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By: JustSin, Dave
Apr 11 2012 7:29am
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A Month in Review

As I sit here writing this up I already know there are a few of my readers who could care less about the competitive side of Pauper and are perhaps dying for me to stop talking about it and get back to something a bit more fun and relaxed!  We'll I'm sorry dear reader, but I think this has to be done!  At this point in time I've put up the results for the last four weeks (ok after I post last week in this article it'll be four) and I think it is important to see it all as a bigger data pool.  While the information regarding each week's meta is great it can be slightly off without a larger pool of information to pull from.  I won't go into a talk on statistics because I struggled in that class, but basically the percentages change when there is a larger pool of data to pull from.  While this is going to be completely full of information regarding the past showings take a look at the "Competitive Corner" for last week's results.  After that we'll take a look at the bigger picture...

The Competitive Corner

I will start off by apologizing because this week's results are a bit unfinished.  If you look at the chart below the first day, March 26th, is in red and this is because I got caught up with real life and missed a day.  Hopefully this won't skew things too bad!

So with that being said we got an interesting set of results from this week starting with a big surge in Infect showings.  This is especially interesting because of my article last week talking about the Pauper Banned & Restricted list.  I talked about the power of Infect and the fact that it has a more consistent ability to win on turn 2 than Storm.  The one thing that I said was keeping it from being a focus in the BnR talk was the fact that it had previously been showing pretty low.  This week changes that as it jumps up to a tie for third place with IzzetPost!  I realize because of timing the two things aren't related, but if Infect continues to have these kind of showings then it would just drive my point further home.

In another interesting move we see that MonoWhite Aggro has made a significant jump up and Goblins has dropped down out of its usual hold on fourth.  We also had a few regulars slip down into "rogue" status alongside several decks that made a re-appearance (I'm talking about you GreenPost!).  Here's the full list of this week's Daily Events...

As always the names in red are the decks that went 4 - 0 in their events.  Here's the past week's meta in chart form...

I won't waste a lot of time talking about these results since I want to get right into the bigger details from the past month.  Here are the rogue deck results, however, from the past week:

1. FissureStorm - 4
2. DimirTrinket - 4
3. DimirPost - 3
4. Orzhov Deck Wins - 2
5. WeeFiend Aggro - 2
6. GreenPost - 2
7. GW Tokens - 1
8. RDW - 1
9. RebelPost - 1
10. GW Life - 1

I do apologize at this point because I feel like I was jumping around a lot with all of these different numbers/charts/graphs, but there are so many different ways to look at it.  I set out in an attempt to find some kind of linear layout, but it would seem to me that the best way is to just follow my line of thought.  As I put numbers into tables and created graphs other ideas came into my head... hopefully you can still follow along!

As expected each week held a total of 27 Daily Events in Pauper for a total of 108 over the past two weeks.  The first thing I wanted to determine was where I would draw the line between the different decks.  The first step was to take a total of the decks from the past four weeks and slim it down enough that you, my dear readers, don't have to scroll down an entire page to see the full list.  The result was that I cut off all of the decks that showed up less than 20 times over the past 108 Daily Events, shooting for eliminating decks that showed in only (roughly) 20% of the Dailies.  Before the mathletes jump on me, this is a skewed figure because you could have 5 of a deck show in 1 event and therefore change the figure, but I'm breaking it down to a relative average.  In other words... just go with it and trust me on this one!  So here's the list...

So who here is surprised that MonoBlue Control (MUC) is at the top of the list?  Didn't think so, but I'll get into that later.  There were a number of competitors that had a handful of showings, but didn't quite make the list such as Slivers (11), RDW (7), and GW Tokens (5).  Then there were even more decks that showed five times or less over 108 Daily Events.  One could even argue that these decks winning was a fluke and shouldn't even be considered as "rogue".  These include... Orzhov Deck Wins (5), WeeFiend Aggro (4), RakDeck Wins (4), GreenPost (3), RebelPost (2), MonoBlack Aggro (2), GW Life (1), GW Aggro (1), Hexproof (1), RG Aggro/Burn (1), and Elves (1).  Let's take a look at these decks as a percentage of the whole...

