Phyrexia: All Will Be One has hit the scene and has been available on Magic Online for a little over one. The new cards have slowly started to make their way into Pauper. As of writing, no new archetypes have broken through, although there are rumblings of a Storm-style combo deck that uses poison and proliferate to win the game. So where does that leave Pauper? Largely in the same place it was before the last batch of cards were released. Competitive Pauper, at the moment, is about playing to the board and jockeying for an advantage on the field of battle as opposed to a war of card accrual (although the best decks certainly do see a ton of cards).
10. Goblin Combo
After a stellar performance in the recent Qualifier, Goblin Combo has once again fallen out of the top tier. The deck has a lot going against it. Not only is Goblin Combo a bit slow to set up, which can mean death against Kuldotha Red, it also relies on the graveyard and Relic of Progenitus is everywhere. Finally, the deck can be a bear to run on Magic Online due to the number of clicks. Using First Day of Class, Skirk Prospector and Putrid Goblin, the deck can generate an unbound amount of mana and then either draw its deck with Dark-Dweller Oracle or go for a clean kill with Makeshift Munitions (generate enough mana with Putrid and Prospector, and then repeatedly sacrifice Putrid Goblin to ping).
WonderWalls is an umbrella term for a variety of combo decks that attempt to leverage cards like Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement for bursts of mana. Similar to Elves decks from the past, they see a ton of cards thanks to Lead the Stampede and Winding Way, but also run a potent tutor in Drift of Phantasms. Drift allows the deck to find combo pieces like Guardian, but also Freed from the Real or Galvanic Alchemist to generate an unbound amount of mana, as well as Valakut Invoker to win the game. Some builds turn to Secret Door and can present a victory just through venturing.
8. Azorius Familiars
For a long time, I felt Familiars was a “secret best deck” in Pauper. It was challenging to pilot on Magic Online (noticing a theme here?) and was notoriously difficult to disrupt. The deck accrues an overwhelming amount of value by looping Ghostly Flicker or Ephemerate through Archaeomancer and Mulldrifter, eventually drawing an answer for every possible threat. Sometimes the deck could pivot to a combo kill with Sage’s Row Denizen. Not much has changed with the core strategy but the deck is struggling against the assertiveness found at the top of the metagame which has led some players to run Honorable Scout in the sideboard.
7. Naya Gates
Naya Gates has slowly established itself as a solid archetype. It plays to the board early with cards like Sacred Cat and Thraben Inspector and couples those plays with several layered card advantage engines based around Ephemerate and Kor Skyfisher. The deck makes use of Abundant Growth to help fix its mana but it also runs Gatecreeper Vine as a way to find Basilisk Gate. Saruli Gatekeepers can keep it alive long enough before creatures decide to pass through the Gate and become monstrous titans capable of ending games in a few swings. The deck sometimes touches black for Omen of the Dead and some builds have adopted Mulldrifter, although that seems largely unnecessary these days.
Bogles remains a viable strategy in the format because of how well it can play to the board. Despite the abundance of cheap sweepers these days, Bogles is able to assemble a threat where the toughness quickly outpaces the rate of the wipes. What’s stopping Bogles these days is the fact that it lacks the ability to be as consistent as some of the other top decks, relying on less efficient velocity like Abundant Growth without a reliable way to rebuy that value.
Take everything I said about Naya Gates but replace the Ephemerate package with sleek blue control cards. Preordain and The Modern Age help find key cards while the combination of Brainstorm and Squadron Hawk – while not as elegant as they were in Paris over a decade ago – still do good work. Counterspell is just as good as ever and this deck can pass either Sacred Cat, Squadron Hawk or Guardian of the Guildpact through Basilisk Gate. The issue facing CawGate currently is that it has to be finely tuned for its matchups and catching one too many bad ones can leave it holding all the wrong answers.
4. Orzhov Ephemerate
Orzhov Ephemerate has cemented itself as a major player in the format thanks to its ability to keep pace with Kuldotha Red and Affinity. The deck is packed with creatures that have an immediate impact once they enter the battlefield and can be easily recycled with Ephemerate. The deck also has strong endgame plans, either with Kor Skyfisher and Omen of the Dead or Goliath Paladin and the initiative. Sprinkle in removal like Unmake, Cast Down and Chainer’s Edict and you have a recipe for a deck perfectly suited for the current meta.
3. Kuldotha Red
Kuldotha Red has not lost a step, but the format has started to catch up. As more decks adapt and start playing creatures that can block or run early interaction, red’s ability to steamroll opponents has been diminished. Don’t mistake that with it being a bad deck as it is extremely powerful. Monastery Swiftspear is a heck of a Magic card and when it’s followed up by Experimental Synthesizer and Reckless Impulse, it can chain together enough burn spells to end the game in short order.
2. Dimir Terror
Dimir Terror built its reputation in part on the back of Snuff Out but that card is hardly risk free these days. Unexpected Fangs does a ton of work for this archetype, letting its threats tussle with both Swiftspear and Myr Enforcer. The deck is lean and sees plenty of cards, but the threat density could be a liability if removal picks up.
1. Grixis Affinity
There isn’t much left to say about this deck that hasn’t been said. Affinity runs some of the best threats and cheapest card draw available in Pauper and the hits just keep coming as builds have started to adopt Annihilating Glare.