I love experimenting with decks. Part of what drew me to Pauper in the first place (seven years ago mind you) was the vast landscape for discovering decks. I've always fared better in Draft and the ability to game with the all-stars of Limited formats from days gone by had a strong allure. It's only fitting then that the spawn of my latest session in the lab was inspired by a draft.
I was on the receiving end of a beatdown in triple Return to Ravnica draft watching my opponent cast Inspiration for two mana and Inaction Injunction for one thanks to multiple copies of Goblin Electromancer. I lost handily to the combined effort of reduced cost of spells and Pursuit of Flight. I won my other matches in the draft but I was enamored by the idea of playing Goblin Electromancer in an aggressive Pauper deck.
Fast forward to Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. Glued to coverage I was watching Gerry Thompson's deck tech and heard the words "Clout of the Dominus."
The gears started turning.
I'd worked on an Izzet flavor of Delver of Secrets months ago but shelved it due to shaky mana. I'd never thought of playing Clout in such a deck but it makes sense. Delver is already difficult to stop but a Delver with shroud? That's just mean. I went into the tank (but didn't have to go too deep) and came up with this list which seeks to make the most out of Goblin Electromancer Delver of Secrets and Clout of the Dominus…
Well like most mad scientists the actual piece of digital paper on which I wrote the list was lost to time. Needless to say the core of the deck was:
This deck had a number of problems. First it was trying to do too many things at once. It was a Delver deck a Riverfall Mimic deck and a Goblin Electromancer deck and it did none of the very well. Sure I'd win occasionally but that was more because of the luck of the draw (Weird into Clout). Of course Delver and Clout was every bit as scary as I thought it would be but more because of the increased damage output.
I went back to the drawing board tinkering and testing looking at all the options that red gives me over mono-blue. Lightning Bolt was obvious but the next few choices were less clear.
I'm Golgari through and through so it makes sense that I always look for a way to make use of the graveyard. I stumbled across Faithless Looting and realized I had something. Because this deck is two colors it needs to run more lands than the seventeen Delver usually runs. Looting helps mitigate this fact allowing me to get rid of excess lands and increase the quality of spells. Red also gives me access to a very interesting card in the vein of Clout: Furor of the Bitten. I wanted to be attacking anyway—why not make my guy bigger and more dangerous?
Drawing on my love of all things in the graveyard I decided to try out Screeching Skaab and Stitched Drake along with a personal pet card Silent Departure. The resulting deck shows promise and given enough time it could be tuned into a deck that actually works.
The above list could get some sweet openings—I imagined many jaws dropping at the prospect of facing a five-power Delver on turn 2. This deck does many things well:
- It can chain together Accumulated Knowledge thanks to Electromancer and Skaab.
- Cloud of Faeries can lead to very aggressive starts including Delver into Cloud into Electromancer.
- Electromancer gives the deck a certain level of explosiveness letting it burn through cards quickly.
The deck above suffered like so many multicolored decks in Pauper do. It stumbled on lands and eventually succumbed to better mana bases. But there were two cards that impressed me far more than the others: Faithless Looting and Furor of the Bitten. Both of these cards have one very important quality that they don't share with certain other cards in the deck: they're red. The gears started turning again...
Red is underrepresented in mono-color Pauper decks. Goblins was at the top of the heap for a while but it seems to have tapered off a bit. The deck still puts up good numbers but not in the way it once did. I feel there are a few reasons for this:
- Goblins has not gotten many new cards recently. As other decks have added tools Goblins is largely the same deck it was before Innistrad.
- Goblins is a deck largely dependent on its draw with no way to manipulate it. It cannot afford to run cards that help in this situation since it relies heavily on tribal synergy.
- Pauper has become more hostile to aggro decks in general.
Having to run a critical mass of Goblins is one of the weak points in the red menace's strategy. So many of the available Goblins are lackluster requiring other creatures in play to be effective (or other creatures played off the top). Additionally the creatures outside Mogg Flunkies are just unimpressive. As such Goblins has ceased to be the clock of beatdown (replaced by Infect and Stompy) and lacks the ability to win before the format's aggro neutralizers (Glimmerpost Spire Golem Serrated Arrows) take over.