As you can see I eliminated the names on the smaller portions of our chart for clarity's sake, but believe me when I say that this chart shows a whole of all the decks that placed in Daily Events over the past month.  Out of the 1,283 decks that placed during this past month's Daily Events, our typical top three (MUC, IzzetPost, and Storm) accounted for 49% of the total.  MUC alone held a 21% share of the decks that won in Daily Events over the past month.

Now before I get further into the popular/successful decks I do think this is a good point in time to stop and take a look at the list of decks who showed five or less times.  There are a lot of "junk" decks there, but there is one that sticks out to me... RG Aggro/Burn.  When I first wrote about a week's worth of Daily Events after the release of Dark Ascension, RG Aggro/Burn was at a point where it was so successful that it was not even close to being considered "rogue" by my 5 win standard!  During that week of 2/15 - 2/22, RG Aggro/Burn managed to show up 16 times on an average of two wins per Daily Event.

RG Aggro/Burn
Example Decklist
4 Blastoderm
4 Civic Wayfinder
4 Jolrael's Centaur
4 Llanowar Elves
4 River Boa
4 Safehold Elite
4 Wickerbough Elder
28 cards

Other Spells
4 Firebolt
2 Flame Jab
4 Lightning Bolt
10 cards
15 Forest
7 Mountain
22 cards


The deck is a solid build that pairs nasty green creatures (particularly those with Shroud, which can avoid your opponent's targeted kill spells) with a handful of burn to finish the job.  So what's changed?  Why has this deck gone from showing up with two showings per Daily to 1 showing over 4 weeks?!  If you take a look at the list it seems that it just has everything you'd want for the current meta.  We've got ways to avoid creature kill, we've got Islandwalk for those MUC, burn for aggro, and even main-deck artifact hate.  That all being said the deck does get hosed up against stronger/faster aggro decks such as Stompy, which are coming around more often.  Having the burn spells to finish your opponent is great, but they don't always come around enough to clear the way for your attack.

Getting back to the more popular decks, I've narrowed it down from our long list to 12 decks that met the criteria of having more than 20 showings over those 108 Daily Events.  The next thing I wanted to examine was the average number of these decks per day, which end up in the money on a Daily Event.  Well here we go...

Over the past month we've seen MUC with an average of 10 winnings per day and topping out at an average of 11 per day during Week 3.  This is three ahead of the number 2 contender, which ends up being a tie between IzzetPost and Storm thanks to switching off highs and lows during Weeks 1 and 4.  Things continue to drop off from there with decks like DimirTrinket and FissureStorm during the past week.  In order to get a better idea of showings over these past four weeks I took the most popular decks and graphed their total showings (I did have to eliminate MUC from the list seeing as its so far ahead of the rest it makes the chart unnecessarily big).

During last week's article on the Pauper BnR I talked about three of the top decks and some of the thoughts about what can be done with them.  During that article I talked about how much complaining I've heard about IzzetPost.  Despite damning evidence that this is not the most dominate deck, whenever you go to the forums you see everyone complaining about IzzetPost and its power.  Looking at this chart we actually see a significant decline in the showing of IzzetPost decks and yet still people are complaining!  Now I think the decline is quite easy to understand after this deck has been so dominate in the format.  The reason is that there is a significant amount of hate being used in sideboards for this match.  Decks used to be running four land destruction decks for this match, but now we're more often seeing things like MonoBlack Control (MBC) starting to bring in 6 land destruction spells.  The more hate that comes in the less successful a deck will be.  Pretty common sense isn't it?

We have also seen Storm in decline as well after a significant spike from Week 1 to Week 2.  Harking back to last week's article again, I put Storm and Infect in a similar category due to the fact that both can win on turn 2.  I talked about Infect at the beginning of the article and about how no changes would be made with regards to Infect unless the deck really picked up speed.  Well, after four weeks, we see that Infect has actually been on the rise.  While the rise has been minimal, stretching this out to a longer scale of time could see it continuing to creep up.  The only deck on the list that has pretty much held stable throughout the past four weeks has been Affinity.

