The Pauper Metagame Part 2 – Breaking In with Andrew Quinn

Breaking In: Starting out on MTGO – A Beginner’s Guide to Pauper by Andrew Quinn


Hi guys. Welcome to part 2 of my article on the Pauper metagame. In my last article I covered the main aggro decks and combo decks in the format. In this one, I’m basically going to go over everything else. I also gave an explanation of the Pauper format and all of the restrictions associated with it, so I won’t reiterate that. Instead, let’s jump straight into a decklist. It’s time to look at some blue decks!

Control Decks.

Control decks in one form or another are often the strongest decks available in any given format, from standard all of the way up to legacy. With pauper, this is definitely the case, as most of the best counter spells and draw spells are in fact commons, allowing for some very powerful set-ups. The only drawback is the lack of typical control win conditions as there are not many creatures good enough to win a game by themselves and there are no man lands either. I’ll start with a typical mono blue list and then expand on that:

Mono-Blue 8-Post by _xXRossCoXx_ (4-0 in Pauper Daily)

Creatures (11):
4 Mulldrifter
4 Sea Gate Oracle
3 Ulamog’s Crusher

Spells (27):
2 Capsize
3 Condescend
4 Counterspell
3 Deep Analysis
4 Expedition Map
4 Mana Leak
4 Preordain
3 Serrated Arrows

Lands (22):
4 Cloudpost
4 Glimmerpost
14 Island

Sideboard (15):
3 Dispel
2 Echoing Truth
4 Hydroblast
3 Piracy Charm
3 Wall of Tanglecord

Once again, Cloudpost features and is doing a lot of work. This variation even sports 4 copies of Expedition Map to search up more copies of it. Cloudpost allows you to be able to cast much more expensive spells, it’s as simple as that. With it around, cards like Condescend become insane and it allows you to play real finishers in the form Ulamog’s Crusher. Here’s a list which does even more work with it:

UBr 8-Post by “Tmaggio1” (3-1 in Pauper Daily)

Creatures (6):
2 Mulldrifter
2 Twisted Abomination
2 Ulamog’s Crusher

Spells (30):
4 Accumulated Knowledge
1 Agony Warp
1 Capsize
3 Condescend
1 Counterspell
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Doom Blade
1 Echoing Decay
3 Fobidden Alchemy
1 Ghastly Demise
1 Grim Harvest
4 Innocent Blood
1 Kaervek’s Torch
2 Mana Leak
2 Mystical Teachings
3 Prophetic Prism

Lands (24):
4 Cloudpost
4 Glimmerpost
7 Island
3 Shimmering Grotto
5 Swamp
1 Terramorphic Expanse

Sideboard (15):
4 Calcite Snapper
4 Duress
2 Echoing Decay
3 Hydroblast
2 Serrated Arrows

Mystical Teachings is arguably one of the best control cards ever printed in the history of Magic; I believe this deck goes to show that. It uses Teachings to effectively tutor up whichever singleton answer you need in a particular situation. It also lets you search up Capsize which happens to be one of best control stabilizers in the history of magic.

With enough mana to buyback your Capsizes, you can go into what’s called a Capsize lock. Every turn, you can use Capsize to bounce whatever threat you’re presented with, until you get enough mana to play your own. Once you get to 12+ mana you can even double Capsize, bouncing both a threat and a land and continually do this each turn until you win with just a simple Mulldrifter.

Accumulated Knowledge has only become legal online in the last 2 weeks due to the late release of the Mercadian Masques block, but it’s already made huge waves in this style of control deck. The games usually go on quite long, especially in mirror matches, so the card pretty much always reaches its full potential. This deck is definitely one of the strongest control options, whether it’s in U/B or U/R form.

Mono-Black Control by ME!

Creatures (20):
4 Chittering Rats
3 Crypt Rats
4 Liliana’s Specter
1 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Ravenous Rats

Spells (18):
3 Corrupt
1 Geth’s Verdict
1 Grim Harvest
4 Sign in Blood
4 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Unearth
4 Victim of Night

Lands (22):
4 Barren Moor
18 Swamp

Sideboard (15):
1 Corrupt
1 Crypt Rats
2 Disfigure
2 Dry Spell
4 Duress
2 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Wrench Mind

This is my own version of my favourite deck in the format; Mono-Black Control! The deck is very simple: Discard cards from your opponent’s hand, kill their creatures, hit them in the face with a few Corrupts and Crypt Rats to win the game. This is by far the cheapest deck available too, with Crypt Rats being the only card that fetches a significant number of tickets; a great starting point for any aspiring pauper player.

Tempo/Midrange Decks.

When we refer to a tempo deck or a midrange deck, they are typically a perfect blend of spells and creatures, rather than weighted in either direction. A tempo deck will usually act as a control deck with a heavy creature base, such as Merfolk or Delver of Secrets decks in legacy. I will also group ramp decks under this as there is only a fine line between ramp and midrange. Both will get to about 4-6 mana and then provide threat after threat. Let’s look at some typical examples:

Mono-Green 8-Post by “Sturvedog” (3-1 in Pauper Daily)

Creatures (26):
4 Aurochs Herd
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Llanowar Sentinel
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Penumbra Spider
3 Ulamog’s Crusher
3 Wall of Roots

Spells (10):
4 Serrated Arrows
3 Sprout Swarm
3 Thermokarst

Lands (24):
4 Cloudpost
11 Forest
4 Glimmerpost
1 Quicksand
4 Tranquil Thicket

Sideboard (15):
3 Gleeful Sabotage
4 Matsu-Tribe Sniper
4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
4 Sandstorm

This is a typical ramp deck in Pauper. Cloudpost strategies feature very heavily in the format as a way to cast large spells and this is definitely a deck built to abuse it as much as possible. As Standard or Modern ramp decks have most of the big creatures being… not commons… (think Primeval Titan or Emrakul, the Aeons’ Torn), we have to come up with alternatives for Pauper. Aurochs Herd is perfect. A 4/4 trampler for 6 mana is pretty efficient but it can also replace itself with another copy of itself in your hand, so you have yet another big threat for the following turn!

As stated before, Ulamog’s Crusher is the biggest creature available in the format, so the deck just wouldn’t be complete without sporting a couple of copies of him. in the late game in particular, Sprout Swarm becomes a massive play. 5 mana nets you a Saproling token without giving up a card. If you make enough of them, the Convoke ability of Sprout Swarm could give you a completely free Saproling token every turn! Maybe even 2 if you then spend mana for one! The sideboard is fairly self explanatory too. Sandstorm is a staple for dealing with Storm combo decks. Extra land destruction is brought in specifically for dealing with Ravnica bounce lands and Cloudposts. The other two cards are for simple generic cards that you may need to solve problems you come across.

Mono-Blue Ninja Faeries by “Jrickard” (3-1 in Pauper Daily)

Creatures (17):
4 Cloud of Faeries
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Spire Golem

Spells (24):
4 Brainstorm
4 Counterspell
4 Daze
1 Echoing Truth
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Preordain
3 Snap

Lands (19):
18 Island
1 Quicksand

Sideboard (15):
2 Curse of Chains
1 Dispel
1 Echoing Truth
1 Hindering Touch
2 Hydroblast
2 Spell Pierce
2 Steel Sabotage
4 Weatherseed Faeries

Now, first of all, I would like to point out that I have a very firm dislike of Delver of Secrets. I hate how much attention it’s getting, particularly in standard where you pretty much play him and hope he’ll transform himself and win the game for you. Then when he doesn’t, you’ll probably blame something other than your deck for this fault…

Anyways, this isn’t the place for a rant. In Legacy he’s a very fine card and the reason for him being good in Legacy is the reason he now sees play in this classic pauper deck. That reason… is Brainstorm! With Brainstorm in your hand, you can guarantee that Delver of Secrets WILL transform. You can cast Delver on turn 1 and then on turn 2, with Delver’s transform trigger on the stack, cast Brainstorm, draw 3 cards and make sure you put an instant or sorcery back on top of your deck to transform him and bash for 3 straight away! If you haven’t got anything to put on top of your deck for this to happen, then you’re probably straight up losing the game anyway.

Despite this, the deck can function like it always has done, by playing small fliers like Cloud of Faeries and Spellstutter Sprite and then returning them to your hand with Ninjutsu to abuse both Ninja of the Deep Hours and the “enters the battlefield” triggers from your Faeries, whilst backing up all of your plays with Counterspell and various bounce spells. I don’t approve of Gitaxian Probe in this deck. I don’t believe it serves a function that this deck needs, whereas something like Accumulated Knowledge, Think Twice or Oona’s Grace would be a lot better for a draw spell slot in the deck. This in fact, was the decktype that found itself in 3 slots in the last Pauper Premier event which I alluded to in my previous article. Unfortunately, the results have been taken down from the Magic Online site, so I can’t find the specific decklists that topped the event.

Right then. Having scoured through lists of over 100 different pauper decks, I feel I have given an accurate overview of the Pauper format and the degenerate things that I bet you didn’t know were possible without expensive rares! I hope to see as many of you as possible at our Pauper Christmas tournament this Saturday.

For anyone who enjoys these articles, I am hoping to try my hand at recording some Magic Online videos to help newer players learn both how to use Magic Online and how to play certain formats. This will happen at some point in the new year, so if you’re reading this and would like to suggest some topics for videos, then please, by all means, let me know what YOU would like to see in such videos and I will try to cover as much as I possibly can.

Once again, if you would like to contact me with any questions about this content or about the game in general, you can e-mail me at, leave a comment below or find me on Facebook.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing 🙂



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