Friday, July 29, 2016

The End of Season 33 for Standard Pauper

I ended up delaying this blog post one day so that I could see the results from SPDC 33 WORLDS, which was rescheduled to yesterday after low attendance on its regularly scheduled day. But with that event now complete, I have the opportunity to look at what happened in the capstone event of Season 33 of Standard Pauper.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Sultai Control was the big winner of the event, with emerald000 taking the gold trophy in MPDC and AfroDwarf doing the same in SPDC. In fact, these two decks were identical, save for a few differences in the Sideboard. All in all this archetype accounted for half of the eight decks that made it into the playoff rounds of these two events. The next archetype was the Enchaments deck, which afreeAk piloted to Top 4 in MPDC and 2nd place in SPDC. So that leaves the final two decks, which consisted of an Air Support deck run by littlefield and a Boros build by Paranoid_Android. So what are the takeaways as we head into next season?
  1. Sultai remains the deck to beat, with its powerful sacrifice and recursion strategies, with Pulse of Murasa continuing to be one of the cornerstones of that deck.
  2. The Enchantments deck has proven to be very consistent, and looks to be getting at least a few strong additions from Eldritch Moon. This will definitely be a deck to watch out for next season.
  3. Aggro strategies are still quite feasible, but they have to be blisteringly fast in order to quickly overwhelm the more dominant Control archetypes. Air Support, Boros, and the Orzhov Aggro deck have all shown they can contend with Sultai.
  4. None of the existing archetypes have a strangle-hold on the metagame, which means there should be plenty of room for new decks (or variations on existing ones) to rise to the top. 
I personally can't wait to see what surprises Eldritch Moon has in store for us. As I wrote a while back, it looks to be one of the better sets we've had at Common in a long time. Next season is certainly shaping up to be a good one!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unique Discard Outlets in Eldritch Moon

At last, I am home and done with all of my travel for the summer, which means at last I have both the time and a reliable enough Internet connection to make serious progress on my set review of Eldritch Moon for Standard Pauper. In the mean time, I will continue to use this space to preview that article by examining some of the more interesting cards from the set. Today, I want to look at two unique discard outlets.

1. Skirsdag Supplicant is already a 2/3 Human for 2B, which not only has reasonable stats but a significant creature type as well. It's activated ability requires you to have but a single Black mana as well as a card in hand, which you discard to make each player lose 2 Life. Obviously, this has strong synergy with Madness, since you can get full value out of those cards. But even better, assuming you are ahead on board, any card becomes a Black 'player-only' Shock, which is certainly a very viable finisher in the right build.

Verdict: Hit - This is just begging to be used in a variety of archetypes.

2. While a far cry from the Flagbearers from Apocolypse, a repeatable method of generating tokens at Common certainly caught my attention. In an aggressive White Weenie build, you are fast enough to get at least some value out of a 1/1 for W, and it then lets you convert extra Lands or the like into 1/1 Human tokens, which once again is a favorable creature type. This isn't great, but it seems like it could have an important role in the right sort of White Weenie or Tokens build.

Verdict: Bunt - It will be interesting to see if the new Standard can bear this.

So what do you think of Skirsdag Supplicant and Thraben Standard Bearer?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Week of July 17th in Standard Pauper

I had the misfortune of being without Internet (despite reassurances to the contrary) since Tuesday night, so once again I am not only posting this late, but have had very little opportunity to work on my set review. Such is life. Fortunately, after this weekend I will be back in my normal routine, and should be able to catch up on time lost. But enough excuses.

This week was the final week of Standard Pauper tournaments before the end of season capstone events tomorrow and Monday. So what happened this week in our metagame?

This week the typical GB Control build was completely eclipsed by the Sultai version. While it only accounted for three of the eight winning decklists, it did take the gold trophy in both events, piloted by the excellent Forli. cRUMMYdUMMY's aggressive Orzhov deck made another appearance, as did BW Allies, Boros, and Bant Vessels, along with a new Rakdos build by rremedio1. By sheer weight of its victories, the Sultai Control deck looks to be the deck to play in our capstone event, but if you chose to pilot it, make sure you have a solid gameplan for the mirror. Let's see, what else?
  1. The Pulse of Murasa count was down to 16, but a full playset was included in every deck with access to Green. That particular card continues to be one of the cornerstones of the format.
  2. Half of the winning decklists were playing three colors, with only Evolving Wilds plus either Vessel of Nascency or Pilgrim's Eye for fixing. While obviously more difficult with the loss of the come-into-play-tapped Dual Lands, three color mana bases are still quite possible within the format.
  3. Paranoid_Android and afreeAk tied for Season Points in MPDC, earning an average of 6 points per event. Both of them will receive a booster pack of Eldritch Moon for their achievement. It certainly is worth your time to play in every event and post your decklist each week!
  4. Speaking of afreeAk, he was also testing a new Naya build designed to utilize tokens in combination with Impact Tremors as well as recurring Auras that looked quite interesting. It seems a tricky strategy to pull off, but one that might be quite rewarding. Definitely something to consider!
And that's what happened this week in Standard Pauper. I look forward to seeing many of you this coming week for the last event of the season!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Eldritch Moon is Better in Multiples

Although my real life schedule remains pretty hectic (I've been home two days since our vacation, and early tomorrow morning we're heading out for a family reunion / wedding), I am slowly starting to get some work done on my set review for Eldritch Moon. So I figured the best use of my time would be to start posting some short reviews here on my blog to whet your appetite for the full set review, which will eventually be available over at PureMTGO.

Like I mentioned in my initial thoughts on the set, the 'Graveyard Matters' theme is much stronger at Common in Eldritch Moon than it was in Shadows Over Innistrad. Today I want to look at two cards that illustrate that while also pointing back to two Commons from Magic's history.

1. Take Inventory is a near reprint of Accumulated Knowledge, which at times has been somewhat of a staple in Classic Pauper. At worst, it cycles for 1U at Sorcery speed, which is at least neutral. Once you cast the second one, you're paying 2UU for 3 cards over 2 turns, which is already excellent value; anything beyond that, and you're getting an amazing deal. In a Control build that gains value from casting multiple spells, this could end up being a pretty important card.

Verdict: Hit - Definitely take this and put it in your inventory.

2. Galvanic Bombardment works in a similar fashion, and is even closer to the original Kindle from Tempest, save that it only targets creatures and is one mana cheaper. At its worst, it's a Shock that can't target players. On your third casting, it's equivalent to Flame Slash, which is a relatively powerful card. But most decks looking for cheap Red removal like this aren't looking for the game to go long, which means that more often than not this won't be at its best. In the end, while the potential is there, I don't think it makes it.

Verdict: Grounder - I just don't feel galvanized to play it.

So what do you think of these two cards? What decks would they be best in? Will they make a big impact, or end up being irrelevant? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Week of July 10th in Standard Pauper

As I mentioned last time, I am still traveling at the moment, and so far I seem to be running about a day behind on everything. As a result, I can guarantee that my set review won't be done for Monday's deadline for PureMTGO, so expect it to come out the following Monday unless the editor is willing to get it published before then. In any case, as is become my regular habit, I want to take a look at what happened in our two Standard Pauper events this past week.

This week GB Control returned with a vengeance, with the typical build capturing three of the eight trophies and its three color variant that splashes Blue for Jwar Isle Avenger and Monastery Loremaster accounting for two more. The other three trophies went to an aggressive Orzhov list (without any Allies!) that took first place in MPDC, another aggressive Boros build, and the Bant Vessel list that first appeared last week.

Here's a few more interesting tidbits from the week:
  1. While every color was once again represented among the eight Top 4 decks, Black was far and away the dominant color, appearing in all but two of the winning decklists.
  2. Pulse of Murasa was included with a full playset in every deck that played Green, accounting for a full 24 copies among the six decks. Complete Disregard and Oblivion Strike were the next most often played cards (not including Basic Lands, of course).
  3. GB Control continues to be the deck to beat, but it's interesting to see its Sultai variant also performing very strongly. Given that it's slightly more Control than the two color version, I expect that it has a slight advantage in the mirror, but is also more vulnerable against aggressive strategies and poor draws.
  4. Speaking of which, DrChrisBakerDC published a Deck Tech and videocast of the Sultai Control deck he piloted to 1st place in SPDC. He managed a perfect 5-0 with that deck, so it certainly seems like he's on to something. Definitely worth checking out!
That's all for now. We've got one more week of regular tournaments before our season capstone events the week of July 24th, leading up to the release of Eldritch Moon on Magic Online on August 1st. Hope to see you in one of our free tournaments soon!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Eldritch Moon First Thoughts

As I mentioned in an earlier tweet, I am currently on the road on vacation, which is certainly an inconvenient time for the full set of Eldritch Moon to be revealed. Finding time to blog, much less work on my set review, is going to be a challenge, but I will do my best to get the content out as fast as I can. But for today, I wanted to offer my first thoughts on Eldritch Moon after going over all of the Commons a few times.
  1. The power level of the Commons is significantly above average. By my count, there are at least two dozen cards that I expect to see regular play in Standard Pauper, and several of those seem good enough to be make a major impact on the format.
  2. Although they are only present at Common in a handful of cards, all three of the new mechanics should see play in the format. Escalate is the most represented of the three, but Meld's representative Midnight Scavengers is quite strong, as are It of the Horrid Swarm and Wretched Gryff, our two Common Emerge cards.
  3. Of the returning mechanics, Madness got a nice boost from the handful of new cards, while even Delirium and Skulk have some potential new playables.
  4. The "Graveyard matters" theme seems stronger in Eldritch Moon than in Shadows Over Innistrad, at least at Common.
  5.  Not only are the Commons more powerful, but they seem to be unusually complex as well. Thraben Standard Bearer, Ingenious Skaab, Make Mischief, and Crossroads Consecrator are all examples of Commons that would be red-flagged for one reason or another, yet still saw print despite also not being tied to the new set mechanics. While these cards are not necessarily amazing, the level of complexity is remarkable in this post New World Order era.
Anyway, that's enough from me for now to at least whet your appetite for my full set review. No promises on when that will be published, but I will do what I can while I am traveling. At the very least, it will be available prior to the release of Eldritch Moon on Magic Online. I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Week of July 3rd in Standard Pauper

It's time for another update on the Standard Pauper metagame for this week. With Monday being a holiday here in the United States, we originally weren't scheduled to have an event, but fortunately plans changed and things were able to proceed as normal. With another week in the books, we've only got two more events before WORLDS, which is the capstone tournament for the season just before the release of Eldritch Moon on Magic Online. By this time next week, we'll probably have the full spoiler in hand. But for now, let's take a look at how things are shaping up as we finish out the season.

This week the Top 4 of both SPDC and MPDC included six different archetypes, with the infamous GB Control only accounting for one of those spots - albeit an important 1st place finish in SPDC by GotThisForSOI, who had accumulated an impressive run of wins before being locked out of the Top 4 of MPDC altogether! Air Support and RB Madness were no where to be seen this week, but BW Allies and a Pieces of the Puzzle variant of Dimir Control both returned to the trophy stand this week, with the latter claiming a spot in both events. An aggressive Boros archetype run by Paranoid_Android, a Bant Enchantments archetype with two wins by afreeAK, and a White Weenie like Selesnya build piloted by morpphling accounted for the final three archetypes. This certainly seems to indicate that there's plenty of space in the metagame for a variety of decks, and it will be interesting to see which decks the top players decide to bring to our final events of the season.

A few other interesting tidbits from this week's finalists:
  1. Once again, every color was represented among these eight decks. Red was the least played with only a single representative, while White and Black tied for the most played colors. In fact, every deck in the Top 4 of SPDC was playing Black! While the emphasis on Black for removal is pretty expected, the strong resurgence of White is a bit more unusual.
  2. Pulse of Murasa was back up to 14 copies, although morpphling's build only included two copies in the Sideboard. Black removal continued to be a shared emphasis among many of the archetypes. For White, Thraben Inspector was the card that was most commonly played, despite being absent from the typical BW Allies build.
  3. As is typical towards the end of the season, the metagame is tilting more and more towards Control, with only two of the eight decks adopting an aggressive strategy. There simply is too much advantage to be gained in the late game to make Aggro an attractive option right now!
  4. morpphling also managed an impressive 5-0 record in MPDC with his Selesyna build, defeating Paranoid_Android's aggressive Boros build twice, rremedio's Dimir Puzzle Control, and afreeAk's Bant Enchantments twice. In SPDC, GotThisForSOI came close, but dropped a game to rremedio (who played Dimir Puzzle Control there as well) to finish 4-1.
We continue to see new players each week, which is definitely a trend I am excited about. Keep spreading the word, and let's see our community continue to grow. See you next week for more Standard Pauper!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why Would Wizards Spoil Falkenrath Reaver?

We're deep into the spoiler season for Eldritch Moon, with new cards being revealed every day, leading up to the paper Prerelease Weekend on July 16-17 and its eventual online release on August 1. The idea behind such spoilers is to build increasing excitement for the set, revealing some of the  marquee cards and mechanics and saving the more mundane cards for the full spoiler, which should come out sometime next week.

So imagine my surprise today when one of the newly revealed cards was Falkenrath Reaver. It's hard to imagine a less exciting card. It's a vanilla 2/2 for 2, with a creature type consistent with what we've already seen, that certainly doesn't seem to play any special role in the format. Why would Wizards want to use this card as a way to create excitement for the upcoming set.

As it turns out, this card was spoiled on the Magic Development Tumblr page in response to the question, "Will we ever see a vanilla 1R 2/2?". In fact, this is the first 2/2 for 2 converted mana (outside of Rares; even then I believe those cost RR) that has ever been printed without a drawback. Two good examples of this card type at Common are Mage-Ring Bully and Valley Dasher, which both come with the drawback of having to attack each round. Granted, it's arguable that Mage-Ring Bully is superior to Falkenrath Reaver, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, this is a statement from development about what we can expect from Red Commons in the future. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw such cards even with one of the set's mechanics without a drawback in the future.

As Mark Rosewater has said many times, the hardest part of design is Commons. But now, the design mentality has shifted. And in my opinion, better creatures at Common can only be good for the format.

Amazing what you can glean from a vanilla 2/2 for 2! Guess that's why Wizards thought it was worth spoiling.