"A Guide to Pauper: Part I"


I recently got a rush of inspiration while reading through Reid Duke's "Guide to Legacy" articles.
I strongly believe that this specific series of articles were and still are perfect for introducing someone to the
Legacy format and that got me thinking about a new player's onboarding experience in our own format of commons.
I sure wish I had something akin to Duke's guide when I was starting out in Pauper so that will be my goal and prime example in helping new players get into the feel of things.
Firstly, I should clarify that I'm writing this piece by making the assumption that you, the reader, already know how Magic is played and the various rules guiding the game. Secondly, I'm also going to assume that you're interested in a deeper analysis of the Pauper metagame and more specifically, what you can do to become competitive in this format.

Part I: What is Pauper?

Pauper is an eternal format that is primarily played on MTGO (Magic Online) in which you can only use cards of common rarity. This includes cards that have been so called "downshifted." A downshift is when a card that has been previously printed in rarities other than common, is later printed as a common, released online, or in paper expansions. These cards are all legal in the Pauper format. Examples include: Elvish Vanguard, Abrade, Mortician Beetle, and maybe the most impactful card in recent memory, Cast Down.

All commons are included in the Pauper card pool from 1993 onwards, except for a relatively small ban list of cards that have been proven problematic for a multitude of reasons including: being single piece card advantage engines, speeding-up already powerful strategies, or just being cards that are exceptionally non-interactive or frustrating to play against.

Other cards that Pauper players get access to are cards from Commander and other supplemental products. Significant cards Pauper has been given from these products include: Thorn of the Black Rose, Palace Sentinels, and Bonder’s Ornament.

Pauper's Power level

Many people believe that a deck built entirely out of common cards would be an incoherent mess of unplayable draft trash. This is false, as many powerful cards over the years have been printed at common, including some format defining cards for Modern and most notably Legacy. This is something you’ll notice quickly when going through deck lists. Cards like Ponder, Preordain, Brainstorm, Lightning Bolt, Gurmag Angler, Mulldrifter, Fireblast, Chain Lightning, Counterspell, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and many more see Pauper play.

I’d say that Pauper fills a special place in the pantheon of MTG's major formats. It’s more powerful than Standard and can definitely beat up on some Modern decks from time to time.
Gush, Gitaxian Probe and Daze were all legal, Pauper lists could even compete with Legacy decks.

Am I forced to play blue?

Many people ask this question when looking at Pauper. While blue is the strongest colour in Pauper, (as it gives you access to clean answers like Counterspell, great tempo cards like Spellstutter Sprite, Ninja of the Deep Hours as well as the best card selection Magic has in Preordain, Ponder and Brainstorm) No, you do not have to play blue. There are a number of non-blue decks in Pauper, aggro, combo, and midrange lists that all have representation outside of blue. Burn, Boros Monarch, Orzhov Pestilence, Goblins, Mono Black Control, Bogles, and Cascading Ponza are all top tier deck lists that do not utilize blue as a colour.

What's Next?

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll be discussing the defining cards of Pauper, their homes, their power level, and what exactly makes them so important to the format. It is my hope that this series will help grow the community for a format that I love deeply and strongly feel is very underappreciated.