Just over a year ago I wrote an introduction to Pauper that detailed the format and described some of the top decks. Since that time Frantic Search has been banned and Delver of Secrets has been released changing the layout of common land. In an effort to better understand the metagame I gave myself a task: track every Magic Online Daily Event in June to get a picture of the metagame. The result: 73 events 665 decks and a metagame map.
A note on methodology: collaborator and Cube curmudgeon Seth Burn recommended the metric for looking at the Daily Events; four points for a 4-0 one for a 3-1 record. Here is the breakdown:
Delver Blue (Tempo): 158 points (20 4-0; 78 3-1)
U/R Goblin Storm: 143 (21; 59)
Cloudpost (U/R/B and U/B/R): 141 (17; 73)
White Weenie: 121 (16; 57)
The Pauper Perfect Storm: 92 (14; 36)
Affinity: 91 (13; 39)
Infect: 75 (8; 43)
Stompy: 70 (8; 38)
Mono-Blue Control/Blue Post: 42 (5; 17)
Goblins: 39 (6; 15)
Mono-Black Control/Rats 27 (2; 19)
Temporal Storm 17 (1; 13)
What a difference a year makes.
- 4 Spire Golem
- 4 Cloud of Faeries
- 4 Delver of Secrets
- 4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
- 4 Phantasmal Bear
- 4 Spellstutter Sprite
- 16 Island
Combine cheap and efficient threats with some of the best countermagic ever printed and you have a recipe for a dominant blue deck. Before the addition of Delver of Secrets it was possible to get a jump on these decks even if they featured a heavy Faerie package including Pestermite. Delver changed that. The deck is skewed towards the early game. Delver begs a high number of spells and it just so happens blue has numerous one-mana library manipulation spells.
The gospel of Comer teaches us that spells of this nature allows the shaving of land counts at a rate of two spells = one land fewer. Delver Blue can mount an offense without tapping out after turn 1 due to Cloud of Faeries and Spellstutter Sprite. Spire Golem as always proves that Affinity was a mistake. The format does not matter: cheap threats and countermagic will result in a winning deck.
There is another version of this deck floating around that avoids the depletion lands like most players avoided Mercadian Masques. The advent of Gitaxian Probe Faithless Looting and the depletion lands (Sandstone Needle and its ilk) allowed this deck to supplant the Pauper Perfect Storm as the A1 combo deck. TPPS would occasionally have its combo stopped only to be left without any land. Sandstone Needle and Saprazzan Skerry mitigate this by providing the same quantity of mana but can do so for two turns.
For all intents and purposes these are the same deck: use the Cloudpost / Glimmerpost engine to generate an obscene amount of mana and stall aggro decks draw cards/use Mystical Teachings to find bullets and end the game with a red X-spell or Capsize lock. Blue provides the engine of the deck but black and red are largely interchangeable existing primarily for spot removal.
Red gets the nod as the second color more often thanks to the suite of Flame Slash Firebolt and a single Harvest Pyre. Red also allows the deck to run Rolling Thunder which can serve as a board wipe or game ender. Black's removal is better for point and click kills and Agony Warp can be a backbreaker against beatdown.
- 4 Razor Golem
- 2 Benevolent Bodyguard
- 1 Doomed Traveler
- 3 Guardian of the Guildpact
- 4 Icatian Javelineers
- 4 Kor Skyfisher
- 3 Leonin Skyhunter
- 3 Loyal Cathar
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 3 Suture Priest
- 20 Plains
Too good for tier 2 but not good enough for tier 1. White weenie is the best aggro deck in Pauper. The card advantage available via Squadron Hawk and the value adder by Kor Skyfisher gives WW a chance to recover from slow starts. Icatian Javelineers answers just about every one-drop that is heavily played and Benevolent Bodyguard can protect your best non-Guardian of the Guildpact beater. WW succeeds because it can hate most of the other decks effectively.
It is soft to Storm. White is unable to actively disrupt combo instead relying on "answers" like Holy Light and Prismatic Strand whereas the other colors can attack the resources of combo (cards in hand lands) or just counter key spells. The strength against the rest of the field is nothing to scoff at as is the built-in strength against a Delver of Secrets.
The former best combo deck in the format. This deck operates similarly to the U/R Storm deck. While it gets the added redundancy of Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual it runs a far more fragile mana base. When TPPS fizzles there is little chance of recovery. These decks tend to feature Goblin Bushwhacker because they have to win the turn they storm lest they be left with nothing due to the sickest of topdecks. Bushwhacker also allows an Empty the Warrens to be lethal with only four storm copies.
Affinity is incredibly explosive. Artifact lands in conjunction with Atog and Fling can win games from absolutely nowhere. The deck can win with its army of 4/4s and some pack a Disciple of the Vault package for added damage. Once it's game 2 every deck can pack cheap answers to artifacts thanks to Wizards' insistence on printing common answer to machines in every block. This helps to keep an otherwise busted mechanic in check. Now if only Storm had such an answer at common...
Our second aggro-combo deck in a row Infect has the potential for the fastest kill in Pauper. It runs Rancor and Invigorate in a way that the R&D team from the late 90s never imagined. Like combo Infect is all in and any disruption can often prove fatal. The best decks all being blue have a fantastic answer in Curfew which is nigh impossible for Infect to stop effectively helping to limit another dangerous deck.
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Quirion Ranger
- 3 Safehold Elite
- 2 Shinen of Life's Roar
- 4 Silhana Ledgewalker
- 4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
- 4 Young Wolf
- 17 Forest
"The Other Rancor Deck" has more threats than Infect but it has to win by dealing 20. This is the deck I am most surprised to see in Tier 2 as it is the "fairest" deck in Pauper. It lacks the card advantage of White Weenie or the tribal synergies of Goblins but it survives because Groundswell and Rancor are just that good.
Stompy can protect its creatures better than White Weenie thanks to Gather Courage and Vines of Vastwood and can operate under the duress of mana screw thanks to a low curve and Quirion Ranger. The recent adoption of Viridian Longbow also allows Forest mages to machinegun armies in conjunction with Nettle Sentinel and Scattershot Archer laughs at Faerie armies (though not Squadrons).
These decks are fringe playable at the moment. Temporal Storm and Blue Control have better options (Storm deck and Post Control respectively). Goblins and MBC/Rats have no true analogue and are most likely to see continued play. However looking back a year these decks were near the top of the format and now they have been supplanted.
Goblins is a deceptively difficult deck to pilot and managing Death Spark is key to grinding out wins. The deck is excellent at dealing 20 but having to punch through the extra life from two Glimmerposts is a task the little red men have a problem with. Goblins also rose to prominence because it could beat a Tendrils of Corruption better than any other aggro deck. With MBC falling off the map the need for sacrifice outlets has also waned.
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Goblin Cohort
- 2 Goblin Fireslinger
- 3 Goblin Sledder
- 4 Mogg Conscripts
- 4 Mogg Flunkies
- 2 Mogg Raider
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
- 3 Sparksmith
I like Rats in principle: disruptive creatures and removal. Currently Corrupt is too slow (the big divider between MBC and Rats in my opinion) and the eight cycle land version provides an incredibly threat dense deck. Of course these threats all have two power which are easily stopped by Spire Golem and Guardian of the Guildpact. The older MBC builds resembled Post in their long game plan (mana advantage into game ending spell) but the tools available to Post are just better. Although the list below is not from a Daily Event it is in my opinion the best direction for Rats to take—focusing on creatures and recursion to grind out the long game.
So what does this all mean? If you are going into a Pauper event today you need to be prepared to fight Delver Post and Storm; if you fail to prepare for these decks you might as well spend your tickets somewhere else. After that the decks are all creature based so have a game plan to stop monsters from bashing your head in. Despite this Pauper remains a fairly diverse format and if the original Ravnica was any indication our Return to the plane should provide plenty of fodder for brewers and builders.
June also marked a Pauper Premier event complete with a Top 8. The Top 8 featured eight different archetypes: Tortured Existence White Weenie Delver Aggro Rats Affinity U/R/B Post Elves! and U/R Storm). The Top 32 lists can be foundhere.
Interview with E. Hustle
E. Hustle is a Pauper ringer and has been racking up wins in Daily Events with his decks based around Tortured Existence. The enchantment can turn a graveyard into a second library that is a perfect resource full of Tutor targets. E. Hustle was kind enough to answer a few questions about his deck and share his views on Pauper.
