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By: blandestk, K.R.S.S.
Feb 05 2009 1:23am
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I do not often have the ability to play in the Tuesday player-run Pauper Classic tourneys, so when the snow cancelled everything in the grand city of Columbus, I used it as my chance to have some fun.  I debated for a long while about what deck I should play, as I have had success with several builds recently, including a tuned Grand Entrance, a Red/Black control creation I love, and aggro-ready Kodama's Thunder.  But in the end, I figured my best shot against the field would be a mono-blue list I have used to good results recently, as well.  Here is what I entered: 

Blue in the Face
Pauper Classic Legal by blandestk
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Spire Golem
4 Pestermite
4 Spellstutter Sprite
3 Cloud Sprite
3 Phyrexian Walker
2 Fathom Seer
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Counterspell
4 Mana Leak
2 Exclude
1 Oona's Grace
1 Repulse
12 cards
2 Lonely Sandbar
22 Snow-Covered Island
24 cards

Spellstutter Sprite

The deck aims power out a second-turn Ninja of the Deep Hours, thanks to either Cloud Sprite or Phyrexian Walker.  Most mono-blue decks that pack a lot of counter magic want to hold the second island open for early threats from the opponents.  Blue decks often have trouble handling early creatures.  This deck has several advantages over those builds.  Firstly, the ninja will nearly always be either better than the early threat the opponent can play or demand early removal.  In both cases, you usually end up drawing a card and nabbing two damage, but the biggest winner is in the tempo you have gained.  If an opponent has to deal with your ninja, it leaves a perfect situation where you can unleash Pestermites and Spellstutter Sprites.  With counter backup, just two or three pesky fliers can take you the whole distance.

Ninja of the Deep Hours is by no means a new inclusion to mono-blue decks, but many decks that feature the card-drawing engine play only Cloud Sprite.  While this move is often correct, adding Phyrexian Walker bolsters the deck against aggressive builds, which is especially helpful in a metagame featuring slivers.  Often, just stopping one poison counter or staving off one or two damage a turn can win you the game.  Or, if you just need to absorb three damage that a Keldon Marauders will deal on the attack, Phyrexian Walker is the perfect sacrifice.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is that Spellstutter Sprite is simply better than all red one-mana spells (in this deck, at least).  Skred trying to take down your Spire Golem?  Not anymore!  Lightning Bolt to a creature or face?  Nope!  Lava Spike?  No, Sir.  Once a spell is countered, red mages absolutely despise spending a spell on a 1/1 flier, but if they do use it on the Sprite, even better.  Pestermite can tap a threat, take away mana, and then come in for two a turn.  The best part about these creatures is you can keep countering mana open for anything and drop them when you can.  They keep either avenue open, control or aggro.









The other inclusions are similar to more traditional mono-blue control.  Counterspell, Mana Leak, Repulse, Exclude, Spire Golem, and Fathom Seer are all great cards.  This deck tends to run out Spire Golem and Fathom Seer faster than most blue decks because it often needs to counter fewer spells.  More defense in Phyrexian Walker and a faster clock allow the deck to worry less about control than usual.

The sideboard was filled with cards to thwart Slivers, Storm, and Mono-Red.

Hyrdoblasts come in against any deck featuring red.  They are a much more efficient Counterspell against these decks, plus they can nab a creature if one slipped through.  This deck performs very well against red, but it takes some practice.  Playing most decks, you want to go for the ninja as soon as possible, but against red, sometimes it is best to use Spellstutter Sprites against early direct damage.  The opponent will rarely remove your pesky creatures and you can whittle their total down as you counter the more danagerous cards.  The key is to be around 10 or above by the time they have two or three cards left, since one of them will almost always be Fireblast.  If you find yourself in a race, make sure you do not get to four or lower without significant counter protection.  A few Sprites can often finish the deed.

Echoing Truth tells Empty the Warrens to go home.  Hindering Touch repels both the Warrens and Grapeshot.  Hyrdoblasts can help against Storm too.  Too bad I didn't see one Storm deck in the field...

