As one of the more unique formats in the current world of MTG, Pauper is sometimes pushed aside or otherwise forgotten about by a lot of players. Yet, Pauper is a relatively diverse format with a lot to offer. Aggressive, midrange, control, and combo strategies are all well-represented, providing players with a great chance to utilize whatever playstyle they enjoy the most. It’s also very cheap. As a format that doesn’t use any cards outside of commons, actually purchasing a deck can be done at very little cost. Today, we will be going over the MTG best Pauper decks and what each has to offer.
Despite being able to use only commons, the format itself has a lot of powerful cards. From efficient threats like Monastery Swiftspear to elite cantrips such as Brainstorm, the card quality within the format is much higher than it might appear at first glance. For those unfamiliar with Pauper, it may seem like a daunting task to figure out what deck is right for you. Luckily, we have you covered.
Pauper has changed a lot over the years, especially given the high volume of reprints each having their rarity downshifted to common for the first time. Commander Masters recently brought a ton of strong new additions to the format that have shaken up the meta quite a bit. To help you learn a bit more about the Pauper metagame, here are the top 11 MTG best Pauper decks.
Faeries has certainly fallen a bit in the meta over the last few months, but it is still a decent choice, nonetheless. Faeries as an archetype plays a lot at Instant speed, utilizing cheap Creatures like Faerie Seer to get on board early and then try to tempo the opponent out. The biggest payoff for playing extra Faeries in your deck is Spellstutter Sprite. Spellstutter Sprite is a decent threat on its own but can also be used as a Counterspell for cheap spells your opponents play.
Spellstutter Sprite also synergizes extremely well with Ninjutsu cards like Ninja of the Deep Hours, acting as an evasive Creature that can then be returned to hand to help counter even more spells in the future. Given the abundance of efficient cantrips and removal in Pauper, Spellstutter always has great targets. While the core of Faeries mostly stays the same, some players will opt to splash red for cards like Skred or black for Snuff Out to help against Creature decks. Multi-color manabases in Pauper are forced to utilize some tapped Lands, so there are certainly tradeoffs between staying mono-blue or splashing.
#10 Golgari Midrange
Golgari midrange is an interesting deck that makes great use of Deadly Dispute. The goal of the deck is to utilize efficient removal like Cast Down and even Crypt Rats to slow down opposing Creature decks. From there, slamming either Avenging Hunter or Thorn of the Black Rose on an empty board can be devastating.
In order to enable Deadly Dispute early, Golgari midrange plays Khalni Garden, providing a Creature to sacrifice at very little cost. Alongside Khalni Garden, Deadly Dispute acts as a source of card advantage as well as ramp, thanks to the Treasure token it makes. Racing this deck can be difficult, and the deck comes equipped with Weather the Storm to help fight against burn decks. The biggest weakness this deck has is against combo, as its closing speed is definitely on the slow side.
Familiars is a very strange archetype focused on generating a ton of incidental value. The deck utilizes cards like Mulldrifter and Archaeomancer that have strong enters-the-battlefield effects alongside Sunscape Familiar to make your blue spells cost less. From there, you can protect your Creatures and generate even more value with Ephemerate. This deck makes great use of Snap[/tooltips, which when combined with Sunscape Familiar or [tooltips]Azorius Chancery, can actually net you mana.
The whole gameplan of this deck is to grind your opponents into dust. God-Pharoah’s Faithful makes it difficult for aggro decks to pressure you before you have your Ephemerate engines online. This deck can even gain infinite life! By using Ghostly Flicker targeting Archaeomancer and an Island, if you also have two copies of Sunscape Familiar and God-Pharoah’s Faithful in play, you can keep returning Ghostly Flicker with Archaeomancer and casting it for one mana with the Island you blink. This deck does take a while to close the game, but it’s a strong choice nonetheless.
Bogles is a rather simple strategy that has been utilized in other formats like Modern before. The goal is to resolve a copy of Slippery Bogle or Gladecover Scout, which each have Hexproof. Then, you can suit them up with a bunch of Auras, and attack with a massive threat that can’t be easily removed. Etheral Armor and Rancor are very efficient, whereas Armadillo Cloak and Ancestral Mask are extremely powerful but cost a bit more mana to use.
This deck also got some added consistency thanks to the downshifting of All That Glitters. Bogles has a clear and concise gameplan, and many decks will simply struggle to beat a large Creature with Hexproof, Trample, and Lifelink. That being said, cards like Chainer’s Edict and Curfew are excellent hate cards against the deck, which is why this deck isn’t further up on the list.
#7 Dimir Control
Dimir control has a very blue-heavy manabase to maximize Counterspell and various cantrips but makes great use of powerful black cards such as Snuff Out and Gurmag Angler too. With access to Lorien Revealed, Dimir control can afford to play all Islands and Dimir dual lands. This helps enable Snuff Out while not making it any harder to cast multiple blue spells in a turn.
The biggest payoff for playing tons of cantrips is Tolarian Terror. With cards like Thought Scour and Mental Note in the mix, it’s easy to cast Tolarian Terror quite quickly, and its Ward ability makes it tough to kill. While this strategy is certainly very strong, it is a bit vulnerable to graveyard hate cards such as Relic of Progenitus, preventing it from being higher on this list.
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#6 Boros Synthesizer
As the name of the deck suggests, Boros Synthesizer is built to maximize the power of Experimental Synthesizer. On its own, Synthesizer is a solid card. It replaces itself when it enters the battlefield, assuming you can cast any spell you exile with it. Then, later in the game, you can pay three mana to get a two-power Creature and exile yet another card to play until the end of the turn.
While this is already decent value, Synthesizer can also be abused as a card advantage machine if you can keep bouncing it to your hand. Not only does this net you cards when you replay it, but also when Synthesizer leaves the battlefield in the first place. This is where the payoff for playing white comes into play, as you get to utilize both Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher as ways to bounce Synthesizer and keep the card advantage flowing.
Beyond this synergy, the deck plays Lembas for added support, and basic removal like Lightning Bolt and Journey to Nowhere. This makes the deck quite good at playing long, grindy games. While this deck does lack closing speed, the addition of Monastery Swiftspear certainly helps in that department.
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#5 Gruul Ponza
Gruul Ponza is another deck with a relatively simple gameplan. The goal of the deck is to play a way to ramp turn one, be it Arbor Elf or Utopia Sprawl, then curve into Land destruction spells like Thermokarst or Mwonvuli Acid-Moss to keep your opponent off balance[/tooltips]. You can even cast Mwonvuli Acid-Moss on turn two by casting Arbor Elf turn one, then playing another Land, casting Utopia Sprawl, floating two mana, and untapping the Land with Sprawl attached.
From there, this deck plays a bunch of powerful top end Creatures. Both Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party are great value-oriented threats, able to Cascade into more powerful Creatures or Land destruction spells. The best cards to Cascade into are definitely Generous Ent, a nice addition from LOTR that can help find Lands when necessary, and Avenging Hunter, one of the Initiative cards that is still legal in Pauper.
#4 Mono-Blue Delver
Mono-blue Delver is a relatively new archetype built around three specific Creatures. The first is Delver of Secrets, which hits hard in a deck full on Instants and Sorceries. The other two, Tolarian Terror and Cryptic Serpent, are excellent payoffs for casting a bunch of Instants and Sorceries. This deck is quite similar to Dimir Control in that it utilizes a ton of the same cheap cantrips. However, instead of making use of black for removal spells, this deck is more all-in on cantrips and Counterspells.
The biggest benefit to this strategy over Dimir Control is the lack of tapped Lands in the deck. Between that and the use of Delver of Secrets, this deck is a bit faster on average, and having access to Delver makes this deck a little less vulnerable to graveyard hate. However, without Snuff Out and other removal spells in the mix, aggressive Creature decks are a bit more problematic. Still, this archetype is strong and very consistent, giving it a slight edge in these rankings.
#3 Hawk Gates
Ever since the printing of Basilisk Gate, this archetype has made its presence felt. By playing a ton of Azorius-colored Gates, including Sea Gate and Citadel Gate[/tooltips}, Basilisk Gate becomes a massive and repeatable pump spell in short order. The deck’s Creature package includes all cards that work extremely well with Basilisk Gate. [tooltips]Sacred Cat is not only decent against removal thanks to Embalm, but it also has Lifelink, helping to race opposing Creature decks. Squadron Hawk is also excellent against removal, since one copy of Squadron Hawk can find up to three more to cast later.
One of the best cards this deck plays to abuse Basilisk Gate is Guardian of the Guildpact. At four mana, it can be a bit tough to resolve. Once it hits the board, though, it is quite difficult to remove. Beyond specific removal like Agony Warp, this card is often both impossible to kill and unable to be blocked. Pair that with Basilisk Gate and you can end the game in a couple swings.
Beyond the Creature package, this deck also plays Prismatic Strands. Prismatic Strands helps protect your Creatures from removal and slow down your opponent’s aggressive draws in decks like burn. Prismatic Strands is also quite good against damage-based board wipes like Fiery Cannonade, especially given how small this deck’s Creatures are. This strategy, while excellent, is definitely on the slower side, and as strong as Basilisk Gate is, the abundance of tapped Lands can be a curse as well as a blessing.
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Despite all of the bannings of amazing Affinity cards like Sojourner’s Companion and Atog, this deck is still absurdly strong. Thanks to Commander Masters adding All That Glitters and Reverse Engineer to Pauper, however, the archetype looks a little different than it used to. Instead of playing a Grixis-focused build with Galvanic Blast and Deadly Dispute, most players are playing an Azorius-centric version with Thraben Inspector alongside the new additions to the format.
To help make All that Glitters as strong as possible, this deck uses Gingerbrute and Ornithopter as efficient Creatures to suit up with the powerful Aura. This, of course, is in addition to the usual Affinity suspects, Frogmite and Myr Enforcer. While All that Glitters is a decent addition to decks like Bogles, this shell takes the card to a whole new level thanks to all of the Artifact Lands in the manabase. It’s not unreasonable for All that Glitters to buff a Creature’s power by ten or more later in the game, giving the deck much better closing speed than before. Hate cards like Gorilla Shaman are still effective, but Affinity fights through hate better than you might expect.
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Burn is a great archetype that can take on different forms depending on the metagame. Some players will choose to go heavier on burn spells, maximizing cards like Kessig Flamebreather and Dwarven Forge-Chanter in the Creature slot. Other players will go heavier on the aggro plan, playing more one-drop Creatures like Goblin Blast-Runner alongside Kuldotha Rebirth. Some people will go even further down that road and play a playset of Goblin Bushwhacker and really try to pack a punch.
No matter what strategy you choose, there are a few constants that make the deck so powerful. First and foremost, this archetype provides an unbelievable shell for Monastery Swiftspear, one of the best cards added to Pauper in years. From there, cards like Chain Lightning and Lightning Bolt act as efficient removal spells that can also deal damage to the opponent when necessary.
Every one of these burn variants is fast and consistent. Definitely consider packing some hate cards like Hydroblast or even Weather the Storm for your next event. Still, while Burn is powerful, any of the decks on this list are quite capable of performing well in the right hands. If you are looking for a format with cheap and interesting archetypes, Pauper may be right up your alley.