In December, the Professor of Tolarian Community College proposed the idea of a major competitive Pauper tournament like a Grand Prix or Open. The community responded in kind, drawing responses from Channel Fireball and StarCityGames, leading to the announcement of regular events from CFB as side events at their GPs and the massive Pauper Classic joining the lineup at SCG Con. Over time, both mimicked one another and now CFB is offering a Pauper Championship event at Grand Prix Las Vegas while SCG is offering Pauper side events at all of their major events. Now after months of format growth, we’re finally coming up on both major events at SCG Con and Grand Prix Las Vegas over the next two weeks. As such, I’m going to explore the current Pauper format and what I expect to see in the coming weeks.

First, what is Pauper? It’s a format where only common cards are allowed. No strong uncommons or mighty rares to be found here (with the exception of a handful of downshifts thanks to the various Masters sets). Don’t let the rarity of these cards dissuade you from trying out this format, though. Many commons over the years have incredible power, and even today we see new cards entering the format with unique abilities and interactions. The incredible diversity of gameplay and its non-rotating nature lend it to being often times compared to Modern and Legacy, but at a fraction of the price.

There can be some confusion on what’s legal and what isn’t. Most people think if it’s been a common you can play it, so cards like High Tide and Hymn to Tourach should be legal since they’re not on the official banlist, right? The thing is, that list as laid out on the official Wizards website, follows Magic Online rarity. That means cards are only legal if they’ve been printed at common online. Thus High Tide and Hymn to Tourach, which were uncommons online, are in fact not legal. This rule also applies to cards many people feel should be legal, like Red Elemental Blast and Blue Elemental Blast, given they have near-functionally identical cards that were printed at common (in this case Pyroblast and Hydroblast). To avoid unnecessary judge calls, I recommend consulting Scryfall for the best overview of format legality, as Gatherer still to this day does not represent an accurate format legality as most venues for paper events will follow the Magic Online legality and banlist.

With such a vast format with new brews being brought to the table, it’s not hard to feel overwhelmed at what to expect and what to play. According to MTGGoldfish, there’s roughly 59 known decks/archetypes in the format, though some do overlap due to not being listed properly while others, such as Tron, have many forms of the deck listed under a single archetype despite numerous differences between builds. When looking for a deck, consider archetypes you enjoy and find one analogous to those. Almost every kind of deck you can imagine has a similar version in Pauper short of Storm, where the best finishers are banned.

The next thing you should look at is what to expect to see across the table from you. This will help not just with choosing a deck, but also coming up with an optimal build. Myself, I expect to see a lot of the following archetypes:

The reason for this is simple: each of these decks represents a list wherein the deck is extremely similar to that of other formats, or a past Standard. For example, if you play Burn, Tron, or Bogles in Modern, you probably have a lot of the key components for the Pauper equivalent, whereas if you play Elves in Legacy, you likely own a number of the expensive staples. In a similar vein, if you played Affinity in the time of Mirrodin, Delver with Innistrad, or Heroic during Theros, odds are good you already have the major staples tucked away in a box somewhere. The same applies to Izzet Blitz if you played between Rise of the Eldrazi and Dragon’s Maze. Even if you need to pick up a decent number of cards on top of those staples, you likely own most of the expensive pickups for each of the aforementioned lists. As that applies to a lot of players, I would expect all of these to appear in the greatest numbers. In addition, I would expect many of the decks The Professor and MTG Goldfish have covered as reasonable budget options, although these often include a number of brews not so well represented in the greater metagame.

Conversely, what I expect to see the least includes the following:

This list might surprise some people, especially those who actively play the format.These decks currently represent some of the biggest shares of the metagame. Izzet Delver and Inside Out Combo in particular are arguably two of the best decks in the entire format, if not the best overall. Despite that, each of these decks contain core cards that are both expensive and difficult to find. These include Snow-Covered Islands and Mountains, Chainer’s Edict, Circular Logic, Gush, and the most egregious offender: Oubliette. Because of this and the fact that they contain cards from all over Magic’s history, which would require players to hunt down a much greater number of cards, I would expect these somewhat less. That said, you may still see them, especially in later rounds. When you do, be prepared to put up a fight.

Lastly, there’s a handful of decks that I think have potential to make a solid splash, just not nearly to the extent of the first set of decks. Those include:

This list is basically the decks that are popular and often played that simply don’t fall as much into the other categories. It’s unlikely that many players will have these just sitting in a box somewhere that they can assemble due to the cards spanning great lengths of the game’s lifetime. Yet they aren’t so difficult to assemble due to prohibitively expensive staples. Stompy and Slivers are the arguable exceptions here. With Stompy, if you have the expensive staples for Elves, it probably won’t cost you much to put the deck together. However someone who already has those staples likely wants to play Elves, not Stompy; so if you see someone playing the deck, they probably went and picked it up from scratch. Similarly Slivers are a continuously popular casual archetype. You might see someone who built a for-fun list pool their resources for a build, but they’re likely to be in the minority at a major competitive event.

Lastly are Boros, Dimir Control and Pestilence. Boros, aka Kitty in some circles, sees a lot of play and is seen as one of the top contenders. However, the build is a pile of cards from all over Magic and as such isn’t as easily obtainable. While the deck only contains a handful of expensive cards, usually in the form of two Battle Screeches, most of the cards are affordable and easy to find. Pestilence has made a bit of a splash in the format over the course of the last few months and, like the various Dimir Control builds, only requires a pair of Chainer’s Edicts as the real expensive cards. While that card alone is one of the most expensive in the format, running just a pair and being able to pick up the rest at an affordable rate won’t hinder too many people. It usually just ends up coming down to the matter of whether or not you can acquire everything you need in a reasonable timeframe.

With so many primed for play, it should be interesting to see what ends up coming out on top at the end of both the SCG Con Pauper Classic this Sunday, June 10th and the Pauper Championship at Grand Prix Las Vegas on Saturday, June 16th. I’ll be at SCG Con all week so I hope I get to see you there with all kinds of common goodness!

Kendra has been playing Magic since Urza block and never looked back. Playing a variety of formats and being known for championing Pauper in particular, the Elf Queen can be found hanging out on Twitter as well as streaming on Twitch, always seeking to better the community at large.

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