Over the past month or two, several of my friends have been building a battlebox of pauper decks. A battlebox is a collection of decks designed to be played against each other rather than to beat a specific metagame. The goal is to have as many matchups as possible be enjoyable to play and relatively balanced, although there are a few actual tier decks in the mix. Last week I got to play a bunch of test games with the first batch of decks and it was a blast.

Before I get into any commentary on the details, here’s the fourteen decks that are built so far:

  • Soul Sisters
  • Mono-Blue Delver
  • Zubera Combo
  • Goblins
  • Burn
  • Elves
  • Mono-Green Stompy
  • Reanimator
  • Boggles
  • G/B Tortured Existence
  • Snow Go
  • Trinket Mage Control
  • Dinrova Tron
  • Affinity

Most of those names are pretty self explanatory, but some aren’t. There’s only so many ways to build a burn deck, but we have some spice in the mix. Of the more unusual decks, Zubera combo is a mostly mono-black deck that uses Springleaf Drum, Survivors’ Encampment, and Holdout Settlement to splash the blue, red, and green Zuberas. Sacrifice outlets and pseudo-reanimation like Undying Evil let you rack up arbitrarily large death triggers that you use to end the game.

Snow Go is a creatureless control deck built around Arcane Teachings, an approximate metric ton of permission and removal, and the eventual wincon of buying back Sprout Swarm over and over. It takes its name from the snow lands it runs to power Skred and the traditional draw-go playstyle.

Trinket Mage Control is difficult to explain, but it’s closest to a pauper version of Lantern Control, using recursive Myr Servitors and Thoughtpicker Witch to control your opponent’s draws.

However, after playing either with or against all of these decks I noticed a significant hole in the available playstyles. There’s six flavors of aggro, a tempo deck in Delver, three very different combo lists (Elves, Zuberas and Reanimator) and four control decks, all of which are extremely slow. But there really isn’t much of a middle ground between the extremes of trying to get your opponent dead ASAP and decks that need (or at least want) to run Battlefield Scrounger to avoid decking.

There isn’t really a midrange option available, with the closest being Dinrova Tron, although I hesitate to categorize it as such. After speaking with Ben, the chief owner of the battlebox, I decided to take on the challenge of building a true midrange deck to add to the mix. Today, I’ll go over the process that I used to build the deck. (Quick disclaimer: I’m fairly new to pauper. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I’m just writing about a format that I’ve had a lot of fun with recently.)

Choosing the Archetype

The first thing to decide on was the colors. Too many and the mana becomes unreasonably shaky, but too few and the weaknesses of any given color leave a hole in the deck’s gameplan. I quickly decided that I wanted green for creatures and black for discard and removal, but that still left Golgari, Abzan, Sultai and Jund as realistic options. We already had a Golgari deck in the box, so for variety’s sake I wanted to go with one of the three-colored options. Sultai had the best card filtering and would be able to constantly find whichever part of the deck you needed at a given time. Abzan has access to the best creatures, while Jund has the strongest and most versatile removal.

In the end, I decided on Jund. Lightning Bolt is the best piece of one-mana removal in the format, and for what I wanted it was impossible to pass up Terminate. Both cards entered the deckbuilding process as four-ofs and that never changed once.


I originally wanted some number of Diabolic Edicts as a way to interact with hexproof creatures from Bogles and Reanimator, but I eventually changed that to three Chainer’s Edicts, as the value of being able to flashback the removal spell eclipses having it available at instant speed. I also went back and forth on having Electrickery to handle swarm decks, but in the end it got relegated to the sideboard as one damage does a whole lot of nothing against several decks.

Blightning and Duress make up the discard suite, which is crucial when we’ll need to compete against Snow Go and TorEX, both decks where creature removal doesn’t really matter. Blightning is pure card advantage and speeds up the clock, while Duress lets us pull specific problem cards out of the opponent’s hand. Out of the sideboard, I’ve included a playset of Raven’s Crime for matchups where removal is of limited use and all we want to do is strip the opponet’s hand to the bone. In a way, it’s filling the same role as Liliana of the Veil does in Legacy and Modern Jund.

The last three spell slots go to Pulse of Murasa, which is an all-purpose spell. It buys time against aggro, can single-handedly bury burn under lifegain, lets you rebuy your most important creature against grindy machups, and can even fix your mana or let you retrace Raven’s Crime by pulling a land back to your hand.

Speaking of lands, the mana base for this deck is relatively simplistic. Rather than a combination of tapped dual lands, I went with thirteen basics spread more or less evenly across the colors, a playset of Ash Barrens, and three each of Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse. My reasoning for this is that very few spells require more than one mana of a given color. For the vast majority of spells two Forests, a Mountain, and a Swamp are all that’s required, so it’s far more important to be able to find the needed colors initially than it is to have a flexible manabase once the lands are in play.


