Long Live Pauper!
And for many of you out there, welcome to Vintage. That's right, from the people who brought you Modern Masters comes…Vintage Masters (if they do enough of these things maybe we can trick them into making Pauper Masters, am I right? Anyone? Where'd this echo come from?).
Here we have a set that contains a number of rarity-shifted gems, which means our format will be helping a host of recovering uncommons with their transition into Pauperdom. There is a chance that Vintage Masters will shake up what semblance of a metagame we have, and better yet, increase the format's overall popularity. Today we're going to do our part (via hype and speculation) to make that happen!
As you may have seen early on in May, Gavin Verhey dedicated an article to Vintage Master's potential influence on Pauper, and even made this considerable claim:
"I'd go as far to say that Vintage Masters may end up having one of the most wide-reaching effects on Pauper of any set we've recently released."
He might be right. Off the top of my head, Scars of Mirrodin, New Phyrexia, and Return to Ravnica seem to have had the biggest Pauper impact over the past four years. Scars produced Auriok Sunchaser, Carapace Forger, and Galvanic Blast for Affinity; Glint Hawk and Kuldotha Rebirth for Boros Kitty; Fume Spitter and Sylvok Lifestaff for Dimir Control; and finally Blight Mamba and Ichorclaw Myr for the (previously nonexistent) Infect deck. NPH introduced us to Phyrexian Mana, presented Glistener Elf and Mutagenic Growth to that same Infect deck, Geth's Verdict to MBC, Apostle's Blessing to Izzet Fiend, and Vault Skirge to Mono Green Stompy. Lastly, Ravnica (2: Electric Boogaloo), brought Electrickery into countless red sideboards, Ethereal Armor to Selesnya Hexproof, Frostburn Weird to Delver, and the Guildgates to us all! So like I said, Gavin might be right, but that means Vintage Masters needs to have quite a bit of goodies to offer us.
I think it's about time we take a look!
I'm not going to cover the madness cards too in-depth because both Gavin and our ownAlex Ullman did that rather well (you can check out Alex's thoughts here!). What I will do is offer up an alternate list, one that adheres a bit more closely to the guidelines I established at the end of myPauper adaptation of Patrick Chapin's seminar.
Pauper Madness appears to have some signature starts, namely a threat/discard outlet on Turn 2 (Aquamoeba, Wild Mongrel, etc.), followed by a Turn 3 Arrogant Wurm or a permission spell. I like that these creatures (along with Basking Rootwalla) can hit hard, and for some decks, will be reasonably tough to remove. At the end of the day, Pauper Madness is looking like a new aggro/control deck for the format with some dynamic synergies and forms of card advantage. Sort of reminds me of another Pauper deck...
I'm thinking that Pauper Madness is probably going to need some extra tools to compete with the current (and front running) aggro/control deck of the format, Mono-Blue Delver.
This list is as speculative as anyone else's, but I like that it has some answers to Delver of Secrets (Piracy Charm, Leafcrown Dryad, and Vapor Snag). I also like fetches to "power up" Circular Logic, and a singleton Growth Chamber to hit our land drop while supplying us with discard fodder. In some very niche cases, we can even force ourselves to discard via Piracy Charm. I'm wondering if Circular Logic will be "turned on" early enough to be effective, though I guess we'll be finding that out in due time.
Elephant in the Room
I like this card; Oakenform-plus-Centaur Courser just seems like all kinds of awesome. The thing is, I'm not sure that it has a home. While it doesn't always generate as much value as a bestow card would, Elephant Guide is certainly cheaper. I could see a Hexproof deck wanting this, though Selesnya is already a bit flooded at three (between Ancestral Mask, Armadillo Cloak and Aura Gnarlid). Branching out from the Selesnya colors could end up being the way to go.
In this deck, Madcap Skills functions as a pseudo-trample enabler, and we even have Lightning Bolts to keep it active (by removing the second blocker), or to burn the opponent out. Gruul colors might be strictly worse than Selesnya (Ethereal Armor is just so good in that deck), but it does offer up some great sideboard options. What's more, potential hosers like Standard Bearer are easily remedied via one mana removal spells.
The extra Forest in the board comes in with Aura Gnarlid and Elephant Guide versus opposing decks with plenty of edicts, namely Mono Black Control. Nourish gets boarded in to help outrace Burn, and Electrickery-plus-Moment's Peace will hopefully give us the edge in burdensome Hexproof mirrors.
