Krark-Clan Shaman is One of the Most Important MTG Cards in Pauper

During the ascension of Aristocrats as a strategy in Standard, way back during the days of Gatecrash, I believe Sam Black was credited with saying something along the lines of “sacrificing a creature is one of the best things you can do in Magic.” Now this is probably a bit of apocrypha and hyperbole rolled into one, but I remember the original statement resonating with me. It just made sense – if you were sacrificing a creature on purpose then you were doing it for some benefit. Perhaps it was part of a combo or a way to grow several creatures. Regardless, the material that was the creature now had a greater purpose.

Today, I want to talk about a creature that sacrifices artifacts and no, it isn’t Atog. Krark-Clan Shaman is one of the single most important cards in Pauper today and understanding the ins and outs of how it works in the context of the format can give you an edge. So let’s take a closer look at this one drop, its impact, and what it means for Pauper.

Krark-Clan Shaman is a board wipe on a body. For each artifact you sacrifice, it will deal one damage to all creatures without flying. This does include itself so in order to take out larger threats. one needs to hold priority before the first trigger resolves. The result is a world where little survives. The card has been part of sanctioned Pauper for as long as the format has existed on Magic Online but has taken on a new importance in the past 18 months.

 

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Aokis Goblins (2018)

 

Historically – that is before Modern Horizons 2 – Krark-Clan Shaman was not  confined to Affinity. It occasionally saw play in fringe decks that leaned on artifact synergies that also tried to break symmetrical effects like Crack the Earth. Long time Magic Online players might recognize the username aokis as someone who leaned hard on Krark-Clan Shaman as a way to control the board in their brews. These decks would run tons of cheap artifacts that wanted to hit the graveyard like Chromatic Star as a way to turn the sacrifice into a fresh card. Affinity, on the other hand, wouldn’t even always run the Goblin.

Pauper Affinity (2020)

 

Affinity used to be an aggressive deck. It wanted to keep its artifacts around in an effort to power out Gearseeker Serpents and Myr Enforcers, keep Carapace Forger and  Galvanic Blast “on” and allow Atog to end games. Affinity also used to be significantly more fragile as the original Mirrodin artifact lands would often face down cards like Ancient Grudge or Gorilla Shaman. There was no extra material to be had and this was before the explosion of Treasure (and similar) tokens. Like so many things this changed with the release of the indestructible Bridges and the subsequent evolution of Affinity.

Pauper Affinity (2023)

 

Today, while Affinity does have access to beatdown draws, it’s far from an aggro strategy. Instead, it’s a control deck with cheap threats. Carapace Forger is on the outs and Galvanic Blast gets enough help from the Bridges and other material to deal the full four. This means that once Myr Enforcer hits the battlefield there is often little use for a lot of the extraneous artifacts – like Chromatic Star or a Blood Token – lying about. Enter Krark-Clan Shaman. Now that Affinity is a control deck, having a sweeper that can come down for one mana and then more or less freely pick off opposing armies is huge. Remember, you already got several cards worth of value from these artifacts so sacrificing them for a benefit is icing on the cake.

In the context of the format, this puts a ton of pressure on smaller creatures to justify their presence on the battlefield. Creatures that simply attack or block are rarely good enough anymore because they often just die to random detritus fed to a Goblin. The result is that most small creature-based strategies that see play today do so on the back of cards like Thraben Inspector or Sacred Cat – that is, creatures that can replace themselves in some way. Decks like Faeries remain competitive due to the fact that they can present threats that naturally dodge Krark-Clan Shaman, with cards like Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk serving a similar role. Still, the mere potential of facing the walking board wipe has pushed decks like Stompy with Burning-Tree Emissary completely out of the competitive picture. Instead, aggressive decks need to hit hard and fast, like with Monastery Swiftspear, to have a puncher’s chance.

This doesn’t mean you cannot run creatures at all. Some decks have moved to larger options like Saruli Gatekeepers or were already running creatures with a high toughness like Tolarian Terror to force Krark-Clan Shaman to eat more resources to keep things under control. Fangren Marauder is expensive but can put in a lot of work once it hits the board. And let’s not forget Guardian of the Guildpact as it can just brush off the damage. 

But let’s say you aren’t running creatures that have natural game against Krark-Clan Shaman. How can you fight against it? Attempting to constrain your opponent’s resources is a pretty tall order as Affinity runs a surplus of artifacts. Dust to Dust might get some press as an effective sideboard card but it only works if you can follow it up with any sort of pressure. Instead, the best way I have found is a combination of forcing action from Krark-Clan Shaman while also leveraging instant speed removal in an attempt to force them all in.

Let me try to explain. As mentioned previously, one needs to hold priority to deal more than a single point of damage with Krark-Clan Shaman. This means that to handle anything larger than an army of X/1s that several triggers need to be put on the stack. If the Krark-Clan Shaman player decides to put exactly enough instances on the stack to remove the largest creature, you let one resolve before casting a card like Prismatic Strands of Wrap in Vigor. This has the result of them losing Shaman while you get to potentially save some of your larger threats. The same thing can happen if they put an overabundance of damage on the stack – but do be careful with something like Prismatic Strands as it also can prevent your opponent’s creatures from taking the damage.

You can also point removal spells at Krark-Clan Shaman. To me, it feels less than ideal to be aiming a premium spell at something that’s going to die anyway – especially in a deck that packs Blood Fountain – but if you’re the kind of deck that needs to turn creatures sideways to win, keeping the Shaman off the board is paramount. Similarly, you may need to deploy just enough threats to put the pressure on the opponent so they feel compelled to scorch the earth.

There are ways to use Krark-Clan Shaman to your advantage. In a deck where you have a lot of three-toughness creatures, you can use the similar Prismatic Strands or Wrap in Vigor trick from before but do it before the first trigger resolves. If the opponent wants to ensure your army is well and truly binned, they will then have to expend additional resources in an attempt to keep your team buried. 

Krark-Clan Shaman is an innocuous looking card that has been a part of Pauper for a long time. Recent shifts in the format have made it an all-star. If you’re returning to Pauper after a break, understanding how it works and what it does to a game can go a long way. And if all else fails, you can always take to the skies.

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