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By: Tom Scud, Tom Scudder
Jun 08 2015 11:00am
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Welcome back to Pauper Observed. Starting this week, we're going to move from trying to cover the entire metagame, which is frankly pretty exhausting, to zooming in on a single event and seeing what that can tell us about the state of the game. So let's turn the clock all the way back to last Thursday and see what happened in Pauper action that day.

Thursday afternoon report, or, Ooh, Burn!

lightning boltkeldon maraudersneedle dropfireblast

A total of 79 players turned up for the start of the event at 1 PM Eastern time - a pretty high turnout for a weekday afternoon, though weekend afternoon events have been drawing more than 100 players recently. Out of those players, 17, or nearly 22 percent of the total, brought Burn decks to the party. On the other hand, MBC, the most popular deck as little as a week ago, only had 4 decks in the mix, not even in the top 5. No other deck approached Burn in popularity; the second-most-popular decks were Esper Fae Combo and UB Angler, both with 6 decks played. Delver and Stompy filled out the top 5 with 5 decks each.

So the game of the day was to either be burn, or beat burn. MBC players left that deck at home because of its horrible record against burn, and some very burn-centric choices can be seen in the winning decklists posted to Wizards' site - 4 Conclave Phalanx in a red/white tokens build, for instance, or (my favorite for the sheer lolwut factor) two Eternal Thirst in a UB Angler deck. Most decks running white had two to three Circle or Rune of Protection: Red in the board, and the blue decks were well supplied with Hydroblasts. 

Many players came to the game preparing to race - the five stompies, four white or white-splash aggro players, three blue-red fiend players, and three goblin horde masters all hoping to get in with dudes turned sideways before the Burn decks could send enough damage at the face. Others, like Delver, UB Angler, and a solo blue-green Madness player, went with a tempo plan, hoping to counter enough burn while a Delver of Secrets, Wild Mongrel, or Gurmag Angler finished the job. A few brought decks hoping to control the game enough to keep burn out of their faces, gaining enough life with Pristine Talisman and gain lands to make up for the burn spells that inevitably snuck through. And finally, the Esper Fae Combo players came with their own gameplan, confident that they could play solitaire faster than the burn players could.

In the end, the Burn deck pilots managed to navigate this labyrinth of hate fairly successfully - simply by the law of averages, you would expect 17 decks to produce 4 3-1 results and a single 4-0, and that's exactly what Burn did. The decks that did better than average on the day included Goblins, with two winning decks out of three, Esper Fae Combo, with four winning decks out of six, UB Angler, which managed three winning decks out of six, and Stompy, which got two out of five decks into the winner's circle. Delver ended up on the outside looking in, with three 2-2 decks but none at 3-1 or better. Bizarrely, out of the 18 matches played by Delver decks, not a single one was against Burn.

Out of the decks, the one that did best against Burn was Stompy, with a 4-1 record; MBC and UB Control both went 1-3 in the matchup. There were a total of 6 Burn mirror matches.

The winners' circle

Ten players managed to get through three Swiss rounds undefeated and play for a 4-0 finish. The pairings were:

Garcia_Edu, beating the odds with an MBC deck, versus sensationgorger, playing Esper Fae Combo. Garcia_Edu ducked the Burn matchup in his three rounds, winning 2-0 against UB Control, 2-0 against a VERY rogue mono-white lifegain deck that maindecked cards like Divine Favor and Sungrace Pegasus, and 2-1 against UG Madness. Sensationgorger defeated W Tokens 2-1, Burn 2-1, and Burn (again) 2-1. Sensationgorger took the win with a 2-0 victory over the mono-black control deck. 

Bahra, playing Esper Fae Combo, versus L3gion_, playing UR Fiend. Bahra defeated W Tokens 2-0, UB Angler 2-0, and MBC 2-1. L3gion_ knocked over Burn 2-0, Boros Kitty 2-1, and Burn (again) 2-1. The fiend deck managed to outrace the faerie combo deck and come out with a 2-0 victory.

Nekotora, playing UR Fiend, versus VincentPinet, playing Burn. Nekotora defeated Wr Metalcraft Aggro 2-1, UB Angler 2-1, and Delver (2-1), while VincentPinet had a 2-1 win versus the mirror, a 2-0 win against Esper Sage Combo, and a 2-0 win over Goblins. The Burn deck won this one over the aggro-combo fiend deck two games to zero.

ScionOfJustice, playing one of only three Affinity decks in the event, versus _Shatun_, playing Stompy. You may remember _Shatun_ from the Stompy vs. Affinity match I featured two weeks ago. ScionOfJustice had a 2-0 win versus UB Angler, a 2-1 win versus Burn (possibly aided by the Armadillo Cloak in his extremely diverse sideboard), and had his third-round opponent, who was running UB Angler, time out for a 1-0 win. _Shatun_ took down MBC 2-0, Burn 2-0, and Delver 2-1 to earn his 3-0. The result was the same as two weeks ago, as Affinity knocked over Stompy for the 2-1 win.

