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Understanding Paupergeddon


A recurring theme in my recent primer is the need to unify the Paper and Online legality lists for Pauper. I feel this would allow for a seamless format where the library of existing Magic Online data could be built upon. Players who want to play with physical cards would know what to expect and be able to prepare. To wit, look at the deck that won Card Kingdom’s Rags to Riches 7. Card Kingdom uses a modified Online legality list which uses commons from both realms but bans some egregious offenders like Hymn to Tourach and High Tide.

Travis also made it to the Semifinals of Rags to Riches 8 with an identical maindeck. Teachings is a known quantity and a consistent contender. However Travis was allowed to run Desert. Desert is a card that, if you are able to run it, can completely wreck aggressive strategies. A common in Arabian Nights it has never been reprinted at common in a Magic Online legal set. Desert was so important that Travis ended up running 66 cards in order to accommodate the Land and maintain the ratio he desired. Desert is strong, hard to deal with answer that has two of the hallmarks of cards that have ended up on the banned list: it cheats on mana and operates on a completely different axis than the rest of the format.

Not to knock Travis, but his results, while impressive, are of little use to the online metagame. Desert is not only not available but the closest cousins are Prodigal Sorcerer effects. And they’re fifth cousins — twice removed at that. There is no way to run the deck in the same capacity digitally and still play Pauper. It does not have to be this way

The entirety of the United States and the Atlantic Ocean away, Italy has developed a thriving Pauper scene that uses the online legality list. The Italian Pauper community is vibrant and engaged. Looking at my Facebook comments makes me wish I learned Italian in school. The love of Pauper crosses the language barrier and it shows. The community in Italy has run a series of events called Paupergeddon in cities like Florence and Turin. On February 12 the Italian community ran an event in Milan that had 213 participants. It sounds like this was an unanticipated number as the Top 8 players all split due to the late hour.

I don’t know about you, but that looks like success to me.

The wonderful folks who organize the tournaments also posted the Top 8 and Top 16 decks for consumption. While I do not have the records for each deck there is still a ton of information to be gleaned from the results.

Let’s take a look:

Top 8

  • 3 Murasa Tron
  • 1 Affinity
  • 1 Dimir Flicker
  • 1 Mono-Black Control
  • 1 Rhystic Tron
  • 1 Stompy


  • 2 Stompy
  • Affinity
  • Dimir Flicker
  • Domain Hexproof
  • Grixis Tron
  • Jeskai Watch Rites
  • R/G Madness

Tron is the big winner with five of the Top 16 decks running the mana engine, including half of the Top 8. Control is certainly alive in Pauper and it may be stronger than we realize. The result structure of the Magic Online leagues where only the undefeated lists are posted trends toward decks that can run hot. A solid option, such as Mono-Black Control, can be completely lost in those results since it often will pick up a loss or two. As Paupergeddon is a longer event and a single loss does not ruin a chance of having a deck posted it makes sense for there to be fewer all-in decks (Hexproof, Izzet Blitz) and more decks that want to play a consistent game. The most successful aggressive deck here is Stompy while Delver — the to-this-point consensus best deck in the format — is absent. Without full metagame data it can be hard to know exactly why Delver failed to show up but my best guess is that people came prepared and it can be hard to fight through seven-plus rounds of hate.

Moving back to the results, if we assign two points for making the Top 8 and another point for placing ninth through sixteenth, we would end up with the following weighted results:

Murasa Tron: 6

Stompy: 4

Affinity: 3

Dimir Flicker: 3

Mono-Black Control: 2

Rhystic Tron: 2

Domain Hexproof: 1

Grixis Tron: 1

Jeskai Watch Rites: 1

R/G Madness: 1

Using this scoring method Tron led the field with 9 points. The next closest macro archetypes are Rancor decks (with 6) and Chittering Rats decks (5).

These decks all conform to the same style of play even if the cards are exactly the same. All three decks run the same complement of Mulldrifters, Sea Gate Oracles, and Mnemonic Walls with Matteo opting for some extra power in Wretched Gryff. Nicolò ran the same four Prophetic Prisms as his Top 8 compatriots but added two copies of Expedition Map and a single Izzet Signet for added consistency. Only Jimmy opted to run an Evincar's Justice main to supplement Electrickery. The devil is in the details and each of these deck’s is correct for a different metagame.

Murasa Tron is an incredibly versatile deck that can leverage its overwhelming mana advantage to run an abundance of flexible answers. Pulse of Murasa has been a boon to decks of this stripe as it can retrieve a key piece while also boosting a life total. Being able to Evoke a Mulldrifter early to dig for lands or business and get it back after assembling Tron mana results in a huge swing in card economy. Pulse of Murasa has been so important to these decks that it has started to find its way into other builds of Tron.

Rhystic Tron has been around for some time despite lacking a breakthrough performance. In its older form it was more of a pure control deck with a Tron mana engine, complete with Azorius Signet, that could turn into a soft prison deck. The key card to this archetype is Rhystic Circle, which can completely shut down attacks, including those from creatures with Hexproof. Since Tron decks will almost always have a mana advantage they could conceivably cast this Fog every turn. As we all know, Colorless is not a color so the trick does not work on Ulamog's Crusher (remember Rhystic Circle can let opponents pay the mana as well) so eventually the Rise of the Eldrazi all-star comes down to start consuming permanents.

