8 Great Reasons Why Everyone Needs to Give Pauper Magic a Try
As the future of both Modern and Standard move into a state of flux leading into April, the Eldrazi swarm seems to be slowly subsiding in one format yet resurgent in the other. My mind’s prerogative is to wander and think of a setting free from the otherworldly scourge…
Yes that’s right – I’m talking Pauper Magic!
First picking up the game in Odyssey on a casual basis, I returned to the game after the release of Gatecrash and have been playing competitive Standard and Modern ever since, qualifying for my first Regional Pro Tour Qualifier in 2015. I am now best known for my Pauper Cube, I have been a Merfolk warrior for the better part of a decade and am one of the many who will admit that I have played far too much Rally the Ancestors this most recent Standard format.
The power of the common card is ever-present throughout the history of Magic: The Gathering. The likes of Brainstorm, Lightning Bolt and Delver of Secrets come to mind. Some have even warped formats or become vital pieces to intricate puzzles – the most powerful decks of all time – such as Nettle Sentinel in Legacy Elves, Cranial Plating in Affinity, even Sidisi’s Faithful in Rally. All have sculpted and attuned their respective decks around the power level of a simple common.
With players’ frustrations and unrest regarding the future of Modern, Legacy, the Reserved List and so on, could Wizards’ best option be to focus on a previously-existing format, with a thriving online metagame and a low price barrier for new players? Time to start investing – Pauper could well be the answer.
What is Pauper Magic?
Pauper is an online constructed format with the exact same deck requirements as we have become accustomed to, with one major difference – all cards registered must, at some point, have been printed at common rarity to be legal in Pauper Constructed.
For example, although Scion of the Wilds was originally printed as a rare in Ravnica: City of Guilds, it is a Pauper legal card after its common printing in Modern Masters 2015, as well as Oblivion Ring and Doom Blade which were both originally printed as commons. The same is true for a card such as Battle Screech, a Judgment Limited staple at uncommon that was downgraded to common to be included in the recent Vintage Masters expansion on Magic Online.
Like all other formats, Pauper does carry its own banned list, including the infamous Treasure Cruise which was also banned in Modern and Legacy. For some combo players, the banned list makes for sad reading, as three Storm win conditions (Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens and Temporal Fissure) are all listed. Additional cards are banned to control the power level of certain decks including Infect (Invigorate), Affinity (Cranial Plating), 8-Post (Cloudpost and Frantic Search), and Delver (Cloud of Faeries).
One key change in the rulings, if Wizards were to ever sanction paper Pauper Constructed, would be that cards printed at common in online sets only would be considered at their paper rarity, and thus not legal for paper Pauper. In addition, further ban list considerations may be required as sets before the printing of Invasion block are not included on Magic Online. Whether cards such as the combo-centric High Tide or control powerhouse Hymn to Tourach would be too powerful to make the cut is yet to be seen, yet is a serious consideration for the conservation of a balanced format. But seriously, who would ban my beloved Sinkhole?
Why should you invest in your very own MTG Pauper deck collection?
Lowest Entry Cost – Build More Magic Decks for Your Money
Compared to its constructed counterparts, the best thing about Pauper is that it can cost peanuts to get started! You can pick up a competitive Pauper deck in paper for around £30-£40 (check out the prices here and you’ll see what I mean), which is ideal for new players just starting game or the seasoned veteran looking to take down a tournament on the cheap.
Looking around online, I can find the full 75 cards for a Mono Blue Delver deck (one of the most successful decks in the format’s history) for around £35. Or like myself, you can dig through your “odd box” and discover a deck for yourself.
No player is going have an issue scraping together the core cards for any given deck, but, as with all formats, there will always be a few financial bottlenecks to navigate when building any deck. Cards such as Chromatic Star, Gitaxian Probe and Rancor peak at around the $5 mark each, easily affordable yet vital pieces for their respective decks.
On the other hand, legacy Burn staple Chain Lightning still peaks at around $15 a piece, whilst Mono Black Control staple Oubliette from Arabian Nights has seen a spike in price to an astounding $25 due to a buy out in the USA, perhaps because of the hype Pauper has produced. These bottlenecks may become an issue for newer players, or channel the metagame away from Burn and Mono Black as a result, or may even instigate the search for alternative options to continue to play these two top tier archetypes.
Thriving Metagame – Check Out Existing Archetypes or Create Your Own
Pauper is more alive on MTGO than ever before with a hugely competitive online metagame. Luckily for us “paper warriors”, this is great news for the forthcoming of Paper Pauper, as the majority of the research and planning has already been completed. With the introduction of earlier sets, Mirage and beyond, there may be some tinkering to undertake with the “new” tools available, but can only strengthen some of the already successful archetypes.
As a real brewer myself however, there is no better feeling than adding your own influence to your build and developing your very own unique strategy. For example, whether it was out of nostalgia for the deck with which I won my first PPTQ or just sheer enjoyment I’ve had with the deck, I recently put together a Rally the Ancestors deck in Modern, in a view to taking down the Eldrazi decks in the format. And the same applies to Pauper, creating your very own 75 or adding your own insightful additions to an existing archetype is a great feeling and one I share with the majority of you out there.
Insane Pauper Power Level – Move Over Power 9!
Let me ask you a question – In which format can you play the following decks: Burn, Boggles, Delver, Tron and Affinity? Exactly!
A large proportion of Modern and Legacy staples are Pauper legal, and the power potential is truly astounding. Although its most powerful cards are now banned, the fact that Pauper could sustain a fully functional combo deck such as Storm in previous years proves the potential of this emerging format.
So whether your style of play in Modern or Standard is controlling or aggressive, made up or intricate synergies or you prefer playing a solid curve, Pauper will provide you with the deck you’re looking for.
Diversity of Decks – Tired of Playing Against the Same Old Decks? Then You’ll Want to Play Pauper Instead
Before January of this year, Mono Blue Delver was a dominant force in the format, with the deck reaching 60% of the online meta at various stages in 2015. The banning of Cloud of Faeries thankfully reduced the power level of the deck, and now the format is celebrating a plethora of successful archetypes.
From combo to control, tribal to full-on unadulterated aggro, Pauper is now a very fluid format and I truly hope that continues in its paper equivalent. And due to its low investment cost, you could be playing a different deck every week for next to nothing. Fantastic!
New Format, New Challenge, New Mindset – And Low Investment Risks
Pauper truly brings the weird and wonderful to the table, and one of the challenges I find the most fulfilling when learning a new format is developing a sense of forethought for what cards to play around and the capabilities of my chosen deck. From tuning to the metagame to developing a sideboard plan, much like preparing for a major event or new Standard format, new obstacles to overcome for all players is an exciting prospect.
Keep an eye out on my articles in the near future, covering the top cards to invest in for Pauper constructed and the decks to watch out for in your play group.
Blast from the Past – Play With Those Common Cards You’ve Always Loved
This year I celebrate 14 years of playing Magic: The Gathering, granted with a break away from the game at its mid-point. Taking a browse through my old collection allowed me to reminisce on limited formats past and all those “bomb commons” I had collected over the years. Did you have a common card as the apple of your eye, but didn’t quite become constructed playable? Well now is its time to shine as part of your Pauper 75.
One of my favourite Pauper brews is based around the “Dragon Series” of enchantments from Scourge, a deck I will be featuring in the near future, allowing me to relive one of my favourite draft formats of all time. The deck utilises some of the old border mechanics from Scourge and the more recent mechanics from Khans of Takir, bridging an 11 year gap in the history of Magic to create my “Dragon Delve” deck.
Increasing Power Levels of New Commons – And it Won’t Break Your Wallet
Format staples are staples for a reason, and thus the power of some select cards provide rationale for similar effects not being printed at common in the future: Unique effects such as that of cards like Gush or Rancor, or sheer power level of cards such as Lightning Bolt or Counterspell. However, over the years there has been a marked improvement in the strength of commons available to us. True, their main directive is to support the major limited archetypes in their respective draft format, but this also allows for increased intrigue upon the release of every new set to add new tools available for Pauper.
The release of Eternal Masters later this year may be on every “magpie’s” mind (to pick up that foil Force of Will), but after Modern Masters 2015 saw the most changes of rarity in a single set last year, my Pauper mindset is going into overdrive contemplating new additions which could be brought to every Pauper players’ attention.
And last, but not by any means the least…
No Eldrazi – Well Only One in The Entire Format
Well, unless you’re lucky enough to play Tron and get domed by an Ulamog’s Crusher (and yes, the Urza Lands are legal in Pauper). The Eldrazi menace may still be rampaging around the Modern metagame, and looks to be an even more serious threat for Standard as we near the release of Shadows Over Innistrad, Pauper will provide you with a retreat from the swarm, with Tron and only Tron capable of running Eldrazi in the format.
So is Pauper Worth the Investment?
The prospect of Wizards supporting and sanctioning a new paper format is something that truly excites me, especially one as accessible and diverse as Pauper. With the upcoming changes to Standard and the inevitable reduction of power in the Eldrazi decks from the Modern scene in the coming weeks, the edge of my proverbial seat will be where I choose to see these transformations unfold.
No doubt there is one question on your mind: “Is Pauper worth the investment?”
Definitely! At current prices, I reckon you could probably pick up a playset of each Pauper staple for around the £70 mark, collecting many Eternal mainstays in the process.
Over the coming months, I look forward to bringing you some insightful Pauper deck techs, reader submissions and introductions to my very own Pauper Cube. If you are a Pauper player on Magic Online, or are lucky enough to already play Pauper at your local store, and have a favourite deck or an interesting take on the metagame, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with your deck list and a quick description, or let me know in the comments below.
Signing off for today. Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you across the table from me very soon.
Community Question: What is your favourite Magic: The Gathering common card of all time and why?
Thanks for reading,