Dork Rituals: The Pauper Project #2



1 February 2018


Dork Rituals: The Pauper Project

Issue 2: If Peter Pauper Picked a Pack of Printed Papers...?

Hello fellow TappedOut.users, welcome back to Dork Rituals: The Pauper Project. My name is still Gattison, I still maintain the Obscure List of Obscure Lists, I still write theme songs for Magic decks, and I'm still building paper pauper decks like mad. I'm on a mission to brew 32+ different paper pauper decks, one of each color combination (including 4-color & colorless), and I feel like talking to somebody while I do.

And of course, I wanna' talk pauper. Paper pauper, that is.

Not that I have anything against MTGO Pauper, or their community, their rules (such as an established banlist) or anything about it. I love it, in fact, because without it pauper wouldn't exist. I just don't play it. I don't feel it's right for me to comment on something with which I have no experience. I do have experience with paper pauper though. So that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm not trying to create a divide here, and I'm not trying to make any distinction between a paper pauper player and an online pauper player. We're all one big community that enjoys the same exact thing, and that's awesome.

That being said... it is complete chaos out here in the planes of paper pauper. Total anarchy, man. People here can do what they want, when they want, and no one can stop them. I'm talking about the MTGO pauper banlist. Officially--technically--there is no authority that oversees paper pauper. If your LGS hosts pauper events, they may in fact enforce a banlist, and it may very well be the same as MTGO's, or the one The Professor @ Tolarian Community College recommends. But that's like a lone town in the middle of the lawless, wild west, with a single, deputy-less sheriff trying to keep everything peaceful. Step outside the safety of that sheriff's jurisdiction and people are flying Peregrine Drake s over Sinkhole s while throwing Goblin Grenade s at each other for getting the words to Hymn to Tourach wrong. It's nuts.

Okay, so. Here's what we know. Pauper on MTGO adheres to the following banlist.

Well, there you have it. If you want to play paper pauper out here in the wilderness with the wolves that raised you and still feel civilized, here are some rules to follow. Seriously though, all smartass-ery aside, the MTGO bannings make sense, and so do The Professor's suggestions. You can tell from my color commentary that I'm not a fan of a couple of the suggested paper bannings, but I understand and (reluctantly) agree. That's not going to stop me from making the occasional "illegal" deck or two to mess around with at the kitchen table. For now, anyway. I have my rights, dammit.

So, right there, we just ran into our first little speed bump when it comes to pauper. The online/paper discrepancy, as I refer to it. But let's not get hung up on that just yet. Let's move on. Let's talk numbers.

According to this insanely detailed thread by BetweenWalls I found on MTG Salvation, there are a total of 407 Magic cards that paper players have access to that MTGO players do not. Conversely, due to rarity-downshifting in online-only "Masters Editions" and other sets, MTGO pauper players have access to 125 cards that paper players do not.

It may not seem like that big a deal, but that is a 532 card discrepancy in card pools. Although, BetweenWalls does go on to say that out of those 407 paper-only commons, there only 157 cards that are not automatically considered strictly worse than something else. Regardless, that's kind of a big difference.

Here's an interesting thing I noticed, however. At least one card on his list of "strictly worse" cards seems to be inaccurately marked, meaning that, of course, this resource I found is subject to human error. Probably not many errors, but as the pauper format expands and more and more commons are explored, who knows what we may find out in the future. For instance, take Agent of Stromgald . I believe the author was comparing Agent of Stromgald to ramp cards, such as Elves of Deep Shadow , Skirge Familiar and Sisters of the Flame . In terms of ramp, yes, Agent of Stromgald sucks. It only adds , and you can only spend on it? Well, yes, because it's not a ramp card. It's a filter, like Unknown Shores , or, more accurately Initiates of the Ebon Hand .

I only noticed this because A), Agent of Stromgald was right there at the top of the list, and B), I just happened to be working on a deck built around that same concept of filtering. And that's only because I always wanted to build around the aforementioned Cult of Dirty Fingernails , and pauper is the outlet in which I can do so. I've also always wanted to build a Drain Life deck, and I just may have figured out a way to combine the two.

There's only one problem. Initiates of the Ebon Hand and Drain Life both suck. Agent of Stromgald and Consume Spirit are both, respectively, better. To start, Consume Spirit is, in fact, strictly better than Drain Life . Drain , just like the more costly, but less mana-intense Soul Burn , both put a limit, a cap, on how much life you can gain (and, obviously, damage you can deal). Consume , on the other hand, does not.

Notice the recurring theme of requiring for this effect, and only --with the obvious exception of Soul Burn , which allows only . Because and are friends in direct attacks on a life total. This is more than likely why they printed cards like Agent of Stromgald , Initiates of the Ebon Hand , Bog Initiate and Manaforge Cinder ... and that's it. -mana filters seem to be something they stopped bothering with a while ago.

