An Introduction to Competitive Pauper, 2nd Edition

(NOTE: This piece was written before the banning of Temporal Fissure and Cloudpost in Pauper.)

There are many different things that draw us to the Magic Online computer program. Perhaps you may be interested in the prospect of drafting formats with more freedom, or perhaps you might be interested in being able to find a game at any time of the day or night. No matter the reason, many people find themselves logging in for the first time and wondering just where to start. When looking to get into competitive constructed play, there is often a concern over how a balance may be reached between the costs of both paper and online Magic. Some people may suggest to you that the answer to this question is to get into Block Constructed play. If you’re a regular limited player, then I would agree with this sentiment, as you would be building the necessary card pool to construct decks from your draft packs and sealed pools. If you’re anything like me when I joined the game, then perhaps you don’t have the available resources or time to play limited formats on a regular basis. If this is the case, then I’m going to recommend that you try out the format called Pauper.

For those who may not be familiar with me, allow me to provide you with a quick background on myself, so you can get an idea of where I’m coming from. I’m a regular contributor here on MTGO Academy, where I write a bi-weekly article series about Pauper called Anything But, which takes a look at both casual and competitive play. I’ve been a contributor to the Pauper community for several years prior to authoring this guide, and I try my best to help others learn more about the format I love. In an effort to help others better understand what the competitive environment of Pauper was like, I put together an Introduction to Competitive Pauper on PureMTGO. About a year has passed since this first edition of my guide to competitive Pauper was published, and there have been a great deal of major changes since then, beyond the simple introduction of new blocks to the card pool. As a result, I determined that it was about time to revisit this project and give it an update so that it can continue to help others learn more about the competitive side of Pauper.

Table of Contents:

I. What is Pauper?
A. Pauper Format Variants
B. Banned and Restricted Cards

II. Pauper Community
A. Writers/Podcasters
B. Other Community Contributors

III. Deck Types

IV. Tournament Information
A. Player-Run Events (PREs)
B. Daily Events

V. Top Decks
A. Tier 1
B. Tier 2
C. Tier 3

VI. Rogue Decks

VII. Cost of Entry
A. Cost of Top Decks
B. Other Deck Costs
C. Must-Have Cards

VIII. The Metagame

IX. Helpful Links, including Primers and Deck Techs

X. Update Log & Acknowledgements

At its most basic level, Pauper is a format of constructed Magic where only cards that were printed at a common rarity are legal for use in deckbuilding. The rest of the rules that apply to constructed Magic remain the same, including the 60-card minimum for your maindeck and the 15-card maximum for your sideboard. While this seems like a simple guideline to follow, there are some slight tricks to what cards can and cannot be included in a Pauper deck. According to Wizards of the Coast, Pauper is a format that is specific to the world of Magic Online. (However, there are many players who have taken their love of the format to paper.)

When playing Pauper through Magic Online, the restriction of cards at common rarity is applicable to cards that were released at common in a Magic Online set or product.

Hymn to Tourach (a very strong spell for paper Pauper decks) was released in Masters Edition II at the uncommon rarity even though it was originally printed as a common for paper Magic in Fallen Empires. Because the card is only available online at the uncommon rarity, it cannot be included in a Pauper deck for online play.

Promo cards are counted as legal for online play in Pauper only if they have been printed as a common in a regular set or product. This rule is also applicable for Timeshifted cards that had the purple rarity symbol.

Blue Elemental Blast was released in Masters Edition IV at the uncommon rarity, but was also released as a promo at common. Because the card was not released as a common anywhere except for the promotional version, it is not legal for Pauper play.

The final stipulation is that a player can use a non-common version of a card as long as that card had been released on Magic Online as a common in a regular set or product.

The version of Counterspell from the Masters Edition II set is an uncommon, but can be used in a Pauper deck because Counterspell was also released online at common in several other sets, including Seventh Edition, Tempest, Masters Edition IV, and Mercadian Masques.

Oftentimes people who are unfamiliar with the Pauper format may be under the impression that a small number of uncommon spells are legal in the decks. This thinking usually comes from a confusion of names, as there is a player-created format called Peasant, which usually allows for up to five uncommon spells to be added to an otherwise all-common deck.

When people first learn about the Pauper format, they might have some reservations about what a format of all commons is like. Many often have misconceptions about the restrictive nature of the card pool and what kind of power level it could possibly offer to players; however, these limitations are not as stringent as they may at first sound. What Pauper really does well is provide people the opportunity to test their ability to build strong decks in an environment that won’t break the bank.

Since the Pauper format draws from a Vintage card pool, there is a depth of almost 6,000 common cards that are candidates for inclusion in decks. If you’re familiar with limited formats in Magic, then you know that you’re playing in a format that is often heavily driven by the commons in the set. While there are rares and uncommons that can drive the finishing points for decks in limited, the core of most decks are the commons in the set. This leads Wizards to create cards at the common rarity that actually keep pace in terms of power and speed.

Games in Pauper are just like in almost any other format. There are a handful of decks that each work as a glass cannon; they are able to do quick, heavy damage to an opponent but can be easily disrupted. There are also those decks that work more slowly to maintain tempo and control for players who prefer that style of play. Pauper is no stranger to different card combinations, control magic, and creature-heavy strategies. There are a number of strong cards that work to define the power level of the format…

  • Temporal Fissure – Feel free to reset your opponent’s entire board state back to the beginning while keeping yours intact.
  • Cloudpost – Try putting eight locus lands in play and then watch as you tap each Cloudpost for eight mana. Add in a Prophetic Prism or two and be able to cast whatever you please.
  • Mystical Teachings – The definitive tutor spell in the Pauper format.
  • Rancor – A permanent creature buff that keeps coming back to cause your opponents trouble.
  • Crypt Rats – Yes, we even have access to our very own Wrath of God effects.
  • Apostle’s Blessing – We even have a handful of cards that can be played in any deck, thanks to the ability to be pay for Phyrexian mana with life.
  • Myr Enforcer – A 4/4 creature for no mana? Sure, we’ll take it!
  • Kor Skyfisher – Time to abuse all those “enters the battlefield” effects!
  • Delver of Secrets – This card has become a staple for control decks in every format where it is legal, and Pauper is no different.


The list could go on from there. Too often, Pauper is associated with cards such as Grizzly Bears, but there are many abilities and interactions that players can build decks around. Here’re just a few card interactions you’ll see regulalry in Pauper…

  • Cloudpost + Glimmerpost – You’re going to hear about this one a lot. The combination of these two cards allows for heavy mana production and life gain that can make almost any deck possible.
  • Mnemonic Wall/Archaeomancer + Ghostly Flicker – There are so many different “enters the battlefield” effects that can be abused by Ghostly Flicker, and then you can use these creatures to reuse these effects over and over. When you have two of these creatures in play, you can use Ghostly Flicker to return another spell to your hand every turn.
  • Undying Evil + Augur of Skulls/Mulldrifter/Fume Spitter – The undying mechanic provides many opportunities for abuse. I’ve only named a few here, but the general idea is to use creatures that have a self-sacrifice ability so that you can get a double use out of them. Other options include the evoke mechanic of Mulldrifter, where you can cast it for the evoke cost and use Undying Evil to have it stay in play and draw extra cards. There are plenty of possibilities.
  • Atog + Fling – With artifact lands, you can quickly get your Atog up to 11 power, swing for half your opponent’s life, and then throw it at him for the remainder. Too many blocking creatures? No problem! Simply wait a few more turns, sacrifice to get Atog up to 21 and then use Fling for an instant win.
  • Ninja of the Deep Hours + Ravenous Rats/Spellstutter Sprite – the ninjutsu ability is another one of those great chances to abuse “enters the battlefield” effects. The most common use is with Spellstutter Sprite, which can find lots of opportunity to attack unopposed and then come back as countermagic later on.


Those who are new to the Pauper format will quickly find that it is quite aggro-heavy. Creature-focused decks can find more freedom in the format because, while there are options like Crypt Rats, sweepers aren’t as strong or easy to cast. You’ll also find a heavy presence of decks that are focused around Temporal Fissure. As the strongest combo option in the format, Temporal Fissure decks storm off to bounce all opposing permanents and lock down an opponent. As with every format, you can’t please everyone, and some will find that the current metagame isn’t appealing. But the format has evolved through many different shapes over the years. Before the recent set of bans, Pauper worked on a much shorter clock. The different versions of Red Storm were running rampant, and Infect was in its prime. These two deck types were not only strong, but were able to win games quite consistently within three turns, and sometimes earlier. There were still a significant number of aggro decks in the metagame, but they weren’t as prevalent.

In the ages of Pauper before that, we find several major changes. Imagine, if you will, there was another time before Temporal Fissure decks were overwhelming, when Frantic Search was legal. Imagine a time where something as seemingly ordinary as Chittering Rats was enough to make Mono-Black Control strong enough that people would constantly complain about it. Then imagine a world where someone thought it would be a good idea for Cranial Plating to be legal, or that to stop the Affinity threat, the artifact lands needed to be banned as well. Pauper has continued to evolve and will continue to evolve. I always want to remind players old and new that there was a time where this great format was not sanctioned by Wizards. Remember folks like Tharion Wind, credited with being the creator of the Pauper format, who have put in the effort  over the years to help convey the love this community has for the format to the point where Wizards listened and made it happen. I continually encourage people who want to know more about the history of the format to take the time to listen and read about it. I hope to do them even the slightest bit of justice for their extensive effort, as I try my best to guide you through this format that attracted me with its low barrier to entry but which kept me with its richness and depth.

Return to Table of Contents

Pauper Format Variants

Just as there are several different formats, allowing players the opportunity to play Magic in different ways, there are some variations on how Pauper can be played. In most cases, especially in this particular article, what you will see referred to simply as “Pauper” is more precisely Classic Pauper. This means that the format’s card pool draws from every tournament-legal Magic set online, just like the Classic format. This version is the most popular way that Pauper is played and is the only format that has official, regular prize support from Wizards. When you are in the game client, any game that is labeled as “Pauper” will be following the Classic Pauper format.

At the very beginning of the format, Pauper was a fringe idea created by the players and eventually picked up by Wizards due to its community support. Fringe formats are formats with decks that employ oftentimes-strange deckbuilding restrictions that are determined by players looking to spice up the game of Magic. Unfortunately, fringe formats are often each associated with a small audience. In other words, there aren’t many people who play these formats compared to more mainstream ones, and in most cases no official prize support or sanctioning by Wizards to help spark competition. Often the appeal of these formats is the fact that there isn’t really an established tier of top decks, which permits a great deal of variation and creativity. Some of these formats are easy to understand, such as “Modern Pauper” or “Standard Singleton”, but other times you may look at the list of waiting tables in the “Just For Fun” room and wonder what the heck a particular weird abbreviation stands for. Things like “MoJoSto” can leave you curious, but often the best way to get a basic understanding is to just watch a replay of a completed game. In this case, you’d see that players are each playing a basic land-filled Vanguard deck employing Momir Vig, Simic Visionary Avatar, Jhoira of the Ghitu Avatar, and Stonehewer Giant Avatar as their avatars.

Another weird abbreviation you might come across is “PPS”, which stands for Pauper Prismatic Singleton. Once you know the name, understanding the deck restrictions is pretty straightforward, as it combines rules from all three formats. All PPS decks are to be made up of all commons, must follow prismatic deck building rules, and have to run no more than a single copy of every card that other than basic land. If you’re not familiar with the rules of Prismatic, all decks must be a minimum of 250 cards, with at least 20 cards of each color in the deck. Multicolor and split cards count as one of their colors, but not both. These types of games are usually created as “Prismatic” and labeled for PPS in the comment section. Because the games are set up under the Prismatic format filter, the banned and restricted list for Prismatic does apply. Fortunately for PPS players, there is only one card that is relevant: Mystical Teachings. This also means that cards currently listed on the Pauper banned and restricted list would be legal for use.

Big-deck formats provide for a large amount of variation in how games play out, especially when you limit the cards in the deck by singleton rules. This format provides players with significant replay potential for each deck, as you could play five games in a row with the same deck and not draw a certain card in more than one game. This type of format also allows players to dig deeper through their card pools and utilize spells that may not see constructed play otherwise. Having to build a deck that fits within the restrictions of three different formats provides a great challenge and can result in a lot of, perhaps unexpected, fun. If you have any interest in learning more about this format, then take a look at this article I wrote a while back. It takes a look at what you should keep in mind when building this type of deck and some card interactions you may not have considered.

Beyond these fringe versions, the second-most popular variation on the Pauper format is what is commonly known at Standard Pauper. This version requires that all cards be common; however, it limits the card pool to only those sets that are legal for play in the Standard format. Sets that are Standard-legal can be found on the Wizards website and basically include only the most recently printed blocks in the game. One of the biggest attractions of people to this particular version of Pauper is the fact that the legal sets rotate out as new blocks are released. This means that the metagame is constantly changing, which keeps it from becoming too stale.

Like Classic Pauper, this version of the format is often misunderstood, with players leaping to unfounded conclusions. If these doubters would take time to sit down and give the format a try, they would learn that the metagame of the format is actually quite diverse. When a new set is released, it can have little to no impact on the metagame for Classic Pauper, with maybe a single card finding a spot in a competitive decklist. However, in Standard Pauper, a new set could completely change the metagame altogether. The format also attracts the attention of many limited players who can put those leftover commons to good use. As a regular player of limited formats, it would be no problem to already have every card you needed to build yourself a competitive deck for Standard Pauper, and if you’re just looking to buy in, then you’ll find the cost of entry is low here as well. When it comes to Classic Pauper, there are some cards that, while common, are harder to find because the release of the corresponding set happened so long ago, decreasing supply and raising the price of that card. This isn’t the case in Standard Pauper because, as limited players continue to crack packs in search of the latest power cards, the secondary market becomes flooded with leftover commons that can be picked up for only pennies.

At the time of writing this article, Standard Pauper does not receive prize support through Wizards’ sanctioned events. Victories have to be taken where they can be found, however, as the community did at least get Wizards to designate an online filter for the format. This means that when you’re playing in the MTGO client, you can set the format to “Standard Pauper”. All competitive support for the format remains only in the form of Player-Run Events (PREs).

In the same way that Standard Pauper limits players to only sets that are legal in the Standard format, Modern Pauper takes the commons-only restriction to the Modern card pool. The sets that are legal in Modern can be found on the Wizards of the Coast website. Before the creation of the Modern format, there was the Extended format, which also had a Pauper variant. Modern Pauper is also a completely community-driven idea, as Wizards does not offer any type of prize support or tournaments for the format. It can be even harder for players to build decks for Modern Pauper, as there isn’t even an available filter for the format type in the Magic Online client. This doesn’t stop players from making decks, as any sanctioned format can be limited to commons only when deckbuilding by simply selecting “Pauper” as the format filter. There has even been some discussion from players on a Pauper-based version of the Commander format, which just goes to show the wide appeal that a commons-only format can have to players throughout the Magic community.

Return to Table of Contents

Banned and Restricted Cards

In the early days of Magic, it was determined that in order to keep formats healthy and emjoyable for players, a list of banned and restricted cards needed to be put together to limit the play of certain degenerate cards and strategies. Cards that are “banned” are not legal for play in a particular format, and cards labeled as “restricted” can only have a single copy included in a deck. The cards on the banned and restricted list, often simply referred to as BnR, varies from format to format. The driving force behind adding a card to this list usually focuses, not necessarily on excising a particular deck type from the format entirely, but instead on limiting the power of that deck type so that others can still compete. In the Pauper format, there are no restricted cards, but the following cards have been banned:


When it comes to formats such as Standard or Modern, the updates to the BnR list come frequently, but BnR changes to formats with a larger card pool such as Pauper or Classic happen less often. No matter what the format, some players will forever complain about the power level of one deck or another, but thankfully Wizards carefully considers before adding to the list. The reality is that the game would lose credibility if we were constantly getting updates from Wizards where 5-10 cards per format were being added/removed. If you were not around during the time where these cards were legal in the Pauper format, you might not even understand why Wizards felt the need to remove them.

In the current world of competitive Pauper, there is a deck that is referred to as Affinity, which uses the interactions of various artifact-based spells and creatures to play powerful spells for a cheap cost. The addition of Cranial Plating to Affinity decks has been the driving force for its success in several different formats. In the earliest days of the Pauper format, the power of the Affinity deck was so great that even the artifact lands were banned as well. Somewhere around September of 2008, it was determined that the banning of artifact lands was unnecessary, and the format could handle an Affinity deck as long as Cranial Plating remained illegal for use.

