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By: LeagueGeek, J-P Voilleque
May 14 2007 2:36pm
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This is an article about pauper magic, which is dirt cheap to play, and an exciting deck building challenge to boot.  For those of you not aware, pauper decks use commons, all commons and nothing but the commons.  The restriction is simultaneously liberating (you'll never be Persecuted, Teferi-locked, beaten down by angels, etc.) and, well, restrictive (you cannot Persecute/lock/beat on others, at least not with the fancy rare or uncommon cards).  Pauper magic, as a format, reminds me of Core Set Sealed.    For the most part, the Core Set sealed pool will be a study in fundamentals.  Flying blue 2/2s for 3.  Big red dragons.  Etc.  In the same way that there are no shining stars in 9th Edition sealed (there are exceptions, obv), in pauper constructed the game is fundamentally fair.  The cards do things one would expect them to do, at or sometimes above cost, and only occasionally at a discount.  I have always thought that the only way to make fundamentally unfair decks in the format is to seek ways to abuse linear mechanics - in that way, one can often get an edge with a critical mass that would be impossible to achieve against decks that had silver and gold cards.  The obvious (and most persistent) example is Affinity, which is the only deck I know of that has restricted cards in player-run pauper events.  A less-cited mechanic that can be quite a beating centers around two cards that are complimentary to, and natural finishers for, a deck built on Arcane spells:


4x Wee Dragonauts

4x Reach Through Mists
4x Peer Through Depths
4x Eye of Nowhere
4x Consuming Vortex
4x Lava Spike
4x Glacial Ray
4x Ire of Kaminari
3x Ideas Unbound
2x Spiraling Embers
2x Murmurs from Beyond
1x Path of Anger's Flame

10x Island
6x Mountian













Ire of Kaminari

Win conditions that aren't creatures are good things!

This deck featured a one-two punch of Dragonauts + lots of cheap spells midgame or splice tricks-into-Ire endgame.  Despite the very silly Path of Anger's Flame (if memory serves, I didn't have a third Murmurs), the deck managed to win my clan's first Pauper Standard tournament.  Between the card drawing and selection offered by blue, and the recurring burn available from Glacial Ray, it could be a very difficult thing for the opponent to get any traction.  Steamcore Weird came out of the sideboard to shore up the matchup against "all-in" style aggro decks.  They weren't the greatest walls but they took someone out coming into play. And, because in pauper "color fixing" means "bounceland," Eye of Nowhere created huge tempo swings more than once.

Meanwhile, by not winning with creatures (or at least not assuming that it would), the deck nullified some large number of card slots in opposing decks.  They could trade one-for-one with Dragonauts all they wanted, but there were often twelve spells for four targets.  Meanwhile, I would, y'know, draw my whole deck in search of Ire, binning Arcane spells at a feverish pace.  Ironically, my one match loss was to a BW discard deck featuring Ravenous Rats, Shrieking Grotesque and (crucially) Castigate.  You would think that moving the spells into the trash even faster would have a beneficial effect, but it took double-Ire draws in the finals for me to exact revenge.  Without the little cantrips to push it along, the deck was pretty slow.  And, because Blind Hunters were also in there, the bounce spells were categorically useless in both game ones (there was nothing I wanted to give him back).

With a new clan pauper tournament on the horizon, and a whole new standard, I again turned to linear mechanics.  What I discovered with the Ire deck was that linear was good, but having a stupid/good card that could create its own "oops I win" was even better.  If that card dovetails with your linear mechanic, so much the better (we'll call that the Plan B).  It didn't take long for me to decide that I would be staking my title on another red card that costs 4.  After that it was just a question of how.  After some testing, the first version ended up like this:

Gruul Storm - PDC Standard

4x Boreal Druid
4x Nantuko Shaman
3x Durkwood Baloth
2x Keldon Halberdier

4x Skred
4x Volcanic Hammer
4x Rift Bolt
4x Search for Tomorrow
4x Empty the Warrens
3x Rite of Flame
3x Strength in Numbers


Empty the Warrens

My new best friend

I liked this deck.  It had Grapeshot out of the sideboard to milk the last points in tough matchups, and the Baloth provided a certain inevitability.  The "oops I win" is of course Empty the Warrens after a big upkeep of spells coming out of suspension.  Because there's no Teferi in pauper (nor, for that matter, Pull from Eternity), the suspend cards just sit there and look menacing.  That provided a psychological edge that I appreciated.

