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Okay fine, that’s just my favorite activity and I am totally projecting.
Evaluating sets for Pauper comes with some challenges. The commons in any set need to do the heavy lifting to support a Limited environment. Sometimes this doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things as certain commons can stand on their own or in the greater context of Pauper. Thraben Inspector and Firebrand Archer are two cards that had roles in their respective Limited formats, but found a home in Pauper.
Dominaria, with its legendary theme, leans on historic: legendaries, Sagas, or artifacts. While there are some legends in Pauper (thanks to various Masters Editions) they see no play and Sagas are not found at common. That means a key mechanic in this new set might as well be from Mirrodin or Kaladesh. Historic, for all intents and purposes, will only trigger off of artifacts in Pauper. Keep this in mind as I discuss anything that triggers off of something historic.
Combat tricks have gotten a boost recently. Heroic, a deck based around Lagonna-Band Trailblazer and Seeker of the Way, has picked up steam in the Online Pauper League. The deck can create a relatively large attacker early with the help of Ethereal Armor. Adamant Will is a neat two-way player that can either chip in for extra damage or save your threat from a removal spell. 2 mana is a steep price to pay but it could find a home as a 1- or 2-of in the deck.
Any card that exiles creatures deserves a look. Pauper is packed with graveyard recursion effects that can start a steamroll of card advantage. The games also features more than their fair share of Stormbound Geists and its ilk, meaning that exile effects can be a premium in some matchups. Blessed Light is expensive at 5 mana. But it can be retrieved with Mystical Teachings. Tron decks can cast this card off of Shimmering Grotto or Prophetic Prism. Being a 2 full mana cheaper than Scour From Existence means that if you have Tron, you are able to cast Prism into this in the same turn. Niche for sure, but when you are running tutors, the niches are nice.
Call the Cavalry
4 mana for 4 vigilant power is pretty good. Token decks crop up from time to time although they tend to suffer from their vulnerability to Electrickery. Making 2/2 tokens is pretty good, but the real bonus is how these tokens work with Ramosian Rally. Rally is an anthem that grants +1/+1 to your entire team for 3W but it can be cast by tapping an untapped white creature. Given that the Knights have vigilance, you could attack with them and then tap one for Rally. Alternatively, you could wait until your opponent attempts to Electrickery then use Ramosian Rally as an offensive Prismatic Strands.
Invoke the Divine
Divine Offering has seen play as a way to gain life against Myr Enforcer. Invoke the Divine is more expensive but provides a life buff no matter what. Another role player that has additional utility against hexproof and Curse of the Pierced Heart.
Sergeant at Arms
A 2/3 for 3 is not impressive. Adding two more tokens for 2W is interesting but hardly game-breaking. If the token deck emerges from the rubble after Dominaria releases, I could see running a single copy as a card that’s reasonable in the midgame but quite good late. 4 power for 6 mana is hardly a bomb, but is pretty good in Pauper, especially across multiple bodies.
I come to the first historic card. First strike is an undervalued ability, but underwhelming on a 1/1. If Serra Disciple can grow, it still has tough competition in Auriok Sunchaser. Combine this with very few ways to trigger the historic ability on your opponent’s turn and we see a creature that is probably worse than Glaze Fiend.
Normally I would ignore this card. Given the recent success of White-Blue Auras in Standard, I wanted to give it another look. And since Pauper recently got access to Fencing Ace, my interest is piqued. Making a flying double strike creature can wreak havoc on life totals. Add in Cartouche of Knowledge and Seeker of the Way and you have the start of something interesting. Oh, also Ethereal Armor—there’s always Ethereal Armor.
There is a deck making the rounds that tries to mill itself and loop Conjurer’s Bauble for an unbound number of draws to mill the opponent with Jace’s Erasure. How? It also runs Etherium Sculptor to get the cost of Bauble down to zero. This Bird might find a home in decks like that one, or Battered Golem–Banishing Knack–Shield Sphere as a way to dig for cards, but that won’t be enough to push those decks into the semi-competitive realm.
Blech. Pauper has been burned on cards like this before. The advantage to Unwind is that it cannot be used proactively and as such it will be hard to generate an absurd amount of mana with the counter. With only a single blue mana in its casting cost it can fit into Tron decks with ease, unlike Rewind. Being able to cast this off of Tron, untap all 7 mana, then go fetch something with Mystical Teachings seems like it will be a common occurrence after April 20th.
Remember that Conjurer’s Bauble loop deck from before? This is another spout. It probably won’t see play since 4 mana is quite a bit and it would force the deck into a second color.
At 4 mana, this isn’t a great deal. You do get to see three cards and keep the two best, all at instant speed. A lot of Pauper decks will also find a way to mitigate the downside of putting a card into the graveyard. Read the Bones is a powerful card that gives you a chance to look at four cards and keep two. Dark Bargain is slower, but can be cast on your opponent’s turn. The result is a card with high upside that does not have a home currently. I would not be shocked to see a deck make use of this instant at some point in the future.
3 power and then another when it dies, this Fungus has some staying power. At 3 mana, however, it is probably too slow to make an impact in a traditional Pauper Aristocrats deck as they tend to use the 3 slot for Nantuko Husk and the like.
Ostracize is basically unplayable. Despite the fact that the sorcery can take just about every major threat in Pauper, Ostracize sees no play. This is because most aggro decks are incredibly redundant and being able to take a single creature doesn’t matter in the slightest.
Add artifacts to the mix and now you have my attention. Divest has the advantage of not being dead against creature-light hands and potentially wrecking the development of both Tron decks and Boros Monarch (did you know you could steal Ancient Den with this? That’s pretty neat!). While this is not the Thoughtseize some Pauper players are looking for, it is another tool for black’s spell suite.
How bad does a 2-for-1 have to be before you won’t play it? Fungal Infection, if it resolves, will take out a wide swath of threats and leave you with a 1/1. For 1 mana that is a pretty good deal. Or it would be if the 1/1 token mattered at all. Maybe this will find a home in some Carrion Feeder decks but that’s a stretch even for the staunchest Saproling fan.
This deserves a look because it kills Gurmag Angler for 2 mana. But in order to do that you need to 2-for-1 yourself. Some decks, like these hypothetical tokens and Aristocrat decks I keep yammering on about, pay that price. Most decks, however, would be better suited running Rend Flesh or Death Rattle in an effort to pick off the Zombie Fish.
This is the first red creature that will let you regrow an instant in Pauper. Anarchist can grab a sorcery for 4R and at 4RR—hardly a bargain. In non-Ghostly Flicker Tron decks I could see this fighting for a lot, provided the build was completely avoiding blue.
Well this is certainly a card. Thanks to cards like Gitaxian Probe and Rite of Flame, it doesn’t take much to imagine this attacking for 2 on the first turn. I want to believe that the Lavarunner will be “on” most of the time, especially in a color that wants to play Lightning Bolt. Aggressive red decks already see play and lean on creatures. Some reconfiguring with recent downshift Hordeling Outburst and old standard Flame Slash could mean that Ghitu Lavarunner will be swinging early and often in the not-too-distant future.
An interesting sideboard option for Tron decks. This will likely only matter in Ulamog’s Crusher fights where stealing theirs after casting your own is your best avenue to victory. Outside of that, there is very little use for a Threaten on a stick.
One of the downsides of Electrickery is that it can be countered by a single Spellstutter Sprite. Radiating Lightning gets around this by having the special ability of costing 4 mana. Although it is likely going to be too slow for Pauper, it is another option for trying to deal with large armies of small creatures.
So Pauper gets to have Oath of Nissa, just ignoring planeswalkers? Sign me up. This card seems amazing. I keep mentioning Tron decks today, and this is part of the reason why. Base-green Tron decks lean on Ancient Stirrings to find their lands, Expedition Maps, and Prophetic Prisms. As a result, some decks bias toward colorless threats like Wretched Gryff or Adaptive Automaton as a way to increase the utility of Ancient Stirrings. Adventurous Impulse may only dig three cards deep but it can find any creature. I expect to see more Tron decks with this card shortly after Dominaria’s release as people experiment with the correct mix of Stirrings and Adventurous Impulse for a Tron deck designed to assemble the mana engine quickly and then deploy large threats.
So it’s explore, only instead of drawing a card you get a Disenchant? Not that I just talked about Tron or anything, but Broken Bond seems great out of the sideboard in those matchups. Not only do you get to hit an offending permanent but you potentially hit the trifecta a turn ahead of schedule. Sign me up.
Saproling Migration & Yavimaya Shepherd
Before the Pauper Challenges became a thing, there was a Saproling deck. It used cards like Scatter the Seeds and Selesnya Evangel to generate an army and then would slam Pallid Mycoderm. The white 4-drop turned every Saproling token into extra damage. Eventually Battle Screech hit the scene and the deck faded into obscurity due to the fact that Screech and Rally the Peasants was arguably better. Between Migration, Shepherd, and the bevy of Saproling cards that already exist in Pauper it would not surprise me to see this deck make a comeback.
That’s my take on Dominaria for Pauper. The set is jam packed with options. While none of them appear to be completely format-breaking, there is enough here to make me interested. Dominaria looks to be one of the best Standard legal releases for Pauper in quite some time and I for one cannot wait to slap Arcane Flight on Fencing Ace and go to town. What Dominaria cards pique your interest for Pauper?