Thursday, December 31, 2015

Double Elimination Finals

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Finals for the Standard Pauper Double League ended up going to three matches, which is something that I believed was possible in a Double Elimination format. However, it has come to my attention that my understanding of how this played out is not typical. So I thought I would take some time to post about how this particular variation works, and then use it to get some feedback from the players in Phase Two to make sure everyone is on the same page.

So, most of you are familiar with how Double Elimination tournaments work. Quite simply, you play until you've lost two matches, and then you're eliminated. At your first loss, you move to the so-called "loser's bracket," where you only play against other people who have lost a game. Meanwhile, those without a loss continue to play in the "winner's bracket," until both brackets have played out. Then, the two surviving players are paired against one another in the finals.

Typically, since the remaining player in the winner's bracket has not lost a match, he or she is not immediately eliminated if they lose the finals match, since that is their first loss. Instead, in that case, both players must play out a second match to determine who is the winner. And here is where the confusion or discrepancy came from.

The final match can play out in three different scenarios. First, the player from the winner's bracket (henceforth abbreviated W) wins the match; in that case, the finals is over, and W is the winner. Second, the player from the loser's bracket (abbreviated L) wins the match; in that case, since that is W's first loss, W and L play out a second match. If L wins that second match, then the finals is over, and L is the winner. So far, nothing controversial here. This is exactly how I understand the rules to work.

But it is in the third scenario where the confusion arises. In this case, L wins the first match, and thus W and L play in a second match. This time, W is the winner of that match. So what happens next? On the one hand, L now has two losses, and thus some would argue that the finals is over and W is the winner. On the other hand, both W and L have won a match during the finals, resulting in somewhat of a tie.

This third scenario is exactly what happened in the match between ZombieNeko and tikimunkee. Once both players had won a match in the finals (with tikimunkee winning the first and ZombieNeko winning the second), I asked them to play out a third match to determine the winner. For whatever it is worth, this is the way that Double Elimination tournaments have worked in the past for MPDC, even before I was the host. I believed at the time that this was normal practice.

Also, for whatever it is worth, this does NOT take away the advantage that the player in the winner's bracket should have. Remember, if W wins the initial match, then the finals is over. L still has to win two matches in order to be the winner. The only difference is that if W drops the first game, then W has to win the next two matches to become the champion.

So here's the question: in the third scenario (W loses the first match but wins the second), with both players having won a match during the finals, is the finals over with W getting the win. Or should the players have to play one final match to determine the winner? While I think this variant is better, I recognize now that it is not as widely used as I thought.

While you're welcome to voice your opinion below, I will be asking all of the players in Phase Two of the Double League to E-mail me back and let me know which way they would prefer. Thanks so much, and sorry for the lengthy post.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Jund Allies

Phase One of the Standard Pauper Double League wrapped up yesterday, with ZombieNeko's Jund Allies deck being crowned the winner. The final match actually went to a 'best-of-three' matches, with both players dropping a match before ZombieNeko came from behind to take 1st place. I was able to record all three matches, and I am working on a article for PureMTGO with full decklists and commentary on the match. But for today, I thought I would offer a quick preview of the winning decklist:


When I first previewed the Allies from Battle for Zendikar, I was pretty skeptical that there was enough power level to make a dedicated Allies build work. But in this case I am glad to be proven wrong, although technically the Allies is only a small part of what makes this deck work. Tajuru Stalwart in a three color deck is an excellent 3/4 for 3, while the combination of Kalastria Healer and Kalastria Nightwatch makes the latter a very powerful card. The deck also benefits from the excellent Elvish Visionary, the late game value of Valakut Invoker, and the best of the new Landfall creatures in Valakut Predator. The deck also has just enough card draw, combat tricks, and removal to help clear the way when need be or survive against early game aggression.

Have you played with or against this deck? If so, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, don't forget that I am seeking feedback on what topics YOU would like to see me write about in the upcoming year. Please let me know by commenting on the linked post. Thanks so much!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Blogging Moving Forward

So this post is several days late. I apologize, but as I mentioned previously, travel and my holiday schedule is making it difficult to get these done in a timely fashion. I should have been  more proactive about scheduling so as to avoid this issue. Speaking of which...

As we approach the end of another year, I find myself rethinking how I want to use this blog space moving forward. Rest assured that despite all the turmoil that Standard Pauper has gone through over the past few months, I certainly intend to continue writing about the format, especially as new cards come into Standard.

But beyond that, I am curious as to what my readership would enjoy reading about. In the past, I've covered everything from fantasy authors to espresso to board games to writing tools. I know from the feedback I've received that many of you have enjoyed my looks at other video games, and that is certainly something I will continue to promote. However, I would love to hear what else you would enjoy reading about.

Specifically...
  1. What have been some of your favorite posts or topics outside of Magic?
  2. Do you prefer shorter or longer posts?
  3. How often do you prefer to see content on Standard Pauper vs. other topics?
  4. Would you enjoy seeing guest posts from other bloggers?
Please take some time and share your thoughts in the comments below. I've done my best to remove most of the restrictions on comments to allow as many of you as possible to share. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Medieval Demographics Made Easy

I'm going to be traveling for Christmas and New Years, so my blog posts may be a bit sporadic over the next couple weeks. Rest assured I will do what I can to get two posts in each week, but the timing may not be as consistent as normal. Sorry about that.
 
