The Pied Pauper – A New Challenger Appears

Greetings and salutations my gamer friends! My name is Jade Skye Walker (yes, I’m a Jedi) and this is my first article for this website. Before I begin, I thought you might want to know a little bit about me. I’m a gay woman in my thirties, disabled, and heavily tattooed. I’m a biologist that specializes in tarantulas and I have hundreds of them for pets. I’ve been playing Magic since Legends came out and have played in the Pro Tour twice (under my old name), placed in the top 32 of the Junior Super Series in 1999, I’ve been a judge, and have worked as a play-tester and events coordinator for the game WWE Raw Deal. I haven’t played Standard since the first Zendikar block, but I have been playing EDH since the format first became a thing (Hanna, Ship’s Navigator and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts are my favorite commanders). I dabble in Modern with fringe decks like Bogles and Merfolk and sometimes play Limited if a set catches my interest. I got into Pauper three years ago and it’s become my second love, just behind EDH. I’m a pretty quintessential nerd or dork (both words are actually tattooed on my knuckles).

Today, I’m going to talk about a new deck archetype in Pauper and where it came from. It seems fitting to make this my first topic, as this deck got the attention of others here at MTGDeckTechs and is the reason I decided to come in to write for the site.

My favorite color in Magic has wobbled between green and white, with white becoming the standout as I’ve gotten older. One of my favorite deck types from the good ol’ days was always White Weenies and they’re wonderful go-wide strategy where you play cheap, tiny, and efficient creatures and use cards to increase their power and toughness (such as Crusade for us old farts). When I came to pauper, there were a handful of white decks, but none that fit this archetype. Sure, there were ways to go wide in mono-white, but they were all token builds, or the new niche deck Mono-White Heroic which focuses on making one or two creatures incredibly large. So I set myself with the goal of creating the archetype in Pauper mostly for myself, but also for others to enjoy.

I started the deck around one card: Topan Freeblade. It’s a pet card of mine. I absolutely love the art on the card, especially in foil, and vigilance is my favorite keyword ability. This is where it all began. Sadly, she didn’t stick around in the final design, but she helped steer me into looking at soldiers.

Soldiers are a creature type we’ve seen in Magic since Alpha, and are one of the most iconic creature types for white. That said, most people often forget the word “soldier” in the creature type and focus on the other word: cat, human, kor, rhino, etc. Soldiers, though, are very special and have more support than most realize.

I had a brief break from Magic from 8th edition through M10, where I worked on WWE Raw Deal (up until the creator’s sudden death). While visiting a friend in Florida, we decided to return to Magic and found a shop about 30 miles from us. It ended up being the night of the M10 pre-release and we signed up. I opened three each of Veteran Armorsmith and Veteran Swordsmith along with a few other soldiers. I used those to pilot a mono-white sealed pool to an undefeated victory my first night back and I’ve never forgotten those two cards. They became the linchpins of this new archetype.

So on to the deck:

Pauper Soldiers – (by Jade Skye Walker)

Main Deck Sideboard
Creatures (25):

3 Icatian Javelineers
4 Opal Caryatid
3 Thraben Inspector
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Loyal Cathar
2 Veteran Armorsmith
2 Veteran Swordsmith
1 Cenn's Enlistment
2 Palace Sentinels
Spells (15):

4 Piety Charm
2 Sunlance
2 Cho-Manno's Blessing
2 Dawn Charm
1 Disenchant
4 Journey to Nowhere

Lands (20):

1 Kabira Crossroads
4 Secluded Steppe
15 Plains
2 Circle of Protection: Black
2 Circle of Protection: Blue
2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Disenchant
2 Holy Light
2 Prismatic Strands
4 Faerie Macabre

 

It’s quite a sight to behold and took me a few months of design work and testing different variations before I locked into the final design. While it may look like a simple and straight forward deck, it very much isn’t and packs quite a bit of nuance that may not be obvious on first glance. I’m going to take this opportunity to break down this deck card by card for you readers since it’s not every day you can have a deck shown to you by it’s original designer like this.

Thraben Inspector: No surprise here, this trusty soldier has been a mainstay of dozens of decks since it was first printed. For a one drop, getting a clue to draw off of and having a body that can survive a ping from cards like Cuombajj Witches is huge. In a format where a majority of the creatures have one toughness, this recruit is able to deal with quite a bit.

Icatian Javelineers: I know, I know. “Fallen Empires, yehck!” Typically, I won’t disagree. I bought so much of that awful set when I was a kid. I bought it instead of Legends, Dark, or Revised in a lot of cases. So much regret! That said, we have another 1-drop soldier here who can tap once to deal a damage to any target. Again, with a lot of creatures having one toughness, this is a huge turn one drop. You can ping off a Delver of Secrets before a flips, kill a faerie to lower the faerie count on Spellstutter Sprite, or you can deal the extra one damage needed to kill something larger. I have even had matches that have stalled with opponents at one life where this goofy little Fallen Empires card finished the match. Don’t overlook this guys and their silly hats.

Opal Caryatid: While not technically a creature card, this is a solid powerhouse. It is functionally a one mana 2/2 soldier that dodges early removal. Decks like Mono-Black Control rely on cards with edict effects early game to deal with your first few creatures. Opal hides as an enchantment during those turns and becomes a creature when you likely have other creatures out to sacrifice. I’ve had no trouble with this creature awakening in one or two turns except against Burn (where I sideboard them out). I tried about a dozen creatures in this spot of the deck and this amazing sleeper card performed better than anything else. It’s also extremely pleasing to me how many opponents have to pause to read the card, since they’ve never seen her before.

Loyal Cathar: This trooper is a bomb. A 2/2 with Vigilance for two white mana is already really nice. The truly scary part of this card is that it comes back the first time it’s killed. Once it dies, it will return at end of turn transformed into a 2/1 that can’t block, but still a soldier. Any time you can make an opponent waste an extra kill spell on something is great. These guys are just plain value town.

Kor Skyfisher: This card is a mainstay in Pauper for many good reasons. Being a 2/3 flyer for two mana is just amazing. Being able to find extra value out of what you bounce when it enters the battlefield is where you can turn this card from really good to downright amazing. The Skyfishers are the most powerful card in the deck with no close competition. I’ve seen others try and break down what all they think they can do with one, but every time they miss many more subtle tricks. I wanted to include a full list here, partially giving away my super sweet tech, but ensuring that anyone who tries this deck is fully aware of the full capability of this card.

As you can see, Kor Skyfisher is a soldier that comes with a plethora of options. These are the Seal Team 6 of this deck, for sure!

Veteran Armorsmith: Considered the weakest in this duo by some, this soldier fattens up the butts of your troops and makes them immune to most sweepers and lets the trade with blockers without dying. Nothing is quite like making a Delver player cry because your 2/4 Kor Skyfisher won’t be dying to the Insectile Aberration they finally flipped.

Veteran Swordsmith: The other half of the deck’s Bert and Ernie (I see the Armorsmith as Ernie and Swordsmith as Bert). If you have both of them out, they’ll both be 3/3s, as well as your Loyal Cathars and Opal Caryatids. Swordsmith can end games if you play it down onto a loaded board.

Palace Sentinel: Another one of the more important creatures is this Monarch loving soldier. Decks like this have a habit of running low on cards late game, so giving yourself a one-sided Howling Mine style effect is huge. Monarch is one of the strongest mechanics in Pauper overall, evidenced by the price of these cards online ($12 each for this card, as of this writing). Just be careful playing this when your opponent can get through with flyers. As long as you can trade it back and forth each turn, it’s worth it. Just make sure they don’t get stuck with it and you unable to find a way to get it back.

Cenn’s Enlistment: Four mana and you make two Kithkin Soldiers (soldiers being the key here). Where this card really stands out is the retrace keyword. Late game, there’s a chance of getting flooded on lands. Having access to this card lets you turn extra lands into a pair of 1/1 soldier tokens. I had to make some serious trades on the mana base for this deck due to the cost of a few of the cards and needs to play multiple cards a turn, so this include fixes the games where flooding is a real issue

Sunlance: This card should make perfect sense to most. It’s a white Lightning Bolt. Well, mostly. Having access to removal like this is pretty powerful and can help finish off bigger threats. Just remember that it’s a sorcery.

Piety Charm: Another hidden gem! This card does quite a bit for us. You can give a soldier +2/+2 until end of turn (typically what you’ll use it for), you can destroy an aura (making many Bogle players cry), or you can give your team Vigilance (avoiding the threat of a crack-back). You’ll usually be using this as a Giant Growth style combat trick, but having the extra options really comes in as an MVP in certain match ups.