Here is another deck idea for the trumpeting enchantment:
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Blastoderm
- 2 Borderland Ranger
- 2 Civic Wayfinder
- 2 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Fyndhorn Elves
- 1 Kor Skyfisher
- 2 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Llanowar Sentinel
- 3 Penumbra Spider
- 4 Squadron Hawk
This list has some weird numbers, which I'll humbly try to explain. The 2-of Borderland Ranger and Llanowar Elves variants help reduce the likelihood of opponents getting value out of Echoing Decay or Echoing Truth. I understand that this is not something that will come up often, but since these cards are functionally identical, splitting them costs us little more than an aesthetically unpleasing decklist. The 3/2 split of Elephant Guide and Travel Preparations are simply because I don't know which pump effects will work best with our varied creature suite. I imagine some means of punching through (such as Rancor) may end up being necessary here. Kor Skyfisher looks odd as a 1-of, but she repurchases (see my " Powerful Deck Attributes" article) Blastoderm, Borderland Ranger, and Llanowar Sentinel.
The game plan is simple: resolve mana dorks and accelerate out Rangers, Blastoderms, and Spiders. Attack into their smaller guys while resolving fliers. Pump whoever makes the most sense and win with creature damage, or grind the opponents out with value creatures and removal.
That's all I've got in mind for Elephant Guide presently, though I think a "bigger" version of Mono Green Stompy could be Pauper-viable. Here's hoping that Griffin Guide will be the one that gets printed at common next time (for all of us White Weenie fans!).
Surge in, General!
Goblin General has a pretty obvious home in Classic Pauper, not to mention some solid utility. He's essentially a more expensive Goblin Wardriver (albeit with weaker base stats) that helps more of our creatures survive combat. While I've traditionally favored Goblin Matron in my Goblins lists, General may prove to be strictly higher impact.
Here is a preliminary Pauper Goblins list.
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Goblin Cohort
- 4 Goblin General
- 4 Goblin Sledder
- 4 Mogg Conscripts
- 4 Mogg Raider
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
- 3 Sparksmith
There's nothing really special about this list, though I have added a 19th land to make casting General a bit more realistic. I think it's possible that General will end up being too slow for the deck, but it's good that we have the eight Goblin Sledder effects around to protect him.
These cards interest me for two primary reasons. The first is Ghostly Flicker and the second is Mnemonic Wall. Even then, I still think Commando is probably just worst than Ghitu Slinger. Having edicts on tap via Nightstalker could be useful against protection decks like Hexproof and Izzet Fiend, but a five mana price tag is pretty stiff (particularly when Nightstalker's central competition is a little ditty named Gray Merchant of Asphodel).
In case Nightstalker is good enough, I've cooked up a very theoretical shell for Flicker fans everywhere!
To get a bit of the obvious out of the way, we are light on win conditions and countermagic. This could end up being a problem, but I wanted to compensate for the slowness of Turn 1 Guildgate or fetch into Turn 2 Signet by having some great stuff to do on Turn 3 (wrathing with Justice, playing two removal spells, resolving Teachings, etc. etc.). We are geared overall towards beating creatures, which in my opinion is a good place to be. This does mean that we'll struggle against big mana decks like Esper Familiars and Tron, but as a "fair" deck (I am Addicted to Fair Things, after all) we'd be struggling against them anyway. Choking Sands out of the sideboard does mitigate the amount of struggle at least.
The permission options are dicey. I'd like to avoid UU casting costs if possible, as well as balance out our spot removal and edicts. It sucks that we currently can't do anything about a Gray Merchant touching down, so there's a chance that Essence Scatter or Soul Manipulation will be making the cut later on.
Here's a card I'd normally be excited about (and was, way back in the day when I wanted to build a Radiant, Archangel Commander deck!), but like Goblin Commando it's just probably too expensive for what it does. Squadron Hawk currently occupies this role in a mono white deck, and I think they're slightly less vulnerable on the whole (can't get bounced, cheaper initial investment, don't tap your team, etc.)
At first, I thought that Mono Red Burn could maybe want to play this. Then it occurred to me, why would they ever cycle it? Their whole deck is burn, so there's nothing else for them to dig for. In any other kind of strategy, I'm pretty sure that Blast is just a bit too costly to get enthusiastic over.
Let me know what I got right and what I messed up on. What are you looking forward to out of Vintage Masters?
Hope you've enjoyed. The floor is yours!