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By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 12 2011 10:45am
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I. Introduction

While it's hard to believe, another season of MPDC is about to come to a close. For those not in the know, MPDC is a weekly Player Run Event featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. Despite the typical criticism that Standard Pauper is too restrictive to create much diversity in winning lists, this season has witnessed a rich and varied metagame that may surprise those unacquainted with the format. With several viable options to choose from, this article will attempt to analyze the most successful Standard Pauper decks of this season as well as offer some suggestions as to what challenges a successful deck will need to overcome in order to win the capstone event of this season: MPDC Season 14 Worlds.

II. MPDC Worlds

But before we get to that, allow me to briefly explain the concept of Worlds, an event held at the end of every season of MPDC (and indeed, most if not all of the other PDC events on Worlds is an invitation-only event where the top players of a particular season of MPDC compete in a special event that features a Double-Elimination format as well as double the normal prize payout. Originally, this event was open only to the winners of each of the events in that particular season, who were invited to bring back their winning lists to compete for the ultimate bragging-rights. However, it soon became apparent that this was simply too limiting, as often only a handful of these players actually showed for the event. At some point, it was decided instead to create a ranking of each player based upon his or her performance during each event of the season, and then invite the top 32 players to compete in a final tournament.

So how are players ranked against one another to determine who are the Top 32 players? The answer is Season Points. You see, for each MPDC event you play, you earn Season Points according to the following formula:

  • Each Match Win is worth 3 Season Points
  • Each Match Loss is worth 1 Season Point
  • Each Bye Awarded is worth 2 Season Points

However, Season Points are only awarded for matches played during the Swiss Pairings. Making Top 8 comes with its own rewards, but does not contribute to Season Points. Additionally, one is also required to submit your decklist into Gatherling, an online database maintained at that compiles all of the information from a particular event, giving one easy access to the number of participants, the decklists that were played, and results from each match. Here is an example of this great source of information (or click here for the 'live' version):

And so, several days ahead of time, these top 32 players are notified of their invitation to Worlds, and then have the opportunity to decline, so that invitations can then be passed down to those lower in the list, with the hope that the event draws as many participants as possible. Additionally, one's ranking within that 32 can be important, as the double-elimination format awards byes based upon one's ranking within that list. And since all that matters is whether or not you've lost two matches yet, getting the opportunity to sit out during a round or two can be a major advantage!

So, that's MPDC Worlds. But the real purpose behind this article is to answer these two questions: Which decks are the strongest going into Worlds?, and what should a decklist be able to accomplish to expect a strong showing at Worlds? And so it is to these that I now turn.

III. Which Decks are Strongest Going into Worlds?

Just a quick word on methodology. I quickly ran through the Top 4 decklists in the eight MPDC events this season and tabulated how often the same decklist appeared. I also compared results with the finalists in SPDC (the other Standard Pauper PRE) as a way of verifying the strengths of the most successful decks this season. Then, having picked what I would consider the best 3 archetypes of the season, I reviewed the various builds of the archetype and selected a decklist that was both representative and informative to further analysis. And so without further ado, I present the three most successful decks of MPDC Season 14.

A. Hawks!

Although the results were very close between the top three most successful decks, the one that has catapulted into the lead has been none other than Hawks!, otherwise known as Monochrome Midranger. After making its initial debut in MPDC 14.03, this decklist landed in the Top 4 no less than 6 times, and captured first place three times in a row before finally falling to second. Utilizing both aggressive and control elements, and making full use out of the strongest cards in the metagame, it should come as no surprise that this is the deck to beat right now in Standard Pauper. Here's the most recent 2nd place list:

Black Hawk Down
played by Mace Windu in MPDC 14.07
4 Glint Hawk
4 Gravedigger
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Squadron Hawk
3 Kor Sanctifiers
3 Pith Driller
2 Fume Spitter
2 Makindi Griffin
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Prophetic Prism
3 Doom Blade
3 Sylvok Lifestaff
2 Grasp of Darkness
12 cards
9 Plains
5 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Bojuka Bog
2 Kabira Crossroads
22 cards

Glint Hawk

The backbone of this deck is comprised of four of the best White creatures at Common: Squadron Hawk, Kor Sanctifiers, Glint Hawk, and Kor Skyfisher, which is easily the strongest of the four. By playing and repeatedly bouncing Prophetic Prism, this deck can assemble a surprising card-draw engine, second only to the raw power of a Blue Common - Foresee. Gravedigger then serves to further enhance this card advantage. Like most BW Control decks, Hawks also relies upon a powerful suite of removal spells. Doom Blade and Grasp of Darkness are the obvious choices, but Pith Driller and/or Fume Spitter also give you additional options. Finally, Sylvok Lifestaff is now firmly entrenched as the premier choice for Lifegain, limiting the effectiveness of aggressive archetypes and also giving a not-insignificant boost of Power.

