Pauper’s Evolution and Grand Prix Vegas

As 2018 wanes, Pauper seems to be forging a bright future for itself. Recently, the Arizona Pauper League had the privilege of speaking with Magic personality Reuben Bresler concerning the growth of Pauper. For those not familiar with the format, it’s played exclusively with commons. We spoke about its rise in popularity and he offered the following insight, “The format has a robust metagame with top-tier competitive strategies people are able to sideboard for and plan against. It is a fun and interactive format where tournaments feel interesting and not entirely luck based, has a grassroots following that has exploded over the past year that shows no signs of slowing down, and the barrier for entry is lower than every other major format.” Prior to Grand Prix Las Vegas, ChannelFireball made the announcement of format championships for Pauper and Commander. Soon after, it permeated Magic’s social community, picking up steam in the competitive world leading up to the event.

While GP Vegas itself is widely considered to be the hottest event of the season, it normally has plenty already to offer the avid Magic fan: Modern and Limited main events, a huge showing of famous artists, vendors galore, and Magic celebrities. A Pauper championship was icing on the cake for those looking to test their mettle in this emerging format. Attendance exceeded 200 competitors and a thrilling day of Pauper ensued. Congrats to Jon Clancy piloting U/R Delver, who won the event and trophy. There was a diverse Top 8, which Alex Ullman covers in his article, but some spicy brews like Corrupt Control and Songs of the Damned made the Top 8 as well. One big item of note was that this event was the first Pauper tournament at a Grand Prix that exceeded 3 rounds at 5 total, and offered a cut to Top 8. This hopefully alludes to larger tournaments in the future, perhaps even a Grand Prix main event. Finally, as an entry prize for all who entered, an exclusive playmat was offered for the tournament, hosting a beautifully constructed depiction of the popular blue cantrip, Ponder, with the event details scribed on the mat.

While we can all be excited by the prospect of an increasing Pauper tournament scope, Reuben had this opinion to offer about another aspect of the Grand Prix scene, which shows how Pauper is gaining a bigger following: “The beating heart of any major tournament are the 10-25 vendors on site and the online vendors at home who want to sell to the viewing audience.” Players may seek hard-to-get cards (Oubliette), promos (Chainer’s Edict – 2006 FNM), or even foil variants (foil Ponder) for their collection that may not be available at their local scene. One of the largest changes that was noticed between the last Grand Prix we visited in our hometown of Phoenix, Arizona versus the most recent event in Las Vegas was the tremendous increase in card availability. It became evident as we browsed the many Grand Prix vendors that a majority of them did indeed have Pauper staples set aside in binders or even cases labeled “Pauper.”

Speaking of tournaments in general, the local gaming store that Arizona Pauper League calls home, North Valley Games, is still seeing an increasing player base. Players from other formats are seeing the popularity and joining the fun. The store is packed on Pauper nights, which are Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. Other stores in our area have started running events throughout the week and we launched our website to start coordinating all of the local Pauper tournaments. With the ever expanding scene, I could play Pauper almost every night now if I wanted to! We have started organizing larger events with bigger prize pools, such as boxes of cards or foil play sets of Pauper staples like Counterspell for winners. I don’t see any sign of it slowing down, especially with ChannelFireball’s national events, local events springing up all over the nation, and the social community coverage it is getting.

A final note concerning the Grand Prix is the unique opportunity to meet artists from Magic’s history. While most people ask artists to get the same popular card signed, there is something special about handing an artist an older card they don’t often see anymore, like Drew Tucker with Holy Light or Dan Frazier with Orcish Farmer. Dan is well known for his work on Moxes, but I could tell that he had a special attachment to the card as I saw his eyes light up a bit and laugh to himself when I handed him the card. We talked about Pauper a bit and he did some neat doodles on the card, which was a nice touch. I am not advocating playing that card competitively by any means, just collecting Pauper legal cards for my own personal collection!

Written by the Arizona Pauper League
Contributions by Robert Blasius & Billy McReynolds
Special thanks to Reuben Bresler


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