Is it really time for another Pauper set review already?! Modern Horizons 2 is barely out the door and we're already here with Dungeons and Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms! It feels like I can barely catch a breath before seeing and going through all these new cards.
Unfortunately, I don't think most of these will matter for a few weeks now. In case you missed my article last week, I laid out the fact that, frankly, Modern Horizons 2 completely broke Pauper as a format, and I don't think this set will bring much to change that. That having been said, there's no way this format realistically remains untouched by bans and I expect Wizards to take action within the next few weeks as this set officially releases. As such, most of these reviews are going under the assumption that Storm gets the boot (and probably something from Affinity as well).
There's a lot of ground to cover, so let's dive right on into it!
Players have tried making various Soul Sisters builds work out over the years, but unlike, say, Modern, there hasn't really been a decent payoff. Until now, that is. Celestial Unicorn requires a bit of work, but gets big fast. If you have two of either Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, or Suture Priest on the field when you drop this, it essentially comes into play as a 5/4 for three mana. Not a bad deal! It already showed up in a few of the weekend's Magic Online Challenges and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see it more in the future.
There's a ton of solid flexibility going on here that makes me like the card. Generally, it's fairly medium and doesn't do quite enough to warrant an inclusion in most decks I feel, but there's enough bounce and flicker nonsense in the format that it could really shine in the right kind of meta.
This card's pretty expensive for what it's doing, but the buff plus repeated venturing actually seems pretty solid. It's unlikely to find a home solely because of the heavy equip cost, but it may have a home somewhere. If nowhere else, I could very much see it being a favorite of Pauper Cubes and Pauper Commander decks for some time.
Pauper doesn't really have a lot of amazing equipment that sees play outside of, what, Bonesplitter and Flayer Husk? There's a handful of others that show up from time to time, but not a lot of particularly powerful ones most of the time. That said, if you can stick one on this card, it turns into an absolute house for its mana cost. This could actually be the sort of card that really pushes White Weenie a bit more to the forefront.
Okay, this card isn't all that great, but I had to give a shout-out to retired Pauper content creator AnyNewProvince on this one (whose content was fantastic and is still well worth checking out, even if it's a bit dated now). It's a Mono-White Elf, Jeff! More fuel for the Mono-White Elves dream!
This is a really neat Pacifism style effect. I'm not quite sure that it's all that better than several of the other options in the format already - many of which see little to no play as is - but this hitting most permanents and fully shutting them down is really good. Could certainly see this popping up from time to time but generally won't be worth it.
Potion of Healing
On one hand, this acts as another in the long line of two-mana artifacts that cantrip when they enter the battlefield. Unfortunately, the need for White mana is a very real cost, even in Boros decks, and the life gain is minimal. If I were even thinking about playing this, I'd look to Golden Egg instead, as it's by and large just a better version of this card.
Priest of Ancient Lore
Straight card draw in White? It feels like a fever dream seeing this or something, but it's real! For the most part, this card still won't quite make the cut, as the time it's best is when you're flickering it, and that usually happens with Blue also being in the mix. Sine Blue already has a crazy amount of card draw, it's unlikely this one puts up a ton of numbers. That said, the incremental life gain is nothing to scoff at, and could easily be the reason this one sees play. It'll either see close to none, or a whole ton, and there really won't be any in between the two.
Repeatable venturing seems pretty decent, but this feels like it's a lot of effort to make it happen. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that this won't be the last time we see dungeons, and this could very well be a card whose playability goes up more in the long term.
You Hear Something on Watch
Most of the time, the individual sides of this effect aren't all that great. Giving you the option of either a removal spell or a mass pump to go in for the kill all in one card is actually quite good, however. The only deck that might really want this right now, though, is Boros Bully, and I doubt it really does anything there with both better removal and pump spells in its arsenal already. If there's a go-wide White deck that doesn't run those degree of spells, however, then this might just be solid.
Elves has long dabbled in Blue and this is some pretty solid repeat draw as a mana sink if you've got an active Priest of Titania out. That said, I don't exactly think Elves should be pushing any harder on the non-Green colors than it needs to, so I don't see this making a big splash, but the potential is certainly there on this one. Even if you don't get the Anticipate off the card, getting at least a guaranteed draw is pretty decent. Might have a home in something like Wonderwalls instead of Vivien's Grizzly since you can hit non-creatures off of the ability.
Bar the Gate
It feels like it's been a while since I saw Exclude see play in the format, and generally this is just going to be a worse Exclude. If dungeons get better down the line, this card's stock might rise, but for now it feels like a pretty solid pass to me.
Contact Other Plane
You're basically 50/50 on this being Inspiration or a Behold the Multiverse (or better). While you can actually hit better than Behold, the odds are so not in your favor that, generally speaking, I'd rather just have Behold. That said, this seems like a great inclusion for Cubes and Pauper Commander.
There's not a lot of great dice rolling cards entering the format at common, so this isn't going to get a whole lot of mileage right now, but it's likely we see more in the future now that they exist in black border. If there's more that turn out to be fairly decent down the line, this card's playability may go up down the line.
Scion of Stygia
This is basically a Frost Lynx with less toughness and with flash. While not quite as strong on its face, I'd argue it's actually quite a bit better. If you tap down your opponent's creature for the base tap on their turn, then it's not much different than if you did the "no untap" tap on your turn the turn before. If you're able to keep it tapped, then it stays tapped even longer than it otherwise would, and thanks to the flash, you can choose between it and other interaction, such as counter magic. This card's quite costly, but I do still think there's enough going on that it's quite a reasonable play and wouldn't be surprised to see it now and then.
Much like Ranger's Hawk, this is a little too much work to get a minimal effect like venturing into a dungeon. That said, this is a wall, so I think it stands a little more chance of seeing play thanks to the existence of Wonderwalls. I still don't think it's good enough currently, but the potential is there, especially if we get more dungeons down the line.
This isn't terribly exciting, but worth mentioning because it is a Mono-Blue elf with a decent ability for the mad person that wants to really try pushing Simic Elves.
You Come to a River
Once again, the flexibility is big here. Getting either a non-kicked Into the Roil or a non-rebounding Distortion Strike is pretty solid. Neither one is particularly great on its own, but having the option between the two could make it a little more worth playing in the right deck. Perhaps it could help bring back Izzet Blitz a bit again?
You Find the Villains' Lair
Neither of the two sides here are that great, but once more, having the choice between the two modes is decent enough depending on the point in the game. Both sides seem great for control builds, so it could be the kind of card that might show up in some builds of Teachings and/or Pieces.
You See a Guard Approach
Once again, we have another cheap modal spell. I think this one has the least playability of the Blue ones, but I think there's versatility in either protecting your creature or clearing the path to get it through.
This is just a better Costly Plunder, which sees play a non-zero amount of the time. If a deck would ever have really played that, it should just run this instead. Giving some ramp by way of the treasure token might actually help the sacrifice decks of the format out that much more.
Most of the time this just isn't that good. Like, let's be real, you're never making this a turn one Thoughtseize. That said, treasure tokens are showing up much more frequently as of late, so this card is one of those ones that if it doesn't find a home now might later on down the line.
Four-mana sorcery speed kill spells are never very exciting, but getting a treasure out of the mix isn't a terrible trade-off. Still, removal is so good in the format that this has no chance in Pauper, but perhaps in Cube and Pauper Commander it has a shot.
Rogue Burn has been popping up on and off the radar, and getting a bunch of tokens by dealing damage is a pretty solid deal. I doubt it's likely to make a big impact anywhere, but I think it's likely to have a shot if only for the repeatable ramp.
Most of these kinds of creatures have never really seen a lot of play in the past, but at the same time most of them haven't had flying on them either. That said, there's a lot of small fliers in Pauper, meaning this thing gets chump blocked a little too easily. If this was a 2/2, we might be talking, but as is it's still generally not going to be worth it.
A permanent power down or removal spell is fine but not exciting for this cost. Venturing into the dungeon is also neat, but not enough to really push the card to be playable. Once again, I think this is a card that has a chance of growing in playability down the line, but right now I'm not holding my breath.
They had me in the first half with this one, not gonna lie. The once per turn is a tremendous buzzkill. As is, though, sacrifice decks should stick to their usual sacrifice creatures.
Anyone else remember when Festering Goblin was a really powerful card? We're nearly 20 years removed from that card now (stop making me feel old thinking about this, WotC), and this is clearly the best of this style of card that we've yet seen. Festering Mummy has shown up a decent amount of the time in Zombies decks, and while this doesn't give a counter, the added flexibility of being either removal or ramp is great. It remains to be seen if this will replace the Mummy anywhere, but it's still a great option that's worth playing.
Most creatures you equip with this can easily become unblockable given how small most of Pauper's creatures are, and you get a cheaper cost up-front as well that can also be used to fuel other spells instead. Mono-Black Control has its share of times where it struggles to get in attacks even with its heavy removal suite, so maybe this could help in that regard.
Another repeatable venturer, however this one feels a lot more viable because of its stats and abilities. That said, it still costs way too much to do too little in the world of Pauper. Another Cube and Pauper Commander card.
This card probably costs way too much to actually be viable, but it's definitely quite easy to get this to trigger regularly. Probably mostly a piece for Commander if anything.
Wizards seems adamant to make the Red equipment deck happen, but we still just don't have anything remotely close to a viable deck. As more tools come, this might be a roleplayer in such a deck, but for now it's just going to stay sidelined.
