Pauper is one of those incredibly fun and diverse formats that really allows for some exciting, flavorful decks; all the while not breaking the bank. The best thing about this format is that we get new cards almost every set, including supplemental sets like Masters sets, Commander products, and experimental products like Battlebond. And with Ravnica Allegiance just around the corner, this set is no different. We have a few cards that I think could make an impact or be used to build around interesting archetypes in the Pauper format. Not all will shake the meta, but it can provide some great table top fun for you and your friends. We've got eight card list in front of us, so let's dive right in.
I'm going to start with the common that I think is one of the most powerful cards in the set, period; even more amazing that it was printed at common. Growth Spiral, an instant for UG allows us to draw a card and then put a land onto the battlefield tapped. Basically, it is an instant speed explore. The reason I think this card is likely the most powerful common printed in this set is that it allows us to play this in some sort of a control build, allowing us to hold up counter magic, kill spells, instants speed draw spells, etc. It also let's us play a normal basic on our turn, only to play a bounce land at the end of our opponent's turn while also furthering filtering through our deck. This card is extremely powerful and as more lands get printed it'll only become even more so.
The second most powerful common is one that will see play in various archetypes, namely Burn. However, I can see this finding a place in any deck with red. Of course, I'm talking about Skewer the Critics. For 2R we get to deal 3 damage to any target at sorcery speed. Sucks right? Except, it also has a Spectacle cost of R. Spectacle, for those who don't know, is the core ability of Rakdos in Ravnica Allegiance, and it states, you can pay for a card's spectacle cost if an opponent has lost life this turn. So, we burn our opponents with a Lightning Bolt, we basically have a sorcery speed bolt ready to fire for an additional red. Skewer the Critics is extremely strong, and I know that it most likely see play in every format its legal in.
The next card on our list is Goblin Gathering. This unassuming common is going to go great in a goblins list, or anything with Foundry Street Denizen in it. Goblin Gathering is another one of those long line of cards that cares about how many cards are in your (or a) graveyard, like Kindle, Accumulated Knowledge, Flame Burst, Mind Burst, Aether Burst, and Take Inventory. Goblin Gathering allows you to put X goblins onto the battlefield where X is two plus the number of Goblin Gatherings in your graveyard. So at the end of it, you could get 5 goblins if you cast your fourth in a game. If you were to cast all 4, you'd get a grand total of 14 1/1 goblins. I think we actually have a really interesting deck in the works with the list of cards above and a spell like Pieces of the Puzzle. Pieces of the Puzzle allows you to dig 5 deep and you can put 2 instants or sorceries into your hand and the rest into your graveyard, exactly what every one of these cards wants to be doing. I think Goblin Gathering is a great addition to this fun and interesting deck archetype.
The next card on our list is Persistent Petitioners. For 1U we get an advisor that allows us to pay 1 and tap to mill a card off of the top of a players library, or we can tap 4 untapped advisors to mill 12 off of a player's library. The added clause of being able to have as many Persistent Petitioners as we want in a given deck makes this a very powerful addition to the Pauper format. In all honesty, with a 1/3 body, I'd be curious to see if a 20 Island, 40 Persistent Petitioners deck could work! Obviously, I'm being sarcastic. However, I do think with the right amount of cheap card draw and some counter spell support, I do think that Persistent Petitioners could make mill a possibility in Pauper.
My next card is a little less powerful, but I think equally important. Open the Gates is a sorcery for G that allows us to search our library for a basic land or a Gate card. Yup, you heard me, a tutor for a Gate. This makes splashing for colors extraordinarily easier in a Gx list, as we could tutor for whatever Gate (or basic) we'd want. This does also hit non-guildgate gates as well, such as Gateway Plaza. These types of spells have been historically good in Standard but I think it'd be good in something like Pauper as well. Cards like this have allowed many players to play fewer lands as they will help them tutor for the ones the players need. This card is no different, with the added ability of getting any color dual land, so long as it is a gate.
I had the privilege of playing Ravnica Allegiance pre-release this past weekend and I had seen the power of this next card first hand. Undercity Scavenger is 3/3 for 3B. When it enters the battlefield you can sacrifice another creature, and if you do, put 2 +1/+1 counters on the Scavenger and scry 2. This card, truthfully, impressed me. It was perfect with the Afterlife mechanic that is pervasive in Ravnica Allegiance sealed and draft, and that scry 2 gave so much versatility to my opponent as long as he had a creature to sacrifice. Not to mention getting what amounts to be a 5/5 for 4 mana is pretty great. Now, a bolt can kill this in response to its enter the battlefield trigger, and if you don't have a creature to sacrifice it can feel bad as a 3/3 for 4. However, this card can be absolutely great if all of the pieces fall into play and you build a good sacrifice strategy around him.
The second to last card on our list is Wrecking Beast. Not going to lie, this card is expensive. for 5GG, (that's right, 7 mana), we get a 6/6 with trample that has Riot. Riot gives our creatures either haste or an additional +1/+1 counter as it enters the battlefield. So getting a 6/6 trampler with haste can be a great way to finish a game or break a board stall. The reason I have it on this list is that it could be a good replacement for Breaker of Armies in an Elf ramp deck, or just a standard ramp deck. The fact that it comes down sooner and effectively has haste is a great way to surprise your opponents with game ending attacks and damage. Not to mention, Riot in itself is very versatile. Sometimes you may just need a 7/7 blocker, and if you do, you'd have that option as well. All in all, a great card for the right decks.
Lastly, I wanted to throw in Ill-Gotten Inheritance. I think this card could be great in some sort of mono black curses deck with Grim Guardian or something that is designed to continually drain or ping your opponent's life away like with cards such as Pestilence or Cuombajj Witches. What I really like about this card, is that not only does it gain you back some life as well, but it also gives you late game reach by being able to pay 5B and sacrifice it to deal your opponent 4 damage (and gain your 4 life)! Truly, a huge amount in a deck that would want to be slowly ticking your opponent's life away. Obviously, a deck like this would fail against something like Soul Sisters or something with a lot of life gain synergies, so you'd likely want to supplement the sideboard with discard /or kill effects to help you fight through it. Still, this card is hilarious, and provides some great late game advantage.
I think Pauper has gotten some great new stuff, but all in all I think the set is kind of lukewarm for the format. We did have some great cards with Growth Spiral, Skewer the Critics, and Persistent Petitioners; however, most of the common set will not be game breaking for the poor man's format. Still, with Pauper growing ever closer to becoming a Pro Tour event (we can only hope), I think it is great to have an analysis on these cards for the state of Pauper now, and for future changes to its meta.
Did I miss your favorite commons from the set? Let us know in the comments below!