Merchants and Paupers

Posted in Feature on October 23, 2013

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

After the recent bannings, Pauper has slowed down a bit, which I like. It's still a fast format, with monocolored aggressive decks claiming their fair share of territory, but at least now there is more room for decidedly midrange decks such as this. Before, decks like this couldn't really compete with the more broken Cloudpost or Temporal Fissure decks, even though they did see some play. Now, I think that playing a midrange deck could just be a smart idea, especially if the deck has good matchups against the aggro decks you predict will be popular.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

This deck is headlined by an addition from Theros, which is rare, or at least not common. New cards don't often make such a big impact, but Gray Merchant (or Gary, as he's known to his friends), is powerful enough to drive this deck. Corrupt is certainly still a big deal, but Gary does change how the deck plays out, making it more of a combo deck than it used to be. All it has to do is stall, play some cards, and just double drain the opponent to death.

Chittering Rats, Cuombajj Witches, and Liliana's Specter already earned their spots, but their casting costs make them especially valuable now. Along with Phyrexian Rager and Crypt Rats, it isn't hard to establish a board presence and get 6–10 random damage through, all while heavily disrupting the opponent. Crypt Rats even adds yet another Fireball to the deck, making it increasingly likely that this deck can burn the opponent out.

The spells in the deck are also well-suited to this plan. Sign in Blood is the best, simply because it turns excess life into more Gray Merchants and Corrupts, with the rest of the spells aimed at keeping you alive. Black has access to all sorts of awesome removal, which isn't much of a surprise, and the wealth of one- and two-mana options let this deck avoid falling too far behind. If it does manage to do so, Tendrils of Corruption is fantastic at erasing any missteps, and curving nicely into the five- and six-mana lifegain spells.

I'm still keeping my eye on Pauper for sweet new lists, although I like this Theros-inspired update to the mono-black deck that has been around for years.

flushpuppyTRB's Mono-Black Mercantile Association

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