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Commander Masters Pauper Review: Red, Green, and the Rest

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Commander Masters, aka Pauper Masters, aka Pauper Horizons is on our doorstep this week! The cards are already legal in paper and they come to Magic Online starting tomorrow. Last week I brought you the first half of my Pauper review for the set and there were a ton of heaters in the White, Blue, and Black slots! Today we're going to be covering all of the rest of it. It's going to be quite a bit smaller this time around, but that's because the bulk of it was front loaded in those earlier colors.

There's not really a whole lot to say that wasn't said last week, so let's just cut to the chase and dive on into what you all are here for: the commons!

Blood Aspirant

Blood Aspirant

Initially, a number of people - myself included - compared this to something like Body Dropper, noting the similarities in being both a sacrifice outlet and getting bigger from sacrificing. In truth, it's more notably closer to Gixian Infiltrator - a card that saw a reasonable amount of play in Affinity for a bit given the amount of sacrificing the deck tends to do. Blood Aspirant fills a similar role, except this can both do the sacrificing itself and simultaneously pick off small creatures in the process. This is definitely a fairly potent card to add into the format, filling existing roles in an arguably better way while also benefiting lesser utilized archetypes as well (in this case, Rakdos Sacrifice). It's likely not going to dominate the format, but it's safe to say this card is likely to become a solid role player for Pauper.

Cyclops Electromancer

Cyclops Electromancer

If this hit players, then we'd really be talking. Five mana to bolt creatures on a relatively fragile body is not where I want to be here, though. I'd like to say there's some way you can utilize Flicker silliness here, but at that point, just use an Archaeomancer to get back cards like better spells like Lightning Bolt. You'll get way more value that way.

Dwarven Hammer

Dwarven Hammer

One of the best little cards that's come up in the last few sets has been Barbed Batterfist out of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. This card made a very strong showing in Boros Synthesizer to get a creature on the battlefield and then bounce it with either Kor Skyfisher or Glint Hawk, leaving you with a 2/2 token. From there, you can replay it for more value. It's hard not to look at Dwarven Hammer and feel like you can do something similar. The unfortunate problem, though, is that the Hammer has a far higher up-front cost, and when it comes to competitive Constructed formats, less is usually more - especially in a case like this. Stick with the Batterfist.

Guttersnipe

Guttersnipe

Guttersnipe is a really powerful downshift! Pinger Burn has already been a fairly potent deck in Pauper for a bit now, but the question is: will this make the cut there? I'd honestly bet no, which might seem weird, but it's not that crazy when you consider there's already a plethora of cheaper pingers in Kessig Flamebreather, Thermo-Alchemist, Firebrand Archer, and even Erebor Flamesmith. By casting those at a cheaper rate, you can more quickly fire off the fast damage, even if Guttersnipe can do more over time. Instead, I'd bet players try brewing new Storm-style builds using fast mana to spit out Guttersnipes quickly and then follow it up with more ritual-style effects. The big question is whether or not it can get enough card draw going to be consistent, but I'm sure we'll find out soon over the next few weeks.

Rapacious One

Rapacious One

I tend to talk quite a bit in my articles about PreDH, a form of Commander that utilizes a card pool predating the first Commander precons. A reason I love talking about it is that it takes me back to when I came back into the game during the Scars of Mirrodin block largely with the help of Commander. At the time, I would stuff Rapacious One into a number of decks. It's a good beater and makes a ton of tokens, which made for a great time in Commander. In Pauper, though? This probably isn't doing so much given just how much that up front cost is. Maybe you should show it that Commander love in Pauper Commander, though.

Spitebellows

Spitebellows

This past weekend saw the Rakdos Evoke deck - commonly referred to as Rakdos Scam - take down the Modern Pro Tour in Barcelona. That deck relies on using the free evoke creatures and then casting something like a Feign Death on them to bring them back, get a second triggered ability activation, and then you're left with a powerful creature. Spitebellows can fill a similar role in Pauper, being a cheap evoker that can pick off opposing creatures no matter the size (with a few small exceptions) and leave you with a big hulking creature for them to contend with. The uses for this will be narrow and will be largely limited to Flicker-style strategies, but make no mistake: there is some real power here!

Sulfurous Blast

Sulfurous Blast

Last week I was kind of apathetic when it came to Drown in Sorrow. This is because, frankly, we've gotten so many board wipes over the last few years. When I say that, I mean cards like Fiery Cannonade, Breath Weapon, Arms of Hadar, Suffocating Fumes, End the Festivities, and Smash to Dust. All of that's on top of classics like Evincar's Justice, Pestilence, Electrickery, Blazing Volley, Swirling Sandstorm, and Krark-Clan Shaman - most of which still see play today to varying extents. So basically, it's good and definitely a higher amount, but only for very specific decks and if a deck can play Red, there's usually just better options.

Sulfurous Blast is just another in a long line of those sweet Red options. The key element is that while this card can still be cast at instant speed for two damage, you can instead cast it at sorcery speed to deal three damage and take care of problematic creatures as a result. The one downside to this is that it requires that you use two Red mana as opposed to just one, which can definitely be taxing on your mana. Three damage is a big step up over two, though, so if there's a deck that can utilize this well, it can be a new gold standard for board wipes in the format.

Crash of Rhino Beetles

Crash of Rhino Beetles

This card was bizarre to see at rare in a Commander precon because of how bland and generic it was. It's a cute reference, calling back to the old Crash of Rhinos card from Mirage, but it was always seen as a sort of a failure of a design in its original release. In some ways, it highlighted just how rough the Lord Windgrace deck was. It's just as bizarre seeing it come down all the way from a rare to a common. It's the sort of thing you'd expect to see maybe at uncommon given just how big it can get, but common? I mean, okay, sure.

