Uncommanders - Rising Remains with Gut, True Soul Zealot

Gut, True Soul Zealot by Wayne Reynolds

Pauper Playability?

Welcome back to Uncommanders, where we build decks made entirely out of commons, with an uncommon commander. It's my goal to prove that, with only commons, we can make decks that are extremely budget-friendly yet perfectly playable. A huge percentage of EDH staples are common anyways, so it's definitely possible. Let's further our progression with today's deck!

Speed is of the Essence

One of the biggest boons to Pauper EDH was the uncommon Background partners. Just like how partners added a huge number of commanders to EDH, this group of cards added a ton of unique options to pEDH. One of my favorites has been Gut, True Soul Zealot, and I think he's got a ton of potential for Pauper EDH because of his rapid damage output. Turn four, and this guy has usually put eight power on the board, which is spectacular, because something I've noted in the past is that pEDH decks thrive in the early game, where their cheap cards create a fast pace. But when playing against normal EDH decks, pauper decks fall behind in the late game, due to huge, haymaking spells that simply don't exist in common. Therefore, it's critical that we take all the damage we can get in the early stage of the game. Full speed ahead!

As for our Background, Gut is all about sacrificing tokens to make bigger tokens, so let's take Cloakwood Hermit, which makes sac fodder, but more importantly, puts us in the token-making color, green. In Gruul colors, we have pretty much everything we need to create a massive horde and swing in for loads. The one downside to Cloakwood Hermit is that it specifies creature card, meaning tokens dying don't trigger it. That's OK, though, because it's going to be a creature-card-heavy deck anyways. 

The Altar

First things first: creatures gotta die. Luckily, some creatures in Magic are extremely good at that. Grim Initiate, Impulsive Pilferer, and Mogg War Marshal are all begging to lay on the altar, as we get extra tokens after saccing them. Cards that essentially replace themselves are a form of card advantage. The other category of sacrifice fodder is creatures with one-use ETBs. They serve their purpose, then either stick around as blockers or get transformed into Skeletons with Gut. Satyr Wayfinder, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Masked Vandal fit into this category cleanly. Meanwhile, Circle of the Land Druid fits both! 25 creatures in the deck, a Background that makes more creatures, and a load of token generation in the instants and sorceries mean that Gut never goes hungry. 

Swarm Support

Our deck is an army in a can, but while it's good at putting the masses onto the board, it's less good at keeping them there. Creatures with one toughness are both lousy blockers and attackers, as soon as our opponents get any number of 2/2s on the board. That's why cards like Master Chef, Goblin War Party, and even Spidersilk Armor are invaluable. Increasing our damage output is probably more important, though, so even though Violent Outburst and Goblin Bushwhacker don't add toughness, they can just win the game instead.

I would love to have a bit of evasion here, but unfortunately, there's not much available in commons. My favorite evasion card, Goblin War Drums is a bit useless here because the Skeletons already have menace, leaving us with very little to work with. Luckily, the built-in menace is very strong, and a huge swing with three or four 4/1s can take someone out very easily. However there is one piece of evasion I found which is very effective. Because Vorrac Battlehorns and menace are effectively opposites, they make a creature unblockable. Even if it's just one Skeleton, a 4/1 attacking safely every turn makes a difference. 

The Essentials

The last part of the deck is of course the staples. We just need some typical removal, and in Gruul, that means Lightning Bolt, Shock, and Abrade for creatures, plus Return to Dust and Hull Breach for artifacts and enchantments. It's not a spectacular set of removal, but it removes most small creatures, and as for the big ones... Well, we just have to hope we win before then. That being said, there are a few useful and unique removal pieces that fit the deck. Outnumber and Massive Raid that can take out the biggest threats if we've built our board well enough, and if we end a player with Massive Raid, it's certainly a story to tell. 

Card draw is possibly the most effective part of the deck. Even when I have access to every rarity, I still go for discard-draw as my card advantage, especially since it can trigger Cloakwood Hermit. Cathartic Reunion, Bitter Reunion, and Demand Answers are some of the best cards in EDH, period. Bitter Reunion is even a way to give our team haste! For the graveyard part of the deck, I also find Grapple with the Past and Mulch to be particularly effective. 

Need a Curve... Desmos Knowledge not Adequate

That's a breakdown of the cards in the deck, but there's another deckbuilding aspect that's absolutely crucial. Because of the rapid pace this deck needs to function at, the mana curve can make or break a game. When deciding which mana values are most important for your deck, several things need to be looked at. Firstly, when are you going to be casting your commander? For Gut, it's as soon as possible, meaning turn two. If you start with a Llanowar Elves variant, cast Gut next turn, and then attack with the Elves and sacrifice it on turn three, you can swing for six. The other ideal curve for the deck involves a turn-one attacker, like Blisterpod, a turn-two mana rock or creature, then Gut on turn three and attack for a similar amount. Either way, it's a blisteringly fast start that can be greatly expanded in later turns. To achieve this, we have to carefully balance the deck's costs. The deck runs 14 turn-one plays and 15 turn-two plays that can be sacrificed to Gut, making our ideal start almost impossible to miss. Another thing to consider is that our commander must be played as soon as we have three mana, meaning there's no space for other three-mana plays. That's why the few three-drops we have are only cards which can be played later in the game and still be efficient. 

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Could be Better, Could be Worse

Welp, that's all I've got for you. The deck is about as rapid-paced as it was meant to be, but its success is somewhat dependent on our opponents' responsiveness to its threatening presence. If I had to rebuild the deck, I would sacrifice green for white and take Inspiring Leader as a Background because its colossal buff can be overwhelming. The thing that the deck struggles most with is to push damage through an opponent's board of creatures they consider disposable. End the Festivities and Electrickery can help with that, but they aren't perfect solutions. Still, the deck does what it needs to for the most part, and I'm happy to call it a success.

Do you think a pauper deck could also play the control game if it wanted to?

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.