There are times between sets when Pauper gets stale. This is one such time. Rather than waiting until we get the new cards from Dragon's Maze, now seemed like the perfect time to provide a grab bag of topics that might not be long enough for a full article but deserve discussion.
One of the enduring archetypes in Pauper is black-based control. In the early day of sanctioned play, Mono-Black Control won many events on the back of the best sweeper in the format (Crypt Rats), the best endgame (Corrupt), and a format-defining removal spell (Tendrils of Corruption). When Tempest was made available online, Goblins became the best aggro deck thanks to Mogg Raider providing redundancy with Goblin Sledder, helping to counteract the life gain bonus of Tendrils. The second nail in the coffin for slow black control came when Cloudpost and Glimmerpost replaced Swamps as the best possible endgame engine.
Black adapted, however, moving towards cheaper removal, abusing enters the battlefield effects, and Unearth (the card). The deck's popularity waxes and wanes. Right now is a prime time to be playing with Swamps because black is in the business of killing creatures and creatures are riding high in Pauper.
Sure, there are Myr Enforcers, Insectile Aberrations, and Timberwatch Elfs on battlefields, but the real danger has defender. Currently, the most important creature in the format is Mnemonic Wall, a key component in decks running Ghostly Flicker and Temporal Fissure to set up one-sided Upheavals. By generating a large amount of mana with the Cloudpost engine, these decks can constantly cycle a Ghostly Flicker through a Mnemonic Wall and cards like Cloud of Faeries or Mulldrifter to generate an arbitrarily large amount of mana or cards, eventually finding Temporal Fissure and casting it to help ensure a win. Usually, Temporal Fissure will target Mnemonic Wall as well to continue the cycle next turn.
If Mnemonic Wall is the most important creature, then the removal must adapt. Needing to kill a creature with four toughness is nothing new in Pauper (just look at how popular Spire Golem and Myr Enforcer have been throughout the history of the format). The speed of this combo requires that you can kill Mnemonic Wall at instant speed and do so early in the game. This speaks to black's removal suite full of Doom Blade style effects. The best part of a format with creature-based combos is that straight-up kill cards never fully lose their utility.
At this time, Doom Blade and its ilk have fallen out of favor. This is due to the aggressive decks in the format (Stompy, Goblins, and Affinity) largely not caring about losing a single beater. But when you absolutely need to kill something at instant speed, there are few cards better suited for the task.
As if removal was not enough, black is also well positioned currently because it can handle the graveyard exceptionally well. A key to Temporal Fissure's success rests in recycling the graveyard, so targeting that zone goes a long way towards stalling their game plan. Cards like Nihil Spellbomb and Faerie Macabre can find a home any deck but have added utility coming from the land of Swamps.
But wait, there's more! Finally, black has land destruction. Sure, it is harder to cast than Stone Rain, but options like Choking Sands, Rancid Earth, and Icequake have incidental upside. These spells can help neuter Cloudpost (even if a player Crop Rotations a Post away, that is one fewer to generate excess mana).
No one of these is going to answer the Fissure Post threat on its own merits. However, the power of these cards lies in the total being something more than the sum of the parts. That is how black thrives in Pauper. Black cards create a relentless system of advantage and oppression, which results in wins. If I was looking to build a better black deck, this is where I would begin:
2. Cards I Want To Make Work
5) Yavimaya Elder: It is slow and does not really play into green's strengths at the moment, but being able to get three cards is still an exciting prospect. Even if it dies from natural causes (or a Carrion Feeder), it still gets two lands.
3) Cloudfin Raptor: There is no other card in Pauper that does what this guy does. A strong blue beater that has a nice upper limit for damage potential.
2) Putrid Leech: I could just leave this as "I'm Golgari," but the fact is that Putrid Leech is a strong card on both offense and defense. In my opinion, it is one of the cards worth warping a mana base for.
1) Faithless Looting: I love everything about this card. It sculpts your hand and fills the graveyard and then does it again. This is an inherently powerful effect, and I hope it can find a home in Pauper.
There is a petition making the rounds asking Wizards to officially recognize Standard Pauper on Magic Online as a tournament format. My feelings have not changed. I think given the relative stagnation of Classic Pauper, Standard would be a refreshing reprieve and give options to deckbuilders.
One of the biggest issues with Pauper is that it gets solved relatively easily as a clear best strategy emerges. At the moment, the top strategy is Ghostly Flicker with enters the battlefield effects (aided in large part by Prophetic Prism). With new sets being added on a regular basis, it is less likely for the format to be solved for long stretches (like Classic), but as long as the New World Order is in effect (and it should be for a long time since it is good for the game), Standard Pauper will likely gravitate towards strategies that can best reuse enters the battlefield creatures because it's the best way to gain a long-term advantage.
The best time for the implementation of Standard Pauper might be after Innistrad block leaves Standard. At this time, Ghostly Flicker and Cloudshift will be gone, and Return to Ravnica block will be the dominant force (along with whatever comes along in Magic 2014 and Theros). The guild structure will push decks towards two or three colors, with great mana available thanks to the Guildgates. The format has the potential to be wide open, and the thrill of a new set, as well as all those draft commons, could bring new blood to Pauper.
4. The Best Standard-Legal Cards in Pauper
5) Foundry Street Denizen: This is largely responsible for putting Goblins back on the map. Foundry Street Denizen can deal quite a bit of damage and happens to be the best creature type in the format (well, maybe after Faerie).
4) Prophetic Prism: Helps fix colors and draws a card. This alone would be okay, but when combined with the number one card on the list, it helps to create a relentless assault of card economy.
3) Hunger of the Howlpack: A key card in current Stompy. Things are going to die, so you might as well profit. Would you trade one dead creature (which might come back anyway or might even belong to an opponent) for a free Giant Growth every turn? I would.
2) Delver of Secrets: It took an amazing card to keep this out of the number one spot.
1) Ghostly Flicker: Responsible for the domination of Fissure Post variants, this card is clearly the most powerful Standard-legal card seeing play in Pauper at the moment.
5. State of Pauper
Pauper right now is in an odd period of growth. It is still one of the most popular Constructed formats on Magic Online (lagging behind whatever the current Pro Tour Qualifier format is). There are more players now than a year ago, and that number is only going to increase. At the time of this writing, the format is recovering from the relatively recent bans of Empty the Warrens, Grapeshot, and Invigorate that largely neutered traditional Storm. Infect has been hurt but still puts up respectable finishes. The current best deck is likely some version of Temporal Fissure Storm, but the next best decks include Stompy, Delver, and Affinity.
The format is still adjusting, but there is some concern about the strength of Temporal Fissure strategies. The fact is that casting a one-sided Upheaval is not very interactive, nor is it fun for the person on the receiving end. To that end, I would not be surprised to see some action taken against Temporal Fissure in the future. As I have written before, Storm is a problem without a common answer. I am fully prepared to be wrong because recent Daily Event results have shown a decline in Temporal Fissure decks.
6. My New Favorite Old Card
While this does not appear on my cards to make work list, I have a fondness for Song of Blood. When working on my fourth (or maybe it was tenth) iteration of a Viscera Dragger / Carrion Feeder deck, I stumbled across this sorcery and smiled. I put together a very straightforward list that looked something like this:
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Dregscape Zombie
- 3 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 2 Kathari Bomber
- 4 Kruin Striker
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
- 4 Rotting Rats
- 4 Viscera Dragger
- 1 Vithian Stinger
This deck is capable of some rather large attacks, but on Magic Online Song of Blood did not count creatures that were flipped by it and then later Unearthed. Thanks bugs! That being said, the deck is explosive and is a nice way to end up with a large army. What it really needs is a way to keep blockers out of the way, and Stingscourger just doesn't cut it.
Keep slingin' commons,
SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
The Colors of Pauper: