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Pauper Primer: Control


One of the most daunting tasks about getting into MTG is choosing what format you wish to get into. With Standard, you have the most affordable decks (generally) but you need to keep making deck changes with set changes and there just isn't that large of a card pool compared to the alternatives. With the eternal formats, they are almost prohibitively expensive for the average Joe, save a few budget options. Pauper though, is the golden middle child, having a massive card pool, a low price point, and is still an eternal format. The pauper format is also crazy diverse, having a deck or two for almost every type of player. Which brings us to what I am here to do. I am here to help you choose exactly what deck(s) you'll likely enjoy! So, without further ado, let's get into it, starting with your soon to be bane/savior, the controllers!

 

The Control Decks

Now, since Counterspell is a legal card in the format, it should be little to no surprise that control decks are some of the strongest decks in the format, varying from forms of UB, UR, Mono-Blue, and even some non-blue decks such as BW and Mono-Black.

The Blue Decks

With a suite of a high powered draw in the form of Preordain and Ponder, counters such as Counterspell and Daze, it is no surprise that blue has a very strong presence in the meta-game of pauper.
 
 
Mono-Blue Delver is a great way to show off the power of the control suite of the pauper format. It focuses on controlling what the opponent is and isn't allowed to do, much like the control decks of old, while focusing on resolving one or two threats that can close out the game while gaining card advantage (Ninja of the Deep Hours and Gush) and digging and manipulating the top deck with their cantrips (Preordain and Ponder). While cantripping is nice for any deck, the real power of the two cantrips is their ability to set up an easy Delver of Secrets flip to try and close out the game. While Ninja of the Deep Hours might not seem intuitive at first, it has great synergy with one of the best counterspells you'll grow to either love or hate, Spellstutter Sprite. Between four copies of it and four Faerie Miscreant, you'll be able to counter most of your opponents' low-cost threats and save your Counterspells for big bombs and then just pick it back up with Ninja to use it again while drawing a card. The deck is then rounded out with a few bounce spells to clear the way for our attacks, or to keep ourselves alive through the few threats that resolve. A common addition is also Mutagenic Growth, and Spire Golem for some creature resilience. Some lists even run Foil for the poor man's Force of Will! In the side, we bring in some specific countermagic, such as Dispel and Annul, Gut Shot to deal with tricky one-toughness creatures, Curse of Chains to perma-tap some nasty creatures, and some forms of removal, such as Serrated Arrows, Piracy Charm, and Hydroblast as a hybrid removal/counter.
 
Against Mono-Blue Delver, if you're green, reach and Scattershot Archer are your best friends since the one toughness on most of their team will be their undoing, while your beefy creatures can take most fights. The real challenge, regardless of color, is RESOLVING the cards. Many times, you need to just fight through the counters and run them out. With red, Electrickery and Pyroblast are two of the best cards in the game against the deck. Black and White don't have great sideboard options against the deck save Shrivel and cards like it. Blue can always bring in more countermagic if you want to see who can deny spells best.
 
 
At first, you might call these decks similar. You are somewhat right to do that, but also completely wrong. While they share colors and a handful of cards, they have two distinct game plans. With Delver, you are trying to get in damage hard and early while answering their threats, whereas Control wants to do things the other way around, hoping to shut down everything your opponent wants to do and then slamming some creatures they can't really answer. This doesn't seem like a large change, but the card choices become immensely different once you look closer. With control, you see classic casting cost cards, such as Chainer's Edict, Disfigure, and Accumulated Knowledge. Compare that to the alternative casting costs of Delver, such as Daze, Foil, and Snuff Out. All three of these are strong and don't require as much raw mana on the board to be used, freeing up early mana to get our Delver of Secrets and Gurmag Angler onto the battlefield as early as possible to try and kill our opponent. Looking back at control, we can see the plan of answering threats until we run the opponent out of cards and then gaining card advantage with our strong draw spells. Once safely in the lead, we can then beat the opponent down at our leisure.
 
Siding against UB is similar regardless of which version. In both cases, Relic of Progenitus is a worthwhile card to prune the grave to make Angler harder to cast. Pyroblast is once again a great card to bring in, and beyond that strong targeted removal to answer their few threats can go a long way. If your opponent has fliers, don't worry about the Scattershots this time, focus more on the reach and kill spells this time. Both variants likely have Shrivel, and Echoing Decay in the side, so if you're running weenies, bring in your Spidersilk Armor and similar effects.
 
 
Izzet Delver, surprisingly, is almost identical to Mono-Blue, with a few key changes. Firstly, your basics MUST be Snow-Covered. This is non-negotiable, because the big draw to adding red is the addition of Skred, allowing you to answer the beefier creatures in the game. We'll also add in a few lands to search/thin/shuffle through our deck while making sure we have the mana colors we need. Now, to be clear, the red is strictly a splash. Most decks only run 2-4 Lightning Bolts and the four Skreds in the main with a few red cards in the side to help some matchups, such as Pyroblast and Gorilla Shaman. Truthfully, this deck runs very similar to its Mono-coloured brother and has many of the same interactions and shares many of the same cards. If you aren't sure which one you'd prefer, don't worry, there is roughly only $20 online keeping you from having both versions of the deck. Not to mention the more control focused version of the deck.
 
 
Siding against these decks, keep in mind anything that allows you to answer counters and fliers. Beyond that, remember both have access to Electrickery!

Other Control Decks

Now, for newer players, not blue control decks might sound weird. Remember though, control just means that the deck focuses on controlling the flow of the game. The three decks that you're likely to see are Orzhov, Mono-Black, and Tron. Tron plays more like a combo deck, so we will leave THAT for the combo deck article. That leaves us with Black and Orzhov!
 
Notice we only have six total creatures in the deck. To be honest? Sometimes, that will feel like overkill. We have a great removal suite, arguably the best in the game, and a creature that will never die to most removal in the format in the form of Guardian of the Guildpact. Guardian being part one of how we intend to win, part two being Pestilence. All we are going to do is keep the opponent from ever being allowed to mount an offense and chipping at their life with Pestilence while the Guardian not dying makes sure it never goes away. We also have some life gain if we fall behind in the form of Pristine Talisman and some lands that also gain us life. Much like taxes, it is a slow, painful death.
 
Beating this is thankfully not the worst thing in the world and the deck isn't that popular right now. Countermagic, enchantment removal, and going wide will allow you to swarm over your opponent when combined with cards that buff your field's toughness to make them need to spend one more black to kill your board. In short though? Rush them down hard and fast.
 
 
Once upon a time, this deck was highly popular. What changed? I wish I could tell you as it now resides as a fringe deck. The deck comes with some cards that allow you to recursively remove creatures, such as Cuombajj Witches and Chainer's Edict, acting as card advantage, as they can eat two (or more cards) for the price of one. A dangerous thing when combined with our actual card draw, such as Phyrexian Rager, which gives us a body and replaces itself for one life, Thorn of the Black Rose to give us a great blocker and the Monarchy, and a few draw spells (Read the Bones and Night's Whisper). Another nice thing is that once you've run your opponent out of threats? Play that Chittering Rat. While it doesn't look like the best thing, imagine having one or two cards in hand that are dead/near dead. Now imagine having to draw that same card again. The way we hope to close out the game from here is we will chip out damage as we kill all the creatures and occasionally ping with the witches until we just slam a big old Grey Merchant of Asphodel. Welcome to why we have so many black symbols and enchantments. Eat your heart out aggro.
 
To be honest, this deck doesn't need to be sided that hard against. Yes, an answer to Pestilence and a way to protect your weenies is needed sometimes, but the deck just doesn't feel like it measures up to the current decks.
 
This concludes what you need to know about control in Pauper! If you have any further questions, leave them in the comments and I will get back at ya with all the haste of a Raging Goblin!

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