After all the downshifts in Double Masters 2022 were revealed, the chatter in Pauper community was centered around Monastery Swiftspear, and with good reason, as the one drop has already made its presence felt. Pauper is awash with the cards that make Prowess decks click in other formats: Faithless Looting, Mutagenic Growth, Manamorphose and Lava Dart to name a few. These cards already saw play in a powerful Kiln Fiend–Temur Battle Rage shell and slotting Swiftspear in at the start of the curve was a no brainer.
But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. I want to talk about the card that might have the widest application – that is, go in the greatest variety of decks and that card is Militia Bugler. It may not look like much, but outside of Myr Enforcer and Gurmag Angler, Militia Bugler can hit just about every heavily played creature in Pauper. That alone makes it worthy of some deeper discussion.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Pauper is a format that for a long time was built on the back of two-for-one creatures. Mono-Black Control was a deck jammed full of cards like Chittering Rats and Phyrexian Rager, stitched together with Unearth and Raise Dead effects to provide a steady stream of card advantage. While this deck might not be as strong as it was in the past, its legacy lives on in decks like base green cascade-ramp, which runs out as many cantrip creatures as possible before hitting its top end.
So what do these cards have to do with Militia Bugler? In the past year white has seen a deluge of cantrip creatures. Thraben Inspector started this trend six years ago but outside of that Clue, white had been hard pressed for easy velocity until Adventures in the Forgotten Realms gave the format Priest of Ancient Lore. Then came Spirited Companion, Inspiring Overseer and Roving Harper. White now has an incredible density of creatures that can replace themselves. Where Mono-Black Control often attacked for the win, white actively wants to turn creatures sideways so creatures that find more creatures are exactly what the color wants.
Enter Bugler. Now not only does white have another way to draw cards, but this one comes with some card selection baked in. This gives the card some distinct advantages over its cantrip cousins and comes with the disadvantage of potentially putting four cards on the bottom of your deck.
I am not going to try and do the math on Militia Bugler as Frank Karsten has already done an excellent job of doing that here. The summary is that with 15 potential hits in a deck, your chance of Bugler working is a little over 70 percent. As this number goes higher, so too does the success rate.
The way I see it, Bugler fits into a few main strategies. The first is Azorius Familiars. This combo-control deck tries to set up a loop involving Archaeomancer or Mnemonic Wall with an Ephemerate or Ghostly Flicker to churn through the deck and overwhelm the opponent with raw cards. The deck leans heavily on creatures including Sunscape Familiar and the deck has run Sea Gate Oracle in the past. Militia Bugler can find every key creature in the deck, goes two cards deeper than Oracle, and has the advantage of being able to flashback Prismatic Strands if you are in a matchup where that matters. In any deck where it can find Mulldrifter, Bugler is going to serve as a bridge to an endgame where a deck can leverage its abundance of cards to great effect.
The second place I am excited to try Bugler is in an evolution of Mono-Black Control. The newest addition not only finds cards like Chittering Rats and Phyrexian Rager, but also can dig towards Thorn of the Black Rose and Gray Merchant of Asphodel as well. Bugler helps to patch over one of the problems that has plagued Mono-Black in that it’s incredibly reliant on the draw step. By adding Bugler, the deck has the opportunity to dig deeper for the creature it needs in a certain situation. It is also possible that Bugler finds a home in the Guardian of the Guildpact–Pestilence decks that have slotted into MBC’s metagame role. Here it does a great job of finding Guardian of the Guildpact or Kor Skyfisher – the latter of which is key to the deck’s long game thanks to the combination with Omen of the Dead.
The place where I am most excited to try Militia Bugler is in straight up Mono-White Aggro. Thanks to the abundance of cantrip creatures available, this deck has already started to put up results and Bugler makes it that much better. White might not have Unearth, but it does have Ephemerate, which happens to do a fine job of getting extra uses out of Bugler. Here’s what I have been running.
15 Plains 4 Boros Garrison 1 Lorehold Campus 4 Thraben Inspector 4 Lunarch Veteran 4 Benevolent Bodyguard 2 Sacred Cat 2 Steadfast Unicorn 4 Kor Skyfisher 4 Militia Bugler 1 Conclave Phalanx 4 Raffine's Informant 2 Ephemerate 2 Rally the Peasants 3 Prismatic Strands 4 Battle Screech Sideboard 1 Prismatic Strands 2 Holy Light 2 Crimson Acolyte 2 Obsidian Acolyte 3 Dawnbringer Cleric 3 Last Breath 2 Relic of Progenitus
I got the majority of this list from Matt Ferrando – someone I’ve worked with on various Pauper decks before. This deck has a ton of neat little interactions. You can Ephemerate Luminous Phantom to turn it back into Lunarch Veteran or you can use your blink spell on Kor Skyfisher to save it from removal and return a key creature to your hand. Raffine’s Informant might not put you up a card strictly speaking, but the fact it can grow to three power and bin some of your cards with a graveyard synergy is a big game.
The sweetest card Matt found was Steadfast Unicorn. This card not only can pump your team and serve as a mana sink late, but it grants vigilance. Vigilance means you can attack with impunity if there’s a Prismatic Strands in your graveyard or go for a post-combat Battle Screech. Rally the Peasants is a great finisher here and allows us to get maximum value out of Boros Garrison.
How are you using Militia Bugler in Pauper? What application are you excited to try with the format’s newest premium three-drop?