- 3 Perilous Myr
- 3 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Fume Spitter
- 2 Gathan Raiders
- 2 Golgari Brownscale
- 3 Grave Scrabbler
- 2 Mesmeric Fiend
- 2 Mogg War Marshal
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
1) Who are you and how did you get involved in Pauper?
My name is Eric and I have been playing Magic Online for most of its ten-year existence. I have always been primarily a Limited player but in my early days I was not always successful. Standard never appealed to me and Eternal formats were inaccessible but I eventually discovered the Magic Online 'Casual Formats.' The decline in popularity and support for Prismatic and 60 Card Singleton and later 100 Card Singleton and Standard Singleton led me to Pauper. Being a winning player in these formats enables me to continue drafting frequently despite losing my fair share of drafts.
2) Do you play paper Magic? What are some of your favorite formats aside from Pauper?
I played paper magic a fair amount in the 2000s which is how I discovered Magic Online as well as how I met the people I currently play Magic Online with that I know personally. I am a Level 37 Planeswalker and have had a Limited DCI rating in the Top 20 in my region but I never progressed further than making Top 4 of a local PTQ or battling some now well-known pros in team drafts—even various current North American National team members.
My favorite format is of course Draft especially Master's Edition and Cube and as for regular sets I really enjoy Innistrad Lorwyn Ravnica Mirrodin and Time Spiral. Strangely I really enjoy drafting blue—the best color in many if not all of the formats listed—yet I essentially never enjoy playing blue decks in Constructed. My other favor formats are the aforementioned 100 Card Singleton where I dominated many Magic Online weekend events with Goblins and Prismatic where I played five-color aggressive and midrange Zoo decks.
3) Can you tell us about Team DBC?
Team DBC—or Doing Battle with Commons or Doesn't Buy Cards—is a clan founded by myself and Top Deck Fiend that we started with some friends I met playing paper Magic at my local game shop. Since then seven years and 20000 packs won later we have branched out to become the premier Pauper clan on Magic Online. Along with our new co-captain JSiri84 we have recruited the best and most active Pauper players online.
Our clan is certainly not made up of casual players since we have won over 43000 packs but at the same time I would not consider any of our members grinders. Like me most of us continually play the same decks (individually) and constantly adapt to the metagame. We our generally at the top of the event standings yet we play for enjoyment not just profit.
4) Can you tell us about your first forays into Pauper?
Following the decline of the weekend events for Singleton and Prismatic I decided to give Pauper a try. My first attempts involving Goblins were less than successful despite all my success as the primary 100 Card Singleton Goblins player. I could not beat Storm White Weenie Mono-Black Control or Slivers and Goblin Bushwhacker did not even exist yet to help me out. Returning again last year I picked up Green Post since I enjoyed ramp decks in the past and the deck reminded me of a Pauper version of the Legacy Post decks. I was mildly successful beating Affinity and Cloudpost decks but I struggled versus Goblins Mono-Black Control and Mono-Blue Control.
I made changes to the sideboard adding unplayed cards such as Lignify and the then unpopular Serrated Arrows but I still struggled with Sparksmith Crypt Rats and Exclude. After about of month of being slightly profitable I discovered Mono-Black Tortured Existence and Dead Dog lists. Always a fan of Wild Mongrel Basking Rootwalla and Putrid Leech I began playing and modifying Tortured Existence decks and the rest is history …
- 3 Basking Rootwalla
- 4 Fume Spitter
- 3 Golgari Brownscale
- 3 Grave Scrabbler
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 3 Vampire Hounds
- 4 Wild Mongrel
I did not play Magic from Homelands to Odyssey (hence my love for Mongrel) so I had never even seen the card Tortured Existence not to mention been aware of its synergy with the low quality draft card Golgari Brownscale nor had I ever seen Vampire Hounds. With the lack of a Bone Shredder at common as well as the increasing popularity of Infect (including the upcoming arrival of Glistener Elf) I added Fume Spitter Diabolic Edict and Snuff Out to the deck.
Months later I removed green from the deck and rebuilt the deck with Squadron Hawks and Lone Missionaries to improve my win percentage against Burn decks Faeries and Mono-Black Control decks that were popular at the time. When Delver of Secrets was printed and widely adapted I added the newly printed Dead Weight to go along with the Auramancers I was playing. Finally after taking a break this past winter I returned to Magic Online and Pauper when I was inspired by Sam Black's Legacy deck. I built R/B Tortured Existence using the same shell as well as Faithless Looting Carrion Feeder Mesmeric Fiend Tragic Slip and Death Spark.
