Naughty List 2018 - Banned Secret Santa Pauper Commanders

By: Kelly Wright

Another successful year of Peoples Republic MTG is in the books! Secret Santa Pauper Commander was awesome! I love seeing new faces and old timers come together and showcase the best part of the game…friendship.

The 2018 Naughty List of undefeated Pauper commanders includes the following additions to the ban list:

Commander: Adeliz, the Cinder Wind

Deck Builder: Doug Lambert

Q: Describe the deck’s playstyle or plan to win.

A: Attack with wizards! Make them big!

Q: What inspired you to build this deck?

A: Adeliz lets you play a powerful and aggressive tribal deck in the format with plenty of removal and card draw.

Q: What do you like most about Pauper Commander Secret Santa?

A: Thinking about and building decks and seeing how others do the same.

Piloted By: Dan Guerrero

Q: Why were you excited – or not – to pilot the deck you received?

A: I must admit that I immediately laughed when I opened the deck box because I had designed an Adeliz deck as well. However, due to Doug's much more formidable collection and experience in the game, I also immediately felt as though I was getting the better end of the Adeliz deal.

My thought process in considering what commander to build my deck was that 1 vs. 1 Commander opened up a lot of possibilities for aggressive archetypes that don't fit as well into the traditional multiplayer format. For this reason, I had built my deck (and was pleased to see Doug had similarly designed his deck) with several mechanisms to deal direct damage and just try to run away with a game quickly by getting Adeliz out on turn three for 2 points of commander damage, which would hopefully turn into 6 or more points of commander damage in turn four or at the very least force my opponent to take a turn off by casting removal or some way to deal with Adeliz before she got out of hand.

Q: How did the deck perform? Were they any standout or surprising moments?

A: I must say that in two of the three games, this plan worked to perfection, and by the time my opponent had finally stabilized, their life totals were so low that all they could do was play defense.

Brief recaps:

Game 1, vs. Tiana, Ship's Caretaker (auras)

This was the only game that didn't go according to Plan A as stated above. The early game went exactly as planned, with Adeliz getting out early and pumping a wide field of wizards for serious damage and forcing trades from my opponent all the way down to 1 life. However, it was at this moment that things really got dicey. Tiana's ability to return auras to her owner’s hand at the end step had made Inferno Fists into a fiery hadouken-ball that could spot-remove any unlucky wizard. This, combined with a Floating Shield that could provide any creature spot protection from red (my primary removal color) and then bounce right back into the owner's hand, proved quite vexing for me as the board became a stalemate with my opponent sitting at 1 life and me sitting at 15 commander damage.

It was really a lucky top deck, Deep Freeze, that allowed me to both stop any further commander damage from Tiana (with a Pentarch Ward lending protection from red) and derailed the immortal auras. Then it was just a matter of finding enough wizards to get wide enough to get around my opponent's defenses and get through for the one damage I needed. This deck was truly a coin flip at the pivotal moment, and I was fortunate for what might have been the best top-deck answer I could have asked for.

Game 2 vs. Laboratory Maniac (self-mill)

The Lab Man game followed Plan A to the letter. An early burn spell removed my opponent's key early-game mill conduit, and then it was just a matter of turning wizards sideways and pumping with any spells I had in my hand. My opponent had just about stabilized by turn six, but Adeliz had never been dealt with, and I was coming in for lethal damage.

Game 3 vs. Adeliz (mirror match)

I jested with my opponent that this temp-aggro mirror match might just be a matter of who wins the dice roll. I won the dice roll and kept a two-land starting hand because both colors were represented and I had spells to cast. Unfortunately for my opponent, I don't think he got his first red mana source until turn four or five, and by that time he was only able to act on complete defense, which is not what these decks were made to do.

Q: What do you like most about Pauper Commander Secret Santa?

A: Deckbuilding is probably my favorite part of MTG, so finding new ways to get a challenge from deckbuilding (without breaking the bank) are always appealing to me. I found it really enjoyable to see what combinations people came up with and gained some appreciation for common cards that are often disregarded in a singleton format. I will look forward to participating again and considering what uncommons will have the potential in the future to stand up and enter the hallowed halls of the banned Secret Santa Pauper Commanders.


Commander: Knights of the Black Rose

Deck Builder: Ricardo Saenz

Q: Describe the deck’s playstyle or plan to win.

A: Knights of the Black Rose gives you the monarch mechanic, and I figure the best way to win by drawing two cards a turn is to play fair. There's nothing too flashy about the deck - just some monarch payoffs from Conspiracy and a pile of good cards from recent Limited formats. I think the Anointed Deacon/Skymarch Bloodletter combo won two of the games.

Q: What inspired you to build this deck?

A: Conspiracy is one of my favorite formats, and monarch is a really broken mechanic. Who doesn't like drawing extra cards for free? I think this style of deck could be rebuilt with Palace Jailer in the command zone next year.

Q: What do you like most about Pauper Commander Secret Santa?

A: It's a unique deckbuilding puzzle, and it's always interesting to see what everyone puts together. The format is made for build-arounds like a Chandra's Spitfire deck that turn-fours you consistently. The prize pool is also great - where else will you see handcuffs, gummy bears and a few booster packs on the same table?

Piloted By: Patrick

Q: How did the deck perform? Were they any standout or surprising moments?

