Common Enemies

Posted in Building on a Budget on January 8, 2009

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Hi, and welcome back to Building on a Budget. One of the most exciting things to happen in the last few weeks on Magic Online is the introduction of Pauper four-person tournaments in the not-so-aptly-named Eight-Player Constructed room. I've received a lot of requests asking me to explore this format and come up with some lists.

What is Pauper? Pauper is a Constructed Magic format where players are only permitted to play with commons. Cranial Plating is banned. The format is newly supported on Magic Online and largely unexplored.

What cards are good in Pauper? Right now the dominant deck seems to be White-Blue Artifacts. This deck uses powerful affinity cards, like Frogmite and Myr Enforcer, and combines them with the card drawing power of either Rush of Knowledge or Mulldrifter in conjunction with Momentary Blink.

Rush of Knowledge

Other decks that seem to have larger followings are Mono-Green Elves, White Weenie, Storm, and more dedicated Affinity decks.

When building your first Pauper deck, it's important to recognize the characteristics of the format and build accordingly.

1. Most decks have artifacts!

Cards like Ancient Grudge may seem like awesome sideboard choices, and they are, but they may have a place in your main deck when you consider that about 80 percent of your opponents' decks will be packing a healthy dose of metal.

2. Mass removal spells are almost nonexistent—take advantage!

Usually when playing Constructed it's hard to know when to play another threat or hold back. In Pauper you can happily play threat after threat and not have to worry.

3. Card advantage is hard to come by—take it where you can.

It's important to make sure you won't run out of steam. There are a number of cards that I would recommend not leaving home without at least a few of:

Civic Wayfinder: Civic Wayfinder is incredible! It provides a body that can attack or trade, it fixes your mana, and it puts you at plus one card. If your deck has a significant amount of green and is playing "fair," this should definitely make the cut.

Trinket Mage: This is blue's answer to Civic Wayfinder. Players can play some artifact lands of their colors and use Trinket Mage to go find what they need. Artifacts are more susceptible to hate, but Trinket Mage has the added bonus of being able to find cards like Æther Spellbomb or Pyrite Spellbomb.

Mulldrifter: The power level of this adorable monster is underestimated at this point in my opinion. It provides an evasive body and two cards, and there aren't many deals like this in a world of commons.

Thoughtcast: If your deck is playing enough artifacts it's important to bring this to battle.

Ravnica Block bounce lands: These are pure card advantage. They fix your mana and set you up to do despicable things.

Ninja of the Deep Hours: It's hard to lose if your deck has the removal to back up a turn-two Ninja.

There are a lot of cards that I've always want to build a deck around that just didn't seem strong enough in formats like Standard or Extended. One of my favorite cards of all time is Leonin Squire; it's just so much fun to play with.

I decided the best way to explore a new format would be to shove all of my perceived "best cards" into a deck and take it for a test drive. After some fiddling around with numbers I made this list.

White-Blue Artifacts

Download Arena Decklist

First of all, the deck works beautifully and I wouldn't suggest changing a single card. I'll explain why each card is so important.

Chromatic Star, Chromatic Sphere, and Terrarion: These make the deck tick. My mana base isn't going to win any beauty pageants, but these make playing my spells pretty easy. They're not dead in the late game either, and they result in huge amounts of card advantage as the game progresses with your Leonin Squire and Trinket Mage. In the late game you'll often just tutor up a Chromatic Star with your Trinket Mage for the extra card. It's absolutely necessary to play with at least the four Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere; the Terrarion simply acts as number nine.

The Creatures

Leonin Squire

Leonin Squire: Leonin Squire is incredible. In the early game it usually acts like a Silvergill Adept and gets back one of your cantrip artifacts. As the game progresses it picks up juicy targets like Pyrite Spellbomb and Executioner's Capsule. At the very least it replaces itself with the draw off your cantrip. I really like this guy and think it's an undervalued powerhouse in the format.

Trinket Mage: Trinket Mage serves every function imaginable. It fetches up whatever you need at the moment. It fixes your mana and finds you removal spells. Sometimes it just nets you an extra card by fetching a Chromatic Star. Trinket Mage also finds your Bonesplitter.

