"A hawk in the hand is worth four on the battlefield" ~ Ancient Dominarian Proverb
Welcome back to Pauper Week! Today we are looking at one of Magic's most famous (or notorious) decks of all time - retooled for Pauper! Without paying a small fortune for cards, here is how you can play one of the most powerful decks ever built! While it is less broken and less powerful than its legacy cousin, it is still a ton of fun!
Caw Blade and its pauper derivative have its origins in Brian Kibler's Caw-Go deck from the 2010 World Championship. Brian played a / "control-go" deck. They were called this because many turns you would draw a card and tell the opponent to "go" and then wait to respond to their play with denial - running them out of gas and then hitting them with your small but effective board. It was slow (and painful for the opponent) but got the job done. Brian changed things up and added Squadron Hawk to the list. This gave the deck more card advantage and blockers that slowed his opponent and allowed him to stabilize the game.
Upon arrival on the scene, the deck was good it just wasn't dominant in Standard. All that began to change when Sword of Feast and Famine was released in Mirrodin Besieged. The build was modified to add Worldwake's Stoneforge Mystic (taking the total number of creatures to 8) and a single copy of the sword. This gave the deck a much faster clock putting increased pressure on the opponent. When New Phyrexia was released the situation in standard became critical. The addition of Batterskull and Sword of War and Peace to Standard gave the deck (which was already warping the meta-game) a brutal lock, allowing it to cheat un-counterable equipment onto the field and swing with huge threats fast. As a result, Stoneforge Mystic was banned (and remains so in Modern today). Here is what Aaron Forsythe said at the time:
I contend that without a way to cheat it out, Batterskull is merely a good card, not a ridiculous one, which is why it wasn't on the table for banning (though admittedly it, too, had a late development change that made it better and that I regret to a degree). The "Caw-Blade" deck was putting up insane results before the card existed, so it's hard to blame it for the imbalance. The card that breaks the rules, Stoneforge Mystic is the culprit, and my takeaway is that Tinker effects are unsafe and present tough constraints on all future cards. I guess that should have been more obvious at the time.
This is the Pauper version of that history making deck.
This is a is a control deck that is complemented with card advantage that will eventually kill your opponent with its relentless engine of shuffling, fetching and drawing new threats. It is built around Squadron Hawk, Trinket Mage, Bonesplitter and to a lesser extent Flayer Husk
First up, Squadron Hawk, the creature that started it all. A 1/1 flyer for a converted mana cost of two, its ability will net you three more cards, either all at once or one at a time, thinning your deck and letting you run a small creature count while maintaining a board state. This opens up slots in the deck for the control elements and equipment.
The "sword slot" is represented by Bonesplitter, the most efficient piece of equipment in Pauper. Giving the Squadron Hawk an axe is a huge threat in this format.
Your equipment is fetched up by the "Stoneforge of Pauper" the Trinket Mage. While less powerful than its big sister the Stoneforge Mystic, he still provides a powerful tutor mechanic. This is the combo you want to execute.
Flayer Husk is really not central to this deck, because it is not near the beater Batterskull was in Caw-Go. However, it is still a tutor-able creature that can be used as equipment later. A nice-to-have.
Shuffle effects are important to the card advantage in the build. Squadron Hawk, Trinket Mage and Evolving Wilds all trigger a shuffle, so a well placed Brainstorm can allow you to put cards back into your library that you don't need immediately need. Combo that with Thoughtcast's card draw, and you can to pick and choose what cards you pull.
Finally, there are six slots to provide the denial (or "draw go") part of the deck. I am using Counterspells and Dispels in my build, but you can use these slots to tune to the meta-game in your area. I frequently side out the Dispels to pull in cards specific to my match-up.
The Pauper version of the deck sees its efficiency increased with the inclusion of artifacts like Ancient Den and Seat of the Synod. Banned in most formats, these artifact lands can be fetched by your Trinket Mages, and reduce the cost of Thoughtcast
Here is my full deck list via the fine folks at TappedOut. This is a fun and affordable deck for Pauper and even FNM in a pinch. It's easy to pilot and a great way to try out the deck before spending crazy money for its legacy big brother. It is also a whole lot of fun for $70.00 (or less, since you probably own most of the cards already).
If Squadron Hawk isn't your style, take a look at my Affinity build for Pauper. Yep, welcome to Pauper: the only format that Affinity is still legal. Just another reason to love it.
Join me tomorrow as we continue our journey in Pauper Week to a plane made entirely of artifacts....