MTG Pauper – A guide to Magic The Gathering’s Pauper format

In Magic: The Gathering, Pauper is one of the richest formats, with a bunch of dedicated fans. These are the top Pauper decks and the full list of banned cards

magic the gathering pauper - a horde of angry townsfolk brandishing torches and pitchforks, under the full moon.

In Magic: The Gathering, Pauper is a popular MTG format with a pretty straightforward premise. In Pauper, you can only play with cards of common rarity. Anything above that, whether it’s rare, mythic rare, or even uncommon, is right out. These cards are too rich for a Pauper player’s blood. It’s commons only!

Pauper is a non-rotating format, which means cards don’t ‘rotate out’ like they do in Standard. That means cards will always be playable in the format, unless they get put on the Pauper banlist. Pauper is also an eternal format, which means you can use cards from right across the game’s history, from any of its sets. That means the format has a pretty enormous cardpool to play with.

One of the best things about Pauper is its accessibility. Because it only utilises common cards (the most frequently printed kind of MTG card, the clue’s in the name) building a Pauper deck is pretty affordable. And, while the format isn’t static – each new Standard set shakes things up with 101 brand new commons – strong Pauper decks will often remain top dogs for a long time, since they won’t be affected by whatever busted, multiverse-shattering mythic card is the flavour of the day.

magic the gathering pauper - a smiling blue fish creature, like a mudskipper.

Best MTG Pauper decks

Whereas the best Standard decks are usually settled upon pretty quickly, with one or two deck archetypes floating rapidly to the top, the Pauper format typically has a much more diverse roster of powerful decks all vying for top spots, and slightly below the top tier, the variety increases exponentially. While we can’t cover all the best Pauper decks, here are a few that have performed extremely well lately.

Affinity

Affinity decks rely on lots of cheap artifacts for various different functions – from card draw to fixing, and the affinity for artifacts ability, which lets you get giant creatures on the battlefield quickly. The deck used to rely on pumping up an Atog and dealing lethal damage with Fling. Thanks to a recent Pauper ban, that’s not an option anymore, but Affinity decks still have quite a few tricks up their sleeves. They can zap you by sacrificing artifacts, or hit you in the face with a huge affinity beater like Myr Enforcer.

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Boros (Red/White)

There are two different popular and powerful Boros archetypes in Pauper, one that splurges out bird tokens, darkening the skies with Battle Screech, and one that uses artifact synergies. This latter deck uses cards like Glint Hawk that keep popping Experimental Synthesiser and other artifacts with ETB and LTB effects back into your hand, taking you on a trip to value town.

magic the gathering pauper - artwork of a woman floating, surrounded by blue waves of magic.

Dimir Control

This Pauper deck utilises a pretty typical Control strategy, constantly frustrating its foes with instants and sorceries, along with irritating faerie cards like Spellstutter Sprite. Household names such as the infamous Counterspell and card selection maestro Brainstorm really showcase blue at its best in this deck.

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Tron

The Urza ‘Tron’ land cycle: Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Mine is a powerhouse that’s just as viable in Pauper as it is Modern. It provides you with such a mana advantage that you can simply overwhelm your opponent. As with other Pauper decks, there are a couple of ways to go. You can quickly ramp up to mega threats (like what Modern Tron decks do) or use flicker spells like Ghostly Flicker with cards such as Mulldrifter to stay two steps ahead of your enemy and generate an insurmountable lead.

Tron took quite the hit recently, with one of its best cards, Bonder’s Ornament, getting banned in an attempt to weaken the deck. It must be said, that attempt was pretty successful; Tron still has plenty of disciples though.

magic the gathering pauper - a lightning bolt striking at night.

MTG Pauper banlist

Like other competitive formats in MTG, Pauper has its own banlist, to prevent any particular Pauper deck from getting out of control and ensure the format has a healthy meta. The list of banned cards in Pauper is pretty short, so let’s just cover it in full.

  • Arcum’s Astrolabe
  • Atog
  • Bonder’s Ornament
  • Chatterstorm
  • Cloud of Faeries
  • Cloudpost
  • Cranial Plating
  • Daze
  • Disciple of the Vault
  • Empty the Warrens
  • Fall from Favor
  • Frantic Search
  • Galvanic Relay

All banned together: The full MTG banlist

  • Gitaxian Probe
  • Grapeshot
  • Gush
  • High Tide
  • Hymn to Tourach
  • Invigorate
  • Mystic Sanctuary
  • Peregrine Drake
  • Prophetic Prism
  • Sinkhole
  • Sojourner’s Companion
  • Temporal Fissure
  • Treasure Cruise

The most recent card banned from Pauper is Disciple of the Vault. This creature took a hit with the banhammer in March, after the banning of Atog proved insufficient to curb the dominance of Affinity decks.

Expedition Map is a Pauper card that recently got unbanned. That’s because Wizards originally impounded it to hurt the Tron archetype, but then realised that it wasn’t the main problem card in the deck.