A few weeks ago, popular Pauper podcast Color Commontary hung up their cast by going on an indefinite hiatus. In their signoff episode, they did a Q&A from their Discord server. One of the questions they answered was "what would you consider to be Pauper's Power Nine?" This got me thinking and I figured it would be a fun little thought experiment as I considered various cards. I'll include their list at the bottom of this article if you aren't able to listen to the above video.
With that, let's check out my picks!
These days everyone knows about how Tron is one of the boogiemen of the format. Big mana can do a lot very quickly and overtake games in general and crush metagames. In our little format there's no Karn Liberateds or Wurmcoil Engines to close out a game. Instead we need to get creative, which has led to a large variety of different Tron variants over the years. While I could easily put those three lands on this list for having a greater impact on the format as a whole, they also have had more time in it than the card that preceded it: Cloudpost.
Cloudpost was strong back in the days of Mirrodin block Standard with Tooth and Nail decks and still sees play today in Legacy in decks like Eldrazi Post. It generates an absurd amount of mana, especially when you're able to combine it with the likes of Glimmerpost thanks to Scars of Mirrodin. The Cloudpost decks of the time ran the kind of loops we're familiar with now involving Mnemonic Wall and Ghostly Flicker for tons of value. While a bit less consistent and powerful without the likes of Pulse of Murasa or Dinrova Horror, these decks set the stage for what would become the Tron lists we know and love (or hate) today.
If you played during the time when Grapeshot, as well as Empty the Warrens, were legal, you might remember just how saturated they were making the meta. Indeed, if you weren't playing Storm at the time, then what were you doing? The only other real decks that could even attempt to compete were Cloudpost decks, Delver decks, Affinity decks, and Infect decks. Even then, those decks could very easily just lose if Storm was able to get off the ground quickly, as it was known to do.
While both were key parts in what made the Storm deck so unbelievably strong, I'm going to go with Grapeshot as my pick here to keep the list a bit more open. It was the card that killed people outright and there have been cases where people have made somewhat reasonable arguments about how Empty might be okay for the format. I personally disagree with those sentiments, but I at least see where they're coming from.
Next up we have two cards. Both Cloud of Faeries and Peregrine Drake absolutely dominated the metagames they were a part of. Unlike the Storm cards, it's impossible to have one of these cards and not the other as they both did similar yet different things.
Cloud of Faeries broke a couple of decks cleanly in half. The more prominent one was Familiars. While the deck still sees some play today, it doesn't go off anywhere near as easily as it did once upon a time when Cloud was legal. If you weren't using it in Familiars, then odds were you were playing it in the Mono-Blue Delver lists of the time. Who would have thought that a faerie that untaps for mana might be good with Spellstutter Sprite?
Peregrine Drake costing way more mana made the decks it slotted into a bit different, finding more of a home in Izzet Tempo lists that would end in a combo finish. By using the likes of Izzet Boilerworks and Ghostly Flicker, it often took no time at all to assemble boatloads of mana to throw a Kaervek's Torch at your opponent's face. Tron would do similar things, using Ghostly Flicker to generate crazy amounts of mana thanks to the power of the Tron lands for a fiery finish.
Ah yes, Gush. This is the most recently banned entry on this list and it's easy to see how it could make a list like this. Drawing two free cards is always absurdly strong, allowing you to find much needed answers at the last possible second. It also enabled powerhouse plays involving Foil or the Inside Out Combo deck. A card so strong it's long been banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage, it's no surprise to see it go in Pauper.
Speaking of drawing cards, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the long-time Pauper all-star Mulldrifter. It's a card that does it all: draws you cards, attacks, and can even be part of a combo in the right setup. It's great on its own and also works wonderfully alongside Ghostly Flicker and Ephemerate, especially if you chose to go ahead and pay its Evoke cost. It's elegant in design and plays amazingly in this format of commons, making it one of the strongest and most iconic cards in the format without completely breaking it.
Lightning Bolt, a card so iconic and elegant it won the Magic Bracket that ranked and rated every Magic card ever printed, is such a perfect choice for this list. It has shown up in virtually any deck to ever feature Red and is so iconic that it makes it hard not to include on that merit alone. Lightning Bolt will never not be an absolute powerhouse of the format, and we're arguably better for it.
The Monarch mechanic has been contentious from the very moment it entered the format. It changed how games were played and created a sort of subgame within each individual game of Magic that we played. It could be easy to go with something like Kor Skyfisher or Arcum's Astrolabe given the engine those cards, as well as similar ones like Glint Hawk and Prophetic Prism. I think, however, that the Monarch cards have simply become more iconic in the identity of what people think of when they think about the Pauper format.
I had to think about this one a bit. By and large, the cards on this list are Blue, a testament to the color's strength, though there were still obvious choices in Red and White. I looked at Black and there isn't too much outside of Pestilence and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Neither is really "Power Nine of Pauper" material, and so I looked to Green. There's a lot more options here, including Rancor, Priest of Titania, Burning-Tree Emissary, Timberwatch Elf, Ancestral Mask, and more.
What I'm going with, though, is Quirion Ranger. The reason is this innocuous little card effectively makes the major Green strategies of the format work at all. Stompy wouldn't work nearly as well without this card. Not only does it untap creatures for blockers, but it can untap Nettle Sentinels so they can attack. What's more, it lets you play fewer lands by effectively giving you extra land drops. Not only does this allow you to go further with your gameplan by playing more things, but once upon a time it mattered by making your Groundswells that much better.
It fills similar roles in Elves, however it does quite a bit more in that deck. Each of the other broken elves I mentioned before - Priest of Titania and Timberwatch Elf, as well as Wellwisher - is made that much more mighty thanks to the ability of Quirion Ranger. It enables you to have ridiculous amounts of mana, power, or life that creates game breaking situations. For these reasons, I've chosen the card to round out my Power Nine of Pauper.
There's a number of other cards I could've chosen to include. What would your Pauper Power Nine look like? What cards would you feel to be so iconic and powerful that they define the format much like how the Black Lotus, the Moxen, Ancestral Recall, and more define the game of Magic as a whole? I'll be back tomorrow with decklists for week five of the Pauper Premiere League, so make sure you check back for that! I'll see you then!
Color Commontary's Power Nine: