Long live Pauper!
Well folks, the journey has begun. Now that the contents of Journey into Nyxhave been completely revealed, I’m hoping that the Classic Pauper faithful are ready to put on their brewing hats once again. This will be my very first (sort of) set review for StarCityGames.com, and I’m very excited! If only the commons spoiled in Journey were equivalently rousing . . .
Instead of breaking things down alphabetically, by color, or in any other sensible way, I’m just going to start with the cards I’m most interested in personally. After that I’ll list off some honorable mentions and their potential uses. Are you ready? Are you?!
It’s a bit of a bummer when the card with ostensibly the most Pauper potential does nothing when it hits the board and requires a total investment of six mana. That being said, Font of Return looks cool! I’ll begin by imagining the "two-drop" inside of a recognizable Mono-Black Control shell.
In my eyes, the biggest MBC benefits Font of Return have are adding to our Gray Merchant of Asphodel devotion total and making up for our somewhat low creature count. Font also gives us something to do on turn 2 since we don’t always have a Cuombajj Witches to open on and Sign in Blood is awkward on the draw that turn. Granted, Augur of Skulls and Ravenous Rats are fine turn 2 options (as are Geth’s Verdict and Victim of Night to bin an early aggressor). It’s a good thing Font is flexible enough to be played and subsequently activated at our convenience, as there is no optimal turn to cast it.
Font of Return does have some "similar effect" competitors, including Death Denied, Grim Harvest, Undying Evil, and Unearth. I imagine different flavors of MBC will want different cards, but I do like that Font plays best with Gray Merchant. It’s also less mana intensive than Harvest and can target creatures that Unearth can’t (Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Okiba-Gang Shinobi, perhaps even Twisted Abomination?).
Here is the 75 I would test out initially with Font of Return.
- 4 Chittering Rats
- 1 Twisted Abomination
- 1 Crypt Rats
- 4 Phyrexian Rager
- 4 Augur of Skulls
- 2 Fume Spitter
- 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
The goal with this list is to have plenty of targets for Font of Return. Augur of Skulls, Crypt Rats, Fume Spitter, and Twisted Abomination are backed by more Crypt Rats, Faerie Macabre (which should work particularly well), and Okiba-Gang Shinobi out of the sideboard.
Here are a few generic sideboarding suggestions.
It’s a pretty big maybe when swapping out Ostracize for Duress because a number of Delver games involve them playing out their creatures early while holding counters and bounce late. For this reason Ostracize may be less useful than Duress after turn 4 or so. Abomination has a pretty small chance of resolving because of how expensive it is (we can’t get in "under" their countermagic), yet Arrows is cheaper and arguably has more impact. While we’re on the subject of Arrows, I like having one around to randomly answer protection creatures like Guardian of the Guildpact and Order of Leitbur. It may also be correct to board in Victim of Night over Oubliette (because it’s cheaper and instant-er), but keep in mind that they’ll potentially be boarding into Stormbound Geist!
This is an umbrella suggestion, so keep in mind that various aggro decks will interact differently with specific cards. Usually Font of Return and Twisted Abomination will be too slow for the game they’re playing, while Crypt Rats and Serrated Arrows help us stabilize the board and make up for lost tempo. You can also cut some number of Sign in Blood for Victim of Night in my opinion.
So many matchups to discuss and so little time! I will say in general that our sideboard plan against controlling strategies will be to board out of our weenie kill and into our hand disruption. It could be the case that we have too many prospective cards to bring in against Familiar combo (between Sands, Duress, Macabre, Spellbomb, and Shinobi), and I’m not fixed on our boarding versus Tron.
Let me know what you think of the list overall and please share any sideboarding ideas you may have!
Here is another strategy I’m interested in exploring with Font of Return.
- 2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
- 4 Ravenous Rats
- 2 Phyrexian Rager
- 4 Auramancer
- 2 Aven Riftwatcher
- 4 Kor Skyfisher
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 2 Hopeful Eidolon
A lot of these cards are listed for testing purposes (for instance, two copies of Whitemane Lion in the sideboard because I’m not sure how many bounce effects a deck like this might want). The enchantment count for Auramancer and Ethereal Armor is tricky, and since we have so many small creatures, a card like Hopeful Eidolon may be too weak here. I’m not sure how this deck would fare against bigger strategies like dedicated control and Tron, so any input you might have would be appreciated!
Another Journey into Nyxaddition that might be a good fit for a deck like Orzhov Kitty is Oppressive Rays.
I like this card, although it’s competing with Journey to Nowhere, Oblivion Ring, Sunlance, and Unmake for creature removal slots. Overall, I think Rays is a pretty big upgrade over cards like Arrest and Pacifism since it essentially acts as a one-mana Arrest in the early game. It will be most viable in decks playing Ancestral Mask, Aura Gnarlid, or Ethereal Armor since one-mana enchantments tend to make said decks tick. While Oppressive Rays is one of the better removal spells printed at common in all of Therosblock, it still might not have a Pauper home.
Insight For Sore Eyes
The playability of Kruphix’s Insight is in question for me. It’s a bit more costly than Commune with the Gods, and the difference between two and three mana is significant in our format (with so many land-light decks and no potential to outpace Counterspell on the play). I’m also not sure how many enchantments we need to pack to have Insight consistently "hit" (which as far as I’m concerned means drawing two or three cards rather than one or zero). Based on Patrick Chapin’s 2011 preview of Lead the Stampede, I’m going to assume we want as close to 30 as we can manage.
In a Selesnya Hexproof shell, I can only see Insight being played as a one-of (in order to refill and recover or to press the advantage). Here is a very loose 75 that plays decently with the card.
This could just end up being bad. I cut Aura Gnarlid to give Insight more fodder, but Hopeful Eidolon is pretty vulnerable as a threat (without Spider Umbra) and a bit too expensive here as an Aura. As far as the sideboard goes, Circle of Protection: Red has shown up in a number of Hexproof sideboards (so I’m guessing burn is a problem in spite of us having Armadillo Cloak). I like Dawn Charm a lot conceptually. It’s a Fog, Regenerate, and Counterspell for edict effects. Everything else is pretty narrow but potent nonetheless.
There may be other archetypes where Insight is playable, including decks that want to fill the graveyard (such as Tortured Existence). The three-mana price tag really bugs me, so personally I’ll be hard pressed to play it unless I’m expecting to get a surefire draw 3 for three.
Cloak & Dimir
Cloaked Siren could make for an interesting Mystical Teachings target since it clocks at the speed of Insectile Aberration and comes at a cheaper cost than Spire Monitor. Unfortunately it dies to pretty much everything, but it is a relatively low investment in a draw-go Teachings strategy. Let’s see what that kind of strategy might look like!
I’ve been playing a 75 very close to this one, and it’s currently the Pauper deck I have the most fun with. It’s still being tuned and improved, so let me know what you think could use some work.
Devour Is At Hand
What would Pauper set conjecture be without some janky mill thrown in for good measure? Feast your eyes on this blue Elemental.
So expensive and so slow, but Pauper mill decks have always been slow! Here is a basic suite of cards that I can imagine going into a Devourer deck:
Add a bit more card draw and some defensive elements and we’re just about ready to go. Play out the mill enchantments, stay alive, and Flicker Devourers and Walls to mill repeatedly or loop Fog effects.
I’ve never been fascinated by mill strategies and don’t think Devourer adds enough to elevate their tier status, but I could be wrong!
Ajani’s Presence is a card that I hope ends up being good, though it’s never realistically going to be cast on more than two targets. +1/+1 and indestructible are also pretty redundant bonuses, which makes me think that Ajani’s Presence won’t be felt all that much on the battlefield of Classic Pauper.
Thanks to Fangren Marauder proving that 5/5s with upside for six can make waves in the format, Humbler of Mortals gets an honorable mention from me. I can see Humbler playing well in a deck with Blastoderm, Fierce Empath, and other fatties, but we’ll have to see if that sort of strategy is good enough for the current environment.
Finally, we have Oakheart Dryads, which I can see doing some marginal work in a deck like Pauper Domain Zoo. Thanks to Abundant Growth, Kor Skyfisher, Nylea’s Presence, other Dryads, and Rancor, constellation is likely to be triggered quite frequently. Sadly, Dryads is a pretty lackluster three-drop compared to the preexisting options of Aura Gnarlid and Matca Rioters.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. Journey into Nyxis coming soon, and the Pauper world had better be ready! Let me know what you think of my analysis and which cards I forgot about.
I hope you’ve enjoyed. The floor is yours!