When it comes to Pauper, few sets have had a bigger impact than Masters sets. Eternal Masters brought Peregrine Drake, Modern Masters 2017 gave us Burning-Tree Emissary and Augur of Bolas, Iconic Masters gave us Seeker of the Way and Lead the Stampede, and so on. If there's a Masters set coming out, you can bet money that it's likely going to impact Pauper in a big way.
Now we have a new Masters set - Double Masters 2022 - right around the corner. As of this past Friday, the entire set has been fully previewed, so we can examine all the new juicy downshifts that are within it. This set brings Pauper the most new cards of any Masters set yet - 30 new cards! As is usual when it comes to Masters releases, I'm going to cover every new card. There's some real serious spice this time around, so let's dive right on in and talk some commons!
Dimir Reanimator strategies have been tried before to mixed results. Often, they'll be solid for a few weeks and then just sort of fade away. This could be due to a growing lack of interest or simply players figuring out how to hate it out more. The deck also tends to have consistency issues due to having very few decent reanimation spells at common with the main one usually being Exhume. Late to Dinner has also seen play, but not in actual Reanimator builds and more in Flicker builds.
Advanced Stitchwing is the kind of card that can really beef up a strategy like that. It's not great to cast for 5 mana, but it's not out of the question, and a 3/4 flier is rarely going to be bad. What's more, you don't actually need a reanimation spell to bring this back. You do have to pitch two cards, which is definitely a real cost, but Pauper does have enough resources that you can mitigate this a fair bit. I do think the cost is a little too high for Pauper generally and it won't quite make the cut, but it's a card players will definitely try getting to work and has had many pretty excited to brew with.
This is Mistral Singer with a Red mana in its cost in place of one generic mana with the addition of returning a spell to the top of your deck. Mistral Singer already sees no play, so if you have no spell to return, this is generally just going to be worse. Ultimately, this card lives and dies by the spells you can return from your graveyard. That means this card is going to probably look very appealing to a number of players but then when they start playing it, they may find the cards they're trying to get back aren't always the most optimal. This does have some amount of Flicker potential, but not getting the spell directly back to your hand when plenty of other creatures can already do that makes me feel pretty ho-hum on this card as a whole.
Call to the Feast
We've gotten a bunch of mass token making spells, and while this one does a decent amount, it's got some problems. The biggest I see is the fact that it's 4 mana for a couple 1/1s in Orzhov colors. Not only are most token generation decks in these colors not looking for generators outside usually 2-3 mana, the ones that are probably run Battle Screech. The spell control decks that exist (think Izzet Pieces here) won't want anything to do with this whatsoever. As such, it feels like this card just doesn't have a home. It's a nice card, but it just won't stack up.
I like Carrier Thrall. It's a bear that turns into a 1/1 you can sacrifice, which isn't too bad when you take into account aggressive Black decks and - more importantly - sacrifice decks. I think if it shows up anywhere, it'll be the latter of the two, as you can either sacrifice the Thrall itself or just let it die and get the sacrificial token instead. Definitely like this one.
We love a good free sacrifice outlet no matter the format, and Cartel Aristocrat is no exception. It was a huge player in sacrifice decks in Standard and has seen play in other formats over the years. Heck, I remember playing and enjoying it a decent bit in Pioneer with Abzan Sacrifice soon after the release of Ikoria. Sacrifice decks have always been right on the edge of being good and having a sac outlet that can easily avoid removal and blockers makes this a solid option. These sacrifice decks really need a finishing payoff, though, which this isn't necessarily that. I'm talking something like Blood Artist or Cruel Celebrant - something that can be used to finish your opponents off properly. As is, this is just another sac outlet among the bunch, and while it'll definitely bring about some fresh takes on the sacrifice archetype and will see play here and there, it won't be enough to push the strategy over the edge.
Chronicler of Heroes
If this were printed at common years ago when it was closer to the release of its original Theros set - perhaps in Iconic Masters where it appeared at uncommon - then maybe this would've been playable. Now there's so many more efficient ways to draw cards than this. You need to be in multiple colors and have a creature with a +1/+1 counter to get the card draw. A lot of times you won't even get the draw and at that point, you're just getting a three-mana 3/3 which the format already had in Centaur Healer or had better in Call of the Conclave. This overall just seems like a solid pass to me unless the stars align and we get a Selesnya deck that leans very heavily into the +1/+1 counter strategy, and even there it doesn't feel likely.
So, uh, here's some uncharted territory for Magic. Actually writing on the cards themselves during deck construction is a trip and a half. To be honest, though, even with the unique mechanics of the card, it's still terrible. It's basically a worse Guildgate as it's just a tap land that taps for two colors but lacks the gate land type. In other words, it's totally unplayable and truly is just a Limited tool where it should stay for all time.
The place this obviously seems at its best is in Goblin Combo. Early versions of the deck played Skirk Drill Sergeant - made common by MTGO's Vintage Masters - but have largely since taken it out. Generally, it was determined that you were better off using the other options already at your disposal, and cards like Goblin Matron did enough to get you to the end game on their own. Dark-Dweller Oracle is a bit better, though, as you can still use this ability in a pinch and for a much lower cost than the Drill Sergeant. What's more, you can also play non-creature spells this way, meaning you can find your Makeshift Munitions to win if you want.
Additionally, Rakdos Sacrifice isn't quite a thing yet, but it's gotten a ton of support recently and has gotten people talking. Body Dropper was a good recent get, and now you also have this and Flameblade Artist (which I'll get to soon). Basically, there's a number of players who think we're getting the right level of support where you can start to get a nice brew going. That leads me to feel that regardless of the level of playability this has in Goblins itself, this rare-to-common downshift is no doubt going to find a home in Pauper.
Dreg Mangler is such a cool downshift. It's not a card that necessarily has a home, but is definitely at the power level where it could be. Golgari Sacrifice decks like it, although I think you're gonna be hard pressed to want to sacrifice a big 3/3 like this unless it's being removed. It also has the potential to create new builds as well, as I saw a bit of buzz about trying a deck with the likes of this and Experiment One. Definitely one to keep an eye on as the format evolves with the release of this set.
Of all the downshifts brought with this set, Experiment One is easily one of the coolest. I've definitely played many an Experiment One over the years and if you've never played it, this thing gets big fast. In Pauper, though, I think it'll often stay small. Stompy's been out of the picture overall for a bit now, but the fact that you can put this down as a 1/1 and have it turn into a 2/2 right away makes it a pretty easy shoe-in for the deck as another cheap one-mana 2/2. While it usually won't get bigger, you can still get the regeneration online with Hunger of the Howlpack. That can be extra helpful when fighting too in addition to just attacking.
I also think there's a lot of room for innovation with this card and it's definitely an option that can lead to its own build arounds. We've seen a lot of support for +1/+1 counter effects enter the format over the last few years and this can help that a bunch. That's to say nothing of various Gruul Aggro decks that have cropped up over time as well. It's not the biggest of flashiest card out there, but it's certainly a powerful one and one that can very much find a nice home within the format of commons.
Rakdos Sacrifice decks have gotten a lot of support lately. Between this and Body Dropper in New Capenna - not to mention potent cards like Deadly Dispute - there's getting to be a solid critical mass of tools the archetype can use and use well. Fireblade Artist is especially no slouch, allowing you to attack with it the moment it hits the board and continually sacrifice creatures to throw at your opponents' face. With multiples of these on the board, it puts opponents on really quick clocks. These clocks can be so quick, in fact, that I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see this in simply more of a Rakdos Aggro strategy as opposed to a Sacrifice one. This card is great, though, and I definitely expect to see it in the future.
We just had Circle of the Land Druid and there's been no shortage of self-mill options in the format. This one's a little more aggressive, but the one real self-mill strategy (Tortured Existence) usually doesn't want to be a super aggressive deck and durdles a lot. If you want to try a more aggressive TortEx build, then maybe this is worth a try, but I don't think this card is going to make it in the format.
I really like this card in that it does something we've never really had in the format before. That alone could end up warranting it as a new build around in the format. In all likelihood, though, 4 mana is a bit too much for a format like Pauper - even with strong stats like this has - and I don't think it'll cut it. Stompy and Bogles are the two decks that could maybe benefit from a card like this, but the reality is that those decks can struggle to get up to 3 mana as is. Getting up to four consistently enough to warrant including this? Not a chance.
Izzet Charm feels like such a huge addition to Pauper. Killing creatures, countering spells, or just filtering cards gives you such great flexibility in such a small package. Yes, there're better ways to do each of these individually in Izzet colors when it comes to Pauper, but the flexibility offered here leads me to think we'll definitely see it. I imagine decks running this won't run a full set of them and it'll show up as a two-of or even a one-of just to give a little bit of that flexibility while allowing the individual cards that do these effects better to shine on their own. Expect to see this one quite a bit.
Jeskai Elder is a really interesting card. It's a cheap prowess option that allows you to get lots of card filtration going. With the inevitability of an Izzet Prowess type of build thanks to the printing of Monastery Swiftspear, you'd think there might be a home for this. Do you really want this over a Kiln Fiend or Festival Crasher, though? What about a Spellstutter Sprite or Ninja of the Deep Hours? I think there're too many other cards fighting for this space for this to make an impact. I do like to see this kind of space explored when it comes to downshift and it is a great option for inclusion into the format, but I'm not entirely sure it'll make the cut in spite of that. I do think it has a small shot if the stars align, though, so I'd love for someone to prove me wrong when it comes to this card.
