The Kitchen Table #255 – The Compendium of Alternate Formats, Entry #11: Pauper Prismatic Singleton

Read Abe Sargent every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, October 16th – Today I want to focus on an online format from the casual rooms, and then bring it offline for all to enjoy. There is an online variant of Five Color called Prismatic. Highlander is referred to as Singleton. Pauper is a variant of Peasant Magic that simply allows only commons instead of a few uncommons. What some casual players have been doing online is combining these three formats into one, called PPS…

Hello all, and welcome back to the column that explores the realms of the casual. Today I want to focus on an online format from the casual rooms, and then bring it offline for all to enjoy.

There is an online variant of Five Color called Prismatic. Highlander is referred to as Singleton. Pauper is a variant of Peasant Magic that simply allows only commons instead of a few uncommons.

What some casual players have been doing online is combining these three formats into one, called PPS. It’s a blast to play, so let’s talk about the format, and then introduce you to some of the power cards in the format.

The Prismatic

First, in this format, we will be using the rules for Five Color, not the rules for Prismatic. This is good for the format in several ways, which I will mention later. What this means is that the deck must be at least 250 cards tall, and you must have at least 20 cards of each color. Also, the format has the generous mulligans of Five Color, which include no land, one land, all land mulligans before you have the option of using a Paris mulligan.

By using this format, you have access to all Vintage legal sets, so you can rock cards from Arabian Nights to Eventide, including Portal sets and all legal sets in between.

This format will be using the Five Color B&R list, which is a very good thing, let me tell you. Why? Since the format is naturally Highlander, we can ignore the restricted list and just look at the banned list. Guess what? There are no banned commons. Therefore, there is no B&R list for the format. This is different than Prismatic online which has banned some commons and you have to abide by those bannings even though they don’t make sense in PPS because you are bound by the Prismatic rules.

What this means is that you can ignore the possibility of banned cards in the format, and just find cards for your collection.

The Pauper

All of the cards selected must be common. Basic Lands are considered common for this purpose. Maze of Ith was printed as a common, so it is legal.

Real life is an advantage over Prismatic Online, which only has access to some sets, and Masters Edition screws things over by printing cards at different rarities online than they are in real life. As such, there are commons available to Pauper online that are not available in real life because they were never printed as a common (and vice versa; some commons were bumped up in Masters and are not available in PPS like they would be in real life).

Remember, just commons from all Vintage legal sets.

The Singleton

Highlander rules are in effect for this format. That means you cannot play more than one copy of a card, except for Basic Lands. This exception also holds for Snow-Covered lands too. You cannot play an Ice Age Incinerate next to a 10th Edition Incinerate and claim it’s okay. You cannot play a French Counterspell next to an English one and claims it works. This is Highlander, just one card of each.


If we were to use the various names from the real world, this format would be 5PH. A 5 on the pH scale is acidic, so I’d name the format Acid Magic or something like that.

Anyway, the result is a wacky format with wildly different games, without the Deus Ex Machinas of regular play. There are no Damnations or Wrath of Gods. It’s fun, and sometimes feels like you are slinging giant Sealed Decks against each other.

I’ll not bore you with an actual decklist – that would take forever to type out and forever to read. Ick. Instead, let’s take a look at the format in depth and gives you some strategies and cards I would suggest.

When the Mana Comes Around

One of the problems with Five Color is getting the right color of land in play in order to cast your spells, and that is going to be a need in PPS (or Acid Magic, whichever you prefer). However, in this format, you lack the powerful uncommon and rare cards that can fix mana, such as fetch lands, Birds of Paradise, Tithe, Land Tax, Weathered Wayfarer, Sylvan Scrying, Tolarian Academy and so forth. Without these cards, your land search will rely on common staples.

You also can only include one each of the best common land searchers. That means just one Kodama’s Reach and just one Far Wanderings. As such, you are going to need to stretch out and include more of the less powerful land searching cards, like Evolution Charm or Lay of the Land or Wayfarer’s Bauble.

You will also need to be sensitive to mana in your casting costs. Double colored mana may not be easy unless you have emphasized the color. You can emphasize one or two colors by minimizing the others to around twenty cards each. Then you can increase the amount of lands that produce your emphasized color.

If you do not have an emphasized color, or you are outside your emphasized color, then you might want to reduce the amount of cards you run that have more than one colored symbol in the cost. Another thing to consider is to do things with minimized colors that do not require you to have that color in play. For example, you might make a few of your Red cards have cycling, in case you do not draw a Mountain. You could also minimize a color through using hybrid cards. Then you could just play it with the other color.

Card Advantage

Many of the powerful card drawing spells are absent from this environment. From Fact or Fiction to Braingeyser or Mind Spring to Tidings and Harmonize, there are not a lot of powerful card drawing spells available.

Instead, what you get are card filtering spells, like Impulse, Portent, Sleight of Hand. You also get draw and discard effects such as Catalog, Sift, or Dream Cache (which is not truly discard, but you get the idea).

Since there are so few card drawing spells in common that just draw you cards, you’ll note that many of them don’t have much power, like Inspiration or Counsel of the Soratami. That makes cards like Deep Analysis very powerful. You also don’t mind draw and discard effects like Sift or Compulsive Research when you are looking at Inspiration as an alternative.

As a result of this, it behooves you to run as many raw card drawing effects as possible. Frankly, drawing cards is so important that I run cards like Keep Watch and Rush of Knowledge even though they are gambles.

You also want to get card advantage where you can, so cards from Phyrexian Rager and Death’s Duet to Civic Wayfinder and Hull Breach have added value. You also want to steer clear of card disadvantage situations, so I would strongly advise against playing creature enchantments, except for those that are not usually card disadvantage (such as Rancor).

I would also run cards that might not be the best, but have card drawing or sifting options. Cards with scry are good choices, for example. Another example might be Break Asunder. You might not normally want a four mana Naturalize sorcery, but the cycling is so valuable that the card may be worth it.

Department of Redundancy Department

Because a lot of the top cards are gone quickly, you have to build in backups. Take, for example, Disenchant effects. After Dismantling Blow, Hull Breach, Orim’s Thunder, Seal of Cleansing, Seal of Primordium, Nantuko Vigilante, Naturalize and Disenchant, you still have just eight cards in 250 that take out enchantments and artifacts. You need to add backups.

One way you can do that is by adding cards that are both removal spells and something else, like the aforementioned Nantuko Vigilante. Cards like Kami of Ancient Law, Tin-Street Hooligan, and Hearth Kami are going to give you some backup power.

So you add your Cloudchaser Eagle and your Ronom Unicorn, your Scavenger Folk and your Goblin Tinkerer. Then you might still need to dig into cards like Divine Offering and Aura Blast. Be ready for that.

One place you can have a ton of redundancy easily is pinpoint creature removal. There are scads of cards like Terror, Dark Banishing, and other removal options running around. Once you add burn in Red to the mix, killing one creature is not a problem.

Removal of Options

You do not need to worry about special lands in this format, except for Maze of Ith, which you can get around. You might want to run a smattering of land destruction in order to hit the occasional key land, but you probably would rather have creature or real removal than a Stone Rain.

There are not many sweeping removal options running around. Basically, Swirling Sandstorm is your only option, and you need threshold to use it. Outside of cards like Tremor and Dry Spell, this is the only sweeping removal in the format.

Without sweeping removal, you need to find cards that can kill multiple creatures and treasure them. I cast Rock Slide the other day against someone with four attackers and cleared them all out. Note cards like Rolling Thunder, Arc Lightning, Rock Slide and such that can off multiple creatures.

No Seriously, Run Card Advantage

Cards like Rock Slide have so much value because not only do they take care of attackers which keeps you safe but they provide a source of card advantage. When I said earlier that you need to emphasize card advantage in unusual places, I meant it. Gravedigger is powerful in this format. Cards like Think Twice, Death Denied, and more have power. Take a look at things like Raven’s Crime (which is not true card advantage, but you get the idea) and Izzet Chronarch and Ghitu Slinger.

Not every card you run must yield card advantage, because there is a place for cards like Terminate or a big creature that swings for game. Still, you need to be cognizant of card advantage, and look for cards from Urborg Uprising to Exclude to Multani’s Acolyte to Bloodfire Dwarf.

Beaters R Us

You need to have some creatures that win the game. Note that there are a handful of creatures that are common and have a power of three with flying. Creatures like Assault Zeppelid and Cloud Spirit have value because they are big beaters that cannot be blocked on the ground.

Let’s face it, in this format, there are a lot of creatures that mug up the ground, from regenerators (River Boa) to walls (Steel Wall) to everything in between (Temple Acolyte). As such, there are a lot of options for creatures that mug up the ground. You need to find a way to hit players without using the traditional means, and sky combat is the easiest.

There are two flying creatures of specific note that you should run. Errant Ephemeron is a 4/4 common flyer, and you should be running it without question. Also, Skyreach Manta has a casting cost of five with sunburst, so it can be a 4/4 or 5/5 with ease, making it the most powerful flyer in the format.

There are other places to find creatures that can get through. One is by land walking. River Boa and Marsh Boa are good at that, and can also block and regenerate, keeping away fat attackers. There are walkers of various size, but Anurid Murkdiver is probably the most dangerous with its 4/3 body.

Shadow is another place to look, and there are several shadow creatures to consider, but Infiltrator il-Kor, with its 3/1 body, is definitely the top of the line here. I have won several games by beating with this 3/1 shadow creature from Future Sight.

Fear has less power because your opponent will be running Black and artifact creatures, but it might be of interest to you, so make sure you locate some nice fear creatures. I like Duskwalker, myself.

As you can see, PPS (or Acid Magic) is an interesting format with its own feel and power cards. Everybody has extra commons sitting around that they are not using, so why not grab some, create a PPS deck, and start playing against each other? It’s a lot of fun.

Until Later!

Abe Sargent