Preparing for the Pauper Championship: Contenders and Fan Favorites

Welcome back to Preparing for the Pauper Championship! In the first article, I presented some of the best decks in Pauper. In this article, I take a look at some of the contenders for top deck, and some fan favorites.


Dinrova Tron

FloyFreak, Top 8 at May 6 Pauper Challenge

Stonehorn Tron

Hellsau, 1st place at May 13 Pauper Challenge

Again, I won’t go into too much detail for these decks as I covered them separately. Both Stonehorn Tron and Dinrova Tron use Ghostly Flicker and Mnemonic Wall to create a loop with Stonehorn Dignitary and Dinrova Horror, respectively. Combined, these decks have reasonable results: a Win+ of 15 in 21 appearance with four visits to the Top 8 and a Challenge win. People do love playing Tron and these decks are good options. If I had to choose one I would run a Dinrova Horror build as it is likely to fare better in a less defined metagame.


Evolving Wilds, Finalist at May 27 Pauper Challenge

Burn seems like an odd choice in a format full of life gain. And it is. The ubiquity of the Khans of Tarkir gain lands means that many decks start at 21 or 22 life. Still, Burn has had one of its best seasons to date—four Top 8s in nine total appearances—thanks in no small part to the addition of Ghitu Lavarunner. Lavarunner means that opponents have to consider leaving in a card like Disfigure, which is normally terrible against Burn. This change means that the format has to adjust to Burn’s new line of attack while not making itself weaker to, you know, multiple Lightning Bolts pointed to the face. Burn might not be the best deck in the format, but a player new to the format could do worse.


Funkydude 787, Top 8 at April 29 Pauper Challenge

Yes, in Pauper you can play every artifact land but no, you can’t play Cranial Plating. Affinity is great at throwing cheap 4/4s on to the battlefield while having the backup of a combo kill of Atog and Fling. Affinity is one of the most powerful decks in Pauper but has a natural nemesis in Gorilla Shaman. At least, it does online.

Affinity is my sleeper pick for a deck to overperform at the Pauper Championship. In a larger field, especially one that may not be as intimately familiar with the ins and out of matchups, I expect there to be fewer copies of Gorilla Shaman. Affinity can overcome one round of hate, but round after round is something else entirely. With fewer Mox monkeys around, Affinity has a shot to do rather well even if the digital metagame tells us otherwise.


TheMaverickGal, Top 8 at June 3 Pauper Challenge

Elves has had a rough go of it recently. The deck, capable of flooding the board with an obscene number of creatures, also happens to suffer at the hands of the extremely prevalent sideboard card Electrickery. Elves seeks to use Llanowar Elves and friends to power out heavy hitters like Priest of Titania, Elvish Vanguard, Lys Alana Huntmaster, and Timberwatch Elf. The advent of Lead the Stampede to supplement Distant Melody means that the deck can recover from board wipes with ease. Like Modern and Legacy Elves, this deck uses Nettle Sentinel as a way to generate mana, except instead of Heritage Druid, it uses Birchlore Rangers.

If Elves is a potent option, then why has it stumbled as of late? The answer is in the hate. Electrickery is only one option that can demolish a board of creatures. Shrivel and Evincar’s Justice both see play and Swirling Sandstorm has been a regular inclusion in the sideboard of Izzet Delver. Still, Elves is easily portable from other formats so it is likely to show up in droves in Vegas.

Izzet Blitz

Toastmachine, Top 16 at June 3 Pauper Challenge

One of the few decks I will be talking about today without a Top 8 during Dominaria season, Izzet Blitz is the spiritual predecessor to Tribe Combo. A blue-red Gush combo deck, instead of pitching cards, it wants to chain cantrips to power up Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops and then win in a single swing thanks to Temur Battle Rage.

