Arcum’s Astrolabe is gone and Pauper has moved forward. And the future looks quite a bit like the past, but with some notable changes. There have been two major Magic Online events as well as a complete League posting. And that means decklists. Let’s take a look.
Pauper’s Best Decks After the Astrolabe Ban
Phizzle’s Boros Monarch, Winner, Pauper PTQ
3 Ancient Den 2 Bojuka Bog 3 Boros Garrison 1 Forgotten Cave 3 Great Furnace 1 Mountain (343) 1 Plains (331) 2 Radiant Fountain 1 Secluded Steppe 4 Wind-Scarred Crag 4 Glint Hawk 4 Kor Skyfisher 2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi 3 Palace Sentinels 4 Thraben Inspector 2 Battle Screech 4 Galvanic Blast 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Prismatic Strands 2 Alchemist's Vial 1 Golden Egg 4 Prophetic Prism 3 Journey to Nowhere Sideboard 1 Prismatic Strands 2 Electrickery 1 Gorilla Shaman 3 Lone Missionary 3 Red Elemental Blast 2 Relic of Progenitus 1 Boggart Shenanigans 2 Standard Bearer
Phizzle won the October 26th Pauper PTQ with this take on Boros Monarch. Boros Monarch is a midrange deck that combines efficient removal and reach with the ability to draw an extra card every turn thanks to interaction of Palace Sentinels and Prismatic Strands. While recent versions ran Astrolabe, it was not vital to the strategy and Alchemist’s Vial works just as well for drawing cards. The neat twist in Phizzle’s build is the presence of Golden Egg as another cantrip artifact.
The Egg makes a ton of sense. It can draw a card on its own or buy time with the Food function. It also helps to enable the “splash” of Okiba-Gang Shinobi. The Shinobi is not new tech and has been seeing maindeck play in Boros Monarch for a few months at this point to win card economy battles. Bojuka Bog and Prophetic Prism can help get the ninja into play, but extra avenues are helpful.
Boros Monarch is, in my opinion, the current best deck in Pauper. It has a consistent plan both pre and post-board. It has multiple ways to churn through cards and there is not much hate that is effective against these builds. But there are ways to attack, from running your own copies of Monarch cards to attacking their mana base with Geomancer’s Gambit–something that is very real if they decide to only run a pair of basic lands.
Stompy and Flicker Tron decks round out a triumvirate at the top of the metagame at the moment, but I want to take a look at some of the less established strategies that have emerged.
Billster47’s Jeskai Ephemerate
5-0 Pauper League
4 Ash Barrens 2 Evolving Wilds 4 Izzet Boilerworks 1 Radiant Fountain 7 Snow-Covered Island 2 Snow-Covered Mountain 1 Snow-Covered Plains 3 Archaeomancer 4 Augur of Bolas 4 Mulldrifter 2 Ponder 4 Preordain 2 Brainstorm 4 Counterspell 2 Dispel 1 Echoing Truth 1 Electrickery 2 Ephemerate 2 Exclude 4 Lightning Bolt 4 Skred Sideboard 1 Dispel 1 Echoing Truth 1 Electrickery 2 Annul 3 Hydroblast 2 Pieces of the Puzzle 4 Pyroblast 1 Stone Rain
Didn’t we just get off this ride? Billster47 is keeping Jeskai Ephemerate alive. While the deck has lost the Kor Skyfisher–Arcum’s Astrolabe engine, it is still a powerhouse of a control deck. It has had to sacrifice the white cards for the sake of a stable mana base but can still turn Archaeomancer into a card advantage machine with Ephemerate. The deck is rounded out with all the hits you expect out of an Izzet Control deck with Counterspell, Lightning Bolt, Skred, and Exclude making an appearance. What’s nice, however, is that this is not the definitive build of a base-Izzet deck.
Oisicrat’s Izzet Puzzle
5-0 Pauper League
4 Ash Barrens 3 Izzet Boilerworks 3 Mystic Sanctuary 2 Radiant Fountain 7 Snow-Covered Island 3 Snow-Covered Mountain 4 Augur of Bolas 2 Deep Analysis 1 Flurry of Horns 3 Pieces of the Puzzle 4 Preordain 4 Accumulated Knowledge 4 Counterspell 1 Dispel 4 Exclude 2 Fire/Ice 1 Ghostly Flicker 4 Lightning Bolt 4 Skred Sideboard 1 Dispel 4 Blue Elemental Blast 2 Electrickery 4 Red Elemental Blast 2 Relic of Progenitus 2 Swirling Sandstorm
Oisicrat’s Izzet Puzzle deck runs the standard control package–Counterspell, cantrips, cheap removal. But it trades winning with Mulldrifter in for Flurry of Horns. The tokens Flurry makes, 2/3 with haste, get the job done when you have murdered every creature that comes across your path. Oisicrat also runs Mystic Sanctuary, allowing them to drop all the way down to one copy of Flurry that they could bin early if they want with Pieces of the Puzzle. I’m normally not a fan of this style of control, but Mystic Sanctuary has me rethinking my stance. Also, this currently looks like the best Swirling Sandstorm deck and that could be important if aggro is ascending.
