Most of you reading this article are aware that I'm on Brainstorm Brewery every week, teaching Corbin and Jason how to pick bulk commons and uncommons like a master.
Recently, we got into a discussion about Pauper – a format well-known on Magic Online, but apparently not so much in paper. Corbin argued that Pauper doesn't really affect the price of paper cards. I explained that it does, and Jason spent our 15-minute debate trying to string together as much "P" alliteration as possible. It was a pretty polarizing part of the podcast, and we got a lot of feedback in both directions. Some people loved it and some turned off the cast. I was eventually able to whittle Corbin down and claim victory in the argument by bringing up Battle Screech and Gleeful Sabotage, both paper picks whose prices are unaffected by any other competitive format.
So what's with the title? Well, the similarities between Legacy and Pauper are probably closer than you think. While the formats are anything but twins on a financial level (Pauper is usually cheaper than Standard, while Legacy easily demands a buy-in in the four digits for 75 cards), I've got a bit of anecdotal evidence that suggests some people treat the formats similarly.
The first piece of evidence is that I think the format is "region-locked" to an extent: Pauper growth expanded more naturally in some areas than others, similarly to how there's a hotbed for Legacy in the northeastern part of the United States. I often hear complaints on social media about how Legacy is dead, but then I have the choice to travel to two or three Legacy tournaments in a single week within an hour's driving distance, and they always fire with at least a dozen people.
Another point is the power level of the cards that you get to play. While there's no Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull in a Pauper game, you can still play with some of the most powerful cards that Wizards has ever released at the common rarity. Brainstorm with Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration? Sure. More of a Legacy Burn player? You still get Chain Lightning and Fireblast. You know how Gitaxian Probe is banned in everything? Well, not here.
When something fails like that, it's really hard to spend time, effort and money investing in another attempt, especially if it involves a lot of players building new decks. Thankfully, paper Pauper is probably the least expensive format to put together a deck for.
The format is surprisingly fast for one where someone with no experience might expect people to be playing a bunch of "bad cards." From a financial perspective, it gives the seller something we all hope a new format brings: attraction to previously dusty cards that we hadn't been selling before. Sure, you might sell an Ancient Den or Counterspell to a Commander player once in a while, but how often have you sold them as playsets?
Pauper allows for access to some of the most powerful and banned cards in Magic. Want to play four copies of Gush? Vintage won't let you, and Legacy won't even give you one. Pauper, though? Eh, play four if you want. It's not even overpowered there.
I've been meaning to get into the format myself considering how often I sell cards for it, but I'm really waiting to find a competitive list where Mwonvoli Acid-Moss is viable. Hmm, I guess I'll just go to the MTG Pauper subreddit (which has 9,600 subscribers: approximately one-third the amount of the Modern subreddit and one-quarter the amount of the "Spikes" subreddit), and use a link in the sidebar to find one of 100 different Pauper decks I could try out. As a Life from the Loam diehard fan, this list looks like it would be something up my alley.
So why am I Gushing about Pauper decks all of a sudden? Because I'm telling you that there's a bunch of money in it for you, if you're someone who picks bulk and sells cards to local players. If you're the person who people come to for Thraben Inspectors and Fiery Tempers in Standard, you can sell those to Pauper players too. It's kind of sad how Ichor Wellspring isn't buylistable anymore... but it's a good thing Channel Fireball just previewed a pauper list as their Deck of the Day earlier this week, and it happens to run four copies of Wellspring. Even if you sell those for 10 to 15 cents each, the profit you lock in seems decent if you bought the bulk at anywhere near $3.00 per thousand. Even if some of these cards aren't picks on Trader Tools, you can get a feel for the power level and play potential of the cards if you've been around for previous Standard formats.
So what's the best way to build a Pauper community? It's probably not the best line of play to just expect everyone to come to you, spend $30 or $40 on a deck, then start hopping into events every week. You're going to want to preview the format and allow people to try it out.
Thankfully, Pauper decks are ridiculously inexpensive (did I mention that yet?), and you can probably build an entire gauntlet of Pauper decks for less than the price of a single Modern deck. Take one day where you don't have any events going on at your LGS and plan a Pauper event. Throw in some decent prize support, and see how many people are interested a month in advance. If it's anything like upstate NY, there will be a lot of people who think that there won't be anyone else interested, so they don't want to risk putting a deck together for nothing. This is negated if you have six decks to lend out, and can let players pick their own preference.
I know I personally have a ton of Dazes that aren't really going anywhere. They're hard to move to the local trifecta of Standard/Modern/Commander players, and they're only sometimes on buylists for 50 or 75 cents.
Even the fact that we have a Legacy community doesn't help the card, considering it's mostly fallen out of favor there. Thankfully, the first Mono-Blue Delver player to send me a Facebook message is going to want at least two or three copies at $1.00 each. I can also move Ponders, Preordains and Spellstutter Sprites – cards that you were already picking and buylisting for quarters.
If you learn what's played in Pauper and start picking the rest of the shells for decklists, you can have entire 75s at the ready for anyone looking to enter into the format. Just keep your Pauper playables mixed in with your other "probably not going to buylist but I might need it anyway" stuff. Your Negates, Essence Scatters, Llanowar Elves, Elvish Visionarys, Ancient Grudges, and Temur Battle Rages.
"But DJ; I don't know what cards are good in Pauper outside of cards that are already good in other formats! How do I know what c–"
BAM. Click that link. I didn't make it, so credit to user "fruuty" on TappedOut.net, but that's a pretty darn comprehensive list of all Pauper staples that you need to be aware of. Start picking Sign in Bloods and Doom Blades again. Pull out those Hunger of the Howlpacks while you dig for Moonmists in original ISD/DKA bulk. These are all cards you can get 10 to 25 cents for, and you won't even have to ship them across the country to Card Kingdom or Isle of Cards.
I'm sure that there are some people out there who are reading this article expecting me to give you some hot new specs based on the Pauper metagame, and how there are probably some low-supply commons from older sets out there just waiting for the market copies to hit a critical low, Oubliette style.
Unfortunately, I've got nothing. This article is here to tell you that paper Pauper is a real format, and to be aware of some Breaking Bulk picks like Gleeful Sabotage and Moment's Peace. If you have the bulk common resources and want to go the extra mile, you can start creating decks on the cheap and introducing friends to a timeless format that allows you to play incredibly powerful and inexpensive cards.
Pauper is a format that's not "officially" supported by Wizards of the Coast, and it currently feels very region-dependent. You get to play Brainstorm, Chain Lightning and Priest of Titania while enjoying a diverse metagame that rewards deck mastery. Sound a little bit like Legacy yet? Well it would, except that you can build four or five decks for the price of a Volcanic Island. Thanks for reading!