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By: zebhillard, Zebiriah Ray Hillard
Dec 17 2018 1:00pm
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Life has been hectic recently. I’ve only been able to complete two leagues after Ultimate Master was released online, and missed the Pauper Challenge last Sunday.  I feel slightly precognitive with my earlier call though. My initial article was submitted last week, but I didn’t finalize the submission due to an oversight on my part and could have pulled a called-shot on the Challenge if I was paying attention. I'm going to try and make Friday's a thing, that gives me the weekend to run games, the week to think, and plenty of Challenge lists to give my thoughts on.  But, anyway, back to why you're here...


FoilGushGurmag Angler


The Challenge had 3 UB Delver lists, one very interesting UB Reanimator, and one Kiln Fiend all running the package of cards.  Nasty and billster47 (on the UB Reanimator) were the only ones running three Foil alongside three copies of Gush, everyone else was on either 2/2 or 2/3 for Foil and Gushes.  Nasty is a recent common endboss of Pauper leagues, and has placed in the Top 8 of seven since September, so I’m not shocked to see him adopting and making excellent use of the Pauper Force of Will (give the guy a follow on Twitch at xx_Nasty, he’s entertaining and a good watch if you have the time, he also has a vod up where he talks through his entire recent Challenge win).


The results from my leagues were somewhat promising with my initial build, though due to some poorly thought through changes I ended a string of 4-1 results with a 3-2 that I misclicked my way to a loss in (I also accidentally submitted a 61 card deck), and another 3-2 that I just flat punted away by not creating a huge stack with hard cast Daze, Gush, and Foil to counter a key pump spell.


Across four leagues my losses came twice to Dinrova Tron, and once each to Murasa Tron, Mono Blue Delver, Affinity, and Inside Out.


The matches I played were:

4x Goblins/Red Aggro (4-0)

3x Dinrova Tron (1-2), Mono Blue Delver (2-1)

2x Murasa Tron (1-1), UB Teachings (2-0)

1x Green Stompy, Inside Out (0-1), UB Delver, Temur Landkill, Mono W Heroic, Kiln Fiend


I was graciously handed some excellent matchups in each of the leagues, but with Pauper being how it is I couldn’t escape Tron in any of them.  I’m going to give a brief recap of a few of the matches I played and some specific thoughts how non-standard cards worked in them, and changes that may take place moving forward.


Goblin BushwhackerBurning-Tree Emissary

The match against mono red is primarily based around stabilizing the board quickly and playing out a Gurmag Angler, because your counterspells and creature elimination options can grind through the majority of their creatures that matter.  The exchange of a blocking creature and Lightning Bolt to remove Gurmag Angler is so beneficial on your side as to rarely even come up until the endgame when the opponent is fighting for survival. A sideboard playset of Hydroblasts so all of your interaction costs 0 or 1 is strong even on the draw, as being able to kill their turn 1 play and Daze their turn 2 follow-up, if they’re relying on Burning-Tree Emissary to power out a wide field helps you maintain a clean board and fill your graveyard to cast Anglers.  I'm not afraid to Snuff Out their first play in game one if I have an Augur of Bolas, either, because the life paid usually ends up being less than what would be lost from combat damage over the course of an actual game, and Augur brick walls almost all of their plays. Foil doesn’t play too much into it aside from shutting down a Burning-Tree Emissary chain until you hit the middle game, where it is just another castable hard counterspell.


Ninja of the Deep HoursSpellstutter Sprite

With Mono Blue Tempo, your removal is just better than theirs.  You both have the same number of counterspells (give or take one or two, depending on Foil count), but your removal is actual removal, not a pile of Snaps and Vapor Snags.  While they do have the potential to tempo you out on the play, it’s still a coinflip in the long run. They have to stop your creatures because if they don’t achieve a critical mass of draw effects, you can be very selective with what you kill (killing Spellstutter Sprite at 1 with Snuff Out is a gleeful experience) and only remove things that hamper your own tempo.  Stormbound Geist from the sideboard helps you stop their faeries and Shrivel can be a complete one-sided board wipe if they’re on the Delver plan and not just Ninjas and you catch them trying to overcommit. I have noticed a number of Mono Blue lists in the leagues starting to run some number of copies of Foil (likely two), and even one at 5-0 (Mezzelk, running 2/2).


Urza's TowerUrza's MineUrza's Power Plant

Tron.  Tron is tough.  While that isn’t my complete set of thoughts on the matter, the only matches I’ve won in any of those pairings are the ones where they stumble, I successfully stop them from putting Tron together, and ride a turn one Delver of Secrets or turn two Gurmag Angler to victory.  It’s harder to do than it is to say, and relies heavily on being able to cast their payoff spells. My current tactic has been to counter their fixing in the form of Signets and Maps when I can so long as it doesn’t hamper my ability to play a threat, and then protect the queen from then on out.  Given my lackluster showing, this may need to change. Foil helps in this match because the removal or other counterspells you’re cutting for it are just air, and it lets you fight their payoff, but I don’t know if even that is enough to ask for.


Forbidden AlchemySoul Manipulation

UB Alchemy is a crapshoot, but boils down to Control versus Tempo.  Even postboard when you have Stormbound Geist, the plan is as old as time (or at least since 1994).  Resolve a threat, protect the threat, try and kill them before they muscle your threat into the graveyard.  I was aggressive with my counterspells in this match and countered both sides of Teachings whenever they tried to tutor for an answer, running big fish out into obvious removal so they would have to choose between it and the Insect once it flipped.  It was a tight 2-1 exchange, but my plan worked at least this once. I think Foil is amazing in this match, because they spend so much time on set-up when you can counter an important spell they’ve invested cards into, you come out ahead while still pressuring their life total.


My SB stayed the same from the pre and post Foil listing, and was as follows:

4 Hydroblast, 2 Stormbound Geist, 2 Dispel, 2 Annul, 2 Shrivel, 2 Faerie Macabre, 1 Diabolic Edict


Moving forward, I think some changes to the sideboard should be in order, and some of the main deck removal I used needs to be altered.  After watching some matches and taking in some information, I’ve discovered you don’t need Thought Scour. If you were running more than just Anglers you might need slightly more fuel for the graveyard, but with just the zombie fish, it fills up quickly enough naturally that the two additional removal spells serve a much better purpose and are only dead in rare matches.


As of now, my 75 look close to this, shifting my SB to have Relic of Progenitus to help fight Boros Bully (I have yet to play it, but it’s putting up more and more numbers):

With Nasty’s win, and the trend of 5-0’s starting, the popularity of the deck and hate for it is going to rise.  I would suggest if you want to pick up the deck, play out a few Casual games in the league before hopping into the deep end.  Also, dig around and look for different/better answers to opponents Gurmag Angler. If the deck blows up even more, I might actually take a page from Mono U and run Snap, Vapor Snag, or something along those lines (as much as I’m loathe to do so).


Free is the best mana cost in magic.  A CMC of 1 is light years more expensive than 0, and a CMC of anything higher than 2 is generally uncastable without mitigating factors.  I’m trying to keep the list as close to this mindset as possible and have it be the most aggressive tempo deck that can function reliably.  Unfortunately in my post-Foil games I did notice a lack of ability to impact the board once creatures resolved due to cutting removal spells for the copies of Foil, so I’m trimming a few spells to add two Echoing Decay back in.  With that change, I’ll be back into the leagues and see if I can start putting up 5-0’s with Foil Delver. Hopefully, a follow-up work will include my league report about just such a thing.