Echoing Truth can also save a few key turns against slivers, but the main addition from the board for this match-up is Oona's Gatewarden.  If you can trade for a sliver, that is amazing, but often you are happy simply to slow them down, permanently thanks to wither.  Phyrexian Walker plus Gatewarden are often enough to get you to a state where you can race with the slivers, especially if you can counter a few along the way with Spellstutter Sprite.  Gatewarden also helps against other decks that try to race, including Mono-Black Control, a deck you often are ahead of until they try to gain life.  The key to beating MBC is making sure they cannot gain life.  Save key counters for Tendrils of Corruption and Corrupt.  You can often win the creature race.

Round 1

In the opening match I drew a player I know has won player-run tourneys before, Loot_Backwards.  Going into the tourney I was a little less sure of the deck's ability to handle fast red decks, so I was a bit dismayed to see a turn-one Spark Elemental.  When he suspended Rift Bolt, I thought I should go for an end-step Spellstutter Sprite so I could bring in a ninja on the next attack.  Unfortunately that left me vulnerable to Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, and Mogg Fanatic on his third turn.  By that point I was down to eight on the scoreboard.  I get out a Spire Golem and a Pestermite, but don't draw enough counter magic to keep him from offing me.  If I had waited one turn to use the Sprite, I might have won, since I took him to two before my counters dried up.

In Game 2 I had enough counters to keep myself at 14 life, while he had just three cards left.  An army of Sprites whittle him down until it was 12-11 in his favor.  I had a Fathom Seer that helped me reload and I had enough counters to take the game home.

In the decider, he has a Lava Spike on turn one, while I have a Walker to drop and a ninja waiting in the wings.  Though I only have one counter, I kept the hand because the ninja will either draw me into the cards I need or take damage from my life total to take him off the board.  The Walker can keep Fanatics and Marauders at bay, as well.  He went for a sideboard move, though, realizing I was more of an aggressive deck than a pure controlling build.  He sided in Martyr of Ashes.  While this move is good for me in that I do not have to worry as much about quick life loss, it also means I have to play around the Martyr.  He tried to drop one on his second turn, but I had a Hyrdoblast.  Unfortunately, he merely tapped his second land and played another copy.  I attacked with the Walker and he blocked with the Martyr.  He then attacked curiously, allowing me to inject the ninja.  He blew up his Martyr, however, revealing Lightning Bolt and Fireblast.  I replayed the Walker.  On his turn, he used the Bolt and played a third Martyr!  The third creature was a blow, since I had a second ninja waiting.  I decide to go a different route, playing a Pestermite and saving the ninja, hoping he would waste the Martyr on my flier.  He takes me down to 10 with an Incinerate, while I get him 12 with the Pestermite.  At 10-10, I decide to go for the ninja, as I worried my countering might not hold out long enough since he had a Fireblast.  He lets the ninja hit, which was surprising.  Next turn, he blocked the ninja with the Martyr and blew him up before damage was on the stack, only revealing the Fireblast.  I am not sure if he made a mistake with revelaing red cards or only had one and wanted to use the Martyr's damage to kill the ninja.  The still-living ninja drew me into additional counters, which I used to thwart the Fireblast and a Lightning Bolt.  He even drew his fourth Martyr!  Luckily, I sent it away and won the game from there.  I'm not sure how the game would have turned out without his mistake, but I'm pretty sure I had the cards and creatures in hand to go the distance.  

Win 2-1

Round 2

I met Pseudotropheus and his B/R/U control deck.  He suspended a turn-two Errant Ephemeron and then countered a Spellstutter Sprite I played at the end of his next turn.  That counter allowed me to play a turn-three Spire Golem, which was followed by a Pestermite.  I was up 20-14 when his E.E. was about to come on board.  He had Faerie Trickery for my Counterspell, but I also held Repulse, which sent the big creature back to his hand.  On my next attack I took him down to 10 and played Fathom Seer and went into the driver's seat.  Suspsending the Ephemeron would take him too long, so he went for removal.  I had a counter and additional creatures to keep the pressure on.  I managed to win without taking one point of damage.

(Quick note about facing blue control: mostly they count on resolving Ephemeron and/or Golem.  If you can counter that spell, you are golden.)

In Game 2, the first few turns were spent playing land.  I held a few creatures I could cast, but wanted to wait for him to make a big move.  I played Cloud Sprite, leaving myself plenty of open options.  He used Electrostatic Bolt on the 1/1, signalling that he was worried about the beatdown and had sided in some hate.  I played Pestermite, which met Remove Soul and then a cheap Spire Golem, which found the same fate.  Fathom Seer got to the board and refueled my hand.  I had six cards to his three.  We played lands for several turns, but I was hitting him for a point each time.  He had Skred for Spire Golem.  I found two more Golems thanks to Oona's Grace and he had removal for only one.  He tried to hard-cast Ephemeron, but I had Exclude, which drew me Spellstutter Sprite.  With a billion counters in hand, my three points of damage per turn went the distance.

Win 2-0

Round 3

In the third round I played hurriboy, who was running Mono-Black Control.  I have an early Cloud Sprite, joined by Pestermite, which, despite the fact that he hits me with Wrench Mind, is enough to take him to nine before he has a serious threat.  He manages two Phyrexian Ragers and a free Dross Golem.  I do some math and return the Sprite to draw a card with a ninja.  At 18-5, I have Counterspell and Repulse.  He attacks with one Rager and the Golem.  He tries to hit Pestermite with Tendrils of Corruption, which I counter and then send his Rager back to the hand to deal the final five damage.

He has an early Ravenous Rats and Chittering Rats, while I manage Cloud Sprite and Pestermite, with a Walker to absorb some beats.  I'm up 19-15 when he drops Dross Golem, which is a huge problem to my depleted hand.  I counter Tendrils, but he has a second one for my Pestermite and that is the difference, as his gain of seven life swings the math in his favor.

In Game 3 he manages early Ravenous Rats and Phyrexian Rager, while I get a turn-three Spire Golem into Ninja of the Deep Hours (I kept a marginal hand, not wanting to hit major discard and have no hope).  He uses Tendrils on turn four, while I replay the Golem.  He hits me with Wrench Mind and I go into the tank, debating to throw a second Golem or two cards, including Counterspell.  I keep the counter, knowing I can't let him hit another big spell.  The backbreaker is when he plays Okiba-Gang Shinobi, dropping me to one card.  I hit some pretty good draws, albeit sans counter magic.  My board is looking okay, with another ninja, Pestermite, Golem, and Walker.  Backbreaker number two comes in the form of Crypt Rats.  He nukes the board.  I have a Repulsed ninja to hard-cast, which he matches with a hard-cast Shinobi.  I hit land after land, despite Oona's Grace.  He has Tendrils for my ninja, then another Crypt Rats for the win.

Loss 2-1

Top 8

Fortunately, 2-1 with great tiebreakres was good enough for sixth place.  In the quarterfinals I met kaseydivine, who was playing (Esper) Grand Entrance.  I have a turn-one Walker into turn-two ninja, but Agony Warp digests him quickly.  I play a turn-four Golem and then counter Mulldrifter.  I manage a second Golem, but he puts Blind Hunter on the board, through my Counterspell, thanks to Rune Snag.  My counters dry up and he has Gravedigger to bring back his Mulldrifter.  I have him down to eight, while my Walkers are keeping me ahead.  I counter another Mulldrifter, but he has a suspended Ephemeron and then the absurdity begins.  He draws three Oblivion Rings that take out my team, allowing him to win with zero cards in hand.


 Game 2 starts well again, with Cloud Sprite into ninja.  He has no Agony Warp this time, allowing me to draw cards for the next couple turns, which is great, except for the fact that I cannot hit a third land.  He tries to cast two Aven Riftwatchers, but I have counters waiting, despite the lack of land.  I go 18 cards into the deck before land three arrives, just in time to save my ninja from Oblivion Ring, in the form of Repulse.  He gets down a Blind Hunter, which saves him momentarily and kills the ninja, but I have a second card-drawing, star-throwing superstar.  He evokes Mulldrifter, but does not find gas and concedes.

