The Lab - Pauper Decklists with Commander Legends

Commander Legends arrives at Magic Online tomorrow, and here are some ideas and decklists that came up with the new set !

By Humberto, 11/18/20

Commander Legends arrives at Magic Online tomorrow and it is possible that, from its release onwards, Pauper knows a brand new world and the format faces drastic changes in its structure. The new set brings many potential cards to the the format, and it is impossible for players not to be excited and not try to develop new ideas and lists with the cards that are about to come out. It was no different for me: On every set that seems to have a significant impact on the format, I spend some time of my day analyzing the cards and trying to create decks where the cards fit, as if I were working in a laboratory or programming some kind or artificial intelligence, experimenting with ideas to see if they are minimally functional to the point of trying to refine and work out better ideas on top of these tests.

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So it was, for example, with Iconic Masters, where I did several tests for months with

Seeker of the Way

,

Jhessian Thief

,

Jace's Phantasm

,

Wight of Precinct Six

,

Staggershock

and

Lead the Stampede

. Today, I invite you to a tour at my "laboratory" and share some of my ideas, which I confess that I did too little testing on them since my playtesting, at least until the set does not come out in Magic Online, is somewhat limited in terms of players due to the quarantine , but these lists can offer a good start on where to look when it’s your turn to think of ideas for Commander Legends. In my experiments, I avoided relatively obvious ideas that serve only as a replacement of one card for another in some specific deck. For example, it's useless to bring a list of Heroic whose only change is the inclusion of

Benevolent Blessing

in place of

Cho-Manno's Blessing

. Another type of list that I avoided are those that are very dependent on the Metagame to be optimized as is the case of Tron and Boros Monarch, because trying to predict a metagame and adjust the list according to possible decks that may exist is, in my point of view, too much speculation and it is preferable to observe how the format behaves from the moment the collection is available to start adapting more reactive lists that will only need some adjustments and not some type of reformulation. The other reason for that choice is that my creative process involves having the idea, seeing if the idea works in practice and then adapting the idea according to the needs of the metagame to finally see if it is still playable or good enough for the format or not, and with a theoretically new format, there’s no point in going to the third step of my process so soon. "But Romeu, I want to know what I should be playing with when Commander Legends comes out!" Okay, your best options in a format that, in the first weeks, will have a significant amount of players testing ideas and adjusting decklists is to use decks that punish the opponent for questionable deckbuilding decisions, or for keeping bad hands while they can afford to partially ignore the cards of the new set. In this spectrum, the decks that fit are: Burn, Affinity, Heroic, Bogles and, although it is more risky in those first weeks, Stompy. However, if you are thinking of playing a Challange, for example, I would not recommend you try to change a lot of things in your deck yet because the changes in the format for this type of event with higher registrations fees tend to be a little slower, since these are events where players clearly try to guarantee the greatest possible amount of wins to compensate the registration and is not exactly the best place to test lists with no proven results. Disclaimers aside, time to start talking about decklists!
A reality that Commander Legends will bring to us is that Pauper will probably be a format where Monarch becomes the main pillar of the metagame, since the inclusion of better Monarch creatures in Blue and Red and the enchantment

Fall From Favor

creates a new dimension to mechanics where practically any deck can have access to it, and my few playtests have already shown me that the new cards have a great impact on the behavior of most games as a whole because Monarch's "sub-game" becomes more present and way more relevant.

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I mentioned in my set review that

Crimson Fleet Commodore

works pretty well as a an agressive drop that might be rewarding for some decks. The Rakdos Monarch has the possibility to take a position more similar to the classic Midrange decks with the inclusion of

Fiery Cannonade

and

Crimson Fleet Commodore

. WIth the new cards, the deck would be able to focus the first turns on being disruptive to the opponent with discards like

Duress

and

Augur of Skulls

, use the Cannonade to clear the table if necessary and then cast a Commodore that, in addition to guaranteeing the Monarch, has an extremely threatening clock for a deck that manages to keep the table constantly clean and that doesn’t care if the pirate dies because he has already done his job and

