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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Feb 16 2015 1:00pm
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February 11th was a pretty good day for people who play Pauper. Lee Sharpe, long time member of the Magic Online team, announced his new position as Event Manager. At the same time he released a new event schedule that would be effective February 18th. The number of Pauper Daily Events tripled: one on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday; two on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. While the number of event results will only double, this represents a level of support that has not been glanced upon since the pre-November 2013 Crashes (also known as KiblerGate). Rumors of Pauper’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

The increase in events demonstrates that the Magic Online team values Pauper and sees it as part of the program for the foreseeable future. More events means more information and hopefully increased attention to the format. While Pauper is healthy in its player base it is plausible that Cloud of Faeries and Treasure Cruise are worthy of the ban-hammer. The additional data will allow Sharpe and his team to monitor the results and make a decision in the best interest of the format.

That discussion is for another time. Today we are primed to enter a new information age. For invested Paupers and newcomers alike this means one thing: decklists. The question arises how do we determine the genuinely good decks from those that only win.

To elaborate - I manage a page where for the past 18 months I have tracked the results of every Pauper Daily Event, Weekend Challenges, and even some single elimination queues. Invariably a deck will go 3-1 and someone will comment about the deck. They will fawn over a so called rogue deck making it to the winners circle or an old favorite showing it has something left in the tank. What nearly always follows is some variant of “Alex, do you think this deck is good?”

My answer is nearly always: wait and see.

A single strong performance simply is not enough information to make a valid conclusion. Occasionally a list will catch the eye of many and then proceed to get picked up, even if it is an inferior list. The inferior deck then continues to put up numbers (perhaps due in part to volume) and gets touted as something “good.” This is an Information Cascade.

Background: In 2006 Patrick Chapin wrote the incredibly important “Information Cascades in Magic.” Nearly ten years later it is still worth the read. The setting of the article is a team unified constructed Pro Tour Qualifier season during Kamigawa-Ravnica Standard. All three teammates had to go by what is now known as Unified Constructed rules. An arbitrarily correct strategy was to have one Orzhov deck. The article goes on to describe Ghost Dad - a deck based upon a Tallowisp engine- that had a great weekend and then caught fire. There was a second Orzhov option known as Ghost Husk, so called due to its ability to generate tons of damage from Nantuko Husk and Promise of Bunrei, that was objectively a better choice. However Ghost Dad was more popular. Again, an Information Cascade where a worse deck became more popular due to sheer volume.

We have already seen this to a certain extent in Pauper. Esper Familiar is not identified as a problem by participants at large due to its relatively small footprint in the metagame despite its success. Delver, on the other hand, is often hailed as the problem of the format even though in aggregate it puts up middling results give the sheer volume of Delver decks.

The big difference between the time when Chapin was penning his piece and today is the proliferation of Magic events and information. In 2006 Magic Online was still relatively new and event results were few and far between. Video coverage of the Pro Tour was limited to the top 8 and neither Grand Prix nor independent tournaments had live streamed commentary. Speaking of, streaming was still years away. It was easier for worse versions of decks to remain popular simply due to the lack of spotlight.

Today between multiple high level events occurring regularly and increased visibility due to video, there are just more eyes and more collective energy directed at having the best possible list. Iteration takes less time and a rapidly changing metagame means that technology is in constant need of updating. At least for high profile formats.

Pauper exists in an interesting pocket universe. The lack of high profile/high stakes events means that optimal lists are never really found. Daily Events are capped at four rounds which means a deck just has to be good enough to spike three games to get noticed. Now over a long enough period of time a true top tier will emerge - this is how we can safely posit Delver as a top deck while also make the estimation that Domain Zoo is fringe at best. But the variety in these decks show us that a best option may not emerge.

An anecdote: before the crash of November 2013 it could be debated that Mezzel was the single most successful pilot of Delver. Mezzel’s list was unique in many respects, not the least of which was its 19 land and inclusion of Brainstorm. Despite this success the deck had almost no one else pilot it as effectively. This could mean Mezzel was just a better pilot than others or that the deck was better, or perhaps that it was worse and Mezzel ran incredibly hot for a summer (that last one is unlikely). Here is an example of a time where information did not cascade.

Currently we are seeing the result of a cascade in Pauper. Back in early November of 2014 a hybrid deck emerged. The deck sought to blend the board control elements of Izzet Control with the combo style kill of Izzet Blitz. The deck, which I’ve been calling Izzet Midrange, has been a fixture ever since:

Izzet Midrange
4-0 in a Pauper Daily on 2/14/15 by Kimul
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Mulldrifter
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops
15 cards

Other Spells
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Temur Battle Rage
3 Compulsive Research
3 Firebolt
4 Flame Slash
2 Ponder
4 Preordain
3 Treasure Cruise
22 cards
4 Evolving Wilds
6 Island
3 Izzet Boilerworks
6 Mountain
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
21 cards

Nivix Cyclops


The deck from the original week is inaccessible on the mothership so I am using an example from this past weekend. I bring this deck up because in the past three months this deck has been performing worse than both decks from where it draws influence. While it has been performing only slightly worse than Izzet Blitz (the true combo kill version of this deck), it has been slaughtered in performance by Izzet Control - an epitome of consistency.

