PDH: Complete Guide for Pauper Commander Deckbuilding
05/23/22 0 comments
In this guide, we'll see how to build a PDH deck from scratch, so you can play in your own style, with your friends.Edit Article
How to get started
motivation. I'm not talking about the motivation that comes from wanting to play the format, but that motivation that made someone want to build a specific deck. Some players do so because they're interested in a commander, or because they've seen a specific strategy, tribe, ability or mechanic they want to follow. Anyway, the motivations can be the most varied, but it is necessary to focus, separate into stages, so that none are forgotten and result in an incomplete deck. Below, we separate some cases that serve as a starting point.
1st Case: Starting with the CommanderWhen you prefer to start by choosing a commander, after choosing, of course, you must observe the characteristics of the chosen creature. What are its ability, what is their cost, what is their power and toughness, what are their colors, and most importantly at this stage, whether or not your deck will depend on the fact that the commander is on play. Some decks may rely on the commander to function well, or improve the deck's performance with it on the field.
Example of Commanders that are the centerpieceWithin the decks that depend on the commander, there are those that depend a lot on iy to work, or those in which your game is better with it - but still can and should have elements that make it work without its leader.
Examples of decks that don't depend on the CommanderGenerally, decks that don't rely on their leader are just looking for color combinations. This usually occurs for decks of two or more colors, being more common with decks of three colors, allowing a strategy based on more colors, where the commander is just another card and the fact that it is on the field or not does not directly affect the game. .
2nd Case: Starting with the ArchetypeWhen choosing the archetype, the path can be a little different, because depending on which one is chosen, it will open a range of cards that are possible and essential in your deck, but it ends up closing the door of other cards, since some archetypes have different bases, such as Aggro and Control, Voltron and Stax, among others that have differences. After choosing the archetype, you will need to choose a suitable commander or strategy, so that there is as much synergy as possible.
3rd Case: Starting with Strategy or Game PlanWhen building a deck, it is extremely important to be fully aware of the game plan you want to follow. I'm not talking about how you want to win, in terms of deckover or combat damage, or even direct damage — the plan is a specific strategy with which to achieve victory, whether it's placing counters on creatures, ramping up and playing powerful creatures, preventing damage, forcing opponents to discard, among others with equal importance. It is worth noting that, regardless of which choice, among these three that are the most common, but not the only ones, it is a situation in which one depends on the other, because choosing the strategy, you will need to define the commander, then the archetype. Perhaps the archetype is the least important to define, as it is present in a more general way to know what kind of path you will need to take to maintain the deck. For example, choosing Aggro will not place control cards into your list and vice versa. As for archetypes, we will analyze them more broadly in the next topic.
archetypeis. The use of the word archetype is very common to define pre-established models and patterns in several areas. In Magic, they are exactly the same: they are models that are followed to build decks according to a tactic and posture that the player needs to take within the game. There are the Macro-archetypes, which are Aggro, Control, Combo and Midrange, and each of them is divided into four other archetypes each that take into account the differences in game plans and in some type of card. Due to the limitation of the format, which is to use common cards for the most part, not all the archetypes defined in Patrick Chapin's book are present, so we made some adaptations that would bring them closer to the reality of Pauper Commander.
AggroAggro (aggressive) decks base their game on fast combat, placing low CMC creatures that generate almost no value but have speed and aggression, combined with spells that increase their power, hitting often. What matters most in this type of deck is the number of creatures on the field, so that they all deal the most damage possible in each combat. Spells that empower your creatures massively or locally and that deal direct damage round out the deck to help end the game.
MidrangeMidrange is an archetype that has a high volume of creatures, so it can behave aggressively when playing against slow decks, and it also has the elements that make up control decks, like removals and counterspells, to react to threats at the table. But Midrange goes far beyond a simple mix between Aggro and Control, it doesn't just add cards from two decks of different strategies to the list — midrange has its own way of behaving and playing, using spells that aren't creatures to, in addition to inhibiting the advancement of opponents, allow generating advantages in the game. The creatures that make it up generate value when they enter or while they're on the battlefield, or even when they go to the graveyard. A common mechanic in Midrange decks is
Monarch, which, once triggered, doesn't leave until the end of the game. Example: Palace Sentinels and Thorn of the Black Rose. Basically Pauper Commander decks are mostly Midrange, as they seek value, adapt to the game, react to threats, if a deck doesn't have a specific plan.
ControlThe main objective of a deck of this archetype is what the name says:
control the game. Usually the game boils down to putting your lands on play, ramping whenever possible, in some cases putting blockers to protect yourself, and keeping enough land untapped for eventual answers like removals and counterspells. The color that best matches the control is blue, as it can counter opponents' spells, in addition to drawing cards whenever possible, keeping your hand full. As the game progresses, the control player continues to impede the main plays of the opponents. By stabilizing the table and having taken out as many resources as possible, you start to develop your game according to your strategy, whether to combo, or to hit with a big creature. Anyway, the control after clearing your way, tends to end the game quickly with powerful creatures.
