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The Best Pauper Cards from Modern Horizons (Part 2)

In Part 1 I went over the Changelings, Slivers, the white and the blue cards from Modern Horizons that could impact Pauper. Let’s look at the rest.

Defile

Sure to be a premier removal spell. Mono-Black Control used to run Tendrils of Corruption as a Swamps payoff and while that card has fallen out of favor, Defile gives the deck reason to consider the four-mana spell again. Defile rewards MBC for playing out lands, which is something it wants to do anyway. It is not outside the realm of possibility for this to take out a Ulamog’s Crusher, although Chainer’s Edict is more likely to get that job done. Sure to be a staple.

First-Sphere Gargantua

It’s a big dumb creature. It’s a big dumb creature that draws a card. It’s a big dumb creature that draws a card and then can come back to draw you another card. Binning this early and then Unearthing it means you have a Lava Axe on turn three that also draws you a card. First-Sphere Gargantua has enough going for it that it should see play in a variety of archetypes from reanimator to ramp.

Gluttonous Slug

It may not look like much, but this card could be key moving forward. For a while, a Mono-Black Aristocrats deck was running around and it used Stinkweed Imp to fill the graveyard with Dregscape Zombie and Viscera Seer. Following up Carrion Feeder with the Slug and then a turn three Dregscape, then sacrificed to Feeder and Unearthed will leave you with a 2/2 Carrion Feeder and 2/4 Slug. On the way out the Dregscape Zombie can feed the sacrifice outlet again. Combine with Viscera Seer and First-Sphere Gargantua and you have an evasive threat that gets out of Lightning Bolt range.

 

Headless Specter

If you’re Hellbent, then this is just Hypnotic Specter? Count me in. Between Rotting Rats, Delirium Skeins, and the new Mind Rake, getting hellbent should be trivial. The payoff is large enough to warrant building around with Raven’s Crime (to get rid of extra lands) and Unearth (the card, not the ability). Black also has its fair share of discard outlets, from Vampire Hounds to Urborg Syphon-Mage to Trespasser il-Vec.

Mob

The hits just keep coming. In a go-wide black deck like Zombies this is essentially a free removal spell. Ideally you want to get this down to two mana, but killing any creature for three mana is still a solid deal. I could see this as a reasonable option in multiple decks including Mono-Black Control, which often has creatures hanging out in the midgame to fuel devotion for Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

 

Rank Officer

Five power across two bodies for four mana is not bad. The fact that Rank Officer helps to fuel graveyard strategies and can get around Prismatic Strands gives it enough of a shine to get a trial run. Pauper needs ways to break Fog locks and this, while slow, is just that.

 

Ransack the Lab

Card filtering and library manipulation outside of blue? Sign me up yesterday. While this pales in comparison to Ponder and Preordain, it is still a heck of a card. Being able to go three deep and keep the best card is a big deal. The fact Ransack can also set up Unearth or Exhume or Deep Analysis means that this card is poised to make a splash. While it falls at the same point on the curve as Night’s Whisper, its ability to go one card deeper and finds the best of those three makes up for the fact it only replaces itself.

Warteye Witch

Project X, a deck that wants to set up Ivy Lane Denizen with Carrion Feeder and Safehold Elite, needs to find very specific pieces to win. In order to achieve this the deck runs Viscera Seer. While it works, the Seer takes away +1/+1 counters from Carrion Feeder. Warteye Witch solves this problem as it works on any creature hitting your graveyard. Another niche card that could do a lot to power up a niche deck.

Bogardan Dragonheart

This is a Nantuko Husk you can only activate once per turn but has the advantage of gaining evasion. It also does not have to wait a turn to attack thanks to haste. Dragonheart continues the recent tradition of Rakdos Aristocrats getting new cards. The flying clause means that maybe it is time for the deck to take off.

Fists of Flame

This card feels like it can do some powerful stuff. Faithless Looting means you get +3/+0. Ideas Unbound is +4/+0. While this may not find a home in Izzet decks it could help the Mono-Red Kiln Fiend decks that have shown up from time to time deal those final few points.

Geomancer's Gambit

These days Tron decks run no basics. Boros Monarch decks lean heavily on Boros Garrison and Artifact Lands to get the job done. There will be a non-zero number of games where this is simply a Stone Rain that draws you a card. Even if your opponent gets to replace their land Gambit replaces itself. I am excited that this card is coming to Pauper and terrified of running Ravnica bouncelands moving forward.

Igneous Elemental

Between Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, Ash Barrens, and Forgotten Cave, getting a land into your graveyard is trivial. That means this is a 4/3 for four mana that casts Fiery Impulse when it enters the battlefield. Pauper was never going to get a Flametongue Kavu, but this one is awfully close. The Elemental fails the Lightning Bolt test but it’s likely taking something out with it.

Magmatic Sinkhole

You don’t need me to tell you this card is good. It takes out just about every threat in the format. It is cheap thanks to delve. It can even help make your Haunted Fengraf less random.

Orcish Hellraiser

A three-power creature for two mana is tailor-made to attack through Augur of Bolas. It can be cast off Burning-Tree Emissary, which gives it a natural home in Red Deck Wins. It even does some damage on the way out. Thanks to the Hellraiser I would not be surprised if the ideal home for Burning-Tree Emissary ceases to be Forests and she takes her powers to the Mountains.

Shenanigans

Sometimes your Gorilla Shaman works over their mana base. But then have just enough to take the Mox Monkey out. Then Affinity slowly refills their board and kills you anyway. Shenanigans helps in these situations, but they are so rare. At sorcery speed, it is fighting against Ancient Grudge and Shattering Pulse in red. Still, I could absolutely see this card earning a sideboard slot as part of an overall anti-artifact plan.

Viashino Sandsprinter

You can use Simian Spirit Guide to cycle this on turn one and then cast Unearth to crack in for four. Then the Sandsprinter comes back. This is an incredibly interesting card that represents a ton of damage. At its worst it is a slightly smaller Ball Lightning. At its best, it’s four damage every turn. In reality, It’s likely to deal two and take out a blocker. I could see running a few copies in Red Deck Wins as another finisher.

Savage Swipe

You know what deck has a ton of two-power creatures? Stompy. You know what deck loves pumping creatures and taking out blockers? Stompy. Savage Swipe seems tailor made for the deck. Note that you cannot get tricky with Wild Mongrel and have it grow after the +2/+2 but before the fight as it is all part of one effect.

Winding Way

Lead the Stampede is a hell of a card and Mulch sees play in retrace-heavy strategies. Winding Way merges the two into a powerhouse. Seeing four instead of five is a big deal when compared to Lead the Stampede, but it is a full mana cheaper and puts the detritus in the graveyard as opposed to the bottom of your library. Pauper loves using the graveyard as a toolbox and considering how well-positioned Lead the Stampede is these days, I could absolutely see Winding Way winding its way into deck immediately.

Arcum's Astrolabe

Prophetic Prism is a key card in both Tron and Boros Monarch decks. Tron cannot easily run Arcum’s Astrolabe, but it should not be too hard for Boros Monarch to move to a Snow-Covered mana base if it wanted to do so. At one snow mana, the Astrolabe is cheap enough that it could spawn new archetypes that need multiple colors early. How that will work remains to be seen but this one could have the largest impact on the format early in Modern Horizon’s release cycle.

I talked about over three dozen Modern Horizons cards with regards to Pauper. With Standard releases I look at maybe 10 that could see play and two or three end up making the cut. I could have easily talked about every common in the set, but there’s only so much space. Modern Horizons might not be the most powerful Pauper set ever, but it has certainly opened up plenty of doors. Let’s see what’s through them!

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