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The Power of Pauper: The Terror of the High Seas

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of The Power of Pauper! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be talking about the state of Tolarian Terror decks in Pauper and the variants that exist and how those decks are currently looking. In addition to that we've got two Challenges to discuss.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!


Pauper has had a lot of changes in this past year, a lot of those coming from sets such as Lord of the RingsCommander Masters, and now Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Through all of these changes, one card has been the cornerstone of a few different variants of decks in the format. Originally introduced in Dominaria United, Tolarian Terror has been very much one of the format's key cards... or is it?

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Originally this card was the flagship threat of both Dimir and Izzet variations of a hard control shell that sought to either remove threats from the board or counter things and then use the cost reduction to deploy a game-winning threat. When Commander Masters was released, these decks received an additional variation on this cost reduced threat in the form of Cryptic Serpent, which allowed the deck to move into mono colored variants and be able to lean on cards like Delver of Secrets as well as Serpent and Terror.

However, as the format began to congeal in a very Red vs. Blue fashion with Terror and Burn fighting each other for dominance, a curious thing occurred in that other decks that are able to prey on either of those halves began to move in. Decks like Jeskai Gates and Golgari Gardens, alongside the new Azorius Affinity decks began to populate in the format and attack the arms race held between the blue control variants and Mono Red.

As it stands, there are three predominant variants of Terror decks now in Pauper. The one with the most metagame share at the moment is Mono Blue.

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Mono Blue is certainly a curious deck. Most of its ability to remove creatures from the board involves bounce spells like Echoing Truth and Snap, but have no real ability to remove a threat from the board permanently if it can't counter that threat on the way back down. The upside of this variant is of course the steady manabase and Lorien Revealed as a way to fetch additional Islands.

That being said, despite being one of the second most popular decks in the format going back to Oct 1st, 2023, Mono Blue Terror has also proven to have a pretty subpar win rate as well, coming in at just below 50% at 49.2% win rate. While it had a good number of Top 32s in that time, it had only 8 Top 8s since Oct 1st and only 15 Top 16s. If we pull that down to the last two weeks it has had a single Top 8 and a 42.4% win rate. I do believe that this being the most popular variant has a lot to do with this, as players will pick up the deck expecting it to be powerful. And don't get me wrong, it is powerful, but it also has a lot of learning curve to play well and much of that really hurts its win rate.

That being said, I have a feeling the second version of this deck is possibly a better place to be and that's in the Dimir variations. Dimir was the primary variant of this deck until Cryptic Serpent came about.

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One of the big things that Dimir Terror has going for it right off the bat is its ability to flat out remove a creature from the battlefield, either via cards like Cast Down, Snuff Out, or even Agony Warp. Combined with the ability to utilize countermagic and additional cost reduced threats like Gurmag Angler, this variant has a lot of flexibility to it, and Lorien Revealed is better stretched here as it can fetch the typed tap-dual lands like Contaminated Aquifer and Ice Tunnel, always ensuring the deck has solid mana.

While this variant has had less Top 8s in the past 8 weeks, it's overall win rate is a bit higher at 52.5%. Now there is a measure of sample size to consider as we had a lot of results of Mono Blue to look at (76 for 8 weeks worth of data) but only 26 for Dimir Terror. Sample size being what it is, I do think it's probable that Dimir Terror is a bit underplayed in the current metagame and has a lot of potential.

The final version of this deck that currently exists is Izzet Terror.

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The Izzet versions of this deck gain a bit more leverage in removal as pretty much all of their removal is damage based, but we gain access to cards like Lightning Bolt and Skred. Sweepers like Fiery Cannonade are also a thing, and in addition this deck gains access to some card draw and go-wide strategies, being able to lean on effects like Crimson Fleet Commodore giving the Monarch and Frantic Inventory pushing raw card advantage.

This deck also gets to run both Hydroblast and Pyroblast out of the sideboard, which lets it leverage against both the blue and red decks of the format. That being said, it's win rate for the past 8 weeks of the format hasn't exactly been stellar at around 48.4%, which is even worse than Mono Blue. It's had less Top 8s and far less Top 16s/32s, but it's sample size is also lower than both Dimir and Mono Blue.

I suspect this variation is probably not a great place to be but on power level to the format it's got chops and may be a bit underplayed as well and still can do well in events (as we will see in this weekend's Challenges).

I'm still of the mind that Dimir Terror is quite possibly the actual best version of this deck at the moment, but changes in metagame like this take a lot of time, and Mono Blue has an allure to it that people just like given that the deck is much cheaper too (the aspect of Dimir Terror having Snuff Out makes this rough).

All in all though I think all three of these decks are in an okay position in the format and while they're strong, I don't think any of them are overpowering as they were earlier in this year.

Pauper Challenge 11/25

The first Challenge event of the weekend was the Saturday event. This event had 55 players in it thanks to the data collected the Castle of Commons Discord.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Burn had the largest metashare here with a slightly over 50% win rate, while Mono Blue Terror was next with a less than 50% win rate. Both Golgari Gardens and Gates decks did quite well as did Affinity.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Golgari Gardens 1st cicciogire
Jeskai Gates 2nd Maccaciock
Boros Ephemerate 3rd Kirblinxy
Burn 4th oskiyaa
Mono Blue Terror 5th manjyui
Golgari Gardens 6th SulleyCrusher
Grixis Affinity 7th _Marian_
Burn 8th Walker735

Pretty nice Top 8 here. The ending of this event was a split finals with the recorded winner being Golgari Gardens.

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Multiple sac outlets now in having Fanatical Offering in addition to Reckoner's Bargain and Deadly Dispute have certainly boosted this deck by quite a bit. We talked about this a lot last week but also inclusions like Tithing Blade have really pushed this very hard.

The recorded Second Place Finalist was on Jeskai Gates.

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Very straightforward version of this deck. The right mixture of creatures one expects to see here and the disruption suite. The red splash is basically just for Pyroblast, which has made a lot of sense with these decks as of late.

Also in this Top 8 we had Boros Ephemerate.

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This deck is pretty sweet, really. I love the Ephemerate work and especially enjoy the fact that Ardent Elementalist is sort of like your Archaeomancer from blue decks. Being able to loop Ephemerate is quite good for sure.

Pauper Challenge 11/26

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the Sunday event. This event had 64 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Castle of Commons Discord.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Burn was the most played deck of the event by a LOT, and it had a reasonable good win rate of 53%. The rest of the ones above the cut were Golgari, Mono Blue, and Affinity with varying ranges of win rates, with Mono Blue having actually done the best here.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Azorius Affinity 1st CAM_13
Izzet Terror 2nd OlavoJusMTM
Mono Blue Terror 3rd manjyui
Boros Ephemerate 4th Tunaktunak
Burn 5th derramedefogo
Burn 6th MatheusPonciano
Golgari Gardens 7th Windup_Emma
Walls Combo 8th Terminus0

Reasonable Top 8 here really. At the end of the event it was Azorius Affinity that won.

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This list is quite clean and very strong looking. It's quite proactive and executes its game plan well.

In Second Place we had Izzet Terror.

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We did talk about this deck being somewhat underplayed and also still having some great chops earlier, and this is pretty indicative that a good player can do well with this deck for sure. It is doing some powerful things and that is great.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Walls Combo.

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I love this deck so much. It's definitely one of my favorite decks in all of Pauper because of how goofy it is. It really does some cool stuff and I love it.

Around the Web

  • Alex Ullman has an article on Ixalan cards defining Pauper. Check it out here.
  • Kalikaiz has a video on Azorius Familiars. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 deck lists over here.

Cycle Storm is always sweet!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for continuing to support the column and join us next week as we continue our journey into Pauper!

As always you can reach me at all my associated links via my Link Tree! In addition I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the MTGPauper Discord Server.

Until next time!

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