But.  The deck had a tendency to not draw enough cards (another parallel to the pure & simple rules of Core Set sealed - the person who casts the most spells tends to win).  If the deck had Empty, sometimes it didn't have Strength.  Or Shaman was just drawing me out of land clumps a little quicker than normal, but not actually adding value in the sense that I felt it could.  Baloth was big and all, but it was a rare day that it actually dealt all that much damage (even with Skred, etc., clearing a path).  And Halbardier was just awful - his sole purpose was to give me a suspend 4 to complement the Baloth's suspend 5, but that is a really bad reason to play the card.

So, the search continued.  It was obvious that the big guy at the end of the suspend chain ought to be evasive.  I was certain I wanted more card drawing, and I missed the bounce.  Between the Search and more card drawing, I said to myself, would it be better to just run three colors?  What if I could just run the ten best commons in Standard?

Rainbow Suspenders

4x Errant Ephemeron
4x Nantuko Shaman
3x Coiling Oracle
4x Skred
4x Compulsive Research
4x Rift Bolt
4x Search for Tomorrow
4x Empty the Warrens
4x Repeal
3x Strength in Numbers



Sideboard (currently):
4x Naturalize
4x Shock
3x Rain of Embers
2x Faith's Fetters
2x Divine Congregation











Let me first address the "ten best commons" issue, as it seems likely that I will face chastisement on the forums.  There's no Blind Hunter, no Pillory, Dark Banishing or Last Gasp, no counterspells, and no Dragonauts (who, let it be said, would be boss in this deck as well).  There are Fetters in the sideboard, but because you can safely assume that it is the ten maindeck cards we're talking about, they didn't make the cut.  And anyway, Search for Tomorrow?  Really?  I can only say that these cards, put in this combination, join to form a deck that is not just solid but occasionally downright degenerate.  As such, they get my "10 best commons" seal of approval.  But I do not propose that I have created a global list.

The whole point of pauper deck design (and, really, all deck design) is to put the best cards for the deck into the deck.  In this case, I believe I'm pretty close.  I have the wounded pride of casual room denizens sporting everything from Grizzly Bears to Ghazi-Glare to back me up.  When you're playing against the "fair" decks of the pauper world, this is a hot knife through butter.  Round about turn five or six, things become ugly.  And the best part is, they can see it coming.

It should be apparent that I'm fond of this list, but I'm not sure I don't need a second Boilerworks or just plain 23rd land.  I'm tempted to drop the Shocks in the sideboard (they have never come in - I think I put them there as a tribute to "reach" or to up my two-for-one chances against...something.  When in doubt, burn, amirite?) for three Into the North and another Snow-Covered Plains.  This would complement the Fetters/Congregation answer to aggro decks and/or combat RG land destruction, which is bad for a deck that relies on three colors nearly equally.  Without a doubt, the thing that tipped the balance from a good list to a great list was the removal (at long last) of three Durkwood Baloths for the Coiling Oracles.  The cantrip/acceleration effect is huge, they add a body to the Strength count, and while they're difficult to cast, they are so good when you cast them that it can be worth the wait.  They can always come out for Rain of Embers, a card that "solves" opposing Empties and also deals with the broad variety of X/1 creatures that must die.  Speaking of X/1 creatures, maybe the Shocks should be Grapeshots.  Somehow they didn't make the leap, and there were times that they were quite handy...

I strongly suggest that you participate in some pauper events or just try building some decks.  It can be a rewarding experience in and of itself, and a fun way for a clan or gaming group to play constructed at minimal cost to participants.  Next time I'm going to talk about a tweak on the peasant format that gives the bazillions of unloved legends their day in the sun.  Until then, go forth onto the commons.


by coolbartbr (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 05/15/2007 - 18:59
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Just a suggestion. If you were writing this article with a casual content idea in mind you might have wanted to put a disclaimer or something. The way the article was written sounded like you were coming off of major tournament experience. As an almost pauper only paper, I think the least you could have done was played a few games in the pdc room just to see if your decks could stand up to that. Also, your bit about linear mechanics might be true for standard, but in classic I am fairly certain that most of the tier one decks are not linear (MUC, RG beats, Cloak,....). Also, stating the format you were talking about could be useful in the future. That already rotated standard deck confused the hell out of me,

by khirareq at Tue, 05/15/2007 - 07:51
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Fair enough. If you are going to write articles for this site, why don't you write them on leagues? I would love to see an article on leagues. Specifically cheating in leagues, and whether or not it is still as rampant as it was back when I quit playing them.

