It has certainly been a while since I have written an introduction, but here goes nothing.
My name is Alex Ullman, and I play Pauper Magic. You might know me from my time as a member of the first Community Cup Challenge Team or from the
Magic-as-life story of “Happy Birthday Alex Ullman.”
I have been playing Pauper since 2005, long before it was a sanctioned format, and for a while served as the Community Liaison, ensuring the voice of
the Pauper Community was heard by the head honchos.
You might know Pauper from the time between set releases on MTGO, when Magic Celebrities, looking for a new challenge, descend on the format. You may
know Pauper from the fact that it is an easy format to access on MTGO, since the best decks are a fraction of their Standard/Extended/Legacy
counterpart. Heck, you might even know Pauper from your first games of Magic, when all you had were commons, and that was perfectly okay.
Pauper is a competitive Eternal format, played mostly on Magic Online, using exclusively common cards. The official MTGO format uses rarities from
online releases, so cards like Hymn to Tourach, while common in paper, are not allowed in Online Pauper. The Master’s Edition releases have “fixed” a
lot of the rarity issues of older formats, giving Pauper access to cards that should have been common but were not. On the flip side, having old sets
available gives Pauper access to some “mistakes” that can turn Eternal formats into a daunting task for a new playerâ€”I’m looking at you, Frantic
This review will be looking at the commons in New Phyrexia through two lenses: competitive Pauper and Pauper cube, as these are two of the most common
ways to play with commons as they actually are, instead of as proxies (either with marker or for Mental Magic).
Phyrexian mana is going to change Pauper. The Phybrid creatures are going to give aggressive strategies a shot in the arm. Mana is a true limiting
factor in Pauper, as there are no good multicolored options for beatdown decks. The best “duals” are Ravnica Block Karoos, which benefit midrange and
control strategies, but do little for the decks that like to turn creatures sideways. Phyrexian mana helps give these mostly monochromatic decks access
to creatures that they normally would be denied. This is huge, as the format is largely defined by its speed. The best deck is a Storm combo deck
(which I will get into later), followed by a slew of aggro. The one deck that does not benefit from these cards is perhaps the most consistent aggro
deck in Goblins. Without any tribal synergies, the “Red Menace” will have a hard time profiting from reduced cost spells.
Seeing as all of the Phybrid creatures are artifacts, it could bolster Affinity’s presence. Despite the fact that Cranial Plating is currently banned,
Affinity is a constant contender, and Scars block has given the deck some new tools. With access to even more goodies, I fully expect the Machine to
rack up more 4-0 records in Daily Events.
As far as Pauper Cube, Phyrexian mana creates a conundrum: are they colored cards or colorless for balance purposes? Currently, the cube has cards such
as Zombie Cutthroat and Gathan Raiders in the colorless camp, and I have no qualms about slotting these cards into the Cube straightaway, seeing as how
any color can access these spells.
Finally, if these cards see heavy play, expect the Burn Deck to prey upon metagames that heavily feature decks packing the option to pay two life.
On to the cards!
Constructed: This is a nice trick, especially when cast at a reduced cost. White has better options for one mana, but other colors could benefit from
being able to protect a key permanent. This could be relevant against Temporal Fissure decks, but in all likelihood, will see little play, as
protecting one creature is not going to win you the game when everything else on your side of the board is banished to your hand.
Cube: If only it could target your opponent’s creatures as well, then this card would be fantastic as a way to wreck Equipment. As it stands, it might
have a place in some cubes, as giving any color access to Shelter could provide some interesting decisions.
Constructed: White may be the color that is best suited to be paired with green in an Infect deck. This is due to Safewright Questâ€”some of the
best two-color fixing available. Lost Leonin provides a solid two-drop that does not interfere with the one-drop of choice (Glistener Elf) and can wear
a Rancor rather well. If a G/W Infect deck is out there, the Leonin will be a staple.
Cube: Only if you have an infect theme.
Constructed: Giant Cockroach has been around for a while and sees no play.
Cube: If the Cube is analogous to the Major Leagues, this guy languishes in Rookie Ball.
Constructed: The first Pauper All-Star. Every aggressive deck, aside from Goblins, will consider this creature. Three power on turn two is formidable
(it was not that long ago that Watchwolf set the world of “regular” Magic on its ear), especially when coupled with first strike. The best non-Goblin
beatdown decks all run some way to increase power, so this guy will likely be difficult to block. Granted, it dies to just about everything, but so do
most creatures in Pauper, so that is not a mark against the Legionnaire. Some White Weenie decks run Ballynock Cohort, and Mr. Toilet is an upgrade,
coming down a turn earlier and always having three power. Additionally, in the white deck, you can pay full price!
The other deck that may want access to Porcelain Legionnaire is Stompy. Many versions of the green menace feature a single Rogue Elephant or other
three-power creature. I’m not a fan of the Elephant due to the presence of Temporal Fissure decks and Lightning Bolt, but Legionnaire does not result
in the same loss of tempo if killed. He probably does not make the cut due to Gather Courage, as having a creature that does not turn on the convoke
can be risky. That being said, I could see running this as a one-of, as Rancor makes tussling with this guy a nightmare.
Cube: Absolutely. There is no reason to not include this in a Pauper Cube. On top of that, any deck can use it, helping to bolster beatdown. An early
pick for sure.
Constructed: Costs too much to even sniff play. Black gets the best part of this (getting a creature back) and gives you a creature as a bonus.
Cube: This could cause waves. Every color has access to some number of Golems, and Equipment tends to be an important part of Pauper Cubes. Being able
to regrow two creatures, or your best creature and best pump, could be a backbreaking play.
Constructed: Five mana is way too much for this effect in competitive Pauper.
Cube: If you have a Golem theme, he could prove interesting. Otherwise, probably not.
Constructed: Five mana is still a lot, and infect just has better options to round out a creature suite.
Cube: If your Cube is sick, it probably has Shriek Raptor in it.
Constructed: Soul Warden is an occasional maindeck inclusion due to its ability to blunt the assault of Goblins and Empty the Warrens. Suture Priest
does the same thing, only it can play the role of punisher. While too expensive to make the maindeck, this could prove a useful sideboard card against
Storm, forcing them to find a Grapeshot before making a horde.
Cube: If your Cube is heavy on token producers, this card could serve as a strong foil.
Constructed: This is the kind of card that will blow me out in the Tournament Practice room and cause me to break something within my reach. That does
not mean you should run War Report, as it costs far too much.
Cube: For a card to make the Cube, it should either be removal, a great creature, a piece of strong equipment, card advantage, or an awesome trick.
This does not meet any item on that metric.
Constructed: This is a clock, even in a deck that is not a traditional Infect deck. Blue has the tools to protect its creatures and keep opposing
threats off the table. On top of that, it pairs with black very well, giving a Dimir-style Infect deck three hard-to-block two-drops (Agent, Plague
Stinger, and Ichorclaw Myr). Conveniently, this costs two, making it a prime Unearth target. After green, black has some of the best power pump
options: Unholy Strength sees sporadic play, and Sinister Strength on Agent can end a game fast. U/B Infect would be slower than a green counterpart,
but between multiple Gravedigger effects and countermagic, it could be better built for the long game.
Blue could pair with green as well but lacks a card like Safewright Quest to smooth the mana. Simic Infect would lose removal, and the lack of Plague
Stinger could hurt, but Agent combined with pump is a scary prospect. Cards like Distortion Strike and Writ of Passage could help force through more
poison, ending games quickly. Even with these benefits, a U/G Infect deck seems fringe at best.
Cube: A Pauper Infect Cube might be interesting.
Constructed: The six-drops that see regular play in Pauper either fetch more creatures (Auroch’s Herd) or wreck Affinity (Fangren Marauder).
Throatseeker, on the other hand, does not attack.
Cube: A Pauper Infect Cube might be interesting.
Constructed: A one-mana spell that does not do anything. Hmmm….
Cube: Not even on the MurderBeestiest of Cubes.
Constructed: This is one of the most dangerous cards in New Phyrexia for Pauper. Two of the best decks in the format are Storm combo decks, and this
does a great job of helping the weaker of the two.
Frantic Storm is a deck based around the “free” spells from Urza’s Legacy (including Frantic Storm, hence the name), Planeshift Familiars, and Ravnica
Karoos. By reducing the cost of the free spells and untapping Karoos, this deck can generate a surplus of mana, which it then uses to cast draw spells
and eventually finds a Temporal Fissure, reducing an opponent to a board state consisting of zero permanents.
- 4 Cloud of Faeries
- 4 Sunscape Familiar
- 4 Nightscape Familiar
- 3 Mulldrifter
- 1 Mnemonic Wall
- 2 Sea Gate Oracle
Gitaxian Probe, or Freek, does not really fit here. Sure, the free nature of the card is nice, but this deck does not really care about what is in an
opponent’s hand during the combo turn, as it is highly resilient. Deep Analysis, Mulldrifter, and Compulsive Research all allow the deck to draw
through most hate. The biggest enemy to this Frantic Storm is losing to the beatdown or to a Stone Rainâ€”Freek does not help here.
Traditional Storm, on the other hand, benefits immensely.
Invasion fetchlands, cheap card draw, and rituals make this deck a contender. Being able to draw a card at no mana cost while building storm count is
exactly what this deck wants. On top of that, it gets to glimpse the opposing hand. This is huge. Grapeshot is hard to stop, but Empty the Warrens has
multiple answers in the formatâ€”Echoing Decay, Echoing Truth, Holy Light, Sandstorm. Casting Gitaxian Probe as the first spell in a storm chain
will allow the dirty combo pilot to plot his or her kill with a greater degree of certainty.
This might be the card that forces the powers that be to take a look at the power level of the storm mechanic in Pauper.
Cube: A free Peek is nice, but like so many other cards, this does not do much.
Constructed: Blue has better aggressive options, and do you really want to lose your three-power flier?
Cube: This provides some interesting tension. Do I want to keep beating down, or do I want three new cards? I fully expect for this to make the cut in
Constructed: Blue may want removal, but most games will be over by the time this card is relevant.
Cube: Pillory of the Sleepless is one of the most annoying cards to play against, in that it takes out your best creature while simultaneously acting
as a win condition. Dose is slower but makes the cut. Also good with Hartebeest.
Constructed: The decks that can cast this also have access to Counterspell. If those decks want a way to counter creatures on turn two, they will run
this over Remove Soul/Essence Scatter. If having a turn two counter is not vital, expect this to fall short of Exclude.
Constructed: So for two mana, I get a two-power, flying creature? Tell me more.
While it will not be as popular as the Legionnaire, this card is a serious option for any deck that wants to avoid the ground. The lack of a third
point of power might hinder it from more traditionally aggressive decks, and blue aggro has better options on two and three. Aggressive black decks,
however, will love this guy, as pairing it with Dark Ritual could provide for an interesting first turn.
Cube: This belongs in every Pauper Cube. While blue may have better options, green and red sure don’t.
Constructed: While it costs five, the Monitor also has flash, and that is important, since it can be fetched with Mystical Teachings. While Teachings
decks have fallen out of favor recently due to the relative speed of the format (it is fast), if they make a comeback, the Monitor will be present.
Cube: A great trick and a strong creature. A definite inclusion and a mid-level pick at worst.
Cube: If your Cube runs Unsummon, run this instead. Being able to take out a key blocker and dome your opponent for one can help aggressive blue decks,
which normally have fragile creatures.
Constructed: Saboteurs are interesting but rarely relevant in Constructed Pauper. The Zealot costs too much to be effective, and there is no consistent
way to abuse the combat damage trigger.
Cube: An incredibly interesting card. Much like Impaler Shrike, it will be the cause of many decisions, which is always good for Cube draft.
Additionally, the Zealot is in the right color, since black has a plethora of Raise Dead effects.
Constructed: I like the opportunity to Mind Rot at instant speed, but not for five mana.
