It's that time again for yet another awesome Magic: the Gathering release: Throne of Eldraine! This time around we're venturing off to a land of medieval Grimm fairytales and Arthurian legend. Honestly, the overall power level feels really high for this set and is going to have big impacts across a variety of formats! One such format is Pauper, the format of commons! While I only expect one or two cards to become real staples, there's still a lot of great new tools to talk about here.
With that, let's dive right on in and see what kind of goodies this amazing format gets this time around!
Ardenvale Tactician marks the first card with the Adventure mechanic I'll be discussing in the context of Pauper. I want to address that I think, currently, most of them don't fit the current landscape of the metagame. They do, however, offer some really interesting flexibility in their play that makes them worth looking at. This Tactician is a great example of this. An aggressive White deck might really like this because you can either tap down blockers or put down a 2/3 flier at a reasonable rate. Neither is particularly good on its own, but the fact that this gives us the option of one or the other is worth us giving it a look.
I know I just said that it's unlikely most of the Adventure cards will see play in Pauper, but here's one that I think could see play very reasonably. Mono-White Heroic would love this card. A cheap two-mana pump that grants evasion and then becomes either a small attacker or chump blocker later? Sign me up! I probably would play this one in small numbers, but it feels like a very solid rate overall to want to try it out.
I mostly wanted to mention Flutterfox because my mind initially jumped to a deck like Mono-White Metalcraft. Then I started thinking about the other creatures that deck offers. When you compare this to the likes of Glint Hawk, Kor Skyfisher, and Auriok Sunchaser, this one isn't really going to cut it. It is a pretty neat card, but just barely misses the cut.
I generally don't think Outflank is likely to make tremendous waves in the metagame, however White historically doesn't have much by way of cheap efficient removal Pauper. We have Journey to Nowhere and then the other options become something to the effect of Oblivion Ring or Sunlance (and maybe Prismatic Strands if you count that). This one is both one mana and an instant, meaning it's at least something worth having in your toolbox should the occasion arise where you might want this.
Silverflame Ritual is a really sweet tool than can benefit go wide decks in the format. While we don't see these very often, players have been known to brew with them from time to time, focusing specifically on token decks and the like. Rally the Peasants is probably the better option for winning games outright, but at least this one gives you the buff permanently and allows you to be able to not worry so much about potential for crackback the following turn.
Now we're talking! This card is a fantastic equipment for Blue decks that like to get a little aggressive - namely Mono-Blue Delver. Drawing more than one card is virtually inconsequential for any Blue deck as they virtually all run Ponder, Preordain, and more. Suiting up creatures is almost a free roll with this and as such I fully expect it to see play.
Jokes aside, I think this awesome fish is worth exploring for different decks. The fact that you can either self-mill or mill and opponent and put a body onto the battlefield means this could find a home in a variety of places. Should someone want to try reviving Angler Delver, this might pop up there. It could even have a home in Turbofog as an extra blocker to soak up some damage in case you run out of your Fog effects. I'm not sure about the level of impact it will have overall, but there's enough ways to use a simple effect like this that it wouldn't surprise me if it found a home eventually.
I'm only mentioning this because I've seen a few people say they're excited to try this card. Remember that Peel from Reality already exists and sees no play. While technically different cards overall, for the sake of Pauper they're basically identical. Skip this one.
So Tiny gets a mention from me largely because we don't see many of these permanent downgrade effects this cheaply. Even less so when the card has Flash. -2/-0 already hurts most of the format's creatures but managing to get the reverse threshold is fantastic. It wouldn't surprise me to see this one turn up if only here and there as an option for Blue decks to combat aggressive lists.
I've had some faerie enthusiasts tell me they're quite excited for this card. Even if it draws you a card, I think three mana is way too much for this when we're in the same color as Faerie Miscreant and the format's numerous cantrip effects.
Two-mana for a 3/2 with defender isn't the worst rate and the fact that you can pay if you have extra mana to let it attack is pretty great. Given the options Blue currently has at its disposal, this might not make the cut at the moment, but I could see a much more all-in aggressive strategy looking this card's way at some point.
Witching Well is one of the cards that immediately caught a lot of players' eyes. It functions on a number of levels here. The most immediate one is that it's a one mana scry two, a solid enough of an effect to begin. It also happens to be an artifact, something that's quite relevant for your average Affinity deck. If your game happens to go long enough as well, you can pay some mana, sacrifice it, and draw two cards to dig deeper and find what you need. It's somewhat comparable to Courier's Capsule, though I think this one is just going to be better a lot of the time. Run it in Affinity, smooth your draws a bit more, and draw cards later if you have an excess of mana. If all else fails, it'll feed your Atog quite nicely.
Foreboding Fruit adds another option to the arsenal of Black card draw effects for the format. This compares most clearly to Sign in Blood and Night's Whisper, while also being somewhat similar to Read the Bones in terms of mana cost. Scrying seems quite a bit better than getting some food if we really wanted to go there, and otherwise we'll be looking to be as frugal with our mana as possible, so I don't expect this to see much play. However, don't be surprised if someone plays this and eventually sacrifices their food token on an end step where they have no other reasonable plays.
This equipment actually isn't the worst for both stats and ability, however I think you're going to find it difficult to find a deck that will want this often enough to run it.
We don't see too many cheap Black pump spells like this so it's worth mentioning for that alone. If you're running some form of at least partially Black aggro list, this one might be worth your consideration.
Much like some of the other cards in the set, this offers another interesting option for the various Black decks, especially Mono-Black Control. It fights for the slot of Phyrexian Rager, Chittering Rats, and Liliana's Specter, so you have to ask yourself if the scry and extra toughness are that much more valuable to you. For the most part, I think players will skip this one, but I think more creature based aggro metas will like this one. It blocks a lot of the 2 power creatures very well and helps set your draws up better, even if it doesn't draw you a card outright.
This old Reaper is so close to being a sweet finisher for Mono-Black Control. Four mana for a Mind Rot and then seven for a 4/5 with conditional flying in a format of card advantage just doesn't seem like it's going to cut it though. It's a real shame because this one looks really cool too.
Smitten Swordmaster is one of those cards that will be one to watch long term. Even with this set being filled with knights, there's not really enough good ones that this will make the cut for Pauper. If enough come out in time, however, the Adventure mode - Curry Favor - could dish out some real damage, and its stats as a creature aren't the absolute worst either. Don't expect this to make a splash now, but keep it in mind as we get more sets in the future.
Some-BODY once told me that this card is actually really sweet for Goblins. Giving one creature a buff and your whole team trample is sweet enough, but it gets even sweeter when you add in cards like Goblin Sledder and the like to go all in and make sure you go for the kill.
Crystal Slipper isn't a perfect card, but it's actually one of the best options at giving creatures haste over and over again that we've likely ever seen. The buff and low equip cost make this a really interesting tool. Even if there's no home for it right now, as I believe to be the case, I could fully see this showing up in a list soon enough.
This merchant's real utility comes from the Haggle effect. It may not go as hard as, say, Faithless Looting, or Thrill of Possibility, but being an instant is solid enough. The fact that you can bring it down later as a creature as needed is gravy, but a lot of games will happen where you likely don't even get to that point.
This card is so close for Goblins. Pumping this up with a Goblin Sledder or Mogg Raider just seems like such a juicy prospect. The three mana is what really hurts this one, but it's sweet enough that people will almost certainly try it all the same and I'll be cheering them on all the way!
Also a curve topping possibility for Goblins is Redcap Raiders. It's not hard to go in with this and have a creature with summoning sickness on the board to fuel it up. The biggest issue is this doesn't have haste itself, meaning it's quite vulnerable to removal. So is Goblin Heelcutter if you don't Dash it, though, so it's at least an option to ensure more of your damage connects.
Here's another sweet looking tool for Red aggro decks! You can do a small pump on a creature and then play a solid two-mana attacker to follow it up. Nice, simple, and effective. Even if it probably won't make the cut, I love the versatility here and it's another excellent option.
In the last year or so, we got Relentless Rats, Rat Colony, and Persistent Petitioners. Every time one of these cards lands, someone tries to make the deck work. While this one does cost two-mana and is at its base a bear, it's still likely not quite good enough to try building a whole deck around. If it didn't work before, I'd say it's unlikely to work now either.
Now this is what I'm talking about! Tormenting Voice has already seen some play in the format - most notably in the various Reanimator builds - and this is just strictly better. The fact that it's an instant may actually open up players to try this effect in other kinds of decks as well. Just remember, though, that because it's an instant it does become open to effects such as Dispel.
Fierce Witchstalker is actually a pretty generic card on its face. Four mana for a 4/4 is nothing we haven't had before. Just a few sets ago in War of the Spark, even, we got Bloom Hulk, and that didn't make a huge impact. The difference here is that this big bad wolf has trample, meaning it won't be blocked quite so easily. It even makes a food token so you can gain some life later on! Some Green ramp decks have been showing up lately and I think this is definitely a solid enough of a beater for that kind of deck.
Someone asked me recently what my thoughts were on this card in Elves as a way to ensure we could cast our splash cards. My stance on this one is that while Arcum's Astrolabe is legal, there's no reason we shouldn't be playing that if we're on the Distant Melody plan. If Astrolabe gets banned in the future, however, this may be worth testing as an alternative to the Sylvan Ranger package. The problem is that three mana to cast an actual mana dork is a big ask and the sorcery doesn't generate mana - it just filters it. I'd say it's testable but might not make the cut.
Rosethorn Halberd is a risky play. A one mana permapump for +2/+1 is big game. When the Halberd is removed, however, it becomes really hard for most decks that would want this to re-equip it. Generally you'd want this in something like Stompy and that deck sometimes struggles to get to two or three mana, never mind five. As such, this one is going to be a tall ask, but has some big payoff if you can get there.
