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By: JustSin, Dave
Jun 14 2012 7:12am
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In My Defense...

I've been told by many people that I'm lazy, but that's not really fair.  In fact, I take lazy to the point of religious devotion in some cases.  Papers for school will often wait for the last minute and I'll go to such lengths to be lazy that I could have just performed the original task for half the effort.  Magic requires us to do a lot of things.  Thinking for one is an action I prefer to avoid(!), but we have to do a lot of other things like tapping creatures and at times doing math! *shudder*  This week I solve that problem by avoiding attacking all together...

The Competitive Corner

During this week's Competitive Corner I find myself at a bit of a strange spot.  We're now approaching the point in time where we've had the new MTGO Daily Event schedule for almost a month now and so almost a month of our smaller Pauper schedule.  Almost half the events have been taken away on a weekly basis and we now see only two to three Pauper events each week.  I've been debating over what to do about this smaller schedule and I've been considering reducing this section down to a bi-weekly basis.  In doing so the data would (hopefully) find itself back on par to where it was before the cleaning of the DE schedule.  What I'm going to do is put up the information for this week's Competitive Corner that covers the past two weeks and see how it goes.  If you hate the idea then feel free to let me know!

This Week's Daily Events

So apparently Storm has become the flavor of the month with another big showing.  Last week it made its first appearance at the number one spot and this week that didn't change.  Even if you were to break this down into two separate weeks, Storm was at the top of both.  The deck again managed to have a DelverBlue showing by being significantly ahead of the #2 deck.  I find the up swell of Storm to be mildly surprising because I feel there are a lot of options for (at the very least) sideboard options against this deck.  DelverBlue was making a mild comeback and got a solid number two finish with a surprise finish by MonoWhite Aggro at number three.  As a whole we've seen a large showing by aggro decks, which I think accounts for the reappearance of decks like DimirPost.  I wrote an article many weeks ago that talked about how strong DimirPost can be in an aggro heavy metagame and I think this is a great time for it to start making a comeback.

Here's the trending from last week...

So this is the first week where we have the inclusion of DelverBlue on our chart.  While things get a bit more crowded, I feel that by making this cover two weeks we're going to have the trending a bit closer to accurate than we would if I kept the individual weeks' data.  Looking at this chart I am starting to feel that it is becoming just irrelevant data.  If you look at the last two weeks the chart has become just a mess.  Last week the data was too small and this week I feel like everything went too big.  Decks like Goblins and Affinity have remained stable, but every other deck on the list had a major spike up.  Even if we removed the data from the small Week 5, we would still find every deck has jumped.  By shrinking the number of Daily Events it has resulted in most of the new DEs having a higher attendance, which means more winners.  I'm going to Ponder over this as well, but I almost feel like this chart is no longer providing any kind of relevant information.

Here's the 4 - 0 showings...

There were no real changes in the average showings for undefeated decks.

Here's the rogue decks from these two weeks...

1. EnchantStorm - 3 (1)
2. WeeFiend Aggro - 3 (1)
3. DimirTrinket - 1 (1)
4. Elves - 1
5. EnchantAggro - 1
6. Fissure Storm - 1
7. Orzhov Deck Wins - 1

The first thing that crossed my mind when I decided to combine these two weeks was that we might end up with a huge list of rogue decks, but amazingly that didn't happen.  Oddly, it seems that when Wizards reduced the number of Pauper Daily Events, they somehow managed to smooth the meta, most likely accidently.  We also had three out of the eleven total rogue decks manage to have 4 - 0 showings.  The first was EnchantStorm as ran by DoGBiscuit, who has been the most consistent player with the deck.  In similar fashion we have an undefeated showing by DC_Casanuda who is the same for the DimirTrinket deck.  If you're interested in the DimirTrinket deck, DC provided a quick look at how the matchups are for the deck on the MTGS forums.  The third and final undefeated showing was from a deck I've called WeeFiend Aggro.  The deck is very cool and I'm a big fan so it was nice to see it have a few showings this week.  The undefeated showing came from mlschultz at the beginning of the month.  If you're not familiar with the deck then definitely go check it out.

This week's deck was inspired by a single card...

