Pauper Commander - Mayhem in the Streets

Mayhem Devil by Dmitry Burmak

A Slow Drain

Welcome back to the world of Pauper Commander! Almost a year ago, I attempted to build a deck around Sludge Strider. The idea was simple: play a ton of artifacts, sacrifice them, and drain my opponents for every trigger. Unfortunately, the deck was dreadfully slow, mostly due to the fact that Sludge Strider demands a tax for every single trigger. When you're essentially trying to storm off by casting artifacts, a one-mana tax is pretty brutal. 

Second Try

So now, a year later, I'm going to try again with another commander, but the same dream. Mayhem Devil inspires the exact same gameplan as Sludge Strider, where our goal is to sacrifice as many things as possible. We want to go off, taking a million game actions until our opponents are pinged to death, one by one. Is that 120 triggers? Yes. It's a difficult goal, but totally doable, and certainly more doable when we don't have to pay one for every trigger. 

Just for the sake of questioning my original choice of commander, let's see what the upsides and downsides of Mayhem Devil are. The biggest loss is the lack of lifegain. Sludge Strider's drain ability really kept us afloat while we pushed through our grindy gameplan. No extra life means we have to play much, much faster. The second thing that Sludge Strider had going for it was counting both when the artifact entered and left. That's two life per artifact compared to Mayhem Devil's one. In favor of Mayhem Devil, however, is everything else. Obviously, there's no tax on the trigger, giving us so much more mana to play cards. Then, the Devil counts everything, from creatures to lands.

Speaking of counting everything, Mayhem Devil sees stuff on our opponents' board as well, triggering when we force our opponents to sacrifice permanents, or even when they crack an Evolving Wilds. Mayhem Devil also gives us the option to ping our opponents' creatures, meaning we can play a bit of a control game. Taking down creatures with even eight toughness isn't outside of our range. 

The biggest one-up that Mayhem Devil has, however, isn't in its abilities, but in its colors. The white and blue of Sludge Strider add very little to the sacrifice theme, but the red of Mayhem Devil adds all that we could ever desire. The color pie in Paper is a lot more restrained. In regular EDH, you can play any theme pretty well in every color. Even mono-green artifacts is possible. But not so much in Pauper. In the red commons, there's some things we can't find anywhere else; namely, Treasure tokens! They come in cheap, make mana, and sacrifice themselves, no extra work required! And red has an absolute load of them! Red is also the color of Goblins, who are always ready to be sacrificed. Losing blue and white in exchange for red is a trade we're very glad to make. 

Trash is Treasure

To start building this deck, let's take a look at where we left off. The Sludge Strider deck played a ton of little baubles, like Origin Spellbomb, that came in for cheap and sacrificed themselves. Mayhem Devil is happy to take a few of these, but only for utility. Nihil Spellbomb, for instance, is an excellent piece of graveyard hate that replaces itself, so it finds itself a slot. But Mayhem Devil has better things to be playing than Terrarion. For example, every Treasure token card ever. Patron of the Arts gives us two triggers all on its own in addition to paying part of its cost. Shiny Impetus will keep feeding us tokens while directing aggression elsewhere. But the best Treasure-token-generation in our deck is the set of Treasure-creating draw spells: Big Score, Unexpected Windfall, and Pirate's Pillage. They make mana, they make sacrifice triggers, and they bring us more cards. These are the cards that really allow us to storm off. 

Edict Effects

The next best way to make a ton of sacrifice triggers is by taking advantage of an EDH quirk. In a 1v1, Myrkul's Edict would make us and our opponent sacrifice a creature, netting us two triggers. In EDH, we have three opponents, and we end up with four sacrifice triggers. That's still just one and a third damage pointed at each opponent, but the value of the single edict is much greater, getting rid of three creatures on the board. Luckily, there's a ton of them that we can play, from Innocent Blood to Tyrant's Choice. The best ones we have, though, are the ones attached to creatures. We can simply sacrifice those creatures to their own trigger, then later recur them with cards like Blood Fountain. Accursed Marauder is a new addition from Modern Horizons 3, and it's by far the best, forcing our opponents to sacrifice nontoken creatures for only two mana. 

These edict effects are just too good. We want as many as we can get our hands on, and this means we have to grab some edicts that affect permanents other than creatures, like Akki Blizzard-Herder. It's land destruction, but we have a pretty good excuse for running it, and given that it's symmetrical, we can hope it won't draw too much ire. 

You'll notice that Akki Blizzard-Herder only triggers on death. We could hope to block with him, but I think I'd rather play proactively and find ways to sacrifice it myself. I know Pauper has no dearth of sacrifice outlets. Soldevi Adnate is a particularly strong one, adding four mana for a Chain Devil that's already done its job. Tavern Scoundrel is a little minigame that gives us one trigger if we're unlucky, and three if we highroll. Village Rites and Corrupted Conviction are two cards for one mana, a fantastic rate, for sacrificing stuff that barely matters. 


We've got a lot of sacrifice triggers happening already, but to maximize them, we need even more things to bring to the altar. Tokens aplenty are what we want. Mogg War Marshal is a classic, putting three bodies onto the board with one card, and spelling out the name of the game. The more tokens per card in hand, the better. Hordeling Outburst matches Mogg War Marshal, while Glimpse the Impossible has the potential to. Prized Statue has the same rate, but with artifacts. Emrakul's Hatcher costs quite a bit, but puts four bodies on the board, one of which is a sizable blocker. My favorite, however, is Rapacious One, which can make five Scions - five potential sacrifice triggers - in a single hit. 

Final Pieces

The deck is tied together with card draw in the form of Reckless Impulse effects and Demand Answers, efficient cards even when you're not playing Pauper. Some cards, like Faithless Looting, are just here because they're good, but others complete side quests while providing card advantage, like Quarrel's End, which makes a token, or Bitter Reunion, which sacrifices itself and provides haste. Even our removal is putting in work in the sacrifice category. Bone Splinters is cheap and efficient while giving us just one more trigger on Mayhem Devil. Finally, the deck plays some extra backup commanders, Mirkwood Bats and Falkenrath Noble. Doubling our pings causes the deck to hurtle forward at breakneck pace, becoming incredibly efficient and threatening. 

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An Improvement?

And that's the deck! In comparison to the sludgy, depressed pace that the Sludge Strider put up, Mayhem Devil's deck is fast-paced and efficient. It still wants to play a very grindy gameplan, as any deck dealing one damage at a time will do, but it can still put a quick clock on games, and it forces players to adapt to much lower life totals than they're used to. Overall, I'd say the deck is a success, and certainly an improvement to the old Sludge Strider deck. Still, I do miss the janky feeling of playing the obscure Sludge Strider and the fantastic art that came with it. Who here plays decks just for the sake of playing cool cards? 

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.