Five Colors of Aggro

So you want to play Aggro in Pauper? I commend you. It’s a great choice. In a format of efficient removal, weak color fixing, and few haymaker midrange threats, it makes a lot of sense to build a deck full of cheap creatures and turn them sideways.

The first thing you’ll notice about Pauper Aggro decks is nearly all of them are mono colored. While there are exceptions, like the {G}{W} Slivers deck I covered 3 weeks ago, in most cases, the opportunity cost of fixing for two colors of mana does not coincide with the goal of using all your mana every turn to pressure your opponent with threats. So one color it is.

But which color should you chose to lead your Aggro horde?

Today, I will count down the best colors in Pauper to lead your Aggro attack, analyzing each colors strengths and weakness, and give a sample decklist for each color strategy.

5. Black


Biggest Strengths

Your nut draws all involve Dark Ritual. No other deck has the ability to put six power of creatures out on the board on the first turn of the game!

There can be little hesitation when you play Suicide Black. You goal is to flood the board with more threats than your opponent can handle, even if it means making bluff attacks at times when you know you are running your creatures into certain death. Sometimes sending your creatures to your deaths is even to your advantage in order to power out a big Foul-Tongue Shriek or to give food for a hungry Barrow Ghoul. You also can mid-combat sacrifice a blocked attacker to your Carrion Feeder to ensure that its body doesn’t get wasted, buffing up the little zombie that could into a monster.

Even though Black has fewer natural two-power for one mana creatures than other colors, you also have the distinct advantage that not all of your creatures even need to connect in order to lower your opponent’s life total. Twelve of your creatures are 1-drop 1-power creatures who drain the opponent for 1 damage either as a tap trigger or an attack trigger. And Night Market Lookout can drain your opponent for damage just by tapping to crew a vehicle! If you get close to closing out the game, you can also use Shepherd of Rot’s tap ability to harm both players.

In general, your goal is to end the game as quickly as possible. With only 14 lands and only 7 cards that cost more than {B}, you should be able to empty your hand by turn four every game. Your advantage then lies in being able to use all your cards much, much faster than your opponent can use theirs.

Weaknesses

In a race, you need to be careful. This deck does almost as much damage to itself as it does the opponent! You also have a lot of 1/1 bodies in the deck, making it particularly vulnerable to sweepers like Electrickery. Finally, because your margins are so tight, life gain decks can be challenging for you, especially cards like Moment of Craving or Tendrils of Corruption.

4. White


Biggest Strengths

White Weenie is the most “deathproof” of all five aggro strategies. Even without running the token package of cards like Raise the Alarm, Gather the Townsfolk and Battle Screech, with the list above it is very suspect to try to trade one-for-one removal with White’s creatures. Either they die into a replacement creature, like Loyal Cathar, or they generate value like Thraben Inspector, or the find friends like Squadron Hawk, or you just can’t target them like Guardian of the Guildpact. A special note on that last one: given how few multicolored removal spells or multicolored creatures see play in Pauper, Guardian of the Guildpact may as well be Pauper’s version of Progenitus!

The other strength of this deck is that it is dirt cheap. Online, the deck costs about 12 tickets to assemble, about 8 of which is accounted by two cards, the pair of Standard Bearers in the sideboard. If you forego those two just to try it out, you can play this competitive Pauper deck, a deck that 5-0ed a Pauper league, for less than 5 tickets.

Weaknesses

White has no reach to close out the game, like Red has in Lightning Bolt or Fireblast. It has few disruptive elements other than plain creature removal and a few sideboard weapons.
Its bodies are not as efficient attackers as Red or Green. It can’t pivot into an Aggro-Control deck like Blue can. And it can’t cheat on mana like Black, or {R}{G} with Burning-Tree Emissary. So while White weenie can adequately turn-’em-sideways, it always feels to me like an inferior version of what other colors are doing.

3. Red


Biggest Strengths

Red is the best of the five colors at converting dollars to donuts, or rather mana into damage. It is debatable which of the two decks has a faster Goldfish rate: Red Deck Wins or Burn.

Red has the most 2/2s for one mana of all five colors. It is also the least susceptible to Electrickery of all five colors.

