Pauper Leagues are now live on MTGO, and if my social media is any indication, people are getting the itch. For the first time in a while, there's a reliable way to find a Pauper match at any time of the day, with a reasonable structure and prize support.
It's a good time to invest in the format. Some of its long-time staples are already worth a couple tix, and a good number of specs are presenting extremely low risk.
An outsider might think of Pauper as a low-powered format with plenty of room to play the best commons you prefer, but in reality there's a well-defined, high-powered metagame. There is some room to innovate, but the established decks have thousands of events supporting their metagame position.
This is something of an arbitrary starting point, though it's a popular strategy in Pauper that's pretty easy to pick up and play. Here's a sample list:
A couple sets of Sprawl and Bogle are solid pickups at their current rate given that this deck isn't ever going anywhere. In addition, picking up a high volume of the cheaper, similar cards is a solid long-term position at a negligible cost.
Ethereal Armor is another solid penny stock from this deck that, like the hexproof creatures, is also played in the Modern version.
Due to the way Mercadian Masques was released on MTGO, Ancestral Mask fetches a substantial price tag. It's worth over 6 tix, which would plummet to nothing with any kind of reprint.
If the card isn't reprinted and there's no major re-release of Mercadian Masques, then it should hold and appreciate value, but I'm less confident in this bet. Look to Armadillo Cloak for another card from this deck that was once worth multiple tix, but now is next to nothing due to increased availability.
For as long as I've played Pauper there have been mono-black decks. Chittering Rats is an obnoxious card to battle against, and Phyrexian Rager is a long-time Pauper staple. The deck changed a bit with the printing of Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but the game plan of incremental advantage has always been the same.
The aforementioned Chittering Rats is pushing 2 tix and has been a staple for years. Cuombajj Witches are worth several tix, and aren't likely candidates for a reprint anytime soon, so I really like picking up a couple sets of them.
Oubliette is considerably cheaper, just as unlikely to be reprinted, and likewise a solid pickup. The deck plays fewer copies, but as long as Gray Merchant of Asphodel is the win condition of choice, Oubliette will be a great support card.
I've heard the Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops deck called a lot of things, but "Kilnclops" really highlights its clunkiness. For as bad as I think trying to attack with Kiln Fiend is in a format so rife with efficient removal, the deck remains popular.
Amazingly, Vintage Masters (VMA) copies of Gush are worth over half a tix. That set killed prices even of rares, so that speaks to both the small amount of Masques on MTGO and the demand for Gush. I personally loathe using cards with an uncommon symbol in my Pauper decks, and I'm not alone in my preference for Gush seeing as Masques copies are over a tix.
Gitaxian Probe is currently worth a couple tix, though this is mostly due to other formats. It's not necessarily a Pauper pickup, but Probes are good to have barring a reprint.
I would personally invest in Preordain more heavily than Probe. At half a tix, it doesn't have any pressure for a reprint from Modern demand, and it's also a staple of many Pauper blue decks. Ponder has the same lack of reprint pressure, but unlike Preordain it has already been reprinted too many times.
Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration is also basically bulk, and another card that I like picking up a stack of. This one also has a strong presence in other formats, as well as another popular Pauper deck.
I've never been one to play the stock Pauper Delver deck, but you'd better believe that some flavor of Delver has always been my jam. Rather than offer insights on the issues with popular lists, I'll talk about the stock list and what cards are worth picking up.
Ninja of the Deep Hours isn't likely to ever be printed, and is currently worth 2 tix. The card has been a Pauper player for years, and is a great pickup. Cloud of Faeries was hit heavily by a VMA printing, though the Urza's Legacy printing is still worth half a tix. It should see decent growth, but isn't as lucrative a target.
Spire Golem is a complete back-breaker in blue mirrors. It's just over half a tix currently and very unlikely to see a reprint, making it a great pickup. Snap will basically never be reprinted as well and is nearly 5 tix---I only see that number increasing.
The popularity of decks like this have historically impacted the price of Hydroblast and Pyroblast heavily. Hydroblast has increased tremendously in value and is currently pushing a whopping 10 tix, with Pyroblast sitting near 5.
I don't know how much room Hydroblast has to grow at this point, but its consistent inclusion in sideboards makes a huge difference. Unless more copies are introduced to the market in some fashion, that price will only increase.
Affinity is another long-time contender in the Pauper metagame. Various elements change from time to time, but the deck has always been there.
A lot of this deck has been at the mercy of Modern Masters, and I certainly wouldn't recommend picking up most of the spells. Colored artifact lands, on the other hand, are looking pretty nice at just under a tix.
This cycle of lands is way too powerful in the context of Affinity's core strategy for the deck to ever cut them. And being banned in Modern makes a reprint extremely unlikely.
This is far from an exhaustive list of all the decks in Pauper, but it is a good baseline for the format and the most popular cards. Hopefully I did a good job of highlighting the solid pickups and the pitfalls to avoid.
Thanks for reading.
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