While the banning of Cranial Plating may seem like an obvious choice to
most, the banning of Frantic Search may not be so self-explanatory. This card was an important piece in decks that used Temporal Fissure to return all of an opponent’s permanents to their hand. The current mana generation engine for these decks is based upon cards like Snap and Cloud of Faeries that allow you to untap lands after casting these spells. With the additional draw provided by Frantic Search, this deck became oppressive. The deck is able to storm off Temporal Fissure on all your opponent’s permanents and lock up the game by returning Temporal Fissure to your hand with Archeomancer or Mnemonic Wall. The one small drawback that the deck has is in the fact that it cannot easily and repeatedly refill its hand. Frantic Search provided the deck with not only the mana engine through the untapping of lands, but also the ability to keep the Temporal Fissure player’s hand full.

For a long time in the Pauper world, there were only these two cards on the BnR list; however, it eventually became clear to Wizards that there were other decks that had become too strong and left the environment unbalanced. The targets of the next round of bans were the red variants of Storm decks and also a deck known as Infect.

Of the few cards in Pauper that had the storm ability, the red ones were easily the most powerful. In most cases, Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot were split between two distinct storm-based decks with UR Storm usually focusing on Empty the Warrens and Grixis Storm focusing on Grapeshot. Both decks were capable of pulling off wins as early as Turn 2. There were some decent options in the format that could defend against these decks, but both storm decks were heavily played. Between their speed and popularity, it was determined that they had to be dealt with. This was the one instance in Pauper where the cards listed on the banned list completely removed the deck from the format, as opposed to simply reducing its power.

The Infect deck was based around a small group of creatures with the infect ability. The infect ability means that creatures deal damage to other creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters. Once a player has 10 poison counters, they lose the game. The strength of the deck is mostly from the fact that its pilot begins having to only do 10 points of damage to win as opposed to 20. While most of the creatures in the deck started off as only 1/1, the deck runs a heavy set of creature pump spells so that the Turn 1 Glistener Elf could pull out a win as early as Turn 2 or 3. The biggest reason that the Infect deck could consistently pull off these early wins was the use of Invigorate. Because Invigorate has the ability to be casat without paying the mana cost by simply having your opponent gain 3 life, it might as well read as “0: Target creature gains +4/+4 until end of turn.” If it were played in a regular aggro deck, then perhaps you might be worried about having an opponent gain life, but the infect ability allows you to completely ignore life total. Removing Invigorate from the format meant that the Infect deck was slowed down significantly so that it was easier to deal with, but could still compete within the metagame.

Return to Table of Contents

One of the strongest aspects of the Pauper format is the community that surrounds it. From the very beginning, it was the passion and drive of the Pauper community that brought the format to the point where it became sanctioned by Wizards. As a result of the fact that we as a community have had to work to become recognized, there is a bit of an always-stick-together mindset. People throughout the Pauper community are almost always willing to help each other out and offer assistance to new players when they can. While the content available for the format may not always be found on Magic’s “mainstream” websites, there are many people who dedicate their time to creating in-depth content in the interest of strategy, coverage, and entertainment. Perhaps the best indication of the strength and interwoven nature of the Pauper community would be found within the constantly overlapping collaborations in articles and podcasts. It isn’t uncommon to find contributors from one website working with a contributor from a different website on a podcast, for example. Unlike the fierce “rivalries” that can be found between some of these “mainstream” communities, the Pauper community has always been welcoming to outsiders, and to one another.

Pauper tends to have a wider draw to all types of players than most formats. The format has a relatively low cost of entry that allows even the most casual of players a chance to join in on the fun. Nevertheless, the format manages to maintain a solid power level that creates a great competitive environment. While there are many casual lovers of the format, new players should not be mistaken; many players in the Pauper community can be just as competitive as you’ll find in other formats and most take the format seriously, but please don’t let this shy you away from giving the format a try. Competitive and serious doesn’t equate to unfriendly and rude.

Players who are unfamiliar with Pauper and its community might also be surprised to learn that there is a wealth of different information sources available for those who are interested in it. Those who are interested in joining the competitive scene for Pauper will find that there are numerous articles, videos, and even podcasts available, discussing everything you’d need to know about a particular deck type and more.

Return to Table of Contents

Pauper Writers/Podcasters

Whether you are a player who is just starting out in the world of Magic or a seasoned veteran, one of the most important ways to keep yourself playing at the best possible level is through continued education. Consider, for a second, most jobs that you may work throughout your career. While it may be obvious that vocations such as teacher may require you to continually learn about your trade, many would probably be surprised at how many jobs put emphasis on that continued learning. In a similar way competitive Magic players take time to learn more about their craft in order to understand not only the deck that they may be playing, but also the intricacies of their opponents’ decks as well. The most important lesson I ever learned in my years of playing Magic was that the best way to learn more about how to beat a specific deck was to take the time and learn how to play that deck so that you then know where the subtle, yet important, interactions lie.

It may be a biased opinion, but I believe that the Pauper community is blessed with some of the best and most dedicated contributors. Every popular website for Magic articles is bound to have at least one regular writer who offers their thoughts on everything from specific decks to the general health of the format. Each contributor offers their own different styles that may not appeal to everyone, but allow me to showcase a few writers and podcasters for you to investigate.

Contributor: Jason Moore

Content: Jason began here at MTGO Academy with his column Dime a Dozen, which he produces every two weeks with a look at competitive and occasionally casual Pauper. All videos from Jason’s MTGO Academy articles can be found on their YouTube page. Jason also provides a twice-monthly column called Common Ground for, an article on, occasional pieces on, video content on his YouTube page, and is the host of the Pauper’s Cage podcast.

Advice to Players New to Competitive Pauper:
Sun Tzu wrote (something to the affect of) ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’ In Pauper, the enemy is ever-changing, and will take time for newer Pauper players to truly understand.

Therefore begin by knowing yourself.

Understand exactly what kind of deck you perform best with, and be honest with yourself about your preferences and your weaknesses. Choose the deck (the deck, as in just one!) that is best for you (this is not always the ‘logical’ choice for the ‘metagame’ or the majority choice), and play the Hell out of it. Learn everything about it that you can.

Know yourself.

In time, and over the course of many battles won and lost, you will get that ‘know your enemy’ portion down, too.

Contributor: JustSin

Content: I’m a regular contributor to with my series Anything But, which can be found here every other Thursday. All videos from my series on MTGO Academy can be found on their YouTube page. My series features specific information regarding the current competitive metagame for Pauper each week. While competitive play is the main focus of my series, I do like talking about broad concepts and casual play as well. A back catalog of some of my previous work can also be found here for those interested.

Advice to Players New to Competitive Pauper:
I’d offer two things. First, never stop learning. Take time to seek out information, and, whether or not you agree with someone’s opinion, you can still learn a lot from simply understanding where they are coming from. Second, never stop innovating. Don’t ever be afraid to try something new because it might just become the next big thing.

Contributor: Alex Ullman

Content: Considered by many to be the Godfather of the Pauper format, Alex can be found as a regular contributor at where his content goes up every Thursday. People can find some of his past contributions in the PureMTGO archives as well. These days Alex has taken his focus to the world of Facebook where he uses his page to talk about what decks he’s currently working on and his daily thoughts on the current competitive Pauper environment.

Advice to Players New to Competitive Pauper:
Find a deck you like playing and learn it inside and out. The margins are so small in Pauper that knowing a deck goes a long way toward ensuring victory. It’s no coincidence some people only play one way to success.

Contributor: Chris Plummer

Content: Chris tends to be the face or voice most often associated with the Pauper to the People podcast. This weekly podcast has a focus on the Pauper format with a sharp focus on the community. As Chris puts it, “Anyone who listens is encouraged to be a part of the show, including coming on for an episode if he or she desires.” Fans of the show can also interact with other members of the Pauper community through the Pauper to the People forum.

Advice to Players New to Competitive Pauper:
There is always something to learn from the format. There will always be the card from some distant block that gets overlooked. Learn from players of all skill levels, and be gracious even in defeat. The amount of butt-heads I’ve encountered in playing Pauper is a fraction that I’ve seen from my Standard days. We can all be more diligent to keep it that way.

Contributor: Dan Hörning

Content: Dan is one of the main driving forces behind the newest website on the Pauper scene,, where he has been known to contribute four or more articles on a daily basis. Most of the content that Dan provides is based upon the competitive side of Pauper, and you can also find regular video content from Dan as well on his YouTube page.

Advice to Players New to Competitive Pauper:
Get your first tournament experience in the PREs on where there is no tournament fee. Get a few wins under your belt there before you enter the Pauper Dailies. The Pauper Daily Events are filled with tournament veterans that actually make them more competitive than Standard or Modern Daily Events.

Contributor: David Snyder

Content: David is a contributor for where he writes about mostly competitive Pauper. While it has been a little while since David has written anything for the site, his return is much awaited and his content is of great quality. David often takes the opportunity to write about a specific competitive deck in each of his articles.

Advice to Players New to Competitive Pauper:
This format has a lot of powerful decks and a fair amount of solid players, too. This means you are going to be having a lot of fun, while also being challenged. So do some homework first, find a deck that suits you, and go win some packs.

Return to Table of Contents

Other Community Contributors

The Internet has provided players throughout the Magic community with a number of different outlets to collaborate on deck creation and evolution of the game we all know and love. While there are some names that stick out because of their regular, high-quality contributions through articles and podcasts, there are so many other members of the Pauper community that deserve notice as well. I’ll apologize now for anyone who I leave out, but I do want to make mention of as many people as possible so that we can all enjoy what has been referred to as the “golden age of Pauper content”.

Veteran players in the Pauper community are familiar with deluxeicoff and his contributions, but for those who are not aware, he is a player who you’ll find showing up in almost every Pauper Daily Event. Deluxe is known for his deck brewing abilities and provides occasional content for MTGOStrat, but the best place to follow him is through his Facebook page. If you use Facebook at all, I cannot recommend enough that you take time to follow deluxeicoff for no other reason than he constantly discusses different rogue builds he is working on. This type of influence is a good thing for inspiring others within the Pauper community to think outside of the box for competitive play. I will offer one quick note, however, that his personality may not be for everyone. Don’t let this throw you off, for as deluxe himself notes, “My apologies to anyone who feels I’m abrupt/mean online. I don’t mean to come across this way… I’m curt out of efficiency.”

Another name that may not be familiar to you would be gwyned. Gwyned is one, if not the, biggest proponent of Standard Pauper. As a frequent contributor to PureMTGO, gwyned has written several pieces campaigning for the sanctioning of Standard Pauper as a Wizards-supported format. If you’re interested in checking out some of his articles, they can be found here in the PureMTGO archives. Another great place to find content from gwyned would be on his blog, although it should be noted that, as it is a personal blog, it doesn’t contain 100% Pauper-focused content.

I also want to take a second to recommend that players who may be interested in the Pauper format keep an eye out for the likes of E. Hustle and shaffawaffa. Both players are well-known regulars in the competitive Pauper world and have offered a lot to the community in their own ways. E. Hustle is well-known within the community mostly for the creation of several successful rogue deck types including, most recently, a red-black version of the Tortured Existence deck. Such successful creativity is inspiring to others to not only try something different, but also to think outside the box themselves. Both have won packs in many Daily Events, but now E. Hustle and shaffawaffa have started to share their wealth of experience from playing in the competitive scene with other players through articles on MTGOStrat. If you take anything away from reading this guide, make sure it’s the idea that you can always learn from others no matter what level of player you are.

Return to Table of Contents

When looking to get into competitive Magic, no matter what, the first thing you’re going to have to do is spend some time learning about yourself as a player. Every Magic player has a different style of play that he or she is better-suited for, and everyone likes to approach the game in a different way. Deciding what type of deck is the right one for you is going to be done only through a bit of experimenting into what appeals to you because the more you’re enjoying a particular deck, the better the results you’ll have with it. At their core, the bases of many games can be understood in terms of the children’s game called Rock-Paper-Scissors.

The basic idea behind this game is that it creates a “perfect world” where everything is equally balanced. In the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, each choice is beaten by one of the other possible choices; rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. Now this is a bit oversimplified, but it works to help illustrate the different choices made within games. Many people have been introduced to video games where a particular class or race has an advantage over a second, which then has an advantage over a third, which, in turn, has a similar advantage over the first. In Magic this balance works between the three major deck archetypes: aggro, control, and combo. Each of these classifications corresponds to a different deck archetype.

  • Aggro – Short for aggressive, these types of decks most often rely on creature-focused strategies that look to reduce an opponent’s life to 0 as quickly as possible.
  • Control – These types of decks look to manage the tempo of a game to win through attrition. Control decks can focus their ability to disrupt an opponent’s tempo on a number of levels, such as with card advantage, mana production, and permanents.
  • Combo – Short for combination, these types of decks utilize the interaction of two or more cards to create an effect that will immediately win a game or make it impossible for the opponent to win. Because these types of decks are focused on needing specific cards to win, they can be a bit fragile and devote a lot of their card space to establishing and protecting their combo.


By simply identifying which of these three major archetypes best fits the type of player you are, you’ll be one step closer to finding the right deck for you. However, as with most things in life, it really isn’t that simple. There are areas where two of these main archetypes start to overlap, as a particular deck starts to behave more like another archetype. These may be referred to as hybrid strategies.

  • Aggro/Control – This hybrid deck type contains aggressive creatures while still focusing on tempo strategies to set the pace of the game.
  • Control/Combo – This hybrid deck type focuses on managing the game state in addition to having a combo finisher.
  • Aggro/Combo – This hybrid deck type relies on creature-based damage backed by one or more powerful synergy combos that don’t as much look to instantly win a game, but instead make your board state harder to deal with.


The final classification that Magic players will come across is known as midrange. This middle ground is a bit hard to classify, but I believe Louis Scott-Vargas summed this archetype up fairly well in this great article he wrote on the topic…

“If the midrange deck is playing against a dedicated aggro deck, then it tries to be the control, and if it is playing against a true control deck, it tries to take on the aggro role. Against combo it can go either way, but usually has to resort to beatdowns.”

The theory discussion on each of these different deck archetypes can get very intricate. While this is not the place to get into this discussion, I do want to take a second and recommend two incredible articles on deck classification. These are well worth the read, especially for the veteran players in the game.

The Strategic Moment – Adrian Sullivan
Revisiting the Strategic Moment – Chingsung Chang

Once you’ve started to understand where your personal playing preferences lie, this chart might help you in identifying what type of deck is right for you for Pauper constructed…

In this case, the type that is listed first would be the main focus of the deck. For example, Aggro/Control would have a heavier creature focus with an undertone of control to it. While these deck classifications may not be perfect, you can still get a general idea of what type of decks you could be shooting for, and if you try one that is in your favorite archetype, but doesn’t quite work out, then you can locate some other decks with a similar approach.

Return to Table of Contents

It all starts with a spark of interest. You’ve found this guide, heard about an all-commons format, and couldn’t wait to try it out. You’ve taken time to do your research and found a deck that fits your play style. So where do you go from here? Players who are new to the competitive scene of Magic might be a bit surprised to learn that there is a bit of a recommended progression that you can take in order to prepare yourself and gain the necessary experience to compete within a Pauper Daily Event. The first place to start is by playing single games outside of a tournament environment. In the “Tournament Practice” areas of the MTGO client, players gather together in order to play practice matches against others without having to worry about money being on the line. Unlike the other areas of play in the MTGO client, this section is entirely focused on players who want to practice for competitive play. Matches can be set up for one-versus-one gameplay with games set as a best two out of three and a typical 30-minute time clock.

This works as a great starting place for players who are looking to get into competitive play because the level of deck and player here will be of a type where they are focused on getting better to prepare for competitive play. Here you can start to learn the different, non-deck related nuances of competitive play such as time management and how to properly use your sideboard. As a new player, you will feel comfortable making mistakes when you play games in the Tournament Practice areas and not have to worry about any competitive anxiety. This is also a great place to start to learn about what deck types your choice of deck may generally struggle with. Knowing information about what your strengths and weaknesses are is important for improving your game.

Return to Table of Contents

Player-Run Events (PREs)

After playing around a bit in the “Tournament Practice” area, you’ll find yourself more comfortable with the interactions of competitive matches. Next you’ll probably want to go from understanding how individual games work to understanding how tournaments work. This is where Player-Run Events, better known as PREs, come in. For those who are not familiar with the concept, these are tournaments that are not sanctioned by Wizards and are instead run by the players themselves. This means that they are run and organized by dedicated community members, and any prize support is offered usually in the form of donated credits on specific trading bots that can be redeemed for cards.

