Dime a Dozen #18: A Miniature Pauper Survival Guide

Hi everyone! As I mentioned last time, there are quite a few topics to discuss in light of the alterations made to the Pauper format. For this reason, I’ve got another written article lined up for you today. Hopefully this doesn’t bother too many of you, as I should have some video content on deck for subsequent episodes.

Today we’re going to discuss some principal concepts that will help us survive in today’s Pauper world. With a changing field come new challenges, and it’s important to establish a mental and tactical footing when tackling said challenges. Conversely, we must always be prepared to unlearn the preconceived notions that are professed on message boards and cemented by our own limited number of experiences. For that reason, I wholeheartedly welcome you to take the ideas that follow with a grain of salt and do with them what you will. Thinking for yourself is integral to surviving most challenges, and therefore no authority is sacred (not even me).

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s talk about how to survive the Pauper format!

The Flame Slash Test

Some of you may remember that at a certain point in time Standard was, at least in part, defined by something called “The Jace Test” (and later “The Vapor Snag Test”). This was an acknowledgement of Jace, the Mind Sculptor‘s omnipresence in the format, and thereby a standard for measuring the worth of a given creature when building or evaluating decks. A creature that failed the Jace Test would hit the table, but wouldn’t be able to generate any value before being bounced by Jace’s Unsummon ability. This common occurrence resulted in a significant tempo loss for the creature’s controller. It also set a precedent for which creatures were considered viable in an environment inhabited by seemingly infinite Jaces.

So what does this have to do with Pauper? I know what you’re thinking: “How is Flame Slash remotely comparable to Jace, the Mind Sculptor?” The answer, while somewhat roundabout, should make sense. 4 toughness is a defining characteristic of the current field. Between the Carapace Forgers and Myr Enforcers of Affinity, Frostburn Weirds and Spire Golems of Mono U Fae, Mnemonic Walls of Cloudpost, and toughness-boosting of Stompy’s Basking Rootwalla activations and Gather Courages, the ability to deal 4 to a creature for cheap has become paramount. For this reason, the most viable decks tend to be playing some sort of Flame Slash variant (in other words, a card that can remove a 4-toughness creature for cheap). This means that cards like Galvanic Blast, Snap, and assorted variants of Doom Blade equate to quintessential pieces of removal.

With this in mind, we can now posit that for a creature to be worth its weight in cardboard, it should be able to interact favorably with the Flame Slash variants possessed by the opponent. So how exactly does a creature “pass” The Flame Slash test?

A.) It doesn’t die to it

Not dying to Flame Slash and friends is most easily accomplished by creatures with hexproof or shroud. In fact, one of the prevalent decks in the format is entirely predicated on having creatures that cannot be targeted with spot removal. Perhaps the best example creature of this ilk is Silhana Ledgewalker, which sees play in both Hexproof and Mono Green Stompy.

B.) Dies to it, but comes back later

This concept usually applies to damage-based removal and destroy effects rather than spells that bounce or exile. The creatures that pass the test in this regard generate virtual card advantage by replacing themselves once they’ve died. In other words, your opponent spends a full card to remove only a portion of your card. This gives you a resource advantage, and therefore a favorable interaction. Young Wolf and Loyal Cathar are the most typical examples in the format currently.

C.) Generates value immediately

Generating value immediately can be accomplished primarily though “enters the battlefield” effects. This creates a resource advantage by doing something for us before the opponent even has a chance to remove our creature. Creatures you’ll most often see doing this include Mulldrifter, Mogg War Marshal and Phyrexian Rager.

Cramming for the Test

As an exercise, let’s construct a deck that not only passes the Flame Slash test with flying colors, but also packs some relevant tools against the current field:

Hey look, I even provided a sideboard. That’s because I want you play this deck that badly. If you stick around, I might even throw in a sideboard guide.

Some have prematurely denounced the viability of White Weenie in the current format. While it has (and perhaps always will) struggle against the various flavors of Cloudpost, it does have the capability to walk all over Fae, Goblins, Hexproof, and Stompy while giving Affinity a reasonable fight. It’s biggest soft spot will be to Temporal Fissure decks, but they are not now as fashionable as many believed they would be. Its number of good matchups make it as reasonable a choice as many of the other decks cashing out these days, and it certainly is not dead just because player X says it is.

