Dime a Dozen #28: Poopy Mana and Pauper Commander

Hi everyone! Today’s article is the equivalent of a split card. One half (more or less) will cover the Pauper epidemic known as “poopy” mana. The remainder will be dedicated to the Pauper Commander format (also known as Pauper EDH), which receives an incredibly small amount of attention, as far as I can tell anyway.

And awaaayyy we go!

Poopy Mana

Poopy mana is everywhere.

All around us.

Few know how it got here, and many of us didn’t even realize it existed. The simple fact, and I’m hoping not to alarm anyone, is this: poopy mana is very real, and right now it could be affecting your deck without you even knowing it.

But Jason, what is this whole “poopy mana” stuff, anyway?

I’m glad you asked. At the end of the day, showing you will have a greater impact than telling you. Please be warned: what you are about to witness may disturb you.

The following decks are real. The names of their pilots have been changed in order to protect the innocent. Viewer discretion is advised.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A by 1stPickFog

Please, I implore you, don’t worry about where the spells are. With mana like this, it doesn’t matter where they are. With mana like this, they’re gonna be everywhere but on the stack or on the board, that’s where.

Every deck is a split card. A split card called Lands // Spells. For the most part, we are going to need both to win games of Magic, but since today’s article is called “Poopy Mana” and not “Poopy Spells,” we’re going to look almost exclusively at lands.

I’m no manabase expert. What I do know about manabases stems from trial and error, reading articles, studying decks, and reading a certain recently released E-book. But I don’t need to be an expert to tell you that the mana above is reckless! It’s dangerous!

It’s poopy.

17 lands. 9 Islands, 6 Mountains and 2 Terramophic Expanses. This is dangerously, dangerously (and I mean damn near identical!) close to the mana of a 40-card draft deck.

So what’s wrong with that? There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re playing a 40-card draft deck. But we’re playing 60-card constructed decks in Pauper, and we’ve got to be more tasteful.

Exhibit A is textbook poopy mana, and poopy mana can cause mulligans. Unmitigated stress. Rage quits and disconnects! Poopy mana can lose games.

I’ve been known to play more lands in my decks than others. I’ve also been known to suggest that players sleeve up more lands themselves. While that may or may not be an issue with the Exhibit A manabase, it’s not a primary concern of mine at first glance. Playing a low land count is sometimes appropriate in decks with very low mana curves, additional nonland mana sources or library manipulation such as Ponder and Preordain.

With that being said, here’s my primary concern with this manabase.

Even without seeing the spells, we can tell that we’re looking at an Izzet deck. Moreover we have 11 sources of blue mana and 8 sources of red mana. This is simply too few, regardless of spell distribution.

I will add that there are no colorless mana fixers in this deck, with the closest approximation being four copies of Gitaxian Probe. While that can help improve our chances of drawing a land, it doesn’t improve our chances enough, nor does it always draw us the right land.

Playing between 8 and 11 sources of a certain color is about how much we’d like to be playing if we were merely splashing said color. However, Exhibit A.dek needs to draw both colors in order to execute its game plan. The earlier it does so, the better. Pauper is (for the most part) a fast, unforgiving format, and decks with low land counts need to be “in the game” from the very start.

Again, we’re looking at something dangerously close to draft deck mana. That fact alone will hint at how consistent it will be in a deck that’s 50% larger.

Does a manabase like this still “get there” in some Dailies? You bet. But it gets there far less often than it could (based on mana inconsistencies alone).

A deck with this manabase will mulligan a higher percentage of the time, not only due to no-landers and low-landers, but also due to “color-screwed” opening sevens.

Let’s assume that the following spells are an integral part of our deck:

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops
4 Ponder
4 Preordain

It’s safe to say that we want to see blue mana on Turn 1, and (in my opinion) that means we should strive toward playing as close to 15 blue mana sources (or more) as we can. From there our goal (in this deck) will be to Ponder and Preordain our way to red mana (which we also should play as many sources of as possible in order to resolve our Turn 2 and Turn 3 red creatures).

To get those extra mana sources into the deck, we have a few options. We can play more land, we can play “fixing” lands like Evolving Wilds, Izzet Guildgate and Terramorphic Expanse, and we can play colorless fixers (AKA artifacts). Each of these options has drawbacks (more lands and more artifacts detract from our instant and sorcery count, more fixing lands limit our Turn 1 plays), but the potential upside is ultimately too good to ignore.

Below is a Daily Event manabase that I believe is an improvement over Exhibit A.

