I am excited to finally see the whole set released. Well, I might not be ecstatic about the whole thing, as I don’t care about a single rare. The commons are the gold that I seek. The multiple week delay between the first rare that gets spoiled until all the commons are revealed can be really tilting for a exclusive ‘draft and standard pauper’ player. We all know that it’s the commons that control the draft format as they are the most frequently used and expected cards that you will open in any pack. They also happen to be the only cards relevant to the whole standard pauper format – umm, duh.
Now that it’s all spoiled I have done a ‘complete’ set review for Standard Pauper. This set review is going to be my snap judgments for all of the commons before having played with them. My legend, complete with abbreviations, is below. My pessimism for cards should be likened to how I imagine PV would rate these cards if he gave a crap about this format.
SUP = strictly unplayable
BUP = borderline unplayable
P = playable
BA = build-around or BadAss!
In order to see the card pictures pop-up, I recommend downloading and enabling the FireFox add-on ‘Autocard Anywhere’.
Boros Mastiff: SUP
Ajani’s Sunstriker is guaranteed to help race and it’s not even seen in mono white. This hound doesn’t stack up better than Loyal Cathar or Daring Skyjek.
Haazda Snare Guard: SUP
Despite the incentive to do it, who in the right mind ever attacks with a horned turtle?
Lyev Decree: SUP
One time effects like this are too situational. Even Inaction Injunction is SUP and it cycles.
Maze Sentinel: SUP
Unique effect but it costs too much for the Boros aggro decks and the ability is not relevant in control decks. I can’t think of any multicolored creatures that really want this effect either.
Riot Control: BUP
Fog decks might like some incidental life gain, and this could be used with Archaeomancer to lock the opponent out of combat damage and put you out of burn range. Would be a consideration that I’d likely pass on as a sideboard card in an Esper Control list or in the main of a deck that wants to mill as a primary win con.
Steeple Roc: SUP
This 5 mana investment dies to every one mana removal spell. I picture this bird being shot down like Django playing Duck Hunt.
Sunspire Gatekeepers: BUP
Four power for 4 mana split across two cards works well if you are consistently hitting turn 4 with two gates in play. A 2/4 for 4 is obviously SUP without the 2/2 sidekick, but together they can tag team an attacking X/4 on the ground and potentially get on the offensive when the 2/2 vigilant knight survives. The requisite number of gates to make this work also make your deck so much slower and worse. Compare to Seraph of Dawn. Maybe you want this guy in a tokens deck, but I’d rather have Captain’s Call and Eyes in the Skies.
Wake the Reflections: SUP
At best this would awaken a one mana 3/3 centaur, but that requires Centaur Herald and at the earliest would come into play on turn 4. Tokens are designed to swarm in pauper, not generate minor mana advantage while requiring a token already in play.
Hidden Strings: SUP
Sure you get to clear two blockers, connect, and then untap a few guys for pseudo-vigilance. You’re not likely to hit again since unlike Hands of Binding they get to untap.
Maze Glider: BUP
Having 5 toughness makes this dodge Thunderbolt and it stabilizes the air against everything. Six mana is very cost prohibitive, otherwise I like him and the ability he has to give Frostburn Weird some wings! (brought to you courtesy of RedBull)
A four mana hard counter that only costs one blue is so much worse than Essence Scatter, Negate, and Syncopate. Rewind should be your four mana counter of choice and even that is too slow for the format.
Murmuring Phantasm: BUP
Wow, sweet wall. It comes down early and potentially saves a bunch of life. Five toughness is huge for the ground – nothing gets past it in the early game unless enchantments like Rancor are involved. The problem is that without a single point of power you are still vulnerable to swarms of multiple X/1s in tokens decks or creatures like Daring Skyjek. Could synergize well in a defender deck to buy time, but most decks would prefer Frostburn Weird to have the potential to trade with other creatures and attack.
Opal Lake Gatekeepers: BUP
Cycling is good but a vanilla 2/4 can’t swim in this format. It has potential synergy with Cloudshift and Ghostly Flicker, but requiring the two gates is asking too much.
Runner’s Bane: P
Enchantment removal is bad in general because blink effects exist. Pacifism is generally better because the only thing different that Runner’s Bane can do is stop activated abilities that require tapping, which aren’t very common or broken in this format. For instance, there are no pingers in the format, which this card would answer well. Keep in mind the enchantment falls off if they grow the creature to 4 or more power. This could lock down a Delver and a lot of aggressive creatures, so keep an eye out for it. Keeping the creature in play can be ‘actively’ good on Seraph of Dawn if they planned on recurring it with Haunted Fengraf or Gravepurge.
Uncovered Clues: BA
If your deck consists of more spells than creatures then this card is reasonable at keeping the gas coming and drawing past unnecessary lands. Missing on creatures is potentially a problem, so I’m interested to see if a primarily spell-based deck could utilize this. My Rakdos Burn deck operates on the premise that a lot of decks have main deck answers to creatures, so by going creatureless you put more bricks in their deck than they can carry. A Grixis shell with this and would be interesting to delve into further.
Wind Drake: SUP
Reprint from M13. Has never seen play, is never going to see play.
Bane Alley Blackguard: SUP
Weak chocolate. AKA a low impact vanilla creature in the black section of the color pie.
Crypt Incursion: P
This has the potential to be a sweet sideboard card against self-mill decks that utilize Gnaw to the Bone to put the game out of reach. Preventing Gravepurge shenanigans and gaining a solid chunk of life seems like a good deal for grindy matchups where you expect the game to go past turn 10 frequently.
Fatal Fumes: SUP
This might get played if the stats were inverted to -2/-4, but with Tragic Slip, Dead Weight, Victim of Night, and Murder around, I don’t see anyone dying to take a whiff of this 4 mana removal.
Hired Torturer: BUP
His stats are not impressive but he does have a unique ability to close a game out if unanswered. He is basically a vigilant, unblockable creature if you wait to activate his ability until EOT. The mana investment is intensive and the peek effect won’t likely have much impact, but a control deck might like a way to drain out the game without needing to enter combat.
Maze Abomination: SUP
Too cost-prohibitive for the stats. Works well with a team of tramplers or with Rancor, but he’s too slow.
Rakdos Drake: SUP
This baby dragon is similar to Cloud Elemental, since it can rumble past X/2 flyers but it’s worse since it is forbidden to defend the skies. Goblin Sky Raider as a split card does not elevate this card’s value.
Sinister Possession: BUP
A pseudo-Pacifism that creates some interesting racing math. It doesn’t actually answer the creature but can nullify lifelink or make them think twice about trading 2 for 2 or even 3 for 2. Seems marginally useful in a burn deck and any control deck would rather kill the enchanted creature dead instead. Has the potential to let the opponent leech him or herself too much, though.
Ubal Sar Gatekeepers: P
The best of the gatekeepers. Nothing insane, but repeatable removal with blink effects and being able to take out a Delver or Skyknight Legionnaire is solid. The 2/4 body is pretty close to useless, so I’m not sure about playing this guy, even though he is the best of the cycle. He is also the first creature in the format that can flametongue an X/2 when he comes into play.
Awe for the Guilds: SUP
Awfully narrow effect that does nothing unless you are prepping for an alpha strike and they have a team of monocolored blockers standing at the ready. Exactly the type of card with which I never play.
Clear a Path: SUP
Since when did walls become some good that Wizards needed to print specific hate for them? What did a lowly defender ever do to you to deserve this?!? He certainly didn’t antagonize you or throw the first punch.
Maze Rusher: SUP
Too cost prohibitive, kinda slow for being a self-proclaimed ‘rusher.’
Punish the Enemy: BUP
Searing Spear exists for decks trying to actually be mana efficient. I could see this in a burn deck since it lets you slap them in the face while hopefully dealing with a threat. By the time you can cast this you likely are going to have to deal with an X/4 or a swarm of creatures, though.
Riot Piker: BUP
First strike makes him a decent attacker and a prime Rancor target. The problem is that sometimes you need to block and sometimes they have a Horned Turtle or better that will stifle the rioters assault.
Rubblebelt Maaka: P
This is most likely an uncounterable Brute Force that really helps give an aggro deck’s reach as well as flexibility. This is at its best in a Gruul Aggro deck with Rancor and alongside Slaughterhorn. Being a split card with a Hill Giant is perfect for when the early game rush doesn’t get the job done.
Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers: SUP
Act of treason is BUP, and this costs more and is attached to a guy without haste. All of the other gatekeepers have an ability that makes sense to me, but this guy seems like he should be a 2/1 haste with this ability. That, or if you want to keep the 2/4 then the ability should have been a forked bolt or shock that can only target creatures.
Weapon Surge: BUP
I could see this getting fringe play in a Boros Tokens deck, but it doesn’t save your team from Electrickery like Break of Day can. Unlike the role that Righteous Charge and Dynacharge have – Overrun, this is not.
Battering Krasis: SUP
Too slow to make into a threat and he’s easy to stop in the early game.
Kraul Warrior: SUP
Karul, the Warrior King! (needs to be spoken in a gruff, Christian Bale Batman voice). All ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ references aside, this has quite the masculine name, but this fish beast isn’t roided up enough to lead in battle.
Maze Behemoth: SUP
Dies to everything – too slow. Maybe ramping into him can happen and giving Zhur-Taa Swine Trample is a big game, but you would rather ramp into Hexproof beasts to dodge all of the targeted removal to avoid being a lightning rod.
Mending Touch: BUP
Ranger’s Guile already exists, which is better because even if this saves your creature from a black or red removal spell, he still gets tapped and can’t attack or block for a turn. It also doesn’t save him from the -X/-X effects of Tragic Slip, Dead Weight, and Ubul Sar Gatekeepers.
Mutant’s Prey: SUP
I don’t think a good Simic Evolve deck exists. If it did, this card would still be BUP. The requirement to have a creature in play and have it survive in response to this spell is too much to ask for a removal spell.
Titanic Growth is still better than this. Instant speed is worth more than +1/+1. It does play well with Wandering Wolf, though.
Saruli Gatekeepers: P
Gaining 7 is a ton against aggro decks. Good blink target, but I’m not sure 2/4s are relevant enough in green control decks. Nice combo to Ghostly Flicker to gain tons of life without requiring a graveyard full of creatures to support a Gnaw to the Bone engine.
Thrashing Mossdog: P
Big enough body to stop all of the flyers in the format. Expensive but huge boost in stats after scavenging gives your other creatures the ability to dominate the board. The cost on this is just right, and the fact that you can get value from him after he eats a removal spell or trades makes him a welcome addition to a defensive green deck.
Armored Wolf-Rider: BUP
Slow, ground vanilla with a huge butt. Stops everything dead in it’s tracks on the ground but also targetable and consequently dies easily. Maybe he’s worth ramping into and then giving vigilance with Maze Sentinel? I’m guessing it’s not.
Beetleform Mage: BUP
The beetle spreads its wings and can rock out as a 4/4 flyer, but dies very easily and has a color intensive activation cost. Not enough action for the mana investment every turn.
Deputy of Acquittals: P
The ability to counter a removal spell or get another comes into play effect is pretty good, but the loss of tempo for the benefit of having a 2/2 in play isn’t spectacular. A 2/2 just doesn’t do much work in this format, especially in Azorious.
Drown in Filth: SUP
Hard to cast removal that misses a large percentage of the time. Could be terminate in the mid to late game with Grisly Salvage and Forbidden Alchemy, but you most importantly want to be able to kill stuff in the early game.
Morgue Burst: BUP
The card is similar to Grave Exchange except you can target the creature you want to snipe and it can burn to the face. Very cost restrictive, but I could see this as a one-of in a Grixis Control deck. It mostly likely targets a 4 drop, which is enough to take down most creatures.
