irst, let me take a deep, soothing breath. I have a tendency to be pretty intense about things, and I don't want to overwhelm you. So here goes: WELCOME TO COMMON WEEK!
I don't know if there's a way to set fireworks and cannons off in Internet browsers, but I hope the all-capital lettering conveys how I feel about our most conspicuous of card rarities. I love commons. While there will always be room in my heart for the other cards in Magic, it's commons that I put at the very top of the pyramid.
Cards like Sword of Feast and Famine, Garruk Wildspeaker, Doubling Season, Fact or Fiction, and Sol Ring that always seem to reside at the top of "What is your favorite card?" response lists, but I'm here today to tell you to throw that to the wind. Scrap the swords. Rootgrapple the planeswalkers.
Drop a Rare-B-Gone onto your world. All those pretty silver, gold, and cupric orange cards you grab first can be left behind for a little while.
Hold on; we're going into the world of Pauper Magic.
Say Hello to my Little Friends
Playing Magic with only commons—known affectionately as Pauper Magic—isn't a new concept. Like many of the ways to play today, it's one that has its roots in the ingenuity and exploration of players in Magic's dark ages. What matters is that whatever the mode—on Magic Online or Magic on paper—creating and playing with commons is, actually, pretty common.
While card availability can certainly play a factor in the decision to go this route, it's a genuinely exciting and refreshing way to approach things. Even without the powerful cards and overarching effects that exist only in higher rarities, Magic still thrives.
While I've shared that I'm a fan of "Peasant Magic," with rares and mythic rares excluded, it's really the commons that I find most interesting. In fact, I even built a Cube of all commons, which I shared some game play from in this space, and you can read a lot more about building and shaping it if that sort of thing is interesting to you.
In that brief time I considered "cheating" and running a redo on what makes my Cube fun, I stumbled onto something a much more interesting: Masters Edition III. There was a little feature about the set that slapped me in the face and woke me up to something awesome.
Legendary creatures were included as commons (something Tom LaPille went into some details about).
As an adamant and vocal EDH Commander player and adamant and vocal supporter (for those following me on Twitter at least) of Pauper Magic, it was like something extraordinary happened.
Peanut butter, meet chocolate. Chocolate, peanut butter. Serendipity.
Leave the Rares. Take the Commons.
The vague recognition that, yes, common legendary creatures were in there didn't really register until I took that idea to Commander. In a world where the lists of awesome cards are dominated by the higher rarities I saw visions of commons flashing before my eyes. Taking the variant format I love most (Commander) and mixing it with the deck restriction I enjoy best (Pauper) looked awesome.
What makes this so exciting is that prior to Master's Edition III there were no common legendary creatures (and for Pauper, as long as something has been printed at common once, it's fair game).
Jedit Ojanen and Tobias Andrion are the white and blue representatives provided for us, a classic color pair that usually plays for a longer game than not. However, without the usual tools that let a deck do that (namely, Day of Judgment effects), we can see a different side of the pair: action.
Creatures like Esper Cormorants and Deft Duelist are great on the offense, with Silver Drake and Talon Trooper joining in with flying for the fight. To help out, there are a few uniquely white and blue cards that take care of creatures on the other side: Curse of Chains, Minister of Impediments, Plumes of Peace, and Silkbind Faerie.
Adding in the things that white and blue do well on their own, we can see one way this shakes out.
White-Blue Pauper Commander
Jedit Ojanen or Tobias Andrion
You can choose either of the legendary options to be the commander, but the goal of the deck is pretty straightforward: swing. With an array of flying critters, ways to keep them from being blocked, equipment to pump them up, and sticking towards the cheaper end of things you should have few issues getting your attacking groove on.
There are, of course, things that can be useful if the games become protracted:
My Magic-sense is tingling, telling me that there might be just too few lands here, but it's up to you how risky you want your mana to come (I live in the danger zone).
Barktooth Warbeard and Lady Orca are cut from the same cloth: hit bigger and harder. Like many black and red creatures, having higher power than toughness makes them more like glass cannons than reusable juggernauts of aggression. While it can be easy to get hung up on glass cannons being, well, glass, it's important to remember that sometimes hitting only once works fine.
Especially if you're planning on just that.
Red-Black Pauper Commander
Barktooth Warbeard or Lady Orca
While the white-blue deck above is aggressive, this will tear faces off. Eschewing the usual red route of burn spells—aside from the classic Kaervek's Torch and Tempest gem Rolling Thunder—this deck aims to throw creatures around like candy.
Creatures with haste can do some surprising things, from catching players off-guard with an attack they weren't expecting to completely changing the amount of damage that's possible in a given turn. A veritable bonanza of creatures with haste exist in red, and for a slightly higher price-per-play on average you get to come out firing every turn.
Black is no slouch either, supplementing red's all-out attacks with a combination of removal (the whole Terror clan and the like) as well as something other colors don't get a lot of: creature recursion. It's easy to understand how powerful Living Death can be, but once the mana is situated, cards like Death Denied and Grim Harvest become machines. And the impressive Death Denied is like a reverse Rolling Thunder just for you.
And any excuse to put Assault Strobe next to Howl From Beyond just makes me giddy with excitement.
Three more color pairs, three more decks, right? Well, that's pretty boring. How about we play some Pauper Commander instead?
And not just me regaling tales to you; come join me in some Pauper Commander action directly!
I have some ideas for additional decks, with different takes and things to try. But all the speculation in the world won't make a difference if I don't have any way to actually, you know, play. So join me on Magic Online tomorrow (Wednesday, April 20, 2011) at 8 p.m. Eastern for some Pauper Commander goodness.
Here's the ground rules:
- You need to send me an email, mention me on Twitter, or share a forum comment with your Magic Online username.
- I will add these to the buddy list for the account I will be using.
- When the time rolls around I will create a game labeled "Pauper Commander", and only buddies will be allowed to join.
- If you completed the first step, and stop in at the right time for the third step, you should be eligible to join in!
- If the game is full (which it should be very quickly) you can stop in to watch or, better yet, create more "Pauper Commander" games! If there are players, let there be games!
What kind of deck will you build? Only you can figure that out for yourself, but here are some suggested themes that should work nicely:
White and Blue:
- Soldiers and common "lords" (like Veteran Armorer and Veteran Swordsmith) with evasive (Metathran Soldier) or evasion-granting creatures (Crafty Pathmage).
Blue and Black:
Black and Red:
- Burn players directly with creatures (Infectious Horror and Coalhauler Swine) and spells (Sizzle and Devastate).
Red and Green:
Green and White:
And that's just the start! Send me your Magic Online user name (via email, forums, or Twitter) and create your own Pauper Commander deck for tomorrow night, April 20, 2011 at 8 p.m. Eastern. Perhaps you'll become a future part of Serious Fun! If you can't make it then share your deck with others; you just might inspire someone else!
And if Commander isn't your bag, come join us next week when we breathe in that New Phyrexia smell. See you then!