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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
May 20 2009 12:31pm
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Another Pauper Premier Event has come and gone, and left us with a wealth of data. You can find all the decklists, courtesy of Lee Sharpe and the other wonderful people at Wizards, here.

Looking at the numbers, there were 92 participants, and the deck that came out on top was Affinity. The big loser of the day, however, was MBC. This powerhouse, which had dominated the top 8s of the past two Premier Events, did not crack the top ten. However, it was far and away the most played deck, comprising over 15% of the field- a plurality by far.I am going to go about this slightly differently: I want to take a look at the most popular archetypes. I am going to be using a totally arbitrary method- any deck that has at least five representatives (a hair over the 4.6 decks needed for 5% of the field), will be listed below, with an example of the highest placing list:

MBC- 14 decks, 15.22%
11th Place



Slivers- 8 decks, 8.7%

2nd Place



Storm, 8 decks, 8.7%

6th Place



Blink, 8 decks, 8.7%

9th Place



Affinity, 6 decks, 6.52%

1st Place



Teachings, 5 decks, 5.43%

29th Place



Looking at the rest of the top 8, there were four Naya Cloak decks in the field, and three each MUC, Fish, and White Weenie. The top 8, with the exception of MBC, was a decent representation of the field. The question is, then, why has MBC fallen?

I do assert that the deck has fallen, however. Even with two decks in the top 16 and five in the top 32, this is a far cry from the previous level of dominance. The make up of the event is similar enough to the previous events, yet MBC is down some four percent overall. Why?

One explanation is the development of a true metagame. As I wrote about previously, MBC has some serious faults, and looking at the top 8, five of the decks somehow negate a major part of MBC's arsenal while the final, Affinity, has the ability to simply win on a plus draw. SARCASTO also ran a pair of Circle: Black in the board as a way to combat their big win spells. The Pyrite Spellbombs could take out a Crypt Rats before any real damage could be done, so what is normally an even matching seems tilted in SARCASTO's favor this time around.

The Naya Cloak lists just want to stick a hard to solve creature and a Cloak and go to town. If it can stick two creatures, it makes MBC play off the top for two Edict effects instead of just one against other creature decks. Combined with White's sideboard all-stars, this deck can hassle MBC all day. In fact, five of the eight decks in the elimination rounds had access to White either main or in the side. This reaction was expected by some, but shows just how vulnerable MBC can be to certain styles of hate.

The other decks in the top 8 were of the Island variety:


GreatClownPagliacci, 4th Place, Pauper PE 3
2 Fathom Seer
4 Spire Golem
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Counterspell
4 Exclude
3 Faerie Trickery
4 Force Spike
1 Oona's Grace
3 Piracy Charm
4 Prohibit
3 Repulse
4 Think Twice
30 cards
12 Island
12 Snow-Covered Island
24 cards

Spire Golem




bruttibler, 8th Place, Pauper PE 3
4 Mothdust Changeling
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Pestermite
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Spire Golem
20 cards

Other Spells
2 Boomerang
4 Brainstorm
4 Counterspell
3 Piracy Charm
4 Ponder
2 Remove Soul
19 cards
19 Island
2 Lonely Sandbar
21 cards

Spellstutter Sprite


While one is aggressive and one is on the control end of the spectrum, both decks handle MBC with relative ease. Countering any of their key threats (Rats or Corrupt) puts MBC way back on the development curve, as all their game winners require the investment of mana- not card draw. This means that if one threat is countered, the resources are still there but there is no good way to expend them. In other control decks, there are usually other cards, other options, held back in the hand. This is not the case with MBC, at least not to the same extent as a deck with dedicated card draw. This means stopping any one of their enders is bad news. Counterspells are good at this.

The Fish list here is a great example of a Pauper aggro-control deck. Seeking to gain maximum value out of itsSpellstutter Sprites and Ninjas, it runs Mothdust Changeling as a source of evasive damage and Faerie goodness. The tag team of Ponder and Brainstorm allow this deck to draw into its threat/answer package faster, shrinking the deck to maximize action. 

Before going over some more decklists, I want to go over the takeaways of this event first.

The glaring first point, which cannot be understated, is the ability of the format to police itself. Initial worries were that Slivers and Burn and Storm would be far too good, but then MBC came along and was top dog for a while. It was only after the second Premier Event that people took the threat seriously and reacted, and now we do not have a dominant deck.

