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Pauper Unification Review

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Welcome to Pauper week on CoolStuffInc.com! In case you missed it, we announced the Pauper Premiere League last week! This Thursday at 9pm EST on the CoolStuffInc Twitch page, we'll see our first pod battle down for glory. Over the next couple days leading up to then, I plan on providing a series of articles to help acquaint players with the new cards entering the format, the metagame of the format, and the players involved.

Today I'm talking about the unification of legalities for the Pauper format and the new cards this brings to the format. Previously, the format required you to play with only cards that were ever common on Magic Online but now they added anything that was common in paper too. Most of these 412 new cards are hot garbage, but there are still a few gems hidden in the mix. With that, let's dive in.

If you're curious about what cards have been added, there's a complete list of cards at the bottom of this article.

Arenson's Aura

Arenson's Aura is a strange Magic card, but can be used to help break up Bogles mirrors with some effectiveness. This gets even better if you have a Rancor as it turns into a repeatable enchantment removal source for two mana. It is a little expensive, but the potential payoff seems high enough to warrant checking out.

This card is one of the ones not yet on Magic Online.

Breath of Life
False Defeat

Over the past few years, players have tried to make Reanimator strategies viable using one of the game's more powerful spells: Exhume. While they've had some amount of success as Dimir or Rakdos builds, there's always been a desire for additional support for the archetype. We got Resurrection in Ultimate Masters and it was definitely a very welcome surprise for many players, especially the old-schoolers who grew up with it. The double White mana cost, unfortunately, made it so the card would not see any play.

Thankfully, with the format unification we now have Breath of Life and its rarer Portal: Three Kingdoms counterpart False Defeat entering Pauper. For all intents and purposes, these are the exact same as Resurrection. The difference is they only have one White mana symbol to Resurrection's two, making them much more splashable options. This could enable a Mardu, Esper, or even Abzan Reanimator sort of build thanks to the extreme mana fixing currently overtaking the format.

Now all we need are a few good fatties to cheat in...

Equinox

Equinox was one I missed the first time around going through the new cards, but clearly has a couple great homes. The most obvious is Tron, where you can put this onto a land as a way to protect your mana base from land destruction effects that are often sided in against the deck. In addition, I could see it in Bogles. Not only does it fuel your Ethereal Armors and Ancestral Masks, but it protects your lands, which players will often try to blow up as you suit them up with auras.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

False Peace
Festival

False Peace and Festival are technically different, but are similar enough that they're worth mentioning together. These fill a similar role to the likes of Stonehorn Dignitary in Ghostly Flicker-based decks. While I don't see these overtaking the rhino anytime soon, these are still fine options if you want them.

These cards are not currently available on Magic Online.

Remove Enchantments

Try reading this card. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now click the card picture and check out the text there. Yes, that is in fact the Oracle text.

Need further proof? Check out the official Gatherer page.

This card is strange and very difficult to wrap your head around. The important part about it is that it removes all auras from an opponent's Bogle that moves to attack you. That means you can block with a smaller creature, cast this to leave the Bogle bare, and kill it. With any luck, it'll be their only one, meaning they can't come back and suit up another on the fly.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Blue Elemental Blast
Red Elemental Blast

Ultimately, the addition of the OG blasts is going to have a minimal effect on the Pauper format in terms of gameplay. Because of a slight wording variation, their Ice Age counterparts are actually better. This only matters in a handful of decks, though, so this means there are some more affordable options now available.

The big win here is for judges and players who don't realize these were, up until a week and a half ago, not legal in Pauper. That means no more judge calls and no more swapping for basic lands. Thank god for that.

Canal Courier
Crown-Hunter Hireling

When the Monarch mechanic first came to Magic Online, the Blue and Red ones got missed. Thankfully, we weren't missing much not having them in the format. They're actually quite bad cards as it turns out. Still, I'd be doing players a disservice not alerting them to the fresh addition of two more Monarch creatures into the Pauper format.

These cards are not currently available on Magic Online.

Dream Fracture

Cancel is a bad card. Arcane Denial is a bit better in the right circumstances, but only sees play in some Turbo-Fog strategies. This card fills a similar role but I don't it's going to be good enough to make the cut.

Enchantment Alteration

Blue gets some really sweet aura hate right here. Your Bogles opponent getting you down after they swing in with a giant? Steal their Ancestral Mask and watch them cry.

Flash Flood
Active Volcano

This is a different riff on the Elemental Blasts. Not having the counterspell effects is rough, but getting the tempo option to deal with lands has some sweet potential. If these see any play, I expect Flash Flood will be the one that shows up more given that the color doesn't have many hard removal options normally, whereas Red has a plethora of them.

Merchant Scroll

Merchant Scroll comes to Pauper! Unfortunately, I don't think it'll have a big lasting impact in most decks. If we still had High Tide, I could definitely see it, but alas, we don't. Remember: Merchant Scroll can only find Blue instants so it's actually quite limited in what you can get. If this shows up anywhere, I expect it in Dimir Teachings and Familiars lists as it finds a large number of key spells for both decks. There's a case for it showing up in Tron lists but I doubt it.

