This Week in Pauper April 22-26

Sunday, April 28, 2013


    This week Dragon's Maze was completely revealed and I'd like to spend this column not only previewing the upcoming commons that I think will make an impact in the standard pauper meta game, but also to review the top commons from the last set, Gatecrash.  Let's start with the review, listed in alphabetical order.  

Gatecrash All-Stars

    Used both for it's ability to clog the ground attack and as another extort trigger in Orzhov, Basilica Guards became a staple in Orzhov extort decks from the very beginning of the set's release.  It also saw play in a few iterations of White Weenie and Esper Control.  It's especially useful in control decks where it can hold up quick yet weak ground creatures and provide a mana sink in the late game to either bring up a dangerous life total or bring home the win when creatures can't make it through to attack.  

    The Screecher was the lynch pin of mono black aggro decks throughout this season of standard pauper and saw most of its play in the Black Flag style decks utilizing tons of cheap removal.  Of course, it was also a mandatory four-of in extort decks as the preeminent turn two play.  With Orzhov's abundance of cheap removal Basilica Screecher allows for instant extortion and should continue to see major play throughout its lifetime in standard pauper.

    Cloudfin Raptor quickly found it's way into most blue decks and has become the best blue creature since Delver.  It is a vulnerable card, but it make up for its vulnerability with its instant threat status.  Raptor made mono blue aggro into a valid deck archetype and if nothing else can be used to hold off Boros decks for a couple turns.  

    Skyjek almost instantly found it's way into Boros decks and proved it's value over and over again.  Even with a weak toughness it's three in the air is a big deal that usually forces opponents to remove it instead of a more well-rounded threat.  At two mana it slots perfectly into Boros and is another mandatory four-of in the powerful boros archetype. 

    Not many cards have had such an impact on the meta game as Prism has had.  Not only does it allow for mana fixing, it replaces itself as well.  It may also be the best Flicker target and in a meta with basically no reason to carry artifact removal it becomes essentially invulnerable.  The scary part is we may yet see even more uses for this versatile card in the next set depending on what it does with artifact and/or permanent shenanigans.  

    Making a Boros deck?  Add four, move on.  It's a no-brainer.  It was such a crowd pleaser during original Ravnica that they brought it back and guess what?  It's just as good now as it was then.  

Dragon's Maze Prospects

    Golgari graveyard recursion might make a comeback in this upcoming season and if it does this will appear in all sideboards containing black and all mirror matches.  Even without graveyard shenanigans this card takes away targets for Stitched Drake in the early game when most decks can't deal with a big flyer yet.    This could be a sleeper pick that I see as a mandatory four-of in the sideboard.

    In my opinion this is the best creature of the set.  A prime flicker target as well as being cheap and versatile.  Even when used as a surprise chump blocker you get extraordinary value by returning another ETB or removal target to your hand.  All the tools for a straight Azorius deck are here, this may be a card that brings that archetype into competition. 

   White Weenie, Boros and the aforementioned Azorius all love this card.  A super cheap two-for-one that prevents blocking without having to adjust for damage on the back swing.  This card can cripple most aggro decks as well as being slotted into most aggro decks.  Unbelievably versatile card due to only one mana color requirement.  Another mono color hidden gem in the multi color set that should stick around until RtR rotates out. 

    At first this seems way to expensive and there is a chance this is completely unusable.  Unless graveyard recursion is a thing.  In which case this is a bomb.  If it were only able to target a creature OR a player it would be unplayable, but having the choice means this is such a huge swing in the late game when you've lost your best creature.  It's cost is generally too much for standard pauper, but Wizards has put a good number of six mana commons in this set and I have to believe one of them gets play.  My choice is this one.  

    All of the Gatekeepers are interesting to me but I think only a couple will still be seeing play after the new set rotates in and this is one of them.  A 2/4 is a good body and any deck playing two colors or more wants gates.  The fact that it replaces itself seals the deal.  Blue is probably the most heavily played color in the meta game today and this should slot in nicely at the top of the curve.  

    If it seems like I'm banging the graveyard recursion drum a little too loud it's only because the archetype seems to rear its morbid head in every set and Dragon's Maze seems to be its intro point.  Drawing two cards for one card is good.  Putting potential targets into your yard is good and this card can do it early.  If nothing else you can draw two cards and dig through those two lands you don't need.  

    Wizards seems to be pushing two-for-ones in this block and this may be the best yet.  As with all Gatekeepers it's a good, solid defender.  The upside of this one however, outperforms the rest in my opinion.  Removal is critical and -2/-2 is the standard definition of good removal.  Put a good body on the battlefield and remove a pesky flyer or evasive creature to boot.  Of course, you have to make sure you're getting maximum value when casting him, but there is virtually no downside to this four drop.  

    You didn't think Boros was going to disappear did you?  Another quality weapon added to the Boros arsenal.  How many more does this archetype need?  Apparently one more.  Put four of these in your deck and move on.  Your only quandary may be which other great creature do you take out. 

A quick note on the meta game

    Over the evolution of the meta game we've seen mono color decks stick around despite such availability of multi color choices.  In fact, in this week's SPDC, hosted by Jamuraa, both decks in the finals were mono color decks. 
    On the one hand this is surprising because this is supposed to be a multi color set, but on the other hand it's not so surprising when we stop to examine what multi color cards actually do.  While they may seem at first to provide flexibility to decks and create new deck archetypes, they are equally as restrictive.  You MUST cast both colors, there is no choice in that, only limitations.  It's easy to dismiss the notion because after all, if you're playing a multi color deck your going to have both colors on hand anyway right?  Not necessarily.   Often decks with more than one color still find themselves in a mana jam that forces players to make inefficient plays or have inefficient turns.  
   Control decks, however thrive on these color combinations and gives players the ability to splash for one specific card that brings a whole new depth to an already proven archetype.  At this point in the meta game it looks to be a flip-flopping battle between mono color aggro and multi color control.  
    Looking over the new set, I'm interested to see if Dragon's maze will shift the balance of power.  We haven't seen much competition from Golgari or Azorius and I would expect those two styles to have a better showing in the upcoming season.  Speculation is the fun part, so until next week, let's get testing.  

Flavorful Musings

     The aspect of Magic that first attracted me to the game was the beautiful artwork and the flavor which ties each block together.  The talented artists that bring the cards to life are some of the best fantasy artists in the world and as the game has evolved so too has the quality of art.  I am constantly in awe of the quality of art that appears in those little boxes on each card and in honor of that, when a new set is released I like to mull over each card and admire the art and flavor of each card. Obviously art appreciation is a subjective matter, but I'm always interested to know where my taste stands in relation to the general consensus so if you post a reply or a comment I'd love to know your favorite common art from the set.  Here are are my top five commons artwork.  

5.  Haazda Snare Squad- David Palumbo.  Faces are often the most difficult to get right and these are both excellent. Plus that guy is using a bola, which is awesome. 

4.  Hired Torturer- Winona Nelson.  Wonderful sadistic face and the use of light and shadow is enchanting.

3.  Uncovered Clues- Jaime Jones.  Another wonderfully done, cloaked figure.  Not too much is given away in his face or figure.  That hologram scroll is amazing. 

2.  Opal Lake Gatekeepers- Seb McKinnon.  The Vedalken are a beautiful race and this is a perfect example.  Great use of cityscape in the background.  

1.  Simic Guildgate- Svetlin Velinov.  I'm a sucker for lands and cityscapes and this one does both beautifully.  All of the guildgates are well done but this is my favorite. 



This Week in Pauper April 1- April 5

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mono y Mono

    In last week's issue I mentioned that there is still a place for mono color decks in standard pauper and this week proved that point with both winners using mono color decks.  White saw diminishing value this week, mainly due to little representation from Boros, while black saw a surge in usage with several mono black decks and it's inclusion in every three color deck that placed in the top eight. Lets take a look at the tournaments from this week and the featured decks.  

MPDC 20.06

    Owain won gold with his deck Monoblue in this weeks mpdc hosted by Malum.  It's rare to see such aggressively costed, usable creatures in blue, but this deck takes advantage of that by putting out several low CMC flyers and maintaining board control with counterspells.  
    In an environment with such easy removal these creatures may not seem like a real threat, but in fact wasting removal on these little pests is exactly what this deck wants.  Once a creature is in the yard Stitched Drake is an absolute bomb at three mana
   Frostburn Weird is once again an all-star in this deck, if only because it can hold the ground while the fliers attack and is usually the last creature to be targeted with removal.  This deck's secret weapon however, is Stormbound Geist.  Forget about attacking in the air with this guy, that's merely an added bonus.  His true value is blocking in the air.  Nobody wants to spend removal on the same creature twice and no one wants to give up a flyer just to make the opponents flyer even bigger.  
    I've been tinkering with a deck very similar to this since the introduction of Cloudfin Aggro several weeks ago and my only complaint is that Delver never seems to get the kind of use he should.  There are only sixteen nonlands in this deck, not really enough to transform Delver on a consistent basis.  Sometimes I'd rather take an overcosted flyer in his place, but the temptation of transforming him on turn two is too great. 

    Moromete's runner up deck Grixis is a heavy control deck with lots of answers and a great plan.  At it's most basic level this is a Flicker deck with a little more removal.  It takes a little time to set up, which can be a big hindrance against hard aggro, but when it's able to fix it's mana with Prophetic Prism and Goblin Electromancer things get difficult for the opponent.  Hammering out undercosted Ghostly Flickers and Amass the Components to leave mana left open for Searing Spear or Negate can quickly put most decks in panic mode.  
    This deck just eats up decks filled with 2 or 3 toughness creatures but may have it's difficulties with bigger creatures, though Auger Spree goes a long way toward remedying that.  It's Achilles heel however, are counterspells.  Owain's Monoblue was able to control this match simply with well timed counterspells.  This deck simply does not perform when it can't get it's creatures on the field for use in the Flicker engine.  

    FmX9999 made top 4 with a healer deck called GW Modificado.  This style deck has been a mainstay for many weeks now because it's aggressive enough with Primal Huntbeast and Attended Knight and cards like Common Bond and Travel Preps often puts it out of reach of most removal.  Lifegain is a technique that is normally not viable, but using it as an addition to a solid plan puts this deck in the top tier.  
   The addition of Gnaw to the Bone is one that can put this deck out of range in many matchups, however its important to note that even with all the lifegain this deck is vulnerable because it carries almost no removal of its own.  Pacifism is a classic, but Prey Upon is too situational and this deck is often left watching it's opponent stack up tons of creatures while it has only a pumped up Huntbeast and a ton of life.  It's a solid deck well suited to the meta so it will always be able to place, but getting over that hump may be asking too much.  

    Jeggert22 placed in the top four with a refreshingly different version of WW he calls White.  It uses a tapdown strategy involving Azorius Arrester and Court Street Denizen to hobble its opponent.  Unfortunately the only problem with this version of WW is that it's not the standard version we've seen so much in T4.  The tapping strategy only works against heavy creature decks or creatures without hexproof.  Often this deck is stuck holding it's substandard creatures in hand simply because they can't provide their ETB effect.  

SPDC 19.21

    This weeks spdc, hosted by jamuraa, is the least attended spdc I've ever seen.  With only 11 participants it's hard to get a good read on the direction of the meta game or the validity of the winning decks.  
    That being said, Famouz had quite an impressive performance, losing only one game in his undefeated run to gold with his deck Mono Black
    This is a classic style black aggro deck that uses plenty and variable removal to clear the way for cheap value creatures like Vampire Interloper and Highborn Ghoul.  Hidden amongst a solid creature base with a perfect curve this deck utilizes a very undervalued creature, Duty-Bound Dead. It acts in much the same way that Stormbound Geist does.  Opponents don't like wasting removal on a zero power creature, instead focusing on the creatures it enables.  This can often be a mistake, especially if they get more than one onto the field.  
    I can't say enough good things about Undying Evil.  It doesn't belong in every deck with black or even every mono black deck, but this swipe and slaughter style deck is it's perfect home.  Being able to protect and pump creatures like Highborn Ghoul or Tormented Soul can be crushing to an opponent.  Even using it to protect a Duty-Bound Dead is often the best use for it.  

