Adding new cards to a format always generates heated discussion. There are tons of interesting new commons coming out of Wizards R&D, some of which will definitely make an impact for Pauper. But what about cards that already exist at uncommon? Here are ten cards that could join the Pauper format and make waves in the metagame. Any of these could be reprinted somewhere at common and make real changes to Pauper right now.

Before we dive further, let’s discuss how we might end up seeing some uncommons downshifted to common. My article about lands in Pauper explored a few of the different ways in which uncommons can be downshifted to common. Powerful commons can disrupt a Limited environment, and it’s debatable whether Dinrova Horror belonged in the common slot in Modern Masters 2017 draft. But there are other supplemental products that avoid warping Limited. Commander products are now going to be far more frequent, and their use of rarity is largely arbitrary. For instance, Arcane Signet is common, whereas Loyal Drake is uncommon.

Creatures in Pauper stand at a lower power level than spells. By upping the potency of our creatures, we can help bridge that gap in the commons-only world. I don’t expect that we could see all of these come to the format; but when it comes to Pauper’s current state, these would definitely shake things up.

Judge’s Familiar

This little bird seems innocuous, but it presents an early threat that can do some real damage. Unlike its spell-based cousins, Mana Tithe and Force Spike, Judge’s Familiar can carry Bonesplitter. The hybrid casting cost bodes well for monowhite or monoblue decks, providing them with some extra insurance for their second and third turn plays. Judge’s Familiar might not take the format by storm, but I think it would definitely find its way into some up-and-coming strategies.

Renegade Rallier

Admittedly, Renegade Rallier lacks a place in the current metagame. But it offers some interesting lines for a flicker strategy, or to provide some card advantage for Selesnya Aggro decks. Bant Familiars might be interested, although the payoffs would look different. Without it being able to grab spells like Mnemonic Wall, perhaps we would see a transformation to a more creature-based flicker strategy.

Modern players have enjoyed crafting flicker lists around Soulherder, so I have no doubt that Pauper fans would enjoy the brewing challenge that Renegade Rallier would bring. I also considered Sin Collector, Reflector Mage, and Reclamation Sage in this slot. However, due to Ephemerate still existing in the format, I felt like those three would be too powerful and too easily abusable.

Ajani’s Pridemate

Magic 2020 saw this card downgraded all the way to a token generated by Ajani, Strength of the Pride. As it stands now, there are few payoffs for playing a lifegain deck in Pauper. Soul Sisters strategies have fallen on the backs of the Presence of Gond/Midnight Guard combo deck—although Pauper YouTuber Caleb Gannon has recently been working with a more combo-oriented “12 Sisters” strategy that tops off with a single Epicure of Blood.

While we’ll never see something like Serra Ascendant hit the format, Ajani’s Pridemate would give such a deck some extra muscle to compete.

Enigma Drake

Izzet takes a few different shapes in Pauper. On one hand, you have a deck with Skred and the faerie package to play tempo or control. On the other hand, there are some variants of control decks using Pieces of the Puzzle for card advantage, and occasionally Flurry of Horns as a win condition. The faerie decks are prone to getting blown out by Electrickery, whereas the Pieces of the Puzzle builds can come up short on threats to oppose Gurmag Angler or Tron.

Enigma Drake could have legs in either deck, offering a top-end threat that grows as the game goes on. I considered Spellheart Chimera for this slot, but the trample keyword might make it too good to have up in the air. However, the drake dodges Lightning Bolt, giving it considerable game against red decks.

Cartel Aristocrat

A common thread amongst aristocrats fans is that aristocrat strategies are always one or two steps away from being more competitive. While Golgari Aristocrats is Pauper’s prevailing take on this archetype, Cartel Aristocrat could offer some interesting takes on an Orzhov list. The human advisor doesn’t die to Electrickery or Shrivel, and is quite difficult to remove once resolved.

Abzan Tortured Existence decks might also be interested, since it offers a good outlet for Perilous Myr and a way to speed up the deck’s clock as the aristocrats attack. Additionally, unlike Carrion Feeder, Cartel Aristocrat can block Gurmag Angler as long as there’s fuel for the engine.

Gempalm Incinerator

While we did get Goblin Grenade in the Pauper format unification, Goblins still remains a few steps behind the rest of the field. This could be attributed to the one-two punch of Palace Sentinel decks with Prismatic Strands, and flicker Tron decks with Stonehorn Dignitary; both of which are pivotal creatures that dodge Lightning Bolt. Creature removal that replaces itself could be what allows more Goblins decks to get underneath those locks.

Munitions Expert has been giving Modern Goblins some extra muscle since Modern Horizons came out, but playing two-color Goblin Aggro is a lot harder in a format built off of tapped dual lands. As a brief note, I had thought about Reckless Bushwhacker in this slot. However, Pauper does not have Pyroclasm or other reliable sweeper for control decks to catch back up. I feel that chaining Burning-Tree Emissary on turn two into Reckless Bushwhacker would be too powerful for the format at this time.

Blood Artist

As mentioned before, flicker-based prison strategies are popular and powerful in the current Pauper metagame. Blood Artist offers an intuitive way for black decks to break through those loops. Whether it be through a creature recursion engine like Tortured Existence, or sacrificing multiple creatures through Carrion Feeder; Blood Artist could very well give black decks an extra leg to stand on when the game goes long. It changes the math for Pestilence decks, and forces opponents to make hard decisions on when and how to manage threats. Casting Electrickery into a field of X/1’s is one thing, but doing so with a Blood Artist on board makes the call a lot riskier.

Strangleroot Geist

If you played back in the days of Dark Ascension, you’ll remember how hard it was to kill this particular two-drop. Strangleroot Geist presents a steady clock, attacks freely into blockers, and will always dodge Electrickery or Shrivel. On top of that, it wears Rancor better than most.

While there are ways to profit off of Undying with things like Scarscale Ritual, Strangleroot Geist would most likely fill an aggro role in Mono-Green Stompy. A Stompy player could attack with the geist on turn three, trigger Undying, and then cast Hunger of the Howlpack post-combat, leaving them with a 6/5 beater for the following turn. Strangleroot Geist pairs well with Rancor, allowing the Stompy player to keep a steady stream of threats flowing. Having this creature in the arsenal will help aggro keep midrange and control more honest.

Monastery Swiftspear

Continuing along the lines of bolstering aggro, Monastery Swiftspear is a resilient, potent threat for Burn and other red aggro decks. Ghitu Lavarunner currently sits in the one-drop creature slot for Burn, and Swiftspear would offer a substantial upgrade.

While the benefits of having Monastery Swiftspear in Burn are fairly obvious, there’s also some extra space to be explored with it as a combo card. After the banning of Gush and Gitaxian Probe, Tireless Tribe Combo fell to the fringes of the format. There are still skilled pilots of the deck, but it is far from where it once was. However, Monastery Swiftspear could give rise to an all-in deck like Mono-Rd Prowess in Modern. Technically, you could execute a turn two kill with a Swiftspear, three Mutagenic Growths, and Temur Battle Rage.

Dryad Militant

When it comes to uncommon creatures that could affect Pauper, Dryad Militant always comes to mind first. There are a ton of different avenues in which Dryad Militant affects the landscape, so let’s get right into it. Hybrid mana makes it is easily playable in decks that can access green or white. It being a one-drop also allows it to immediately hinder the the decks it preys upon. Prismatic Strands and Battle Screech lose their valuable second halves, and Ghostly Flicker will disappear before Mnemonic Wall can get it back. Accumulated Knowledge becomes the front half of Think Twice, Mystic Sanctuary loops with Deprive can be broken, and even Gurmag Anglers have a little less fuel to work with.

This is, by all means, not an exhaustive list of what Dryad Militant can do for Pauper, but it touches on some of the more prominent interactions. All the while, it’s graveyard hate that can attack for two. Nevertheless, the dryad soldier will still die to any form of targeted removal, as well as the majority of board wipes. So is it still worth it? Absolutely.

Pauper has a variety of directions that it can grow in, and any one of these could help guide us to a sweet spot. By upping the power level of threats in the format, it can help close the gap between spell and creature quality. But what do you think? What would your top ten look like?

Travis is a Connecticut-based player and writer, who has been turning things sideways since Starter 1999. He primarily plays Commander, Pauper, and Modern, and has a passion for introducing new players to the game. When he isn’t attacking with red creatures, he can be found mountain biking or playing the guitar. You can follow his exploits here on Twitter and Instagram.

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