For the Sideboard, options to combat the mirror, 4 Color Control, and Infect are typical choices. Makindi Griffin, while somewhat vanilla for this deck, is a strong matchup against other Flyers. Shrivel and Geth's Verdict are effective anti-Infect choices, getting around that list's anti-removal cards (such as Vines of Vastwood or Mutagenic Growth). Finally, Nihil Spellbomb and an additional Kor Sanctifiers are useful both in the mirror and against 4 Color Control.

B. American Blood

Prior to the appearance of Hawks!, American Blood had emerged as the early frontrunner of Season 14. The America archetype (nicknamed for its  colors) has a long history of dominance in Standard Pauper, combining card draw, burn, flyers, and effective creatures into a Control deck that can often answer anything an opposing deck can throw at it. This latest variant derives its name from the fact that it makes effective use of the Bloodthirst mechanic that reappeared back in Standard with the release of Magic 2012. Here's a recent 2nd place finish with the decklist:

It is worth pointing out that three of the four key White creatures from Hawks! are also present in American Blood: Kor Skyfisher, Squadron Hawk, and (at least in the Sideboard) Kor Sanctifiers. In most aspects this is a classic variant of the America archetype. First, it can generate significant card advantage through Foresee, Preordain, Sea Gate Oracle, and the recursion effect of the Skyfisher. Second, it has a full suite of removal in the form of Incinerate, Lightning Bolt, Staggershock, and even Wrap in Flames, which, it is worth mentioning, is quite excellent against opposing Squadron Hawks. Third, it runs powerful and effective creatures and, in particular, utilizes the Bloodthirst mechanic for the two best examples in Standard Pauper: Gorehorn Minotaurs and Blood Ogre, both of which are quite strong. Between the 12 burn spells and the 8 evasive creatures, the deck is easily capable of enabling the Bloodthirst mechanic almost at will. This classic combination of these three components makes American Blood an effective and resilient deck.

For the Sideboard, there are a few interesting choices in this particular build worth noting. Given how common Artifact destruction is in the metagame right now, Remember the Fallen is surprisingly effective, giving the deck a way of achieving Graveyard recursion without dipping into Black. Demolish is another interesting choice, allowing you to slow down multicolor decks by destroying a singleton Land type, assuming that your opponent isn't also running a full playset of Prophetic Prism, which has become surprisingly normal towards the end of the season. Otherwise, the Sideboard here is fairly standard - Nihil Spellbomb to counter Graveyard recursion, Kor Sanctifiers for Artifact/Enchantment destruction, Negate to counter key spells against other Control decks, and Seismic Shudder to deal with Aggro decks.

C. 4 Color Control

The final deck to round out the top three decks of Season 14 is another perennial favorite with its own successful history. While perhaps not the most dominant deck, it has shown up in the Top 8 of almost every tournament for the past two seasons. This archetype's ability to simply play the best cards in the format gives it a powerful advantage. Yet, this advantage is completely dependent upon the plethora of color fixing options that currently exist in Standard Pauper - options that, almost without exception, will disappear once Standard rotates. Here is the most recent version of this deck, which took 1st place in the final regular event of the season:

One will notice, yet again, the presence of the same three powerful White creatures - Kor Skyfisher, Squadron Hawk, and Kor Sanctifiers. In many ways 4CC is akin to America, utilizing the same combination of card advantage, removal, and effective creatures to create a decklist capable of handling almost any threat. The major difference, of course, is access to Black, which allows the deck to make use of several powerful options. First, Gravedigger is the obvious addition, fueling further card advantage through Graveyard recursion. Second, Doom Blade is a welcome addition, giving the deck the ability to destroy creatures that are outside the typical reach of burn spells. Third, Mind Rot is a great tool against other Control decks, keeping an opponent from holding on to key spells to wreck your plans at the worst possible moment. Finally, Duress and Shrivel are key gains for the Sideboard, and are particularly relevant against Infect, giving you the option of affecting several creatures at once or removing the one card that Infect is absoluely dependent upon: Distortion Strike.

This particular build has the interesting addition of Suture Priest, which allows one to gain an edge against decks that lrely on 'enters the battlefield' type effects. Given that the number of creatures in most decks has been increasing as of late, this particular card can generate a significant amount of Lifegain and damage to an opponent over the course of a game. Or, if nothing else, it serves as a so-called 'lightning rod,' forcing an opponent to waste removal that might otherwise be targetted against a more powerful creature.

IV. What Should a Decklist be able to Accomplish?

Now then, by no means do I believe that the three decks I just analyzed are the only viable picks going into Worlds. In fact, sometimes the best decks are those that have had little to no prior exposure that season, as this enables them to catch their opponents by surprise and keep them flat-footed when it comes to Sideboarding. Nonetheless, there are certain features that I believe that any deck needs to achieve if it hopes to produce a strong showing at Worlds. Here are my top four tips, in no particular order:

1. Have a plan to deal with Kor Skyfisher and Squadron Hawk.

While this pair of White fliers is not literally part of every successful deck, you should expect to encounter them at least 75% of the time. Especially when equipped with a Sylvok Lifestaff, these flyers can very quickly reduce your Life, making them an immediate threat to deal with. It remains the case that, all other factors being equal, whoever draws the most Skyfishers usually wins. Plan on bringing a large number of removal spells and fliers of your own, and consider otherwise fringe cards that are effective against Squadron Hawks, such as Shrivel, Wrap in Flames, or Staggershock.

2. Have multiple avenues to create card advantage.

You should expect that your opponent will be drawing a significant amount of extra cards and otherwise generating card advantage. Unless your strategy is super aggressive, you must have a way of at least keeping parity with your opponent, or expect to find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of cards your opponent can throw at you. Foresee remains the best choice, given its powerful ability to not only draw two cards but filter the top four cards in your Library. Creatures that generate advantage, such as Sea Gate Oracle, Phyrexian Rager, Gravedigger, and the like are also highly recommended. And even more aggressive decks can find ways to generate some advantage off Prophetic Prism and/or Ichor Wellspring.

3. Have a plan to gain additional Life to recover from early aggression or extend your reach.

While extremely aggessive strategies have fallen on hard times in Standard Pauper as of late, decklists such as Metalhawk or Kuldotha Red are still a presence within the metagame. While I personally think such strategies will have a difficult time overcoming the Control decks, having a strategy to deal with early aggression or simply recover from a slow start can be a literal lifesaver. Sylvok Lifestaff has proven to be surprisingly effective in this role, single-handedly wrecking the ability of aggressive decks to quickly reduce you to zero thanks to the Life boost you receive whenever your creatures die.

4. Have a high number of removal spells and some variety among them.

Although it is almost impossible to have answers to every decklist you might face, Standard Pauper remains dominated by the presence of creatures. When in doubt, the best general answer to whatever strategy you might face is the ability to take out your opponent's key creatures. While red removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Incinerate are generally more useful, Doom Blade is still the removal spell of choice for its ability to take out any non-Black creature, regardless of Toughness. Journey to Nowhere can serve a similar role, although the sheer number of Kor Sanctifiers in the metagame makes this a poor choice against any deck playing White - which includes most of the decks in the metagame.

V. Conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this primer for MPDC Season 14 Worlds, and that after reading you have a better sense of the current metagame in Standard Pauper and some useful tips when it comes to constructing your decklist for this event. MPDC Season 14 Worlds will take place in the Anything Goes Room on Monday, October 23rd, at 2pm EDT / 6pm GMT, and I encourage all of my readers to come check it out. And for my fellow MPDC players, I hope this article has inspired you to come out next week and compete for the best prizes of the season.

In closing, let me remind you 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. It truly is the support from my fellow players that keeps me going!

VI. Bonus Content

What, you're still reading? You want more? Very well! Below I have included some bonus decklists from MPDC Season 14. Check 'em out, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and maybe one of these will capture the title of MPDC Season 14 Champion with you as the pilot!





Not going to miss the top 4 by Paul Leicht at Wed, 10/12/2011 - 19:48
Paul Leicht's picture

Not going to miss the top 4 creature cards in the format when it finally rotates.