Pauper and Rivals of Ixalan

Hello friends, Rivals of Ixalan is now released, and so the new set gets precedence ahead of further arbitrary video game ranking!

While I still can’t play MTGO, I figure I might as well look at the the Pauper format since I still enjoy it, in theory-land.

Are There Any Playables?

I am typically quite generous when I describe a card as ‘playable’ in Pauper. Realistically every counter spell needs to compete with actual Counterspell, every burn spell competes with Lightning Bolt and so on.

So a ‘playable’ needs to do something in a slightly different way than other similar cards. Usually for Pauper the cards are closer to sidegrades (not strictly worse or better) than upgrades in Standard legal sets. I’ll talk in no particular order about cards which I think might actually be a sensible option (if you are willing to experiment a bit) and cards which look like they might be, but fall short.

I think there’s often more value in explaining why a card is almost good enough when talking about cards versus obviously good cards, in terms of being able to evaluate cards long-term.

Black Cards

Grasping Scoundrel

Grasping Scoundrel

Eh, another random 2 power 1-drop for maniacal Mono-Black aggro decks, so I guess it automatically becomes an option. The ranking of all of these creatures depend on what your opponents are doing.

Having 1 toughness is a big drawback (versus Electrickery, random tokens, Young Wolf) but it attacks into 2/2s better than the various ‘evasive’ damage guys like Thornbow Archer and doesn’t drain you like the Carnophage guys so… I guess it’s better than Pulse Tracker at the least if you expect to see a Nettle Sentinel or Mogg Conscripts on defence.

Moment of Craving

Moment of Craving

I think this is close, but not quite. The various Vicious Hunger variants are always tempting since they seem to do exactly what you want against aggro: kill a thing while negating an attack. Time Walk!

So yeah, this’ll do acceptable work against the small beatdown decks, but the downside of not killing larger creatures is fairly severe. Most damning is that against the decks you’d *most* want this effect, it doesn’t actually kill their Thermo-Alchemists. (or Keldon Marauders, but at least if you use it to shrink their thing on attack it’s sort of an awkward gain-4).

Dusk Legion Zealot

Dusk Legion Zealot

Wow, three cards worth vaguely considering, black has a bounty of riches!

This is going to be a solid option in any durdling black deck moving forward. It’s naturally worse than Elvish Visionary if you can cast both, but maybe you’re making a 1/1 cantrip theme deck, I won’t stop you.

However I specifically think it has a place in perennial fan favourite Mono-Black Control builds. One of the problems of the deck is that your value-creature squad mostly cost 3, giving you some clunky draws and if you wanted a 2 drop that fit the ‘all 2-for-1’ theme Ravenous Rats was somewhat lacking most of the time.

Since this exists now, you have more flexibility in tweaking your curve. It lets you make the value train come out more smoothly, which is helpful if you intend to play Ninjas or Merchants for example. It certainly isn’t as good at helping you hit your land drops as Sign in Blood, but hey, Sign in Blood has never blocked anything.

Green Cards

Jungleborn Pioneer

Jungleborn Pioneer

I think this should make it into some decks as a sideboard card covering multiple roles.

A Bogles or Mono-Green Stompy deck might consider this, not because of the stats, but because the token being Blue and Hexproof is highly useful. Circle of Protection: Green tends to be excellent against those decks, and a Blue creature you can safely load up with pumps sounds pleasant to have. It’s also nice to just have a card that does something regardless in the event your opponent doesn’t actually have Circles in their deck.

Bogles is always happy to have a random card that blanks a couple of Edicts too, and you even get to suit up the 2/2 if you think your opponent is holding up Electrickery. So as you can see, multi-use, if a little expensive.

Hardy Veteran

Hardy Veteran

A bit of a stretch, but 4 toughness is a lot. I could picture a scenario where the people around you are playing Stompy decks and RDW and you just want a 2-drop with comparatively massive toughness to cast your stuff on.

It’s a marginal sidegrade at best, but it can help you delete opponents slightly faster than a Ledgewalker does, if removal like Vapour Snag are uncommon in your area. Still, I don’t think it’ll actually get played, but it’s closer than it looks.

Blue Cards

[This space intentionally left blank]

Red Card(s)

Fanatical Firebrand

Fanatical Firebrand

I think that if you wanted Mogg Fanatic before, this card will be sliiiightly better on average since you’ll get an extra point of damage in turn 1 on a regular basis.

Having said that, I’d need to play a bunch of games to see how often ‘wanting to hold up the ability’ means you miss a point of damage from not being able to attack. I feel like those times are not quite common enough for Fanatic to overcome the lack of haste, but it might! If you’re playing a deck with either card, that’s the kind of thing you should take note of.

White Cards

Martyr of Dusk

Martyr of Dusk

Look, it’s Pauper, any card that gives value like this is semi-playable at the least.

A 2/1 for 2 is pretty weak, but at least it’s easier to cast than Loyal Cathar if you wanted to dip into another colour in your aggressive deck. The lifelink token will also be better against Red than a 2/1 that can’t block, as long as you’ve got a Bonesplitter lying around somewhere. It’s also worth noting that the token works with Guardian’s Pledge, which the flip-side of Cathar does not.

It’s not going to reinstate ‘classic’ White Weenie as a force to be reckoned with or anything, but it does a reasonable thing at a reasonable rate.

Squire’s Devotion

Squire's Devotion

Finally, we come to this. There are plenty of lifelink auras out there, but as we see with Cartouche of Solidarity, giving you a random 1/1 is a pretty strong incentive. This one’s even a lifelink token if something bad happens to your Bogle!

The 3-drop slot in Bogles is hotly contested and Heroic decks can’t really afford too many 3-drops either so I wouldn’t recommend four of these, but I can absolutely see one or two of these sneaking into decklists now and then. The dual use of ‘comedic crushing of red’ and ‘random extra creature’ might be able to save a sideboard slot for something else.

And that’s all! Pauper is a slow format to adjust, and the impact of all these cards combined I expect will be quite small (as is usually the case) but at least there are some options. I wonder if I will see any of them in a GP London side event next week after I scrub out the main event?

See you next time!

2 thoughts on “Pauper and Rivals of Ixalan

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