Long live Pauper!
The format is being invaded.
As of this writing, Species is arguably the most Pauper-playable common to be spoiled in the upcoming Magic 2015 core set. It comes from a long line of bounce creatures, most of which are built around synergistically. This ensures that their “downsides” are converted into dynamic value machines.
The key phrase in Species’ case is “built around.” Playing this as a turn-three beater that oafishly bounces our land just isn’t going to cut it. What’s more, the equivalent stats of a Centaur Courser aren’t impressive in a format that abuses Carapace Forger, Delver of Secrets and Nettle Sentinel. So how do we build around Invasive Species effectively? My suggestion is to consider the Powerful Deck Attribute that I branded “repurchasing.” As a refresher, I’ll cite my own brief definition of the term.
“For all intents and purposes, repurchasing is the ability to garner additional utility from a previously-harvested resource. This often occurs when permanents are bounced back to their controller’s hand or “blinked” (exiled and then returned to the battlefield).”
A number of successful Pauper decks have benefited greatly from repurchasing. One that I’d like to point out specifically is based almost entirely on the concept of enters-the-battlefield effects and permanent bouncers. It also happens to be one of the most surprisingly effective decks I’ve come across in the format. I present to you Azorius Midrange (also known as Azorius Kitty)!
There’s very little this deck can’t do. It draws a lot of cards, gains tons of life, and even houses a potent land destruction/disruption package of Reality Acid and Spreading Seas. To sum things up, Azorius Midrange does a great job of playing an attrition game. This is an aspect of Pauper Warfare that comes up a whole heck of a lot in the format, and it’s an aspect that Azorius can be difficult to outperform in.
Thanks to Invasive Species, we now have a more realistic chance at constructing Selesnya and Simic renditions of Shaffawaffa5’s artful strategy. Here is a reasonable starting point for Simic.
- 3 Blastoderm
- 2 Trinket Mage
- 1 Wormfang Drake
- 4 Dream Stalker
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 3 Nest Invader
- 2 Nightshade Peddler
- 3 Invasive Species
Not nearly as exciting as Alex Ullman’s adventures with Simic Madness, but an intricate little deck nonetheless. I’ve decided against Karoo lands for the time being since we don’t have Kabira Crossroads to bounce with them. Khalni Garden provides a marginal buffer against aggressive decks, and its token wears equipment in a pinch. The Nest Invader token is also useful here, helping us power out Blastoderm, Mulldrifter and Serrated Arrows, or providing us with Healing Salves on demand via Sylvok Lifestaff.
We have a pseudo Basilisk Collar-plus-Cunning Sparkmage combo in Nightshade Peddler and Viridian Longbow (tutorable via Trinket Mage). This is a bit mana-intensive to assemble, so it may not stay in the deck forever. What I really like about this deck as a whole is the prospect of repurchasing Blastoderms often. The green beast can give Myr Enforcer fits and even let us close out games quickly when the time comes.
Vs. Mono Blue Delver
Funnily enough, Spreading Seas is not very effective against a mono-Islands deck. Reality Acid comes out because it’s a bit clunky compared to what we’re bringing in. Scattershot Archer is already a proven trump, but he can be even deadlier with Nightshade Peddler. The potential danger lies in sniping some of our own Mulldrifters, but the potential upside makes boarding into Archer worthwhile.
Vs. Mono Black Control
The name of the game in this matchup is survive. Hopefully we can do that by getting some kind of Peddler-plus-Longbow lock, but with the amount of removal they’re packing I won’t get my hopes up. Curse punishes their slow game-plan (assuming they don’t hit runner Merchants), while Acid and Relic keep guys off the table (vs. Unearth, for instance).
Vs. Pauper Tron
Tron is a deck that can be milled out sometimes, but the immense mana it produces usually allows the pilot to win before that actually happens. Here our plan is to stymie their mana development long enough to win with Blastoderms and fliers. Hydroblast can counter a desperation Rolling Thunder at a critical point in time. It also forces through our blue spells against Pyroblast.
Vs. Mono Red Burn
Burn does not typically play many creatures, but I like that Spore Frog attacks for as much as Peddler does (at a cheaper price no less), and sets off Lifestaff triggers like nobody’s business. One Acid and two Arrows stay in as a precaution against potential creatures like Kiln Fiend.
Creature control is a big aspect of this matchup, and Piracy Charm doesn’t hit much other than Disciple of the Vault. Hydroblast (again) fights Pyroblast, but also quells haymakers like Atog, Fling and Galvanic Blast. Wickerbough Elder is a bit expensive, but it can be repurchased with Dream Stalker, Invasive Species and Wormfang Drake. It also becomes a 4/4 after its activation, so it can trade with Carapace Forger and Myr Enforcer.
Vs. Selesnya Hexproof
Here we want to shut down any game-breaking auras (including Ancestral Mask and Ethereal Armor) with Reality Acids and Wickerbough Elder. Because Hexproof runs so few lands, it is also sometimes possible to color screw them, but I wouldn’t get too zealous about doing this, however. Without any Edicts or sweepers, we may be slightly too vulnerable in this matchup currently.
Vs. Izzet Fiend
Kill. Everything. That is all.
It seems pretty clear that the Piracy Charms and Spreading Seas get boarded out a good deal of the time. This could hint at a flawed maindeck, but I feel like both Charm and Seas are versatile enough to have some sort of Game One utility no matter what. If you guys have any suggestions on the side boarding or overall composition of the list, don’t hesitate to let us all know!
Invasive Species is just one in a long line of green creatures being printed at common that have been head-turners. I feel like green creatures are being continually pushed by Wizards, even at the common rarity. This is, in my opinion, a good thing. For the remainder of the article I’d like to go over the “green is good” trend by highlighting some Pauper-legal printings.
Guardian has only seen fringe play in the Pauper format, but it is an enabler for infinite mana and potential combo decks in the future. As a Return to Ravnica honorary mention, Gatecreeper Vine was a part of the Standard Format’s prevalent “Flickergate” decks, which utilized the synergy between Archaeomancer and Ghostly Flicker.
This creature was just cheap and flexible enough to see play occasionally in Mono Green Stompy lists, and its time in the Classic Pauper format may not yet be over.
Predatory Sliver brought the Slivers deck back into the Classic Pauper limelight, offering the strategy a huge amount of redundancy (Muscle Sliver, Sinew Sliver) and a decent amount of speed.
Another creature that has sometimes been incorporated into Mono Green Stompy, Dryad can herself trade with a Delver of Secrets or Bestow to make any other creature able to fend him off.
While not specifically a green creature, Nylea’s Presence synergizes very well with creatures in general. Presence is the reason that Pauper Domain became a viable strategy in the format. It powers up Wild Nacatls, maximizes the damage output of Tribal Flames, and turns Matca Rioters into a 5/5 for three. If that wasn’t useful enough, it draws a card upon entry and gets repurchased by Kor Skyfisher, allowing Pauper Domain to fight attrition battles for extended periods of time.
Here is one of the early Pauper Domain lists to do numbers.
- 4 Llanowar Sentinel
- 4 Aurochs Herd
- 4 Citanul Woodreaders
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Nest Invader
- 3 Ulamog's Crusher
- 2 Fangren Marauder
- 3 Nylea's Disciple
- 4 Voyaging Satyr
Another Theros green creature, Nylea’s Disciple, was featured in the deck on top of Satyr. I don’t think the Voyaging one’s common career is at an end, since big mana has proven itself to be powerful in this format over the years.
He hasn’t done much of anything just yet, but there’s no denying that Satyr Wayfinder was one of the most promising commons from the Born of the Gods expansion set. If Tortured Existence comes back and wants to be Golgari colors, I hope people will not forget about this little 1/1.
I hope I haven’t missed any components of the recent green trend in Pauper. Do you think the trend will continue? Why or why not?
What are your thoughts on Invasive Species? Do you believe it has a home in Pauper, do you think it will prompt any spicy new brews? What other Magic 2015 cards do you have your eye on? Feel free to let all of us know!
Hope you’ve enjoyed. The floor is yours!