Introduction to Pauper Decks

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This article serves as a basic primer on playing Magic: The Gathering with Pauper decks, which are simple in definition but complex in execution. A Pauper deck is one that consists solely of common cards. They’re a lot of fun because not only do they offer a lot of flexibility at a relatively inexpensive price to put together, but they’re also a great way to learn mechanics of the game that will serve you well when you’re playing more juiced up decks.

More-so than in a standard game, it’s important to come up with a plan for how you want to win a Pauper game before putting your deck together. Due to the lean playing you’re going to be doing without any of your favorite uncommon or rare cards, there is really very little wiggle room for spinning off your course. Once you come up with the plan, stick to it.

There are three basic types of Pauper deck:


Optimal damage at all times. You’re aiming to put your opponent into a maximum world of hurt every turn, and make them spend their mana and turns on the defense. Red is the big hitter here, followed up by black, then green.


Your goal is to keep your opponent from doing anything by not letting them have land, monsters, or spells until you’re in a position to finish them off. Blue is the big one here followed by white, blue being a much stronger choice overall.


A little from column A, a little from column B. Maybe not the best choice if you’re just starting off with MtG in general and Pauper decks in specific, but if you have a good strategy that mixes Aggro and Control effectively, have fun with it!

There’s not really one of the three that is superior to the others. The nature of the Pauper deck gives a significant amount of equality between the three types. It’s all going to come down to the cleverness of the player and how versatile they work with their deck.

In regards to the importance of land in a Pauper deck, there is no simpler way to put it than to say be practical, but not cheap. As with any other game style, your awesome collection of spells and monsters is not going to be worth squat if you have a mana drought at the most inopportune times, less so if the drought was of your own making. Don’t create problems for yourself in this area.

Once you have a plan and the type of deck you want to make figured out, considering your color comes next. I’m only going to focus on mono color decks for the purpose of this article, but that is not to say multi-color decks should not be considered. Blue/black is a nasty combo, and blue/red can be downright evil.


The one mana point spell roster in red that doles out the harshness is huge. You can create a deck that has your opponent down by almost a third of their life in just a couple turns. For taking care of players directly, Lightning Bolt is an absolute necessity in this deck. Lava Spike is a prime mover as well. If you’re using goblins (And you really should consider it; low cost and workable as steady damage dealer or a damage blocker you’re not going to miss that much), Goblin War Strike is just mean. For taking out creatures, consider Swirling Sandstorm and Thunderclap.


Black is pretty much the “It’s not enough that you win, someone else must lose” color. Creatures like Ravenous Rats and Chittering Rats, as well as Liliana’s Specter are fantastic mainstays simply because they provide an easy damage dealing network while disrupting the flow of your opponents current hand and deck, thereby giving you a psychological advantage. For taking out most creatures, look to Last Gasp and Grasp of Darkness. Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption bring a lot of pain to opponents if you’re doing an all black deck.


Green is great for getting you a large mana pool quickly, allowing you to get your high-caliber beasties out long before your opponent. As such, Rampant Growth is mandatory for maintaining the advantage. Low-cost creatures such as Llanowar Elves and Fyndhorn Elves give you damage dealing bases that double as mana factories when you need them. Add in some power boosters like Rancor and Groundswell until you can pull out a heavy hitter like Aurochs Herd, and you have a monster of a deck.


Blue is all about control. Once you have two islands out, Counterspell is there to stop pretty much anything your opponent wants to throw out, Exclude and Negate doing the same in more specific areas. If you want to take something off the board briefly, Unsummon and Capsize do the trick. Creature-wise, Delver of Secrets and Ninja of the Deep Hours form a damage dealing base that also get your cards to your hand more quickly as well. Also, Phantasmal Bear is a good, quick damage dealer. Once you’ve stalled your opponent enough to build up the necessary mana, throw out the Stitched Drake and go in for the kill.


White’s control occurs through offering straight-out protection and life gaining. Bolstering your life and countering the damage your opponent tries to deal while building up for your retaliation is what white is all about. Benevolent Bodyguard is a cheap means for keeping your more valuable creatures alive in a pinch, and a Squadron Hawk deck can get you a lot of flying damage quickly for next to nothing. Unmake and Journey to Nowhere are great for taking practically any power level of creature off the market.

There are the basics of the Pauper deck. Take them and mess around, and see how much fun you can have without spending a lot.

What are some cards you can think of that would be great in a pauper deck? Let us know in the comments section below!

Author: Aaron Besson


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