An Intro to Pauper

Adam Klesh Pauper

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 21, 2017, but has been updated February 25, 2019 to reflect changes in the Pauper metagame. We’ll be updating this article and other metagame primers periodically as the format and its banlist evolve.)

One of the marquee Magic events at our retail store, Mox Boarding House, is something we like to call Rags to Riches. It’s a Pauper tournament, and the Top 8 players take home Modern and Legacy staples. Rags to Riches has been quite successful, bringing players to our store who wouldn’t play in a competitive event otherwise. But even if you live too far away to play in one of our tournaments, I encourage you to give Pauper a try, because it’s an incredibly rich format with a low barrier to entry.

If you’re not familiar with the format, here are the guidelines:

Every card in your deck has to have been printed at common at one time. As long as a card meets this criteria, it’s fair game. (Except, of course, for the ban list.)

The ban list for Pauper on Magic Online includes these ten cards:

Now that we have the guidelines out of the way, let’s talk about decks.


First up, we have the Pauper version of a Modern staple: Tron!

Like all “Tron” decks, this deck uses the “Urza” lands (Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Mine) to gain a mana advantage on its opponents. The deck uses Mnemonic Wall and Ghostly Flicker (along with a slew of other tricky bits) to mount an insurmountable defense and eventually win the game.

The upside of this deck is the potential to win really long games by just Capsizing any and all threats or lands and making your opponent miserable. The downside is that it is quite easy to run out the clock on Magic Online before your match is over, forcing a loss.

1 Capsize
1 Compulsive Research
1 Condescend
1 Dinrova Horror
4 Expedition Map
1 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Ghostly Flicker
1 Island
3 Mnemonic Wall
2 Moment’s Peace
4 Mulldrifter
2 Mystical Teachings
1 Prohibit
4 Prophetic Prism
1 Pulse of Murasa
1 Quicksand
2 Remote Isle
4 Sea Gate Oracle
2 Shimmering Grotto
4 Stonehorn Dignitary
1 Thornwood Falls
1 Tranquil Cove
4 Unknown Shores
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower


1 Ancient Grudge
3 Circle of Protection: Blue
1 Circle of Protection: Red
3 Hydroblast
2 Moment’s Peace
4 Pyroblast
1 Serrated Arrows

Boros Monarch

If you’re looking for a more aggressive game plan, look no further than Boros Monarch. This is a pretty basic white fliers deck with a few fun twists. Palace Sentinels gives you a much-needed boost in card draw, and I’m pretty sure Electrickery is the best board wipe in the format. My best draws while practicing with this deck contained Glint Hawk and Ancient Den, giving me a 2/2 flier on turn one.

3 Alchemist’s Vial
3 Ancient Den
2 Battle Screech
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Boros Garrison
1 Electrickery
1 Faithless Looting
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Glint Hawk
3 Great Furnace
3 Journey to Nowhere
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Palace Sentinels
2 Prismatic Strands
4 Prophetic Prism
2 Secluded Steppe
2 Snow-Covered Mountain
2 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Wind-Scarred Crag


2 Electrickery
2 Gorilla Shaman
2 Leave No Trace
2 Lone Missionary
1 Prismatic Strands
3 Pyroblast
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Standard Bearer

Blue/Black Delver

Delver decks have been a mainstay of the Pauper scene, but the real star of the show here is Gurmag Angler. This deck wants to fill the graveyard with spells and land a cheap Gurmag Angler, while using counterspells and removal to clean up the opponent’s creatures. I can’t say enough great things about this deck; the combination of Foil and Gush is really, really strong.

Here’s the list I used:

1 Ash Barrens
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Brainstorm
3 Counterspell
1 Curse of Chains
4 Delver of Secrets
1 Dispel
3 Echoing Decay
3 Evolving Wilds
2 Foil
3 Ghastly Demise
3 Gitaxian Probe
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Gush
8 Island
4 Preordain
3 Stormbound Geist
2 Swamp
3 Terramorphic Expanse


1 Cartouche of Ambition
1 Counterspell
1 Curse of Chains
3 Disfigure
1 Dispel
1 Dive Down
1 Doom Blade
4 Hydroblast
2 Relic of Progenitus

All the games I played were on Magic Online, so I can’t say for sure what you’ll encounter at your local game store or MagicFest. Luckily for all of us, Pauper seems to be such an open format that you can play whatever floats your boat. You can find various iterations of the decks mentioned here and lots of other Pauper decks on

As always, you can find me on Magic Online (MadOlaf) or Twitter (@madolaf) or you can just send me an email ( if you want to let me know your thoughts about the Pauper format, or if you just want to say “hi.”