Guerrierofantasma’s Dimir Teachings
Top 8 Pauper PTQ
2 Bojuka Bog 4 Dimir Aqueduct 4 Dismal Backwater 3 Seat of the Synod 6 Snow-Covered Island 1 Snow-Covered Swamp 2 Vault of Whispers 3 Chainer's Edict 2 Evincar's Justice 2 Innocent Blood 4 Preordain 3 Artificer's Epiphany 4 Counterspell 2 Devious Cover-Up 1 Diabolic Edict 2 Disfigure 1 Dispel 2 Doom Blade 1 Echoing Decay 1 Essence Scatter 2 Exclude 2 Mystical Teachings 1 Prohibit 3 Pristine Talisman 2 Witching Well Sideboard 1 Dispel 1 Augur of Bolas 4 Duress 3 Gurmag Angler 3 Hydroblast 2 Nihil Spellbomb 1 Shrivel
Guerrierofantasma made Top 8 of the PTQ with this Teachings deck, and then an 80-card Teachings deck made Top 8 of the Challenge on the next day. The PTQ list is a scant 60 cards but has two win conditions: natural decking or Evincar’s Justice. The release of Devious Cover-Up has made the deck death plan more viable but more often than not Teachings wants to play a land every turn and eventually have Evincar’s Justice with a pair of Pristine Talisman. The biggest improvement as of late: Witching Well. The artifact provides another way to sculpt a hand early while sitting around waiting to be cashed in in the mid to late game gives the deck an opportunity to run Artificer’s Epiphany. Considering how long the game takes when everything is going according to plan, Teachings will have more than enough time to go down the well.
QBTurtle’s Mono Black Aristocrats
Top 8 Pauper PTQ
19 Swamp (339) 2 Witch's Cottage 4 Burglar Rat 4 Carrion Feeder 4 Chittering Rats 4 Dusk Legion Zealot 2 Falkenrath Noble 2 Malevolent Noble 4 Mortician Beetle 4 Phyrexian Rager 2 Plagued Rusalka 4 Chainer's Edict 2 Death Denied 3 Tragic Slip Sideboard 4 Choking Sands 3 Crypt Rats 1 Phyrexian Defiler 2 Duress 1 Nihil Spellbomb 2 Tendrils of Corruption 2 Vampiric Link
QBTurtle15 made Top 8 of the PTQ with an update to the deck Max Walsh used to win a Rags to Riches event. Max apparently also won another Rags to Riches on October 27th with the same strategy. Mono-Black Beetle is an Aristocrats deck that is all about large Carrion Feeders and Mortician Beetles. QBTurtle15 went for a slightly slower gameplan with Falkenrath Noble as well as Malevolent Noble, truly earning the moniker of Aristocrats. The brew can chew through an opponent’s resources with Burglar Rat and Chittering Rats while keeping the board clear with Plagued Rusalka, Chainer’s Edict, and Tragic Slip. Witch’s Cottage works in tandem with Death Denied to keep the gas flowing, giving the current build quite some reach. I am a sucker for a sacrifice outlet, so I am almost for sure going to try this one at some point in the future.
Alicodendrochit’s Dimir Delve
5-0 Pauper League
3 Ash Barrens 2 Dimir Aqueduct 1 Dismal Backwater 3 Evolving Wilds 9 Snow-Covered Island 2 Snow-Covered Swamp 4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration 2 First-Sphere Gargantua 4 Gurmag Angler 3 Sultai Scavenger 1 Deep Analysis 1 Preordain 1 Agony Warp 4 Brainstorm 3 Counterspell 2 Echoing Decay 1 Exclude 3 Ghastly Demise 2 Mental Note 2 Rain of Revelation 3 Snuff Out 4 Thought Scour Sideboard 1 Augur of Bolas 1 Blue Elemental Blast 1 Diabolic Edict 3 Dispel 1 Echoing Truth 1 Hydroblast 1 Nausea 2 Nihil Spellbomb 2 Stormbound Geist 2 Vampiric Link
Before Gush was banned from the format, Dimir Delver was the deck to beat. Alicodendrochit is soldiering on with Dimir Delve–a deck that still wants to wing Delver of Secrets and Gurmag Angler into play early, but has a backup plan of attacking with First-Sphere Gargantua. Despite being almost all-in on the delve plan, this deck tries to be resilient to graveyard hate by eschewing Accumulated Knowledge for Rain of Revelation. The PTQ Teachings deck took a similar route, leaning on Artificer’s Epiphany as a reload mechanism. With Tron decks needing the graveyard to enact their lock, it makes sense for decks that would normally rely on the graveyard as a resource to find other avenues to avoid splash damage. Alicodendrochit’s deck does not want to leave that graveyard stocked, but has no problem filling it up.
It’s an exciting time for Pauper. The ban has created a bit of breathing room for other strategies, both new and old, to take root. Throne of Eldraine has the potential to make a huge impact on the format as six cards from the set–Golden Egg, Malevolent Noble, Mantle of Tides, Mystic Sanctuary, Witching Well and Witch’s Cottage–have put up results. That’s to say nothing of Core 2020 cards like Winged Words and Scorch Spitter which also broke through in the wake of Astrolabe’s absence.
What a format.