Furor and Faithless help to mitigate these problems. Furor allows red creatures to punch through blockers and last longer against Arrows. Looting allows a deck to dig deeper filtering away unwanted spells (or lands) in favor of those that can have an immediate impact. This does mean abandoning the critical mass of Goblins required to make the deck tick. Thankfully a guild full of goodies was just released in Return to Ravnica…
I know I know it's Izzet Week but what kind of experimental mad scientist would I be if I didn't explore every option even those outside the guild parameters?
My creation went through many iterations. I received input from multiple Pauper grinders including deluxeicoff xMiMx and Nighthavk. Seeing as red can no longer be the clock (as green has access to three Fireblasts [counting Invigorate]) any red deck has to take a more midrange role which is fine considering the Faithless Looting engine. Borrowing from Stompy Vault Skirge plays very nicely with Furor of the Bitten. Mogg Fanatic is still a great one-drop taking out many pesky creatures on the other side of the table. Return to Ravnica gave red two excellent two-drops: Gore-House Chainwalker and Rakdos Shred-Freak. Playtesting showed how important haste is to the deck making topdecked creatures matter right away.
After a copious amount of testing here's the current build:
- 3 Oxidda Golem
- 4 Vault Skirge
- 4 Gore-House Chainwalker
- 1 Inner-Flame Acolyte
- 4 Mogg Fanatic
- 4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
- 19 Mountain
This is a descendent of Red Deck Wins. It wants to have better creatures at every point (from an attacking standpoint) and does so with a combination of Furor and Haste. The mix of burn is in place to help give the deck the "oops I win" scenario. Searing Blaze was in an older build but too often it was left stranded in hand. Oxidda Golem and Inner-Flame Acolyte fill similar purposes but multiple Golems late are just sweet often tag teaming with each other or another creature. Acolyte is a bit of an experiment itself but the ability to boost the power on a Vault Skirge and give it haste has proven potent.
Electrickery is amazing. It gives this deck a fighting chance against any Storm deck running Empty the Warrens while also dealing with large swaths of opposing forces from Stompy Infect Delver and White Weenie. While dead against Izzet Post the card is just too good to not maindeck. Initially there were two in the sideboard but they traded places with Pyrite Spellbomb.
This deck plays very much like a traditional aggro deck. Ideally you want to play creatures on turns 1 through 3 or spend turn 2 suiting up a Skirge to serve mini Baneslayer beats. I prefer to lay a Chainwalker on turn 2 if there's no Furor as it allows for either an Oxidda or Shred-Freak follow up on turn 3 presenting multiple threats. This is the point where I like to start casting Faithless Looting. Looting isn't card advantage but rather helps to increase the overall quality of the cards to which you have access.
Ideally this deck wants four to five lands; anything above and beyond is unnecessary. Looting helps to turn these dead lands into live spells fighting the agonizing feeling of drawing Mountains. I've been known to keep land-heavy hands with Looting as my turn 1 play casting it immediately to fix my hand often pitching a Looting to another to set up later turns. At that point the goal is to whittle an opponent's life total down far enough to leave them vulnerable to burn.
On to the matchups!
One of the tougher matchups but it's winnable. You want to lean on Electrickery to deal with their smaller creatures and to help clear out Spire Golems post-combat. Pre-board playing Furor on a Mogg Fanatic isn't the worst plan because it helps counter Snap. Games 2 and 3 you want to play a slightly more controlling game keeping them off their best blockers.
A better matchup than Delver you can often overrun them before they can establish a serious board presence. If the game goes long the best plan of attack is to eke out damage and craft a game win with burn.
Against both varieties of Storm you want to race. If they're not running Empty the Warrens you just have to plain old win before they go off. Hold Electrickery mana up to win if they do run out an army of tokens.
A matchup you actively want to see. Kill all their guys and don't be afraid to one for two yourself. Don't unleash Chainwalkers unless you're certain they've stalled out on attackers—blockers are key.
No change (although you can swap one Mountain for one Spellbomb).
Another matchup you're happy to see. They have a hard time dealing with the life gain off of Skirge and the assortment of burn you can fling at their face. In sideboarded games don't run out Gorilla Shaman on turn 1—holding it until turn 2 can ensure it takes out at least one land.
MBC / Rats
So it is not Izzet (is it?) in the strictest sense of the guild but this Pauper take on Red Deck Wins is a testament to experimentation. The trials are ongoing but early results are promising. So what are you waiting for? Take this build for a spin... The worst that can happen is it will blow up in your face.
And that is the essence of Izzet.
Keep slingin' commons-
SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
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