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:
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 Spider. Unsummon 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:
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.
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.
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.
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
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor