Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Value of Meteorologists

As someone whose life and family has been impacted by not one but two violent tornadoes in the past decade, I am perhaps more aware than most of the value of meteorologists and the forecasts they issue to keep people informed of the weather and safe from the risks that severe weather of all kinds can bring. Sadly, for all of the amazing progress made in the science of weather forecasting in the past decades, many people have very little respect for meteorologists and the hard work they put in on a daily basis.

Mike Smith (who bears the unfortunate circumstance of having the combination of two of the most common names in the United States), who serves as the Senior Vice President at Accuweather, is the author of an excellent book describing the incredible advances made in weather forecasting and storm prediction, recently spoke at the 2016 AMS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana on how little recognition is given to meteorologists and proposes some solutions to that issue. His fifteen minute talk is very well done and worth a watch if you are at all interested in the science of meteorology. Check it out below.

Thanks for allowing to indulge my obsession with the weather. Don't worry, I'll be back next week with more great Standard Pauper content. See you then!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Being a Welcoming Community

Ever since I got involved in Standard Pauper, I have been impressed with how kind and welcoming this community of players has always been. I was made to feel welcomed and encouraged to return, and eventually even given the chance to take over as host when the longtime host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge had to step down. Over the years, there have been very few instances where I had to get involved as host to address inappropriate behavior during our events.

However, this past week, it came to my attention that some users have been using the ‘in-game chat’ feature to criticize or belittle at least one player during his or her match. Unkind words were exchanged, and only later did this player contact me to let me know this behavior was occurring.

While I have no doubt that this was an isolated incident, it does provide a great opportunity to talk about the kind of culture we want to have in our small Standard Pauper community. As a huge enthusiast for this format, I want to see as many new players as possible welcomed and encouraged to get involved in Standard Pauper. I want these new players to feel like this is a great environment for them to play Magic, especially if they are new to the game or new to any sort of competitive play. Incidents like those reported to me this week cannot be allowed, or it threatens the long term survival of the format.

To that end, here are a few things I would like everyone who participates in our events to keep in mind:
  • New players should be greeted warmly and have their questions patiently answered. This is especially important given the number of players for whom English is not their native language.
  • Players should never criticize another player’s deck or play, and certainly not in a way that would make him or her feel stupid or picked on. If someone asks for feedback or an honest assessment, feel free to let that player know what you think. But be constructive with your comments.
  • As a general rule, please avoid chatting in other people’s games. The only people talking in a match should be the two players competing. There may be instances where you can address a question, but  these should be rare exceptions.
  • If you ever witness something you believe is hurtful towards another player or suspect someone of cheating or manipulation, please let me or whomever is hosting the event know right away. Such behavior WILL NOT be tolerated. Although this has rarely happened, in the past hosts have not hesitated to suspend or ban players from participating in events for this sort of behavior.
  • And of course, have fun! Enjoy yourself, and don’t do anything to limit the enjoyment of the other players. (Other than beating them in Magic. That’s totally allowed!).
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I truly believe we have an awesome community. Let’s make sure it stays that way.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Fifth Season

As someone still tenaciously clinging to the title "aspiring fantasy author," I continue to intentionally keep up with what's going on in the genre, especially when something decidedly different hits the market. In this case, as I was searching online for new books, I came across The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.

The Fifth Season tells the tale of Essen, a seemingly ordinary woman living in a small town, whose husband murders her youngest son and flees. On the same day, the mighty Sanzed Empire collapses, and a giant rift splits the land, spewing forth ash that will choke the land, killing hundreds of people, and uprooting many more. Thus starts what is commonly known in the land of the Stillness as the fifth season, a time of cataclysmic events that seem as cyclical and commonplace as the weather.