Running an event can be a lot of work and requires the organizer to take care of everything, including registration, pairings, and rules enforcement. These days, running a specific event has become easier thanks to the Gatherling website. This is a good website to become familiar with, as it has provided event organizers with a platform to track results and decks as well as to create the pairings, which was perhaps the hardest part. Even if you decide that Pauper is not the format for you, this is a great place to find information about any upcoming PRE. In most PREs, a chatroom is created in client for the tournament organizer to share information with participants. Information about the name of the chat room can usually be found in the rules or master document for the event. Once in the room, if you are unfamiliar with how to use the Gatherling website, then don’t be afraid to ask; other players will be more than happy to assist.

Perhaps the best place to find information on upcoming PREs would be through the Player-Run Events section of the Wizards forum, which can be found here. Most tournament organizers keep up-to-date posts on the forum that include specific details about their particular events, and you’ll be able to find additional information such as event cancellations. I would like to point out that when viewing any forum, it is important to keep in mind the posting date, as some information may not be current. For example, the “Event Calendar” post at the top of the forum would be a great resource for players interested in joining PREs; however, most of the posts in that thread are significantly out of date.

Pauper-specific PREs have been around since long before Wizards decided to support the format. One of the biggest driving forces behind Pauper has been, which is the biggest backer of Pauper PREs. The Pauper Deck Challenge, as it was known, used to come in many different forms, but remains alive and well today with three different events. Before the age of the Modern format, there was Extended, which had seen three different PDC events during its prime. There also used to be a few different PDC events dedicated to block formats despite how limited the card pool would be. If you’re interested in seeing what different PDC events have come and gone, then you can check out the list on their website. As the format gained support from Wizards in the form of sanctioned events, some of these PREs fell by the wayside, but the Pauper community wouldn’t let them become extinct.

As mentioned earlier, times for PREs are subject to change, so it is important to keep an eye on Wizards’ Player-Run Event section of their forum for up-to-date postings about the latest events. Because the only version of Pauper that Wizards directly supports is the Classic variation, the Standard version of PDC tends to be more popular. As you can see, there are currently two different Standard PDC events: MPDC and SPDC (click the links to see an example of the latest events’ rule page on the Wizards PRE forum). Classic Pauper fans need not feel left out, however, as Pauper Classic Tuesdays (click the links to see an example of the latest event’s rule page on the Wizards PRE forum) provide players their needed fix for a Classic Pauper PRE. MPDC and Pauper Classic Tuesdays are sponsored by, which provides prize support for the events in the form of credits on their trading bots. SPDC is directly sponsored by and provides prize support in the form of Event Tickets. Details for prize payouts can be found in the weekly forum posts for these events, but prize payout is usually as follows…*

1st: 7 credits with MTGOTraders/Tickets (SPDC)
2nd: 4 credits with MTGOTraders/Tickets (SPDC)
3rd: 2 credits with MTGOTraders/Tickets (SPDC)
4th: 2 credits with MTGOTraders/Tickets (SPDC)

(*Some other prizes may be available — and again — prizes are subject to change, so I cannot stress enough to check the Wizards PRE Forum for weekly information.)

Player-Run Events are almost always free to join, which is why the prize support is lower than what you’ll find in paid events sanctioned by Wizards. However, the fact that these events are free to join means that the pressure to win is minimal. It isn’t uncommon for newer players to feel a level of anxiety when playing in an event that they’ve paid money to join. It can feel like gambling, as you’ve put your own money on the line in the hope of walking away with the prize. Without having this over your head, you can sit back, take your time, and experience what the tournament environment is like. You’ll get to experience having to play multiple rounds, in what is referred to as a Swiss format, with the same deck, and see what it is like to experience pairings based upon performance. A Swiss tournament structure means that matches are not single elimination, and a player plays all the rounds as long as he or she doesn’t choose to drop from the event. Players are then awarded prizes based upon rankings that are a function of factors such as number of wins, opponent records, and so on. Despite the fact that the format only features commons, there is a significant level of play that is associated with Daily Events no matter what the format. When you reach that point, you’ll start to see that there is a core group of regular competitors, known as “grinders”, who play in almost every event and perform very well on a regular basis. PREs provide an open environment where newer players can learn to navigate their way to becoming a more competitive participant.

Competitive nature aside, there are other great benefits to be gained from participating in PREs. Players in PREs can be a bit more casual in nature, which means you’ll find them more willing to communicate and talk to you in match about certain plays, for example. If you’ve played in a sanctioned Daily Event, you’ve probably encountered many players who don’t even take the time to offer a simple “Hello and Good Luck” and/or “Good Game”, which players don’t even have to type in the current client. This more relaxed environment can also lead to a place where people feel more open to bringing decks that are less popular and more roguish. This provides a great environment for testing out a new deck to see if it can compete or if changes might have to be made to reach a competitive level.

Return to Table of Contents

Daily Events

At the very top of the competitive play learning curve, you’ll find events that are backed and supported by Wizards, but even these can be approached with a similar level curve that we talked about with playing in the “Tournament Practice” area and moving into Player-Run Events. The first option that you’re provided is similar to the experience you had playing in the “Tournament Practice” areas: 2-player constructed queues. These events work in the same format as any single match where you’re playing for the best two games out of three with timed games and sideboarding. These queues fire “on demand”, so whenever there are two people who click to join, the event will be started immediately. The cost of entry for 2-player constructed games is 2 event tickets and will pay the winner one pack (at the time of writing this the prize support is Magic 2014, but updated information on prize payout can be found here) for an assumed value of doubling your money. I say that this is an “assumed value” because the cost of buying a single booster pack from the in-client store is $3.99 and each event ticket is $1, so if you were to try and sell that single pack on the secondary market you would find that it doesn’t trade precisely for 4 event tickets. This is a discussion of economics that could be an entire article in itself, but I’ll recommend that, if you’re only interested in making money off of competitive play, you check the secondary market and see what people are currently buying packs for so that you can determine whether or not it is cost-feasible. Earnings aside, there is a direct correlation that can be seen between the level of play and the type of event.

This overly simplified representation shows my recommended progression for acclimating yourself to competitive play. In formats like Standard, the top tier of competitive play includes Premier Events, which require a larger minimum number of players, more rounds of Swiss play, and a Top 8; however, Pauper is not deemed to be as profitable a format for Wizards, so it has been removed from the Premier Event Calendar to make room for other events. This leaves the Daily Events to be the most competitive playing environment for the Pauper format. Pauper Daily Events fire off at least twice a day based upon a set schedule, which can be found on Wizards’ Event Calendar. The times for these events varies on a daily basis in order to try and accommodate as many time zones as possible.

The cost to enter Daily Events is 6 event tickets and events require a minimum of 16 players to start, but you can expect an approximate average of 64 players in Pauper Daily Events. The length of these events does not vary based upon the number of participants; each Daily Event is four rounds of Swiss play with prizes being paid out to players who win at least three matches. The current payout for Pauper Daily Events is Magic 2014 boosters and well as qualifier points, which are earned in order to enter the Magic Online Championship Series (more information on qualifier points can be found here). For each round that is won in an event, players receive 3 match points. If you end the event with 9 match points (in other words, you won your matches in three out of four rounds), then the current payout will be 6 Magic 2014 booster packs and 1 qualifier point. If you end the event with 12 match points (in other words you won your matches in all four rounds), then the current payout will be 11 Magic 2014 booster packs and 3 qualifier points. This means that you’re looking at an assumed earning of $18 for winning three rounds and $38 for winning all four rounds; again, keep in mind that the value of booster packs on the secondary market is lower than that in the Magic Online store.

Daily Events are the ultimate end game when it comes to competitive Pauper play. There are a number of strong players in the format, and there is no better place to really get to understand the power level that can be maintained in a format that is limited to only commons. The trick to being successful when you’re starting out in the competitive environment of any format is to not get discouraged if you enter a Daily Event and don’t reach that coveted three-win mark. If I can give you one piece of advice when going into Daily Events, it would be to keep a positive mindset. When you join a Daily Event, understand that you will need to set aside the better part of three hours if you compete in all four rounds. That can be mentally taxing at first, so keep that positive attitude up and take each loss as a lesson by watching replays and learning from mistakes.

Return to Table of Contents

In Magic, deck types are often classified into what is known as “tiers”. This term refers to the strength and popularity of specific decks within a format. What tier a deck is in is slower to change than something such as price; however, it can happen based upon the release of a new set. The strength of a single card when added to a pre-existing deck could be enough to move a deck up in these rankings. For example, with the release of Dragon’s Maze, the deck formerly known as WeeFiend became more powerful when Wee Dragonauts was replaced by Nivix Cyclops. Out of all of the decks that have been successful in competitive Pauper play, there are a specific few that the Pauper community considers to be the regular, top competitors within the format. These deck types will show up in quantity every week and probably in every event as well. If you’re looking for a regularly updated tier classification for Pauper, then I recommend the list put together by E. Hustle on MTGOStrat.

I have been keeping track of the competitive Pauper scene for over a year at this point, and when the number of showings during each of these weeks is totaled, certain decks clearly stand above the rest. Based upon their average showing percentage, I have created my own tier breakdown. Often a classic tiered system will look like what I previously mentioned and focus on a tier 1 – 1.5 – 2 system, which I’ve never really been a fan of. As I like to do, I’ve simplified the idea of a tier system in order to simply illustrate the top decks in Pauper based upon popularity and strength of show.

It is important to know each of these decks. Even if you’re not planning on playing any of these decks, you’re going to encounter them in competitive play and should at least have a basic understanding of card choices and interactions within them.

Return to Table of Contents

The first deck on our list is DelverBlue. When I first started working on writing about competitive Pauper, I had merged this deck with other versions of Mono-Blue Control (MUC), but have since learned the error of my ways. Classifying DelverBlue is often a challenge because it holds a fairly equal balance between both aggro and control. One of the biggest reasons that I had originally done so was that DelverBlue, while maintaining a heavy creature base, is a very strong control deck. The deck manages to do this mostly through the addition of Spellstutter Sprite and, in a lesser role, Cloud of Faeries.

The one thing you’ll notice about this deck is that it seems very light on countermagic, but whenever you sit across from the deck it never feels that way. This is where the Spellstutter Sprites come into play, acting as an additional 4 Counterspells. These, in addition to the non-creature spells, account for a total of 13 countermagic spells in this list and this is even higher than most DelverBlue decks. When it comes to the countermagic package there are many different changes that can be made to a list like this, from stuff like Mana Leak and Daze to Prohibit.

The other element to these decks that makes the countermagic feel more oppressive is the array of cheap draw spells that are available to blue. Several people have talked about the power of Gush in this format, but there are other great draw spells as well. Things like Preordain, Think Twice, Accumulated Knowledge, and even Gitaxian Probe allow this deck to draw into a critical Counterspell. When it comes to the creature base, a full set of Ninja of the Deep Hours is more than enough to keep this deck drawing at least one additional card each turn (not to mention allowing repeated use of Spellstutter Sprite).

Another great addition to the Spellstutter Sprites is the use of Snap, which has been a relatively important addition to the deck as this combination can turn Snap into a 4-mana counter. Spells like Snap and Cloud of Faeries have really given this deck an edge when it comes to mana base as well. In most formats and tournament decks, you’ll find that 24 lands seems to be a magic number when it comes to creating a mana base for a deck. This deck is able to heavily cheat this standard by only running a much lower land count than this. This leaves room for additional cards that can be used to tighten up the deck, and since the mana curve is so low (the only spells at a converted mana cost of 4 or more are ones that can be “cheated” into play for a cheaper cost like Gush or Spire Golem), the deck really doesn’t need more anywhere near 24 lands. In fact, it is quite common for DelverBlue decks to run 17 to 18 lands total.

The use of Quicksand, as you see in this example decklist, is a newer thing to Delver as adapted from MUC. While countermagic-based decks can easily control an opponent’s creatures before they hit the battlefield, once that creature comes into play, there are fewer options to interact with it. In blue most of the spell choices for doing so only work to return the creature to its owner’s hand, which simply delays instead of stops it. For a long time, the go-to choice for interacting with creatures on the field was (and still occasionally is) Vapor Snag, but it has been mostly replaced by Snap thanks to its ability to untap lands. Quicksand provides DelverBlue with that rare option to kill a creature instead of simply bouncing it.

Spire Golem is another card that is overlooked and brings great value since you’re able to cast it without leaving lands tapped at the end of your turn. The low mana curve of the deck plays well with a number of strong 1-cost creatures that we’ve been introduced to in recent sets. Delver of Secrets is the obvious front-runner as it becomes a 3/2 with evasionm and then Phantasmal Bears, while they have the typical phantom drawback, work as a 2/2 body for the cost of 1 blue mana. While this particular list doesn’t show it, there have been other strong aggro options for the deck, including Stitched Drake and Frostburn Weird

There is a lot of potential for this deck as something for the new-to-format control players. The printing of Delver of Secrets has allowed this deck to move from being completely focused on the control aspect to a deck that can provide quite a heavy aggro front as well. This can be appealing to a new player, but with any deck it will take some time to really get the hang of all the interactions. The most important thing to learn about playing DelverBlue, or any countermagic-based control deck, isn’t knowing your own deck, but more importantly knowing your opponents’ decks. It is very important to know what the key cards are in your opponents’ decks so you know what you should be looking to use countermagic on in order to maximize your own deck’s efficiency.

Temporal Fissure storm is not a new thing to the format by any means, but the approach to achieving a high storm count has changed a lot over the years. Before the most recent set of bans, the deck was very much a rogue strategy and storm players had a stronger choice in Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens. With those options gone, there was room for a new combo deck to take over. The pairing of Temporal Fissure and the 8-Post mana base was a match made in heaven as Cloudpost could quickly produce the mana needed to cast multiple spells for a high storm count. The biggest different between a Temporal Fissure storm and one of its red cousins is that the Temporal Fissure isn’t really your win condition, but instead a spell to control the board state. With the continued use of Temporal Fissure, you’re going to be able to keep your opponent locked down, but you’re still going to need, at the very least, a single creature on the battlefield that can attack and do that 20 damage. There are three different approaches to the deck, but they all operate similarly, with just slightly different approaches, so I haven’t bothered to separate them.

At the very beginning FissurePost was a term used only to describe the Simic version of the deck. This color combination was a seemingly natural pairing thanks entirely to Crop Rotation. In most 8-Post strategies there are a few great 1-drop options for ensuring you find Cloudposts, and by playing green you’re getting access to yet another one. If you take a look at our SimicFissurePost example, you can see how many great 1-drop options the deck has. With the heavy mana production of 8-Post, you’re able to keep dropping things like Chromatic Star/Chromatic Sphere and drawing more little artifacts to play so you can increase the storm count. Since you’re already going to be sacrificing off all these tiny artifacts, the inclusion of Fangren Marauder is perfect to give you significant ability to gain life. Green also gives the deck access to things like Moment’s Peace to battle the aggro-heavy metagame. As you can see, by the mana base, early SimicFissurePost decks would relish in cycling the colorless cycling lands for added draw so that additional card space didn’t have to be wasted on draw spells. In this version of the deck, the win condition can be your Mulldrifters, but more recent versions have started to include the traditional 8-Post finishers of Rolling Thunder and Kaervek’s Torch. Accessing these spells is made possible thanks to not only the Prophetic Prisms, but also the variety of chromatic trinkets and their ability to change mana colors.

Not long after SimicFissurePost had established itself as a top competitor, a mono-blue version started to showing up in Daily Events. Looking at the total undefeated results for FissurePost decks, you would have SimicFissurePost account for 70% and Mono-Blue was the other 30%. When it came to the remaining standings, you would still have SimicFissurePost holding about 70% of the showings and mono-blue was creeping up at around 26%. This has changed significantly in the current metagame, as we are now lucky to see one or two Simic versions of the deck to show up on a weekly basis. The decline in popularity is mostly due to the fact that players have found that there is a more stable list in the other variations.

The mono-blue version of the deck takes a different approach to creating the necessary mana. Whereas the Simic version uses the trinkets and single-costed spells to increase spell count, the mono-blue version used the pieces familiar to the original versions of the deck: Cloud of Faeries and Snap. The ability of these two spells to untap lands when they are cast allows repeated abuse of the heavy mana already produced by Cloudposts. Another big difference between the two decks is that the mono-blue version relies more on the combination of Ghostly Flicker and Mnemonic Wall. As we saw in the example for SimicFissurePost, there was only a single copy of each of these spells, but the mono-blue version ups the count to three of each. Not only does Ghostly Flicker give you the ability to protect your permanents from targeted spells, but the combined use with the Mnemonic Walls can allow you to bring back Snaps over and over. The win condition in mono-blue Fissure decks have often relied on only the damage of Cloud of Faeries and Mulldrifters to win the game. The Temporal Fissures can be used to not only lock out an opponent entirely, but focus on removing any fliers so that what little damage it can do with its creatures goes uncontested. This particular list has included a copy of Ulamog’s Crusher, which was another great, classic finisher for 8-Post decks. The annihilator ability pairs well with Temporal Fissure because sacrificed permanents mean that fewer stormed copies of Temporal Fissure will be necessary.

