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Common Ground #100: Untitled


Hello boys and girls!

We did it.

A little over four years ago I contemplated “How to Win in Pauper,” and 99 episodes later I've nearly figured it out!


This is my 100th article here with Blackborder. I'm so happy to have made it this far, and am equally happy to still be writing about such an awesome format for such an awesome site.

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to spend a little bit of time reflecting on some of my favorite pieces from the past four years.

After that I'll be talking about a deck I've never played before, but am very excited to try out. Stay tuned!

But first thing's first.

For some peculiar reason, I've always favored the intellectually stimulating, philosophical and strategic concepts buried deep beneath the surface of this shiny collectible card game. It's quite a mental rabbit hole to dive into, virtually endless and endlessly rewarding. It's also a huge part of why I continue to write Magic articles for multiple websites year after year after year.

With that being said, it won't surprise you that my personal favorite articles from the archives of “Common Ground” are the ones rooted in Magic theory.

Here are a handful of selections I like, in no particular order.

For all of our fellow control mages in the audience, I recommend “How to Control the Pauper Meta” and “A Tale of Two Control Decks.” The former presents a step-by-step process for building a Pauper control deck capable of sniping the competition. The latter takes a closer look at some of what I consider to be the must-haves in any commons-only control list!

The pseudo-trilogy of “Preordain Beats Everybody,” “Mana Efficiency Beats Everybody” and “Mana to the Max or: How I Play Pauper” contains a high number of the strategic concepts that establish the foundation upon which I approach beating people in this format.

Personally I feel that I could've done a much better job with the latter article, but as far as the former two are concerned, I'm reasonably satisfied.

These pieces are focused mainly around the ideas of mana efficiency, “The Snowball Effect” and velocity.

In Pauper there are very few paradigm-shifting, haymaker cards in existence (because those types of cards tend to get printed at rare and mythic rare). In the realm of commons-only we can't resolve Jace, the Mind Sculptor, protect it for a couple of turns and proceed to run away with the game.

This means that the accumulation of incremental advantages and the critical application of less-than-flashy spells are often what determine whether Pauper mages win or lose. This is where things like mana efficiency and velocity come into play, and this why you should definitely check out the pseudo-trilogy listed above.

If you're still not convinced, here is an excerpt from “Mana Efficiency Beats Everybody” that will hopefully entice you:

"Mana efficiency is important because it beats everybody. There is a direct correlation between our ability to cast more spells and impact the game more frequently than our opponents can and our tendency to triumph over said opponents...In Magic the only thing more mana efficient than “1” is “free.” Anything less efficient than 1 or free should be scrutinized considerably before it makes it into your deck. It's often true that putting a slightly weaker card that costs less mana into your 75 is preferable to putting a slightly more powerful card that costs more mana into your 75.”

Steppe Lynx
Zendikar (Foil)

In case pure theory isn't really your thing, in case you're more of a rogue decks kinda person, you might get a kick out of “Hero's Landfall.” It contains a bit of information regarding my history as a player, and one of my all-time favorite archetypes: Steppe Lynx aggro! Grrrr…

Completely Random Tidbit:I still get quite a kick out of this comment posted in the discussion section of the Steppe Lynx Gatherer page by JFM2796:

Guy: Aw... what a cute little kitty.

Steppe Lynx: Meow.

Guy: Come here. (Pets the kitty).

Steppe Lynx: Meow.

Guy: (Feels drop of rain). Aw its raining in this Misty Rainforest.

Steppe Lynx: RAWR! (Attacks the guy for 4)”

Just for kicks, here are a few other miscellaneous selections:

One of my favorite “Common Ground” decks? “UR Control, My Current Favorite Pauper Deck

One of my favorite article titles? “The Ravings of a Pauper Madman

I'm sure there's an article here or there that I'm forgetting to mention, so maybe I'll bring those up at a later date. For the time being, however, let's go ahead and move on to a deck that can not just make 100 mana or deal 100 damage, it can go infinite and generate as much ownage as we want!

The combination that today's deck is built around is probably not at all foreign to you:

That's right. Infinite mana baby!

The objective of today's deck is notably straightforward.

1. Use the card selection of Ponder and Preordain to set up our combination and smooth out the edges during our developmental stages. Shuffle away unnecessary chaff with See Beyond (more on this later!).

2. Assemble a board of Axebane Guardian - enchanted with Freed from the Real - plus one other creature with defender. This grants us infinite mana, which we can dedicate to a lethal Kaervek's Torch, a downright sexy Train of Thought, or (if we're feeling modest) four Llanowar Sentinels or an Ulamog's Crusher.

3. Utilize a small amount of disruption to stay alive long enough to assemble and defend our combination.

Our backup plan is to use our ramp creatures to accelerate into a more midrange kind of plan. Llanowar Sentinels and Mulldrifters. Not amazing, but it still equates to card advantage and a board presence.

I've never played with Freed from the Real before, but I have been paired against it a handful of times over the years. This deck seems like it could end up being pretty fun, so I'm definitely looking forward to giving it a shot in today's video section!

I really like the rationale for running See Beyond in this deck. There are a number of cards we have that just plain don't do anything until our combination is established. This includes Kaervek's Torch, and redundant pieces of Freed from the Real against non-interactive decks.

Another useful application for See Beyond involves ditching extra copies of Llanowar Sentinel. Shuffle him away early, then tutor him up later when we have our mana going!

To me this deck screams “I lose to Delver” for a few reasons. While I'm hoping we don't end up facing that deck, let's talk about some of those reasons in advance.

Firstly we have the issue of relying on expensive spells to win. As far as I'm concerned, any card in Pauper that costs 3 or above can be considered “expensive,” depending slightly on what the card actually does. These kinds of cards feel even more expensive against Delver, since they can take up our entire turn to cast and simply be Counterspelled, Spellstutter Sprited or Snapped, thereby giving Delver free reign on their own subsequent turn.

Next, we are almost completely a sorcery-speed deck. Delver loves this! Delver loves to punish us for playing on our turn as much as possible. I've advocated not playing on our turn for the purpose of defying Delver for a very long time now, and this deck has very few ways to do that. Our instant speed cards can be counted on one hand: one Counterspell, two Dispel and two Spontaneous Mutation, which is also a card I've never played with before.

The Delver matchup is likely not hopeless, though. In Game One we do have access to a few answers for an early Delver of Secrets, a couple of Dispels to outperform their Counterspells and a valuable ally in Mulldrifter. There is also the outside shot of luck-sacking into a Game One combo win, and when I say “outside shot” I mean way outside. Delver simply packs too much disruption and too fast of a clock for us to regularly be able to get away with that.

With all that being said, I generally expect us to be at a noticeable disadvantage in Game One. This means that we should either be ditching this deck or doing a lot of sideboard manipulating to help us shore up the Delver matchup.

Ground and Pound

This concludes the 100th edition “Common Ground!” I'm hoping that we can now commence pounding our opponents into dust with this very sweet combo. Enjoy checking out my first ever matches with the deck!

A huge thanks to everyone for supporting this column thus far, it really means a lot to have people check out the content.

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

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.

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