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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Dec 11 2017 1:00pm
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 What’s The Plan?


As we enter a new era of affordable decks, tangible rewards and published information, Pauper is more popular than it's ever been. 

Currently no single card or deck is breaking the format-you can play what you want. If you want a balls-to-the-wall aggro deck, you've got Stompy and Red Deck Wins. If you like a synergy driven deck, you've got Affinity. There's durdly control decks that play as little as 1 or 2 total win conditions. There's combo kill decks like Infect, Izzet Blitz and the new glam, Tireless Tribe combo. There has been and always will be tempo based aggro thanks to Delver of Secrets and the many varieties of builds it inspires. And even my favorite archetype, Midrange, is in an absolute resurgence thanks to the Monarch mechanic.

As a result, there are more new players trying Pauper all the time. Awesome! I love it when new folks find out format. Enjoy the cheap decks, positive EV and growing online Pauper community, new players. There's a lot here to love.

But the problem with picking up a new deck in any format is the puzzle of, “How do I play the darn thing?” Many deck strategies are not as obvious as they look.

Rebels, a deck full of 1, 2 and 3 drop white critters, is actually a control deck. Delver decks are actually wise to not always actually play out their Delvers. Tireless Tribe, a throwaway draft 1/1, is actually the easiest turn-2 kill in the format. And any deck with Ghostly Flicker is probably up to more than the sum of its parts.

So how do you play these decks if you’re picking them up for the first time?  

Today I’m going to begin a series that walks through the game plan of the most popular Pauper decks and what is your game plan when you begin a new duel with one of these decks.

1.  Stompy
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk Burning-Tree Emissary Rancor 

Stompy is an aggro deck that succeeds on the principle that it can add more pressure to the board for its mana than the opponent can leverage theirs to slow it down. The goal therefore is to kill your opponent by stranding cards in their hand that they don't have time to cast.


Stompy decks have little to no inherent card advantage spells. Instead the deck does better than any other is convert green mana to creature power, power to reduce the opponent’s life total as quickly as possible and end the game quickly.


If the game drags on past about Turn 6, then often it means their opponent has reached parity and can turn the corner on the Stompy player.


Because Pauper’s best conditional answers are just as cost effective as Stompy’s creatures, it becomes necessary to diversify the attack, even at the cost of raw speed. This means running cards like Vault Skirge, a one-mana 1/1 flier and worse Silhana Ledgewalker, a 2 mana 1/1 pseudo-flier, as ways to diversify into having some evasive threats. Pile on the auras, notably Rancor, but also the resurgent Elephant Guide, the +1/+1 counters from Hunger of the Howlpack and pump spells, and the pilot has the choice of punching through their damage on the ground or saving it for their more evasive threats.


Stompy decks also choose to include cards that are inherently removal resistant to buffer the effectiveness of opposing removal strategies, namely Young Wolf, but also Nest Invader, both of whom can eat an edict, carry a Rancor and trigger morbid for Hunger of the Howlpack.


The most critical factor though when piloting the Stompy deck is time. How do I end the game before my opponent can stabilize? Choosing lines of play becomes a wager of risk and reward. Usually, for example, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to play the Rancor on your Nettle Sentinel into your opponent’s open red mana. Unless, of course, you realize that by doing nothing, you are actually granting your opponent more time for them to reach stabilization, putting your early win out-of-reach.  

Who am I hoping to play?

Stompy has pretty good game all around and is less concerned with opponent matchups as determining and completing their own game plan. Since they are a pure aggro deck, they are always the beatdown in a given matchup. Probably your best matchups are decks that rely on either having turns to setup, rely on inefficient answers or need to find a specific card to beat you. Tron comes to mind.


As the baseline aggro deck of the format, everyone must have a plan to face you. But even if they come prepared, Stompy can still be too efficient to let any opponent stabilize.

Who am I hoping to avoid?

Combo is your worst matchup since their clock must be faster than yours to be relevant. These are decks that attack on a different axis than you: Slippery Bogle, Kiln Fiend, Tireless Tribe and Glistener Elf should all give you pause. It's wise therefore to consider these in your sideboard with cards like Gleeful Sabotage, Serene Heart or Fog effects. Your other problem deck is midrange decks that can expect a specific decklist. Magma Spray is a great answer, for example, not only to your Young Wolfs but also to Stormbound Geist. My advice is to build your main deck to maximize your win percentage against your best and most common matchups and to tailor your sideboard towards your worst. Ideally, since your game plan can't and shouldn't change drastically post-sideboard you are more suited towards silver bullet cards than broad answers since you don't usually want to remove more than about 6 cards from your main strategy post-board in any matchup.

