For those of you who know me, you will know that I love me a bit of Burn. To say it’s my favourite archetype is a bit of an understatement, as it is my main paper deck for both Modern and Legacy, as well as one of my preferred strategies when it comes to Standard. So, it should come as no surprise to you that I also love to fling Lightning Bolts and Lava Spikes in the format of the commons – Pauper.
One of the most popular and easily accessible eternal formats, Pauper’s popularity has exploded in the last few years with the endorsement of notable Magic content creators such as Brian (aka The Professor of Tolarian Community College fame). In fact, Pauper has become so popular that Wizards of the Coast have finally officially recognized Pauper with a unified ban list and tournament support.
This means that soon you will be able to earn planeswalker points in officially sanctioned tournaments. Additionally, all cards printed at common in any expansion (either online or physical) will be Pauper legal, bringing over 400 cards into the format. This is truly the start of the golden age for Pauper, and as a result I have been spending the last few days grinding away some matches on MTGO with my aforementioned Pauper Burn deck. So much so in fact that I’ve taken the plunge and decided to build the deck in paper as well as online.
Pauper Burn is very similar to its Modern and Legacy counterparts, sharing a large number of the same spells across all the formats. Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, Searing Blaze, and Skewer the Critics make the backbone of the deck, providing us ways to deal three damage directly to our opponent’s dome. Searing Blaze serves the same function, while simultaneously killing a problem creature on our opponent’s side of the field.
The deck also runs a playset of Chain Lightning, Needle Drop, and Fireblast. Chain Lightning adds an additional three points of direct damage, giving the deck fifteen copies of the same effect (how’s that for redundancy). Needle Drop might seem like a bit of a weird card for the deck, dealing only a single damage and only when a target has already been damaged. But it’s the fact that it’s a cantrip that also deals damage that makes it worth it. Running out of gas is a death sentence for a burn deck, so the ability to keep your hand full (while dealing damage to our opponent) is vital.
Fireblast is the best finisher a burn deck could ask for, been a solid four damage at instant speed. Sure, it might cost six mana, but you are never going to be casting it for its full mana cost – you’re going to be sacrificing two mountains when your opponent is tapped out in order to finish them off when they think they’re safe. The deck also runs a playset of Curse of the Pierced Heart, which kind of works as a pauper version of Sulfuric Vortex in that it puts your opponent on a clock. Additionally, not many players are ready to deal with red Enchantments, so it can just win pre-board games on its own.
The final two slots in the deck are devoted to our only creatures, in the form of Ghitu Lavarunner and Thermo-Alchemist. The Lavarunner in as close as we are likely to get to a Goblin Guide in the format and does a decent job as a repeatable source of damage. Then we come to what is the MVP of the deck in my opinion – Thermo-Alchemist. This little 0/3 defender can steal games out of nowhere, basically adding one damage to each of our Instants and Sorceries. Many times I’ve managed to sequence a barrage of burn spells with one or more Alchemists to hit for upwards of twenty damage, leaving most players dumfounded. We round out the mainboard with fifteen Mountains and a single Forgotten Cave for added card draw when needed.
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
4 Skewer the Critics
4 Chain Lightning
4 Needle Drop
4 Curse of the Pierced Heart
1 Forgotten Cave
3 Faerie Macabre
4 Smash to Smithereens
4 Lightning Strike
2 Molten Rain
For the sideboard, we are running three copies of Faerie Macabre as a way to deal with graveyard decks. Two copies of Electrickery are great for dealing with elves (one of the most popular decks in the format), while Molten Rain can handle Tron decks. Smash to Smithereens is a savage way of taking out opposing artifacts, and Lightning Strike is a straight swap for Searing Blaze when opponents don’t have enough creatures to target.
And that, everyone, is Pauper Burn for, well… Pauper. The deck might at first appear simple to pilot, but it really rewards players that sequence their spells correctly and don’t just rush to the end game. Sure, you want to win the game as soon as possible, but dumping out all your one mana ‘bolts’ by turn three might just leave you without any gas. Holding back your Lightning Bolts until you have resolved a Thermo-Alchemist is often the better play, allowing you to maximise the amount of damage you can put out.
For those of you who like firing off spells at your opponents face and winning by turn five or six, Pauper Burn might just be the deck for you. Remember, Pauper is a non-rotating format, and as such, when you collect a deck, you don’t have to worry about losing half the deck every year or so. Additionally, the deck shares so many cards with its Modern and Legacy counterparts it can be a great way to get started building a deck for another format. Pauper has never been supported this well before, and it’s the best time to start playing this great format.
Want to build a Pauper Burn deck? Do you already play Pauper and are excited to finally see some official love from Wizards of the Coast? Let us know about it in the comments below, and while you’re there, you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. We also have a Patreon, so if you want to support future content for the site, consider becoming one of our Patrons. Just $1 a month would do so much to help us create more of the content you enjoy. Until next time, remember: no matter the game you play or where you play it, good luck and have fun.