An Introduction to Pauper Part 1

by Chris Weaver

Definition of Pauper: Pauper is a Magic Online format in which all cards used must have been printed at the common rarity in a Magic Online set or product. Common promo cards are only legal if the card has been printed at the common rarity in a set or product. Other than that, the usual rules for Constructed decks apply (a minimum deck size of 60 cards in the main deck, an optional 15-card sideboard, and so on). If a common version of a particular card was ever released on Magic Online, any versions of that card printed at other rarities are also legal in this format.
Example: Counterspell was a common card in the Seventh Edition core set, which was released on Magic Online. Counterspell was reprinted in Masters Edition II with an uncommon expansion symbol. Both versions of the card can be used in the Pauper format.

Example: Hymn to Tourach, another uncommon from Masters Edition II, is not legal for use in the Magic Online Pauper format. Even though Hymn to Tourach was printed as a common in the Fallen Empires set, that set was never released on Magic Online.

The Pauper banned list is:
Cranial Plating
Empty the Warrens
Frantic Search

So why play Pauper?

Pauper is an eternal format, which means you get to play with some of the most broken cards of all time. This also means your opponent has access to the same cards, of course. Being an eternal format though is a good long term investment: Once you buy in, you’re set as long as you own the cards to play.

It’s cheap! This is one of the primary reasons I got into Pauper, since I couldn’t keep up with the expense of Standard’s metagame. Every major deck in Pauper can be bought for the price of one Standard deck, excluding the relatively cheap Mono Red builds in Standard right now. If you get tired of your $40 Affinity deck, just spend another $40 to get a FULL Stompy deck. Decks pay for themselves with just two 3-1′s in Pauper Daily Events!

The metagame is stable at any random point in time. Fluctuations happen as with any format, but your deck isn’t obsolete the second Wizards prints a hate card. The cards are all there, and Wizards typically isn’t printing real hosers any longer. So your Goblins deck will likely be just as competive now as it will be after the next set release. Every once in awhile, Wizards even throws quite the bone to previous archetypes, reviving them(such as Foundry Street Denizen for Goblins).

There’s something for everyone in Pauper. If you like playing ultra-fast reckless aggression, we have a deck for that. If you like playing ultra heavy control drawing metric tons of cards and grinding out wins, we have a deck for that. If you like playing 20 spells in a single turn, turning a can’t win situation into a can’t lose situation, we have a deck for that!
The community is great! Barring a few bad peas in the pod, most Pauper players are friendly and will freely talk strategy and possible builds with you. They’ll tell you where you messed up and how you could have beaten them(after the fact, of course) if you ask them. I gladly answer any comments and questions posted on my articles and videos, and I love doing it.
When writing an introductory article, I like to start off with the basics. In Magic, there are 3 primary deck archetypes. This article will attempt to break down and dissect each archetype, and hopefully provide some insight into which archetype is right for you.

The 3 major players in any given format are: Aggro, Control, and Combo. I won’t go into which beats which, but let’s just say it’s a game of paper, rock, scissors.

Pauper is kind of an anomaly, because most major decktypes don’t fit into just 1 of these 3 categories. Pauper is an eternal format with tons of possibilities and deckbuilding potential, so most Pauper archetypes will sort of mesh 2 of the 3 archetypes. That being said, we can mostly say certain decks lend themselves more to one category than another. Almost as if it’s aggro splashing control, or control splashing combo.

Pure Aggro decks of the format:

[d title=”Stompy (hr_caldeira)”]

17 Forest

4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
4 Young Wolf
3 Shinen of Life’s Roar
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
2 Wild Mongrel

4 Gather Courage
4 Groundswell
3 Hunger of the Howlpack
4 Rancor
3 Vines of Vastwood

4 Scattershot Archer
4 Thermokarst
3 Faerie Macabre
4 Skyshroud Archer [/d]

[d title=”Goblins(DromarX)”]
17 Mountain

4 Mogg Conscripts
4 Mogg Raider
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Goblin Cohort
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Sparksmith
3 Goblin Arsonist
4 Foundry Street Denizen

2 Death Spark
2 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt

1 Electrickery
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
3 Pyroblast
2 Smash to Smithereens
3 Gorilla Shaman
2 Flame Slash
2 Flaring Pain
1 Flame Jab [/d]

[d title=”Burn (magicdownunder)”]
4 Forgotten Cave
15 Mountain

4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Keldon Marauders

4 Rift Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lava Spike
4 Needle Drop
4 Fireblast
1 Faithless Looting
4 Searing Blaze

4 Molten Rain
3 Smash to Smithereens
2 Martyr of Ashes
2 Electrickery
4 Curse of the Pierced Heart [/d]

[d title=”White Weenie(SteffenG)”]
2 Secluded Steppe
20 Plains

3 Doomed Traveler
4 Icatian Javelineers
4 War Falcon
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Loyal Cathar
4 Leonin Skyhunter
4 Veteran Armorer
2 Guardian of the Guildpact

4 Bonesplitter
3 Journey to Nowhere
2 Prismatic Strands

2 Patrician’s Scorn
2 Obsidian Acolyte
3 Dust to Dust
1 Divine Offering
3 Crimson Acolyte
4 Standard Bearer [/d]

These decks all attempt to win on turns 4-6, with some having significant late game reach. Each deck has its own pros and cons, so lets break these down.


Pros – Amazingly versatile creatures and Rancor. The pump spells are also amazingly diverse, serving to save your own creatures, pump for lethal, or prevent opponents from doing shenanigans on their own creatures such as Snapping their Cloud of Faeries for mana acceleration or Ghostly Flickering their Mnemonic Walls for infinite mana or life loops. Stompy is generally considered favored against Delver, UR Cloudpost. It preys on the slower decks of the format by beating them down before they can get an endgame plan. Stompy also has roughly 50/50 matches against most of the rest of the format, depending of course on the skill of the pilots and the build of the Stompy deck.

Cons – Stompy can really only do damage via creatures. This makes cards like Prismatic Strands and Moment’s Peace almost an auto-win for opponents. Stompy also runs a relatively light creature package for an aggro deck, sitting somewhere around 24 creatures for any given deck. This makes creature removal particularly effective against Stompy decks. If you kill their creatures, opponents can often get stuck with multiple pump spells in hand without a target. Stompy attempts to remedy this problem by playing creatures like Young Wolf and Safehold Elite. Of course those cards only go so far when other decks draw way more cards than Stompy and can provide multiple answers.


Pros – Redundancy! Goblins decks play multiple copies of the same effective cards(Mogg Conscripts = Goblin Cohort, Mogg Raider = Goblin Sledder), along with just providing an endless stream of 30+ Goblins. Every deck is just swarming you with weenies, and the tricks provided with Mogg Raider and Goblin Sledder can threaten an unblocked creature becomes a 7/7. Goblins also has burn reach to plow through Fog effects like Moment’s Peace. Death Spark is huge, since you can eliminate pesky blockers or unflipped Delvers. Death Spark is an engine as well, costing you a measily Goblin to buy it back. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had a Goblin deck held at bay with myself at 4 life, when he topdecks a Death Spark and proceeds to ping me to death. Goblin Bushwhacker is a beast, turning those 7 Goblins into straight up murder sticks threatening a whopping 16 damage on turn 4-5.

Cons – Alot of 1/1 creatures aren’t very threatening by themselves. The 2/2 creatures have drawbacks, requiring you to cast creatures to attack with them. This negates some combat tricks, such as Lightning Bolting a Spire Golem to get it off the table. Hydroblast is a VERY common sideboard hate card, and for 1 mana it counters a crucial Bushwhacker or kills a dude. The sideboard options are also pretty narrow and mostly reactive cards that thin out the Goblins deck’s critical plan of swarming with dudes and beating face in. In order to remove blockers, Goblins sometimes just HAS to 2-for-1 itself.


Pros – Extremely fast and violent. The deck requires little thinking beyond how to count to 20, and represents a fast clock for any deck without Counterspells. Sometimes decks just can’t compete, since their decks are often packed with ways to deal with creatures. Burn decks don’t particularly care about their creatures, the 3 damage spells are far more important.

Cons – Against any deck packing mainboard counterspells and lifegain, playing as a burn player is an almost unwinnable proposition. The sideboard options are even more narrow than Goblins, since Goblins at least have resilient threats after you bring in sideboard hate cards like Pyroblast.

White Weenie:

Pros – Lots of powerful creatures with resilient and important abilities. Almost every creature is a threat that must be dealt with or countered by opponents, and many creatures provide massive card advantage. White Weenie will typically be a more difficult matchup for opposing aggro strategies, since cards like Doomed Traveler and Loyal Cathar can block and leave behind bodies as well as taking out opposing creatures or pump spells. White Weenie also has great utility spells such as Journey to Nowhere and Prismatic Strands to turn the tides. Guardian of the Guildpack is a huge threat in Pauper. Very few decks have ways to deal with a resolved Guardian.

Cons – White Weenie is a turn or two slower than the other aggro decks, and suffers from the same problem Stompy has. It can really only deal damage via creatures. You can’t alpha strike on turn 4. The creatures can also be readily killed, no matter how resilient they are, making your deck slower by another turn, which gives opponents more time to stabilize. In Pauper, white suffers a major problem: jack of all trades, master of none.