With Throne of Eldraine upon us, it’s officially time to let the brewing, tuning, and metagame speculating begin! The set is one of the coolest releases I’ve seen in awhile. The fun fairytale theme, unique designs, and high power level of the cards combine to ensure Throne will be a release to remember. I fully expect Eldraine to have an impact across all Constructed formats, including my personal favorite: Pauper.
Today, I’m scouring the complete spoiler to highlight the standout cards I believe will turn out to be the best Throne of Eldraine Pauper cards. While the set clearly isn’t Modern Horizons in terms of a high density of straight bombs, it’s better than par for the course in terms of a normal release. So, let’s get to it!
I’m going to start with White and work my way through each of the colors.
Faerie Guidemother is a card I would strongly consider in any White Weenie deck. As far as stats are concerned, it has a lot of them for a teenie, tiny Fae-sized cost. In addition to low cost and high flexibility, Guidemother also has great creature types.
The natural homes for Faerie Guidemother are White Weenie, UW Tempo, and even potentially BW Aggro. Specifically, I love the soft loop between adventure creatures and ninjutsu, specifically with Faerie Guidemother.
Then use Gift of the Fae on the Ninja to sail past non-flying blockers. On stats and typing alone, Guidemother is a card I expect to see played in Pauper.
Silverflame Ritual may not look exciting on paper, but I assure you it is an exciting new card for Pauper. You had me at “put a +1/+1 counter on all creatures you control.” Such an effect did not exist at common and thus wasn’t available to build around.
It’s pretty obvious what we would want to do with the card: Go-Wide Tokens. The seemingly arbitrary vigilance ability also has some sweet synergy with convoking Sprout Swarm.
Personally, I’d rather play Disenchant and get the work done at half the cost, but True Love’s Kiss is an option that provides some value. There are not a ton of places where exiling matters, but this provides that utility and also draws a card.
Blue has a bunch of interesting cards that for the most part seem hard to place into established strategies. Nonetheless, there are cards on the power level to potentially see play somewhere at some point:
I see three blue artifacts that all look fairly reasonable in terms of casting cost and stats and I’m immediately wondering what to do with them. Trinket Mage can find Mantle of Tides and Witching Well.
Ultimately, while I think these are some sweet synergy cards, I’m hard-pressed to find a reason to play with them when we could be doing the typical Jeskai things: Astrolabe, Mulldrifter, Ephemerate.
If there is a banning, I’d be more interested in revisiting this set of cards because I do think they have potential to build around.
While Mill isn’t on the map, Secret Keeper is a strong card for the archetype. It’s a mill card that gives you a blocker to buy time. It’s also a card that a Mill deck could potentially loop with a card such as Peel from Reality. Adventure, play, bounce, adventure, play… rinse and repeat.
Unexplained Vision is one of the biggest card draw spells legal in the format. It reminds me of playing Tidings back in the day. Currently, blue decks are not lacking for 5-drop card advantage spells (Mulldrifter), but for those who feel Mulldrifting isn’t enough there is always Unexplained Vision.
I thought Black looked to be the weakest color for Pauper staples in Eldraine.
On stats alone, I think the card is extremely powerful, but it kind of lacks the backup to build a coherent deck around. I tried and here’s as far as I ended up getting:
4 Scoured Barrens 8 Plains 8 Swamp 4 Changeling Outcast 4 Universal Automaton 4 War Falcon 2 Caravan Escort 4 Griffin Rider 4 Cavalry Drillmaster 4 Smitten Swordsmith 4 Impostor of the Sixth Pride 4 Disfigure 4 Diabolic Edict
While it’s likely a mono-black version of this deck is better than this, and a version that replaces all the Knights with Zombies is even better than that, I wanted to highlight some of the cool synergies I found. In particular, the interactions between the 1-drop Changelings counting as both Knights and Griffins to unlock a bunch of synergy in the deck. It’s not Smitten Swordmaster’s fault he doesn’t have backup (yet)!
