Of Princes and Paupers – By John McMullin

You know, it takes all kinds of players to create a fun and successful Magic: The Gathering community. You’ll have your combo players and strategists. There will be new players and experienced ones. Those with deep pockets, and budget players.

Over the last twenty years of playing the game, I’ve fit into just about every category – from newb to veteran, from Johnny to Spike – and everything in between. I’ve owned some of the greatest cards in the game, and there have been times where I couldn’t trade myself out of a wet paper bag. But I tell you, the best times in Magic are when you simply have FUN – regardless what cards you use, or what players you face off against. A few Fridays back, at my LGS’s SUPER FNM, was probably my best FNM experience ever!

The game was going to run 5 rounds, due to the AMAZING turnout! There were cookies and everything! What I loved most about this experience was the variety of players that were present. Of course, the die-hard top-tier decks were there, along with players I’ve known and dueled for years! It makes me happy to get to play against and chat with old rivals and friends. Most notably we discussed the reinvigoration of Nivmagus Elemental, which is somehow now winning tournaments – finally! But the old standbys weren’t the only element at this Super FNM. There were newbies. They made me remember when I was a newbie too. Some, had only played the game for one to two hours before coming to FNM, likely pressed by their more experienced friends to get in on the fun.

I’m not usually available lately on Friday evenings for FNM. I had requested time off so I could make it to this particular one. And I’m glad I did. Seeing as most of my staple cards are in my Commander deck, I decided that I would have the most fun and the least worry if I tried something I hadn’t done before – build a Pauper Deck. I went through my collection, and after seeing what I had available in standard commons, made a few realizations:

1: With only a handful of guildgates available, multicolor was unlikely

2: I had to go aggro to try and outmanoeuver the top-tier decks

3: Combos would be underpowered and difficult to pull off using random commons

4: I needed some sort of gimmick

I made the first decision pretty darn quick. I wanted solo-color, so that I didn’t have to worry about drawing the right colors of mana, and so that I didn’t have to rely on guildgates. Aggro was an obvious choice, as my intention here was to do 20 damage as quick as I could, before my opponents could react. I am the quintessential Johnny Combo player, but I knew deep down that relying on that kind of strategy was only going to cause me losses.

But, what to do for a gimmick?  In the end, I had to look through and choose what colors I would place, to decide on that.

My White cards had lots of flyers, some life gain, and heroic targets.

Blue was a handful of Merfolk, some counter and very little decent draw.

Black was expensive kill, some enchantment-creatures, and not much else.

My red cards just sucked! I traded away my Lightning Strikes not long ago, and they would have been my best bet.

Green, for me, is too predictable when going mono-color.

After sorting and piling my commons, I chose White. Flyers are almost guaranteed damage against most decks, and with lots of combat tricks, I was hoping to fly to victory. IMO, Theros block has the best commons for White as well! So, I sorted, and sorted, and picked and chose, and finally came up with a deck I thought might do okay. Here’s what I settled on:

Creatures (20):

4 x Griffin Sentinel
4 x Suntail Hawk
4 x Hopeful Eidolon
2 x Wingsteed Rider
2 x Akroan Skyguard
4 x Concordia Pegasus

Spells (20):

4 x Divine Favor
4 x Pacifism
2 x Show of Valor
2 x Gods Willing
4 x Mortal’s Ardor
4 x Swift Justice

Lands (20):

20 x Plains

As you can see, beyond the Eidolons, the majority of this deck has Flying. That was the gimmick I went with, as I felt it was reliable and straightforward. Beyond running 20 creatures, I ran 6 control spells – Pacifism and Gods Willing. They were crucial in every game for keeping my creatures on the board, and limiting the damage I had to endure! The other 14 spells were just there to buff my creatures.

Round one saw me against a Jund Monsters deck. It was played well by a newcomer to the game, and went to three games. Game One, I overwhelmed just like I planned, and went in for 20 quick damage with my Suntail Hawks and Griffins. Game two was much different, and with sideboard power on his side, my opponent made quick work of me. Game three, I took back control and flew in for the kill, but only barely – thanks to Pacifism!

I was up 1 and 0! And on top of the world!

Round two was sad for me. I felt I could have won the game, but the round went long into game 3, again tied, and my opponent’s sideboard was kicking my butt! Toward the end of Game 3 I went all-out for an attack and thought I had the game, but a combat trick at the last second saved my opponent, leaving them at 1 life. Next turn, and with no blockers, I was forced to scoop! Even experienced players make mistakes!

My Record now = 1 and 1 – there’s still hope!

My third and final round took me up against a girl who had played the game for only an hour. This was by far and large my favorite round in the FNM. We played a very slow game, and, I took the time to explain how my flying creatures were getting past hers, and that she would declare her attacks against me (and not my creatures). Through the game too, someone had finished their round and I was happy to let them guide this newbie through the rest of our match. It was neat watching her learn how to use the different effects of Boros Charm, and choosing the best targets for her spells. While I took the round 2 and 0, it took the longest to play this round, and we both enjoyed every minute of it.

By the end of three rounds, I unfortunately had to go, so I didn’t get to stick around and try to win the big prizes. That’s alright though 🙂 I did give that last opponent of mine my deck! She was using a borrowed one, and mine was very different. I told her that she could use it to see a different side of deck-building and strategy, and it would give her another deck to test with as she learns to make her own decks. I don’t often get to give back to the MTG community in that kind of way, and it was really rewarding to have this opportunity.

I’ve resolved myself to making more pauper decks moving forward, and I encourge everyone to try it at least once.

Thanks as always for reading!

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