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With or Without Cruise


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.

With or Without Cruise

The title of Owen Turtenwald’s latest article pretty much says it all. In case you don’t get the picture, here is an equally stark quote from the piece:

“I feel strongly that Treasure Cruise shouldn’t have been printed and in time it will be obvious that decks with Treasure Cruise in them simply win more often than decks that don’t. It should be banned in every format with the possible exception of Standard.” - Owen Turtenwald 

Personally if I’m playing Classic Pauper and tickets are on the line, chances are high that my deck will be capable of drawing three cards for U. In my eyes it just makes too much sense not to. I’m not saying that everyone has to be like me, but this is the land of commons, where Cruises can be had for less than 15 cents a slice. It’s not like other formats that are dominated by mythic rares and alienating financial prerequisites. 

Take a look at this main deck, which I recently piloted in a Pauper Daily Event.

Jason Moore Izzet Cruise Control (3-1 Pauper Daily 12/12/2014)

Converted Mana Cost
Basic Land13
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Not an expensive 60 at all, considering the fact that we’re playing a Delver deck (let alone a blue deck). Each card in the main can be purchased for less than 15 cents, and many are format staples to begin with. The sideboard is sort of another story, but if one really had to they could omit the Hydroblasts and Pyroblasts (doing so, however, would have an effect on overall results). 

I’m posting this list to illustrate that Cruise is viable in just about every way. Besides, it’s the reincarnation of Ancestral Recall! You know, the one that we get to play four copies of! The card hovers at a power level rarely seen in this format, can press advantages or help us recover from disadvantages. While some might be upset that it puts everyone in blue, keep in mind that eternal formats have a tendency to do that already. Besides, you can be another kind of deck that merely splashes for the controversial draw spell. Even those who aren’t playing Cruise should realize that playing blue is one of the most viable ways to beat it. Here’s why. 

Not Bojuka Bog, and not Relic of Progenitus. These cards don’t have many powerful applications against anything that isn’t Cruise. Counterspell does. It’s one of the best catch-alls in the format, and something I don’t usually plan on leaving home without. 

Perhaps I’m being misleading here, as there is no singular card or definitive way to “beat” a Treasure Cruise plan, so you might as well play the card yourself. If you’re, for some reason, adamant about not playing it, hopefully the rest of this article will provide you with some options (or at the very least some ideas). 

The Pauper Divide 

Back in March of this year I wrote an article dealing with the concepts of Extreme Turn 1 Pressure and Dominant Endgames. These concepts are merely gears within a larger strategic Pauper divide, that being the one that currently exists between early game decks and late game decks (fast decks and slow decks, if you will). In my opinion, the most strategically viable options in Pauper exist on either end of this spectrum (or they are like Affinity and Delver, meaning they are capable of winning during either phase).

Treasure Cruise has only stretched and complicated this divide, leaving very little in the way of middle ground. Virtually all of the Dominant Endgames are trumped by Cruises, so it stands to reason that slow strategies should incorporate the card immediately. Alternately, fast decks can arguably ignore it, as they intend to kill the opponent before his Cruises provide much of a benefit. I think this is for the most part a solid plan, since it doesn’t try and fight the opponent’s strength (the raw card advantage generated by Cruise). Instead the fast decks will bypass the opponent’s strength and focus instead on their own strongest point, the early game. 

A third option still lurks in the format: Esper Familiars. This deck thrives due to its robust combo element and minimal amount of interaction. It’s considerably hard to disrupt and probably cares the least about how many cards a foe might draw off of Cruises. You may have noticed Pauper sage Alex Ullman lobbying for the beheading of Esper Familiars on social media lately, and perhaps he’s right. That is a subject for another time, however. What matters now is that Esper Familiars is a solid choice, and the only “blue” deck that doesn’t necessarily have to incorporate Cruise.   

Viable Decks (?)

Here is a list of decks that seem to be putting up decent results, and in my eyes are the best options in the Pauper metagame.

Pressure Decks



Izzet Fiend (with Treasure Cruise)

Mono Blue Delver

Mono Green Stompy

Mono Red Burn

Endgame Decks (with Treasure Cruise

Izzet Control 

Pauper Tron 


Esper Familiars

The deck I’m going to try out for today’s video portion does not feature Treasure Cruise, and is currently competing with Burn and Stompy for a spot in the above list. I think it definitely has what it takes, however. Let’s take a look!

Jason Moore Mono Red Goblins (12/22/2014)

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That’s right, Goblins! Despite the fact that it doesn’t play blue, I don’t really see any prominent cards around these days that invalidate the Goblins strategy. 

For those of you who don’t know, Goblins is a long-running aggressive archetype that utilizes tribe-specific synergies and produces a critical mass of attackers, eventually winning the game with Goblin Bushwhacker or direct damage spells. 

My Goblins lists tend to favor both Foundry Street Denizen as virtual Savannah Lions, and Goblin Matrons (for Bushwhacker redundancy, not to mention increased access to Mogg War Marshal and Sparksmith). For today’s games I’m also trying out Tarfire, a seemingly underwhelming but tutor-able Shock thanks to Matron! 

This red menace can blitz opposing decks, thereby winning via too fast syndrome, or obliterate other creature plans with Flame Slashes and Sparksmiths (this guy is really powerful in the right situations). Even sweeper effects like Electrickery and Krark-Clan Shaman are mitigated by the activated ability on Goblin Sledder and Mogg Raider, which means that specific hate against Goblins is not always as hateful as the haters might hope. 

In terms of the sideboard slots my choices might be slightly outdated. Red is perhaps the narrowest sideboard color to begin with, but we do have contingencies against Hexproof (Electrickery) and even a colorless option against Burn (Sylvok Lifestaff). Martyr of Ashes was formerly my go-to choice against Hexproof, since she could deal much more than one damage across the board. The issue with her is that she only hits ground pounders, and the white deck built around Battle Screech and Triplicate Spirits still sees some play at this point in time. 

I may want to incorporate a lot of Razes moving forward, since we already identified Esper Familiars and Tron as two prominent performers and they both rely on certain lands in order to produce extra mana. 

It could be the case that I should cut Goblins as aggressively as possible, ditching the Death Spark and Matrons for harder-hitting creatures and more burn. This would mesh well with my concept of the current Pauper Divide, but the ability to outlast the other aggressive decks has its appeal.

What do you think should be done to this list? More burn spells? Different creature choices? Raze in the board? Also, I’d like to know how viable you think Goblins are currently. Hopefully the video portion will provide a decent example of how the deck typically runs as well! 

Cruise Next

Although I’m playing a red deck today, I really can’t emphasize how powerful Treasure Cruise is in our format. If somehow Pauper players had access to a decent planeswalker, don’t you think most of us would take advantage of that? Cruise really isn’t all that different. It’s a relatively inexpensive common, splash-able and it fits into a number of different archetypes. It’s also often going to be the best card in your deck. But don’t take my word for it, here are a few more thoughts from Owen:

“The most overlooked factor in Treasure Cruise's influence is that it rewards you handsomely for just playing a good honest game of Magic. As long as you tread water and trade resources and survive, you fuel delve well and can overwhelm the opponent in card advantage…The more cards you play and the longer the game go the better your best card becomes. It’s a card that gets better when you play the most common kind of games of Magic—an interactive one.” 

I would definitely like to hear any thoughts you might have regarding the impact of Treasure Cruise on the Pauper format. At the end of the day am I overvaluing the card? 

For the time being, please enjoy these matches featuring Mono Red Goblins, and not featuring Treasure Cruise. They might end up being a rarity in the coming year. 

Happy holidays to everyone, and thank you for an amazing 2014! This not only marks my final article of the year, but also my 50th here with Blackborder! Thanks to all of you for making this possible. 

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

(Common Ground #50) R1 Goblins vs... von jasonmoore228

(Common Ground #50) R3 Goblins vs... von jasonmoore228

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