CMC =1 for a one-power flier with a second ability seems to be the going rate nowadays. As far as secondary abilities go, Collector’s is pretty decent if you have ways to take advantage of it. I’m also interested in building a Ninja deck based around Changeling Outcast and Eye Collector now that we have an abundance of great evasive one-drops to use as a ninjutsu platform.
Red continues the trend of providing some neat new tools that have interesting-but-not-obvious ports, and applications in the format because they provide unique effects that don’t currently exist.
A cheap and reusable haste enabler is worth noting in aggressive red decks. It also counts as an artifact, which makes it play nicely with affinity and metalcraft. I certainly wouldn’t mind trying out a singleton copy in a RW Metalcraft beatdown deck to help get the big bodies into combat faster.
I’m interested in Merchant of the Vale because it feels like an uncommon rather than a common. The fact that it essentially gives any card in our hand cycling for R is spicy because it allows us to pitch Exhume targets or dredge cards without actual card disadvantage (because we can cast the Merchant later).
A 2/3 body is also great on blocks because there are so many 2/2 and 2/1 creatures floating around, and don’t underestimate the ability to rummage at will in the late game as a mana sink. Merchant of the Vale is one of the best new cards in the set.
Alex Ullman has been an advocate of playing Magma Spray and here is a three-damage variant that notably also hits Kor Skyfisher. I’m not sure if the extra mana is worth the extra point of damage, but it’s a toolbox option for when exile is important.
If we really want to go graveyard synergy, we’ve also gotten an upgraded Tormenting Voice.
I wanted to highlight Seven Dwarves for flavor alone! What an interesting and flavorful design. It’s also close to Pauper-playable. I couldn’t think of any combos to ensure we get them all into play, but I’m sure somebody will.
Four mana for a 4/4 trample and a Food Token is a solid rate and there isn’t a card in Pauper quite like this–this probably would have been Rare for the first 15 years of Magic! It kind of reminds me of Ravenous Baloth or Loxodon Hierarch.
It’s a great midrange or ramp card. Those aren’t the premier strategies right now, but a big part of the reason for that is that cards like this simply don’t exist. Witchstalker is a step in the right direction four mana is a great rate for the stats. I also like that it is highly useful on offense and defense.
It’s hard to argue that a 1-mana 2/2 isn’t good. In fact, Pauper is basically defined by such a rate. The interesting thing is that the card isn’t an obvious port into any of the many green decks.
The deck where it feels like the most obvious port is Stompy. However, since the Tracker doesn’t become a 2/2 until it enters combat, and thus not a useful target for precombat Savage Swipe, I’d take Jungle Lion over it, despite Lion’s other drawbacks.
The place where I could see the card shining is in a build that plays a ton of one-drops and hits critical mass quickly. I’m imagining a deck that feels like White Weenie, but with green creatures instead.
Crashing Drawbridge is worth considering for the Freed from the Real Wall combo deck. First, it counts as a wall for the purposes of powering up Battlement and Axebane Guardian. Secondly, it gives the deck a unique angle where it can play Guardian and Freed in the same turn and go off without having to wait for summoning sickness to wear off.
Gingerbrute is a sweet, flavorful design (especially if you have a cold glass of milk handy), but you’ll have to catch him first! No small feat, considering it can only be blocked by creatures with haste! Gingerbrute has too many stats to be bad. It’s also an artifact, which means it provides synergy with mechanics such as metalcraft and affinity. I 100% believe Gingerbrute will be a card that sees serious Pauper play.
There’s an entire cycle in Eldraine that ETB tapped unless you control three of the corresponding basics. The first four are fairly pedestrian.
