The most apparent difference in this list from those past is the exclusion of Nightveil Specter for a very different evil in Lifebane Zombie. It looks like taking the extra precautions to hedge against Green Monsters and White Weenies paid off. His removal package, which is usually constructed for what you’re idea of the meta calls for, consisted of a full four Hero’s Downfall, a trio of Devour Flesh and two copies each of both Ultimate Price and Bile Blight. The other interesting point of note is that he went for two sets of Temples for the Scry power, which is very handy in conjunction with Underworld Connections when you’re low on life but absolutely need to find something specific.
The opening that this deck wants to see everytime it starts a new game is turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Pack Rat. So often this will rob the opponent of a key defensive piece which will allow the Pack Rat to get to work multiplying itself until it has gotten out of control, which tends to happen very quickly. The synergy with Mutavault which also happens to be a rat is another factor in boosting the lowly rats to monumental proportions. The secondary line of attack comes with a curve of threats starting at the three drop with Nightveil Specter a formidable Flying attacker which has the added value of not only stealing life from your opponent but also can steal cards from the top of their deck, which can even be played as long as the specter remains in play. Then at the four drop we have Desecration Demon which is quite simply a beat stick which you’ll use to grind the opponent to dust. Finally we get to Gray Merchant of Asphodel which has a very useful Devotion ability that will drain the life from your opponent and add that amount which is based on your total Devotion to Black mana. To help boost your Devotion count the deck also has Underworld Connections which provides a steady stream of cards at the price of some life and also a misers copy of Whip of Erebos that helps regain lost life point with Lifelink and will raise your dead creatures from the grave for a turn to fight for you again. As is typical with a Black deck removal is a key element and this deck is no different. There is a varied spread of spells but the key one is Hero’s Downfall which can deal with problem creatures and planeswalkers alike. This is complimented by Devour Flesh and Doom Blade to vanquish other creature problems. Then we round out the package with pseudo-sweeper Bile Blight which is capable of removing some very significant threads but you must be mindful of its use in the mirror. As mentioned before there is also Thoughtseize which not only takes care of any otherwise hard to handle problem but also provides very valuable information about the opponents plans.
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.
For me the real joy of Magic is not so much playing, it is the chance to sit down and to be a little creative and make a new deck. Sometimes it is fun to go and draw obscure cards and build around them, other times it is enjoyable to limit the pool to only commons, but sometimes I want to dabble in making a Standard legal deck. Standard is extremely popular and the number of impressive deck lists across the internet is truly amazing, so to try and do something that is uniquely your own is difficult. Also, I like to ensure that my decks are reasonably priced so that I don’t overspend on my deck, but this further complicates the process of putting together a deck. Today I’m going to go through a budget Standard deck that exploits the Heroic mechanic from Theros and can offer a lot of fun and can be surprisingly challenging to play.
I have seen a number of Boros Burn decks that play virtually no creatures apart from Young Pyromancer and Chandra’s Phoenix. However, my take on a budget brew goes the opposite direction. I want a load of creatures and then I want cheap Heroic enablers to pump my creatures and punish my opponents as quickly as possible.
In evaluating the cards available to me two things were needed: a) creatures needed to be inexpensive and carry the Heroic trigger b) enablers needed to be inexpensive and versatile. The first point was quite straightforward to put together starting with Favored Hoplite, Phalanx Leader, Wingsteed Rider, Akroan Crusader and Fabled Hero. The enablers were trickier because I had the choice of using Enchantments and Auras or going with Instants and combat tricks. In the end, I opted to go the route of combat tricks and instants rather than the enchantments due to the versatility because they could be cast on either my turn pre combat, as a combat trick to tip combat in my favor, or on my opponents turn to protect my creatures. Enchantments are slower, and while often allow a more powerful punch, the lack of flexibility could be a point of vulnerability. The deck can cast every card in the deck for four mana or less, also ensuring that you rarely find yourself jammed for mana and at a loss for something to do. Let’s take a look at what I’ve put together.
Here is the Standard decklist:
The game plan seems simple enough: Cast your dudes, pump them with your combat tricks, and smash your opponent until they quit, or you’re dead. However, it is not quite so simple in order to maximize the explosiveness of this relatively innocuous deck. Sometimes you have tricky decisions in order to maximize damage, but still hold back enough so as to not 2 for 1 yourself by committing overly to the board. In other situations, you may be tempted to go for the throat but need to hold back to avoid getting caught by a removal spell or a sweeper. The target of your spells to maximize the benefits of the Heroic triggers is also a point to be considered and something that takes practice to get. However, once these have been weighed, considerable damage can be done in short order. Here’s a plan to curve out into some massive damage.
Turn 3- Mountain, cast Coordinated Assault on Favored Hoplite and Akroan Crusader. Heroic trigger on Soldier Token gives it +1/+1 making it 2/3 and then the +1/+0 and first strike from Coordinated Assault, and another Soldier Token from Crusader. Attack for 7. Second main phase cast Firefist Striker,
Turn 4- Plains, Cast Dauntless Onslaught on Crusader and Hoplite. Heroic Triggers. So now Hoplite is 3/4 and then get’s +2/+2 from Dauntless Onslaught so is hitting as a 5/6. Cusader is now 3/3 for the turn, and another soldier token. Swing with the team, trigger Battalion on Firefist Striker and punch through for a whopping 13. Game over.
Yes, this is against a gold fish with no answers…but this is TURN 4 and you’ve crunched them for 25! That’s not something to mess with. Oh, and you haven’t even got to the creatures that get silly like the Boros Reckoner, Tajic, or Fabled Hero.
You’ve seen how things like Dauntless Onslaught and Coordinated Assault can be used to produce cheap Heroic triggers that yield startling amount of damage, but what about some of the other pieces to the deck? Battelwise Valor is another option for a Heroic trigger and a sizeable +2/+2 boost. The nice piece with this common is the scry ability on the card to help ensure you continue to draw into what you need and not flood out. Gods Willing can play double duty as an offensive trick to allow your most powerful creature to punch through for a bunch, or as a defensive trick to protect a creature in danger of dying. It also triggers Heroic for a very reasonable cost and comes with Scry. It’s a real All star. Boros Charm is a no brainer in this sort of deck. It can provide you with the reach to burn out an opponent if they can stem the bleeding from an early barrage, it can grant a creature double strike to crunch them for a huge amount of damage, or it can be used to protect your creatures by giving them indestructibility. The other additions of a pair of Spear of Heliod and the Assemble the Legion are very complementary and can further push through damage and overwhelm an opponent if you get to that stage of the game
The creatures in the deck are mostly Heroic creatures. Favored Hoplite and Akroan Crusader are crucial 1 drops. The Crusader is a mini Assemble the Legion and can quickly get out of control and flood the board with soldier tokens. The Hoplite very quickly becomes a menace and is quite resilient in combat damage because the moment Heroic is targeted, all damage to it is prevented. At the 2 spot Firefist Striker is terrific to help ensure your creatures can punch through for damage. By the time you are attacking with this guy the board can very easily be flooding out with soldiers and inexpensive creatures so the battalion ability is very relevant. Phalanx Leader is the ultimate in Heroic triggers for the whole team and is an auto-include in this deck. At 3 we have Wingsteed Rider just in case the ground game stalls and you need over the top. Fabled Hero is a brutally unfair card because of the Double-strike and with the Heroic trigger can very easily get out of control for a ton of damage. Boros Reckoner is a 1 of and is just a terrific creature, so no need to spend much time explaining this selection. Tajic is the only 4 drop that is very resilient, and in a deck that can very easily be swarming all over the board can easily see the Battalion ability be triggered…which is gross.
The mana base for this deck is as simple as I can make it, with 16 basic lands (10 plains, 6 mountains). 4 Temples of Triumph allow for the Scry ability, which is extremely useful to continue to draw into the gas you need to keep the pressure on, and since they are on colour are an easy fit. The Boros Guildgates are the only piece that I would change if I would be looking to upgrade the mana base in favour of Sacred Foundry. However, in the interest of keeping this as budget as possible, Boros Guildgate is perfectly acceptable.
