Magic: The Gathering Standard Pauper League: Part 1 – Getting Started with Andy Bolton
Sometime in early October, our store’s FNM organiser, Jay, announced that he was hosting a Standard Pauper League over the coming weeks. Once the word had got out, the idea was resoundingly popular. But of course – what better way to try out all the quirky commons from Battle for Zendikar?
The sign-up sheet went up a fortnight later, and I put my name down as soon as I saw it. After looking at a few ideas, I found that I was drawn to the Eldrazi’s influence. Nettle Drone and Dominator Drone both looked immensely strong in a rare-devoid (!) format, and the colourless synergies solidified a very aggressive looking system.
My starting list was as follows:
1 Fetid Imp
1 Gurmag Angler
2 Boiling Earth
1 Macabre Waltz
2 Reave Soul
2 Read the Bones
1 Unholy Hunger
Before I dive into the details of my path through the tournament, I should explain some of the rules.
Pauper is a format where a player is only allowed commons in their decks, which reduces the power level of the tournament. However, it is a fantastic way to explore the limits of fringe commons without dumping money into dozens of drafts. In addition, our decklists are flexible from week to week – you may permanently change up to 4 cards after your game each week, including swapping cards between the main and sideboard. Alterations to land ratios were exempt however, as long as it was registered on the spreadsheet.
The tournament was a Round Robin format. Each week, the players would have 1 or 2 games to complete before the following Sunday. Once a game had been completed, they sent the Tournament Organiser their results and deck changes. Each Sunday night, the standings and next week’s pairings were added to the spreadsheet.
As the first Sunday night drew closer, people were making last minute alterations to their lists. Then the first pairings got posted, and the 18 entrants began organising their first matches.
Week 1: Round One – Red Deck “Wins”
My first Opponent, Johnathan, was running a creature-based Mono Red deck. During game 1, Jonathan struggled for land, which allowed my creatures to swiftly knock him down to 0 life. Game 2 was more intense, with 2 consectutive Vestige of Emrakul eating removal, only for me to topdeck a third. The third stuck, and a continually dashed Goblin Heelcutter made it a race. Eventually I had him down to 6 life, but I was on 4. Vestige was an almost guaranteed 3 damage, and I did have a Kozilek’s Sentinel to defend, but if he found his fifth land he could dash both Heelcutter and the Goblin Scout he had in his hand for a win. I took the risk, attacking with Vestige. Fortunately for me, Jonathan failed to find his fifth land, giving me a 2-0 win.
Week 1 Record: 1-0
Week 2: Round Two – Black-Whitewash
From one end of the aggro/control spectrum to the other. I was paired up against Sam and his Black-White Control deck, possibly of my worst matchup. Both games went to the wire – I would get Sam down to about 5-10 life, then Student of Ojutai would come down, and that would allow him to stabilise alongside the mass of removal, followed up with a Gurmag Angler to turn the tide. A few turns later, the game would be over. I went 0-2, but I learnt that just because you are ahead on life does not mean you can relax… especially against a control deck.
Week 2 Record: 1-1
Deck Changes: Flatten wasn’t effective enough, neither was Macabre Waltz. I moved my Sideboarded Touch of the Void to the Mainboard, and added an additional Gurmag Angler and Unholy Hunger each to the Sideboard.
My third opponent, Philip was playing a Blue-White Control deck with no creatures in the main deck. How does he win then? Simple – Dreadwaters.
The first game began, and I was feeling apprehensive. 7 of my cards were already obsolete due to the lack of creatures. I started off with a mulligan into unimpressive but keepable hand. I came out swinging, but Philip’s card advantage put a stop to that. Two Dreadwaters putting a total of 26 cards into my grave left me with 2 cards in my library. With no way for me to win, we went to game 2.
After siding in 9 cards, game 2 went much better for me. I curved out perfectly while Philip struggled for blue mana.
Game 3 came around, and my sideboard plan in this matchup came out to shine. My opening hand was strong, and I was feeling confident. Philip decided not to defend against a Culling Drone, instead looking to remove a more threatening creature as soon as it landed. A second one quickly changed his mind, and Read the Bones scrying Sarkhan’s Rage and a Duress virtually sealed the deal. After Weave Fate was taken from his rather depleted hand, Philip could do nothing as 3 – yes, three – Nettle Drones followed up by the Rage swiftly finished him off. I won 2-1, and my deck was beginning to look good.
Week 3 Record: 2-1
Deck Changes: None.
Week 4: Round 4 – Fight for the Top Spot
Week 4… the final week before the Christmas break. I was pitted against Chaoran, currently undefeated, and top of the leaderboard. He was running a Blue-Red Tempo deck.
Game 1 was a nightmare. I saw none of my removal the entire game, and 2 Lotus Path Djinn swinging in for 10 damage spelt the end for me.
Game 2 was possibly even worse. I wanted to put my deck into control mode, so seeing an opening hand stacked with removal seemed great. However Chaoran played virtually no creatures, and the few creatures I got into play got killed off rather swiftly. Then Whirlwind Adept came down, and even with all my removal, it can’t deal with a 4/2 with Hexproof. To make matters worse, 2 consecutive Taigam’s Strike was too much for my deck to handle. 2-0 to Chaoran.
Week 4 Record: 2-2
Pre-Christmas Position: 11th
Deck Changes: Swarm Surge had not done as much as I had expected, so out it went. To replace them, I moved a Reave Soul and a Gurmag Angler in from the sideboard, and put 2 Twin Bolt in the Sideboard.
Following the fourth week, It was time for a Christmas break, as most of us were leaving the area to see family and friends. So it seems like the perfect place to leave it, however, here’s a list of the deck archetypes that are are in the league:
Red-Black (RB) Devoid (2 decks, including mine)
RB Tokens (2 decks)
RB Draw & Delve (1)
Black-White (BW) Control (2)
BW Warriors (1)
Mono Red (2)
Blue-Red (UR) Tempo (2)
White-Blue (WU) Creatureless Control (1)
WU Flying (1)
Red-Green (RG) Landfall (1)
Black-Green-Red (Jund) Tokens (1)
Red-Green-White (Naya) Auras (1)
Green-White Blue (Bant) Control (1)
So that’s about it for now, I’ll be back in a month or two when we will be leading up to the release of Oath of the Gatewatch. I hope I have inspired some of you to look into playing Pauper – you don’t have to make it a huge tournament, it can be just as fun played at a kitchen table. It’s also a great way to explore those commons that you want to play, but never quite make it into your decks.
Enjoy your Christmas all of you, and happy deck building!
Community Question: What is your opinion of the Pauper format?
Thanks for reading,