Which brings us to our featured matchup, Warmarco's Bant Mid-Range deck versus thatresolves and his Burn deck.

Featured Matchup: Bant vs. Burn

Let's take a look at the decks:


I tagged this deck as Bant Mid-Range a week ago after seeing it beat someone down with a Guardian of the Guildpact with an Armadillo Cloak attached. MtgGoldfish has it as Bant Trinket and Alex Ullman called it Bant PauBlade (for "Pauper Caw Blade") on his Facebook page. Regardless of what you call it, it's a great example of the best kind of rogue deck. It uses powerful cards that have gone out of fashion (such as the Guardian), and others that have never quite made it in, like Hindering Light, in a configuration that works wonders in the current metagame but probably won't stand the test of time.

I don't love this deck's chances versus MBC or Delver, but then MBC and Delver have both mostly gone away. Against Burn, Hindering Light is a cantripped counterspell versus practically every card in the deck, the deck packs 12 main-deck lifegain effects, and frankly the circles of protection and hydroblasts in the sideboard look like they're just adding insult to injury. Last Breath is also good against Esper Fae Combo, as it can interrupt a Ghostly Flicker or Snap on a Cloud of Faeries or Mnemonic Wall and also takes the offending creature out of reach of Reaping the Graves.

Otherworldly Journey is an interesting choice - I'm not sure it's actually better than Momentary Blink, which most decks of this sort run. The +1/+1 counter can be meaningful, but it seems like the flashback has more potential upside.

On the day, Warmarco got to 3-0 by beating Burn 2-0, Stompy 2-1, and Esper Fae Combo 2-1.

played by thatresolves on 6-4-2015
4 Keldon Marauders
4 cards

Other Spells
4 Chain Lightning
4 Curse of the Pierced Heart
4 Fireblast
4 Incinerate
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Needle Drop
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
2 Searing Spear
38 cards
2 Forgotten Cave
16 Mountain
18 cards



On the other hand, thatresolves's deck is pure simple efficiency. While some Burn players run cards like Dangerous Wager or Wild Guess to refill their hands, I don't think it's a coincidence that the two decks that played for 4-0 were using nearly identical 75s (with the only differences coming in the sideboard). That's 22 unconditional 3-to-the-face cards and four 1-to-the-face cantrips that are turned on by nearly every other card in the deck, along with Searing Blaze, which is huge in any non-mirror matchup where the opponent is trying to race, Curse of the Pierced Heart, which is nearly unbeatable by control decks if it hits the board early, Keldon Marauders, which are usually a Shock to the face that slows the opponent's creature rush by one turn and also eats a blocker, and Fireblast, which probably deals lethal damage more often than any other card in this deck.

Thatresolves got to 3-0 thanks to a bye, a 2-1 win over a red-white tokens deck that featured a lot of Burn hate, and a 2-0 win over blue-red control.

Game One

Warmarco opened with a Tranquil Cove; thatresolves went Mountain into a suspended Rift Bolt. Warmarco played an Island, passed his turn, then used Hindering Light to counter the un-suspended bolt. This left an opening for thatresolves to resolve a Curse of the Pierced Heart and start the clock running. Warmarco came up with another Tranquil Cove and passed; thatresolves replied by suspending another bolt, then casting Needle Drop during Warmarco's upkeep. The bant player dropped a Radiant Fountain and tapped out to deploy two Squadron Hawks.

Thatresolves sent the Rift Bolt at Warmarco's face and then once again seized the opportunity to cast a Curse of the Pierced Heart. At this point, the Burn deck had had a nearly perfect opening against a slower control deck - Curse is the deck's ace in the hole against decks that can interfere with the bolt-to-the-face plan. On his turn, Warmarco cast his two remaining hawks, swung with the first two, and played an Azorius Chancery, returning the fountain to his hand. Once the fountain was replayed, that would make 6 life gained off of lands alone.

The burn deck dropped a Keldon Marauders and passed; the bant deck replayed the fountain (going to 14 life) and elected to swing with only two hawks, saving two as blockers so as not to allow the burn deck to turn a random burn spell into a Searing Blaze. When the marauders charged in, one hawk blocked and then Warmarco fired a Last Gasp at his own bird; thatresolves tried to counter the life gain by bolting the bird, but that did NOT resolve thanks to another Hindering Light. A Chain Lightning went at one of the remaining birds instead of the face for some reason.

