Choosing A Pauper Deck

In his first article on SCG, Jason puts a new spin on writing about Pauper! Join the discussion and learn with him as he tackles choosing a deck for the format.

Long live Pauper!

Hello boys and girls, my name’s Jason Moore. You may be familiar with my YouTube channel, written coverage of Pauper, or my contributions to the Pauper’s Cage podcast. If you’re not, no worries. All that really matters is this: I’m a big fan of the Pauper format, and I’m very happy to be writing for StarCityGames.com!

Despite the countless hours I’ve spent brewing decks, chatting with Pauper grinders, playing Daily Events, and turning 1/1s sideways, there’s still a lot I don’t know about the format. And I mean a lot a lot. As a writer, it’s my job to provide information. Insight. Answers. Sounds simple enough.

But there’s a problem.

I don’t have all the answers. I doubt I even have most of the answers. What I do have, however, is a platform (and way too many basic Plains in my Magic Online collection, but nobody’s perfect). And since it’s only been a few paragraphs and we’re already getting along so well, I figured why not try and share that platform with all of you?

You see, if this whole reader/writer thing is gonna work out between us, I’ve got to be honest with you. Upfront right off the bat. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Alright, I’m just gonna say it. Brace yourselves for some truth.

I need your help!   

Why? Because at the end of the day, there’s a lot I can learn from you. You’ve got a wealth of experiences to draw from, your own unique perspective, and a strong passion for the game. Conversely, I can teach you a thing or two about Pauper, Magic strategy, brewing, and Icatian Javelineers.

So let’s try something. Let’s turn this whole orthodox Pauper article stuff on its head. You’re going to help me improve as a Pauper player. In fact, we’re going to help each other. Our objective? Get a whole lot closer to greatness. 

What do you need to do? The same things you’re probably already doing. Post comments, voice your opinion, communicate. If enough consistent discussion arises, I can easily see these articles following a "Choose Your Own Adventure" sort of style regarding what aspects of Pauper we end up learning about. And if all this doesn’t pan out? Oh well, we’ll just try something else!

So grab some popcorn (or hot cocoa or whatever) and strap yourselves in because today we’re starting at the beginning. Today you’re going to help me choose a Pauper deck! 

Choosing a Pauper Deck: The First Step

Before looking at any cards or actual decks, I’d like to share what I believe is the crucial first step of choosing the right Pauper deck (though this can be applied to any Constructed format). That first step is identifying your highest priority goal via honest self-evaluation.

When choosing a deck to play, we often have multiple goals. These can range from cashing Daily Events as often as possible "grinder style," to seeing our rogue brew on the What’s Happening page, to utilizing a certain "pet card" or color combination, to simply having fun!

Pretty much any goal is worthwhile in my eyes, but here are a few simple guidelines to help us avoid catastrophe:

Avoid Vague or Obtuse Goals

A vague or obtuse goal is something like I want to make Boros "work" in Pauper. Making a deck "work" could mean just about anything depending on who you ask. Be specific! Think about what needs to happen for you to be satisfied that you’ve achieved your goal.

One way to avoid vague goals is to make them quantifiable. That’s just another way of saying put a number on them! I want to play a deck that will 4-0 one Daily Event per month. I want to play a deck that will win 60% of my games in the Tournament Practice Room. Something to that effect.

Identify Your Highest Priority

I say this because it’s common to have multiple contradictory goals. When people ask me for advice on what deck to play, they often list off several disparate objectives that tend to just get in the way of each other. I want to play a competitive deck and am a big fan of the card Momentary Blink, but I don’t want to spend too much money, etc., etc. These kinds of statements are vague, and they usually have problems coexisting because of how dissimilar they are.

Achieving multiple contrasting ends at the same time is not always going to be possible. You can’t have your Thousand-Year Elixir and drink it too. So be extremely honest with yourself and figure out exactly what you want most from a Pauper deck. Because at the end of the day, you may have to sacrifice some of your lesser aspirations.

So what is your highest priority goal? Let us know in the comments section and whether or not you’d like to have our next article cover ways to achieve that goal!

Choosing a Pauper Deck: You Tell Me

I’m conflicted. There are three Pauper decks that I really enjoy playing, but committing to one over the others is difficult! This is where you come in. I’m going to show you each of the three decks, tell you what I like about them, and tell you what I dislike about them. Then you’re going to tell me which one to choose and why!

Let’s start with the premise that my highest priority goal is this: I want to play a deck that lets me 3-1 or 4-0 more than 50% of the Daily Events I participate in. This is a simple enough goal (not to mention financially beneficial).

While this happens to be my personal goal, yourreason for telling me what deck to play could be totally different! Maybe you just want to see more coverage of the deck you suggest. Learn about its matchups. Learn how to tweak it. The sky’s the limit!

Deck #1: Affinity

Affinity’s mission is to resolve cantripping and color-fixing artifacts, power out large creatures, and beat down with them! If we somehow fall short in the red zone, we always have Galvanic Blasts and Flinged Atogs to fall back on. Some lists also utilize Disciple of the Vault, making Affinity a rather robust aggro-combo deck at the top tier of competitive Pauper. 

Here is the list I’ve been playing lately:

A typical game will play out as follows: turn 1 we resolve one of our eleven color-fixing artifacts, turn 2 we resolve at least one of our creature threats, and by turn 3 or 4 we often just dump the rest of our hand.

One of Affinity’s biggest strengths lies within its explosiveness and broken draws. Putting somewhere between eight and eleven power on the board in a single turn is more or less routine. The superior size of its creatures is another clear advantage. 

The most controversial (if you can call it that) thing about my Affinity list is that it lacks a fourth color. After playing several matches with the deck, I can say that I haven’t really found myself in a situation where I desperately wished I were playing Disciple of the Vault. Moreover, I believe that bolstering a "modest" three colors helps reduce the frequency of mulligans and color screw.

My qualms with the deck are: it mulligans more than I’d like it to, it receives a sizable amount of hate from opposing strategies, and I don’t know how to best tackle the mirror match.

Deck #2: White Weenie

White Weenie’s mission is to overwhelm the opponent with cheap value creatures and evasive threats. It is one of the less popular beatdown decks of the format but has served me well since I first started playing Pauper.

Here is my most recent list:

Turn 1 play a threat, turn 2 attack and play a threat, turn 3 equip a threat or maybe remove a blocker, and between turn 5 and turn 8 win the game with our aerial offensive. While occasionally things actually are that simple, some aspects of this deck are deceptively complicated (as you’ll know if you’ve ever seen me pilot the archetype in a YouTube video).

One of White Weenie’s strengths is its creature superiority over Mono-Blue Delver and Mono-Green Stompy, which are two of the most prominent strategies in the entire format. I’ve also just generally got a Craig Wescoe kinda thing going on with it. I can’t put it down!

My qualms with the deck are: it tends to get bullied quite mercilessly by Cloudpost variants, notably ones playing Temporal Fissure or Izzet colors. This can hamper our chances of cashing a Daily if we run into just one of these obnoxious heavyweights.

Deck #3: Izzet Cloudpost

Izzet Cloudpost’s mission is to prolong the game and amass a superior resource advantage with mana ramp, life gain, and, of course, card advantage. It is arguably the best and most popular control deck in all of Pauper.

Here is the list I’ve been playing lately:

Typical lines with Izzet Cloudpost include turn 1 Cloudpost or Izzet Guildgate, turn 2 resolve Prophetic Prism or leave up Accumulated Knowledge and countermagic, and then proceed to manage threats accordingly while resolving Mystical Teachings and Mulldrifter. Close out the game by looping Ghostly Flicker and Mnemonic Wall, resolving a lethal Rolling Thunder, or resolving Ulamog’s Crusher.

Some of Izzet Cloudpost’s biggest strengths are its resounding power level (most notably in the late game), its ability to abuse Ghostly Flicker, and its use of the locus lands to both stabilize and conquer games.

My qualms with the deck are: I consider Izzet Cloudpost to be a reactive strategy, and I tend to lose more with those than I do with proactive strategies. I’m also generally a slow player, and since Izzet Cloudpost naturally takes longer to win games, I run the risk of timing out during matches and getting little time to rest between rounds.

While I’ve gotten better at playing control decks over time, there seems to be fewer incentives for me to play them overall. Conversely, playing Izzet Cloudpost could be a prime opportunity to conquer my weaknesses as a control player once and for all!

Your Turn

In the words of pollution-nemesis Captain Planet, the power is yours! I am leaving the decision of which deck I should play in your capable hands. Whichever deck gets the most "votes," or has the most convincing supporters will receive future coverage! Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]).

I’d also like to know what you thought of this article in general and what you hope to see out of future installments. Let me reiterate that I plan to be very (very) receptive to your input, so please don’t be shy!

In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter (@DimeCollectorSC) and visit my YouTube channel. I look forward to hearing from you guys.

To be continued!