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Eternally Mastering Pauper

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When I saw my preview card for Eternal Masters was Nimble Mongoose my eyes went wide with the possibilities. Reprint sets are a boon to Pauper since they allow cards previously printed outside of common to enter the format. Because these products are aimed at more entrenched players the commons present tend to be on the more powerful and complex side of the spectrum. Previous reprint sets have given Pauper format staples like Chainer's Edict and Battle Screech as well as important role players like Gut Shot and Beetleback Chief. Going into the spoiler drop I was expect five or six cards in addition to Nimble Mongoose.

Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised.

Let’s also say that’s an understatement.

Eternal Masters provides a whopping 27 cards downshifted in rarity. While it would be easy to write off some of these cards as limited fodder the vast majority of them have constructed Pauper applications. Even better these cards help to support archetypes that are currently underrepresented at the upper echelons of the format. These are great cards, but for the first time in what feels like forever a set release is not a case of the rich getting richer in Pauper.

In fact, Eternal Masters is going to make certain cards for more accessible. With reprints of Daze, Pyroblast, Hydroblast, and Ancestral Mask, Eternal Masters is going to do some serious work in lowering the cost of certain cards in the Magic Online economy. While certain cards will continue to be a challenge in paper (Oubliette, I am looking at you), this set will help to lower the barrier for entry to digital common battles.

Eternal Masters is the best set for Pauper in recent memory. It is an absolute game changer.

But before we get to the great stuff I want to examine the merely all right. These are the cards added to the format that will have minimal impact.

Mistral Charger
Monk Idealist

First off is the White duo of Mistral Charger and Monk Idealist. These cards are functional reprints of (the unfortunately named) Stormfront Pegasus and Auramancer. The Pegasus sees little play but it is not because it is a weak card. Rather two color aggressive strategies have been tough to pull off (although every set provides more incentive to go this route) and that is where Pegasus could shine.

Auramancer sees play in a variety of enchantment based decks. Whether it is being used to recur Reality Acid or Tortured Existence, the Odyssey common is a mainstay for the “almost” group of strategies. If any of these decks ever wanted a fifth copy, Monk Idealist is ready to fill that need. In a deck full of Theros block enchantment creatures these two also double as 3-mana Gravediggers. Having a pair of 3-mana 2/2s that draw a creature is strong but considering the strength of most enchantment creatures, not strong enough to be the core of a deck.

Glacial Wall
Phantom Monster

Glacial Wall and Phantom Monster are fun throwbacks but neither has serious tournament applications. Glacial Wall has a slim chance of getting time on the battlefield as it is the right size to block Gurmag Angler. Phantom Monster has the body to be a factor in the skies but four mana is a lot to ask for a flying Hill Giant.

Orcish Oriflamme

Orcish Oriflamme has a special place in my heart. I remember playing giant multiplayer games on the carpet in a friend’s basement back in fourth grade and this card wreaking havoc. At four mana it is too expensive to see play in Pauper, especially with Raid Bombardment fulfilling a similar role for a full mana cheaper. That being said, this does add a ton of damage and would not be out of place as a one of.

This next group of cards are powerful tools that could easily find a home in existing decks. They provide new effects for the format or add a new wrinkle to an existing archetype.

Tidal Wave

Tidal Wave may not seem like the kind of card that should see play. Creating a 5/5 blocker is unimpressive. However there are decks out there that run Cloudfin Raptor. These decks run Dream Stalker as a way to push Raptor to a 4/5 and Tidal Wave gives these builds an interesting removal spell option that can turn their Bird Mutant into a 5/6.

Humble

In a similar boat, Humble can do some work against creatures played for their resiliency. Being able to shut down Young Wolf, Brindle Shoat, and Stormbound Geist is valuable, and the fact it can let a 1/1 trade with Gurmag Angler means the card deserves our attention.

Carbonize

Carbonize falls into a similar camp. The burn spell puts Magma Spray’s chocolate in Incinerate’s Peanut butter and gives us a removal spell capable of stopping threats that are supposed to survive. In addition to creatures with Undying and Persist this Scourge burn spell also stops River Boa from regenerating and negates the strength of Unearth. While its cost may stop it from being an automatic four-of, Carbonize absolutely deserves consideration for the sideboard.

Dragon Egg

Dragon Egg is slow but it could work in a Carrion Feeder based sacrifice deck. Pumping the Feeder or a Bloodthrone Vampire and leaving behind a 2/2 flyer is strong. Costing three is prohibitive for such a small impact but it can also come back with Unearth. The token would allow these Aristocrats style decks to either sacrifice the egg and token for the burst of damage or play a slightly wider game with the flyer.

