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.


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


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