jcf's picture
By: jcf, Jose Freitas
May 29 2019 9:18am

Ban Hammer Down:

If you looked at some at some of the Pauper Challenge recent finals, it became pretty clear that something had to be done. Blue Tempo decks, Dimir and Izzet, were taking over the competitive scene in a way we can certainly call unhealthy for the format.

They did it, and that probably means more diversity, at least to some degree. While Gurmag Angler, Delver of Secrets and Skred will definitely still be part of the metagame, the oppressive combination of Foil and Gush is no longer possible. Meaning players will have to actually have to pay mana to draw cards and counter spells now, losing tempo to obtain that card advantage and disruption. It seems fair. Maybe that is a good thing after all.

Aggro will probably have some room again, big control will certainly rise and combo might gain some space as well. Before Foil was downgraded to common, the metagame was pretty healthy, I hope it gets back to that state again.

That said, many times when I join a League I am not worried about playing the very best deck in the format at that moment. I play MTGO primarily to have fun and playing the same deck over and over again feels fatiguing to me. Also, at least in the Friendly Leagues I joined, I didn't face Dimir Angler at a preposterous rate. Maybe twice in the same league.

I remember back when Esper Familiars took over the format and that was way worse. Not only would you face it three, four times every league you join, but the games were very non-interactive and the deck was almost impossible to beat. You could have all your permanents  - including lands - bounced back to your hand as early as turn three, while opponent kept drawing one billion cards in the process.

I never felt Dimir Angler was as absurd as Esper Familiars, but I did feel it was a bit to good for the format. I am glad Gush is gone.

So, considering the format is changing, this is a good time to bring new ideas to the table. There are many interesting cards from the recent sets I feel like playtesting with and also a couple old cards I think you should be aware of in this new world of Pauper.

Ten Cards From War of the Spark and Ravnica Allegiance:

War of the Spark looks like a powerful set in the common cards department. There are some interesting new cards that might become part of the metagame or at least show in the casual competitive scene. Ravnica Allegiance also brought a couple interesting cards to complement the list.

Here are some new cards I feel like playtesting with in this new Pauper format:

1 - Ob Nixilis's Cruelty:

Good removal is an important part of Pauper and this one seems to have what it takes. It is a bit costly, but it is also quite versatile. It will take care of almost any problematic creature you could face, from Gurmag Angler to Stormbound Geist. Exiling stuff can be very relevant in some matches and it is splashable. If you are on Orzhov or just monoblack, Unmake is probably the better option, but for other dark guilds, Ob Nixilis's Cruelty could be a relevant a tool.

2 - Vivien's Grizzly:

If there are two things green decks like they are mana sinks and ways to generate card advantage. Vivien's Grizzly gives us a reasonable body early game and a repeatable card advantage engine later, giving green midrange a boost. Worth some testing with Urza lands. It also looks really good in Defender Combo decks.

3 - Spark Reaper:

Regarding midrange, black got this nice piece. I always felt monoblack needed more draw engines to keep up with blue decks. Thorn of the Black Rose helped there, but Spark Reaper might give monoblack more consistency or a different approach. Black is really good at recurring creatures from the graveyard.

4 - Contentious Plan:

A while ago I tried to build a Simic infect deck around +1/+1 counters and proliferate. Maybe Contentious Plan allied with Stealth Mission could make this deck viable after all. I am not sure how this list would look like but it deserves some investigation.

5 - Burning Prophet:

Scry one for each non-creature spell is actually a nice filtering engine. Add a reasonable body and a small but relevant boost and we have a real card. Hello Kiln Fiend combo, Boros Heroes, maybe even monored decks. 

6 - Kaya's Ghostform:

At first glance this doesn't seem so interesting, but a second look reveals some possibilities. First, it can be fetched with Heliod's Pilgrim, also it combines well with Auramancer giving us a repeatable sacrifice outlet for just one black mana. It doesn't hurt either that it also works against exile effects. Maybe some Orzhov enchantment heavy shell can make good use of this card.

7 - Imperious Oligarch and Grasping Thrull:

Talking about Orzhov, it got some nice inclusions from RNA, Oligarch and Thrull are my favorite, but even Final Payment might deserve to be included in some lists. Let's not forget Nightsky Mimic loves WB spells, and life drainers like Blind Hunter and Pillory of The Sleepless can add up with Grasping Thrull giving some reach to the mix. I feel like Orzhov aggro deserves some notice at this moment.

8 - Kronch Wrangler and Bloom Hulk:

Infect is nice, but another neat way to abuse +1/+1 counters is evolve. Those guys fit perfectly in an evolve based deck. Together with cards like: Shambleshark, Cloudfin Raptor, maybe even Vigean Hydropon and Frontier Mastodon. Trouble can get huge quite quickly. Add a couple counterspells to hold key spells from the opponent and the strategy starts to shape up.

