What Are The Top 10 Best Magic: The Gathering Pauper Constructed Staples To Invest In?
Nowadays it has become habitual, players and traders from across the planet visiting Magic: The Gathering websites daily to check card values for trading purposes, maybe even to gauge the value of their chosen deck or perhaps their entire collection.
I myself thoroughly enjoy hedging my bets before a new set, pre-ordering cards which I believe will be format leading staples, checking sites such as MTGStocks to monitor price changes over time. I’ve had some successes, with bulk buying and trading [Card]Boros Reckoner[/Card]s at $1 a piece before the release of Gatecrash being one of my best memories, whilst the multiple playsets of [Card]Avaricious Dragon[/Card] currently in my folder perfectly summarise the risks of speculating on new set releases.
It is a behaviour vital to the continuing strength of Magic: The Gathering’s underlying secondary market, especially when new sets are released and Wizards announce changes to existing ban lists. And what are the odds! We’ve just had both! Thus following up on Matthew Gregory’s articles on the top pick-ups from Shadows over Innistrad as well as the changes to the Modern ban list, I am going to discuss which Pauper staples would make fantastic investments to add to your collection.
So I know what you’re thinking: “Come on, George, investing in Commons?” Why yes of course! As discussed in my recent article, powerful commons throughout Magic: The Gathering’s history have provided the backbone for the some of the most powerful builds of all time and, in some cases despite multiple reprints, some select commons still maintain a higher than average price tag. And although the backing of Pauper constructed by Wizards may not elevate prices to the point where the entry barrier becomes extortionate, my pro tip for the day is to start investing in some of the cards listed below, especially those which carry weight across multiple formats.
For those who know me from my local game store (The Games Shop, Aldershot) or on the MTGUK Trade Group on Facebook, you will know that I am a notorious magpie, but when investing in Pauper there is no better time to join the hunt for foils. Yes, due to their low print run or use in multiple top tier decks in other formats, their price may be above what you’d expect to shell out for a lowly common. But as when a new breakout deck hits the ground running in Modern or Standard, foils of select cards will spike sharply in value ([Card]Summer Bloom[/Card] comes to mind), so pick them up before they’re hot.
Like its other constructed counterparts, Pauper is a hugely variable, archetype-centric format and, as a result, there are certain cards specific to said archetypes that do carry a higher value. My following selections on which to speculate will not just be reviewed on their value but also their flexibility across multiple decks in the format, reflecting the best cards in general in which to invest.
So without further ado, let’s get underway with some honourable mentions.
Best Pauper Investments – Honourable Mentions
[Card]Chainer’s Edict[/Card], [Card]Disfigure[/Card] and [Card]Flame Slash[/Card] are some of the more flexible removal options in the format, with many decks able to afford to splash one of these cards, whilst the Circle of Protection cycle provide some decks with defences against difficult or non-interactive match ups. [Card]Chainer’s Edict[/Card] brings with it an air of uncertainty however, and its legality in paper Pauper is under discussion as it was only printed at common on MTGO.
The other cards I have selected as honourable mentions are all very individually suited to specific Pauper archetypes: [Card]Oubliette[/Card] and [Card]Chain Lightning[/Card], key pieces in Mono Black Control and Burn respectively, already hold a hefty price tag despite their Common rarity. [Card]Fangren Marauder[/Card] is a card dear to my heart as part of my RUG Tron deck, and is my tip of the day if you are looking to pick up a bargain Pauper foil.
The Tron Lands themselves are also extremely safe investments, as Tron appears to be on the rise up the rankings of the Pauper metagame online and has survived the bleak Eldrazi winter in Modern. [Card]Nettle Sentinel[/Card] has started to expand beyond its Elvish heritage to see inclusion in some Mono Green Stompy lists, and its current $2 price tag is definitely one to keep an eye on for an Eternal staple that has only seen a single printing thus far.
Now, we move onto the Top 10. The cards I have selected are format staples and yet are very affordable cards to speculate on if Wizards chooses to endorse Pauper in the near future. One common theme throughout is the lack of stock available online – they’re out of stock everywhere! Time to get investing!
The Top 10 Best Pauper Staples in Which to Invest
Legacy Reanimator all-star [Card]Exhume[/Card] starts off our countdown. Originally printed at Common in Urza’s Saga due to its balanced effect, various Dredge and Delve strategies have been utilising the powerful Sorcery in Pauper to reanimate the likes of [Card]Ulamog’s Crusher[/Card] for years, normally as a plan B alongside [Card]Gurmag Angler[/Card], [Card]Hooting Mandrills[/Card] and [Card]Tortured Existence[/card]. With very little graveyard hate in the format, most strategies focusing on shoring up sideboard plans against the top tier decks, [Card]Exhume[/Card] and other graveyard-centric builds have more room to manoeuvre in Pauper making for some explosive plays.
