Historic Pauper is the best format in Magic. Am I the only one brave enough to say it? In the almost-to-rotation doldrums of Standard, with Pioneer not being sufficiently represented as a format in its Arena equivalent Explorer, and actual Historic being a gonzo format filled with nonsense, I’ve found the drive to get to Mythic the past two months lacking. The MTGA team knew just what to do: bring back the best format for the weekly free event!
(Disclosure: as someone who likes grindy, card advantage games, it might be that I actually would love ANY Pauper format, but I’ll play what I’m given.)
Here’s what I got up to:
4 Tendrils of Corruption (M10) 114
15 Swamp (SLD) 65
4 Innocent Blood (JMP) 244
1 Clear the Mind (RNA) 34
1 Island (SLD) 64
2 Devious Cover-Up (MID) 48
4 Contaminated Aquifer (DMU) 245
4 Ice Tunnel (KHM) 262
4 Deadly Dispute (HBG) 150
1 Feed the Swarm (ZNR) 102
4 Reckoner's Bargain (NEO) 120
4 Phyrexian Rager (DMU) 99
4 Ichor Wellspring (BRR) 21
4 Hunt for Specimens (STX) 73
4 Mephitic Vapors (GRN) 76
2 Environmental Sciences (STX) 1
3 Introduction to Prophecy (STX) 4
1 Introduction to Annihilation (STX) 3
1 Fractal Summoning (STX) 187
Before you ask: it stands for MOSTLY Black Control, so still “MBC.”
The Game Plan
Neutralize their threats. Draw lots of cards. Go infinite. This leopard will keep his spots, thankyouverymuch!
Your recursion is split between 1 Clear the Mind and 2 Devious Cover Up. Some players are smart enough to realize that you draw so many cards if they stop playing spells you’ll mill out, forcing you to DCU your own spells. That’s slow and annoying, so I just subbed in 1 Clear the Mind to speed things up.
Your card draw is mostly things that sacrifice artifacts or creatures to draw. Reckoner’s Bargain is neat because it gains you life when you cast it, and both it and Deadly Dispute work wonders with Ichor Wellspring.
Your win conditions are:
- Beat them down with Phyrexian Ragers
- Beat them down with Pest tokens from Hunt for Specimens
- Mill them out by neutralizing everything and recurring your deck
- Make a giant Fractal Summoning creature and kill them with it
Your lifegain is:
- Tendrils of Corruption
- Reckoner’s Bargain to gain 1 life from a Pest, 2 life from a Wellspring, or 3 life from a Rager
- Pest tokens chump blocking and/or being sacrificed to draw you cards
- Environmental Sciences from your Wish board to both dig up lands and gain life
Your manabase is:
- All Swamps, including your dual lands because even Pauper gets basic land type dual lands
- 1 Island so you can dig up a blue source from Environmental Sciences should you need
- Stop whining about needing 2 so you can cast both DCU and Fractal Summoning if need be, it’s fine
Your removal is:
- Tendrils, the best removal spell because it gains you a million life as the game goes on
- Innocent Blood, the best removal spell because it’s cheap and hits hexproof creatures
- Mephitic Vapors, the best removal spell because it can wipe out their board and helps you filter the top of your deck to good cards
- Feed the Swarm, the best removal spell because it also lets you kill enchantments
- Introduction to Annihilation, the best removal spell because it lets you kill ANY permanent or in a pinch lets you draw a card targeting your own Treasure token
Remember, when you’re doing Gaea’s Blessing things, which this deck is doing, you only need one copy of a card to be “infinite;” after all, it will come back thanks to the Blessing effect.
Mephitic Vapors is the closest thing to a Wrath in the format. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect to get to 6 or even 9 mana to hold them and wipe x/2s or x/3s all at once if need be.
You only need one Fractal Summoning, and it’s usually the last card you need to Wish for. Let your opponent kill it as much as they like; you’ll play more after recurring it.
Against control decks that are ALSO going infinite like you the ONLY thing you want to cast DCU on is THEIR DCU and/or other recursive spell. You’re a dog in the match, but it’s not that popular an archetype and you can snipe a game or two by knowing what you’re supposed to do when they don’t.
DCU should counter something that will kill you, OR something because you need to recur specific spells back into your deck. It should NEVER counter removal on your creatures, which you have infinite of, unless said removal would put you in one of the first two positions I mentioned at the start of this paragraph.
If you’re going to play beatdown in this format each of your creatures should replace itself. The UG deck that uses all cantrip creatures plus Llanowar Elves is pretty neat, and even a potentially tough matchup for this deck. They can actually out-draw your removal in this deck playing threats faster than you can remove them.
Pauper is a format defined by old school card advantage. That’s what I like about it so much, I think, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Red decks “going fast” isn’t enough because they wind up empty late game while the opponent has stabilized and has a billion cards in hand.
Speaking of which, in all the games I played with this deck I only faced one red deck. Nice job Arena players!
Make Pauper Permanent
I know if you have Christmas every day it doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore, but over the past month I’ve spent less time playing Arena because the formats are bored. That WOULDN’T be the case if I could switch to Pauper while waiting for rotation. To all my homeys still working on Arena: just let us play this wonderful format all the time! (Love you!)