This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Peasant Rebellion

By MAX aka MAXWELLIAN2000
Format Notes: Pauper decks are 99 cards and a general.  Peasant decks are 94 commons, 5 uncommons and a general.  See http://wiki.mtgsalvation.com/article/Pauper_Magic and http://wiki.mtgsalvation.com/article/Peasant_Magic.  Additionally, the best Pauper reference site I have found by far is pdcmagic.com. That’s a significant community they’ve got going over there, and their FAQ page is golden.  (Peasant though, is a much less charted territory, with this thread on the EDH forums leading the charge: http://forums.dragonhighlander.net/EDH_Forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=915

While the two formats are certainly different, it’s fair to say that what is generally good in Pauper is likely to be good in Peasant because of the high percentage of commons either way.  And as you might guess, the Peasant deck building process can involve infusing a Pauper deck with 5 killer uncommons.  If all this is glaringly obvious and I need to recalibrate my perspective accordingly, please so advise.  Thank you, and please drive through.

I’m pretty sure I speak for the majority of Commander players when I say that Blue is the most powerful color in the format.  I know a lot of folks like CommanderCast’s own Matt who believe that Black and Green are vying to stay in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, and struggle to remember that Magic even has a fifth color.  As a Green mage at heart, I hate to say it, but the reality is that if your general doesn’t have Blue in it’s color identity, it’s probably going to be an uphill battle against one who does (and this is coming from the former owner of a completely broken Ghave, Guru of Spores deck that can at least hold its own against big bad blue).

So, what to do if you’re like me and want to play non-blue generals?  Yes, a less nonsensical ban list (and yes, it does deserve a double-negative) would no doubt help, but let’s face it, blue is broken, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.  Blue’s inherent advantage is definitely one of the motivators for my vacation to Pauperville.  I was thinking, “maybe a format without Consecrated Sphinx will be more fair!”

Well, there’s no Consecrated Sphinx, but there is Rhystic Study.  And Mulldrifter.  And Capsize.  Believe me, the list goes on.  No other color can match the sheer number of Commander playables at common (think Trinket Mage, Foresee, and Deep Analysis).  And yes, if something is good in Commander, odds are that it is a Pauper staple.  Even on our vacation to Pauperville and Peasantown, Blue is king.

So, are non-Blue generals screwed in Pauper formats just like in standard Commander?  (Waiting for lightning bolt to strike….and we’re good)  I had a foot in that camp after my Karador, Ghost Chieftain G/B/W deck took repeated bashings from our group’s standard bearer, the Damia, Sage of Stone G/B/U Good Stuff we discussed here featuring the aforementioned nastiness along with stalwart mechanics Buyback and Transmute.  Buyback is particularly brutal against non-Blue decks that are unable to answer with counter magic and forced to rely on  things like instant sacrifice triggers or spot removing their own creatures to answer a Capsize. How about uncounterable tutors to fetch your Capsize?  Perplex and Drift of Phantasms, thank you very much.  Then it’s, “Capsize and buyback?”, which is almost as annoying as its Rhystic Study counterpart, “did you pay for that?”  And then they do it again.  Was my vacation to Pauperville to be ruined by the very evil I thought I was escaping?

After considerations of throwing up the white flag and working with my Esper deck instead, I remembered something I had forgotten after playing so much Commander these past couple of years.  See, when I used to play more Magic that relied on skill rather than on who has Sol Ring in hand, like post-Skullclamp and pre-Jace, the Mind Sculptor Standard, rogue decks could win.  They didn’t always, but they could.  Why?  Because the options were diverse enough, but at the same time limited enough, that serious deckbuilding effort sometimes resulted in wins against the “best” decks.

The concept is this: synergy trumps power.  Through incremental card advantage generated by certain cards’ particular interactions with other certain cards (think archetypes like tribal, tokens), a wide variety of decks should be able to compete as long as enough deck building skill and resources are invested.

So, is that the case in Pauper?  Can synergy trump power?  Or are we headed toward a big bad blue world even here on our vacation?

After a bit of searching, both on the web and in the old noggin, I remembered that Graft and Persist are pretty good together in light of rule where +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters cancel each other out.   Those abilities, rules text side by side, should be enough to see some potential:

Graft X (This creature comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on it. Whenever another creature comes into play, you may move a +1/+1 counter from this creature onto it.)

Persist (When this creature is put into a graveyard from play, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to play under its owner’s control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

In other words, if a Persist creature with no -1/-1 counters and a Graft creature are on the battlefield together, and the Persist creature goes to the graveyard via removal, sac or combat, the persist guy comes back at full strength while the graft guy only loses a counter.  The Persist/Graft interaction is particularly exciting in a format where pure card draw is scarce, and repeated card advantage from a single card is even more important than in standard Commander (where this is a more regular occurrence, *cough* Consecrated Sphinx *cough*).

A quick search yielded four Persist creatures at common in these colors: Safehold Elite, Rendclaw Trow, Aerie Ouphes and Kithkin Spellduster.  Because I was initially trying to use Gift of the Deity as a quasi-Wrath effect and since Shield of the Oversoul is amazing, the Elite and the Trow were at least somewhat palatable (the Trow more than the Elite).  But the Ouphes and the Spellduster would allow for repeated sacrificing without relying on token creatures, if I just happened to want to do that for some reason (read: c-c-c-c-combo).

It should be mentioned that the quick search for Persist really was quick because I played a TON of limited during Shadowmoor/Eventide, and I owned and was familiar with all the relevant Persist creatures all the way up to Woodfall Primus.  But I hardly played during the last half of Ravnica, so I couldn’t even name one Graft creature and only had a vague idea about Graft’s specifics.  So when it turned out that common Graft creatures grant two of the most important creature abilities in the format, namely trample and regeneration, I was pleasantly surprised.  I bring to you:

Sporeback Troll
Cytospawn Shambler

Add those to the reach-enabling Aquastrand Spider, and we have three playable graft creatures in color.

So at this point, we could get the Kithkin Spellduster on the field with a Graft guy and control the board’s enchantments for {W}1 until the Graft counters run out, or control the sky with Aerie Ouphes under the same conditions.  Any Persist guy makes for an intimidating blocker.  Plus, Karador obviously would allow us to replay our guys to replenish the counters and reset Persist.

The most obvious conclusion to draw is that the Persist creatures have become extraordinarily, well, persistent.  Beyond combat, we can take advantage of this resilience with a sac outlet or two.  This is where Fanatical Devotion comes in.  In a format where most mass removal is based on damage, and there is lots of targeted removal, regeneration is good.  This card gives it to your whole army.  And although Ashnod’s Altar (printed at common in Chronicles) has become as prevalent as Lightning Greaves in my standard Commander builds, it makes an appearance here based on synergies alone; saccing automatically recurring creatures for 2 mana a pop seems good.  All you Johnnys out there can see where this card really takes us, but we’ll get there in a minute.

Finally, if things are going to the graveyard, it would be nice to have something benefit us for doing so.  Although picking are slim, there surely is Sadistic Glee, another card from Tempest that along with Capsize, should have been a rarity or two higher.  Combine that with the in-color and usually awesome Totem-Guide Hartebeest and Auramancer, and we have ways to find and recur this key piece.

OK, time for some fun, specific interactions.  Keep in mind that even though the majority of the deck’s wins are due to creature beats on the back of the aforementioned persistence, the following are a possibility every time you shuffle up:

Graft creature on battlefield (i.e., Cytospawn Shambler)
Enchant graft creature with Sadistic Glee
Play Aerie Ouphes

Activate Ouphes for infinite sac triggers and infinite (and instant) damage to fliers.
Throw in a Soul Warden or something like it and you have infinite life.  Or how about:

Golgari Rot Wurm on the battlefield
Graft creature on the battlefield
Persist creature on the battlefield

Golgari Rot Wurm becomes pretty dangerous when he can damage opponents equal to the number of available black mana you have every turn.

The last truly funny thing about this concept involves Fertilid and Festercreep, both of which are good enough on their own to merit consideration in this format.  But with Graft or maybe a Spike Colony, those two can pull off their effects a few more times than your opponents are interested in seeing.  Or how about this: put Sadistic Glee on the Festercreep, sac some stuff, and the Creep controls the board until he’s offed.

Once these synergies went into effect, blue didn’t seem so scary anymore.  Turns out creative card advantage can go toe-to-toe with blue card draw when you don’t have to worry about Consecrated Sphinx.

But what if we wanted to add five uncommons for Peasant?  Seems the best use of those slots might be to expand into themes already in place in the Pauper deck.  Sadistic Glee was the only card of its ilk at common, but at uncommon we get the new Lumberknot, an improvement on past creatures with their own built-in Sadistic Glee.  Given that shroud and hexproof are really hot in Pauper, where mass removal is weak, this guy has sweet potential in a deck where infinite sacrificing is a relevant goal.

Another thing we’re lacking at common is free sacrifice outlets, although Fanatical Devotion and the Altar are certainly more than serviceable.  How about one of my faves from a deck from my youth, Martyr’s Cause?  In that deck, I sacrificed Sacred Mesa tokens to keep me safe; here, I sac recurring persist dudes.  Oh the times, they are a changin’.

Two more cards specific to the deck would be Kitchen Finks and Simic Basilisk.  It is nice to keep the same ratio of graft to persist creatures, and each of these are more than playable.  Giving your team deathtouch in a format where Viridian Longbow is a major player seems relevant.  And Finks is Finks, but is particularly good here for synergy.

Skullclamp.  Hard not to play that one, no?  I guess the only drawback is that you have to spend mana to use it, but Fecundity spreads the fun around a little too much for this deck’s liking.

I know this makes a sixth card, but these are just suggestions anyway, and how could we build a black deck in a format with painfully few WoG effects and not mention Ichor Explosion?  Generally terrible everywhere else, it has simply been awesome every time I’ve seen it played in this format.

Bonus courtesy of my man WriterofWrong: Juniper Order Ranger.  Even better than Graft combined with Persist, as the Ranger keeps getting bigger while the Persist guys keep coming back at full strength.  I used to run this in my Ghave deck, and I still forgot about him.  But he’s getting a slot ASAP.  Probably over the Simic Basilisk.

So Pauper or Peasant, these concepts form the basis for competitive, non-blue decks.   As for finding people to test against, it’s funny, but it seems it’s not too hard to convince people around here to play a game that’s still Magic, won’t involve spending much cash, and will involve a vacation from Consecrated Sphinx.

I’ll see you next time for a discussion on the value of generals who create their own card advantage and some specific suggestions as to who you might recruit to lead you Pauper army.

Series Navigation<< Peasant Rebellion 02 – Format StaplesPeasant Rebellion 04-Kings of Card Advantage, Part 1 >>