Between my halting endeavors at writing fantasy and my resurgent involvement in Dungeons and Dragons, I am always on the lookout for helpful resources when it comes to world-building. Today I want to highlight one such resource - an article entitled "Medieval Demographics Made Easy," written by one S. John Ross. In this article, Ross looks at real world examples of medieval demographics and then uses those examples to extrapolate what an pseudo-European fantasy setting might look like.

The articles examines several key factors for world-building:
  1. Population Density - in other words, how many people (on average) live within a square mile of the kingdom in question. 
  2. Population of the Cities, Towns, and Villages - in other words, given that population density, how many cities, towns, and villages would be expected, and what would the population of those settlements be.
  3. Merchants and Services - in other words, given the population of a particular settlement, what kinds of goods and services would be available there. After some general guidelines, the article looks in more details about agriculture, castles, law enforcement, institutions of higher learning, and livestock.
Not only does Ross provide all this information is a condensed yet easy-to-read format, but he even includes some dice rolls to bring some random numbers to these otherwise mundane calculations, making it feel all the more like something you'd find in a roleplaying rule book. He also includes a bibliography and some other resources for those who would like to delve deeper into the subject.

So next time you've got some questions about what medieval demographics might look like, you've got an easy resource at your fingertips!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Deck Flashback: Kuldotha Hawk, Take Two

Earlier this week, Jacob Wilson of ChannelFireball posted a decklist and videocast of a Classic Pauper deck he ran through a recent Pauper League he entitled Pauper Jeskai. Its built around a card advantage engine of recurring artifacts that draw you a card through Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk in order to power out a massive suite of burn spells. It also utilizes several White staples from the original Zendikar block, including Journey to Nowhere, Kor Sanctifiers, and Lone Missionary, along with a splash for the perennial most-powerful Common, Mulldrifter. Here's the full decklist, in case you're curious:


Interestingly enough, the deck is highly reminiscent of one of my favorite Standard Pauper decks from long ago, a build known as Metalhawk, that relied on many of the same synergies and strategies for its own victory plan. Just look at the similarities!


Given how absurdly high the power level is in Classic Pauper in comparison to Standard Pauper, it's great to see these cards seeing play in tournament-level Pauper. If you're interested in what makes the Standard Pauper version work, check out this old video of mine below:


Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Future with Azorius

I've been fairly ill this week, which is why I not only missed my Tuesday post but was absent entirely from MPDC as well. I'm slowly getting back on my feet, and I should have another post Saturday to make up for the one I missed on Tuesday. Thanks for your patience!

A couple weeks ago, I was discussing the dominance of the Izzet Control archetype in Standard Pauper right now and examining whether or not Azorius might have the right tools to combat it. After that post, I spent some time experimenting with a very aggressive build that relied on powerful 2-drops and a great deal of spot removal to try and put a lot of early pressure on Izzet Control. And while the build seemed to have promise, ultimately it wasn't proving to be very effective. So I went back to the drawing board, and starting looking at ways to delay and sidestep Izzet's plan through effects that tap down creatures rather than removing them. This lead to playing quite a few more spells, which pushed the deck more towards the midrange and made Prowess creatures particularly attractive. Here's where I ended up:


These five creatures represent some of the stronger ones in Azorius colors, play well with spells, and have the added benefit of being immune to Twin  Bolt and other 2 point damage spells. The deck can also sift through its library very quickly thanks to Anticipate and Treasure Cruise, all the while casting plenty of spells to keep fuel for Delve. Send to Sleep has proven to be quite strong as long as you have Spell Mastery active, and this deck also finally gives Skyline Cascade a chance to shine. It's quite capable of locking down the worst creatures for two or three turns in a row, giving you plenty of time to power through with your Prowess-enabled creatures for the win.

Thus far I've had great success with this build against Izzet Control specifically. I also had three very close games against the sacrifice-themed Rakdos deck that is seeing more play. I wouldn't say I'm totally satisfied with this build, but I'm certainly pleased so far.

What changes or additions would you make? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Collaborative Story-First Character Creation Results

A couple weeks back, I wrote about a character creation process for D&D 5th edition that I adapted from the Fate Core System. Essentially, this was a "story-first" approach where each character creates their own background and first adventure, and then each other character assigns themselves a role in two of the other character's adventurers, immediately creating a sense of connection and camaraderie among the party.

So I went through this process with a group of my college buddies, none of whom have ever played Dungeons and Dragons before (although they are all very familiar with the fantasy genre in general). Between the creative free-writing assignments for their backstory, first adventure, and secondary role in two other adventurers, as well as the actual process of rolling up the stats for the characters, it took us almost four hours, which is a long time for a session dedicated to character creation. But as my design document states, this is a highly collaborative form of group storytelling, and it should come as no surprise that it took us a whole play session to complete.

We ended up with four separate backgrounds (one for each character), plus three tales that were the result of their collaborative storytelling. If you're interested in seeing the results, feel free to check them out here. But overall I was very happy with the process. I've got several great threads that tie the characters together, the potential for some very interesting interactions between the players, and several hooks that will tie into the story that my players are already telling. While it's a lengthy process, it's one that I highly recommend you try. If you're interested, you can download my detailed description of the process here.

This group will be meeting next Friday night, so in a few weeks I'll be sure and recount the highlights of this experience. I'm certainly looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Standard Pauper Double League Update

As of yesterday, the Swiss rounds of Phase 1 of the Standard Pauper Double League are complete! Congratulations to our first round of finalists - tikimunkee, Malum, Nate316, bava, mattp81, iniksbane, Uluruguru, and ZombieNeko. These players will now compete in an eight player Double Elimination bracket until only one player is left standing! If you want to keep up with how these players are doing, just check the Top 8 Double Elimination Phase One bracket, which I will update frequently.

For all of the other players in this event, Phase 2 of this league will start first thing tomorrow Eastern Standard time. Phase 2 is also open to anyone else who would like to play. Just make sure you send an E-mail to gwyned at gmail dot com by the end of the day today (Tuesday, December 8th, 2015). If I don't hear from you by the end of today, you will NOT be part of Phase 2, so don't delay! I will send out an official E-mail tomorrow morning once the pairings for Round 1 of Phase 2 are available.

I've had a couple frequent questions come up that I thought I would address here:
  1. What are the prizes? When will they be distributed? You can view the prize payout here. Prizes will not be distributed until the end of Phase 2 of the league.
  2. What happens if I'm unable to reach my opponent or play my match by the deadline? It is each player's responsibility to make sure your match gets played. If your match is not complete by first thing Monday morning each week, and you have not E-mailed me, you will immediately receive a match loss and be dropped from the event.

    If both players have E-mailed me but have been unable to play their match, I will handle that on a case-by-case basis. But in that situation, I reserve the right to still drop one or both players. Get your matches played out on time!
  3. Is the league Swiss rounds or Double Elimination? I'm so confused... Both phases of the event are played out separately. Each one consists of five rounds of Swiss play, then a cut to Top 8. Those Top 8 players will then battle in a Double Elimination format tournament to determine the final ranking for prizes.

    Furthermore, once both phases are completed, the 1st place player from both phases will battle in a best-of-five match to determine who is the Grand Champion of the Double League!
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at the above address. And keep an eye on my Twitter account for the latest updates. Good luck and thanks for playing!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Azorius Against Izzet

So for the last week or so I've been looking at the success of the Izzet Control / Prowess deck in the current Standard Pauper metagame and discussing possible avenues of attack against it. During this week's MPDC, several of the players were discussing the possibility of using an Azorius archetype to try to combat the Izzet menace. It turns out that Izzet is particularly vulnerable to a combination of removal, bounce, and discard, and while that last one may be out of reach, Azorius has some excellent tools for the other two, and furthermore has the ability to generate some great early pressure to help keep the game from going long (which generally works in Izzet's favor). So what cards would be good in such a build?
  1. First, White has some excellent targeted removal right now. Cards like Gideon's Reproach, Kill Shot, or even Sheer Drop are certainly worth consideration. Even better, between White and Blue you have three enchantment based removal spells in Claustrophobia, Pacifism, and Tightening Coils, which also keep the affected creatures from filling up the graveyard for Delve.
  2. Second, Blue gives you access to all manner of good bounce spells. While Disperse may have been the card of choice at one point, Clutch of Currents has also proven to be quite strong, despite being only Sorcery speed. Another popular choice right now is Whisk Away, which denies your opponent their next draw while getting the creature out of play for a round. Alternatively, locking down a creature with something like Crippling Chill can play a similar role fairly effectively.
  3. Third, White has some excellent two and three drop creatures that can generate a lot of pressure in the early game to help keep Izzet off its game plan. Obvious examples include Cleric of the Forward Order, Mardu Hordechief, Sandsteppe Outcast, and Topan Freeblade. Cards such as Alabaster Kirin, Lotus Path Djinn, Separatist Voidmage, or even Student of Ojutai might also warrant inclusion.
  4. Finally, Blue also gives you the ability to stretch the game out into the midgame. You can take a play out of Izzet's own strategy with spells like Anticipate and the excellent Treasure Cruise, or even bring in a little bit of countermagic such as Negate or Dispel post board to help shore up any weaknesses. 
I've played around with a few Azorius builds, but I don't feel like I've found the right combination of cards yet. If you've got some ideas or experience with such a build, I'd love to hear them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Responding to Izzet

Last time, I wrote about how the various Izzet decks have come to dominate the Standard Pauper metagame as of late, and lamenting the fact that they are not only strong decks, but also being played by a lot of different players.

My post generated more comments than most, including some great strategy on how to combat the Izzet menace. But since I know that a lot of my readers might have missed the discussion, I thought it was worth repeating some of the advice that was given.

  1. Don't assume they always have the answers. Izzet is so strong that when they have the perfect hand, you're probably not going to beat them anyway. Sometimes you just have to play as if they don't have the counter to what you're about to do and thus go for the decisive strike, rather than waiting for a better opportunity.
  2. Defensive creatures aren't a good answer. Between the pump effect of Prowess and Elusive Spellfist being unblockable, holding your creatures back to block is generally not going to be good enough to beat them.
  3. You won't often be able to win the long game. Thanks to Treasure Cruise, Tormenting Voice, and (to a lesser extent) Anticipate, Izzet can generate a ton of card advantage. Given enough time, they'll be able to assemble a winning combination. Most of the time, you'll want to finish them off before they get to their late game.
  4. The best answers are bounce, removal, and discard. Get cards out of their hand, take out their creatures, and bounce them back into their hand after they've generated multiple Prowess triggers. Enchantment-based removal like Pacifism or Tightening Coils are great in that they ignore Toughness and don't fill up their graveyard for Delve.
Special thanks to rremedio, Forli, and David Kot for their comments and tips!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Izzet Overwhelming?

As I was pushing through my post-Thanksgiving sleepiness and pondering what to write about for my post for today, I decided to go browse the stats over at the Standard Pauper Mirror, a handy app I've mentioned before run by rremedio1 that compiles data from both of the weekly Standard Pauper PREs. As of this writing, it doesn't include the results from earlier this week, but it's still a very useful snapshot of what's going on in the Standard Pauper metagame right now.

As I was analyzing the data, two interesting facts stood out to me:
  1. There is a surprising difference in the metagame between the Sunday and Monday PREs. This is most clearly illustrated in the case of the Rakdos Delve deck, which by the numbers is the most popular choice of decks right now. Yet despite putting up some strong finishes, it is seeing almost no play in MPDC.
  2. More importantly, Izzet in its various iterations is posting some incredible numbers, with a match win rate somewhere between 60-70% when you average it out between the most popular versions. Rakdos may be the most popular deck, but Izzet is by and large the runaway powerhouse of the format right now. Earlier this week I complained a bit on Twitter about the fact that I literally have not played against any other archetype in the past two weeks, both in my matches for the Standard Pauper Double League and during MPDC.
So for all you players out there with experience with Rakdos Delve, tell me this: does it have a good matchup against Izzet Control? If so, maybe that's would explain why it's so popular.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fate Core Character Creation

I am in the process of preparing a new Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition campaign for some of my college buddies, and wanted to do something special when it came to character creation. So I spent some time with my friend Google looking for some group character creation guidelines. In the process, I came across a Character Creation ruleset that is part of the Fate Core System, a  ruleset perhaps best known for being the engine that drives the Dresden Files RPG. After perusing the rules, I was quite impressed with how they helped players not only create interesting and unique characters, but also guided them through the process of linking those characters' stories to one another. Here's a quick summary of how that works:
  1. Each player comes up with a high concept and a trouble. The high concept is essentially a short phrase that stands in for the typical race and class in fantasy RPGs, while the trouble is something in that character's background or personality that consistently keeps him or her from living out this calling.
  2. Each player then comes up with a character background. This background includes their upbringing, an event that forced the character into his or her high concept, and that character's first adventure. Each of these steps turns into a short paragraph, and the first adventure is recorded on a separate index card.
  3. Each player then comes up with a secondary role in another character's background. The players pass around the index card with their first adventure summary to another player, and that player then connects their own character to that adventure in some sort of supporting or secondary role.
  4. Each player then passes the index card again, repeating the previous step. Afterwards, each character is organically connected to two other members of the group.
  5. Each player finalizes the rest of the details about their character. Only once these elements are complete does the player pick out the relevant stats and abilities of their character, based on the stories that have already been crafted.
I love the way that this makes characters that are primarily story-driven, rather than rules-driven. It also instantly creates camaraderie and connections among the group. So, with the above summary in hand, I incorporated those concepts into the standard character creation process for D&D 5th edition, and came up with an awesome first session to play out with my friends. If you're interested in my final document, let me know and I'd be happy to share it with you.

So what do you think?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Long Odds...

Today I sent the following E-mail to Mark Rosewater. Figured, what have I got to lose?

Mark,

I figure my odds of you actually reading this are pretty slim. Nonetheless, here goes nothing:

I don't know if you're aware, but Magic Online recently killed a very fun format known as Standard Pauper. As you'd expect, it's identical to Standard, but using only Commons. There's a big online community that supports it, with free events every week that award prizes donated by online vendors.

It's mostly supported by people who love Magic but don't have the finances to compete in the sanctioned formats. Yet it's competitive, lots of fun, with a rich metagame. And if the hallmark of any set is its Commons, then it's also one of the quintessential ways to experience this great game.

I'm not expecting you to design or develop for it or anything like that. But I do want you to know that the format exists, and its existence was one of the great aspects of Magic Online. You should try it sometime with your team. I think you might be surprised by just how fun and accessible it is. And who knows? Maybe if it's something you and your team enjoy internally, the format might someday return to Magic Online.

If you're still reading this, thank you. Thanks for all you do to contribute to the Magic community. Thanks for all your efforts in keeping Magic going. Keep up the good work.

George

PS - I blog and publish articles on Standard Pauper regularly. My blog is writeradept.blogspot.com, and I publish under the username gwyned at PureMTGO.com (where Ryan Spain used to publish his articles before he was hired).

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kingdom

Yup, I am at it again.

As I've mentioned in the past, I certainly have a thing for indie games, particular ones that evoke a retro or old-school kind of vibe. It's almost to the point where I can log into Steam, search for indie games, and find something within a handful of minutes that I will probably like. At least this time, it's not in Early Release...

My latest find is a game known simply as Kingdom. Kingdom is a side-scrolling strategy game where you are tasked as the monarch of a new kingdom to establish a new outpost in the wilderness and fend off the increasing hordes of monsters that descend upon your fledgling civilization each night. But what sets this game apart from all others is the shocking simplicity of the gameplay. Your nameless sovereign literally can only do three things: ride his/her steed at a walk, ride at a run, or drop coins. Using only these three options, you must build a settlement, raise walls and guard towers, recruit and equip an army, fend off horrifying monsters, and somehow put an end to the monsters' once and for all. Fail to hold back the monsters, and eventually they will steal your sovereign's crown. And no crown means no kingdom; in other words, game over.

To accomplish all of this, you have a single resource at your disposal: gold. As the game opens, you find a couple handfuls of coins lying around, which you automatically pick up and drop into your coin purse (which is visually represented in the upper-left corner). Money can be acquired from a few different sources: taxes, which you receive on each new day; directly from the corpses of woodland creatures (but not, sadly, from monsters); crops, which are paid for by your farmer as they grow them; and the rare treasure chest found in the wilderness.

I hesitate to say more; in fact, I've already probably said too much, because at its heart Kingdom is about figuring out what you're supposed to do, then figuring out how to do it more efficiently, and then finally figuring out how to actually beat the game. The introduction gives you just enough instruction to get you started, then leaves you to figure out the rest on your own. And this is definitely one of those games that once you figure everything out, most of the challenge is gone.

The production values are good, with a beautiful pixel-art style, haunting music, and decent sound effects that all seem to fit well with the game's simplistic approach. You also have the ability to change the skin tone and gender of your sovereign at the game's start (although you'll have to discover exactly how on your own), or you can keep the randomly assigned characteristics you start with.

Intrigued? It's only $9.99 on Steam, so it's hard to beat that price. So check out the video below, and get your hands on Kingdom. I'm pretty sure you'll like it - I certainly do!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The End of an Era

Many longtime users of Magic Online look back on previous iterations of the program with nostalgia, remembering the way things used to be before a decision by Wizards of the Coast changed things, often for the worse. Sadly, I now completely understand what that feels like. As of yesterday, the Standard Pauper filter is officially gone from Magic Online, bringing an end to an important era for the format.

On August 29, 2012, about a year after Standard Pauper enthusiast joekewwl visited Wizards of the Coast as part of the 2011 Community Cup team, it was officially announced that Standard Pauper was now available as an official format on Magic Online. Although it did not include any sanctioned events, for the first time Magic Online players could easily find an opponent in the casual room who was guaranteed to be playing the same format. But as of yesterday, November 11, 2015, all that has come to an end.

So where do we go from here? How can we continue to support this great format?
  • Whenever you are online, join the #StandardPauper channel. Going forward, this will be the most reliable way to find opponents to play against.
  • For Standard Pauper matches, just label your table as the Standard format, with an entry in the Comments field that it is a Standard Pauper game. As long as no Commons are banned in Standard (an event which would be a major failure for design and development), this will be the closest card legality match.
  • You might also consider joining the Standard Pauper Players Clan as another way to easily find opponents and discuss the metagame with other players. PM me in the client and let me know if you want to join.
  • Continue to let Wizards of the Coast hear your disappointment. Don't let the issue go away. Make your voice heard via Email, social media, and whatever other avenues are available to you. Take the Magic Online survey and don't mince words. Lee Sharpe in particular should hear from us regularly.
  • Finally, participate regularly in the weekly Standard Pauper events. These numbers matter!
 I can think of no better way to conclude this than the image that was used in last week's Diaries of the Apocalypse when faced with the elimination of their own Tribal Wars format:


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

BW Warriors

Last time, I discussed the current state of the Standard Pauper metagame now that the full effects of the rotation of Standard and the release of Battle for Zendikar have worked their way into the format. I mentioned how four particular archetypes - Izzet Tempo, UB Control, Rakdos Aggro, and RG Landfall - have earned the top spots in the format. But I also mentioned that there is one other archetype that hasn't gotten as much attention, but is proving to be quite strong. And that's exactly the deck I piloted to a Top 8 finish in yesterday's MPDC 31.03. Let's take a look at the list:


My list is adapted from the original pilot of the archetype KyranOHyran, who earned the 2nd place spot in last week's MPDC with it. I made a few modifications from that list, mostly to add card draw and removal to push the deck more towards a mid-range strategy. Essentially, the deck relies upon creating a strong early game presence with lots of creatures, keeps its Life total high with some incidental lifegain, then powers through for a quick victory on the back of an evasive Kalastria Nightwatch or Rush of Battle, the latter of which synergizes with almost all of the creatures in the list. It's quite capable of stalling out against early aggression, or overwhelming a more controlling build, or simply winning out of nowhere with Rush of Battle (or just gaining a ton of Life in the process). The flexibility is one of the reasons why I thought the deck would perform well, and on the whole it didn't disappoint.

If you've played with or against this archetype, I'd love to hear what you thought of the deck. Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Bonus: First They Came

Presented without further comments, courtesy of Tolarian Community on Twitter (and read from bottom to top):


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Battle for Zendikar Metagame Update

Despite all the discussion and angst surrounding the looming removal of the Standard Pauper filter, I am happy to report that the format is as strong as ever. With the release of Battle for Zendikar, we've moved into an entirely new metagame, and thus far it's proven to be quite interesting and diverse.

Standard Pauper enthusiast Cabel has recently created threads devoted to four of the major archetypes to emerge in this new metagame - Izzet Tempo, UB Control, Rakdos Aggro, and RG Landfall. Three of these archetypes -  Izzet Tempo, UB Control, and Rakdos Aggro - have all earned 1st place trophies since the season began, while RG Landfall most recently made Top 4. And thanks to some nifty programming magic by rremedio1, you can use his new app called the Standard Pauper Tracker to view compiled results of these decks from recent events as well as variations within the archetype. If you're participating in the Standard Pauper Double League or either of the weekly Standard Pauper events, this is valuable information you should be utilizing to maximize your chances of success!

Finally, a new archetype seems to be emerging, with a strong finish in the last MPDC as well as defeating me in my weekly league match. But I'll be writing more about that next time...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Responding to the Rationale Behind the Removal of Standard Pauper

So in case you missed it, Robert Schuster posted a response on the official Magic Online Tumblr page regarding the decision to remove several casual formats from Magic Online. Today I wanted to post some quick thoughts about how I would respond to the line of arguments he develops. Feel free to use them in your own discussions. 

Furthermore, I will also be using this as an outline for an upcoming PureMTGO article on the topic. More on that soon.

Wizards has advanced five claims about why removing Standard Pauper is good for Magic Online. Here's how I respond to those claims.

Claim #1: Represents less than one percent of play on Magic Online.
Response: You get what you support. If a format isn’t sanctioned, is it any surprise that the vast majority of users don’t play it? Additionally, the format is an on-ramp for new players to transition into mainline formats, steadily feeding new players into them, As a result, these players eventually stop playing Standard Pauper in favor of other formats.

Claim #2: Fragments the player base.
Response: If only a small number of players are playing it, it clearly isn’t fragmenting the player base. Instead, removing the filter only disenfranchises the existing player base.

Claim #3: Players will wait too long to find a match in the format.
Response: Taking away the filter only guarantees that people who want to play in the format will actually have to wait LONGER to find a match.

Claim #4: Can’t afford to take the time to playtest and develop cards for the format.
Response: If the format isn’t sanctioned, and is based on Standard, there is no need for additional playtesting or development.

Claim #5: Frees up development time by...

a) not needing to test card interactions in the format.
Response: Standard Pauper has ZERO additional card interactions that aren’t already tested for, since all new cards in a set are automatically tested against the Standard format environment.
                        
b) not needing to maintain legality lists.
Response: Standard Pauper has an identical legality list as Standard, except that it also excludes non-Commons. This should be trivial to program.

While some of these arguments might be valid for some of the other casual formats, they simply don't hold for Standard Pauper. And, for reasons I've stated previously, the argument could be made that removing it as an official format will, especially in the long run, do more harm than good.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast

On Tuesday, social media exploded after the announcement was made that Wizards of the Coast was dropping support for many casual formats on Magic Online, including Standard Pauper. I responded with several ways that you as the community could lobby to keep the format. Today, I want to post an open letter to Wizards of the Coast about this issue. Feel free to use as a template for your own correspondence with them. In particular, contact Michael.Turian@wizards.com, Worth.Wollpert@wizards.com, and Lee.Sharpe@wizards.com via E-mail and urge them not to remove the Standard Pauper format from Magic Online. 

Dear Wizards of the Coast,

I was saddened and disappointed by your recent decision to remove the Standard Pauper filter from Magic Online.  When the filter was added back in August of 2009, it was a major milestone for our community, and contributed to an immediate growth in the popularity and accessibility of the format. To see the format removed now would be a devastating blow to a community that has stuck by Magic Online through all of its growing pains during this ongoing transition to the new version of the client.
 

Standard Pauper contributes to both your company and the community in several meaningful ways:
  • It gives new players a lower complexity format to learn the intricacies of Magic in general and Magic Online specifically before moving on to more popular formats.
  • It provides an inexpensive way for players to experience the game without having to pay the expense of high-level formats such as Standard or Limited.
  • Since it uses the most popular format as its base, there is relatively little additional programming needed for its infrastructure. 
  • It is supported by a diverse community of players who participate from all over the globe in weekly Player Run Events.
  • It allows players to actually play in a competitive Constructed format with the majority of cards they receive through booster packs and Limited play.

On behalf of the 50+ players who regularly participate in Standard Pauper events and many others who play more casually, I urge you to reconsider your decision. Support the community who value the casual formats that you have pledged to uphold in the past. Don’t remove what has become my personal favorite way to play this great game.
 

Sincerely,

George M Leonard

MTGO: gwyned

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Don't Let WotC Take the Standard Pauper Filter Away!

Wizards announced today that they are retiring the Standard Pauper filter from Magic Online along with several other formats. Don't let them do it!

If you're on Twitter, contact @mtg_lee @mtgworth @wizards_magic @MagicOnline and tell them not to.

You can also E-mail then by following these instructions: http://wizards.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2196. Make sure you select Magic Online as your product.

You can also directly E-mail Wizards Customer Service at magiconlinefeedback@wizards.com. 

And if you are willing to write a calm, rationale, polite, but heartfelt and passionate E-mail to people like Mike Turian Worth Wollpert, and Lee Sharpe, please contact me at gwyned at gmail dot com and I will be happy to share with you their addresses.  

Spread the word, make your voice heard. Do not let them do this!

Prizes Announced, Video Uploaded

The Standard Pauper Double League is shaping up to be one of the best events I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and I'm not just saying that because it way my idea.

As I posted late last week, the biggest news for this event was Wizards of the Coast deciding to donate 24 booster packs of Battle for Zendikar. In fact, this was such a big deal that I wanted to post a video to my rarely updated YouTube channel in the hopes of catching people who don't otherwise connect with me or the Standard Pauper community. And on that video, I also posted the exact breakdown for the prizes. I linked the video below, and while it's perhaps not my best work, I would still encourage you to watch it and link it to anyone who might be interested in the event. But in case you don't want to watch the whole thing, here's how the prizes will be paid out:


I'm still in awe of such an amazing prize pool, and so grateful to everyone who donated or solicited donations of my behalf.

And so here's the video. I hope you find it helpful. We're already up to 44 players, but there's certainly room for many more. Let's show Wizards of the Coast just how much this community supports Standard Pauper. See you next time.


