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Exploring Pauper Commander: Old Flitterfang


It's my job to keep an eye out for new Magic previews. No, seriously, it is - or at least in part. That means I need to keep my eyes peeled for the latest and greatest during preview seasons. So when the official Weekly MTG stream fired up on August 22, I had a rough idea of what to expect. We'd probably be seeing the new set booster exclusive Commander cards as well as the new Jumpstart cards. Turns out I was correct! What I wasn't expecting, though, was how incredible those Jumpstart cards would prove to be.

This was a truly weird and unusual circumstance this time around, as Wizards has opted to discontinue Jumpstart packs that are linked to new Standard releases. Despite this, the designs proved to be truly endearing enough that they decided to keep them in the set, even though they were getting rid of the product they were originally meant for. It's not hard to see why when you have cards like Food Coma with it's adorable bumblesheep and Intrepid Trufflesnout, which bears the truly incredible adventure spell name of "Go Hog Wild." The one that truly caught my eye, though, was when they got around to the Black cards and showed us Old Flitterfang.

Old Flitterfang

By the time we saw Old Flitterfang, a large chunk of the set had already been shown off. I was surprised and impressed by how deep Wizards decided to go on the rats theme this time around and was sharing it quite a lot with friends. Then they showed this card and I couldn't help but immediately shout:


Seriously, just reading that typeline alone had me absolutely sold on this card. Then I read the design and thought that it was actually quite interesting. This and Obyra were truly the main two creatures that made me want to write up a handful of Pauper Commander lists. Obyra is pretty obvious why, given the prevalence of Faeries in the traditional 60-card Pauper format. Old Flitterfang has none of that pedigree, however, and instead it just seemed like a cool creature with an interesting build-around set up to play with. Sacrifice decks always rule, but this one has some additional uniqueness by making food tokens and offering artifact sacrifice synergy as well as the creature-focused side. It seemed like the perfect fit for Pauper Commander and I couldn't wait to put something together for them.

Let's have a look at the list and dive in!

I have covered no shortage of sacrifice themed decks over the years. In fact, there was a brief period when covering some stuff around Commander Legends that I practically couldn't stop talking about sacrifice nonsense. What I found fun about working on Old Flitterfang by comparison was how much more inventive you need to get with your sacrificing. Due to the limitations of only utilizing commons, it's difficult to find ways to recur cards repeatedly and make use of them. Compare this to traditional Commander where you have creatures that bring themselves back like Bloodghast and Bloodsoaked Champion, or the utility of cards like Phyrexian Reclamation.

Sanitarium Skeleton
Cauldron Familiar
Tortured Existence

Very few of these effects exist in the world of commons only. In fact, when doing my initial brainstorm, only two reliable ones came to mind: Sanitarium Skeleton and Tortured Existence. Both of these cards provide you with a constant flow of creatures to sacrifice. They even work well together, as you can pick the Skeleton back from the graveyard only to pitch it to Tortured Existence and get back something else. The optimal play there is usually to grab something along the lines of Lazotep Reaver, since you get multiple creatures for the price of one. You can then either sacrifice both creatures at once, or spread out the sacrificing between your turn and your opponents' for extra food tokens. Cauldron Familiar - legal thanks to Jumpstart - is another that quickly comes to mind for its efficiency, as you can sacrifice it to Old Flitterfang and then bring it back with the food token at the end of the turn.

There's a couple other options I considered but ultimately passed on. One of the more obvious methods here is by utilizing the Dredge mechanic. Unfortunately, though, only one card can utilize the mechanic in this deck and that's Stinkweed Imp, which has too high of a cost for too little payoff to be worthwhile without further graveyard synergies. The other would be to do something like looping Gravedigger with another similar card such as Cadaver Imp or Dutiful Attendant. This seems very convoluted to me, and while it's one possible way to build the deck, I ended up deciding against it myself.

Instead, I sought to focus a bit more on synergy or generally decent abilities. For example, I liked pulling cards that had a tendency to do a singular effect upon entering the battlefield but otherwise weren't super great, making for great sacrifice fodder. Usually this comes in the form of creatures that draw you cards or make opponents discard when they enter the battlefield. This includes the likes of Burglar Rat, Nezumi Informant, and Dusk Legion Zealot. There's plenty of ways to sacrifice creatures aside from the Commander as well, thanks to various Fleshbag Marauder effects and general sacrificial goodness like Vermin Gorger or Cirith Ungol Patrol. If the aforementioned recurrable creatures don't do the trick, you can always happily fall back on good old Lab Rats or even Deathspore Thallid to help you spit out creatures with solid regularity.

There's a healthy number of sacrificing synergies as well. Mortician Beetle and Voracious Vermin will both get bigger the more stuff you sacrifice, as can Carrion Feeder - provided it's what does the sacrificing. You can even turn the sacrifices into damage or life gain. Both Nadier's Nightblade and Falkenrath Noble act as Blood Artist-type effects, whittling down opposing life totals as you send more and more creatures to the bin. As both gain you life as well, you can do even more damage with the aid of Marauding Blight-Priest. The Blight-Priest also has synergy with the food tokens the commander makes, the helpful Deathgreeter, and a couple of repeatedly draining enchantments in the form of Dogged Pursuit and Ill-Gotten Inheritance.

Falkenrath Noble
Blood Fountain
Cranial Plating

It should also be noted that the creatures aren't the only things you can benefit from sacrificing either. Old Flitterfang - as well as a handful of other cards in the list - make tons of Food tokens. They're simple and effective, but a bit boring. Instead, let's take a page out of Constructed Pauper's book. Ichor Wellspring provides you with a way to draw multiple cards, while Lembas is a sacrificial source that keeps coming back as games go long. There's also Prized Statue and Blood Fountain. Both of these cards provide you with multiple artifacts to sacrifice and give you some additional value to boot, with one giving you some extra mana and the other giving you hand filtration and creature recursion. This isn't the only comparison to 60-card Pauper in this list, but the other major one is a little bit more forbidden knowledge.

Like with my Obyra list I talked about two weeks ago, one of the more fun elements of getting to cover Pauper Commander is the ability to use cards banned in competitive 60-card Pauper. This time, we've got four such cards included in the mix. The first two are Underdark Explorer and Vicious Battlerager. Both turned out to be incredibly strong by way of turboing out both creatures for quick kills. In a multiplayer-oriented Commander game, however, these are still good but are less reliable with three opponents vying for control of the initiative versus one. Then there's two artifact-oriented cards in Cranial Plating and Disciple of the Vault. Both were banned due to the potency of Affinity breaking them in half, but in a deck like this they're quite reasonable. There aren't many artifacts to speak of in the core deck, however Old Flitterfang's token generating ability gives you enough stuff to give both a decent amount of oomph while not pushing enough shenanigans so as to be oppressive.

What makes decks like this so much fun is the variety of ways you can go ahead and build them up. Make no mistake: this is far from the only way to build a deck like this. In fact, I had quite a few awesome cards like Caligo Skin-Witch and Ichor Shade that I cut from the list, or even small things like additional creatures that generate tokens. I liked the more general variety at play here and went with it. The beauty, though, is the deck is so cheap - around $40 by my estimation - that it's incredibly easy to mix and match to try new things. Regardless of how you play and build your sacrifice deck, however, I can guarantee that it should spell nothing short of a good time at your next Commander night. Take it for a spin and see if this one is right for you.

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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