Mirco shaved the Signets but added another prison element in the Stonehorn Dignitary lock. Much like Chittering Rats and Archaeomancer, Stonehorn Dignitary and Mnemonic Wall can lock an opponent out of attack steps with Ghostly Flicker. In Rhystic Tron this makes tons of sense as it lets you build up mana until the Rhystic Circle lock can be established. Mirco has dipped into Green for Pulse of Murasa and Moment's Peace. This deck looks like a solid option for the aggressive leaning digital metagame.

Gian’s deck looks a lot like the Murasa Tron lists except for a few key elements. First they are running two copies of Forbidden Alchemy. Alchemy is not completely alien to these decks as many have run a copy to supplement Impulse in the past. The advantage of Forbidden Alchemy is that it can find anything and dump cards into the graveyard. In a Murasa Tron deck that makes perfect sense but here Gian has opted for Grim Harvest. Grim Harvest is a powerful card that can generate massive advantage over a long game but lacks the life gain. Gian is not running that much more removal than the other Tron decks so this leads me to believe that the metagame at Paupergeddon was not as aggressive as the typical online results.

These decks all look fairly standard. Stompy is an established archetype and has become one of the more consistent clocks in the format. Cheap Green creatures backed up with multiple +4/+4 pump spells and Rancor do a great job of softening life totals. If Stompy decks continue along this path I think that cutting Vault Skirge and finding home for Aspect of Hydra might be a way to get an edge in mirror matches since that card has the potential to be significantly better than a Groundswell.

Lorenzo’s deck is cut from the stock cloth when it comes to Affinity. One Fling and one Temur Battle Rage along with the normal creature suite. Adrian added a second copy of Fling main and a two more copies of Temur Battle Rage in the sideboard. Also residing in the extra fifteen — a copy of Pulse of Murasa. The second card may seem a bit out of place at first but it makes sense when looking at a potential transformational sideboard. Bringing in two copies of Battle Rage turns this into a deck that looks closer to Stompy when factoring in the number of 4/4s. An early Carapace Forger can swing for eight starting turn three and Pulse of Murasa can do work rebuying a 4/4 to make sure you’re always Ferocious. I do not expect this plan to catch on but it is certainly interesting.

Straight from the Magic Online league, these two decks want to lock an opponent out of draw steps with Archaeomancer, Chittering Rats, and Ghostly Flicker. There’s nothing out of the ordinary with these builds and either are reasonable to take to your next event.

Speaking of nothing out of the ordinary, Lorenzo’s build on Mono-Black Control looks like it came from late 2015. The latest card to hit the scene in the deck is Gurmag Angler, instead relying on Chittering Rats into Gray Merchant of Asphodel to get the job done. The full four copies of Unearth do a reasonable Ghostly Flicker impression in generating advantage turn after turn. Noticeably absent are copies of Oubliette. While this may be an availability issue — the original Oblivion Ring is hard to find and expensive in paper — it may also be a metagame call. Oubliette is a fantastic way to get rid of Rancor wearing Young Wolf but it is also a game breaker in the Mono-Black mirror. Being able to “steal” two pips of Devotion from an opponent to fuel your own can be a huge swing in a war of dueling Gray Merchants. Mono-Black Control remains a solid option but will have a hard time going undefeated in a League.

Taking the most consistent parts of Domain Zoo and Hexproof, Domain Hexproof is a deck that has popped up a few times in the past few months to middling results. Paolo has opted to add a strong 1-drops to Slippery Bogle in Wild Nacatl. Paolo has Lightning Bolt and Aura Gnarlid to close out games but despite the presence of Nylea's Presence there are no Tribal Flames to be found. I think this deck would benefit by pushing harder in either direction to be a better Hexproof deck or a full-fledged Domain Zoo build.

Built on the back of strong White cards like Thraben Inspector, Squadron Hawk, and Battle Screech, Jeskai Watch Rites adds Red and Blue to help facilitate a combo-esque kill. The goal of this deck is to flood the board with small creatures before attacking with them all. Once attackers are declared Riccardo would hope to cast Keep Watch and draw an abundance of cards including, hopefully, Rites of Initiation. Those new cards? They’re getting pitched for damage. This deck is far more explosive than the builds not running Blue that rely on Rally the Peasants but lack some of the staying power that can come from Kor Skyfisher.

The final deck, R/G Madness is a deck that has historically done well at Paupergeddon events. Chock full of good burn spells and cheap threats, Michele’s deck is quite capable of spitting out its own 4/4s. Gathan Raiders also gives the option of a 5/5 while Wild Mongrel is fine at converting otherwise dead cards into damage. Two copies of Tin Street Hooligan main is quite the hateful inclusion but the ability to randomly blow up an Artifact can come in handy. Kird Ape and Blastoderm can pile on damage while also being moderately resilient. Faithless Looting can dig deep late while the two copies of Rancor can help the non-Shroud creatures punch through.

R/G Madness strikes me as the kind of deck that can consistently go 3-2 in the Pauper league. Being based upon creatures makes the deck soft to Chainer's Edict decks and Murasa Tron and the burn spells, while providing a way to close the game, are not abundant enough to do that job on their own. Also, Michele is running 61 cards and 19 lands. If I were going to take this into the league I would likely find home for one or two more lands while adding some number of Rancors and cutting down to only three Faithless Lootings. Blastoderm would likely be the victim of the cuts but that may not be the right call.

Paper Pauper is alive and well in Italy. The Paupergeddon tournament series has exploded in popularity and uses the Magic Online legality rule set. The premier paper event, I hope that other stores and organizers follow the road laid by the Italian community. Over 200 competitors seem to agree. Can a Pauper tournament in another part of the world top that?

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