Christmas Concoctions With Commons

For those of you still in the holiday spirit, Jason’s got three fun Pauper prototypes for you to sleeve up before the year’s out!

Long live Pauper!

I sincerely hope all of you are having a warm and fulfilling holiday season and for those of you that celebrate a Merry Christmas! I’m pretty tapped out from indulging in so many holiday treats, but there’s always time to toy around with colorful Pauper brews. Our article for today is going to focus on three (mildly) Christmas-themed casual decks and will have some brief attention paid to last article’s comments as well as Pauper resolutions for 2014.

2013 is coming to a close, and it’s been quite a landmark year for the Pauper format. We’ve had the metagame rocked by banning after banning, and we’ve lost our integral Pauper Daily Events (at least for the time being). All of these changes have been nothing short of huge. The Pauper banned list has more than tripled since the banning of Frantic Search in 2011 (that enough links for you?) and has resulted in the deaths of multiple pillars of the format.

Without Daily Events, the Pauper metagame as we once knew it will now be much more elusive. The results-based statistics that fueled a lot of earlier Pauper content will need to be replaced, but with what? As members of the (soon to be) 2014 Pauper community, we must endeavor to answer this question . . .

But first let’s have some fun!

Today I’m going to share a few Christmas-inspired brews, all of which I took a somewhat laidback approach to constructing. Before we get started, however, I’d like to begin with a preface or two.

First of all, I didn’t come up with a snow-themed deck (I know what you’re thinking: "boo!"). If you’ve got something decent in mind along those lines, please share it with all of us in the comments section.

Secondly, these decks are all creature-based and fairly proactive. I apologize ahead of time if you find my lists to be too one note. Even if beating down isn’t typically your thing, now would be a great time to let your hair down and get into the red zone with the rest of us!

So let’s get right into it. This first deck is something I’ve toyed with before (not to mention dedicated article and video coverage to), and I figured now would be the perfect time to try reigniting some of the deliberation it received previously. Ladies and germs, I present to you Aaahh!!! Gruul Monsters!

So what exactly does this deck have to do with Christmas? Well, it’s red and green (textbook Christmas colors) and has a whole bunch of elves! Besides, what’s Christmas without some fire to help keep warm? Let’s take a look at what makes Aaahh!!! Gruul Monsters tick.

There have been many variations on this strategy in the past, and the general idea is as follows. We really want to resolve one of our mana dorks on turn 1 (which explains why we’re rocking ten Llanowar Elves variants; you can likely play whatever mix of these you like).

On turn 2 we usually want to do one of three things: resolve some kind of threat (namely Jolrael’s Centaur or River Boa), play another mana elf or two, or fetch up our fourth mana source with Borderland Ranger or Civic Wayfinder (we’ve split these up to mitigate the potency of Echoing Decay and Echoing Truth, though neither are very popular at this time).

Turn 3 and beyond involve playing our unwieldy guys (either Blastoderm or Penumbra Spider), enchanting smaller creatures with Rancor, and burning the opponent out with various Bolts.

Kaervek’s Torch is our Hail Mary pass in the late game, intended to reap the benefits of the multiple dorks and land fetchers. Firebolt is here kind of for the same reason but also because it’s pretty crucial (even in aggressive decks) to have some form of card advantage. Aaahh!!! Gruul Monsters utilizes Firebolts, Rangers and Wayfinders, and Penumbra Spiders and Rancors in part for their ability to generate value.  

The sideboard features a balanced one-to-one ratio of Ancient Grudge and Gleeful Sabotage. This is basically because I don’t know which card is better suited in the deck. Against Affinity they should both perform pretty well, so playing two of each doesn’t seem all that detrimental. An additional copy of Flame Slash feels right when creatures like Carapace Forger, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Nivix Cyclops are amongst the most important components of their respective decks.

A curious inclusion is Grazing Gladehart, which I’m hoping will turn the tide in matchups like Burn (and perhaps even Goblins). The Gladehart turns every basic land into Kabira Crossroads, though it would probably be more potent if we had the Pauper fetch lands (Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse) available to us.

Speaking of fetch lands . . .

Okay, Blue Landfall doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the holidays, but it does have its fair share of toys. When you’re growing up, Christmas is definitely synonymous with toys, and Trinket Mage is the greatest toymaker of them all! This guy may be blue, but he’s definitely the Pauper Santa Claus in my book.

