Wow, I really cannot believe that I haven’t written an article since August 15th of last year! I have been going through a bunch of transitions and am getting ready for one more when I will be moving to Minneapolis for an internship!! So I will be looking for Minneapolis area players to play with!!
Also as a piece of housekeeping and as a follow-up to my last post about using online trading for my Scooby Doo EDH deck I wanted to plug Puca Trade, a trading website that has been gaining a strong following (@PucaTrade on twitter). The idea is a peer to peer trading site that uses point systems for sending and receiving cards. Please check out their IndieGoGo project to learn how the site works and donate if you can. They are really close to securing funding to improve the site. I have been using it for months now and have gotten everything from commons/uncommons for casual decks to shock lands for standard.
Today I want to talk about a variation on my favorite format: EDH/Commander (for an overview of the format check here). I am very fortunate to have a regular EDH playgroup that plays together multiple times a week. Lately however, both within this playgroup and the EDH community at large I have been seeing the format become kind of stale. It’s natural that overtime any format (including casual ones) can become like this. People start seeing cards that work well, incorporate them into their decks, and pretty soon we are looking at the same staple cards being played in any and all decks. There have been some interesting discussions about this on Twitter recently, about how to keep the game fresh, how to encourage creativity in deckbuilding, and how to make sure EDH doesn’t die.
The variant I want to discuss today is Pauper EDH. I have known of people building pauper decks for a long time, but it wasn’t until @Torerotutor told me that his LGS had started playing this more that I considered talking to my playgroup about trying it out. While many people have already come up with their own rules, banned list, etc. for this format, I want to talk specifically about how my playgroup went about evolving our variant.
1. A Non-Legendary Rare creature for the Commander: For the purpose of our playgroup we wanted players to be able to build around some of the rare creatures that they loved. We liked the idea of your Commander still being rare in order to make it stand apart from the rest of the cards in the deck. We didn’t want to allow Mythics as the power-level of these would lead to a lot more up front bannings and we wanted the format to be as wide open as possible to start.
2. Commons/Uncommons only with a price cap per card of 5 dollars: So Pauper normally refers to decks with commons only, but we’re expanding the definition a little. We wanted people to explore the card pool magic had to offer and use cards that they might not otherwise use. We didn’t want this to be a format of Sol Ring, Sensei’s Divining Top, Aether Vial, Mana Crypt, Mana Drain, etc. Some of these are obviously really extreme examples, but we wanted to have a guideline to go on. We have been primarily using TCG mid-prices of NM cards and we allow some flexibility due to price fluctuations and also to some cards being artificially inflated due to availability (for example we wanted white to have access to spot removal and so we allow Path to Exile).
3. 40 life/21 General Damage: A lot of groups that I have seen playing this format are lowering life totals and amount of general damage that is needed. This can speed up games for sure, but this wasn’t necessarily one of our main goals. Since we are not pre-banning a lot of cards we also wanted to experiment with having normal life totals and if games did drag on forever we would revisit this.
4. Organic Ban List and Watch List: We didn’t want to start out by banning a ton of stuff. We wanted this format to develop organically within our playgroup and to be as wide open as possible. At the same time we did recognize some cards that would be below our price cap while still being problematic. The only common/uncommon that has been banned at this point is Skullclamp, but we have a lot of cards on our Watch List (for example Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, and Whispersilk Cloak). The main philosophy behind this is that we wanted the group to play a lot of games first and make decisions about cards based on problems that were consistently coming up. The biggest issue with creating a ban list is that it is so meta dependent and also can get clouded by what individual players dislike.
5. Banned Generals: We did decide to ban some generals up front that we felt would be too easily abused.
a. Serra Ascendant (I don’t know what to say here but duh)
b. Felidar Sovereign (follows same rationale as above) *edit: thanks to @RogueArtificer for pointing out this card is mythic, our original rules allowed mythics
c. Deadeye Navigator (this was a card that was already causing a lot of frustration in our other EDH games)
d. Magister Sphinx (the effect can be already overly powerful when you have a lot of ways to deal with this card)
e. Elvish Archdruid (Pauper’s version of Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary)
The main message I want to convey about this format is that we really wanted it to be what EDH/Commander was originally designed to be: A flexible rules approach to a casual format that really should be developed naturally within a given playgroup. Too often I hear players complain about how they don’t agree with the Official Ban List, or certain strategies that are allowed. When I suggest that they can change this, do whatever the hell they want, they look at me strangely. I understand the utility of having a ban list that is universal (if I want to play online, or play with new people I don’t know), but deep down I believe that this format should be open and should be changing all the time.
Okay enough blabbering, here’s one of the decks I’ve been playing lately, to give you an idea of what is in our playgroup.
Finally I would just like to say that since I have started playing this format, I have rediscovered some of my zest for EDH/Commander that was lacking. I still get in games with all my Pimped Out More Competitive Decks, but I find myself wanting to play pauper most of the time. It’s cheaper to throw a deck together, which allows me to just build out of whatever I have around, and allows me to make changes easier without feeling like I have to get expensive cards. I already have 3 decks built, of varying levels of power and all I want to do is make more!
I want to thank all the readers who have been coming to check this out. I can be reached on the comments here and @HobbesQ on twitter! I appreciate any and all feedback.