At around the end of March 2013, we were seeing a third variation of the FissurePost deck start to emerge. It started very slowly at first with the deck not making any undefeated showings and accounting for only 4% of the total winning FissurePost decks, but this would change. While the BlueFissurePost version of the deck remains the most common, there is some great benefit in the choices made for the blue-white variation, which has become the second-most-played version.

Blue-White FissurePost, or AzFissurePost, operates its storm strategy in a way similar to the mono-blue version. That means that it looks to the enabling ability of Cloud of Faeries and Snap to untap Cloudposts, but the deck runs an odder addition in Sunscape Familiar. In the traditional FamiliarStorm version of the deck, both Sunscape Familiar and Nightscape Familiar were used to reduce mana costs. One of the most understated additions that the familiars bring to the decks is their blocking ability. The Nightscape Familiar comes with a regeneration ability, and in this particular case Sunscape Familiar is a cheap blocker. This helps the deck live long enough to stabilize the board-state in the mid-to-late game where it really is at its best. The addition of white mana is primarily in order to facilitate the addition of Sunscape Familiar, which can speed up the ability to storm a little bit; however, the deck uses the color for a few nice choices for sideboarding.

Playing any of the Temporal Fissure storm decks is not something I recommend to new players. When you’re running a deck that is focused on the storm mechanic, it can require a bit of luck, lots of knowledge about the deck you’re running, and also a bit of math (although they have now added a storm counter to the game client). I’m not even going to begin to try and describe situations and counts for these decks and instead leave you with these general descriptions of how the decks operate. As tempting as it may be to run a deck that has such good record for winning in Daily Events, keep in mind that more goes into winning matches then just grabbing a deck and sitting down to play games.

I’m going to do my best to give a rather generic look at this deck, but I really want to stress that if you’re interested in picking up this deck for yourself, you should go check out this article, which was written by deluxeicoff because he goes into great detail and really does the deck justice with his description (also take the time to read the comments because he made several updates to it after the article went up on the site). Stompy is a mono-green aggro deck that pairs low-costed creatures with creature pump spells in order to do big damage fast.

As deluxeicoff notes, “Stompy is a very consistent deck.” The creature base for the typical Stompy deck never goes beyond the 2cc slot, and in its most recent update, obtained two cards that have quickly become staples of the deck: Young Wolf and Hunger of the Howlpack. Young Wolf was a no-brain addition for Stompy since you can play it on Turn 1, and when your opponent does manage to kill it off, it simply comes back bigger than it was before. This creature dares your opponent to either block or kill it, and if they don’t, then you simply add on a few pump spells to make them regret the decision. Shinen of Life’s Roar has been a key part of the Stompy deck as it forces your opponent into a situation where he could only block the Shinen and all of your remaining creatures could slip past for the kill. While this was a requirement of most decks, Stompy has started to pull away from it in favor of bigger bodies. Around the same time as the release of Young Wolf, we were also given Wandering Wolf, which stuck around for a few months, but didn’t stick for good. The Wandering Wolf also provided a great pairing with Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, which has the same ability to bypass your opponent’s possible blockers. The final feature creature is going to be the Quirion Ranger, which allows the deck to make do with an average land count of 17.

Beyond such small and powerful creatures, the deck really gets most of its strength from the non-creature spells. Vines of Vastwood is an automatic inclusion because it not only makes your creatures bigger, but it can also protect them from opposing removal spells. Similarly you can protect your creatures from the limitations of removal spells like Lightning Bolt or Agony Warp by simply increasing their size. Since most of the pump spells in the deck are instant-speed you can use them in response to a removal in order to help bypass the kill. Groundswell gives you a great option for creating a blocker that will kill, Gather Courage can be played by simply tapping a creature, and Rancor gives trample in addition to coming back time after time. There is nothing bad that can be said about any of these options, and they all provide the Stompy player with plenty of way to manipulate combat in their favor. The recent addition for non-creature spells, Hunger of the Howlpack, can give a creature +3/+3 permanently and can make an opponent hesitate to kill your creatures. When this is combined with things like Young Wolf, you can quickly get that little guy up to 5/5, and as soon as that happens, you’re in a great position to win. This example list is a bit interesting for its use of Bonesplitter, which was most often associated with Mono-White Aggro and not Stompy. That being said, there is a benefit to running spells like this and Rancor, which stick around past the end of turn.

Of all the aggro decks that are out there for Pauper, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Stompy is the strongest. That being said, being the strongest doesn’t mean that it is going to be easy to play. If you compare Stompy with something like Mono-White Aggro, you’ll see that there is little thought behind MWA outside of putting creatures into play. While Stompy relies on a similar plan, it does take a bit more thought and strategy to decide when the best time is to play a particular pump spell. Players can enter into this level of playing chicken against a control opponent thanks to how the game plays out. If you cast your pump spell first, then they can simply play a kill spell in response and obtain a two-for-one advantage, but if you wait too long to attempt to make the play, then you may find yourself in the damage step with the opportunity missed. I’m not saying that a new player can’t play Stompy, but what I am saying is that this deck, like any other, requires testing in order to understand how to play it out. Take the time to play games in the practice room and actually learn the different matchups with this deck.

Since the introduction of the affinity mechanic to Magic, we’ve seen a variety of different artifact-based decks that have been titled as such. Most of the time these decks aren’t even focused on using the mechanic, but instead may just bring in a couple of the bigger names from the original set (Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, and Thoughtcast). The Pauper version of the Affinity deck follows suit and uses other mechanics such as metalcraft to really work as the backbone of the deck. While a fast pace can be achieved thanks to the affinity ability on cards like Frogmite and Myr Enforcer, the real strength of the deck can come in the form of Scars spells such as Carapace Forger, Auriok Sunchaser, and Galvanic Blast.

During my time as a Pauper player, I have preached about this magical number, which bumps a creature out of typical destruction range and into “hard to deal with” mode. This number is 4. At 4 toughness your creatures are now well out of range of Pauper staples such as Lightning Bolt, Echoing Decay, Agony Warp, etc. Creatures with 4 toughness are also hard to deal with during combat since we have a relatively low power curve overall. While 4 toughness isn’t a literal line where you cannot do anything against it, it does make a creature harder to deal with. When you take a look at the majority of Affinity decks, you’ll see that they are usually running a full set of Myr Enforcers and Carapace Forgers, which both sit at that 4-toughness line. When you add in the fact that Myr Enforcer can be played as early as Turn 2, now you have something to write home about.

Affinity decks have also gotten some love from fliers such as the Somber Hoverguard, which provides not only the obvious evasion, but it has almost become critical in Pauper to have some type of flier in order to deal with such popular decks as DelverBlue. If you take a look at other decks, even things like Mono-White Aggro and IzzetPost bring in some fliers. However, there are two creatures that tend to define the power level of this deck-type even better: Atog and Disciple of the Vault. Disciple of the Vault is the backbone of a lot of Affinity decks both past and present, but it isn’t guaranteed a spot in the Pauper version. Several Affinity decks use it alongside the Atog for an easy win condition, but it isn’t necessary. Affinity has the ability to beat down opponents with a variety of creatures or could focus on another win condition with Atog in the form of Fling. With Fling you only need to sacrifice five artifacts to make the Atog an 11/12 creature that can attack for half your opponent’s life and then use Fling to finish the job. With fast creatures and possible direct damage you don’t even need to take it that far.

The biggest hold up that Affinity has, much like other aggro variants, is the fact that if you continue to play out creature after creature and drop your hand fast with the affinity ability, you set yourself up to be in topdeck mode in the early stages of the game. This becomes especially true for Affinity because of the fact that it uses a number of 1-drop creatures and artifacts, as well as those affinity creatures, to get the aggressive start. The deck balances this out with help from the cantrips we get through those mana artifacts. Things like Chromatic Star, Prophetic Prism, and/or Chromatic Sphere allow Affinity the chance to work toward rebuilding their hand. Chromatic Star especially is a must-have card for the deck because it doesn’t have to be used for color changing in order to be able to draw a card. The other staples for draw include Thoughtcast, which can be simply played for 1 blue mana and occassionally Rush of Knowledge, which can combo with Myr Enforcer in order to draw seven cards. Being able to fill your hand is critical with this deck, especially if you come across a control-heavy build, which can strategically keep key creatures like Atog under control.

Affinity can be a user-friendly deck for the new player to the format. I do, however, recommend players be aware of the math behind the deck. Where this deck can find an advantage is in the DelverBlue match because it has a lot of cards that DelverBlue will want to try and counter. This allows the player an opportunity to effectively play around countermagic by drawing them out (and the ability to play 4/4 creatures for 0 mana doesn’t hurt either!). You will be able to handle other aggro decks that don’t have a focus on pump spells, but Stompy can cause you some angst. Perhaps one of the worst matches would be Mono-Black Control since they tend to run, not only a significant number of creature removal spells, but also the discard will work in conjunction with your own ability to empty your hand and get you to the point of “topdeck mode” faster. The great thing about Affinity is that it runs as a typically fast aggro deck, but has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Return to Table of Contents

The strength of the IzzetPost deck revolves completely around the 8-Post mana base. Before the printing of Glimmerpost, the only way to ramp up the mana of Cloudpost beyond four was through the use of Vesuva, which was out of reach for players interested in Pauper. As soon as Glimmerpost was printed, an entire deck type was born that focused completely around these two lands. By including both Glimmerpost and Cloudpost in a deck, a player could (with the full eight in play) tap Cloudposts for 8 mana each and gain up to 8 life off of Glimmerposts. Those who have put any amount of time into competitive Pauper are more than familiar with the many variations of the 8-Post deck ranging from GreenPost to RebelPost. During the first edition of this guide and before the most recent set of bans were put into place, IzzetPost was one of the tier 1 decks in the format. The deck quickly became the template for 8-Post control variants, but has declined in popularity recently due to poor matches in the current metagame.

IzzetPost, as you may expect, is a deck that uses blue mana for countermagic alongside red mana for direct damage and other creature kill. Because of the deck’s ability to produce tons of manam it has made use of many cards that have not seen regular competitive play due to converted mana costs that didn’t match the card’s perceived power. Odd cards such as Mysteries of the Deep, Capsize, and Serrated Arrows found their place within this deck. The heavy mana from the Cloudposts has also allowed Condescend to become a relevant option for countermagic since a high X-cost is easily obtainable.

Interestingly enough, for a blue control deck, IzzetPost is usually very light when it comes to countermagic. In early versions of the deck it wasn’t uncommon to see IzzetPost decks only running something along the lines of three Condescends and two copies of Prohibit. These cards fit well because of their reliance on colorless mana as opposed to something like Counterspell, which needs 2 blue mana to play, something that can be hard to come by in a deck that mostly produces colorless mana. As you can see from this example list, the deck has evolved to often run even less countermagic in favor of more creature control options, thanks to an aggro-heavy metagame. Even though the odds of drawing into one of these few countermagic spells is relatively low, you have to take into consideration the fact that a good majority of the deck is focused on tutoring or drawing the cards you need to make the right plays. So where does the frustration come in when playing against this deck? Where is the control if not in Counterspells? Well, most of it is coming, surprisingly, from burn spells like Electrostatic Bolt and Flame Slash. At a glance Flame Slash might be overlooked because of the fact that it only targets creatures, but because it deals 4 damage, the spell has the ability to kill 90% of the creatures you’ll encounter in Pauper for 1 mana. Current versions of the deck have created a varied package of different red spells to deal with creatures. Each has its strength in dealing with different types of creatures, and choices can vary based on player preference and perceptions of the metagame.

Like Affinity, there are as many different versions of IzzetPost as there are players to run it. One of the key parts of the deck is Mystical Teachings and occasionally Forbidden Alchemy. Mystical Teachings allows IzzetPost to function so perfectly as a toolbox of sorts, and even the flashback cost is easily obtainable thanks to Cloudpost and Prophetic Prism. Being able to run a significant number of 1-off cards allows the IzzetPost player the opportunity to gain advantage in more matches starting in Game 1. Everything varies, from the number of creatures to the different options used to build up the Teachings toolbox. We’ve seen this creature base evolve; it used to focus on Ulamog’s Crushers and Mnemonic Walls, but now it often runs nothing more than a set of Mulldrifters. IzzetPost decks gain great benefit from the use of Prophetic Prism as well, which allows the player to easily access colors outside of red and blue for things like the flashback cost of Mystical Teachings. Even in mono-colored post decks Prophetic Prism can be an important part of the deck since it gives the player a chance to filter out all the excess colorless mana in order to make up for the fact that the deck is short on basics.

The traditional finisher for these decks is either Rolling Thunder or Kaervek’s Torch. These cards are a perfect fit for this deck since you can quickly ramp up your mana to the point where you can do that necessary X = 20 to your opponent. Rolling Thunder can be the more effective choice between the two since it gives you the ability to clear off a battlefield that is full of an opponent’s creatures, but Kaervek’s Torch works great for a metagame that is heavy in countermagic. The whole deck operates around this concept of using Glimmerpost and red spells to stall for time until the point where the deck finally draws into this win condition.

Oddly enough, this is another deck I usually recommend that newer players stay away from. The deck seems pretty simple at first glance, but if you’re not familiar with it or are otherwise uncomfortable when it comes to mulligans, then this may not be the best choice. There is a lot to be said for being able to have a hand that has Posts in it but being stuck on basic lands, which really can hold you back. The other reason I usually speak out against this deck for the new player is because there are so many versions. Each player has their own variation that has come about as the result of testing and guessing regarding what will be best against the expected metagame. As a beginning deck it can be a bit daunting when it comes to making card choices and knowing what the right moves are. Finally, the mirror match with this deck can be tricky since Cloudpost counts the number of Loci on the battlefield, not on the battlefield under your control. This creates situations in which each player may be helping his opponent ramp, not only him or herself.

Long before we even knew Nivix Cyclops was going to be printed, there was a fringe deck that had a bit of a cult following in Pauper. The deck titled WeeFiend looked to capitalize on the similar abilities of Kiln Fiend and Wee Dragonauts, which increased their power with each instant or sorcery that was cast by the creature’s controller. The idea was simple: pair these guys with a number of cheap instants and sorceries so that you can pump them up for fatal damage at the first opportunity. When the deck first made an appearance, it was overlooked by combo players in favor of the significantly better options in Grapeshot/Empty the Warrens Storm and Infect. Even after these decks were banned out of the metagame, the deck still had stiff competition from the new combo master in Temporal Fissure Storm. The deck really never moved beyond rogue status because it had some significant weaknesses, and there were other options out there that provided a better chance to win. In fact, before the printing of Nivix Cyclops the deck was only managing to show up in Daily Events one to two times in a two-week period. Now, with the addition of Nivix Cyclops, the deck started showing up more than twice as often as its predecessor.

While the cost of both these creatures was the same and they both started with the same power, there are some significant differences. Wee Dragonauts provides you with built-in evasion, but it only increases its power by 2. Nivix Cyclops starts with defender unless you play a spell, but starts with 4 toughness and increases its size by 3. If we look at the speed of Eye Candy, we’ll see a deck that can only win on Turn 3 at its earliest. This is what happens when your combo is reliant on a creature because you have to wait for the creature to lose summoning sickness so you can attack for the win. This is why Infect became so much better when Glistener Elf was printed since it could attack as early as Turn 2. When your win condition creature costs 3 mana, then you’re waiting until Turn 4 until you can finally attack with it.

Every Eye Candy deck is going to keep a maximum creature base that includes a full set of Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops alongside Delver of Secrets, which earned its spot in the deck due to its overwhelming size-to-cost ratio. A deck that is running only 12 creatures creates the perfect situation to consider Delver of Secrets a 3/2 flier at almost all times. While it may not seem like it at first, Eye Candy is at its core a combo-based deck that looks to win in a single attack off of a pumped Kiln Fiend or Nivix Cyclops. This means that every spell in the deck looks to either enhance the combo or protect it. Protection comes in the form of cheap options like Dispels and Apostle’s Blessings while Lightning Bolts can serve as removal or an added finisher.