Exhibit A+ by WinterJunderland69

Ahhh. So refreshing! We’ve gone up to 14 blues sources and 10 red sources, with four of our lands able to produce either color as needed. There will still be some issues with finding red mana fast enough, so our mulligan decisions must take red mana availability into consideration.

I wouldn’t mind seeing some number of Evolving Wilds or Terramorphic Expanses here to take full advantage of Ponder, but I can recognize the inherent superiority that lies in Izzet Guildgate’s turn-by-turn flexibility.

Mostly I’m just happy that this “A+” manabase is closer to ideal, and screws us over less.

Poopy, or Playable?

It’s time for some fun. It’s time for us to play a game!

I’m going to show you a manabase, and you’re going to decide whether it would be considered “poopy” or “playable.” There is a degree of subjectivity here, but overall I think this will be a worthwhile exercise.

And awaaayyy we go!

Exhibit B by wombatfetish

Poopy, or Playable? Click below to find out!

Show »

Playable :)

 

Exhibit C by GreenBeard420

Poopy, or Playable? Click below to find out!

Show »

Poopy :(

 

Exhibit D by TeenMomsUSA

Poopy, or Playable? Click below to find out!

Show »

Playable :)

 

Pauper Commander

I’ve recently started playing Commander/EDH online, and it can be really fun. It got me thinking about a format that I admittedly know very little about. That format is called Pauper Commander!

For any of you that may be unfamiliar with the Commander/EDH format, fear not! Here is a link to get you up to speed.

Commander Rules on Wizards’ website

There are a couple facets of Pauper Commander that make it stand out. The first (and I hope most obvious) is the fact that the 99 cards comprising our deck must all be commons. The second (and less obvious) is that our commander/general must be an uncommon creature, and does not have to be legendary!

For more information on Pauper Commander rules, try this link.

Overview

With larger decks, comfier life totals and less redundancy, Pauper commander is sure to lead to far slower, grind-ridden games than Classic Pauper does. This means that value, card advantage and splashy effects are pretty crucial to getting an edge. Keep that in mind when evaluating synergies and selecting various cards for your deck!

Generals

I’m not going to spend too much time discussing prospective generals, though I did take it upon myself to skim Gatherer for possible options. Here are a few that I find interesting.

Eternal Witness

Upside: Powerful, repeatable recursion effect!

Downside: Puts us in mono-green, which has limited resources and not a lot of staying power.

Invisible Stalker

Upside: Very, very hard to deal with!

Downside: Requires support and buffs.

Izzet Guildmage, Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage and Zameck Guildmage

Upside: Powerful late game value!

Downside: Low toughness, somewhat mana-intensive.

Lorescale Coatl

Upside: Good colors and triggered ability for supporting a “Voltron” general!

Downside: No inherent evasion or protection.

Mechanics/Keywords

Because of the slower, late-game nature of Pauper Commander, it’s important to think about the big picture. How big can we go? How powerful can our decks be? What mechanics and keywords help us the most?

Two of the most powerful potential effects for Pauper Commander are buyback and retrace. This is mostly because they are repeatable. Ideally they last forever! The potential to always have “action” thanks to buyback and retrace should equate to late-game dominance.

Disturbed Burial could very well be the best card available in this format (though MTGO Academy’s JustSin recently attested to the power of Grim Harvest in Pauper Cube). Capsize is similarly powerful, and Evincar’s Justice should be capable of doing some nasty things (for instance: killing everyone).

Transmute is another useful tool to consider, as it helps us add consistency to our 99-card decks via tutoring. Luckily for us, blue and black are already strong colors in Pauper Commander (as far as I can tell), so adding transmute to the equation comes at very little cost.

Color Analysis

White:

White should be a notably powerful color in Pauper Commander. The first thing that excites me about white is its ability to chain rebels, thus creating a board presence and generating value in the long game.

Amrou Scout, Defiant Falcon, Ramosian Lieutenant and Ramosian Seargant are all capable of tutoring repeatedly, and can help us find hate birds in the form of Nightwind Glider and Thermal Glider. We can even tutor up Aven Riftwatcher and abuse him with several bounce effects (Kor Skyfisher, Momentary Blink, Whitemane Lion etc.).

Aside from tutors and awesome synergistic bounce effects, white also offers answers to any permanent that doesn’t have hexproof, protection, or shroud. This includes various Disenchants, Faith’s Fetters and Oblivion Ring.

Blue:

Where do we even start? I think blue is a pretty obvious color choice for drawn-out war formats like Pauper Commander. Obvious card advantage staples like Mulldrifter still have a lot of value here, and there are a wealth of additionally effective tools to utilize.