Undying Rage

Rancor is one of the most powerful cards in Pauper and Undying Rage does a bad impression of the Green stand out. While it can come back it does not grant evasion. However, the ability to make all your creatures trade up is powerful (as indicated by my love of Bonesplitter). Turning off the ability to block is a huge price to pay but I could see Rage getting play alongside Aura Gnarlid.

Prowling Pangolin

Prowling Pangolin is big. At 6 power for five mana, its rate is above what one can get by playing fair in Pauper. The game text falls into the Punisher camp — one where the opponent gets to make a choice about the outcome of the spell. Since the opponent is more than likely to choose whatever is best for them, Pangolin likely will never do what the caster desires. Unless of course you keep bringing it back. With access to cards like Grim Harvest and Tortured Existence, one can loop the Pangolin so it is the only threat left standing. This might be slow but could work against some creature light decks.

Sylvan Might

Sylvan Might is a weak pump spell but it comes with built in card advantage. Any spell with Flashback deserves a second look. Sylvan Might reminds me of Thrill of the Hunt because it is more likely to be used to save a creature in combat than come through for a burst of damage. If Stompy ever returns to playing an aggro-control game as opposed to its current pump-and-attack strategy I would not be shocked to see a copy or two of Sylvan Might in the deck.

Emperor Crocodile

Emperor Crocodile is a 5/5 for four mana. Imperiosaur and Blastoderm both fall into this camp with the latter seeing some play. Crocodile is easier to cast their either of these spells and can carry a Rancor unlike Blastoderm. It can also come out with the help of an Elvish Mystic. While it has a downside, Green is the color best suited to keep a creature around with Khalni Garden, Brindle Shoat, River Boa, and Mire Boa. A 5/5 demands consideration and Green decks are likely to be spitting out 5/5s on turn three in a few short weeks.

Now we get to the center of the set. Cards that strengthen a member of the current (or in one case former) metagame or are so powerful they beg to have decks built to their specifications.

Eternal Masters provides one existing deck with another threat. Hexproof (and its offshoots) often run Aura Gnarlid as a threat that grows off of previous investments with natural evasion. Yavimaya Enchantress has the benefit of counting all enchantments, not just auras. Because of this, it allows Hexproof to potentially run copies of Journey to Nowhere or Oblivion Ring in the main deck without further diluting the offensive potency of the deck. During my Shadows over Innistrad review I advocated for including copies of Vessel of Ephemera and Vessel of Nascency in Hexproof as “on theme” ways to combat Chainer's Edict and to dig for key cards. Yavimaya Enchantress fits with these two cards and in turn gives Hexproof the impression of a second dimension.


Hexproof is already a deck that sees play and the influx of Ancestral Masks could make it a more popular contender in the coming months.

Peregrine Drake is a scary card. Last year Cloud of Faeries was banned in part because of its role in the dominant Esper Combo deck. Peregrine Drake shares the same “free” mechanic and this time it can do the dirty work on five lands. Anyone familiar with my work knows that I felt Esper was an oppressive force on the format. It should be a surprise then that I think Peregrine Drake and it’s busted combo potential is actually good for Pauper overall.

Make no mistake: this card immediately is on my list of cards to be watched. That being said, having a viable combo deck can help add a layer of complexity and competition to the Pauper metagame. Adding three mana to the cost of a key combo piece also serves to provide other decks a chance to establish a board and potentially beat the combo deck before it can take over.

When Cloud of Faeries was legal the deck could fairly regularly kill on turn four by using a combination of Dimir Aqueduct and Azorius Chancery, Nightscape Familiar and Sunscape Familiar, Ghostly Flicker, Cloud of Faeries, Mnemonic Wall, and Sage's Row Denizen. Using Flicker to repeatedly blink the Wall and Cloud into play would create a loop for a massive amount of mana (with cost reducers on board) while also letting the Denizen mill an opponent out. The deck was incredibly resilient, and the fact that it relied on a 2-drop meant that it was often easy to slip a Cloud into play and protect it until it was time to go off.

Exit Cloud of Faeries and enter Peregrine Drake. Now the deck is viable once again while also having its curve shifted. Drake has the advantage of being able to generate enough mana to endlessly loop Ghostly Flicker without needed cost reducers on the battlefield. The inclusion of Familiars will make it easy to start the combo faster and as such is a potential starting point for the deck.


Adapting the old shell to fit the new card is one way to go about things. While not as popular there was a U/G version of the combo that utilized Utopia Sprawl and similar auras to increase mana production. Running Green has the advantage of adding Pulse of Murasa to the deck as both a defensive mechanism and a way to raise a key creature from the dead. Green also provides acceleration to reach a critical mass of lands and Moment's Peace to blunt attacks.


