Pauper Deck Tech & Sideboard Guide - Caw Gates

Caw Gates is one of the best decks in Pauper. It rose in popularity when Basilisk Gate was released, and it created a lot of hype in the community thanks to its cute interaction with cheap creatures with powerful keywords like Sacred Cat . In today's Article, I will cover in depth the cards in it, sideboard options, strengths, weaknesses, and more!

Table of Contents

Pauper Caw Gates Decklist

Do you remember Caw Blade? Well, this deck also runs Squadron Hawks but with a different way to pump our evasive creatures: Basilisk Gate.

How to Play it

Caw-Gates is a powerful control/tempo strategy because it has solutions for almost any situation it faces during a game. However, to fully take advantage of its strength, we often have to make the game last longer to deplete our opponent's resources while our cheap creatures take over the game alongside Basilisk Gate.

Explaining the cards will help you understand their role in the deck, so we will go over each category.

The Creatures

As I’ve described in the beginning, Sacred Cat pairs very well in this deck as it does not only have a very useful ability (lifelink) and is cheap, but it also has Embalm, which allows you to make a token from the graveyard with the same stats as a regular Sacred Cat. This is very handy as this deck wants constant threats to terrorize the battlefield.

Speaking of treats, next in the line is Squadron Hawk. We may not have Sword of Feast and Famine in Pauper, but we have another way to push through damage with these birds: Basilisk Gate. Your opponents will need a board wipe or tons of spot removal to prevent you from soaring through the air and chipping away their life totals.

Guardian of the Guildpact, on the other hand, reads “protection from Pauper” as very few spells can target it, but guess what? Basilisk Gate is not mono-colored, so you, in essence, have access to a four-mana unblockable creature.

A few more additions are Saiba Cryptomancer, as a way to protect some of your creatures at instant speed and also is a decent gate bearer with hexproof, and Dawnbringer Cleric as our Swiss knife tool for whatever it's needed.

Counters and Removal

Like most other control decks, counters and removals are the cards you need to run to keep up the phase of the game under your control. Counterspell is an all-out answer against any threat your opponent might present and also can serve as a way to protect your creatures from removal when you decide to pump them with Basilisk Gate.

Spell Pierce serves a similar role, but it's somewhat niche. It does not deal with creatures, but It can prevent you from having a rough time against some decks that rely on specific cards like Utopia Sprawl in Enchantress or Ponza Decks. Since most of our lands enter the battlefield tapped, it's key to have some sort of interaction in the initial turns, especially when on the draw. I can't stress this enough in an environment where getting hit by a Thermokarst in turn two is possible. It becomes worse over time, but surviving is a must for this deck.

Because of this, our next card, Journey to Nowhere, is also a necessary evil in this deck, as blue and white in Pauper don't have other reliable cheap removal spells. It may not be Lightning Bolt, but it's our best choice.

Other Key Cards

The other cards in the deck each have specific roles. Let's consider Prismatic Strands as an example. It works well with your white creatures and helps you survive against fast aggressive decks. By playing it, you can save your life points, and if you have a white creature in play, you can reuse it almost for free.

Another card that works well with Prismatic Strands is The Modern Age. You can discard Prismatic Strands or Sacred Cat without losing much value, as you can bring them back later. Sometimes, opponents might forget that these cards are in your graveyard, which can be crucial in certain situations.

On your third turn, you can summon a Flyer with a decent Body that can be combined with Basilisk Gate.

Preordain and Brainstorm are essential tools in this deck, especially when you need to react to your opponents' moves to gain an advantage later on. Brainstorm , in particular, has many synergies with the deck. You can play a Squadron Hawk first, get three bird cards, and then shuffle two of them back to get them again later.

Brainstorm can also help you "hide" cards on the top of your library from cards like Duress. It's a good way to get rid of useless cards in certain matches by shuffling them away or using Preordain to place them at the bottom of your library.

Playing this deck can be challenging if you're not used to this kind of strategy. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend not casting your cantrips (like Brainstorm) if you don't need them, especially.

Finally, Lorien Revealed is a great addition to this deck as it replaced the role of Ash Barrens. The benefit is that in the long game, you get to cast it and refill your hand with new cards.

