Hi everyone! I’d like to welcome you to the very first installment of our new segment, “Doctor Pauper.” I’m hoping this segment will become somewhat regular, but that will depend on how many of you are enjoying it, and how many of you (yes, you!) are willing to participate.
So what is Doctor Pauper exactly?
Doctor Pauper is an interactive exercise in both deckbuilding and deck tuning. Here we’ll be looking at decks submitted by you, the readers, and searching for ways to “fix” or adjust (and hopefully optimize) them. Additionally, readers will have a chance to make suggestions in the comments section at the end of each article.
If you are interested in submitting a list of your own for future installments, great! I highly encourage everyone to participate. Information on how to do so will be available at the end of this article. For now, let’s get down to business, shall we?
The doctor will see you now!
…Okay so I lied. Before we really begin, I think we should get a few things out of the way (don’t worry, it won’t be anything too serious, I promise!).
A Few Disclaimers
It’s probably clear that I am by no means a master deckbuilder, nor am I an infallible authority on Pauper deck construction. I am, however, capable of examining lists with a critical eye, not to mention tapping into my knowledge of the Pauper metagame and card pool for the purpose of cultivating ideas and tweaking 75s. In other words, don’t expect pro-level advice here, but do expect solid feedback and a thorough helping of constructive criticism.
Today we’ll be taking a look at a Pauper Orzhov deck, as well as a Grixis LD/Discard strategy. I’ve chosen to leave the creator of these submissions anonymous, as I’m not sure whether or not they’d like to be named publicly.
In the future I will be requesting that submissions include a clearly stated design goal that is most important to the deck’s creator (note that I didn’t say your goal needs to be “reasonable” or boring, so by all means reach for the stars!).
For today’s submissions, however, I will be offering suggestions for a multitude of possible goals. I’m hoping that things don’t end up too scattered or confusing, so please just bear with me.
Today’s Submission: Pauper Orzhov
The Orzhov color combination is downright unpopular in today’s Classic Pauper format. Nevertheless, there are some brave brewers out there who’d like to change that. Let’s take a look at our first Doctor Pauper submission: Pauper Orzhov!
Pauper Orzhov by Anonymous
Allow me to extend a big thanks to Pauper Orzhov’s designer for the submission! Here are a few of their notes, which should explain a bit of the deck’s card choices and overall capability.
Your ideal sequence of plays is a Turn 1 Nip Gwyllion followed up by a Nightsky Mimic Turn 2. Turn 3 Edge of Divinity makes the Mimic a 7/7 flyer which beats pretty quick. I’ve tried to keep as many spells as possible both black and white for max Mimic triggers, hence Castigate over Duress.
At its core, this is a Nightsky Mimic deck. Mimic is a classic “build around me” card, in the same sense that Ethereal Armor, Ghostly Flicker and Nivix Cylcops are build-around-me cards. For that reason, I’m going to assume that the deck‘s designer intended for the Nightsky Mimic and Edge of the Divinity synergies to remain intact at all costs.
I’m also going to assume that this deck is not expected to 4-0 very often or rank amongst the Pauper archetypal elites. I say this because Pauper Orzhov is looking to make 4/4s (or bigger) and beat down with them, and Affinity already does that better (since Affinity requires only colorless artifacts to be in play, and can follow up with a combo kill). It’s also looking to buff its creatures with aura support, but Hexproof already does that better (since Hexproof’s creatures are significantly harder to remove).
There are still a few possible goals left on the table: experimentation (to find out how competitive an Orzhov Mimic deck can become), casual interest in a “pet” card (to have fun with an interaction we like), and deck-sniping (to give ourselves a good, perhaps great, matchup against a couple of popular decks). While other goals are certainly viable, I am going to stick with these for the purpose of today’s article.
Pauper Orzhov: Experimentation
To figure out how competitive we can make Pauper Orzhov, we need to scrutinize every aspect of the deck in order to find superior design implementations. We are going to start by looking at this deck’s mana. Why? Because we should always start there, and because I wrote about manabases in my last article.
The existing manabase of 9 Plains and 11 Swamps is (with all due respect) eligible for an entry-level position at Poopy Mana Incorporated. This is because 11 sources of black mana is not enough for us to consistently draw black within the first three turns of the game. Drawing white will be even less common, and this deck wants to draw both in order to cast spells like Castigate and Kingpin’s Pet.
Our poopy mana is mitigated by the fact that Edge of the Divinity, Mourning Thrull, Nightsky Mimic and Nip Gwyllion each have a flexible hybrid casting cost. This presents an interesting dichotomy within this deck: some of the spells are ridiculously easy to cast, while others are painfully difficult.
There are two things we can immediately do to improve this deck’s mana: play Evolving Wilds, Orzhov Guildgate and Terramorphic Expanse, and cut any cards with BB or WW in their casting cost. Both of these changes come with a minimal downside, as I will attempt to demonstrate.
Pauper Orzhov currently has only 4 copies of a Turn 1 play (more if you count Turn 1 Crippling Blight, but that requires black mana and a removal-worthy threat from our opponent), leaving many of our starts devoid of action. By supplementing our deck with Orzhov Guildgate, we have additional productive things to do on Turn 1, while at the same time we are able to fix our mana.
Removing any spells in the deck that cost BB is very reasonable in my eyes. Black and white already possess a wealth of splashable removal that perform admirably, and playing double-black spells on top of the existing black-white spells just seems very greedy.
For the purpose of satisfying the experimentation goal, we are going to add some number of color-fixing lands, and we are going to remove all copies of Geth’s Verdict, Sign in Blood and Victim of Night.
Now that brings us to this deck’s removal suite. Determining how much removal to play has a lot to do with a deck’s primary gameplan, as well as its likely opposition within a metagame. Some decks (Hexproof, for instance) can get by with little-to-no removal, and instead bank on their own proactive plan to trump whatever creature strategy is being utilized by the enemy. Pauper Orzhov, on the other hand, will probably need some amount of creature removal (I say this because our own game plan of buffing up naturally small creatures can be disrupted with cheap removal and/or bounce fairly easily, so we’ll need creature-kill to catch up in race situations).
The number of removal spells in the current list is, in my opinion, too high. 12 creature-kill options is more than even most control decks would sleeve up (and don’t forget that our targeted discard can also hit creatures). Moreover, slots spent on excess removal can be put to use elsewhere.
I also take slight issue with the effectiveness of our current removal. Crippling Blight can only truly kill so much, and does little to protect us from devastating Atogs, Kiln Fiends and Ninja of the Deep Hours. Disfigure has a similar shortcoming in that it only stops small creatures, and even then can fail against temporary pump spells. So what should we do?
As a general method for crafting removal suites, I like to account for three different creature types (though this can be adjusted based on whatever metagame you find yourself in the midst of). Those types are early-game creatures (small, and in need a cheap answer), late-game creatures (large, and not in need of a cheap answer) and creatures that can’t be targeted (typically small, and in need of an edict or sweeper). By using my method, we help avoid redundancy against one type of creature, and also prevent our inability to answer the other types.
Without arduously going over all of the possible options across the format, I will say that I like Unmake for its ability to synergize with Nightsky Mimic, its versatility and its ability to get around undying, dredge, etc. I also like Journey to Nowhere (and possibly Dead Weight) for its cheap cost, and Diabolic Edict for its usefulness against creatures that can’t be targeted.
As far as creatures go, the only creatures I would consider adding are Blind Hunter (for its built-in evasion, reach and value) and Auramancer (if we opt for a more dedicated aura-centric plan). Additionally, I think Bonesplitter would go a long way towards making Mourning Thrull, Nip Gywllion and Tithe Drinker into more efficient racers. It’s also generally nice to get in for 4 in the air with Kingpin’s Pet when needed.
The existing sideboard is packed with removal in an already removal-heavy deck. I can definitely see cutting some of that (as well as the BB costing Sign in Bloods) to give us some answers for Cloudpost and Stompy decks. I also would prefer Apostle’s Blessing over Stave Off, since it has no “official” color requirement, can give protection from artifacts, and we’ll be gaining plenty of life through both our lifelink guys and our extort guys to temper it.
I would begin the experimentation process with this list:
Orzhov Edge by Jason Moore
Pauper Orzhov: Casual “Pet” Deck
We like Nightsky Mimic a lot, and we really like Edge of the Divinity, so let’s go ahead and build a dedicated voltron deck! Who cares that all of our guys die to Doom Blade? Who cares that auras net our opponents two-for-ones left and right? Ladies and germs, I present to you: Orzhov Auras!
Orzhov Auras by Jason Moore
This is definitely a more casual design, as it is an admittedly worse version of GW Hexproof. It does seem pretty fun, though! I wouldn’t mind giving it a spin.
Pauper Orzhov: Deck Sniper
Since Pauper Orzhov is already loaded up on lifelink creatures, it won’t be hard to cater it towards beating a few key players in the field. With a bit more pointed interaction and some “pre-boarded” hate, I can see this deck being a decent sniper for the Burn, Hexproof, Izzet Fiend, and Stompy decks in the format.
Orzhov Assassination by Jason Moore
So I think we’ve given ourselves a pretty strong Game 1 against Hexproof and Stompy particularly, as Standard Bearer has very few answers before sideboard. Izzet Fiend may also struggle against the combination of Bearers, lifelink, removal and Prismatic Strands. Burn will be forced to try and remove most of our creatures, so I think we can outfight them in any reasonably long game (once we stick a threat and connect with it a couple of times).
Submission for Next Time: Grixis LD/Discard
Here is a decklist we’ll be assessing for next time:
Grixis LD/Discard by Anonymous
Please share your thoughts on this deck in the comments section, and look forward to hearing more about it in the next article!
Well that wraps up our very first Doctor Pauper! I’d eventually like to port this over to a more video-centric segment, but please let me know if you have any objections to that idea.
If you’d like to submit a decklist for future installments of Doctor Pauper, please send the list to JasonMoore228@gmail.com (don’t forget to include whatever primary goal for the deck you have in mind, and whether or not you’d like to remain anonymous).
As always, thanks for reading, and please comment!