Red has fantastic reach in the form of direct damage spells like Lightning Bolt and Fireblast, the latter of which can be cast for zero mana to finish off your opponent as the last card out of your hand.

It has great ways of “snowballing” to pump its own creatures, using Foundry Street Denizen’s ETB power pump and Goblin Bushwhacker’s team pump.

And finally, Red has great tools in its toolbox to discourage blocking, either through direct damage or triggered Panic effects like on Goblin Heelcutter.

Weaknesses

In spite of its efficiency, RDW does not trade well against 1-for-1 removal. It has a lot of trouble playing from behind. And it is dead-in-the water to counter effects like Spellstutter Sprite unless you keep up an open {R} to Lightning Bolt the Faerie with its trigger on the stack.

Red Deck Wins also usually loses head-to-head against unfair strategies like Slippery Bogles, Tireless Tribe, and Kiln Fiend decks since the other deck’s combo kill is faster than your Goldfish, or a massive lifegain can put your win out-of-reach. Raw lifegain too, especially from repeatable sources like Wellwisher are really hard on the deck since it lacks card advantage.

2. Green


Biggest Strengths

Stompy is a good balance of going wide or going tall. It punishes removal with cards that benefit from creatures dying like Hunger of the Howlpack or Elephant Guide. And frequently it can outrace its control opponent by presenting more resilient threats than the opponent can answer. It gets to cheat mana with Burning-Tree Emissary, often adding 2-3 new threats on turn two.

This particular build of Stompy, you will have observed, also has maximized his metagame target against Delver decks by maxing out on Gut Shot, Scattershot Archer, and maindecking a pair of the Islandwalking River Boa.

Weaknesses

For all its raw power, Mono Green Stompy is incredibly linear. It is very invested at progressing its own game plan; it is far weaker at stopping the opponent’s strategy or even resisting their counter-strategy. Cards like Moment’s Peace and Stonehorn Dignitary can shut down the Stompy deck since it lacks reach. And it has a difficult time combatting combo decks like Kiln Fiend and Tireless Tribe.

1. Blue

Mono-Blue Delver — Pauper | Mezzel


Biggest Strengths

Mono-Blue Delver is the Gold Standard of Pauper. It is the oldest, most continuously successful deck in the format, combining a fantastic disruptive package, the best card selection tools, and innocuous threats that add up to both a quick clock and card advantage.

Mono-Blue Delver is the quintessential Aggro-Tempo deck. It is the best deck at keeping the opponent guessing, controlling the pace of the game, and manipulating the opponent into making unsuccessful plays. It is a deck that has a lot of “play” to it, making it a favorite among Pauper veterans who know the format well and are good at maximizing their edges.

Weaknesses

Resolved threats is the big one. The biggest reason Mono-Blue Delver evolved into its mirror Izzet Delver is that it adds real reach and removal in the forms of Skred, Lightning Bolt, and Swirling Sandstorm. The decks that do best against Delver are midrange decks that can match Delver’s tempo while outracing them in card advantage, such as Boros Monarch and Mono-Black Control. Decks that can pile on threats at a pace that Delver can’t keep up can also overpower Delver, including Stompy and Slivers.

Wrap Up

I hope this comparison has been a helpful tool to you in contrasting the different strengths and weaknesses of each color in Pauper.

One real asset to Pauper as a format is that all five colors are viable, even in the diversity of Aggro decks alone. Even though Black is traditionally a control color, it can attack. And oddly, while Red and White are typically two of the most powerful aggressive colors in Limited play, in Pauper they combine to make the format’s predominant midrange deck. Green still gets pigeonholed as the creature color, but what it can do with those creatures is pretty far reaching. Contrast decks like Green Infect with Mono-Green Tron: both win by creatures, but very differently. And then there is Blue, the color that benefits the most from Pauper being an Eternal Format. Blue will always have the best card selection and the power of Counterspell, but it also serves as the backbone to nearly all the format’s Aggro-Tempo and Combo-Kill decks.

What kinds of Pauper Discussion would you like me to feature here on GatheringMagic?

Leave a comment below. I read and respond to as many user comments, tweets, and MTGO messages as I can.

Peace,

Rev. David Wright

SteveJeltz on MTGO


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