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Pauper: Official and Sanctioned

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Yesterday during the Magic Weekly Stream on Twitch, Wizards of the Coast made some major announcements with regards to the Pauper format! These include the following

  • Pauper is now an official and sanctioned Magic: the Gathering format! This means that you'll be able to begin earning Planeswalker Points toward Grand Prix byes at Pauper FNMs and other local events!
  • Card legality is going to be unified between paper and online, ending the confusion and debate about what cards are legal versus which are not.
  • With the unified card legality coming, old cards will be coming to Magic Online within the near future.
  • Pauper comes to Gatherer, meaning you can search based on Pauper legality finally!
  • The ban list has been updated to add High Tide, Hymn to Tourach, and Sinkhole and Wizards will continue to monitor the format closely to make sure whether or not any further action is required.
  • The above changes go live on Magic Online on Wednesday, July 2 and are already live in paper.

This is single-handedly the biggest announcement ever for the Pauper format. It's huge and all-encompassing. Let's examine each of these points individually.

An Official, Sanctioned Format

Just shy of two months ago, I wrote a piece titled "It's Time to Sanction Pauper" after many players, including myself, expressed frustration over not being able to officially play the format at local events. With today's announcement, Pauper is an officially recognized and supported format by Wizards of the Coast. That means that you'll soon be able to earn Planeswalker Points at Pauper events and even play Pauper Friday Night Magic at your local game store!

This has been a long time coming and I for one am tremendously excited to see how this affects tournament attendance. My local shop, CoolStuffGames - Maitland, has a thriving Pauper community, though we generally see a smaller number of players compared to other events. Roughly eight to sixteen players show up to sling some commons every Tuesday night and I'm very interested to see if this number increases moving forward.

Unified Card Legality

Blue Elemental Blast
Red Elemental Blast
Tormod's Crypt
Mystic Remora
Darkness
Ashnod's Altar

After years and years of begging from the community, Wizards has finally announced a proper unification of the online and paper card legalities. While we've seen a number of events in the past run at places such as Mox Boarding House and Card Kingdom's monthly Rags to Riches events, but never on such a massive scale before. 412 cards will be entering the format properly for the first time ever and I can't wait to talk about them at length as I lay out every card entering the format for you right here on CoolStuffInc.com.

Many of these cards either aren't that great or are too complex for most players to wrap their heads around right out of the gate (spoiler: they're still likely not great). That said, there's still a few great cards coming into the format. From the Elemental Blasts - something that will make every single judge cheer loudly about - to Tormod's Crypt, we've got a whole bunch of new spice entering Pauper and I can't wait to see how people utilize it.

It should be noted that while some cards in the past had wonky and weird rarities in older sets, like Mishra's Factory and Maze of Ith being on the common sheet, these rarities will not be taken into account. Wizards will be basing the legalities on what Gatherer lists a card as, so in the case of the prior mentioned cards, they are considered to be uncommons. This means that, no, you won't be able to play Strip Mine against your opponents in the near future.

New Cards for Magic Online

Soul Barrier
Plague Rats
Riptide

With this announcement comes a whole bunch of cards entering Magic Online for the first time ever. Most of these are cards that missed being added into the format through the likes of the Master's Edition and Vintage Masters sets. Those sets sought only to make online Legacy and Vintage line up with the paper metagame, leaving behind a number of weaker cards in the process. As such, most of these cards aren't particularly exciting on their own, and many are in fact outright trash, but a few, like Soul Barrier, are great additions to the format overall. In addition, a few cards from the two Conspiracy sets as well as Battlebond will also make their online debut soon enough.

Unfortunately, not every card will enter the format, but rather Wizards is asking Pauper players to reach out to them for feedback. This will allow Wizards to prioritize which cards to put on and leave in the dust. No one wants Abbey Matron, for example, but something like Riptide would actually probably be quite the solid card to add in. If you're looking for how to reach them, they've provided the email MagicOnlineFeedback@wizards.com. They want players to contact them so make sure you send in your thoughts!

Pauper Comes To Gatherer

With this announcement, Wizards has also confirmed that Pauper will now become searchable on the Gatherer search engine. In addition, looking up cards individually will now list Pauper in the legality section, showing whether or not a card is legal in a certain format. This is tremendous news for a number of people, as it helps players with deck-building, Judges no longer needing to be directed to Scryfall.com, and so much more. It seems like a small thing, but will have a much more far-reaching impact than it may appear at first.

Preemptive Bannings

With the release of this new announcement comes three cards being added to the format's banlist: High Tide, Hymn to Tourach, and Sinkhole.

High Tide

High Tide might come as a slight head scratcher to some at first. There's no Turnabout, no Time Spiral, no Candelabra of Tawnos, and certainly no finishing spells like Brain Freeze or Blue Sun's Zenith. So what's so bad about High Tide? The answer is the combo deck Familiars.

In this deck, you use creatures like Sunscape Familiar and sometimes Nightscape Familiar to lower the cost of certain spells to create an infinite loop the does a number of things. You can mill an opponent out, bounce their whole board with Capsize, or more with the likes of adding a Red splash and a Kaervek's Torch to your list.

High Tide removes the middleman of needing a Familiar, allowing you to run it as a Mono-Blue list that focuses on deck manipulation and combo effects. What's more is with the new cards entering the format, it means we're also about to get Merchant Scroll, something that would allow finding High Tide way more easily. All it takes is two High Tides, a Snap, and a Mnemonic Wall with a Sage's Row Denizen on the battlefield and you mill your opponent out completely.

As someone who loves to play High Tide in Legacy, I'm sad we won't get to see this list played in the format. At the end of the day, though, it's ultimately probably for the best.

Hymn to Tourach

Wrench Mind is fine in the format. It makes your opponent choose what they're getting rid of and in some cases can only take one card, so it's not too crippling, even if it has a big impact on the game. Hymn to Tourach, however, knows no such limits. It rips away two cards every time, completely at random, from your opponent's hand. You could easily go Swamp, Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, and incidentally hit all lands out of your opponent's hand, thereby putting them in an unrecoverable state for the rest of the game. It's a very good thing this won't be seeing the light of day.

Sinkhole

Sinkhole is a card that could probably be debated to some degree. But then you see there's actual decks dedicated to Mono-Black Land Destruction with the likes of Choking Sands, Rancid Earth, and Befoul. Suddenly it looks a lot more gross when added into that mix, and even more so when you can just add it into virtually any deck that runs Black. Add in the factor that Wizards, as well as a number of players, just find land destruction effects to be unfun, and it's not very hard to see why this won't be entering the format.


There's a whole new world of possibilities opened before us for this now official format. It may turn out that we soon have a much larger number of Pauper Mythic Championship Qualifiers hitting local stores as well as Magic Online. Maybe one day we'll even have ourselves a Pauper Grand Prix and see the format played at some of the highest levels of Magic competitive play. Who would ever have thought that this fun, community started format, would grow into an officially recognized and sanctionable format that would be played at stores the world over? I can't wait to see what comes next, for the format, the meta, and the game as a whole.

What do you think of this announcement, and what do you want to see Wizards do with the format now that it's become official?