Lava Coil is a really awesome inclusion into Pauper that unfortunately probably won't end up cutting it. The problem is the two decks you'd currently be trying to stop with it - Affinity and Goblin Combo - both will just sacrifice the creatures you're trying to remove and do so in a way that actually benefits them. This could be with Makeshift Munitions, Deadly Dispute, or Skirk Prospector in the case of Goblin Combo. To make matters worse, Lava Coil is a sorcery, making it a tough sell as you can't use it in response to anything either.
I think what's most likely to happen here is that players are going to try it and it'll eventually disappear from the format. Many players will still think it's fine but will probably realize eventually that most of the removal that already exists in the format is just better. That or they'll just get burned by their opponents sacrificing in response one too many times. Either way, I expect some players to run it for a bit, but it'll exit just as quickly as it came, only showing up once in a while going forward.
I still remember the hype that surrounded Wight of Precinct Six when it got a downshift in Iconic Masters. The problem with that card, though, is that it's too reliant on what creatures are in your opponents' graveyards. There's only so much you can do to control that, and in fact, there's plenty of times where it's impossible. Creatureless decks or decks with very few creatures exist in the format, and so Wight just ends up being not good enough because you can't pump it up.
Liliana's Elite, on the other hand, lets you work off of your own graveyard. That's an excellent ability and lets you self-mill to fill your graveyard and cast this as an absolutely massive creature. 3 mana can be a lot in Pauper, but it's a lot less if you're able to mill this into your graveyard and get it back with the help of Unearth. Right now, there isn't exactly a home for this. It's definitely a great build around, however, and I definitely think we'll see brewers tinkering with this to find a way to give it a home soon enough.
This is cool and all, but Ardent Elementalist is right there. You want it to keep entering the battlefield, not sacrificing it. The goal is obviously to get this for aggressive builds in that you play it, attack, get some damage in, have it die, and get back a bolt or something. In practice, though, it's way too expensive, doesn't have haste, and is generally impractical. An easy skip.
This one's pretty spicy. Detaining permanents is sweet and can really make for some big game in decks like Flicker. Now, I know what you're thinking: this isn't what you want to be doing to stop creatures and you'd be better off playing something like Stonehorn Dignitary. You'd be right in thinking that, but what this offers is flexibility beyond stopping creatures from attacking or blocking. It also stops permanents in general - as long as they aren't lands - from activating abilities. This includes shutting down cards like Makeshift Munitions, Skirk Prospector, Dark-Dweller Oracle, tons of cards in Walls Combo and Elves, Thermo-Alchemist, and so on. There're lots of things this can stop while also being a solid evasive attacker. I think a lot of people have overlooked this card so far in favor of many of the other obvious heavy hitters, but I definitely think this is a card that can very much end up as a role player in the format.
Might of Old Krosa
Infect has been a popular fringe deck for a long time. Since the deck lost Invigorate, there's always been players trying to make the deck work in a modern capacity. It shows up once in a blue moon but rarely gets there. Something like Might of Old Krosa can be a very real game changer in a deck like that and with the perfect draw can even enable solid turn two kills. The deck has some consistency issues compared to other formats where the archetype is legal, so I'm not sure this necessarily brings it back to the top tier, but I fully expect this to get tried in Infect. It'll have to prove it can make an impact, but I've no doubt that if it does it will be a powerful force in the format.
I love Militia Bugler as a card. I played it in Humans in Modern for a bit and I believe I also ran it in Standard around the time of its release as well. In the case of Pauper, though, I think it's less likely to show up in aggressive strategies and will be more for creature combo decks. Bugler finds virtually every key creature you can think of in Flicker strategies, which is a huge deal. Even if you whiff once, flickering it will easily find you a target eventually - especially if you Ephemerate and are able to flicker it twice. I could also see this in some unrelated decks, but I definitely think Flicker is going to be the main home. It does find virtually every creature that gets played in most current Boros lists, so it could show up there too.
WOW! The moment I saw this, I audibly started shouting several expletives. This card is powerful. Like, format warpingly powerful. This is one of those cards that would constantly show up on peoples' downshift wishlists that you'd look at, see it, and say that it's not a realistic option for a downshift. In spite of that, it's here and it's real. Pauper is getting Monastery Swiftspear.
