghoul except in creature laden decks. There the Sultai Emissary is far more powerful in that it can draw much larger creatures directly into play upon death. Skinthinner becomes attractive for its ability to Doom Blade. Zombies are already a tribe on the cusp and something like this could push it past the fringes of Pauper: 

Zombies Reforged
A sample deck
Creatures
4 Carrion Feeder
4 Viscera Seer
4 Rotting Rats
4 Skinthinner
4 Ghoulraiser
4 Viscera Dragger
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Butcher Ghoul
4 Sultai Emissary
2 Gurmag Angler
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Duress
12 cards
Lands
18 Swamp
18 cards
 
Rotting Rats

 

Fate Reforged provides Pauper with some interesting choices but nothing that changes the landscape. Here are the cards I would pick up:
 

4 Abzan Advantage
4 Sandsteppe Outcast
4 Soul Summons
4 Jeskai Sage
4 Write into Being
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Sultai Emissary
4 Collateral Damage
4 Goblin Heelcutter
4 Mardu Scout
4 Frontier Mastodon
4 Whisperer of the Wilds
4 Harsh Sustenance
http://media.wizards.com/2014/ujehvsbfrf153/en_yptuko26xj.png

 

 

Keep slingin’ commons-

-Alex 

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