Dime a Dozen #24: Pauper Masters?

Hello everyone! Since covering some of Magic 2014’s spoiled cards in my last article, I’ve had to switch gears and start thinking about Modern Masters. In case you don’t know, Modern Masters is a set of Modern-legal cards reprinted from previous sets. This may prompt you to ask: how does a set composed of reprints affect the Pauper format in any way? The answer? Rarity changes! For Pauper patrons like you and me, Modern Masters will feature a number of cards that have been shifted from the uncommon rarity to common, thereby inducting a select group of “newbies” into our format. This is really great to see, as there are a whopping 16 such inductions being made. Today we’re going to look at some of the most exciting ones, and try to build some fearsome and fun decks around them. Let’s go!

Life of the Party

The retrace keyword ability is one of my absolute favorites. It really gets mileage out of an environment like Pauper, which lacks the inherent card advantage of planeswalkers and wraths found in other formats. Turning excess lands into spells can make the difference in wars of attrition, paying off in the late game time and time again. Oona’s Grace and Raven’s Crime are currently two of the more frequently played retrace cards, with Cenn’s Enlistment and Flame Jab making occasional appearances as well. Modern Masters introduces a new card with retrace to the Pauper landscape in the form of Syphon Life.

As a one-time effect, Syphon Life would be downright miserable for 3 mana (in fact, I’d be hard-pressed to play it even at a lower cost). However, when compared to the uselessness of an excess land, its appeal begins to show. Reach (the “burn” kind of reach, not the block-fliers kind of reach) in black is often synonymous with high-impact cards like Corrupt and Crypt Rats, but the potential for a repeatable 4 point life swing is not to be underestimated. This is particularly true for decks that are unable to manipulate their late-game draws, namely aggressive decks. With all that in mind, let’s brew something aggressive, and utilize Syphon Life as a form of reach and attrition insurance. Here’s a first draft of:

This initial list might be a little too land-heavy, but I really feel like Tendrils of Corruption will be needed to counteract the self-abuse dealt by Carnophage, Soulcage Fiend, Vampire Lacerator, Wretched Anurid and limited blocking. For that reason I’m running 22 lands and hoping to get 4 of those on the table quickly each game.

Aside from that, we’ve got 10 1-drop creatures (and they all swing for 2!), edicts that ping the opponent (Geth’s Verdict), equipment (Bonesplitter), and preemption versus combo and control(Duress). It’s always nice to have a way to deal direct damage when piloting an aggressive deck, and Suicide Black has a few: Geth’s Verdict, an attacking Pulse Tracker, Soulcage Fiend and Syphon Life. What’s lacking is raw card advantage, as I feel like Sign in Blood might be too unrealistic here. I say this because it’s yet another form of self-inflicted life loss in a deck that already has plenty. There’s also not much staying power after the early turns, so playing first and establishing a board position means just about everything.

Here’s another sideboard guide for your consideration!

Vs. Cloudpost with Fissure:

-1 Syphon Life
-4 Tendrils of Corruption
+4 Choking Sands
+1 Duress

The goal here is to board in just enough disruption to help us win with our aggressive plan. Tendrils is probably too expensive to utilize against a deck playing a mere handful of creatures, and Syphon Life will be marginal in the later turns when opposed to their overwhelming late game mechanisms. Nihil Spellbomb does have applications, but it feels like overkill (though I could be wrong here). If we don’t have them next to dead by the time they can profit from Mnemonic Wall recursion, I don’t think we can win. Moment’s Peace will be very difficult to overcome, as will multiple Glimmerposts.

Vs. Stompy:

-2 Bonesplitter
-4 Dauthi Horror
-2 Duress

+4 Cuombajj Witches
+1 Sylvok Lifestaff
+3 Unmake

It’s nice to upgrade from a creature that can’t block to one that blocks and pings. Furthermore, boarding out of Horrors keeps our own Witches from killing them. Duress has targets in this matchup, but the best targets of all are on the board. Unmake can do away with Young Wolf or any problematic creature (short of Silhana Ledgewalker) regardless of its size. Lifestaff enables creatures to trade, and garners us a bit of life in the process. On their side of the table Ledgewalker seems problematic, especially behind a veil of edict fodder. Vines of Vastwood may also cause headaches.

Vs. Affinity:

-2 Duress
-1 Syphon Life
+3 Unmake

Leaving in Bonesplitter will let us trade with Carapace Forger and Myr Enforcer, while the additional removal equates to more answers for Atog and other fatties. Again, dealing with their board is likely going to yield better results than attacking their hand would, so Duress comes out. Syphon Life loses effectiveness because Affinity swings for large amounts. This marginalizes the benefit of gaining 2 here and there. Even though most of their creatures are bigger than ours, we have threats that come out faster and cannot be blocked. If this isn’t already a good matchup, the deck can be reconfigured to ensure that it is.

Vs. Delver:

-4 Dauthi Horror
+4 Cuombajj Witches

Witches just seem so much more valuable here. They can block Ninja of the Deep Hours (then kill it with a ping) and pretty much anything else on the ground. They can also shoot down Cloud of Faeries, Delver of Secrets, Phantasmal Bear and Spellstutter Sprite. That’s a lot of potential targets! An argument can be made for swapping Tendrils with Unmake, but I think the life gain could be useful against their otherwise unblockable fliers.

Suicide Black is not only a risky style of play; it’s also a risky deck choice. Perhaps Syphon Life will mitigate some of that innate risk and improve the deck‘s viability.

Research Materials

The next card we should consider incorporating into Pauper brews is called Perilous Research. This one needs a deal of support to be effective, but with the appropriate synergies at our disposal, it can produce impressive amounts of card advantage. Here is a direction I’d like to explore further:

No sideboard yet, since I haven’t figured out the best way to avoid heavily reducing the artifact count in Games 2 and 3. This deck is going to win with Errant Ephemeron and Mulldrifter swings (perhaps paired with a Galvanic Blast), after stabilizing the board and generating insane heaps of card advantage with Ghostly Flicker-plus-Mnemonic Wall shenanigans. Ephemeron is one of the better win conditions available in blue (at least for control decks), since the clock it presents is surprisingly reasonable. The cheap suspend cost is quite convenient as well.

We’re only playing two counters by way of Prohibit, and are instead concerning ourselves with managing the board. We are able to do this by blocking and trading with Kuldotha Rebirth tokens, taking out small and medium creatures with Galvanic Blast and Serrated Arrows, and tapping down larger creatures with Tumble Magnet. Krark-Clan Shaman (or something similar) would make a good inclusion in order to cover up our weakness to shroud and hexproof.

Perilous Research has some useful fodder here, namely the Ichor Wellsprings and Mycosynth Wellsprings. We can also sacrifice expended Tumble Magnets and Serrated Arrows, excess artifact lands, Rebirth tokens or a Spreading Seas in matchups where it’s not doing anything for us. The Seas themselves are to assist the Cloudpost matchups (which should be very rough Game 1), and having a third and fourth copy in the board at least would be recommended.

21 lands may seem like too few (at least to me), but with all of the cheap draw in the deck I think that it’s just about right.

Here are some sideboard cards to consider:

Hindering Touch (I’m thinking we could sit on this counter against FissurePost decks while our suspended win conditions tick down)

Hydroblast (For the Burn matchup, and subsequently for Affinity)

Krark-Clan Shaman

Manic Vandal (Or Gorilla Shaman, but this guy works with our own Wellsprings and Ghostly Flicker)

Serrated Arrows

Spreading Seas

Stone Rain (Or something similar, to supplement Spreading Seas against Cloudpost)

Let me know if I missed any awesome card choices for this deck! On the whole it’s probably not quite optimal yet, so I’m definitely open to suggestions.

The Cloak’s On You

Moldervine Cloak is the last card I want to talk about, and as you can see, it’s pretty much an Oakenform with dredge attached. This can be notably useful in mitigating the intrinsic weakness of auras (in other words the fact that they are binned as soon as the creature they’re enchanting dies). An additional plus is that Cloak provides graveyard-based decks with a means of not only populating their wastebasket, but also of turning any of their creatures into a considerably hefty threat. Now I know that I brew around Tortured Existence a lot (too much?), but let’s give it one more go today for good measure:

My goal here is to have the typical Tortured Existence interactions (with Carrion Feeder, Grave Scrabbler, Perilous Myr and Stinkweed Imp) work alongside a Mono-Black Control shell of Augur of Skulls, Crypt Rats, Cuombajj Witches and Raven’s Crime. The desired effect is to have hand disruption and aggro defense that keeps us afloat long enough for the Tortured Existence engine to take over.

Moldervine Cloak can be used on any of the creatures, but might work best on the evasive Stinkweed Imps or regenerating Augur of Skulls. The fact that it makes Cuombajj Witches into 4/6s is pretty appealing as well. I don’t know if three copies is one too many, but I feel like we might not see it often enough if we only play two.

What other decks can benefit from Moldervine Cloak? The Selesnya Hexproof deck seems like an obvious fit, but they also play a number of cards at 3 cmc already (Ancestral Mask, Armadillo Cloak and Aura Gnarlid). Keep me informed, and let me know where this card will be going (if anywhere) once Modern Masters is released.

End Step

As I said earlier, there are a total of 16 cards being printed at common for the very first time thanks to Modern Masters. This means the possibilities for new and altered decks are vast. Please share any ideas you may have in the comments below! I am of course always looking for new subjects to tackle, so don’t be afraid to contribute any of your deck ideas. It won’t be long until we find out which cards from Modern Masters end up impacting the Pauper format, so be ready! As always, thanks for reading, and please comment!

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

  1. Kuldotha deck needs Dream Stalker, probably in favor of some of the magnets; blocks basically anything on the ground, lets you replay your wellsprings for profit and put more counters on the Arrows and whatever magnets you’re still running; late in the game lets you replay a drifter; all to the good. Maybe Faithless Looting since a la Boros Kitty you’re going to be drawing a ton of lands.

    Personally, I’m planning on going U/G with it, to sac undying stuff and Rancor in addition to Wellspring foolishness.

    Also, no love for Hana Kami?

  2. Tom the Scud – I definitely brewed with Dream Stalker and Reality Acid for my Perilous Research section, I think it and Kuldotha are (perhaps?) two different decks.

    PlanetWalls – Awesome! What shall we do with it?

  3. No spinning darkness in the black deck, ive always liked a couple in any mono black deck i play.

  4. Dillon – Spinning Darkness could work, but I feel like the magic toughness number of the format is 4, not 3.

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