Izzet Midrange
4-0 in a Pauper Daily on 2/14/15 by Npastels
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nivix Cyclops
4 Kiln Fiend
12 cards

Other Spells
4 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Shadow Rift
1 Thought Scour
1 Artful Dodge
3 Assault Strobe
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
3 Treasure Cruise
27 cards
8 Island
6 Mountain
3 Terramorphic Expanse
17 cards

Kiln Fiend

Note the lack of Temur Battle Rage in place of Assault Strobe here. 

Izzet Control
4-0 in a Pauper Daily on 2/14/15 by fiat11
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Mulldrifter
3 Sea Gate Oracle
11 cards

Other Spells
4 Counterspell
2 Exclude
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Miscalculation
1 Oona’s Grace
2 Firebolt
4 Flame Slash
4 Preordain
4 Treasure Cruise
27 cards
2 Evolving Wilds
5 Island
2 Izzet Boilerworks
3 Mountain
1 Quicksand
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Swiftwater Cliffs
21 cards



The persistence of the Midrange list could be the result of an information cascade. Despite the fact that it is objectively the worst Swiftwater Cliffs deck it still sees play. Many things may factor into this but if the data can be trusted then currently blowing up creatures is better than trying to Kiln Fiend someone in the face.

My hope is with the additional events we will see the cream of the format rise to the top and get a far more true picture of the metagame. I just hope we like what we see. 

Keep slingin’ commons-


SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
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Discuss Pauper on twitter using #mtgpauper


I've been noticing the by Elbinac at Mon, 02/16/2015 - 13:27
Elbinac's picture

I've been noticing the gradual shift in lists as people try to better exploit Treasure Cruise.
The combo list is objectively the better deck but doesn't use Cruise as effectively.
Treasure Cruise is also the reason we are now seeing Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse in competitive lists.
Which in turn makes Brainstorms even better for the decks.

Recently a UB version has been turning up in the TP room and it looks even better as a control list than the UR version.
Though I wouldn't be surprised to see a hybrid list pop up.

Granted most of the deck pilots I've bumped into are pretty new with the lists and need match-up practice.

*afterthought* the current iteration of the UB delve list is very vulnerable to Relic of Progenitus, where the UR list isn't affected enough to be worth siding it in.
So prior to hate the UB list is more frightening, but post board the UR list is more resilient.

One of the things that makes the UB list so effective is the use of Mental Note and Thought Scour to fuel rapid delving.

Nice article. I was the guy by Joe Fiorini at Mon, 02/16/2015 - 20:44
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Nice article. I was the guy that lost to you the other day, btw. I don't know a lot of the cards in the format yet, so I blew my counterspell on the wrong card foolishly. Not that I really knew enough about your deck anyway. I thought that the thought scour was you trying to put a creature in the graveyard for exhume. Your deck was pretty cool, seemed good.

Anyway, I've been playing a u/b reanimator list, no gurmag angler, just crusher. I had a lot of games that took me forever to do anything, but one game where I won on turn four. So, that's something I guess.

I'd like to brew my own deck. by Joe Fiorini at Mon, 02/16/2015 - 20:46
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I'd like to brew my own deck. Something that puts my playset of Daze to good use. Not sure exactly what though. Probably Delver something or other.

I dare you to find a deck by Paul Leicht at Mon, 02/16/2015 - 21:46
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I dare you to find a deck that runs daze that does not run delver :D

dare accepted. I normally by Joe Fiorini at Mon, 02/16/2015 - 23:21
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dare accepted. I normally pick truth, though.

The UR list is more of a by Fragoel2 at Tue, 02/17/2015 - 05:35
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The UR list is more of a control deck: if you get to stick a delver on t1 fine, if you don't fine anyway. In fact in my (very limited) testing so far I had to decide several times whether to lead with t1 delver or t1 tap land and I always choose the latter, since having access to double blue on turn 2 is better than getting on the board early.
The UB instead is more of a tempo deck, like Legacy delver, it shares some cards but has a completely different gameplan.

Turn 1 delver is frequently a by Elbinac at Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:31
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Turn 1 delver is frequently a mistake when waiting would allow you to protect it.

I worry more about a cantrip on turn 1 setting up a delver+counter for turn two or three and them just sitting on protection and removal the rest of the game.
A turn one delver is just too easy to kill.

I play BUG and formerly RUG by Joe Fiorini at Tue, 02/17/2015 - 18:19
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I play BUG and formerly RUG Delver in legacy, and unless I have a Daze, I often don't play a delver or shaman turn one. I'm more likely to do so if I have two threats in my hand, and I'd play the one that I care less about dying first (ie: Delver instead of Shaman).

Your point is right on the money. A lot of people just run out a delver turn one without thinking much about it. If the deck you're facing doesn't have much or any one mana removal that can target it, then that's a different story.

On another note, I built a mono blue delver pauper deck. I have four dazes, is it wrong to add more than the two the list called for? I'm used to running four and it's pretty nice in my legacy deck.

A lot of people have written by JMason at Tue, 02/17/2015 - 20:25
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A lot of people have written articles and published decks that use Daze, and have posted seriously good results with those decks. Try as I might I seem to not be able to reproduce that success, and it's not like I have no experience playing mono blue, because I do, it's that I seem to only succeed with hard counters in my decks. If you can make 4 Daze work then do it.

I'm going to try it and see. by Joe Fiorini at Tue, 02/17/2015 - 21:28
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I'm going to try it and see. I know that in Legacy, you can always at least pitch Daze to force of will, or shuffle it away with a brainstorm/fetch activation. so I can see why it's much less powerful in pauper.

I plan on siding some or all out on the draw, as I am accustomed to.