[Standard Pauper] Channel Fireball Game Center Weekly #2

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.

Abraham-Lincoln-Vampire-Hunter6

Irrelevant Vampires

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.

pillarfield ox Act of Treason

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.

Lightning_Angel_Wallpaper_be8wr

American Gatekeeper Control

Lands (23)
2 Haunted Fengraf
2 Mountain
2 Plains
3 Boros Guildgate
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Izzet Guildgate
6 Island

Creatures (16)
1 Mist Raven
1 Sunspire Gatekeepers
3 Archaeomancer
3 Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers
4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Seraph of Dawn

Spells (21)
1 Brimstone Volley
1 Cloudshift
1 Syncopate
2 Amass the Components
2 Ghostly Flicker
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Essence Scatter
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Think Twice

Sideboard (15)
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.

pitfight

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 ArchaeomancerControl 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

seraph of dawn

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)

curse of the bloody tomb

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.

Lands (22)
1 Haunted Fengraf
10 Island
4 Dimir Guildgate
7 Swamp

Creatures (14)
4 Sage’s Row Denizen
4 Balustrade Spy
4 Archaeomancer
1 Mist Raven
1 Leyline Phantom

Spells (24)
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Pilfered Plans
3 Ghostly Flicker
3 Psychic Strike
4 Curse of the Bloody Tome
4 Devour Flesh
4 Essence Scatter
4 Think Twice

Sideboard (15)
1 Dispel
1 Unsummon
2 Negate
3 Amass the Components
4 Dead Weight
4 Syncopate

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)

sentinel spider

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.

Lands (22)
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Simic Guildgate
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Haunted Fengraf
2 Orzhov Guildgate
2 Plains
3 Swamp
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Selesnya Guildgate

Creatures (18)
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Silverchase Fox
3 Borderland Ranger
3 Centaur Healer
3 Sentinel Spider
3 Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
4 Seraph of Dawn

Spells (20)
1 Cloudshift
1 Murder
2 Rancor
2 Dead Weight
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Sign in Blood
3 Amass the Components
3 Victim of Night
4 Abundant Growth

Sideboard (15)
1 Amass the Components
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Centaur Healer
1 Cloudshift
1 Devour Flesh
1 Ghostly Flicker
1 Psychic Strike
1 Saruli Gatekeepers
1 Sentinel Spider
1 Silverchase Fox
1 Victim of Night
2 Duress
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!

I sided out -4 Goblin Electromancer, -4 Pillar of Flame for +2 Oblivion Ring, +2 Negate, +2 Keening Apparition, +1 Cloudshift, +1 Dispel

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)

fervant cathar

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.

***

dark confidant Double-Shadowmage meddling mage

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
Twitter:  @DrChrisBakerDC
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor
http://www.premierespineandsport.com/about-us.html#about-chris

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The Aristocrats Lower Their Class to Standard Pauper

Last week I wrote a tournament report essentially bragging about the unbeatable Izzet tempo deck that I am cumulatively 8-0 in tournament play at the ChannelFireball Game Center.  I hope that the deck is popular now so that all of the brewing time I’ve invested in creating decks that smash it this past week pays off. As it turns out, Izzet is not indestructible.

The following is the process by which I came upon an interesting Gatekeeper Control deck that I found was able to handily beat my Izzet deck.  The decklist is at the end, but it’s an interesting journey building the deck card by card.  Read on to follow my thought process on the deck’s creation!

falkenrath-aristocratcartel_aristocrat

Brew Crew

There are multiple brews that I feel are interesting and well-positioned right now but I want to focus on just one for this article and to do a more in depth analysis of card choice and gameplay.  The deck is called The Aristocrats despite having zero of said creature type in the deck.  First off, the deck name is ironic – there’s no way an Aristocrat would even think about including itself in any pauper format.  The deck name simply implies a 3-color Borzhov mana base that has synergy with sacrificing creatures riddled throughout the deck.  This theme has been popularized by Sam Black, SCG team member and lead deck designer that created the Standard Aristocrats deck that my friend Tom Martell won with at Pro Tour Gatecrash.

Dragons-Maze

Revisiting My Dragon’s Maze Spoiler Set Review

After making this deck I was interested to see what I originally thought of a few cards – the gatekeepers in particular.  Smelt-Ward Gatekeeper, Sunspire Gatekeeper, and Ubul Sar Gatekeeper.  The black is obviously the best, but looking back I see that I thought the red one was SUP (strictly unplayable) and the white one was BUP (borderline unplayable).  Oops – I hope I can prove myself wrong!

sunspire gatekeepers

Ubul-Sar-Gatekeepers

Why Gatekeepers?

The consistent 2-color decks like my Izzet deck can’t get much benefit from Gatekeepers because they would only run 4 Guildgates – chances of having 2 in play on turn 4 are quite low. Things get interesting when you branch into 3-color wedges.  Having access to up to 12 Guildgates seriously fixes your mana while ensuring that your 4 drop will enter the battlefield with 2 gates already in play.  The power level of Gatekeepers is what made me reconsider 3-color decks as viable choices.  The 2/4 is more significant that I originally thought since most creatures and spells kill X/3s or smaller.  The downside to a Gate infested mana-base is that we are going to be setting ourselves back on tempo routinely, but since we know this going into the brewing process, we can plan for it with specific card choices to make up for the potential tempo loss.

Let the Gates Begin

Almost every Gatekeeper deck should start with 4 Ubul Sar Gatekeeper.  He takes down everything from Delver of Secrets, Goblin Electromancer, and Skynight Legionnaire while leaving a body in play that blanks 3/x attackers, and he can be blinked later for additional value.

The red Gatekeeper, Smelt-Ward Gatekeeper, is the odd ball choice that I have grown to love.  Originally I thought he was the worst because a 2/4 doesn’t seem useful and Act of Treason is not a powerful effect.  On it’s own it at best it acts as a one time burn spell that can may indeed create a lethal alpha strike by removing a blocker, but most times the creature you steal can be chump blocked or you won’t have enough pressure on them for it to even matter.

bloodflow-connoisseur

falkenwrath torturer

Sac Outlets

Cue the dinner bell – time for the Vampires to arrive.  Bloodflow Connoisseur, Falkenrath Torturer, and Bloodthrone Vampire are all waiting to sink their teeth into our prey – that being whatever creature we stole with Smelt-Ward Gatekeeper.  Now our Act of Treason Pillarfield Ox plays more like a Shirekmaw or Flametongue Kavu.

How to Regain Tempo

If playing 2 Guildgates within the span of turns 1 through 3 is ideal because we want to hit our 4th land drop with an untapped land, then we have to decide carefully what we can do with one less mana available than the turn we are on to survive the early game.  Our deck is control by nature because it’s looking to deal with all of the opposing threats and then widdle away at the opponents life total with 2/4s.  The best way to do this is to shore up our game against aggro decks and low drop creatures in general.  This puts one and two mana removal spells at a premium for our Gatekeeper deck.

Pillar of Flame is my sorcery speed X/2 killer of choice.  I like Dead Weight here, too, but the exile clause is often relevant.  I like that Dead Weight can also blank a 2/4’s power and let our 2/4s forge past them – but if you know anything about the format then you know that blink effects like Ghostly Flicker and Cloudshift are common and powerful enough value engines on their own that we don’t need to get our enchantments brushed off for additional rub-ins.  If we can avoid that, we will.

The next jump in the curve for removal is Devour Flesh.  The instant speed helps kill a lone creature in play in response to a Rancor, in response to a less good creature coming into play, and it can even kill the Attended Knight in response to the token trigger on the stack.  Cards that make more than one creature make Devour Flesh obsolete, so beware of Gather the Townsfolk, Krenko’s Command, Attended Knight, Seller of Songbirds, Captain’s Call, and Eyes in the Skies. These cards fit into a Boros aggro token shell that I haven’t seen being played much lately, so I think Devour Flesh should be well positioned against popular threats, things like Nivix Cyclops and Seraph of Dawn.

The final bit of hard removal comes in at the 3-drop slot.  While expensive, Oblivion Ring makes up for it’s high cost with being the most versatile removal spell in the format.  It can hit everything in the creature world (minus hexproof) plus troublesome enchantments like Rancor, Mark of the Vampire, Curse of the Blood Tomb, Curse of the Pierced Heart, and even other Oblivion Rings!  I defend Oblivion Ring over Murder or Victim of Night because of it’s flexibility to target multiple permanent types and it’s ease of colored mana cost, despite the limitation of playing it only at sorcery speed.

I thought Control Magic was an Uncommon…

zealousconscripts
restoration_angel

If killing our opponents early plays, then stealing their team and saccing them to our vampires isn’t enough to satiate your need to dominate a game, then consider our 2 card combo of Cloudshift + Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers to be our “victory lap around the table” combo.  Have you ever used Restoration Angel or Cloudshift on a creature that you stole with a Zealous Conscripts?  If not you have got to try it sometime – it just feels so good!

You see, this deck is actually hoping that our opponent is deploying the ‘best’ creatures in the format against us.  Seraph of Dawn, Sentinel Spider, other Gatekeepers, anything with an ETB effect – these are all awesome targets to Mind Control.  Say we steal an Archaeomancer and then Cloudshift it.  We are able to remove the pesky Ghostly Flicker combo enabler from our opponent’s side of the board while also getting our Cloudshift back so that we can set up another round of Treachery.  Just nasty.  Be wary of bounce effects – they will ruin your day.  Your victory lap will turn into a spontaneous game of musical chairs and guess who wasn’t paying attention and doesn’t have a seat anymore?!  Gosh that would feel pretty bad, right?  Brutal even.

c2o26fe2w5_EN
Cloudshift

Filler Card Choices

The deck needs to do something before turn 4 other than kill things with removal – I mean, what happens if they don’t have things to kill?  Attended Knight answered the call and won out versus Gather the Townsfolk because it is harder to kill both bodies and it can stave off an X/2 attack without fear of trading unless they have a combat trick.

Sunspire Gatekeepers is actually a fantastic card because the 2 bodies are potent on offense and defense, but his inclusion is overshadowed by the white angel of the format, Seraph of Dawn.  If you’re playing white without the Seraph you have some ‘splaining to do!

Brimestone Volley and Tragic Slip are worth mentioning since our deck can enable morbid on command.  The problem is that we often want to wait to pull the morbid trigger until we sac their creatures, not ours.  This makes our mana slightly constrained. I can see having access to these cards in the sideboard could help us deal with problematic creatures, but then again, our whole deck is designed to steal and sac or control magic the best of the best creatures.  So for now, I definitely prefer Oblivion Ring the most, with Brimstone as a close second because 3 damage kills a few things, 5 takes care of most, and don’t forget the situational flexibility of Lava Axe to the face.

Gameplay

The key to this deck is to play your gates as early as possible and kill any threat that your opponent plays in the early game immediately.  Remember to play a Rakdos or Boros Guildgate first always since you want to play Pillar of Flame on turn 2 should they play a killable target.

Do not wait to see if the Delver will flip – kill it on site.  This is pivotal.  We do not want our removal to get hit by Negate or Ranger’s Guile effect ever, so we should snipe when the opponent is tapped out after fresh, summoning sick creatures are vulnerable and helpless.  Doing this often makes Devour Flesh better.  What about Gatekeeper Vine? I guess I’ll let that one live – but who plays that anyway?  Someone who likes dodging Edicts I guess…

From there we try to land a turn 3 Attended Knight or Vampire sac outlet if possible to set up a potential Smelt-Ward Gatekeeper on turn 4.  As long as we aren’t behind on board by the time we hit 4 mana we should be in good shape.  If they are playing draw-go then you just run your least impressive threats out first.  If they don’t counter they risk falling behind, and if they do then you get to one-up them with a follow-up creature.

While I don’t like playing without Think Twice and Amass the Components, so many of the cards we play create virtual card advantage that it’s OK to be without strict card draw spells.  We have no game if we get stuck on 3 lands, which will happen some of the time. I don’t think they deck wants more than 23 lands, though – it’s just too brutal to flood out unless you are running Faithless Looting or Amass the Components to filter through them.  Right now I am always swaying towards the lower mana count for the average standard pauper brew.

Piecing It All Together – The Paradoxical “Pauper Aristocrats

Lands (23)
2 Haunted Fengraf
2 Mountain
3 Swamp
4 Boros Guildgate
4 Orzhov Guildgate
4 Plains
4 Rakos Guildgate

Creatures (22)
1 Falkenrath Torturer
1 Sunspire Gatekeepers
4 Attended Knight
4 Bloodflow Connoisseur
4 Seraph of Dawn
4 Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers
4 Ubul Sar Gatekeepers

Spells (15)
3 Cloudshift
4 Devour Flesh
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Pillar of Flame

Sideboard (15)
1 Dead Weight – more early game removal for aggro
1 Duress – for finding a spell like Essence Scatter
1 Dynacharge – for the Gatekeeper Mirror board stall – hope they block!
1 Gravepurge – for control decks that try to kill all of our team
1 Sunspire Gatekeepers – for an additional threat if we need to be more proactive
2 Cremate – to remove Ghostly Flicker and Rancor from the game
2 Electrickery – to kill x/1s, tokens, or to help our Gatekeepers get by x/3s
2 Keening Apparition – for Oblivion Rings and Curses
2 Ogre Jailbreaker – for Gatekeeper Mirrors and attacking past x/4s
2 Thunderbolt – for flyers like Seraph of Dawn and Stitched Drake

If you find yourself in a metagame full of quality creature decks, consider hiring the Aristocrats to slay them for you.  The deck has a good game plan but you don’t always have an obvious sequence of plays – it definitely takes some practice games to figure out how to gain the biggest board advantages.

***

I wrote this well before the Weekly Standard Pauper Event #2  @ CFB Game Center.  I brewed a hybrid deck between the Aristocrats and my Izzet Control deck (sideboarded version of the Izzet Tempo deck) the night before the event – American Gatekeeper Control.  It sounded good in my head and I ran it without testing a game.  Tournament report to follow in the next post!

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

Standard Pauper Weekly @CFB Game Center #1

Starting yesterday, Wed May 8th, the ChannelFireball Game Center will be hosting a standard pauper event every Wednesday.  Is this good news?  You betcha – it’s time to test out all the brews I’ve been concocting!  I have a few decks built and friends galore to pilot whatever deck he or she preferred to jam.

The metagame at the store consisted of Izzet, Boros, Orzhov, Dimir, Gruul, Azorious, RUG, and Grixis from what I saw.  Nothing I saw was super innovative or off the deep end.  I hope to create something competitive yet original through my brainstorming since the novelty of playing a competitive pauper deck wears off quickly.

The most interesting deck choice that I witnessed was the inclusion of Artful Dodge, Weapon’s Surge, Faithless Looting, and Spell Rupture as part of the Nivix Cyclops shell.  With two in play, one Artful Dodge represents 14 unblockable damage as early as turn 5.  Backed up with some burn and card draw and you have quite the combo kill assembled.  Obviously I chose not to use such incredibly narrow cards, because high variance cards aren’t my style.  If it requires something else to be good, or should I say, if it’s strictly unplayable without something else going exactly right, then I recommend shelving the idea entirely.

Here’s my updated Izzet list that I chose to battle with this week:

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

Creatures (11)
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Goblin Electromancer
3 Nivix Cyclops

Spells (26)
2 Syncopate
3 Amass the Components
3 Brimstone Volley
3 Negate
3 Searing Spear
4 Essence Scatter
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Think Twice

Sideboard (15)
1 Dispel
1 Unsummon
2 Electrickery
2 Ghostly Flicker
2 Thunderbolt
3 Curse of the Pierced Heart
4 Archaeomancer

The list receives a huge addition in Nivix Cyclops, which can dome the opponent for a ton in one fell swoop.  The first game I played I landed all 3 one-eyed monsters in play by turn 6.  One Amass the Components later and in they came crashing in for 12!  Frostburn Weird is a versatile card that unfortunately got the axe since Nivix Cyclops fills his role as an early defensive body that can beat so much harder with a less intense mana investment.  FBW is better in the late game when you are spell-less and have plenty of extra mana at your disposal, but if you’re in the late game you’re probably favored anyway.

The Cyclops actually rewards us for casting proactive spells in our first main phase so they can break free from their shackles, so I added 3 Searing Spears in place of 1 Negate, 1 Syncopate, and the last Frostburn Weird.  Nivix Cyclops did serious work in my deck but as I mentioned earlier, other decks built around him even more.  The strength of my deck doesn’t come from him, though, but rather through being able to protect my few threats while eliminating all of the opponents with a serious card and mana advantage engine in Goblin Electromancer and 26 spells.

Tournament Synopsis

Round 1:  Grixis Control (Eric Salveson playing his original build)

Grixis Control
Land (22)
1 Mountain
1 Haunted Fengraf
3 Rakdos Guildgate
2 Dimir Guildgate
3 Izzet Guildgate
4 Swamps
8 Islands

Creatures (14)
3 Frostburn Weird
3 Stormbound Geist
3 Balustrade Spy
2 Bloodhunter Bat
3 Archaeomancer

Spells (24)
1 Pilfered Plans
1 Syncopate
1 Rewind
1 Forbidden alchemy
2 Think twice
2 Negate
2 Essence  Scatter
2 Devour Flesh
2 Electrickery
3 Pillar of Flame
3 Ghostly Flicker
4 Prophetic Prism

Sideboard (unknown)

His deck suffered from having too many low-impact cards against me.  Pillar of Flame and Devour Flesh should be 4-ofs and Rewind and Prophetic Prism aren’t necessary.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a Mist Raven in there instead of Balustrade Spy – just something that actually impacts the board.

Game 1 I assembled all 3 Nivix Cyclops by turn 6 and hit for 12 after playing Amass the Components.  I unfortunately did not draw a non-creature spell for what felt like infinite turns, so he crashed down me down to 4 from 16 with a Stormbound Geist while holding my Goblin Electromancers back with a Frostburn Weird.  After said infinite turns I drew Brimstone Volley to finish the game with my Cyclopi (plural?).  This game made me think that FBW might be a good card to mix into the main with the Cyclops since I’m not comboing like a madman and FBW would create some situational versatility.

Game 2 I sided into Izzet Control: +4 Archaeomancer, +2 Ghostly Flicker, +2 Thunderbolt, +1 Dispel, +3 Curse of the Pierced Heart, taking out -4 Delver of Secrets, -3 Nivix Cyclops, -3 Searing Spear, and a few other counters or removal spells.  The plan was to kill him with CotPH since he can’t interact with it and just kill everything that he plays with the Archaeomancer + Ghostly Flicker combo to lock up the end game.  It worked as planned.

W 2-0 (1-0)

Round 2:  Orzhov Aggro (Daniel Vinson playing his original version)

I gave Daniel the cards to borrow since he forgot his at home.  His version was slightly different than mine, but he got what he needed together from my stash.  Here’s what he ran:

Orzhov Aggro
Land (21)
4 Orzhov Guildgate
8 Plains
9 Swamp

Creatures (21)
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Tithe Drinker
4 Syndic of Tithes
1 Daring Skyjek
4 Kingpin’s Pet
4 Bloodhunter Bat

Spells (18)
3 Dead Weight
2 Tragic Slip
4 Murder
2 Sign in Blood
2 Victim of Night
2 Stab Wound
3 Undying Evil

Sideboard (15)
4 Seraph of Dawn
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Undying Evil
2 Sign in Blood
2 Stab Wound
1 Dead Weight
1 Gravepurge
1 Tragic Slip

His analysis (to follow) is spot on and highlights exactly why I feel like some of the choices in my Orzhov build are superior to his.  His addition of Basilica Screecher is the only reservation that I have, since it does not interact well when it’s on the board with just about anything.  The fact that it can ping in the air and provide 2-drop extorters number 9-12 help merit an inclusion for now.

Daniel’s Analysis of our Games and His Deck

Round 2:  Played Baker.  I had the first game won except missed a Stab Wound trigger causing him to stabilize on 3 life, and my next draw was a Sign in Blood.  Naturally I drew 2 lands, for zero justice.  I boarded similar to round 1 (Stab Wounds, Angels, and Sign in Bloods for Tragic Slip, Skyjek, and Doomed Travelers). I boarded out the Doomed Travelers every round.  Don’t really remember game 2 except that I probably couldn’t have won no matter what line I took.

I would play this list if I was to play the deck again:

Orzhov Nation (Daniel Vinson’s version)

Land (21)
4 Orzhov Guildgate
9 Swamp
8 Plains

Creatures (24)
4 Syndic of Tithes
4 Tithe Drinker
4 Basilica Screecher
4 Kingpin’s Pet
4 Seraph of Dawn
4 Bloodhunter Bat

Spells (15)
4 Sign in Blood
3 Murder
2 Tragic Slip
2 Dead Weight
1 Victim of Night
3 Cloudshift

Basically, I want more threats main, and less removal.  Cloudshift is just better than Undying Evil because everyone is playing Pillar of Flame.  4 Sign in Blood in really important for the control matchup.  Seraph needs to be main since it is so good against Pillar/Spear decks.

***

W 2-0 (2-0)

Round 3: Boros Aggro (Charles Ferguson)

I helped Charles built a hybrid of my Boros Aggro deck and Boros Tokens Deck.  I know he added a few Gather the Townsfolk to make Dynacharge more beefy.  Something like this:

Boros Aggro
Lands (21)
11 Plains
4 Boros Guildgate
6 Mountain

Creatures (24)
4 Attended Knight
4 Daring Skyjek
4 Loyal Cathar
4 Skyknight Legionnaire
4 Viashino Firstblade
4 War Falcon

Spells (12)
2 Dynacharge
2 Searing Spear
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Pillar of Flame

Sideboard (15)
Thunderbolt
Curse of the Pierced Heart
Electrickery
Cloudshift
Keening Apparition
Oblivion Ring

He had just defeated someone playing an Izzet Control deck in round 2.  I felt like I could be in serious trouble.  Not much information can be gained from our match though because he flooded heavily both games and I was never on the back-foot, which I feel should be a common occurrence in this matchup.  Instead I just nuked all of his guys and won in painfully slow fashion.

W 2-0 (3-0)

Round 4:  Eric (unknown last name) playing Izzet Nivix Cyclops Combo

I met Eric once before when I dropped a bunch of cards and boxes in my hands like a klutz while trying to open the trunk to my car.  He kindly helped pick up my mess.  Good man.

His list is seemed similar to mine except he was running Artful Dodge and Faithless Looting instead of counterspells.  He even had Weapon’s Surge out of the board to “win” the Nivix Cyclops mirror should they ever combat each other.

Game 1 I have turn 1 Delver of Secrets to his mull to 6.  He is able to Pillar it away and dig for gas with Faithless Looting.  I’m able to stick a Goblin Electromancer and get tons of mana and card advantage with Think Twicing thrice times with flashback by turn 7 with an Amass the Components thrown in, too.  He blocks Electromancer with his Cyclops and I Pillar of Flame it away.  Not sure why he would risk that when he has little other options of beating me if his Cyclops dies.  I counter every relevant play he makes for the rest of the game and crash for 5 a turn with a flipped Delver and Electromancer.

Game 2 I side into Izzet Control.  He might have actually drawn more cards than me this game after he cast and flashed back all 4 Faithless Looting.  It helped him dig through superfluous land and other blanks, like Artful Dodge and Weapon’s Surge.  I countered his turn 3 Cyclops, and turn 4 FBW, so the only threat he had in play was a turn 2 FBW that landed before I had counters up.  He pinged me for a few points and even got a 4 point chunk in but I eventually brew a Brimstone volley to time walk him when he went for the 4/1 again on turn 6.  I landed a turn 7 Curse of the Pierced Heart and the Invisible Stalker clock began.  I drew a thick patch of lands and he beat me down to 6 with Delver and another FBW before I could Pillar and Volley them in the face.  At 6 life I remember stabilizing with one Archaeomancer in play (which brought back a Pillar to kill another Delver), and 2 Essence Scatters and 1 Negate in hand.  He had 2 cards in hand and decides to Spear me down to 3.  By now he is down to around 8 from the CotPH. He draws and Pillars me down to 1.  I draw a few Electromancers and speed up my clock while Scattering his top-decked creatures.  He never rips another burn spell, but I had saved the Negate for it anyway.

Pretty close game – barely survived at one life!  The amount of blanks in his deck when Cyclops wasn’t in play stifled his game against me too much in my opinion.  I really like the job that Faithless Looting did for him as an early, cheap way to see more cards that is cost-reduced on the flash back with Electromancer.  I just can’t see playing it over Think Twice and Amass the Components without getting serious value from the discarding into the graveyard.  When Wizards brings back ‘madness’ then let’s talk.

W 2-0 (4-0)

There you have it.  Didn’t drop a game!  The deck has a variable tipping point each game (sometimes turn 6, others turn 12) where if it survives until then, it feels like it can’t possibly lose.  Highly recommend this deck if you want to be competitive.  I also would like to know what deck destroys this so that I can mix it up next week.  If you’ve had success against it feel free to let me know how.

For reference, here’s my GoogleDoc with all the new lists I’ve worked on since Dragon’s Maze’s release.

http://tinyurl.com/cg58og6

I hope to cover a truly original brew in my next article.  I’m hoping to make a Gatekeeper deck like “Junk in the Trunk” or “The Aristocrats” competitive enough by next week to run it at the store.  No one needs to see my Izzet deck dominate some more – it’s just too good!  Naturally I will be working on decks that beat Izzet handily and hopefully one of you has some novel ideas to make taking it down even easier.

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