Mystic Remora

Mystic Remora is an absurd Magic card and is one of the biggest clear cut winners here. In the right matchup, it's real easy to run away with excessive card draw off of one single card. It does say non-creature, however, so I'm not sure I'd always try jamming it in the main deck. After all, it won't do much against decks like Stompy or Elves for the most part. When it does work, though, you'll likely have the game locked up in no time.

Omen

A two-mana Ponder is sweet, however we said a similar thing about Scour All Possibilities from Modern Horizons and that's seeing no play. That one even has Flashback! All told I can't see this one making it, but it is still sweet.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Riptide

Tap down those Delvers and faeries to get in for the kill shot or else use it as a psuedo-Fog. I don't know if it'll be enough a lot of the time, but it's a great sideboard tool for a bunch of Blue decks out there.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Sage of Lat-Nam

Sage of Lat-Nam is a really sweet card that I expect to see virtually no play. It's too easily removable and its ability can't be activated the turn it comes into play. If you can pull it off, however, it'll do some really silly things for you in Affinity.

Soul Barrier

Soul Barrier taxes your opponents for playing a lot of creatures. Especially potent in a control deck with some creatures to beat down, I could easily see it showing up somewhere down the line.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Sunken City

Sunken City is a sweet way to help push through some extra damage as a Blue player. The problem? The effect is symmetrical. That means if you've got a bunch of faeries and so does your opponent, you're still very much at an impasse. I'd only bring this in through the main deck if you're expecting few to no other Blue decks in your meta, but, as with many of the cards in this list, it makes an excellent sideboard option.

Unstable Mutation

What is a more excellent main deck choice, however, is Unstable Mutation. I'm no expert of the archetype, but I feel like you'd get some insane mileage throwing this onto a flipped Delver of Secrets. Hell, even putting it on a Faerie Miscreant or Spellstutter Sprite is great. This gives a ton of value for one mana and I fully expect it to get some use at some point.

Ashes to Ashes

Premium removal is often a very hot commodity in Magic and Ashes to Ashes provides an insane rate. For just three mana and five life (Remember kids: your life total is a resource), you exile two non-artifact creatures. That's not destroy, that's exiled and out of the game for good. What's more, it even takes out Black creatures like Gurmag Angler. Hitting smaller creatures this will sometimes be a good play too, especially if they have Unearth, but the real prize is everyone's favorite zombie fish.

Cruel Edict
Imperial Edict

Cruel Edict and Imperial Edict are both quite a bit worse than Diabolic Edict, Chainer's Edict, and arguably even Geth's Verdict. Having them as an option is always a sweet bonus, but I don't expect them to be played at all.

Imperial Edict is not currently available on Magic Online.

Darkness

Darkness is a truly fantastic option for all manner of Black control decks. This includes Mono-Black Control and the various Dimir varieties. While it's not always as good as straight up hard removal, stalling your opponent until you can reach a point your opponent can't return from is always going to be a great play. Expect to see this one a bit in the future.

Pestilence Rats
Plague Rats
Swarm of Rats

Rats are one of the archetypes that aren't really good in Pauper, but people will try them. This is especially true with the addition of Rat Colony and Relentless Rats to the format. These cards all provide new options for those who want to take it to their local shop.

Pestilence Rats and Plague Rats are not currently available on Magic Online.

Soldevi Adnate

Somehow Soldevi Adnate flew completely under my radar until I saw people talking about it on Reddit. Read that ability closely. It gives you an absurd amount of mana depending on the creature sacrificed. Sacrificed a Gray Merchant of Asphodel? You get a full five Black mana for it. This has some tremendous potential in the right kind of deck and I expect it to get tested quite a bit.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Transmutation

A Black About Face or Inside Out is pretty neat. I don't think this one will show up or make a big splash compared to any of those cards, but I do think this card is great all the same.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Disintegrate
Fireball

In a world where we have cards like Kaervek's Torch and, more importantly, Rolling Thunder in the format, I can't see either of these make the cut. Still it is fantastic seeing some longtime classics finally make their way into the format.

Forked Bolt

Forked Bolt is an amazing option for the Pauper format. One mana to do two damage however you want? Where do I sign up?! Once this card is finally legal on Magic Online, I fully expect it to make a splash. The reason the card isn't currently legal online is largely because the set it was downshifted in - Duel Deck: Zendikar vs. Eldrazi - was never released online. All other sets, including Alpha, Legends, Chronicles, and more were all programmed into the system but as "not collectible." To make the commons legal, they simply made them "collectible," even if many of the cards are currently online. Forked Bolt's certainly still coming, it's just going to take a bit longer compared to the rest.

Glyph of Destruction

Have you ever read the Glyph cards before? If not, I recommend checking them out sometime. They're worth the laugh because of how hilariously awful they are. While it's still not great, there is a combo where you can get two of these on a Mnemonic Wall by either having two or casting Ghostly Flicker to retrieve it a second time and sacrifice it to a Fling to kill your opponent. It's not a good combo, but one people will try.