The world-building in The Fifth Season is phenomenal. In a world where disaster strikes so regularly, civilization survives by means of a strict caste system and codes of civilization, wherein an uneasy mix of science and magic helps humanity survive each new cataclysm as cities rise and fall. Those gifted with magical abilities to shape the earth and tap into its destructive powers are called orogenes, and unlike it most settings, these practitioners are feared and essentially enslaved by state-run schools to serve the people or be put down when their usefulness is at an end. And it is three of these orogenes whose actions will play a major role in whether civilization can survive this new cataclysm.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of The Fifth Season however, is the author's voice and ability to weave together multiple viewpoints in a way that I have never seen done before. One such viewpoint is told in second person, while the others are told in third. While at first this might seem strange, by the time the book winds to its conclusion, the brilliance behind that choice becomes apparent as it leads to an awesome payoff and reveal. And despite this unorthodox method, Jemisin's writing is crisp, clear, and evocative, pulling you deep into this strange, broken world and the people that dwell in it.

In case I haven't been clear, let me spell it out. I greatly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. In fact, next time I am at the library, I will be sure to check out Jemisin's other works. If they are as good as The Fifth Season, I have no problem saying that I have found another favorite author. So go pick up this book for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Standard Pauper Double League Loser's Bracket Finals

The Standard Pauper Double League is finally at an end, with the Finals of Phase 2 scheduled to play in just about an hour from when I am writing this. Overall I have been delighted with how the league turned out, with over 60 players participating representing a wide variety of decks.

Today I want to bring you the finals of the so-called Losers' Bracket, where afreeAk and Cyrulean competed to see who would get to compete in the final match of Phase 2. afreeAk is playing his Izzet Prowess build. While I don't have his decklist, it appears to be very similar to the list which he used to earn the first place trophy from MPDC 31.09. Cyrulean is playing White Weenie, and while once again I don't have his list, presumably it looks very similar to morphlling's winning list from MPDC 31.12.

So without further ado, here is the match:

As I mentioned above, the Finals of Phase 2 is scheduled for later this evening, and I will be online to make sure I capture it for a forthcoming article over at PureMTGO. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more information about when that article will be available. See you next time!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Today I thought I would take a break from Standard Pauper content to tell you about a game I got for my birthday last month called Splendor. The theme of the game is that you are a wealthy Renaissance merchant acquiring rare and beautiful gems to achieve prestige and perhaps be visited by one or more renown noblemen. It's a fairly simple game, but one that has a surprising amount of depth and replayability for being so simple.

The game consists of a tableau of cards, arranged in three rows of four cards each. These cards represent not only gems that you permanently acquire, but can also be worth a certain number of prestige points. Each card costs a certain number of gems to purchase, and when a card is purchased (or reserved) it is picked up and replaced by another one of the same rank from the draw pile.

On your turn, you take one of three actions: 1) choose 3 different gems from the supply, or pick 2 of the same gem; 2) purchase a card by paying its cost; or 3) reserve a card by placing it in your hand and drawing a single gold, which acts as a wild-card when purchasing other cards. As I mentioned above, cards that are purchased give you permanent gems, which essentially gives you a discount on all future cards.

Each game you also set out a random assortment of noble cards, which are also worth prestige points. But rather than purchasing them, you automatically receive one of these cards when your "discount" gems are equal to the noble's cost.

The game ends as soon as the first person reaches 15 points. A typical game only takes about 30 minutes, so it's not hard to play a few times in an evening.

The production quality of the game is impressive. First of all, the gems themselves are quite heavy, almost as heavy as a real gem of that size would be, which makes for a neat tactile experience. Second, the cards themselves are nicely illustrated and clearly laid out, with enough variety to keep them visually interesting. The game box is also nicely laid out, with everything fitting snugly inside in a clean, organized fashion.

As I mentioned, the gameplay is also pretty simply, but surprisingly strategic. You want to purchase cards in such a manner as to make it easier to purchase other cards in the tableau, but you also always run the risk of another player taking the card you've been working towards. This is where reserving a card comes in handy, but doing so sets you back at least half a turn, since you're only getting one gem when you do (as opposed to the normal two or three). You also want to figure out fairly early which noblemen you're trying to earn, as their prerequisites can vary significantly.

Overall this was a fun and interesting game, and one that I look forward to playing again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mono Black Zombies in SPDC 32.01

A brand new season of Standard Pauper Player Run Events has begun, and as I discussed last week, we did make the decision to allow cards previously printed at Common but reprinted at higher rarities in Standard to become part of the format, at least for this season. And not surprisingly, it didn't take long at all for these new cards to find their way into decklists. In fact, the 1st place finish in SPDC this week came from a MonoBlack Control build that utilized two such cards - Grasp of Darkness and Cruel Revival. Fortunately for us, the pilot was none other than DrChrisBakerDC, who lost no time in creating a deck-tech video to guide us through his deck. Here's the decklist:

Click the image above to enlarge.
And here is his video explaining how the deck works:

Although he lost in Round 1 to an innovative Jeskai "America" deck, Chris proceeded to win his next four matches to claim the trophy for SPDC 32.01. This definitely looks like a strong deck - one that I certainly intend to test myself!

So what are you playing in this new metagame? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Standard Pauper Double League Phase 2 Semi-Finals

The Standard Pauper Double League is slowly but surely winding down to a close. The winner's bracket of Phase 2 has already been decided, with joekewwl defeating afreeAk to claim his spot in the Finals. Interestingly enough, although both players relied upon the dominance of the Izzet Prowess deck to earn their spot in the Top 8, in this particular match joekewwl decided to switch to an aggressive White Weenie build splashing Red that he called "Pink Pain." He also managed to capture his match on video and graciously allowed me to add commentary to it. So I thought I would share with you his decklist, share a few thoughts, and then present the video from the match.

Here's his decklist:

Click on the image above to enlarge

Like most White Weenie decks, this one relies primarily on playing efficiently-costed creatures and backing them up with combat tricks, protection, and removal. This build has a nice "+1 / +1 counters" theme going for it, which is particularly strong with Ainok Bond-kin but is generally just good value. Enshrouding Mist and Grasp of the Hieromancer, provide the combat tricks to keep the excellent suite of White creatures alive, including the rarely played Misthoof Kirin, which certainly proved to be quite good in this particular match. For removal, he included a full playset of Celestial Flare, two Outnumbers, and a single copy of Bathe in Dragonfire, and rounds out the deck with a full set of Feat of Resistance, which is one of the better White protection spells to see print recently. 

But enough about the deck. Here's are the games:

Thanks joekewwl for taking the time to make these videos available. Hope you all enjoyed watching, and see you next time. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Changing Standard Pauper Legal Cards

For those who don't follow me on Twitter or regularly check on the Standard forums on, you may be unaware that we have recently been discussing changing the definition of Standard Pauper. Specifically, we are evaluating whether or not cards that were printed at Common in previous sets but have been reprinted at higher rarities should now be allowed into the format.

You see, with the removal of the Standard Pauper filter from Magic Online, there is a discrepancy with how both the official Gathering database and the online client display cards when you search for both "Standard" and "Common."In both cases, the database returns cards that were printed at Common in prior sets but existed in the current Standard at other rarities, thus giving the impression that they are Standard Pauper legal. Prior to the implementation of the filter, it was the responsibility of the players to watch out for these cards. Often times, this meant that new players would play a match with an Uncommon and be forced to concede and change their deck. 

In my opinion, the advantages of now allowing these cards into the format can be summarized like this:
  1. It erases all question of card legality. If a card is listed when you select "Standard" and "Common" on any official card database, the card is legal in Standard Pauper. 
  2.  It widens the format and helps combat the perceived "dumbing-down" of Commons since New World Order philosophy changed the design of Commons.
Of course, there are also two potential concerns as well:
  1. In going against Wizards' design decision to move certain Commons to higher rarities, it allows the potential for present or future cards to become unbalancing or unfair. 
  2. It risks having to later remove these cards from the format should Wizards later decide to reimplement the Standard Pauper filter.
If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to check out the discussion and make your opinion heard. As far as MPDC is concerned, I will be making a decision (in coordination with the hosts of SPDC) sometime this week, so don't wait!

And just for reference, here are the current cards that would now be Standard Pauper legal if this change was implemented:

Arc Lightning
Cruel Revival
Death Wind
Fiery Conclusion
Grasp of Darkness
Knightly Valor
Pilgrim's Eye
Rolling Thunder
Runed Servitor
Sigiled Starfish
Strider Harness
Totem-Guide Hartebeest

See you next time!