Quote from LouCypher » Plus, I'd rather have a Boros Karoo over any tapland.
Already once I had an opener with nothing but Ash Barrens, so I definitely had to mull that
Now it's time to put the core and the shell together. We'll start by taking a closer look at a classic Pauper list that has a somewhat different approach than what's suggested in the primer. A basic budget non-pauper list the follows, which also forms the basis for the "adding money" discussion in the section below.
Decklists - Pauper
Consider the following decklist by d0su, originator of the Pauper Dreamcrusher. This list is current as of January 2014 - I have gently restructured it to fit the terms and categories used in the primer.
DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
GENERAL (1)5 Child of AlaraCORE (41)Sacrifice Outlets (7)2 Devour Flesh3 Mind Extraction1 Red Elemental Blast3 Rend Flesh2 Terminate4 Wrecking BallRecursion and Engines (13)4 Archaeomancer3 Cadaver Imp3 Capsize2 Disturbed Burial3 Ghostly Flicker2 Grim Harvest5 Izzet Chronarch5 Mnemonic Wall3 Reaping the Graves1 Reclaim5 Scrivener3 Soul Manipulation3 Tilling TreefolkTutors(9)4 Dimir House Guard2 Dimir Infiltrator4 Drift of Phantasms2 Merchant Scroll2 Muddle the Mixture4 Mystical Teachings3 Perplex2 Shred Memory3 Trinket MageCounters and Silver Bullets (9)1 Aether Spellbomb2 Arcane Denial1 Condescend2 Counterspell3 Faerie Trickery1 Nihil Spellbomb3 Oblivion Ring2 Overrule2 Qasali PridemageSupport (9)3 Freed from the Real1 Horizon Spellbomb3 Forbidden Alchemy3 Krosan Restorer5 Mulldrifter3 Rhystic Study2 Rolling Thunder3 Sea Gate Oracle3 Yavimaya ElderSHELL (52)Dig and Fix (4)1 Brainstorm1 Ponder1 Preordain2 Prophetic PrismRamp (7)3 Cultivate3 Darksteel Ingot3 Farhaven Elf3 Far Wanderings3 Kodama's Reach2 Sakura-Tribe Elder1 Wayfarer's BaubleLands (41)Multi-fixing (7)1 Command Tower1 Evolving Wilds1 Opal Palace1 Rupture Spire1 Shimmering Grotto1 Terramorphic Expanse1 Transguild PromenadeTri-fixing (4)1 Bant Panorama1 Esper Panorama1 Grixis Panorama1 Jund PanoramaUtility (10)1 Barren Moor1 Bojuka Bog1 Forgotten Cave1 Halimar Depths1 Lonely Sandbar1 Polluted Mire1 Remote Isle1 Secluded Steppe1 Slippery Karst1 Tranquil ThicketBasics (20)7 Island6 Forest5 Swamp1 Mountain1 Plains
This is a very interesting list. By ignoring the intense focus on dropping CoA turn 4, d0su gets away with much more card advantage and an essentially UBG mana base. It may look slow, but it has been proven and refined over three years time - and at rather cutthroat tables, I might add.
Let's look at the shell first. The most striking thing is the utter lack of guildgates. This creates space for other ETBT lands, namely a whole bunch of cycling lands. These can then be recurred by green's "Mulldrifter", Tilling Treefolk. In the Ghostly Flicker engine (or with Capsize), it becomes the Pauper version of Life from the Loam with those cycling lands. Hence, more panoramas make sense too, to draw out all the basics. With little concern for turn 4 specifically, d0su can compensate the lack of guildgates with more but slower multi-fixing.
With raw card advantage being the main plan, it also makes sense to run heavier stuff like Forbidden Alchemy and Yavimaya Elder. I'm not a fan of Rhystic Study in decks without massive mana denial, and I also wonder about the use of Horizon Spellbomb over Mycosynth Wellspring (the former is a Trinket Mage target however, but seems overcosted). I think I'd rather run the three U, B and G artifact lands (a notable omission with a Trinket Mage package) and the Wellspring instead. However, these are minor concerns that largely come down to player preference.
The core seems very solid and uncontroversial to me, and gives new players a useful sense of proportions in the Pauper deck. I think the sacrifice outlets are a little light however - I'd probably play Perilous Research (makes better use of Merchant Scroll) and Primal Growth (say, over Rhystic Study and Prophetic Prism). This would also allow the "sac outlets" to be used more for their other purposes (like spot removal). Quasali Pridemage is a superb choice of multi-purpose 2 CMC removal alongside Oblivion Ring. However, I miss Vedalken Aethermage with all these multi-purpose wizards. Scrivener could probably be cut for it.
