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Playing Pauper: Defender Combo

Playing Pauper is back! Last week, we had an Instant Deck Tech for a crazy Pauper combo deck called Defender Combo. The basic plan of the deck is to play creatures with defender—lots and lots of creatures with defender—and then eventually use Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement to make a ton of mana, eventually find Freed from the Real to make infinite mana, and then hopefully use that mana to win the game. Along the way, we draw a ton of cards with Mulldrifter, maybe flicker some things with Ghostly Flicker, and hope that everything comes together in the end. Of course, the plan comes with a downside: when things go wrong, we're casting a bunch of creatures with zero power that can't attack, which leaves us in a spot where our deck does nothing for a long time before it eventually does everything all in one turn and tries to win the game. The question is how often this plan comes together. Is Defender Combo consistent enough to compete in the Pauper format? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Playing Pauper: Defender Combo


  • As for the record, we started off strong by winning our first two matches but ended up fizzling down the stretch of our league, losing our last three to finish with a 2-3. While not a complete disaster, finishing with a losing record was a bit disappointing after the solid start. 
  • Defender Combo is a strange deck. It works really well when the opponent doesn't know what's going on and taps out when they should be leaving up a counterspell or removal. On the other hand, it because very difficult to ever combo off once an opponent understands that we can make infinite mana with Freed from the Real, with just a single creature with defender and an Axebane Guardian, and starts leaving up instant-speed interaction to prevent our combo. 
  • As such, one of the biggest problems with the deck is that it doesn't really have a great backup plan for after the opponent figures out what's happening and focuses on stopping the combo. Since nearly all of our creatures are walls with zero power and no ability to attack, it's not like we can go on the beatdown plan to punish our opponent for leaving their mana open to stop the combo. Finding a backup win condition that doesn't rely on putting Freed from the Real on Axebane Guardian would go a long way toward fixing this issue. While there might be better options available, one possibility is to play Doorkeeper to mill the opponent out if making infinite mana isn't going to work. Vent Sentinel could also be an option, but we'd probably have to change up the mana base to support more red cards. 
  • Another problem we ran into is Delver of Secrets. While we have a lot of walls on defense, they are mostly ground based, and since our deck is pretty slow, it's very possible we just lose the game to a single creature if our opponent simply casts Delver of Secrets on Turn 1 and flips it on Turn 2. Wall of Tanglecord could be a good Delver-blocking option out of the sideboard while still keeping our defender count high for Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement
  • Shield Sphere was the least impressive creature in our deck. Considering that it's now about $10 a copy (making up almost half the cost of the deck), it probably makes sense to play something else in that slot (like Doorkeeper or Wall of Tanglecord), a change that would not only make the deck cheaper but most likely better as well. 
  • So, where does all this leave us with Defender Combo for Pauper? Considering that the deck is only like $30 if you don't play Shield Sphere, it feels like a great second or third Pauper deck. While I could imagine taking a tournament by surprise with the combo, once people figure out what you're doing, it's going to be difficult to win with the deck consistently. Most decks in Pauper have answers for our combo, so we're mostly counting on our opponent disrespecting our janky-looking walls by not leaving up removal. While this happens a lot at first, the free combo wins become much less frequent once we go infinite a couple of times. With this in mind, Defender Combo seems like a really unique and fun Pauper deck to break out every once in a while, but if the goal is to win week in and week out, a more resilient strategy is probably a good choice. Still, Defender Combo is a blast to play, draws a ton of cards, and combos in a sweet way, so it's certainly worth putting together (especially for just $30 without Shield Sphere) to have fun with once in a while. 


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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