The Soldiering Life: Tribal Soldiers in Pauper

Welcome back, sweet princes and princesses of Pauper! I have a very sweet rogue deck to share today: Mono-White Soldiers.

Earlier this week, I crunched the fuzzy numbers I could find regarding the first month of post-ban results and reached the conclusion that the format has opened up significantly. If you’re interested in my “big picture” analysis of how Pauper has adapted to one of the most significant, format altering, DCI power moves of all time, you can find it here.

Without an oppressive “best deck” (as was the case with the Gush Super Archetype), there is more room within the format for other strategies to emerge, compete, and have success. The new best decks (Boros, Tron, and Izzet) are undoubtedly powerful and consistent strategies, but they are also vulnerable and less capable of “out-brokening” people with a cavalcade of timely free spells to overcome tightly contested games.

I also cannot overstate how significant it is that building a Pauper deck from scratch is much cheaper than any other format. It’s hard for me to fault players for not wanting to roll the dice on a hunch or wacky concept when the cost of putting that idea into sleeves for FNM is likely to cost hundreds of dollars! In Pauper, for the cost of taking a date to dinner and a movie, you could easily build two decks and make a lifetime of Magic! Personally, I love metagames like the one shaping up in Pauper because it directly rewards creativity and innovative deck building. Speaking of which, I’ve got a brew to share today.

Tribal Soldiers in Pauper

We have a great metagame and a strong incentive to try new things, so let’s put that theory put into practice.

Today’s list comes from Thor Boyer, a longtime Pauper player, who frequents my favorite LGS in Michigan. Some people search out greatness, some people have greatness thrust upon them, and some people are Thor.

We had a big crowd of 20+ players last night in advance preparation for the weekend’s Pauper 1K, but Thor’s deck stood out. Not only was it different, but he was crushing good players with proven decks left and right in a competitive field. He went 3-1, losing only a close match to Tron.

Thor agreed to share his list, and even agreed to provide some notes on it (his comments are quoted in italics below).

Asgardian Soldiers

10 Plains (331)
3 Sandstone Bridge
1 Secluded Steppe
2 Radiant Fountain
2 Quicksand
4 Elite Vanguard
3 Goldmeadow Harrier
3 Icatian Javelineers
4 Ballyrush Banneret
4 Veteran Armorer
2 Veteran Armorsmith
4 Veteran Swordsmith
3 Palace Sentinels
2 Conclave Phalanx
2 Martyr's Soul
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Mana Tithe
3 Surge of Thoughtweft
3 Celestial Flare
1 Cenn’s Enlistment

1 Relic of Progenitus
4 Test of Faith
3 Dust to Dust
3 Holy Light
1 Veteran Armorsmith
3 Patrician's Scorn

At the core, this is a Tribal Soldier deck, which is interesting because white is commonly understood to be the worst color in Pauper by a wide margin. Aside from playing a role in Boros, Hexproof Auras, and Dark Horse Heroic decks, white doesn’t typically see a ton of play. I believe much of this dynamic is residual from the Gush metagame where there wasn’t a ton of incentive to stray too far from Blue decks.

With blue dialed back to reality, beating face with creatures is a compelling option. We’ve seen a renaissance of Green Stompy, for instance. Soldiers operates on a similar premise and is adept at going wide, while also doing a great job of covering its bases against commonly played sweepers like Electrickery and Nausea.

Veteran Armorer

Armorer is a great tool since it acts as a functional Spidersilk Armor in protecting low-toughness creatures from sweepers, but it’s also well-positioned against other weenie decks by adding a ton of toughness to your side of the combat step.

Surge of Thoughtweft

In the same vein, Surge of Thoughtweft doubles that angle of utility and is a great way to steal a win via a big creature combat showdown, not to mention pushing through a bunch of damage when trying to close out a game.

Goldmeadow HarrierBallyrush BanneretMartyr's Soul

The deck also has an incidental Kithkin theme, which means the cantrip is likely to be turned on.

Office image

Keep in mind that Surge of Thoughtweft is a Tribal Instant – Kithkin, meaning it will only cost you a single W mana to buff the squad and draw a card when the Banneret’s flag is flying.

Let’s talk about 1-drops:

“With the 1-drop creatures, running 10 offers a consistent curve. Elite Vanguard brings pressure, Elite Javelineers can pick off smaller creatures, and the Harriers can tap down blockers or threats.