So let's take this sorting a bit further and narrow it down to our top 10 decks...

As you can see MUC holds a significant lead with a 23% share of the top 10 decks.  This deck continues to hold a significant share of the meta and is going nowhere fast.  There has been the occasional drop like we saw during Week 2, but those results have to be seen in proportion to the rest of the results during that week.  For example, in Week 4 we see MUC showing about 10 less than usual with a 61 total, but when seen in comparison to the #2 deck which came in with only 43 showings it still holds a solid first place position.

The next thing that occurred to me was the ongoing discussion of the layout of Pauper's overall playing environment.  How does the meta look through the eyes of the ideal... our own rock/paper/scissor mechanics?!

The basic idea behind a majority of games is to create this "perfect world" where everything is equal.  One type dominates another, but is in turn dominated by a third.  We are all well aware of the fact that this idea is overly simplified.  I will say that now before someone jumps down my throat, yes I am aware of this!  I think it does need to be used, however, to get a basic idea of what we're encountering.  So I took the full list of decks that placed in the money here and categorized each based on combo/aggro/control.  For decks that hold multiple aspects, I sided them with the type that they had more in common with.  For example, if a deck is Aggro/Control and had a heavier creature focus then it was moved into Aggro.  Here's what it looked like...

As you can see we're heavily dominated by control, mostly thanks to the constant power of MUC.  This shouldn't be surprising to anyone because our top two decks are MUC and IzzetPost, which are both control.  If you were to combine the totals from those two decks alone (451) then it would be more than the total number of combo decks (321) and the total number of aggro decks (391).  Sitting at 45%, control decks are what you should be expecting to face in almost every game and if the deck you've chosen has no chance of beating control then, well, you're playing the wrong deck.

But I wanted to take it a bit further.  While I will stand by my opinion of MUC being overly dominate, I do still feel that the format is rather healthy based on the fact that we have seen several "rogue" decks appear in the money.  When I saw this chart I started to think two things... the first was if this was wrong since it didn't match the proper thirds we expect from rock/paper/scissors... and the second was is this unbalance the same in these other formats?  Since you'll rarely find me playing around in other formats competitively I had to find a source of information for the past month and results of decks within another format.  The obvious answer is the series on Modern written by PureMTGO's own BlippyTheSlug...

For the past month or so Blippy has added fantastic information in his series on the results of recent PTQs, etc.  So I sat down and complied the data for all the results as posted in Blippy's past four weeks of Modern.  This was quite a task let me add since there are so many decks that made a 1 or 2 showing.  When I put these numbers down here was the resulting chart...

Now I did have to ask for Blippy's help (thank you much!) in classifying some decks since I'm not familiar with the format.  I was hugely interested to see how much more dominate Aggro appeared to be in Modern then Control is in Pauper.  This can easily be summed up by my earlier comments on the fact that it really isn't as simple as rock/paper/scissors.  We too often rely on this as our structure, but as Blippy put it to me, it's probably better classified by "rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock"...

Since so many decks are better classified under two categories (Aggro/Control for example) things aren't really as simple.  I'm also of a mind that since Modern has a larger card pool to draw from it changes the dynamic and enables more of these two-to-three type decks to exist.  This is a great topic and one for another, more in-depth discussion.

** (As I was sitting down to put the finishing edit on this article I came across the perfect article for the above discussion by Chingsung Chang) **

Before I wrap this up I want to take a quick look at a few decks that have made a showing and I feel should be watched for...

Stompy is a deck that is not really a "rogue" deck, unlike the others I'll mention here, but one that I think has to be watched.  If you're looking for more specific information regarding the deck check out this article by deluxeicoff, which is a pretty solid primer on the subject.  Since that article covers most of the important information I just want to point out a few key features.  The first would be the addition of Young Wolf, which was more than a perfect fit for the deck.  This deck holds a lot of similar power plays that you'll see in Infect and can get fast wins off of all the pump spells as well as the added comfort of Vines of Vastwood.  One of the keys that makes this deck so much better than other aggro options is Shinen of Life's Roar, which can seal the win off of your attack.  I can't begin to tell you how many games I've faced this deck with a turn 1 Young Wolf, turn 2 Rancor + Rancor ... gg!

The next deck on my "watchlist" is what I've been labeling as GW Tokens.  The first time this deck caught my notice was back after the release of Dark Ascension, as I was pleading for someone to create a deck to break the Midnight Presence combo.  I'm assuming out there somewhere this deck existed prior to the insertion of that combo, but will still show up now and then.  This deck is the definition of my argument on why life gain is so powerful in Pauper as you can see it running all of the "sisters".  With these cheap creatures and token spam this deck's life gain can get out of hand.  What holds this back is the fact that if you're not familiar with it, it can eat up your clock really fast with all the triggers.  My favorite match with this deck is Empty the Warrens storm since your warden's will work to cancel all damage on the first attack.

This is the deck that I have been referring to as Orzhov Deck Wins (ODW).  Of all the decks I figure this might be the one that is most likely to be incorrectly named.  This is a really cool deck that works off some great interactions such as Guardian of the Guildpact's protection from Pestilence.  The deck also brings in several reanimation options to bring back creatures that may have died to the Pestilence.  The other aspect of this deck that I like is the crazy land base, which brings in Bojuka Bogs for grave control and even Kabira Crossroads for life gain.  I'm sure people are tired of me going on about how important life gain is in Pauper at this point, but the deck shows how important that can be, even bringing in a full set of Renewed Faith and Aven Riftwatcher.

This next deck is something that I find myself facing constantly in the casual room and has only managed one showing over all of those Daily Events.  This deck is incredibly hard to deal with, which surprises me a little when it comes to its minimal number of showings.  The only thing I can imagine is that while it's hard to deal with the creatures once they hit the ground, they're hard to get through the heavier counter control environment we find ourselves in.  It also can have some struggles against certain aggro decks where they trade several creatures for your one, leaving you slower off the smaller creature base.  If the deck does get moving then it is very hard to deal with so don't write it off!

Example Decklist
3 Arbor Elf
3 Fyndhorn Elves
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Lys Alana Huntmaster
1 Safehold Elite
4 Timberwatch Elf
4 Winnower Patrol
22 cards

Other Spells
4 Drain the Well
4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
4 Thermokarst
4 Vines of Vastwood
16 cards
22 Forest
22 cards


The last deck I want to point out for two reasons.  The first is the fact that I'm amazed there isn't a consistently strong Elf deck in Pauper!  Goblins hold their place along with elves in every "vintage" format, but they just can't hold their own in Pauper!  I have played this deck in order to get an idea of how it handled.  What I liked at first was the fact that it has so much LD in the main, but I had reservations on whether or not it would be hindered by this.  The great part of this LD is the fact that when it comes to Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, the card is more than just LD so it never feels like a wasted spot.  The other thing to note is that the deck actually has the ability to hold up the aggro end of things when you ignore the LD spells.  While these LD spells rock against 8post decks, this deck has the ability to go aggro in any match and not use the LD as a focal point.

Well that was quite the article if I do say so myself!  I hope I didn't have any of my poor readers passing out somewhere midway from all the information, but if you can get your eyes uncrossed long enough to read this then you're in good shape!  Next week I'm going to take a look at one last deck that has been on the outskirts of competitive Pauper, but has recently drawn my attention.  So join me next week as we dive into a bag of tricks!

- JustSin


Always happy to help. :) by BlippyTheSlug at Wed, 04/11/2012 - 21:56
BlippyTheSlug's picture

Thanks for the plug!

I love your illustration for Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock. So much so, I'm gonna steal it and use it next opportunity I get.

thanks, but I totally can't by JustSin at Wed, 04/11/2012 - 22:50
JustSin's picture

thanks, but I totally can't claim that one lol I stole it from Wiki, had seen it before and its just perfect to show how it works!