gwyned's picture
By: gwyned, gwyned
May 05 2010 2:28am
Login or register to post comments

While it's hard to believe, another season of MPDC is about to come to a close. For those not in the know, MPDC stands for Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, a weekly Player Run Event sponsored by PureMTGO featuring a Constructed tournament of the second-most restrictive format in MTGO: Standard Pauper. Due to the short span of time that separates the release of Worldwake and Rise of the Eldrazi, Season 8 included only 9 events total, but even this relatively short period saw a rich and varied metagame of winning decks, ranging from Bant Allies to the ever-successful Blightning to the surprising 4-Color Control. Given the typical criticism that Standard Pauper is too restrictive to create much diversity in winning lists, this rich and varied metagame may come as somewhat of a surprise. Thus, with several viable options to choose from, this article will attempt to analyze the most successful Standard Pauper decks of this season in terms of their strengths and weaknesses as well as offer some suggestions as to what challenges a successful deck will need to be able to overcome in order to win the capstone event of this season: MPDC Season 8 Worlds.

I. 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 PRE that features a double-elimination format as well as increased prizes. Originally, this event was open only to the winners of each of the tournaments 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 entered the event. At some point, it was decided instead to award points based upon performance from each tournament during the season, and then based upon those points invite the top 32 players to compete in the event.

Currently, MPDC tracks two kinds of points. First, throughout the season, each player is awarded Season Points based upon their performance in each match during the Swiss rounds of every event: a win is worth 3 points, a bye 2 points, and a loss 1 point. Second, each time a player qualifies for the playoff cut (typically Top 8 but occasionally only Top 4), they are also awarded Power Ranking Points based upon their finish: 12.60 for 1st, 8.4 for 2nd, 6.3 for Top 4, and 5.25 for Top 8. Rather than simply adding these points together, Power Ranking Points are averaged out against the total number of events of the season. So, when the time comes to determine the top 32 players, ranking is determined first and foremost by the total number of Season Points. And in the case of a tie, Power Ranking Points are then used as a tie-breaker. Finally, the only other restriction is that players are required to post their decklist to Gatherling, a program used to track the metagame for all PDCMagic events, in order to receive points for the event in question.

And so, a week 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 a decent number of participants. 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. In fact, last season's Worlds event was won by a player who, thanks to his ranking as #1, only had to play (and win) 4 of the 7 total rounds to become the champion! You can check out all the details of MPDC Season 7 Worlds here if you are interested.

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.

II. Which decks are the strongest going into Worlds?

Just a quick word on methodology. I quickly ran through the Top 4 finalists in the nine MPDC events this season and tabulated how often the same general archetype 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 8.

A. Blightning

This archetype was the most dominant of the previous season, capturing the Worlds Championship title for both MPDC and SPDC. It is no surprise then that Blightning continues to be a dominant force in the metagame. Utilizing a strong suite of burn and destruction spells and efficient beaters, and combining them with what is arguable one of the strongest Commons in recent memory - namely, Blightning - this archetype saw plenty of play throughout the season. Here's a recent iteration that has captured two recent SPDC events:

Blightning Backwards
by this_guy_dan
4 Plated Geopede
4 Sewn-Eye Drake
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Blightning
4 Burst Lightning
4 Crusher Zendikon
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
4 Terminate
4 Zektar Shrine Expedition
28 cards
12 Mountain
4 Jund Panorama
4 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
24 cards


Perhaps the most notable thing about this particular 75 is the total absence of Goblins. Previously, this archetype depended upon a whole host of these little buggers in the form of Dragon Fodder, Kathari Bomber, Goblin Bushwhacker, and Goblin Outlander - see here for specifics. This particular build has fewer creatures and instead relies upon the Haste of both Sewn-Eye Drake and Crusher Zendikon coupled with the potent Plated Geopede and Zektar Shrine Expedition to push damage through.  Both the aforementioned Geopede and Zektar Shrine are also enhanced by the presence of 8 Fetchlands, allowing one to sidestep or avoid burn as well as swing in with both at the most opportune time. Further, the 16 sources of burn/destruction, with another 3 in the Sideboard, make it almost impossible for an opponent to keep any creatures alive, and also provide much-needed reach to finish off a weakened opponent. Terminate has seen increased importance in the metagame, as decks have incorporated creatures with Toughness of 4 to sidestep both Lightning Bolt and Searing Blaze. And, as always, Blightning provides solid damage and Card Advantage; indeed, should you manage to get off even just 2 Blightnings in a game for full effect, it is almost impossible for an opponent to recover. For the Sideboard, Roiling Terrain is suddenly quite viable, as opponents stretch manabases to splash for an additional color. Relic of Progenitus remains the top choice for countering Graveyard-Recursion strategies, although Bojuka Bog has also seen considerable play in this role. Finally, Seismic Shudder also plays an important role in countering Deft Duelist, rampaging Calcite Snappers, and hordes of attacking Goblins.