The key for selecting spells for an Eye Candy deck is that nothing should cost more than a single mana. As you can see in this example list, the only non-creature spell that costs more than 1 mana is Apostle’s Blessing, which can get away with being cast for 1 mana and 2 life. By keeping the mana curve on non-creature spells low, the deck can not only minimize the number of lands it uses, but also can cast more in a single turn. In a similar way, some of the earlier versions of both decks ran Mutagenic Growth, which worked twice as hard to pump your creatures, and many still run Gitaxian Probe, which can be played for free and allows you to draw a card.

The key behind being able to pull off this type of win is in getting through your opponent’s creatures. The deck’s biggest weakness can come from the fact that it is a creature-based win combination. This means that without an ability like trample, an opponent can chump block creatures all day. There is a select group of spells chosen to avoid this, thanks to their low cost and the fact that they grant evasion. Artful Dodge allows a creature to be unblockable and is a two-for-one thanks to the flashback ability. Distortion Strike provides similar card advantage thanks to the rebound ability. The third option is going to be Shadow Rift, which is great because no other shadow creatures are played in Pauper, and it works as a cantrip, allowing you that additional card draw and meaning you have a chance of getting yet another playable spell to pump one of your creatures. There is also benefit that can come from the use of Assault Strobe, which doesn’t technically provide an ability to be unblockable, but the double strike ability should allow your creature a chance to eat through any blockers.

I am not a fan of this deck and wouldn’t recommend it to new players. This deck is the very definition of “glass cannon”, and while it can be fast, it does suffer from some flaws. Consider, for a minute, the deck’s biggest nemesis, black-based control, which easily runs up to 13 creature-kill spells, not to mention the use of a couple of Crypt Rats. Add to that the different ways that black-based control decks have to manipulate their opponents’ hands as well: Things like Ravenous Rats, Chittering Rats, Duress, Augur of Skulls, and so on can remove instants and sorceries from their opponent’s grip, which makes it harder for them to combo out for fatal damage in one swing. Consider another popular tier 1 deck for this match in DelverBlue. While DelverBlue does not have a lot of opportunity to interact with the creatures once they hit the table, they do have the ability to counter a Nivix Cyclops before it hits the table, which allows the deck to circumvent Apostle’s Blessings, and we all know how easy DelverBlue can find eight Counterspells. Anyone playing against Eye Candy only has to take out the Kiln Fiends and Nivix Cyclops to really gimp the deck.

Return to Table of Contents

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Burn decks use direct damage spells such as Lightning Bolt in order to quickly finish off an opponent. There have been very few deck types that have lasted as competitive options since the creation of Magic. Decks such as Goblins or Elves have managed to stick around not only because of their appeal to players of all skill levels, but because Wizards has continued to provide high-quality content when it comes to creatures and spells that support the core concepts. In this same way, RDW has managed to stand the test of time thanks to functional reprints as well as new approaches to direct damage. Take, for example, Incinerate, which has not only been printed five times since it was first introduced to us in Ice Age, but which also is one of three cards of similar function. Fire Ambush and Volcanic Hammer are the slower, sorcery-speed cousins of Incinerate and then M13 brought us a near-direct copy in Searing Spear. Having Searing Spear as an option means that you can run up to eight copies, bypassing the “maximum of 4″ rule.

When it comes to Pauper, we get pretty lucky because there is a focus on printing some cards for limited, so a large number of direct damage cards are released as common. There are at least 15 good different direct damage spells in Pauper, which leaves players a large pool to choose from when building a Burn deck. Deciding among these spells is easier than it may sound. If we take a look at some of the numbers behind the deck, we can assume that the most efficient burn spells (when talking about cost vs. damage done) will be hitting for 3 damage and only cost us 1 mana. Based on this, in order to beat an opponent, you simply need to successfully cast seven of these 3-damage spells. In a Burn deck the average converted mana cost usually tops at 2 for things like those Searing Spears, which means you can win with seven spells and two Mountains for a total of only nine cards. Now consider that you start the game with seven in hand, and you’ll understand how the deck can win the game as early as Turn 3.

In a Burn deck, tempo is everything, and the rule of three, as I like to call it, means you should focus your card choice on these 3-damage-for-1-mana spells. In Pauper there are four reliable spells to achieve this: Chain Lightning, Lava Spike, Lightning Bolt, and Shard Volley. A full set of each of these spells will make up the core of your deck, as you can see in the example I provided. The only exception would be Shard Volley, which requires a sacrificed land as an additional cost to playing the spell. Too many of spells like this or Fireblast will leave you in a bad spot if you’ve sacrificed all your lands in hope of winning the game yet got stopped. As you can see, the Burn deck strategy is very much an all-in type of approach to the game.

Many versions of Burn also include Rift Bolt, which could be counted as the fifth option in our 3-for-1 direct damage spells as it will only cost 1 to play. However, you need to wait until the following turn for it to hit. The key in card choices for a Burn deck comes down to efficiency and utility/card advantage. Consider Staggershock, which only does 2 damage, but is cast twice for a single mana cost, and then Firebolt, which uses flashback to get two spells for the cost of one slot. Beyond this solid core of direct damage spells, there are also some solid options for additional utility. The first I like to address is Needle Drop. While the damage on this spell is low, and it does have to be cast following another spell, the ability to draw a card should not be overlooked. Because Burn is so all-in, it can find itself in a position where the Burn player has dumped his hand and is just looking to hit the final damage spell based on what card is on the top of his deck for his draw each turn. This is a terrible place to be in, as it can give your opponent enough time to stabilize their board state and turn the game around in their favor. Another addition many Burn decks use to try and get some added card draw is Forgotten Cave. Another great card for Burn decks is Searing Blaze, but it can be love-hate. In a single card, you’re granted the ability to kill a creature and do damage to a player, but it requires an activation of landfall to do the full damage, and if an opponent has no creatures on the field, it can’t be cast.

It is also not uncommon for Burn decks to run few to no creatures in favor of making room for additional direct damage spells. For a long time Burn decks without creatures were the norm for Burn in Pauper, but a new trend started that I like to refer to as 12-Creature Burn. Burn decks were starting to add a full set of Goblin Fireslingers and Keldon Marauders alongside those Kiln Fiends to balance the deck. Before these additions, the deck would go all-or-nothing, but these creatures were able to slow the tempo just enough to keep the Burn player in the game while waiting for that last spell they needed to finish off an opponent. Kiln Fiend can just get out of hand in a deck that is running so few creatures as we see in the Eye Candy deck as well. Keldon Marauders is a great choice, as well, because if it goes unblocked, it’ll do a total of 5 damage. While the card doesn’t stay around for very long, it can at least provide you with a temporary blocker of a decent size.

Burn is a deck that can be very friendly to new players to the format. With the focus of the deck being entirely based on dealing direct damage to an opponent, players can find success without having to worry too much about tapping creatures. I think there is also a good deal that new players can learn about the game through a deck like Burn. As simple as the Burn strategy may seem, there is a balance that needs to be reached between using your spells to do damage to your opponent or using them to kill your opponent’s creatures. This can teach a new player a lot about game tempo and the balance of taking damage. One of the best pieces of advice I was given when starting out in Magic was to learn to take damage. Many times new players are so focused on preserving their life as close to that starting 20 as they can, but if you’re playing Burn and spend all your spells on your opponent’s creatures, you’ll empty your hand fast and basically be completely unable to win the game. This is actually a complicated lesson to learn, and Burn provides a great platform to do so. I will warn new players, however, that the deck is fast… win or lose. Similar to other glass cannon strategies, the deck plays really well when it plays well, but when it gets a bad draw, it can struggle, so take some time to try it out and learn where the line can be drawn on keeping your starting hands.

Goblins are not only a classic tribe within Magic, but they’ve managed to be a destructive force in a number of different formats throughout Magic‘s history. The plan behind these Goblin decks is the same no matter what the format: quickly create a swarm of creatures in order to run over your opponent. Pauper’s version does this pretty well. In comparison to other aggro decks within the format, Goblins does not use a handful of non-creature spells in order to make their weenies bigger, but instead really focuses on a larger creature count in order to achieve the necessary damage. These creatures are backed up with burn spells, which allow the deck to be both proactive and reactive depending on the situation. One of the most important of these is Death Spark, which has been a fantastic addition to the deck. With the ability to constantly recur this spell, you’re able to kill off a number of creatures in important matches like DelverBlue, or continue to deal extra damage to your opponent each turn. The only drawback on Death Spark is the fact that it requires a creature directly above it in the graveyard to activate the recursion effect, something that is usually easy to do when you’re running so many.

The creature base for a Goblins decks may have slight variations, but there are some key components that the deck really relies on. The first aspect is shown in creatures such as Goblin Cohort. These creatures come in with a cost-to-power ratio that is incredibly favorable. Being able to pay only a single mana for a 2/2 creature gives this deck its speed, but all things come with a drawback. In this case, these creatures cannot attack unless another creature is cast this turn. By running such a heavy creature base, this type of drawback doesn’t matter as much. This is similar for decks that run the Mogg Flunkies, which have no problem finding another creature on their side of the field to attack alongside. The most recent addition to the deck is Foundry Street Denizen, which is yet another solid one drop. The best part of this creature is the fact that the ability is not only triggered once per turn. If you’re able to play multiple red creatures in a single turn, each one you play pumps the Foundry Street Denizen.

Another great benefit to the creatures in a Goblin deck is the fact that many of these powerful creatures were reprinted under a different name in another set. This is mostly a result of the fact that Wizards has basically designated two different names for Goblins. The first would be simply Goblins, but the second is Mogg. While both have the same creature type, the difference in name has allowed the deck to cheat the rules and essentially run eight copies of a single card instead of being limited to four. We talked about Goblin Cohort, but it has a double in Mogg Conscripts, which works in the same way. Goblins decks will also take advantage of a powerful double in Goblin Sledder and Mogg Raider. These creatures have the ability to provide heavy aggro and allow you to create a way to avoid control spells. With the ability to sacrifice goblins, you can avoid some effects from targeted kill or allow a creature to grow beyond the range of a Shock spell.

I have always felt that Goblins works as a great introductory deck for a new player to Pauper. The deck employs the simple strategy of throwing down creatures, dealing damage, and winning games, but it does it at a very low mana curve. Another great appeal to the deck is the speed. So many people get irritated by the speed of things like IzzetPost, but with a faster aggro strategy, you find that games are won or lost at a much easier pace. There are some very different variations of the deck, including ones that look to non-goblins such as Martyr of Ashes and/or Jackal Familiar, so I recommend that anyone who is interested check out some of the decks that show up in Daily Events. Goblins deck examples shouldn’t be too hard to find in Daily Event results as the deck has really managed to come into its own and has proven that the current metagame is a bit friendlier to it.

Mono-Black Control is a deck that has been around for a long time in Pauper, and those who have been playing in the format for years will understand the frustration that used to come with seeing Chittering Rats enter the battlefield. Traditionally Mono-Black Control was focused around a heavy package of creature-control options. The deck doesn’t always run a lot of creatures, instead using the space for creature kill so that whatever creatures you do finally get on the field would be able to get through and do enough damage to win the game. However, the control option doesn’t stop there. The deck has the potential to also bring in a decent amount of hand control through discard spells like Ravenous Rats, which allowed the discard spells to be on a body as well. When it comes to creatures, you get to a point where one is better than another based on the fact that it has an ability that another of the same size and cost does not.

For the longest time, the finisher for Mono-Black Control was Corrupt. Much like IzzetPost, the gameplan focused on stalling for time by killing off creatures and making your opponent discard spells he needed until you drew a Corrupt. At the same time you were able to use things like Sign in Blood and Phyrexian Rager in order to keep digging through your deck until you find the Corrupt that allowed you to do a large amount of damage to an opponent while at the same time bringing your life back from the brink of collapse. Games would take big swings from one person leading into another based on a single Corrupt and it was quite frustrating to play against. While Corrupt is still the force that it used to be, several versions of Mono-Black Control have even dropped the card all together.

There are many options for customization with Mono-Black Control decks as well. When it comes to options for creature kill, there is no limit to the choices that black has available to it, from targeted kill to sacrifice effects, and most importantly, the ever-changing threat of Tendrils of Corruption. Several Mono-Black Control decks have also focused more on hand control with things like Wrench Mind and Augur of Skulls to try and throw off the many players who are running control and Temporal Fissure variants. Augur of Skulls, for example, brings in a lot of utility beyond the discard thanks to the fact that it has regeneration, and thanks to the printing of cards such as Undying Evil. With Undying Evil you can cast the spell on your Augur of Skulls before sacrificing it so that it returns to the battlefield as a 2/2 creature, and you can force up your opponent to discard up to four cards. You can also focus your creatures’ abilities more toward killing opposing creatures with abilities like those on Fume Spitter and Cuombajj Witches, which work well against things like DelverBlue.

When looking at all the possibilities for control decks within Pauper, Mono-Black is a more appealing choice to a newer player. If you were to sit down blind to a Pauper tournament using a control deck like DelverBlue, then you would usually need some general idea as to what your opponent’s decklist is like and what spells are the most important to target with your countermagic. When running a deck that uses discard and creature control as the main control elements, it becomes simpler for someone who knows very little about the key cards in other decks to manage to make good choices as to what to do. That being said, I always recommend doing at least some research. There are things to be aware of when it comes to abilities such as hexproof and self-sacrifice effects, which help an opponent get around your important kill spells like Tendrils of Corruption.

With the printing of new slivers in Magic 2014, we were introduced to a third “lord” in Predatory Sliver. In Magic, “lord” is a term that is used to refer to any creature the increases the size of other members of the same creature type, sometimes in addition to providing other benefits. In addition to the other two lords, Muscle Sliver and Sinew Sliver, you now have a scaling up of creatures that can occur almost every turn. With only two lands on the field, you can put out a new lord and pump your creatures by 1 each turn with the right draw. Out of the remaining slivers from the new set, the other two that really stood out for Pauper were Sentinel Sliver and Hive Stirrings. While Hive Stirrings isn’t technically a sliver, you’re getting additional bodies on the field for an efficient cost.

My inclusion of this deck in these tiers will probably be the most debated. Before the release of these new slivers, there was already a green-white version of the deck that looked to capitalize on the ability of each creature to make the others stronger. There really hadn’t been any point in time where the Slivers deck was a regular contender outside of rogue status. With the addition of these new cards from Magic 2014, the deck steps its game up by with a bit more speed and stability, but keep in mind that it still struggles with the same weaknesses it had before.

Building any Slivers deck is going to start off with a full set of the three sliver lords. Beyond those twelve cards, things can change a bit, but expect the creature choices to remain mostly the same from deck to deck. Most will start by throwing in a set of Plated Slivers to continue increasing size and Virulent Slivers, as they help increase the deck’s speed even if just minimally. Some of the earlier attempts at building a Sliver deck used to include Gemhide Slivers as a bit of mana fixing, but since the deck has become such a solid balance between green and white, there really hasn’t been a necessity for mana fixing recently. Even the use of Selesnya Guildgate has helped what little color fixing the deck needed. In addition to those almost-required slivers, the deck can bring in some additional creature abilities through Talon Sliver and Spinneret Sliver. It is important to keep in mind some of the other beneficial combat tricks your army can gain through the likes of Sidewinder Sliver. If you never got a chance to play during the days of flanking, then you were really missing out. The great thing about the ability on Sidewinder Sliver is that they will stack with each Sidewinder Sliver you have on the field. In other words, if you have a full four Sidewinder Slivers on the battlefield then when your slivers attack, any blocking creature without flanking will be given -4/-4 before damage is even assigned. That reduction is enough to even kill Myr Enforcer outright without having your attackers take a single point of damage. There are other honorable mentions in the world of slivers, including the generic option of Metallic Sliver, which is usually left out because it brings no additional ability to the table. Another interesting addition I have seen is the use of Qasali Pridemage, which, while not a sliver, can help out against Affinity. With the creature base of each Sliver deck seeming to be about the same, the real differences will come down to the choices players make with their non-creature spells.

The inclusion of non-creature spells can take a number of different directions. Unlike a deck like Goblins, which fills its few non-creature slots with the same burn spells, Slivers can pick a number of defensive or offensive spells. This example deck tries, like many, to achieve a balance between the two, as it uses Journey to Nowhere to clear an attack path as well as Thrill of the Hunt to do extra damage. Some decks choose to use the non-creature space to run a heavy number of defensive spells. Similar to Journey to Nowhere, there are other enchantment options such as Oblivion Ring or Temporal Isolation to shut down a creature. Other options have included Prismatic Strands or Moment’s Peace to counter other aggro decks. Having a Fog option means that you can feel free to tap all of your creatures, leaving no blocker behind, and not worry about return damage. While Prismatic Strands is a fantastic option, there have been some players who chose Dawn Charm instead since it gives you three ability choices in a single spell. There are also some great options for protecting your creatures specifically in Apostle’s Blessing and Vines of Vastwood. Between the two, I think the Vines of Vastwood brings more to the table because it gives you a chance to not only protect your creature from harm, but also to increase their size for added damage. While the Apostle’s Blessing does not provide you with additional damage, it gives a creature protection from a color as opposed to being untargetable, which can be used to attack through a potential chump blocker.

On the other side of things, many Slivers players decide to fill their few non-creature slots with more offensive spells. There are many great options in Pauper for creature pump as we’ve seen in other aggro strategies like Stompy. A traditional choice for Slivers is Thrill of the Hunt, which is one of the few flashback cards that had a flashback cost that was not greater than the original cost. Where the drawback for this particular spell is, is that it requires two different colors to use, but this wasn’t a problem for a deck that was already in both green and white. Other great options that can be gleaned from Stompy including Gather Courage and Groundswell. There have also been some great inclusions that did not see play due to requiring both green and white mana like Sigil Blessing, which pumps your entire army and makes one a more significant threat through the +3/+3. There have also been some great creature enchantments that make creatures hard to handle. The most common one in Pauper is Rancor, but it is often left aside in Slivers in favor of Armadillo Cloak. Both importantly give your creature trample, but Armadillo Cloak increases a creature’s defense while providing life gain as well.

When it comes down to it, there is a strong comparison between the Slivers deck and the Goblins deck. Both deck types run a sizable creature base with an average of about 10 non-creature options to help support those creatures. This makes Slivers also a great option for newer players to the competitive scene. Slivers have always been a great way to get into the game even beyond the Pauper format because their ability to grow stronger with each one is very friendly to learn and yet still packs a significant punch. If you have any interest in aggro-based strategies and want to work your way into a tier 1 deck like Stompy, then I would still recommend taking time to check out something like this first. Playing a deck like this can work as a great introduction to learning the details of the combat phase and when to use combat tricks like Thrill of the Hunt.

Return to Table of Contents

When you’re considering getting into competitive Pauper, the above ten top-tier decks are the ones that you really need to be focused on beating. If you’re playing a deck that has no options for beating any of these strategies, then you have to at least have some plan in place when it comes to sideboarding. However, the one thing that I have always loved about the Pauper format is the fact that it has always been very open for rogue decks and homebrews. The term rogue has been adopted by Magic players as a way to describe a particular deck that does not currently follow the trends of a particular playing environment and in most cases, is designed with the sole purpose of beating a particular type of deck.

Let us take, for example, the current popularity of decks built around what is known as the “8-Post” strategy. 8-Post decks are decks that are built around the use of Cloudpost and Glimmerpost to create large amounts of mana with a small number of lands. This lets the 8-Post player cast spells with a high converted mana cost that would normally be unplayable in an all-commons format. This heavy mana generation can be used in many different ways, but there is one particular strategy that tends to attack this particular deck type.

Now this particular rogue deck attacks top tier decks on a few different levels, but let us focus on the advantages this deck has against 8-Post strategies. The most obvious counter to 8-Post decks is the use of land destruction spells: in this case Stone Rain and Thermokarst. Many popular decks leave the use of land destruction spells to counter 8-Post as a sideboard option, which increases their odds of winning in Games 2 and 3. By putting these land destruction spells in the maindeck, the player finds itself with an advantage against the heavily played 8-Post decks in Game 1. Another trait that is often associated with 8-Post decks is that they have no problem interacting with your creatures on the battlefield. Whether the deck is looking to use Temporal Fissure or Flame Slash, having creatures like Blastoderm that cannot be targeted makes it very hard for the low-creature decks to handle your attack.

The Pauper format also has a significant number of control decks at the top tiers of competitive play. Like the 8-Post strategies, there are ways for rogue decks to attack control variants as well.

With a heavy creature base, this deck has a very favorable matchup against a multitude of different control variants. One of the best ways to attack decks like FissurePost or DelverBlue is to use discard spells and disrupt the opponent’s hand. Forced discard can make a control opponent discard countermagic or another key spell, as these decks often heavily rely upon card advantage to win games. The deck also draws advantage from countermagic thanks to Stinkweed Imp’s dredge ability. This means that when the Stinkweed Imp is Counterspelled and goes to the graveyard, you have a chance to get it back the next time you draw a card. At first glance, this type of deck may be brushed aside, but when you break down the card choices, you quickly see that each piece looks to capitalize on an advantage over a top-tier deck. By starting off in Game 1 with a deck that looks to take away the strengths of a specific deck, you’re putting yourself in a better position to win.

While an overwhelming majority of rogue decks focus on attacking the core mechanic behind a popular deck in the competitive metagame, there is also the occasional deck that looks to simply showcase a specific interaction or combo instead. Take this particular list, for example.

While this particular list was a rough first draft, it did manage to put up a 3-1 showing in a Daily Event. As you can see, this deck employs an unusual strategy by focusing on the heavy mana generation of various defender creatures like Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement to play some heavily costed spells, much like 8-post, and focuses on the combination of Freed from the Real and Viridian Longbow. This three-card combination requires Axebane Guardian’s mana production for the creation of unlimited mana as Freed from the Real can constantly untap the defender. When Axebane Guardian is also equipped with Viridian Longbow it can use this unlimited mana to continuously untap itself and then re-tap to activate the Viridian Longbow’s ability. It isn’t uncommon to see a rogue deck that focuses on a specific combination of cards. Here are some other decks that look that also look to showcase interactions.

Show OrzPest Decklist »

Show Damn Rats Decklist »

Show Watch Rites Decklist »

Show Reality Acid Decklist »

The final type of rogue deck that you may encounter will be variations on an already-popular strategy. This doesn’t happen very often, but when a new deck is created, it usually starts its life as a rogue variant and may or may not eventually become stronger than the original. In Pauper the best example of this is the use of Temporal Fissure Storm. In the early days of the format, Temporal Fissure decks were based upon the use of creatures known as familiars (referred to as FamiliarStorm), which reduced casting costs, in order to generate the mana needed for the storm. Later versions would come about that took different approaches to mana generation with one using land enchantments (referred to as EnchantStorm) and another using the 8-Post mana base (referred to as FissurePost).

Show EnchantStorm Decklist »

Show FamiliarStorm Decklist »

In the beginning FamiliarStorm was a non-rogue strategy, but with the banning of Frantic Search, it would drop in strength and popularity significantly. When EnchantStorm and FissurePost started out, they were few and far between, but players quickly realized that FissurePost was a stronger approach to Temporal Fissure Storm and it became a non-rogue. Both EnchantStorm and FamiliarStorm do show up in Daily Event results every now and again, however they have become rogue strategies as they find more unfavorable matchups in the current metagame. That being said, I would like to point out that while FamiliarStorm is not heavily played, it does hold a solid record for going undefeated when it is played. A similar situation could be seen with the rise and fall of the various versions of the Tortured Reanimator decks as the different color splashes reflected the metagame.

Show BW Tortured Reanimator Decklist »

Show RB Tortured Reanimator Decklist »

Show Dead Dog Pauper Decklist »

If you’d like to hear more discussion on rogue strategies in Pauper, let me recommend this episode of Pauper’s Cage.

With the addition of the Internet as a factor in competitive Magic play, players can copy decklists card for card. This leads to formats becoming flooded with only a few decks, which are considered to be the most powerful in the format. Rogue decks are often considered to be inferior, which allows those players who chose to run them to slide under the radar a bit. When a specific deck is clearly the most heavily played in the format, other players will look to fill their sideboards with options to beat that deck. Then, when they end up in a situation against a deck based on a rogue strategy, they may struggle as they have nothing in their sideboard to help them out in Games 2 and 3. Keep in mind that just because a particular deck type or strategy is not the most popular one in the format, it doesn’t mean the deck is underpowered by any means.

Every other week — in Anything But — I feature the Competitive Corner, where I take a look at the current metagame for the format. In my breakdown of competitive Pauper, I set a line for declaring something as rogue, where if a deck has fewer than seven showings in a week, then it would fall into that category. I’ve now been tracking this information for the past 17 articles so far (all provided results since November 2012), and if you take a look at how many rogue deck types we see weekly, it looks like this…

With an average of 29 rogue decks ending with at least a three-win record in Pauper Daily Events, you can see that the format really lends itself to open-ended play. Too often we see people complaining about one format or another where it is completely dominated by three or four different deck types. In Pauper, not only do we bring in an average of twelve different non-rogue decks each week, but we also see a wide variety of rogue and homebrew decks as well. In comparison to the information at the time of the first edition of this guide, there was an average of 12 rogue decks each week, and it would seem that the banning of the red Storm decks and the Infect deck would result in opening up the metagame to the point where more rogue decks were plausible. We have even reached a new high point where there was a week where 38 different players won with rogue decks. Lest you think these totals are unbalanced to the point where there are a small number of decks with a high number of players each, it should be noted that there has been an average of 11 different rogue deck types represented. Here is a full list of all the decks that we’ve encountered during this time period…

This list is even further compacted than it could be if I wanted to break things down even more specifically. The deck type that I’ve labeled as “JunkPost” has often come into question. The classification of a deck as “Junk” is usually associated with BWG decks, but I was using it as a term to classify all of the ridiculous, homebrew 8-Post decks. It has often been argued that Cloudpost has allowed Pauper players to put any random cards, no matter how good or bad, into a deck and win games; hence my classification of “JunkPost” to group all of those random homebrews together into one deck type. Our total list of deck types that have ended with a minimum of three rounds won sits at 51, and in most cases, these are decks that will continue to show up now and then instead of simply grabbing one win and never being seen again. The one thing that should be learned about rogue strategies is that they should not be underestimated.

Return to Table of Contents

Aside from, “What should I play??” the most common question that people ask about playing competitive Pauper regards the cost of entry into the format. In the world of Magic the term “cost of entry” is most often associated with the cost of putting together a deck that can compete in a particular format’s competitive playing environment. Now, veteran players of Magic will know all too well how the top tier decks in most formats can cost hundreds of dollars to build. When considering a format that is built entirely of commons, the format is the cheapest that a Magic player can get into. For the same cost of building a single top deck from Standard, you could build many different Pauper decks. That being said, there are still cards that, while common, are worth several dollars each due to how long it has been since the release of the set the card was printed in. There are several different resources where people can track the individual costs of cards including MTG Goldfish and PureMTGO’s weekly State of the Program series. The State of the Program series is a great feature article that, among other things, takes time to show the rise and decline of card prices in different formats. Here’s a look at some of the most expensive cards in the format (note that this information has been taken from State of the Program’s most recent pricing as of this guide’s publication; prices fluctuate on an almost daily basis and therefore will not be 100% accurate by the time you are reading this).

Occasionally the price of individual commons can be affected by demand from other formats; however, the biggest influences on the price of commons are current top decks in the Pauper metagame as well as availability of cards due to age of the set the card was released in. The principle of supply and demand applies, as sometimes a set was released years ago and did not see heavy limited play or player interest, and therefore the count of available cards from those sets is decreased while demand may be high based upon the Pauper metagame. That being said, even with the high cost of a few individual cards in Pauper, you’ll find that total deck cost will be significantly cheaper than top decks in other formats.

Return to Table of Contents

Cost of Top Decks

Before I go any further here, I want to make clear a few disclaimers about the information you’re about to see. First off, I want to remind everyone once again that individual card prices change on a daily basis, but the following information will remain relevant because we rarely see a significant upswing in card prices for Pauper, and any generic increase across the board due to increased format popularity will keep the cost of decks still within the same frame of reference. To get up-to-date information on individual card prices, make sure to check out popular card sellers such as MTGO Academy. Second, the below prices are based upon generic examples of each deck type and exclude basic lands from the price consideration. While there is a specific strategy and core set of cards that make up any particular deck type, there are also some card choices that can change. Included with each deck type and cost, I’ve provided you with the specific decklist that was being priced. Let’s start things off by taking a look at the cost of those decks that we discussed earlier as being the top-tier decks in the Pauper format.

Return to Table of Contents

Other Deck Costs

However, the Pauper format is so much more than these top decks. Players should feel comfortable playing a rogue strategy and still being able to compete within the Pauper metagame. If you decide to try out a rogue deck strategy, you’ll find they can be purchased at a reasonable cost as well.

(Note that these prices are current as of the publication of this guide; they are also subject to change.)

Elves – $30.54
FamiliarStorm – $69.17
Hexproof – $51.74
Mono-Blue Control (MUC) – $22.48
DimirTrinket – $36.57
Mono-White Aggro (MWA aka White Weenie) – $19.44
DimirPost – $21.47
Blue-Black Control – $28.20
Reality Acid – $14.27
RebelPost – $33.44
Teachings Control – $31.24
Stinkweed Zombies – $4.10
Watch Rites – $3.42
Red-Green Land Destruction – $59.80
Tortured Reanimator – $13.95
OrzPest – $4.69

So how do all those costs compare to one another?

When you see this graph, you can get a great idea as to the cost vs. assumed power value on these decks. The bars on the chart that are green are the decks from our first tier, orange is our second tier, and then red is the third tier. It may not be surprising to see several of our decks from the top tiers reflecting high prices. But there are some odd things we can see from this comparison, such as the fact that rogue decks like FamiliarStorm and RGLD cost — comparatively — quite a bit to put together despite not being considered among the top tiers, mostly as a result of using older cards as well as a few of the more expensive ones from our tier 1 decks, such as Cloud of Faeries. We also see that two decks from the top tier, Stompy and Affinity, can be built for 30 tickets or less. Ultimately the most important thing that this chart shows is that a Pauper player can be successful without spending a fortune. We have all the decks in our third tier coming in at under 45 tickets and several viable options for under 20. If we further consider that cards from these decks maintain a significant portion of their value on the secondary market (meaning that a player could sell them when finished), it makes getting into Pauper even more economical.

Return to Table of Contents

Must-Have Cards

There was a point in time where, despite having played Magic for many years, I found myself having to sell my collection and start over from zero. I like to think that this experience gave me a great mindset into new users of the MTGO client and especially those new players who are forced to play on a small budget. Despite the fact that Pauper decks are significantly cheaper to build than decks in other formats, some players may not be able to purchase all the necessary cards right away, opting instead to slowly build their collection and decks over time. If this applies to you, then allow me to make a few quick recommendations. The first piece of advice that I will offer is that if you venture into the trading areas of Magic Online, you can find a few select bots that offer free cards monthly to players or sell a large number of commons for a single ticket. While the selection may not necessarily be ideal for competitive play, you can obtain some great casual cards and still get your feet wet in the format. Secondly, do your homework and find a deck you want to work toward building so that you don’t waste resources purchasing cards you don’t need. This will allow you to get to that goal deck quicker, and if you work your way into competitive play, then you can start working to earn prizes so that you can continue to expand your collection from there.

There is always a danger in this second strategy, as you may not yet know what type of deck you’re interested in playing, and there is always that chance that the deck you saved up to build isn’t as much fun to play as it looked on paper. This can be disappointing and discouraging, so maybe you want to start out by looking to pick up some key staples to the format. Then you can build casual decks around these staples to get a feel for how the interactions work and what the power levels of these spells are. Or maybe you’ve reached that goal, built that one deck you really wanted, and now want to know how to continue on the path to expanding your Pauper collection. Here’s my opinion on the top 10 “must-have” cards in Pauper within each color (in no particular order)…

  • Journey to Nowhere – There are few removal spells in white that offer no restrictions. Price: $0.08 each
  • Kor Skyfisher – A great size for the mana cost and the drawback of having to return a permant actually becomes a great enabler for the re-use of a number of “enters the battlefield” effects. Price: $0.03 each
  • Squadron Hawk – Seemingly unimpressive at first, Squadron Hawk has evasion as well as built-in card advantage since it finds friends when it comes into play. Price: $0.08 each
  • Ethereal Armor – Ever since it was released in Return to Ravnica Block, this has been the backbone to any enchantment-based aggro deck. Price: $0.10 each
  • Apostle’s Blessing – The best option in the format for protecting one of your creatures and artifacts from targeted spells and/or other creatures. Price: $0.08 each
  • Oblivion Ring – There are few options in the format for long-term removal of permanents. Oblivion Ring works like Journey to Nowhere, but allows you to remove any nonland permanent for an additional mana. In a deck that uses white for control, you’ll frequently see both enchantments being used. Price: $0.06 each
  • Aven Riftwatcher – There are a lot of ways to gain life in Pauper, but Aven Riftwatcher provides a reasonably sized, evasive creature alongside that increase of 4 life. Price: $0.08 each
  • Guardian of the Guildpact – Pauper is a format where the more colors that are added to a deck, the harder it can be for that deck to win due to poor options for color fixing and few strong multicolored spells. Guardian of the Guildpact’s protection from monocolored makes it incredibly hard to play against in this format. Price: $0.15 each
  • Loyal Cathar – This creature is cost-effective, doesn’t tap when attacking, and more importantly, when it dies, it returns to the battlefield. The biggest drawback is the requirement of two white mana to play, but decks running this particular guy will be heavily invested in white anyway, so that won’t cause much of an issue. Price: $0.03 each
  • Prismatic Strands – Arguably the best sideboard spell for any deck playing white. Price: $1.68 each

  • Counterspell – Without question, the godfather of countermagic decks. Counterspell is such a strong card that it sees play in every format where it is legal and became a generic name for all countermagic spells. Price: $0.42 each
  • Delver of Secrets – The card that everyone says should not have been printed in common. Like Counterspell, this little guy has had a significant impact in most formats where he/it is legal to play. Price: $0.11 each
  • Ninja of the Deep Hours – As the best continuous draw spell in the format, this little guy also allows you an opportunity to re-use “enters the battlefield” abilities. Price: $0.33 each
  • Preordain – There are a lot of great spells that come in at a single mana cost in blue and allow you to dig through your deck. Preordain is one of the best, as it allows you to dig three cards deep and even bury unwanted spells by putting them on the bottom of your deck. Price: $0.15 each
  • Mulldrifter – Don’t let the heavy mana cost throw you off; this guy gives you decent card draw on the body of a 2/2 with evasion. You also have the option to forego the creature in order to simply just draw the cards. Price: $0.08 each
  • Compulsive Research – There are few spells that give you well-proportioned draw to cost; this is one of those and a particular favorite of mine. Price: $0.15 each
  • Probe – This spell sees play mostly in Blue/Black rogue decks; however, the card advantage that it provides when kicked is hard to beat. Price: $0.15 each
  • Deprive – I like to think of this as Counterspell’s younger brother. The drawback can easily be maneuvered around since most blue-based control decks run small mana bases any ways. An interesting feature of this spell in 8-Post is that it can bounce a Glimmerpost for extra life gain, or bounce a land an opposing 8-Post player targeted with a buyback Capsize, forcing their Capsize into the graveyard. Price: $0.10 each
  • Ghostly Flicker – Oh, the broken things this can do! This spell allows you to re-use “enters the battlefield” abilities, save your permanents from destruction, and it combos incredibly with Mnemonic Wall, Archaeomancer, Izzet Chronarch, and other creatures. Price: $0.05 each
  • Mnemonic Wall – Worth getting, especially if you’re picking up copies of Ghostly Flicker due to the combination interactions the two spells can achieve. A great way to get more out of your instant and sorceries. Price: $0.08 each

  • Chittering Rats – At one point during the early days of the Pauper format, this creature was solely responsible for unbelievable amounts of complaining. Enough said. Price: $0.20 each
  • Phyrexian Rager – This creature should be a staple in 9 out of 10 decks running black. A reasonable cost-to-size ratio, and it lets you draw a card? Who could ask for more? Price: $0.03 each
  • Sign in Blood – The best card draw spell outside of blue, and it doubles (sometimes) as a burn spell. Price: $0.03 each
  • Tendrils of Corruption – This card is best played in only mono-black decks, as each Swamp steps up the card’s removal potential that much more. If you assume that the earliest turn of play is Turn 4, then you’re looking at a spell that does a minimum of 4 damage to target creature, and as a result, you gain that much life. Things only get better from there as you play more Swamps. Price: $0.03 each
  • Ravenous Rats – This is a staple card of any black control deck, as it provides you with an early creature and discard all in one. Price: $0.03 each
  • Doom Blade – Another staple card for black control decks. Doom Blade gives you targeted removal at a reasonable cost and with the fewest limitations. Price: $0.02 each
  • Corrupt – This is a classic spell to the format even though it doesn’t see as much play as it had in the past. In a mono-black deck, Corrupt can instantly swing games from lost to won all on its own. Price: $0.02 each
  • Crypt Rats – The one big hole in the card population for Pauper is efficient mass removal. While some options limit the damage output to all creatures, Crypt Rats is the closest thing to Wrath of God that we have in the format, which partly contributes to its high price. Price: $4.78 each
  • Duress – In most cases, this spell is used as a sideboard option for the control matchup, but its strength cannot be overlooked in this or any other format. Price: $0.03 each
  • Stinkweed Imp – While not heavily played, this little guy does give you reuse of a creature and removal all in one. A unique creature. Price: $0.03 each

  • Lightning Bolt – This is the direct damage spell that all other direct damage spells want to be. Price: $0.08 each
  • Kiln Fiend – This guy is an important piece to most red aggro strategies, but it is important to keep in mind that spells played only increase power and not toughness. Price: $0.15 each
  • Electrickery – As I mentioned with Crypt Rats, there are few options for clearing the playing field of creatures. While the damage level is low on this one, it gives you the added benefit of hitting only creatures your opponent controls. Price: $0.12 each
  • Ancient Grudge – One of the best artifact removal spells if you’re playing green as well, so you can use it for the buyback. Price: $0.02 each
  • Rolling Thunder – While its popularity has declined a bit, this spell is one of the best finishers for 8-Post decks that are running red mana sources. Price: $0.73 each
  • Flame Slash – While this particular spell only hits creatures, that 4 damage is enough to deal with almost anything in the format. Price: $0.08 each
  • Smash to Smithereens – While Ancient Grudge takes the slot if you’re playing green, I would suggest this if you aren’t. Price: $0.18 each
  • Pyroblast – The current state of the Pauper metagame is weighed very heavily toward blue, which makes this an auto-include for the sideboard of any deck running red. Price: $3.72 each
  • Stone Rain – Consider this an introduction to land destruction. With the 2 colorless mana requirement, this particular land destruction spell is friendlier for decks running more colors than just red. Land destruction will always be a sideboard necessity as long as the 8-Post mana base exists. Price: $0.04 each
  • Death Spark – While it may take a little practice to learn how to best use Death Spark, the fact that you can keep getting it back allows you to do many creative things inside or outside of combat. Price: $0.08 each

  • Young Wolf – Since its printing, this card has been a staple in Stompy decks, and who can disagree? With the ability to attack as early as Turn 2, it is just asking to die so that it can come back and hit for more. Price: $0.15 each
  • Nettle Sentinel – It is a rare thing to find a creature like this that can be played for less than what would be normally expected for its power/toughness. Price: $2.27 each
  • Rancor – For a single mana, your creature gets bigger and can trample over an opponent’s creature. What makes this spell even better is how hard it is to get rid of, as it has the ability to return to your hand if it goes to the graveyard from the battlefield. This was another spell I imagine that Wizards wished it could go back to never print at common, as we saw it released in Magic 2013 as an uncommon. Price: $0.71 each
  • Vines of Vastwood – As an instant, this spell can give your creature hexproof or give your creature hexproof and +4/+4 for only a single green mana more. Price: $0.08 each
  • Llanowar Elves/Fyndhorn Elves/Elvish Mystic – You can never have too much mana acceleration in green. Price: $0.02 for each Llanowar Elves, and the others aren’t usually too expensive either.
  • Silhana Ledgewalker – You pay a little more to play this guy, but he is hard for a lot of decks to block, and the hexproof ability makes him hard to remove. Price: $0.15 each
  • Gleeful Sabotage – One of the best options in the format for artifact/enchantment removal. Price: $0.15 each
  • Hunger of the Howlpack – In the same way that Young Wolf wants to be killed, Hunger of the Howlpack lets you benefit from having your creatures die. Price: $0.04 each
  • Moment’s Peace – The current metagame in Pauper is very heavily weighted toward different aggro variations. With all these creature-heavy decks out there and with few solid options for mass removal, sometimes you just need a Fog effect to get the last turn you need to win the game. Moment’s Peace requires a few more mana, but the flashback ability gives you two Fogs in a single card. Price: $3.23 each
  • Scattershot Archer – This has been included entirely because of the DelverBlue deck, which is heavily played in Pauper. Scattershot Archer is often used as a sideboard option that can easily handle those meddlesome fae. Price: $0.08 each

I want to quickly note that multicolor spells don’t see heavy play in competitive Pauper outside of some rogue strategies; however, there are some very strong spells that are well worth trying out.

  • Armadillo Cloak – This enchantment makes any creature a significant threat and does see significant play in the current Hexproof decks. Price: $1.82 each
  • Terminate – While this is the strongest removal spell in the format, it suffers because very few decks run both black and red together. Price: $0.10 each
  • Agony Warp – Mostly played in UB Control and Teachings Control variants, this provides an option to take take two creatures out of combat when used. Price: $0.02 each
  • Unmake – A very strong removal spell, as it exiles a creature instead of simply sending it to the graveyard. This removal option gains benefit from costing hybrid mana instead of requiring both black and white to play and can be found in many Mono-White Aggro decks. Price: $0.15 each
  • Coiling Oracle – A creature that provides card advantage or mana acceleration. Price: $0.08 each
  • Castigate – This discard spell gains advantage over Duress since it removes the chosen card from the game and can also target a creature. Price: $0.05 each
  • Curse of Chains – When playing only blue, you’ll find that you have very few ways to control creatures once they’ve hit the battlefield outside of simply returning them to your opponent’s hand. Again, this spell gains benefit from having split mana that allows it to work almost like a Pacifism for decks running only blue. Can target Guardian of the Guildpact. Price: $0.08 each
  • Nivix Cyclops – This staple card for Eye Candy decks has become a solid replacement for its predecessor, Wee Dragonauts. Price: $0.10 each
  • Recoil – Another spell that sees limited play outside of Blue-Black Control but is well worth picking up. Price: $0.15 each
  • Slippery Bogle – A great way to introduce yourself to the world of Hexproof, as these types of creatures lend themselves very well to various pump spells. Price: $0.81 each

  • Prophetic Prism – This has quickly become my favorite card in the format. Not only does this allow you to draw a card, but it does so in any possible color or combination of colors in addition to helping solidify your mana base in a format that has been known to have issues with that. Price: $0.04 each
  • Frogmite – If you have any interest in playing an Affinity deck in any form, then you have to grab yourself a set of these. Price: $0.04 each
  • Myr Enforcer – See Frogmite. Price: $0.04 each
  • Bonesplitter – An incredibly efficient way to make your creatures bigger for a cheap cost and playable in any color deck. Price: $0.05 each
  • Serrated Arrows – This is a great way to deal with creatures for decks like blue that do not usually have access to do so in any other way. Also seen most often in 8-Post decks, which can easily reach that 4-mana level. Price: $1.75 each
  • Ulamog’s Crusher – The closest thing we have to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in Pauper. You’ll find this creature most often paired with the 8-Post mana base. Price: $0.08 each
  • Sylvok Lifestaff – An underrated equipment that has a lot of great ways to get you back into the game against some aggro strategies and can be combined with spells like Fume Spitter to gain life on demand. Price: $0.02 each
  • Viridian Longbow – This equipment spell is most often used as a sideboard option against the DelverBlue decks but has also been used in rogue strategies that try to find ways to abuse the untapping of creatures, like the SimicDefender deck from earlier. Price: $0.08 each
  • Expedition Map – This land fetch spell has become almost “must-have” for any deck using the 8-Post mana base so that you can easily find those ever-so-important Cloudposts in the early game. Price: $0.08 each
  • Spire Golem – While this is specifically focused on blue-based decks, the 4 toughness and evasion makes this creature very hard to deal with. If you’re playing a heavily blue deck, then you’ll even reach a point in time where you can put it into play without having to pay any mana. (see also Razor Golem) Price: $0.15 each

  • Cloudpost – The 8-Post mana base allows players the opportunity to play many ridiculous strategies and utilize spells that have been set aside due to a high converted mana cost. Price: $1.18 each
  • Glimmerpost – See Cloudpost. Price: $0.08 each
  • Kabira Crossroads – While the fact that this land comes into play tapped can slow decks down, the use of Kabira Crossroads is often paired with Kor Skyfishers in order to gain more life. Price: $0.02
  • Artifact Lands – These are the backbone to any Affinity deck. There is one for each possible mana type, including a colorless-producing one in Darksteel Citadel. Price: Varied
  • Karoo Lands – This term refers to a set of lands that were introduced in Ravnica for each guild, which required you to return a land to your hand when they entered the battlefield. These were the first dual lands that Pauper had and are incredibly helpful for any two-color deck. Price: Varied
  • Guildgates – When we revisited the Ravnica plane in Return to Ravnica, we were given a new set of dual lands for the format. Gates are a must-have for any deck running more than one color. Between these and the Karo lands, you’ll be able to accommodate most mana bases. Price: Varied
  • Cycling Lands – These are always great to have as games approach the later turns. There are two types: cycling lands from Onslaught that require on a single mana specific to the color the land produces, and the less popular Urza’s Saga lands that all require two colorless mana to cycle. Price: Varied
  • Teetering Peaks – This land works as a great addition to many different aggro strategies since it works as a creature pump spell and land in one so that you don’t have to waste more than one card slot. Price: $0.02
  • Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse – Both of these lands do the same exact thing, but because they have two different names, you can cheat the “no more than four of any one card” rule. While I have given these spells a single spot on this top 10 list, I do highly recommend picking up full sets of each as many decks like to run these in a two/three split. Price: $0.02 each
  • Bojuka Bog – Graveyard control is one of the most overlooked things in Pauper. The use of graveyard hate usually helps with mechanics such as flashback and undying. By using Bojuka Bog over something like Relic of Progenitus, you’re saving yourself a card slot. Price: $0.08


Every player will have their own opinions on what they think key cards in the format are, based upon personal play preferences and favorite deck types, but the main idea is that focusing on buying individual cards can be a great starting spot. Decks you put together may not be competition-ready right away, but you’ll get that experience in learning interactions and cards so that you can hit the ground running once you do build your first competitive deck.

Return to Table of Contents

Congratulations on making it to this point in the guide! At the start, we learned about the very basics of the format and worked our way though the levels of competitive tournament play. From there, we took into consideration different deck types, determining our play styles, and then moved on to understand more about specific decks as well as their costs. With all of that information at our fingertips, there is one last piece of the puzzle that will help introduce players to the competitive Pauper scene with respect to what deck they should be playing: learning the Pauper metagame. In Magic, the word “metagame” (often referred to as “meta”) refers mostly to the playing environment in a specific format based upon the popularity of certain decks. Based upon what the expected metagame is for a particular tournament, players will tune their card choices for maindecks and sideboards in order to give themselves a better chance at defeating what they assume they will be competing against. This is the best example I’ve heard for the concept of metagames:

“In the movie The Princess Bride, a character is presented with two wine cups and is asked to drink out of one of them. He knows that one is poisoned but does not know which. He attempts to grasp the metagame by reasoning about his opponent’s character, attempting to figure out which glass that sort of character would put the poison in.”

If you are not familiar with my articles here on MTGO Academy, I write a series about Pauper, and each week I start my article with what I call The Competitive Corner. In this section, I take a look at the competitive playing environment for Pauper over the past two weeks through a series of charts and tables. The popularity of this section of my articles has led to its expansion to include a spotlight section where I even break down a specific Daily Event, showcasing how matchups went and what decks were involves as well as an occasional, quick deck spotlight where I highlight a deck from the Daily Events that caught my eye. In order to help get you familiar with the general overall metagame for Pauper, we’re going to take a look at results in a similar way to the approach I use for The Competitive Corner. Let’s start by taking a look at the overall showings for all non-rogue decks since the most recent bannings.

This is the type of breakdown I start The Competitive Corner with each week. I employ a chart that illustrates what percentage of the metagame certain deck types are holding and a table breakdown so that the information is easy to understand. Any showing that comes in at less than seven for the week is deemed to be rogue and consolidated, as these often hit the 1% or lower mark, and adding them to the chart simply makes things overly crowded. As you can see, the metagame has been heavily influenced by the decks in the top tiers. There is often quite a bit of argument among community members about the health of the format based upon the fact that four decks hold a share of the metagame that is larger than 50%. Perhaps more damning is the fact that the top three decks account for 46%.