Do not get me wrong, Affinity is a powerful deck, but I am not ready to crown a new king just yet. Even though the lists popping up tend to be more resilient to hate thanks to Disciple based combo kills, they are still fragile beasts that are heavily dependent on opening draws. On anything but a nut draw, taking out an early accelerator, or any early artifact, can severely hamper Affinity's development. This will likely mean a rise in cheap Shatter effects like Ingot Chewer and Overload. One also wonders if the addition of Qasali Pridemage will put a damper on the Machine.

The format is also diverse and healthy. No deck made up more than 15% of the field. There were some who feared that MBC would force a polar metagame. However, this field had a whopping 24 different decks scattered amongst 92 participants, with 12 different decks littering the top 16. To me, these are indicators of a healthy metagame.

The graveyard is an important resource in Pauper. In a format of limited power, any potential source of advantage is incredibly important. Being able to utilize expended resources can give a deck a serious advantage. Relic of Progenitus is already heavily played and I fully expect to see it more and more as the format progresses.

Okay, so, lists?


White Weenie
flascker, 5th Place, Pauper PE 3
4 Amrou Scout
4 Aven Riftwatcher
2 Knight of Sursi
4 Order of Leitbur
4 Razor Golem
4 Shade of Trokair
2 Soltari Trooper
24 cards

Other Spells
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Temporal Isolation
4 Unmake
12 cards
24 Plains
24 cards

Shade of Trokair


The White Weenie list played to fifth place (first after Swiss) is drastically different from the one I promoted at the beginning of sanctioned Pauper. First, it runs more land, lowering its threat density while also allowing the deck to up the curve. It also has three maindeck Relics, out of fear for Tortured Existence one imagines.

This, to me, is just wrong. White Weenie should win in the first few turns of the game, ideally by turn seven. While the opponent's life total might not be zero at this point, the game will be in hand. Devoting slots to a purely reactive card to a deck that has not even proven itself, especially to a deck that is normally not a bad pairing, is just playing with the Fear. If the game goes long against Existence decks, well, you were not going to win anyway, and having a Relic there is not going to help. I have found Kami of Ancient Law to be much better in this match-up; same with Oblivion Ring.



Sitting just outside the top 16 is the creation of my testing partner for this event. Piloted by The Ervin Tormos Jazz Hour, this take on Tortured Existence combines the potent Enchantment with Dredge and powerful sources of creature based card advantage to create a deck that can tutor our potent sources of advantage. An inherently powerful deck that the creator, Greg Weiss, calls the best deck in the format, it is really only limited by the timed rounds. This is the ultimate long game deck, seeking to win on the back of just better spells that happen to be creatures. Here, Existence plus Dredge means a constant supply of tutor targets. However powerful this deck is, it still strikes me as vulnerable to a blitz attack (although the Gatekeepers do a fine job of holding aggressors at bay). I fully expect decks like these to take off, perhaps making maindeck Relic a plausible idea.


Nightsky Aggro
Tyrjuk, 19th Place, Pauper PE 3
4 Blind Hunter
4 Nightsky Mimic
4 Nip Gwyllion
4 Putrid Warrior
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Castigate
4 Edge of the Divinity
4 Pillory of the Sleepless
2 Prismatic Strands
2 Raven's Crime
4 Unmake
20 cards
10 Plains
10 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
24 cards

Nightsky Mimic


I just want to touch on these Mimic based aggro decks for a moment. These decks, potentially, have the most to gain from Alara Reborn. The ability to combine the flexible mana bases provided by the Borderposts as well as the tri-color nature of the Blades give these decks additional two-drops that turn on their centerpiece beaters, while the Mimics also turn on the Blades. I am not sure if this will be good enough, but it will certainly be interesting to see these decks develop once people get their hands on Reborn.



This is a combo list that we have not seen at the top tables of Pauper recently. However, this is the first truly successful Pauper deck (from the days of PDC). The goal of this deck was to get out a land that produces more than one mana, animate that same land with Lifespark Spellbomb and enchant it with Freed from the Real to generate an arbitrarily large amount of mana to draw your library with Train of Thought (if need be) and then win either through Consume Spirit, (Kaeverk's Torch), Pyromatics, or Viridian Longbow. Storm is far more elegant.



Speaking of Storm, here is the new take from the Mothership's Jacob Van Lunen. This deck went live shortly before the new PE and JVL claimed positive results with his brew and I understand why: no one was expecting it- the ultimate Spanish Inquisition. People were used to seeing the typical Storm builds with sac lands and tutors- not the Twiddle version. Once people got to see the deck in action, they figured out the weak spots and this PE showed that, with the highest placing deck ending up in 67th.