Exhume currently sits at around the $2 mark and, ironically, you can actually find the single foil printing from the Premium Deck: Graveborn for even cheaper. Trading into a Legacy mainstay is a sound investment, and the new Delirium mechanic and enablers from Shadows over Innistrad may provide further rationale for speculating on [Card]Exhume[/Card].
In a similar fashion to [Card]Disfigure[/Card], [Card]Firebolt[/Card] kills almost everything in the format, including players. Whether fighting off [Card]Delver of Secrets[/Card] or [Card]Spellstutter Sprite[/Card], [Card]Sparksmith[/Card] or [Card]Vault Skirge[/Card], [Card]Firebolt[/Card] is one of the most splashed-for removal spells in the format and Flashback provides a metaphorical eight copies of [Card]Shock[/Card], playable through the format’s various “Eggs” ([Card]Prismatic Lens[/Card], for example) and even when milled with a [Card]Mulch[/Card] effect.
Originally printed in the set where it all began for myself, Odyssey, [Card]Firebolt[/Card] has seen two further Duel Deck reprints, but the set foil and FNM promo printings can be picked up around the $2.50 mark.
Apparently I am attempting to break the record for the number of single-word card names I can include in a single top 10 list! Snap is a debatable inclusion, mostly seeing play in the top tier Mono Blue Aggro deck, but has begun to see play as part of the explosive UR [Card]Kiln Fiend[/Card] combo. The “free spell” cycle has proven extremely powerful in Pauper, with both [Card]Frantic Search[/Card] and most recently [Card]Cloud of Faeries[/Card] faced with bans in the past year, thus Snap remains the format’s last man standing.
Already reaching the heady heights of $3 per copy, foils peaking at $10, Snap is a solid investment not only due to its current value, but also for the low likelihood for reprint for an effect as powerful as that printed on Snap.
Artifact Land Cycle from Mirrodin – Ancient Den, Great Furnace, Seat of the Synod, Tree of Tales, Vault of Whispers
Banned in Modern. Banned in Mirrodin Block Constructed. The artifact land cycle from Mirrodin has been breaking formats for more than a decade, and they prompt some of the most explosive plays in Pauper. Fueling of course the Affinity deck, synergies surrounding [Card]Kuldotha Rebirth[/Card] and [Card]Glint Hawk[/Card] have brought about many intricate brews, as well as activating Metalcraft for powerful cards including Modern powerhouse [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card].
[Card]Ancient Den[/Card] ($3), [Card]Great Furnace[/Card] ($2) and [Card]Seat of the Synod[/Card] ($2) see the most play in Pauper, whilst foils range from $4 ([Card]Tree of Tales[/Card]) to $16 ([Card]Seat of the Synod[/Card]). Although not legal in other formats besides Legacy and Vintage, the artifact land cycle’s influence stretches far beyond Affinity alone and are worth the investment while they maintain their current prices.
[Card]Chromatic Star[/Card] is one of the most efficient mana fixers in the format, and sees play, as it does in Modern, in Tron as well as some builds of Affinity. The reason I have included Star over [Card]Chromatic Sphere[/Card] is due to the rising popularity of [Card]Kuldotha Rebirth[/Card] or “Kitty” strategies in the Pauper metagame: Together with [Card]Ichor Wellspring[/Card], [Card]Chromatic Star[/Card] can be sacrificed as part of the Rebirth’s cost, or to pump up an [Card]Atog[/Card], to draw a card without requiring the mana investment.
Despite being reprinted at uncommon in Tenth Edition, Star still retains its $4 price tag, dwarfing [Card]Chromatic Sphere[/Card] by $3. With the changing environment of Modern ever an incentive, I would gauge picking up a set of Stars at this time as a safe speculation ahead of major changes in the format.
Another selection of Eternal staples breaking into the top five of my top Pauper investments are the Blue “cantrip” suite of Preordain, Ponder and, to a lesser extent, Brainstorm. Preordain and Ponder form the core of various Delver strategies in the format, playing a similar role as Brainstorm in Legacy, replacing itself and fixing your future draws. However, with the lack of efficient shuffle effects, Brainstorm is mainly seen in Domain decks with access to eight or more [Card]Evolving Wilds[/Card] effects.