ComboCombo decks are loved and hated equally, as the interactions and synergies between cards can be either very satisfying or very frustrating. Combo consists of the interaction between two or more cards, where the combination of their effects can generate a chain effect, which may or may not be infinite, but always causes damage. In most situations, you either beat an opponent or the entire table. As stated earlier, not every commander favors the archetype, however they may have colors or something in particular that leads to their wearing it, such as Woolly Thoctar, which is a commander in green, white, and red, which allows the use of a three-card combo, Midnight Guard, Presence of Gond and Impact Tremors.
VoltronVoltron can be a subtype of two other archetypes, Combo and Aggro, not necessarily together, as this type of deck consists of having a creature as a base, most often the commander, which increases its power according to a specific situation. — such as creature sacrifice, number of creatures on the field, amount of spells in the graveyard, among other ways. It usually has a support strategy, either with many creatures, which serves as an alternative wincondition, or it can still have many spells to prevent the opponent from advancing their game until the commander is able to defeat an opponent with just one attack. In this type of deck, cards that give evasion or protection to the creature are mandatory. An example of this is Whispersilk Cloak.
StaxStax can be considered a subtype of Control, as its actions are focused on preventing opponents from playing. In Pauper Commander there are no successful Stax decks, as there are not so many commons that allow this deck to work as well as in other archetypes. However, there are some cards that can impede opponents' actions, so when playing with this type of deck, you will probably abandon the attempt to win quickly. The focus will only be on preventing opponents from winning, and that will be enough. To do so, the best options are the commanders with five colors, because to fulfill the Stax, you will need to unite the cards that prevent the game of others with the cards that return spells from the graveyard, such as the well-known ETB looping, with Mnemonic Wall, Peregrine Drake, Ghostly Flicker and other cards that perform pertinent ETBs effects. A safe way will be to copy some of your spells, with Teach By Example and use the snow lands, to use Arcum's Astrolabe, for quick draws without spending too much mana, in addition to ramping Into the North and the removal Skred. Ramping up this deck is also very important to have access to enough mana during the game. Of course, there are some situations where fewer colors can be more effective, but we need to keep in mind that blue is always needed.
Stax deck cards
TempoSome players may be confused by this archetype, as it usually has a lot of creatures, wrongly classifying it as aggro. In Pauper this also occurs, as in Mono Blue Fairies, which is a classic Tempo deck, but some players also say that it is Aggro. It cannot be aggro, we saw its definition in the first archetype. There are several creatures, which generate value, keeps the card advantage in your favor. It has cantrips that make the deck rotate, as well as counterspells to stop the opponent's advance. The Tempo deck, basically, is between Aggro and Control. It has low cost, one or two mana creatures. Most usually generate some value in the sense of advantage, such as drawing cards, or even tapping opponent's creatures, but that are abilities of the deck's creatures. It has some spells, like Vapor Snag, to hold the table. It constantly takes actions, even if they are few per turn, making room for a "bomb", a higher cost creature with great power, often with evasion, to end the game more quickly. This deck is different from Midrange, which is also between Aggro and Control, as it usually has higher cost creatures in the deck, which generate different values for the game, adjusting its behavior according to the opponent. Tempo isn't able to adapt as much as Midrange, isn't as quick to hit as Aggro, and can't control the board for a long time, but what makes it special is the fact that it's been in the game from the start, progressing in every turn, gaining time to finish the game with big creatures. For the format, the Tempo deck will need to have a very high number of one-cost, two-cost creatures. The color that symbolizes time is blue. Red can complement the deck very well in this archetype. In the same way as Stax, Tempo does not usually influence the game so much in general, as the deck will depend on the 99 that make it up. Of course, the commander can be the bomb the deck needs to finish off an opponent.
CountersThis is a very simple strategy to execute, put counters on your creatures. Generally green cards are experts in this regard, but you can easily choose a second color as a support. For a better performance, choose cards that adds more than one counter, or that you can choose a target. Removals are also welcome in this deck, to help defend yourself.
AristocratsIn this type of strategy, the number of creatures is quite high, as the entire game is based on the sacrifice of your creatures, whether to put counters on others, draw cards, or for any other use you may have. Black cards are experts at this, but they look much better if accompanied by other colors, to add a bit more value and speed to the deck, depending on the color that will be accompanying.
Gain control of opponent's creaturesTaking control of your opponent's creatures can be a good strategy, especially when combined with the sacrifice strategy, as spells that allow you to take control of your opponent's creatures only do so until the end of the turn.
LandfallThis is an ability that triggers when a land enters the batlefield, so the interesting thing for this type of deck is to have as many ramps as possible and also plenty of lands. Spells that put extra lands in the field are great too. You can choose a commander with Landfall or some creature that puts lands onto the battlefield.
ReanimateThere are no great cards that revive in Pauper Commander, but there are some, in addition to those that return creatures to the battlefield, that return to the hand. Placing cards in the graveyard to revive them later can be very nice, adding some cards that benefit from it, such as Tortured Existence, to exchange graveyard creatures. Black predominates in this strategy, however other colors can help as well, such as blue, which puts a lot of cards in the graveyard with self mill, and also the red, which can fill the graveyard. The best cards to reanimate are Exhume, Unearth and Breath of Life.