What we’ve assembled with the current list is a beatdown deck with all value creatures. It just so happens to also come (partially) pre-boarded against a high percentage of the field.

Attended Knight will stick out almost immediately, but I feel that it’s pretty well-positioned right now. When equipped or in pairs, it fights through Affinity 4/4s, Fae x/4s and all the other creatures that have warranted the inclusion of removal on par with Flame Slash. It also brings along a friend to impact races on either side of the red zone. A 2/2 first strike body by itself still bullies Frogmite, Ninja of the Deep Hours and Mulldrifter, which means that Knight has serviceable applications against pretty much anyone.

Tasked with crushing Myr Enforcer, Serrated Arrows, Spire Golem and Armadillo Cloak are three copies of Kor Sanctifiers. Perfectly fine on their own, these become even more swingy when repurchased with Kor Skyfihser.

Some have debated whether or not Prismatic Strands still has a place in White Weenie. If you are one of those people, you’ve probably never seen the card laugh endlessly at Stompy’s and Hexproof’s attempts to race, thwart a lethal Rolling Thunder (even with counter backup), or massacre a crucial set of attacks or blocks. In other words, the card is still quite valuable (in my estimation).

To reward you for reading yet another excerpt on White Weenie, here is a Dime a Dozen first: a sideboard guide!

Mono-U Fae

-1 Guardian of the Guildpact
-2 Prismatic Strands
+3 Aven Riftwatcher

As a 4-mana threat, Guardian is likely to Time Walk us if the opponent is holding countermagic. It also becomes marginally effective against a deck that plays Frostburn Weird, Quicksand, Serrated Arrows and Spire Golem. Fortunately, we have plenty of cheaper threats that cause the Fae pilot grief. Prismatic Strands doesn’t have much potential here, though it can punish double blocks on our bigger guys. In general, Strands will be a “win-more” card more than anything. Aven Riftwatcher adds to our list of problematic threats, as it profitably trades with Delver, eats faeries/any ground-pounders and Bonesplitters its way through Spire Golem.

Izzet Cloudpost

-2 Journey to Nowhere
+1 Guardian of the Guildpact
+1 Guardians’ Pledge

Because of the low number of creatures in Cloudpost, we can afford to cut some of our removal. Journey happens to be terrible against Capsize, allowing them to draw additional cards with Mulldrifter and so forth. Unmake is far more valuable, as it catches Mnemonic Wall in response to Ghostly Flicker or fizzles Capsize. Guardian of the Guildpact can only die to Serrated Arrows or Ulamog’s Crusher, so it’s one of our more robust threats in the matchup. Guardians’ Pledge gives us a means of closing out a game just that much faster, making it occasionally possible to win before they can stabilize.

Affinity

-4 Icatian Javelineers
+4 Dust to Dust

I think this is how I want to board here. It could be the case that cutting Attended Knight will better suit our mana curve. An alternate route could be to leave in the 1-drops, forego some number of Dust to Dust, bring in the Guardians’ Pledge and opt for a swarm plan. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then Javelineers is generally going to be the worst creature in the matchup. Maxing out on Dust to Dust gives us the best chance of resolving one on Turn 3, the targets of which will depend on our hand and their draw.

Mono-Green Stompy

-2 Attended Knight
-2 Bonesplitter
-3 Kor Sanctifiers
+3 Aven Riftwatcher
+1 Prismatic Strands
+3 Standard Bearer

I believe that Aven Riftwatcher will be a slighty more valuable 3-drop than Attended Knight in this matchup. Bonesplitter is not integral, but leaving in a couple gives us a way to block Skarrgan Pit-Skulk. Kor Sanctifiers have very little utility, since at best they knock out an opposing Bonesplitter or Viridian Longbow. Prismatic Strands is one of our best cards in this matchup, because they have no way to profitably play around it. For those who might not know, Standard Bearer is also extremely valuable, because it “turns off” all of their pump spells. This makes their creatures extremely weak.

Hexproof

-2 Journey to Nowhere
-2 Unmake
+1 Prismatic Strands
+3 Standard Bearer

We want to leave in some number of Unmakes if they’re playing Aura Gnarlid, but I’m not sure if 1 or 2 is correct. Strands is going to help us race, and Standard Bearer will fill the same role that it does against Stompy: blanking their creature auras until they can remove it.