Gurmag Angler

is also a threat that ends the game in a few turns. Commodore also brought me another very interesting idea:
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Flexible removal, impactful creatures, card advantage and a stable manabase are the proposals that made me consider making my own version of Mono Red Monarch, which even gave me an opportunity to experiment with

Boarding Party

. Despite considering that using 3 of the new pirate with Cascade is a lot, the deck has a very good curve of threats in the early game that survive

Fiery Cannonade

or are recursive with Escape, while having good responses for artifacts in

Abrade

and removal for larger creatures in

Skred

. The biggest issue with the list is that the sideboard lacks some good answers, especially against Burn or Bogles and Heroic, but the list can be a good start for other ideas. As for

Fall From Favor

, as everyone expects, it will probably be used on Faeries and other blue decks:
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The addition of

Fall From Favor

to the deck and the addition of

Fiery Cannonade

to the format potentially makes

Delver of Secrets

a worse card in Mono Blue, as it does not interact well with none of the other cards, becomes less consistent to flip due to the enchantment, does not generate immediate value and dies easily for the new board wipe. I'd say betting on synergies between Ninjas + Faeries and creating a threat in the longer games with

Spire Golem

and

Azure Fleet Admiral

seems like a more interesting option for this new phase of the deck, where no longer you run the risk of losing your gas compared to your splash versions thanks to the new enchantment. Speaking of versions with Splash:
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This is my first sketch of Skred Faeries, where I have reduced the number of

Augur of Bolas

to give slots to

Fall From Favor

, but most of the deck's interactions and its overall base remains intact. On the Dimir version, I decided to take a riskier approach:
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I have committed the sin of separating the Faeries from

Ninja of the Deep Hours

and it may be the biggest mistake I can make with this list. However, within the slots that the deck has that do not serve as interaction, the fact that

Faerie Seer

and

Spellstutter Sprite

are good cards by themselves and Monarch cards are potentially better in a world where interaction with the Ninja can be threatened with a sweeper and everyone is playing Monarchs, the option to slightly raise the deck's curve and raise the number of Monarch cards to 6, varying from the one that is good when you are ahead (

Fall From Favor

) and the one that is best when you're behind (

Azure Fleet Admiral

), it is possible that this combination will become more rewarding for the deck than its usual build.

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Of course, you can always put the Ninjas back and reduce the number of Admirals, leaning more towards a play that includes Ninja on turn 2 and

Fall From Favor

on turn 3 to take the game, but I believe that, at least in the case of the Dimir versions, the deck rewards grindier games than games oriented on Tempo. There is another card that I obviously focused a lot on the experiments.
I really believe that, at first, finding the best home for the new Monarchs and

Fiery Cannonade

is the priority, and the format will adapt next. Particularly, I believe that the best deck for

Fiery Cannonade

will be the one that can capitalize on its effect and punish the opponent twice: Both for not playing around it and also for playing too much around it. Of course, it is likely that the best option that already exists to have this kind of effect in a game is Tron, since the deck applies the pressure that it will dominate the game if you take too long to win and try to play more conservatively. Since Tron is a deck that is VERY adaptable to the metagame, I chose not to create any decklists of that archetype. Therefore, the other options we have to make the best possible use of the "False Tempo" that Cannonade can give is that your game plan can take advantage of the card in a proactive and reactive manner, according to the matchups. Within a more proactive game plan, the best options that comes to mind involve cards such as

Seeker of the Way

,

Kor Skyfisher

, the new Blue Monarchs,

Azure Fleet Admiral

and Red,

Crimson Fleet Commodore

, and creatures whose body is aggressive and survives the sweeper like

Gurmag Angler

, the creatures that have Metalcraft and the creatures commonly used in the Domain Zoo. Of course, having all this in a single deck is impossible, so it is necessary to analyze each of those options and consider which way to build a good deck with the cards available in the format, and the first sketch I managed to elaborate was this:
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As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the priority in the format with the new set is to find the best home for the new cards, and particularly I think they interact incredibly well together and it is this interaction that this Jeskai deck seeks to explore. The issue with this list is that I don't think it has enough speed to put pressure on Tron and can probably be swallowed by it. I haven't really tested that game yet. I miss

Counterspell

on that list and I might find space for it later. On the other hand, I have a feeling that the deck needs to apply more pressure in the first turns in order to play against Tron. Kinda confusing, I know. It is worth mentioning that the value of

Fiery Cannonade

in the metagame tends to decrease according to how many copies of the card are being played or or how often strategies that circumvent the card are being played. Its impact on the format will most likely be felt by the players faster, but it will probably be less durable and more manageable than the one dealt by the new Monarch cards.

Makeshift Munitions

is a card with more potential than it initially looks, especially since its ability affects both creatures and players.
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Everyone knows that I have a hype about trying to break the format with some crazy combo and I try to do that every time a new combo appears because I kinda miss Izzet Drake. This is not the time I'm going to make it of course, but the addition of

Foundry Inspector

and

Makeshift Munitions

gives consistency and a good payoff to the

Myr Retriever

combo with

Ashnod's Altar

as the Inspector gives the deck some redundancy in reducing costs, while the enchantment is a wincondition that is harder to interact with.

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Along with the inclusion of

Fiery Cannonade

as a universal response to the faster decks that would normally prey easily against a non-interactive deck gives the combo a new air where it can perhaps abandon the "Eggs" base and function for its own account in another shell. It is even possible to remove the cost reducers and play with the combo using

Golem Foundry

or

Reckless Fireweaver

, making it a 4 card combo, instead of 5. I don't think the deck can be competitive in any way yet, specially with the increase of

Abrade

in the maindecks to respond to

Bonder's Ornament

, but it is a new shell for the famous combo that has not yet had its chance to shine in Pauper. Speaking of

Makeshift Munitions

, the card has proven to be more versatile than I initially thought it could be, and can enable new strategies and means of interaction:
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Although I initially planned this list as a way to create an alternative plan for Goblins where it punishes the opponent for using things like

Fiery Cannonade

, the enchantment proved in some of my tests a great way to control the table and, at the same time, serve as a wincondition and it will be very interesting to see the other interactions that the enchantment can have in the format.

Champion of the Flame

is the kind of card that doesn't seem to have a right home yet, as creating a deck around it seems unfavorable and the card is not good enough on its own to justify its use in some decks. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to fit it somewhere:
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A few years ago, Mono Red Heroic became known especially in the IRL as a budget list that managed to make some results by punishing players who interacted badly with the deck. Since then, the deck haven't had its opportunity to shine even in local tournaments, but has with the addition of

Champion of the Flame

in Commander Legends and acess to other cards over the years that have taken me to revisit this archetype. With the inclusion of the new card, the deck now leans more towards an Auras deck, which operates in Sorcery-Speed ​​and has a mixup of reach and damage protection. I don't think it is enough for the deck to resurface, but it is an interesting addition to a forgotten archetype that can still make some results with good hands and against unprepared opponents. But it's not the only way to use it since

Champion of the Flame

is, in fact, a card that needs very little to be good since his ability allows him to get out of control fast with any equipment or Aura that you can consider and interact well with cards like

Bonesplitter

and

Rancor

Another great addition to the format was the creatures with Cascade. Cascade was a mechanic that was very successful when it first came out in Alara Reborn and that still has an impact in eternal formats with cards like

Bloodbraid Elf

and

Shardless Agent

. In Pauper, the new cards are in the highest curves, starting at curve 6 with

Boarding Party

and ending at curve 8 with

Maelstrom Colossus

. These costs in particular are very well articulated if you consider that these cards would naturally need to be played in the late game, where a number of your spells would no longer be as relevant if played for free, or force you to ramp, which means that the Cascade effect can reveal cards that are already useless when you play these creatures because you no longer need to speed up your mana.

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Therefore, these Cascade cards work best if you can use them as quickly as possible, and it was based on this idea that I tried to work with a list already known for the format, but which never made expressive results:
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Arbor Elf

+

Utopia Sprawl

is the best combination to accelerate mana the format has to offer that involves few slots and little synergy if compared to Elves or Walls, and the use of LD to delay the opponent's game in the first few turns serves well to boost the value of creatures with Cascade when they come into play, possibly destroying another land in the process. The inclusion of

Abrade

is due to the fact that many decks have chosen to use

Bonder's Ornament

, and I wanted an early game interaction against creatures that would also serve to deny the opponent from mana if necessary. As for the existing decks, I tried to create lists that may already be adapted to deal with Cannonade and the new Monarch format.
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My post-Commander Legends version of Stompy seeks to maintain the deck's original plan of putting pressure on the opponent with creatures that have an efficient body and spells that makes them threats that are difficult to remove. At the same I have changed cards in an attempt to play better against

Fiery Cannonade

with the inclusion of

Young Wolf

,

Wild Mongrel

and an increase in the number of

River Boa

on the deck, which serves both as a card that has built-in protection against removal and a threat difficult to be answered by blue decks that might take the crown from them easily. Unfortunately, this change meant making some concessions and I chose to remove cards like

Vault Skirge

and

Nest Invader

, which makes the deck more vulnerable to effects like

Prismatic Strands

, in addition to removing

Vines of Vastwood

to increase the number of

Elephant Guide

(an extremely punitive play for removal decks if not answered) and increase the number of lands.

Silhana Ledgewalker

was moved to the sideboard as a difficult-to-interact card, especially for decks with targeted removal, and the absence of

Vault Skirge

led me to increase the number of

Weather the Storm

to 4. Another option for Stompy is to play All-In with

Groundwell

or

Mutagenic Growth

, but I feel that losing the deck's redundancy in favor of speed ends up hurting him in more games than it could possibly improve others.
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With Red Deck Wins, I chose to use cards that has some kind of immediate impact on the table, either with Haste or dealing damage with cards such as

Viashino Pyromancer

to mitigate the damage of a potential sweeper. In this version, there is no reason not to use the 1 mana 2/2 creatures, but

Jackal Familiar

has been replaced by

Fanatical Firebrand

because not only does Goblin survive

Fiery Cannonade

and has an immediate impact on the table but also gives some minimal but important reach, and as the Jackal does too little by itself and forces the deck to extend and play with more creatures on the table than it would possibly like in the new metagame, it was removed from the list. Among the creatures with Haste, the only creature available in the format that is not present is

Nest Robber

, as a 2/1 body swaps unfavorably against a

Augur of Balls

, but it is possible to replace and test it instead of

Keldon Marauders

.
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The best option for Goblins at my point of view is to increase the number of creatures with 2 power and toughness and include 4

Mogg Raider

, increaing to 8 the number of effects that protect it from sweepers while the deck's strategy manages to remain fast and aggressive. The rest of the deck remains potentially the same and you can still have a highly explosive early game with combinations involving

Foundry Street Denizen

,

Burning-Tree Emissary

and

Mogg War Marshal

or

Mudbrawler Cohort

.
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There ain't much that can be done about Boros Bully, to be honest. So I'm just sharing a list that I use with some success in these past few months, which I've created trying to make the deck less vulnerable to cards like

Electrickery

by using

Kor Skyfisher

and not having to dedicate slots from my sideboard to protect my board from sweepers. I don't know exactly how the list will behave in the new metagame, but the inclusion of

Kor Skyfisher

has always been of great help to me in many matches and its overall strategy of "not folding to sweepers" I managed with this list is as rewarding against

Fiery Cannonade

than it is to

Electrickery

And this is the end of our tour at my experiment lab for the new set. My conclusion is that Commander Legends will change the way Pauper is played more impactfully than Modern Masters 2017 (which brought

Augur of Bolas

,

Burning-Tree Emissary

and

Dinrova Horror

to the format) did. And I'm looking forward to being able to play this new format and see other players' decks and ideas as soon as possible ! What about you, reader? What ideas and experiments have you done with the launch of Commander Legends at our doorstep? Would you like to share it with us?

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