Vent Sentinel

This card was part of a greater "mechanic" that was given to us during Zendikar block, but it really wasn't a mechanic.... the basic idea was often referred to as "defender matters".  There were several cards that were printed that worked in a tribal fashion where they granted a beneficial effect to all creatures with "defender" (as opposed to all creatures of a specific type).  This idea really appealed to me and I've tried many times to build decks in other formats around this card.  When you add in a few dual lands and expand your possible card choices to the Classic pool it is easy to showcase the power behind this card.  This deck started when I faced a deck that was running these in the casual room and it went really bad for my opponent.  I wanted to see if I could do better.  I would hate to see such a powerful card play so bad...

So I knew that I wanted to be playing in red and wanted to find a good second color to compliment it.  When I sat down to my client and searched "defender" for all non-red creatures I found that there was a lot of great defender creatures in both green and white.  Either would have worked, but when I took a look at what red had to offer I found that I really didn't want anything beyond the Vent Sentinel... 

Alabaster WallForiysian InterceptorSoulsworn JuryGuardians of AkrasaAlabaster WallPrison BarricadeStalwart Shield-BearersWall of GlareWall of HopePride Guardian
Vine TrellisThallid Shell-DwellerOvergrown BattlementWall of RootsWall of VinesTraproot KamiTinder Wall
Vent SentinelFlowstone WallBattle RampartOgre SentryTorpid Moloch
Spire SerpentMnemonic WallPrimal PlasmaDrift of Phantasms
Wall of DistortionWall of CorpsesOona's Gatewarden
Primal ClayWall of TanglecordSteel Wall

My final solution was to run the deck using all three colors and use red at a bare minimum, even though it was my big win condition.  This could be managed through a heavy package of land fetch and color fixing.  The bulk of my color fixing was made up of Explore and Abundant Growth, which were both in the deck because of their ability to draw cards in addition to helping with my mana fixing.  When it comes to drawing cards.... outside of blue... in Pauper.... there really isn't anything that can do a significant job of making that happen.  These cards help you get past empty hands and land flood.  The third card I brought in was fantastic in many ways...

Evolution Charm

While Evolution Charm works well to fetch land in the early game they are almost more beneficial for the fact that I have the choice to use it as a reanimation spell for any Vent Sentinels that have died.  When your deck is so focused around a single win condition you either need ways to get it back after it is removed or protect it.  Even though the deck would be running a full set of Vent Sentinels, the addition of Evolution Charm will equate to the possibility of being able to get seven Vent Sentinels overall.

The other key not to be learned there is that a deck that has only a singular focus it can fizzle out when that single focus is removed.  For this reason I needed to bring in other possible win conditions.  The first would be Thallid Shell-Dweller, which would work as a very long-term solution.  If you find yourself relying on the token generation of Thallid Shell-Dweller then you better be managing your clock well because the game will be going on for a significant amount of time.  However, it is really a great addition because the saproling tokens can be used in many effective ways even beyond being a singular win condition.  The next was a really obvious choice.  When you're running a deck that is so focused on defender you're going to be running those green walls that generate mana.  Overgrown Battlement is the best wall out there for generating heavy mana and it is actually a common.  Whenever you have this much mana available you just have to run an X damage burn spell.  This will work as our only other red cards in the deck.

After adding the remaining creatures and filling in the blanks here's what I was looking at...

The odd card in this list is probably Captured Sunlight, but I found during early testing that when I was losing games it came down to really close matches where a little life gain would have saved me.  The cascade ability is great to up the defender count and acts as extra card advantage as well.  The last thing that I want to point out is Prison Barricade and its kicker ability.  Now there are some defender creatures that were printed that have a way to attack as if they did not have defender.  This means that they can attack, but they still have the defender wording so that they count towards Vent Sentinel and Overgrown Battlement.

Feel free to check out the deck video...

Example Game 1
Deck Type: RG Sac Aggro
Video Link: Click Here!

Opening Hand:
PlainsEvolving WildsTinder WallPride GuardianKaervek's TorchTerramorphic ExpanseKaervek's Torch

Opening hand was pretty good even though most of the lands that I had available to me were tap fetches.  I had an opportunity to play either one of my single costed walls, all I had to do was use a fetch land for a Plains or a Forest... which of course I don't get.  My opponent gets a fast start with turn two and turn three Perilous Myrs.  After recovering from my mistake I put Pride Guardian into play, keeping my opponent from attacking.  My opponent remains stalled and I draw into a Vent Sentinel on turn four with plenty of mana to put it into play.  Over the next few turns I continue to increase my wall count while leaving mana available to use Vent Sentinel every turn.  Eventually I realize my opponent was a bit mana screwed, but a win is a win.

