Of course, like any Legacy format, Pauper still has decks that lie around the fringes of the format, ready to break out. In today’s Pauper Finance 101 article, we take a look at a deck flying under the radar. But, early on it showed signs of player investment: RUG Defenders!
RUG Defenders essentially is a deck based around creatures with Defender, which means that they cannot attack. The win condition of the deck is creating enough mana to kill a player in one shot with Kaervek’s Torch or Rolling Thunder. What’s particularly interesting is that this deck is full of cards that see play in other Pauper decks and even other formats, including EDH. Let’s take a look at the decklist. Then ,we’ll break down the financial impacts of each key card in this fairly rogue deck.
4 Oona's Gatewarden
4 Tinder Wall
2 Gatecreeper Vine
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Wall of Roots
2 Wall of Tanglecord
4 Axebane Guardian
4 Stinging Barrier
1 Kaervek's Torch
1 Rolling Thunder
2 Train of Thought
1 Deep Analysis
1 Gruul Guildgate
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Lonely Sandbar
4 Simic Guildgate
2 Tranquil Thicket
4 Nature's Claim
3 Piracy Charm
1 Rolling Thunder
For finance purposes, this entire deck can be built for a little under $20 (as of 2/17/2019). That includes a playset of the pauper staple Mulldrifter, which accounts for about 25% of that. Also, every version of this deck appears to play four copies of Axebane Guardian, Overgrown Battlement, Stinging Barrier, and Wall of Roots . Every RUG Defenders deck also appears to play two copies of Wall of Tanglecord. These are the cards we’ll focus on first, since they form a major part of the deck’s core.
Axebane Guardian is actually a very powerful common, so powerful that buylists often will pay $0.05 cash a copy. While a 0/3 for 3 mana isn’t exciting, the Guardian has an ability to add X mana to your mana pool in any combination of colors where X is the number of Defenders you control! This creature allows you to ramp a lot of mana quickly, making it a major key to this deck. In addition to this deck, a full playset (four copies) of Axebane Guardian also sees play in another Pauper deck: Defenders Combo.
The Axebane Guardian also sees significant play in EDH / Commander, particularly in Arcades, the Strategist (at one time a super hot deck) and Doran, the Siege Tower Defender decks. So, there is demand from at least two player bases, however niche they may be.
Foil copies of Axebane Guardian once hit $8 a piece, but in Feburary 2019, the price has dropped below $4, with a TCGPlayer Market Price under $3. While many Pauper cards tend to be interesting investment in foil, at the moment, Axebane Guardian is not. We’re looking for a steady rise, not a steady decline, with foil card investments. So, if you want to invest in a playset or two of Axebane Guardian, the nonfoil is actually a lot safer.
Overgrown Battlement was actually a very strong card during its Standard days. It does much the same thing as Axebane Guardian, except that it only produces Green mana. But, it’s a 0/4 for 2 mana, making it a bit more resilient, especially against burn cards like Lightning Bolt - although Flame Slash still takes it down. The Battlement also sees play in the aforementioned Defenders Combo deck. It also sees play in the same EDH decks as Axebane Guardian.
Unlike Axebane Guardian, which only has one printing in Return to Ravnica, Overgrown Battlement gained a second printing in Iconic Masters. In fact, the nonfoil of Overgrown Battlement in Iconic Masters is beginning to outpace the Rise of the Eldrazi card in price. The foil has been holding steady at around a dollar, although they sell for closer to $2 each on eBay. The Rise of the Eldrazi foil is considerably more at a market price of a little over $2. But in 2018, this foil spiked ot over $13.
Which version of Overgrown Battlement is the best buy? Despite the Iconic Masters printing being at uncommon, which makes it slightly rarer as a nonfoil, there are over 50 sellers of the Iconic Masters foil on TCGPlayer. There are fewer than 30 sellers of the Rise of the Eldrazi foil, and some of those are Heavily Played. It won’t take many foil playsets of Overgrown Battlement to cause some serious increase in the price. There is clearly demand for this card, though.
Stinging Barrier is a card that’s unique to the RUG Defenders deck in Pauper. It also sees little to no play in EDH. So, why is a 4-mana 0/4 Defender so good in this deck? Stinging Barrier has a tap ability for a single Blue mana to deal 1 damage to target creature or player. That’s not an insignificant ability in a Defender deck.
