Pauper Commander - Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward

Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward by Phil Stone

I just noticed something pretty cool, which I'd missed until now. Commander Spellbook, the website with literally every Magic: The Gathering combo in it, now has a feature that allows you to filter for Pauper-Commander-legal combos, making it extremely easy to look for them. I used to find combos just by googling cards and scrolling through reddit posts, but I can now find a comprehensive list of pEDH combos with the literal click of a button. Given this discovery, I'd say it's about time we make another combo deck!

The combo deck I'll be building today is one of Commander Spellbooks's top pauper combos, and is focused around Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward, Archaeomancer, Cloudshift, and Arcane Signet.

It's a bit complicated, so let me walk you through it. You need to start with Archaeomancer and the Arcane Signet on the battlefield, then you cast Abdel Adrian, exiling both of them. From there, you play Cloudshift, removing Abdel Adrian temporarily. Abdel then returns to the board, but his enters the battlefield trigger is put on the stack. In the meantime, Archaeomancer and the signet return, and you can tap the Signet for a white while Archaeomancer returns Cloudshift to your hand. Abdel Adrian's trigger then resolves, exiling the two permanents and putting you back in the same place you started.

It's a combo that's good enough to see play even in non-pauper decks, and will perform very well here. While it is a bit bulky, It has a few qualities that will make it much easier to play then some other infinites we could build around. 

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The most popular pauper combo by far is Scurry Oak and Ivy Lane Denizen, and it's pretty easy to see why. Play them both, and as soon as one triggers, they go infinite, with Ivy Lane Denizen putting counters on the tree, and Scurry Oak creating creatures to trigger the Elf. Unfortunately, while it's a very strong combo for EDH, it's not nearly as good in Pauper. The difficulty of finding Ivy Lane Denizen is simply too much. The single tutor that could find it is Wirewood Herald, and two cards out of 100 just isn't enough.

If we were to get unlucky and end up with those two cards at the bottom of our library, we would  have no real win condition. Green has a lot of efficient card advantage cards, like Once Upon a Time and Commune with Nature, but not enough to easily dig through the 90 cards we might have to. The solution to the lack of tutors would be redundancy, but Scurry Oak only combos with Ivy Lane Denizen, leaving us out of options. 

Blink and You'll Miss Me

So what we're looking for is not just a good combo, but a combo that's easy for us to find and filled with redundancy. The success of a combo deck depends on how easy it is to go infinite, protect the combo, and recover after a failed attempt. Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward, who can be our commander, combos with Cloudshift, Archaeomancer, and Arcane Signet, three cards with a ton of practical copies.

In addition to it's ease of execution, it's extremely simple to win with. Abdel Adrian makes infinite tokens, and if you add in something else with an ETB, and you have infinite triggers. Throw in another mana rock, and you have infinite mana. This is much more complex than the Scurry Oak combo, and has many more pieces, but construction of the deck is much more practical. 

Now You See Me, Now You Don't

The first piece is the hardest, the blink piece. Cloudshift is the best one because it costs one mana, but it doesn't have to. Keep in mind that Abdel Adrian can exile any number of mana rocks, and when they come back, they can tap for an equivalent amount of mana. This means that Acrobatic Maneuver can absolutely function as a part of the combo, even if you need three times as many mana rocks. With that knowledge, we're able to get up to around 13 blink cards, from Teferi's Time Twist to Justiciar's Portal.

Some of them do a bit extra, like Slip On the Ring, which will create a Ringbearer, or Ghostly Flicker, which can blink something in sync with Abdel, rather than alternating in and out of existence with him. Just keep in mind that Ephemerate, while useful, can't be part of the combo because it exiles itself.

Mana Rockin' It

The next piece is by far the easiest, just a mana rock that taps for every color. Since 2012, there's been this card called Manalith, which does just that, as a three cost. Since then, there's been about a million functional reprints with extra abilities, to the point that "Strictly Better Manaliths" is a a card category all on its own. We'll take all of them, with abilities ranging from the option to give our opponent mana instead with Spectral Searchlight, to just winning the game with Hierophant's Chalice. Once again, we have thirteen of them, way too many mana rocks for any normal deck, but given that we'll often want at least three of them on board, it's appropriate here.

The Loop

The third category is the Archaeomancers. Archaeomancer itself is the best version of this effect, as all the other versions cost five, but it doesn't matter too much here, since once they're on the board, we're set. Mnemonic Wall, Salvager of Secrets and Shipwreck Dowser are all the exact same as Archaeomancer, and then there's the hidden bonus card, Repository Skaab. At first it looks like it shouldn't work, but it can sacrifice the tokens that Abdel Adrian makes, rendering it more or less identical to the rest. We've got a few less cards for this section than the others, but Vedalken Aethermage and Step Through will wizardcycle for Archaeomancer, bringing our total number of Archaeomancers to eight. 

Winning the Game

Finally, How do we win? As I mentioned, Hierophant's Chalice is highly efficient, as it's part of the combo and kills our opponent at the same time. Still, Zulaport Duelist and Merrow Witsniper will do the same job for just a mana. You just have to hope your opponent doesn't make you play through the combo, because it'll take forever! There are a few things to be careful about, though. Acrobatic Maneuver forces you to draw a card, meaning you'll mill out long before your opponents do. If you end up in this scenario, you just have to play it out until you draw into Cloudshift, then simply continue the combo without drawing. 


That's all the pieces. It's a bit bulky, taking up half the deck, but we're playing a combo deck, not a deck with a combo on the side. Since going off this way is so critical, some protection is much needed. Counterspells aplenty, from Daze to Dispel, will keep us mostly safe. In addition, blink spells can be used to fizzle a targeted spell, which will be the most common means of interaction with our combo. 

Even more important than protection, however, is card draw. Mulldrifter is, of course, a must have, along with its dinky cousin, Sea Gate Oracle. Honestly, anything that's blinkable with Abdel is pretty good here. Omen of the Sea and Spirited Companion are fantastic. After that, Frantic Search, Compulsive Research, and Ponder are some quick card advantage that doesn't require much thinking. 

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That's the deck! As far a combo efficiency goes, it gets a four out of ten, but just because it's slow doesn't mean it isn't consistent. Every piece is extremely findable, and the only thing that can really stop us from eventually going off is a high commander tax on Abdel. Its biggest weakness is aggro decks, where it's a fast-paced race. The deck does have some tools to control the board, and Abdel's token-generation is extremely strong, but in most cases, the best defense is a good offense, and it's necessary to rush to the combo. 

If you haven't already, go and check out Commander Spellbook, it's an incredible resource for every scenario you could possibly want. I expect to make quite a few combo decks, and Commander Spellbook eases that process greatly.

Alejandro Fuentes's a nerd from Austin Texas who likes building the most unreasonable decks possible, then optimizing them till they're actually good. In his free time, he's either trying to fit complex time signatures into death metal epics, or writing fantasy novels.