Cube: On the other hand, Mind Rot at instant speed for five mana seems reasonable in Limited. He is not an auto-include, but the Bat should find a spot
on the bench, ready to come in for any black creature that underperforms.
Constructed: Spreading Seas sees some play, but that’s because it draws a card in addition to rendering a land less useful. Evil Presence is nice
because it can come down on turn one, but it will be a fringe sideboard player, at best.
Cube: No. Just no.
Constructed: Diabolic Edict has fallen out of favor due to the number of decks that either run no creatures or too many creatures for Edict to matter.
Verdict is a strict upgrade for mono-black decks. If the time is ever right again for targeted sacrifice, expect Verdict to see play. That being said,
there are a ton of options for removal, especially at the two-mana slot.
Cube: Targeted sacrifice is great if your Cube is full of creatures that cannot be targeted. The Cube I draft does not have a significant number of
such creatures. If yours happens to have them, run the Verdict.
Constructed: Only if Infect decks really want a way to proliferate.
Cube: If your Cube has a counter or infect theme, otherwise, black has better options.
Cube: Might have a place in some Cubes. It can trade with something big and deal damage. Very dangerous with pump and can act as a one-shot burn spell.
Constructed: Just like many Limited focus removal spells, this will not make the cut because there are just better cards available.
Cube: Four mana… for a slow removal spell. Maybe in a Backdraft Cube?
Constructed: Cultbrand Cinder is comparable to this card and sees no play. Even for four colorless, the Driller is too slow for the current Pauper
Cube: He blocks well and is a serviceable option, doubling as removal for pesky utility creatures. The Driller is not making my Cube just yet because I
only want one Phyrexian mana creature of each color to start, and black’s slot is going to be occupied by Vault Skirge.
Constructed: Remember what I said about Chained Throatseeker? Same goes for this guy.
Cube: This guy is a house once he hits the battlefield. An include in Infect Cubes but does not make the cut in other versions, as he is outclassed by
Constructed: Hello, aggressive black one-drop, nice to meet you. Like his brethren, this card will see play across multiple decks. Unlike the other
Phyrexian mana creatures, the Skirge can undo his payment. Giving every deck access to an evasive lifelink creature helps non-Goblin decks fight
against the Red Menace.
During the first year of Constructed Pauper, there was a deck based on triggering Nightsky Mimic. A second avenue of attack for this deck was to suit
up a Nip Gwyllion with an Edge of the Divinity and start attacking with “Build Your Own Angel” as early as turn two. Skirge gives such a deck access to
an additional one-drop and, when backed up with Mourning Thrull, gives a level of redundancy that could be the kernel for a new deck.
Suicide Black also benefits from the Skirge. A fringe player at best, Dark Ritual—fueled black decks are really good at spitting out creatures
but tend to lose steam late. With Skirge as a one-drop, these decks have a better chance of fueling late-game Sign in Bloods that can provide a little
Cube: A turn-one flying creature with lifelink. You are going to be hard pressed to find a better one-drop for aggressive decks.
Constructed: Five damage is significant. Four mana is as well. The deck most likely to run this is Goblins, and they have access to Reckless Abandon,
which costs three less (albeit it does four damage, instead of five). Even being an instant is not enough to get Goblins to run thisâ€”it is just
Cube: Five damage is a lot and provides decks with a way to close out the game. The ability to sacrifice either a creature or an artifact makes
Artillerize a more active topdeck. This nifty card is worthy of consideration for most Cubes, but due to the high cost, I see this card as a
Constructed: No version of this card sees play.
Cube: Axegrinder Giant is not good enough, and neither is this.
Constructed: Four potential damage for one mana is a good deal, but the Burn Decks do not tend to run creatures like this. If the Scamp were a Goblin,
it would see some play as a one-drop, but as it is, this card will not see play. Burn likes to attack directly, and this little guy plays along a
Cube: Red one-drops tend to go boom, but when they do, they take out another one-drop. The Scamp might belong in extremely aggressive Pauper Cubes, but
I am not a fan.
Constructed: This card is dangerous. Mono-Red Cloudpost decks exist on the periphery of Pauper, and the Menial is a potential finisher. After
destroying lands on the other side, the Menial threatens to end the game in short order while also acting as a decent blocker.
Cube: This guy does not fit into most red slices of Cube. The Menial is a strong defender firstâ€”not red’s forte. As such, he should be relegated
to, you guessed it, Infect Cubes.
Constructed: There are not enough cards for this to play with to make red a viable infect color.
Cube: Second verse, same as the first.
Constructed: Cards in the style of Falter have not appeared in Constructed, but this one is different. Any color has access to the Invasion, and it’s
only dead against Affinity. Many times, Frantic Storm wins the turn after it would die to a lethal attack (if not for those pesky blockers). The
Invasion allows you to break stalemates in colors that normally do not have the option. A card to watch.
Cube: Stalemates are not uncommon, and giving every color a way to break the game open creates a game of “Do you have it?” I would include this in any
Cube where Falter-style effects (a la Dirge of the Dead) are present.
Constructed: Too much work for a small payoff.
Cube: See above. If a Pauper Artifact Cube exists, I could see running this, but that is the only instance.
Constructed: I liken this to Char. For four colorless, you have the opportunity to deal four (at the cost of two of your own life). In matchups where
there are not many blockers, this Cat can help provide a win out of nowhere, if backed up with Fireblast. That being said, it costs four (at the very
least) and will likely have a target on its head. It also makes removal live in the Burn matchup.
Cube: This is red’s entrant into the Phyrexian mana creature cycle.
Constructed: Five mana for this is way too much. Pauper Land Destruction needs to start on turn three or sooner, and this is too slow.
Cube: There are better options for either of these effects at far lower cost.
Constructed: Interesting interaction in a Burn deck with Keldon Marauders, but other than that, it is unlikely to see play.
Cube: Red, like black, has a glut of cards at common that accomplish similar tasks (due to Limited considerations). There are better options for Red
Cube, but if counters matter, this guy should make the cut.
Constructed: Three mana for three power is not the worst deal, but the ability to fight red decks is huge. This could be a key card in the Goblin
Cube: If you really want to give red a way to fight red, this is the card for you.
Constructed: Green has some great two-drops. This is not one of them.
Cube: Thornweald Archer is just better.
Constructed: Green does not have the best avenues to card advantage, but the ability to destroy multiple artifacts, such as Gleeful Sabotage, is one
such way. The ability to ping your opponent does not make up for the loss of killing a second artifact (or enchantment).
Cube: Green is really good at killing artifacts, and most of the time, it comes with a creature. One damage is not a creature.
Constructed: This is the card that all Paupers have been wishing for since Scars of Mirrodin. Having access to an infect one-drop is huge,
providing a true opportunity to attack on turn two (in the past, this was contingent on Lotus Petal). Followed up with the other infect creatures,
Glistener Elf provides a strong first play that takes to pump. It also allows for turn two kills, thanks to the presence of Invigorate (released as
part of Duel Decks online) and Groundswell. Yes, this is Magical Christmas Land, but it is still a possibility. Even if the deck is not tier, it will
see play because many people will take the opportunity to have their opponent start at ten, and it will have the ability to win out of nowhere.
Cube: Does it have infect? Does your Cube?
Constructed: Green removal, eh? If Green ever needs a way to take out pesky X/1 creatures, it now has a way without dipping into a second color.
Cube: A scaled down Consume Strength and a great trick. Should make the cut in most Pauper Cubes.
Constructed: Seven mana, even for three creatures, is way too much.
Cube: Green is really good at ramping up to obscene amounts of mana. Seven is pretty close to obscene, but getting seven power, spread across three
creatures, is not a bad deal in Pauper Cube. The fact that two of them have trample is nothing to sneeze at. I am not sure what comes out, but Maul
Splicer will likely find a way into the Cube.
Constructed: This would see play if not for Gather Courage. When combined with Nettle Sentinel or Quirion Ranger, Gather Courage is actually free.
Paying two life for a similar outcome is not as enticing. If Stompy ever wants another Gather Courage (or two), it now has that opportunity.
Cube: A combat trick for every color? This card goes right in, as it does not mess up color balanceâ€”even green will pay the two life so it can
tap out and bash. A stellar card all around.
Constructed: Who blocks? This guy does, but no one really wants to block, especially for five mana.
Cube: Just like the other colors, green has better options than this guy for cube.
Constructed: Four mana for a 5/4 trample is exciting, but taking out a full 20% of your life total can be daunting in a format that features Disciple
of the Vault. Not even the most suicidal black deck will be able to play this effectively. Stompy mightâ€”MIGHTâ€”run this as a one-drop, but
it would probably go to Tangle Golem first if it needed something this beefy.
Cube: Green’s entry in the Phyrexian mana creature category. This guy can make waves and might be the best reason to seed some more life gain into your
Constructed: If the Infect deck works out so your opponent is poisoned almost all the time, this helps to round out the curve. More aggressive than
Cystbearer, Betrayers can be quite good at ending the game quickly when combined with pump.
Cube: Do I even need to repeat it?
Constructed: Another do-nothing card.
Cube: And playing cards that do nothing is a bad idea.
Constructed: Tappers do not see regular play. Those that do make it into decks because they are cheap. This is not the case.
Cube: There are better tappers out there, and paying two life to Forcefield a blocker in a non-white deck is a good way to lose, slowly, in Cube.
Constructed: It takes out quite a few cards in Affinity and can be fetched with Trinket Mage. It is still too narrow to be widely adopted.
Cube: If your Cube is heavy on artifact creatures, this will warrant a slot.
Constructed: This set has a two-mana, two-power flying creature, and this card. Which would you run?
Cube: Evasion is nice and so is vigilance, but this Myr is too small to make an impact.
Constructed: This card can end games quickly when combine with Fling. In a red deck, you can attack, pump with mana and life to make quick work of an
opponent. Provided they’re not blocking.
Cube: The situation described above requires a deck to be built with the Souleater in mind. The average power level of cards in Pauper Cube is not high
enough to allow you to spend slots for “neat” decks.
Constructed: Four mana for five power is cheap, but this one is too fragile to see play. Creatures are vulnerable as is, and one that exists almost
exclusively to die is not a good investment.
Cube: This guy occupies the same slot as Scuzzback Marauders, who, while more expensive, is also a better card due to built-in removal protection.
Constructed: Even if a deck is built to take advantage of this card, investing turn two and turn X in land is not a great way to spend your time. Ichor
Wellspring is just better for this, as it draws you a card.
Cube: Any cube that has a way to abuse this card will want it, but there are not many ways to sacrifice artifacts for profit, nor many artifacts you
would want to sacrifice.
Constructed: Five mana is too much for a sometimes-infect creature, even in the Infect deck.
Cube: [Insert redundant statement]
Constructed: If Flameborn Viron does not make the cut
Cube: Neither does this guy.
Constructed: Pauper decks that ramp like to jump from two to three, not three to four. The life gain is a nice bonus but not nice enough to warrant
running the Talisman.
Cube: This deck will help midrange and control decks survive aggressive onslaughts while also pumping out large threats.
Constructed: Three mana is too much to pay for an occasionally unblockable Gray Ogre.
Cube: Unblockable is not fun, but this guy provides an interesting tension, allowing you to trade two life for two life. The Blue Souleater might make
the Cube, but it would have a tenuous position at best.
New Phyrexia has a bounty of strong commons for Constructed Pauper. Game changers include Glistener Elf, Gitaxian Probe, and Vault Skirge. More than
that, this set contains well-designed commons. The cards all build on previous themes in the block and provide an interesting and new twist on
otherwise known quantities. Phyrexian mana is a fantastic way to breathe new life into cards that the Magic-playing community has seen over the past
decade and a half. Not to mention it opens up options for deckbuilding.
So, pick up your draft leftovers, and keep slingin’ commons.
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