Swiftspear is an absolute house in virtually every format it's legal in. Pioneer, Modern, even Legacy see this card just tearing it up. It gets in for damage quickly on its own and very rapidly gets massive for tremendous amounts of damage at breakneck speed. It's enabled Prowess, Blitz, and Delver decks and I've no doubt that this card will end up doing the same thing when it comes to Pauper. Izzet Blitz, Mono-Red Blitz, and Izzet Faeries will all benefit tremendously from this card, and it'll probably push new strategies like Boros Aggro/Prowess and possibly be a tool for Gruul Aggro lists if they end up running enough spells.
Simply put: Monastery Swiftspear is about to take over the format. If ever there was a card that could shake up Pauper, this is it. Strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride.
Big Score was just recently printed in Streets of New Capenna and is just a strictly better version of this card, being an instant and not a sorcery. Play that if you really want this effect.
As a Hill Giant with menace, it's not terrible, but not great for Pauper either. If it had haste, maybe, but as is, it's just not going to be played. Before you say something about the bestow, I should ask, "what about it?" It's 7 mana to enchant it to something. It's not going to be played. Simple as that.
This could be a neat top end for a deck like White Weenies or a way to buff Battle Screech tokens. 4 mana is a lot, though, and even though there's some synergy with cards like Kor Skyfisher, I just don't see this making the cut over existing options in the format. I'd rather just take out my opponent with Rally the Peasants over this.
In its tenure in Standard, Seekers' Squire always played better than it looked. It was either a 1/2 that drew you a card or a 2/3 that gave you information and helped you set up your next turn, all of which was actually quite solid for 2 mana. I think the tough part is going to be finding this a home, but I definitely think it has one somewhere in the format. I simply don't see it in Mono-Black Control and existing Black Aggro lists probably don't want this because of the 1/2 side. Some creature-oriented Pestilence lists may be a fan of it, but those may just opt to go with existing choices instead.
Tenth District Legionnaire
I originally had this whole write-up prepared talking about how this card was something that players would be trying for Heroic but probably wouldn't be good enough. While I stand by a lot of that - basically the clunky mana required for it probably doesn't make a Boros list better than Mono-White - everything changed the moment Monastery Swiftspear was previewed. Suddenly, there's a lot of potential for this in a Boros Aggro build alongside the likes of Swiftspear and Seeker of the Way, much like the lists that exist in Pioneer.
Now, obviously, these kinds of decks would be different. I think it's going to be less of a Heroic build and more of a deck that focuses on aggression, pumping via Prowess, and sometimes utilizes Heroic strategies for a couple cards such as Emerge Unscathed, Gods Willing, and Ancestral Anger to push attacks through. You might even see cards like Kiln Fiend and Festival Crasher in these lists like the Mono-Red Blitz lists that have shown up in the past year. Either way, I have to imagine this card will become a house in a post-Double Masters 2022 Pauper.
If this had been downshifted some number of years ago, I'd be a lot higher on it. As of now, we've gotten several copies of the relevant effect on several other cards at common. Just in the last couple years alone we've gotten Crowned Ceratok, Pridemalkin, Gnarled Colony, and Duskshell Crawler. You can make the Tuskguard Captain itself bigger but it's too slow and largely feels unlikely to be actually relevant to most games in a format like Pauper.
This is a pretty potent downshift, actually. The mana cost and stats aren't that great, which makes this look a little deceptive. However, consider that Bleak Coven Vampires already sees a decent amount of fringe play. This has a similar drain ability and comparable stats. The drain is a little smaller, but that's a fine tradeoff for not needing metalcraft - not to mention how you get flying with the Sovereign. The other benefit here is the added utility of Flicker decks. With this, you have a solid flicker target that can reliably drain opponents repeatedly while also attacking for solid damage on its own. This one will definitely see play, if only in smaller numbers.
The closest real comparison to this in Pauper is probably Penumbra Spider. This doesn't make an extra creature when it dies, but it does provide you with some extra toughness that avoids Galvanic Blast and gains you some life. It also counts for tribal too. In this case, that probably means Elves as that's likely one of the few places I can see this making it into the sideboard. Stompy and Slivers don't really care for this - especially at 5 mana - and Walls already has enough big butts. Elves has the synergies you want, likely gains life given how easy your creatures are to pick off, and blocks in a meaningful way. I think a lot of existing options are better for the deck, but every so often Penumbra Spider has its time in the sun so I think Webweaver Changeling will from time to time as well. It'll just be a rarity when it does.
That's a wrap for this set review! There's a ridiculous amount of power in these cards and tons of the options here will no doubt see tons of play. There's been a number of players looking for a format shakeup and I think it's pretty safe to say that this is the kind of thing that will do just that. I can't wait to see what cards show up and to see what new decks and strategies make an appearance. Pauper's about to change big time, so hold onto your butts and get ready! It's a wild time to be playing this format.