For me, the best part of this deck, apart from the ridiculous amount of damage it can inflict in short order, is the price tag. This runs for a very reasonable $50, which in an age where Standard legal decks can cost far more, is a bargain. So, for a modest investment you too can sit down and sling cards in Standard and still have money for the bus home, or a coffee. Good deal! Is this deck going to redefine Standard? No. Will it be a fun deck to run and let you have some fun games? Absolutely.
As always, if you have any suggestions to help spruce up this deck and make it a little more enjoyable, I’m always open to suggestions. Nothing would make me happier than looking at some fun ideas to tweak this deck, even if only in a sideboard (which is currently, sadly lacking). I’d love the feedback and look forward to hearing from you because my next Casual Encounter is coming up and I want to be ready.
Take care and be good.
The opening strategy is focused on your mana dorks to come and ramp to the fatties. We find full sets of Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix all of which can speed you plan up by several turns. Also, removal aimed at them means less removal to deal with the big boys. As far as those ‘big boys’ are concerned there is Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon who’s ability to become Monstrous will often spell certain doom for your opponents well before they’re ready to deal with them. Then there are a few support creatures with Reaper of the Wilds with a Scry ability helpful when the opponent is removing your creatures or chumping with his, Ghor-Clan Rampager which can turn a game saving chump block into a game ending surprise, Scavenging Ooze with incidental lifegain and graveyard hate, and Xenagos, God of Revels pushing the beatdown plan into high gear. Speaking of Xenagos we find the same standard package of Planeswalkers as in Gruul with Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler which both are invaluable in a creature heavy deck both accelerating and digging for them while also working hard to control the battlefield. The addition of Black is what allows an interesting one of Vraska, the Unseen which can spell certain doom if her assassins are able to infiltrate through the enemies defenses but will most often be used as removal of various types of threats. And speaking of removal the deck is completed with a minor removal suite which consists of a pair of Dreadbore and pair of Mizzium Mortars but is also somewhat supplemented by the Monstrous ability.
Oh burn…ever since the printing of Lightning Bolt there have been Red mages looking to blast their spells straight to the dome. Each block there is always a Mono-Red or R/x deck that is straightforward, efficient and appeals to highly aggressive players. This deck is just one like that exactly.
While this deck is Boros by strict definition Red is the primary color with White a splash to add a few excellent cards. The creature package is is set with a tight curve building from Ash Zealot which can be a highly effective beater and the First Strike coupled with burn allows you some utility. Boros Reckoner has always been interestingly unique with his ability often making combat math complicated enough to hold off enemy attacks from even happening. Then with seventeen burn spells in the deck and additional help from Chandra her bird Chandra’s Phoenix is able to attack with impunity knowing that getting it to rise from the grave back to your hand is an almost guarantee. There is also a pair of Stormbreath Dragon which help the deck just go straight over the top when the games start to run long and can also be a huge surprise you’re dead. Because of the primarily Red base to the deck it can squeeze Mutavault into the manabase easily to get additional ground pounders. Then we find Chandra, Pyromaster who is the only source of card advantage in the deck and if you can ultimate it is doubtless that she’s going to hit the paydirt on that roll of the dice, and incidentally can prevent a big blocker from thwarting your attack while building loyalty. For straight removal we have Standards newest best impression of a Swords to Plowshares in Chained to the Rocks which should not have issue with the enchant Mountain clause given 15 copies in the deck. The rest of the deck consists of a plethora of burn spells which can double as either removal or damage right to the dome. We find a mix of Lightning Strike and Searing Blood as simple burn for the deck while the others carry some utility with them. Magma Jet helps to filter through your deck which is a key ability for this style of deck as draw isn’t one of these colors strengths. Warleader’s Helix is a beast of removal with four damage it’s able to get into those bigger creatures and coupled with First Strike creatures can surprise a chump block into the removal of a huge creature. And finally the ‘Boros’ deck would not be complete without the utility from Boros Charm which can either be that knockout punch taking down four points of life, can save your army from sweepers or is able to turn one of your creatures into a formidable fighting machine to Double Strike your opponent to the death.