Elite VanguardGoldmeadow HarrierIcatian Javelineers

The 1-drop tappers also synergize nicely with Sandstone Bridge.” — Thor Boyer.

I can attest to the truth of the statement as it was the interaction that made me take notice of his deck. I heard him announce the trigger and target during the tournament, and my immediate response was, umm, what? I had to look over to see what was going down next door.

He used the vigilance to enter combat and tap down a Gurmag Angler and sneak in two extra damage which set up lethal on the following turn.

Relic of ProgenitusMana Tithe

Thor was also adamant about his usage of Relic of Progenitus and Mana Tithe in the flexible slots of his main deck.

“I’m on main deck relics because they cantrip and can shut down some strategies. This is Mono-White and draw power is Limited. A 2-of Mana Tithe can be a good ‘gotcha,’ as most decks don’t expect it.” –Thor Boyer.

I can’t argue with any of that logic. I imagine that “Fog Locks” are among the most difficult types of strategies for a White Weenie deck to overcome and this is a hedge that provides good value. He said he tried Thraben Inspector, and while it’s most generically understood to be a default ‘good Magic card,’ it in his experience the worst performing one-drop in his deck and so he cut it.

The Sideboard is Strong With this One

While the main deck is solid, coherent, and well-focused, what takes Asgardian Soldiers (named after Thor, of course) to the next level is the sideboard.

There’s a reason white is the least played color in Pauper:

BrainstormLightning BoltFaithless LootingUrza's Tower

There are sexier options. It’s easy to recognize cards that are legitimate Legacy and Modern staples will make good build-arounds in Pauper, which means they have greater gravitas with players as they are a proven commodity.

I’ve never looked at Icatian Javelineer and Veteran Armorsmith and thought, “These cards are giving me butterflies, and I must build around them,” nor would most players. Luckily, Thor has put the work in for us. I’m a believer now that the deck is a legit choice, but only because somebody else proved it to me.

The sideboard, on the other hand, makes my heart soar. White has a longstanding tradition in Constructed formats, dating back to the earliest sets that lives on to this day, of reigning supreme in focused sideboard hate. It’s great to see that in Pauper.

Dust to DustHoly LightTest of FaithPatrician's Scorn

These are all cards that I can rally behind a Banneret for. Dust to Dust is about as savage as it gets when it comes to wrecking artifact decks.

Holy Light may look like an Electrickery or Nausea, but in this deck it’s so much more… Tribal Soldiers forces an opponent to participate in combat, and Holy Light creates blowouts once there. It also can wipe out an army of Elves, but won’t be able to take down white Spirit tokens.

Scorn is a hedge against Auras but also provides relieve against singularly problematic Enchantments such as Pestilence and Tortured Existence. I could see a split between Scorn and Disenchant as a potential option to consideration but it’s clear Thor has chosen not to mess around against Boggles.

Test of Faith

Thor is also packing the full suite of Test of Faith out of the board. Test was an uncommon in Darksteel (and it feels and plays like an uncommon in a world of commons), and is a spell capable of hijacking a game against red. I was going to make a note that Circle of Protection: Red was a sideboard option, but he’s instead wisely chosen to go with a much more proactive and flexible approach to fighting against red decks.

“Wouldn’t it be sweet to Bolt away one of those ground pounders?”

Not only is it a functional “no” to a red removal spell, but the creature the Bolt was aimed at is now +3/+3 counters larger and thus too large to be brought down by the next Bolt. If the opponent is attempting to Bolt an unblocked creature in combat, you net +3 damage for the turn while countering their removal.

I’m assuming this is a big part of the plan against red decks, but it’s also great against Delver. Test of Faith goes beyond countering red removal, it’s also a great combat trick that leaves a lasting boost for one of your creatures.

All in all, Pauper Soldiers is a great example of how thoughtful card choices and fine-tuning can take an outside-the-box strategy and make it competitive. I have mad respect for the work that Thor has put into this list and much appreciation that he took the time to not only ship me his list to publish but also took the time to write up a few blurbs about some of the interesting card choices he’s made. I hope the Pauper fans are enjoying the format as much as I am (because it’s truly outstanding) and if you are thinking of giving the format a try, you could not have picked a better time to join the game.

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