Now, in looking at Agent of Stromgald versus Initiates of the Ebon Hand , you'll see that they actually do two similar, but different things. Looking a bit further, you see that it isn't actually strictly better than any of its cousins, either. Initiates of the Ebon Hand allows you to filter any mana into , but it dies if you spend or more on this ability in one turn. Bog Initiate lacks this drawback, but it costs more to cast, making it a "slower" card because you probably won't be able to get it out until turn 2. Manaforge Cinder is a hybrid mana one-drop, which is always awesome, but his ability straight up limits you to per turn. That's it. No more. Finally, Agent of Stromgald lets you get as much as you want, but you can only spend to get it.

I could use Bog Initiate in the deck (if I had any) and it really wouldn't hurt me having a 2-drop creature. However, a 1-drop that does the exact same thing for me would be better, right? Thus, you would think Initiates of the Ebon Hand would be perfect for my deck, right? Because I'm obviously building Golgari, right? for ramp and for my Johnny-cards, obviously, right? Well no, of course not. I rarely do things that simply. I'm puking out 1/1 Goblins and sacrificing them to Skirk Prospector , actually, because there's another card I go all Timmy-eyed over. So in the end, it turns out Agent of Stromgald is perfect for my deck (...if I owned any), but an MTGO player who wanted to play the deck would have to make the choice between Bog Initiate or Manaforge Cinder --because MTGO doesn't have access to Agent of Stromgald OR Initiates of the Ebon Hand . Both of which I would prefer over "real" pauper cards.

So, woah, Gattison, wait a minute... why are we even talking about this? How did we get from the pauper banlist to the defunct art of filtering mana into ? Well, stream of conscious, mostly, but the reason I indulged myself in this tangent is because it brings up a bunch of important questions about pauper that I've been discussing recently offline. Questions such as... (please try imagining The Professor's voice reading these questions. It'll be better that way. Promise).

  • How should a paper pauper player handle cards that MTGO players don't have access to?
  • Should we just say screw it and go ahead and use playsets of Sinkhole in our decks because, well, lucky us?
  • Should we follow The Professor's suggestion to include Sinkhole and several other obviously powerful cards on an expanded paper pauper banlist?
  • If so, who would maintain it?
  • If you're just getting into pauper, how would you find it?
  • What about the opposite question? Should paper players, who already have access to 407 cards that MTGO players do not, now also have access to 125 additional cards? They were officially released as a common in a Magic: The Gathering product, after all.

Personally, it just feels wrong to play Chainer's Edict or Arrogant Wurm in one of my paper pauper decks because they were never printed at common. I can't go and find a common copy of those cards to prove they're commons. Instead I have to go online and cite a digital printing, which technically doesn't exist. It just feels more natural for me to go to the Gatherer, look up a card I have a question about, and if it was only printed online, then it has nothing to do with me, because I don't play MTGO. I play paper, and in paper, it doesn't exist. But who am I? I'm just some amateur pauper player who likes talking about the format way too much. And besides, that's just the purist in me being an elitist douche, anyway. I'm the guy who gets pissed off and hates an entire franchise just because Wolverine is being played by a guy over six friggin' feet tall. I mean what the hell? It's like these people have never even read a comic book bef-- ...Look, see? It's happening again. I'm gonna' go smoke a cigarette and calm down. You wait right here.

I'm back. My point is, this purist, "printed-in-paper-only" elitism is the wrong mindset. Magic isn't limited to just paper anymore, and arguing over what "pauper legal" means just because people play it in two different environments is not the way to "solve" this Orphaned Format problem we have. So if Wizards of the Coast themselves deemed certain cards would be just fine if released at a lower rarity, i.e. common, and we have proof because they did it, online or not, then we should just accept that. Also, note how I used the word "released" last time, and not "printed." I personally just tend to use the word "printed" by default, because I'm dealing with printed things. I should be using the word "released" though, because that is what truly matters, not in which form it was released.

Pauper should be a single unified format, so that there is no discrepancy between MTGO and paper pauper. The easiest way would, obviously, be for Wizards of the Coast to just go ahead and finally release the 21 (and counting) sets that never got a full release online. Then MTGO would be able to use every single card that paper players could, and we could just simply follow their lead in regards to banlists and such.

I have no idea if that will ever happen, though, so until then my mission is two-fold. Not only do I have the very Vorthos goal of building a paper pauper deck in every color combination, but I also want to do some playtesting, with the end result of providing some evidence to support a paper pauper banlist--or not. The Professor's suggested banlist is good advice, and is obviously based on at least a lot of common sense, but is that all, or was there some actual playtesting involved to provide him some tangible proof? I don't know the answer to that either, thus I'd like to find out for myself. That way I can develop an informed opinion and confidently support it.

To that end, get ready for a wide variety of decks. I'll be showing you a bunch of "normal" pauper decks, meaning ones that either a paper or MTGO player should have no trouble building. I'll also be showing you an occasional something-something that'll basically just be for the paper players. Things like Peregrine Drake decks and Cranial Plating decks. At the very least I want to build decks that prove why a card should be banned in paper as well as MTGO. As a reference, of course.

Well, I'm out of breath now, so this looks like a good place to wrap it up. Feel free to respond in the comments below to anything discussed in the article above, especially if you feel I might have missed something important, or gotten something wrong. Or if you just have something you want to contribute. Remember, my main goal is to create good, productive discussions about pauper, so don't hold back. Questions are always welcome also, because you just don't know until you ask. Now I'll leave you with some more Pauper goodies, and until next time, stay safe everybody!

Holdout Settlement (and Survivors' Encampment )

I started really liking Holdout Settlement a few months ago, after I started using it in a Fungus & 1/1 Saproling tokens deck. Then with the release of Amonkhet came Survivors' Encampment , a functional reprint, meaning now I can put 8 of these things in any deck, if I wanted/needed to. Though definitely not meant for every pauper deck, most tokens/weenies decks or any deck with an extra creature or two (or one that you never want to attack with) that wanted to splash another color could benefit from this handy land.

Since the gameplan of my deck was to pump out tokens anyway, Holdout Settlement fit in nicely because I could easily hold a chump back untapped, and use them on my opponent's turn to generate a mana of any color. The deck started off as +, but became + by the time I was done building it, due to this land. Currently, I'm experimenting with a five-color build because it's so easy to generate off-color mana now. Enjoy!

Soul Tremors

Pauper Affinity_for_MTG


I love Impact Tremors , and here's a deck that shows why. With this deck you can play a Turn 1 Soul Warden , then a Turn 2 Impact Tremors , and from there on, every creature you cast causes an immediate 2-point life swing. Not to mention whatever damage you can sneak through during combat, or with Mob Justice .

For those of you with out any Lightning Bolt s left, we definitely have some easy-to-find, budget alternatives, such as Flame Slash , Shock & Magma Spray . Also, instead of an almost $2 Soul's Attendant , try a Suture Priest for pocket change.

Oh look! Battle Screech was never printed as a common. Well, you could just use it. Wizards of the Coast thought it should be a common at least once. Or you could try Raise the Alarm , Captain's Call & Cenn's Enlistment instead, because regardless, it's a $3 card and maybe you don't have any. Happy brewing!

Offsite Link: "Differences Between MTGO and Paper" @

For some people, The Gatherer isn't enough when it comes to questions of rarity for older cards. They'd rather do the math themselves. If that sounds like you, or you're at least curious about the subject of C1, C2, U1 & U2 rarities of the earliest card printings, then the first group of spoilers has pretty much everything you will ever need to know on the subject.

Beneath that it gets into the nitty-gritty of which sets and cards are MTGO or paper-exclusive, and there's even a peasant format section beneath that (probably helpful with Pauper EDH/Commander, also)!

In case you haven't checked this link out yet, at least save or bookmark it for later in case any questions ever arise in your paper playgroup.

⬇ ⬊ ➡ FP

Pauper* Gattison


Pronounced Hadōken, this is a Simic () infinite-combo deck that uses the infamous--and banned on MTGO-- Peregrine Drake , and splashes for a thematically flavorful Fireball wincon. Basically, if you can put a Peregrine Drake , an Archaeomancer and a Coiling Oracle on the battlefield, then cast Ghostly Flicker , you win. It's that simple. Some people strongly dislike infinite combos and think they're evil. ...I'm doing the whole know-your-enemy, staring-into-the-abyss thing.

The real interesting thing about this deck is it basically couldn't exist at all on MTGO. With Peregrine Drake being banned online, it would normally be replaced by the next, best, most similar thing. Which in this case would be Cloud of Faeries , which is actually better because it's a 2-drop instead of a 5-drop. Which is probably (or exactly) why it was also banned first. Now, on MTGO, if you want to cast an "infinite-mana" Fireball , you have to generate infinite chi some other way.

Go playtest this deck in paper with your pauper friends. If they all start hating you, then, yes, Peregrine Drake (and by default Cloud of Faeries ) should (both) be banned in paper as well. So far it's working on my end. =|

I probably won't be doing this very often, but this week I would like to share this particular number with you, because I essentially wrote it specifically to accompany this article. It's just meant to elicit a few chuckles and have some fun, so hopefully you don't hate it!

"Pauper, W.o.t.C.," by Lady GG
(Theme song for Paper Pauper, pronounced "Popper Watt-see")
The following is a parody of "Papparazi," by Lady Gaga

We play the game
We're walkin' the planes
Got my playmat, it's true
Kitchen table with you
It's so magical
Professional or casual

Backpacks and sleeves
Delver of Secrets  Flip
Put my die to 20
The Professor suggests
Use Scryfall because
Gatherer is not the best
('Cause you know that, Baby, I)

I'm the biggest Tim
Goblin Grenade until you stop me
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.
Banlists are for online only
So you know I'll play
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.
I promise I'll play nice
Well, at least unless you unify
MTGO format
With all of the printed product
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.

I'll be your foe
Then friend you on TO
Sinkhole s and Fireball s
Sing a Hymn to Tourach
In between the games
Soda, candy and my vape

Mono- burn
Mono- Elves of course
Mono- control
Mono- whatever, Mono- weenies
Five-color Affinity
('Cause you know that, Baby, I)

I got basic lands
Invigorate until you stop me
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.
Banlists are for online only
So you know I'll play
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.
I got all this power that I don't
Know to handle responsibly, so
I make a broken deck
I chose from all the printed product
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.

That's good
(We're playin' at a side-event)
Cast, cast
(Oops, Empty the Warrens )
Don't stop
(For anyone)
We're common, but we still have fun!

I'm Magic's biggest fan
But I will Rally until you stop me
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.
Banlists are for online only
So you know I'll play
Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.
I promise I'll play nice
If you would only help us all play right
Maybe you'll make paper
Helping us to unite online
and Paper, pauper, W.o.t.C.

This article is a follow-up to Dork Rituals: The Pauper Project The next article in this series is Dork Rituals: The Pauper Project #3

Boza says... #1

I think this is the biggest hurdle in front of paper pauper - there is no good resource available out there to reconcile that. Chests and masters sets, coupled with muddy early legality of cards make it tough to judge at first glance what is common and what si not.

Wizards has to come out front and gie a full list and explanation if this is to be a full-fledged format (and it should be).

February 2, 2018 11:11 a.m.

Gattison says... #2

I agree that this roadblock needs to be overcome, but as far as the original rarity system goes (C1, C2, U1, U2) goes, I personally favor using whatever Gatherer says as the final answer. It is a known thing that some Uncommon-rarity Cards are more prevalent than others, same with Rares and Commons--Fatal Push, and junk rares are good examples of this. The same was true way back in the day, therefore we should just accept that a card was intended to be common, or not, and just go by that. IMHO, of course, and feel free to do as you and your playgroup feels comfortable.

Perhaps waiting for WotC isn't the solution though. Maybe we should take it upon ourselves to monitor the state of paper pauper, much as EDH did before WotC "took it over" kinda, sorta. A website that listed ALL 532 "problem" cards with multiple suggestions on how playgroups can handle this issue would be ideal. Imagine googling "pauper legality" or something similar, and find a site with all the information gathered together, right there, in one spot. And then it explains the most popular ways groups have come to reconcile these concerns. It could also serve as a central hub for feedback on paper pauper and help define the format more.

Hmm. I shoulda put that in the article maybe, but that's why I shared my thoughts in the first place, to generate more thoughts. =)

Thanks for you comment, Boza!

February 2, 2018 3:05 p.m.

TrackerD says... #3

Keep smoking cigs and you wont have to worry about any of these problems.

February 7, 2018 5:26 a.m.

ScribeAwoken says... #4

So good news about this, I recently asked Mark Rosewater on tumblr whether fixing the discrepancy between paper and MTGO commons is a question of if or when it will happen, and he answered that it's hopefully a question of when it will happen.

September 26, 2018 10:57 p.m.

Gattison says... #5

First of all, thanks for reading!

And that is good news. If that's a direct quote, it's still a bit noncommittal, seeing as how he says "hopefully." Still, that means it's on their radar, and they are at least still considering it, currently.

My hope is that they make an official statement saying MTGO pauper can use any card listed as a common in any set on Gatherer. They don't even need to go through the trouble of making any new cards for MTGO this way.

My fear is they try to over-simplify the problem by outright banning non-MTGO commons in official pauper events. However I doubt this will happen, because people hate banlists. Giving pauper a banlist of 400+ cards would just be asking for trouble.

Either way, here's hoping it happens sooner, rather than later!

September 27, 2018 9:04 p.m.

Gattison says... #6

ScribeAwoken: forgot to tag you, so, here it is. =)

September 28, 2018 12:04 a.m.

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