Dragon’s Maze Spoilers Review For Standard Pauper

I am excited to finally see the whole set released.  Well, I might not be ecstatic about the whole thing, as I don’t care about a single rare.  The commons are the gold that I seek. The multiple week delay between the first rare that gets spoiled until all the commons are revealed can be really tilting for a exclusive ‘draft and standard pauper’ player.  We all know that it’s the commons that control the draft format as they are the most frequently used and expected cards that you will open in any pack.  They also happen to be the only cards relevant to the whole standard pauper format – umm, duh.

Now that it’s all spoiled I have done a ‘complete’ set review for Standard Pauper.  This set review is going to be my snap judgments for all of the commons before having played with them.  My legend, complete with abbreviations, is below.  My pessimism for cards should be likened to how I imagine PV would rate these cards if he gave a crap about this format.

Legend
SUP = strictly unplayable
BUP = borderline unplayable
P = playable
BA = build-around or BadAss!

In order to see the card pictures pop-up, I recommend downloading and enabling the FireFox add-on ‘Autocard Anywhere’.

WHITE

Boros Mastiff:  SUP
Ajani’s Sunstriker is guaranteed to help race and it’s not even seen in mono white.  This hound doesn’t stack up better than Loyal Cathar or Daring Skyjek.

Haazda Snare Guard:  SUP
Despite the incentive to do it, who in the right mind ever attacks with a horned turtle?

Lyev Decree:  SUP
One time effects like this are too situational.  Even Inaction Injunction is SUP and it cycles.

Maze Sentinel:  SUP
Unique effect but it costs too much for the Boros aggro decks and the ability is not relevant in control decks.  I can’t think of any multicolored creatures that really want this effect either.

Riot Control:  BUP
Fog decks might like some incidental life gain, and this could be used with Archaeomancer to lock the opponent out of combat damage and put you out of burn range.  Would be a consideration that I’d likely pass on as a sideboard card in an Esper Control list or in the main of a deck that wants to mill as a primary win con.

Steeple Roc:  SUP
This 5 mana investment dies to every one mana removal spell.  I picture this bird being shot down like Django playing Duck Hunt.

Sunspire Gatekeepers:  BUP
Four power for 4 mana split across two cards works well if you are consistently hitting turn 4 with two gates in play.  A 2/4 for 4 is obviously SUP without the 2/2 sidekick, but together they can tag team an attacking X/4 on the ground and potentially get on the offensive when the 2/2 vigilant knight survives.  The requisite number of gates to make this work also make your deck so much slower and worse.  Compare to Seraph of Dawn.  Maybe you want this guy in a tokens deck, but I’d rather have Captain’s Call and Eyes in the Skies.

Wake the Reflections:  SUP
At best this would awaken a one mana 3/3 centaur, but that requires Centaur Herald and at the earliest would come into play on turn 4.  Tokens are designed to swarm in pauper, not generate minor mana advantage while requiring a token already in play.

BLUE

Hidden Strings:  SUP
Sure you get to clear two blockers, connect, and then untap a few guys for pseudo-vigilance.  You’re not likely to hit again since unlike Hands of Binding they get to untap.

Maze Glider:  BUP
Having 5 toughness makes this dodge Thunderbolt and it stabilizes the air against everything.  Six mana is very cost prohibitive, otherwise I like him and the ability he has to give Frostburn Weird some wings!  (brought to you courtesy of RedBull)

Mindstatic:  SUP
A four mana hard counter that only costs one blue is so much worse than Essence Scatter, Negate, and Syncopate.  Rewind should be your four mana counter of choice and even that is too slow for the format.

Murmuring Phantasm:  BUP
Wow, sweet wall.  It comes down early and potentially saves a bunch of life.  Five toughness is huge for the ground – nothing gets past it in the early game unless enchantments like Rancor are involved.  The problem is that without a single point of power you are still vulnerable to swarms of multiple X/1s in tokens decks or creatures like Daring Skyjek.  Could synergize well in a defender deck to buy time, but most decks would prefer Frostburn Weird to have the potential to trade with other creatures and attack.

Opal Lake Gatekeepers:  BUP
Cycling is good but a vanilla 2/4 can’t swim in this format.  It has potential synergy with Cloudshift and Ghostly Flicker, but requiring the two gates is asking too much.

Runner’s Bane:  P
Enchantment removal is bad in general because blink effects exist.  Pacifism is generally better because the only thing different that Runner’s Bane can do is stop activated abilities that require tapping, which aren’t very common or broken in this format.  For instance, there are no pingers in the format, which this card would answer well.  Keep in mind the enchantment falls off if they grow the creature to 4 or more power.  This could lock down a Delver and a lot of aggressive creatures, so keep an eye out for it.  Keeping the creature in play can be ‘actively’ good on Seraph of Dawn if they planned on recurring it with Haunted Fengraf or Gravepurge.

Uncovered Clues:  BA
If your deck consists of more spells than creatures then this card is reasonable at keeping the gas coming and drawing past unnecessary lands.  Missing on creatures is potentially a problem, so I’m interested to see if a primarily spell-based deck could utilize this.  My Rakdos Burn deck operates on the premise that a lot of decks have main deck answers to creatures, so by going creatureless you put more bricks in their deck than they can carry.  A Grixis shell with this and would be interesting to delve into further.

