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Pick a Pauper Primary


Jason Moore

Jason Moore

About Jason Moore

Jason Moore is 25 years old, and a resident of Los Angeles California. He began playing Magic seriously in 2010, and has developed a strong interest in MTGO and the Pauper format. He is one of the hosts of the podcast Pauper's Cage, and has covered Pauper on other websites and his YouTube page. His other interests include acting, writing and playing guitar.

Pick a Pauper Primary

Hello boys and girls! 

It’s a great time to be brewing Pauper decks. Due to some changes in rarity, Vintage Masters will be heroically bestowing our format with a number of cards that were previously only available at uncommon. Potential upgrades to Pauper Goblins, Madness.dek and a whole lot more could be enough to resuscitate the format after a noticeable (and perhaps unprecedented) lull. 

Tyrant's Choice
Conspiracy (Foil)

Then there’s Conspiracy, which I am a little bit bummed about (it has some interesting cards at common, including [card]Tyrant's Choice[/card and Wakedancer, but isn’t going to be seeing a Magic Online release). Don’t worry, I’ll get over it. Before we know it Vintage Masters will be in full force and Magic 2015 will be right around the corner. 

But today’s article topic is not about brewing decks or anticipating new sets. It’s actually been chosen to remind us of some important Pauper deck selection principles. These principles should be recognized in spite of our enthusiasm for cooking up fresh lists and playing with shiny new toys. Today, my friends, we are going to talk about Pauper Primaries. But what does the phrase Pauper Primary even mean? By Pauper Primary I simply mean our tried and true, best understood, go-to strategy in the Pauper format. Our deck of choice, if you will. 

Pauper Primaries should ideally exhibit a number of powerful traits, which I will go over with all of you shortly. First, however, I’d like to reference some rather valid statements about why having a primary Pauper deck is important. Please note that a lot of this logic carries over to other Constructed formats, namely Legacy and Modern. 

First up, we have a bit of solid advice from Alex Ullman (taken from JustSin’s incredible Introduction to Competitive Pauper).

“Find a deck you like playing and learn it inside and out. The margins are so small in Pauper that knowing a deck goes a long way toward ensuring victory. It’s no coincidence some people only play one way to success.” - Alex Ullman   

At the risk of being redundant, I’d like to point out that I came to a nearly identical conclusion when analyzing Craig Wescoe’s Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze win from a Pauper player’s perspective.

“Play an archetype or style of deck that you understand the best. Even if said archetype is not considered the most viable, and even if it isn’t respected by some players, if it is something you have a great deal of experience and success with, you should probably be playing it. Whenever possible! We see this all the time in MTGO Daily Event results. Many of the grinders and other established Pauper vets earn their tickets on the back of a single solid deck.”

Now that the format as a whole has grown markedly less competitive, this “stick to your guns” concept may have in fact lost much of its relevance. However, the fact still remains that when approaching a Pauper Constructed Queue (with our very limited metagame data), being sure of our deck’s capabilities and our own piloting skills can produce a significant competitive edge. 

Okay great, so what kind of decks should we be considering as a primary option? I have a number of thoughts on the subject, and I’ll begin with the variables surrounding archetypes and play style. 

Style and Substance

What kind of decks do you like to play? What kind of decks are you good at playing? Hopefully your answer to both of these questions is the same. If you’re not sure quite how to answer, I’d highly recommend going over the traditional deck archetypes of Constructed Magic. Gavin Verhey did an awesome job identifying archetypes in one of my favorite articles ever, “Zero to Sixty”. Here is a bit of what he had to say.

“In today's wide and varied field, it's impossible to neatly categorize everything, and some decks can play as multiple different deck types. But in general, I feel like there are six primary archetypes out there: aggro-control, beatdown, combo, control, midrange, and ramp.

How do you identify which archetype your deck is? One of the best metrics to identify which kind of deck you are playing is to look at how you ideally want the game to end. By looking at the endgame and working your way backward to the beginning, you can see what kind of cards will help you get to a winning position.” - Gavin Verhey

Personally I like to play a proactive game, namely by pressuring the opponent early on. I’ve always been enamored with creatures, and archetypes like beatdown really appeal to me for that reason. As an exercise, try to identify some of the best Pauper decks around that cater to your preferred style of play. If you’re at all stuck, here are some basic suggestions:

Delver of Secrets
Innistrad (Foil)

Aggro-control: Mono Blue Delver

Beatdown: Mono Red Goblins

Combo: Esper Familiars

Control: Mono Black Control

Midrange: Azorius Kitty

Ramp: Pauper Tron

I should probably take a moment to admit that I’m actually a bit of a hypocrite. As a Pauper columnist, I’m often tasked with brewing and presenting content that covers a very wide range of decks. This comes about sometimes by necessity and sometimes by request. Obviously this is why you’ll see me jumping around from deck to deck quite often (typically every one or two articles). Remember that I’m doing it for you guys, not because I have ADHD or feel that it’s a sound approach.

Choosing Wisely

I think the first thing we can do to ensure that our primary deck choice is a wise one is to identify what makes a deck robust (as opposed to fragile, gimmicky or unfocused). One of my favorite writers, PVDDR, produced a very cool article covering the attributes of “good” decks (you can find it here).

“A very big plus for a deck is its ability to get free wins. Free wins are some games you just win out of nowhere because your opponent stumbled on mana or because you had a perfect hand. Jund, for example, had a ton of free wins because it ran a two mana 4/4 and sometimes that would be enough to beat people single handedly. Faeries had the same with Bitterblossom, and Caw-Blade the same with [card Stoneforge Mystic[/card].” - PVDDR 

When it comes to getting free wins, I believe I’ve found just the deck! I’m speaking from experience here, because this strategy has handed me a lot of free wins (namely because it can put 10+ power on the board in a single turn or deal 20+ points of direct damage!). 

Jason Moore RUG Affinity (06/09/2014)

Converted Mana Cost
Artifact Creature8
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You heard it here folks, RUG Affinity is going to be my primary Pauper deck! There will of course be more coverage of it in the video portion below, but allow me to share a few reasons why I’ve chosen it. 

For starters, the deck is considerably proactive and can produce a lot of pressure with starts that involve a one mana artifact followed by a Frogmite or two. These starts lead to very high impact follow-ups involving multiple threats like Myr Enforcer and Somber Hoverguard. This leads to my next point, which is that the deck is pretty broken. It can outclass many opponents in categories like creature size, mana efficiency, damage output and even card advantage! 

Let’s not forget that the artifact lands were preemptively banned in the Modern format because they enable so many powerful things to happen. In Pauper, the affinity deck not only has access to cards showcasing its namesake mechanic, but also to powerful metalcraft cards like Carapace Forger and Galvanic Blast

The last reason that I’ll share with you guys today also ties into PVDDR’s criterion for good decks. Check out what he has to say about their sideboards!

“Another really important plus for a deck is that it has a good sideboard. Whenever I am deciding on a deck for a tournament, I try to envision a possible sideboard and it will really make or break a deck for me, since you play over half your matches post board.” - PVDDR

Affinity decks are pretty sweet because their color fixing grants them access to a lot of sideboard options. You’ll notice that the majority of my sideboard cards can be considered high impact matchup equalizers (or trumps, if you will). Ancient Grudge is a reasonable sideboard card even in Modern, and Hydroblast/Pyroblast are rarely left at home in any deck that can play them. If it turns out that we want to dip into white or black for something particularly useful, we can do so with relative ease. All in all I think RUG Affinity has a lot to offer!

Prime Time

What do you guys think of my primary deck choice? Do you have any suggestions on how to make it better? Feel free to share your own primary deck choice in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy the videos! 

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