Izzet Blitz has fallen by the wayside thanks in part to Circular Logic. Tribe Combo needs fewer of its nonblue cards to win so that it can dedicate slots to fixing its mana and to defending the combo in a synergistic manner. Being able to madness out a Logic on the combo turn not only saves your Tireless Tribe but it also makes it larger. Izzet Blitz can pastiche this with Daze but it isn’t the same. Still, blue and red are the two best colors in the format and Izzet Blitz remains a threat.

Fan Favorites

Mono-Black Control

Zeno1865, Finalist at May 13 Pauper Challenge

For a while, Gray Merchant of Asphodel was the most feared top end in the format. The ability to curve Cuombajj Witches into Chittering Rats into Gray Merchant could end games while also disrupting your opponent. Black also has great removal in the form of Chainer’s Edict, Disfigure, and more. With Sign in Blood and Phyrexian Rager to keep the cards flowing and the ability to keep the board clear with either Crypt Rats or Pestilence. It was a strong strategy.

But then Palace Sentinels hit the scene.

Suddenly the Boros Monarch deck could do almost everything Mono-Black wanted to do but did it better. It was better at drawing cards and closing out games. On top of that, Lightning Bolt and Galvanic Blast do a better job of handling threats than Chainer’s Edict and kin. Still, Mono-Black Control has its adherents and the allure of a solid mana base cannot be undersold.


Kungfutrees, Top 8 at May 20 Pauper Challenge

Slivers is a fun deck. The fact that the deck can run a dozen lords that buff the team is enticing. Yet, despite the strength of the tribe the strategy has never stuck at the top of the standings. It has a Top 8 this season on the back of Adventurous Impulse, but even with the new option Slivers lacks the punch of other decks. Still, Slivers are a fan favorite and as such I expect that people will run the deck at the Pauper Championship.


Rbsmpt, Top 8 at March 25 Pauper Challenge

Hexproof has a decent amount of overlap with Modern Bogles, and plays similarly as well. While Ancestral Mask is no Daybreak Coronet, the deck can still pump out massive attackers thanks to the Mask and Ethereal Armor. Cartouche of Solidarity gives the deck some staying power against Chainer’s Edict and the like. The biggest issue with Hexproof is its vulnerability to Spellstutter Sprite and cards like Standard Bearer. If a player wants to beat Hexproof, it can be almost pitifully easy. Still, some people are happy just to ignore their opponents.

Tortured Existence

Tortured Existence is something like a cult classic. The graveyard-based toolbox deck is one of the most adaptable decks in the format. Yet, it sees few results online due to the operations. The deck leans heavily on using the eponymous enchantment to recycle Golgari Brownscales to gain quite a bit of life. In the paper world it is easier to just float the mana and demonstrate the loop. On Magic Online the clicks can become burdensome. Because of this, I expect people who love the deck to bring it to the Pauper Championship. Heck, if I were going to Vegas I’d be bringing something similar to the deck I played at Grand Prix Hartford.

Azorius Familiars

420dragon, Finalist at June 3 Pauper Challenge

Familiar decks are Ghostly Flicker combo decks. Before Cloud of Faeries was banned, they were possibly the best decks in the format, but they largely went away with the ban. The release of Prosperous Pirates gave the deck new life but, like Tortured Existence, the number of clicks needed to win makes the deck a chore to run in the digital space.

Familiars is a value deck that tends to win by looping Ghostly Flicker and Mnemonic Wall with another blue creature to feed Sage’s Row Denizen. The list above also features Stonehorn Dignitary for the combat lock and, with two Walls, can deck an opponent with Compulsive Research. Sunscape Familiar is the key card here as it reduces the cost of Flicker. Even if the deck above does not run Pirates for the infinite combo, those builds do exist. Familiars is another Pauper cult classic and if long-time players show up to the Grand Prix I would expect a few of them to pack this in their deck box.

Fourteen different archetypes, and I am still just scratching the surface. There are so many options in Pauper that accurately predicting the field is a fool’s errand. This represents a good cross section of some of the best decks, some of the second best, and some decks people just can’t seem to quit. Are you going to play in the Pauper Championship? What will be your weapon of choice?


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