Wind Drake:  SUP
Reprint from M13.  Has never seen play, is never going to see play.

Bane Alley Blackguard:  SUP
Weak chocolate.  AKA a low impact vanilla creature in the black section of the color pie.

Crypt Incursion:  P
This has the potential to be a sweet sideboard card against self-mill decks that utilize Gnaw to the Bone to put the game out of reach.  Preventing Gravepurge shenanigans and gaining a solid chunk of life seems like a good deal for grindy matchups where you expect the game to go past turn 10 frequently.

Fatal Fumes:  SUP
This might get played if the stats were inverted to -2/-4, but with Tragic Slip, Dead Weight, Victim of Night, and Murder around, I don’t see anyone dying to take a whiff of this 4 mana removal.

Hired Torturer:  BUP
His stats are not impressive but he does have a unique ability to close a game out if unanswered.  He is basically a vigilant, unblockable creature if you wait to activate his ability until EOT.  The mana investment is intensive and the peek effect won’t likely have much impact, but a control deck might like a way to drain out the game without needing to enter combat.

Maze Abomination:  SUP
Too cost-prohibitive for the stats.  Works well with a team of tramplers or with Rancor, but he’s too slow.

Rakdos Drake:  SUP
This baby dragon is similar to Cloud Elemental, since it can rumble past X/2 flyers but it’s worse since it is forbidden to defend the skies.  Goblin Sky Raider as a split card does not elevate this card’s value.

Sinister Possession:  BUP
A pseudo-Pacifism that creates some interesting racing math.  It doesn’t actually answer the creature but can nullify lifelink or make them think twice about trading 2 for 2 or even 3 for 2.  Seems marginally useful in a burn deck and any control deck would rather kill the enchanted creature dead instead.  Has the potential to let the opponent leech him or herself too much, though.

Ubal Sar Gatekeepers:  P
The best of the gatekeepers.  Nothing insane, but repeatable removal with blink effects and being able to take out a Delver or Skyknight Legionnaire is solid.  The 2/4 body is pretty close to useless, so I’m not sure about playing this guy, even though he is the best of the cycle.  He is also the first creature in the format that can flametongue an X/2 when he comes into play.

RED

Awe for the Guilds:  SUP
Awfully narrow effect that does nothing unless you are prepping for an alpha strike and they have a team of monocolored blockers standing at the ready.  Exactly the type of card with which I never play.

Clear a Path:  SUP
Since when did walls become some good that Wizards needed to print specific hate for them?  What did a lowly defender ever do to you to deserve this?!?  He certainly didn’t antagonize you or throw the first punch.

Maze Rusher:  SUP
Too cost prohibitive, kinda slow for being a self-proclaimed ‘rusher.’

Punish the Enemy: BUP
Searing Spear exists for decks trying to actually be mana efficient.  I could see this in a burn deck since it lets you slap them in the face while hopefully dealing with a threat.  By the time you can cast this you likely are going to have to deal with an X/4 or a swarm of creatures, though.

Riot Piker:  BUP
First strike makes him a decent attacker and a prime Rancor target.  The problem is that  sometimes you need to block and sometimes they have a Horned Turtle or better that will stifle the rioters assault.

Rubblebelt Maaka:  P
This is most likely an uncounterable Brute Force that really helps give an aggro deck’s reach as well as flexibility.  This is at its best in a Gruul Aggro deck with Rancor and alongside Slaughterhorn.  Being a split card with a Hill Giant is perfect for when the early game rush doesn’t get the job done.

Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers:  SUP
Act of treason is BUP, and this costs more and is attached to a guy without haste.  All of the other gatekeepers have an ability that makes sense to me, but this guy seems like he should be a 2/1 haste with this ability.  That, or if you want to keep the 2/4 then the ability should have been a forked bolt or shock that can only target creatures.

Weapon Surge:  BUP
I could see this getting fringe play in a Boros Tokens deck, but it doesn’t save your team from Electrickery like Break of Day can.  Unlike the role that Righteous Charge and Dynacharge have – Overrun, this is not.

GREEN

Battering Krasis:  SUP
Too slow to make into a threat and he’s easy to stop in the early game.

Kraul Warrior:  SUP
Karul, the Warrior King! (needs to be spoken in a gruff, Christian Bale Batman voice). All ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ references aside, this has quite the masculine name, but this fish beast isn’t roided up enough to lead in battle.

Maze Behemoth:  SUP
Dies to everything – too slow.  Maybe ramping into him can happen and giving Zhur-Taa Swine Trample is a big game, but you would rather ramp into Hexproof beasts to dodge all of the targeted removal to avoid being a lightning rod.

Mending Touch:  BUP
Ranger’s Guile already exists, which is better because even if this saves your creature from a black or red removal spell, he still gets tapped and can’t attack or block for a turn.  It also doesn’t save him from the -X/-X effects of Tragic Slip, Dead Weight, and Ubul Sar Gatekeepers.

