Top 12 Shadow Over Innistrad Commons for Your Pauper Decks
Hello friends, do you like Pauper Magic? I like Pauper. It’s a solid format that promotes good deckbuilding and skill… usually. I mean you can still YOLO murder people with turn 1 [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] sometimes, but that’s okay, you can build your deck to beat that too.
Pauper is also pretty popular on Magic Online, and plenty of stores run the occasional Pauper FNM or weekend tournament too. Today, I’m going to talk about Shadows over Innistrad, and it’s 12 best Pauper-worthy cards that you should definitely try to pick up. I’m going to mention cards I can feasibly see being worth trying out, and some cards that I think will secretly be too weak to see play, but people are talking about them and I wanted to acknowledge them.
Most commons in the set aren’t worth talking about, because Pauper is secretly and surprisingly quite a powerful format. It is technically an Eternal after all. Any card that draws cards cheaply needs to compete with [card]Ponder[/card], [card]Brainstorm[/card] and [card]Preordain[/card]. More expensive ones needs to fight with [card]Deep Analysis[/card] and [card]Mulldrifter[/card]. Burn spells fight with [card]Fireblast[/card], [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and [card]Chain Lightning[/card]. Auras better be as devastating as [card]Rancor[/card] and [card]Ethereal Armor[/card].
You get the idea. To have a shot at breaking into Pauper, cards need to be ones of the most efficient at what they are doing, or they need to provide two-for-one effect at a good mana price, or enable something powerful, or do something very unique.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that if you want to get Delirium, you can can do it pretty easily. Between [card]Chromatic Star[/card]s, [Card]Faithless Looting[/Card] effects, Dredge cards, [card]Seal of Fire[/card] effects etc., it’s pretty trivial if you build your deck around it. Whether the pay off for achieving Delirium is powerful enough to justify building in Pauper is yet to be proven.
As for Madness, there are already some fine one-shot enablers and all [card]Merfolk Looter[/card] and its intellectual brothers you could ever want. Before Shadows, the problem for the almost-good Madness decks was that the rewards just weren’t there to justify the inconsistency, especially when [card]Chainer’s Edict[/card] was constantly hitting your looters on turn two. In addition, cards such as [card]Fiery Temper[/card] and [card]Basking Rootwalla[/card] have been format-legal for more than a decade, and have yet to make a splash. Could these additions from Shadows over Innistrad push the Madness mechanic to tier one of the Pauper hierarchy?
Let’s get to it!
The 12 Best Shadows Over Innistrad Cards for Pauper
12. Angelic Purge
White traditionally doesn’t get many sacrifice outlets, and although I doubt you can do anything broken with this card, the power level is certainly evident in [card]Angelic Purge[/card]. Consider playing it with [card]Ichor Wellspring[/card] and the like for maximum value in a Metalcraft or Affinity list. I expect to see one or two of these popping up in lists from now on, but four seems like it might be a bit hard on your resources if you’re being denied them via counters and discard.
However, in a format where one can already play [card]Oblivion Ring[/card]-type effects, the lack of instant speed with this card and the ability to recur enchantments far easier in Pauper, [card]Angelic Purge[/card] is unfortunately just a touch sub-par.
11. Stern Constable
White isn’t exactly known for its Madness and graveyard synergies, but this does open up a lot of possibilities. I can imagine trying out some sweet defensive brews where you get to defend yourself while you set up some recursion, or tempo people out by discarding [card]Basking Rootwalla[/card], for example.
The issue is that you almost certainly need to be multiple colours. You can’t go all-in on a White synergy deck with just this guy since he’ll probably die immediately. But throw in some pay-off Black, Green or Red Madness cards and you have yourself a deck. I like that this opens up avenues for exploration at the very least in a colour which is generally pretty one-dimensional in Pauper, and it has a shot of being played in competitive decks.