All in all, this deck shows that there's more than one way to destroy the world and dominate with a cheapskate deck. In fact, a plan focusing more on card advantage and less on an early CoA could be the better way to go for a pure Pauper build - it will allow you to skimp on Plains and Mountains without shame at least. It's also an interesting comparison to the budget non-pauper build that I'm about to present.
Decklists - The Basic Budget Deck
The basic budget deck will cost you about $80, as many of the cards are still commons or dirt cheap rares, but super strong nevertheless. Upgrades for the more pronounced budget options are discussed in the adding money section.
DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
GENERAL (1)5 Child of AlaraCORE (45)Sacrifice Outlets (8 + 1 in lands)5/2 Bound//Determined3 Fallen Ideal10 Greater Gargadon3 Mind Extraction4 Momentous Fall2 Perilous Research7 Spine of Ish Sah1 Worthy CauseRecursion and Engines (11 + 1 in lands)5 Body Double2 Dance of the Dead3 Eternal Witness5 Fool's Demise5 Genesis3 Gift of Immortality2 Life from the Loam4 Pull from the Deep5 Reveillark2 Saffi Eriksdotter3 Soul ManipulationTutors (13)5 Brainspoil3 Buried Alive3 Congregation at Dawn5 Demonic Collusion3 Dimir Machinations3 Drift of Phantasms4 Jarad's Orders1 Expedition Map2 Merchant Scroll2 Muddle the Mixture4 Mystical Teachings4 Reap and Sow5 Three DreamsCounters and Silver Bullets (8)2 Arcane Denial5 Archon of Justice3 Bant Charm3 Capsize3 Forbid3 Hinder4 Mystic Snake2 TrickbindSupport (5)4 Anger1 Bequeathal5 Mulldrifter8 Myojin of Night's Reach4 Fact or FictionSHELL (54)Non-land ramp (9)1 Crop Rotation3 Cultivate3 Darksteel Ingot3 Farseek3 Kodama's Reach3 Primal Growth2 Sakura-tribe Elder3 Search for Tommorow3 WargateDig and Fixing (4)1 Brainstorm2 Evolution Charm1 Ponder1 PreordainLands (41)Multi-fixing (7)1 Command Tower1 Grand Coliseum1 Evolving Wilds1 Exotic Orchard1 Mirrodin's Core1 Terramorphic Expanse1 Vivid CreekTri-fixing (5)1 Bant Panorama1 Jund Panorama1 Naya Panorama1 Murmoring Bosk1 Seaside CitadelDual-fixing (8)1 Darkwater Catacombs1 Grasslands1 Krosan Verge1 Mossfire Valley1 Shadowblood Ridge1 Simic Growth Chamber1 Skycloud Expanse1 Sungrass PrarieUtility (10)1 Alchemist's Refuge1 Bojuka Bog1 Darksteel Citadel1 Ghost Quarter1 Grim Backwoods1 Halimar Depths1 Mistveil Plains1 Moorland Haunt1 Reliquary Tower1 Tranquil ThicketBasic lands (11)4 Island2 Forest2 Plains2 Swamp1 Mountain
ADDING MONEY TO THE DECK
The basic budget build is rather adequate on its own, but you can of course improve it further by increasing the budget. Before you go ahead and invest in premium duals and fetches though, there are other more pressing concerns that will add much more bang for your buck. This section sorts them roughly by "cost-benefit", starting small and going up.
Adding Money - Basic Shell Improvements ($35)
These changes are recommended to do first, as they improve your shell and solidify your game plan.
Grim Backwoods -> Phyrexian Tower. It will cost you $12, but it is the best sac outlet in the game (a mana ability that cannot be responded to). Drawing cards is nice and all, but it's simply no compensation for a net difference of 6 mana.
Halimar Depths -> Mystical Tutor. Make your game plan even more solid for only $5. Gets so much powerful stuff in the deck.
Expedition Map -> Tolaria West. A better land tutor since it's also a t2 blue source (replaces Halimar Depths in that department) and works with LftL. Another $5.
I'd also recommend replacing your three worst lands with Sylvan Scrying ($3, can be played t2 and thus replace a land), City of Brass and Forbidden Orchard ($5 each). If you're using the budget shell as suggested, I'd cut Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse and Vivid Creek (fewer ETBT lands means a quicker clock, plus you reduce strain on your basic lands. Panoramas don't ETBT and can produce mana on their own, so cutting the basic fetches is a greater priority).