The health of the Pauper metagame is a long discussion that I will leave for another time, as everyone has a different definition of what a “healthy” metagame is. I would, however, urge that this information is more useful when tracked on more regular intervals instead of as a whole. What subtle influences that are not seen in such large-scale data include things such as the impact of new sets. Consider, for a second, that during this period of time, from February to the writing of this article, there was a period of four weeks where Eye Candy didn’t exist because Nivix Cyclops had not yet been printed. When we track the showings based upon an average instead of a total, things look a bit different:

When averages are considered instead of totals, things do smooth out a little bit, but again this type of data suffers from the problem I previously mentioned. When we set aside the idea of looking at the big picture in favor of looking at the Pauper metagame on a weekly basis, you trade knowledge of a long-term metagame for a smaller-scale one. From week to week, we’ll see trends in deck popularity based on showings that can help players decide on certain card choices within their sideboards, so they can be prepared for what they expect to be the decks they’ll face most often. What you can expect to see in the metagame from week to week will still be some of the same. The decks that we’ve listed at the top will remain at the top, although positioning might change slightly from week to week.

To me, the debate over format health has a time and a place, but the more telling thing is the variety of decks. Just because an eternal format is using a large card pool doesn’t mean that there will be a number of viable competitive options. As you can see based upon this information, even rogue options account for a significant portion of the metagame.

In addition to tracking the overall metagame, I take time each week to take a look at the average ability of decks to go undefeated in Daily Events.

This type of comparison works better to help Pauper players get an understanding for a deck’s strength. Consider the results of a particular Daily Event to not necessarily be based upon the strength of a deck, but instead being heavily influenced by the total number of players who started the event running a particular deck type and the skill level of those players. These variables can alter results and make one deck seem better than it really is. For example, for most of February through June of 2013, the most popular deck was Affinity. If you were to join a Pauper Daily Event, not only would Affinity be the most-played deck, but it would also be ahead of the second-place deck by a significant amount. Keeping that in mind, you might be surprised to see Affinity sitting so low on the overall results. In other words, even though many players were going into Daily Events playing the deck, that did not mean that it won more games than other decks. By taking an average total of undefeated and 3-1 results, we can put popularity of the decks aside and just focus on what deck has shown the most potential for an undefeated showing.

Again, in an attempt to keep this information as streamlined as possible, I keep the seven-showing requirement in place. It may not be surprising that the standings, when it comes to undefeated showings, are not that different from what the overall metagame looks like.

What you may be surprised by, however, is when results show up like those seen here with FamiliarStorm. This version of Temporal Fissure Storm is not nearly as popular as the 8-Post version, averaging only 7 total showings each week, which is barely enough to even keep it on this table. Keeping this in mind, take a look at the ability of the FamiliarStorm deck to go undefeated; out of those few showings that the deck manages, it goes undefeated almost 29% of the time. There have been weeks where the undefeated percentage of the deck has been higher, but to me this type of information says more about the strength of the deck and those who run it than it does about simple popularity.

Tracking the metagame for any format based upon Daily Event results has become something that is not as reliable as it used to be because Wizards decided to change their policy for releasing results from these events. Previously all winners from Daily Events were posted on the Magic website until this change went into place and made it so that only one event per format per day would be listed on their website. This decision was a significant blow to those who valued this information and made it harder to get a full picture of what the metagame looked like. This change caused me to change the format of The Competitive Corner, adding in the new Spotlight section. The idea is that, since several of the tables I was previously using were no longer going to be relevant due to inaccurate data, I was going to add a new section that took a more focused look at what happens within a Daily Event. This takes a look at how decks performed, how many of each deck showed up, and includes a breakdown of how the matchups actually went.

Several people within the Pauper community have put together a matchup table that focuses on how well deck types perform against another specific deck types, but when I would look at these different versions of the same information, I’d wonder how they all came to the conclusions that they did. Numbers seemed arbitrary and some even just listed matches on a scale of favorable to unfavorable. In each Daily Event Spotlight, I track each player, what they were playing, and what games they won against what deck types. This allows me to put together a matchup table of my own where I know where the information comes from. Taking this information from different Daily Events that I have tracked, I’ve been able to combine this all into a matchup table that gives players at least a general idea of how certain deck types are faring against other decks.

I’m well aware that on this scale, the table is almost unusable; however, the idea of including it was more to give you an idea of what it looks like. The full version can be found here through Google Drive. To save space, the deck names have been assigned a number, for which the legend can be found in the second tab. I will note that I update this table in chunks, waiting until I have several weeks of results until I add data to the chart. This information will remain relatively current until a point in time when there is another significant shift in the metagame due to something like additional bans or newly released deck type-defining cards. I do say relatively because, as always, there are a number of smaller variables that influence a particular matchup one way or another. The idea is not so much to give you a be-all and end-all mechanism for determining whether you’re going into a favorable matchup or not, but instead to give players a sense of what to expect. For example, if you’re looking at a match table and see that your deck of choice loses a lot to another deck type, then you may want to consider devoting a bit more space in your sideboard to options for beating that unfavorable matchup.

Return to Table of Contents

  • PDCMagic.comPDCMagic is considered to be the Pauper holy land. This website covers everything Pauper from Standard to Classic and the forums are a great place for the Pauper community to come together. The PDCMagic website provides decklists, information on PREs, and much more.
  • MTGSalvation forums – Being a forum, this website can occasionally get expansive and bogged down with comments. That being said, the MTGSalvation forums can be a great place to join with other Pauper players in a discussion on decks and concepts.
  • Daily Event Results – This is the official website where Wizards posts the Daily Event results for each format. Here you can find the results from Daily Events for each supported format as well as any special events that take place, such as Premier Events and Thursday Night Magic Online.
  • Format Description and B&R List – For those who are interested in reading it for yourselves, this is where Wizards has their description of the format as well as its banned and restricted list.
  • Pauper Mana Bases – This article by Jason Moore talks about the intricacies of creating a mana base in your Pauper deck. Determining the land count for a deck is increasingly more important when you’re dealing with a format like Pauper that struggles at times with running more than one color consistently.
  • Mulligans and Sideboarding – Something Jason Moore does very well is focus on those parts of the game that people don’t usually consider. While it is important to know details about interactions within a deck, there are some fundamentals that you need to work on as well. In this episode of Pauper’s Cage, Jason is joined by Matti (from Pauper to the People) to help others understand more about mulligans and sideboarding in competitive play.
  • Beating the Meta, Deck Suggestions – The best way to approach joining the competitive side of a new format is to learn what the top decks in that format are. This article takes the time to point out what decks have the best matchups against those top tier decks.
  • Porting Decks from Other Formats to Pauper – When it comes to creating new deck types in Pauper, some players will look to other formats for inspiration. This article discusses what you should keep in mind when attempting to take a concept from another format and convert it to Pauper.
  • The Pauper Gauntlet – This article discusses the Pauper Gauntlet, which is a great experiment put together by Dan and the guys over at MTGOStrat. The idea is that decks are the focus, and they are pitted against a gauntlet of opponents to determine which can go undefeated the longest. This article is just the starting point for the concept, and more information about it can be found through the comments section and the MTGOStrat website. A great collective effort from the guys at MTGOStrat.
  • Pauper’s Six Month Experiment – This great piece provides incredible insight into the current state of the Pauper environment. If you’re new to the Pauper scene, you may hear a lot of complaining about the current state of the environment, and this article provides a great breakdown on what the discussion is all about. Whether or not you agree with the author, the article should not be overlooked.


Return to Table of Contents

Primers and Deck Techs

There is no better way to learn about card choices and the proper way to pilot a deck than playing it for yourself. That being said, there are lots of great pieces that people have put together to try and help other players learn more about specific decks. Keep in mind that, depending on when you’re reading this, some of these sources might be a little dated, but they still provide a high-quality foundation for what makes the deck tick.

Primer – This primer on MTGSalvation is a continually evolving discussion on the deck.
Walkthrough – Video discussion on the deck as run by Mezzel, known as a regular competitor with the deck.
Walkthrough 2 – Video discussion on the deck as run by Cweaver, known as a regular competitor with the deck.
Pauper’s Cage – Discussion with newplan, a well-known competitive player, on everything Delver.

Mono-Blue Control:
Primer – This primer from Pauper’s Cage breaks down card choices and matchups for the deck.
Considering MUC” – This article provides great insight on the difference between the three different blue control decks in Pauper.

Primer – This primer on MTGSalvation is a continually evolving discussion of the deck.
Primer 2 – This was the supplementing primer to go along with the episodes of Pauper’s Cage on the deck. It’s a great source for match information and lots of resources specific to learning more about the deck.
Composition / Matchups – EightSixEightSix, a well-respected player in the competitive environment, joins the Pauper’s Cage guys to discuss the deck. There was so much great information that it was broken into two episodes.

Primer – This primer on MTGSalvation is a continually evolving discussion on the deck.
Deck Breakdown – This article by deluxeicoff, one of the most notable players of the deck, is perhaps the best breakdown of it online.

Pauper’s Cage – DoGBiscuit, a regular member of the competitive community, discusses nuances of the deck and why you should be playing it.

Mono-Black Control:
Primer – This primer on MTGSalvation is a continually evolving discussion of the deck.
Primer 2 – This primer from Pauper’s Cage provides details on the deck and is a great place to find a number of other resources for learning more about it.
Pauper’s Cage – Chris Plummer guests on this episode, discussing the ins and outs of Mono-Black Control.

Primer – This primer on MTGSalvation is a continually evolving discussion of the deck.

Walkthrough – This video walks you through card choices for this deck.

Walkthrough – Video discussion on the deck as run by deluxeicoff, known as a regular competitor with the deck.

Walkthrough – This video walks you through card choices for this deck.

Dime a Dozen 16, 23, and 25 – Affinity comes in many forms, so it’s only fitting Jason Moore offers you several different articles discussing how it works.
Pauper’s Cage – This podcast discusses the complexities and subtleties of successfully piloting Affinity.
Primer – This primer from Pauper’s Cage provides detailed information on the deck, including a number of sources for specific information on it.

Teachings Control:
Card Choices – Teachings Control has often been designated as a Pauper’s toolbox. This article breaks down almost any card that might be considered for inclusion in the deck.

Return to Table of Contents

August 2013, 2nd Edition:

  • Expanded What is Pauper? section.
  • Added discussion on banned and restricted list.
  • Added Pauper Community section.
  • Updated information regarding the metagame to reflect current trends.
  • Updated information regarding costs associated with specific decks.
  • Expanded Cost of Entry section.
  • Expanded section on Helpful Links, including a new section regarding deck specific links and primers.
  • Added update log.
  • Added acknowledgements section.


Return to Table of Contents


I wanted to take a minute and give a quick set of thanks for those who assisted me in helping to make this guide possible.

First and foremost, a thank you needs to go out to the guys at and especially their editor A.J. Goldman (PlanetWalls), who has been a big help to me in organizing my thoughts, answering my persistent questions, and getting this thing moving in the right direction. MTGO Academy gave me an opportunity to continue my articles at a point when I was a writer without a home, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Big thanks for the contributions of Alex Ullman, Chris Plummer, Dan Hörning, David Snyder, and Jason Moore. These are, in my opinion, some of the best contributors currently to the Pauper format and I appreciate their taking time to offer their thoughts on advice for new Pauper players. Also big thanks to E. Hustle, who was able to help me out many times in giving proper credit to deckbuilders and more.

Last, but by no means least, I need to thank the entire Pauper community. They’ve always been incredibly helpful, mostly reasonable, and forever encouraging. The Competitive Corner section of my weekly articles is driven by the input and suggestions of the community, and without that kind of support, this wouldn’t be possible. Players can argue all they want, but the Pauper Community is the best one out there.

Feel free to tweet me @MTGOJustSin.

Return to Table of Contents

  1. Looking very forward to digesting this over the next few days – Thanks for all your hard work, your analysis is invaluable to the community!

  2. Thanks for the write-up. This is one of the best, most comprehensive guides I’ve ever seen for any format.

    Nice work!

  3. And I mean that in like the “I can’t believe how awesome this is” kind of way!

  4. Even so, this article should be boycotted due to its authors incorrect evaulation of delver.

  5. and yet another link to add to my favorites. Thanks for putting this together.

  6. Glad to see so many people are enjoying this, hopefully it helps some out and entices people into trying the format if they haven’t!

  7. Brilliant article JustS!

    Really nice piece to bring more players in the format.

    Im amazed with the effort you had invested in this article.

    Thats the kind of articles we need to bring more players and promote it.


  8. woops! Thanks for pointing out the typo I’ll see if it’s possible to get that fixed, was writing this during MM drafts at times so clearly had it on the brain lol

  9. Sorry, I also meant to said something about the article. It is amazingly well written and thought out. I can imagine you really put a lot of thought and time into it as well, thanks!

  10. Wow, that’s an incredible amount of information in one place.

    Small quibble – I would classify Damn Rats/songs of the damned decks as control-combo (or combo-control), not aggro-combo; the deck usually tries to wipe the board with a rat first and then build up to a big rat/consume spirit later.

  11. Also, please just ignore kezzerdrix – he’s a running joke on this site (check the comments to any of Marshall’s drafts) & I don’t know if the original poster by that name even still posts or it’s just people keeping up the running joke.

  12. Funny enough about Chris Plummer – he just left Pauper to the People. Nate is gonna be hosting now.

  13. This is the best Magic resource I’ve ever encountered. Not just Pauper, Magic: The Gathering as a game. I look forward to studying it and giving Pauper some thought. Thank you!

  14. Amazing work! The staple list would have been perfect when I was starting out. I was looking for just that sort of thing. Now its available and will definitely be a link I will send any new player.

    One tiny thing, Serrated Arrows are about $6-7 each. That price you mention is a static price because the site’s stock has not been replenished in a long time.

  15. Even though I won’t be an active voice on the show, I’ll still work to contribute as much as I can, including guest hosting when I’m able, and being active on the forums and Twitter. And the nice part about podcasts, as well as articles, is that the episodes I’ve recorded are still available for people to reference, at least until the internet explodes.

    This is a fantastic article, and undoubtedly a must-read for anyone interested in the format of Pauper. Well done.

  16. Great information here and I appreciate the effort you put into compiling, dicing, and presenting all these data.

    My small comment is in regards to the sliver decks: there was absolutely a time when sliver was a Tier 1 pauper deck; it’s simply been a long time.

  17. “Introduction” title needs an upgrade to “Encyclopedic!”

    Fantastically thorough. I’m sending this link to several people right away.

  18. rpitcher – I owe you a ticket for that deluxe adjective above….seriously, trade/link this and I’ll give you a ticket. This is indeed a pauper Encyclopedia – and additional props to you for a pseudo-esk ‘Adventuretime’ sub theme – algebraic!

    Uncle Deluxe …(lol..)

  19. Wow! Just wow! Great piece of work! This will be my #1 link to give to new players of the format. Just fantastic!

  20. Great article. I have a suggestion to make: you should link the following article by Scott Johns explaining the notion of “Tempo”.

    You use this term in your article and there are different explanations, but Scott has a very good one. Also you find, by marvellous coincidence, the following introduction:
    “What is Tempo? … Turns out the answer is ANYTHING BUT.” :)

  21. big thanks to everyone for the positive feedback!

    Re: classification of decks is so subjective and I’ll look into making the change, I take that to the community via twitter and have them give input what should go where.

    Re: costs you’re absolutely right I avoided that in most places, but it seems I overlooked one! unfortunately w/ the costs those prices were different days after posting, but they should be close enough to give new players an idea of what they cost

    Also ty for the Tempo link that’s a great point, it’s something I love to talk about, but rarely define. I’ll definitely give it a look over and at the very least include it in the 3rd edition :P

  22. Deluxiecoff: I cannot take credit for the Adventure Time sub-theme. I even had to turn to my in-house Adventure Time expert* to identify what you meant. Outside of staples like Simpsons and Family Guy, I haven’t followed animated shows since….er….Sailor Moon.

    *teen daughter who has Adventure Time posters and Nintendo DS game.

  23. Unreal. Took me a while to get through but I have to congratulate you on an amazing job well done. I’ll be making links to both articles on the site, if someone hasn’t beat me to it already.

  24. Excellent article – thoroughly comprehensive.

    One place I disagree with you on the staple cards of each color: I’d remove probe and add prohibit for blue. Probe is rarely played these days (it was really popular in 2010) and prohibit is usually the best single U counterspell so often sees play in blue decks that aren’t running pure islands as well as in U decks that don’t want to return lands for deprive.

    Oh, and that muc primer was based on my notes for when I was a guest on pauper’s cage (episodes 6 & 7).

    I miss playing that deck.

  25. I can definitely agree on Prohibit, but I made a conscious decision to leave it out due to a cost of almost $4

  26. Have to update my comment from earlier: This is incredibly amazing. A primer’s primer. How long this must have taken… Wowzors!