The time leading up to the next Premier Event should be fascinating. With a new set, chock full of incredibly powerful cards and unprecedented first turn mana fixing, Pauper is about to change significantly. Combine this with the fact that the metagame is incredibly diverse, and well, its a deck builders paradise.

Keep slingin' commons-




Good work! by Scartore at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 13:37
Scartore's picture

Even though I can't block off the time to play in the PE's, as a spectator I'm loving your coverage Alex. This metagame info is useful even if one is just playing the 2-mans.

On the WW Deck. I too think it looks clunky. I've had a lot of success in the 2-mans with a 20 land WW dec that focuses on 1 drops (Martyr, Homunculous, and Mosquito Guard) curving up to Ballyknock and backed up with bonesplitters and Cenn's tokens. You're right about WW needing a quick win. My worst matchup is with Tempo based dex like Cogs or Blink.

Nice article by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 13:39
Anonymous's picture

There is a lot of graveyard recursion in the format in general, and for the WW list with the relics of progenitus, there certainly is rational to running a versatile card like this that also cycles for 2. I personally play deathspark, and that could be pretty solid vs all those 1 toughness critters, there is also think twice, momentary blink, retrace, black cards and any other number of cards that involve the graveyard. I certainly like kami of the ancient law too, but I wouldn't right off maindecking relic of progenitus, at least I don't understand why you had such a big backlash against it :)

Relic by SpikeBoyM at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 14:19
SpikeBoyM's picture

There is no doubt a good deal of graveyard recursion in the format, but the question is, does White Weenie fear this? In my experience, no. WW wants to win through applying constant early pressure and forcing in damage, using its supplemental spells to clear out blockers- Relic does not do any of these things.
Relic is a fine card, but in a deck that values threat density and redundancy, it does nothing to help you win- only stops you from losing.


I guess Relic of Progenitus by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 14:40
Anonymous's picture

I guess Relic of Progenitus isn't much worse then Chromatic Star, or Sunbeam Spellbomb some WW used those a lot for draw in future extended. Still 3 seems a bit much there's other options like Beckon Apparition which can give you a creature at flash speed.

Data Crunching by gnawph at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 15:49
gnawph's picture

I did some data crunching and came up with a nice list of card appearances in frequency by decks and aggregate total. Swamps FTW?


Swamps by SpikeBoyM at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 16:01
SpikeBoyM's picture

Thanks for this gnawph- it's awesome.
Interesting to note that the most frequently played card did not even crack the top 8.


Why does the top decklist by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 16:44
Anonymous's picture

Why does the top decklist (mono-black) run 3x Expanse? I think I'm missing something obvious here.

to anonymous by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 05/25/2009 - 21:29
Anonymous's picture

MBC runs expanses to thin their deck of lands. MBC runs on high card quality and threat density rather than extreme card advantage like other control decks (MUC). When you thin your deck of lands you reduce the number of dead draws in the long run and thus increase your threat density and overall draw strength. The pilot calculated the risk/reward of the expanse inclusion and made the decision that the increase in draw strength outweighs the possibility of not being able to curve out perfectly every time.

Great article by speks at Wed, 05/20/2009 - 17:04
speks's picture

Thanks Alex, great article very informative!
i'm still saddened that i lost that uber close game 3 against bruttibler in rd 7 playing for T8, but looking back i'm glad it made for a much more diverse T8 and metagame in general.

I think your analysis on mothdust changeling is slightly off, as its primary purpose is for the deck to have a chance against slivers. The evasion is almost negligible as every other creature in the deck flies so tapping a flyer to give mothdust flying doesn't really make sense. If it were not for the popularity of slivers, there are some much better options in that slot. So the fact that mothdust is a sliver is much more important than it being a faerie.

I would think more O-rings by Lenney (not verified) at Thu, 05/21/2009 - 11:24
Lenney's picture

I would think more O-rings would be better than Relics... But that's just my opinion.. Maybe he's looking for the 2-1 with Grave hate and draw..

Missing Cards? by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 06/15/2009 - 16:24
Anonymous's picture

I was interested in the Mystical Teachings deck (Belette) that took 29th place, but found the main deck was only 58 cards. Does anyone know where I can find the original list to see what the other two cards were? Thank you!

yes it was 2 traumatic vision by Belette at Sun, 06/21/2009 - 15:36
Belette's picture

yes it was 2 traumatic vision they help getting mana if you have nothing to counter at eot.
and are a good counterspell in late game
dunno why they dont appear