Paupers and Kings, Ep. 3: Living End

Hi everyone, and welcome to the third episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget.

This week I’m doing something a little bit different. Where I usually find a Pauper deck and port it into Modern, this time around I’ve gone the other way. Today we’re starting with a budget Modern list, and finding its corollary in Pauper. And to add a bit of complexity, the Modern list we’re looking at is Living End, with its signature rare card sitting in the center of the deck’s strategy. But fear not, we will find budget lists in both formats that, if not identical, play in a similar fashion and use many of the same cards.

Living End in Modern

We’ll start with our Modern list, Living End by Travis Woo. Travis updated his list in an article just this month, so the version we’re looking at is fresh as it gets. Check out his original list in the article and my slightly more budget version below. Aside from the mana base, the only difference you’ll notice is [c]Avalanche Riders[/c] instead of [c]Fulminator Mage[/c].

[d title=”Living End by Travis Woo (Modern)”]
4 Savage Lands
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
3 Mountain
3 Swamp
1 Plains

3 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Street Wraith
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Deadshot Minotaur
2 Shriekmaw
4 Jungle Weaver
4 Pale Recluse
4 Avalanche Riders

2 Beast Within
4 Demonic Dread
4 Violent Outburst
3 Living End

2 Shriekmaw
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence
2 Slaughter Games
1 Ricochet Trap
1 Kataki, War’s Wage [/d]

If you’re not familiar with Living End, I will (again) point you to Travis’s article. The basic gist, though, is that you cycle a bunch of guys for 2-3 turns, and then cascade into a Living End. With 8 cascade spells that can only hit Living End, you’re bound to find one early, especially with all the cycling you are doing. Once you hit End, you clear your opponent’s board, bring back a bunch of beefy guys on your side, and proceed to beat face. Of course, we’re playing Modern, so it is rarely that simple or that broken. Even so, it’s remarkably consistent.

As a secondary strategy we’re happy to use Living End as a Plague Wind against our opponent and start hard-casting beefy creatures in the mid-game. The spiders, which Woo swears by, are often larger than anything our opponents are playing, and they have the added benefit of blocking Delver and other flying pests.

The interesting thing about this list is that, for its strong power level, it’s mostly running commons, especially in the creature slots. In fact, aside from [c]Avalanche Riders[/c], every single creature / cycler in this list is a common! All the other spells and most of the sideboard are not, of course, but an all-common cast of creatures plus cheaping out on land leaves us with an inexpensive start to a strong list.

I spent about $17 to put this list together, not counting some cards I already owned. I think that’s the cheapest “real” Modern list I’ve built to date. The land base could be improved for as little as another $16, but I enjoy playing a list before I decide how much to invest in it, and we can play this list just fine with this practically free mana base. Now let’s check out our Pauper list.

Living End in Pauper?

Obviously we don’t get [c]Living End[/c] itself in Pauper, so we can’t build an identical list. It turns out, though, that Pauper does have a list that fills a similar niche and uses many of the same cycling creatures. It’s a list that goes by a few names but I’m going to call it by the interaction that makes up its wincon, Damned Rats.

I’m largely aware of this list because it has had a champion for as long as I’ve followed Pauper, and that is Tom the Scud. There is plenty of other good development around this idea, but we’re using Tom’s list this week, as found over in MTG Salvation.

[d title=”Damned Rats by Tom the Scud (Pauper)”]
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Island
8 Swamp
5 Forest

4 Architects of Will
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Street Wraith
1 Blood Celebrant
2 Mnemonic Wall
3 Pit Keeper
4 Stinkweed Imp
3 Crypt Rats

3 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Songs of the Damned
2 Commune with the Gods
4 Tortured Existence

3 Chainer’s Edict
1 Crypt Rats
3 Duress
1 Festercreep
2 Fume Spitter
1 Gnaw to the Bone
2 Moment’s Peace
2 Spore Frog [/d]

Where LE runs 20 cycling creatures, this list packs 16, but also has [c]Stinkweed Imp[/c] and his Dredge 5, which is really the main way to fill the yard. Based on the name, you may have guessed, but the wincon here is to cast [c]Songs of the Damned[/c] for tons of mana and kill your opponent with a massive [c]Crypt Rats[/c] activation. [c]Gnaw to the Bone[/c] is there to keep you alive until that can happen and, just as importantly, to make sure you can kill your opponent with the rats without killing yourself.

[c]Mnemonic Wall[/c] provides some inevitibility, ensuring you can bring back the Songs when you need it. The deck is good at getting creatures back from the yard thanks to Pit Keeper and Tortured Existence; it’s poor at getting non-creatures back, though. The [c]Blood Celebrant[/c] enables your blue mana if you happen to dredge your 1x Island into the yard.

The list is fun to play and surprisingly powerful. Creature strategies have few ways to interact with you, and between your Imps killing their guys and your Gnaws gaining you life, they will be hard-pressed to win unless they finish you off quickly. Counterspells can be a pain, but since the Imps always come back, and we get to cast all the Gnaws twice, our opponents will usually run out of counters before we run out of gas.

Graveyard disruption is definitely a problem, though, and with [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and Familiars out there demanding to be answered, most opponents will be packing some in the sideboard. Black decks are running [c]Bojuka Bog[/c] and everyone has a [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] or two to cause us problems. Aside from [c]Duress[/c] we have no way to stop a relic from hosing us, so until we have a card in Pauper that shuffles the yard back into our library, we’re wide open to being hated out.

Luckily, just as Living End can play a good midgame by hard casting its creatures, Rats can do the same. We’re not dead if our yard goes away, we’ve still got plenty of decently -sized creatures we can cast, but the game gets a lot more difficult.

On the Play

So how do these decks look in play? I took each of them out for some test matches. Check ’em out below.


The land destruction package can be surprisingly effective in Modern. Otherwise, both lists require a lot of practice to play well, and if they didn’t show as well as they could, here, it’s likely because of my poor play. Even so, we saw some good competition in both formats, and both lists held their own quite well.

Most importantly, each deck is unique in its format. If you like doing something different and playing with unique wincons, I strongly recommend checking out both these lists.

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

Three weeks in, what’s next? I’ll be covering Tron next week, so if you would like to pitch your favorite lists, please do so in the comments. Have other archetypes you want to see crossover in Pauper and Modern? Let me know!

Until next week, may your end always be living and your songs, damned.