Priming Pauper: Combo Pauper Magic: The Gathering Decks – Spread the Sickness by Grant Hislop

Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

Priming Pauper: Combo Pauper Magic: The Gathering Decks

Hello again folks.

Last time I wrote, I covered the aggressive decks of the primarily Magic Online Pauper format. This is part two, where I’ll take a look at the Combo decks that are available to the commons-only aficionados among you. Pauper Combo is in a strange place at the moment, as the vast majority of Storm cards have been banned in the last year, so the combo decks are more in flux than the aggressive decks.

Also, to differentiate themselves from their less restriction laden counterparts in other Eternal formats, Pauper Combo decks are seldom two card ‘I win the game because I did X + Y’, ala Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Pestermite, rather, they take on a subtler, synergistic bent. There are also analogues to other Eternal decks. We’ll start with a solid example of this.

Selesnya Auras

Armadillo Cloak 23314 Forest
3 Plains
2 Selesnya Guildgate

4 Aura Gnarlid
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Slippery Bogle

4 Abundant Growth
4 Ancestral Mask
4 Armadillo Cloak
4 Ethereal Armor
1 Lifelink
4 Rancor
4 Utopia Sprawl


4 Hornet Sting
4 Moment’s Peace
3 Rune of Protection: Red
4 Standard Bearer

Total Cost on Magic Online, less Basic Lands:- 48.96 Event Tix

While I’m no historian, I think this deck emerged around about the same time as the Modern Bogle deck, and indeed, they play very similarly, having a comparable creature base. We lose out on some of the better Auras (Daybreak Coronet, I’m looking at you), and our manabase obviously takes a massive hit, but it’s very much a similar deck, and it occupies a similar spot in the metagame. Certain decks just cannot interact with a Hexproof creature at all, and Armadillo Cloak makes racing an unlikely proposition.

The deck suffers somewhat in its mulligans, relying very heavily on having one of its twelve hexproof creatures in its openers, and no real way to find them if they’re not there. While Aura Gnarlid is solid, I’m perpetually terrified when suiting him up, as a deck like this, which is looking to assemble Voltron just cannot afford to ever be two-for-oned, given that the individual card quality is so low, and we’re relying on non-interaction to be the difference maker, and elevate the sum to greater than that of its parts.

In addition to a body, you’re looking for the right mix of auras to put on it. A hand with three lands, a creature, Lifelink and two Abundant Growths might look tempting, but there’s also a high chance that that hand just peters out without accomplishing anything meaningful, like Coldplay. A deck like this is very good at giving you reasons as to why you lost.


  • Solid nutdraw – Some decks just cannot beat what it’s doing
  • Attacks on an unusual axis – Many decks aren’t set up to interact with Auras or Hexproof at all
  • Big Creatures – Some people like making big creatures and turning them sideways


  • Inconsistent – Bad mana and 12 cards that you NEED to see one of in the opening hand.
  • Lack of options – Utopia Sprawl and Abundant Growth are necessary evils
  • Lack of a plan B – If your initial Big Dumb Guy gets killed, it’s unlikely you have the resources for a second wave of attack. Once you’re behind, you’re staying there
  • Runs some of the more expensive cards in the format – Armadillo Cloak costs around 4 tix each, and doesn’t go into any other decks


Perhaps you think Auras are for chumps, and would rather be casting Instants and Sorceries. Well, if so, step on up

Izzet Blitz

Kiln Fiend10 Island
4 Izzet Guildgate
6 Mountain

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops

4 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Artful Dodge
4 Assault Strobe
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Ponder
4 Preordain


3 Dispel
2 Echoing Ruin
3 Electrickery
4 Pyroblast
3 Vapor Snag

Total Cost on Magic Online, less Basic Lands:- 29.09 Event Tix

This deck is definitely from the same school of thought as the aforementioned Auras deck. The difference here is that there isn’t the permanence of the pumps that the Auras allow, instead we’re looking at killing over the course of a single, explosive turn by making one of our creatures unblockable and massive, ideally with double strike, and turning it sideways.

Again, we’re looking at a deck that will offer many interesting hands, and while it doesn’t mulligan particularly well, a lot of hands will just need to be shipped back. Ponder and Preordain do help somewhat, but keeping a creatureless hand off the back of either of these is a disaster waiting to happen.

