Ravnica Allegiance hits Magic Online January 17th and the new cards will be instantly legal for Pauper. While this set may not have some of the high impact cards that Ultimate Masters featured, it has its fair share of hits for the common format.
Final Payment is one of the more interesting removal spells to see print in recent memory. As a 2 mana spell that can take out almost everything, it deserves a look. The 5 life is a massive additional cost, especially in a format that features a cheap 5 power Zombie Fish. Still, using this to take out a Gurmag Angler means taking 5 once instead of multiple times. Snuff Out sees plenty of play but the advantage there is the 4 life as an alternate cost, not an additional.
In other words, the best way to use Final Payment is if you can turn its sacrifice clause into a benefit. The best enchantments to sacrifice are Journey to Nowhere and Oblivion Ring, provided you can cast both the enchantment and final payment in the same turn. Both of the enchantments are worded such that if they leave the battlefield before their enters-the-battlefield trigger resolves that the targeted creature will be banished for the remainder of the game. Such a play is expensive and hard to pull off so while this is may not come up often, it is something to be noted.
Sacrificing value creatures is the way to go. Black has access to Unearth and white has access to Tethmos High Priest, so getting creatures like Thraben Inspector or Phyrexian Rager into the graveyard with Final Payment means they can come back for more. Payment also works nicely in token strategies or decks that actively want to get into combat. You can block with a creature and then sacrifice it to Final Payment to take out a larger incoming threat.
Final Payment is not going to turn Pauper on its ear. But it does provide an interesting and powerful tool for decks that can take advantage of its full rules text. I look forward to seeing how it gets integrated into decks with Battle Screech and Doomed Traveler. Maybe it ends up being a strong enough card that Imperious Oligarch also sees play.
Open the Gates
Mana fixing continues to be a pinch point in Pauper. Open the Gates provides one of the better potential fixers in quite some time. The ability to get any 2 color land is fairly important as it can help set up turn 3 plays. But this means taking the second turn off or casting something for a single green mana. Currently that is a losing proposition. Without a strong sweeper at the three spot or another game changing spell, taking the time off to fix your mana is likely to be better spent committing actual threats to the board. So why even bother mentioning this card? Because the effect is unique enough that at some point down the road a deck could very well want this card. It is so close to being playable—a few things need to break its way first though.
Skewer the Critics
Skewer the Critics gives Burn another Lightning Bolt. It is also going to be painfully easy to trigger spectacle in Pauper thanks to cards like Thermo-Alchemist, Curse of the Pierced Heart, and Rift Bolt. The problem is that Burn is already a fairly tight design without many flexible slots and Skewer is going to be fighting Searing Blaze for slots. I imagine this is going to come down to a metagame call more often than not, with Searing Blaze being correct when you need to have some spells that interact with the board. Otherwise, having access to additional cheap deal 3 damage spells is going to make for some awfully quick games against decks packing Mountains.
Removal spells already outpace threats in Pauper. Summary Judgment continues that trend. A 2 mana instant that can take out nearly every threat during combat, its addendum rider means that if you’re able to survive a combat step, it will also kill a Gurmag Angler on your turn. Initially I was high on this card and the more I look at it the more I can appreciate its elegance. While this should see play in white decks that do not touch a second color, those that do have better options. For half the cost you get a Lightning Bolt and for the same price you get a Journey to Nowhere. But the strength here is the fact that Summary Judgment is a secret split card that is not quite Lightning Bolt or Journey to Nowhere. The flexibility is the biggest selling point here and while it may not be an automatic 4-of it is strong enough to earn some playing time.
The last card I want to talk about didn’t even pique my interest at first. It took a few times through the spoiler before I saw Wrecking Beast for what it was: an absolute house. A 7 mana 6/6 trampler is nothing special, but this is more than that. It is either a 6/6 trampler with haste or a 7/7 trampler. Wrecking Beast fills a role that has been absent as of late—a great top end. It’s one of the best pure beaters by size if not by casting cost, so you have to figure out ways to cheat it into play. In Tron decks it can come down off of natural Tron (with some help) and either hold the ground or crash in for damage. Between Exhume and Resurrection, it isn’t impossible to fathom getting this on the battlefield early and using haste to put the hurt on your opponent fast. Wrecking Beast will be doing just that in the coming months and I cannot wait to get this out on bargain basement prices.
There are a few other cards that are interesting in the context of Pauper.
- Applied Biomancy could be a suite role player if a Simic tempo deck ever gets off the ground.
- Burning-Tree Vandal should see play as a way for red decks to increase their card quality. The size and Riot make this a solid package.
- Clear the Mind gives do-nothing control decks another win condition.
- If a deck comes along that can reliably cast Growth Spiral and gain value from it, then it is going to be a huge player.
- Ill-Gotten Inheritance is weird and slow.
- Lawmage’s Binding is probably 1 mana too expensive, but shutting down Tireless Tribe outside of combat is nice.
- Someone will try to make Persistent Petitioners work. They’ll likely succeed at least once.
- Prying Eyes is too expensive to matter in the current metagame.
- Sagittars’ Volley is a nice sideboard option against decks with Spider Golem and Spellstutter Sprite or Kor Skyfisher and Bird tokens.
- Sphinx’s Insight is too slow to be a 4-of but could see play as a 1- or 2-of in blue-white Tron decks.
- Undercity Scavenger is an undercosted 5/5 that could bin creatures you want to die.
Pauper is due for a shake up. Ravnica Allegiance may not make huge waves but all that could change depending on what gets added to the banned list on Janaury 21st.