Example Game 2
Deck Type: UW Zubera?
Video Link: Click Here!

Opening Hand:
ForestVent SentinelForestMountainExploreKaervek's TorchWall of Tanglecord

A great opening hand because Explore will present us with the opportunity to play our Vent Sentinel on turn 3 as long as we draw into the fourth basic land.  I get out the Wall of Tanglecord first and then when my Vent Sentinel comes down it is already at a two damage start.  My opponent uses Floating-Dream Zubera with Ocular Halo to draw a number of cards while I continue to build up my wall count through Tinder Wall and Prison Barricade.  My opponent play a pair of Silent-Chant Zubera and a Mulldrifter, but can't get through my wall of... well... walls as my Vent Sentinel makes quick work of my opponent's life total.

Example Game 3
Deck Type: UB Control
Video Link: Click Here!

Opening Hand:
ExploreVent SentinelThallid Shell-DwellerForestForestTerramorphic ExpanseForest

Another great hand as I have the ability to get the turn 3 Vent Sentinel off of the extra land granted to us by Explore.  Things get even better as I draw into an (Abundent Growth) off of Explore, which I can put right into play with the third land I get to drop, drawing me a second Vent Sentinel.  Having these guys available is increasingly important, along with Evolution Charm, against decks that are running black or other heavy removal.  My opponent starts with a Duress and two Raven's Crimes, which force me to not only drop off lands, but the second Vent Sentinel as well.  Needless to say I'm still able to get the second Vent Sentinel into play on turn three and have mana available on turn 4 to play Thallid Shell-Dweller in addition to activating the sentinel's ability.  I have to play around discard by holding onto lands and thankfully my creature base is very accommodating to four lands.  With four defenders in play my opponent responds to my activation of Vent Sentinel by using two Agony Warps in order to kill it off.  This leaves me relying on Thallid Shell-Dweller for my win condition until i can draw an answer.  Thankfully, Wall of Tanglecord x2 is my best answer to Mulldrifters and the game stalls until I can find a better answer.  I make a misplay when I finally top into Evolution Charm and eagerly play it at a point in time when I cannot cast the Vent Sentinel on the same turn.  This leaves my opponent his turn to reuse a Raven's Crime and force me to discard the sentinel.  The game is stalled out once again until a point where my opponent attacks with his creatures and I block a Phyrexian Rager with enough damage to kill it.  After he mis-assigns damage he decides to concede... *shrugs*

Now there is really only two things I want to talk about real quick when it comes to possible changes for this deck.... ok maybe three.... ok maybe more than three..

The first card is the Captured Sunlight.  When I built version 1.0 of this deck I had originally tried to work in some other draw cards like Faithless Looting and Dangerous Wager.  If I had to keep one of these I would go with Faithless Looting because as great as I thought Dangerous Wager was, I found there is a real draw back.  What the card appears to be is a spell that allows you to draw two cards when Dangerous Wager is the only card in your hand and then you have nothing really lost, but what happens is that you always end up with multiple copies of the spell in your hand and then you're forced to discard at least one copy.  There are probably some great places for Dangerous Wager, but this just wasn't one of them.  So when I was replacing these with Explore, I decided that I really wanted to find a bit more lifegain since Pride Guardian only gains life when he blocks, which means if your opponent doesn't attack, you don't gain life.  I felt that because of the cascade ability on Captured Sunlight I had found a great compromise between card advantage and lifegain.  However, seeing as this card is the random two-of spell, I can see where people might find the slot better used for something else.  I definitely encourage you to play the deck and see what you think might work better because I personally have played it a lot and liked the choice, so I can't really make a suggestion in good conscience.