A tutor like Trinket Mage has so many strong possibilities, including color fixing via the artifact lands (Seat of the Synod and friends), and setting up sweet Viridian Longbow interactions with Nightshade Peddler, Silkbind Faerie and Soliton.

I almost shudder at the thought of Ghostly Flicker, because it’s at such a high power level in the right deck. The redundancy of Archaeomancer, Izzet Chronarch, Mnemonic Wall and Scrivener mean that infinite loops are very possible in this format.

Black:

Playing black has a lot of perks, and the one I want to point out most is its vast capacity for recursion. Corpse Hauler, Gravedigger, Pit Keeper, and friends can all return some of our best creatures.

Black also contains the best graveyard interactions in the format, be they loving or hateful. I’m not sure how relevant that will be, but it’s certainly a good thing to keep in mind.

Red:

Rolling Thunder stands atop the heap of red cards as being the most powerful (in all likelihood). Kaervek’s Torch is somewhere behind that, though not far. Outside of those splashy finishers, red is mostly going to excel in the land destruction and artifact destruction categories.

While Shattering Pulse is a nice one, I’m ultimately not seeing a lot to get star-struck about. It doesn’t help that green can also destroy lands and destroy artifacts. Hey wait a minute, that brings us to…

Green:

This color fixes all of our other colors! Aside from that, it can generate some value with Krosan Tusker and Yavimaya Elder, and tutor (nonlands) every once in a while (Fierce Empath).

Tutoring up and ramping to an Ulamog’s Crusher could prove to be a big problem in no time, and Sprout Swarm is a resounding way to take over stalled out games.

Rancor is still quite good in a format like Pauper Commander, especially if our primary win condition is Commander damage! I think a card like Penumbra Spider could also do a bit of work as a pesky roadblock.

There are a lot of exciting possibilities with Pauper Commander! I wonder if (when?) it will start to garner more attention and rise in popularity.

End Step

Well, that’s all I have to say about Poopy Mana and Pauper Commander. For now! Dun dun dunnn. Let me know what you think, and what you’d like to see in the future.

As always, thanks for reading, and please comment!

 
  1. Very good article, it makes us think our deckbuilding. I understand your concern about mana bases and I partially share it with you. But at the end of the day, the win ratio is all that matters. So I guess you should keep track of the relative performances of the different Eye Candie lists, for exemple, if you really want to know if your point is accurate. If B wins more than A, point taken.

    As far as evaluating mana bases go, playing a little too many may be as poopy as playing a little to few. Again, it all comes back to results. Pauper is a very competitive tight format and we shouldn’t believe that letting deck performance go away in return of playing “safely” mana-wise is a very good idea, because we will not always be able to outplay our opponents if we keep on drawing lands. Instead, if we want to exploit our skills, we should play low variance decks with lots of interaction, as I once argued in an articled published in portuguese. Let’s stay away from “all in” decks such as Eye Candie and Infect, also because they kinda need poopy mana bases to run.

  2. i have asked for Pauper commander to be supported in MTGO as I love the format

    A few other commanders: Shardless Agent, Fusion elemental, Psychatog, kitchen finks, young pyromancer, serra angel any uncommon with haste (bloodbraid elf) and evasion (volcanic dragon, crazed skirge), or beefy value leatherback balot.

    I love me some thundercloud shaman.

  3. Gustavo – Solid points all around! Keep in mind that to really get a feel for a deck’s win percentage, we’d ideally like to know how many Daily Events their pilots are actually attending.

    A “Poopy Mana” deck could only have a 34% winrate, but if it competes in 10 Daily Events and the “Playable Mana” deck with a 50% winrate only competes in four, then the Poopy Mana deck will have more reported 3-1s/4-0s, and look better. Since we only see the winning decklists from one event per day, our data is considerably skewed.

    Maybe someone could perform a controlled test of two Izzet Fiend decks (it would take a LOT of time) in order to find out which worked better. I think the basic principles of building a manabase help us avoid having to do something like that, however.

    Glad you enjoyed the article! I really appreciate the input.

  4. I play offline magic in Raleigh NC, know Lee, on of the other article writers, locally. He taught me a lot when I was just getting started.

    I am an avid EDH player, but also play standard and a great deal of limited.
    They have a local shop that has supported standard pauper as well, so I try to make those tournaments when they fire.

  5. Almost forgot – I made minor changes (-2 exalted guys +2 benevolent bodyguard; -1 Bonesplitter -1 Plains +2 Ramosian Rally) in your WW list and took it to a local tournament where I knew there wouldn’t be any post decks. Result: 4-1 (8-1). Seems REALLY solid =)

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