The problem with the cycle, at least with these four, is that the upside isn’t worth the cost. Most mono-colored decks are beatdown, which means tapped lands have a huge cost. Witch’s Cottage is a slightly better Mortuary Mire in a black control deck, but the tension with Defile makes me question whether I would play it. I don’t play Mortuary Mire and I’m not sure I would want a slightly better version. I could see the card having a home in a black aggro deck, where I’m more likely to want to rebuy my best creatures, but again coming in tapped on turn 1-3 is a huge cost. I’m not convinced any are worth it.
One thing I am confident in:
Without a doubt, Mystic Sanctuary will be the highest-impact card in the set (assuming the bannings don’t change things too much–which is possible). Blue Flicker decks have already established themselves as the top strategy and this is a card that directly ports, in a powerful way, into those decks.
Jeskai seems able to easily use Mystic Sanctuary because it already plays a mostly Snow Island mana base. Tron will include a singleton copy of the land to find with Expedition Map. I have a strong feeling that Bant Flicker just got the tool it needed to become a Tier 1 strategy. So, basically this is a card that all the Flicker decks wanted and can use to great effect. Let’s discuss the applications for each deck real quick.
Tron: Tron already plays Mortuary Mire to not deck itself, and this is a strictly better Mortuary. It makes blue, rather than black. By the time you are worried about decking, it should be easy to have three other Islands in play to set up the Ghostly Flicker Loop. In Tron, Mystic Sanctuary is an upgrade.
Jeskai: It’s the biggest freeroll in Jeskai because the mana base already has a ton of islands. In a sense, it will allow Jeskai a few things: First, redundancy of the Ephemerate combo. If the opponent can break up the loop, for instance by fizzling an Ephemerate, Jeskai can buy it back and start over. Secondly, it allows Jeskai to play its sideboard cards repeatedly once they’ve been drawn.
Bant: The Bant Familiars deck was already extremely good and it is actually able to take the best advantage of Mystic Sanctuary. It has an Island-heavy mana base already and the Familiars team up to make Ghostly Flicker + Mystic Sanctuary + Mulldrifter a deadly engine and capable of looping without a Wall or Archaeomancer.
It’s also worth noting that bouncelands can pick up and redeploy Mystic Sanctuary to generate additional triggers as the game goes on.
When I was brewing Fastbond combo decks, I understood there were basically no land options that do what Mystic Sanctuary does, so on uniqueness alone the card is significant. The one thing that annoys me about the card in Pauper is that we don’t have instant-speed interaction for lands to fizzle a Ghostly Flicker–nothing but a counter breaks it up. The Flicker decks are already trying to ignore everything the opponent does, so I guess it’s only fitting they get a combo that is even more difficult for non-blue decks to interact with.
Answers are not nearly as cheap as the proactive cards.
There’s little doubt in my mind that Sanctuary is straight-up broken card that will make its impact felt not just in Pauper, but in every format ranging from Legacy (Miracles), Commander, Modern (Cryptic Command) to Standard.
Throne may not be Modern Horizons in terms of impact, but for a regular release there are a lot of potential cards in the mix. While Mystic Sanctuary seems to be the card poised to make the largest impact (pre-bannings) I think there’s at least a half dozen cards that will play themselves into the mix this season and others that have potential for play but may need some help (either in additional printings or somebody going deep and finding the help in the cardpool).
My Top 10 Best Throne of Eldraine Pauper Cards
Overall, the set looks amazing and I’m curious to see how the upcoming B&R will shape the upcoming season. I’m wondering if the release of Mystic Sanctuary is coming from a place where the DCI was already planning on nerfing the oppressive Flicker Loop decks.
Either way, 10 cards (and I didn’t even put Witch’s Cottage, “witch” will see some play, or the other lands on my list!) for Pauper in a regular release is an impressive haul by any metric. It’s all subjective at this point, but I’m curious to know which cards the readers are most excited to brew and play with, or whether they think I’m on the mark or off my rocker with my cards evaluations here. Either way, best of luck at the Prerelease and have some fun thinking about ways to incorporate some of these neat cards!