The Pauper Price Creep

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I'm hopelessly addicted.

For months, I told myself that I was only playing Pauper because I couldn't afford to play any other constructed formats online. Never mind my playsets of Koth of the Hammer, Zendikar fetchlands, Legacy Dredge... Okay, so aside from not having CawBlade, I really had no excuse, but I kept telling myself that I was just playing Pauper temporarily.

Six months later, and I can barely bring myself to play any other format.

Pauper really is that fun!

Last time I wrote about the format, I presented a very rough overview some of the top decks of the format from a gameplay and financial aspect. Now, I come bearing gifts of a different kind! First, a look at the format as it stands today:

[Note: In the last couple of days, LSV's UR 8Post deck has seen a surge of popularity due, I'm sure, to his fantastic videos on CFB showing off the deck. The Pauper format is constantly evolving - be sure to keep up with the most recent results!]

Top archetypes, by number of 4-0 Daily Event finishes:

1. White Weenie (including WW, WW/u, and WU Aggro) - 12
2. Esper Storm - 11
3. Affinity - 11
4. Goblin Warrens Storm - 9

5. Burn - 6
5. Goblins - 6
5. UR 8Post - 6

8. Mono Black (Aggro and/or Control) - 2
8. Infect - 2
8. Mono Green 8Post - 2
8. BW "Dredge" - 2*

*This is the Tortured Existence deck that MTGO user E. Hustle has been running with remarkable success.

The above make up what I consider to be Tier 1 and Tier 2 in the Pauper format. Archetypes not mentioned above, but perhaps meriting attention (and "winning" at least 1 Daily Event at 4-0), include Big Red 8Post, UB Reanimator, GW Aggro, & Stompy. Mono Blue Aggro/Control (a deck I typically refer to as Fae) has fallen quite far from its glory days. Other Cloudpost decks, such as Mono Blue 8Post and RUG 8Post, have also seen solid finishes with a much smaller sample size.

Let's get a better picture now by looking at just 3-1 Daily Event finishes for the upper echelon:

1. Goblin Warrens Storm - 50
2. Esper Storm - 44
3. Affinity - 41
4. Burn - 31
5. Goblins - 24
6. Mono Black - 19
7. White Weenie - 18
8. UR 8Post - 11
9. BW "Dredge" - 5
10. Infect - 4
11. Mono Green 8Post - 3

Making the rather crude assumption that over relatively these small sample sizes**, there isn't much difference between 3-1 and 4-0, we're left with the following combined list:

1. Goblin Storm - 59
2. Esper Storm - 55
3. Affinity - 52
4. Burn - 37
5. Goblins - 30
6. WW - 30
7. Mono Black - 21
8. UR 8Post - 17
9. BW "Dredge" - 7
10. Infect - 6
11. Mono Green 8Post - 5

**The alternative would be to try and normalize the two lists with each other, but that seems like a rather pointless exercise when brute forcing the results should work well enough for our purposes.

But are these results a true representation of each deck's power level, or is it just a function of how much each deck costs? Let's try and find out!

Top Pauper decks, by descending price:

1 Esper Storm - $84
2 Infect - $69
3 Goblin Storm - $60
4 Affinity - $25
5 Mono Black - $17
6 Goblins - $13
7 UR 8Post - $12
8 Mono Green 8Post - $12
9 Burn - $11
10 BW "Dredge" - $8
11 WW - $4

These factor in just maindeck costs (using prices from for a relatively generic decklist I dredged up for each from a 4-0 Daily Event finish. We'll get to sideboard cards later. And, yes, it really does cost 4 Event Tickets right now to build a competitive White Weenie deck for Pauper. You'd even have ~0.46 credits leftover!

The results of this query are clearly all over the map. Both Storm decks are fighting it out for combo supremacy, but newcomer combo deck Infect (on the back of its $12/ea Invigorates!) is in the top tier of bank-breaking decks too. Each of the rest of the decks in the format can be built for less than the cost of a playset of Stoneforge Mystics! ($38 according to MTGOTraders, so I have to assume that deck/card availability is not going to be a factor for the decks outside of the Top 3.

Survey Says?

So what archetype do you want to play? There are viable Combo, Aggro, Control, and Aggro-Control options.

You might want to keep in mind that many decks in the format are land destruction decks masquerading as Control; the best way to fight against decks abusing Azorius Chancery or Cloudpost is often by destroying the lands themselves. Add to that the fact that Wizards has printed a ton of cheap land destruction spells at common over the years (No, really, A TON: Reap and Sow, Thermokarst, Befoul, Stone Rain, Molten Rain, Earth Rift, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Arboreal Grazer...), should you be surprised of this at all? Red, Black, and Green all have an abundance of choices here.

Taking another look at the Daily Event results, but grouped by Combo, Control, Aggro, Aggro/Control, we find the following:

1. Combo - 157 (Red Storm, Blue Storm, Burn, Infect)
2. Aggro - 142 (Affinity, Goblins, WW)
3. Aggro/Control - 33 (Mono Black, BW "Dredge", Green 8Post)
4. Control - 17 (UR 8Post)

For a brief rundown of each of these decks, as well as an excellent intro to the Pauper format as a whole, check out Alex Ullman's offering on StarCityGames (free!).

The format is clearly defined by Combo and Aggro, but there definitely are viable Controlling archetypes as well.

Here is a sample of what I've been playing lately:

RUG 8Post

The list has been rather malleable, but this is approximately where I'm at right now. It's still a work in progress, and this version owes its existence to a Daily Event 3-1er that I cannot dredge up anymore - sorry! My original version of the deck had 26 lands, Andrios, Roaming Explorer instead of Sakura-Tribe Elder, and got flooded far too often.

RUG 8Post (and I'm sure BUG 8Post would be solid too) brings the same spells as UR 8Post, but instead of Steamcore Weird or more removal, you get Reap and Sow and Sakura-Tribe Elder. Both are huge. Have you ever cast Reap and Sow with entwine on a Cloudpost to fetch a Cloudpost? Yeah, it's brutal, and I've gotten concessions in the 8Post "mirror" on turn 4 due solely to this Reap and Sow.

Or, put another way, this deck takes the strongest points of UR 8Post and Mono Green 8Post and mashes them all together.

I've been very happy with the results so far.

E. Hustle's BW "Dredge"

It's been really cool to see this deck evolve, as E. Hustle has been very prolific in his Daily Event attendance. He's also had remarkable results, seemingly placing 3-1 or better in every other event, so the decklist has been available a number of times during its evolution.

It's also been incredibly fun to play! Lone Missionary works overtime with the help of Tortured Existence, and the 1CC enchantment is the real MVP of this deck.

Some fun interactions: Dredge isn't just for Legacy, as Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Brownscale prove here. The latter is a powerhouse against many aggressive strategies (and Burn especially), and dredging 5 cards with an An Unearthly Child in hand is pretty slick.

Vampire Hounds, powered by Squadron Hawk, can cut your clock by a few turns when you need to race, and the creature suite looks to be all over the place, but it's fairly effective. Tireless Tribe in particular has been one of my favorite cards to see in my opening hand.

I've also never lost a game where I cast Last Rites. Turns out Mind Sludge is pretty good on turn 3!

Affinity has been my Aggro deck of choice lately. If there's interest, I'll do a complete rundown of the archetype next time!

On Sideboards

Most sideboard cards are extremely cheap. They're also pretty fungible. The staples you'll probably most want to acquire playsets of are:

Gorilla Shaman*** ($6 - these were $3 a couple of weeks ago!)
Pyroblast ($1.5)
Hydroblast ($2)
Crypt Rats ($3)

Most other sideboard cards of note won't run anywhere close to a full ticket, and most will be closer to .05 tickets each. Of course this all mostly depends on your 60-card decklist!

***Last time I wrote about Pauper, the entire 75 for a UR 8Post deck (including 4 Gorilla Shamans, 3 Hydroblasts, and 1 Pyroblast), totaled just over $26. Now that barely gets you a full playset of Gorilla Shamans alone!

Questions from Twitter

Luis Acosta (@AuranAlchemist): What deck gained the most from New Phyrexia? How do you organize new commons into what decks they benefit?

I think it's pretty clear at this point that the Infect deck is real, and it owes a large part of its success to Glistener Elf and, to a lesser extent, Mutagenic Growth. Infect is an extremely hard strategy to fight for most decks, because damage-based removal is so spotty here. However, without Vines of Vastwood (which can be played around to a certain degree), Doom Blade-style removal should be enough to keep this deck in check.

The price of Invigorate (clearly the deck's most powerful card) is the only thing that's keeping me from testing this archetype out seriously.

As for your second question, it's the same as with any Eternal format. πŸ™‚ Rarely are new archetypes going to be formed, since common cards are probably going to show a lot less deviation from "fair" in today's sets than rares or mythics have been. However, any new mechanic in particular is a good chance. πŸ™‚

Beyond that, you need to look for any card that either does something that's never done before at common or that truly pushes the power level at least to beyond where it's been in years. From New Phyrexia, anything involving Infect or Phyrexian mana symbols would be the first place to look. Immolating Souleater, Apostle's Blessing, Blighted Agent, Glistener Elf, Mutagenic Growth, Gitaxian Probe, Porcelain Legionnaire, and Vault Skirge have all seen play, as well as Suture Priest. All of the above fit those guidelines - Suture Priest being a Soul Warden on steroids.

Thanks, Luis! πŸ™‚

Arturo Pineda (@OreoCorp): Is there any skill barrier? How many archetypes should you prepare for? Price will stay as they are or keep rising? Oreos or not?

Pauper rewards tight play as much as any format! And, because the overall power level of cards is obviously less than Legacy, it's a lot harder to topdeck into a win if both decks are out of gas. That being said, it's a great format for anyone less-skilled to practice with because the combo and control interactions are so much simpler.

As far as archetypes, the format diversity is much closer to that of Legacy than that of Standard! There are at least a dozen archetypes that have a legitimate shot of taking down a Daily Event, and another half dozen or so that are relatively competitive. And that's just established archetypes! With such a huge card pool, there's a ton of room for innovation too.

The price will not stay. It's already much more expensive than ever before. If you want to play Pauper, buy the staple cards as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, no oreos for me. Never been a fan! Sorry bro. πŸ˜›

Thanks Arturo!

You all can find me on Twitter at @dtlerch. If you don't use Twitter right now as a Magic: the Gathering resource... what the hell are you waiting for?


What are the most expensive cards in Pauper? I came across the following numbers when I was researching for this article:

1. Invigorate, $12
2. Sunscape Familiar, $6.86
3. Gorilla Shaman, $6
4. Nightscape Familiar, $5.39
5. Ancient Spring, $3.92
6. Lotus Petal, $3.75
7. Sulfur Vents, $3.43
8. Crypt Rats, $3
9. Deep Analysis, $2.75
10. Frantic Search, $2
10. Cloud of Faeries, $2
10. Hydroblast, $2
13. Rancor, $1.75
14. Cloudpost, $1.5
14. Fireblast, $1.5
14. Pyroblast, $1.5
17. Snap, $1.25
17. Unearth, $1.25
19. Cabal Ritual, $1
19. Rite of Flame, $1
19. Mogg Flunkies, $1

This is obviously not a super comprehensive list, but it gives a good enough idea. πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading!

Dylan Lerch

@dtlerch on Twitter

The MTG Brewery

PS: No, I didn't mention . Whether that be Simic Storm, or GW Aggro, or Mono Red Lifegain, or even 46 Bears, I'm sure it's a wonderful, viable archetype. Sorry for the omission! <3

15 thoughts on “The Pauper Price Creep

  1. Anyone that references mtgotraders prices as market price of cards either doesn't know better, is lazy to do real research, or justifies the former or later with "we need to use a standard".
    It is obvious that traders has a price list that is often completely disconnected from real market data – just check the price on Goblin Welder for example and compare them to Supernovabot and you see what I mean. Same holds true for Pauper cards. I cannot stand that everyone is refering to their pricelists to make their points.

    1. Hi Josh,

      I took at look at the Supernova Bot pricing as per your suggestion, but I found it lacking. Can you direct me to where they have at least most of the Pauper "power" cards listed?

      I've found MTGO Traders to have a very well-stocked collection for the post part, and their prices are quite competitive. I'd be thrilled to find somewhere better!

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Prices do vary, this is true, but if you are going to talk about prices, you have to choose something. Using mtgotraders prices, also shared by at least cardbot, gives the price you are going to pay if you want to buy a card.. right now. The major bot chains typically will have the card in stock at that price. Shopping around, you'll definitely find lower prices, but you might not find the card. In my experience, supernovabot does not have as good a stock of cards as cardbot, with mtgotraders being somewhat worse than cardbot. Although the prices of these bots might seem disconnected from market data, they are actually serving a specific market. Those buyers that are unwilling to shop around and are willing to pay for having a card available.

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for chiming in. πŸ™‚ You're absolutely right – when comparing prices like this, I think it's of most value to use as standardized of a price as possible and one that's as widely available as possible. I'm sure you can find better prices than everything I quoted if you take enough time to, but not everybody has the luxury of sifting through MTGO's terrifying classifieds section to do so!

      Thanks for reading. πŸ™‚


  3. You definitely got me interested in Pauper. Cheap but fun and competitive? Count me in.

    Paying 4 event tickets for a deck that do very well against other decks is a steal. I just might try the white weenie deck out later today, just to see if I like the format or not. At the very least, for that price, I got nothing to lose πŸ™‚

  4. Great article! I'm interested in scrounging up enough cards to play this format now, as Legacy Dredge has a few too many click-interactions to make playing it online worth it for me. πŸ™‚

  5. Dylan,

    Your analysis of pauper and my decklist specifically appear to be accurate and well written. Your experience with the deck and related discussion suggest that you "get it" and are a solid player. Keep up the good work but try to refrain from oversharing my "gold mine". Thanks for the kind words. Another magic writer, who happened to be a stranger, once wrote nice things about a 100 CS brew of mine (Goblins) and now he's on the Community Cup team. So you never know. Thanks (but sorta no thanks, in a good way).


    PS: I don't really worry to much about people adopting my deck since I'm not nearly as famous as LSV or Glistener Elf.

    1. Hi E,

      Thank you for the kind words too. πŸ™‚ It's fantastic to see someone actually innovating in the format rather than tweaking the existing archetypes.

      I'll keep your BW project to myself from here on out, but don't expect anyone else to if you keep crushing the Dailies. πŸ™‚



  6. What is everyone' s take on Pauper becoming a supported paper format? I think it would be really great for the game and an amazing starting point for new player, especially kids. Once it gets popular enough, it will also drive up the prices of certain commons to uncommon prices so this would also help out stores and collectors. Seems like the perfect substitute for FNM in newer stores with mainly new players.

    1. Hi RyeAbc,

      I would play a paper Pauper format for sure. It would be a cool middle ground IMO between Legacy (awesome Eternal format) and something more like Block Constructed (cheap, accessable format).

      Some of the weird card bottlenecks that you get online wouldn't happen in real life, although the card pools would be different online versus real life.

      @Tyler, @Johan,

      Thank you guys so much for reading and responding. πŸ™‚ <3 If you do end up getting into Pauper online, please look me up at Kinarus and I'll playtest any matchup I can. πŸ™‚


  7. Really funny,

    I have been testing and playing a RUGpost list as well. I do like Explore more then Sakura Tribe-Elder. I also don't play Tusker and 1 Eldrazi dude less then you. But I play more land (24), from which only 2 Terramorphics. Next to that I play more carddraw.

    And yeah, I had the turn 4 concession to Reap and Sow as well. Turn 3 was even better…
    Turn 1: Post (Opp: Post)
    Turn 2: Post + prism (Opp: Prism, Preordain, island)
    Turn 3: Forest, Reap and Sow

    Opp scooped right away πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Kwebel,

      I've been loving Krosan Tusker, and I wish I could cut out an Ulamog's Crusher, but it's so nice to be able to shrug off a Doom Blade and not have to worry about it a ton. How many "finishers" does that leave you with?

      And yes, Reap and Sow is brutal. πŸ˜€

      Thanks for the response. πŸ™‚


      1. My finishers are:
        1 Ulamog's Crusher
        1 Rolling Thunder
        2 Mulldrifter

        And maybe you can call the Capsize also a finisher.

        I also have 1 Mnemomic Wall in my deck. That card is brutal.

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