The Mana Base

Let's talk about lands in this deck. It has a total of fourteen gates, and only Heap Gate and Basilisk Gate enter the battlefield without any delay. Heap Gate is fascinating because it can create treasures in the long game, helping you fix your mana and support your splash cards if needed.

This version of the deck is quite simple, and I prefer playing cards that match our main colors, keeping the use of splash cards to a minimum.

How to Mulligan with Pauper Caw Gates

There are some hands like are no brainers, like one with no lands or one where you have one land and no way to search for a second way other than praying.

Here are some hand examples and my thoughts on them.

This hand is a fine keep regardless OTP or OTD as it has two creatures that can act as decent blockers and one has hexproof, which gose very well with Basilisk Gate and on top of that we have Spell Pierce to survive on the early turns.

This second hand, while it doesn't have any gates on it, its still very solid as you have two counterspells and an early on treat that can be paired with Preordain or Brainstorm for mana efficiency.

This hand I would keep OTD but probably mulligan OTP depending on the match. It's a decent keep but it lacks any of the control or powerful pieces ths deck can have. Still, a Sacred Cat with a counter can gain tons of life early on.

Lastly, this hand, while slow, its very playable thanks to Lorien Revealed as it can tutors a Blue White dual to use any of our other white cards.

How to Sideboard with  Pauper Caw Gates

This sideboard is straightforward, as the cards in it come vs very specific matches. In a nutshell, this is what I use them against.

CARDS/DECKS Mono Red Boggles Affinity Mono Blue Faeries Caw Gate Boros Synthesizer Orzhov Ephemerate Dimir Control
Dust to Dust x x
Hydroblast x x x
Pyroblast x x x
Standard Bearer x x
Revoke Existence x x x

If you are looking for a more in-depth sideboard guide, take a look at my free sideboard guides on Ko-Fi. Here is a sample of my previous Caw Gates list before Lorien Revealed was added.

If you are looking for a personalized guide, let's work together!


Also, here are some videos of me playing the deck that can help you understand its basics and feel.

How to Play vs. Pauper Caw Gates

Caw Gates is by no means an invincible deck. In fact, is somehow not positioned very well in the meta if you consider that it can lose very easily otd against a deck with a turn one monastery swiftspear.

It also struggles a lot against Ponza decks, and Golgari Midrange has the perfect combination of spot and mass removal that will make this decks life miserable. Still, most notably, abilities like the Monarch and the Initiative are significant issues for this deck to overcome, especially when they re well-timed with removal.

Other Cards you should Try

This deck has room for some flexible cards depending on the meta you may be facing.

This is a good card against decks that run big creatures like Avenging Hunter and also against Enchantress Strategies.

If you are facing a meta filled of creatures or even against caw gates decks, Arms of Hadar is very good at cleaning the board.

Similar to Arms of Hadar Case, Suffocating Fumes can be an fantastic addition in a field of small creatures or tokens. The stock version of Caw Gates run at least one of this maindeck, but more recently, it has been replaced by Cast Into The Fire.

Speaking of, this card is also one you may need to keep under your radar if you are already plain red. It can serve as a dedicated spell against affinity but also can stop some fast starts of Kuldotha Rebirth decks to some extent.

If you don’t like Spell Pierce much and prefer to have a solid answer against other instants like counterspell or Lightning Bolt, Dispel is a fine choice. At the end of the day, this will change based on the meta and overall the field you are surrounded.

Similar to Dispel, this can be used instead of Spell Pierce with the upside that it hits a wider range of cards but also has a major margin of being dead in the later portions of the game.

This is a card I’ve tested thoroughly and with good feelings about it. It may not seem great, but the unblockable fish is fascinating, primarily if you can protect it and pump it for the win.

Note that you have access to all the color palettes thanks to the dual gates, so if you feel like it, you could even splash green on the deck, so be creative when it comes to sideboard options. Sometimes that Deglamer is needed against those pesky Affinity decks!


Caw Gates is a very solid deck that is flexible enough to target many decks pre and post-sideboard without losing its essence. Did you like the deck, what changes would you make so it performs better? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading up until now and I really hope this deck coverage was helpful for you.

If you liked this content and want to see more, check on my other related blogpost and also follow me on Youtube and Social Media.

Take care, and I will see you in my next article.


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