Changes To Pauper
In preparation for this week’s monthly Pauper tournament at the Tower, we’re discussing the recent changes to Pauper. Today we’ll be covering:
1. Blue-black Delver banned out of existence
2. Modern Horizons
3. Pauper now a sanctioned format
For a while, Blue-black Delver had been a great deck in Pauper, packing a combination of efficient cantrips, counter spells, efficient creatures, and free spells. It was able to play 17 lands and still almost never have to worry about not getting them and could tap out and still counter your spells with Daze and Foil. It was a beast. I wrote an article about this deck that you can get here.
Eventually Wizards of the Coast got sick of the win rate this deck was putting up and banned it out of existence. Guess what deck I got cards for last Christmas? Second time this has happened. Stop banning my deck Wizards!!!! A few options were discussed, including the cantrips (Preordain, Ponder, and Brainstorm), Augur of Bolas, and the plethora of free spells the deck was playing. In the end, Wizards decided on the last one.
Although I liked the deck, I do agree that it was ban worthy and Wizards did choose the right cards to properly bring down the deck. Sorry if you wanted an article bashing WotC, you can get that one if I keep losing to freakin’ Risen Reef. If they had banned the cantrips, we’d just be playing modern where green and red have the best Cantrips. Augur of Bolas is cute, it’s card advantage, it blocks, and occasionally does 14 damage in a game, but I didn’t even play the full 4 of them. Banning that wouldn’t have brought down the deck. Instead they went after the free spells, which is almost always a good idea since Force of Will is literally the only example of a free spell helping a format to be healthy. Although all Delver decks played Gush and Daze, Blue-black Delver relied on free spells more than other decks, since they needed to fill their graveyard for Gurmag Angler and didn’t have instant speed “threats” like Spellstutter Sprite and therefore needed to tap out more often.
Until a new card really picks this deck up off the ground, it is too crippled to be tier anything. Blue-red Delver also got hurt, and for the first time in a while, Delver won’t be one of the top decks in the format. Wizards did acknowledge that these bannings might make Tron way better, and so far, they have.
Arcum’s Astrolabe will also push Tron over the top a wee bit. Prophetic Prism sees lots of play in Pauper, and so does this. It’s a great magic card. It replaces itself and then helps fix your mana in a format with really crappy dual lands. It sees a little bit too much play though. Stop playing this in your random green creature decks that have no way to interact with it. If you have a way to bounce it to your hand to draw a card, sweet. Put simply, if you’re playing Skred or already playing Prophetic Prism in your deck, you have my permission to consider putting Astrolabe in your deck. Now if you’re in love with this card and really want to play it, I want you to do me a favour. I want you to carry around a university text book or an encyclopedia, or a comprehensive list of all my misplays, any heavy book, and every time you think about putting Astrolabe in a deck that doesn’t meet the above criteria, I want you to take that book and hit yourself in the head with it. And there are even some decks that play Prism that don’t have a manabase that can handle Astrolabe, like Affinity. This is a very efficient and good card in some decks, and also lets you splash cards in the sideboard that aren’t in your colours, but it just isn’t for most decks.
Defile will be a 4-of in any mono-black, or mostly black deck. Most creatures in Pauper are good because of their ETB trigger, not because they have crazy high power and toughness, so this will be able to kill most of them very easily.
Ephemerate has been seeing play in Jeskai Mulldrifter and Kor Skyfisher decks as a split Ghostly Flicker. It also helps you protect your creatures from removal. When playing against this card, if you’re scared of your opponent getting too much value off their creature's ETB triggers, you can kill their creature in response to Ephemerate, denying them that creature's trigger, and leaving Ephemerate with no targets, thus fizzling it and preventing them from getting the rebound on it.
Weather the Storm is great lifegain. Depending on your deck, sometimes you’ll want to cast this on your turn and gain 9+ life, and sometimes you’ll want to wait for your opponent to burn you several times, and then use their spells for storm. Or, if you really want to gain life, storm counts all spells cast, counter their multiple burn spells on their turn, and then gain 15+ life.
With all the Arcum’s Astrolabe decks and Skred decks running around, there isn’t a colour that doesn’t play snow lands. It's always correct to play with Snow-Covered lands in your deck if you own them, since it leaves your opponent to wonder whether or not you’re playing a Snow themed deck for the first few turns until it becomes obvious what deck you’re playing. Anybody know where I can get some white-bordered Snow-Basics to trigger my opponents with?
Savage Swipe is just a miniature Giant Growth attached to Prey Upon. It isn’t format warping or anything, but it’s nice value for a deck with a lot of 2 power creatures, like Mono-Green Stompy. Seems solid.
Decks like Tron have been known to play more expensive versions of cards if they have flashback, but Tron doesn’t even play Preordain, so I don’t see it playing this. Maybe this will be Preordain 5 and maybe 6 in some UB control deck? This doesn’t seem like it will see much play, but I kind of want to try it.
Most Sliver decks are green white, but this could help them against board stalls, or be the secret tech that gives them the edge in the mirror match. If the manabase can handle it, Bladeback could help Slivers get around Moment’s Peace and Stonehorn Dignitary and just ping Tron to death once you dump your hand.
I don’t think this is a very good card, however, it looks like a lot of fun to play in a Kiln Fiend deck.
I’ve seen some Blue-red Delver of Secrets decks play this in the sideboard for the Tron matchup, with the theory that it replacing itself is more important than your opponent having a replacement basic, making it better than Stone Rain.
Currently, Ancient Grudge is the Shatter of choice, if your manabase will allow you to use it twice (Arcum’s Astrolabe, Prophetic Prism). Shenanigans seems like a great replacement in decks without green. It is slightly more expensive to use the second time, and is sorcery speed, but in theory you can skip your draw step every turn and pay two mana to destroy an artifact every turn. This can be a slow, overpriced Shatterstorm if you need it (that’s a good thing - I’m not calling it bad - this is Pauper, I’m only expecting so much).
A Sanctioned Format
Recently Wizards announced that Pauper would become a sanctioned paper format, with its own ban list, and would include every card ever printed at common. Before, Pauper only included cards printed at common of MTGO, and believe me, it was a mess. This will hopefully mean more Pauper tournaments, more cards designed for pauper, and, if we’re lucky, a Pauper Tabletop Mythic Championship. Ok, probably not in the near future.
This also means more cards added to the format.
Mono-Black Thank God These Cards Are Banned
However, there are still plenty of powerful new cards that are now considered legal.
Maybe infect will no longer have to be tier 1,000?
Goblins has been a deck before, and 5 damage is a lot. This should really help Goblins, but probably not push it over the edge.
As a great example of why Pauper was messed up I thought this was legal before. Luckily, I never tried to play it at a tournament, because I only put it in crap decks like Wizard Tribal. This is a great anti-Delver card; although you have to take the damage first, it still can just machine-gun their board.
Pauper has been shaken up quite a bit, so it’ll be interesting to see what decks come out ahead, which ones get downgraded to tier 1,000, and which ones suddenly pop up out of nowhere because of one, single bad card (Arcum’s Astrolabe, I’m looking at you).
Thanks for reading, and before I go, a quick public service announcement: This Sunday there is a Pauper tournament at Wizard’s Tower, if you have any interest in Pauper, please show up because Pauper is awesome.