[Pauper] UW Familiars by saidin.raiken

[ndr. Grazie alla stretta collaborazione del nostro Titano Pietro (aka SulleyCrusher su MTGO) e uno dei giocatori più famosi di Pauper su MTGO, Magic Titans questa settimana è orgogliosa di presentarvi i pensieri e le riflessioni di saidin.raiken sul mazzo che l’ha reso popolare: UW Familiars.]

If you haven’t been invested in pauper lately you probably didn’t know that even in a format full of commons there are some incredibly powerful decks.  The premier combo deck of the format is UW familiars.  It uses a combination of mana cost reduction, uncounterable graveyard interaction, and powerful draw spells to overwhelm the opponent.  As a deck, familiars plays out something like Ad Nauseam in modern.  The player slowly accumulates resources while stalling the opponent.  Once the combination is assembled, the win is immediate.

The deck relies on the cost reduction of the namesake card Sunscape Familiar.  This card reduces both green and blue spells by 1 generic mana.  When you combine two of these with Ghostly Flicker you end up having a flicker for only 1 mana.  This is combined with Mystic Sanctuary such that the player can flicker Mystic Sanctuary and put flicker on top of their deck for “free” since sanctuary enters untapped (with three other Islands already in play.)  Flicker allows the player to choose two targets, and for the second they will choose Mulldrifter.  Due to magic’s stack rules, you can resolve the Mulldrifter draw trigger after resolving the Mystic Sanctuary trigger to put Flicker back on top of your deck.  The player can then proceed to draw their entire library (at instant speed).

So how does that win the game?  On magic online the win condition of choice is Sage’s Row Denizen which mills a player for two cards when another blue creature enters the battlefield.  Now once the player draws Sage’s Row, the opponent will be milled for every Mulldrifter-Flicker interaction.

Let’s dive into the cards in the deck, and how a game might play out.  For reference, lets look at my list I took to 1st out of 100+ players in the March Pauper Showcase Challenge.  


This list eschews the Mnemonic Walls of the past to rely solely on Mystic Sanctuary as the win condition enabler and spell recursion engine.

The card choices fall into the categories of setup, anti-aggro, disruption, value cards, and combo pieces. 

Our setup cards are mostly based on the suite of cantrips. Preordains are maxed since it provides the best digging and deck manipulation. Next we have two Ponder which also help dig in the early game, though at more risk. Brainstorm has been disregarded here since the purpose of the cantrip is to make sure we make our 3rd and 4th land drops.

The anti-aggro suite is a straightforward 4 God-Pharaoh’s Faithful and 3 Prismatic Strands. The life gain of one faithful is generally enough to stall, while two or more will put you so far ahead that damage is unlikely to be able to kill you. Prismatic strands is a fantastic mono-colored stopper and can be flashed back for free which is very valuable.

The disruption suite includes 3 Prohibit, 1 Echoing Truth, and 3 Snaps. Prohibit can be cost reduced by a familiar in play (and can hit a Spellstutter Sprite) so it is a fantastic choice. Snaps are a “free” spell and can sometimes actually be a mini ritual with a familiar out. This can allow you to chain creatures or respond to a pump spell while also having other options. The single Echoing Truth is a catch-all out to things like Journey to Nowhere, main deck Relics, or Pestilence in game 1.

Our value cards and combo pieces overlap somewhat in the deck. The pure value card of Deep Analysis is a 4 for 1 and provides a way of pushing through counterspells due to the flashback. Sea Gate Oracle can help you find lands, or can be used to loop with mystic Sanctuary to close the game. Mulldrifter is the best value creature in pauper and is our main combo piece to draw the deck and win. Finally, Ghostly Flicker combined with Sunscape Familiar are the other two combo pieces. Flicker should be used somewhat liberally to save creatures or draw extra cards since it can be recurred later with Mystic Sanctuary.

The strategy of the deck is generally to mill our opponent to victory, but each matchup may play out differently. Let’s get into the different matchups.

Against aggressive strategies like stompy, Red Deck Wins, or Heroic, you may be able to win simply by getting out of damage range and then attacking with Mulldrifter. Against aggressive decks that can gain life however (Bogles or Elves) the mill plan is a requirement.

When matched up against counterspell decks like Delver variants or hard control decks like UB Alchemy or Pestilence we rely on the power of Deep Analysis and Prohibits. We keep trying to out draw the opponent and win later in the game while disrupting them where possible.

Against Tron, the matchup is generally pretty even game one, where we try to get ahead of Dinrova Horror eating our lands. Post board, 4 Faithfuls and 3 Strands can be cut for 7 relevant counterspells and we can play the control deck.

Affinity is the deck’s major weakness, and in this iteration I’m attempting to solve that through 3 Gorilla Shaman post-board. If we can stall and then eat their lands they will have a hard time getting through and we can win via damage in the late game.

To finish this overview, let’s go into the sideboard. 3 Blue Elemental Blast are specifically for Burn, but can be brought in against Affinity to kill Atogs as well. 1 Prismatic Strands finishes the set of four which we will need vs any mono colored aggro deck. 2 Dispel and 2 Negate are anti-counterspells first, and anti-value second. For example, Negate is great vs Viridian Longbow or Distant Melody from Elves. 2 Remove Souls are there primarily to fight Tron and their big creatures, but can also be used vs Mono Black Control or Boros Monarch to counter important creatures. 1 Mountain and 3 Gorilla Shaman allow us to transition to a control deck post board vs Affinity.

Generally when sideboarding the cuts from the main deck are either the late game or the anti aggro suite. Versus aggro, some number of Deep Analysis are cut, along with the Sage Row Denizen if we can win via damage. Against control Prismatic Strands are the first cut and sometimes also the Faithfuls if life is not important to the match.

The strategy when piloting this deck starts at the Mulligan decision. First, we absolutely must get to three lands, and we seriously need to consider how quickly we can get white mana. If your opening hand is 2 cantrips and 1 island, it must be thrown back. Next we need to consider how the opponent is trying to win. Are they an aggressive deck like Stompy? We should be considering how slow the hand is and whether we have disruption for something like Savage Swipe. If the opponent is on something like UR Delver, we need to consider if we can play around or counter Spellstutter Sprite. If the opponent is on Tron, then we must race and should try to keep a hand with early familiars.

As the game progresses, we should be looking to continue making land drops while not dying. Since we do not specifically care about the opponent’s life total we can try to sit behind our defenses and accumulate resources until the position is found where the combo kill can complete. 

As the familiars player, we are in a fantastic position in a normal match of magic. Attacking on a non-traditional angle makes the opponent have to change their own game plan and can throw them off wildly. Be sure to always be planning a few turns ahead and you will find both success and enjoyment out of a fantastic deck. Good luck, and have fun!

kalikaiz (saidin.raken)

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