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The State of Pauper: New Spice

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Welcome to day three of Pauper week here on CoolStuffInc.com! Yesterday I talked about a lot of the old classic decks and how they’re looking these days, light updates and all. Today I’m going to be checking out the lists that have gotten more extensive overhauls. All of this is in preparation for the upcoming start of the Pauper Premiere League! The league is sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com and it begins this Thursday, July 11th at 9pm EST. For more info, check out this article laying out all the details.

Let’s jump right in with one of Pauper’s biggest boogiemen: Tron.


Murasa Tron, sometimes called Removal Tron or Fog Tron depending on the specifics of the build, has been a mainstay of the format for some time now. The goal is to build up big mana and cast Ghostly Flicker between either two Mnemonic Walls for value or else a Mnemonic Wall and a Mulldrifter or Dinrova Horror. All the while, you control the board state with countermagic and removal.

There’s numerous variations and riffs on the deck, but it’s a little harder to identify them. Why? Arcum's Astrolabe has changed the dynamic of these decks. Previously, these Tron variants ran some of the suite of Khans of Tarkir gainlands and because of this, you could often identify what the core variation of Tron you were up against. Now however, the deck focuses on utilizing snow-covered basics and a card we’ll be talking about a lot today: Arcum's Astrolabe.

By rocking Astrolabes and Prophetic Prisms, there’s much less need to lands that come into play tapped. Not only do they fix your mana, but they also help cantrip, thus filtering you faster through your deck. Some players have even applied some strategies of other decks to fuel some Astrolabe nonsense in their Tron lists, much like Magic Online Pauper expert billster47.


If you’ve followed the format over the last year, this one will come across as a real head scratcher. It almost reads like a cross between the popular Boros Monarch lists and Tron. Don’t believe me? Check out this Boros Monarch list and dare to compare:


Yes, I know, there’s a small Black splash in the mix of this deck. Once again, this is powered by the might of Arcum's Astrolabe. Beyond that, it looks fairly stock, though it’s worth noting that some lists have moved from Galvanic Blast to Skred. Looking at this list and comparing to billster47’s Tron list, it’s not hard to see the similarities. There’s Glint Hawks and Kor Skyfishers for not just the Astrolabes but also Mulldrifters and the like to keep a chain of fresh cards coming.

This fresh take of more colors beyond Boros has precedence in the Jeskai Kuldotha lists of old, but now has taken on new life with more current builds. We’ve even moved into full Jeskai Midrange for some decks, with some lists even branching out into four or five color territory.


Heck it even feels like you’re seeing a lot of these same playstyles in this new take on Tireless Tribe with the supposed death of Inside Out Combo following the banning of Gush.


What it feels like you’re starting to see with these Arcum's Astrolabe decks is almost a melding of a lot of the top cards and plays in the format. The Astro Jeskai list above almost feels like an amalgam between the strategies often prevalent in not just Tron and Boros Monarch but also Delver. These lists also suffer from the same issue of Tron and Monarch lists running less duals and going for exclusively snow basics - the one where you can’t tell what’s going on.

Some of these lists look like a standard Boros list. Some look like this Jeskai list. I’ve even seen Jeskai lists go as deep as to run Gurmag Angler, Moment's Peace, and/or Weather the Storm in the main deck. Some run Seeker of the Way, some don’t. Some lists have Prismatic Strands, others don’t. The Archaeomancer and Ephemerate package is becoming more popular as well but doesn’t always show up.

Because the land base can’t give you a tell on what you’re facing like we previously had and like we would in other formats like Standard, Modern, and Legacy, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’ll expect. Because of that it makes the decks really hard to predict and to come up with a plan to attack it. Sure you can blow up the mana filters, but at that point they’ve likely drawn multiple cards off of it and they leave you down cards in the process.

It’s also lending to a lot of format homogeneity in the sense that many of the decks are starting to feel like they’re doing a lot of the same thing. Notice how many are running the Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher package or else some form of flicker effect. Many of these decks are just a slightly different riff on another in a way that reminds me of Khans of Tarkir/Battle For Zendikar standard where four color good stuff decks were rampant.

I’m concerned of what this means for us as a format going forward. Will it just devolve further into this state or will we see decks pop up that prey on the playstyle? I’m not sure it’s quite time to start sounding the alarm for bans, but it feels like we’re already getting close. It’s just too early at this point, especially with the new unification hitting us. That said, it’s a situation that should be monitored closely by Wizards R&D and should the issue persist, possibly take action.

Arcum's Astrolabe isn’t everything though. Goblins are back on the map in a couple different forms!


Okay, so Red Deck Wins isn’t really a Goblins deck, even if most of its creatures are goblins. There’s enough non-goblins to not call it actual Goblins, but it’s certainly close. Indeed, the above list feels as though it’s added some more goblins into the list to make good use of the new powerhouse for the format: Goblin Grenade. This deck already made good use out of Reckless Abandon and Goblin Grenade is just a logical step up from there.

While that list doesn’t have creatures like the Goblin Sledders and Mogg Raiders of older Goblins lists, this one does:


Aokis loves to brew and they’ve been jamming this Goblin Aristocrats brew for a few months to some pretty spicy finishes. While this list doesn’t have Goblin Grenade in it, it also landed right as the Grenade was being added into the format. Thus it missed its mark for inclusion, but I think it slots pretty easily into the 75 if you can find the room. After all, the point of the deck is that you’re sacrificing Goblins already, so why not run a spell that will also deal five damage when you drop one?

In addition to all the lists I’ve discussed over the last few days, we’re also seeing a few other decks continue doing well. Familiars continues to have a strong niche in the metagame, as does, surprisingly enough, Slivers. With the advent of Arcum's Astrolabe, we’ve even seen a resurgence in Snow-Go, here a riff off of the old Mystical Teachings decks.

Of all these decks, what do you want to see in action the most during the Pauper Premiere League this week? Do you want to maybe see some older decks that have fallen to the wayside make an all-new appearance into the meta? Let me know what you think we’ll see down in the comments below. If you want to get the first look at what people will be running, be sure to check in tomorrow when I drop both player profiles of all the participants in the League, but also the week one lists for Alex Ullman, Evan Erwin, Andreas Petersen, and Michael Bonde!