    Chrismh77 took his version of Junk to a runner up finish last week.  In my opinion this is a far superior build for the healer deck featuring Centaur Healer and Seraph of Dawn.  Sentinel Spider is a certified bomb and there's plenty of removal to back it up.  
   The sideboard of this deck is of special interest to me.  Not only does it include my favorite black card, Undying Evil, but it has an entire suite of cards specifically designed to take out the opponents air attack.  The combination of One-Eyed Scarecrow and Deadly Recluse is a crippling duet to any deck with air dependency.  

    Garlan's Boros deck was the only Boros to make top 8 in either tournament last week.  This seems to me a natural reaction to it's dominance early in the format.  Now deck's are geared toward being able to withstand a heavy air assault and gain control through card advantage while letting Boros run out of steam.  Is it possible for Boros to win another tournament?  Absolutely.  It's still one of the top deck archetypes in the format and a bad draw vs. a good draw can mean the difference between t8 and winning.  

Final Thoughts

    Not so long ago there used to be a time when you could peruse a new set of commons and automatically throw out anything CMC 4 or greater.  They just weren't worth the cost of putting into a standard pauper deck.  When making a deck in these days of yore, if it's average CMC was above 2.3 it's probable that you were making bad choices somewhere. 
    We seem to be in a new era.  An era when high cost cards have value and decks with minuscule CMC are the exception and not the rule.  This is most likely due to the prevalence of mana fixing.  We are in an unprecedented era of mana fixing.  Let me list all the cards I can find that fix or ramp mana in some way:
    Although most of these appear in green, there are a fair number, including some artifacts I'm sure I missed, that can be used in any color.  Whereas before you could only fix mana with green or artifacts, now there are several color choices.  A two color deck can now splash another color, sometimes even for a dual mana cost like BB, without any penalty.  
    This creates a control heavy environment where complex decks running 1 and 2 ofs appear often and are highly effective.  The inverse of this is that there is still room for ultra-aggro mono-color decks, something which may seem anomalous given such a multi-color culture.  
    In most standard pauper environments there is usually a winning archetype, either control or aggro, that will end up dominating the meta during the final 4-6 weeks of play before rotation. I feel this meta is different though.  I think both archetypes, as well as combo style decks like flicker control or possibly others we've yet to see can claim a place in the pantheon.  It's rare to see such variation in our niche format, but expect it to continue on through Dragon's Maze and the next core set at least.  With such variation I wouldn't be surprised to see a five color deck charge to the top before the next rotation.  Until next time, choose your colors wisely.


This Week in Pauper 3/25-3/29

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lets Cut a RUG

    This week in standard pauper was controlled by identical RUG decks.  At least for this week Boros took a nap, control decks dominated the top 4 and despite that red was in the middle of it all.  Lets take a closer look at the decks from last week's tournaments.  

MPDC 20.05

    Moromete took first place in this week's mpdc hosted by Malum with his RUG deck entitled You Take No Mushroom.  This is a deck that really abuses what's called the "Flicker engine".  Which means that it uses Ghostly Flicker to great advantage.  Nearly all of the creatures in this deck have enter-the-battlefield effects(ETB effects), which you would love to use over and over again.  Not only does Flicker allow this, but  Archaeomancer allows you to go back and pick Flicker out of the graveyard for even more abuse.  
    The deck features the best in red removal and one card choice that seems to be getting more popular, Harvest Pyre. I'm not so sure this is actually a good card as much as it is the best choice if you're not running black.  It's upside is that it scales up for any creature, but in a deck like this where your graveyard is just a second hand of cards you may not always have enough cards in the yard that you can throw away.  

    I must admit my guilty pleasure is killing creatures.  I don't even care if it doesn't get me any closer to winning, I'm just sadistic and it brings a smile to my face.  That's why I have a special affinity for FlxEx's Mono Black Control. The tandem of Bloodhunter Bat and extorting with Basilica Screecher is enough to get the job done when you are carrying so much removal. Obviously running out of steam is a concern with this deck, but Sign in Blood and Altar's Reap go a long way toward remedying the trouble and Gravepurge and Haunted Fengraf seal the deal.  
    I agree with FlxEx's deck comments.  Liliana's Shade is maindeck and I wouldn't even include Ravenous Rats.  If there was ever a deck to get maximum value from a bad card like Shadow Slice, this is it.  Though it still may not make the cut without any protection and so much easy blue bounce and Negate's running around.  

Adner's Grixis Control finished in the top four and with an interesting deck that looks like it may create a positive feedback loop powerful enough to produce infinite energy.  Imagine this play: Ghostly Flicker an Archaeomancer to get a Gravepurge to draw and play an Archeaomancer to bring back a Gravepurge into a Bloodhunter Bat... sure it takes a lot of mana but not nearly as much when you've got a couple Goblin Electromancers out.  
  This deck has a lot of answers and still has a lot of room for tuning to the meta game so it should be an interesting archetype to see some deckbuilders muddling with in the future.  One card in this deck that I can't give enough praise to is Prophetic Prism.  Without the card it would take luck of the draw to get the right land, with it you're on easy street.  

SPDC 19.20

    Panamimed played an identical RUG control deck for the win in this week's spdc hosted by Jamuraa.  There are a couple more points I'd like to add about this deck that I didn't mention in the mpdc version.  First, Pillar of Flame is a bomb, and the best red art in a long time in my opinion. Let's call it Shock +.   It's been good since it's introduction, but it's become a required four-of if you're in red. 
    Second, as mentioned in Panamimed's comments, this deck does have some vulnerabilities to big dumb dudes.  Green is the obvious choice and the hexproof deck we haven't seen a lot of recently seems like a good matchup, but there is also the often overlooked Trusted Forcemage that can bring a lot of creatures out of removal range for this deck. Not only that, blue can only bounce the Forcemage, not remove it.  Which means it can be reset, often for more favorable pairings.  The use of big creatures and control are not usually synonymous, but if RUG control becomes a main archetype they could see a lot of play.  Personally I think R/G bloodrush is an archetype waiting to be exploited, one that could give control in general a headache.  

