I have never been a guy to quibble much over format. I’ve mostly just played whatever I had in whatever deck I felt like building. This can yield some very interesting and fun deck ideas, but it is really only practical if you play with your friends at the kitchen table. However, sometimes, as an exercise to challenge yourself, it is interesting to limit your deck building options and force yourself to do as much (or perhaps more) with less.
To this end, my friends and I are meeting for our monthly game. We get together once a month and it is a collection of people from all the stages of my life. Some of the players are guys I played with as a teenager, others are friends that I have made through playing Magic, while others are spouses or acquaintances I have made elsewhere. It is a very eclectic group with some of them having all the top tier 1 competitive decks. Others are very much interested in brewing with a small number of cards in order to keep the relative cost down. This can result in some match-ups that just aren’t super fun as one guy plays a Legacy “Show and Tell” deck, while the other guy plays a random smattering of cards from the most recent set.
To level the playing field a bit and to make the evening a little different I challenged my friends to build Standard Pauper decks for this month. In case you aren’t overly familiar, Pauper is a format that only uses common cards. By limiting the cards even further by only allowing cards that would be Standard legal (Return to Ravnica and Theros blocks) we have limited the pool of options available and evened out the power level of the cards that can be played.
This is a relatively new experience for me as I have never consciously made a Pauper deck. Sure, I have used common cards and tried to limit my choices, but I have never been one to purposefully limit my card choices so dramatically. Herein lies the challenge: build a deck that I feel can win without leaning on the cards that I come to rely on. My friends all jumped at the suggestion and so it is ON! This weekend we will battle with Pauper!
The first dilemma when trying to build any winning deck is anticipating what you will be playing against. If I were going to be playing at a Stadard event at a local game shop I would come prepared to play against all the top decks like Mono-Black, Mono-Blue, and G/R Monsters. However, we have no meta…this is one off…and so I need to instead rely on my understanding of my opponents and what some of their tendencies are.
Some of the players will be wild cards. They are relatively inexperienced players (even compared to me) and are likely to bring decks packed with creatures and just looking to turn sideways and smash. This likely means inexpensive white, green, and red creatures and ramping into some sort of fatty that will be hard to deal with. With those decks in mind, I will need to ensure I have access to enough removal to slow them down and give myself a chance to get into the game.
My friend David likes mill decks. He likes to play B/U and will undoubtedly slide in some cards that are designed to force me to grind through my library. He will also likely play hand destruction, so I need to come prepared for that. If his mill cards are creatures, then I should be okay because my removal should be able to handle them too, so that isn’t a concern for me overly. The bigger issue is seeing enchantments or artifacts that force the milling of my deck. So, some enchantment destruction needs to be considered in order to close down this angle to some degree. Hand destruction is tougher to deal with because I will need countermagic, but Duress on turn 1 totally ruins the hope of any counter spells, so I may hedge my bets and hope David goes for creatures and not hand destruction.
Sam is a terrific player but invariably will be running a U/x deck with a bunch of counter magic. Sam is the quintessential control player and I expect nothing different. This is always a troubling matchup and Sam is good at it. So, if I can’t beat the control match up…I may have to join it. This is the matchup that I need to be most interested in performing well, so time to go to the old box of stuff and see what I can put together.
I start off with cards from the most recent set, Born of the Gods, and see what I can find. Divine Verdict is a fine reprint of a reasonable removal spell. Most creatures need to attack, and this gets rid of them and is a solid card. Stratus Walk is another strong card. It gives something flying, draws me a card, and is reasonably costed. The last addition is a little steep in terms of cost, but potentially a bomb. Sphinx’s Disciple makes use of the Inspired ability, so for 5 mana (3 colourless and 2 blue) I get a 2/2 flier, but whenever it untaps I draw a card. If I can protect this guy, it could be a real card draw engine. Card advantage in this sort of game will be key and this could be just the ticket.
Next, I look at some options in Theros. Prescient Chimera is one place to start that could be a pretty good bomb. For 5 mana (3 colourless and 2 blue) I get a 3/4 flier that let’s me Scry 1 every time I cast an Instant or Sorcery. As a 5 drop at the top of my curve this is pretty strong creature that allows me to draw into better cards as the late game continues. It also works pretty well with Sphinx’s Disciple to set up the Inspired trigger to ensure that the extra card is more valuable to me. Next I need to look at some enchantments and conclude that Chosen by Heliod is a solid, inexpensive Aura that is useful and pairs really nicely to help protect Sphinx’s Disciple. Chosen By Heliod is also a very dynamic card with Wingsteed Rider to trigger the Heroic trigger. All in all, some good fodder for a viable Pauper deck.
The last additions to the deck are from Return to Ravnica block and include Lyev Decree. Lyev Decree is very interesting because it allows me to tempo my opponents out by rendering their creatures unable to block. It is cheap and efficient and allows me to power through some extra damage. Shielded passage is another interesting little twist that protects cards, either Sphinx’s Disciple, or enacts the Heroic trigger on Wingsteed Rider, and triggers the Scry on Prescient Chimera. All three are very relevant abilities in this deck making Shielded Passage a very interesting card and neat combat trick. The last creature is Keening Apparition which builds in a little enchantment destruction and a very reasonable 2/2 body. This is in essence a “Bear” with a bonus and raises its appeal considerably.
Here’s the Decklist
U/W Tempo – Standard Pauper
In building this deck I looked at a variety of things and considered what pieces went together. I started with my curve looking to curve out into my powerful creatures and not miss out on any of the spots if I could help it. There is no Turn 1 play, which is unfortunate, but I struggled to fit a solid 1 drop in this deck and opted to pass on it. Turn 2 I can play Concordia Pegasus or Keening Apparition, at 3 there is Wingsteed Rider and Wavecrash Triton. I almost stumbled at 4, but I noticed Runewing and immediately saw that it was a viable option with an upside. I curve out at 5 with Prescient Chimera and Sphinx’s Disciple giving yet more flying threats.
The Spells really serve three purposes. My first play is to try and straight up remove my opponent’s creatures from the battlefield with Divine Verdict or Last Breath. If that doesn’t work I can use Lyev Decree to slow them down and punch my own creatures through their defences. All the other spells are there to protect my creatures and to trigger Heroic abilities on my Wingsteed Rider or Wavecrash Triton, which can also serve the dual role of adding to the tempoing out of my opponent by tapping their creatures.
Overall, I think the deck looks pretty solid and like it may have a good showing this weekend when I sit down for my Casual Encounter with my pals. If you have any suggestions, let me know as I would love to hear what you guys think. I’ll also give you an update on how it fares and what adjustments I intend to make down the line. I have really enjoyed this process and think that this may be something I continue to bring forward to my Casual Encounters to keep them fun and different.
Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it Casual.