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Steady Thrumming

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In this experiment, we take advantage of a slew of common blue counters to proliferate our advantage.

Modern Masters 2015 Edition printed Thrummingbird as a common. It’s a subtle distinction from uncommon, but it makes for a big difference in Limited play. The Bird Horror enhances the G/U counter archetype in Limited, and if it were common in Scars of Mirrodin, it would have made for some very interesting options of archetypes significantly more viable.

What that means outside of Limited is that the Bird is now an option for Pauper. My first temptation was to port a kind of G/U Modern Masters 2015 Edition Draft archetype into casual Pauper, but when looking to do so, I found so many blue options that I decided to just go with the Island flow.

Counter Curve

Thrummingbird
Of course, when starting a decklist with Thrummingbird, the first things I’m looking for are 1-drops that want to be proliferated. That way, I can curve out with Thrummingbird and have things already on the battlefield to start thrumming. One could also argue that 3-drops are just as good of options—since Thrummingbird can’t actually attack until the third turn, we may as well just cast our proliferatable 3-drop in our precombat main phase and then gain that extra counter immediately afterward.

Unfortunately, in mono-blue, our options here are limited. But that’s not to say there’s nothing. Cloudfin Raptor is a great option, always being a serviceable attacker. Thrummingbird on turn two will evolve a turn-one Raptor and then begin proliferating it on the third turn—and it may even have evolved again by that point.

A couple copies of Vigean Graftmage are available for turn-three proliferation, as they come built in with a couple +1/+1 counters. They are also among the cards that help shore up our Thrummingbird’s mono-blue weakness: It can’t evolve itself. Outside of mono-blue Pauper, Llanowar Reborn could put a +1/+1 counter on our turn-two Thrummingbird, as could Simic Initiate. That’s not really possible with this deck’s limitations, but it doesn’t have to be turn two. We can always play Thrummingbird later on and graft onto it.

Steady Progress

Along with Thrummingbird, Steady Progress is here at instant speed to help with the proliferation. That said, I found a few types of counters other than +1/+1 to proliferate.

Skywatcher Adept
Skywatcher Adept The downside of trying to proliferate level up is that we have to pay for that initial level. In this case, we’ll have to pay 3 mana before proliferation can help the Skywatcher Adept achieve its ultimate destiny. But once we’ve paid that upfront cost, each proliferation becomes worth 3 mana just for the Adept. With multiple Adepts, or with other permanents benefiting as well, the proliferation becomes worth even more. I didn’t mention Skywatcher Adept in the previous segment as being on curve, but it actually works quite well: Cast it on turn one; cast Thrummingbird on turn two; and level up the Adept and then attack with the Thrummingbird on turn three. In that way, Skywatcher Adept becomes our 1-drop and our 3-drop, but we end up just one level away from a 4/2 flying.

Halimar Wavewatch Here is our other blue, common, level up option. It’s not as exciting as Skywatcher Adept, in my opinion, but it can help us as a 0/3—in preparation for it becoming 6/6. It might be more exciting against aggressive decks (as a potent blocker) or against other blue decks (because of its eventual islandwalk), but maybe its versatility will work out. Its level up cost of 2 (rather than the Adept’s 3) means proliferating it is less valuable, but it also means the proliferation is easier to set up. The Wavewatch also takes a couple extra levels to reach full potential. I might not have run this except for the interesting option of the next card.

Champion's Drake This one might just not be worth it, but with an excuse to run eight level up creatures, I couldn’t resist. This can be a 4/4 with flying for 2 mana, and while it doesn’t have any counters for proliferation, it does give our deck another synergistic angle while sticking to the theme of a bunch of evasive blue creatures.

Cloudskate
Cloudskate This is a 2-mana 2/2 with flying, which seems kind of good, but not crazily good. And its downside is fading. Incidentally, fade counters are counters we want a lot of—so our creature won’t end up in the graveyard as quickly—so proliferating on the Cloudskate is not terrible. This card isn’t great, but it is another angle of proliferation to try out, and I have a special love for Nemesis, including this card, Skyshroud Ridgeback, and more.

Helium Squirter And here, we find our way back to the realm of +1/+1 counters. This one certainly isn’t part of an aggressive curve, however, but it is a 3/3 flyer for 5 that can share both its counters and its flying ability. It may come too late in the game to really let us apply too much pressure our opponent can’t deal with, and its flight-granting superpower may be mostly redundant with many of our creatures, but the Squirter certainly is on theme.

Stormbound Geist This Geist takes a different angle on things. It doesn’t come with a +1/+1 counter of its own, but it does attack for 2 in the air. When and if it dies, it’ll then come back with a counter, ready to become a proliferated monstrosity. It will be a minor threat before undeath, dealing 2 damage a turn, but if our opponent does choose to deal with it, he or she will have to do so twice, and once it has a counter, it’ll already be a 3/3 and can quickly grow larger if we have any of our proliferation options around.

Faerie Squadron Here’s another take on how our creatures can set up their counters for proliferation. In dire straits, or if we really think we can go fully aggro, the Squadron can be a vanilla 1/1 for 1. That will almost never be worth it, but its versatility is at least interesting, and like the Cloudskate, I just like this card. Alternatively, Faerie Squadron is a 3/3 flying for 5, but all of its power and toughness will be in counter form, just like the Helium Squirter. Like the Squirter, it may come too late in the game to be too valuable, and its upside is the 1/1 option rather than the Squirter’s flight-granting activation.

Clockspinning and Dispel I included one copy of Clockspinning as a way to proliferate a single card for 4 mana as many times as we like. It’s not usually worth a card to proliferate a single card one time, so I don’t want to overload on copies of this, but being able to do so repeatedly when we do draw the singleton could be quite good. Dispel is around as a nice surprise when our opponent tries to take out our key creatures—most removal spells are going to be instants, so having Dispel around to counter something for 1 mana will be nice. It’s possible the deck should have more protection for the likes of Thrummingbird and the thrummed-up creatures, so maybe a fourth Dispel, some copies of Mizzium Skin, or the likes of actual Counterspells would be in order.

When looking for ways to play with Thrummingbird in Pauper, I ran across some cards in various colors. If you’d like to mix your blue in with something else, take a look at some of these card suites and see if they inspire you.

If you love Thrummingbird, if you want to try proliferating level up and fading along with the usual +1/+1 counters, or if you just want a new casual Pauper option, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson

@Silent7Seven

fissionessence at Hotmail dot com


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