If you think I’m going to link that song, you’d be sorely mistaken. Instead I want to take some time to talk about the dearth of good removal in Pauper.
Do I have your attention yet?
Pauper is home to some fantastic creature removal – Skred, Lightning Bolt, Cast Down, Chainer’s Edict, Snuff Out, Savage Swipe, Journey to Nowhere…the list goes on and on. Keeping creatures alive is a struggle. But as good as the creature kill is in Pauper, the non-creature removal is just as bad. The best general option is Oblivion Ring but as we will see soon, this is problematic.
One reason the creature removal is strong is because it almost always “trades up” – that is you are spending less on removing a creature than your opponent invested in bringing it to the battlefield. The issue as it stands today is that a lot of Pauper’s power and card advantage are tied up in non-creature permanents, both cards and tokens.
Let’s look at Thraben Inspector for a moment. If you kill Thraben Inspector with a Lightning Bolt you are down a card since they have the Clue. If you kill the Clue not only are you down a card but you also included a narrow answer in your deck. Fragementize and similar effects are powerful but narrow and including them in your main come at a real cost. Returning to Oblivion Ring, it is one of the cleanest answer to these material cards but it comes at such a massive cost. And all of this ignores Experimental Synthesizer. You have to carefully time removing this card otherwise you are going to be down a card as well.
Now all of this doesn’t take into account the other issue with the current surplus of material: the lands count. It does not matter how many copies of Oblivion Ring or Shenanigans you draw, you are going to struggle removing the Bridges. The fact that these lands provide redundant fodder for Deadly Dispute contributes to the issue.
So what can be down with what the format has on hand? Cards like Cathar Commando and Qasali Pridemage should be going up in value, but the sleeper might be Hearth Kami. The fact that this can pop off for free against a Clue or Treasure token, or for cheap against Synthesizer, does matter. Gorilla Shaman remains solid but lacks the general utility to find a slot in the 60. All this being said, the best answer for the current metagame might just be cards like Repeal and Into the Roil or Echoing Truth. Going that route means you need to have a powerful grasp on endgame to make up for the lack of better answers to opposing threats.
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