This is the card that made my eyes go wide the first time I saw it. Repeatable mass haste for this cost is something we've never seen in Pauper before. Heck it's something we rarely see in Magic as a whole! This got me thinking about where you could want this.
Affinity and WonderWalls are two decks that quickly came to mind. Not only is this an artifact for Affinity, but you can spit your hand out fast and then attack in with it right away. Hitting hard and fast is really good for two mana and a solid blocker. WonderWalls relies on using tap effects from creatures with defender like Overgrown Battlement and Axebane Guardian to generate ridiculous amounts of mana and take out your opponent. Mass haste means you can use these tap effects right away and could possibly give this deck a little more consistency along the way.
The other one that I thought about was Elves. The very idea of casting this at the end of a chain of elves on turn two and then on turn three going deep with Distant Melody has me salivating. You can go in with Timberwatch Elf or Priest of Titania with Viridian Longbow to win the game instantly. Even if you can't do that, it can still let you go off hard and maybe gain a ton of life from Wellwisher. The problem is in order to play it, we have to remove some of our elves from the package and the list is already tight. What's more, we need to have it in play before going off. It's definitely going to get tested, but I don't know that it'll be worth it at the end of the day.
Now Slivers, on the other hand...
Gingerbrute is basically a one mana 1/1 unblockable creature. Unlike something such as, say, Changeling Outcast, however, Gingerbrute can be blocked by the right kind of deck. Ultimately I don't think it's good enough and don't expect it to see play even if it's an absolute flavor home run.
Hey there Serrated Arrows, you're looking a bit...different these days. This is in fact a more or less reverse version of Serrated Arrows where you give creatures +1/+1 counters as opposed to giving -1/-1 counters. The -1/-1 counters are significantly more valuable because they provide strong removal options against decks with weenies. It's been a little while since we even saw that card actively, with it having mostly shown up in the past as a foil to the various Delver decks by taking out the pesky little fliers. Meager pumps at this rate aren't that great and it gets even worse with one other big change: you can only activate this card at sorcery speed. Save this one for Limited - and it's probably not even superb there either.
Finally we have the mono-color lands. I'm going to skip Gingerbread Cabin because it's not particularly notable, but want to give mention to the other four, starting with Dwarven Mine. This card wowed a few people when it dropped. Getting a free creature just for hitting your land drops seems enticing, right? The thing about Dwarven Mine is the context of the decks you're fitting it into.
For the sake of Pauper, where we aren't running dual lands with basic land types, you pretty much need to be running a Mono-Red list to make this work. The only two lists that fit that currently are Burn and Goblins/Red Deck Wins. Both of these decks function most effectively on as few lands as possible and if you've hit four lands in Burn, you've arguably already lost. What's more, unless you're looking to cycle Forgotten Caves away, you don't want to risk a land coming into play tapped. As such, I can't see this making a huge splash in the format.
Idyllic Grange, however, is one that I think could make a small yet reasonable showing in Mono-White Heroic. Again, given that the land comes into play tapped, I don't think I'd run more than one or two. Coming into play tapped isn't the end of the world for Heroic and if you do draw a bunch of lands, you can get a pump out of this in the process. Even then it still might not be good enough, but it's probably worth the test and may yet end up as one of the cards that makes the cut.
If the other three lands mentioned above don't seem that good, let me now direct your attention to Mystic Sanctuary. This is likely the best card for Pauper in the entire set and it's not hard to see why. This card easily slots into decks like Mono-Blue Delver and Jeskai where you can easily hit multiple Islands. It's not as tremendous of a stretch to believe we may see it here and there in Tron lists as a one-of alongside the basic Islands and possibly in decks like Familiars. Combined with Ghostly Flicker, this is just another way for us to generate loops on top of loops. Even without that card, getting a free spell back with ease is no joke and I expect this card to see tons and tons of play across the format. Just be glad we don't have this in the same format as Gush.
Last but not least, we have Witch's Cottage. I think this card is going to be a fine addition to Mono-Black Control's arsenal, especially over Mortuary Mire. Think of it like this: your usual line of play with the deck in the first two turns is either play removal, cast a Sign in Blood, or drop a Cuombajj Witches. Your turn three is likely spent playing a creature like Phyrexian Rager, Chittering Rats, or Liliana's Specter. In most cases, you won't even want to use a Mortuary Mire until turn four at the very earliest anyways, and it even comes into play untapped as well! It's not a huge shift, but it's sure to become a staple in that deck alone.
That wraps up this set review. There's a lot of exciting cards in this set and there were honestly even a few I was on the fence about and ultimately decided not to cover, so I may not have even touched on your favorite card! Let me know down below what you're looking forward to playing with from Throne of Eldraine and I'll see you all next week with more Pauper goodness!