And what kinds of gifts does he have for us in Blue Landfall? For starters, he’s got lands (Seat of the Synod), and everyone could use some lands. This is especially true when running the angriest, shroudiest Horned Turtle in the business (Calcite Snapper). Trinket Mage also fills stockings with trusty Adventuring Gears—just the trick for turning Vault Skirges into Baneslayer Angels. He’s also got Sylvok Lifestaff for racing and attrition and Viridian Longbow for creature control and burning opponents out.

Blue Landfall’s Plan A is to curve out on the opponent, evolving Cloudfin Raptor and gaining tempo by tapping down and bouncing blockers. The equipping happens somewhere in the midgame turns, and our victories will likely include a couple big swings in the air, some mana sinking into Frostburn Weird, and a last ping or two with Viridian Longbow.

The Equipment subtheme is somewhat undercut by the fact that Calcite Snapper has shroud and Phantasmal Bear will die if you ever try to fit him with a weapon. Vault Skirge definitely loves Equipment and is in the deck because I needed more fliers, but most of the good blue fliers (Mulldrifter, Spire Golem, Stitched Drake, and Stormbound Geist) are at the three-drop slot or above. Long story short, I’m a little wary about flooding that spot too heavily.

Somnomancer isn’t the best creature ever printed, but she fits the curve nicely and doubles as a "spell" (which this deck lacks). The low spell density also happens to make Delver a horrible choice (which is incredibly rare in a mono-blue Pauper shell).

The sideboard contains some ideas for handling the extensive removal of Mono-Black Control, namely Mizzium Skin and Stormbound Geist. Neither of these is foolproof since Crypt Rats manages to get around both, but generally they should be pretty useful.

What would happen if we combined the color scheme of our first deck, threw in some white (since snow and Christmas definitely go together), and incorporated the landfall concept of our second deck? I think the result would probably look something like this:

This deck has been fun so far, though it might be too much of a "good stuff" deck. It’s not all that far away from being a Greatest Hits compilation of each color, though most of these cards also work well together from a synergy standpoint.

The abundance of fetch lands powers up not only Steppe Lynx but also Wild Nacatl. While Nacatl isn’t going to be seeing turn 1 action too often in a deck with four Forests; she will be coming down in the midgame turns as a 3/3 for one (which shouldn’t disappoint).

The versatility of the deck is pretty apparent, with explosive Lynx and Pridemage starts possible, a wealth of removal (Pridemage is one pin pull away from turning into Naturalize, and Journeys and Bolts are very good at clearing a path), and lots of life gain thanks to Aven Riftwatcher. The Riftwatchers fill out our curve more than anything but can also be abused once in a while with Kor Skyfisher.

I’m not 100% sold on the sideboard, but as it stands now there are a number of weapons for the popular format contenders. It’s nice to have access to some of the most powerful hosers within the Naya spectrum. One of my goals was to stay away from red cards since our red splash is extremely light (basically splashing a Mountain for Lightning Bolt and "final form" Wild Nacatl) and I don’t want to tax our already dicey color requirements.

Color issues can arise, and overall this deck is probably too slow for uber-competitive play. However, there’s a lot of potential within these colors, and a deck with this many Cats is hard to resist!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampling of casual Pauper brews to close out the year. Perhaps someone can take these ideas and elevate them to the next level!

This marks my last SCG article for the year 2013. I appreciate all the help and support you guys have provided, which truly make this column what it is. How can we make the content and experience even better in the new year? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I want to close things out by spotlighting some comments from last time, namely ones dealing with the request for paper Pauper coverage.

"Also, more discussions about paper pauper. Figure it out . . . Anything. More paper Pauper!" –CB Moate

"I’ve been playing Pauper decks with my brother and some friends. They don’t really play tournaments like I do, so it’s a good way for them to play with older cards that they know better while giving me a chance to brew without overwhelming them on power level." –Tony Menzer

"I’ve run three Pauper events so far in paper form; each event had seventeen players. Players had Sinkholes and Hymns in their Mono-Black lists . . . also had two Goblins players Top 8 with Goblin Grenade as well. I don’t think any of these cards are overpowered for the paper format." –Jose’ Favio Ramos-Hlavaty

It’s looking like paper Pauper is a reality for many of you guys already, and for the rest of us it is something that continues to command our interest. Perhaps this is one of the avenues we can pursue more fervently in 2014? What other ideas do you have? I’m all ears, as the brand-new year certainly represents new frontiers and opportunities for the common mage.

I wish all of you the best and am looking forward to chatting with you in January. Happy New Year!