This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Peasant Rebellion

Posted by Maxwellian2000
So it’s been a while since I addressed Pauper and Peasant, but I noticed that this little jib was still in the archives.  For reference, my stance on Pauper and Peasant generals is here; in short, I think jank legendary creatures make perfect Pauper and Peasant commanders.  I’ve seen a push on ye olde interwebs toward uncommon creatures leading Pauper armies, but that’s a topic for another day.

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.

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.

Welcome back for our second leg of our vacation from regular Commander and into the world of Pauper and Peasant Commander, where there simply is no Primeval Titan homogenizing everything.  Just sayin’.  The first leg in case you missed it is here.  Anyway, this article will take a look at the Pauper/Peasant metagame in general, as well as what a “Good Stuff” deck might look like.

In case you were wondering about whether to jump full-on into this format and do some deck construction, my playgroup’s Pauper experiment has led to regular two-headed Peasant matches with players who ordinarily hate Commander shuffling up 99 again.  We’ve found that Peasant is little more to our liking because those five uncommons expand the possibilities just enough to get some fun things to happen.  But at its core, the format is Pauper, because a singleton format with extremely limited access to tutors is not likely to survive if it’s based around between 1 and 5 cards.  I’m sure there are exceptions out there, but our approach to deckbuilding has been to build the Pauper deck first, then modify for Peasant.  So it is instructive to speak about the format generally in terms of Pauper.

At first blush, the format looks like some kind of limited on steroids.  But even limited has a rare and three uncommons in every pack, and everyone who’s ever played sealed knows that a lucky rip can set the tone for a tournament.  Here, there are no rares except the generals, so the sheer gamebreaking potential of any one card is even less than in limited.  However, the synergies you can develop from this “constructed limited” format make for really exciting interactions which just can’t occur in a small cardpool like those in sanctioned sealed or draft.  I would say that it generally plays how you would expect: a multiplayer limited environment where the simplest/best strategy is probably to “just play dudes” with general backup (as the absence of tuck effects and lower-powered removal in general increases the likelihood of the general’s impact).  Even so, making infinite creatures or comboing out to wipe the board absolutely can still happen, so the “go big” element of Commander definitely translates, only toned down a notch.  Not every game will actually get down to the last man standing with everyone else at 0 life, but it happens more often than in regular Commander where combo win and concession are the norm.

The Pauper CommanderCast helped identify some format staples (i.e., cards that you have to at least consider playing if you are in that color, and might be auto-includes), and by and large those suggestions led to success.  Transmute and Buyback probably are the best mechanics, although Kicker gets a boost here because you find yourself forced to hardcast everything for the most part, giving you that chance to kick Heartstabber Mosquito again after you return it to your hand with Cavern Harpy.  Flashback is also strong with all-stars Momentary Blink, Deep Analysis, and Mystical Teachings.  The aforementioned Regeneration gets a power boost here too.  Enchantments also proved to be much stronger than expected, while Auras are probably the second-most powerful cardtype behind creatures, thanks to the broken Freed from the Real and almost as broken Totem-Guide Hartebeest.  And the hybrid Auras from Shadowmoor tend to make cuts, especially Shield of the Oversoul, Gift of the Deity and Runes of the Deus.  A starting point for whether a card is good might be “if it was good in limited, it will probably be good in Pauper EDH.”  Think recent examples like Oblivion Ring, Ulamog’s Crusher, and Tidehollow Strix.  Yeah, those are probably gonna be alright.

With that in mind, here are some deck archetypes that have found success in my group’s Pauper/Peasant metagame:

Damia, Sage of Stone, B/U/G Good Stuff
Karador, Ghost Chieftain Graft/Persist Reanimator
Karona, False God Slivers
Merieke Ri Berit Esper Control
Tolsimir Wolfblood, Elves!
Borborygmos, G/R Beats
Johan, Naya Aggro
Xira Arien, Jund Infect
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls Discard Control

Note that each of these color combinations all have more optimal general choices (think The Mimeoplasm, Rhy, Sharuum, Stonebrow, and Uril), and all are less than $1 on SCG and/or have multitudes in stock.  Most importantly, they all “fill the holes” nicely: Damia for card-draw to see that good stuff, Tolsimir for aggro buffs, Merieki to do Merieki things such as interacting with Freed From the Real, Big Boy for buffs and a guaranteed fattie, and Johan to give an Aura-stocked force vigilance.  Or how about constantly drawing into infectious threats with Xira Arien, a Chroncles reprint ensuring eternal Pauper status, or making them throw away their hand with Unnerve, Syphon Mind and Liliana’s Specter only to recur their creatures with Tariel, Reckoner of Souls?  Finally, while Slivers is too much with either the Sliver Overlord or the Sliver Queen, not to mention the Sliver Legion, the tribal-oriented Karona, False God made its way into a deck of mine for the very first time to lead what would otherwise be (and probably still is) a broken army of Slivers.

While we’ll save some details on those for later, the first thing your deck has to be able to do is beat the big bad {B}/{U}.  Due to assets from Transmute and Flashback to Soul Manipulation and Capsize, this color pairing flourishes on its own in a build with something like Wrexial, the Risen Deep to take advantage of the nastiness of Pestilence (Cemetery Gate, anyone?) or in an Esper deck such as Merieki.

We will take a look at my group’s Damia, Sage of Stone Good Stuff deck to identify some of the synergies you are likely to face when opposing B/U, which due to that combo’s power level is likely to be a common occurrence in Peasant and Pauper, as well what you could have access to if you decide to turn to the dark side.

So let’s take a look at the Stony Sage.  Damia is a “card advantage” general in the purest sense (as long as you don’t start your turn with 7+ cards in hand).  That seems really good in a format with fewer card draw options.  And she has deathtouch.  That means she is really good with a card that already is good in this format, Viridian Longbow.  And since we’re in blue, Trinket Mage can help us find it.

Speaking of finding stuff, Transmute is by far the most-available tutor mechanic in the format, and is even attached to cards that are otherwise useful, too, like Muddle the Mixture and Perplex.  But what are we looking for if we choose to tutor?  The guys talked about Freed from the Real as a combo piece, and it costs three, so that gets Perplex and Drift of Phantasms some consideration.  And my favorite interaction with Freed involves the Krosan Restorer, which is also 3cc (and by “favorite”, I really mean “infinite mana sink for my Capsize, gg”).  And what’s that, Capsize costs 3, too?  Good times are brewing.

So we definitely have combo win in there somewhere, but creatures are still going to be the path to victory in most occasions because you can’t count on consistency in a format pretty much devoid of tutors.  So we’ll need some beaters, and ways to fix and accelerate into our three-colors mana base.  This became the auto-include fixing/acceleration package in green Pauper decks, usually supplemented by one or two cards specific to the deck (like the Restorer):

3x Signets (here Golgari Signet, Simic Signet and Dimir Signet)
Darksteel Ingot
2x landcycling creatures (i.e., Pale Reclue and [card]Twisted
Abomination[/card] in G/W/B, Pale Recluse and ValleyRannet in Naya, etc.)
Kodama’s Reach
Cultivate
Krosan Tusker
Yavimaya Elder
Ondu Giant (yes, a 2/4 body for 4cc seems better than, say, Farhaven Elf)

That gets us to 11 pieces of fixing/acceleration, 12 counting the Restorer, which along with transmute, gives our suite the requisite 13 or 14 pieces to equal to an 8-of in a 60 card build.

The next step is card advantage.  Tutors other than Transmute are limited, but Mystical Teachings can search for Capsize and one of my favorite beaters in this format, the “flashy” Havenwood Wurm.  We already mentioned the Trinket Mage, and Deep Analysis, Foresee and Elven Cache are virtual auto-includes.  Mulldrifter and Rhystic Study are, too, and I really like Citanul Woodreaders, too.

One of my favorite forms of virtual card advantage in this format are bounce-your-own-stuff creatures.  Here, the all-star Cavern Harpy makes an appearance, along with the less awesome but equally necessary Shrieking Drake.  And with regard to the Harpy… paying 1 life to do something as significant as a repeatable bounce effect… at common… let’s just say Wizards probably wishes they had a mulligan on that one.

Recursion is another virtual card advantage avenue.  Along with Disturbed Burial and Elven Cache, Mnemonic Wall is another good choice.  Between the Wall, the Cavern Harpy, and Elven Cache, you can repeatedly recur any card in your graveyard.  Cadaver Imp is generally my favorite Gravedigger variant.

Although this deck doesn’t provide access to red, which has excellent removal options such as Rolling Thunder, it still has Evincar’s Justice, the best mass removal card in the format.  Ashes to Ashes is quite useful as well, because exiling problem creatures is always a good way to go in Commander.  Spot removal, from Executioner’s Capsule to Rend Flesh, is also readily available.  Lignify and Mind Games provide alternative solutions to problematic threats.  Counterspell and Soul Manipulation, along with Perplex and Muddle the Mixture, provide a counter suite to keep opponents honest.

Although the deck can combo out, it is also designed to beat face.  My four favorite beaters: Ulamog’s Crusher, Oakgnarl Warrior, Assault Zeppelid and the aforementioned Havenwood Wurm.

The mana base is nothing special, what with cycling lands, artifact lands, and Ravnia bounce lands, but these colors do provide access to Halimar Depths and Bojuka Bog, the two best utility lands outside of Strip Mine and Desert.

Between green’s mana fixing and acceleration, black’s removal, and blue’s card advantage and counter magic, this color combination seems to be the most powerful in this format.  Come back next time for the last part of the vacation guide, where we will discuss format staples in greater detail and otherwise explore what the rest of the color pie has to offer.

Maxwellian2000 is a former competitive Magic player who now plays mostly Commander formats, along with Palladium Books’ Rifts RPG and Legos. He also works as a lawyer in Kansas and produces music at panoramicrecords.net.

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