A Guide to Pauper Archetypes - Aggro

Magic: the Gathering

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A Guide to Pauper Archetypes - Aggro

A compilation of archetypes that fit the Aggro category in Pauper, with a breakdown of their respective strategies and their advantages and disadvantages!

By Humberto, 21/05/22, translated by Humberto - Comment regular icon0 comments

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Have you ever been interested in a format, but didn't know exactly which deck you'd like to play in it? Afraid to invest in a list and not like how it operates, or just have no idea how the main decks work? When you sit at a table playing games, do you prefer quick games where you attack with your creatures, or longer games where every move you make needs to be calculated? Or are you the kind of person who prefers the allure of seeing the magic of interactions between your cards work while your opponent watches? What game proposal allows you to make the most of your experience?

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This article is dedicated to players who are interested in Pauper but don't know enough about it yet to know what decks they would like to play with or what strategies fit what you usually pilot in other formats. In the quest to facilitate the answers to these questions, I have categorized the main and most famous archetypes in the Metagame or in the community, based on their strategies and with an overview of what to expect from each of their respective lists, covering the main archetypes within each category, as well as explaining how they work and their pros and cons. We'll start with the Aggro macro-archetype, then move on to the Midrange, Control, and finally the Combo lists. It is important to point out that it is not exactly possible to highlight all the lists that fit into their respective categories, as there are a multitude of combinations in the Pauper card pool that create strategies of all genres.

Aggro in Pauper

When we talk about Aggro in Pauper, we consider lists whose main objective is to establish the clock, that is, to dictate the course of the match and pressure the opponent to follow your pace or be devastated by your speed. You can consider this to be a tug of war game, where you are pulling the cord with all your might while the opponent tries to hold on and not fall so that you eventually run out of breath and this allows them to pull the cord and knock you down, and in this comparison, your focus is on taking down the opponent before you get exhausted. In Pauper, we can categorize decks that fit this archetype into three divisions:

Go Wide

,

Go Big

and

Go Straight

, with each of them having their advantages and disadvantages relating to different Metagame scenarios.

The “Go Wide”

Go wide decks cover the strategy of filling the board with relevant creatures that, together or alone, will pressure the opponent to respond or perform efficient trades against them. However, on most lists (except for tribal decks), these creatures tend to have a lot of redundancy regarding their bodies, significantly reducing the value of opponent's removals, as using a Lightning Bolt to destroy a creature 2/2 while another is still attacking you is not exactly where you want to be. However, there is the other side of the coin to this redundancy: no “go wide” strategy creature in Pauper is really exceptional, and they hardly generate any value beyond a body to attack, a factor that probably explains the notorious absence of good Aggro decks in this category in the current Metagame.

Mono-Green Stompy

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The "poster boy" of the go wide strategy in Pauper is probably Stompy, which has been around for quite some time and still manages to get occasional results. Stompy is a Mono-Green Aggro based solely on two factors: combat and mana efficiency. The idea when piloting this deck is to cast creatures of low cost and relatively high power for the standards of the format and/or that have some important ability and attack with them, using pumps and protections to keep them on the battlefield and press the opponent.

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Despite having "go big" elements, Stompy's lack of built-in protection and permanent power-up effects, plus the explosive nature of playing multiple creatures that Burning-Tree Emissary makes it a powerful "go wide” that can catch opponents off guard and do well in minor leagues and tournaments. However, at the time of writing this article, Stompy is not at an all-time high in the Metagame due to the rise of archetypes like Affinity and Boros Synthesizer, which feature powerful blockers and an efficient clock coupled with card advantage, while this deck lacks a push or a powerful reprint to succeed in highly competitive scenarios.

Mono Blue Faeries

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Mono Blue Faeries

is a

Tempo

deck, that is, it seeks to dictate the pace of the game by alternating positions between proactive and reactive as the game develops. But unlike the two-color variants that fit with elements closer to Midrange, the monocolored version has a much more proactive strategy that doesn't reward the player for overextending the game: you want to make the opponent lose balance in the first turns and take advantage of that to establish the clock. So, I'm considering it as an Aggro deck.
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I dare say that Faeries is the “go wide” with the highest success rate in the current competitive landscape, a factor that is largely due to its creatures that produce powerful 2-for-1 effects, with an absurd synergy between them that make Blue-Based Decks one of the best competitive strategies since the past decade.
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While you keep your synergy running and try to get the most out of your creatures, you delay your opponent or protect your threats with counterspells and bounces, to the point where your edge at the game becomes irreversible. The rise of archetypes like Stompy when Burning-Tree Emissary was released in Modern Masters 2017, plus the emergence of Monarch-centric Midranges (we'll talk about them in the next article) have led to an entirely Tempo-centric strategy, as Mono Blue Faeries needed to adopt a slower and more efficient plan in playing longer matches, giving rise to the Izzet and later Dimir versions. But even today, Mono-Blue Faeries is a great option for playing Challenges and other tournaments of the format, and is a perfect choice if you like the idea of ​​playing an aggressive archetype that punishes or rewards you greatly for your decisions.

White Weenie

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White Weenie

is probably the most classic of the Aggro archetypes in Magic: The Gathering history. In Pauper, there are literally dozens of versions of this archetype: some geared towards tokens, others towards creatures that generate 2-for-1 effects, others geared towards lifegain with Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant, among others several options.

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But most of them have as their main attraction the flexibility that white has in Pauper: joining cards like Kor Skyfisher, Inspiring Overseer, Thraben Inspector, Battle Screech and Guardians' Pledge in a single build without much conflict with its manabase is extremely attractive, and the recent addition of the draw effects that white has been receiving covers one of the biggest weaknesses this strategy has ever had. Another advantage White Weenie has is the efficiency of Sideboard answers: cards like Dust to Dust, Prismatic Strands, Dawnbringer Cleric and Light of Hope are Staples and respond very well to the most varied situations that the format presents, creating enormous flexibility in your choices. However, this archetype competes in efficiency against Boros or Orzhov variants, more focused on the Midrange and being much more efficient in terms of available removals and card advantage interactions, making lists with this color need a splash for an increasing efficiency and limiting the space of White Weenie at the competitive landscape.

Red Deck Wins

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Red Deck Wins

was once very famous in Pauper for its redundancy and ability to generate a high range with its spells after the aggressive plan starts. Its rise began in the era when Izzet Drake was the best deck in the format due to the difficulty the archetype had in producing efficient 2-for-1 effects with removals and closing the combo before the clock imposed by several creatures with Haste produced, and it got even better when Burning-Tree Emissary was released.
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Like Stompy, Red Deck Wins adopts a strategy of playing multiple creatures with relevant and similar bodies that make it difficult for the opponent to efficiently trade removals against them because, in the end, they will all deal the same damage. The difference, however, is that the red variant trades pumps and protection for extra reach with classic Burn spells like Lightning Bolt and Fireblast, threatening the opponent's life total each turn and forcing to respond efficiently before their life gets too low.
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The most successful version of RDW currently is the Goblin variants, as most creatures you would naturally use fall into this subtype, and this increased focus on the tribe allows for the use of Goblin Grenade as a significant damage boost for just one mana. However, the inclusion of Fiery Cannonade as a sweeper and the rise of creatures with toughness greater than 2 in the Metagame have made 2/2 creatures with brief effects like “Haste” not relevant in the current scenario, and requires the player to have a good understanding of how to pilot their list around these threats to get good results.

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Slivers

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Slivers

(commonly in Naya or Bant) are possibly the only

true tribal aggro deck in Pauper

, as it is the only one that has really efficient and plentiful lords for its tribe.
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In addition to creatures that add other effects equally relevant to your creatures, making up a mighty base.
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And finally, in order not to lose your breath and deal with the interaction while Slivers itself is a non-interactive list, we have ways to replenish the hand with up to five cards (but usually, it will be 2 or 3).
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All of this makes Slivers a very interesting choice for anyone who really likes tribal archetypes where all creatures matter. However, along with a manabase not very favorable for three-color Aggro decks, the factor that

every creature matters

to Slivers is its biggest weakness, as a well-prepared opponent will know which creatures to really use their removals to slow your clock or make you vulnerable to a sweeper like Fiery Cannonade, or what creatures/spells to counter to make you lose gas in the medium term. Another weakness of Slivers is that we are talking about a fully non-interactive deck that has as its only plan to cast its creatures and attack, making it an easy target for combos or archetypes that use specific mechanics and interactions to win the game. That said, Slivers can do results in some competitive scenarios and Magic Online Leagues, and the surprise factor can always significantly shake up the plans of archetypes that seek to use damage-based removals or run fewer interactions.

The “Go Big”

The "Go Big" are archetypes that seek to set the clock with one or two threats coupled with protection and use means to increase their power significantly, in addition to giving them relevant abilities, making them grow to proportions that easily get out of hand. For the most part, these decks have a high level of redundancy between threats and pumps, which means that it doesn't usually have too much trouble finding the right pieces in the starting hand and usually doesn't need much to work if the main elements are present in the first turns. However, they can often have the weakness of a glass cannon: if the opponent manages to respond to the first and second threats efficiently, the player will have a huge difficulty in staying in the game for the long term due to the lack of a key piece and a more punishing topdeck since the lists are divided between creatures and pumps, increasing the likelihood that you will draw the half you don't need in the late-game.

Bogles

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Bogles

is probably the most famous and the most successful deck among the "go big", for offering a simple-to-understand strategy and having the great advantage of already having threats with protection attached to them.

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Despite being few, Pauper's creatures with

hexproof

play a critical role in the development of yet another of the format's classic strategies: to enchant your creatures with effects that significantly increase their power while adding new abilities.
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Once you start stacking enchantments on a creature with hexproof, it will hardly be removed from the game, and the game becomes a race between who can do the most damage in the least number of turns. This race is where Bogles usually takes the advantage because of Ancestral Mask or Ethereal Armor in addition to the enchantments that offers

Trample

. Bogles' biggest advantage in the current Metagame is that it excels against any archetype that doesn't have counterspells or sacrifice-based removals, making it a great choice to compete against Boros, Affinity, Burn, and other well-known Pauper strategies today. Its main drawback is that twelve creatures is a very low number of threats, and the format doesn't offer any other efficient means of having Hexproof bodies at a low cost, which automatically exposes its other big weakness: removals based on sacrifice effects, like Chainer's Edict and counterspells in enchantments or creatures when the Bogles' first threat is removed from the battlefield. That said, currently, I consider Bogles to be the most solid choice of Aggro deck in the competitive Metagame.

Mono White Heroic

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Mono White Heroic

may not have creatures with built-in protection like Bogles, but it does have a number of perks that make it a solid option for tournament play and one that can definitely be enjoyable to play with.
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Heroic creatures in Pauper have bodies large enough to survive most damage-based removals, or already have a built-in evasion, and the ability itself encourages the player to keep a rhythm between proactive and reactive plays, making it much easier to decide when to protect your creatures at the right moment or to attack when it seems opportune. The other creatures that constitute the list have important abilities to remove blockers or add resilience, as a combination of the right enchantments and spells in any of them can end the game when the opponent least expects it.
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There is a huge amount of instants and enchantments that make it very difficult for the opponent to interact with your creatures and remove them at the right time, and the monocolored manabase makes it easy not to waste time needing to play around a tapped land or need to correctly calculate your mana. However, Mono White Heroic has a bad topdeck and a natural weakness against Faeries and other counterspell-focused archetypes because everything on the list is easily circumvented when they have flying blockers and doesn't allow the opponent to resolve the most relevant spells, and requires good knowledge of the answers available in the Metagame to be piloted with excellence.

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Mono Red Blitz

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With occasional appearances, but few expressive results in the competitive scene,

Mono Red Blitz

exchanges

protection

for

speed

.
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In this deck, you use fast-growing creatures like Kiln Fiend and Festival Crasher, while casting low-cost (or even free) spells to turn them into gigantic creatures that will gain the game on its own in one or two turns alongside the damage spells, or Temur Battle Rage.
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This is an extremely fun archetype if you like to hit the “free-win” button and could even be considered a

combo

deck, but since it involves making your creatures grow with a few cards and not specifically with one specific combination, I'm categorizing it as Aggro. Its weakness, however, is that it is extremely inconsistent and has no good means of protecting its creatures other than Apostle's Blessing, making it extremely vulnerable to every category of removal and forcing its controller to bet on the opponent's failure to interact with your cards, instead of being able to plan ahead or bet on efficient means of protection at a low cost, as other archetypes do.

Infect

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Infect

has the same “aggro-combo” strategy as the previous list of dealing a high amount of damage with a creature in as few turns as possible, but with two differences: its Mono-Green base allows for better protection for its threats, and the total damage you want to do is 10 with poison counters, meaning this archetype is less vulnerable to lifegain and similar effects.
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Here, we also have a small amount of creatures and some problems with being able to draw cards, so we need to be careful with

how

and

when

to cast them to protect them in interactive games, but with the positive point of that we can use some permanents to create a “setup” before trying to attack the opponent.
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Unfortunately, Infect is also very inconsistent in executing its game plan and doesn't have the means to function effectively in a Metagame as interactive as Pauper is these days, but it ends up being a great Meta Call when the format becomes less removal-oriented and more aimed at each player trying to do their own absurd thing, as was the case in the Chatterstorm era.

The “Go Straight”

“Go Straight” is an abbreviation for “go straight to the face”, and covers decks that aim to deal the most damage to the opponent by means that don't involve the combat phase, but through spells and other direct damage effects. Among the Aggro lists in the format, the “go straight” ones are the most redundant because absolutely everything that is not a land in the deck will be a damage spell or an enabler that will provide some additional damage, giving you a very high consistency in executing your game plan without difficulties and allowing more daring plays by the possibility of being rewarded for your topdeck.

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On the other hand, since it has the most linear game plan among the categories and the absence of sideboard pieces that prevent it from being punished for its linearity, this strategy tends to suffer severely against effects that delay its clock too much because it cannot be playing around the opponent, let alone accelerating the means to its victory beyond what its resources allow, there being little or no surprise factor in how the opponent should deal against this category.

Burn

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Burn

is one of the most iconic archetypes in Magic: The Gathering history, and one of the few that has survived the changes of the last few decades in almost every competitive setting.
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Burn's logic is relatively simple: play lands and cast your damage spells against the opponent, with most of them being multiples of three, until the opponent's life reaches 0.
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But not everything is as simple as it seems, and the deck has some creatures and enchantments that help to deal some extra damage and/or add inevitability to your strategy after you've exhausted your resources, pressuring your opponent to end the game before those permanents and your topdeck finishes them off. One of the great advantages of Burn is that, unlike the other variants in Pauper, the Mono Red version can be easily adapted later to other formats such as Modern and Legacy, and its sideboard is much more redundant in dealing with problematic permanents while being able to pull extra points of damage with cards like Smash to Smithereens and Molten Rain. Its weakness lies in the fact that every player expects to face this deck and will have some efficient sideboard plan against you in the form of Lifegain effects like Lone Missionary, Seeker of the Way and Weather the Storm, or even more punitive means like damage prevention with Circle of Protection: Red or counterspells like Dispel and Hydroblast.

Black Burn

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Black Burn

is a variant of this strategy that exchanges

damage

for

life loss

, a very relevant element when considering effects like Prismatic Strands, as well as adding to this strategy the option to more reactive means of dealing with opponent's sideboard pieces through Duress and other cards that make it possible, for example, to remove Weather the Storm before the opponent has the opportunity to cast it.
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Another advantage that this version has is that most of its damage spells, despite not being able to target creatures, have a lifegain effect that allows its pilot to prevent the opponent from winning the game through the

race

.
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Some versions also look to use a Rogue subtheme to have creatures that can attack the opponent alongside Morsel Theft, which allows dealing a large amount of damage to the opponent while drawing a card.

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Speaking of drawing cards, this variant also manages to have some additional reach thanks to the inclusion of Sign in Blood, Bump in the Night's flashback and Fruit of Tizerus' escape cost.

Rakdos Madness

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Rakdos Madness

,

Madness Burn

, or

Rakdos Burn

is the newest variant of the “go straight” archetypes, which seeks to blend the best of both worlds between the above variants, taking advantage of a

Madness

theme which was made much more efficient because of Voldaren Epicure and Vampire's Kiss.
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Here, you're looking to use discard enablers (which even let you cycle your hand and remove useless pieces) to cast cards with Madness at an extremely low cost, significantly increasing the redundancy of damage spells you have while allowing you to filter your choices and keep your damage going for longer than the other variants.
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Due to the inclusion of Blood tokens, it becomes possible to add some artifacts through lands and other cards to take advantage of one of the most powerful damage spells Pauper currently has: Galvanic Blast, and since list is more resilient in longer games, the concessions made for its use don't weigh too much. Today, I believe that Rakdos Madness is the best variant among the format's

Burn

lists because of its additional reach that is on par with what the rest of the format proposes without having to compromise too much on speed and efficiency.

Conclusion

Here, I end my presentation of Pauper's main Aggro decks in the first half of 2022, thus establishing a compilation of information that, I hope, can help you decide which is the best variant and plausible choice in the format for your play style. Next week, we'll return to the most comprehensive macro-archetype in the format today, the Midrange. Thanks for reading!
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Humberto

Writer and translator for Cards Realm and journalism student. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format.

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