StormTo assemble a storm deck, the interesting thing is to have ways to hold the game, either with removals and counterspells, as well as discards if possible, to have time to gather the combo pieces. This is the case where, in addition to reactive cards, it is necessary to have many cards that make the deck rotate. And when it runs the right way, you need to have a lot of rituals to make as many cards as possible on account of Storm. Red is the color you need to have, no matter what, combined with other colors. The most common can be Izzet, due to the storm spellsand red rituals, combined with the cantrips and draws.
Cards with Storm
Note: There are other even better strategies, but the ones we present are more common and simpler to build a deck, especially for those who are not used to building a deck from scratch. As the player acquires more experience in building decks and a broader knowledge of cards, he will be able to choose other strategies that are even more challenging and complex. This is, remember, a guide for anyone who has difficulty building their deck or who builds and their decks don't live up to their expectations.
Cards by Role
RampIn a deck of a hundred cards, ramps are almost a must, as you will always need land to cast your spells, whatever it may be. Therefore, we took into account some strategies and archetypes and we can conclude that the number of ramps in a deck should vary from six to twelve, reaching an average of nine.
Put land on play
Filters and mana rocksFilters and mana rocks are fundamental, especially in decks with more than one color, to correct your mana base, and below we can see some examples, so try to find the ones that fit your deck.
Fogs (damage prevention)“Fogs” are cards that prevent damage, whether to creatures or players, and also from a few different sources, such as a target, a spell, or creatures. This spellc is fundamental to control decks, with the aim of holding the game until you are able to win.
RemovalsRemovals should be a part of most decks, in order to counter threats from opponents, such as troublesome permanents or oppressive creatures. Depending on the strategy, three to five removals might be enough, unless it's a control deck, meaning your strategy is partially based on removals.
Removing Enchantments and Artifacts
BurnBurn cards are cards that deal direct damage to creatures or players. Generally some decks are based solely on this strategy. When that doesn't happen, it's an option for decks that don't use black and need some sort of removal.
Land DestructionDestroying lands can make up a control deck, as part of inhibiting the opponent from playing, or it can be a main deck strategy, like a Midrange Land Destruction.
CounterspellssCounterspells divide opinions, either players love them or hate them, as they literally prevent players from performing their actions. They can prevent opposing plays, and still protect your cards from removals or even ensure that your combo is not dismantled.
DiscardsDiscarding cards is an excellent function that some decks that carry black must have, it can be part of a strategy, part of control decks, as it removes resources from opponents' hands, and this is excellent, especially when the card allows you to look at the hand of the opponent before, as this gives you information on some of the opponent's next plays, and prepare for it.
CantripsThe cantrips and draw spells must be in all decks of the format, as they allow the deck to run, so that the player is not limited to just one draw per turn. Cantrips can have several functions, such as filling the graveyard, for example, and adding to the game's strategy according to the additional effects that each one can have, as many spells that are cantrips have other functions as well, such as Exclude and Inside Out, as they both draw a card in addition to their effect.
Mana SourcesThe mana source mentioned here are not lands or artifacts, they are basically creatures that can generate mana or other spells, such as instants and spells, which will help compose your mana base, which is an important factor in the deck and the which we will address next.
Mana CurveBasically, we can only play one land per turn, and this is inefficient, so we need to put more lands or other mana sources in play. Some decks need to play inside the curve for their effects to be most effective, so you need access to enough mana that the spells in your deck and hand need. When we talk about using mana efficiently, some players make mistakes, one of them is wasting mana, playing too many spells per turn, just to spend all the mana that is possible to generate, but on the other hand, another common mistake is a player always keep the land untapped to respond to the threats, but end up not developing their game. Another common mistake is to play a two mana spell on turn three, and get an untapped land, without it posing a threat in your hand, or a bluff, so playing the three mana card can be more efficient, because generally, a card with a higher cost can add more to the game than a card with a lower cost, even more so at the beginning of the game. This applies to other turns and other game situations, with cards of other costs in hand. You can use our Mana Calculator Tool to have more information about the ideal manabase, and adapt it according to the needs of your deck.
The LandsEach of the lands has a role in the deck. Of course, when it comes to common lands, they can be more limited, but some can still contribute to the deck's strategy. Basic lands are the basis of a mana base, and will represent the majority of this card type in the deck.
Fetch landsFetch lands are those lands that look for other lands in your deck, and they can be useful to fetch that land of that color that is missing, fill the graveyard to use with some cards, or even have an interaction with the landfall mechanic.
Cycle LandsCycle lands work when triggering an ability when you draw, like with Jace's Erasure, and be useful in decks that rely on colors that has few draw spells.
Utility LandsSome common lands that can be very useful in many decks and that I would like the reader to analyze, can be used in the most varied strategies, such as exiling graveyard, manipulating the top, creating tokens, gaining life, damage players, among others that we will see now.
Fixing the Mistakes
Betão, professor of Physics, enthusiast of all formats, has dedicated himself solely and exclusively to Pauper since 2019 and recently to the PDH.