Updated: Feb 3
In the mid-2000s, I was the drummer and songwriter in a band called "Monkeybox". Due to our style of jazz-fusion-jam-metal, it was difficult to book any meaningful gigs and we were told, more times than not, that our music didn't "make sense". Did we change our style? No. Why didn't we change our style to be more crowd-friendly? Because it was ours. It was our outlet for self-expression. And we loved it.
How does this relate to Magic: The Gathering? Well, outside of the grind of competitive play, MTG is desirable to legions of players who consider it to be an outlet for creativity and self-expression. If this is how you view the game, then you're likely a Johnny, like me. If the decks you play manifest an ideal or inspiration, regardless of potency, then you're like me. If winning holds a firm second place to style and individuality, then you are most certainly like me. Hi, I'm Johnny and I love decks with identity, in both form and function.
Today, I'd like to talk about Cheerios, for Pauper. Mmm... Cheerios.
This accelerated archetype has always been an outlier in the Legacy format metagame. Many formats and decks have tried to emulate what this deck is capable of, and many formats and decks have failed. Glimpse of Nature is the supreme enabler in a deck loaded with zero-costed creatures, such as Crookshank Kohbold, and ramp cards like Manamorphose and Elvish Spirit Guide to enable your nearly infinite Grapeshot. Now, with this being a Pauper version of the deck, it is hard to match the massive card-draws and ramp and we no longer have access to any win-condition Storm spell. Fear not, this commons-only adaptation still has punch. It still has speed. And it still has a fairly homogeneous kill-combo.
Pauper Cheerios - by T_Squared
If this is your first introduction to Pauper Cheerios, and you like an easy-to-pilot strategy with attitude, you're in for a good time. A not very interactive time, but a good time, nonetheless. Much like it's older brother, in Legacy, this deck relies on huge card advantage and enters-the-battlefield effects from the majority of spells you cast. Of said spells, Cheerios would not exists if it wasn't for the free artifact and/or colorless cards that make up nearly half of the main 60.
Let's first take a look at the two forms of persistent, non-combat damage that lay the groundwork to victory: Firebrand Archer and Reckless Fireweaver. All other shenanigans aside, each of the four Archers has the potential to deal 20 damage over the course of the entire deck, while the Fireweaver pings each opponent every time an artifact comes into play under your control. This is yet another example of how powerfully broken the cycle of artifacts lands are. Technically, and mathematically, these creatures combined have a ceiling of 176 total damage. Even if you cut that down by 90%, given the variant nature of the game, that is still nearly lethal.
If that wasn't enough to jazz your Johnny side, then the rest of the deck should seal the deal.
Battered Golem is no less important to the deck and is essential to its functionality. While it does have a admirable power and toughness, you should never really be turning him sideways... for attacks, anyway. Its real power lies in its text box.
"Whenever an artifact comes into play, you may untap Battered Golem." That's all well and good and it's even better that it triggers when any artifact hits the field, not just yours; yet, when combined with Retraction Helix or Banishing Knack, you've just set up your win-condition. Helix and Knack are a couple of the more powerful Pauper cards that go widely unused. In this shell, though, they are the keys to sudden, surprising, and stylish victory.
As soon as you resolve Helix or Knack, on the Golem, you can bounce any 0-cmc artifact you have on the board, recast said artifact to have Fireweaver and the Archer ping for 1 damage each, then untap Battered Golem due to his ability, and do it all over again. Do it all over again... forever.
With Artificer's Assistant, you can scry to set up your next draws with every artifact you cast. This helps get your combo pieces online or dig for another powerful creature this deck contains: Tandem Lookout. We can be honest here, the Soulbond mechanic rarely sees play in Pauper and, because of that, I believe this creature gets glazed over as a card that fits in exactly zero decks. In fact, Cheerios may be one of the only - if not only - deck in which this guy sees play. Don't let his 3 cmc or weak body fool you, it is a uniquely powerful creature that serves to provide gas to Archer's and Weaver's fire. The key to Lookout's success is in the wording of its ability. "...when this creature deals DAMAGE to an opponent, draw a card." Once your red pingers are bonded to the Lookout, every time you cast an artifact and/or noncreature spell they deal 1 damage and you draw a card. Each and every time. Ping = draw. Zero-costed artifacts = ping = draw. Bounce those Bone Saws back to your hand, with the Helix, and repeat until your wrists hurt turning the Golem sideways.
Tapping for one damage, every time you cast a colorless spell, Nettle Drone is basically the melding of Fireweaver and Battered Golem. It's a very nice compliment to this already amusing deck and works with itself, if you've got another one on the board, thanks to Devoid, but can be used with Retraction Helix and Banishing Knack if your Golems are slow to draw or get removed.
What this all boils down to is that this deck is fun. This deck can be fast. This deck, most certainly, will be unexpected. Whether at the kitchen table, at the LGS, or even online, this deck is likely to take your opponent(s) by surprise and net you a handful of wins. I can't promise championships, but I can promise a widely entertaining ride.
As always, comment below with your thoughts and thanks for reading!