Responding a bit more :) by LeagueGeek at Tue, 05/15/2007 - 00:11
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@ Richard - I certainly don't think pauper is a joke format, nor was this done as a cheap way to pick up store credit (I'm not even entirely sure that the per word is worth the time). That said, I have to disagree that articles about pauper must focus solely and explicitly on PDC tourney-caliber decks or the PDC meta. It seems to me that that's already being written about, on this site and others. At no point did I suggest that these decks were format busters (though I would happily try Rainbow Suspenders in a pauper standard tourney, probably getting my ass handed to me, but as you say, therein lies the learning). Nor was I writing as a die-hard PDCer. One of the things that's great about pauper on MTGO is that it is a very inexpensive entry into constructed for new players. But you do still have to construct a deck. That's where (dare I say it) more casual content might play a role. Perhaps that means that my pauper articles will always be a disappointment to you, but I hope occasionally something of value might shake loose even for the seasoned PDC veteran. @MysticLancer - worry not, I've got a firm grasp on the "comments about ideas are not comments about people" concept :) Thanks for the kind words. And thanks again everyone for commenting!

by dragonmage65 at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 18:43
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I agree with the general sentiments posted below. Nothing personal, but those decks would do pretty atrociously in real PDC tournaments.

by MysticLancer at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 18:57
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The most important thing to take from all of these comments is that they aren't attacking you. People aren't trying to be mean or spiteful but are just trying to be helpful so you can learn and make your second article better. Don't take it personally and use it to grow your article writing.

by gnawph (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 17:20
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I'm no expert, but your card choices seem subpar.

A 3 color deck with no Terramorphic Expanse?

Naturalize instead of Ronin Unicorn?

Also, posting "10 best commons" list, then saying its not really the 10 best commons list is pretty janky. Make a point and defend it.

Please do your Research by Richard/ Me5794 (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 18:21
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League Geek,

As an Active member of the Pauper community i am always glad for exposure to PDC.
But at the same time it would be nice if you did some research before you post an article.

I do not know of your clan events and it seems they have not been advertised, but if they are only internal to the clan, the result will be very skewed due to the small number both of players and events.

Both the Standard and Classic Metagame are well defined or well documented at the moment. I would think that if you are to do an article on PDC then you would use information from a larger, more defined and longer established meta.

I would welcome you to try any or all of those decks at a PDC event, which are almost ran nightly at this point, to see how they fare. Once you have that information then i would feel a little better about you writing for a format you are not 100% familar with.

Most of those deck lists look rough and untested and i would feel bad for the person who decided to run Ire/dragonauts in a Classic PDC event. The Dragonauts would draw tons of removal and there is enough graveyard hate in the format that the ire's would be less than effective.

I have no clue about the gruul storm, but your manabase is way way off. And Rainbow suspenders would lose numerous games due to color screw without proper fixing.

As far as the "best" cards are concerned i am with spike and if you actually read some of the pauper websites you would see what cards are format defining.

PDC is not a joke format and i hope that this wasn't written to just get a few dollars credit. If it is not a joke then you have my apology and i hope that you do more research before you address a wider audience. I also hope that readers understand that these decks have not been tested against a wide and established meta.

Top ten by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 16:19
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Also for your standard list, how does it not have Momentary Blink, probably the defining card in PDC Standard right now.

Responding... by LeagueGeek at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 17:19
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@SpikeBoyM: I have to plead some ignorance of the broader PDC metagame. The clan event was run by League Warriors, which as you might guess from the name focuses more on limited. The Ire deck was for a post-GPT standard tournament. Sadly, I rarely have the time to commit to a full-on tournament, but I would love to see what happened to this deck in the full meta.

As for the "ten best," I agree that the decklist should not be considered the definitive top 10. Like I say in the article, depends on the deck...Blink is clearly a contender for overall power, though, for sure.

@khirareq - see above re: not appearing in the PDC logs. As for Strength, the deck typically generates enough card drawing to formulate an Empty + Strength alpha strike. It's not all that great a trick in a vacuum but I'm rarely at a loss for uses for it (even occasionally on defense). Scatter is interesting, and buddies up with Vigean Hydropon in another pauper deck of mine, but in this instance I don't know what I'd remove (and I would really have a lot of Convoke going one, even with the Oracles...).

Thanks for the comments!

Interesting look by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 15:06
SpikeBoyM's picture

It's always nice to see what other communities are doing with the Pauper format. However, you make numerous mention of these clan events- What clan, and are they clan only?
Also, you seem to have a very insular pauper metagame. In the general PDC metagame, many of the storm decks were hated out due to the powerful sideboard cards against such strategies.


by khirareq at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 16:07
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I don't remember seeing either of these decks in the metagame data for either of the standard pauper events. And I've recorded most of the data for these tournaments at paupermagic lately, so I would have recognized them. They are intriguing, though I do have to question things like Strength in Numbers with only one token producer (why not run scatter the seeds?), or boreal druid over llanowar elf (just to pump skred?)

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