Only the Commons, All the Fun

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Jeroen Leliveld

The letter P!auper Deck Challenge (PDC) is a known format to some, but uncharted land to most. PDC is the most accesible Constructed format there is: all-commons Magic. In PDC, all noncommons are banned. This means no rares, no uncommons and no timeshifted cards; only cards with a black expansion symbol are allowed.

At the moment of writing, the PDC community on Magic Online consists of over one hundred active players, who participate in the numerous events the community organizes. The attendance at events ranges from fifteen to more than thirty players. The Magic Online chat room "/join pdc" almost always has a few people looking for a match.

On top of that, the PDCMagic forums are bubbling with players and ideas, even players not active in events contribute on these forums. This makes PDC one of the biggest communities of players on MTGO and definitely the biggest Player Run Event community.

History and Formats

PDC started a couple of years ago, when a player called tharionwind began hosting small weekly Player Run Events (PREs). The first few events' format was Extended, which changed into Classic when Mirage was released. Standard was the second format to be supported in events, followed by "Future Extended." The last format to have a dedicated event was Block.

Future Extended is the intermediate between the small Standard and the giant Classic format. Future Extended is Extended after the coming rotation. This means Onslaught / Eighth Edition and forwards. Hence the "Future" in Future Extended.

The Block event is Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block at the moment, with the two seasons previous being Kamigawa Block and Lorwyn Block. Due to the small number of cards, it is an ideal starting point for new players who want to have a taste of what PDC is.


Giant_Growth PDC has grown much from its humble beginnings; there are many events nowadays. These are divided over the week, and some are aimed at European, some on American players. This way there are suitable starting times for everyone who wishes to attend. The events are free to enter; players only need to bring a deck and some time to play. Information on all events (start times, joinable rooms, format, etc.) can be found on the Player Run Events subforum. Just look for the threads labelled PDC.

Each event series is divided into seasons. The last event of a season is the World Championship, or just Worlds. The top-rated players of the past season are invited to battle for bigger prizes and the highest honour: being the best of the best. It is the culmination of the season.

There usually is no dedicated prize support for events. The prizes that are awarded to those that reach the elimination rounds are donated by the players themselves. There are exceptions; events can be sponsored, and some award bigger prizes. Another incentive to play is the trophy banners. These small banners are awarded to event winners and include event name, deck, and player. A compilation of Standard trophy banners can be found here.

Gatherling and Ratings

One of the new features in PDC is Gatherling, a database which holds all known information on just about every event, each played deck, and all players. Player profiles contain winning decklists, trophies, ratings (DCI style), and more. The metagame tab has the information on each event, including which decks were present and who piloted them. Lastly, the decks tab searches for decks in the database. Gatherling is the best place to start searching for a deck to play or to find out which decks are "the decks to beat."

Players entering an event will be added to Gatherling by the host. Gatherling will then keep score of achievements and PDC ranking. Players have to enter their decks themselves.

Playing an Event

The Player Run Events forum contains announcements on each event inside event threads. These threads have all the information and rules for an event. If a player wants to enter an event, he or she enters the Events chat room (specified in the event thread) at the registration time (also in the thread). Here the attendees can chat with each other. The host, who runs the event, will then ask everyone to register themselves by typing "reg" in another chat room.

After registration has ended, the host will announce pairings, usually by posting them on the event thread. Players start their matches and post their record in the chat afterwards (a player would post "W 2-1" after winning two out of three games par example). The next round's pairings will be announced when everyone is done playing. An event usually has some rounds of Swiss and a cut to single elimination (Top 4 or 8). An event takes up to 6 hours from start to first place, but the Swiss part takes only about three. Players are urged to properly announce drops to the host if they care to leave early.

The Decks

There is only one stop left before playing in a PDC match or event: the deck. The last part of this article is a summary of some of the decks that are played in each format. This is not to stop anyone from innovating or building something completely different, but more as a short guide to what can be expected during the different events. (Please make note that all of the decks below were created and played before the release of Shadowmoor.)


The first deck is the benchmark for speed in Standard, the aggro deck of choice. It plays a ridiculously low amount of land (here 19, sometimes even 18), and the rest of the deck is just threat after threat after threat. It even has a card advantage engine in Amrou Scout. Because a lot of the creatures have flanking or flying, it is very difficult to stop this deck by blocking. Mass pump gives the "Oops, I win" factor and some protection against sweepers.

Storm Control
PDC Standard

Main Deck

60 cards

10  Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Terramorphic Expanse

23 lands

Errant Ephemeron
Martyr of Ashes

7 creatures

Empty the Warrens
Remove Soul
Rift Bolt
Think Twice

30 other spells

Faerie Trickery
Fathom Seer
Martyr of Ashes
Rune Snag

15 sideboard cards

This is a control deck with a combo finish. It tries to keep the opponent in check with removal while building up for a stormy Empty the Warrens. Six to eight Goblin tokens is very difficult to beat without sweepers of your own. Both Martyr of Ashes and Grapeshot can handle creature swarms very effectively. If the main storm plan doesn't work, the deck can shift into a blue counter control deck after sideboard, riding a protected Errant Ephemeron or Fathom Seer to victory while keeping the board clear.

Dark Evocation is an aggro-control deck that has been putting up good results lately. It disrupts the opponent with quick discard and utility creatures and proceeds to beat down with them. Momentary Blink protects your creatures while also re-triggering comes-into-play abilities. If the game goes late, Grim Harvest (fetchable with Teachings) and Blightspeaker can give overwhelming card advantage.

(Future) Extended

The first deck is an old "favourite" and the only deck in PDC that has been saddled with bannings and restrictions. Because of its absurd power level, Cranial Plating was banned and some time later all artifact lands were restricted. Affinity survived, which is a testament to the deck's raw power. The deck works much like the real thing, but with less Ravager shenanigans. It drops huge creatures for practically nothing then proceeds to smash face. If the opponent recovers from the initial onslaught, the Affinity player plays Thoughtcast or, heaven forbid, Rush of Knowledge (draw seven with Enforcer or six with Hoverguard out) and starts the beats all over again. It is an incredibly quick and resilient aggro deck.

Freed is arguably the best PDC deck in Extended right now. It is a combo deck that tries to animate a two-mana-producing land (such as an Izzet Boilerworks or a land enchanted with Fertile Ground) and enchant that land with Freed from the Real. The land now taps for two mana and can then be untapped, netting one Blue Mana or Red Mana in the process. It then uses its infinite mana to kill with Pyromatics or equips Viridian Longbow on the land and taps and untaps it until victory. Consistency comes in the form of transmute (Drift of Phantasm and Muddle the Mixture) and Trinket Mage. As defence against a timely removal spell on the animated land, Freed replicates Gigadrowse and taps its opponents out.

Cogs and Stripes exploits the combination of comes-into-play abilities of creatures like Trinket Mage and Mulldrifter with bounce effects like Ninja of the Deep Hours and the ever-present Momentary Blink. In the process it generates massive card advantage while staying alive and keeping the board relatively clear. It then proceeds to win with 2/x beat down. The Cogs part in the name comes from its artifact tutor package, which provides answers to just about any problem.


Mono-Blue Control (MUC)
PDC Future Extended

Main Deck

60 cards

20  Island
Lonely Sandbar

24 lands

Dream Stalker
Fathom Seer
Spire Golem

6 creatures

Echoing Truth
Force Spike
Muddle the Mixture
Piracy Charm
Remove Soul
Think Twice

30 other spells

Deep Analysis
Errant Ephemeron
Faerie Trickery

15 sideboard cards

The bogeyman of many a Magic format, Mono-Blue Control is alive, well, and possibly the deck to beat in Pauper Classic. Instant-speed card drawing (like Think Twice) keeps the MUC player's hand stocked with Counterspells (including the namesake Counterspell), while a playset of Spire Golems means he or she can field threats without even dropping his counter shields.

Burn Range
PDC Classic

Main Deck

60 cards

16  Mountain

16 lands

Karplusan Wolverine
Keldon Marauders
Oxidda Golem
Spark Elemental

16 creatures

Lava Dart
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Rift Bolt

28 other spells

Flaring Pain
Hearth Charm
Martyr of Ashes

15 sideboard cards

This is the typical red deck, and everyone is probably familiar with the concept: convert untapped Mountains into damage as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your curve starts at one with the obvious Lightning Bolt and the surprising Karplusan Wolverine, and ends at "six" with all-stars Oxidda Golem and Fireblast.

Invasion's Armadillo Cloak is easily one of the top five cards in the format in terms of power level. Builds vary; some are classified as green-white aggro (think Wild Mongrel, River Boa, maybe Blade of the Sixth Pride) with Cloaks just for support, while others are filled with "unsolvable" creatures (Silhana Ledgewalker, Phantom Tiger, Guardian of the Guildpact) that can take a Cloak into the red zone time and again without fear. The list above is one of the second kind.

Final Words

In conclusion, Pauper should have something to satisfy everyone. It has all the fun and competition, but the decks are a lot easier to put together. Check it out by looking around at the "/join pdc" chatroom on Magic Online or at the hub for PDC players,

I want to thank everyone for reading this introduction to PDC and I hope that I have made some of you interested enough to check the format out. I want to give special thanks to Lulthyme for constructive criticism, Evu for help on the Classic section and editorial review, and Kingritz for the explanation of Cogs.

Are you a community member interested in submitting an article of your own? Send it along to along with the submission agreement found here. Community Articles are posted on the first and third Friday of every month depending on the quality and quantity of submissions received.

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