Hello again friends! Here at my Pauper Flophouse of fun I bring you a variety of sweet Pauper decks and give them some quick and dirty brawls in the leagues. Hopefully showing off what the decks can do, having some sweet games and making suggestions on how to make things even better. Let’s go!
I’m doing something a bit different this week. I’m going to show you a deck I’ve been working on for a little while, and how I got there. A while ago, I came across at attempt at making a UG Emerge deck by Alex Ullman that looked like this:
1 Holdout Settlement
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Epic Confrontation
4 Grapple with the Past
2 Pulse of Murasa
3 Elvish Visionary
2 Sylvan Ranger
4 Fierce Empath
2 Yavimaya Elder
3 Llanowar Empath
2 Wickerbough Elder
I played the deck as is for a little while to get a feel for what was working and what was not. The deck type appealed to me because I’m a big fan of value creatures, and this build sure has a lot of #value built into it. One the deck got going, you continually played creatures until the opponent fell over making it quite good against opponents who are trying to play an attrition game. However, there were some problems.
- Too many decks ignored you. While I was casting sweet value monsters and Grapples and Pulses, the opponent was flying over and punching me to death, or burning me out or comboing. I didn’t have enough removal.
- I actually had too many cards in my hand. It was nice to be casting creatures and drawing creatures, but it was clear that I could be utilising my cards better if I’m losing with 6 cards in my hand. Unlike the other synergy decks, all my cards still cost mana.
- The Emerge creatures weren’t getting the job done reliably. They were good for sure, but not worth building my deck around. There were turn 4 It of the Horrid Swarms, but sometimes they were already outclassed by multiple 4/4’s or a Gurmag Angler.
I needed to rebuild the deck from the ground up, taking into account the problems, possible solutions, and what that means for the manabase and cards I could play. I elected to use a Terramorphic Expanse/Evolving Wilds because by limiting my deck to cards with only single colour requirements of any particular colour (i.e. I could play Mana Leak if I wanted, but not Counterspell) they could act as tri-lands and I would rarely be unable to cast spells.
Solution 1: The deck needed removal badly to compensate for the Emerge creatures not being game-enders like the rarer ones are in standard. Unless I wanted my deck to feature a ton of ‘fight’ cards which are inconsistent when combined with the value creatures I knew I needed a 3rd colour. Between black or red, I wanted red because given that I was now 3 colours that meant certain amounts of Enter the Battlefield Tapped lands, which leads to me wanting the most mana efficient spells possible. Red also allowed me to use Flametongue Kavu-style creatures such as Flamecore Weird and Blisterstick Shaman should I wish, and great anti-Affinity cards.
I cast this in real life once, killing one 4/4 and trading with another, and this isn’t even one of the *best* anti-Affinity cards we can play!
The only issue with them was the lack of flexibility in match ups where they were bad, such as against Bogles or UB Teachings.
Solution 2: The early builds never ran out of cards in hand, but also weren’t deploying them too effectively either. The addition of a bunch of cheap red removal spells helped greatly in this regard, but the creatures needed to change. Yavimaya Elder was double green, and was difficult to cast even if he made mana easy afterwards. The Empath pair only hitting creatures was problematic, as most often I was seeking more removal or a land, since I never had any problems drawing into enough Emerge creatures anyway.
Fierce Empath – despite being very reliable at getting me an Emerge creature – was one of the last cards to be cut as over time the plan was less about getting an Emerge creature as fast as possible, given that Problem 3 was that the Emerge creatures weren’t getting it done on their own anyway.
Another consequence of the 3 colour mana base was that I no longer could reliably play an Elf or Sprawl on turn 1, thus they had to go, and I needed to play some more lands.
Solution 3: The Emerge creatures were not as game ending as hoped. Despite bringing the value of Insects or cards, I would quite often get into awkward scenarios where Gryff couldn’t get past a Spire Golem or Swarm failed to get past a Gurmag Angler without help. Stalled games never seemed to work in my favour as opponents would cast Mulldrifters or similar and pull away while I drew more small ground creatures.
At some point while testing a different brew, I came across an opponent on Magic Online who had a Temur Version of Emerge that had Young Wolf, Rancor, Pitchburn Devils and other such aggressive choices. I theoretically liked the Rancor plan, as making the value creatures into real threats was a huge upside. In addition, slapping it on the large creatures seemed appealing, as it solved the ‘can’t attack well’ issue the top end was having.
However, just throwing 4 Rancors in the deck interfered with the rest of the game plan too much. It competed too much with the removal which was the whole point of the red, and made the deck too inconsistent. A miser Rancor could be okay, but then I thought about having a small Trinket Mage -> Bonesplitter plan.
No Tops or Needles to find in this format.
What Trinket Mage Achieves
What started as just a couple of Trinket Mages to find a Bonesplitter, with a couple of Spellbombs to find quickly ended up changing the way the deck was built, making me morph the deck around it while coming with multiple upsides.
- The Manabase still planned to make an Evolving Wilds or similar on turn 1, but if I didn’t have one, Trinkets gave me something to do!
- I could make some removal searchable. Pyrite Spellbomb made Trinket Mage act like more removal, while also letting me trim some of the red spells to hedge against match ups where removal is bad by cycling themselves away.
- Aether Spellbomb gave me outs to turbo-Anglers and Ulamog’s Crushers.
- Adding some artifact lands didn’t hurt and made Trinket Mage act as a Civic Wayfinder where needed.
- Adding Sylvok Lifestaff later on also turned around some of the aggro match ups from having extremely tough game 1’s to pretty reasonable game 1’s.
So basically Trinket Mage patched up many holes in the deck while also contributing to the main plan of ‘cast a value creature’ out of which a monster might Emerge.
Many matches later lead me to record a daily event with this list:
Of course, the best way to demonstrate how it plays is to show you!
This league went okay, though the deck still proved to be rough around the edges. We had a few problems still with hands being too clunky, drawing too many Mulldrifters and Emerge creatures when casting them wouldn’t be overly advantageous.
I seemed to be too mana hungry. I didn’t have too many problems before, but this can be solved by reducing the mana costs and adding cheaper cards, or adding a land.
The Bonesplitter didn’t seem too useful against these opponents, but then linear aggressive synergy decks is the majority of Pauper at the moment, and so Lifestaff is probably fine to be the only power-enhancing equipment since it still lets you trade up most of the time where required.
If you want to try out the deck yourself, I recommend figuring out your role in the various match ups. Knowing when to shift gears between aggressor and controller in a match up or within a particular game is tough in a deck like this with lots of flexibility but nothing so overpowering it bails you out of dire situations. Fetching the wrong land can have dire consequences, even if it looks like you have enough mana out to not have to worry about it!
I’m still working on the deck, and various value creatures are still making their way into the deck for tryouts, so let me know if there are any sweet ones I’ve overlooked.
Hope you enjoyed this deck, come back ne-BUT WAIT there’s more!
Since I recorded this earlier in the week, to make up for the missing league match I’m swooping in with a bonus match, with the tweaks I’ve made after a few more days.
The changes made to the above decklist are:
Alright! Now I will say goodbye for now, and invite you back next time for more sweet Pauper action.
Stephen ‘Jecht’ Murray, over and out.