Adding Money - Emeria Overhaul (about $60)
This package adds the 4 shock dual Plains to the mana base to enable Emeria, the Sky Ruin as a significantly stronger land-based recursion option than Moorland Haunt. This also solidifies the mana base much more, and enables your Plains fetchers to fix any color. Emeria + shock duals costs a few more dollars than a Volrath's Stronghold, but is a MUCH more effective recursion engine, while also greatly improving your mana fixing. Improved land tutors that help assemble Emeria and your other utility lands is also part of the package.
3 basics + 1 Panorama -> 4 shock dual Plains: You can't drop your single basic Mountain, but you can go down to 3 Island, 1 Forest and 1 Swamp. The other 2 panoramas also get replaced in this overhaul. Sacred Foundry, Godless Shrine, Hallowed Fountain and Temple Garden will cost you about $25-30.
Seaside Citadel -> Flood Plain: Like Grasslands and Krosan Verge, this now fixes all colors, and has synergy with LftL. It also finds Mistveil Plains and helps you assemble Emeria.
Moorland Haunt -> Emeria, the Sky Ruin: Another free recursion engine is nothing to scoff at. The Odyssey filter lands that previously launder colorless mana will now help you launder any excess white mana that may arise instead. $4.
2 Panoramas -> Tithe ($4) and Flagstones of Trokair ($10): Both of these get Plains, which mean they now fix every color and help you assemble Emeria. Flagstones further improves your resilience to mass LD, and has synergy with Ghost Quarter (and Perilous Research) if you're still running it (the two form a rather cute engine with Life from the Loam!).
Reap and Sow -> Scapeshift/Primeval Titan: Both of these help assemble Emeria and are more powerful (but more expensive) land tutors than Reap and Sow. IMO, the Titan is the more powerful option, but it may be banned depending on which list your group goes by. Both are roughly at the same price point (around $15).
Adding Money - Better Tutors (about $50)
Demonic Tutor: The most popular tutor in EDH will cost you about $15-20. You now have so strong fixing that getting black on t2 isn't very challenging, so you can probably swap a land for this.
Intuition: Arguably the best triple tutor available, perfect for setting up Life from the Loam with your key lands, or getting whatever you desire with Genesis and Eternal Witness. About $30. Could replace a transmuter or something else if you prefer.
Adding Money - Dark Depths Package (about $75)
This package changes the feel of the deck by changing win conditions somewhat. Particularly recommended if you have played the deck for a while and want to change things up a little.
Fallen Ideal -> Dark Depths: As you become more land focused, Fallen Ideal plays out its role as a sac outlet and with money to spend, also as a win condition. Dark Depths/Thespian's Stage is a pretty awesome combo in Child of Alara, as the token doesn't care about your general sweeper and you can churn out one 20/20 indestructible flyer per turn with Life from the Loam, which should quickly overwhelm exiling effects. Tutors like Intuition and Scapeshift make this happen frighteningly fast. Marit Lage production will presently set you back $55 due to the popularity of the combo.
Three Dreams -> Thespian's Stage: Three Dreams loses value without Fallen Ideal, as you now have fewer targets for it and lose its ability to assemble sac outlet + recursion in a single tutor. Drop it to make room for the other part of the combo. Stage also works as a gold land or extra utility land, but it's hard to find mana to activate it before a t4 CoA, so it probably shouldn't be considered until this point. Only $2.
Bequeathal -> Diabolic Intent: Bequeathal isn't necessary when you drop Three Dreams. Replace the sac outlet you lost from Fallen Ideal by swapping it for an extra Demonic Tutor for a mere $6. Intent is probably not stronger than the other sac outlets you run in the basic build however, so you have to wait for a vacancy to fit it.
Alchemist's Refuge -> Boseiju, Who Shelters All: A more powerful counter-measure to counterspells, that works well with your buyback spells and new tutors. Most of your stuff is instant speed now anyway, so Refuge is less needed. About $8 - well worth the investment.
Dance of the Dead -> Corpse Dance: Now more easy to tutor for, plus it works better with the Refuge/Boseiju swap. Only $3.
Adding Money - Further Shell Improvements ($ as much as you like)
These upgrades cost much and offers comparatively little improvement. You're probably better off improving on other decks.
Reflecting Pool: The next-in-line land improvement. $12 - cheap at this point. Having replaced your ETBT fixers (except your awesome fetch lands that are more important than this) already however, the incremental advantage is small. This could arguably replace the third Island, but I think I'd rather have the basic land. It could easily replace your worst rainbow land, but is probably worse than your filter lands. You probably want to keep Murmoring Bosk for Krosan Verge until you add more Forest duals.
Sensei's Divining Top: As it can dig, it could easily replace your worst land, much like Reflecting Pool. Your 2-drop tutors and digs are adding up now however, but it's a good card. $20 if you're lucky.