Warmarco then cast and sacrificed a Dispeller's Capsule, halving the clock from the curses, played a Bant Panorama, attacked with the hawks, and passed. Thatresolves found his third mountain, played it, and Searing blazed one of the hawks. Warmarco had no response but to use the panorama to find an island. The following turn, he was able to chain a Mulldrifter into a Plains and a Sea Gate Oracle, but once again left himself tapped out. Thatresolves took full advantage, playing Mountain into Searing Blaze on the Mulldrifter, Incinerate to the face, and Fireblast to the face, leaving himself with no cards and Warmarco at two life with a Curse ticking away.

Warmarco was able to lay a third Tranquil Cove, returning to two life after taking one from the curse - with that one life he had gained 7 from lands alone. He cast a Mulldrifter and cast but did not equip a Bonesplitter. With his attack, he brought the burn deck to 12 life. Thatresolves drew his card and passed, then following the 1 damage from the curse during warmarco's upkeep, fired a Needle Drop; unfortunately for the Burn deck, the Bant deck had a Last Gasp to use on the last remaining Hawk.

You don't see that every day.

Warmarco continued his turn by Brainstorming, equipping the Sea Gate Oracle, and swinging for 5, reducing thatresolves to 7 life. He then played a Relic of Progenitus and passed. Thatresolves played a mountain, cycled a Forgotten Cave, and fired an Incinerate at Warmarco's face, again threatening lethal when combined with the Curse damage. Unfortunately, Warmarco had found his single Counterspell and used it. He also cast Otherworldly Journey at the Mulldrifter, drawing two and turning it into a 3/3. After untapping, Warmarco cycled his Relic, cast a Trinket Mage, and cast and equipped a Sylvok Lifestaff, allowing him to attack for a lethal 7 damage.

I honestly don't think the Burn deck in this game could have drawn much better or played much better; the Bant deck is just too well set up for this match-up. Warmarco gained 15 life, 7 of it from lands, and drew 12 extra cards (not counting Squadron Hawks) over the course of the game.

Game Two

Thatresolves went first and started with Mountain into Rift Bolt (suspended), but couldn't find a second mountain. Fortunately for him, he did draw a fair amount of one-mana burn, and so he proceeded to cast two lightning bolts on turns 2 and 3 while Warmarco played lands, cast a Bonesplitter, and cast a Trinket Mage, fetching a Tree of Tales. On his fourth turn, the Burn player again didn't find a Mountain and chose to suspend another Rift Bolt.

Warmarco took full advantage of the red player's mana being tapped out; he cast Armadillo Cloak on the Trinket Mage, equipped the Bonesplitter, and attacked with his lifelinked, trampling Craw Wurm for a 12-point life swing.

What they would call a life swing.

Thatresolves threw his unsuspended Rift Bolt at the Trinket Mage, drew his card, and conceded the match for lack of a way to take the Trinket Mage off the table.

See you next week, when we take another close look at a Pauper daily event.


Pujols_Teh_Destroyer's picture

Otherworldly Journey provides a bit of an edge against edicts? Maybe? I'm not sure if that was the reasoning the deckbuilder chose, but it has been relevant in the few matches with this deck I've played. The counter doesn't hurt either. Letting a Mulldrifter dodge removal, come back as a 3/3 flyer and draw two cards is pretty sick.

I like your assessment of what kind of rogue deck it is. It probably won't stand the test of time, but that doesn't make it a pile of trash. It's a solid deck for a tournament full of Lightning Bolt.

Great article as always, Tom!

otherworldly journey by Tom Scud at Mon, 06/08/2015 - 22:08
Tom Scud's picture

The card could be relevant vs. edicts, true, and also lets you freely cycle the relic if it comes up. Thanks!

I was hoping to see if burn by bdgp009 at Mon, 06/08/2015 - 18:44
bdgp009's picture

I was hoping to see if burn decks actuallly wins it using the power of the newly paupered card gut shot. but i guess got shot is still not that good to be a force in the dailies.

Gut Shot is not a burn card by Tom Scud at Tue, 06/09/2015 - 17:43
Tom Scud's picture

Burn is almost the last deck I'd expect to use gut shot (except maybe as a sideboard card vs. Delver); it's much more of a tempo or control card.

"When the marauders charged by Paul Leicht at Tue, 06/09/2015 - 01:54
Paul Leicht's picture

"When the marauders charged in, one hawk blocked and then Warmarco fired a Last Gasp at his own bird; thatresolves tried to counter the life gain by bolting the bird, but that did NOT resolve thanks to another Hindering Light. A Chain Lightning went at one of the remaining birds instead of the face for some reason."

This was confusing until I realized Last Grasp is supposed to be Last Breath.

Yeah, sorry about that. by Tom Scud at Tue, 06/09/2015 - 07:00
Tom Scud's picture

Yeah, sorry about that.