Pauper's Christmas Wishlist - Red Cards

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Pauper's Christmas Wishlist - Red Cards

12/31/20 Comment regular icon0 comments

As we expect what Magic may bring us in 2021, I continue this series with fifteen cards that could be reprinted or that the community would like to be added to Pauper.

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By Romeu

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translated by Romeu

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revised by Tabata Marques

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At the end of the year, I started a series of articles with a list of cards that the Pauper community would like to be reprinted as common or cards that could be interesting to have access in the format, composed of the opinion of different communities and groups together with some cards that I particularly find it interesting for the format and that could be reprinted as common at some point in the future. Some cards will be off the list as they are part of a cycle, and I will be talking about card cycles in a separate article.

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But before we start, I feel the need to clarify some points about the nature of this series of articles since it has generated some controversy to some people from the community: This series of articles consists of two types of cards:

1) Cards that have been mentioned on a recurring basis in different communities or that are mentioned and looks like relevant additions.

On a average, it represents

75 to 80%

of the cards on the list. Some examples are Megrim, Fact or Fiction, Jeskai Elder, Containment Priest, among others.

2) Cards that, in my personal point of view, could be beneficial or interesting additions to the format.

It corresponds to

20 to 25%

of the cards in the list, and they are: A - Cards that can be beneficial additions and include chronic needs for the metagame today such as Cling to Dust or Withered Wretch, or cards that would enable and make existing decks better in the format like Pawn of Ulamog or Skilled Animator B - Cards that could be interesting in the format, in my opinion, include cards that can generate better interactions in the game such as Cabal Therapy or cards that would create a new dynamic of deckbuilding or archetypes that are abolutely new and that would be fun or interesting to play with, such as adding Soulflayer. And regarding the little probability that some of these cards will one day come out as commons: I tend to ignore the limitations imposed by formats like the draft as this creates a line of cards that are recommended or whose effect or impact could be interesting to watch or even beneficial and I just can't add because I am aware that most likely a card like Triskaidekaphobia or Soulflayer would probably never come out in a booster set as a common. However, Seeker of the Way, Abrade or Fiery Cannonade also seemed impossible additions to the format in 2016/2017. Magic has changed, the power level has gone up and it is obvious that this can be and is already being reflected in Pauper. There is currently a significant discussion, for example, on whether Wizards should move to reprint specific cards as common in supplementary products like Commander precons to add cards to the format that would normally not have space in a Booster Set or even create supplementary products in MTGO , along the lines of Historic Anthology, to add format-specific cards, and that's a story for another article. It's obvious that I can't compare any of those downshifts or additions to the format to a Death's Shadow (which, honestly,

was much more of a joke about Christmas Eve than a realistic suggestion

, so much so that it came as a "bonus" suggestion), but there will be cards of greater impact within the next complementary sets that will be present in the format, eventually and I believe that it is up to the community to decide what they want for Pauper: Do we want to maintain the avant-garde position and defend that the format is good enough to not need new additions or impactful mechanics, and even ask for a ban on specific mechanics or decks to decrease the power level?

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Or are we getting tired of basically facing the same decks in the last two or three years and would like to diversify and enhance the options? We saw a dramatic change happen in all formats in 2020, without exception, and it may be that Pauper will go through or is already going through the same process. I'd usually go with the second choice. I have an almost absolute detachment from traditionalism or avant-garde. And when it comes to a game, I like the risks, I like the innovation, I like it when a format needs to adapt drastically to new inclusions, I like it when some cards change Metagame's behavior and I like it even more when it doesn't mean the format is broken. Although it was a chaotic year in terms of new releases, I like to see that, by the end of the year, most formats have stabilized and today we have a different metagame from 2018 or 2019 in most of them. Pauper, on the other hand, has been essentially the same format in terms of archetype since I started playing it in 2014. Of course, new additions that changed the behavior of the format emerged (Monarch, the current variants of Tron, the Burning-Tree Emissary Decks, Faeries splashing colors, Heroic and Walls becoming viable decks, etc.) and we had some anomalies along the way (Izzet Drake , Arcum's Astrolabe, etc.) but, in a general context, we are still basically talking about the same archetypes in recent years with only occasional additions that have considerably increased the power level in recent years. Particularly, I feel the need to see new decks and new archetypes rising and staying on par with the already estabilished decks. I would really like to see at Pauper events the diversity of archetypes that I usually see in Modern or Legacy, and see it become a format where not only your decisions in the game matter, but where the construction of your deck goes well beyond just take a shell and modify it as you like, and also include making concessions about which decks you want to win and which decks you accept to lose because it is impossible for you to fully predict everything that may be present in the Metagame. It does not in any way mean that I consider Pauper to be a broken or polarized format, despite the fact that it has the nature of its metagame to revolve around the same six decks until an impactful edition appears that forces the format to adapt, as it was with Commander Legends. I just want it to be closer to other eternal formats in terms of diversity of strategies. If that is not the will or need of the other players, I can live with that. Pauper is a format dictated by the community and I believe that this has already become clear in 2020. So, I ask you, reader,

What do you want for Pauper?