Each of this cantrip trio have sat at the $2 mark for a few years now since the banning of both Preordain and Ponder in Modern, and even with the looming shadow of Eternal Masters in the distance I don’t see these prices shifting if they are included. Definitely top pick-ups, but if you are on the hunt for foils, I would hold firm and wait for the June releases to begin foraging.
This card boggles – Literally! Yes Rancor breaks into the top five on my list of Pauper investments, and for good reason: A vital piece for the Aura Hexproof or “Bogles” deck in both Modern and Pauper, and providing support for the Green-based Stompy lists gaining in popularity. Often appearing as a celebrated Standard stalwart, Rancor’s ability to recur itself once its bearer has died has been the backbone of Green creature based strategies for nigh on two decades. No frills, just sheer power!
Hazard a guess at the number of times Rancor has been reprinted? Six, yes six times plus an FNM promo, and yet the best friend to Bogles incredibly weighs in at $5. In my opinion, with the loss of Core Set Expansions in 2015, I can’t see Rancor being reprinted in the near future having been recently included in Duel Deck Anthologies. Rancor is at its highest circulation and I would recommend picking up a set if you are looking to play Bogles or Stompy in Pauper.
I bet you were wondering how far down this list Delver of Secrets would land, right? Undeniably, Delver is one of the most powerful commons ever printed and dominated the format as the spearhead for the Mono Blue Aggro deck. Losing Cloud of Faeries in January reduced the overall power level of the deck however, balancing the format for the better, but Delver lists are still making an impact. Despite its setbacks, not many cards remain a Modern, Legacy, Vintage and Pauper powerhouse, responsible for 25% of the Pauper metagame online, thus Delver shows its prowess as a true Eternal staple.
Delver is actually at an all-time high of $3 each ($15 for foil) at the time of writing this article, trending upwards incrementally since its printing. Although it always has and will be a staple of the format, looking ahead to the upcoming release of Eternal Masters I would be tempted to hold off until June (if you can).
One of the most versatile tools in the format, in its worst light [Card]Mulldrifter[/Card] is a humble [Card]Divination[/Card]. But when combined with the mana potential of Tron, or value from cards such as [Card]Haunted Fengraf[/Card] and [Card]Kor Skyfisher[/Card], now my friends you have yourself an engine. Placing above Delver due to the sheer number of decks in which it features, [Card]Mulldrifter[/Card] has been a powerhouse in Pauper since its inception, providing an efficient card draw engine on an evasive body.
Out of all the cards featured on my top ten list, [Card]Mulldrifter[/Card] is the single card most consistently sold out on many major MTG traders (in all Common printings). True you can use your Modern Masters copies, but myself like many others, I prefer the consistency of using common printings throughout my Pauper deck. At less than $1, Lorwyn foils at $4 and FNM promos at $5, [Card]Mulldrifter[/Card] is an extremely cheap pick up for more than half a dozen decks in the format, and a great investment.
THE premier removal spell of all time, no question. [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card] has been a dominant presence in all formats, the bane of all small creatures and making players stuck under three life tremble in their boots since Alpha. Part of the cycle that included [Card]Ancestral Recall[/Card] and [Card]Dark Ritual[/Card], [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card] has been played in 31% of all Pauper decks ever registered online, proving it is not just a Burn spell.
Looking back over the last five years, Revised, Core Set and Modern Masters printings have risen to the $4 mark, whilst Alpha and Beta Bolts have tripled in price to around $150 and $90 respectively. Along the same lines as [Card]Rancor[/Card], the loss of Core Sets from future Magic expansions means that the printing of [Card]Lighting Bolt[/Card] may be limited to sets such as Modern Masters or this summer’s Eternal Masters in the future. However, for a card that has featured in such major denominations in past Standard formats, Modern, Legacy and even Vintage, a $4 cost for the best common removal spell ever printed makes [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card] my top investment for Pauper Constructed Magic.
It was inevitable that Modern and Legacy staples were to dominate my list of top Pauper investments, further proving the power level of the format. Furthermore, each of the top ten can be picked up for less than $5 per copy, and I hope I have shed some light on where to invest, even if you haven’t got a deck in mind thus far.
Signing off for today. Good luck to everyone heading off to Barcelona this weekend, and keep an eye on Manaleak.com for future Pauper articles, next time delving into the top tier decks of the format.
Community Question: In your opinion, what are the best 5 MTG Commons to invest in and why?
Thanks for reading,