Let's be real here: there's just too much effort required to make this actually work. Most decks are not going to get to ten lands. Hell, most Pauper decks I see tend to barely even run twenty. This effect makes it not worth reanimating, as the whole point of Reanimator strategies is cheating on mana in the first place. Beyond that, what decks are you really putting it in? How are you getting that many lands? Even if you get that many lands, how are you keeping this around when there's so much premium removal in the format that's not just damage dealing? Even a meager bounce spell can keep this at bay. It's a really neat and interesting downshift, but it's simultaneously just unplayable in the format.

Crawling Infestation

Crawling Infestation

The once per turn clause really hurts this, but this is a way to continually generate tons of value. The most obvious slot here is something like Tortured Existence, as a way to get extra creatures and speed up your creature churn a little bit in the process. It's not the greatest and isn't terribly exciting, but there's certainly potential for where it might land.

Rot Shambler

Rot Shambler

I've noted quite a bit at how much tools sacrifice strategies continue to get and the same thing continues here. Rot Shambler is a fairly unexciting card, but it is another creature that will get stronger the more things you sacrifice. While it definitely feels like we're leaning more toward Rakdos Sacrifice builds with recent additions, Golgari has always been an old favorite so this is more likely to show up in those flavored builds as opposed to Blood Aspirant in the Rakdos ones.

Skysnare Spider

Skysnare Spider

It's a mediocre ramp/reanimation target even among a set with an already high number of mediocre ramp/reanimation targets. Easy pass.

Brass Knuckles

Brass Knuckles

Over the last couple Masters sets, there's been a pretty clear push to make something happen with equipment. We tend to get at least one or two actual equipment downshifted as well as some minor other support like when the first Double Masters came with Kazuul's Toll Collector. In the case of Brass Knuckles, it's an interesting way to push double strike in those kinds of decks. Unfortunately, it also costs four mana, making it way too expensive to use reliably in a competitive Constructed format like Pauper. I saw a few suggestions of Boros Synthesizer decks making use of this, but I don't see it, again because the cost is too much for the value you're getting out of it. I think it's going to be best in Pauper Commander, where I've also seen people getting excited for this one, but on the competitive side it doesn't stand a chance.

Campfire

Campfire

Most people are very quickly writing this one off due to the Commander text. Hell, I even did that myself at first. When you read beyond that initial line, however, you'll find that this card actually shuffles your graveyard back into the library. We don't have too many instances of this kind of effect, namely only Clear the Mind, Feldon's Cane, and - to a lesser degree - Devious Cover-Up. There might be something I'm forgetting but the long and short of it is that these shuffle effects are quite the rarity. Is this better than the others? Marginally, since you can gain life as needed, but it's still not a particularly great card. These effects are used incredibly rarely in the format already, so it's neat to have this and you might infrequently see it pop up, but I wouldn't put too much stock in its utility, even if it's better than people will first give it credit for.

Firemind Vessel

Firemind Vessel

We haven't really seen a four-mana rock that taps for two colors before that I can think of, so I'm curious to see if this will actually be played anywhere. The fact that it comes into play tapped and the fact that there's already also a number of two- and three-mana rocks that see no play doesn't give me a lot of hope for this one, though. It is, however, a card for Pauper Commander players to get absolutely jazzed about.

Vulshok Battlegear

Vulshok Battlegear

Brass Knuckles might have an outside shot at some use, but Vulshok Battlegear? Absolutely no way. No chance you're paying six mana for a meager +3/+3. There're tons of other better and cheaper equipment I'd happily play over this. Even in something like a Cube, I'd much rather try playing other things if I could, because this is just too much investment to get a decent return on it.


That about wraps up yet another big Pauper review and, boy, I wasn't kidding when I said the cards were very much front loaded this time around. Red got a decent few playables in the likes of Blood Aspirant, Guttersnipe, and Sulfurous Blast, but the Green and Colorless cards certainly leave a bit to be desired. This is especially true of the Green cards, which many Pauper players felt got the short end of the stick comparatively by only receiving a meager four options. I personally think that a lot of this was due to so many key Commander staples being in Green that they leaned on those for Limited, and thus it left less slots open for downshifts as Limited tends to take priority. Plus if you're a Commander player, you'll never say no to more copies of Kodama's Reach. What we did get is still really good, and it'll be exciting to see the decks people brew with the latest downshifts!

Now, as one final note, I have some news for how I'll be producing these reviews going forward. Typically, I've preferred to cover as many cards as possible, which is something that most people seem to be fans of. This allows me to give a fairly comprehensive overview, noting strong cards, decent cards, potential long-term contenders, and then shutting down cards some people will perceive as good. Unfortunately, I've been a bit unhappy with splitting the articles across two separate weeks. As a result, I'll be slimming down my future review articles to focus more on the cards that are likely to see immediate impact, as well as an odd couple of other cards as needed.

Some people will like this, some won't. I've gotten reader feedback over the years that some people like how I do it, some wish I'd cover less. Normally in the case of a Masters set like this, I would cover each card because there were so few, but obviously it was still so big and with so many relevant cards, it ended up across two pieces. I probably could have cut down on a few of the cards, and so I will be doing just that in the future. Starting with my Wilds of Eldraine review in just a few short weeks, my reviews will be just one piece. You may like this, you may not, but regardless, I hope you come along for the ride and have a great time.

Thanks as always for reading!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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