Mono-Black Control

-3 Kor Sanctifiers
+1 Guardian of the Guildpact
+2 Rune of Protection: Black

If they have Serrated Arrows in the deck, you obviously want to leave Sanctifiers in. You should also bring in the third Prismatic Strands if they are playing a version with Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption. Guardian can often be kept alive as long as you play around edict effects, so it’s quite handy. While defensive in nature, Rune is relatively unanswerable once it resolves. As you can imagine, that’s pretty good.

Goblins

-4 Bonesplitter
+3 Aven Riftwatcher
+1 Prismatic Strands

Bonesplitter has never really appealed to me versus Goblins, though I can see leaving in a couple if they’re playing Mogg Flunkies. Sanctifiers isn’t really nuking anything (aside from a rare Sylvok Lifestaff), but having a high creature count is important here. A Regal Unicorn is also serviceable opposite their contingent. Riftwatcher will do a nice job of gumming up the red zone and preserving our life total, and Strands will serve as a useful trump.

Dimir Cloudpost

-2 Prismatic Strands
+1 Guardian of the Guildpact
+1 Guardians’ Pledge

Similar to Izzet Cloudpost, except they play more creatures and don’t have any damage-dealing spells. If you want, you can bring in Riftwatchers over Journeys to increase threat density.

So there you have it. I’ve laid out a lot of information here, so hopefully you’ll make use of it. All you have to do from here is spend some time getting a feel for the deck, think about your plays and enjoying cashing some Dailies!

Prohibition Era

For multicolor decks that want to play countermagic, it can be difficult to “splash” a card like Counterspell or Deprive. Furthermore, there are so many situational substitutes available that it‘s rarely easy to assemble a robust suite. While it’s usually correct to include some sort of mix to cover most of our bases, there is one counter that stands out as being particularly well positioned right now. Prohibit is the card’s name, and the fact that some decks are playing Condescend in higher numbers is appalling. Let’s observe Prohibit’s uses.

Mono U Fae: You can counter everything in the deck short of Gush, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Spire Golem.

Izzet Cloudpost: All spot removal, all counters (besides Condescend sometimes), Preordain, Prophetic Prism, Capsize(with kicker) and Ghostly Flicker (with kicker).

Affinity: Everything in the deck short of Myr Enforcer, Somber Hoverguard and Thoughtcast.

Mono Green Stompy: Everything in the deck, period!

So here we have a spell that is often going to imitate Counterspell rather convincingly, without having the UU price tag attached. For Izzet Cloudpost at the vary least, I think Prohibit should take priority over all other options.

While on the subject of counters, I’d like to give Negate an honorable mention. This card has valid targets across the field, including Mono U Fae’s bounce, cantrips, counters and draw; Cloudpost’s cantrips, counters, draw, removal, and win conditions; Affinity’s color fixing, Flings and Galvanic Blasts; and Stompy’s protection and pump spells.

A Condescending Remark

Having dabbled with various Post lists, I’ve found Condescend to be one of the most frequently sided-out cards. I think this is because it’s hard to stop cheap spells from resolving later in the game, and it’s equally hard to make use of it in the Post mirror (when the opponent will roughly have eight quadrillion mana at their disposal). In my experience, Condescend ends up being suboptimal in just about every matchup where you’d like it not to be. I’ve gone so far as to phase Condescend completely out of my Izzet Cloudpost builds, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for any of you to do the same.

Noncreature Nonsense

One particularly interesting aspect of today’s Pauper environment lies within the growing relevance of noncreature permanents. More specifically, the ability to interact with artifacts, lands, and enchantments is one of the defining qualifiers for versatile and viable decks in the format.

While Affinity has always been a presence in Pauper, its level of popularity over the past month and change is unprecedented. With a manabase composed entirely of artifacts (in addition to a number of artifact-dependent creatures), the deck often finds itself under attack on an axis that is less concerned with creature removal. Narrow hosers like Gorilla Shaman are seeing much more play than they were previously, and the mirror match has become a primary consideration when tuning Affinity lists.

Both Cloudpost and Temporal Fissure strategies are abusing land synergies in order to devastate opponents. With various flavors of each archetype, one through-line that exists is moderate vulnerability to land destruction. Because there are various Stone Rains in black, red, and green in addition to Boomerang in blue, these strategies shouldn’t have any reason to monopolize the metagame at any point in the near future.