What makes this card interesting is that it’s from Mercadian Masques. Thus, there is a foil version that’s actually a bit rare. While there is some interest in the foil at $.50, no one’s exactly tripping over themselves to upgrade their playsets. I wouldn’t invest in this card, although if the RUG Defenders deck starts posting results, the foils could jump very quickly!
Wall of Roots is particularly interesting because it’s a card that’s seen tons of competitive play in the past, especially in Modern Birthing Pod decks. Iconic Masters turned this $1 common into a $0.25 card in a hurry, though. But, Wall of Roots is currently set up for a resurgence in Modern thanks to Prime Speaker “Birthing Pod” Vannifar.
While the Wall of Roots is only a one-of in Modern and doesn’t really see any other competitive Pauper play, foils are a nice financial target. The particularly rare Timeshifted foil is $11+ but the Iconic Masters foil is a mere $1.25, with many copies going for far less. The demand hasn’t really been there, but they are moving up in price on eBay. You don’t have to go deep on this card, and a playset is still pretty cheap on TCGPlayer (as of 2/17/19)
Other Interesting Creatures in the Deck
Mulldrifter is a big staple in many Pauper decks, including Rainbow Tron, Blue-Black Control, and others. It’s been printed too many times in nonfoil to be much more than $1, but it only has three foil printings. The original Lorwyn foil printing is pretty rare, especially in better than lightly-played condition. The Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 foils are much more common, but the original Modern Masters foil has remained fairly steady around $3.50 a piece. It’s a card to watch going forward, although it hasn’t been seeing as steady play in Pauper as it has in the past. Mulldrifter is in a ton of EDH decks, though, over 18000+ according to EDHREC. That fact alone makes the foil a decent investment.
Oona’s Gatewarden isn’t a must in this deck, but being a 2/1 flyer with wither makes her at least interesting. Faerie tribal decks have played her in the past and she only has one printing in Shadowmoor. The foil is interesting at $1, although she doesn’t see much other play outside of the odd Oona, Queen of the Fae EDH deck. As of now there are only 8 sellers of the foil, and most are heavily to moderately played. Plus, most of the sellers charge extra shipping. If a good common Faerie gets printed that springs the deck back into regular Pauper play, watch out for this card.
Wall of Tanglecord is an interesting Scars of Mirrodin common that is a 0/6 for only 2 mana. It also has the ability to gain reach for only a single Green mana. It’s been on a steady rise for a couple of years due to the Defender “tribe” gaining popularity, especially because of Arcades, the Strategist in EDH. The foils have a lot of play in the peaks and valleys of their price chart, so I’d say to avoid this card unless that trend starts going up.
Tinder Wall is worth noting only because of the Coldsnap Theme Deck reprint. Originally printed in Ice Age, Tinder Wall is a fun little card that was printed in a Modern border because of those Theme Decks. If people start buying these four at a time, this is a low-population card that could go nuts.
The rest of the deck is full of cards that either see other play in the Pauper format or just aren’t financially relevant at the moment.
What Can We Learn About Pauper Finance from the RUG Defenders Deck?
While some rogue decks never impact Magic Finance all that much, their existence sometimes allows us to peer into the price history of cards we may have otherwise overlooked. Keep in mind that there are enough casual Kitchen Table MTG players out there that are building Defender decks independent of competitive play. Axebane Guardian, Overgrown Battlement, and Wall of Roots are all important cards in a casual Defenders deck. So, there is always some sort of demand for these cards.
Typically, casual players don’t chase foils of commons. That market is typically for collectors and competitive players. The foils in the RUG defenders deck don’t seem to be great investments at the moment, except for perhaps Modern Masters Mulldrifter. But, there is movement with some of these foils, particularly Axebane Guardian, Overgrown Battlement, and Wall of Roots. They are all worth watching.
It’s always important as someone looking to invest in Pauper Finance to recognize cards that are not only seeing positive price movement, but have low supply, and also see play in multiple decks or formats (such as Mulldrifter). Going forward, we’ll look at potential bargains to be found in the top decks of the format, as well.