True Fetch Lands: These could easily replace your 2 budget Mirage fetches and even your worst rainbow lands since they are better with LftL. The 4-5 cheapest of the lot are about $50 a pop (Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, Windsweap Heath etc), so they will give you the most bang for your buck and you don't have room for many more anyways.
True Duals: Plateau, Tundra and Scrubland are each at roughly the same price point as the cheaper fetches ($50), so they could replace a basic Plains, Murmoring Bosk and Sacred Foundry. Not sure I'd recommend investing in ABUR duals beyond that, unless you completely rework the shell somehow.
Volrath's Stronghold: Will cost you about $25. Could replace some other source of recursion, but I can't imagine that I'd want to cut anything for it, let alone invest in it for this deck.
Diamond Valley: A moderately played one can be yours for less than $100! Completely unnecessary and much worse than Phyrexian Tower IMO. Spend your dollars on other decks, or something more important than Magic.
The concept of 5-Color Control for the common man was first popularized on MTGS by d0su in his legendary Dreamcrusher thread in early 2011. The idea was that using Child of Alara as a Commander compensated for the complete lack of solid sweepers in the common card pool, while using only commons provided for a very cheap deck that still had the power to go up against full power EDH decks, especially in multiplayer.
As the concept of Pauper EDH has consolidated more towards using uncommon creatures as Commanders, and the "Dreamcrusher" build has proven more adapted for regular EDH tables than Pauper settings anyway, the need for adhering strictly to commons has been called into question. While using only commons remains the cheapest way to build CoA, adding even just a few uncommons greatly helps the deck overcome some inherent design challenges and also makes for shorter games (while all commons list can eventually establish control just as well, games go on and tend to be very grindy and durdly).
While there is already a multiplayer primer on using Child of Alara to create a lands-type deck focusing on Life from the Loam and utility lands, this primer will focus more on using Child of Alara itself (even though the non-Pauper builds included here also make use of LftL and utility lands, simply because it would be silly not to). Thus, the primary focus of these builds will be on how to sacrifice and recur CoA as efficiently as possible, and other strategies that are supportive of this concept. While the primer assumes a multiplayer environment, there is nothing stopping you from trying these builds out 1v1 either, especially the "full power" budget version.
Pauper, Peasant and Budget - a Word on Terminology
Since around 2010, there's been an increasing interest for "PDH" or Pauper EDH - a process that this very archetype has helped fuel. At the time however, there was little consensus on what exactly constituted a PDH deck. Can CoA with all commons be considered "Pauper", when the general is mythic rare and the deck is constructed to abuse it as much as possible?
These days, there is a pretty strong consensus that Pauper EDH means using an uncommon (or possibly even common), most likely non-legendary, creature as your Commander, and only commons in your 99. For purposes of this primer however, the "Pauper" build refers to using only commons in the deck, despite CoA being mythic rare. The term is not an endorsement suggesting that a CoA build using only commons has a place at tables where others are running Zameck Guildmage or Ascended Lawmage as Commanders.
There is even less consensus on what constitutes a "Peasant" EDH deck - another format descriptor borrowed from the world of 60 card Magic. Most agree that standard EDH rules apply, but that you're excluding rares from your 99. Some groups or shops go further and limit the amount of uncommons you can run (the equivalent of 5 uncommons in a 60 card deck would be 8 in a 99 card deck, but numbers vary).
Regardless of whether you're using rarity restrictions or just want a competitive but affordable 5C control deck, this is the definitive CoA primer for you! It discusses inexpensive card choices of all rarities, Pauper and budget decklists, and strategy both on a general level and individual card level.
Why Play Child of Alara?
The Pauper version of this deck might be for you if:
*You like having Planar Cleansing as your Commander
*You want to play a workable 5C control deck in EDH that costs less than its sleeves
*You like it when people playing $1000+ decks say your deck is unfair and boring
The Pauper version might not be for you if:
*You intend to play against decks using uncommon Commanders
*You want a good game against fast decks 1v1
*You want something simple to pilot that wins quickly
The budget version might be for you if:
*You like having Planar Cleansing as your Commander, except it costs 0 to reuse, draws you cards and gains you life
*You want to play a competitive 5C control deck in EDH for less than $100
*You dislike a battlefield cluttered with non-land permanents
The budget version might not be for you if:
*You consider aggro or combo as a goal unto itself rather than just a win condition
*You like fair decks that don't steal or reanimate opposing creatures, or force mass discard in the early turns
*You're more interested in playing against other PDH decks with uncommon Commanders
Quick Deck Statistics
Preferred Environment: Multiplayer (any build) or 1v1 (non-pauper builds)
Casual/Competitive: Semi Competitive
Average CMC: About 2.5-2.8 depending on build (though mana demands depend much more on the effectiveness of your recursion engines, than on average CMCs)
Deck Cost [AVG]: ?? ??