But who needs to run more than one color? Since the combo only needs one Blue mana for each cycle it would be fairly easy to find a home for Peregrine Drake in a deck featuring Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower. These decks are already running Prophetic Prism as a way to access additional colors of mana so adding a Kaervek's Torch for another spout does not tax the deck to heavily.


Peregrine Drake combo is going to be a reality in Pauper after Eternal Masters becomes legal. Unlike its predecessor there is a temporal cost to setting up and defending the key cog. While I fully expect this strategy to put up serious numbers I imagine it will be far easier to interact with than its predecessor. The Cloud of Faeries version could jump start the combo by floating two mana and then playing a Dimir Aqueduct on turn three; a start not possible with Drake.

White based token decks were bolstered by Vintage Masters and the release common printing of Battle Screech. These builds gained popularity during the height of Esper Combo’s powers due to their ability to run Suture Priest main without diminishing their core strategy. Rally the Peasants is an option for decks that want to go wide and provide some much needed resiliency. Token decks often build their board out before attempting to attack for lethal, often with Guardians' Pledge. Rally the Peasants allows the deck, if it has access to Red mana, the ability to set up two such attacks rather than one. It also can provide a much larger offensive bonus if drawn late and affects non-White creatures as well.

Token decks already have minor graveyard synergies built in. Battle Screech’s Flashback makes it a powerhouse and Cenn's Enlistment turns excess lands into creatures at a slightly expensive if effective rate. The Flashback on Rally and the desire for these decks to avoid flood nudges us in the direction of Faithless Looting.


Red is a perfect fit thanks to Goblin Bushwhacker. The ability to pick up the goblin after it has done some damage with Kor Skyfisher is just gravy. Bushwhacker and Rally the Peasants could give this deck some needed punch in the midgame.

Elves is a popular deck despite its weakness to Crypt Rats, Pestilence, and Evincar's Justice. The deck is capable of flooding a board and quickly overwhelming the defenses unless paired against a prepared opponent. A combination of Lys Alana Huntmaster, Timberwatch Elf, and Quirion Ranger are used to generate tons of creatures and damage. Some versions have packed a single Ulamog's Crusher into the build as a potential spout for mana generated off of Priest of Titania. Now that Elvish Vanguard has been shifted from rare to common it provides the deck with another potential damage source. While it may be a “win more” card, dropping this with a Huntmaster on the battlefield and an active Priest of Titania will make it rather easy for this creature to grow past Angler proportions and present a formidable threat.


Elite Vanguard is one of the best offensive 1-drops in the format. While Delver of Secrets and Nettle Sentinel both have higher upsides, they do come with a setup cost. Vanguard just asks for a White mana on turn one. Being a soldier turns on War Falcon. White has a bevy of other cheap soldiers including Thraben Inspector, Akrasan Squire, Kor Skyfisher, Loyal Cathar, and the tokens from Raise the Alarm. These cards all make Veteran Swordsmith an interesting curve topper. Going wide also means the uncounterable anthem Gempalm Avenger demands a slot. Unlike Tokens this deck only goes moderately wide but it may be time for White Aggro to become a tribal deck.


Cards that offer discounts on other spells are dangerous. Warden of Evos Isle may not be as overpowered as Goblin Electromancer or Sunscape Familiar, but the more I think about it the more I see the potential in Warden. Having a Warden in play makes it so a Mulldrifter costs two and four instead of three and five. That alone is enough to pique my interest. Pair it with Sunscape Familiar and now Spellstutter Sprite is a tiny Spell Snare. A Wind Drake that provides a discount for all threats should not be underestimated, and if a deck can surround the Warden with enough flyers, the mana saved could be a game changer.

Back in the early days of Magic Online, I had a Prismatic Reanimator deck. Prismatic was a 250 card minimum format and there were color minimums (similar to paper 5-color). I loved that deck even if it was not competitive. One card that accelerated the game plan was Cephalid Sage. The ability to dig deeper and dump large monsters into the graveyard was too much to overlook (especially since I was on a severe budget back then). At common, Sage is not going to be helping any reanimator decks but it could do great work along side Tortured Existence.

Tortured Existence decks are a toolbox operating out of a populated graveyard. Most builds pair Black with Green but some have dipped into White for Abzan. Cephalid Sage could turbocharge these decks and their ability to dump cards into the bin with the help of Stinkweed Imp. I had paired Black with Blue for access to Mulldrifter and Forbidden Alchemy. Cephalid Sage should find a home alongside the eponymous enchantment.