And that brings us to the creatures, which were by far the hardest part of the deck to settle on. The first and most obvious place to take the deck was Gurmag Angler and Hooting Mandrills, as delve creatures are easily the most efficient threats available in Pauper. However, playing more than three to five such creatures quickly becomes unsustainable as we don’t have room in the deck for cantrips or self mill. In addition, delving our graveyard away makes it all but impossible to play with Pulse of Murasa and other recursive cards.

I also toyed around with the idea of Hana Kami and Death Denied to give the deck a late-game engine, but it was so fragile to countermagic that it couldn’t be counted on against the decks where we really want that card advantage.

The first creature I settled on was Putrid Leech, which is essentially a 4/4 for two mana with a life payment attached. That’s enough to require a multi-creature block out of the aggressive decks, and in situations like that killing a blocker with Lightning Bolt or Terminate can force three for ones. It’s also a fast clock on its own, and resistant to a lot of the cheaper removal spells like Disfigure and Lightning Bolt.

For a while I was looking at Carrion Thrash as a singleton curve-topper, but the mana payment needed to return a creature eventually persuaded me to look elsewhere. Instead I settled on Twisted Abomination, which costs more to play but also protects itself from the vast majority of removal via regeneration. It also isn’t dead in your opening hand thanks to swampcycling, and can be brought back via Pulse of Murasa or Gravedigger once you get to the late game.

Speaking of Gravedigger, once I abandoned the delve creatures I knew I wanted some number. Initially it was a playset, but four mana is quite steep and while you want to draw multiples eventually we don’t want them clogging up opening hands, so three seems like the perfect number. Against big creature decks like reanimator it’s possible to buy almost unlimited time by repeatedly blocking with one Gravedigger and then rebuying it the next turn with another. As long as you always keep at least one in hand you can loop blockers for long enough to draw whatever piece of the deck you need.

From here I wanted to include big creatures all along the curve. With Putrid Leech in the two-drop slot we ideally want a one, a three, and a four-drop. The four-drop was easy, as Blastoderm is impossible to interact with, provides a quick clock, and the downside of Fading is easily negated by our recursion. Even without a recursion spell, against most decks it should be relatively simple to keep the path clear for Blastoderm to attack via removal. Given how I built the manabase, Imperiosaur was another option, but I value Blastoderm’s shroud over Imperiosaur’s lack of a time limit.

That thought process led me to Nimble Mongoose as my one-drop of choice. This deck isn’t able to turn threshold on very quickly, but what’s important here is the ability to stick a threat that can’t be interacted with before countermagic comes online. Decks such as Snow Go and Trinket Control have minimal clocks and very few ways to interact with shroud or hexproof creatures so once we actually resolve one it’s game over in many situations.


At this point I had three slots left in the deck and eight in the sideboard. For the maindeck slots I wanted some form of card advantage, preferably on a creature. Elvish Visionary and Phyrexian Rager were the obvious choices, but eventually I stumbled upon Mardu Skullhunter, which has a better body and furthers the discard plan. Now it’s entirely possible that raid will prove to restrictive or that I’m overvaluing discard compared card draw. For now I’m going with two Skullhunters and one Phyrexian Rager.

The sideboard already includes Raven’s Crime and Electrickery for the control and swarm matchups, respectively. Given that there’s a tron deck in the mix as well as several decks that run the Ravnica bouncelands, I also wanted to include some copies of Molten Rain. It was three for a while, but the higher cost eventually made me drop that to two.

Since we’re already well-positioned  against creature decks and burn in particular thanks to Pulse of Murasa, I wanted the remaining spots to go to graveyard hate for Reanimator and TorEx and artifact and enchantment removal for Affinity and Bogles. Three Relic of Progenitus is an easy decision for the graveyard hate, but the last three slots came down to a close race between Ancient Grudge and Wickerbough Elder. The first is a guaranteed two-for-one against Affinity, while the second is slower and only removes one permanent but is useful against both Affinity and Bogles. Eventually I settled on the Elder for versatility and having access to another threat when we want to increase our creature count.

The Deck

Here’s the list that I’m going to start testing with:

Pauper Battlebox Jund

Creatures (18)
Nimble Mongoose
Putrid Leech
Mardu Skullhunter
Phyrexian Rager
Twisted Abomination

Spells (19)
Lightning Bolt
Pulse of Murasa
Chainer’s Edict
Lands (23)
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Ash Barrens

Sideboard (15)
Raven’s Crime
Relic of Progenitus
Molten Rain
Wickerbough Elder

I’ll probably make further edits after playing with the deck, but this seems like a strong starting point. Part of me wants to find room for a late-game mana sink like Sprout Swarm or Valakut Invoker, but I want to try it like this first.

If you want your deck to be featured in a future Dear Azami, send the decklist to [email protected], along with a brief description of what issues the deck is having and what budget you want me to work with.

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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