Deck MVP: Depends on build and budget, but Capsize and Mind Extraction are always all-stars.
Strengths: Board control, counters, hand disruption
Weaknesses: Graveyard hate, mana denial
Flexibility - How well does the deck combat threats and come back from resource denial/negation?
(8/10) The deck is built around coming back advantageously from mass resource denial. Counters are largely ineffective. Big draw can recover from hand disruption. The biggest problems are graveyard removal and mass LD, especially for the Pauper version.
Efficiency - How well does the deck use its mana base? Does it focus on big bombs or a slow power creep?
(7/10) The Pauper deck can easily use up more than 20 mana/turn. The non-pauper deck can use more than 10 mana/turn but rarely has the need to, since most of the primary deck engines run on little mana.
Consistency - Out of 10 games, how many will be played in similiar or nearly identical ways?
(6-9/10) Very much pilot dependent. You can make every game almost exactly the same, but this will suck the fun out of most games. Consult the strategy section for tips on mixing it up.
Speed - How quickly can this deck take over a table?
(5-9/10) The Pauper deck is the undisputed king of durdling, tutoring for tutors that tutor for recursion that recur tutors etc. - that sort of thing. However, it can also consistently board wipe on turn 5. The non-pauper deck can do that or force everyone to discard their hands by turn 5 without breaking a sweat. It also recovers much faster from the first board wipe.
Style - Does the deck kill you the same way every game, or does it have a million and one ways to finish you off?
(7/10) Multiple win conditions can be included when needed. Typically, the deck closes games with general damage or insurmountable resource denial, but infinite combos and even direct damage are possibilities.
Perceived Threat - How politically threatening is this deck when you show everyone your commander?
(6-9/10) Depends a lot on how you pilot it (see the Strategy section), but once the table knows what you can do, don't expect any silk mittens even if your deck is all commons.
Much of the tactics for playing the deck is discussed in the description of the card(s) in question, and the early game plan is outlined in detail in the Shell section. This section will briefly discuss broader political and strategic considerations.
You Are Control
While acceleration your early mana development is probably always a good thing to do, dropping CoA on turn 4 isn't actually necessary unless the board state demands it. It might not even be the best thing to do even if you can - if you draw attention to yourself and your opponents are packing counters or exiling removal. You might want to spend turn 4 on tutoring for a sac outlet or recursion piece, and perhaps even more ramp, and then drop CoA on turn 5-6 instead with counter back-up or a sac outlet ready. If you can grab control over the game quickly, go for it - but never risk losing control of the game because you want to actually win quickly. Killing is simply a formality. It's rendering your opponents helpless and making their efforts futile that wins the game.
Also, You Are God
While you do demand the sacrifice of a child for the permanent sins of your opponents, you should try not to make your existence too obvious. Let the humans play! It's always best if you know that you have the world in your murderous killing vise, while at the same time letting your opponents think that they have a real shot at eternal life. Don't look like the bad guy. Be the good guy, that saves the table from the brink of disaster! Every time. Of course, there was never any real threat of disaster, but as long as your opponents think it was a close call and that someone else almost had you - had them all in fact - you will get to keep playing your favorite deck and not get hated out. Make your friends into your prophets! They shall prepare the second coming of the Child of Judgment! The security of the table rests in your fatherly hands.
God is an Entertainer
Yes, you can blow up the world whenever you feel like it, but if that is ALL your deck is doing, simply because it magically happens to hose every strategy at the table, your opponents won't have any fun, and pretty soon, you won't either. So mix it up. Maybe one game you can rely on the Oblivion Ring/Capsize engine instead, or the Ghostly Flicker engine with infinite counters and removal. Or their equivalent rare counterparts, Archon of Justice and Mystic Snake. Or maybe you just reset the board once when it really matters, and then reanimate one of your opponent's juicy creatures and attempt to ride it to the win, protecting it with counters. Once in a while, try to win as quickly as possible, perhaps with the Jarad's Orders -> Myojin/Double combo, as this creates a useful distraction to your otherwise inescapable domination of the board. If people lose spectacularly once in a while, they are more OK with losing inevitably the rest of the time. Even if a drastic move will cost you the game, losing once in a while is only a benefit for your deck's reputation. Rather than always playing your deck so it is unbeatable, you can try to make it entertaining whenever you can afford to do so, since that will make it even more unbeatable (socially) in the long run.