I open with a hand of land, Golems, Sprites, and a Walker.  He plays lands on the first couple turns, so I use a Sprite with no countering target.  He seems low on threats, so I use a second Sprite on Brainstorm.  I nibble at his life total, holding Mana Leak, Counterspell, a third Sprite, and two Golems.  He passes again and I try for a cheap Golem, which meets two Rune Snags.  I pay for the first and let the second resolve, saving my counters for his turn.  I use Mana Leak on Mulldrifter and attack him to 12 before playing the second Golem for free.  I counter Blind Hunter and attack him to six, thanks to a drawn ninja.  He resolves Blind Hunter, but I think I should be ok, since I have two Sprites, a Golem, and a ninja on the board.  I attack with the team, he blocks the ninja with the Hunter, then tries to play Momentary Blink on the Hunter.  Thankfully, my third sprite nipped that in the bud and my team went on from there for the win.

Win 2-1

Top 4

I have a rematch against hurriboy in the semifinals.  This game looks promising, as I have a turn-two ninja, but it dies to Echoing Decay.  Then he uses Wrench Mind twice to destroy my hand.  All I have are a Walker and a Cloud Sprite.  I take him down to 14, as he has just been playing Swamps.  I hit Fathom Seer to replenish my hand, but the Seer eats a Corrupt, which takes him to 21.  A Pestermite and ninja join my squad and I take him down to 11.  He manages a Phyrexian Rager, but his Twisted Abomination bites a Counterspell.  That pretty much wraps it up, as he draws no more threats.

He has a ton of early creatures in Game 2 that I counter, but he manages a cheap Dross Golem.  I play my own Golem to keep his at bay.  He has removal for a ninja and then adds (Viscera Dagger), an interesting response to control, to the board.  I add Cloud Sprite and Pestermite to my team, which allows me some hits.  I draw land, land, land, land, so I cannot counter his Tendrils, which obliterates my Golem and gains him a million life.  I draw five land in a row to end the game, as he adds creatures and overwhelms me.

Game 3 again.  He has an early Wrench Mind, which forces me to dump Spire Golem.  I don't mind too much, though, as I have a turn-two ninja to draw me cards, though I draw no lands.  He munches the ninja with Crippling Fatigue.  Having nothing else to do, I play Spellstutter Sprite and get some points in while I wait for a land.  I drop a Walker and finally hit Island number three, which allows me to Repulse my own Walker, which is staring down Tendrils of Corruption.  Things do not look good as he resolves Warren Pilferers.  I have two 1/1 fliers and a Walker to his 3/3 and two Chittering Rats.  The score is 13-13 and I will lose the race as it is.  Fathom Seer helps me out.  I have a lot of cards, just not much mana.  He flashes back Fatigue, taking out a Walker that had blocked.  He tries to play a Tendrils, but I have Counterspell.  Oona's Gatewarden blocks the Pilferers and makes it a 1/1.  At 8-8, he drops Dross Golem, but I have Spire Golem to add.  I drop him to six, then he attacks with the team.  Spire Golem eats Dross Golem and I use Fathom Seer to block one of the Rats, while taking three.  At 6-5 in his favor, I draw Pestermite and hold another Golem.  I attack with the team, taking him to one, and have to hope he does not draw Corrupt or Tendrils.  He whiffs and I am off to the finals.

Win 2-1


The finals find me playing Mystic_Player, who is running an interesting Blue-Black Madness deck.  He suspends Errant Ephemeron on turn two of Game 1, while I merely develop land.  He plays Looter il-Kor, which I mistakenly allow to resolve, since I had not seen his deck yet.  I thought it would be a boon to play Pestermite into Ninja of the Deep Hours.  Unfortunately, his Looter is the key to his engine.  I manage to counter a Grave Scrabbler casted with madness and tap the Looter with a Pestermite.  Spire Golem also joins my side, but I draw too many Islands and the only counter I find is Mana Leak, which does little against the cheap madness costs.  Ephemeron hits the board, I see the writing on the wall, and concede.

In Game 2, I keep a hand full of counters to keep the Looters off the board.  I counter one Merfolk Looter, but he has Rune Snag for my second attempt at a counter.  Meanwhile, he has suspended Mindstab, which threatens my hand.  But I draw a Fathom Seer and manage to remain afloat.  He finds another Looter and then another and then another.  I'm able to race his two Looter il-Kor with two Spellstutter Sprites, but with four madness engines on board, I am hoping against hope.  My counters actually allow the game to advance to the late stages and I think he might deck (drawing five cards per turn) before I hit zero.  He finally hits critical mass, however, with eight cards in his library.  I extended congratulations to Mystic and conceded the game.

Loss 2-0

Closing Thoughts

My deck performed well for me, despite the fact that I did not see most of the decks I expected with my sideboard.  I will probably add some additional countering to the board with Faerie Trickery to help against other control decks, especially mono-black.  That said, the deck was still a good choice for the tourney's metagame, as it handled the aggro decks and was a little faster than other controlling builds.

Mystic's deck seems to me not to be very strong on the surface, but obviously it had great synnergy and great game against the field.  He defeated aggro in the form of slivers and I can only imagine he faced his fair share of removal.  The deck seems vulnerable to a lot of removal, but his counters and eight Looters must have been enough.  I really like the deck and it looked like a blast to pilot.  Here is his list:

This is Madness, not Sparta
Classic Pauper Legal by Mystic_Player
4 Errant Ephemeron
4 Grave Scrabbler
4 Looter il-Kor
4 Merfolk Looter
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Dark Withering
4 Last Gasp
4 Mana Leak
4 Piracy Charm
4 Rune Snag
2 Think Twice
1 Deep Analysis
1 Exclude
24 cards
7 Island
5 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Barren Moor
1 Lonely Sandbar
20 cards

Grave Scrabbler

Once you have a Looter in play, you can toss Dark Withering for the opponent's creatures or Grave Scrabbler to bring creatures back from the graveyard.  Counters and card draw helps shore up the deck and keep it filled with fodder.  You have help in the board against various decks.  The Ephemerons are the only cards that do not seem to fit the deck's theme, though I suppose they take focus away from the Looters.

I like the deck and it definitely performed well.  Congrats to Mystic.

The Top 8 looked like this:

1st - Madness
2nd - Blue Aggro/Control
Top 4 - Slivers
Top 4 - MonoBlack
Top 8 - MonoWhite Martyr
Top 8 - Grand Entrance
Top 8 - Glazed Affinity
Top 8 - Another version of Blue Aggro/Control

An interesting, diverse Top 8.  The tourney was a lot of fun and I hope more people continue to discover the wonders of player-run Pauper events.


your round 1 game 3 should by TheMiseDotCom at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 09:56
TheMiseDotCom's picture

your round 1 game 3 should have gone diferent because aparantly neither you or your oponent realized that Martyr of Ashes doenst damage flyers.

You're right, I totally by blandestk at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 23:12
blandestk's picture

You're right, I totally didn't see that. Terrible.

I play pauper in paper based by BLU (not verified) at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 12:47
BLU's picture

with 23 guru lands and all foils. Calculated the price, it is close to $1,200... Something is wrong >;)

And please make that spam challanges below easier... I was always bad at math. 11+7= ?????

Nice article by Steelphoenix at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 17:47
Steelphoenix's picture

Very nice article, I learnt alot from it and it's an enjoyable read.

About that UB madness deck, I'm playing a version quite different version myself, and i don't get why to choose last gasp over Agony warp. I don't think the color requierment is such a big drawback.

I dont get it, how is this by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 22:04
Anonymous's picture

I dont get it, how is this pauper with uncommons like rune snag and drifters in the decks

Rune Snag and Mulldrifter are by TheMiseDotCom at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 22:14
TheMiseDotCom's picture

Rune Snag and Mulldrifter are communs.

You may want to check your by Lashof (not verified) at Thu, 02/05/2009 - 22:29
Lashof's picture

You may want to check your gatherer again, rune snag and drifters are indeed commons.