Boots of Speed
Hey look, a strictly better Crystal Slipper! That card didn't see a whole lot of play, but one-mana to drop this over the two mana for that card is actually a pretty big deal. I'm not entirely sure what kind of decks necessarily want this, but it's definitely a fairly solid option for the format to have. It's also a fairly good Red equipment, so if that equipment deck I just mentioned ever gets off the ground, I think it's highly likely this shows up there.
Much like Pixie Guide, this card just isn't good enough with what we've got here, but as further dice-rolling cards come out in the future, its stock might go up.
I've seen a decent amount of talk around this card for the sake of certain other formats. With no played dragons to speak of in Pauper and only a handful that actually exist in the format, this is basically just going to be a worse Scorching Dragonfire, which already sees no play in the format.
What's this? Two solid equipment in one set? This might just help give that archetype the kind of thing it needs to perform! Being a combat trick can be a huge deal, especially since it sticks around post-combat. That said, the cost to re-equip is very real and makes it harder to do anything with the card once the creature it's equipping dies.
A Raging Goblin with a solid upside like this is actually quite good. Most cards that ping the blocker aren't that great, but they're also not 1 mana 1/1s with haste. The general toughness is low enough in Pauper that this might be good in something like Goblins, if only for very specific metas.
Dice rolling aside, this makes a ton of treasures fast. In normal Constructed Pauper, it dies far too easily to be actually playable, but in Cube and Commander this is probably going to be a house.
For the most part, this card seems quite medium, but it's not hard to get 6 power in a deck like Goblins or RDW (which are often one and the same). At that point, there's some argument as to why you wouldn't just play Porcelain Legionnaire, but I do think the life loss from the Legionnaire is relevant in a lot of cases. This being a Red creature to trigger Foundry Street Denizen and also be sacrifice fodder to Goblin Grenade really helps as well, making it oddly just that much better in these specific decks.
Kick in the Door
There's a lot going on here for only one mana, and unlike something like Vicious Whispers where it looks like it does a lot but actually doesn't, this does quite a bit. Power boost, haste, and whatever bonus venturing gives you. There's also, you know, a meta deck whose whole thing is walls, so that line of text isn't exactly irrelevant either. I still don't think it's going to make the cut generally, but there's enough going on here that I wouldn't be surprised to see it make an appearance either.
Manic Vandal's already playable sometimes and this is just a strict upgrade. Expect this in sideboards now and then.
Circle of the Moon Druid
This card is an absolute house. If it's your turn, it attacks for a ton of damage and if it's not your turn it plays defense really well. This definitely feels like a great card for Stompy, especially when paired alongside Quirion Ranger. Three mana is a bit of a tall ask in an archetype already stuffed with powerful cards, but this definitely has a role that it can play well when the meta is right for it.
Find the Path
These types of cards that make your lands generate extra mana are always solid. This one's not super great given how mediocre venture is this time around, but once more, there's a lot of potential in the future if and when this mechanic returns.
Much like Hobgoblin Captain, it's really not that hard to get the 6 power and give this the buffs it needs. If there's any deck that wants this, it's Stompy, but once again, that deck's already got a glut of good stuff. It may work there, but it also may not, and I'm curious to see if it actually ends up making an impact there once the dust settles.
This being a card that allows you to ramp directly to the battlefield makes me like it a lot, but then I remember that Sakura-Tribe Elder already exists in the format and sees no play. This does technically come down a turn earlier, but you end up spending more time and resources in the end. Ultimately, this one just won't make the cut.
The stats here are pretty much just fine, but it can gain you a lot of life incidentally. I don't think it's going to be nearly playable enough, but it's certainly a solid card in its own right.
You Find a Cursed Idol
This is arguably the best Naturalize variant we've seen to date! It's arguable whether the treasure option is better than Return to Nature's graveyard exile text or Wilt's cycling, but I think each has their place depending on the deck and meta.
Being either a one-time ramp or a somewhat cheap creature can actually be a big deal depending on the deck. That said, Guardian Idol is already in the format and doesn't really see any play, so I doubt this will either, but the potential is there.
I like the versatility and cheapness of Spare Dagger, but I think it's by and large a little too mediocre for Pauper in any real capacity. It's not really a big power boost, nor is it a very big damage impact if you sacrifice it, so it's ultimately likely to be without a home in the format.
And that wraps things up! It's clear that this set is a bit more underpowered than what we've been seeing over the last year or so, but that's not unexpected given how it replaced the core set for the year. There's still plenty of solid cards, and more still that will likely find fresh life as we get more cards that feature dice rolling or dungeon venturing. What cards are you excited to play with from this set at your next Pauper night?
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