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Playing Pauper: Why You Should Play Pauper

If you've been around Magic for a while, you've probably heard about Pauper — the online format where only cards printed at Common on Magic Online are legal. While this may sound like a weird way to define a format, it's resulted in a format that's cheap, diverse, and fun to play. Let me tell you a little more about Pauper.


There are over 5,100 cards currently legal in Pauper. That's over three times the card pool size of Standard and over half as large as Modern. Each new set brings about a hundred new cards into the format. Even in sets containing nothing but reprints, Pauper players sometimes get new cards! This is caused by cards being downshifted in rarity from uncommon (or higher) to common rarity on Magic Online. It is happening for a few cards in Tempest Remastered and could potentially happen in Modern Masters 2015.


At the time of writing, there have been 45 decks that have gone 4-0 in the 11 past Pauper Daily Events; each of those decks cost less than 100 tickets and 30 of them cost under 30 tickets.

Compare that with Standard where only 4 decks of the last 42 to 4-0 a Daily were under 100 tickets (3 Mono Red lists and a Jeskai tokens deck squeaking in at 98.06) and 24 of them cost over 200 tickets.

Additionally, Pauper is a non-rotating format meaning that cards remain legal in the format forever unless banned. Thus the decks have a much lower turnover rate than in Standard. In Standard you often need to buy expensive cards each time a new set is released to keep your deck relevant in the new meta.


There are 9 daily events a week for Pauper compared to 40 for Standard, but I suspect that this actually a generous amount when comparing the proportion of people that play each. These events are driven by demand, so if Pauper grows as a format, presumably the number of daily events available will grow as well.

As far as auto-firing events go, there are 2-man queues but no 8-man queues available to Pauper players. The 8-man queues were recently removed due to the low demand, but I'd love to see them come back if the format grows enough.

You won't qualify for the Pro Tour playing Pauper, but there are still a fair number of opportunities to play on Magic Online.


There's a different Pauper deck for almost every play style that exists among Magic players. Let's take a look at some of the decks.

Mono-Black Devotion

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As one of the most popular decks, many players come prepared to face Mono-Black Devotion and still have a difficult time fighting through it. The deck grinds out card advantage with efficient creatures and spells, and then lands a Gray Merchant of Asphodel or two to win the game. They also have access to many strong removal spells including spot removal, edict effects, and even board sweepers like Pestilence and Evincar's Justice. The deck is quite strong and is a good choice for a control player in the format.


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Delver is a curious deck, but a strong one. It plays somewhat like a control deck with its copies of Counterspell, Spellstutter Sprite, and occasionally Daze, but it also can play like an aggro deck with the right draw, having both Delver of Secrets and a 1-of Bonesplitter. I think it plays most like a tempo deck. Spellstutter Sprite keeps the opponent on the back foot in the early game. Even 2-CMC spells aren't safe when a Cloud of Faeries can be chained into a Spellstutter Sprite while having only two mana available. Additionally, if you have no more Sprites in hand, you can get them back with Snap and Ninja of the Deep Hours


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The Familiar deck is a combo deck with a mill win condition. The plan goes something like this: 1) Play 1 or more Nightscape Familiars or Sunscape Familiars, 2) Generate extra mana with Cloud of Faeries, Snap, and Ghostly Flicker with bounce lands like Azorius Chancery in play, 3) Play Sage's Row Denizen and mill your opponent out with an infinite or sufficiently large string of Mnemonic Wall/Snap or Ghostly Flicker. The deck's plan is more intricate than my description suggests, has many lines of play, and requires a significant amount of skill to pilot optimally. I would only recommend it to someone willing to put time into learning the subtleties of the deck.

Delver Fiend

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Delver Fiend is a aggro deck with explosively powerful creatures. The preferred game plan involves landing a Kiln Fiend or Nivix Cyclops, playing a few spells, and then attacking for the win sometime on or shortly after turn three. The deck plays burn spells to remove blockers or to provide reach when the creatures are dead, protection spells like Apostle's Blessing and Dispel, and cheap spells like Gitaxian Probe, Shadow Rift and Temur Battle Rage to trigger the creatures. The list also typically has the full 4 Delver of Secrets since over half the cards in the deck allow it to flip, making it a consistent source of damage.


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Affinity is an aggressive deck that makes use of the mechanic of the same name. All the lands are artifact lands enabling the rest of the deck's Affinity and Metalcraft mechanics. It uses cheap threats like Auriok Sunchaser and Myr Enforcer to deal damage quickly and can refill its hand with Thoughtcast and Perilous Research. Similar to Delver Fiend, Affinity can generate huge amounts of damage out of nowhere. Affinity does it with the combination of Atog and Fling. If the opponent doesn't have countermagic or a Fog effect, this combination can steal wins even from opponents with high life totals.


These are just a sampling of some of the interesting decks in the format. Other decks I glossed over include those making use of the Tron lands (Urza's Tower and company), an infinite creatures combo deck featuring Midnight Guard and Presence of Gond, an intriguing deck making use of Reality Acid and bounce effects like Glint Hawk for repeatable removal spells, and a smattering of aggro decks including Green Stompy, Red Goblins, and White Tokens. You can check out what's popular at the moment with the Pauper Metagame.


Pauper is a fun format with a lot of existing decks to select from as well as a lot of opportunities for brewing new decks. It's a changing format with recent additions like Gurmag Angler, Temur Battle Rage, and the Khans of Tarkir gain lands (like Swiftwater Cliffs) impacting the format and making new decks or deck choices possible. 

I'd highly recommend Pauper to anyone who wants a new format to explore. Reach out to me on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG or in the comments below with your favorite Pauper deck or to share your thoughts on the format.

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