Man-o'-War: Man-o'-War lets us keep up with the decks that come out of the gates quickly. It's probably the weakest card in the deck, but I don't think there's a better three cost creature available. It has enough synergy with our Momentary Blink to make it good enough to maindeck.

Blind Hunter: Blind Hunter is one of the best cards in Pauper Magic. A resolved Blind Hunter will result in an 8 point life swing before a single attack. It has excellent synergy with Momentary Blink, and the combination of those cards in your deck will make your opponent play very differently. An opponent will almost never let themselves drop to 4 life while you have Blind Hunter in fear of Momentary Blink plus flashback. You can abuse this accordingly and often manipulate the pace of play.

Mulldrifter: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mulldrifter is the most adorable little mush ever. It's hard to explain just how incredible it is in the deck. It's the best Momentary Blink target in the entire format and it's an effective threat with Bonesplitter. I'm almost certain that Mulldrifter is the best card in the entire format—play four.

The Spells

Pyrite Spellbomb: It's fetchable with your Trinket Mage and it kills most creatures played in the format. It goes to the head and, at times, you can Momentary Blink your Leonin Squire and loop enough damage to finish off your opponent. This is probably one of the most valuable Trinket Mage targets in the deck, and I've been very happy with it.

Executioner's Capsule: Shards of Alara gave us this little gem, and it doesn't disappoint. Again, we can tutor for it with Trinket Mage and use it to kill a threat. This time around it can kill just about everything (with the exception of Glaze Fiend, Ravenous Rats, and Blind Hunter).

Momentary Blink: I've already explained how powerful this is with our creature base, and it's absolutely necessary in the deck.

Ancient Grudge: It may seem awkward playing this in the main, and if you want to swap it out for some Steamcore Weird I wouldn't fault you. A big problem I've had in Pauper is dealing with early Myr Enforcer. A lot of times people just drop a pair of 4/4s by the third turn and I can't find the time to stabilize. Ancient Grudge gives me the ability to deal with the lightning-fast draws that Affinity decks get sometimes and usually has relevant targets in other matchups too. Our deck draws a lot of extra cards, and it's not particularly important that all our cards do something. You'll find yourself with a full grip most of the time, and it's fine to have some maindeck hate against a deck as powerful as Affinity.

Bonesplitter: It's important to note that most of our creatures are 2/2s. When our opponents start playing 2/4 Spire Golem and 4/4 Myr Enforcer it's important to have a way to trade with their creatures. We can fetch up the singleton Bonesplitter and suddenly all our creatures can trade with whatever our opponents are attacking or blocking with. This is an extremely important one-of—don't cut it!

The Lands

The artifacts lands are tutor targets for Trinket Mage. The Ravnica bounce lands are incredibly powerful, and they smooth out our mana while providing us with extra cards. The mana for this deck is surprisingly smooth with our nine cantrip mana-fixing artifacts.

The Sideboard

Steamcore Weird: I don't really like Steamcore Weird, but I think it's important for our deck to stabilize quickly. This card accomplishes the stabilization goal very well. It takes out a Ninja of the Deep Hours and stays around to block the army of Ravenous Rats that your opponent is trying to kill you with.

Rain of Embers and Hurly Burly: Elves can get some really aggressive draws that put our deck on the defensive. These cards are usually actual two-mana Wrath of God in this matchup, and it's important to have them at the ready. They're also valuable tools against the Storm decks that try to kill you with Empty the Warrens tokens.

The rest of the sideboard is filled out with additional copies of main-deck cards that work especially well in particular matchups.

I took the deck to battle in a four-person Pauper tournament.

