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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jun 14 2011 12:52pm
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I. Introduction

Despite my promises to the contrary in my previous article, the past few months have not brought me the renewed leisure time that I had hoped. If I recall, I had almost exactly two weeks to enjoy a return to normalcy at my job, only to then be asked to take on what essentially amounts to another half-time job being added to my responsibilities. Combine that with all the rigors and realities of married life with three small children, my time to devote to Magic Online in general, and writing articles in particular, grows increasingly smaller and smaller. I will therefore make no renewed promises about additional articles or videos, but merely assure my readers that I will endeavor to do better than another three month period between articles. Fortunately for me, the Standard Pauper format has now been graced with the great work of both PiDave and Copperfield, both of whom continue to craft excellent information about the format. If you have any interest in Standard Pauper at all, be sure and take advantage of the rich content they are providing on this great format.

As always in my articles, let me remind you that the goal of this series is to highlight key features, decklists, or matches from Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, commonly referred to as MPDC. MPDC is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. With the beginning of a brand new season , now is the perfect time for anyone to get their first taste of Standard Pauper.

As happens every time a new set of cards rotates into Standard, MPDC holds a special championship event known as WORLDS. WORLDS is an invitation-only event, with invites going out to the top 32 players from that season to compete for the best prizes of the season, which in total amounts to over $30.00 in credits and prizes, which isn't too shabby considering that MPDC costs you absolutely nothing to play (other than the meager cost of acquiring the Standard Commons required to construct a deck). This event is always an opportunity for the best players and the best decklists to show off their clout, and this event was no exception. However, what was totally unexpected was that, when all the dust had settled, I found myself alone and undefeated, earning the (not-so) coveted title of Season 12 Champion. So how did that happen? It starts, of course, with a decklist...

II. The Decklist

A. Why I Chose America

After reading PiDave's very thorough analysis of the best decks of the season and their performance in MPDC Season 12, there was no question that the two best decklists in the metagame were Esper Control and 3 Color Control, better known as Star Spangled Beats or simply America. Esper Control had clearly been the dominant deck of the season, taking 1st place no less than 4 times and appearing at least 15 times in the Top 8 over the course of 12 events. Esper also features several potent advantages over its nearest rival, with additional card advantage generated through Phyrexian Rager, Bala Ged Scorpion, Gravedigger and Mind Rot. Doom Blade is also arguably the best removal spell in the format, at least as far as creatures are concerned. However, for all these advantages, Esper lacks one component that proved to be vital to my success in WORLDS: the ability for all its removal to be converted into direct damage to one's opponent. Esper grinds an opponent out through sheer advantage, built up slowly but surely over multiple turns; America is capable of the same plan, but given an aggressive start, is much better positioned to win by fighting for damage early and finishing off an opponent with a well-timed Lightning Bolt. It is this aggressive potential that ultimately led me to favor America over Esper. And so I found myself, once again, played in WORLDS with an America decklist.

B. Adapting the Decklist

Despite its pronounced presence in the metagame this season and the variety of pilots that ran it, there is relatively little diversity in the various builds of America that showed up this season. Still, in order to better understand my final list, it's helpful to look at these various options.

For the Main deck, I've sorted the core cards of the decklist on the left side by color and converted mana cost. Just about every build of America uses this core, leaving approximately 6 slots for various options. On the right, sorted by color, are the different cards that have been used to fill these empty slots in the Main. Let's take a look at each one, moving from left to right, ignoring those that are additional copies of cards already in the Main:

Flayer Husk is a surprisingly aggressive card for a Control build, but happens to have great synergy with one of the mainstays of both Esper and America decklists: Squadron Hawk. Since other Control matches often come down to which player controls the air, this is not an advantage to be taken lightly. Additionally, the Living Weapon mechanic makes this card pretty good value, although it is rare that a 1/1 Creature is really relevant, even when cast Turn 1. Ultimately though, it is the pronounced presence of Artifact hate from Kor Sanctifiers and Manic Vandal that led me to pass on this option.

Into the Roil is arguably one of the strongest bounce spells at Common in recent years. For an additional colorless, you get to bounce any non-land permanent (not just a creature), and also have the option of paying an additional 1 for an extra card. This card is a great late-game catch-all, allowing you to temporarily prevent some catastrophic event (like bouncing a pumped-up creature or preventing an Alpha Strike via Raid Bombardment). Less important, but still relevant, is the more common option of simply saving one of your own creatures or permanents at just the right moment. Thus, while useful, Into the Roil was nonetheless too reactive for me to value it enough to make the cut.

I am honestly not sure who first decided that this card belongs in this deck, but I have never understood its inclusion. It is extremely rare for this list to have 3 or more artifacts on the battlefield at any one time, making this functionally equivalent to Cancel the vast majority of the time. The real problem, however, is that Deprive has exactly the same effect, but with the added bonus of allowing one to bounce a Land back to your hand. Given the value of Kabira Crossroads and Halimar Depths, this "drawback" hardly seems to justify including Stoic Rebuttal over Deprive. Definitely not something I wanted in my list.

On the other hand, Sky-Eel School makes perfect sense for what this deck is often trying to do. While expensive, a 3/3 flier is stronger than any other flier in the metagame, allowing it to block Squadron Hawks and Kor Skyfishers with ease. The "looting" effect is also a nice bonus, although it pales in comparison with the filtering provided now by Foresee and Preordain. However, since I expected to face my share of aggressive decks, I made the decision to only include two of these, and run both in the Sideboard to bring in against other Control archetypes. The last thing you want against an aggressive deck is 1-2 five-drops in your opener!

