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We have had just over two weeks of Hour of Devastation on Magic Online. The set, despite being relatively low powered at common, has already started to influence the Pauper metagame. Despite the reduction in shared data, a number of Hour of Devastation cards have already made their appearance in both the Pauper League and the Pauper Challenges. Today we are going to take a look at some of these decks.


Firebrand Archer
One day after the digital release of the penultimate small set, Firebrand Archer found its way into an undefeated league list. Burn is near constant presence in Pauper and Firebrand Archer provides a nice bit of redundancy for Thermo-Alchemist in a recurring damage source. The two cards have some stark differences.

First is that Firebrand Archer’s ability is more akin to Prowess than the ability that graces Thermo-Alchemist. This means that Curse of the Pierced Heart, as well as potential sideboard cards like Relic of Progenitus, also deal a point of bonus damage. It is important that we note Relic as it is a popular hate card when graveyard decks rise in popularity, and the opportunity to eke out extra damage should be taken into account. Often Burn has to ignore this option as it is a waste of a damage slot but with access to Archer it has the ability to do something.

The Archer also has the advantage of being able to attack for two. As a topdeck, a lone Alchemist will deal a single point per turn. Without any other help the Archer can deal two on an empty board. But the battlefield is rarely empty and the promise of one damage from Alchemist is enticing.

The above list ran Firebrand Archer alongside Thermo-Alchemist, instead opting to replace Keldon Marauders with the new 2-drop. It is an interesting choice and not one I am sure I agree with. Operating under the assumption that these creatures resolve (hardly a given in Pauper), I think Keldon Marauders is more likely to deal enough damage to warrant its inclusion in a Burn deck. These decks are built around the Philosophy of Fire — the concept that each should approximate, if not better, a Shock. Pauper Burn is strong enough that each card is closer to a Lightning Bolt, but the idea still holds true. If Marauders resolves it is almost assuredly going to deal two damage (for its enter and leaves play trigger) and has the upper bound of five if it can connect in combat. Even if it does not hit it will often eat a blocker and still deal two points. Firebrand Archer may not have an expiration date but it comes with a fragile body. One toughness is a huge liability in a format that often hinges on killing Delver of Secrets or Spellstutter Sprite. Archer may be better in a long game but that runs counter to what Burn is trying to do.

In the end I think that this is an interesting take on an old standard. Firebrand Archer is clearly a strong card but I am less sure that Burn is the optimal shell. If anything it could be a strong sideboard option when Burn needs to win a slightly longer game or if the deck comes to rely on cards like Pyrite Spellbomb and Implement of Combustion. More often than not I think the Archer will be a trap in these decks.

Considering what I mentioned Firebrand Archer could team up with Reckless Fireweaver. Pauper already has a bounty of decks that use Glint Hawk to recycle Ichor Wellspring and Prophetic Prism for cards. Reckless Fireweaver has appeared in a few of these lists and adding Firebrand Archer to the mix could help punch through extra damage.


God-Pharaoh's Faithful
Let’s talk about this list. The pilot, TEIMTEIM, has a long history of running ubr decks based around the Ravnica Bouncelands and cost reducers. This deck is no different, fitting together in an intricate fashion. For Grixis Stuff, TEIMTEIM turned to three copies of God-Pharaoh's Faithful and a single Tragic Lesson as Hour of Devastation additions.

At its core this is a value deck that tries to leverage Snap with Nightscape Familiar to generate extra mana while also using Ghostly Flicker and Izzet Chronarch to create a loop with Mulldrifter. It relies on the graveyard with Firebolt, Chainer's Edict, Desperate Ravings, and Deep Analysis, with a single Swirling Sandstorm on mop up duty. The mana base leans heavily on filter lands like Shimmering Grotto and tries to milk Crumbling Vestige for all its worth — there are no natural White sources in the deck.

Being perfectly honest, I am not sure how strong this deck is. I have played against the pilot on similar lists in the past and they always struck me as a bit convoluted. If anything the advantage of this deck is that you never quite know what is going to come next. In an established format that can be a huge advantage. However this deck also strikes me as held together with duct tape. The mana base takes forever to set up and there are some spells you will have trouble casting on time thanks to the copious copies of colorless lands. Tragic Lesson seems out of place here as it picks up a land, but with so many Dimir Aqueducts and Izzet Boilerworks the ability to do so on an optimal turn seems flimsy at best.

Sometimes a deck is going to 5-0 or finish strongly in the Challenge, regardless of whether or not it is perfectly constructed. This is why the data reduction is going to hurt Pauper. With fewer points of data it will be harder to see if decks like Grixis Stuff are the real deal or just flashes in the pan. Personally I think this one is the latter, but I hope to be proven wrong.


Dimir Reanimator ? Pauper | STLZACH, Top 32, July 16 Pauper Challenge


Striped Riverwinder
Two different Exhume decks made the Top 32 of the July 16 Pauper Challenge. The first was piloted by Kungfutrees. A second successful excursion with an Exhume deck — the first came with Greater Sandwurm, the Amonkhet common was replaced with Striped Riverwinder on this go around. A 5/5 with Hexproof is tough to get off the board and the ability to have it on turn two thanks to Exhume is quite attractive. Kungfutrees ran the reanimator package in an otherwise fairly standard DImir Delver shell. The ability to attack from multiple angles — the aggressive tempo from Insectile Aberration and Gurmag Angler or the quick Exhume — makes this deck an intriguing option.

STLZACH opted for a more combo oriented approach. The abandoned Delver of Secrets and instead went for full on Ulamog's Crusher backed up with Dragon Breath. Strategic Planning is not new to Pauper but it is still nice to see the reprint getting some love here. The Dragon's Breath build has a weaker backup plan in hard casting Gurmag Angler but runs the full suite of Careful Study, Mental Note, and Thought Scour, as well as all four copies of Exhume. Striped Riverwinder makes another appearance as a threat since it is easy to bin it turn one to set up the turn two threat. Out of all the decks in the July 16th Challenge, this one was my favorite.

As I write this another Challenge is taking place. If the first few weeks provide any sense of prophecy Hour of Devastation will continue to have cards appear in successful Pauper decks. They will not be game breakers but rather tools to help archetypes nudge themselves closer to competitive. What card from the latest set are you hoping will make a splash? Personally, I want to see what Oasis Ritualist can do both in and outside a combo shell.


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