Pauper Commander, also known as PDH, is a variant of the extremely popular Commander (EDH) format. Like Commander, you choose a creature to be your Commander, then play 99 cards that share a color with that creature (including the colors of casting costs required to use its abilities.) Except instead of using a Legendary Creature, you instead use an uncommon (or even common) creature as your Commander. The rest of your deck must be commons, or have been printed at common at one time or another. (For example, Doom Blade was printed at uncommon in one expansion, but has been printed at common before, so it is legal.)
Today, we look at one of the most powerful Pauper EDH Commanders, a powerful Legacy-playable card called Baleful Strix. This Bird is a very strong creature first printed exclusively in the Planechase 2012 deck: Night of the Ninja. It was later reprinted in the Commander 2013 pre-constructed deck, Mind Seize. As of 2022, it’s been reprinted seven additional times, several at which were at rare. That doesn’t alter his eligibility as a Pauper Commander, however.
Baleful Strix is a 1/1 flyer with deathtouch for a casting cost of one Black and one Blue mana. When it enters the battlefield, it draws you a card. The Strix also happens to be an artifact, which is quite relevant in the two formats that it’s mostly played in, Legacy and EDH (Commander).
As a Pauper Commander, Baleful Strix is repeatable card advantage on a stick. The deck that is typically built around it usually cares about tempo, playing many of permission spells, counter-spells that still allow players to cast their spells for a cost. There is also a suite of black removal and discard cards. Here’s a fantastic Baleful Strix Pauper EDH deck list from Vitriol on Tappedout. Unfortunately, the list hasn’t been updated for 6 years, but it’s a good starting point.
Vitriol’s list plays many “value” creatures that provide some sort of card advantage, either by netting you a card, retrieving a card from your graveyard, or forcing your opponent to discard. You could choose to play more instants and sorceries over creatures, but this list is quite balanced and allows for a wide range of plays.
Blue and Black are powerhouse colors in regular Pauper, which draws from the same card pool as the Legacy format, because of the power level of many of their commons. So, it’s hardly a surprise to see a Blue/Black deck with a Commander which provides a free card along with it be among the top decks in the Pauper Commander format. Also, with each passing set, more cards become eligible to be played in this deck, meaning more options to tweak your Baleful Strix deck list.
When I first drafted this article back in 2015, Pauper Commander was a quickly growing format. The format is still alive as of 2022, although it seems most people prefer to stick to only uncommon Legendary Creatures, of which there have been many printed since 2015. If you want to stick to a Legendary Creature that serves a similar purpose to Baleful Strix, Sygg, River Cutthroat or Ertai Resurrected are probably as close as you’ll get, and both were printed at rare. So, among uncommons, Baleful Strix is very unique.
How would you build a Pauper EDH deck led by Baleful Strix?