Pauper: Abzan Tortured Existence

Today we will be covering what is in my opinion, one of the most versatile decks in all of Pauper, Tortured Existence. Tortured Existence is a creature based deck that focuses on using its namesake enchantment to recycle creatures over and over, making use of enter the battlefield effects and sac effects. This opens up loads of possibilities each turn, as it essentially makes your entire graveyard into a second hand.

With the introduction out of the way, let’s get into the decklist:


Creatures (29)
Satyr Wayfinder
Golgari Brownscale
Stinkweed Imp
Elvish Visionary
Perilous Myr
Spore Frog
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Thoughtpicker Witch
Ambush Viper
Tilling Treefolk
Qasali Pridemage
Fume Spitter
Sanitarium Skeleton
Augur of Skulls
Crypt Rats

Instants & Sorceries (4)
Commune with the Gods

Enchantments (5)
Tortured Existence
Dead Weight
Lands (22)
Jungle Hollow
Scoured Barrens
Barren Moor
Tranquil Thicket

Tortured Existence: Now normally I start out looking at the creatures first, but when you have a deck that is both named after and revolves around a single card, maybe its best to cover it first. Tortured Existence lets you trade any creature in your hand for any creature in your graveyard, all for the low cost of one black to play it and one black each time you want to activate it. This is the main engine of the deck, allowing us to recur creatures over and over to reap rewards.

Satyr Wayfinder & Commune with the Gods: Both of these cards fill up our graveyard and let us add something to our hand. Satyr Wayfinder is nice because its a creature, so it can be recurred with Tortured Existence and helps us fix our mana a bit, but Commune with the gods is a bit nicer because it lets us possibly grab Tortured Existence or one of our many utility creatures.

Golgari Brownscale & Stinkweed Imp: Both of these dredgers are good ways to fill up our graveyard, while also returning them to our hand to be either played or be sent back to the graveyard with Tortured Existence so that they can be dredged again. With one Golgari Brownscale in your hand and one in the graveyard, you can pay one black to gain two life over and over, constantly swapping the two back and forth to gain life. Stinkweed Imp fills the graveyard five at a time and can be played for its deathtouch aswell.

Elvish Visionary: Can be used as a chump blocker or a way to refill your hand. Not super flashy but useful.

Auramancer: The main reason this is considered an Abzan deck instead of just Golgari, but I think the splash of white is worth it. It’s a great way to get back Tortured Existence in case we accidentally mill it, or it gets countered.

Perilous Myr: Great for picking off small creatures or pinging your opponent.

Spore Frog: A reusable fog effect in this deck. Good for slowing down aggressive decks.

Sakura-Tribe Elder: Since we’re technically playing a three-color deck we need a way to have access to all our mana. We also run the risk of milling our lands and losing its a bit harder to get them back.

Thoughtpicker Witch: This card lets us take away our opponents answers, and also lets us have the chance of giving our opponent dead draws. It can also be used to prevent Delver of Secrets from flipping, and that’s always nice.

Ambush Viper: Good, reusable removal. Gets rid of any threat on the ground for just three mana, and since its a creature, we can abuse it with Tortured Existence.

Tilling Treefolk: Lets us get back the lands we may have accidentally milled and makes for a solid blocker.

Qasali Pridemage: The only other white card in our arsenal, but it’s really worth it. With Tortured Existence in play, this is just two mana and discarding a creature you can destroy any enchantment or artifact in your way.

Fume Spitter: Takes out small creatures, makes bigger ones not as scary.

Sanitarium Skeleton: Great fule that lets us use Tortured Existence over and over. It may be a bit expensive to use, but it is worth it in the long and grindy games.

Augur of Skulls: Very taxing to your opponent’s hand. Use this often enough and they will barely be able to play. In an emergency, it can be used as a regenerating blocker, but only use it if you are desperate.

Crypt Rats: Essentially a reusable board wipe. Many Pauper decks play lots of small to medium size creatures, so you can take them out with just a bit of mana

Dead Weight: Good for weakening scary creatures, and you can reuse it with Auramancer.

Barren Moor & Tranquil Thicket: Once we have enough lands these can be used to get us some of our creatures to either play them for their effects or discard them for another one.


Now that you have an idea of what the deck runs, let’s talk about how it fairs against various archetypes:

Aggro: Game one, all you really need to do in this matchup is find your Crypt Rats. Once you do that, this matchup will be an easy win. Just make sure you don’t get overwhelmed in the early game and if you can force them into a more drawn out game then you’re likely to win. Make sure that you’re careful in game two as most of these decks have access to some time of enchantment removal so you may want to hold onto an [mtg_card]Auramancer[/mtg_card].

Combo: Not a very good matchup as you don’t have a lot of instant or sorcery disruption. If it is a creature-based combo deck either take them out whenever you can or use the Golgari Brownscale combo to gain loads of life. If it is a more grindy combo deck like Acid Trip or a mirror match make use of Qasali Pridemage since they usually use lots of artifacts and enchantments. For specifically Acid Trip, be careful because if they exile one of your creatures it’s out of the game for good.

Control: In a blue-based control deck, be careful not to have your Tortured Existence countered, and try to attack their hand with Augur of Skulls and mess with their draws with Thoughtpicker Witch. If they win through mill with something like  Curse of the Bloody Tome then be careful that you don’t mill yourself too much without a way to stop them from doing it. If they win with creatures just throw out an Ambush Viper or Crypt Rats to deal with it. If you are playing against a white-based control deck do not let them exile your important creatures since it will be very hard to get them back. Thankfully most of the exiling in Pauper comes from sorcery speed effects so unless you do something out of desperation you should be fine. As for black and red based control, you don’t have to worry too much because you want your cards in the graveyard so they aren’t that much of a problem.

Tempo: Probably the worst out of the four matchups as this deck can be very easily outpaced. Try to hang on and disrupt them when you can, and make sure you get out Tortured Existence safely. You want to expend their resources with things like Thoughtpicker Witch and Augur of Skulls, and take out threats as they show up.

Overall I believe this deck is one of the best toolbox decks in all of the format. It’s unique engine makes it one of the most interesting decks in Pauper, as it has many slots for interesting tools and allows for many different playstyles.

But what do you think? Are you interested in this deck? Do you enjoy the Pauper coverage I can’t stop writing about? Do you have any suggestions for my next deck breakdowns? As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to say something in the comments section below.



Sylvan Studies Team

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