Friday, October 23, 2015

WotC Makes Major Donation for Double League

Yes, you read that right. Late yesterday afternoon, I received word that Wizards of the Coast will be donating 24 packs of Battle for Zendikar as prizes for the Standard Pauper Double League. That's almost $100 worth of value in prizes!

I have long been a proud advocate of the Standard Pauper format. I have written several articles about why I believe that this format is not only good for players but good for Wizards of the Coast as well. So this donation is a big deal. A very big deal. For the first time in our history, Wizards has taken an active step to financially support Standard Pauper.

So let's blow them out of the water with our response. If you've got a voice on social media or elsewhere on the Internet, spread the word about the format and about this event. Even better, drop a line to Lee Sharpe via Twitter and thank him for their generosity, as it was ultimately his decision whether or not to donate. You can also E-mail him at Lee dot Sharpe at wizards dot com. And while you're at it, extend a special thanks to the tireless efforts of Joe Dillard, better known as joekewwl, for his endless lobbying on behalf of the format. He was the one who made the big ask that made this donation possible.

Tomorrow I will be posting on my YouTube page a special video about the event and announcing the prize distribution for the tournament. Keep an eye here and on my Twitter account for when that goes live. And if you haven't already sign up for this event, check out all the details here, and send an E-mail to gwyned at gmail dot com with your MTGO username and time zone to register.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starting Points for Analysis of the Format

Registration for the Standard Pauper Double League is well underway, with almost twenty players registered in just the first 48 hours of the announcement. The event has been advertised on Twitter, reddit, and a couple different websites, and there are already several names I didn't recognize. So if you haven't already registered, just send your MTGO name, and time zone to gwyned at gmail dot com with the subject line, "Standard Pauper Double League," and you'll be all set.

Today I want to make sure you know where to get some great information on what to play in the league. Even with the recent rotation of Standard, there's already quite a bit of data to help you navigate the new metagame. Here's some great starting points, in no particular order:
  1. Chris Baker wrote up a great blog post, covering not only his set review of Battle for Zendikar but also addressing how the rotation of Standard changed the Standard Pauper metagame. Check out the post and accompanying video here.
  2. One of the two weekly Standard Pauper Player Run Events (SPDC) has already resumed, and the other one (MPDC) will start this coming Monday. You can always see the breakdown of decks and how they performed off the start page on pdcmagic.com. Going forward, this will give you a steady flow of new information, so it's well worth keeping tabs on. Better yet, come join us on either Sunday or Monday at 2pm EST and participate in the fun yourself!
  3. rremedio just wrote a great post on the Standard Pauper Players blog talking about the results from SPDC 31.01 and the different archetypes that were played. This is a great snapshot of where things stand at the moment, and is well worth a detailed look. Check it out right here.
  4. My full set review of Battle for Zendikar is also complete and available over at PureMTGO. It's broken up into three parts: Part One (White and Blue); Part Two (Black and Red), and Part Three (Green and Colorless). I hope you find it helpful!
I also anticipate having lots to say about the event here on my blog, which I will be updated twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

So break out some sweet brews, get testing online, and come be a part of the Standard Pauper Double League!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Standard Pauper Double League Official Announcement

Here's the announcement you've been waiting for!

I am happy to officially announce the Standard Pauper Double League. In case you've missed my previous posts, the concept is pretty simple: this will be two back-to-back events, each consisting of 5 rounds of Swiss before cutting to a Double Elimination Top 8. Players who survive the first cut will be ineligible for the second phase of the tournament, which will otherwise be an identical 5 rounds of Swiss followed by another Double Elimination Top 8. Players will be responsible each week to contact their opponent and play their match for the week. Pairings will be handled through the Gatherling database at pdcmagic.com for the Swiss rounds, while the Double Elimination rounds will run off a tournament bracket hosted here on my blog.

So here are the official rules for the event:

1. Registration: Registration begins immediately and will be open until 11:59pm EST on Friday, October 30th. To register, send an email to gwyned at gmail dot com with "Standard Pauper Double League" in the subject line and include your MTGO username and your time zone. There is no entry fee to participate - in other words, it's absolutely free!

2. Important Dates: You must register by Friday, October 30th at 11:59pm EST to participate in this event. Round 1 then begins on Monday, Novemeber 2nd. Each round will run one week, beginning on Monday and ending at 11:59pm EST every Sunday.

3. Format: The format for this event is Standard Pauper Constructed, which means only cards printed at Common in Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir, Magic Origijns, and Battle for Zendikar are legal. Older printings of legal cards are acceptable. Deck must be 60 cards minimum, with an optional Sideboard of no more than 15 cards.

You are welcome to change your decklist between rounds as long as the new deck is still Standard Pauper Constructed legal.

4. Structure: Both phases of the event will be in Swiss style, with a total of 5 rounds. After the Swiss rounds are complete, there will be a cut to Top 8, resulting in 5 rounds of Double Elimination play. The second phase of the event, also consisting of 5 rounds of Swiss play, will run concurrently with the Top 8 Double Elimination. Players who earn a spot in the initial Top 8 are thus NOT eligible to play in the second phase of the event. Once the second set of Swiss rounds are over, there will be another 5 rounds of Top 8 Double Elimination play, then a final best-of-five match between the two 1st place winners to determine the Grand Champion of the Double League.

I will be using Gatherling on pdcmagic.com to facilitate matches. This means that each participant needs to have a functional account at pdcmagic.com/Gatherling. I will be adding players to the event manually once I have received your registration E-mail, so don't try to register on that site directly.

Each week, login to the Player CP on Gatherling and look for the entry under Standard Pauper Double League. There you will see your Pairing for the round. Once your match is over, both players will need to record the results in their Player CP as well. Failure to complete your match may be grounds for disqualification for the event. Be sure and contact your opponent early each week to make sure you can complete your match in a timely fashion.

5. Tables: Please set up each match as follows; before you join a match, make sure the match is setup correctly.

  • Type: Standard Pauper
  • Match Structure: Best 2 out of 3
  • Event Timer: 25 minutes
  • Allow Watchers
  • Comment: Standard Pauper Double League
6. Conduct: It is the responsibility of each player to be aware of all the rules for this event. Ignorance will NOT be an excuse.

This event, like any Player Run Event, relies on the honor system. Please be a good sport.

If you’ve contacted your opponent and have not received a response in 48 hours, please contact me. If only one person contacts me and no results are reported, I will award that player a match win and drop his or her opponent.

If you are having any other problem (such as your opponent not showing up, your opponent dropped connection in the middle of the match, harassment, or anything else), don’t hesitate to contact me. And if you suspect another player is cheating, let me know. But I trust that every player will be a good sport and act in good faith such that I never have to become involved.

7. Prizes: The exact prize structure has not yet been finalized but will be announced once registration closes. Currently the total value of the Prize Pool is $80.00. If you are interesting in donating to this prize pool, please contact me at gwyned at gmail dot com with the subject line "Standard Pauper Double League Prizes".

8. Questions: Leave any questions in the comments below, or feel free to contact me at gwyned at gmail dot com.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Back to Twice a Week

If you're reading this, you're probably aware that I missed my weekend deadline again. I was traveling with my family for a long weekend while my kiddos are off from school, but that's not a good excuse. However, it does reveal to me that I've got enough going on in my life right now that I need to make a change. Don't worry, it's nothing too drastic! But at least until I announce otherwise, I will only be posting new blog entries twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday.

Tomorrow I'll be back with all the details for the upcoming Standard Pauper Double League.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

More Details on the Standard Pauper Double League

A week ago, I wrote about the possibility of running another Standard Pauper "league-style" event, where players are responsible to play out one match each week against their assigned opponent in a five week Swiss style tournament that would cut to a Top 8, Single Elimination bracket to determine final ranking. Then, after the initial five weeks are over, for those who did not place in the Top 8 (along with anyone else who didn't participate the first time), would have the opportunity to compete in a second chance Swiss tournament that would also run five weeks before cutting to a Top 8 bracket. Finally, the two 1st place winners would battle for the ultimate prize in a best-of-5 match to determine the Grand Champion of the Double League.

We've had a lot of interest in the league, and even some donations already lined up (see below), so I'm happy to announce that the Standard Pauper Double League is official, with a tentative start date of Sunday, October 26th.

First, I'm pleased to announce that we've already gotten official support from CardHoarder, who agreed to fund 30 tickets worth of credit. Thanks so much to them, and to Chris Baker, who lobbied them for their support. They are also sponsoring the Sunday Standard Pauper weekly PRE (SPDC), so definitely show your support for them by sending them your business. I will plan on matching that donation, which means we're already up to $60 worth of prizes - not too shabby for a free event! I also know that joekewwl has pledged to support the event as well, so I expect that that number will continue to rise.

Second, I've had some people ask about why making Top 8 in the first go-around disqualifies you from taking part in the second five weeks of the event. For me, the rationale is simple: anyone who makes the Top 8 is walking away with some decent prize money (although I don't have the exact prize structure finalized yet). And I'd rather extend that opportunity to as many players as possible, even if it means that those few who earn that Top 8 spot the first time miss out on the opportunity to participate in the second half of the event.

Finally, the event will be using the Gatherling database on pdcmagic.com to manage pairings during the Swiss rounds. This has the advantage of letting players report their results, see standings, and view pairings all in one easy and convenient place, without having to wait for me to update anything. For the Top 8 Playoffs, I will be using a simple online bracket system that will have to be manually updated - but that's a much smaller number of players, and thus much easier on my end to track and manage.

If you have other questions or comments, feel free to ask below. I will continue to work out all the final details and make an announcement early next week with all the pertinent info. In the mean time, get on Magic Online and start testing out those Standard Pauper brews!

See you next time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rute of Jeirast

Back in June, I wrote about a PhD candidate who had created a deep neural network designed to evaluate all the existing Magic the Gathering cards and from that data design new cards. It inspired a Twitter account called RoboRosewater that publishes one such card every day. I highly encourage you to check it out.

While its not unusual to see cards that look like something that might actually see print, the real fun ones are those that are totally wacky, such as the one from today.

I literally could not stop laughing after seeing this, especially as I scrolled through the comments:

DESTROY ALL PLAYERS. So, with the printing of this card, blue power creep reached critical mass and literally killed Magic.

So, this triggers in the edge case that you have an origins planeswalker and somehow flip it back to a creature when attacked

go home rute, you're drunk

This is interesting, it' a may ability to destroy all players so you only use it when you are behind, makes the players think

As I said last time, Mark Rosewater probably doesn't need to worry about this computer putting R&D out of existence. On the other hand, they should probably still offer this PhD candidate a job. Not that they could afford him...