Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Farewell to the Clans, Part One

With the full spoiler now available for Shadows Over Innistrad, we are mere weeks away from saying farewell to both Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. Khans of Tarkir in particular proved to be quite strong for Standard Pauper, and so seeing these two sets rotate out of Standard is going to be a big shift for the metagame. Given that, I thought I would take some time this week to look at what I believe are the six cards whose loss will have the biggest impact in the format.

I will be looking at these cards in alphabetical order; no overall ranking is implied by the order.

 1. Counterspells that cost only two mana have been proven very strong in most formats, and today it is rare to see them printed at any rarity, much less Common. So while Disdainful Stroke certainly wasn't as good even as Mana Leak, it was excellent in Control matchups to prevent your opponent from casting his or her big cards. While this saw more play in the Sideboard than main-deck, it remained a very good option against certain decks, particularly given how strong the Delve mechanic proved to be, since it only cares about the converted mana cost, not how much was actually spent.

2. When I first reviewed Gurmag Angler, I wasn't particularly impressed, since it is just a big dumb, expensive beater. However, two factors made it much better than it appeared. First, the ability to use Delve to cheat it in early made it very difficult to deal with. Second, the fact that you had access to it in Black, which traditionally does not get large creatures, also was a factor in its success. As it turned out, it is ridiculously easy to fill up your graveyard with cards, and with unconditional removal at an all-time low, this card does a good job of dodging most forms of removal.

3. Hooting Mandrills also proved to be quite strong. It's only one mana less than the Angler, and even better has Trample, which makes it much more difficult for your opponent to simply chump-block and ignore it. In a color that already has access to lots of big creatures, this card often was the best of the lot, simply because it was so easy to power it out quickly. It also proved to be a great enabler for Savage Punch and its cousin Epic Confrontation. Finally, 4 Toughness is still enough to sidestep many burn spells and other conditional forms of removal.

Noticing a theme yet? As it turns out, almost all of the Delve cards made a major impact on the format. But all the rest paled in comparison to what proved to be the best Delve card in the set. Which we'll take a look at...next time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

13 Thoughts on Shadows Over Innistrad

In case you missed the announcement, the full spoiler for Shadows Over Innistrad has been released. It's hard to believe that we're just over two weeks away from the set's release on Magic Online, and I have yet to write a single word about the set. Now, with all the cards revealed, that means it's time for me to get writing on my full review of the set for Standard Pauper. But for today, I want to share with you some brief thoughts about my initial impressions as well as a few cards that impressed me on first glance. So in keeping with the theme, here are my thirteen thoughts on Shadows Over Innistrad!
  1. Flip cards probably won't be a major emphasis, as there are only four printed at Common (two in both Red and Green). They are classic werewolves that flip to "night" if no spells are cast and flip back to "day" if two or more spells are cast.
  2. There are plenty of classic Common effects costed at an extra mana with the new Investigate mechanic, such as this one. It will be interesting to see how good either the extra artifact or the two mana cycle effect will shake out to be.
  3. We've got a cycle of Common Enchantments that sacrifice for a color-themed effect. The White one at least looks good.
  4. Nice to see we have some discard outlets at Common, such as in Ghostly Wings.
  5. Not very impressed with the Blue Commons at all.
  6. Nice! Dead Weight is back.
  7. Outside of Twins of Mauer Estate, Madness in Black doesn't look that attractive.
  8. In the right deck, Fiery Temper lets you live the dream of casting Lightning Bolt. Otherwise, it's a more expensive and harder-to-cast Lighting Strike. 
  9. Pyre Hound gains permanent counters unlike Prowess creatures. That seems...strong.
  10. Just as Temur Battle Rage rotates out, we get a new Double Strike card in Red.
  11. 'Clue-tokens-matter' type effect?
  12. A potential combo with Pulse of Murasa? And with Stoic Builder too.
  13. Green has surprisingly few creatures, and overall looks pretty weak.
And as far as cards that caught my eye: Apothecary Geist, Dauntless Cathar, Stitched Mangler, Ghoulcaller's Accomplice, Shamble Back, Fiery Temper, and Pyre Hound

What do you think of this set? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pulse of Murasa

Today I want to talk about the card that has been powering out many of the top decks in the recent Standard Pauper tournaments: Pulse of Murasa. When I originally reviewed Oath of the Gatewatch, I thought that the card had some potential, but I never would have predicted that it would become a cornerstone of Green decks in the format. So what makes this card so good?

While the general consensus is that Lifegain cards aren't very good, it turns out that in Standard Pauper they can prove to be quite important. Past cards like Lone Missionary and Sylvok Lifestaff have been surprise hits in the format, and it seems that Pulse of Murasa is following in that same tradition. In a similar vein, cards like Reclaim or Disentomb are pretty bad in most Limited and Constructed formats. But when you put these two effects together, you end up with something that somehow is greater than the sum of its parts.

Additionally, it must also be mentioned that this card is both reasonably costed and an Instant, making it easily slot into any Control archetype that has access to Green mana. Place this in a format that has above average removal, and where most decks are geared around winning the long game, you have a perfect environment for Pulse of Murasa to be at its best.

So are there any good ways to deal with this card? Unfortunately, at the moment the format lacks any method of dealing with opposing creatures once they are placed in the Graveyard. Therefore, your only real option is to directly counter the spell using permission spells like Negate. Alternatively, you can also use removal like Complete Disregard or Oblivion Strike to ensure that your opponent's best creatures never end up in the Graveyard in the first place.

What has your experience with this card been? Got any good strategies to deal with decks that utilize it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jund in MPDC 32.06

While the past couple weeks I have been experimenting with various token builds after seeing the success they were having in recent SPDCs, at the last minute before the start of MPDC this week I decided instead to throw together a Jund build. I was looking to abuse the surprisingly good Pulse of Murasa, combine it with a bunch of good removal spells, and add in some strong beaters. The tournament ended up being delayed an hour due to my failure to communicate the time change, giving me plenty of time to tweak the deck in preparation for the event. Here's what I ended up playing:

The deck executed very well despite what feels like an awkward mana base. The removal suite gave me lots of options against enemy creatures, and helped quickly fill up my graveyard to enhance the Delve ability on Gurmag Angler and Sultai Scavenger. A full playset of Read the Bones. combined with the additional card off the Elvish Visionarys, gives the deck plenty of draw, and the aforementioned Pulse of Murasa helps keep you alive long enough to deal significant damage with your beaters.

I ended up going 3-0 with the deck, but due to real life complications had to drop after the end of the Swiss rounds. I was definitely happy with the deck, and will continue to test it for next week.

What have you been playing in our weekly Standard Pauper tournaments? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Zedikar Unified, Week One

The first week of the Zendikar Unified Pauper Sealed League comes to an end today. First off, I must say that Polyjak has gone above and beyond when it comes to this event, providing an excellent website and quickly responding to the feedback he received from players. Everything has worked smoothly, and I am glad I chose to not only participate but sponsor this event as well.

While I opened some pretty solid Blue and White cards, overall I wasn't very impressed with my pool. I ended up building a mediocre U/W Flyers deck to start with, figuring that the consistency of two colors was probably better than trying to have a slightly three color deck with bad mana (especially since my only fixing was a marginal Lifespring Druid). I ended up going 0-2 with that build, and honestly was feeling pretty discouraged.

Chris Baker (aka DrChrisBakerDC) reached out to me, and I ended up sending him my pool. After looking it over, he suggested I go ahead and cut most of the bad White cards out of my deck and instead play Blue Green with a strong splash in White. The mana would be pretty sketchy, but when it came together he believed my chances would be much better. Here's the build he suggested:

For space considerations, I didn't include my entire pool, but just the relevant Sideboard cards. While I ended up almost always including Whiplash Trap after sideboarding, overall I was pretty happy with this alternate build. I ended up going 2-1 with it, bringing me to a decent 2-3 record overall. The two copies of Dawnglare Invoker were by far my most valuable card, and I won many of my games off that card alone.

All of my games were pretty grindy. Removal, especially if it can deal with big creatures, seemed particularly important, especially given the unusual number of Invoker creatures being played (creatures with an eight-mana cost powerful ability) that often determine who will win the game. At least at this early stage, it seems like the format will be pretty slow, with lots of high Toughness creatures. Creatures with evasion are also proving to be quite strong.

Tomorrow we'll receive a new booster pack, so it will be interesting to see what possibilities open up. We will see.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Siege of Dragonspear

If you're a longtime reader of this blog, you already know about my love for roleplaying games in general and Dungeons and Dragons in particular. Part of my love for this amazing roleplaying system came from literally hundreds of hours playing and replaying and modding the Baldur's Gate video game series. Although somewhat dated by today's standards, in my opinion this remains the pinnacle experience of the second edition Advanced rules, and what is probably the best video game iteration of those rules ever made.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I found out that a new expansion was being developed called Siege of Dragonspear. Now at first, the choice to make an expansion seems odd, given that the original game is nearly 20 years old. But in this case, it's being developed by Beamdog, who have been systematically releasing updated versions of almost all the original Infinity Engine games and bringing them back to life for a new generation of gamers.

Siege of Dragonspear will feature an entire new story arc tied to a charismatic warrior known as the Shining Lady who is leading a crusade north to the ruins of Dragonspear Castle. It promises to at last reveal the events that more cohesively connected the original Baldur's Gate and its sequel. It also includes the return of many of the original cast (including most of the original voice actors!), brand new items, quests, and classes, major UI and graphical improvements, and brand new areas hand-painted to match the style of the original.

The game is currently in closed beta, with a scheduled release date of March 31st. You do have to purchase the enhanced version of Baldur's Gate from Beamdog in order to play, however; the original version of the game won't be compatible. Purchasing both will set you back almost $40 retail (although I wouldn't be surprised if you could find the Enhanced Edition cheaper than the $19.99 list price), but in my opinion it's well worth the investment for the hundreds of hours of content you'll receive.  It's also worth mentioning that both games will be available across multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, IOS, and Android.

I certainly intend to pick up Siege of Dragonspear on the day of release. Now I just have to get my party from Baldur's Gate ready to go...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

More On the Zendikar Unified Pauper Sealed League

As I mentioned last week, Polyjak is running a Zendikar Unified Pauper Sealed League. First and foremost, today is the last day of registration, so if you want to participate, stop reading this right now and go sign up! Second, we already have at least fifteen players participating, and a prize pool of 40 tickets!

Now, it's important to realize this will work a little bit differently than the other "league-style" events that I ran in the past. Rather than receiving a single match each week, each player can play up to 5 matches per week, with the restriction that you can't play the same person twice. Each time you play, BOTH players are required to report the results using this form. You get three points for every win and one point for every loss, so it's worth your while to try to get all five matches in each week.

Each week, you also get to open one more booster pack from the five that make up Zendikar Unified (Zendikar, Worldwake, Rise of the Eldrazi, Battle for Zendikar, and Oath of the Gatewatch). Remember that since this is a Pauper League, the cards in your pool will only include Commons. The league will run for five weeks, ending just before the release of Shadows Over Innistrad on Magic Online. Each week a winner will be declared, with a Grand Champion crowned at the end of the league. Prize details have not been announced yet, but I'm sure there will be an update on that soon.

As always, this league is totally free to play. Many from the Standard Pauper community are participating. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today before the opportunity is gone!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Zendikar Unified Pauper Sealed League

Last time, in my discussion on what's going on in Standard Pauper, I linked to an ongoing topic over on the pdcmagic Standard forums about some sort of Standard Pauper Sealed. Apparently Pauper enthusiast Polyjak got impatient with all the discussion and went ahead and announced that he would be hosting a Zendikar Unified Pauper Sealed League. More on that in a moment.

The original Zendikar block will always have a special place in my memory. It was the first block that I was fully invested in the format after my discovery of Magic Online, and I not only played a lot of Standard Pauper at that time, but even dabbled in a surprising amount of Zendikar limited as well. The block contains some very powerful Commons - Flame Slash, Journey to Nowhere, Kor Sanctifiers, Kor Skyfisher, Plated Geopede, Sea Gate Oracle, and Ulamog's Crusher, just to name a few. These are powerful enough that they probably won't ever be reprinted at Common. And now, you have a chance to play with them again.

You can read all the details for the sealed league here, and signup at this link. You'll receive five boosters (one from each of the five sets in Zendikar and Battle for Zendikar blocks), plus two more of your choice (which can't be from the same set), with each pack being generated over at mtgen.net (and the non-Commons stripped out). Once you have your card list, you simply go to your favorite store or bot and purchase the cards you don't have, then create your decklist. And while a few of the more potent Commons are a couple bucks for a playset (with Searing Blaze leading the charge at almost a dollar a piece), most of the Commons can be purchased for less than a nickel each.

Anyway, this sounds like a lot of fun, so I definitely encourage you to participate.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What's Current In Standard Pauper

As small as our community of Standard Pauper players is, there still always seems to be something going on that's worth mentioning. So today I thought I would just post links to a few of the more interesting items of note.

1. The Standard Pauper Double League is officially over, but you can still watch video from the three biggest matches of the event - the Finals for Phase One, the Finals for Phase Two, and the Grand Championship.

2. DrChrisBakerDC took the trophy in SPDC 32.04 with an innovative Temur Token Control deck. He also posted a deck-tech and videocasts of his match, which you can find in full here.

3. Speaking of Chris, there has also been some discussion about another Standard Pauper Sealed league. Right now the leading contender is some form of a Zendikar "unified" theme using boosters from both the original Zendikar block and the current Battle for Zendikar block. You can check out all the discussion over on the pdcmagic Standard forums here.

4. Despite the diversity and innovation in the Top 4 finalists of MPDC 32.04, Izzet Control earned yet another trophy, continuing its domination of the format. Rounding out the finalists was a Jund Tokens build, a Jund Allies list, and an Exploit/Delve themed Sultai deck.

5. Finally rremedio1 has started updating his Metagame Tracker app once again. It's current as of this post, and has a ton of useful information about the current state of the Standard Pauper metagame. For example, apparently Negate is the most commonly played card in the format right now. Definitely check that out.

That's all from me for today. If you've got news or content about Standard Pauper, definitely send me an email or let me know in the comments below. I'm always happy to cross-promote solid content for our great format!