This card is not currently available on Magic Online.

Goblin Grenade

Goblin Grenade is one of the cards that has a lot of people worried. It often gets put with that special class of what people expected to get auto-banned with the unification. To the surprise of many, we ended up getting it here. While it's absolutely one of the strongest things you can currently be doing, I'm not totally convinced it will have a lasting impact. We both already have Reckless Abandon, which is only a one life point difference, and the tribal aspects limit casting the Grenade. This is definitely still one to watch, but I'm not convinced it's utterly broken just yet.

Goblin War Drums

Giving all your creatures Menace for three mana is pretty sweet. This could be a cool finisher for Red Deck Wins to ensure your damage makes it through, but I'm sure it has a lot of excellent applications elsewhere as well.

Guerrilla Tactics

Black decks sure like their discard effects. If you expect quite a bunch of them, having this card will ensure you get an opportunity to push a little extra damage through.

Rukh Egg

Once a banned card due to weird wording, Rukh Egg is now far from making the cut into the Pauper format. Still a great card to bring up from a nostalgia sense.

Avoid Fate

Countermagic in Green is an absolute rarity. While we have Vines of Vastwood, which is basically a Green counterspell already, I don't think I see this one making it for the most part.

Brown Ouphe

Brown Ouphe is a really sweet reprint that I love to see entering our humble format. Think of it is, the effect does little to nothing. Remember, it can't counter mana abilities, and the overwhelming majority of artifact abilities in the format are mana abilities. This has some fringe applications in decks with a bunch of equipment, but those are already tremendously rare. Don't play the big Ouphe in Pauper.

Essence Filter

Remember how I mentioned breaking board stalls and symmetry with Arenson's Aura at the top? Essence Filter can provide a similar mode of attack. I don't think it'll be as popular as it can hit a lot of your own too, but it's a great potential too for the format to have under its belt.

Gaea's Touch

Gaea's Touch allows us to go really hard on a Mono-Green Ramp strategy of sorts. The problem, as mentioned by many discussing the format have noted, is that there aren't many huge haymakers to spit out fast. We did see Colossal Dreadmaw Stompy as a joke a few months ago, but maybe something like this could end up making it into a real deck.

Mobilize

The only reason I'm mentioning Mobilize is because a lot of people tried bringing it to my attention when the unification news landed. Unfortunately, we already have the non-Portal version of Vitalize from Weatherlight and that sees no play. There could be some potential for a deck to do something with more than four of these but I wouldn't bet on it.

This card is not currently on Magic Online.

Dark Heart of the Wood

Being Golgari, Dark Heart of the Wood's uses are limited. My best bet on this one is in a Tortured Existence build as you can combine it with Tilling Treefolk to return the lands you sacrifice. It'll keep you in the game long enough to take it over.

Ashnod's Altar

Ashnod's Altar is in a weird spot right now for Pauper. While this card has utterly wreaked havoc in many a Commander game, it's less broken here. Some combos do exist (such as this, Pili-Pala, and Presence of Gond) but they're slow, clunky, and easily disruptable. Even though we haven't found anything yet, I do think it's only a matter of time before something comes along and destroys our precious format.

Cursed Rack

Cursed Rack's uses are quite limited, however getting it down quick versus control decks means that you can size down their strategies so they can't bog you down.

Feldon's Cane

Prior to the release of Ravnica Allegiance, I would've been a lot more excited for this card. Now, however, we have Clear the Mind, which not only shuffles your graveyard into your deck but draws you a card. I think the Cane will show up a bit in non-Blue decks, but Clear the Mind is easily the superior choice these days.

Phyrexian War Beast

Phyrexian War Beast is a big creature for a reasonable cost that slides into just about any deck. That said, it's still not the best stats by modern standards, and the drawback is a bit too significant. Only run this in your most aggressive of decks.

Thought Vessel

Thought Vessel isn't doing much by existing, but unlike Cursed Rack, this card helps your maximum hand size by removing it completely. Even better, it's a mana rock that only costs two mana instead of one. This seems like a really obvious one that will see play.

Tormod's Crypt

There will always be the fight for which one-time graveyard removal card is better: Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb, and Tormod's Crypt. Crypt has the advantage of being a free spell with a free activation, but it can't draw you a card like the others can. At the end of the day, the choice will be yours here.

Desert

So many aggressive creatures will be getting silenced by the harshness of the Desert. Expect this to show up in a lot of control-oriented decks.


And there you have it! A whole bunch of sweet cards and a whole new way to play the format. What cards are you most excited to play with from the unification? Let me know below, and don't forget to catch the first week of the Pauper Premiere League this Thursday, July 11th at 9pm EST. Join me as I commentate matches featuring the likes of Evan Erwin, Alex Ullman, Michael Bonde, and Andreas Petersen.

In the meantime, check out the full list of newly added cards from the format unification here and let me know what spice I may have missed:

White:

Blue:

Black:

Red:

Green:

Gold and Colorless: