The Pauper Gauntlet

Posted in Magic Online on August 1, 2018

By Dan Musser

A former tournament grinder from Ohio, Dan is currently part of the Play Design team within Magic R&D.

It is time for another Magic Online Gauntlet! This time we delve into Magic's most "common" format: Pauper!

What is the Pauper Gauntlet?

This is an event for you to quickly dip your toes into the delightful Pauper format without doing all the work and spending a ton of time analyzing lists and lists of cards. Here, we have chosen eleven top decks that represent the Pauper metagame. When you sign up for the Pauper Gauntlet, one deck will be randomly selected, and you will be able to play that deck during the entire League, though you won't be able to keep those cards at the end of that event.

Pauper? Why Pauper?

Pauper has a robust history of support from the community. In the early days of Magic Online, before there was League support, fans and players took to forums to organize independent Pauper challenges and events. These days, community support for the format is larger than ever, with paper Pauper tournaments popping up everywhere from Grand Prix and other premier tournaments to even many local stores. There are forums dedicated to analyzing the format. But the largest and most vibrant Pauper community remains on Magic Online, where thousands of players compete each week.

What decks are in the Pauper Gauntlet?

Want to rebuy your Spellstutter Sprite using the ninjitsu ability of your Ninja of the Deep Hours, drawing a card and setting up another Spellstutter counter? How about draining your opponent's life with Gray Merchant of Asphodel while you have Cuombajj Witches and Oubliette on the battlefield? Maybe sacrificing all your artifacts to the great Atog to create one giant monster is more your style?

Pauper is full of awesome decks, and we have chosen eleven of the top strategies for you to enjoy.

The Decks

Izzet Delver

Pauper's premier tempo deck. The main strategy here is to apply pressure with an early Delver of Secrets, backed up with removal in the form of Skred and Lightning Bolt tossed in with a little disruption from the classic Counterspell. Spellstutter Sprite pulls double duty, being a pesky attacker while also providing some light interaction. Augur of Bolas and Ninja of the Deep Hours allow you to get back some desired value after tussling one-for-one with your opponent in the early game.

Izzet Delver


Boros Midrange

Value is the name of the game with this artifact-based Boros midrange deck. Begin accruing card advantage by deploying an early Thraben Inspector or Prophetic Prism. Follow that up with evasive threats Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk, which also let you rebuy your initial value permanents. After pecking away at your opponent with your flying threats, finish them off with your powerful burn spells, Galvanic Blast and Lightning Bolt.

Boros Midrange


Inside Out Combo

The most feared Pauper combo deck features a seemingly innocuous defensive creature, Tireless Tribe. The primary goal here is to discard a whole bunch of cards, giving Tireless Tribe a huge amount of toughness, and then cast Inside Out to attack for massive damage. Facilitating this delicate interaction are a few protection spells in Dispel and Circular Logic. Gush can put four cards in your hand all by itself, giving you plenty of fuel to discard to the Tribe. To top it all off, make sure you can break through blockers by casting Shadow Rift. (Note: Even if you discard cards to Tireless Tribe after casting Inside Out, you will pump its power!)

Inside Out Combo


Elves

Throughout Magic's rich history, plenty of powerful Elves have been printed. In the initial turns, your goal is to develop a few mana-producing creatures such as Llanowar Elves and Priest of Titania. What you do next will depend on what your opponent is doing. Need to gain a bunch of life? Use Wellwisher in combination with Quirion Ranger. Does your opponent have spot removal? Lys Alana Huntmaster has your back. Ready to defeat the enemy? Timberwatch Elf to the rescue! Finally, if you want to draw more cards than anyone else, Lead the Stampede and Distant Melody are just what you need.

Elves


Mono-Black Control

One of Pauper's longest-standing control decks. Using a myriad of the most efficient common removal spells in Magic, Mono-Black Control seeks to keep the battlefield clear of opposing threats. Cards like Crypt Rats and Chainer's Edict can handle most of what the format can throw at you. Chittering Rats and Phyrexian Rager let you stay ahead on cards while you dig for your finishers: Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Gurmag Angler.

Mono-Black Control


Burn

No Eternal format would be complete without the classic option to burn faces! This is one of the fastest decks in the format, so don't be afraid to start tossing Lava Spikes as early as turn one. Pauper Burn uses Dominaria's own Ghitu Lavarunner alongside Thermo-Alchemist to complement its potent package of 3-damage burn spells. Try to avoid using your burn spells on all but the most troublesome of creatures; Searing Blaze is the perfect card for that task. A couple of Lightning Bolts and a Fireblast should be able to finish the job in fiery fashion.

Burn


Stompy

If you're looking for a good ol' attacking strategy, Pauper Stompy is your deck. Pressure your opponent early with the likes of Nettle Sentinel and Vault Skirge. Next up, we have River Boa and Silhana Ledgewalker which are evasive and difficult to remove. Don't forget to turn on your morbid Hunger of the Howlpack by sacrificing an Eldrazi Scion from Nest Invader. Quirion Ranger lets you keep some land-light hands with its ability to tap a Forest, return it to your hand, then play it again for more mana.

Stompy


Five-Color Tron

Don't want to use Elves to get your ramp fix? Don't worry, Urza's "Tron" lands are here to let you cast the biggest, flashiest common spells the Multiverse has to offer. In Pauper, Tron is mostly a blue-based control deck seeking to use Expedition Map and Prophetic Prism to take advantage of the huge amount of colorless mana produced by Urza's Tower and friends. Once you have achieved Tron status, try and combo Mnemonic Wall, Ghostly Flicker, and any of your other sweet value permanents. You can also use your multitude of mana to simply Rolling Thunder your opponent into oblivion, maybe even taking their board with them for funsies.

Five-Color Tron


Dimir Control

Unlike Mono-Black Control, Dimir Control is a bit more traditional. This Pauper strategy uses removal spells like Disfigure and Doom Blade to destroy threats that make it onto the battlefield and counterspells like, well, Counterspell, to defend you against anything too wild. Mulldrifter combined with Forbidden Alchemy should keep the cards flowing. After the dust is settled and you've drowned your opponent in card advantage, you're ready to finish them off with a Gurmag Angler or two.

Dimir Control


Affinity

Unlike today's Modern Affinity decks, here in the Pauper format, we have actual affinity cards! With a mana base full of artifact lands like Great Furnace and Seat of the Synod, you can get onto the battlefield quickly with Frogmite and Myr Enforcer. Keep the artifacts coming with Thoughtcast and Ichor Wellspring to refill your hand as fast as you cast your discounted spells. And if your early beaters can't get the job done, go ahead and sacrifice a bunch of artifacts to the mighty Atog, and break through with either Fling or Temur Battle Rage.

Affinity


Bogles

Slippery Bogle and pals aren't just Modern menaces. Magic's history has plenty of great common Auras to enhance everyone's favorite neighborhood beast. Here, the name of the game is to start with a difficult-to-target creature and then load it with power-buffing Auras. Once you have successfully suited up your little buddy, look for a Rancor or Armadillo Cloak to trample over your opponent's pithy little creatures. Watch out for spells like Diabolic Edict that cause you to sacrifice a creature. To get around this, wait to create a giant monster until you have some extra expendable creatures from Khalni Garden or Cartouche of Solidarity.

Bogles

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