Round 1 vs. Affinity

Ancient Grudge

I was on the draw for Game 1. I kept Chromatic Sphere, Ancient Den, Island, Dimir Aqueduct, Leonin Squire, Leonin Squire, and Man-o'-War. My opponent played an Arcbound Worker on turn one, and I played my Chromatic Sphere. On turn two he made a Frogmite and played a Thoughtcast. On my second turn I sacrificed the Sphere and played the Leonin Squire returning Sphere back to my hand. I drew into one of my Ancient Grudge. He attacked with his Frogmite and I traded. He tapped out and made a pair of Myr Enforcer and Springleaf Drum. I played my Great Furnace and Ancient Grudged an Enforcer before replaying my Sphere. He just played a land, attacked, and passed. I used the Sphere to Grudge the other Enforcer, played my second Leonin Squire returning the Sphere again, played a bounce land, and passed the turn back. He played a Somber Hoverguard and passed. I drew a Mulldrifter this turn and played it off the Sphere. I drew another Grudge. On his turn I traded the 'Drifter with his Hoverguard. On my turn I played a Blind Hunter with Momentary Blink backup and attacked with my Squire. He played another Thoughtcast and drew into a Frogmite and Myr Enforcer. On my turn I played the Ancient Grudge targeting his Enforcer. He said a few PG things about me having that card in the main, and we were off to Game 2.

Sideboarding: I took out the Pyrite Spellbomb and added a fourth Ancient Grudgeand the second Bonesplitter. (It lets all my randoms trade with Myr Enforcer.)

In Game 2 my opponent went down to five cards and I had one of my Ancient Grudge in my opener along with the tools to play it. I beat him down with a Blind Hunter and he never stuck a real threat.

Match Record: 1-0
Game Record: 2-0

Round 2 vs. Grixis (Parlor Tricks)

I won the play, went down to six cards and kept Island, Orzhov Basilica, Trinket Mage, Mulldrifter, Chromatic Star, and Blind Hunter.

A quick sidenote: This deck mulligans very well. Don't be afraid to go to six, as the deck is very forgiving.

I played my Star and passed. My opponent played a land and passed. I played my bounce land, and he played a Ravenous Rats. I discarded the Terrarion I drew the turn before. On my next turn I played the Trinket Mage and got a Pyrite Spellbomb. He played Skred on my Mage and attacked with the Rats, then used Ninjitsu to put a Ninja of the Deep Hours on the table. I drew and played my Spellbomb and sacrificed it to kill his Ninja. I played the Azorius Chancery I drew and passed. He replayed the Ravenous Rats, and I discarded the land I bounced. On my next turn I played a Mulldrifter. He simply played another Ravenous Rats (I discarded another land) and passed. I played a Bonesplitter, equipped, and got in for 4. Then I played a Blind Hunter. On his turn he played Steamcore Weird, killing my Mulldrifter. I drew a second Blind Hunter, equipped the first one, attacked for 4, and played another. On his turn he attacked with the Weird and I blocked. Then he played a main-phase Ninja of the Deep Hours. On my next turn I drew a Momentary Blink and killed him with Blind Hunter.

Sideboarding: I took out the Man-o'-Wars and the Executioner's Capsules and put in the four Steamcore Weird and the Bonesplitter.

In Game 2 I kept Plains, Leonin Squire, Terrarion, Island, Dimir Aqueduct, Mulldrifter, and Steamcore Weird. My opponent played a land and passed, and I played a land and my Terrarion. He played a Dimir Aqueduct of his own on turn two. I drew another Island, sacrificed my Terrarion, and played Leonin Squire to get it back. I drew into another Steamcore Weird. He played Ravenous Rats, and I discarded an Island. On my next turn I simply replayed the Terrarion, played my Aqueduct, and passed. He played a Steamcore Weird and got in for 1. I played my Steamcore Weird off the red from Terrarion and killed his Rat. I drew a Blind Hunter, and he played a Ninja of the Deep Hours. I drew Chromatic Sphere, played it, used it for red, and played another Steamcore Weird killing his Ninja. He played another Ravenous Rats, and I discarded another land. I played my Blind Hunter and a Bonesplitter. He eventually drew Death Denied, but it was entirely too late. I had drawn a ton of extra cards and gotten him low enough to kill him with Momentary Blinks on my Blind Hunter.

Blind Hunter
Momentary Blink

Match Record: 2-0
Game Record: 4-0

That went well! I think this deck is a real powerhouse, and you'll probably find me playing it for the next few weeks online. Thanks for reading and I'll see your next week.

Go brew up a Pauper deck!

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