Shadows over Innistrad is my kind of set. From the cards spoiled so far, it appears to be a world in which there is a significant incentive for discarding cards and for finding a way to fill a graveyard. Considering that I look for any excuse to exploit these lines of play, it should come as no surprise that I am looking forward to seeing what SOI has for Pauper.
Normally, sets with these themes bode well for the format. Pauper is full of cards that care about the graveyard, and it is among the more exploitable zones available. Despite the high power levels of certain synergy-based decks (see Affinity and Tron), most cards in Pauper tend to fall into line with regards to strength. Being able to eke extra utility from any resource can be a swing in any game. Cards like Firebolt and Unearth see heavy play because of this, and Bojuka Bog remains a common inclusion in black decks today because it has the capability of turning off a source of card advantage at minimal cost. In Pauper, graveyards most definitely matter.
So where does this leave us in regards to delirium? The closest ability at the moment is threshold, and it is not the best precedent. Rancid Earth sees sideboard play for decks that want additional copies of Choking Sands, while both Werebear and Putrid Imp are fringe inclusions at best. Of course, threshold has a magic number of seven, while delirium only asks for four cards, but they all need to have different types.
For the moment, I am going to presuppose that there are cards that make delirium “worth it” in Pauper. If that is the case, Pauper has an additional hurdle to clear: one fewer card type than the rest of Magic. The world of commons lacks Planeswalkers now and forevermore. So what can be done to help push our Pauper decks deeper down the delirium drive?
Lands should not be a problem, as both Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse see a decent amount of play. The new “fetch land” Warped Landscape fills a similar role, but the Panoramas from Shards of Alara could have a chance in certain decks. The Landscape could become more popular if there is ever a need to run Wastes in Pauper. The cycling lands from Onslaught block already are regular inclusions, and the addition of delirium could mean they gain more real estate in decklists.
Lands are easy, and to a certain extent, so are instants and sorceries. These two are designed to hit the bin, and they do so with great ease in Pauper. If anything, cards like Careful Study, Thought Scour, and Faithless Looting are likely to make more appearances. Even a card like Macabre Waltz, recently spoiled with new art, could see an uptick in inclusions for the fact that it can add two different card types to the count.
Creatures with a predisposition to death gain value in the delirious world. The old mister fantastic Mogg Fanatic is the standard for sacrifice triggers, and Keldon Marauders is not far behind. In the red camp, Stingscourger has been discussed as an on-tribe way for red decks to delay a Gurmag Angler. After Shadows over Innistrad, it could be that Stingscourger is more than just a card mentioned in conversation and an actual factor in the metagame. Sakura-Tribe Elder has a similar skill set as Mogg Fanatic and plays into a green ramp strategy that has thus far been ignored. Lest we forget Mulldrifter has an alternate cost that forces it to be sacrificed; Elementals like Ingot Chewer and Wispmare may get the nod now. And black decks—well, Nantuko Husk, Carrion Feeder, Bloodthrone Vampire, and Viscera Seer are just waiting for their chances in the sun.
Also, you could just attack, block, and trade creatures for removal spells. But where’s the fun in that?
Artifacts have their own ways of dying. First and foremost, Kuldotha Rebirth gets new life after falling largely off the map. The ability to sacrifice an artifact land and gain two checkmarks for delirium while spawning an army is worth something. Spellbombs of the Pyrite variety could find homes in various decks as a way to mimic Shocks while adding a variety of types. Mind Stone could replace some instances of Pristine Talisman or Prismatic Lens in builds looking for colorless acceleration, and the opportunity to be cashed in for a card should not be underestimated. Wayfarer's Bauble is among my favorite cards, and I’m always looking for an excuse to find a home for this turn-one play. Maybe delirium will provide that opportunity.
Finally, we come to enchantments. If my preview card from last week is any indication, we are going to be seeing a new cycle of cards that are all begging to be sacrificed. Just like Pyrite Spellbomb, I could envision Seal of Fire having its day in the sun. Seal of Doom and the other less lethal Seals could also have their opportunities. Font of Return already sees play, and Font of Fertility might have a shot if ramp decks are looking for another turn-one play and trying to supplement their Sakura-Tribe Elders. Angelic Renewal has seen fringe play as a backup copy of Momentary Blink, but in the coming months, this enchantment will deserve another look.
So this is what delirium means. If the mechanic provides any cards that have sufficiently powerful effects, it could cause a ripple in what many Pauper players consider staple cards and go a long way toward increasing card diversity in the top decks.
The other mechanic I want to look at today is investigate. I enjoy how it is a blend of some well-loved mechanics. On one level, it gives every spell kicker to draw a card. At the same time, it is reminiscent of the “cycles-from-play” cards in Urza’s Destiny. The ability to delay the draw recalls suspend and echo, at least for me. I do not imagine it will take much for cards with investigate to see play in Pauper, if only because they all replace themselves.
Investigate also will do wonders for metalcraft-based strategies. Kuldotha Jeskai and Kuldotha Boros have been falling out of favor but still appear in the standings from time to time. These decks both seek to eke out card advantage from cycling Prophetic Prism and Ichor Wellspring through Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk. The deck then pecks at a life total with flyers before sealing the deal with Lightning Bolts and Galvanic Blasts. One reason this strategy may be seeing less play is that it requires setting back its own development on board for the sake of drawing cards. Now, with access to a card like Thraben Investigator, a Kor Skyfisher represents the opportunity to add more Clues to the battlefield and, in turn, make it easier to turn on metalcraft while also creating more implied cards for the future.
Outside of these two decks, I am excited for the opportunity to pair investigate with Artificer's Epiphany. The most consistent way to draw two cards at instant speed for 3 mana, a Clue token serves the role of artifact in this epiphany just fine. Being able to commit a Clue early and then follow it up with a draw-two—and then potentially a third card later—means the combination of investigate and Epiphany could form the backbone of card flow for blue decks in the future.
Without knowing all the cards, the best way to prepare for a new set is sometimes to see what we already have. If the commons in Shadows over Innistrad are powerful enough, it means poring over the old spoilers to look for new gems. Delirium and investigate point to this being the case, and I hope we will all have the opportunity to play Seal of Fire in the not too distant future.