Nivix Cyclops: BA
This card. This card is the nutter butter and bananas! And I thought Frostburn Weird was good. Although he requires one additional mana up-front, he is much more mana efficient than ol’ Frosty. The problem with FBW is that it can’t get damage in the early to mid game because it is more important to hold mana up for spells than pump for a few points of damage. His role is to hold the ground until the ground clears, then he beats down.
Nivix Cyclops holds the ground just the same, but he can get WAY more aggressive. His toughness doesn’t get smaller, and all it requires is that you cast things like Think Twice, Pillar of Flame, Searing Spear, Brimstone Volley, or Amass the Components before bashing face. He represents a much higher threat than FBW with the potential to be attacking for 4, 7, 10, or even 13 as early as turn 4.
The addition of him to my Izzet Tempo deck forces me to put more proactive spells in place of some counterspells so he can be a more reliable attacker. I can see it now: turn 2 Goblin Electromancer, turn 3 attack for 2, play Nivix Clyclops, turn 4 play 2-3 spells to attack for a huge chunk and putting them in range of lethal. The ability to sit back and have a 4/4 blocker represented as long as you have 2 mana open or one mana open with Goblin Electromancer in play can stave off many an attack. This helps continue the role of ground patrol just like FBW does, except now we are more explosive with our aggressive gameplan.
Pilfered Plans: P
Dimir decks that are looking to play the control role will love this card. Divination hasn’t been getting much play because Think Twice lets you leave mana up and Amass the Components lets you see more cards. The plan with this card is to make use of the added benefit of self-mill to pseudo-draw cards by hitting things with flashback or to add some incidental mill to the opponent if attacking their library is your primary win-con.
Tithe Drinker: P
Anything cheap with Extort has potential, and this one is aggressively costed. He is too vulnerable to removal and can’t survive combat with anything, but he potentially trades with bears like Syndic of Tithes. Something like Ethereal Armor would protect him well. Even a solid removal suite to clear the path for him could really help you race. Extort + lifelink feels like a perfect anti-aggro combination to me.
Viashino Firstblade: P
Boros aggro could use another haste creature to combine with Skyknight Legionnaire. While the 2/2 is not the most relevant body to have around, he will likely get in for 4 or earn a chump block from something and continue to bring some beats. Solider is a relevant and beneficial creature type to aid in the offensiveness of War Falcon.
Zhur-Taa Druid: P
I don’t think a Gruul deck wants or needs to ramp, but the pinging every turn adds up. The restrictive mana cost hurts it when comparing to Scorned-Villager. I can see him getting out of control damage-wise and helping get the expensive bloodrushers in play earlier if you failed to draw 1 or 2 drop threats in a Gruul aggro deck.
The aggro decks will obviously ignore these 3-mana rocks since they are too slow. Even the control decks don’t need to ramp to 5 on turn 4, but I’m sure they might like the mana-fixing and potential to get ahead on mana and later on cycle the stone into another card when gas is shorter supply than mana.
If you automatically put 4 of these into your 2 color deck and 12 into your 3 color deck then you need to reevaluate how you plan to play your spells on curve. I suggest testing them out by playing with the max amount of gates to start – that’s right, actually jam games with the full amount. Wait until they screw you up too much for your liking, then slowly start to cut them until you figure out how important it is for your deck to hit it’s land drops on time without losing tempo from them coming into play tapped. Some decks want the fixing more than others due to multiple double costs across 3 or more colors, and some decks aren’t nearly as greedy.
And there you have it – all of the commons, all at once. I have started to brew a few changes to some existing decks and potentially will work on a few new decks. Overall the set is small and doesn’t have a ton of playable cards, but there are enough that will see play that it should make for an interesting update.
For reference, here’s my GoogleDoc with all the new lists that I am tinkering with.
My next article will cover some gameplay involved with the decks that I find to be the best and most fun to play. Hopefully the CF Store will host another tournament soon and I can do another report from it, too.
Thanks for reading. Comments and further discussion is appreciated!
Dr. Chris Baker, D.C. | Sports Chiropractor
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor