December 2, 2022

Everything you need to know about the Pauper format


Pauper is just one of many Magic the Gathering’s different sets of rules, called format. Although it has a long history as a community format on Magic Online, it was not recognized by Wizards of the Coast for tabletop play until 2019.

RELATED: Magic The Gathering: Everything You Need To Know About The Commander Format

Despite this, he has become one of the most beloved formats in the game. Between the constant happenings for him on Magic Online and the introduction of the Pauper format panel in early 2022, Pauper seems to be getting bigger than ever. But what exactly is Pauper?

What is the poor?

Augur of Bolas by Slawomir Maniak
Augur of Bolas by Slawomir Maniak

Pauper is an individual, eternal, and competitive format in the same vein as something like Legacy, Modern, or Vintage. Starting at 20 life points each, two players draw seven cards from a deck of at least 60 cards and try to win through fights or combos. If you’ve played pretty much any other Magic the Gathering format (except a multiplayer format like Commander), you already know the general flow of a Pauper game.


Pauper’s big “trick”, however, is knowing which cards are legal. Although it never runs as Standard, which means cards from all game history can be used, only common rarity cards are legal. Uncommon, rare, and mythic rare cards have no place in the Pauper format.

For a card to be legal in Pauper, at least one of its prints must have been of common rarity. As long as this is the case, every print of the card is legal in Pauper. For example, Brainstorm changed from common to rare in Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive, but you can still play the Mystical Archive version in Pauper due to its earlier common builds.

Why do people play poor?

Constraint by Paul Scott Canavan
Constraint by Paul Scott Canavan

There are two main reasons why the Pauper format has become so popular.

First, it’s slower than other Magic games. As the game progresses, more and more absolute bomb cards are released in the higher rarities – last year we had cards like Doomskar, The Meathook Massacre and Defeat the Horde, for example . Pauper moves past all of that and focuses on cards that are often overlooked outside of the draft. While they can still be spicy and explosive, Pauper games are a little slower because these high-value, high-impact cards are just too rare for that.

Second, it’s cheap to play. While a Modern or Commander deck can cost you thousands of dollars if you want the best of the best, you can buy a competitive Pauper deck for $50. In the current Pauper metagame, none of the top ten decks exceed $80. With Pauper so easy to access, it often serves as a gateway format for people looking to transition from digital magic to the table.

Gorilla Shaman by Anthony S Waters
Gorilla Shaman by Anthony S Waters

Grixis (blue/black/red) Artifact-based affinity is the most popular deck in the Pauper metagame. By building a board full of Artifacts, you can undermine the opponent with a Vault Disciple, or have an Atog eat them all and get knocked down for massive damage.

Other decks also see play in Pauper. Fairies are particularly popular, with mono-blue and Dimir (blue/black) Faerie decks working well thanks to cards like Spellstutter Sprite, Faerie Seer, Preordain. Pauper even has his own take on the hugely popular Tron deck, as all three of Urza’s lands are common rarity cards!

Red tends to do very well in Pauper, thanks to access to cards like Gorilla Shaman, Fiery Cannonade, and the iconic Lightning Bolt. Blue is also one of the most popular decks, as it has access to a few common counterspells.

Artifact lands in Modern Horizons 2 are also incredibly popular, and not just because they bolster already popular Affinity decks. Land destruction is fairly common in Pauper, and having indestructible lands that can farm two colors is incredibly useful.

Which cards are forbidden in Pauper?

Chatterstorm by Milivoj Ćeran
Chatterstorm by Milivoj Ćeran

It may be surprising to those new to Pauper to see which cards are banned. As common rarity has far fewer responses to massive board states, the common theme of many bans tends to be things that lock up the game or flood the board.

That being said, for a non-rotating format, Pauper’s list of bans is quite small:

  • Arcum Astrolabe
  • Chatterstorm
  • fairy cloud
  • Cloudpost
  • Cranial plating
  • Daze
  • Empty the Warrens
  • Expedition card
  • fall from favor
  • Frantic search
  • Gitaxian Probe
  • Grapeshot
  • Jet
  • invigorate
  • mystical sanctuary
  • basking drake
  • Temporal Fissure
  • treasure cruise
  • High tide
  • Hymn to Tourach
  • chasm

Who controls the Pauper format?

Meditate by Dan Scott
Meditate by Dan Scott

Unlike Commander, which is governed by a community-driven group known as the Commander Rules Authority, final say on Pauper rests solely with Wizards of the Coast. He decides which cards to banish and which to unban.

However, in early 2022, Wizards announced the Pauper Format Panel. Led by senior Magic designer Gavin Verhey, it’s a team of him and six prominent members of the Pauper community whose job it is to oversee the format and make sure it stays healthy. They greatly influence the format, and helpers generally follow their lead on format policy decisions.

Where can I play poor?

Eclair by Christopher Moeller
Eclair by Christopher Moeller

Pauper got its start on Magic the Gathering Online, and it’s still where you can most easily find a game. There are regular events on MTGO for the format, with tournaments attracting an impressive number of competitors.

If you prefer to play tabletop, the best way to play is to check Pauper-specific Discord servers and play through Spelltable. One of the biggest Pauper Discord servers is the Castle of the Communes, Although the MTGPauper is also growing, thanks to the active membership of Pauper Format Panel member Alex Ullman.

NEXT: Magic: The Gathering – 10 Incredible Common Cards That Are Banned In Pauper

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