A: Knights of the Black Rose made for an extremely powerful commander. The card draw from being the monarch meant that I had a fist full of cards even late into the game. Black and its combinations have always been my favorite, and white/black is a very potent combination. There was a glut of removal spells that, combined with the card draw, was extremely effective against most strategies I ran into. In the second game, my opponent had managed to stabilize and stall the board but at two life remaining. He couldn't attack me because the life drain from the Knights would have finished him. It is a grindy and intuitive deck that I think most people could have piloted to three wins.

Q: What do you like most about Pauper Commander Secret Santa?

A: What I liked about the event...I love deckbuilding, and any challenge to build a new type of deck, especially for someone else to play it, is extremely satisfying. Giving away decks is not something most Magic players get to experience, and it really felt good. Seeing the smile on someone's face because they see you enjoying their deck, or because they enjoy your deck...well, it really did feel like Christmas.


Commander: Sultai Soothsayer

Deck Builder: Nick Hoyne

Q: Describe the deck’s playstyle or plan to win.

A: Grindy and controlling. Playing towards Sultai’s strengths, the deck packs removal, card draw, value creatures, graveyard synergies, late-game mana sinks and a few combos. It is very important to me to have Pauper decks that do not run out of gas, as the games tend to go 10-plus turns. It’s also important to live the Pauper dream of equipping a Whispersilk Cloak to an Ulamog’s Crusher.

Q: What inspired you to build this deck?

A:I built my deck in the reverse order of most players, starting with the deck and then deciding on the commander. This year I wanted to build a true control deck that wouldn’t die to hexproof commanders. I knew that killing/countering a deck’s commander a few times often won the game, and hexproof is very strong in the format.

I started with all of the edict effects at common and the best deathtouch creatures. I knew I wanted to be blue/black, but green offered ramp creatures, artifact and enchantment hate, high-value creatures and several irreplaceable effects like Sprout Swarm.

Having decided on Sultai, I was left with only a single commander choice, as Ana Battlemage was already retired. The edicts did not play well in testing and I ended up removing most of them. The deck was very much a reflection of my general magic play style: options and valuetown.

I added Haze Frog, along with the Ghostly Flicker/Archaeomancer-type effects, as a possible answer to an onboard hexproof Voltron. I was ecstatic when the pilot of my deck assembled the recurring Haze Frog combo on the last possible turn before death, preventing combat damage indefinitely until the combo is disrupted. Watching my deck claw back from certain defeat to win in the final round was my “proud dad” moment of the event.

Q: What do you like most about Pauper Commander Secret Santa?

A: It’s a great community event. Coming to an event with a Constructed deck and playing someone else’s deck is a unique experience for Magic players. We have been doing this for years, and it has become something people look forward to all year.

Pauper EDH is an obscure format with very little in the way available lists and advice. Deckbuilding happens organically. This really rewards the “mad scientist” types that are willing to pore over hundreds of cards to find perfect fits. It also creates a personal investment in the deck. Throughout the event, doting players watch over their decks like a parent sending a child to their first day of school.

Piloted By: Doug Lambert

Q: Why were you excited – or not – to pilot the deck you received?

A: The deck was filled with two-for-ones with graveyard based card advantage. It was very similar to the Ana Battlemage deck I played in a previous year built by Tom Trinh.

Q: How did the deck perform? Were they any standout or surprising moments?

A: The deck performed very well, even on mulligans to five or six. The deck features Fierce Empath plus 8-mana Eldrazi to close out the game. The best highlight was looping Ghostly Flicker with Haze Frog and Archaeomancer (Fog every turn), and then with Chittering Rats and Archaeomancer to lock my Slippery Bogle opponent from drawing any new cards.


Commander: Truefire Captain

Deck Builder: Patrick

Q: Describe the deck’s playstyle or plan to win.

A: The deck must play in a very specific way to be effective, though that said, it's not overly complicated. The plan is to attack with evasive threats that grow larger over time, and using removal only to clear the path for your attackers and to kill lifelink monsters. Most of the bluffs and tricks in the deck either draw a card or pop out a 1/1, which can be grown with mentor or used to delay massive ground threats.

Q: What inspired you to build this deck?

A: I wanted to prove that red/white can have a reliable and effective strategy in singleton matches, because it's often seen as an underdog color pairing and more challenging to win with. The commander herself represents extra chunks of damage even if you block and kill her, getting the opponent ever closer to the killing range of big burn spells. There are a variety of fun white fliers at common, I particularly like Cavalry Pegasus and other creatures that can grant flying to their allies.

Piloted By: Casey Davis

Q: Why were you excited – or not – to pilot the deck you received?

A: I was super excited! I just so happened to get my best friend's deck.

Q: How did the deck perform? Were they any standout or surprising moments?

A: The deck did very well. The combination of creatures and their abilities were able to push through the enemy defenses. In addition, the creature removal was a great help. At one point, I was able to clear the enemy board twice of creatures.

Q: What do you like most about Pauper Commander Secret Santa?

A: Everything! Building the deck, playtesting with friends, waiting in anticipation to see what deck I was going to get, getting that deck and, of course, actually playing!


Huge thanks to everyone who participated this year. I’m looking forward to spending 2019 with The People’s Republic, the no. 1 MTG community in Atlanta!

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