B. B/W Control

In terms of sheer numbers, this archetype is the most dominant one in MPDC this season, winning 2 tournaments outright and appearing in the Top 8 on multiple occasions. Interestingly enough, the release of Worldwake added very little to this archetype, as most of the builds this season played almost no cards from that expansion, none of which were vital to its success. Like the Esper Control variants of past seasons, B/W Control relies upon Graveyard Recursion and Come Into Play style effects to seize the advantage and maintain control of the game-state. Here is the version that saw the most play this season:

One of the best Recursion tricks in Standard Pauper revolves around the interactions of Gravedigger and Kor Skyfisher. Not only can you chain a pair of Gravediggers together to chump-block indefinitely, one can also bounce the Gravedigger back into your hand with the Skyfisher, allowing one to rescue your creatures from the Graveyard almost at will until your opponent manages to wipe out the boneyard with Relic of Progenitus or Bojuka Bog. Disfigure, Doom Blade, Journey to Nowhere, and Tendrils of Corruption quickly remove any creatures from the other side of the virtual Battlefield, and Tendrils in particular is key to recovering from an aggressive start by your opponent or to simply outlast other Control decks. Sign in Blood provides needed card-advantage, as do the favorable interactions of Kor Sanctifiers and Pilgrim's Eye. Even Kabira Crossroads and Bojuka Bog provide some nice value, and also make useful targets for the Skyfisher's bounce ability. Finally, one can simply swing in with a pumped-up Crypt Ripper a few times to seal the deal. The Sideboard provides several potent options here: increased card-advantage pressure with Mind Rot or Mire's Toll; a bit more destruction with Hideous End; more Enchantment/Artifact hate with Kor Sanctifiers, or simply a bit more power in additional Crypt Rippers.

C. 4 Color Control

This final deck came as somewhat of a surprise to me, due to the inherent difficulty in Standard Pauper in constructing resilient mana-bases. Without access to the dual- and tri-lands that are so ubiquitous in Standard, and with all available Fetchlands coming into play tapped, even three color decks can be tricky to create, much less four colors. Yet, by utilizing the available options in the Alara Reborn Borderposts (in this case, Firewild Borderpost and Wildfield Borderpost as well as Rupture Spire, a viable 4 Color Control archetype has emerged into the Standard Pauper metagame, with surprising success. Here's the list:

Perhaps the greatest advantage this archetype brings to the virtual game table is the quality of its creatures. Almost every one brings with it some sort of Card Advantage thanks to Come Into Play effects, and those that do not still provide some sort of important option (such as the Landcycling on Pale Recluse or the Enchantment/Artifact hate on Qasali Pridemage). Like B/W Control, this list also makes use of Graveyard Recursion shenanigans with Gravedigger and Kor Skyfisher, the former of which also has great synergy with a cycled Pale Recluse. The sheer number of creatures also proves important, allowing the player to push past the bulk of an opponent's removal and keep swinging in each turn. Coupled with its suite of burn/destruction spells, this list definitely has the ability to power through ground-stalls, particularly once one can setup an Exalted Pale Recluse attack each turn. For the Sideboard, Valeron Outlander provides some nice defense against Red. Two recent surprises are included as well: Rest for the Weary, which gives the deck surprising reach in its ability to outlast early aggressive starts; and Shadowfeed, which serves as a finesse approach to countering opposing Graveyard Recursion rather than the blunt methods of Relic of Progenitus or Bojuka Bog, and gives a nice life boost to boot! Finally, the Kor Sanctifiers and Doom Blades add some additional destruction to counter specific threats.

III. 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 your opponents both off-guard and often 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 they are, in no particular order:

1. Plan to overcome 15+ sources of Removal.

At least twice in the past season, a few players have suggested that the amount of Removal in some of the most successful decks borders on unfair. Almost any successful deck is running at least 10 Removal spells prior to 'boarding, and that number can increase dramatically post-Sideboard. Since Pauper in general, and Standard Pauper specifically, rely heavily on creature damage, devoting up to 25% of your deck to Removal can be quite rewarding. For Worlds, you need to have a plan to overcome this Removal-heavy environment. This could take the form of permission Negate, combat tricks Vines of Vastwood, Shroud Calcite Snapper, or simply swarming the opposition with more creatures than he or she can reliably deal with.

