An Intro to Pauper

Adam Klesh Pauper

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:

Since all the cards on Magic Online haven’t necessarily been printed in the same rarity slots as all the cards in paper Magic, there are more cards to choose from when you play the format across from someone at a physical table. The format is also not officially sanctioned by Wizards, so the paper ban list changes depending on where you play. Our ban list includes four additional cards that never saw print at common on Magic Online:

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

The first deck I made reminded me of playing Type II (or Standard as we call it today) during the Mirage/Tempest days.  The deck I played back then was called Señor Stompy, and it was chock full of ultra-cheap big smashy green creatures.  This version has one-mana 2/2s, two-mana 3/2s, and a few ways to make them dangerous.

4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Skarrgan Pit Skulk
4 Garruk’s Companion
4 Vault Skirge
3 Porcelain Legionnaire
1 Shinen of Life’s Roar

2 Bonesplitter
4 Rancor
4 Gather Courage
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Land Grant
4 Prey Upon

14 Forest

Playing this deck is a lot of fun.  Running only fourteen lands is ridiculous in most cases, but it works here. Land Grant really shines when you get to cast it for free. The star of this deck, though, is the inconspicuous Gather Courage.  Every time I cast it with convoke tapping a Nettle Sentinel, I felt like a hundred bucks. I played a few matches with this deck and I didn’t drop a game. Having more threats than your opponent can reasonably remove is a very good game plan.

The next deck I played used the power of #BlackSwamp to take care of business.

4 Chittering Rats
3 Basal Thrull
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Fog of Gnats
4 Cuombajj Witches
4 Faceless Butcher

4 Pestilence
4 Oubliette
4 Dark Ritual
4 Night’s Whisper
2 Unearth

19 Swamp

This deck did not fare as well as the Stompy deck before it, but it has some cool interactions. Cuombajj Witches do a good job of holding off one-toughness creatures while providing two black devotion for our good friend Gray Merchant. Oubliette provides the same level of devotion as any of the creatures and is more difficult to remove – plus, it takes care of our opponent’s biggest threat. I would change a few things around if I chose to play this deck again – namely, adding more targeted removal such as Disfigure/Doom Blade/etc.

The decks I got to play against were varied and interesting. There was a Blue-Red deck that used Faerie Miscreant and Ninja of the Deep Hours for card draw, Skred and Lightning Bolt for removal, and various counterspells (such as good ol’ Counterspell) to try to keep me on the ropes. My favorite, though, was R/W Kuldotha Rebirth, which made a ton of goblins and swarmed the heck out of me.  I will most likely be playing a version of that deck sometime in the near future.

All the games I played were on Magic Online, so I can’t say for sure what the metagame will look like at our upcoming Rags to Riches tournament (which you can watch on our Twitch channel this Saturday). Luckily for all of us, it 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.”