I close the subject here, I leave it to debate about the future of the format to another article and let's go to today's list.

Red

Red at Pauper today has two main objectives. The first: Damage. Burn RDW, Goblins ... All of these has the same goal of getting the opponent's life to zero as quickly as possible.

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The second: To be a support color for several archetypes due to flexible removals, Pyroblast and efficient hate cards against Tron, Affinity, among others. After the release of Commander Legends, Red-Based Aggro suffered a significant loss in the metagame due to the rise of decks like Faeries and the inclusion of Fiery Cannonade to the format, making life difficult for a deck that wants to play with different creatures on the table and direct damage with low cost spells. Perhaps the biggest weakness of red today is the lack of flexibility for cards dedicated specifically to the Mono Red deck game plan, so it is a great auxiliary color, but a base color that depends on specific metagame settings to work.
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Bloodrage Brawler is a threat that, for the reasonable but punitive cost of discarding a card, creates a threat on the table that needs to be answered or blocked as needed or becomes a fast clock for red decks and is one that survives the Fiery Cannonade. Your drawback could actually be extremely beneficial for Madness decks that occasionally appear in the format. After all, paying 2 mana and having a 4/3 and a 1/1 with the potential to become a 3/3 in the form of Basking Rootwalla seems like a good option, or having a 4/3 for 3 mana that deals 3 damage to any target with Fiery Temper, or even 5 mana to have a 4/3 and a 4/4 on the table with Reckless Wurm.
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The current effects of taking control of creatures in Pauper are too costly to be an efficient choice for red decks' sideboards. Claim the Firstborn would be an addition that would allow red decks to use this effect in certain matchups, since the format does not have so many creatures (especially at low cost) that it pays off to use a Act of Treason, but that helps aggressive decks by removing a potential blocker and doing a significant amount of damage to the opponent with his own creature. The card could also be used on Aristocrats decks as a removal engine alongside any sac outlet but, at most times, Claim the Firstborn would be a Shock that temporarily removes an opponent's blocker.
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With a reasonable cost and body, Countryside Crusher could serve as a slower threat to the red decks that, in return, allows to mitigate the occasional flood and still grow up in the process. The card also interacts well with Evolving Wilds and Ash Barrens, in addition to other Cycling lands, allowing it to be a wincondition on its own and possibly enabling more land-oriented archetypes. It is not necessarily an aggressive red card, but it could be used in Midranges lists like Boros Monarch, Rakdos or, who knows, even on the Gruul and Temur Ponza decks.
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Believe it or not, we have few cards in Pauper that allow very aggressive openings with Fanatic of Mogis outside Burning-Tree Emissary, forcing a Mono Red Devotion deck to adopt sub-optimized options like Rakdos Shred-Freak, Mardu Scout or Inner-Flame Accolyte in its 2 and 3 drops, making the Minotaur then serve much more as a mid- or late-game payoff for Red- Based Aggro than necessarily as an enabler of an archetype itself.

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The challenge, however, would be to keep enough creatures on the table for Fanatic of Mogis to be much closer to a Fireblast than to a Shock and, on the other hand, gather four mana in those decking is already a challenge and so much that, many times, it may end up not compensating since an advantage of the red decks is precisely their low land count. The card, however, could bring up some new kind of Red-Devotion midrange deck alongside Curse of the Pierced Heart, Monarch Cards and more stable creatures, but I don't think it would be any better than its Mono-Black counterpart.
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With an equipment theme coming up in the last year, it would be interesting to see Fireblade Charger coming out as a common card to give another payoff for this type of archetype, since a 3/1 Haste with Bonesplitter that punishes the opponent for blocking would be of great benefit, especially in a color that would enable the deck to use other good artifact payoffs like Galvanic Blast On the other hand, the archetype doesn't just need good payoffs to succeed, it needs good equipment that is worth using on these cards, which can be a lot of work to achieve since it is impossible for some of the best equipment in the game to come come out as common cards.
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I know, Ephemerate. It is not the fault of the other cards, it is Ephemerate. Flametongue Kavu is a little suspicious card, as it would be better used on decks like Tron than on Monarch Decks or other midranges, despite being the perfect example of what a card for midrange decks should do: Offer a good body with a significant clock coupled to an immediate impact effect on the board, preferably removal. Flametongue Kavu manages to basically destroy any creature in the format, exchanges favorably with a significant portion of creatures, can be abused with Ephemerate and Ghostly Flicker and would surely become a staple. The card would likely see play on many Monarch archetypes and decks like Jeskai Ephemerate, as well as adding a more meaningful clock to Tron
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One of the things that was made clear in the suggestions is that players want better support for Goblins, as the archetype has dropped significantly in format since the release of Commander Legends. Gempalm Incinerator is a small but significant addition to the archetype as a way to have the flexibility of being a removal and a draw when needed, while still being a body that can attack when you need to speed up the clock, in addition to be another tutorable removal with Goblin Matron
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Among people suggesting Goblin Chieftain and even Krenko, Mob Boss, I believe that Goblin Ringleader fits the need that these cards present to the archetype: Despite the high cost, Ringleader is a body 2/2 with Haste that helps the deck to recover its breath during the game. The card may initially seem a little pushed, but Red-Based Aggro does not have the ability to recover that other creature decks of the format have with Lead the Stampede and Winding Way.

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Last but not least: Reaching four manas with a Goblins deck is still a challenge, and the lists would probably include Skirk Prospector in order to use Goblin Ringleader more often.
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Even I know that Monastery Swiftspear is a little too much for Pauper (A creature with CMC 1, 1/1 without haste and with Prowess would be another more reasonable story), but I fully agree that Prowess decks could have better creatures. Heartfire Immolator is basically the red version of Seeker of the Way that exchanges Lifelink for the potential to serve as a removal at any stage of the game. The card has a fair cost, a relevant body and is in a color that can easily be combined with others to create a respectable shell on any base of Spell-Based decks and coul even be used on Burn.
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Lava Coil is a Flame Slash with the upside of exiling the creature, a relevant effect and the right amount of damage in a world with Stonehorn Dignitary or Mnemonic Wall being valid targets for the removal and cards that are constantly recurred with Pulse of Murasa. It doesn't seem worthy of maindeck on most decks, but it could be a good sideboard option to combat certain decks that depends on graveyard interactions.
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I feel that having Reckless Bushwhacker and Goblin Bushwhacker in the same format could be dangerous, but I understand the logic behind who recommended the card. As I mentioned, Red-Based Aggro has become less present in the metagame, and the archetype suffers from a lack of adding good cards and creatures recently where Reckless Bushwhacker, despite enabling an absurd interaction with Burning-Tree Emissary , it could be an addition that would make the archetype return bt having access to the explosive hands that made the deck a good option once more, while still suffering significantly for the inclusion of Fiery Cannonade. Although Reckless Bushwhacker seems a little too much for some players, there is a clear general opinion that the format is in need of better creatures to compete in the current metagame.
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Slice and Dice is a flexible 6-mana sweeper, which is a fair cost for a sweeper that destroys the vast majority of creatures being played on Pauper today, while serving as a Electrickery that cannot be countered and draws a card in the early game. The card would probably not have its main effect being used in most matchups, serving most of the time as a sweeper against Faeries or other decks with plenty of X / 1 creatures that cannot be countered and draws a card, which is a huge upside and a good way to keep the current best deck of the format in check.
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Skullcrack was the most mentioned card in the series and the reason is very simple to understand: Burn suffers a lot against Pauper's lifegain. It is very difficult for Burn to return from plays like Weather the Storm after two or three spells or any combination of Lone Missionary with Ephemerate or Kor Skyfisher with any permanent that gains life or even with Lifelands and Radiant Fountain, and the Burn player can only hope to win the game before the opponent use these interactions or that he doesn't even have them on his deck.

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On the other hand, it is natural that every deck has its Achilles 'Heel, and lifegain being Burn's Achilles' Heel seems a fair trade-off considering that the deck already has some of the best spells of the archetype in the entire game like Lightning Bolt and Fireblast. But would Skullcrack be so oppressive as to make Burn the best deck of the format by a significant margin? My bet is that no, mainly because holding 2 mana every turn is a very high price for Burn to play efficiently since the deck stands out precisely when there is little window of interaction on the part of the opponent and because it has the best range of the format.
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Were it not for the inclusion of Fall from Favor, which raised blue-based decks to the status of best deck by a significant margin, we would still be debating that Tron is an absurd deck. At this point in the game, with the printing of more efficient hates like Cleansing Wildfire, which ended up having little or no effect on the predominance of the archetype before the release of Commander Legends, I don't see many options on how to deal with a multifaceted deck and with super mana efficiency like Tron, if not with a definitive solution: A ban or effects like Sowing Salt entering the format. I'm not even sure if Sowing Salt would be enough to stop the Card Advantage machine that Tron has become in recent years, since four mana is a high cost and still opens a response window with Ghostly Flicker or counterspells by Tron, but it is the ultimate hate, the only card capable of breaking the engine of the archetype once and for all during a match.
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A few years ago, I would say that it is absolutely insanity to put Young Pyromancer on Pauper because the format had a much more significant free spell suite than we have today. But Gush, Daze and Gitaxian Probe were banned, limiting the free spells that Blue-Based decks have and that would be totally absurd cards with Young Pyromancer. However, we still have cards like Gut Shot, Mutagenic Growth, Fireblast, Snuff Out and even less popular options like Thunderclap, so it's possible that Pyromancer is still a dangerous card for Pauper to have acess to. On the other hand, cards like Suffocating Fumes and Fiery Cannonade were introduced to the format while it already had Echoing Decay, Echoing Truth and Electrickery, among others cards to deal with a 1/1 army, while colors that don't have such answers are unlikely to care about a 1/1 army as they will have a better board position most times Young Pyromancer still seems like a relatively strong card for Pauper, but it also feels like a significant addition and a risk that I would be willing to take on the format.
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Romeu

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

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