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More Pauper Decks You May Run Into at MagicCon Chicago


This week is MagicCon Chicago and amidst all of the festivities, there's going to be a pretty sizable Pauper tournament going on this Saturday! There's plenty of prizes on the line, up to and including a trophy to the winner! Last week I covered the top decks of the format to help get you ready for what you might run into at the event if you haven't played in a bit. However, as far as format overviews go, that's only scratching the surface of what you can expect to run into when it comes to the Pauper meta. As such, I'm running through several more additional decks you might run into to give you a better understanding and expectation of what you'll be up against.

As with last week, I'd like to note that none of these will be truly in-depth looks at the archetypes. There's a ton of ground to cover with nine decks featured in this article, and as such I'm only providing quick summaries and explanations of how the decks play and how you can fight against them. It won't be super comprehensive, but rather should provide you with the basic know-how to prepare yourself for the event ahead.

With all that out of the way, let's dive right in head first!

Boros Synthesizer

If you played Pauper around 5 years ago, this one might look familiar to you. The core of the deck feels like it's ripped straight from the Boros Monarch deck (aka Kuldotha Boros) that saw heavy play for some time. The crux of the strategy was to play cantripping artifacts like Ichor Wellspring and Prophetic Prism only to bounce them back with the likes of Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher and then replay those artifacts. This provides a solid card advantage engine while also giving you a slow build-up of creatures to chip away at your opponent's life total. Once you stabilize things enough, you'd slam a Palace Sentinels to become the Monarch and get even more card advantage while you hold onto the crown.

This new variant largely performs the same way, with Experimental Synthesizer providing so much extra value that you don't need to rely on trying to maintain the Monarch. Rather than fighting with your opponents to hold onto it, you can just draw the cards outright without worry. There have also been some additional cards to help the deck win, such as Lembas providing extra card draw with an option for life gain, Barbed Batterfist allowing you to produce lots of creatures by bouncing the equipment, and Makeshift Munitions to close out the game. The top decks keep this one fairly suppressed, as both Kuldotha Red and the various Affinity builds take it out fast enough, but it has a really solid shot at winning if games go long. No matter what, expect a slugfest with this one.


Pauper Dredge is a relative newcomer onto the scene, yet just a few weeks ago it made the finals of a Magic Online Pauper Challenge. I'm going to be completely honest when I say I haven't run into this one yet, so I can only guess as to how it functions. However, I'd hazard a guess that it works by using cards like Blanchwood Prowler, Mire Triton, and Satyr Wayfinder to fill out your graveyard quickly. From there, you can utilize Stinkweed Imp for an actual dredge effect to help put even more stuff into your graveyard. Then, you can either cast an Exhume from your hand or else sacrifice a few small critters to flashback Dread Return and get back a Lotleth Giant to smack your opponent for massive damage.

This deck got some buzz following its high showing in that Pauper Challenge a few weeks ago, but it's been difficult to track online due to not showing up in aggregate sites. Given this, it's unlikely that you'll see much of it at the event, but at the same time I wouldn't put it past someone to break the list out either. If you do, graveyard hate and well-timed countermagic for the reanimation spells will be the key to victory. The deck can prove extremely fragile if you know what to expect, so keep it in mind and hit the important targets as needed.

Jeskai Ephemerate

Last week I touched a bit on flicker loop decks courtesy of Familiars. The way this works is by utilizing some amount of Ephemerate and/or Ghostly Flicker alongside creatures like Archaeomancer, Mnemonic Wall, and Ardent Elementalist. This allows you to get the flicker spell back to your hand as well as another spell that you use to control the board state and take out your opponents. Familiars plays a little more like a combo deck in ways, though, providing ways to generate absurd amounts of life as well as card advantage and even creatures with Murmuring Mystic.

Jeskai Ephemerate, on the other hand, is much slower and methodical in its approach. As you look through the deck, you'll notice a lot of similarities. You still have many of the same card advantage engines as well as the countermagic. What's different is the amount of removal the deck brings to the table, providing you an additional angle to control down the board while you build your strategy. Beating this one depends on the deck, but fast decks can outpace it quickly with the right draw and even a little graveyard hate to stop Ephemerate loops can go a long way. Otherwise, you'll be in for a good long fight using countermagic.