10. Twins of Maurer Estate
I don’t think this vampiric twosome is the strongest new release, but alongside [card]Gorgon Recluse[/card]-like enablers and other Madness creatures, this may provide the redundancy of playable creatures to add to a growing Madness core in Pauper. It’s not too far off discarding [card]Arrogant Wurm[/card] to your [card]Wild Mongrel[/card]. Right guys? Guys?
9. Rabid Bite
This is may be better than [card]Prey Upon[/card] in the sideboard of Pauper’s Green decks, coming in against other creature-heavy decks. Although not an instant-speed option, [card]Rabid Bite[/card] is much easier to use profitably, as you often were forced to wait or 2-for-1 yourself with [card]Prey Upon[/card], which isn’t something you want to do in Pauper: the Attritioning.
8. Crow of Dark Tidings
As much as the name makes me think about drawing four cards, this crow doesn’t meet the same power level. There are plenty of graveyard-filling cards as it is, but few of them threaten to “murder” your opponent while you do so, so I believe this card has potential. It helps [card]Tortured Existence[/card] decks find their value or recursion targets alongside the likes of [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/Card], while providing a serviceable creature to pressure their opponent. I like forcing my opponent to have to deal with things whilst setting up my engine, otherwise the opponent can choose to sit and only interact when it suits them or once I make a meaningful play. In certain archetypes I believe this card could fill a vital role – providing both card advantage and a clock.
7. Thraben Inspector
It costs one mana, provides value in the form of card draw for a low cost, so it has a shot for sure, especially if you can utilise the artifact token produced. At worst it’s like a [card]Sea Gate Oracle[/card] with split activation cost: overall a little less impactful but still has a strong shot.
6. Fiery Temper
Okay, I know it was already legal, but now with more on-colour support and Madness enablers, could this former Torment limited all-star bring Madness to the lofty heights of Pauper greatness?
5. Bloodmad Vampire
Red has always had a decent amount of Madness enablers, but there has never been enough of big hitters to make it worthwhile. Well, now you can [card]Lightning Axe[/card] away and make a guy for value! It’s pretty miserable to hard-cast, as I expect it would die or be chump blocked every time, but if you manage to clear the way or drop this top-heavy vampire at instant speed, a four-turn clock for a two-mana investment is one hell of a proposition.
Personally, I can see the potential of this card being a huge sideboard play, bringing in a playset after boarding after your opponent trims down their removal. I’m excited to try this guy out!
4. Vessel of Nascency
A one-card build-your-own-Delirium! This will activate your [card]Moldgraf Scavenger[/card] for all that’s worth, fuel your Delve creatures or provide early targets for [card]Tortured Existence[/card]. This vessel truly does it all! Whether this card is worth playing over the likes of [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/card], [card]Grisly Salvage[/card] or [card]Commune with the Gods[/card] will depend on whether your deck requires Delirium or simply an efficient way to dig for your vital pieces.
For now it’s a waiting game, perhaps the next set, Eldritch Moon, will provide us with some more value Delirium creatures at common, providing rationale for the Vessel’s inclusion in self-mill style decks in the format.
3. Just the Wind
Now this has potential! A cheap Madness [Card]Unsummon[/Card], perfect if you are trying to tempo people out or defend yourself whilst setting up a long game plan. In addition, Blue decks in Pauper need to discard to hand size during clean up surprisingly often, drawing cards or playing [card]Karoo[/card] lands, choosing to hold up counter magic rather than cast spells during main phases. So, the upside of providing an efficient bounce spell without losing a card makes Just the Wind a certain hit for the format.
The main downside is that since Pauper is so value-laden, many decks will have no creatures you want to bounce at all, i.e. [card]Mulldrifter[/card], [Card]Grey Merchant of Asphodel[/Card], etc. For this reason I don’t think you can get away with playing more than a couple of copies unless your deck is Madness-centric, or you are abusing this effect by recycling your own creatures. Overall, certainly a card to be toyed with in Pauper constructed.
2. Murderous Compulsion
As previously mentioned, inconsistency was a major issue for previous Pauper Madness decks, mainly due to a lack of hard removal options. Now I love me some [card]Dark Withering[/card], but when that card is bad, it’s really bad. Murderous Compulsion helps solve these problems, providing a solid removal spell when hard-cast or for its Madness cost. Being able to loot Murderous Compulsion away at instant speed in response to your opponent declaring attacks is a very cute interaction.
The Madness strategy may not be a tier one contender at this time, but removal options from Shadows over Innistrad may provide the tools required to push Madness into Pauper fanatics’ considerations.
1. Sanitarium Skeleton
Why hello there value skeleton! Insane Papyrus over here seems to be destined to have a tortured existence, and I’m excited to see what this means for the deck in the future. Even when you’re not actively playing [card]Tortured Existence[/card] for value, the skeleton will do a surprising amount of hard work in some matchups.
Edict effects (like already mentioned [card]Chainer’s Edict[/card]) are very common in Pauper, and this can take bullets for [card]Gurmag Angler[/card]s and companions all day long. Speaking of anglers, in a drawn out game this can dive in the way of enemy anglers over and over again for a mere four mana per turn – welcome to value town! With very little removal able to exile creatures in the format, this young skeleton looks to have found its place, even making a speed bump of itself for the [Card]Curse of the Blood Tome[/Card] matchups.
Anyway, for me the challenge now is to find the right supporting cast for this guy, since this is a unique and powerful effect at common. There are few things I like more than grinding my opponent into the dust, so whether it’s casting [Card]Chittering Rats[/Card] every turn, [card]Mulldrifter[/card]s, [card]Faultgrinder[/card]s, whatever floats my boat, I am looking forward to making the most inevitable machine possible.
The Pauper Traps in Shadows Over Innistrad
And finally I would like to take a look at a bunch of cards that I hear many people say are going to be quite good for Pauper, assessments which I actually disagree with. I could be wrong, I don’t think I am, however if I am then please do let me know your thoughts on them in the comments as I’d be very interested. OK, so here we go!
This does provide some value, but it’s still fairly expensive. Would actually be slightly better if it was a 2/3 I think, then it could bash through [card]Chittering Rat[/card]s and [card]Mulldrifter[/card]s etc. I expect people to try this for a little bit, then come to the conclusion that it’s a bit low impact for the 5 mana you end up with.
There are already a bunch of equipment-matters you could play, and this doesn’t do all that much. I mean it’s nice that it gets the bonus while your other guys are equipped, but 3 mana puts this in easy range of [card]Exclude[/card], and doesn’t provide value or particular resilience to any removal.
I could see trying it in an equipment deck, but ultimately it’s not going to make the deck any better overall.
Strength of Arms
No, don’t do it! The equipment decks already have enough problems drawing the right mix of creatures to equipment, don’t make it worse by adding combat tricks!
Just too expensive to compete with the other cantrip-creature options, even if it does have the biggest butt out of all those creatures. If simply everyone in your area plays Bolts and [card]Trained Armodon[/card]s for some reason, then uh, great!
You can already basically do this with [card]Obsessive Search[/card] at half the price, and that sees no play. Perhaps with their powers combined you can set up some nice draw engines, but there’s the nagging feeling that you’d probably just be better off casting [card]Ponder[/card]s and [card]Preordain[/card]s, or something that affects the board in some way if you are successfully Madness’ing things multiple turns in a row.
Pieces of the Puzzle
I want this to be good, I really do. Unfortunately there isn’t too much you can do with masses of instants and sorceries in your graveyard, except fuel Delve. And you can already do that super cheaply and instantly with [card]Thought Scour[/card] and [card]Mental Note[/card]. I think this is going to be a miss.
Alms of the Vein
I guess you can build a fairly sweet RB Madness deck, but I am not convinced. The base card is very weak, and while a value Lightning Helix to the face does sound sweet, it’s also pretty inflexible. I find it hard to believe that if you’re trying to burn people out, messing around with black mana in your deck and Madness enablers is worth it at all.
This has enough of a body to be at least somewhat annoying when you get the token out of it. You can kinda get value from it slowly if you are discarding it to something, but if you’re doing that, why aren’t you discarding [card]Grave Scrabbler[/card] or [card]Gorgon Recluse[/card] instead?
It’s not embarrassing to have in your deck I don’t think, but overall I think you can do better.
Remember: you can play [card]Sign in Blood[/card] and [card]Read the Bones[/card] if you are mono black, and way better card draw spells in blue. You can try and get cute with persist guys or whatever, but I think I’d rather usually just keep my creatures in play.
I guess you can play some if everyone you know is just desperately trying to [card]Capsize[/card] lock you, but otherwise I’d steer clear.
Vessel of Malignity
There are SO MANY [card]Mind Rot[/card]s available. So many! This does give a Mono Black deck something to do on turn 2 I guess, but giving your opponent forewarning of the impending effect lets them plan for it easier too.
If there had been any playable black Delirium cards I might have bumped it up a bit, but I’m going to add this to the pile of black discard piles in my collection.
This isn’t a good card exactly. But it might be a card you need if you’re trying to go deep on Madness and you are also trying to attack them. Remember that [card]Hapless Researcher[/card] is also legal but this is Red so you get to feel cooler casting it. I’m going to call it a miss since I think the body itself is a bit on the irrelevant side, but sometimes you gotta work with what you’ve got, and maybe [card]Tormenting Voice[/card]s and [card]Faithless Looting[/card]s aren’t enough.
I think it’s too expensive for the [card]Kiln Fiend[/card] type decks. I like that it’s not so all-in, so it gets better with a more measured approach, but 4 mana is a ton.
I don’t think this is the kind of value you want to get in your Madness deck. It’s already hard enough to assemble discard outlet + appropriate things under pressure, adding this in to the mix is just asking for trouble.
I do want you to prove me super wrong though.
Generally just worst than [card]Temur Battle Rage[/card] if you are putting it on the creatures that make it scary. I guess it’s better if you’re using it in a more fair and honest capacity, like suiting up a guy with [card]Rancor[/card], but overall I’m unimpressed.
Green has no shortage of value creatures already, like [card]Civic Wayfinder[/card] and [card]Elvish Visionary[/card] etc. I don’t think the body is good enough to make the ability worthwhile.
Cute with cycling lands, but [card]Tilling Treefolk[/card] can already do it better. I guess you can play both, for the grand prize of building your own green [card]Mulldrifter[/card] or large [card]Elvish Visionary[/card]. Seems like a lot of work for not much pay-off to me.
The proverbial [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] in the room. Working on the basis that Delirium is fairly easy to activate, I still don’t think this is going to be good. Vanilla creatures are actually dreadful in Pauper, since you can rarely finish a game quickly with them in time. Hyper aggressive decks can beat down, but once you add in the required card types to turn on Delirium, your deck just isn’t going to be that fast. Even going all in like, cycle [card]Street Wraith[/card], [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], [card]Evolving Wild[/card]s turn 1 for a turn 2 3/4 is simply not impressing anyone in Pauper, since the pay-off is so easily handled.
It might well enable some Rock-style decks, but I can’t imagine those decks being good enough versus any of the top decks in Pauper. I am sure people will play this against me a whole lot in the coming weeks, but I’m going to be happy to see it when they do.
Generally worse than [card]Evolving Wild[/card]s or [card]Terramorphic Expanse[/card] for fixing colours. I can imagine a very specific scenario where you have a deck that absolutely cannot have ETB tapped lands, also doesn’t mind colourless mana, but also at some point needs a single off-colour basic. In which case, I guess this finds you your [card]Swamp[/card] to Flashback [card]Mystical Teaching[/card]s.
Did I Miss Anything?
Whew! I think that’s everything. Is it? Did I miss anything? Did I undervalue or overvalue any cards? Please let me know in the comments below!
Ciao for now,