- 1 Perilous Myr
- 3 Auramancer
- 4 Fume Spitter
- 2 Golgari Brownscale
- 2 Grave Scrabbler
- 2 Lone Missionary
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Undertaker
- 2 Vampire Hounds
5) Can you tell us a little about your deck? Why Tortured Existence? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Tortured Existence is essentially a Rock deck which means I am basically 50% against the field. I tend to believe that through skill knowledge of my opponents' decks sideboarding and my opponents unfamiliarity with my game plan I can gain a significant edge. The green "Deep Dog" version is clearly the most aggressive of the three builds yet it struggled with fliers from White Weenie and Delver of Secrets based decks.
The white "Squawks and Hounds" clearly is the strongest against other creature decks such as Affinity Fairies Goblins and Infect due to the large amount of removal yet lacks a clock and struggles versus Cloudpost and Storm decks with many dead removal spells maindeck. The current red-black "Rocky Horror" list is the strongest against a diverse field yet still struggles versus some of the so-called boogeymen of Pauper primarily Locus mana along with buyback spells Fireballs and the non-interactive Storm cards: Grapeshot and Temporal Fissure.
6) How do you feel about Pauper right now? What are the best decks? What are the worst decks people are playing?
I feel Pauper is currently for the most part healthy and balanced. Unfortunately the prize support is Magic 2012 packs and their declining value is currently keeping most of the stronger Pauper players away from the format. This will of course change once Magic 2013 is released online. The best decks are Affinity U/R Cloudpost control decks Empty the Warrens / Grapeshot Storm decks Rancor decks and White Weenie.
The worst decks people play are gimmick or "value" decks involving cards like Ghostly Flicker Mnemonic Wall Trinket Mage or Wee Dragonauts. These decks lack the efficiency or power to compete with the top tier decks. Sadly Goblins and Mono-Black Control decks while long-time format staples feel underpowered against the current updated and more streamlined versions of the top tier decks.
7) Do you think the format is healthy?
Overall I think the format is healthy. There is a clear known metagame of established decks both top tier and just below. This allows for a player like me to build and adapt decks to compete against the known decks. At the same time many "home brews" lack what it takes to compete with the diversity of the top decks.
I feel the aforementioned big offenders in Pauper are the Locus mana along with Capsize Mystical Teachings and Rolling Thunder and the Storm mechanics Grapeshot and Temporal Fissure and to a lesser extent Empty the Warrens. The lack of viability of land destruction as well as the lack of cards like Flusterstorm are certainly detrimental to the format and the success of rogue decklists.
8) Why should people play Pauper?
Obviously people should play Pauper because getting attacked for lethal Infect damage on turn 2 is fun as is taking lethal damage from a Grapeshot or Rolling Thunder or having all your permanents bounced. Actually those are the only reasons not to play Pauper but fortunately those scenarios although painful are not too frequent. Pauper is a widely accessible format due to the relative low cost of the format. All of the top tier and second tier decks are capable of winning tournaments despite the constraints and worst-case scenarios of the format.
The format generally involves a lot of attacking and blocking reminiscent of the better more interactive Constructed formats as well as Limited play. The format rewards practice and preparation as well as constantly updating decklists and sideboard plans to adapt to the slow but present metagame changes. I feel the format is essentially Legacy-light in that you can play whichever deck you want and it will be competitive as long as you have a plan against the top tier decks. I feel like my win in the recent Pauper Spotlight Tournament with my Tortured Existence deck demonstrated this.
Eric also asked that I share his thoughts on M13 and a word of thanks:
I appreciate the opportunity to share my ideas and thoughts with Alex and the community. I look forward to returning in the future to discuss specific topics like my opinions on Magic 2013 spoilers such as War Falcon and Wild Guess and further discuss the unhealthy aspects of the format which may be a hindrance to new Pauper players (such as Locus mana and the storm mechanic). Thank you those who took the time to read this interview and to try out Pauper for yourselves and thank you Alex for inviting me as a guest to his column.
I would like to thank Eric for his in-depth look at Pauper and his distinct take on the format!
Keep slingin' commons-
SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
The Colors of Pauper: