BUG, Defenders of the Realm (Top 8 MPDC 23.11 & *Undefeated at MPDC Worlds)

As promised, I took a group of misfits, banded them together, called it a deck, and defended the MPDC 23.11 realm to a top 8 finish nearly a month ago.  Turns out – I was on to something.

Lands (23)

4 Dimir Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Island
4 Swamp
3 Forest

Creatures (20)

4 Doorkeeper
3 Axebane Guardian
1 Trestle Troll
4 Saruli Gatekeepers
4 Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
4 Mnemonic Wall

Spells (17)

4 Devour Flesh
1 Voyage’s End
4 Pilfered Plans
1 Crypt Incursion
2 Grisly Spectacle
1 March of the Returned
4 Thassa’s Bounty

Sideboard (15)

4 Razortip Whip (for Dimir Control/Mill)
2 Pharika’s Cure (for Mono-Red)
2 Baleful Eidolon (for blocking hexproof or big green creatures)
2 Essence Scatter (for creatures with ETB effects like Archaeomancer, Gary Merchant of Asphodel, and Disciple of Phenax)
2 Dispel (for counterspells)
1 Shrivel (for Akroan Crusader, Elvish Mystic, Gladecover Scout [mise])
1 Cremate (for Auramancer, Archaeomancer, Midnight Recovery, and Corpse Hauler)
1 Naturalize (for Razortip Whip)

This deck is the Theros version of my pretty little pet from Innstrad –> M14 Standard Pauper season.  Let’s look at differences between the two decks.  For reference, here is the old BUG Gatekeeper Control list:

BUG Gatekeepers (Innistrad –> M14)

Lands (23)
1 Forest
2 Haunted Fengraf (no more free graveyard recursion)
4 Dimir Guildgate
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Island
4 Simic Guildgate
4 Swamp

Creatures (15)
1 Ravenous Rats (no more flickerable way to attack the hand)
2 Gatecreeper Vine
4 Archaeomancer
4 Saruli Gatekeepers
4 Ubul Sar Gatekeepers

Spells (22)
1 Cremate
1 Devour Flesh
1 Gravepurge (no more ability to prevent ourselves from being milled out)
1 Murder (unconditional removal costs 4 mana now)
1 Undying Evil (no more reusing ETB triggers and growing in response to death)
2 Amass the Components (no more 4-mana draw 3s)
2 Forbidden Alchemy (no more flashbackable dig through the top 8 cards of our deck)
2 Victim of Night (no more 2 mana targeted removal)
3 Prophetic Prism
4 Dead Weight (no more more 1 mana answer to X/2s)
4 Ghostly Flicker (no more ultimate, unbeatable late-game engine!)

Sideboard (15)
1 Cremate
1 Crypt Incursion
1 Devour Flesh
1 Dispel
1 Fog
1 Mind Rot
1 Negate
2 Ray of Revelation (no more enchantment hate that works even if they mill it)
2 Shrivel
4 Curse of the Bloody Tome (no more secondary win-con against the control mirror)

As you can see, the new deck is much worse than the old one.  The removal costs more, the draw engine is worse and more expensive to cast, and there is no way to “go infinite” a la Ghostly Flicker.

Theros’s Current Metagame

In turns out that people right now love aggro and mid-range creature decks that can gain a lot of life.  They also happen to be quite susceptible to a very controlling mill deck.  Unlike Dimir Mill – my deck plays creatures instead of counterspells.  If we assemble enough of them – we get to blast off like a freakin rocket ship through our opponents library, not that dreadful weak sauce, stab me in the eye while Dimir bores me to death milling me for 2 or 3 a turn-kinda mill.  This is combo-mill.  You set up the defenses, get a mana-advantage, and then go-off.  Most good players end up conceding when they have no permanents on board against a bunch of statuesque walls.  The door is kept closed (or was it open and now being closed, I mean slammed, shut!?)

Fblthp is The Keeper of ALL THE DOORS!

Yesterday I played in MPDC 23 Worlds, which culminates the end of the season of just M14 and Theros.  Soon enough we will have some Born of the Gods brews among us – but my BUG Defenders deck won’t be changing very much.

Here’s the list I ran yesterday to an *UNDEFEATED record yesterday:

BUG Defenders

MAINDECK
Creatures
4 Doorkeeper
4 Mnemonic Wall
4 Saruli Gatekeepers
4 Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
2 Axebane Guardian
2 Gatecreeper Vine
1 Trestle Troll
Spells
4 Devour Flesh
4 Pilfered Plans
4 Thassa’s Bounty
2 Grisly Spectacle
1 Crypt Incursion
1 March of the Returned
1 Voyage’s End
Lands
4 Forest
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
4 Swamp
3 Dimir Guildgate
3 Island
SIDEBOARD
4 Razortip Whip
3 Essence Scatter
2 Shrivel
2 Naturalize
2 Grisly Spectacle
1 Trestle Troll
1 Pharika’s Cure

Unfortunately, I somehow did not manage to win the tournament despite not taking a loss.  Turns out I have a job and after round 2 (2-0) I had to treat my patients at Premiere Spine and Sport, which is where I fix people, put em back together, make em heal/recover faster – you get it.  I seriously don’t know why this event takes place on a Monday, such bad timing for me and the two other people in the United States I’m sure 😛

During my short run in the tournament I played against two similar decks – Mono-White and Azorius Aggro Auras.  They were essentially the same deck, both built around flyers, Auramancer, Bestow, and Ethereal Armor.  Three Mono-White decks made the top 8 of the event.  Even ellmaris, the guy I beat in round 1 made it to top 4.

I gotta say – my deck was positioned very well.  I would not have been surprised to win that event if I was able to keep playing.  The Gatekeepers are busted against all the small early game creatures and we have 4x Devour Flesh and 4x Mnemonic Wall to recur them against the one Hexproof deck.  Mono Black is difficult mainly because of Disciple of Phenax and Mind Rot – our deck requires a very specific combination of cards to control the game, so breaking that up is devastating.  This is primarily why Essence Scatter is in board.  Grey Merchant is still the most broken card in the format IMO.  You have to play a lot of mediocre cards to make him good but against decks without removal your devotion count is so high that everything else was irrelevant anyway.

Either way – as long as I didn’t have to face Dimir Mill – this deck has serious game against everything else I’ve seen.  In testing for this event I probably only lost 2 or 3 matches out of 20+.  The mana-base is not easy and doesn’t come together sometimes, but I’m used to that.

The changes that I made between the Top 8 of MPDC 23.11 and yesterday were:

Main:
+2 Gatecreeper Vine
+1 Forest
-1 Island
-1 Axebane Guardian
-1 Dimir Guildgate

Cutting down to 22 lands but making up for it by adding 2 land finders.  Gatecreeper is sweet at finding untapped lands so we can continue to curve out or at tutoring for that crucial 2nd guildgate to turn on our gatekeepers.  The Forest replaced the Island to help us hit one green by turn 2 slightly more often.  While Axebane is an incredibly obnoxious mana accelerant in this deck – it’s a complete blank without other good things to cast, and we never need more than 2 in play ever, so cutting one makes sense.

Side:
+1 Naturalize
+1 Shrivel
+1 Trestle Troll
+1 Essence Scatter
+2 Grisly Spectacle
-2 Baleful Eidolon
-1 Cremate
-2 Dispel
-1 Pharika’s Cure

Counterspells in general are hard to hold up with this deck since we are tapping out almost every turn.  Some creatures have such powerful ETB effects that the Essence Scatter is the only reasonable answer for them.  I’m looking at Archaeomancer, Auramancer, Disciple of Phenax, Grey Merchant of Asphodel, and Gatekeepers (but I was the only one playing with those).

Narrow answers like Naturalize and Shrivel were one-of’s but got upgraded because in the matchups where there are good (Auras and Mono-Red) there are guaranteed 2 for 1s at worst.  If they weren’t, then we aren’t likely in danger of losing.

One card I have two of in the main that I failed to realize how important it was a month ago was Grisly Spectacle.  Without it I can’t deal with anything that grows beyond 3 toughness.  That is pretty important when people are voltroning up Wingsteed Rider with Ethereal Armor.  Most people are smart enough to play other threats before attempting to suit up, so Devour Flesh can only succeed at killing a relevant target secondary to additional removal cleaning up the chaff first.

Baleful Eidolon was there to deal with big Hexproof creatures or GR beasts but I don’t see enough of those decks to merit it’s inclusion.  If some of my creatures already had first strike I’d be more inclined to bestow him into play, but a bunch of 0/4s still get eaten by Ethereal Armor even when they have 1 power of deathtouch.  In that case I just added another Trestle Troll to aid in the blocking forever department.

This deck is quite fun to play.  I will continue to play it after Born of the Gods is released even though there aren’t any cards I want to add from it, at all.

BONUS: Born of the Gods Top 10

While I play a decent amount of Standard Pauper, I actually draft way more. I’ve played 2 sealed and 8 drafts just a week after the prerelease, so I’ve seen these cards in a different context already.

Satyr Wayfinder

10)  Satyr Wayfinder:  1/1 body is almost irrelevant, but this is a decent enabler of graveyard recursion and usually smooths out the draw well.  I don’t think it will be very good unless Journey into Nyx spices Golgari’s role up.

Fall of the Hammer

9)  Fall of the Hammer:  Pretty sweet combo with Nivix Cyclops and could see play in Boros or Gruul beats.

Swordwise Centaur

8)  Swordwise Centaur:  Nylea’s Disciple likes to see this, which also works quite well with Auras or Fall of the Hammer

Crypsis

7)  Crypsis:  I have been blown out more times by now than I care to remember.  So good in a race and hard to play around.  You almost have to attack into it when you have nothing because they will outrace you most times if you still back too long.

Nyxborn Triton

6)  Nyxborn Triton:  The only new bestow worth mentioning because +2/+3 is huge.  Worth the 5 mana and makes Nimbus Naiad mirrors in Azorius end in your favor.

Akroan Skyguard

5) Akroan Skyguard: The much easier to cast Wingsteed Rider.  Without requiring double white this can show up in Azorius, Boros, or even Selesnya with Common Bond.

Loyal Pegasus

4)  Loyal Pegasus:  reminds me of War Falcon, except all this needs is a superfriend, a hastey one in particular is the sweetest beatdown – Boros or a team of flyiers in Azorius or Mono-white will do.

Oreskos Sun Guide

3) Oreskos Sun Guide:  This card changes the game if its attacks go unanswered.  I even combo’d Ephara’s Warden with it today to gain 2 life a turn on a stalled board.  Bestow onto it and beat past blockers to incrementally turn the tide in a race.  Untap at tricky times with Crypsis to avoid dying to lethal from Lightning Strike to the dome.  Get crazy with Hidden Strings.  Do it all.

Marshmist Titan
2)   Marshmist Titan:  The stats are just what the format is talkin bout.  5 toughness doesn’t die to much and 4 power kills almost everything. Curve out with Mono-Black and this will sometimes only cost 2-3 mana on turn 4.  Vanilla never looked so scary.

Nullify

1)  Nullify:  Control decks are back in action with this.  Bestow was giving me fits since I couldn’t counter the aura with Essence Scatter, and I wasn’t about to add Negate to the main of my control decks.  This card shuts down all the value creatures that cost 3-5 mana with the Annul-esque flexibility.  The cost of UU is worth it.

These rankings are a pretty wide range for their actual potential – it all depends on which decks are consistently played and how they match-up.  I’m looking forward to the changes in the next week, despite however small they may be, it’s real nice to have a new set get in the mix.

@DrChrisBakerDC

Standard Pauper Players Clan Blog

PDC Magic.com

Gold Medal Cyclops.dec (1st place SPDC 20.02)

Just when I thought the Standard Pauper metagame was getting stale – things changed.

Newest Trophies





Remember when I called Standard Pauper a diverse format and I immediately was accused of lying because the trophies were Dimir flooded?  A new set has yet to come out – and look – other decks are good enough to win, too?  Crazy.

No longer am I running into Dimir Control and Mono-Black every single round.  White and Red based creatures decks that rely on aggression have been the hotness lately.  This means that my Razortip Whip plan out of the Izzet Razor-Burn deck is too slow and invalidated.  Decks running Hopeful Eidolon and Minotaur Skullcleaver are able to race the Whip easily.  My plan of blanking the black decks with 12-16 removal spells with no creatures other than Archaeomancer is not necessary when the opponents aren’t playing much removal.

This shift in the metagame actually makes the Dimir Control deck well-positioned.  The only problem is that the card advantage Dimir machine can still get outpaced in the early game my Mono-White, Boros, and Selesnya.  The problem is that if a creature slides under your counter magic and you continue to draw counterspells, then they have a repeatable damage source clocking you.  The solution to such a problem would be to play a blocker to brick the attacker.  The best man for the job for that role is Frost-Burn Weird.  Four toughness is the magic number, and his power as an early defender and late game win-con is the ultimate reason why I like Izzet so much.  I used to side him in, but he was always coming in anyway.  People were still playing Devour Flesh, Pharika’s Cure, or Pacifism anyway since they had no other cuts to make after boarding, so my Archaeomancers were always targeted with something.  Frostburn Weird also has built in protection from Stab Wound, which the combo piece of our new deck cannot boast.  I hope it’s worth the risk!

Image

Nivix Cyclops gives the new deck a new angle of attack.  It lets us support Frostburn Weird with #5-8 1/4 blockers that can bash for a ton when the coast is clear.  Even with all the card advantage that the Izzet Razorburn deck could generate (Archaeomancer for Divination combo means I’m usually drawing a range of 6-10 more cards than my opponent every game, assuming they don’t play card draw) it was having problems closing out games after clearing the board and keeping it clear.  A new shell that utilizes Nvix Cyclops to it’s maximum potential is what I thought would thrive.  I made the following list and played in the SPDC 20.02 event without testing a game.

Cyclops.dec

Lands (22)
4 Izzet Guildgate
8 Island
10 Mountain
Creatures (12)
4 Archaeomancer
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Nivix Cyclops
Spells (26)
4 Annihilating Fire
4 Chandra’s Outrage
4 Divination
4 Essence Scatter
4 Lightning Strike
4 Shock
2 Disperse
Sideboard (15)
1 Dispel
1 Disperse
1 Smelt
4 Griptide
4 Negate
4 Razortip Whip

I’ll be the first to admit that I got lucky with the pairings this tournament.  I dodged Hexproof creatures, and rarely mulliganed.  I almost always had at least 2 lands and never got mana screwed.  I mulled a one-lander in the finals in game 2 and my opponent kept a one lander on the play and got punished for the next 3 turns for it.  I had some interesting plays and misplays, especially against my Orzhov opponent.  I can’t come close to remembering all the details of the match – so I will watch the replays if I can find them and do a video recap in a following post.

The typical game involves me burning early threats, landing a Divination, leaving counter mana open at all times I have a counter, and digging more with Archaeomancer targeting Divination until I have 7 cards in hand, a Frostburn Weird, 2x Nivix Cyclops, and an Archaeomancer in play and my opponent has no board.  When the deck wins it usually does so convincingly.  That said, I usually get pushed around the early game and really use the life total as a resource, so getting knocked down to less than 10 is common.

disperse

The list is very close to my previous iteration of Izzet Razorburn, but there’s one card in particular that deserves an explanation.  I would venture a guess that most people would snap ask, “Isn’t Disperse just a worse Voyage’s End?”

Their thought process goes something like:  “Does anyone in the right mind play Cancel when Dissolve exists in the same Standard format?  Not friggin likely.  You have to hold yourself in pretty low esteem to think that additional decisions on what card you can choose to draw would be such a negative that the only way to prevent yourself from train-wrecking the decision is to not give yourself the option to make it.”

While magic is hard (sometimes), I know I’ve made a few incorrect scrys that have cost me the game in Theros Sealed/Draft and Standard; however, I’ve drawn so many virtual cards by skipping past bricks that we all know Scry is the noblest of all gasses.

Cancel vs. Dissolve – that’s not even a fair comparison.  Those cards have the exact same text on them except for the Scry.

While we lose the value Scry with Disperse, we gain the ability to hit non-creature permanents.  When playing a blue and red standard pauper deck there are permanents that cause a particular amount of trouble – enchantments.  Mainly Bestow creatures and Ethereal Armor on hexproof duders.  They do not enter the realm of beatable 90+% of the time.

In the first round of MPDC 23.10 I played against the eventual winner, BigBee with GW Auras, in the first round. He resolved a Glavecover Scout in both games and from then on it was just a matter of him drawing the pants for it.  Disperse gives me a narrow number of outs in this case.  My best case scenario involves being attacked by a bestowed upon Hexproof monster  and then I mid combat bounce the Enchantment to shrink the Gladecover Scout while also turning my Nivix Cyclops into a 4/4 – large enough to swallow it whole!  We can dream.  Hopefully this corner case actually happens one day so I can justify all the Scry triggers I’ve willingly denied myself.

While I was able to win a tournament with this deck, I do not think it is very good.  Hexproof is kryptonite for this deck, and anything with greater than 4 toughness is not going to be killed easily.  Good thing Nessian Asp is not seeing a lot of action…

Over the next week I hope to test a BUG Defenders/Gatekeepers ‘brew’ that reminds me of the Flicker decks of old.  With the decline of Dimir and the rise of aggro/creature based decks I hope to have found a Midrange counter for the current meta.

GP Sacramento

Next weekend I will be trying my hardest to play some high level Theros Sealed and Draft  at GPSac – just a few hours from home.  If you’re there be sure say what’s up and chat me up!

@DrChrisBakerDC

Standard Pauper Players Clan Blog

PDC Magic.com