Last week, there was a meme going around Twitter (or at least that’s where I saw it) which, in a push for engagement, asked for likes in exchange for one card from each year of Magic. So today, I’m going to bring powerful MTG commons from each year of Magic so far. This common is, to me, the most important common from that year for competitive Pauper. A few rules first:
- The card must be in its first printing and that printing must be common. That means a card like Monastery Swiftspear is not eligible for either 2022 (Double Masters 2022) or 2014 (Khans of Tarkir).
- The card must be currently legal in Pauper. It’s hard to talk about the current context of a card like Ancestral Mask if I have to put it into conversation with Daze or Gush.
- Cycles can count as one card and some not-cycles can as well if they were all released in the same calendar year. This will make sense eventually.
- This retrospective takes into account both historical relevance and a card’s current standing in the metagame.
- This is my list and if you disagree that’s awesome – sound off in the comments.
Let’s get started, shall we?
2022: Experimental Synthesizer
There are still more cards to be released this year but it is going to be hard to beat Experimental Synthesizer. This card does a ton, from powering up prowess and metalcraft to giving Boros another way to draw cards to pairing with Deadly Dispute. Synthesizer is extremely powerful but by the time the year is out, it could be supplanted by Basilisk Gate, which can help pump out a ton of damage.
2021: Deadly Dispute
We’re already going to get into a controversial subject with Modern Horizons 2. Supplemental sets have reshaped Pauper every time they get released and the indestructible Bridges are no exception. They would be a lock except Deadly Dispute got released in 2021 as well. Dispute powered up so many strategies and has really added another dimension to card advantage battles in Pauper.
2020: Annoyed Altisaur/Boarding Party
These two go hand in hand. If Fall from Favor hadn’t (rightfully) been banned, it would have taken this spot. The cascade duo has provided ramp decks with top-end threats that come with some built-in protection from counterspells while also ending games in short order.
From a year that features two banned cards in Arcum’s Astrolabe and Mystic Sanctuary, we present Ephemerate. Ghostly Flicker and Archaeomancer is a staple combo in the format but Ephemerate takes that interaction and supercharges it. This loop enables you to also rebuy any vital instant or sorcery from the graveyard and then rebuy Ephemerate on the rebound.
2018: Ghitu Lavarunner
2018 was an oddly quiet year all things considered. Ghitu Lavarunner gave Burn decks a potent one-drop that could pile on damage, but Lavarunner isn’t even a “must include” these days. Sure, Dominaria was a great set, but its commons leave something to be desired.
2017: Firebrand Archer
I was very close to giving 2017 to Metallic Rebuke (and if I were looking at downshifts, Seeker of the Way or Lead the Stampede would win), but Metallic Rebuke is a relatively recent addition to the highly competitive Affinity builds. Firebrand Archer, like Ghitu Lavarunner, gave Burn another tool but it also plays a huge role in various Storm-style decks that want to chain spells together. If there’s a Storm-like deck brewing, there is a very good chance it uses Archer as a spout, in conjunction with Kessig Flamebreather.
2016: Palace Sentinels and the Monarch
Ignoring supplemental sets, I think Thraben Inspector edges out Thermo-Alchemist in 2016, if only because Inspector helped to usher in the era of Boros. But Palace Sentinels and the monarch mechanic upset Pauper’s applecart like little else. The monarch provides a planeswalker-like level of consistent value and is very hard to disrupt, unless you became the monarch yourself.
2015: Gurmag Angler
Gurmag Angler provides a cheap threat that can close quickly. The Zombie Fish changed the way decks spent their resources early in order to facilitate a faster endgame. This was another close one, as Temur Battle Rage came from the exact same set, and while the ceiling of Battle Rage is absolutely higher, Gurmag has done more over the course of its career.
2014: The Khans of Tarkir Gain Lands
Here’s what I meant when I was talking about cycles before. Despite the fact that they have been somewhat overshadowed by other cycles of dual lands, the gain lands were the first Pauper duals with an appreciable upside that were all released in the same year. These cards continue to see play to this day and help provide brewers with additional options in deck construction.
2013: Gray Merchant of Asphodel
You could make the argument for Nivix Cyclops here, but no other card has caused as much slavish dedication to Mono-Black as Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Back when Pauper was a format where the game hinged on turns five and six, Gray Merchant was a monster of a finisher. It played right into the Mono-Black Control plan of building out a board and then bam – a massive life total swing.
2012: Ghostly Flicker
It could have been Archaeomancer, but the format already had Mnemonic Wall. It could have been Ethereal Armor, but that has far more narrow applications. It could have been Electrickery – the first sweeper of its kind. Instead it’s a card that, like Ephemerate, is responsible for so many game-ending loops and other shenanigans it would be hard to pass over.
2011: Delver of Secrets
Delver of Secrets was the premier threat out of blue decks for the better part of a decade. It still sees heavy play to this day, even if it sometimes finds itself on the bench in favor of additional Faeries.
This year was tough. Bojuka Bog, Kiln Fiend, Mnemonic Wall, Squadron Hawk, Galvanic Blast and Glint Hawk all were printed in 2010. Many of those help define Pauper to this day. And yet Preordain is still ahead of these all stars. It can help turn mediocre hands into sure-fire things and can filter dead cards away in the midgame.
2009: Kor Skyfisher
I talked about how Thraben Inspector helped to usher in the relevance of midrange white decks, but those builds got started with Kor Skyfisher. While it took some time to catch on, Kor Skyfisher became a staple thanks to its ability to reset cards like Journey to Nowhere (also from this year), as well as rebuying Ichor Wellspring and the now banned Prophetic Prism.
2008: Relic of Progenitus
There’s a legitimate case for 2008 being the year of Slippery Bogle as hexproof strategies can’t really exist without redundant one-drops. That being said, few sideboard cards are as ubiquitous as Relic of Progenitus. In a format that leans hard on the graveyard as a resource, a consistent way to chew through it is a valuable tool.
That’s it for now, join me next time as I count down 2007 all the way down to 1993! In the meantime, leave a comment with what you think will be the defining common of each year!