Wakedancer is just a good rate. Morbid is laughably easy to turn on in Pauper and getting 4 power across two bodies is no laughing matter. In a format where Nest Invader and Mogg War Marshal see heavy play, the ability to upgrade both halves is huge. Black currently does not have a “go wide” deck, but B/G Sacrifice builds have been showing up. Me? Once again I want to pair Black with Blue.


Wakedancer and Eldrazi Skyspawner are best friends and do some excellent work in growing Cloudfin Raptor to a reasonable size. The fact that the zombie caller can be targeted by Unearth gives the deck a chance to add quite a bit of power to the table.

Creatures that draw a card are fantastic. 5-mana creatures that draw a single card are merely okay. What happens when it’s a 5-mana creature that draws an additional copy of itself? We’re about to find out with Avarax. Aurochs Herd has seen play in various ramp decks in Pauper’s past and Avarax is a turn faster. It also has the advantage of attacking the turn it comes into play and being able to convert extra mana into damage. It also happens to be a decent way to follow up a Stone Rain. With Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl generating extra mana, maybe Avarax can act as a curve topper.

Wildfire Emissary is one of my favorite cards from Mirage. I’m a sucker for Richard Kane-Ferguson’s art and I have fond memories of using the Efreet around the kitchen table. While the creature does not have an immediate home in Pauper it does provide a potent tool to combat Jeskai decks. At four toughness, Emissary demands a fully powered Galvanic Blast or both halves of a Firebolt. Many decks have shifted away from Flame Slash and Protection from White renders Journey to Nowhere useless.

Wildfire Emissary has the potential to change the nature of the removal run in Pauper. No longer is Journey to Nowhere a catch-all. If adopted widely, Emissary could appear alongside Mogg War Marshal and help to leave Edict style removal wanting for more. Like Avarax the Efreet can turn excess mana into damage, leaving a potent threat. I am not sure where it ends up but Wildfire Emissary looks to be an important piece of the next Pauper puzzle.

I already covered the many aspects of Nimble Mongoose in my preview article. One subject I did not touch on was how Mongoose can make Brainstorm a better card. Chris VanMeter plays some Pauper and has commented on how Brainstorm is not as strong in the common format as others. Mongoose provides an incentive to run the full suite of Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse. These two combined with Brainstorm represent a card selection machine that just so happen to turn on another powerful 1-drop.


Kird Ape has long been a common in the physical realm but Eternal Masters provides its first digital printing. Wild Nacatl has been a card many have tried to make work going so far to push for a five color Domain Zoo deck. While powerful, this deck is fairly inconsistent and has failed to make a splash. Kird Ape provides an incentive to try a R/G beatdown deck and Wild Nacatl is a solid second option. What happens, however, when we introduce Nylea's Presence to the party? Now Gaea's Might and Tribal Flames are fully powered up. Kird Ape might just be the card to push Gruul to the forefront by cheating extra land types into play.


The penultimate card in this review gives Pauper decks plenty of options but comes with a hefty strategic cost. Desperate Ravings is a fantastic card that can increase the quality and quantity of cards in hand. The random discard is a true cost but it can be easily mitigated in U/R. A deck running a compliment of Ravings can take full advantage of Think Twice and Accumulated Knowledge. In turn, this lets an Izzet deck run a fully instant speed suite of card advantage and shift away from Mulldrifter. As work on Murasa Tron displayed, Mnemonic Wall is a fine inclusion in any spell based deck. So of course this initial build of Izzet Control should not be too surprising.


And this is to say nothing of applications involving Mystical Teachings. The intricacies in such a deck require a bit more attention than I can give right now but I would fully expect for Grixis Teachings to be a player in the weeks ahead.

Which brings us to the final card in our review: Night's Whisper. Mono-Black Control will not want this card thanks to Sign in Blood but the implication of the Fifth Dawn downshift is massive — any Black deck can have access to a draw two on turn two. So often sacrifices have had to been made for access to the velocity provided by Sign in Blood. Some decks have tried to solve this by relying on Read the Bones, but that spell often competes with other important spells like Chittering Rats and Phyrexian Rager. Night's Whisper represents a turn two play capable of providing the fuel needed to enact plenty of midrange strategies. No longer are control decks forced to be Mono-Black or play Blue. If these decks are willing to pay the life they can now draw cards. Night's Whisper has the potential to be the single most important card from Eternal Masters for Pauper and I cannot wait to see what decks this card helps to spawn.

Eternal Masters is about as close as we are going to get to a Pauper Masters style set. The number and strength of cards included will have massive implications moving forward and I highly doubt Pauper in July will exactly resemble the format today.

Which is great - we could use some change.


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