Mutant’s Prey:  SUP
I don’t think a good Simic Evolve deck exists.  If it did, this card would still be BUP.  The requirement to have a creature in play and have it survive in response to this spell is too much to ask for a removal spell.

Phytoburst:  BUP
Titanic Growth is still better than this.  Instant speed is worth more than +1/+1.  It does play well with Wandering Wolf, though.

Saruli Gatekeepers:  P
Gaining 7 is a ton against aggro decks.  Good blink target, but I’m not sure 2/4s are relevant enough in green control decks.  Nice combo to Ghostly Flicker to gain tons of life without requiring a graveyard full of creatures to support a Gnaw to the Bone engine.

Thrashing Mossdog:  P
Big enough body to stop all of the flyers in the format.  Expensive but huge boost in stats after scavenging gives your other creatures the ability to dominate the board.  The cost on this is just right, and the fact that you can get value from him after he eats a removal spell or trades makes him a welcome addition to a defensive green deck.

MULTI

Armored Wolf-Rider:  BUP
Slow, ground vanilla with a huge butt.  Stops everything dead in it’s tracks on the ground but also targetable and consequently dies easily.  Maybe he’s worth ramping into and then giving vigilance with Maze Sentinel?  I’m guessing it’s not.

Beetleform Mage:  BUP
The beetle spreads its wings and can rock out as a 4/4 flyer, but dies very easily and has a color intensive activation cost.  Not enough action for the mana investment every turn.

Deputy of Acquittals:  P
The ability to counter a removal spell or get another comes into play effect is pretty good, but the loss of tempo for the benefit of having a 2/2 in play isn’t spectacular.  A 2/2 just doesn’t do much work in this format, especially in Azorious.

Drown in Filth:  SUP
Hard to cast removal that misses a large percentage of the time.  Could be terminate in the mid to late game with Grisly Salvage and Forbidden Alchemy, but you most importantly want to be able to kill stuff in the early game.

Morgue Burst:  BUP
The card is similar to Grave Exchange except you can target the creature you want to snipe and it can burn to the face.  Very cost restrictive, but I could see this as a one-of in a Grixis Control deck.  It mostly likely targets a 4 drop, which is enough to take down most creatures.

Nivix Cyclops: BA
This card.  This card is the nutter butter and bananas!  And I thought Frostburn Weird was good.  Although he requires one additional mana up-front, he is much more mana efficient than ol’ Frosty.  The problem with FBW is that it can’t get damage in the early to mid game because it is more important to hold mana up for spells than pump for a few points of damage.  His role is to hold the ground until the ground clears, then he beats down.

Nivix Cyclops holds the ground just the same, but he can get WAY more aggressive.  His toughness doesn’t get smaller, and all it requires is that you cast things like Think Twice, Pillar of Flame, Searing Spear, Brimstone Volley, or Amass the Components before bashing face.  He represents a much higher threat than FBW with the potential to be attacking for 4, 7, 10, or even 13 as early as turn 4.

The addition of him to my Izzet Tempo deck forces me to put more proactive spells in place of some counterspells so he can be a more reliable attacker.  I can see it now: turn 2 Goblin Electromancer, turn 3 attack for 2, play Nivix Clyclops, turn 4 play 2-3 spells to attack for a huge chunk and putting them in range of lethal.  The ability to sit back and have a 4/4 blocker represented as long as you have 2 mana open or one mana open with Goblin Electromancer in play can stave off many an attack.  This helps continue the role of ground patrol just like FBW does, except now we are more explosive with our aggressive gameplan.

Pilfered Plans:  P
Dimir decks that are looking to play the control role will love this card.  Divination hasn’t been getting much play because Think Twice lets you leave mana up and Amass the Components lets you see more cards.  The plan with this card is to make use of the added benefit of self-mill to pseudo-draw cards by hitting things with flashback or to add some incidental mill to the opponent if attacking their library is your primary win-con.

Tithe Drinker:  P
Anything cheap with Extort has potential, and this one is aggressively costed.  He is too vulnerable to removal and can’t survive combat with anything, but he potentially trades with bears like Syndic of Tithes.   Something like Ethereal Armor would protect him well.   Even a solid removal suite to clear the path for him could really help you race.  Extort + lifelink feels like a perfect anti-aggro combination to me.

Viashino Firstblade:  P
Boros aggro could use another haste creature to combine with Skyknight Legionnaire.  While the 2/2 is not the most relevant body to have around, he will likely get in for 4 or earn a chump block from something and continue to bring some beats.  Solider is a relevant and beneficial creature type to aid in the offensiveness of War Falcon.

Zhur-Taa Druid:  P
I don’t think a Gruul deck wants or needs to ramp, but the pinging every turn adds up.  The restrictive mana cost hurts it when comparing to Scorned-Villager.  I can see him getting out of control damage-wise and helping get the expensive bloodrushers in play earlier if you failed to draw 1 or 2 drop threats in a Gruul aggro deck.

Cluestones:  BUP
The aggro decks will obviously ignore these 3-mana rocks since they are too slow.  Even the control decks don’t need to ramp to 5 on turn 4, but I’m sure they might like the mana-fixing and potential to get ahead on mana and later on cycle the stone into another card when gas is shorter supply than mana.

Guildgates:  P
If you automatically put 4 of these into your 2 color deck and 12 into your 3 color deck then you need to reevaluate how you plan to play your spells on curve.  I suggest testing them out by playing with the max amount of gates to start – that’s right, actually jam games with the full amount.  Wait until they screw you up too much for your liking, then slowly start to cut them until you figure out how important it is for your deck to hit it’s land drops on time without losing tempo from them coming into play tapped.  Some decks want the fixing more than others due to multiple double costs across 3 or more colors, and some decks aren’t nearly as greedy.

And there you have it – all of the commons, all at once.  I have started to brew a few changes to some existing decks and potentially will work on a few new decks.  Overall the set is small and doesn’t have a ton of playable cards, but there are enough that will see play that it should make for an interesting update.

For reference, here’s my GoogleDoc with all the new lists that I am tinkering with.

http://tinyurl.com/cg58og6

My next article will cover some gameplay involved with the decks that I find to be the best and most fun to play.  Hopefully the CF Store will host another tournament soon and I can do another report from it, too.

Thanks for reading.  Comments and further discussion is appreciated!

Dr. Chris Baker, D.C. | Sports Chiropractor
Twitter:  @DrChrisBakerDC
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor
http://www.premierespineandsport.com/about-us.html#about-chris

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When Limited and Constructed Had a Baby (cont.)

Part II:  Paup Standard Tournament Report with UR Tempo

On Sunday, March 24th, the ChannelFireball Store in San Jose, CA hosted a typical 4-round standard event, except that the format was Standard, but limited to only commons.  I’ve been calling it “Paup Standard” but I also like calling it “Limited Standard.”  Let me know what you prefer to call it.

This would be the premiere showing of this format at the store.  I found out about the event on Wednesday, four days prior to the event.  In that time I did some brewing without looking up any of the lists on  the PDCmagic site.  I wanted to study the format on my own and not refine my deckbuilding until I had researched the 576 cards that exists in the format thoroughly.  Lots of commons are unplayable, so it’s a fairly easy format to figure out what cards are going to be the most relevant.

Here’s the list I used:

Izzet Tempo

Lands (23)
1 Haunted Fengraf
12 Island
3 Izzet Guildgate
7 Mountain

Creatures (12)
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Goblin Electromancer

Spells (25)
3 Amass the Components
3 Brimstone Volley
4 Essence Scatter
4 Negate
4 Pillar of Flame
3 Syncopate
4 Think Twice

Sideboard (15)
1 Mist Raven
1 Totally Lost
2 Archaeomancer
1 Dispel
2 Ghostly Flicker
2 Searing Spear
2 Electrickery
2 Thunderbolt
2 Curse of the Pierced Heart

The plan is to stick a Delver and protect it from removal and kill everything that gets in it’s way while ignoring anything that doesn’t.  Frostburn Weird is a wall early game and can clock them once you’ve exhausted them of resources.  Goblin Electromancer is the engine that makes the deck explode.  Think Twice, Essence Scatter, Negate, and Syncopate for X=1 can all be cast for U, making him the best turn 3 play if you have an untapped blue source, as well.  Three mana or less for Amass the Components has got to be the best mana ratio to card advantage play in the format.  Getting back Amass the Components with Archaeomancer post-board further adds to how gross it feels from the other side of the table.

In essence this is a draw-go deck where the opponent has a rough time deciding what to play around since we have main deck answers to everything.  Other versions of this deck have Searing Spear, Thought Scour, and Stitched Drake, but I think all those cards are poor because they are low impact or easy to dismantle.  Our deck has problems with aggressive one-drops that slip past are counters that are then protected with Negate/Ranger’s Guile/Giant Growth, but I did not expect many people to run a deck like my “All-In GU Aggro” deck.

Post board is when the deck can switch roles from Tempo to Control.  The Archaeomancer shell allows for an unbeatable late game lock of infinite removal spells, burn to the face, card draw, or creature bounce.  The combo is simply targeting Archaeomancer with Ghostly Flicker, getting back the same Ghostly Flicker that was just cast, since it hits your graveyard before the ‘new’ Archaeomancer has returned to play.  Other decks can utilize this combination with any creature to net a sweet effect:  Bloodhunter Bat – 2 free extorts, Attended Knight – free soldier army, Mist Raven – evacuate all your creatures, Balustrade Spy – millhouse, Centaur Healer, mono-lifegain, Borderland Ranger – fix that mana, thin that deck.

With 2 Archaeomancers you get back an additional spell from the graveyard.  Ghostly Flicker can even target Prophetic Prism for early game value before your 4 drops have arrived, but that card doesn’t have a place in my 2-mana deck that doesn’t use Ghostly Flicker as a value card, it’s there just to lock up the end-game.

Here’s what happened during the tournament:

Round 1:  GR Aggro (unknown opponent)

Game 1 he plays multiple Skinbrand Goblin and Giant Growth/Fireballs me down to 3.  His turn 5 attack would have been lethal, but I had a Negate for this 2nd Growth.  My team of Delver and 2x Electromancer brought the beats after I found some Pillars for his team.

Game 2 he lands a turn 1 Spire Tracer, which I ignore, underestimate, and get gotten by.  My opener has Mountain in hand with Pillar of Flame, Izzet Guildgate, Goblin Electromancer, and a few Counterspells.  I erroneously let his Tracer survive the turn.  Turn 2 he slams Volcanic Strength on it.  I draw into more counters and cannot race his Spire Tracer that grew even more with a Rancor, and then Slaughterhorn bloodrush and Titanic Growth to take the last bite.

Game 3 he did not draw a Volcanic Strength and my Frostburn Weirds held the ground until my card advantage machine of Electromancer into Think Twice into Amass the Components drew me into multiple Pillars, which cleared the path for Frostburn and Mancer to take it down.

W 2-1 (1-0)

Round 2:  UR Delver (unknown opponent)

Game 1 I am on the backfoot quickly against a turn 1 Delver, turn 2 Electromancer, and a Searing Spear on my own turn 1 Delver.  His Delver doesn’t flip for multiple turns and my turn 2 Frostburn Weird prevents attacks.  He flips Delver turn 4 and I take 3 per turn until I am at 8 life.  I stabilize after eliminating this Delver threat, which prompted a Negate battle.  We both utilized the mana advantage of Electromancer, but in the end I got a Pillar to stick on that bug.  More card advantage ensues for me via Amass the Components, which finds some more removal, and then my creatures run over his empty board.

Game 2 he Thought Scours himself, hoping to hit creatures or Think Twice.  He connects with his graveyard which allows him to play a turn 3 Stitched Drake, which I immediately strike down with Thunderbolt at the end of his turn.  I then slam a Curse of the Pierced Heart, a card he cannot interact with at all.  I kill all of his threats and draw a second Curse a few turns later to hasten the clock until he was burnt to a crisp.

He was a very competent player, but I feel like my deck’s card choices gave me a huge edge in the mirror.  A card like Thought Scour is mainly a blank in my mind.  I want cards in my deck to have a significant impact on the game, and Thought Scour was just his way of making Stitched Drake castable. Without Thought Scour it is not remotely castable.  Why would you want a card that is so unreliable when it isn’t broken in the format?  The Drake can’t even get past the problem creatures, Seraph of Dawn and Sentinel SpiderUnsummon and Mist Raven laugh at it, too, since it often gets stuck in hand since most other creatures of his are banished into exile from my Pillars.

An interested note was that during additional games we played for fun after, the Curse was not always a good card.  When I get behind on board, I would have preferred more creature removal that doubles as burn – Brimstone Volley #4, Searing Spears, or Thunderbolt #3 could have helped me stabilize.

W 2-0 (2-0)

Round 3:  UW Flicker (Josh Silvestri)

I knew Josh’s deck since he posted his list earlier in the week.  I did not think I had a good game 1 matchup because of the 4 maindeck Seraph of Dawn that he could protect with his own counterspells and he could also shield it from my removal with Ghostly Flicker.

Game 1 went on for about 20 turns before I was able to take control.  He bounced my team of Electromancers and Frostburn Weird multiple times with Silent Departure and Mist Raven in the early game for no value, just slowing me down slightly.  I wasn’t trying to beat down, and he wasn’t able to get any significant damage through, so his speed bumps didn’t do much.  Eventually I got ahead of him on cards and was able to counter his Seraphs and beatdown with a couple of Insectile Aberrations.

Game 2 really showcased how my deck’s control plan can reach the end game lockdown.  He has 2x Oblivion Ring, both on my early Electromancers in an attempt to slow down my mana advantage.  My 3 Frostburn Weirds end up staring at his 2 Attended Knights for a while.  He hit his second Plains super late, after turn 10, and by then I could either counter or Thunderbolt each Seraph on sight.  He must have had a Mist Raven or Archaeomancer in his opening hand because he searched for an Island with Evolving Wilds on turn 1 and had 2 Islands, 1 Plains, and Haunted Fengraf in play on turn 4.  I made a bad double-block with my 2 remaining Electromancers on an attack from one Attended Knight.  I figured it could trade 1 for 1 and at worst he Flickers post first-strike and he gets to eat one for free.  With 10+ lands in play, I already got the mana edge I needed from them, so it was worth a shot.  He had the Flicker, with Archaeomancer on the field to get it back.  Not to worry, I assembled my own Archaeomancer/Flicker combo and cast infinite Pillars and Thunderbolts on his team until his board was gone.

W 2-0 (3-0)

Round 4:  4-Color (GWru) Midrange/Creature Control (Aron Shimada)

Aron is a friend that I play-tested with the night before.  We played this exact matchup and it seemed pretty close.  His his deck has 4 Seraphs and 4 Sentinel Spiders main.  These cards are a nightmare for my deck to deal with if they resolve.  The rest of his deck has some Borderlands Rangers, Centaur Healers, targeted removal spells like Pillar of Flame, Abundant Growth to bring the mana together, and Amass the Components on the splash to keep the gas coming.

Game 1 on the draw I keep a hand of Island, Delver, Delver, Electromancer, Syncopate, Negate, Think Twice.  Greedy, I know.  I brink on land but draw another Delver on turn 2.  By turn 3 I have 3 Delvers in play and I draw land on turn 4, and more land after hitting on Think Twice.  From there he lands a Centaur Healer but I get a Frostburn Weird to keep it at bay.  My Delvers transform on turn 5, revealing Negate, and they take a 9-point chunk out of his life total.  He’s able to land a Seraph of Dawn while I was tapped low after getting Frostburn Weird into play.  I opted to beat with all again, succumbing a Delver to his Dawn, and finished it with Pillar of Flame.  The same exchange happened the next turn after he resolved a Sentinel Spider.  The exile clause on Pillar was clutch because he couldn’t get a guy back from his graveyard with Haunted Fengraf.  Eventually my last Delver was protected by a Negate from becoming a helpless victim and he finished the job.

Game 2 he was never able to get a creature to land on the battlefield.  I saw he was strapped for mana, so I countered his turn 3 and turn 4 Borderland Rangers.  This allowed my beatdown Squad of Electromancer and Frostburn Weird to seal the deal before he was able to hand his powerful but mana-intensive 4 and 5-drops.

W 2-0 (4-0)

I updated the list after playing some more matches over the next few days versus various decks. I made the following changes:

Main Deck:  
No changes.  There is potential to change into 3 Searing Spears over the 3 Syncopate if we are having problems against low-drop aggro decks, particularly against Skynight Legionnaire.  I tested against a lot of blue decks and I really enjoy the additional counters and utilizing the exile clause is a great way to combat the Archaeomancer/Ghostly Flicker lock.

Sideboard:
-1 Mist Raven, -1 Totally Lost, -2 Searing Spear, -1 Ghostly Flicker
+2 Curse of the Pierced Heart, +2 Archaeomancer, +1 Unsummon

When the Curse is good, turns out it is really good.  Decks that lose to Delver game 1 will often board in more ways to kill it or roadblock it, making it difficult to beat an enchantment that the opponent was never aware of.

The Archaeomancers, affectionately known as “The Snapcaster for the Commoners” are the sweetest when you shift into the control deck plan.  ‘Flashing back’ a Pillar with 5 mana in play is a common line.  The additional men makes your chances of getting two in play better, giving you more opportunity to combo with Flicker, especially against a deck with counters or removal for Archaeomancer.

Ghostly Flicker does not do anything except protect a creature from removal until you get 2 Archaeomancers going, so cutting down to 1 is fine.  Even if it gets countered, you can just get it back with Archaeomancer (hope it wasn’t a Syncopate!)

The Unsummon helps reset the board if they land a turn 1 beater like Delver or Spire Tracer which preempts our counterspells.  It’s also a good answer to Rancor and other creature auras like Madcap Skills, Pacifism, and Stab Wound.

The Mist Raven was unnecessary – it’s just an expensive, sorcery speed Unsummon, and I found the 2/2 flyer body to be mostly irrelevant.

Totally Lost was a cute way to lock out an opposing control deck from their draw step.  I found that trying to side into control versus a true control deck, like Esper or UB Prism, was a horrible sideboarding plan.  Instead, just board in Curses and keep your deck very threat dense and play the aggro role.

Searing spears were good but the specificity of other removal spells are the types of answers that you want in the board.  Again, I can imagine switching the spears straight into the main if you plan to play against blitz-style aggro.

Other Notable Finishes

I built two other decks that made it to 3-1or 4-0 that my friends piloted.  One was Junk Hexproof piloted by Dave Sunde and the other was WR Tokens manned by Daniel Vinson – well done team!  They added their own tweaks to the lists I started with, things like Scorned Villager to ramp faster in the Junk deck and some main deck burn spells to help provide some reach in case the token swarm has been thwarted.  Both decks are pretty unfair if they are allowed to execute their game-plans.  Another reason why I like having so many counterspells in my Izzet deck is so I can stop things like a hexproof creature from coming into play or having a Righteous Charge or Dynacharge resolve.

My plan for the future of preparing for this format is to create decks that can beat or at least compete with my UR deck.  If I wasn’t super behind on board early, like before turn 4, then I often felt like I couldn’t lose.  Representing multiple hard counters for just one U and drawing more cards than most decks feels extremely good.  Once I get some decklists tested and tuned I’ll write about them.  For reference, you can look at my GoogleDoc to see all of the decklists I have brewed.
http://tinyurl.com/cg58og6

My next article will be a reaction to the commons that get spoiled from Dragon’s Maze and I’ll go over which ones I think would be useful to current decks or maybe spawn a whole new archetype.

Thanks for reading.  Comments and further discussion is welcome!

Dr. Chris Baker, D.C. | Sports Chiropractor
Twitter:  @DrChrisBakerDC
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor

http://www.premierespineandsport.com/about-us.html#about-chris

When Limited and Constructed Had a Baby

Part I:  Paup Standard in the House

Do you enjoy limited way more than constructed?  Is the thought of a constructed format PTQ season more dreadful than the fact that limited-only Pro Tours don’t exist anymore?  Do you wish you could understand constructed formats enough to enjoy playing them because you had enough time and money to prepare for them adequately?  Instead of crying about how much you hate Standard, Modern, and Legacy (like I tend to do quite frequently) maybe you should musk up and realize that a fresh new format has emerged to break your spell of constructed hatred.

The Birth of a New Format

On Wednesday, March 20th someone told me about a format that I did not know even exists.  He called it “Standard Pauper”.  It is what it sounds like, commons only constructed in the current standard format.  Much like ‘regular’ constructed pauper, it has a large following with the MTGO community.  The problem is that these formats tend to have is that few people actually build paper decks and battle each other IRL.  Times, they are a-changing.

The ChannelFireball store just hosted it’s first “Paup Standard” tournament as I like to phrase it.  And what a tournament it was.  Forty players showed up for a format that has never been tournament approved IRL before.  To compare, the CF store ‘only’ had thirty players show up for standard at FNM two days prior (which is actually a healthy amount of people).

Before I get carried away here, I need you to realize that this format has to become popular for it to continue to be supported IRL.  After playing in the event, multiple people told me it was the best constructed format they have played in recent memory.  I would bet that Jess Dunks, our fearless TO, was given many similar reports of how awesome the day was.  While that may be a favorable result of running one event, I do not think this format is going to appeal to PTQ hopefuls and competitive pros because they would argue it’s largely a waste of time.  It will not help you prepare for the WMCQs or PTQs, nor with it help qualify you for the Pro Tour; however, if you are looking for a fun and balanced, potentially grindy format that rewards deckbuilding and play-skill alike, then read on to learn more about the details of the format as I have come to understand them.

Gatherer Database FTW

Before you decide on what deck you want to play, I suggest you first browse the gatherer searching for ‘standard’ and listing the cards in ascending order according to rarity.  There are roughly 576 commons to browse.  Brainstorm a little on what cards you believe could be the pillars of the format and compare to what I have at the end of the article.

http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Search/Default.aspx?page=0&sort=rarity+&format=%5B%22Standard%22%5D

I was told to check out http://pdcmagic.com/ to learn about the format by Josh Silverstri’s primer article (http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/silvestri-says-modern-wrap-up/), but I skipped that.  I wanted to brew. As a limited only player, I have honed the skills to construct a deck on the fly, but I have never brewed before.  I would check the site after creating a few decklists of my own.  My definition for success would not be limited to what looked like the best deck, but also included which deck looked the most enjoyable for me to play.

Constructed Haterade – Not Sweet Enough Despite All That Sugar

I have no reference point of how “good” a constructed format is since I don’t ever play constructed, but from my limited experience of playing Paup Standard the past few weeks, it’s legit.  People complain of how broken cards like Burning-Tree Emissary are or how so many decks in Modern look different but feel the same in execution, but they can’t do anything about it because those formats are absolutely necessary if you care about competitive play right now.

Standard, Modern, Legacy, ‘Classic’ Pauper, and Vintage (if you are old school), are the most popular and supported constructed formats.  There is a significant barrier to entry in all of those – card ownership, monetary cost, and the time it takes to be well-prepared for competitive play.  Paup Standard round-house kicks all those barriers in the face.  If you draft regularly, you will own a superfluous amount of cards relevant to the format.  If you already own the cards, the format is essentially a monetary free-roll.  You may be missing a few Seraph of Dawn or Tragic Slip, but you likely have a friend that isn’t using them or your LGS can find them for you easily.

As someone who wishes there were still limited-only pro tours and generally skips viewing constructed articles/videos, brewing for Paup Standard has actually robbed me of sleep for a few nights – my mind simply wouldn’t turn off.  “Brewer’s Insomnia” can really mess up your circadian rhythm.  I imagine this affliction affects many pros as they scour the depths of their minds for interactions and metagame-warping tech.  I do not mind the symptoms since I appreciate the mental exercise that I have not honed during my magic playing career.  Building decks after a draft seems easier to me because I am immersed in planning what the deck will look like within a narrow time-frame.  Brewing is constrained by only the time restriction that you place on it, which allows for so much more inspiration.

Let’s Build a Smarter Planet

I do my best to limit the addictive habit of drafting (and recently standard paupering) to only when I can assemble the requisite number of people IRL, which means I forgo playing on MTGO.  You see, balance to life is necessary and playing with a person across a table is much more enjoyable for me than clicking a mouse and hitting F keys ad nauseum.  The psychological aspect of poker has got to be more intriguing when you can actually visualize your opponents, hunt for their reactions, maybe pick up on the pounding of their carotid artery after making a bold shove.  Maybe the convenience of playing from home or anywhere your laptop can travel is too sweet to dismiss. Either way, I hope that Paup Standard can gain popularity IRL and that a new player-base emerges from it.

What Does Macellus Wallace Look Like?!

To understand the format, you need to know what it looks like first.  To summarize the format archetypes, you have decks trying to attack with well-protected creatures (Junk/Bant Hexproof, Mono-Green Stompy with Ranger’s Guile, UR Delver with Counterspells), ones that attack in swarms and can burn you out or cast pseudo-Overrun (Boros/Selensnya Aggro, W/B or R/W Tokens), and ones that try to kill all the creatures and win with mill/extort/having the last creature in play (Esper control, UB/UR Prism/Flicker).  Various midrange decks exist with 3, 4, or even 5 colors while rallying under the banner of “play all of the most efficient/hard to kill creatures” in the format.  Instead of looking at a bunch of decklists of my creation, I invite you to create some on your own or look some up on the PDC site.  If you’re dying to see a breakdown of the decks I have brewed – check this GoogleDoc out:  http://tinyurl.com/cg58og6

The following is a breakdown of the “Pillars” of the format as I see it.  These are the cards I think you need to prepare for the most and build around as much as possible.

10 Best Creatures

1) Seraph of Dawn
Hard to kill, blocks every flyer, lifelink relevant with damage as primary win-con for majority of decks

2) Frostburn Weird
Best defensive creature early, late game it can bring the beats

3) Sentinel Spider
Stops every flyer in the format in it’s tracks, vigilance helps with races

4) Primal Huntbeast/Rumbleback Rhino
Only creatures with the most broken keyword printed on creatures – unfair with Ethereal Armor, Rancor, and Mark of the Vampire

5) Goblin Electromancer
Provides virtual mana, can be ridiculously explosive

6) Delver of Secrets
Comes into play faster than anything, overall unfair but variance involved with transforming makes ability to apply pressure less consistent than in other constructed formats

7) Archaeomancer
Best late game value engine for infinite spells or ETB effects from other creatures with Ghostly Flicker

8) Attended Knight
Protects against Devour Flesh, tokens enabler, sweet blink target, multiples can block hexproof beasts

9) Basilica Guards/Kingpin’s Pet/Syndic of Tithes/Basilica Screecher
Extort as a win-con makes these creatures band together to push any race out of reach

 10) Gather the Townsfolk/Captain’s Call/Eyes in the Skies
Makes creatures – so they count!  Represents tokens as swarming and then overrunning with Righteous Charge or Dynacharge

10 Best Removal Spells

1) Pillar of Flame
Sorcery speed but still best due to exile clause to get around Haunted Fengraf, hits X/2s in the early game, let’s 2/2s attack into X/4s for a painful but often necessary 2-for-1 to permanently deal with the threat

2) Essence Scatter
It puts a creature in the graveyard – so it counts!  Prevent ETB effects and kills hexproof creatures while they are still vulnerable to being hexed

3) Victim of Night
Essentially 1 less cost Murder in this format, but doesn’t require morbid to Terminate like Tragic Slip

4) Brimstone Volley
Doubles as burn but better than Searing Spear because it can morbid to kill X/4s that are otherwise problematic

5) Devour Flesh
Best answer to hexproof creatures after killing the rest of their team

6) Tragic Slip
Instant speed terminate for B in some cases, stops turn 1 X/1s from gaining advantage, like Delver of Secrets and Avacyn’s Pilgrim

7) Thunderbolt
Kills public enemy #1 and a few more while comboing as a split card Lava Spike

8) Searing Spear
2 mana makes this effect great, but 3 damage misses a lot of relevant creatures

9) Dead Weight/Stab Wound
DW better as a cheap answer to X/2s without requiring morbid like Tragic Slip but SW really shines against the X/4s and can finish the game just like it did in limited

10) Oblivion Ring/Pacifism/Bonds of Faith
Can hit almost anything, but watch out for Ghostly Flicker/Cloudshift and Ray of Revelation

10 Best Sideboard Cards

1) Negate
Best way to protect your threats

2) Electrickery
Only potential sweeper for tokens, has a good chance to be better than a one for one, which most other removal spells can’t do

3) Ray of Revelation
Blowout versus hexproof decks and Oblivion Rings

4) Thunderbolt
Blackhawk Dawn!

5) Dispel
More narrow way to protect your threats and win a counter war against a control deck

6) Undying Evil
Sweet answer to targeted removal or creatures that trade in combat.  Extra stats makes it even tougher to take down later

7) Keening Apparition
Beater for the aggro plan that doesn’t slow the deck down while answering problematic enchantments

8) Break of Day
Counters Electrickery and pushes more damage or makes favorable trades

9) Cremate/Beckon Apparition
Best instant speed answers to specific graveyard recursion

 10) Curse of the Bloody Tomb/Curse of the Pierced Heart
Alternate angle of attack, can be hard to answer if you show 0 enchantments in game 1
If you hate constructed as much as I do, then I highly recommend giving Paup Standard a try.  The games play out like a balanced game of limited.  No matter how consistent and ‘perfect’ your triple GTC Boros or Simic deck can be, losing to unbeatable bombs will happen from time to time.  No one likes it when that happens!  Even when I win with a bomb it feels pretty meh – if the opponent has zero outs in their whole deck then having the bomb say “and win the game if this resolves” is not my definition of a fun and skill-intensive game.  Paup Standard is great because you cannot use the excuse that you “lost to bombs” since they do not exist in this format. Ultimately, individual card choices and the decisions you make in game have a huge impact on the outcome of Paup Standard games.

If you enjoyed this article summarizing the Paup Standard format then be sure to check out for Part II where I summarize my tournament experience at the ChannelFireball Store.
Thanks for reading.  Comments and further discussion is appreciated!

Dr. Chris Baker, D.C. | Sports Chiropractor
Twitter:  @DrChrisBakerDC
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor
http://www.premierespineandsport.com/about-us.html#about-chris