2.  Boros Monarch
Kor Skyfisher Prophetic Prism Galvanic Blast

Boros is a midrange deck at heart. Its creatures are designed to build incremental advantage whereas its spells are mostly there to efficiently trade one-for-one with its opponent's threats.

Boros has existed in various forms for a number of years. Sometimes its more of an aggro slanted tokens deck, built around cards like Kuldotha Rebirth and Rally The Peasants.

The most popular current build lacks those cards with the following game plan instituted instead:

1. Clear the opponent's board while preserving your life total and setting your mid-game value plan.

2. Claim the Monarchy.

3. Protect the crown by flooding the board with creatures, picking off opposing threats, and negating attacks from evasive threats via Alchemist's Vial and Prismatic Strands.

4. Win the game on about turn 10 once you have totally out-resourced your opponent.


Who am I hoping to play?

Creature decks. You're aiming for the big three aggro decks: Delver, Stompy and Affinity. If you tailor your sideboard accordingly, you can have good game against other strategies like Izzet Blitz and Hexproof Bogles. The challenge is that you only have 15 sideboard slots so you can't prepare for everybody.   

Who am I hoping to avoid?


Tron. True Control decks seriously limit your avenues to victory. Unless you're able to stick a turn-4 Monarch with the help of your Pyroblasts, its unlikely you can out-resource their big mana engine. 


#3 Izzet Blitz 

Kiln Fiend Gitaxian Probe Nivix Cyclops


A deck that can lose to itself as much as to its opponents, Izzet Blitz is the best of the one-shot combo decks. Not only does it have interchangeable pieces, but it has excellent card selection tools to set up for your one big turn.


Your game plan is pretty simple: whether you can actually do it in one hit or not, in order to win the game, you need to stick one of your spell-loving creatures, connect cleanly with it, and play enough cantrip spells to make each it count.


The card that puts Izzet Blitz over the top is Temur Battle Rage. With it, a turn-3 win is not only possible, but fairly easy to achieve: just pump that Kiln Fiend with two other spells before doubling its power and that's 20. And with a number of free spells in the deck, its not hard to get three spells in on turn 3 even if the Temur Battle Rage costs 1R.


The rest of the strategy of the deck comes down to timing. It's no sense in going for the big play only to get stopped by a removal spell or a Fog effect like Moment's Peace. Early on, you can use Gitaxian Probe to see if the coast is clear. Later, you have soft counters not only to clear the way but also to pump your bodies simultaneously.

Izzet Blitz
by Nulan - 75 Cards Total
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops
8 cards

2 Brainstorm
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Mutagenic Growth
4 Apostle's Blessing
3 Temur Battle Rage
3 Gush
16 cards
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
4 Gitaxian Probe
8 cards
3 Ash Barrens
10 Island
4 Mountain
3 cards

1 Blazing Volley
2 Dispel
3 Flame Slash
2 Hydroblast
2 Pyroblast
1 Flaring Pain
1 Aura Flux
3 Stormbound Geist
15 cards



Who am I hoping to play?


Aggro decks or slower control decks. Since aggro decks don't have a lot of ways to interact with you, its going to be your clock versus theirs. Which means either your deck beats them or your deck is going to beat itself. Care to flip that coin?


Against control, the question is going to be, can they interact with you fast enough. Chainer's Edict effect are very hard on the deck in general. Hence the three Stormbound Geists in the board. Other control decks might be trying to prevent damage with cards like Moment's Peace. You'll need to read if you can get through that turn of it you need to set up to force through damage in a more opportune moment. 


Who am I hoping to avoid?


Midrange is going to be your toughest matchup, especially black based midrange like Blue-Black Alchemy. Also decks with a lot of lifegain since they might be able to put their lifetotal so high that one-shoting them is out of your reach.  


That's it for this week. We'll be back again with more "What's The Plan" primers in future articles.

I'm also going to take a break in December to focus some on my other favorite format: Cube draft!  

Keep having fun out there,

Steve Jeltz


Nice article, thanks for the by MichelleWong at Wed, 12/20/2017 - 07:20
MichelleWong's picture

Nice article, thanks for the matchup insights.