Pauper is a Magic format that doesn’t get nearly the love or respect it deserves. I’ve seen players of more serious or real formats mock it as “Kiddie Magic” or write it off as a low powered format. Here are 5 reasons that this format deserves more love.
Your Wallet Will Thank You
Magic is not a cheap hobby. This is a simple fact all players need to deal with, but Pauper is still quite affordable. One of the biggest perks of Pauper is that it is an eternal format: things never rotate out and bannings are very rare. Even if a card sees a ban it’s unlikely it was more than a dollar, so there aren’t many situations like the Birthing Pod ban in Modern. Once you’ve made your initial investment, you can play a deck for years. Just how much cheaper is Pauper than other formats? Look at the results for SCG Invitational Columbus, a recent Modern event. Using their estimated costs pulled from TCGplayer’s low prices, the average cost of a top 8 deck was approximately $682. The top 8 decks from a recent (6/12/15) Pauper Daily Event were a combined total of $370, just over half the cost of the average Modern Deck. That’s about $46 per deck- a pretty impressive difference as the average Pauper deck comes in at around 6.7% of the cost of the average Modern deck. For those of you at home, for the cost of approximately 12 boosters, you can have a top tier deck that will never rotate.
And that’s using paper prices. It’s even cheaper playing online.
A Great Way to Hone Your Skills
In addition to being one of the cheapest formats around, Pauper is a highly skill intensive format. Many cards that are powerful enough to see play in Legacy, Modern, and even Vintage decks show up here. All 4 of the blue 1-cost cantrips (Brainstorm and its ilk) are legal, and so is the original Counterspell. Even Gush, a card only legal in Vintage, sees play. This is not by any means a casual format, even though it’s dismissed as such. In fact, it is a punishingly strong environment where just one decision on when to block, or the sequencing of spells, can be the difference between a win and a loss. If experience is truly the best teacher, then Pauper is a fertile format for improving your skills.
But Wait, There’s More!
In addition to being a skill intensive format, Pauper has a broad range of archetypes. The metagame periodically converges on a deck popularly touted as “the best”, but it can change quickly. Many eternal formats can hit a point of stagnation once a “solution” to the format is found, which leads to boring, predictable play. In my local playgroup here in Austin, at last week’s FNM, seven players showed up and no two decks were the same. Among those present were Mono-Black Control, UB Delver, U Delver, Goblins, Naya Aggro, Affinity, Mono-Black Aggro and Goblins. In the past we’ve had 16 players with only 2 playing similar lists. Not to say other formats don’t also have high diversity in them, but compare it to the current Standard metagame. You might notice that recently Abzan Midrange takes up a large chunk of the metagame, and, as some pros have noted, perhaps not a healthy portion. Formats with higher diversity lead to a wider variety of board-states and a more interesting experience.
A Homebrewer’s Dream
Pauper is a format where rogue deck lists can sometimes be the best lists for the current metagame. Two weeks ago, our local playgroup was primarily heavy control decks, which lead to a homebrew Mono-Black Aggro build going 3-1 with ease. One local player has been using a Blue/White Tron deck that, while not going 4-0, has been successful against several top tier decks. Pauper has a pool of over 5,600 cards with a banlist of only 8 cards. Among those 5,600 cards, there are a myriad of homebrew options just waiting to be discovered. The online metagame is definitely more competitive, so I would advise against trying to test out your homebrew in one of the daily events. There still are the “Just for Fun” rooms where you can pick up some more casual games, so those would be worth checking out if you’re a brewer.
Over the course of this article I’ve talked about both my local playgroup and the online community, and here’s why. Pauper has yet to find a large audience in the realm of physical, in person magic. First, you can talk to people at your store to see if there’s interest. If you’re in a large city, try to find a facebook page for your area’s magic players. Our playgroup started when players asked Pat’s Games, a local store here in Austin, to host Pauper events and has been going strong ever since. If you aren’t in a metropolitan area, or there simply aren’t enough people interested, here’s the second option: Online play. MTGO has a very active Pauper community, with daily events topping 100 people. Another option is the free program Cockatrice. I play there regularly, and time spent waiting to find a match is minimal. I log about 4 matches every few days on Cockatrice just to make sure I’m still playing well and also to make sure I stay aware of what decks are doing well.
Pauper is a format for a wide variety of people, from legacy players to those just on a tight budget. If you’re interested, start asking around and see if others are too. Locally the players who enjoy the format the most are Legacy players, so that’s a good starting point to start asking around. If you can’t play in person, there’s always online options out there and they are either cheap or outright free. I’d love to hear about your experience with the format and what you liked and disliked about it, so let me know!