    Yokai was runner up this week with Junk Control, a deck featuring the aforementioned big creatures.  Borderland Ranger and Abundant Growth are the cards that help this deck get there in a big way.  It's got enough hard removal to make you cringe and creatures like Ogre Jailbreaker and Sentinel Spider are often out of reach of red's removal.  The only choice I'm not sold on is Keening Apparition.  It's great as a sideboard option but I don't see this as a maindeck creature with so many other two drop options in these three colors.  
    The bomb of this deck is Sentinel Spider. This is one of, if not the only playable five drop I've seen in the standard pauper environment since Emrakul's Hatcher and the halcyon days of Rise of the Eldrazi.  4/4 is a great body.  Reach...? Ok now we've got a hell of a defender.  Wait... vigilance?  You mean I can attack too?  It's always tempting to want to play these five and six mana creatures wizards puts at common in each set but this is the only one to actually make the cut in a long time. Wizards tends to have long vision and I wouldn't be surprised if they are trying to surprise us with a series of constructed worthy, high-mana, common creatures over the next several years.  Perhaps each set we may see one, which would be exactly one more that we are used to seeing.  

    Pootmachine T4'd with his deck An Okay Izzet Deck.  Izzet control made somewhat of a return this week, though it never truly left.  It's a competitive archetype and will see play until RtR rotates so not much more can be said.  With this particular build I would say play four Essence Scatter, you won't regret it.  If big, dumb creatures make a splash you'll wish you had.  


Final Thoughts

        Caught up in the color combinations and the ease of casting these colors that Return to Ravnica has brought us it is easy to forget that mono-colored decks still have a place in the current metagame. We have seen two different iterations of mono black and a competitive mono blue build since the release of RtR and I believe there are many more out there waiting to be exploited.  While double mana costs like WW or RR may not be enticing to the two or three color deck(although they've seen a lot of play) they can often be of greater than normal value to mono color decks.  
    Mono blue and mono black are two colors that may do better on their own than they would as a pair.  With such great removal from black, and the great mono black decks we've seen, and with blue's penchant for counters, bounce and a new found use of aggressive creatures, I believe that both of these colors are ripe for the picking when it comes to forgotten mono-color builds.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see a mono-green ramp or even mono-red burn make a few T4's before it's all said and done.  Until next time, choose your colors wisely.  




March 18- March 22

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Top Decking

    This week's two standard pauper tournaments were in direct opposition to one another.  MPDC was a good example of the main decks over the past few weeks, while SPDC was a much more balanced and diverse set of deck lists.  Lets take a look at the two tournaments and the top decks of the week.

MPDC 20.04

   This week's mpdc, hosted by Malum, had a whopping six Boros decks entered, two of which made the top four.  This shouldn't be a big surprise considering the uncomplicated nature of the deck and it's success over the past three weeks.
    Frycek took home first place with his Boros deck.  This is a standard Boros build with the exception of a Dynacharge for that last, desperate swing to club home the win as well as a couple Traitorous Instinct in the sideboard.
    Frycek benefited from a large number of participants this week.  After two consecutive losses in the swiss portion he was able to rebound nicely and go undefeated the rest of the way. The only two losses came at the hands of an extremely aggressive Cloudfin Aggro deck and Selesnya Beats by joekewwl, which Fry would later beat in the finals.

    Selesnya Beats by joekewwl took second place in the tournament, utilizing a ton of +1/+1 counters via Common Bond and Travel Preps along with potent lifegain from Seraph of Dawn and Centaur Healer.
    The most noteworthy addition to this deck to me is Concordia Pegasus.  This is a great two drop that stops WW or Boros in the air.  Sure, it can be easily removed, but what two mana creature can't?  The Pegasus is a great target for some of those +1 counters or a well-timed Ranger's Guile.  Obviously Primal Huntbeast and Seraph are the main creatures of the deck, but Pegasus is a great two drop for this meta.  Even if it only prevents one or two creatures from getting through before it gets Speared that can often be the difference between winning and losing. As a great backup for air defense, Kessig Recluse can come in mid game to take his place. This is a potent deck that gives Boros plenty to think about.

    Adner is still kicking around Black Flag and for good reason.  He made top four with the deck once again.  The reason this deck can compete where other mono black decks fail is due to it's card draw. The hardest part about winning with an aggro deck is running out of steam.  Two bad draws in a row will cripple any aggro deck, but Black Flag overcomes this hurdle with the classic Sign in Blood and also a very situational, yet potent Altar's Reap.
    This one-two punch is critical to the deck's success.  By playing Sign in Blood early and Altar's Reap late, when there is most likely a creature to be sacrificed, possibly Soulcage Fiend or a Pacified creature for greater effect, this deck rolls right into another removal and another chance to Extort.

    Gq1rf7 brought another Boros Legion into top four this week.  His version uses Wojek Halberdiers and a Splatter Thug as well as a couple Seraphs in the sideboard.  It also utilizes a few Curse of the Pierced Heart.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Curse, but I've found the only distribution for this card is four-of or none at all.  A total of three can be used in Gq's version, but the point of Curse is to get one out on turn two, which usually requires four in a deck and some shuffler love.  It's nice to see some tweaking of the Boros deck however.

SPDC 19.19

    This week's spdc, hosted by jamuraa, had a rather small attendance, but completely turned the meta upside down with a lot of creative deck building.
    Flucus took the gold with his deck, Golgari Defender.  It uses all of the Return to Ravnica defenders to hold the ground and generate tons of mana for Perilous Shadow and regenerating that crucial Trestle Troll.
    Sentinel Spider is pretty mana intensive, but in this deck who cares?  Vigilance on a 4/4 with reach is a pauper bomb and it's out of range of almost all of red's removal and will take down a Seraph, making it the perfect Boros killer. This is what you are saving your Sheltering Word for.  I would rather let a Perilous Shadow or Jailbreaker go than the Sentinal Spider.
    I can confirm from personal experience that a couple fliers and a couple counterspells or bounce can give this deck hell if they are concentrated on keeping the Spider off the board.  That's why I'm a little surprised that it beat FlxEx's Hands Tempo deck, which is formulated for just such a matchup.

    Zoltan piloted WW Inflamed, which is a fancy title for a Boros deck, to second place this week.  I like the choice of four Curses and three Dynacharge's in this list. Sundering Growth is a flexible card.  Even though not many artifacts are running around these days it's still able to get an extra token from Attended Knight or Doomed Traveler if needed. Not much more can be said about Boros.  A good, solid build here.  

    Alwaysdoit placed T4 with the combo deck RG Fling to Win.  If I get a vote, I say RG Fling is just as descriptive and more succinct, but that's just my preference.
    It is sometimes hard for me to objectively evaluate combo decks. My inner Johnny loves them so much, but the fact that they so rarely make top 8 is proof that they don't hold any real staying power.  This is no slight on Alwaysdoit.  He saw a flaw in the meta and took advantage of it, which is all anyone can do.  The problem with this, or any combo deck, is that it can be dismantled completely by a single Dispel or Negate.
   I like this decks theory though. Any creature+Bloodrush+Fling=Win.  The problems start to arise though when you're not drawing well.  There is literally no way to come back when your behind with this deck.  I would personally be running four Madcap Skills and four Ranger's Guile in this deck and Feral Ridgewolf is simply a bad card.  If you want another creature there are many better three drops or even two drops, though why use them?  That slot is probably better used by making the aforementioned cards four-ofs.  In fact, throwing in some Sheltering Word's might go a long way for this deck.  I hate to sound like I'm bashing this deck, because I'll be playing it and having a ton of fun doing so, but I just don't see it as a weekly archetype because of how easily the meta game can cripple it's win con.

   One last deck I'd like to mention from this week's spdc is Pie Master's Ethereal Huntbeast.  This looks like the beginning stage of a great four color control deck.  With a few tweaks I think this deck could have the right balance of control and creature presence to make it a winner. My biggest objection is to the mana base.  This deck needs to be running at least two more lands and even though Prophetic Prism is the linchpin of the deck I don't see a need for four.  Four colors gives it a vast arsenal to work with and as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the presence of Prophetic Prism opens up the possibility for some 4-color killers.

The Week Ahead

    Normally standard pauper sticks with low cost cards and heavy aggro, but the possibility is there for higher mana cards and more control oriented decks for those willing to invest the time to build them.  Prophetic Prism is the key but others like Abundant Growth, Farseek, Avacyn's Pilgrim can really ramp into a lot of mana while Ranger's Guile, Sheltering Word and Mizzium Skin can protect creatures from removal long enough to get some threats on the board.
   The age old question however is how to deal with WW. It may have taken a back seat this week, but don't doubt that it will make it's appearance many more times.  Sometimes the best defense is a good offense and WW, and to a similar extent Boros, provides that offense.  Concordia Pegasus might become a staple in upcoming aggro decks or at least a great sideboard against Boros.  With so much possibility in multi-color combinations out there I don't think we've come even close to hitting the wall that usually appears within the next couple weeks of the release cycle.  There are still plenty of good deck archetypes yet to make an appearance and I'm looking forward to them over the next few weeks.  Until next week, gl hf.




This Week in Pauper: 3/11-3/15

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Case of the Blues

    After a week dominated by tri-color control this week saw a resurgence of mono-color.  Two top four decks were mono-blue aggro decks.  One of the greatest aspects of standard pauper is the resilience of it's top players.  The meta game is ever changing and there is always a response to last weeks results.  Not only that, but just when you think you've got it figured out a new set drops and the entire cycle begins anew.  Lets take a look at this weeks top decks.

MPDC 20.03

    This weeks mpdc, hosted by Malum, crowned petermere champion with his Boros deck.  This deck has seen a lot of play since the rotation and appears to have taken center stage among aggro deck afficianados.  Everyone has been waiting for something to be able to combat White Weenie and this style Boros deck is well built for the challenge.
   Petermere's deck can hang in there and nearly match the pure number of viable threats that WW offers, or any other aggro deck for that matter, while also carrying a full spectrum of removal the WW and other aggro decks simply can't avoid.  The lynchpin for this deck to me is a well-timed Brimstone Volley.  This gives the deck incredible reach for when a control deck starts to gain momentum and Boros may not otherwise be able to slam home those last few points of damage.
    This deck's sideboard seems intimately designed for the WW match.  Curse of the Pierced Heart puts other aggro decks on a quicker clock than they are accustomed to while Electrickery can take at least two, sometimes three or four threats off the board with one card.  Throw in some Thunderbolts for the Seraph and Cloudshift to sidestep removal and this deck is perfectly tuned to face any aggro deck.

    We haven't seen a mono blue deck place in the top 4 in quite a while, especially not such an aggro build as Souhei719's runner-up deck Cloudfin Aggro.  As the name suggests, this deck likes an opening hand with at least one Cloudfin Raptor so it can evolve every turn.  I stand by my argument that Evolve is the worst of the Gatecrash mechanics, but all of them have at least one playable spell and for Evolve Cloudfin Raptor is that one.  It's hard to waste removal on this little bugger when you know you have to get rid of some Delvers and Stitched Drakes in the near future.  Even worse, you don't want to use your removal on it and hope to draw into some more in the next few turns because the creature threats keep coming every round.  That being said, this card must be in your opening hand because it's completely useless when drawn in the mid to late rounds.
    Hands of Binding is my favorite blue spell from Gatecrash and works flawlessly in this deck because of the  pseudo-removal effects of Unsummon and Silent Departure.  Hands is what's called an engine card.  It doesn't form a combo with any other cards or card types, but sure puts a deck with a lot of removal or bounce into high gear.  The card has practically no down side.  Even if you don't get any effect from Ciphering it you've already removed a blocker and an attacker, probably an evasive flyer or big face beater, at the minimal cost of two.
    It's also worth noting that Souhei's deck runs at 1.71 CMC, basically unheard of in mono-blue which is usually known for it's crippling control.  I still think this deck has some room for tweaking however, and I wonder how it would fare running a few Cancels and my pet mono blue creature for standard-Stormbound Geist- in place of the Welkin Tern.  I'll leave that for those with adequate deck testing time though.

    Our gracious and talented host Malum placed in the top four with his unique version of White Weenie. Unique and White Weenie are normally not in the same sentence together so it's noteworthy that his build had such a successful finish.  I want to make it clear that this is not a knock against Malum or anyone else trying to pilot WW to a tournament victory.  It's consistently the most successful archetype only because Wizards consistently produces the most useable common creatures in white.  Good players willing to take advantage of that opportunity often find themselves placeing highly in tournaments, but enough of my rantings.
    What makes this deck unique is the non creature slots.  Pacifism is the only removal in a removal heavy metagame.  The deck gets a little help for it's creatures from Cloudshift and Break of Day, but using enchantments like Ethereal Armor and the highly costed Knightly Valor seems like it's asking for trouble.
    The most unique aspect of the deck however, is Malum's use of Evolving Wilds in a mono colored deck.  Unless I'm missing something, and that isn't unusual, there is no reason those shouldn't be four more Plains.  Haunted Fengraf is highly useful but still a nonbasic land which Wilds can't search for and there are no Landfall effects that would make it worth playing.  Maybe someone can enlighten me.

    I've mentioned Moromete's deck MWFHD in last week's column so I won't go too far in depth, but I do think this deck is resilient overall and is designed specifically for the current meta.  It is good against control and good against aggro but it's core weakness is it's dependence on Archaeomancer and Goblin Electromancer.  If those two creatures are not working in perfect unison this deck quickly fizzles.  On the other hand, this is a deck to watch because when it's backed up by a handful of Negates and Cancels this deck can go the distance.

SPDC 19.18

    The winner of this weeks spdc, hosted by Jamuura, is flxex's Caught Blue Handed.  It's listed as R/U but is really mono blue.  This deck is very similar to Cloudfin Aggro from this weeks mpdc, but with Frostburn Weird and a bit more counter.
   In my opinion, what puts this deck over the top is that it brings Stormbound Geist and One-Eyed Scarecrow out of the sideboard to face potent removal or WW.  The addition of 3 more Dispels  when facing other blue heavy decks can really disrupt their flicker engine or just add some back up against heavy removal.  Blue now seems to have a genuine aggro threat, which is scary because of it's ever present counter magic.  This could be an emerging archetype to watch for the rest of Return to Ravnica's turn at the top end of the standard rotation.

    Brazil's deck, Porqueira WW was runner up this this week with his proven WW build.  This creature dependent deck finds it's strength in numbers and exploits that strength by adding a couple of Glorious Charge's to its repertoire for overkill when the opponent thinks they can race.
    Safe Passage is a card usually known for it's defensive power, but used here for quite an offensive gain. By having this in hand at the end of the game, this deck can swing in mercilessly without having to worry about the backswing.  Of course it's an easily read combat trick, but it forces the opponent to block when they would otherwise let the damage through to swing for the win the next round.
    The use of Guardians of Akrasa is interesting.  This deck doesn't seem like it's going to be attacking solo very much and 0 power can often be a wasted creature slot.  Simply substituting Basilica Guards in the same slot would get a crucial 1 power creature to block and allow for consistent Extorting because who is going to remove him when there are so many other viable attackers in the skies?

    Exact clones of the same Boros deck filled out the other two T4 finishers, both decks discussed earlier.  This speaks to the strength of Boros and it's challenge to WW, which we will see battling for T4 spots for the remainder of Gatecrash.

That's a Wrap

    As a student of MtG and card design, it's often easy to predict the relevance of a certain card or mechanic in pauper, so it's hard to admit that I didn't see the success of Daring Skyjek coming.  One toughness creatures are often filler cards and Battalion is a mechanic which I first assumed was very similar to Battle Cry, but now its apparent that the Skyjek's ability offers something more than a mundane p/t boost.  Wojek Halberdiers offers an enticing Battalion ability as well that fits in perfectly in the Boros deck, but only in Boros.  Skyjek fits wonderfully into a plain WW deck, which I believe will give it stronger legs to stand on long term. Thanks to everyone who reads this column. I am always looking for constructive criticism and your input will help make this blog a valuable resource for all those involved in the standard pauper community and those looking to join.  Until next time, may you always have an opening 1 drop.


March 4- March 8

Sunday, March 10, 2013



    This week's issue may as well be titled "The Domination of pk23".  In the two tournaments pk23 had a 13-1 record in matches and possibly even more stunning, 27-5 in games.  This is pure domination. It's obviously the sign of a great deck by a great deck builder, but several other players used nearly identical decks and didn't come even close to that level of greatness.  Congratulations to pk23.  Lets take a look at the breakdown of his deck and any possible answers for it in upcoming tournaments.

MPDC 20.02

    In Monday's tournament, hosted by Malum, pk23's Esper Control was undefeated with an impressive 8-0 record, losing only two games.  One of those games was to a Boros deck, which is important, so pay attention because it will be on the test.
   To me, the strength of this deck is that it carries fourteen removal spells.  It has a great ability to dig deep for what it needs in any circumstance by using Amass the Components and Forbidden Alchemy, but you have to have something for which to dig, and those are usually removal or the ever important Seraph.  When sideboarding those digging targets become Gravepurge, Essence Scatter or perhaps Keening Apparition when facing a Boros deck.
   This deck's ability to withstand the early barrage from Boros and WW rests on the back of its heavy removal.  Normally, when faced with the decision to kill or not to kill, it is best to wait for a top tier creature so as not to waste precious removal.  Esper Control however, will almost always have plenty of removal in hand or easily dug up so the decision is an easy one: kill anything that moves.  It's vital for this deck's performance to keep the opponent's board clean early in order to build up a front line of Seraphs and Basilica Guards to begin extorting in advance of any creature threat the deck poses in late rounds.
  If there is any room for change in this deck in accordance with the upcoming meta it may be interesting to see what could be put in it's place.  Ogre Jailbreaker is a classic value card which works smoothly in a deck full of Gates like this one, but let's be honest, it's a 4/4 for 4.  Not bad, but I'd like to see how something like a Mist Raven works in this deck.  It's evasive as well as providing huge creature advantage and causing a recast of what usually turns out to be the opponent's biggest threat.  It's double blue cost may be it's downfall however, but I still believe there is a better option for a control deck like this.

   Joekewwl was runner up in this weeks mpdc with his deck Selesnya Beats and his only two match losses came to pk23.  Ranger's Guile is a critical spell in this deck as it allows the big dumb transformers to do the work they are meant for.  The problem with the Innistrad transform creatures is that despite all the sugar coating they received they are still just big vanilla creatures for the most part, susceptible to any old removal and even susceptible to themselves.
   Against decks running light removal it's easy to see why the deck flourishes.  Common Bond, Trusted Forcemage and Travel Preparations can make quick work out of most decks, even modern WW doesn't stand a chance against these massive beasts. The problems start to arise when facing decks like Esper Control(who doesn't have problems against this deck?) or something like Black Flag with tons of cheap removal.
   One answer this deck has for heavy removal is Primal Huntbeast. Throwing around a bunch of +1/+1 counters on that hexproof monster is gg in a hurry.

  In a tournament so completely dominated by one deck I believe there is one more deck worth mentioning and that is Avalon's Boros 2.0.  What Boros did for standard pauper was to basically enable it to compete with or substitute for WW.  Quick creatures like Skyknight Legionnaire and Wojek Halberdiers allowed red to get in on White Weenie's action and add some great cards like Martial Glory and Madcap Skills to the already potent classic WW lineup.  There is more to talk about with this style of deck later on, but there is no doubt if anything can take down Esper Control it is lightning-fast, unabated aggro and this could be the archetype for that deck.

SPDC 19.17

    As mentioned, pk23's Esper Control  took top honors in this week's spdc hosted by jamuraa.  There is not much else I have to say on this deck as it is the identical list used in mpdc.  It did however, play against a slightly different meta game, which is of note, so let's get to it.

   Petermere's Boros Beta was runner up this week, losing only to pk23.  At first glance these two decks may seem polar opposites but look closer.  What do they both have in common? What is the backbone of both of these decks?  If you said massive removal you passed the test.  Please allow 7-10 business days for delivery of your cookie.
   This deck is almost as fast as current WW but with much more control over it's opponents because of the removal.  Every main board non creature in this deck is removal, or not if you don't need it, thank you Bonds of Faith .  It can't compete with Esper Control though Cloudshift and Curse of the Pierced Heart help.  I love the inclusion of four Curses, but I have a love/hate relationship with this card.  In my experience it takes at least two on the board in the first five turns to make it worth including.  That isn't something that tends to happen often enough for my liking, but as a sideboard option it works well to speed up the tempo against control.
    Another card in this deck I'm not sure the jury is out on yet is Daring Skyjek.  In WW it's perfect, but in Boros I think I'd rather have Wojek Halberdiers. A 3/1 flyer when Battalion is triggered isn't always that great while a 3/2 first strike is almost always getting through or at least acting as a lightning rod, meaning that's one less removal that can be used on another top tier creature.

   Moromete's top four deck MWFHD was the only deck to beat pk23 in a match in either tournament this week.  It is a deck specifically designed for the long haul, which is why it succumbed to Boros Beta .
    Ghostly Flicker is the all-star of this deck, with its ability to bounce almost all of the deck's creatures back to hand for recasting to positive effect.  Goblin Electromancer is, of course the perennial stud of the deck in terms of creatures and it's a good thing he's got some Negates to back him up.
   However, as I mentioned this deck is somewhat slow off the ground and weak on the defense so aggro decks will generally have an easy time against it, as evidenced by the fact that it lost to the only aggro deck it faced in the tournament.  Though this is a noteworthy deck because those looking to end pk's tyrannical reign of terror may want to consider tweaking this deck to get off and running faster.

Thoughts on the Meta

    Looking ahead to next week and beyond, it seems that if one could get around the massive amounts of removal appearing in the top decks, one would have a slight advantage.  The question is: would it be worth card slots to include anti-removal?
    Cards like Undying Evil, Cloudshift and to a lesser extent Shielded Passage help in this regard(Orzhov anyone?), but including these cards instead of removal of your own could end up being a liability.  It should be interesting to watch the battle of aggro vs. control play out over the next few weeks because at this point I  can see either strategy, if done well, overpower the other.
    I think it's safe to say that most people interested in the evaluation of pauper saw that Extort would be the dominant mechanic to come out of Gatecrash and that Evolve would be basically useless.  The only surprise to me is that Basilica Guards has topped Basilica Screecher. As an evasive creature getting out a turn earlier than Basilica Guards that could also attack, I was sure the bat would be a mainstay by this point.  I admit that I overlooked the ground-clogging importance of Basilica Guards and most importantly the prevalence of white creatures over black creatures.
   In any event, it should be fun to watch the meta game of standard pauper become solidified in the next few weeks so keep tweaking those decks and may the shuffler be with you.



Feb 25- Mar 1

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Redefining the Meta

    Drafters have had some time to accumulate a ton of extras and the Gatecrash commons have had some time to come down in price, infusing the market and reforming the meta-game of standard pauper.  This past week Boros has found some new life using cards like Daring Skyjek and Skyknight Legionnaire.  Extort has been throwing its weight around with Basilica Guards and Basilica Screecher and Devour Flesh may soon be finding it's way into more decks.  I will be discussing these cards and the decks in which they appear, as well as all of the weeks top decks below.

MPDC 20.01

    This week's MPDC, hosted by Malum, featured pk23's ultra control deck- Esper Control.  This deck uses plenty of quality black removal like Victim of Night, Murder and Devour Flesh to keep the opponent's board clean while it slowly gains massive card advantage with Amass the Components and Forbidden Alchemy. All the while it extorts with Basilica Guards using leftover mana to continually force life totals further and further apart despite the lack of an aggressive attack. Once Seraph of Dawn and Ogre Jailbreaker are on the loose its usually time to scoop.  The sideboard allows for a great defense as well, utilizing some counter magic to protect its few valuable creature assets.

       One card in this deck that may get overlooked at first is Prophetic Prism.  Not only is this a critical card for any deck with more than two colors, but I believe it's also foreshadowing what will come for the rest of the time the card is standard legal.  The last time Prophetic Prism was in standard we saw three and four color control decks eventually dominate the meta game.  With so much multi-color madness floating around for the next year and a half I see no reason why things should be any different.

    Adner is still kicking around the Black Flag deck and why not?  He's placed very well with it in the past several weeks and it continues to be a solid aggro deck with more reach than most aggro decks are able to achieve.  Extorting adds new depth to the deck with Basilica Screecher and Stab Wound is the perfect spell to counteract Seraph of Dawn.  With a full compliment of removal to clear the board Duty-Bound Dead really speeds up the game for the evasive creatures like Tormented Soul and Highborn Ghoul.

  Boros got a boost this week with PROboszcz's deck- Boros Ready for Action.  Skyknight Legionnaire is the MVP of this deck because it allows Daring Skyjek and Wojek Halberdiers to Battalion a turn sooner than expected, although this won't be a surprise for very long and there is a plethora of simple removal to blow out this decks Battalion swing by taking out the Skyjek and blocking the Wojek, now without the critical first strike he was hoping to have.

    Izzet Delver is still hanging around and this week Puritymhz took his version to the top four. Goblin Electromancer is still the enabler of this deck but Stitched Drake is a behemoth in the air that rears his head early in a format with such quick removal.  It's not uncommon to get him out on turn three, making the
opponent wish he hadn't blasted that Goblin so soon.

   Purity's version has a couple unorthodox additions I'd like to discuss. Hands of Binding is most likely the only quality Cipher card in pauper and put to good use in this deck.  Plenty of removal and control means that this deck isn't afraid of that pesky Seraph or other threats that it otherwise might be forced to topdeck to deal with.

   Curse of the Pierced Heart is a card we saw a lot of when Innistrad was at the top of the rotation in standard, but usually in aggro decks.  Being able to side four of them in to this deck means that some serious damage can be ripped off while positioning for board control.  In essence, it acts like another version of extort, allowing a control deck to keep pace with aggro opponents while it sets itself up.  Using the Curse against heavy removal decks allows it to sneak in some damage even without creatures on the board.

SPDC 19.16

    This week's SPDC, hosted by Jamuraa, was dominated by white mana symbols.  All of the top four decks used white extensively and 78% of reported decks used the color.  First place goes to Panamimed and his Boros Aggro deck.  He lost only one match, in the first round to pk23's Esper Control.

    War Falcon slots perfectly into this deck with so many Knights and Soldiers and adds some punch in the air after clearing the opponents Seraphs with Pacifism or Thunderbolt.  A couple cards in this deck do double duty: Splatter Thug and Bonds of Faith.  Splatter Thug is one of the only Unleash creatures that you don't always want to get maximum value from by unleashing.  A 2/2 first strike that can defend can often times be a game saver, but having the option to bash face for three each round without worrying that an opponent will throw a chump blocker out brings a smile to any aggro lovers face.

    Bonds of Faith is one of those special spells that always finds a way to give value.  If the opponent has no enchantment removal or is just low on general creature removal it works wonders on any of this deck's Humans.  If you need to get rid of a game changing threat, even if it's just an Avacynian Priest, this will do the job as good as anything.

    One card I'm not sure about is Mugging.  Sure, Shock is great and always has been.  Using this card to push aside a blocker is great too, but not generally worth a card.  We can all think of dream scenarios where this wins the game, but I wonder if this card isn't going in two different directions where one doesn't serve the other.  Perhaps its value is in its ability to at least have some effect in any aggro strategy.  If nothing else most aggro decks will take a Shock without hesitation.

    Obernoob took his GW Aggro deck to a 5-2 finish and second place in the tournament. Centaur Healer did great work as always and Seraph of Dawn is a must in lifegain strategy to hold the fort while the deck tries to gain card and creature advantage.  The most interesting aspect of the deck, however, is the splashing of both red and blue. Amass the Components is a great idea for this deck to help find that mana ramp when it's not showing up on its own and Electrickery out of the sideboard really helps against all the one toughness creatures showing up in black and white.  I only wonder if Prophetic Prism would make a positive impact in this deck.

    Aladar earned top four honors with his WW deck. This one had some variations, mainly in the sideboard, but most notably with the addition of Daring Skyjek.  This may be the only deck that the Skyjek fits into properly.  It takes a lot of evasive, attacking creatures to make him work and that's exactly what WW does best.  Let's not forget that even when he's outlived his usefulness he can still take out a decent sized enemy when used as a chump blocker.

    In the sideboard, Divine Verdict adds some often needed, albeit expensive removal.  Safe Passage is a card that doesn't make very many appearances and rightfully so, but in a close game being able to go all in without worrying about giving anything up on the backswing is a huge help.

    Garlan used a heavy extort tactic to get into the top four this week with his deck, Orzhov.  Mostly Extort and removal, it's a simple tactic that allows the big boys- Seraph, Ogre Jailbreaker and Bloodhunter Bat, to take over in the middle to late rounds.  Sign in Blood gives the deck some reach and Stab Wound quickens the aggro effect and stifles another Seraph or any other big-butt creature that escapes the removal.


    Aggro is still a large part of the current strategy and it looks like Boros might be picking up steam in the coming weeks, but I expect three and four color control decks to start making an impact soon.  There is a lot of good draw and removal in a multitude of colors.  Not only that, there are plenty of ways to find the right color mana with Evolving Wilds and Prophetic Prism out there along with all the Guildgates.  We should see more Gatecrash commons making appearances, if only shortlived ones while we figure out which ones are impactful and which are just duds.  Happy deck building and may the shuffler be with you.