To say Pauper has exploded in popularity since we last looked at Iconic Masters rarity downshifts is perhaps an understatement. The community has seen a major push for sanctioned Pauper events, and while we may still be waiting for an official unified paper-online banlist, there has been some success.
Wizards may not be fully supporting the format in any official capacity beyond Magic: the Gathering Online, but we saw a great first step with the introduction of Pauper side events at all Grand Prix events in January. Prominent YouTube content creator Brian Lewis (aka The Professor at Tolarian Community College) led the charge, appearing at multiple GPs to celebrate and play in surprisingly large tournaments. These events were an experiment on the part of Channel Fireball Events (who organize all GPs as of 2018), and their success will hopefully translate into more frequent Pauper tournaments—at least when it comes to Grand Prix side events.
Similar to last year’s Iconic Masters release, Pauper is receiving 20 new cards as of the printing of Masters 25. Whether you found yourself pleased with the spoilers of this nostalgia-themed entry into the Masters series, or were displeased with the plethora of bulk available in each $10 booster pack (why $10….?), Pauper has some interesting new tools that may or may not see play.
New players are often surprised by the power level of top-tier Pauper decks, but that’s what happens when you have access to the vast majority of cards ever printed. Can these 20 cards shake up the format? We’ll find out when Masters 25 releases on March 16th, 2018.
Newly Pauper-Legal Masters 25 Cards (A25)
NOTE: Ghost Ship has previously been printed at common, but has not appeared on MTGO at common. For that reason, it is now Pauper-legal for the first time. Similarly, Primal Clay is being printed in paper at common for the first time, but has previously been released at common on MTGO, and as such is excluded from this list.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Iconic Masters gave us a single downshift from rare with Ivy Elemental. Masters 25 has taken things a step or two farther, giving us three total downshifts from rare: Savannah Lions, Balduvian Horde and Loyal Sentry.
It is always exciting to see such a dramatic downshift, but as we saw with Ivy Elemental, that doesn’t necessarily mean these cards will find a home. There is debate as to whether Balduvian Horde is too expensive, or whether Savannah Lions—once arguably the best 1-drop in the game—makes enough of an impact to justify inclusion in any existing builds. Loyal Sentry, on the other hand, shows a lot of promise, at least as sideboard tech against decks like Izzet Blitz.
Since the Sentry destroys a creature when it blocks (not when it deals damage), it provides an additional hurdle that Kiln Fiend must overcome. It is true that Izzet Blitz runs mainboard answers, but Loyal Sentry gives white decks an opportunity to force the deck to wait another turn or two if they do not have answers in hand already. It is also worth noting that there are a lot of other ways to abuse the Sentry by blinking it or using Fog effects after declaring blockers. Expect to see Loyal Sentry around.
Another downshift that provided a good deal of buzz this week was Relentless Rats. As one of the few cards in the game that allows a player to break the four-copy-per-deck rule, Relentless Rats has long been a fan-favorite, particularly in casual kitchen table Magic. At 3-mana each—and a major weakness against cards like Echoing Truth—it is unlikely a Rats deck will be particularly competitive, but the card’s overall popularity means it will see some amount of play. Even if there is no Tier 1 Relentless Rats to come out of the Masters 25 reprint, this is the perfect example of a card that benefits a lot of players at common. When a casual deck may call for 20+ copies of a single card, a $2-4 price tag is a bit much. Hopefully that price drops below $1, allowing greater access for casual brewers, regardless of format.
Let’s briefly touch on two more cards new to Pauper. First, pay attention to Pillage. It may not replace Molten Rain in a lot of sideboards, but the ability to hit an artifact may be enough for some. This also adds one more tool to the growing list of 3-mana land destruction. It would not be surprising to see some annoying red-green land destruction decks show up.
Last, but not least, is Hordeling Outburst. Many would argue that Outburst is a more expensive Kuldotha Rebirth, which already sees little play. However, that may be the wrong way to view this card, since Rebirth requires that you not only build your deck with plentiful artifacts to sacrifice, but that you also have one in play when you need to cast it. The artifact sacrifice is an additional cost to cast Kuldotha Rebirth, which is obviously pretty bad if your opponent has counter magic. Hordeling Outburst may be a bit more mana, but it is playable in aggressive decks that do not want artifacts, it requires only a single card, and it will never lead to a situation where you 2-for-1 yourself. Its viability will be tested with time, but just don’t underestimate it quite yet.
And with that, I’d like to hear what you think, either here or over on Twitter @TheDiscardMTG. Do any of these Masters 25 rarity downshifts excite you? Were there any obvious cards you think should have been downshifted?