Boros Ephemerate

Boros Ephemerate is yet another take on the Ephemerate strategy, here utilizing Ardent Elementalist as the means to loop Ephemerate. Unlike Jeskai Ephemerate where you're usually looping to get more spells, Boros Ephemerate relies on you flickering your creatures heavily instead. This allows you to get lots of card advantage, make value plays with Dawnbringer Cleric, or else advance further through the dungeon of the back of Goliath Paladin's initiative mechanic. Of course, you can also loop back spells like Lightning Bolt and Prismatic Strands to help control the board as well.

Well-timed countermagic and graveyard hate can slow this deck down, though you'll still have plenty of creatures to contend with as well. With the right deck, you can push through, but given how this is another value engine midrange deck, you can expect it to take a good bit of time to get through your games.

Orzhov Ephemerate

The last Ephemerate list is the Orzhov variant. If you've been watching the colors associated with the flicker decks thus far, you'll notice this doesn't include any of the ones used by creatures to set up loops. As such, while most of these kinds of decks only run a few copies of Ephemerate and/or Ghostly Flicker thanks to these loops, Orzhov Ephemerate runs the full playset of its namesake card. While it doesn't utilize loops to grind out a long game, it still generates tons of value in a fairly comparable way to the Boros list. As such, a lot of the same concepts apply to fighting it back, however I'd pass on the graveyard hate this time around as it will usually just prove to be unnecessary with no loops to stop.

Turbo Fog

Turbo Fog has come and gone over the years and has taken on several different forms. It usually shows up when aggro decks are good, and if you couldn't tell by my article last week, aggro is king right now. That makes Turbo Fog a solid option at the moment, even if it might not be the best long term. In short, the deck functions exactly how you might think it does. Utilize numerous Fog effects to stop opponents from sticking damage on you, all the while drawing lots more cards to find more Fogs. You can then closes out the game utilizing a Stream of Thought to chip away the opponent's deck after enough time has passed.

Beating this deck is often pretty simple if you're prepared for it. The deck can actually just lose to itself a fair amount of the time, as one unlucky draw against an aggro deck can spell certain doom as the Turbo Fog player will usually take a lethal hit if it misses on drawing another Fog. Beyond that, the answer usually lies in using countermagic well if you're a deck can run them. If you're an aggro deck that can play copies of Flaring Pain, it will prove absolutely invaluable here, so make sure you're packing a few of them.

Now anyway, here's...


Walls Combo, more affectionately known as Wonderwalls, is a creature combo deck utilizing various creatures with defender to go off, hence the name. I actually wrote about the deck a few years back and if you compare the lists, they're pretty similar at their core, so if you want a general idea of how the deck functions, I'd suggest checking out that article. Some of the newer tech on display includes Shield-Wall Sentinel as an extra tutor card, Secret Door as an additional mana sink, and Reaping the Graves to provide a way to get creatures back from the graveyard as needed.

If you're an aggro deck like Kuldotha Red, you might find yourself having a rough time with this deck. All the low cost, high toughness creatures provide a great defense to push back against the creatures trying to get through. As such, your best bet there is to pick off critical combo creatures with removal where possible until you can find an opening to push through. Other decks will want to use countermagic in much the same way. The core objective should be to stop the combo before they can go off, and once you shut that down, it should allow you to find a solid path to victory.

Gruul Ponza

If you've ever played against Ponza (aka Land Destruction) in Modern, you'll probably be familiar with this deck. In Modern, the deck revolved around ramping into an early Blood Moon to shut down opponents' strategies while you built up your board. Pauper doesn't have access to Blood Moon, though, so instead we use good old fashioned land destruction spells instead! You do this best by playing an Arbor Elf turn one, then putting a Utopia Sprawl under a Forest to then tap it, untap it with Arbor Elf, and retap it to have access to 4 mana. Then you can cast land destruction spells or further ramp.

The end goal of this deck is to eventually ramp up enough to drop a large creature or two onto the battlefield. Originally this was just Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party as you'd make good use of their Cascade abilities. In time, though, the deck would also gain other powerful options in the form of Avenging Hunter and Generous Ent. As you might expect, this deck can take some time to set up, so while it deals the best with other decks that take a while to get going, it can struggle with decks that go quick. If the Ponza player can land a turn two land destruction spell, it might prove troublesome for any deck - fast or slow.


I recently did a new write-up on this deck and it was basically an expansion on a previous article I'd written on the same archetype. Given this, I'd recommend checking out those articles for a better rundown of this archetype. The long and short of it, though, is that this deck wins by getting down cheap hexproof creatures and suiting them up with powerful auras to create a monstrous creature that's incredibly difficult to take down. If you run into this deck, your best methods of attack include edicts, well-timed enchantment removal, and even landing a board wipe prior to any auras hitting the battlefield.


Much like Bogles, I've written extensively on Elves in the past. It was my main deck of choice, and so I've even gone so far as to write a very in-depth primer series on the deck. You can find it here if interested, and you will find the earlier parts linked at the top of the article. The deck has changed a fairly decent amount in the last couple of years, mostly to compensate and deal with the higher quantities of removal and board wipes more efficiently. Still, a lot of the core concepts of those write-ups remain relevant for what to expect when you face Elves, even if some information like matchups is substantially out of date.

You may find yourself running into this deck a little bit. Elves have always been a popular creature type and it makes for a fun challenge for players. It even saw a recent uptick in play thanks to a recent MTGO Challenge that included two Elves lists in the top 8, including the winner. In reality, Elves is suffering tremendously at the hands of many of the last few years' additions to the format. Red decks have always been Elves' bane and the fact that the meta is so heavily Red makes it difficult for Elves to prevail. Couple this with how board wipes have gotten much more extensive and powerful in the last few years (ex. Breath Weapon, Drown in Sorrow, End the Festivities) and you've got yourself a really raw deal as an Elves player. If you want to win against an Elves opponent, rely heavily on these things to the best of your ability.

Goblin Combo

If you follow Magic video content, chances are you've probably seen that wildly popular YouTube short from Tolarian Community College where Spice8Rack performs an infinite loop. The combo used here utilizes Skirk Prospector sacrificing Putrid Goblin while First Day of Class is active, thereby establishing a loop that provides you unlimited mana to use any kill condition you have access to. This is Goblin Combo in action, and is a popular deck, albeit one that has proven to not be quite as competitive as some players would like.

The simple fact is that this deck is easy to disrupt. A well-timed piece of countermagic or removal can shut down the combo in an instant. Even if you don't have those, you can still use graveyard hate to prevent the Putrid Goblin from coming back. All of this is on top of the deck managing to get all its pieces together which can prove surprisingly difficult to do. Given this, there's multiple pain points for the deck, so even though it can do infinite combo shenanigans, it's one that you can find many ways to fight back against. Be cautious in your approach and you can defeat this deck no problem.

That wraps up this rundown of Pauper archetypes! I hope it helps you out a fair bit as you go play any of your events in Chicago. If you'd like a better look at decks and check out anything I didn't cover between my two articles, I'd highly recommend checking out MTGGoldfish's Pauper overview page. It won't be a perfect representation of the meta as a whole, but you might spot a few odd decks not mentioned here at all.

If you are going to MagicCon Chicago, I'll be around myself as a content creator so feel free to say hey! I will not be playing in the big Pauper Cup event myself, but I will be hanging out around the event when I have time to do so and see how the event is going, what decks are being utilized, and chat with players. Additionally, if you're not playing in the event but want to see what all the hubbub is about when it comes to Pauper, make sure to check out the panel run by myself, Gavin Verhey, and Emma Partlow on Saturday at 2:30 PM. We'll be talking all about different Pauper decks and will have a Q&A at the end as well.

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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