Priming Pauper: Aggressive Pauper Decks
My favourite Magic the Gathering format is probably Pauper. I love the grindy nature of the matchups, I love the underpowered Eternal nature of the format, and I love the versatility of the format. There is pretty much a deck to suit your playstyle, unless that style is Stax, in which case, you’ve got bigger problems to contend with.
Pauper’s traditionally a Magic Online only format, though my store-away-from-home Spellbound Games in Glasgow has started a monthly Pauper series for fabulous prizes, traditionally straight From The Vaults. Given that it’s never been a PTQ format, but is the home of those desperate for Tix (Magic Online Currency to the uninitiated) and QP’s (Qualifying Points to the equally uninitiated), the format is pretty well established. Plus, due to the nature of the format, traditionally only one or two cards from each set are able to make the cut in the format.
I was really quite excited by the recent news that both Temporal Fissure and Cloudpost were going to be banned in Pauper, as their presence has rendered the format into what SHOULD have been a two deck format of Fissure-Post vs Foils, but Magic being what it is, there were other decks too that were able to put up a showing in spite of conventional wisdom suggesting that they were terrible choices.
The next few articles that I write are going to serve as a Pauper primer of sorts, and will showcase some of the decks that are possible. Given that budget is as big a factor as any with this format, I’ll price the decks through a bot of my choosing on Magic Online to show you just how accessible the format is. Basically, more people should be playing the format, as it’s an excellent, cheap way to branch into Magic Online, and the skills are most certainly transferable.
Aggro Pauper Decks
First up, I’ll cover the Aggro decks, then the following article will cover Combo decks, and the third will touch on the prospective Control decks that could feasibly pop up to replace the omni-present Izzet-Post deck that was almost as oppressive as Temporal Fissure. While I’m always excited to start building new decks, the first part for me is looking at what I’m building to beat, and realistically, we’re more likely to see a shift in the metagame to previously suppressed decks than any brand new masterpieces popping up, certainly in the early days. Building decks for the sake of building decks, while cathartic, isn’t really my bag.
Aggro decks in Pauper are a strange beast. They all play out in very similar ways, due to traditional aggro design tenets still being in effect. I don’t necessarily think any of them is inherently better than the others, but they wax and wane in popularity and position versus the rest of the format. The best aggro decks are mono-coloured, as the mana is always an issue, so the decks I’m going to show today are five-fold; one for each colour. Surprising, right?
First up, perennial Magic staple,
Cost on Magic Online, excluding Basic Lands: 6.81 Event Tix
This deck probably stands to gain the most from the recent ban, having excellent matchups against the rest of the aggressive decks, as well as much of the rest of the field. Playing this deck against heir apparent Mono-Blue Delver is embarrassing for the Delver player, as you just outclass them in card quality.
I recently played a Pauper Tournament in which this was my deck of choice, hoping to dodge Cloudpost decks all day. I made it to the semi-finals before losing to Scottish Magic Superstar Bradley Barclay playing my worst matchup. It didn’t go well.
This deck is surprisingly difficult to play, though at its heart, it’s a ‘throw as much power onto the table each turn and hit the til they’re dead’ kind of deck. Squadron Hawk is probably the best form of card advantage in the format, and I think Bonesplitter is probably the most under-appreciated pillar of the format. This is the best Bonesplitter deck.
Kor Skyfisher deserves a special mention, as he lends elements of non-brainless Aggro to the deck, allowing re-buys on Journey to Nowheres, resetting Javelineers as well as occasionally masking mana-screw, which is very important in a nineteen land deck with three drops – Razor Golem never costing more than three.
The deck just outclasses the Blue deck in terms of creature quality at every point in the curve, and isn’t filled with cantrips which can miss. The creatures are large enough to go toe-to-toe with the Green ones, and many of them are large enough to profitably block the Red ones on more than one occasion.
This would be my deck of choice in the early days of the new Pauper format.
- Squadron Hawk engine
- High creature quality compared to the format
- Best Bonesplitter deck
- Small amount of reach afforded by Syndic of Tithes
- Real sideboard vs Affinity
- Many decks just can’t beat Guardian of the Guildpact
- Poor removal spells
- Very uninteractive if they’re not casting creatures
- Terrible Cloudpost matchup (Hooray)
- Change from a tenner when buying from scratch
Next up, the deck to beat,
Cost on Magic Online, excluding Basic Lands: 111.19 Event Tix
The Blue Delver deck should be quite obvious to anyone who played Standard last year. It’s more of an Aggro-Control deck than a pure Aggro deck, as Blue decks frequently are, but I’m not here to debate deck classifications, and would argue against the worth of that discussion anyway. This deck aims to put a creature on the board in the early game, and protect it and ride it to victory.
While it’s obviously more complex than that, the basic plan is to drop a Delver on turn one, and Counterspell anything that kills the Delver, adding more and more power to the board as and when it’s safe to do.
As with most Tempo strategies, there are very few ways to regain ground should you stumble, but this deck is probably the most developed deck going into the new format, and it just had a bad matchup neutered. I’d expect this to be the most prevalent deck going forward, and consequently it’s one that you can’t afford to have a bad matchup against. Decks like this serve to keep the format in check, as it basically demands redundancy, or the ability to break through a Counterspell somehow.
- Game versus every deck – No horrendous, unwinnable matchups
- Free wins – Nut draw of T1 Delver that they can’t deal with is pretty sensual
- Worst matchup just got banned
- Makes you feel clever playing Blue spells and stuff
- Can’t deal with resolved non-creature permanents at all
- Anything that gets down with probably stay there
- Poor individual card quality – you can stutter and have the game slip away
- Phantasmal Bear – Enough said
- Costs almost as much as a mono-red deck for Standard – Poor entry deck into the format
Next stop on our five colour rollercoaster is at the darker end of the spectrum, as we look at format staple,
Cost on Magic Online, excluding Basic Lands: 49.31 Event Tix
This deck has been around in some iteration as long as I’ve been playing pauper. It’s a sort of strange aggro-control deck, where the creatures are individually awful, but when there’s nothing on the other side of the board, it’s easy enough to find a way to win.
It’s not been a deck that I’ve personally got much experience playing with, though I’ve played against it more times that I care to remember. This is one of the most tilt-inducing decks in Magic, where you can see your draws, hand, lands and creatures all stymied, and you can never be sure quite which resource they’re planning on attacking.
While recent iterations of this deck are sporting Mulldrifter and Trinket Mage to fetch Sylvok Lifestaff and Excecutioner’s Capsules, for the purposes of keeping the aggressive decks to their most consistent versions, we’ll eschew looking at that for now. Do be aware that that deck exists, and Mulldrifter is a pretty strong pull into a second colour, even if you’re opening yourself up to worse mana, and consequently more mulligans.
- Game versus everything
- Kills all the creatures. All of them. Then kills them again for good measure
- Chittering Rats is a horrendous card to play against
- Very bad sideboard – everything you want to do is already in the maindeck, and the package offers very little wiggle room. Also, Black isn’t known for its versatility
- Does a lot of damage to itself, making Burn and Goblin pretty bad matchups
Next up, Fire, Goblins and the stuff that you’re embarrassed to tell your friends you do on a Saturday night:-
Cost on Magic Online, excluding Basic Lands: 42.56 Event Tix
This is the baseline aggressive deck of the format. While other decks want to interact with you in some way, this one just wants to throw little red guys at you until such time as you have to stop doing what you’re doing because you’re dead. Goblins gets to play ‘best card in the format’ contender Lightning Bolt, as well as having a tonne of reach from Mogg Raider and Goblin Sledder, who make blocking a fool’s errand.
This deck is excellent fun to play, if you’re into this sort of thing, and the nature of the deck means that you’ll have plenty of time on your hands to eat crisps and chocolate and complain about how stale standard is in between rounds. Everyone’s a winner!
- Fastest aggro deck in the format
- Lightning Bolt
- Redundancy – You play eight copies of your two most important cards
- Stupidly good nut draw
- If you can find a replacement for Pyroblast, you’ll have change from 20 Event Tix. Cheap cheap cheap, I’m a bird
- One trick pony
- Unable to mount a sufficiently powerful second wave if the first wave is dealt with
- Electrickery kills an awful lot of things
- Low individual card quality
Final stop on our guide to aggressive decks today will be…
Cost on Magic Online, excluding Basic Lands: 43.26 Event Tix
This is a traditional aggressive creatures plus pump deck that was so popular in the halcyon days of Magic past. Personally, I don’t really rate this deck, as it’s a poor man’s White Weenie, the only real upgrade being Rancor over Bonesplitter, and a bunch of worse creatures. In any case, this deck pops up quite a bit online, and it’s not terrible, I suppose.
- Pump Spells are really good in a format with minimal blocking and less than stellar removal spells
- This is a bad White Weenie deck
- Green cards
- No interactivity whatsoever
So, for those keeping score at home, or who like lists, in order of cost, we have:-
1. White Weenie – 6.81 Event Tix
2. Goblins – 42.56 Event Tix
3. Stompy – 43.26 Event Tix
4. Rats – 49.31 Event Tix
5. Delver – 111.19 Event Tix
And in order of my recommendation, we have:-
1. White Weenie
Stay classy mtgUK,