First, let’s begin with a brief history of stompy. For those of you that haven’t heard the term: “stompy” has always referred to a style of deck that is green, with lots of little creatures doing big things FAST.
Its creatures have great evasion.
Its spells and creature enchantments are second to none.
I first caught wind of this deck, (in pauper anyways) – by the mtgo player “aclog.” He had an evasive build that was placing pretty consistently in early 2010. No one had seen anything like it in the pauper universe, and many were quick to shrug it off as a lucky streak. But then, week after week, he kept placing in the top eight. Quickly after this surge, a player known as ‘gwheiss’ came into the metagame with his take on stompy. Although they are similar at first, these two decks are hardly alike:
It should be noted that both these deck builders had vastly different opinions of what should stay or leave. Aclog’s build was more concerned with evasion, ghweiss’s more of a beat down. Both have valid arguments.
Personally, I've never had so much consistent success with any pauper deck. It took me about four weeks of 'training' to finally get it, but once I did, it was a rare thing to lose with this deck. If I do, it's usually either:
A) My opponent went first AND had a nuts hand.
B) I was mana flooded, or mana screwed.
C) My opponent was playing one of the following decks:
INFECT - WHITE WEENIE - ELVES - MONOBLACK (Mbc) Infect runs a similar creature boost-engine as stompy, but you're basically starting at ten life,
putting yourself at a big disadvantage in this matchup as getting 10 poison counters
can accumulate faster than 20 life can be lost.
White weenie is pretty even, unless they have Standard Bearer - then it's "GG" for them and "GO" for you (game over). All is not lost, so long as your Shinen of Life's Roar can take out their Standard Bearer!
Elves is an absolute backbreaker and almost unwinnable. Good thing it's rarely seen!
Mono black isn't as bad as you'd think. Silhana shines here and can win you the game solo, but if she doesn't show up, and you take too long, the Crypt Rats unearthing tricks will quickly kill you.
But those are about the only reason this deck loses:
So what makes this deck so special? What makes it tick? Well the cards for one. Just imagine if I told you that the magic card, Force of Will was pauper legal. You’d probably send me to the closest Cabal Surgeon to get my head examined, right?
Well - call the minions because I’m saying just that. Only this ‘force of will’ isn’t blue, and doesn’t cost you any life. This counterspell happens to be green AND free.
”….What’s that you say? That’s too good to be true?”
Sure my ‘force of will’ logic is a bit flawed in certain circumstances…I'm just trying to open your eyes to how impactful some of these spells are within a game. Gather Courage will not counter a creature spell. Gather Courage will not counter an enchantment spell.
However, Gather Courage will counter just about anything else, and for free - so long as it’s pointed at a creature you control.
Let’s look at the below cards that are pauper regulars, assuming you have a 2/2 body in play, Gather Courage negates all of the below:
-And those are just the most obvious and popular!
Furthermore, if I told you green had access to Fireblast you’d upgrade me from the Cabal Surgeon to undergo Deep Analysis in the mindstab ward. Yet this is true… AND it has the benefit of not costing you two lands in the process. Groundswell from Zendikar provides the Fireblast punch for a measly G casting cost! With the help of Quirion Ranger – landfall usually isn’t an issue.
So two of the most powerful spells, Force of Will, and Fireblast are available in one convenient mono-colored package. Oh, AND they're cheaper!
You still need more prodding as to why stompy is king?
Well instead of going outside the color green as the above two examples did, let’s examine what treats await us within the green sector shall we?
Rancor has to be one of the best creature enchantments ever to go on a creature. So long as it sticks, it’s bound to have a powerful impact on the game. Especially lethal atop Silhana Ledgewalker and Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, this creature-booster feels like you're playing 4/4’s on turn two, not something most decks can deal with - and even if they can, Rancor comes back to do it again on turn three! Moreover, many times these 4/4 (or higher) bodies are unblock-able!
Vines of Vastwood is about as blue as you can get for a green deck. If you're patient enough, you save your creature from death, AND upgrade it to steroid gym class for a quick turn – costing your opponent a valuable removal spell, and boosting your creature by +4/+4 all for the cost of GG.
Funny the kicker is GG, because that is usually what your opponent writes when it is successfully cast, “Good Game.”
Silhana Ledgewalker is my favorite card in the deck. I’ve argued this card with other stompy players 'till my fingers hurt. Ask anyone who hates stompy what their most hated card is, and this will be atop the list. Vs. anything with cloudposts maindecked, this single-handedly wins… sure they may fetch some trick like Seismic Shudder, but with a hand usually full of boosting instants, this is a problem very easily avoided. Furthermore, this is the card that goblins can’t kill OR block. This is the card storm decks can’t target and/or bounce. This is the card that sticks around, loves Rancor and loves being unblockable and lethal the majority of the time. Sure, by itself it’s a 1/1, but in a deck with this many tricks and stat-boosters, Silhana is one sweet mama. I'm surprised she can fit on a ledge when she gets upwards of +9/+9, you'd think the ledge would break and give way!
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk is a card that makes me doubt the literacy of some magic players. It says right on there:
Creatures with power less than Skarrgan Pit-Skulk's power can't block it.
Yet, so many times a player will keep a creature back, thinking they have the game if they can just block Skarrgan, NOPE. This creature allows for no tempo loss in the attacking mindset of a stompy player. The first few guys go in, the opponent gets his defense set up, and this guy just keeps swinging from his bloodthirsty perch. A silent assassin behind enemy lines that hits like a freight train with the help of the above spells.
Rogue Elephant is aptly named in my build. Believe me; I’m usually all about having four-ofs in all my past decks. This is the exception. Many times this guy comes out games two and three. But in the rare case you’re flooded, or when you know you’re facing mono-blue, mirror or traditional storm etc.., this guy is great.
Shinen of Life's Roar is green's version of removal. Imagine a “MUST BLOCK” coming at your team with Rancor and a surprise Groundswell out of the blue! Even worse, if Quirion Ranger is out, it can untap any guys your opponent has and thought were safe from this one-sided wrath of nature. This card particularly shines vs. affinity (killing their Disciple of the Vault), goblins, white weenie and familiar storm.
Quirion Ranger is the sleeper mvp of the deck. It allows a tight ‘goblin-esque’ land count, while adding consistency to draws with only one land. This guy has won me so many games via his tricks. Tap your only forest, target the ranger, bounce land… play it again and tap again for another mana (totaling GG). Better yet, on defense this guy is the law.
The ranger allows you to go total agro vs. a deck like goblins, and then at instant speed, untap your meatiest guy and kill on defense! After doing this to the unaware – you can literally feel their apprehension at further attack attempts. It is nerve wracking to attack a good stompy player when this guy is on the board, and even if he isn’t the next card probably is:
Nettle Sentinel is the envy of all one drops. Similar to Kor Skyfisher in his “drawback”, this creature is an amazing feat of beat down and tempo. If the sentinel is out, cards like Gather Courage are totally free. Even nastier is if your creatures are all tapped out on an alpha strike, you can cast any green spell and this guy untaps to provide yet another trick like the Quirion Ranger trick mentioned above. These are just the tip of the iceberg for stompy… the combos and tricks are far too vast in their combinations to list them all here, but that leads me to my next point rather nicely…
There is one universal truth regarding the deck stompy – it is NOT easy to play. Many of you out there may see an upsurge in this deck, due to either this article and/or my recent success with it – but let me assure you if you win against stompy, don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly, odds are the pilot wasn't so good. The comparison is best visualized by a Formula One racecar… anyone can sit behind the wheel and get their picture taken, but how many of us are truly ready to race over 140MPH? We may try, but we're likely to get killed!
I personally believe stompy is the hardest aggressive strategy to play correctly. Let me be clear, I did not invent this deck. Like many others, I took a list and changed about ten percent of it to fit my magic theories and play style. I can't stand cards like Nissa's Chosen. I agree a card like Garruk's Companion is awesome, there is just no room left for two-drop creatures in this deck... and adding more will slow it down and allow for defeats. Give yourself a lot of time to play stompy. Play very slowly. Look for all the possible plays at each stage of the turn. Are you tapped out? Odds are you can still do about three to four different tricks, if the ranger is out you can probably cast another creature or two!
After the latest tournament changeups Magic Online has implemented, Pauper Premieres are few and far between. Sometimes these big events are weeks apart. The little four-round daily tournaments are good for practice… but there’s nothing like a six to nine round grind out, with even more rounds within the top eight to prove your deck's worth! I long for those old days. In 2010, Magic Online had one premiere event a week! At the time of this writing, it’s over five weeks from the end of one premiere event to the beginning of the next one. So that’s why I was so stoked to finally get a chance to play in one like the old days! And on February 19th, 2011, I did just that!
(Each of the videos below represents one round of the tournament. Many games went 2-1. Round two was a bye.
Additionally, some matches with familiar storm may seem repetitive, but each has valuable insight into the matchup and I didn't want to leave any round out.)
Round 2 - bye I hate having a bye. Sure it's a 2-0...but does nothing for my tiebreakers and serves to really mess with my tournament mojo after having just lost. I want some REVENGE, not sitting for an hour!
Round 3 - vs. goblins
Traditionally I'm about 82% against this deck, so long as they don't have the nuts. The key to this matchup is Shinen of Life's Roar, as well as Silhana Ledgewalker for mid game. Early on, Nettle Sentinels shine with the help of Gather Courage really reducing goblins numbers while preserving your own. You win this match up with quality. Take down their volume, and win the grind. Quality vs. volume. Fog is mvp vs. this and affinity after sideboarding which usually goes like this, +3 fog, +1 or 2 Shield(s), - 3 Vines, -1 Rogue Elephant.
(Remember - a white Wild Mongrel with the Sheild of the Oversoul can FLY!)
Round 4 - vs. familiar storm
If you scroll down, you'll see I faced this deck a whopping FOUR times. The key here is speed, and believe it or not, the mvp is Shinen of Life's Roar. This card is a house vs. this deck and causes them to lose valuable mana tempo (due to the death of their familiars). Thermokarst from the sideboard reduces the chances for a familiar storm deck to pull out a victory, and the icing on the cake is Silhana Ledgewalker due to her shroud ability, and (Basking Rootwallas) for when they bounce everything back to your hand. Normal decks are devastated by this, but stompy can sometimes cast up to five creatures mid-late game in this matchup due to the rootwalla's crazy-cool madness! I often side out two Bonesplitters, one Rogue Elephant, two Gather Courage for an additional shinen and the land destruction package. You have to remember to "BE THE PROBLEM."
Round 5 - vs. familiar storm
Round 6 - vs. goblins GarH is a fantastic goblin player. I just seem to have his number in tournaments. In both games two and three, I won with one life. Most goblin matchups are not this close - but these games were total nail biters! One particular late play was nerve-wracking, using a Fog offensively. It could have gone either way...
Round 7 - vs. traditional storm
This is always close. Traditional storm has game vs. everything - much like stompy, thus it usually comes down to who the better pilot is of each deck is and who goes first! Obviously Thermokarsts come in, as does Sandstorm and/or Fog. Easily losing Vines of Vastwood, Bonesplitter, Silhana Ledgewalker. Remember they can't block Skarrgan Pit-Skulk the majority of the time, so if you're facing an army of 1/1's, think the victory through before scooping. Fogs and Thermokarsts buy you the turns to kill, while Sandstorm can simply win the game. This is the only deck I bring in Sandstorm for. You can always discard it to the mongrel for damage if you're winning. Additionally, avoid trying to gain life. Stompy needs to "BE THE PROBLEM" and cards like Nourish and Sylvok Lifestaff seem good vs. this and strategies like burn, but the logic is misguided and will result in you still losing, and winning even less since you've diluted your focus and intentions.
Semi-Finals - vs. familiar storm
FINALS - vs. familiar storm
The finals was against "Omarvelous" playing, you guessed it... familiar storm (yawn). He's a great pilot and game one proved it with him easily winning. Game two I smashed him good... which led us to game three shown below. I used to play familiar storm a lot - its main drawback is it often loses to the clock! I knew this going in, and was further delighted to see that the new event time/round is only 25 minutes now! So I made sure to chat plenty and used F6 every chance I could to wear down his clock.
Doing things like activating your ranger every turn can really add up! I've faced 'Omarvelous'
with the same deck matchup in three other tournament finals and have won every time,
but this was the first time I ever did it without attacking!
So that concludes my look at stompy, and my tournament experiences with it. I hope you found it informing and hopefully it inspires you to try being a stompy pilot. But REMEMBER:
Thanks for reading, I hope to see your digital visage across from me for a game or three:
-Adrian Grey Marsden-
aka: "deluxeicoff" on MTGO
_______________________________ And special thanks to Paul Grasshoff.
My editor who saved you all from my horrible homonym misuse!