Since Wednesday is the day for Standard Pauper Constructed at the CFB Game Center, I went on Tuesday to draft RTR Block and to test out my Aristocrats deck between rounds. My draft rounds tend to end in 20 minutes, leaving 30 or more minutes to spare between rounds. Some new or slow players are always there to make the rounds go to time, so you have to come prepared with something to do in the down time. Standard Pauper has been a solid replacement for Winston/Winchestor drafting.
I drafted a mediocre Esper Control deck, resulting with a 2-1 for the night. Each match was won or lost as quick as I anticipated. I tested between rounds, and it only took a few games to realize that my Aristocrats deck had some major flaws in it that I wasn’t sure how to fix with card choices within the Borzhov color wedge.
The vampire sac outlets were incredibly underwhelming without Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers as a follow-up play. Not only that, but a lot of the time they would just hunt my vampires down with removal and now the Act of Treason Pillarfield Ox could no longer permanently deal with an opposing threat. Sometimes the enemy liked to swarm us with numerous, small creatures that aren’t affected much by losing just one guy. Overall, the strategy seemed too narrow and only geared towards decks with mono-large threats.
What really drove the nail into the coffin for me was that the deck is only capable of drawing one card per turn. Having been accustomed to Goblin Electromancer shenanigans with Think Twice and Amass the Components, I felt like I needed a strong reason to avoid blue if I was trying to play a control deck. The blue gatekeeper, Opal Lake Gatekeepers, doesn’t appeal to me, which is why initially skipped the notion of running blue as a primary color for my gatekeeper control brewing session. I wanted to utilize gatekeepers to their max potential, so much that I wasn’t thinking about the shell that supported them. Logically I thought with a more open-mind and came up with an idea of splicing my Aristocrats combo plan with the consistency of my Izzet control (postboard) plan. This is ultimately what I sat down with for Week 2 of Standard Pauper at the ChannelFireball Game Center.
American Gatekeeper Control
1 Cloudshift – To dodge targeted removal spells
1 Dispel – To counter counterspells and instant speed removal
1 Explosive Impact – To kill X/5s or smaller without requiring morbid (Brimstone Volley)
2 Beckon Apparition – To remove Ghostly Flicker and Rancor
2 Electrickery – To sweep War Falcons, Daring Skyjek, Fervent Cathar, X/1s, Tokens
2 Keening Apparition – Deals with Oblivion Rings, Curses
2 Negate – Combats counters and non-instant speed removal like Oblivion Ring
2 Oblivion Ring – Crushes curses, other Oblivion Rings, large threats
2 Thunderbolt – Hurls flyers to the ground
There were some crazy games and interesting interactions within each game. You’ll learn how the deck works from the gameplay synopsis.
Round 1: Unknown Opponent (Bant Evolve)
Game 1 his first play is a Cloudfin Raptor followed up by a Centaur Healer while mine is Pillar for his Raptor and a Sunspire Gatekeepers with a knight on turn 4. We each land Seraph of Dawn and I into his, hoping he would block so I can finish it off with a Pillar, but he never blocks and we trade life to stay even. I land a Mist Raven and Bounce his Seraph. On the third attack with my Seraph he finally decides to block – the turn after his returned to play. Doing so let’s me finish it off with Pillar, but not before he finishes mine with Pit Fight. I summon an Archaeomancer, getting back an Amass I had already composed. Another Pit Fight fight takes outs my Mist Raven when it’s stuck dueling his Centaur, but he still can’t attack past my 2/4.
I land another Seraph, which gets met by her mirror again. This time, I’m ready for the full on blowout. I gain control of his Seraph with Smelt-Ward Gatekeeper and beat down for a +4/-4 swing in life totals. Second main I Ghostly Flicker his Seraph and my Archaeomancer. Control Magic your best creature, get back the Flicker, GUI! (pronounced “guh-wee,” acronym for ‘go you idiot’, appropriately said when broken things have recently transpired). Needless to say, he played another Seraph, then I drew Cloudshift, which targeted my Smelt-Ward Gatekeeper, repeating the pattern to forever steal his angel with Ghostly Flicker. Final score – Me: 3 Angels vs Him: 0 Angels
Game 2 did not take nearly as long as game 1. I countered or killed all his early plays and Control Magic’d him by turn 8. A relevant play that I hadn’t made before was to Ghostly Flicker my Archaeomancer to get back an Essence Scatter in response to a relevant creature being placed on the stack. Losing the infinite combo was fine if it meant I could use the Flicker to effectively Snapcaster back Essence Scatter. He didn’t see it coming and I had enough power in play to beatdown before he could set up a reasonable defense.
W 2-0 (1-0)
Round 2: Bobby Alexovich (friend playing Dimir dedicated Mill)
The following is my Dimir Mill list – he had a few different numbers but card choices were the same.
Game 1 I’m able to land an early Goblin Electromancer but he has turn 3 Curse of the Bloody Tomb and I don’t have the counter. I mill 2 and rip an Oblivion Ring to exile the curse – whew! I’ve tested games against this deck and the only real clock they have is the curse, so it’s best that I send it off immediately while he is tapped out. My team of 2/4s and 2/2s are unable to attack past his team of 2/3 Balustrade Spy and Sage’s Row Denizen. He almost has to discard to hand size while stuck on 5 lands, meaning he has a lot of counters in hand that he doesn’t want to be tap out ever. He eventually breaks serve to play a 4-drop, which allows me to kill his Spy to get through for some damage in the air. We proceed to have counter wars over creatures, but I eventually tap him out and land an Oblivion Ring on another Spy he snuck into play. The game ends as he has no way to block or deal with my Seraphs.
I side out -4 Pillar of Flame, -4 Goblin Electromancer, -1 Seraph of Dawn, for +1 Dispel, +2 Beckon Apparition, +2 Negate, +2 Keening Apparition, +2 Oblivion Ring. I need to max out answers to his curses while being able to counter his counterspells and remove his Archaeomancer targets.
Game 2 is not a close encounter. He never gets a Curse going despite playing one on turn 3 and another on turn 4. My 2x Keening Apparition in opening hand protect my library from falling victim to the mill factory. He gets double Sage’s Row Denizen online late in the game, but I’m able to ignore it and commit resources to protecting my angel air force. Even when I’ve exhausted my Essence Scatters I’m able to Control Magic his Balustrade Spy to keep the flying beats flowing.
W 2-0 (2-0)
Round 3: Aron Shimada (friend playing Blue Junk)
I played Aron in the finals of the first tournament, pre-Gatecrash, that was held at the CFB Game Center. His deck is nearly the same now except for the addition of Ubul Sar Gatekeepers from Gatecrash. That guy packs quite the punch.
1 Amass the Components
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Centaur Healer
1 Devour Flesh
1 Ghostly Flicker
1 Psychic Strike
1 Saruli Gatekeepers
1 Sentinel Spider
1 Silverchase Fox
1 Victim of Night
2 Ray of Revelation
Game 1 We both have a slow start in regards to damage dealt to the opponent, but we develop our mana well. He has Abundant Growth and Borderland Ranger to my Think Twicing and Sunspire Gatekeepers for full value. I tap low to get ahead on cards with Amass the Components and that gives him the opportunity to land a Seraph of Dawn. I play out a few more creatures of my own, Electromancer and Seraph, and pretty soon we are at parity. I tap low again for Amass the Components into Mist Raven for his Seraph, which lets him stick an Ubul Sar Gatekeepers, taking out my Electromancer.
With the board stalling and neither of us able to attack, I finally hit the Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers to go with the Ghostly Flicker I had in hand. After stealing his angel and bashing for 4 in the air I go about business as usual and attempt to steal his Seraph by Flickering it. It resolves, I untap the angel, and I say go. He reaches to take his Angel back, confused about what had happened. I insist that I now control his creature and insist that he calls a judge to clarify the situation. Wouldn’t you know, It turns out that due to ‘time-stamp ordering’ the Angel remains under my control because the Ghostly Flicker wording prevails over the Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers’. He is appalled and throws a huge temper tantrum and gets DQ’d for starting a fight with the female judge and then with me when I tried to defend her! So out of character… ha just kidding – he actually accepted his fate and chided me for not telling him about this DEVASTATING combo earlier so that he could have played it tonight, too. Sorry bro, can’t give away all the hott new tech before I’ve tested it!
Game 2 starts off similar to game 1, just mana development and some Think Twicing to get ahead on cards. It’s turn 4 and we both haven’t played a creature yet. I have 2 gates in play already with a grip of 2x Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers, 1x Seraph of Dawn, 1x Archaeomancer, and a Cloudshift. He has to have removal in hand, so I try to bait it out by playing a Red Pillarfield Ox, just raw doggin’ it out there. He laughs out loud, seeing as the card has the potential to blow him out but certainly can’t do much on an empty board.
Despite not thinking it was very threatening, Aron decides to Oblivion Ring the ox and adds an Avacyn’s Pilgrim to his board. I draw Seraph #2 and decide to run one of them out there. He bins it with Victim of Night and lands his own Seraph. I draw Keening Apparition and decide to run out my last Seraph since I have no other good play. This one sticks but he gets to resolve a Sentinel Spider while I’m tapped low (and without a counter in hand). By the time I get to 6 mana in play I am massively behind on board. He has Spider, Angel, Pilgrim, and a Centaur Healer to my Keening Apparition. My draw wields me a Brimstone Volley and my next turn is insane. I sac the Keening Apparition to blow up the O-Ring that housed my Red Pillarfield Ox. I steal his Seraph of Dawn, Brimstone Volley (morbid engaged!) the Sentinel Spider, beat for 2 in the air, and finish with Mind Control on said angel by way of Cloudshift. His board is now Pilgrim and Healer to my Gatekeeper and Seraph. I eventually draw into Archaeomancer and Ghostly Flicker to repeatedly make an army of 2/2s with Sunspire Gatekeepers and bounce all his creatures with Mist Raven to seal the game.
W 2-0 (3-0)
Round 4: Colin (Boros Aggro)
Colin is a smart man that builds a plethora of decks and hooks up all his friends so they can compete in the event, too. He sat next to me last game and had 3x War Falcon in play, so I knew what was up.
Game 1 I keep a hand with Boros Guildgate, Plains, 2x Brimstone Volley, Think Twice, Goblin Electromancer, and Amass the Components. I figured one land and I can kill 2 threats and if I hit a blue source my hand is gonna go off and be up 3-4 cards in no time. I bricked on hitting a blue source, heck I didn’t even hit in a land after 5 draws, at which point I was dead to Daring Skyjek, Gore-House Chainwalker, and Skyknight Legionnaire.
I side out -3 Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers, -2 Goblin Electromancers, -1 Cloudshift, -1 Syncopate for +2 Negate (for his burn), +2 Keening Apparition (in case of Oblivion Ring), +2 Electrickery (he wasn’t scared to play lots of X/1s), + 1 Thunderbolt (in case he brings in Seraph of Dawn and it can hit Legionnaire before it hits me).
Game 2 I am blessed with all of the colors of the American flag in my opening hand. My trips Pillar of Flame stopped his opening of 2x Daring Skyjek and Gore-House Chainwalker. I counter a few more of his guys and land a Sunspire Gatekeepers. I get a 2 for 1 with an overloaded hitting a War Falcon and Daring Skyjek. He throws burn at my face but a Seraph of Dawn ups my life total back into a safe range (8, 10, 12…), and she along with the Sunspire Gatekeepers plus an Electromancer finish the job.
Game 3 I develop my American manabase early with all gates, which set me back on tempo heavily as I wasn’t able to play Think Twice until turn 3 and flash it back on Turn 4. Luckily he had a slow start, which means I was at 8 life by turn 5 from his attacks with a Daring Skyjek, Gore-House Chainwalker, and Skyknight Legionnaire – quite the familiar crew! I was able to reset the Daring Skyjek with a Mist Raven, but he burned it out of the air with Searing Spear. I cleaned up his Chainwalker and Skyknight with a Pillar and Volley. With him down to 3 cards in hand and not doing anything with them and 5 lands in play, I figured he had all spells or sandbagged lands in hand. Either way, it was my time to get some damage in. I started beating down in 4 point chunks with Sunspire Gatekeepers and an Electromancer (he incinerated my knight token). I Scattered his Skyjek on it’s way back into play. With 6 mana in play I cast an Archaeomancer to get back the Essence Scatter, representing it with blue and one untapped. He drew for his turn and quickly slammed a Fervent Cathar into play. I didn’t think for very long and let it resolve.
Well, that turned out to be a huge misplay. He got through for 2 (putting me to 6) because my lone blocker, Archaeomancer, was targeted with the Cathar’s cannot block triggered ability and with 2 cards in hand I figured I was dead to a combo of Searing Spear and/or Brimstone Volley. I realized my mistake immediately and told myself to just counter whatever creature he plays next. I didn’t have a Negate in hand, so I’d be completely boned by burn. Fortunately, he passes the turn back to me.
I still don’t know if I’m dead yet, but he knows I have counters, so I think I’m out of burn range. I luckily rip Seraph of Dawn off the top and get it into play. He bricks on his next draw and picks up his pen 3 turns in a row as I +2 my life, -2 his. He burns the rest of my team away with a Pillar and a Spear, but the white angel puts me far out of reach to his burn and I soar on her wings all the way to victory lane.
The key here is that he had me down to 1 life (Pillar of Flame and Searing Spear in hand) and that he easily could have had 6 points of burn instead of 5. I hope I don’t make a mistake like that again.
W 2-1 (4-0)
That was a really fun and tight tournament. It’s the only four matches I’ve played with the American Gatekeeper Control deck, so I’m not sure exactly how good it is against many other decks out there, but I sure know it was super sweet to play.
The biggest criticism of this deck is that the Goblin Electromancers weren’t very necessary. This deck isn’t as spell dense as the Izzet Tempo deck that runs Delver of Secrets, and if you’re not getting a significant mana advantage then you’re just playing a difficult to cast bear. I will replace him with 2x Frostburn Weird, 1x Deputy of Acquittals and 1x Sunspire Gatekeepers – that card was definitely impressive.
I have no idea what I want to play with next week. I’ve been thinking about various brews but none seem to compare to this one. It’s gonna take a lot for me to not play blue in this format.
Also, before I started writing about Standard Pauper – I had written a few articles about Rotisserie Draft but hadn’t published them ever. My friends and I have a Full Block RTR/GTC/DRG Rotisserie draft planned for this weekend – I’m thinking I’ll mix it up and write about that. Rotisserie is a super skill-intensive and fun format that has been featured at the old “Invitational” tournaments where the winner would make a card of their own design (Dark Confidant, Shadowmage Infiltrator, Meddling Mage, etc.)
Thanks for reading. Comments and further discussion is appreciated!
Dr. Chris Baker, D.C. | Sports Chiropractor
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor