One of the appeals of Eternal formats is the ability to have a pet deck. While each tournament will likely have a best choice, certain players can (and do) show up to Legacy and Modern events with a deck that is far more an extension of themselves than a tool on the path to victory. It is not unheard of for people to prefer one play style over another (think Brian Kibler and G/W monsters, Paul Rietzl and Boros, and Sam Black and sacrificing creatures). Eternal formats lend themselves to these personal styles more because the card pools are larger and because more interactions exist.
Pauper is no exception. In the wake of the last round of bannings, the format has slowed quite a bit, allowing for personal brews to be a more viable option. So I am taking advantage of this new landscape to try out some of my favorite strategies.
But before delving too deep into what I'm doing, it is important to see what the new landscape holds—some of the new favorites of the field. Many old decks, including Izzet and Dimir Post and Delver Aggro, are still seeing tons of play. White Weenie and Auras have seen a sharp decline. However, numerous decks that held the title of "almost" are now near the top of the heap and have inserted themselves firmly in the winner's metagame.
The deck that seems to have gained the most from the shift in the metagame appears to be Affinity:
- 4 Frogmite
- 4 Myr Enforcer
- 4 Atog
- 4 Carapace Forger
- 4 Disciple of the Vault
- 1 Krark-Clan Shaman
- 2 Somber Hoverguard
And to think, before the bans I was advocating for Cranial Plating to come off the banned list.
Affinity is Affinity in that if you have played against it in any format, you have an understanding of how it works here. The goal is to play tons of undercosted threats that have strong synergies with both artifacts and artifact lands. In addition to being a deck that can just beat down with Myr Enforcer, Carapace Forger, Somber Hoverguard, and Galvanic Blast, Affinity can also go combo with cards like Atog, Fling, and Disciple of the Vault.
Affinity was largely kept in check because it was only as fast as Storm with a nut draw. Now, it can afford to have less than ideal openers because the format has slowed. A cycle has appeared however, where Affinity will dominate a reported Daily, then largely vanish from the next, only to reappear in force in a later Daily. This helps to inform us that Affinity, while robust, is still fragile in many ways.
The best way to attack this deck is by taking away its lands. The lands in Affinity are more than just mana sources—they often generate two mana (in the instance of affinity) and help to enable metalcraft. Hitting enabling artifacts (Springleaf Drum and Prophetic Prism, for example) helps accomplish the same end. Tons of cheap artifacts exist (including that pesky Mox Monkey, Gorilla Shaman), so while Affinity will alway be on the radar, it will rarely be dominant.
Another big winner from the recent changes is Stompy.
- 2 Vault Skirge
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Quirion Ranger
- 3 Safehold Elite
- 2 Shinen of Life's Roar
- 3 Silhana Ledgewalker
- 4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
- 4 Young Wolf
Stompy looks like a typical beatdown deck, but the reality is that it plays far more like an aggro-control deck of old. While there are a few pure pump spells, like Rancor and Groundswell, Vines of Vastwood and Gather Courage play more like counterspells that can also go to the dome, protecting important creatures from annoying removal. Hunger of the Howlpack is a must play around, as it turns any trade into a potentially disastrous combat. A permanent +3/+3 is frightening and not very hard to trigger considering that against Stompy you really want to block.
Stompy also has the benefit of being able to play some creatures that are highly resilient to removal in Young Wolf and Safehold Elite. The combo of Shinen of Life's Roar and Quirion Ranger remains potent, picking off pesky creatures. The fact that this deck can also run Scattershot Archer, picking off flyers with impunity (especially when combined with Ranger), makes this a strong choice for people just getting into the format.
- 4 Cloud of Faeries
- 1 Mnemonic Wall
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 3 Nightscape Familiar
- 3 Sea Gate Oracle
- 4 Sunscape Familiar
Fissure combo is the new Rube Goldberg of choice.While not a new deck, it is the best way for pure combo players to get their fix. There are two distinct versions of the deck—one that uses Wild Growth effects and one that uses the Planeshift Familiars to reduce mana cost. The end goal is the same: cycle through spells, eventually looping a Mnemonic Wall with Ghostly Flicker or Snap to generate an arbitrarily large storm count (or mana), and cast Temporal Fissure to cast a souped up Cyclonic Rift (y'know, the kind that also hits lands).
Thankfully, these decks take slightly longer than the old Storm decks to set up. While highly resilient, they are still susceptible to discard, both targeted a la Duress, overload style featuring an avalanche of Rats (Chittering and Ravenous, please), or land destruction and pressure. These decks also rely more heavily on creatures than their combo predecessors, so removal is far from dead. Graveyard removal is also key, as it can stop the cycle at a key point.
Fissure Post is the unholy love child of Temporal Fissure combo and Cloudpost Control. An emerging strategy, it takes the most domineering aspects of its two progenitors (game-ending combo, fantastic mana engine), the result of which is an incredibly frustrating hybrid. The deck plays largely like a control deck in the early stages of the game, establishing its mana and defending from threats. From seemingly nowhere, it taps Cloudposts and blue sources, cycling Ghostly Flicker through a Mnemonic Wall as many times as possible before casting Temporal Fissure to set an opponent back. Then, it's business as combo, and the slow plodding attacks to victory (or one large Kaervek's Torch) does the dirty work.
Like the other combo decks at the moment, Fissure Post is vulnerable to land destruction and discard. This deck does not feature the same defensive spells that Cloudpost Control runs. Instead, the only way it can stop a Stone Rain is with Ghostly Flicker or Crop Rotation. By and large, in game 1 you can run out disruption without fear of repercussions. Discard and graveyard removal also have a similar application here, helping to stall their plan while you establish yours.
This deck is far slower than its antecedents, meaning that an aggressive deck can often win before total control is established. It is tough, however, as punching through multiple Glimmerpost triggers can be quite troublesome. The two dominant aggro strategies, Stompy and Affinity, are well equipped for this task, however.
- 2 Foundry Street Denizen
- 4 Goblin Arsonist
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Goblin Cohort
- 4 Goblin Sledder
- 4 Mogg Conscripts
- 2 Mogg Flunkies
- 4 Mogg Raider
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
- 3 Sparksmith
Goblins has also experienced a resurgence recently. While I still would not consider it a top flight deck, it has been putting up great numbers. Like Affinity, it was too slow in the face of combo. Unlike Affinity, the secondary line of attack for this deck is not nearly as strong. Goblins wants to attack, but it can also grind out damage with dying creatures and Death Spark. In fact, managing Death Spark damage is probably the biggest key to winning with Goblins.
Goblins has also benefitted from Gatecrash with the addition of Foundry Street Denizen. Goblins has always enjoyed spitting multiple creatures onto the table, and when combined with Mogg War Marshal and Goblin Bushwhacker, the Denizen becomes a serious threat. In the late game, the Denizen allows an avenue of play where creatures are hoarded then unleashed all at once to help enable quite a bit of damage.
Burn has also seen an uptick. This deck is extremely straightforward, seeking to deal twenty as fast as possible with some of the best burn spells ever printed. Goblin Fireslinger is a nice addition, coming down early and providing a steady stream of damage. Some builds have taken to running Curse of the Pierced Heart for a similar effect.
So what am I doing in this format? I am playing to what I believe are my strengths. I like to disrupt opponents and apply pressure. I feel that forcing discard, especially in chunks, is a great way to interact with format currently, helping to keep many of the more potent strategies in check. As my last foray into brewing indicated, I love sacrificing creatures for fun and profit, and my experience with Blue Bloods provided me with some important ideas moving forward.
I might as well start there. Blue Bloods evolved as I worked on a Pauper version of The Aristocrats. I eschewed white for blue because I became enamored with the interaction of Unearth and Thought Scour. Even though the version of my deck in the last article cut Thought Scour, I still stuck with Dimir for the deck. The article garnered quite a bit of reaction, including one from Sam Black himself, with the simple tweet of "Undying Evil."
So, of course, I went back to the drawing board.
Undying Evil is like Unearth on steroids. One of the appeals of a deck like Blue Bloods is that it wastes removal spells and makes trading in combat a challenge. Undying Evil advances both of these strategies. It also interacts very well with other important cards in the deck, including Cloudfin Raptor and Mulldrifter. With Raptor, being able to cast Undying Evil on a Viscera Dragger means that Raptor has a chance of reaching four power and five toughness, out of range of a Flame Slash. With Mulldrifter, evoking the flying fish and then casting Undying Evil results in a three power of flying and four cards drawn. Pretty good.
After a few tweaks, I ended up with this version of Blue Bloods, which features some of my favorite things:
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Dregscape Zombie
- 1 Hapless Researcher
- 3 Mesmeric Fiend
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 4 Stormbound Geist
- 4 Viscera Dragger
Cloudfin Raptor is proving to be a great card in Pauper. Much like another blue one-drop (Delver of Secrets, of course), it requires you to build a deck around it. Unlike Delver, the cards around Raptor all help to advance a game plan (instead of playing defense or digging deeper). Much like Stitched Drake can be a key in Delver decks, blocking early and attacking late, Cloudfin Raptor is a Stitched Drake that does not require anything to have died—only that you continue to provide threats.
This deck is probably my favorite to play at the moment. Piloting it has provided some insight into why Sam Black calls sacrificing creatures one of the most powerful effects in Magic. While I only have my own experience to go on, I believe this is because you are gaining extra value from an investment. Any time you cast a creature, that is a single investment. When you actively want to sacrifice one, it is to advance a plan and benefit from some interaction. The sacrifice itself comes with a benefit (in the case of Carrion Feeder, increased damage output) so you are actually generating a sum that is greater than the parts. These advantages, when properly employed, steamroll and can start generating whole cards worth of value. In a format of commons, this is huge.
Blue Bloods has not change much in its angle of attack. The deck wants to establish a threat early and follow it up with mild disruption—in this case, Mesmeric Fiend. It wants to keep casting creatures, eventually setting up a turn where no amount of blocking will matter. Between Stormbound Geist, Carrion Feeder, and the duo of Dregscape Zombie and Viscera Dragger, it is easy to amass a large army.
The other deck I am playing at the moment is a spiritual ancestor to the Orzhov version of the Carrion Feeder deck. When Gatecrash first came out online, I tried a deck based on Nightsky Mimic. A powerhouse from the early days of Pauper, this deck would resolve a Nightsky Mimic and then as many Orzhov spells as possible to help crash in for four damage a turn. It packed a heavy amount of disruption in the form of Rats and had a pretty sweet backup plan in turn 1 Nip Gwyllion, turn 2 Edge of the Divinity (sometimes two!). The addition of Kingpin's Pet made me want to give the deck another shot (especially with an additional lifelink one-drop in the form of Vault Skirge).
The deck proved to be a little too sketchy. It really wanted to draw its spells in order. When it happened, the Nightsky deck won handily. When it did not, well, it was a train wreck. However, the extort triggers from Kingpin's Pet provided a nice incentive to casting small spells late in the game. With that in mind and my new love of Undying Evil, I started playing this brew:
- 4 Chittering Rats
- 4 Kingpin's Pet
- 3 Kor Skyfisher
- 2 Liliana's Specter
- 4 Phyrexian Rager
- 4 Ravenous Rats
- 3 Syndic of Tithes
What Blue Bloods wants to do with Unearth creatures, Orzhov does with extort. You want to get in for enough damage early and slowly eat away at life totals late. Grim Harvest plays into this, allowing a steady stream of threats late. It might be worth it to find space for Carrion Feeder or Viscera Seer in this deck as a way to constantly have Harvest active.
Extort shines with cheap spells (as those who play Gatecrash Limited no doubt know). Combining extort with cards that trigger enters the battlefield abilities—Undying Evil and Cloudshift—leeches additional value out of each card. Once this deck hits the midgame, it is able to start compounding advantages, just like Dregscape Zombie and Viscera Dragger.
Playing favorites isn't always a bad thing. The additions to the banned list have given old decks time in the spotlight, making them the favorites to win Daily Events. The format has slowed down enough to give brewers a chance to work on their favorite interactions. So how are you going to play favorites in Pauper?
Keep slingin' commons-
SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
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