Results and Takeaways from the RIW Hobbies Pauper 1K Tournament

Last weekend, I provided commentary in a unique Pauper 1K event at my LGS, RIW Hobbies. The event attracted 147 players for an afternoon of Paper Pauper action, and the experience was nothing short of outstanding!

RIW Hobbies Pauper

Today, I’d like to recap the results, but also to explore some elements put into play that made the event such a top-notch experience for all involved. I’ll be covering not only the top decks, but also a blueprint for what makes a truly special grassroots event that engages and satisfies a wide range of Magic players.

The Top 8 Decklists

I’m going to structure today’s article like a traditional mullet haircut: business up front and a party in the back.

After eight long rounds of Swiss and three rounds of Top 8, it was James Harper’s Mono-Black Control list that emerged victorious amid a diverse field of decks:

  • 1st – James Harper: Mono-Black
  • 2nd – James Arquette: Mono-Blue
  • 3rd/4th – Dan Lake: Goblins
  • 3rd/4th – Caleb Maine: Jeskai Snow
  • 5th-8th – Nicholas Sanchez: Affinity
  • 5th-8th – Devon Jeffs: Elves
  • 5th-8th – Colin Pieton: White Heroic
  • 5th-8th – Brad Tinney: Jeskai Snow

We have seven different styles of deck and only two copies of Jeskai Snow! Here are the Top 4 Decklists (the full Top 8 can be found on MTGTop8).

James Harper

Mono-Black Control

3 Barren Moor
19 Swamp (339)
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Chittering Rats
4 Phyrexian Rager
3 Cuombajj Witches
1 Thorn of the Black Rose
4 Chainer's Edict
4 Defile
4 Sign in Blood
3 Disfigure
2 Geth's Verdict
2 Victim of Night
2 Unearth
1 Reaping the Graves

4 Wrench Mind
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
2 Divest
1 Crypt Rats
1 Nausea
2 Thorn of the Black Rose


I love James’ build of Mono-Black Control that I built it myself on MTGO. Kill everything that moves!

James Arquette


16 Island (335)
2 Mystic Sanctuary
4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration
4 Faerie Miscreant
4 Faerie Seer
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Spire Golem
4 Counterspell
2 Deprive
3 Force Spike
1 Impulse
4 Ponder
3 Preordain
3 Snap

2 Coral Net
1 Dispel
2 Echoing Truth
3 Hydroblast
2 Island (335)
3 Stormbound Geist
2 Thornwind Faeries


Dan Lake


17 Mountain
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Goblin Cohort
2 Goblin Heelcutter
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Mogg Conscripts
2 Mogg Raider
4 Mogg War Marshal
2 Mudbrawler Cohort
4 Sparksmith
1 Fireblast
4 Goblin Grenade
4 Lightning Bolt

3 Electrickery
2 Flaring Pain
3 Red Elemental Blast
3 Smash to Smithereens
4 Sylvok Lifestaff


Caleb Maine

Jeskai Snow

4 Ash Barrens
1 Azorius Chancery
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Snow-Covered Forest
8 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Plains
2 Archaeomancer
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Mulldrifter
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Brainstorm
4 Counterspell
1 Dispel
3 Ephemerate
3 Lightning Bolt
1 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Pulse of Murasa
4 Skred
4 Arcum's Astrolabe

1 Dispel
2 Electrickery
1 Gorilla Shaman
2 Hydroblast
2 Lone Missionary
2 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Standard Bearer

Overall, the field was extremely diverse and people showed up with their favorite decks, which is one of the two things I love the most about Pauper. The other is the fun back-and-forth gameplay that doesn’t hinge on powerful rares, mythic rares, and planeswalkers.

“No Changes”

The biggest Pauper news was no changes to the banlist. I came out last weekend and said I thought the metagame data was steadily trending in such a way that I favored a ban on Ephemerate and Arcum’s Astrolabe. In fact, since I wrote the article, Jeskai Snow gained another point (from 18% to 19% of the winner’s metagame on MTGTOP8).

One quick thing I want to be clear about: I don’t support the doom-and-gloom narrative from players who didn’t get their way via the banlist. One thing I try to emphasize in my content is players can have different opinions and ideas that reflect their perspective, discuss those ideas in a constructive and respectful way without resorting to extremes or anger.

It’s certainly possible to form one’s opinion and not be sour grapes because things didn’t go your way. 147 people coming together on a Saturday to play a game is not doom and gloom. In fact, it’s a wonderful thing!

Blueprint: Give People What They Want

People are at the heart and soul of gaming. We tend to put emphasis on gameplay, metrics, and winning, but ultimately, it’s all about people coming together and sharing an experience and good times.

RIW Hobbies has always been a gaming locus that strives to make the gaming about the people who come out to play and their event reflected that ideology. It starts with building a community and culminates in signature moments such as the Pauper 1K with the Professor.

For instance, the store flew in Brian Lewis (The Professor of Tolarian Community College) for the event. I actually got a chance to have breakfast with him before the event and he’s an extremely fun, friendly and engaging individual. He’s exactly the type of person the Pauper crowd would want to meet, interact and game with.

RIW Hobbies Pauper

The store catered an All-You-Can-Eat Taco Bar and provided all 147 players and Judge Staff with free lunch. The event also had a full coverage booth. I volunteered to sit out the event and do commentary alongside my good friend Stu Parnes. A lot of local players don’t get the chance to travel to events and showcase their skills on camera, and so they take a great deal of pride in the opportunity. We even had some MTGO Pauper Ringers, Hellsau and Fucile, watching the event and keeping Stu and I company!

Stu and I were also joined in the coverage booth by The Professor and Pam (store owner) to crack open a sealed Revised Starter. We didn’t hit the jackpot in terms of rares:

Savannah LionsLiving ArtifactTitania's Song

But it was another interesting, fun thing going on in the background. I’ve participated in the 1K Pauper events for a while, and what really struck me about this one was how it so completely defied my expectations of what a large, local event looks and feels like. While the centerpiece was a huge Pauper tournament, there was also thought put into providing activities and atmosphere that catered to all players regardless of skill or experience level.

I’ve noticed a distinct directional change in Magicfests since CFB took over, from spike-centric to more community-oriented, and I think what RIW has correctly identified as important is creating within the event “something for everyone.” The event reminded me of a smaller, local, grassroots version of a Magicfest, which is something I’ve not typically experienced at the LGS level.

When I tagged out of coverage at 9:30, there were still tons of people hanging out, gaming, spectating and cheering on their friends late into the evening. The emphasis was placed upon “Let’s make this a day about playing a game we love together,” rather than “play until you take a second loss, drop and go home.”

I’ll admit Pauper tends to be played by a more casual crowd, but in many ways this makes it the ideal format for a big, local, community-oriented event. The decks are significantly cheaper to put together and the game play is less complicated, which makes it more accessible to more people.

My hot take: Magic tournaments should be fun, engaging and accessible to players beyond just spikes.

If you’d like some numbers and specifics to back that up: The Judge staff registered 11 new DCI numbers, there were seven parent-child pairs participating in the event, and an 11-year-old player who started playing Magic 2 weeks ago played in his first event and won his first match! The event also attracted a bunch of local Pauper experts, and some from afar. One car of Pauper fans traveled seven hours for the opportunity to play a large-scale paper event.

I think the biggest challenge for large paper events is finding a way to bridge the gap between newer players and more experienced ones. If the objective is bigger, better events, then there needs to be something for everyone, which is why I believe this event was so popular and successful.

I’m not suggesting every store must do all the things off the bat, but it’s an example of how over time with dedication, a store can grow its player base and community. I’ve watched Jon Wilkerson build his local Pauper scene from nothing into something to be extremely proud of, and it has all been done one step at a time. With each event, the store reinvests and refines their process to make it better with each iteration.

The note I want to end on comes directly from The Professor himself. When he was on the Twitch stream, a viewer asked him about his thoughts on a future Pauper Grand Prix.

He expressed a hope that there would one day be a Pauper Grand Prix, but he also expressed that he thought the future of the format was likely tied to large local events such as the 1K. After watching the event unfold and the diverse crowd of players who enjoyed the experience, I’m 100% with him in this regard because the dynamic works so well.

The fact that large-scale Pauper tournaments don’t exist on the “travel circuit” (such as Opens or Grand Prix) gives LGS an incentive to run events for the format to fill a niche that doesn’t currently exist. On the other hand, because Pauper is a format that is more accessible in terms of affordability and gameplay, it is also an ideal way to attract new and casual players to the large, signature local events.

It all comes back to giving the players what they want. It turns out Pauper has a dedicated following and enjoys the opportunity to play in a large-scale event every once in a while.

“If you build it, they will come.”

Jon told me this afternoon his new goal for the LGS 1K events is to one day host the largest paper Pauper tournament in North America. Not too shabby, considering Pauper wasn’t even on the LGS’ menu just a few short years ago! Best of luck, buddy.

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