This is probably the fastest deck in the format, when everything goes right, and while I’ve not played it all that much, I’ve certainly been on the wrong side of the turn two Kiln Fiend, turn three kill you draws on more occasions than I’d care to admit.


  • Turn 3 Kills are not to be sneezed at, and are very possible here, if unlikely
  • Slightly more consistent than the Auras deck, due to Ponder and friends
  • Attacks on an unusual axis – most decks aren’t able to hold up enough mana to represent removal every turn
  • Apostle’s Blessing handles just about everything you care about maindeck, and Dispel out the board does some work as well
  • The only individually expensive card; Pyroblast goes in lots of other decks as well


  • This is very much a deck that asks ‘Do you have it?’ If they do, you’re going to lose
  • Only 12 creatures, each of which you want on curve at the latest makes mulligans frequent, and bad for you, and the next best option would be adding something like Wee Dragonauts, which isn’t an appealing proposition


Maybe you think Auras, Instants and Sorceries are all for chumps. Maybe you wish you were playing a Sci-Fi game instead. Maybe all you want to do is kill people with Robots. Affinity, step on up!


Frogmite1 Ancient Den
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Tree of Tales
4 Vault of Whispers

2 Atog
4 Carapace Forger
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Frogmite
3 Glaze Fiend
2 Myr Enforcer

4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Prophetic Prism
4 Springleaf Drum
4 Thoughtcast


1 Atog
3 Dispel
2 Duress
2 Fling
1 Krark-Clan Shaman
2 Myr Enforcer
2 Ostracize
2 Vendetta

Total Cost on Magic Online, less Basic Lands:- 16.47 Event Tix

Affinity should be a pretty common sight to anyone who’s been playing Magic for a decent length of time. It’s not really any different here, and where foils like Shatterstorm and Fracturing Gust don’t exist, it’s frequently better positioned than its Eternal counterpart.

The Affinity game plan is relatively simple, on turn one, it makes a Springleaf Drum, and on turn two, the rest of its hand follows. Then, it continues to ask the question ‘Can you beat 12 power of creatures swinging at you from Turn 3 onwards?’ Sometimes, the answer is yes. More often though, it’s a no.


  • Cheap – Change from $20 is pretty nice for a tier one deck
  • Reach – Atog and Galvanic Blast provide a hell of an amount of reach, should the little robots not be quite enough to go the distance alone
  • Explosive – Any deck that can present the type of clock that Affinity does must be respected
  • Big Bodies – 4/4’s for 2 or 0 mana are just so much bigger than just about anything else in the format
  • Blocking is a nightmare for the opponent, as they’re just going to be throwing their guys under the bus


  • Needs to draw the right cards in concert with each other
  • Never enough oomph for a second wave
  • Inconsistent – Games without Springleaf Drum on Turn One aren’t pretty


Maybe you looked at the Stompy deck I posted last week and thought ‘I wish these creatures had pointier ears’. Maybe you saw these combo decks and thought ‘all these Enchantments, Sorceries and Instants aren’t for me. What I want is a bunch of dudes and more dudes, and after that, more dudes’. Step on up,

Elf combo

Priest of Titania12 Forest
1 Island

4 Birchlore Rangers
3 Elvish Mystic
2 Fyndhorn Elves
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Lys Alana Huntmaster
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Priest of Titania
4 Quirion Ranger
3 Sylvan Ranger
4 Timberwatch Elf
4 Wellwisher

4 Distant Melody
2 Mob Justice
2 Spidersilk Armor


4 Gleeful Sabotage
3 Moment’s Peace
2 River Boa
4 Scattershot Archer
2 Spidersilk Armor

Total Cost on Magic Online, less Basic Lands:- 64.07 Event Tix

This deck just wants to chain as many Elf creatures as it can onto the battlefield, Distant Melody for a bunch more, and then filter that through either a Lys Alana Huntmaster and/or a Wellwisher to put the game away. When it all goes right, this is one of the more fun decks to watch, and certainly takes the longest turns in the format, and when it comes down to it, the longer you’ve had priority, the better, amiright?


  • Very few decks can beat a deck that gains 7-10 life every single turn
  • Distant Melody – Chaining these together for 6+ cards is just filthy
  • Mob Justice – Killing someone from 20 is legitimately possible, 10 is likely


  • 13 lands does not a consistent deck make
  • Expensive – Some of these Elves cost a tonne, and they don’t go into any other decks
  • Electrickery is in the format and prevalent – we’ll leave it at that…


Maybe you’re looking at these decks that want to kill with creatures, and you’re thinking ‘I don’t care how big they are, or how many of them there are, I just want to throw Fire and Lightning at my opponent until they’re nice and crispy’. Step on up,


Chain Lightning4 Forgotten Cave
16 Mountain

4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Kiln Fiend

4 Chain Lightning
4 Fireblast
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Needle Drop
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
4 Staggershock


4 Electrickery
3 Molten Rain
4 Pyroblast
4 Smash to Smithereens

Total Cost on Magic Online, less Basic Lands:- 40.78 Event Tix

Burn is an archetype as old as Magic itself. The concept is simple; point your spells at your opponents face, and hope that after the dust has settled, they’ve stopped moving. The weakest card in the deck is Needle Drop, but one damage plus ‘draw a card’ is actually very good. I’d like to experiment with just playing Lava Spike in this slot, and obviously Goblin Fireslinger is also a little loose. This deck kills on or around turn four with consistency, and while it’s very good at dealing 18 damage, the last two points can be difficult.

The best card in the deck is Searing Blaze, and it’s not close. Any time burn has to use its spells on creatures, it’s probably not winning. Searing Blaze[card] clears the way without the sacrifice of missing out on the opponent. Clearing the way so your [card]Keldon Marauders can connect for an additional three damage is incredibly potent.

When playing against the red deck, and this is true in almost all formats, I like to protect my life total as much as possible. I’ll chump block at the earliest opportunity, and hope that it helps me stabilise. This deck is somewhat hampered by the fact that very few decks actually deal damage to themselves, so it actually has to deal the full twenty points of damage, unlike Standard or Modern, where Shocklands and Fetches are usually good for at least a free Shock each game.

Given that the majority of the cards in this deck deal three damage, Burn is generally thought of as a combo deck where the combo is lands and any seven cards. Flood is how the deck loses the majority of its games. Forgotten Cave helps, but the loss of tempo is very relevant.


  • Searing Blaze is one of the best cards in the format. This is the best Searing Blaze deck
  • Consistent – Turn 4-5 kills uninterrupted, and attacks on an unusual axis
  • Very little Lifegain in the format
  • Cheap – Minus Pyroblast, the deck only costs 20 Event Tix
  • Simple mulligan decisions – Each hand only needs to be evaluated on how much damage it can deal to the opponent, and nothing else. If it’s less than twelve, send it back


  • Dealing the last two points of damage can be stressful
  • Something like Aven Riftwatcher can be almost unbeatable
  • Very difficult to win if an opponent manages to stabilise on seven or more life
  • No reasonable plan B. If burning doesn’t work, you’re losing


The Summary

So cost wise, of the five decks looked at today, we’re looking at:

Electrickery1. Affinity – 16.47 Tix
2. Izzet Blitz – 29.09 Tix
3. Burn – 40.78 Tix
4. Selesnya Auras – 48.96 Tix
5. Elves! – 64.07 Tix

And in order of my recommendation for a tournament tomorrow:

1. – Affinity
2. – Burn
3. – Selesnya Auras
4. – Elves!
5. – Izzet Blitz


For the most part, I value consistency over explosivity, and while Elves is pretty consistent, it’s just very poorly positioned, with the prevalence of Electrickery. While that’s likely to change once the bannings come into effect, and the Izzet-post decks fade into memory, for now, I’d avoid the deck relying on one toughness creatures to get there.

Stay classy mtgUK,


Priming Pauper: Combo Pauper Magic: The Gathering Decks - Spread the Sickness by Grant Hislop
Last time I wrote, I covered the aggressive decks of the primarily Magic Online Pauper format. This is part two, where I’ll take a look at the Combo decks that are available to the commons-only aficionados among you.

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