Manic Vandal saw a surprisingly amount of play this season. While the fact that its ETB ability isn't optional can certainly be a liability if you're running Artifacts of your own, the dependance upon Prophetic Prism and Sylvok Lifestaff by so many decks prompted players to even run this in the Main from time to time. A simple 2/2 is also about normal for creatures in Standard Pauper, making it a fairly worthwhile card. However, given that I was running White, Kor Sanctifiers seemed to be the stronger pick, especially given that in the end I only wanted 2-3 sources of Artifact hate.
A similar 3 drop, but with a more relevant ETB ability, can be seen in Blisterstick Shaman. While the presence of 1 Toughness creatures is not that prevalent in the metagame currently, this card makes the cut for one very important reason: its ability to drop Squadron Hawks from the virtual sky. As mentioned previously, Control vs. Control so often comes down to who controls the skies, and this card is a potent method of incrementally gaining that control. The fact that its damage could also ping an opponent was not lost on me either.

Last but not least is Wrap in Flames. Like the Shaman, this card is a great way of taking down those ever-present hawks, and can even enable the perfect Alpha Strike in the midst of a stalled-out board. The fact that it only works at Sorcery speed, and costs 3, definitely is a black mark against it however. While excellent in particular spots, in the end I didn't feel like this was relevant enough to be worth including.

For my final list, I ended up removing a single copy of Prophetic Prism and Foresee entirely, and placing the third Flame Slash into the Sideboard for use in relevant matches. I added a 2nd copy of Preordain and Staggershock, 2 copies of Blisterstick Shaman, a single copies of both Kor Sanctifiers and Lone Missionary to the Main deck. For the Sideboard, I opted not to include Dispel, and ended up including a single copy of Manic Vandal in place of the Lone Missionary that moved to the Main. My rationale my simple: I hoped that these changes shifted the deck towards a more mid-range strategy, allowing me to be faster than Esper Control but still giving me inevitability against aggressive decks like Kuldotha Red or Metalhawk.

III. The Matches

A. Round 1 - BYE

Along with all of the Top 8 ranked players according to Season Points for MPDC 12, I had a bye for Round 1. As I mentioned earlier, MPDC WORLDS uses the Double Elimination tournament format, which while deceptively easy to explain is surprisingly complex to actually adjudicate. As the name implies, Double Elimination simply means that once you have lost your 2nd match in the tournament, you've been eliminated from play. In practice, this works out by creating an upper and a lower bracket; undefeated players play in the upper, and then move down to the lower following their first match loss. Because of the necessity of having the upper bracket eliminate all but one player, and simply the fact that at any given time there may be an odd number of players in either bracket, byes are a necessity. While they can be awarded randomly, for MPDC Worlds it makes more sense to award byes on the basis of ranking according to Season Points. Thus in practice, if you are the player with the highest rank in your bracket, you have a strong advantage over your opponents, often allowing you to sit out one or more rounds of play while lower ranked players are eliminated.

B. Round 2 - W 2-1 vs RedUndant

For my first actual match of the game I had a very tough time of it, finding myself paired up against what I presume was the winning list from MPDC 12.12. RedUndant is a very aggressive UR deck that relies upon burn and, after the sideboard, Kiln Fiend to quickly finish off an opponent. Despite a fortunate Turn 2 Squadron Hawk I stumbled on Land for the next two turns. While my hawks were able to keep our respective Life totals fairly similar, the combination of two Searing Blazes, two Staggershocks, two Spire Barrages, and a Lightning Bolt were sufficient to quickly finish me off. Game 2 started off exactly the same, with a Turn 2 Squadron Hawk and no additional lands until Turn 7. Fortunately, I was able to put up enough pressure that my opponent had to waste most of his burn on my creatures, preserving my Life total early, augmented by Lone Missionary and Sylvok Lifestaff. We continued to trade my creatures for his burn spells, and with Deprive to counter the worst of his burn, I stayed way ahead on Life and secured the win. Game 3 my opponent opened with a Turn 2 Kiln Fiend, and I knew I was in deep trouble. Here's what the situation looked like at the start of my Turn 4:

This looks BAD. Do I have any hope of pulling out a win in this situation?

I went ahead and used Lightning Bolt to rid myself of the Kiln Fiend and then cast Sea Gate Oracle, drawing into a Lone Missionary. Unfortunately, that meant my opponent had to have zero direct damage in his hand for me to survive; amazingly enough, that is exactly what happened! I was then able to stabilize with the Lifegain from the missionary with Negate as backup, and eventually won the game through a combination of double Kor Skyfisher as finishers and Deprive to ward off a final Spire Barrage.

IV. Conclusion

Given that this article is rapidly approaching 2500 words, this seems an appropriate place to break and finish off my report in Part Two. And as an added bonus, I will finish off next time with a quick video-cast of one of my key games from MPDC 12 Worlds. But for now, allow me conclude with the reminder that if you would like a sneak peak at my content before it goes live here at, you can always browse over to, search for "gwyned42," select one of my video-casts, and click the Subscribe button. You can also now follow me on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Let me also extend a special thanks to all my fellow Standard Pauper players who have taken the time to thank me for these articles. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts, watch the videos, and comment on my articles. See you next time as I wrap up my tournament report in Part Two!


Great work! I've been longing by PiDave at Wed, 06/15/2011 - 05:18
PiDave's picture

Great work! I've been longing for your articles. :-)

Can't wait for the second part though! :D

I wonder if prophetic Prism by JMason at Wed, 06/15/2011 - 10:23
JMason's picture

I wonder if prophetic Prism was a better play than Oracle? If you drew into a Missionary then you would be on 6 life with a blocker in play and he needs 2 burn cards. If you didn't you were no worse off. Looking forward to part 2.