2. Have a strategy to deal with Calcite Snapper.

Much like Deft Duelist in seasons past, the so-called 'Convertible Turtle' has proven to be quite the threat, particularly when backed up by massive amounts of Removal. The combination of Shroud and a Toughness of 4 make it very difficult to kill, and once it is unopposed upon the Battlefield, a Fetchland transforms it into an offensive power-house. As a result, a successful deck needs to have a plan to deal with it. One can simply board in Seismic Shudders to catch it on the offensive, but this particular strategy is easily countered with Blue's permission suite. Flyers Kor Skyfisher, beefy creatures Putrid Leech, and particularly other Shroud creatures Mist Leopard seem to be more effective answers.

3. Be able to effectively stop Graveyard Recursion.

Another very common and powerful tactic is simple Graveyard Recursion. Gravedigger, Grim Discovery, and even Carrion Thrash have all been effective this season. And, while Esper Control has fallen out of favor, a similar trick can also be accomplished with Sanctum Gargoyle. In any case, once an effective Graveyard Recursion trick arises, the ensuing Card Advantage can quickly turn the tide of battle against you. While the most common (and still probably the most effective) choice comes by way of Relic of Progenitus, Bojuka Bog has also become a successful replacement. And, as mentioned above, Shadowfeed can also provide some decent tricks to deal with an opponent's Graveyard and also get a nice Life boost.

4. Have a strategy to breakthrough Creature-Stalls and/or high Toughness critters

Another common factor in the metagame is the presence of more defensive-oriented creatures, such as Rhox Meditant, which while hardly an aggressive threat, does make it that much more difficult to profitably attack. Not only does this increase the value of cards like Doom Blade or Terminate, but it also creates a need for cards that allow one to breakthrough a crowded virtual Battlefield. Large creatures Pale Recluse, Evasive creatures Kor Skyfisher, or pump creatures Crypt Ripper can all be effective in this role. Less effective, but still viable, are combat trick like Vines of Vastwood or Sigil Blessing

5. Have a recovery plan to counter Aggro strategies or to extend your reach.

While extremely aggessive strategies have fallen on hard times in Standard Pauper as of late, an archetype like Borosfall or RG Beats is still a presence within the metagame. While I personally think such decks will have a difficult time overcoming the top level Control decks, having a strategy to deal with early aggression or simply recover from a slow start can be a literal lifesaver. Rest for the Weary has proven to be surprisingly effective in this role, single-handedly wrecking the ability of a Beatdown-style deck to win the game before the stronger-but-slower cards take over the virtual Battlefield.

6. Take into account the increased presence of Artifact/Enchantment hate.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Artifact Control decks have fallen out of favor lately is the presence of so much Enchantment and Artifact hate in the metagame. While Kor Sanctifiers alone is a pretty strong factor, Qasali Pridemage is also quite common; less notables include Naturalize and Mold Shambler. If your preferred strategy depends on Artifacts in particular, keep in mind that opponents will have several answers at their disposal, some of which are even still played in the Maindeck. Additionally, fragile mana-bases dependent upon Alara Reborn Borderposts are likewise susceptible to these measures, and one should take this into careful consideration.

7. Find multiple opportunities to create Card Advantage.

Perhaps this is so well-known as to hardly be worth mentioning, but in case you've missed out somehow, Card Advantage is the name of the game in Magic, and this applies to any format or archetype you're playing. Even in Standard Pauper, opportunities for Card Advantage abound, from simple draw spells like Mysteries of the Deep or Sign in Blood to Cantrip-like effects such as Elvish Visionary or even Land-drawing creatures like Pilgrim's Eye or Borderland Ranger. Indeed, most of the tips above all revolve around this same concept of squeezing extra value out of the cards you play.

IV. Conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this primer for MPDC Season 8 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 8 Worlds will take place in the Anything Goes Room on Monday, May 10th, at 2pm EDT / 6pm GMT, so I encourage everyone 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. See you next time!

V. Bonus Content!

What, you're still reading? You want more? Very well! Below I have included some bonus decklists from MPDC Season 8. Check 'em out, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and maybe one of these will capture the title of MPDC Season 8 Champion with you as the pilot!





Bad Link? by Dav at Wed, 05/05/2010 - 06:13
Dav's picture

The SPDC Worlds link takes me to the Host Control Panel...I assume that's not the intent.

Nice article. I would like to by joekewwl at Thu, 05/06/2010 - 15:18
joekewwl's picture

Nice article.
I would like to add a big thanks to Mtgotraders for thier support in prizes for this event. Thanks Heath and thanks gwyned for your great job as Host. - Joe