Lastly, Hexproof has prompted the incorporation of enchantment hate, which was previously quite rare. It’s admittedly refreshing to see mass enchantment removal actually do something in the format, with cards like Serene Heart and Patrician’s Scorn seeing play (perhaps for the first time) in Pauper.

I want to point out, if you didn’t already notice, that red and green are particularly well-positioned against most of the aforementioned noncreature permanents (I say “most” because red cannot interact with enchantments at all). Be sure to keep that in mind when brewing new decks for the format!

End Step

Surviving the current Pauper environment is not as daunting as it may seem, if you equip yourself with the proper knowledge and tools. I hope that this article has been somewhat helpful in that regard. What did I miss? What am I wrong about? I want to hear your thought in the comments below! Feel free also to share any of your recent experiences while brewing, tuning or competing in Daily Events. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to comment!

You can find Jason
co-hosting the Pauper’s Cage podcast
on MTGO as BambooRush
on Twitter @dimecollectorsc
and on Youtube at youtube.com/dimecollectorsc

 
  1. Great article! What are your thoughts on Obsidian/Crimson Acolyte in white weenie?

  2. This is an excellent article.
    Do you find this to be better positioned than the war falcon WW list? I can definitely see match ups it shines in but feel like it is even more vulnerable to the post decks. I’m also curious about selecting rune of protection black over something like obsidian acolyte for the sideboard. I can see reasons for both but the obsidian acolyte is very good against Dimir Post as well as mono black.

  3. Hooligum2 – I appreciate it. General thoughts, or in the metagame right now? 

    Crimson: only applicable to Goblins/Affinity. Post has Capsize Oracle, Mulldrifter and Arrows for her. Burn burns you and not your guys. Goblins: she will be very good for you, but you don’t need her to win. Aven is a way more versatile use of sideboard space. 

    Obsidian: Has more applications than Rune, but can be answered with Edicts or Arrows. Rune is purposely included as something narrow that will absolutely destroy a particular matchup. Can I fault you if you play him? Not really, but any deck playing black can have an answer to him if they want to.

  4. Deejford – Thank you! Will have to analyze matchup by matchup to gauge which version is better placed. Don’t worry, your deck is getting its place in the sun next week. For your playstyle, I think Falcon is probably better. What makes this is more vulnerable vs. Post? That seems inaccurate, aside from the fact that it has some slower draws. Lastly, this isn’t a personal attack, but quit worrying about Post! 

    Obsidian thoughts can be found above.

  5. Yea, it is really just the slower draws that concern me in the post match ups, at least with the fissure decks. I feel like time is the only limiting factor in those games. If I can’t worry about Post than I would have nothing to worry about. That would just seem strange :P. I do feel like this format is in a very good place right now though. the amount of different decks performing well in the dailies has been nice and there definitely seems like there is a good counter strategy to all of the popular decks.

  6. Wow, great read!

    I sleeved this up today and ran it in just for fun.

    I am a noob with it but it is extremely efficient and fairly resilient.

    Best fight was against gw hex proof. I was at 1, opp was at 27. He had a 15/17 ledge walker, I had three birds, one with an axe, a javelineer, and a loyal cathar. I drew a prismatic strand and made a crazy comeback and won the match 1 to -1.

    Very exciting!

    Thanks for all the tips.

  7. Cyrulean – That’s awesome! Glad to hear you tried out the deck. Someone else mentioned on Twitter that they went 2-1 with it in a tourney. You guys are amazing. Keep it up!

  8. it does have the capability to walk all over Fae, Goblins, Hexproof, and Stompy “….LOL

  9. One of your better articles to date Jason, very informative. Thanks.

  10. That was me! (deluxeicoff) – never feel like digging up my password. Interesting brew, find me online sometime and let me see how it does :)

  11. Anonymous – Or you can play it for yourself (let me guess, you’d NEVER play this in a million years). It’s pretty sad and predictable that I can recognize your posts – based on their “quality” – without needing to see your ID. If I see you online I’ll gladly go about my business. Hope you enjoyed my post! It’s the last time I respond to a comment from you.

  12. Anonymous – Hi! You’re right, it’s one of the worst matchups. I mentioned that in the article. Did your testing reveal anything else?

  13. Thanks for the article Jason, great as always. I’ve actually been on-board with your opinions since the bans when I was thinking to myself, “man, affinity looks so good right now”. After your article saying the same thing, I was convinced. Sure enough, I’ve cashed about 80% of my affinity dailies in the past month.

    But, I’m getting tired of keeping 1 landers! And the hate is starting to tilt me. Time for something more consistent.

    I was initially gonna sleeve up mono-red burn, since it seems pretty good now (against a field of predominantly midrange and late game decks). But, some of my favorite Standard decks ever have been WW. Unfortunately, I lack experience in Pauper to know what’s better.

    Now, I know you’re a much stronger WW player than most… Do you feel WW has a better matchup against affinity, cloudpost and mono u than burn does? In my mind those are the must-beat decks.

    Also, are there any sleeper cards for WW that you feel might warrant a slot? (thinking Syndic of Tithes, field surgeon, or soul sisters)

    Anyways, sorry for the long comment, just want some of that spicy hot insider knowledge you’ve got over there.

  14. Sfen – Hi! I don’t know what the Burn matchups are like, but it has put up strong showings in a couple recent events. It plays as many lands as Affinity though (sometimes fewer), so your frustration probably won’t see much relief. As far as WW, I would consider Attended Knight a “sleeper” card to begin with. Is there a reason these two decks are your only considerations? Goblins and Stompy are both proactive decks that regularly place.

     I think I could be of more help if you told me your highest priority goal: I see that you want to avoid low land hands, extreme hate, and want decent matchups vs. Delver/Affinity/Post (which one?), but achieving all of that at once might not be realistic. Hope that makes sense.

  15. Makes total sense Jason.

    My draw to a mono colored aggro deck over affinity is consistency. Mono R runs the same number of lands, but affinity really can’t do much with one land other than play a mana rock. Mono r, while it has the same number of lands, can trade that 1 mana for 3 damage several turns in a row and at least you won’t be draw-go’ing. Plus, you’re immune to color screw, which is not a HUGE problem with affinity, but still existent.

    Honestly, more than anything I want to beat Post. Mostly because I hate losing to it. I suppose that answers my question for me then, doesn’t it? If Mono W has a sketchy post matchup, I need mono r.

    As for the reason I don’t like goblins, it’s just never impressed me. Don’t think I’ve ever lost to it with affinity. Although I’m sure that’s just me being results-oriented around a favorable matchup. Mono G is definitely an option, although I do have Affinity for Rogue Decks, so there’s that. Which is another reason affinity – the deck – is no longer as appealing now that it’s like 15% of the metagame.

    I do have to admit, first strike creatures plus bonesplitter sounds like a great ol’ time. Bad post matchup aside, I’ll have to sleeve up your mono w brew to see what’s up.

    Have you considered slivers at all? They almost seem like affinity without the silver-bullet weakness. I dunno though.

    Anyways, I know I’m a rambler so I do appreciate your responses here (thanks)… Keep up the good work!

  16. Ack, I should explain that I’m a writer by trade, so you’ll have to pardon my obscenely long comments.

  17. Thank you so much for this breakdown. I used to be an avid pauper player. I stopped when I found that 99% of my decks dedicated a large portion of sideboard power to storm matchups. With the recen bannings, I have been wondering what the format looks like.

    This article summed up a lot of my questions. I’m sure the format is still somewhat untapped and there are deeper lines of strategy, but this is great. Thanks again.

  18. Sfen – If Post is your your top priority (I’m guessing you mean Izzet Post), then my understanding is that Mono Green Stompy will be your best bet out of those options. Good luck with your endeavor!

    systemic – Glad you like the article! There is a lot going on, and a lot of information available. It’s a good time to be a fan of Pauper! Please check out some of my other content sometime.

  19. Stompy, eh? Well I’ll try it! Thanks for the help… Looking forward to your next article.

  20. Jason,

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been playing the WW deck for a week as a new player and it’s worked very well. I think I paid less than $5 and it’s been very competitive. The biggest challenges have been post (of course) and aggro burn decks. To that end, I am thinking of sideboarding Hallow, as it might be able to buy me an extra turn or two vs them. I may also remove a Kor Sanctifier, as often I don’t have 4 lands to kick it or my opponent is not playing enchantments/artifacts.

    Post is killer. I have drawn a nut hand and still lost…

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