9 - Spellgorger Weird:

While Izzet control looks like a perfectly suitable home for this, another strategy comes to mind. Some affinity builds aim strongly at Atog combo, with a bunch of artifact cantrips and card drawing as support. Well, Spellgorger might be a perfect fit there, providing another huge monster to go along with Atog. This totally deserves some testing.

10 - Clear the Mind:

Doesn't look like much at first but I actually been looking for this kind of effect for a long time in Pauper. I remember adding a couple Battlefield Scrounger to some decks so I could recur my graveyard. It is great to have Clear the Mind as an option for card draw heavy decks.

Ten Old Cards You Should Consider:

Keep an eye to the future, keep one eye to the past. Let's peek some old stuff that probably should be on your radar.

1 - Immolation:

Some dark mages like to use Dead Weight because it can kill Atog and Tireless Tribe while Disfigure won't. Well, red happens to have this nice tool that can be used to kill those or maybe even boost your stuff. How about a 5/1 Kor Skyfisher once in a while ? If Dead Weight deserves some play, this certainly does too.

2 - Weight of Conscience:

I know, I know. Journey to Nowhere is the best white removal, but Weight of Conscience has its perks. As long as you are playing creatures, it can become an exile forever. Sometimes it also works pretty well against Rancor, just leaving the rancored creature there. It can be fetched with Heliod's Pilgrim and recurred with Auramancer, many upsides.

The downside happens when you need to quickly remove a creature due to an effect or ability, like Sunscape Familiar or Timberwatch Elf, in those cases Journey is superior, unless you have a couple dorks in play to activate Weight right away.

Both Pilgrim and Auramancer are humans by the way, a good tribe to keep in mind when playing Weight.

3 - Galvanic Alchemist

If there is one perfect home for (Vivien's Grizzly), it must be Simic Defenders Combos decks. The strategy fits well with this unlimited card advantage engine that requires colossal amounts of mana. Sadly, our Grizzly friend has one terrible nombo with a key card in this intricate puzzle. (Freed From the Realwill be sent right to the bottom of our comboish dreams. If only we had a creature to fill this gap... well. Welcome, Galvanic Alchemist, it certainly has its perks and deserves some testing.

4 - Order of Leitbur:

It has been a while and I don't see why this guy does not see more play. A nice add for Guardian of the Guildpact style decks. Good cost, good stats, maindeckable. Nice tool in the current metagame full of Gurmag Anglers and black removal. Overall, protection from black is a good ability in Pauper right now, and this guy is one of the best there is.

While Angler did lose some tools with the free spells gone, it still is a pretty powerful card in Pauper.

5 - Groundskeeper: 

Since Golgari midrange got some new tools, this dude is worth mentioning. Put it together with Raven's Crime and we have an annoying disruption engine.

Want to search for a billion lands? Try Greenseeker in the mix. It is a card advantage generator that never saw much play and might be strong in the right context.

6 - Fathom Seer:

Gush is gone and some decks might still want to fill the hand with islands. While Seer isn't free and explosive as Gush, it still is an okay card.

I did have a couple of those in a faeries deck a long long time ago and that worked fine back them. Here is an interesting list with it! 

7 - Deep Analysis:

Another interesting card that could replace Gush as fodder to Foil is good old Deep Analysis. I am not sure if this works very well with Angler, but it might, since the card goes well with self mill anyway. Worth some testing. 

8 - Basking Rootwalla:

Since we are talking about fodder to Foil, this little guy comes to mind. I have been wondering how Foil would work in a Simic Madness shell and now may be the perfect time for it to rise.

9 - Essence Harvest:

Nothing feels better than waking up in the morning and Flinging that 21/22 Atog at an opponent's head, killing them at once. Oh the smell of a burning head in the morning...

Sadly for us Flingers, some players spoil the party with pesky prevention spells like Prismatic Strands and Circle of Protection: Red. Wouldn't it be nice if we could go right thru that damage prevention to the target? Well, welcome to the wonders of life loss. Try one copy of Essence Harvest. There is no Circle of protection for this one! 

10 - Hickory Woodlot and Saprazzan Skerry:

As we saw, proliferate got some love from WAR. We can try to abuse this nice ability with infect or +1/+1 counters. But there is another kind of counter that might be powerful with proliferating cards: depletion counters. I choose to highlight the Simic depletion lands because I feel those colors got the best proliferating cards for Pauper.

With those lands, reaching five mana on turn three isn't terribly difficult at all. If you keep drawing cards and casting proliferating spells, this might lead to a very explosive mana development in a few turns. Worth some testing as well.

Well, that's it for today, my friends. I hope Pauper receives a breath of fresh air with the bannings and the new cards. Keep brewing and battle well!


Thanks for reading. See you next time!