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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Feb 06 2018 1:00pm
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 What's The Plan

Careful Consideration

As Pauper continues to grow in popularity, more of us want to know how to jump into Pauper and how to get a grasp on some of its mainstay decks.

There are two ways to learn a new deck: play with it, or play against it. While for example, I'm not a Delver player at heart, I have played against the deck so many times to intuitively grasp when to play around the Spellstutter Sprite and when to go for it. Intuition is great, but more important is knowing what your opponent might have so that you know how to anticipate the course of a match.

The most important part of playing with any deck is having a plan. And the most important part of any match is knowing how your plan interacts with your opponent's plan. Therefore our goal today will be to look at two of Pauper's most tried and true decks, to learn their core strategies to winning, how to interact with them, and how to pilot them in a way that interacts with what your opponent's are trying to do to beat you.

1. Affinity

Myr Enforcer Atog Carapace Forger

Affinity at its heart is a "rate" deck that is able to play two styles of games as turns progress.

In turns 1-2, the Affinity pilot has a simple goal of getting as many artifacts on board as possible in order to turn on the deck's key mechanic, "Affinity". Usually these turns consist of playing an artifact land plus a color-fixing card like Springleaf Drum, Chromatic Star or Prophetic Prism in preference towards actually adding threats to the board. Having established 3-5 artifacts on board in the first two turns, the deck then transforms into an aggro deck.

In turns 2-5, the pilot's new goal is to add as much pressure as possible to the board. Having unlocked the full power of the Affinity mechanic, the deck starts spewing out not only zero mana 2/2 Frogmites, two-mana 4/4 Carapace Forgers, and virtually free Myr Enforcers, but also one-mana draw-twos in Thoughtcast and one-mana super Lightning Bolts in Galvanic Blast. Mana efficiency rates this good ensure that you will be doing more to develop and affect the board than your "fair" opponents. And many Affinity games end around turns 4-5 because the pilot is able to apply that much more pressure than the opponent can respond.

If the game progresses past about turn 5, Affinity decks tend to progress into combo-kill decks. The most important card at this stage of the game is the inevitable Atog, followed by newcomer Gearseeker Serpent. Atogs must be blocked on every attack step less the opponent risk losing the game. But even without connecting clean to the opponent, a larger enough Atog can with either via Fling or Temur Battle Rage. Gearseeker Serpent is mostly a rate card, since it can come down for as cheap as a 2-mana 5/6, but if the game goes long enough, it too can be an unblockable finisher.


Who am I hoping to play?

Since you are the best "rate" proactive aggro deck, you're actually not terribly picky about who you play. You're already the beatdown in nearly every matchup. Rather, you need to recognize two things: 1.  If / how you need to interact with your opponent and 2. What cards of your opponent's have the capacity to beat you. A flooded board of Elves mean you might not be able to break through, especially if they have lifegain. Spellstutter Sprites can snag a good spell. Armadillo Cloak and Ethereal Armor on a Silhana Ledgewalker can race you. And Moment's Peace can stall the game out to the extent that your Tron opponent can out-resource you on both cards and mana. 

Who am I hoping to avoid?

Playing Affinity is less about bad matchups and recognizing your vulnerability to hate cards since you are likely more vulnerable to them than any deck in the format. Public Enemy Number One is Gorilla Shaman. While you do not necessarily scoop to any Gorilla Shaman on the battlefield, a well-timed Mox Monkey can lock you out of the rest of the game and even an average Monkey will eat a land and demand a Hydroblast or Galvanic Blast before you are able to continue to progress your board. In post-sideboard games, a good way to avoid Monkey hate is to play Darksteel Citadels first until you're ready with an answer. The maindeck inclusion of Metallic Rebuke also enables Affinity decks to have a good, cheap answer even without relying on Hydroblast. Other effective hate cards against you are Ancient Grudge and Gleeful Sabotage which are usually at worst two-for-ones but have the added flexibility of hitting artifact creatures or lands. You also might have a very hard time shutting down lifegain engines. Now since most of these rely on creatures, cards like Electrickery and Krark-Clan Shaman can nix their Lifelinking Slippery Bogles, Wellwishers or Essence Wardens. It also doesn't hurt to run flexible sideboard slots like Natural State. Try not to oversideboard since Games 2-3, you're still the beat down. Instead choose sideboard cards that will help you fight their best sideboard hate against you.

2. Mono Black Control

Crypt Rats Gray Merchant of Asphodel Tendrils of Corruption


Mono Black Control, or as it should be better referred, Mono Black Devotion is a Midrange / Control deck that utilizes leveraging life totals as a resource to both extend the game until the pilot is in a favorable position and also shut the door on an opponent.

The deck is heavy on creature removal and 2-for-1s. Often it runs about 12 main deck creature removal spells whose composition vary with the metagame. Of one-drop removal spells Dead Weight has a huge plus against Affinity since it can kill Atog, but otherwise Disfigure can be great as an instant speed threat to stop cards like Rancor. Edicts often fill out the main portion of the removal suite. Edicts don't differentiate, but if you're trying to kill everything, they'll kill the most offensive threats that you need killed as well. Tack on sweepers that double as kill conditions like Crypt Rats and Pestilence and life recoup in Tendrils of Corruption and plain old Corrupt, and behold!: the Power of Swamps.

The main routes to victory are threefold:

1. Build devotion by adding double pip permanents like Cuombajj Witches, Chittering Rats and Pestilence, and then drop a huge life drain haymaker in Gray Merchant of Asphodel. With a 6-10 point Drain Life tacked on, ending the game on your own time shouldn't be too challenging.

2. Use lifegain via cards like Tendrils of Corruption to get ahead on the opponent, and then close the game out by either repeatedly using Pestilence on both players, or one-shot with a large Crypt Rats. Don't forget too that for undying creatures like Young Wolf you can hold priority with your Crypt Rats and activate it multiple times for variant amounts to kill both sides of a persistent or undying creature.

3. War of Attrition. You can out resource many fair decks by wearing down their hand and board state and refilling with cards like Death Denied. You'll notice that the deck list below has made a major metagame call to include 4 copies of Wrench Mind. In absence of artifact heavy decks like Affinity, this is Pauper's best Mind Rot and as close as a Pauper legal impression of Hymn to Tourach as you're going to see. 

Mono Black Control
by j_money10 - 75 Cards Total
2 Cuombajj Witches
4 Chittering Rats
2 Crypt Rats
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Gurmag Angler
18 cards

3 Geth's Verdict
2 Tendrils of Corruption
3 Victim of Night
8 cards
2 Chainer's Edict
2 Sign in Blood
4 Wrench Mind
8 cards

2 Dead Weight
1 Pestilence
3 cards
2 Barren Moor
2 Bojuka Bog
19 Swamp
4 cards

4 Duress
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Death Denied
2 Nausea
4 Choking Sands
2 Unmake
15 cards


Who am I hoping to play?

In theory, the decks you want to be playing are the decks that must attack with creatures to win: Affinity, Stompy, Delver, Bogles, Tribe Combo, Izzet Blitz, et. al. The challenge is that you really need to be on top of your metagame to know which removal spells to include. Against "fair" decks, point-and-click removal works best like Disfigure and Victim of Night. Against combo-aggro decks, you really need your edicts. But since these decks will anticipate you using edicts on them, you also need to be able to kill both undying creatures and lesser creatures they might have lying around. No sense in casting Chainer's Edict into a board of Tireless Tribe and Augur of Bolas since they might untap and kill you! Adjust with the metagame however and you have all the resources you need to succeed. If you want to know all your kill spell options, look at my article "35 Ways to Die": 

Who am I hoping to avoid?

Your nightmare matchups come in two packages: 1. Creature decks that you aren't prepared for, and Decks that can win without creatures. 

The first one shouldn't be impossible for you if you build a well-rounded removal suite. The trouble is that at heart you are a reactive deck not a proactive one. So unless you find a timely answer you might be starring down the barrel of an Exhumed Striped Riverwinder that you weren't prepared for.

Decks that win without creatures are your real nemesis though since you only have ways to deal with cards in their hand and on board; you are always at the mercy of the top of their library. A 25-point Rolling Thunder from the Tron decks can ruin your day unless you Duress and Choking Sands your way to victory. Similarly, you have almost zero ways to beat a card like Curse of the Bloody Tome unless you get lucky and make them discard it from their opening hand. 

While you are able to transform your deck a little via sideboard from a control deck to a disruptive midrange deck and back and forth, slower decks than you like any deck with with Mystical Teachings are generally favored against you. 

Keep having fun out there,