Cho-Manno’s Blessing: Another card most pauper players are familiar with. It’s an Aura with flash that gives a creature protection from any color. You can use this to clear attacks through unblocked, protect from a removal spell, or remove some buffs from opponent’s creatures. My favorite use was giving my opponent’s Kiln Fiend protection from red to prevent it getting double strike from Temur Battle Rage. It saved my life there and allowed me to win the following turn. Remember that kind of flexibility with this card and try to save it for the perfect moment. I see too many players dropping it too soon.

Dawn Charm: One of my ten favorite Magic cards ever printed (another article for another day). This is one versatile little bugger! You can Fog and save yourself from a huge swing. You can regenerate a creature (the most common use for me, saving someone who would have otherwise traded), Lastly, you can counter a spell that targets you. While that seems like an uncommon occurrence, I like to use it on Gitaxian Probe or cards like Duress to prevent my opponent from seeing my hand. It’s also nice against Burn to stop that Fireblast they usually kill you with. There’s never a game where you won’t find a time to use this card. All three modes are incredibly useful.

Disenchant: I run one in the main deck now due to Mono-Blue Delver changing recently to include Spire Golems in the main deck. A 2/4 flyer they can play for free (or even just cheaply) is a huge barrier to get past. Having an extra way to deal with that (and Myr Enforcer in Affinity) is pretty valuable. Most matchups, though, expect to sideboard this out.

Journey to Nowhere: Possibly the best removal in Pauper. Save it for the bigger threats. Smaller things can be easily traded with in combat with the soldiers getting the better end of the deal.

Kabira Crossroads: This was a card I tried not to include, honestly. I don’t like lands that come into play tapped, as this deck aims to be very fast. That said, the combo with Kor Skyfisher is incredibly valuable. Also, a lot of games can be decided by a 1 or 2 point life gain. Life gain is rampant in Pauper, so it makes sense to have some.

Secluded Steppe: Another of my answers to flooding issues late game. Unless you get one of these in the first four turns, you will either cycle it, or use it to retrace Cenn’s Enlistment.

Sideboard

Circle of Protection: Blue: This is for Delver decks and Tron decks that rely on Mulldrifter to win. Be sure to bait out counterspells and don’t walk into a Daze. If you can stick this, they lose all advantage and you can almost always win (just watch out for those tricky Spire Golems)

Circle of Protection: Black: Gurmag Angler is a serious threat. Soldiers have trouble with larger critters, so be prepared to stop them with this beauty. Be prepared for them to cry as black can’t remove enchantments.

Circle of Protection: Red: The classic COP. This is about the only way to really slow down Burn decks. Also great against Izzet Blitz decks.

Disenchant: A  second copy is great against Affinity, Delver, and anyone who also runs Journey to Nowhere.

Holy Light: Placed in the deck originally to deal with Elves, but it has many uses you’ll find.

Prismatic Strands: Quite possibly the best white card in Pauper. A Fog that flashes back without mana is a big deal! This is a great way to deal with other decks that try to go wide and it will also let you do one sided board wipes in combat against non-white decks.

Faerie Macabre: To this writing, the deck’s only real weakness is Tron builds. Using their Mnemonic Walls to continuously bounce Ghostly Flicker and other value spells will be your downfall. The best answer I’ve come up with is using these two be able to exile the Flicker before they can remove it. The Faerie allows you to it with no mana at instant speed, so if they catch you off guard with it, you can still be ready at a moment’s notice. I haven’t found a better solution to this problem, so this is what the deck is working with right now.

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I have used this deck to great success against every top deck in the format (with about a 50/50 against Tron). I’ve only run it in two ranked events and just had horrible luck those times (playing four Tron decks in one and getting mana flooded every other game and mana screwed in the others through all five rounds). From the hundreds of games I’ve tested in the single game queue, I know this deck has the power to go undefeated in events with just a little luck on its side. While it’s tempting to just keep it to myself and wait until I 5-0 to shock with world with my design, I’m happier to spread the word about this archetype so others can run it and hopefully even improve it. I look forward to the day I have to play against my own creation.

So there you have it, my gift to the pauper world: Soldiers. Let my armies go forth and take over the format!

Comments

Jade Skye Walker

Magic player since Unlimited/Revised era. Played at all levels of the game. Pro Tour twice. Top 32 Junior Super Series in 1998. Play mostly EDH and Pauper now, sometimes limited and modern. Level 1 judge. Former game accolades: Play tester and event organizer for WWE Raw Deal (second largest events in the US). Outside of gaming, Jade is a biologist specializing in spiders (she has hundreds of pet tarantulas), autistic, and VERY gay :)

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