Thursday, September 29, 2016

Getting Ready for WORLDS

It's hard to believe, but the 34th season of our two weekly Standard Pauper tournament comes to an end early next week. This will also be the last event where the Commons from Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins will be legal. As a result, next time I'll take a look back at what proved to be the top hits from those two sets. But for today, as we get ready for the final events of the season, I wanted to set aside my normal Thursday state of the metagame and instead talk about what you should be prepared to face as you enter the capstone events on Sunday and Monday.
  1. While they are by no means the only contenders, the most important decks in the metagame right now are Izzet Spells, Simic Eldrazi, Pulse Control, and Tremors. If you're just looking to pick up a strong deck and run with it, you're best bet is to pick one of these.
  2. Even if you're not playing one of those four decks, it would be wise to understand each of them. You should be familiar with the cards they play and the basic strategy for each archetype. If you're looking for help in this area, you can check out my Deck Techs for each of these decks.
  3. Removal is going to be key in almost any match-up. But not just any removal will do. You want:
    •  Instant speed, cheap removal to help deal with early critical threats like Thermo-Alchemist.
    • Beating token strategies is also best accomplished by having access to Red for Boiling Earth, even if you can only find room for it in the Sideboard. 
    • Finally, having the ability to exile creatures with Touch of the Void can also be an excellent way to sidestep Graveyard recursion.
  4. I'm not seeing many players using hard counters, but I also think that this might be a great way to get an edge, since most people won't be playing around them. While everyone is including Negate and Turn Aside, especially in the Sideboard, Spell Shrivel is something that will catch a lot of people by surprise.
I doubt there's a deck that can do all of that, but if there is, that's what I'd play this coming week. Hope to see you on the other side of the virtual table soon!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Activated Artifact Cycle

As is always the case when a new set comes out, the Magic community is abuzz about the new cards from Kaladesh. The Standard Pauper community is no exception, and I personally am hard at work on my set reviews which will be published over at over the next few Mondays. As I've mentioned the past couple Tuesdays, one of the things I love about this set is that it includes not one but three different cycles at Common. I've covered both the Puzzleknot Cycle and the Thriving Creature Cycle; today we'll take a look at the third and final one.

Unlike the other cycles I've covered, these cards don't have that much in common (pun intended). They have different casting costs, different stats, and a variety of activated abilities. But each one is an Artifact Creature with an ability that is activated by paying one colored mana, and each ability is tied thematically to the corresponding color. Interestingly enough, each one also has the Power and Toughness you would generally expect for the casting cost - a 4/5 for 5, a 2/4 for 4, a 2/3 or 3/2 for 3, and a 2/1 for 2.

Of the five, Dukhara Peafowl is probably the best. A 2/4 for 4 with Flying is pretty good, and the fact that it's an Artifact has additional synergy in the format. You do have to keep paying the single Blue mana to give it Flying, but that's a very reasonable price to pay. The Narnam Cobra is also decent, since it's a 2 drop that will be able to trade with any ground creature, and you only have to pay the Green mana when you're ready to make that trade. As far as Weldfast Monitor goes, Menace is a great ability, but it's pretty lackluster on a 3/2, since most of the time that won't be enough to allow it to kill both creatures that block it. Bastion Mastodon is just too expensive with a mediocre ability, while Prakhata Pillar-Bug might as well just give you 2 Life when it dies.

I don't expect these will make much of an impact, but in a deck that's looking for some reasonable Artifact Creatures, the peafowl or the cobra might make the cut.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Week of September 18th in Standard Pauper

While all eyes are on  Kaladesh and how that will affect the format once it is released on Magic Online, we've still got one more week of tournaments to go, plus the capstone event for both SPDC and MPDC exactly one week before the set comes out.

This was a somewhat unique week for me, as I ended up hosting both SPDC and MPDC. I finished in the Top 4 in SPDC, but didn't have the time or energy to play the next day. But it was great to be part of both of these events and get to interact with so many of the great people in our community that makes these events what they are. Anyway, we've got 12 decks that made it into the playoffs between the two events, so let's dive in to this week's metagame update.

First, Izzet Spells continued its reign as the top contender this week, accounting for 33% of the winning decklists. We're not really seeing much if any variation in the list from week to week. Interestingly enough though, for the first time the deck failed to earn either first or second place in either event, which may indicate that it's time in the spotlight is drawing to a close.

Second, Storm_blade's Simic Eldrazi deck also continues to do well, taking both a Top 4 and Top 8 spot in MPDC this week. If you're interested in what makes this deck work, I published a Standard Pauper Deck Tech on his list this week over at PureMTGO, which I encourage you to check out.

Third, bibbob once again performed very well with his Impact Tremors build, narrowly losing out in the finals of MPDC to take 2nd place this week following his trophy-winning result last week. His decklist has continued to evolve recently, and now includes a few copies of Sprinting Warbrute, Tajuru Beastmaster, and Rolling Thunder, as well as Snapping Gnarlid out of the Sideboard. Once again, I am surprised how few people are playing this archetype right now given how strong it is in the current metagame.

Fourth, olstyn and I both chose to play a 4 color Pulse Control deck this week. Despite the fact that he splashed for White and I splashed for Red, the deck are remarkably similar, playing the same core of cards but supporting them with different removal options. For whatever it's worth, my version is the exact list that cRUMMYdUMMY took to first place back in MPDC 34.04. Olstyn's version manages to incorporate the Aura package with Ironclad Slayer recurring Choking Restraints and Dead Weight, and definitely looks like a deck worth paying attention to in the last few weeks of this season.

Fifth, br_laern took 2nd place in SPDC with a typical Orzhov Allies deck. Despite being virtually unchanged from last season, I think this is still a viable choice, and one that more people should probably be playing.

However, I definitely saved the most interesting for last. The first place trophy for both events was earned by two new entries into the metagame. First, Ravager1 brought an Azorius Midrange deck that combines permission and card draw with strong sacrifice outlets for Wretched Gryff and Aura-based removal in Pacifism and Spontaneous Mutation, once again recurred with Ironclad Slayer. Second, Cl3m brought a UB Control build that includes the unique mix of  Elusive Spellfist, Monastery Loremaster, Vampire Envoy, and Ruin Processor to augment a mix of card draw and removal spells. Definitely take the time to look at both these decklists!

All in all, this remains a very diverse metagame, and one that I think continues to be very interesting and fun. If you've never done so, let me encourage you to check out our weekly events. Browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the #MPDC channel. See you next time!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Thriving Cycle

We've finally gotten our hands on the full spoiler for Kaladesh, and players got their first chance to play with these new cards in paper this past weekend at the Prerelease. While the online release of Kaladesh is still several weeks away, I am already starting to work on my Standard Pauper review for the set. One of the great things about Kaladesh is that it features three full cycles at Common. Last week, I covered the first one - a cycle of Artifacts that produce one small effect when they enter the battlefield and that same effect again when they're sacrificed. Today, we're going to be looking at a cycle of creatures that make use of the brand new energy tokens to grow larger when they attack: the Thriving Cycle.

Energy counters are a brand new type of counter that get placed on players rather than creatures. They function essentially almost like a new type of mana, in that you accumulate them over time and spend them to pay the cost for certain activated abilities. And in the case of this cycle, each of the creatures grants you two energy tokens when it enters the battlefield, and then gives you the option of cashing them in to put a +1 / +1 counter on the creature when it attacks.

It's worth noting, of course, that you can use any energy tokens, not just the ones that the creature produced. Similarly, while each one only gives you two such tokens, if you have others ones, you can place additional +1 / +1 counters on it on subsequent turns, providing you can continue to attack with the creature.

To evaluate these, I would consider them vanilla creatures with Power and Toughness one point higher than their listed stats, but with the downside that they have to attack each round. Their base stats are pretty typical for their color and cost, which means their enhanced stats are above what you would expect for a vanilla creature. The Blue and Green ones are probably the strongest, simply because they are useful enough (the Turtle as a defender, the Green as an attacker) to be worth playing even for their base stats, which means you'll probably be able to attack with them right away. At the end of the day though, they are just vanilla creatures, which means that unless you're already playing a deck looking to take advantage of energy tokens, they probably won't see a whole lot of play. This is particularly true given just how vulnerable they are to removal.

Next Tuesday, I'll be back to cover the third Common cycle in the set. But before then, the first part of my Standard Pauper review should also be up over at PureMTGO. As always, there's so much to cover as a new set comes out!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Week of September 11th in Standard Pauper

After a week hiatus from my weekly blog entry, today I'm back with another metagame update for Standard Pauper. As always, I'm looking at the decks that made it past the cutoff in our two weekly Standard Pauper events (SPDC on Sunday and MPDC on Monday) and identifying trends, cards to watch out for, and any other information that seems relevant. This week only MPDC had enough players for Top 8 (just squeaking by with the minimum of 15), so we're only looking at 12 decks this time around. So let's get started!

SPDC was all about Izzet Spells, which claimed three out of the four spots, including both the 1st and 2nd place trophies. While these two decks weren't identical, they were very close, and I would say that DownByTheRiverside's build is more or less the stock version of this archetype. Izzet didn't fare nearly as well in MPDC, accounting for only one of the Top 8 decks, but that could simply be because only two out of the fifteen players chose that particular deck.

The first place trophy in MPDC in fact went to bibbob playing the Tremors deck, which as you may recall is a Gruul build that wins using a combination of tokens and Impact Tremors as well as a bunch of burn spells. This deck has a decent matchup against Izzet Control, but bibbob was the only player among both tournaments to select this deck. But apparently it was the right choice!

Moromete took 2nd in MPDC with a different variant of the 4 Color Pulse Control deck that took first place two week's ago, which is much closer to a Temur deck that splashes Black for Vulturous Aven and a few additional removal spells post-Sideboard. It also looks to have simpler color requirements overall, making it a bit easier to play.

The rest of the decks included two Top 8 finishes by chula and olstyn with an Orzhov Auras build, a repeat of Storm_blade's winning deck from last week, two Dimir decks (one a Control build by beatnik bobby, while the other a Midrange Flyers by rremedio1), and one unknown deck, since this player neglected to actually enter his decklist.

With the the online release of Kaladesh only about a month away and the subsequent rotation in Standard, the metagame is about as diverse as I've seen it, with winning decks found using all five colors in running the full spectrum between Aggro and Control. Izzet Spells continues to be the most important deck overall, so whatever you choose to play, it's important for that matchup to be winnable. But otherwise, there is certainly quite the variety of decks to choose from, with no other deck clearly rising above the others. This is definitely one of my favorite things to see in the Standard Pauper metagame!

If you're interested in more information about these decks, I encourage you to check out my Standard Pauper Deck Tech series over at PureMTGO, where I normally feature the previous week's 1st place deck from MPDC. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Puzzleknot Cycle

We are once again well into the midst of another spoiler season, with the online release of Kaladesh only about a month away. And Wizards has already previewed not one but two new Common cycles in this set. So today we're going to take a look at the Puzzleknot cycle of artifacts and next week move on to the Thriving cycle of creatures.

The Puzzleknots are two mana artifacts that have a minor effect when they enter the battlefield, and can subsequently be sacrificed to repeat that effect at an additional colored mana cost. Let's take a closer look at the cycle:

Three of these are fairly straightforward to evaluate. First, Cogworker produces two 1/1 artifact creature tokens for 3W, but the second one can be made at Instant speed, which is a nice bonus. Second, Fireforger is similar in that you're getting 2 points of damage for a total of 4R. While you do get to pick two different targets, you're paying quite the premium, especially compared to cards like Twin Bolt. Third, Metalspinner immediately cycles (at the cost of one life), and draws a second card for 2B and another point of life, effectively giving you a Sign in Blood like effect, but again at a significant cost. Overall, while these are decent effects, you are paying extra for them, even if you do get to split up the costs over two turns. Unless you've got a good reason to be playing Artifacts, I'm not sure these get there.

We won't really get a sense for how good Glassblower and Woodweaver are until we have a clearer picture of what you can do with energy counters at Common. Getting to Scry 2 for 2 with the Glassblower is probably the best deal in the cycle, and if energy counters prove useful, then this will probably be the best of the five. And while generally Lifegain cards aren't great, it's surprising how effective an additional six points of Life can be in a close game, even if you are paying 4G for it.

I've always loved the design of the Spellbombs from Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin, but it remains to be seen whether these will end up good enough to live up to that comparison.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Farewell to the Standard Pauper Show

Today we bid a sad farewell to the Standard Pauper Show.

Earlier this week, the hosts of this fantastic video podcast announced via Twitter that they will no longer be producing the MagicGatheringStrat Show. For quite a long time, this show was dedicated to the world of Standard Pauper, covering both our our major tournaments each week as well as looking at a particularly interesting decklist. And while the show's focus eventually expanded to cover a more broad range of topics, this was still a great resource for our community of players.

For this last episode, they went back to their roots, providing a full recap of both SPDC and MPDC this past week. So to honor their great show, I thought I would allow this final show to take the place of my normal Standard Pauper metagame update for the week. Enjoy!

Farewell, guys. You will be missed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Back at Writing

After a year of mostly not doing any fiction writing, I decided it's time to get serious about this once again. I distinctly remember sitting in one of the Writing Symposium seminars at GenCon and begrudging the time I have wasted in not pursuing this dream. In fact, the pursuit of being a fantasy writer was one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. It says so right in the upper right-hand corner - "I am a fantasy writer." What do writers do? They write. What do I need to do to become a fantasy writer? I need to write. So that's what I'm doing.

Here's my plan:
  1. I reconnected with my high school buddy Phil, and we are working our way through the Season 10 Writing Excuses Master Classes. This season of this popular writing podcast is designed to equip new authors with the tools they need to write successfully. It comes complete with homework, which is a great way to motivate myself to write.
  2. Every year Brandon Sanderson teaches an undergraduate Creative Writing class at Brigham Young University, and this year a professional videographer is recording his lectures. You can find the playlist here. If there is a better free resource for learning to write genre fiction, I want to know about it.
  3. From one of these lectures, I learned that to be a professional writer, you need to write approximately 10,000 words a month. So that's the goal I am working to achieve. I am using the WriteTrack tool I blogged about several years ago, slowly ramping up each month in my goal until I am consistently writing 10,000 words a month (counting only my fiction, not any other writing here).
  4. As I start producing quality pieces, I need to start submitting them to writing contests (like Writer of the Future) and online fantasy fiction magazines. This gives me the opportunity to hone my craft on smaller works before trying to tackle a whole novel.
I don't expect that any of this will interfere with my content for Standard Pauper, so don't worry about that. But it does mean that you can expect to see a few more writing posts from time to time. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Week of August 28th in Standard Pauper

As I mentioned in last week's metagame update, we've continued to see growth in the attendance at our weekly Standard Pauper tournaments. In fact, between the two events this week, we had 32 unique participants, with 5 of those participating in both tournaments. In fact, for the first time since I started these updates, both events cut to a Top 8 playoff, bringing us up to 16 decks to consider for this week's update. That being the case we've got plenty to talk about today, so let's jump right in.

Izzet Tempo continued to be the big player in the metagame this week, accounting for six of the 16 top decks. While there is still some variation between these lists between a more midrange tempo build and a true control build, all of these decks are utilizing Elusive Spellfist and Thermo-Alchemist, activating them with a suite of spells that includes burn and card draw. Of these, DownByTheRiverside was the most successful, taking his build to an undefeated 6-0 in SPDC and capturing the 1st place trophy.

GB Control accounted for only two decks this week, one of which was a unique 4 color variation piloted to 1st place by cRUMMYdUMMY in MPDC, splashing Blue for Wretched Gryff (and Negate in the Sideboard) and Red for Rolling Thunder (as well as Boiling Earth in the Sideboard). The deck relies on 3 copies of Pilgrim's Eye and 4 copies of Primal Druid to gain access to its stringent color requirements, and is slanted enough towards Control to give itself the time to be able to cast all its cards.

The RG Tokens deck that won in MPDC last week had two appearances in the Top 8 of MPDC this week, one of which was my own 2nd place finish. I will be publishing a full deck-tech on this list over at PureMTGO, which should be available this coming Monday. Bibbob played the exact same list as I did, and lost to the exact same deck I did a round earlier (the aforementioned 4cc variant of GB Control).

The rest of the top decks including a Hexproof Selesnya build by bibbob, a Dimir Zombies build by Fred_Dettofano, a Gruul Monsters deck by hero1141, another Dimir Control deck by rremedio1, and a Orzhov Aura build by olstyn. Of these, only olstyn managed to survive the Top 8 round, finishing in Top 4 in MPDC. All of these decks were either new or at least uncommon in the metagame, but look to be potential contenders in the future. If you're looking for something new to play and experiment with, any of these might be a good place to start.

A few other thoughts from this week:

1. Thermo-Alchemist continues its dominance, and has certainly replaced Pulse of Murasa as the most important card in the format right now. Given the dominance of the Izzet archetype right now, your deck should probably include a reliable way of dealing with this card early in the game.

2. Blue and Red have become the most important colors in the metagame right now, with all but three of the sixteen top decks including at least one of these colors. Excluding Thero-Alchemist, the next most popular cards appear to be the Red removal spells such as Boiling Earth, Fiery Temper, and Twin Bolt.

3. Once again, White is the least popular color, with only two decks of the sixteen playing this color. However, the strength of its Aura based synergies with Auramancer, Ironclad Slayer, and Totem-Guide Hartebeest, especially combined with its strong removal, certainly shouldn't be underestimated. Hopefully we'll see this trend reversed in future events.

Finally, let me remind you that every Monday I am publishing an article and videocast on the winning deck from the previous week's MPDC, which you can find over at You can also get a sneak peak at that content early by subscribing to my YouTube channel. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you across the digital table soon!