Hello boys and girls!
We have a lot to talk about.
And not a whole lot of time!
In case you aren't aware, Modern Masters 2017 will be introducing somewhere around 22 new cards to the Classic Pauper format online. These cards have been “downshifted” from their original rarity (mostly uncommon, but also some rare) to common for the upcoming set.
This makes people excited. And it should. Uncommons and rares can be mighty powerful, and even though Pauper has an extremely deep card pool, a handful of these new cards should prove effective enough to make the grade.
Just as a heads up, there won't be a video portion for today's episode because I'd like to devote the extra space to talking about these very cool cards! This is also going to be the first in a two-part series, so that we can get even more discussion in next time.
Let's get things started and see what decks I'm looking forward to testing with our brand-spanking-new Pauper inductees!
Brewing Some Burning-Tree Beatdown
Along with Thunderous Wrath in burn and tempo decks, Emissary is set to change the dynamic of Classic Pauper by shifting the metagame towards a faster-paced, more aggressive baseline.
So let's be real. One of the most obvious homes for Burning-Tree Emissary is the already top-tier aggressive staple that is Mono Green Stompy. Not only does Emissary enable follow-up Emissaries, it also adds mana for a number of the one-drop and two-drop threats that Stompy already employs.
This card is absolutely worth playing because it gives Stompy decks an increased degree of “free-wins.” Certain Burning-Tree Emissary draws are just going to be busted, and will allow the Stompy pilot to completely empty their hand, much like an Affinity pilot would. This equates to the Stompy deck being too fast by about a turn or two when compared with the opponent's average draw.
Comparing Emissary to Frogmite is understandable, but it doesn't quite paint enough of the picture. Frogmite can at times be more broken than Emissary, since tapping it with Springleaf Drum and/or abusing the affinity mechanic actually contributes to making other, bigger threats cheaper to cast. However, Frogmite itself is rarely a meaningful threat in the red zone.
Because Stompy contains Rancor and all kinds of instant-speed pumps, Emissary ends up not just bringing an army to the front lines, but also joining them in battle.
I'd like to remind people that each copy of Emissary that makes it to the battlefield counts for two devotion. Probably not relevant for most of you, but for me it means that the still underrated Aspect of Hydra retains its rightful place in my personal lists!
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Flooding the board means opening ourselves up to sweepers like Crypt Rats, Evincar's Justice and Krark-Clan Shaman. For this reason I like to be sure that the deck has sweeper-resistant threats like River Boa and Safehold Elite tagging along (in addition to the pretty much universal inclusion Young Wolf).
There are of course other decks that can be built with Burning-Tree Emissary, so perhaps we'll talk about those next time!
Puzzle Without the Puzzle
To be honest, I didn't even know that Pieces of the Puzzle was a thing until a week or so ago. Now that Augur of Bolas is making his seafaring way to Classic Pauper, Puzzle-style decks will likely become even more of a thing. I have done some testing with these sorts of Pauper shells (with and without the imminent Modern Masters 2017 additions), and I am definitely onboard.
In case you are in the same boat that I was in a couple of weeks ago, UR Puzzle decks are creatureless control decks that burn away attackers, counter relevant spells, bury opponents in card advantage and close the show with a minotaur swarm thanks to multiple copies of Flurry of Horns. I've got some experience playing Flurry in Standard Pauper, and it doesn't surprise me at all that the card is proving to be Classic Pauper-viable. Resolving two copies in a row puts opponents on a positively dire clock. Furthermore, Flurry is a two-for-one, works well as a defensive or offensive implement (thanks to haste), and tends to redirect enemy burn spells from our face to our 2/3s.
While Pieces of the Puzzle has demonstrated that it can be rather powerful, I don't think it's 100% necessary for this shell as a whole. This becomes doubly true if we don't want to open ourselves up too much to graveyard hate (since Puzzle fills our yard and encourages us to pack our libraries with mechanics like flashback and retrace). As it turns out, this is actually a big thing for me these days. How good can our control decks be without getting hindered by sideboard weapons like Relic of Progenitus? The following decklist should provide us with a legitimate chance of finding out!
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So like I said, I've gotten to play this list against decks that were also playing with some new cards. Let me just say that it has been nothing short of awesome!
It uses Augur of Bolas instead of Pieces of the Puzzle, which I'm expecting to be increasingly more necessary in a world with Burning-Tree Emissary and opposing Augurs. Not saying that we can't be playing both Augur and Pieces of the Puzzle, but I'm a bit wary of that. I say this because both cards can only acquire us instants or sorceries, and there are going to be points in time where we need to be digging for lands. This will come up more often than a lot of people might think. So assuming we need to choose between one card or the other, I'd much rather opt for the 1/3 that fends off 2/2s on Turn 2.
So we end up with an Izzet “Puzzle” deck that finds its only real graveyard reliance taking the form of Accumulated Knowledge. What this means is that any sideboard Relics, Nihil Spellbombs, etc. from the opponent will mostly equate to wasted space.
What does this deck do well? It interacts cheaply with most things the opponent will be trying to do. It can kill most creatures for one mana, and stop permission for one mana also thanks to Dispel. If Gurmag Angler continues to be popular and manages to resolve against us, we can manipulate our library with Brainstorm and Ponder, thereby enabling a Thunderous Wrath for its miracle cost.
This deck also “turns the corner” pretty quickly thanks to multiple copies of Flurry of Horns and potent burn spells. By turn the corner, I mean advance beyond a point in time where we're losing the game to a point in time where we're winning the game.
In the past Mulldrifter has been the go-to “five mana turn the corner” card of choice for much of U/x control, and would usually signal that its owner had managed to stabilize the game. But Mulldrifter is in no shape or fashion able to beat down like Flurry of Horns does. Hell, it doesn't even block or soak up removal as well.
Let's not forget that Burning-Tree Emissary will also enable variations of Red Deck Wins to resurface. Flurry lines up infinitely better against Goblin Heelcutter, a lynchpin card in RDW, than Mulldrifter does.
Because the deck is running Brainstorm and Ponder, and these cards tend to perform better with fetchlands, we're playing a 4/3 split of Evolving Wilds to Terramorphic Expanse. These help fill our graveyard quickly, as do our one mana spells, which is why I'm running Logic Knot in the deck to support the suite of Counterspells.
There's also two copies of Magma Spray to briefly discuss. This card lines up superbly with many threats in the format, and because we're expecting not only Stompy to rise in popularity, but also Aristocrats decks with Mortician Beetle and a lot of persist and undying-style creatures, it won't surprise me if even more copies of Spray make it into the 75.
It seems pretty intuitive that Augur of Bolas will make a naturally sound addition to preexisting Dimir Teachings shells. These decks tend to go mostly (if not completely) creatureless anyway, so instants and sorceries are going to be in abundant supply. When instants and sorceries are in abundant supply, Augur of Bolas is highly likely to “hit” upon entry.
Here's my idea for a Dimir Teachings list with Augur, keeping in mind that I expect the format to become more aggressive due to Burning-Tree Emissary.
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To reiterate, this deck is somewhat pre-boarded against Mono Green Stompy. Two Echoing Decays to undo any multiple Emissary draws, three Disfigures early (though these can be blown out by most pump spells so I'm not too sold on them), a Vendetta, our Augurs and two copies of Evincar's Justice (with a hypothetical third and fourth in the sideboard). Throw in some Dispels, a Repeal and a couple of other spot removal selections and we've got ourselves off to a decent start.
No edicts! While this is likely going to punish us against Hexproof strategies, I'd like to give it a try to see how the other matchups are affected.
If the format gets warped considerably by Stompy in the future, I could easily see Dimir control decks taking drastic action by loading up on Evincar's Justices and Dimir Signets to accelerate into their sweepers on Turn 3!
Strangely enough, Augur of Bolas creates a bit of tension in the deck. It encourages us to not play other blockers, some of which might actually improve our Stompy matchup! This will present a bit of a tightrope line for brewers and tuners to walk over the next several weeks. Let's see how it goes!
Selesnya with Centaurs
For people looking to get in the way of the Burning-Tree Emissary swarms, a logical option might end up being 3/3 Call of the Conclave tokens.
Call is going to make the populate mechanic a little bit more appealing, especially if a deck arises that can also make good use of equally new inductee Slime Molding. It also might make a Selesnya (or Naya?) beatdown archetype more viable in general.
For today I'm going to look only at the inclusion of Call of the Conclave in the Selesnya Tokens archetype.
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I actually want 24 lands in this list, but it is very hard to make adequate space. Why so many lands? We're running 12 three-drop spells and a critical four mana spell to follow them up. At the moment we don't have much to do with excess lands (Cenn's Enlistment or additional cycling lands), so it could end up being the case that 23 is a more appropriate fit.
It's pretty cool that these kinds of decks have their initial plan of flooding the board with an array of threats and crashing in with pseudo-anthems, and also run a “backup plan” of Midnight Guard and Presence of Gond. This is a Splinter Twin-style combo that is one of the rare two-card infinite pairings the format has. It also encourages spot removal from the opponent while most of our other cards do a nice job of punishing spot removal!
I'm running Fortify over a card like Guardians' Pledge not only because Call of the Conclave tokens are green, but also because strange situations could arise where we've actually enchanted a creature that isn't Midnight Guard with Presence of Gond. Why would we do this? Perhaps the game is very drawn out and we simply want to create an additional 1/1 per turn. In these situations, being able to make a big attack with Fortify will be notably useful.
More Mastery in a Moment
That is going to conclude today's look at just a portion of what Modern Masters 2017 has to offer. We didn't even get to talk very much about Mortician Beetle, Thunderous Wrath, Tandem Lookout, etc.
The list truly goes on and on, so we'll have to revisit this topic next time around!
As always, thanks for reading. Until next time, GG!
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.