The next card I want to mention is Kaervek's Torch.  Now as I said before I have played this deck a lot and tuned it a bit, but I really think I would still make a change here for my own personal use of the deck.  I really like the fact that Kaervek's Torch can be played for only a single red mana in addition to its X costs, but the ability is best suited for playing against control decks.  I've personally found that when playing casual games of Pauper there aren't as many of those out there.  Instead I find myself sitting across from a lot of creatures and despite my wall of walls, there will be times when there are too many fliers or simply some creature that is too important to not kill it.  For this reason I am going to be switching Kaervek's Torch with Rolling Thunder.  While this does require you to pay an additional red mana, the fact that you have the option to split up how damage is dealt is awesome against decks with a creature focus.

The last thing that I want to mention, and I did touch on it briefly above, is the Prison Barricade.  If you take a look at my creature base and decide that, well maybe you would like to try a couple different walls or that perhaps you just don't own a particular wall and don't want to hunt it down, then I encourage you to do so.  What I will say, however, is definitely keep an eye out for other creatures that have defender and yet an ability to attack as though they did not have defender.  As I mentioned, this means that you can take a more aggressive approach by attacking, but at the same time your creatures are contributing to the Vent Sentinel count.

Well there it is everyone; hopefully you all enjoyed this week's casual deck.  I do encourage people to let me know your thoughts on the Competitive Corner and whether it should be every other week of combined data or broken out individually.  I have to admit I'm pretty torn between the two sides.  Either way join me next week for some more casual Pauper fun!

- JustSin


Looking at your third game I by FierceTable at Thu, 06/14/2012 - 12:44
FierceTable's picture

Looking at your third game I think it's a mistake to pitch the Vent Sentinel instead of the Thallid to the second Raven's Crime. You lose out on two damage the following turn, but if you fail to draw creatures you're dealing 4 damage a turn instead of 2. Even if you continue to draw creatures like you did in the game you're only behind two damage from the game state you chose and if you ever miss a creature drop and hit lands you're suddenly dealing twice as much damage per turn while remaining more of a threat if one of them gets removed.

You spoke briefly about needing an alternate win condition against a potentially removal heavy deck, but Thallid isn't going to be a win condition against a blue black control deck...generally they simply have too much card advantage (had it been a red deck with lots of removal I'd be more inclined to agree since they tend to have less card advantage and their removal tends to have difficulties with x/5 bodies). Between Mulldrifters and Ragers a 1/1 every three turns isn't going to get there which further reinforces why I dislike your line of play.

I haven't played with the deck so maybe I'm missing something, but I was just curious if you still thought your line of play was best..

On a side note, I always read your articles and seldom comment. Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the feedback! You by JustSin at Thu, 06/14/2012 - 14:20
JustSin's picture

Thanks for the feedback! You make a fair point regarding the Thallid vs. Sentinel discard. My thinking at the time was to have the one Sentinel that could do big damage as opposed to two doing a bit less. Playing the deck you get used to this idea that you only need to keep one alive to win and as long as you're hitting creature drops you're doing more damage each turn.

As far as the Thallid comment it wasn't meant specifically about that particular game. While its an admittedly awful win-con in this deck, it does have that potential if you REALLY have to.

Deck looks interesting, you by Psychobabble at Fri, 06/15/2012 - 04:36
Psychobabble's picture

Deck looks interesting, you weren't tempted by Naya panroama? Also re the decision to keep your land in hand to guard against discount, when I'm in topdeck mode vs black decks I tend to play everything out even surplus land because otherwise they can chittering rats to set you back. I guess it depends if you think you're racing them or not, but you could basically play anything you drew by that stage (even if you wouldn't get much profit out of the torch) so you didn't have that much to protect.

Also with the popularity stats, why not just express them as % rather than raw numbers? that automatically normalises it all for you.

No I can honestly say I by JustSin at Fri, 06/15/2012 - 21:15
JustSin's picture

No I can honestly say I wasn't tempted by it, to get the Pan to fetch its going to require an additional mana so you're losing two lands for a turn to fetch.. evolving/terra will leave you down only one

w/ regards to the land discard, I still feel keeping lands is the right play... rats is a 4/60 card whereas the discard could be more than 4 and against UB there is even a chance they arent running them (tho small since its a really powerful card).. if I'm set back a land well so be it, but I'd rather have my choice over discard and miss a draw, esp in a deck that can top some draw even without running blue

w/ stats - that's a great suggestion thanks! I'll take a look at it later and see how that works