What a time to come back to content, eh?
After the end of 2019, I needed a break. I was finding Pauper repetitive and boring since it felt like there was nothing that could be done to dislodge Tron from the top of the metagame. As it turns out I was wrong, but it wasn’t an infusion of new cards that prompted the change.
It was new blood.
Looking at the metagame, it appears that non-dedicated Pauper players who showed up to events with decks outside of Tron, performed well. As more of these players took part in Challenges and other major tournaments, the metagame evolved to the point where today the metagame looks diverse, dynamic, and healthy.
And not a moment too soon. Considering that we are all going to be spending a lot more time inside, we are going to need distractions. Pauper is just that, and a relatively budget friendly one to boot. With that in mind, I want to take a look at some of the foundational cards of the format. So today, let’s talk about white.
Despite being viewed as a support color for much of the format’s history, white cards have come to help define Pauper. That is because white has access to engines that work on different axes and a bevy of support cards that can prop up these pillars.
Pauper Heroic Deck List - Oscar_Franco, Winner March 15 Pauper Challenge
Ethereal Armor is not the premier white engine, but it is quite impressive. Operating on the axis of damage, Ethereal Armor is a force multiplier. It turns previous and future investments into additional damage. The aura forms the backbone of two aggressive strategies – Bogles and Heroic. Neither of these decks would be relevant if not for Ethereal Armor. Ethereal Armor is white representative of the beatdown.
Pauper Bogles Deck List - PR0boszcz, Top 8 March 1 Pauper Showcase
Somewhere between damage and card advantage is Battle Screech. In Pauper a 1/1 flying creature is barely a card thanks to the presence of cards like Electrickey. The ability to make four on turn four is marginally better than drawing a card, especially if they can connect for damage. Battle Screech needs some help to truly sing but when it does it combines the ability to go wide with anthem effects to carve out its own niche.
Pauper Boros Bully - Phill_Hellmuth, Top 4 March 21 Pauper Challenge
One of the defining creatures in the format, Kor Skyfisher enables white’s best card advantage engines. From recasting Thraben Inspector to reusing Prophetic Prism to resetting Palace Sentinels, Kor Skyfisher does it all. In a format where enters-the-battlefield triggers are paramount, the ability to recycle them is gold. The fact that Skyfisher has three toughness is a boon allowing it to tussle with most creatures in combat and come out ahead.
Pauper Boros Monarch - SickWorld, Winner March 8 Pauper Challenge
These are the three core white cards in Pauper. If your white deck isn’t using one of these, it should have a good reason for avoiding its inclusion. That being said, white cannot stand on these cards alone and these three require a solid supporting cast. These cards are powerful in their own right but sing when used in support of one of white’s key engines.
This card puts in work. Not only does it eventually replace itself but two copies are quite the pain on defense. At its best with Kor Skyfisher and Battle Screech, Thraben Inspector is a cog that keeps both of those decks moving forward.
Seeker of the Way
Most at home with Ethereal Armor, Seeker of the Way also can support Battle Screech and Kor Skyfisher. The fact that prowess triggers off of any non-creature spell makes it so that Seeker can provide a much needed clock in slower white decks. All that being said, it can prove game ending when paired with a force multiplier.
Palace Sentinels helped to define Pauper for several months but right now it finds itself in a more supportive role. It is not that the monarch mechanic – a free card every turn – is bad, but rather that it matters less in a world where Tron can easily go over the top and loop Ghostly Flicker through Mulldrifter.
Looking back at the lists, it becomes clear that white decks in Pauper lean on a key engine and at least one of these support cards. That speaks to white’s current strength in that it can approach the format anywhere from aggro to midrange. White does struggle with taking on the control role for a few reasons.
First is the removal. Unlike other formats, white is not the color of sweepers in Pauper. While Holy Light exists, it is far less efficient than cards like Electrickery and Shrivel. White’s two best spot removal spells are Journey to Nowhere and Sunlance and both of those have problems. Journey is less than efficient when facing down a Dinrova Horror that can release whatever was trapped inside. Sunlance is a fantastic rate except when facing down another white deck. Outside of that, white had some problems with taking creatures out. Last Breath is fine but considering that most white decks try to put a clock on their opponent, the extra four life can be brutal. Unmake can handle nearly any threat but comes with a hefty price tag that makes it difficult to cast outside of mono-white and Orzhov.
What white does have is one of the best control finishers in Guardian of the Guildpact. While not unbeatable, Guardian can prove problematic for a wide swath of decks. It also happens to work exceptionally well with one of the format’s best board control options in Pestilence. While this combination is exceedingly slow, it does represent a lock against most traditional beatdown decks.
Pauper Pestilence Control - SulleyCrusher, 5-0 Pauper League
White also has one of the best defensive spells in Pauper thanks to Prismatic Strands. Strands has the ability to render many combats a bloodbath thanks to its ability to shut down damage. It also plays a key role in keeping you on the throne after a Palace Sentinels hits the board. Prismatic Strands plays a huge role in helping multiple white decks survive, but this is a double edged sword. Some take this to an extreme and instead build decks that have trouble losing as opposed to strategies focused on winning.
If you are just looking to get into Pauper, starting with white is a good bet. The color has a ton of depth and provides plenty of options for fighting the metagame. Right now, many white cards also have applications in multiple strategies, giving you a real chance to extract more bang from your buck.