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kalandine's picture
By: kalandine, Mike Mullins
Jul 19 2010 2:09am
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Mono-Blue Control proves it isn't done with a top flight performance in the Premier Event (PE) as the top four includes only mono-colored decks.  The Tuesday Pauper Deck Challenge (TPDC), a Pauper Player Run Event (PRE), follows suit with the top two decks including only a single color.  The rest of the field provided a variety of multi-colored and mono-colored decks.  Between the two tournaments, a number of historically significant archetypes provided a resurgence that illustrates the health of the format.

I also started the update of the background graphics for each archetype's trend charts (Team America, Slivers, Stompy, Mono-Black Control, White Weenie, Zoo, and a few others are updated) - they should stand out from the originals.  Let me know if you prefer the updates or the original muted backgrounds better.  I plan to continue this process until everything is updated or negative reaction tells me to stop, but the updates partially depend on finding larger images to use for the backgrounds.

"We're here because you are looking for the best of the best of the best, sir!"

In the comments section of last week's Recap, deluxeicoff indicated a desire to identify the top 8 decks and the best players of those decks, and then run a tournament.  There are a number of intriguing aspects in this proposal from what decks are best to the structure of the event to what conclusions may eventually be drawn from the event.

First, I am going to focus on the archetypes rather than their pilots, as the players involved would be dependent on availability and interest.  In the original comment, deluxeicoff identified Storm, Goblins, and Teachings.  I responded that Teachings should be replaced with Blue/Black Control because Mystical Teachings does not show up in many of the versions that currently reaching the Top 8 of the PE.  I also thought Stompy should be added.

That identifies four decks, with Affinity and Mono-Blue Control as obvious inclusions for two of the remaining four slots.  Affinity has always been relevant in the Pauper metagame and continues to perform well.  Mono-Blue Control, especially the Fae variation, has been a big bully recently.

The last two slots are much more difficult.  Which is more important, recent performance or historical relevance?  Personally, although it has not done well in the past few months, I think White Weenie is a valid inclusion given its solid to stellar performances from late January through May 2010.  That is an extended period of performance that shows the strength of this deck.

No single deck stands out as a surefire inclusion for the eighth slot.  Esper Control, Team America, and Blue/Red Aggro Control appear to be the next tier of decks.  Esper Control and Team America are actually very similar archetypes based around enters the battlefield effects and reusing these abilities through Momentary Blink and Kor Skyfisher.  Of these two, Team America has more recent success with three top 8 finishes in June, but Esper Control has far more top 8 finishes this year, won the PE on March 26 and April 16, and had one top 8 finish at the beginning of June.

My proposed top 8: Goblins, Mono-Blue Control, Affinity, Storm, White Weenie, Blue/Black Control, Stompy, and Esper Control.  Alternatively, we could mimic the NCAA basketball tournament with a play-in match between Esper Control and Team America for the eighth slot.

The format of the tournament will dictate the conclusions that can be drawn for this exercise.  A single-elimination bracket tournament simply means that the outcome will be constrained by luck and the construction of various sideboards.  In a PE, players can focus their sideboards to weight the slot usage to handle both a deck's weak matchups and what is expected to be the most common decks in the format, when eight different archetypes are expected to be present in equal numbers, the format prediction skills of the players will be be eliminated.

Do players use the same deck and sideboard list for every matchup or can they alter their sideboard before each match?  While a round-robin tournament more clearly illustrate the which deck is superior, the time commitment for such an approach may prevent some pilots for participating?  If single elimination, do players know the bracket before they build their decks?

Are they decks based on top performers from the PE or are they the creation of their pilots?  Many archetypes have some substantial variations, for instance Affinity decks vary between that use Krark-Clan Shaman and Disciple of the Vault and those that stick to creatures with Affinity, and both builds have performed well.

I would recommend that the tournament be conducted in double elimination.  That means that a deck with one ludicrously bad matchup will not be eliminated to an unfortunate pairing, but it also constrains the tournament length.  I would also allow each pilot to build their version of the archetype they are piloting.  Finally, I would say that the deck and sideboard cannot change throughout the tournament.  This would better illustrate which deck in its base build rather as decks cannot be tuned between rounds of a real tournament.

The exercise is interesting.  With double elimination, there would be fourteen or fifteen matches, dependent on whether the overall winner went undefeated or lost a single match.  If the winner of each match received $1 to $2 credit from a sponsor, the total sponsorship would be reasonable while offering an incentive for targeted players to participate.

If deluxeicoff pulls this together, I strongly hope for detailed descriptions of each game.  Ideally, those descriptions would come from an independent observer discussing both what is occurring on the battlefield and what options each player may have available to them based on their deck contents.  This would highlight how a particular build of a deck can or cannot deal with particular problems that they might be facing.

For those of you who tend towards the casual side of Pauper, this section presents a deck I have been using in the casual room.  My latest toy is a Blue/Red Aggro-Control deck using Skred with snow-covered lands.  Sea Gate Oracle, Mulldrifter, and Think Twice provide substantial card draw.  Staggershock, Firebolt, and Steamcore Weird (with Dream Stalker's help) provide repetitive damage dealing for additional card advantage.  Skred and Counterspell are used judiciosly against threats that are not easily eliminated by inflicting two damage.

The deck can be a bit inefficient at killing creatures with three or four toughness, especially flyers.  Kor Skyfisher, Aven Riftwatcher, and Spire Golem require two sources of damage to remove unless you have an Errant Ephemeron in play.  This of course means that if something prevents the second source of damage, then the first source of damage was wasted.

I know the cost of snow-covered lands takes decks out of the budget limits of some player's (a Snow-Covered Island is currently going for $0.20 and a Snow-Covered Mountain is priced at $0.25), especially because there are other cost-effective options to replace Skred such as Lightning Bolt or Electrostatic Bolt.  So, make adjustments according to your budget, or come back next week when I share my version of Blue/Red Control without the snow-covered lands.

If you wish to try this deck out in matches instead of duels, Gorilla ShamanDisrupt, Hydroblast, Pyroblast, Martyr of Ashes, and Hurly-Burly are all viable options for the sideboard.

 Izzet Snow

 Lands (23)
   9x Snow-Covered Island
   7x Snow-Covered Mountain
   4x Terramorphic Expanse
   3x Izzet Boilerworks

Creatures (18)
   4x Mulldrifter
   3x Dream Stalker
   4x Sea Gate Oracle
   4x Steamcore Weird
   3x Errant Ephemeron

Non-Creatures (19)
   4x Counterspell
   4x Firebolt
   4x Skred
   4x Staggershock
   3x Think Twice


This will be an occassional inclusion when a card strikes me as relevant to a current deck or environment.

With the recent dominance of Mono-Blue Control, especially the Fae variation, and the number of players bringing it to the weekly PE, it would seem that a means to deal with the various faeries with a mere 1 toughness would be a justifiable sideboard inclusion.  As many of the MUC/faerie decks include a mere three copies of Echoing Truth as their only bounce spells, getting an enchantment like Dizzying Gaze into play on a creature means that the deck will have an affordable and repetitive means of dealing with virtually every threat that MUC/faeries will place on the battlefield.

In addition to simply reducing the productivity of Spellstutter Sprite, elimination of flying threats will inhibit MUC/faeries ability to ninjitsu in a Ninja of the Deep Hours, forcing the opponent to bypass the easy card draw or hardcast the ninja.  Eliminating a Spellstutter Sprite or Pestermite before it can be recycled with the ninja prevents your other spells from being countered and keeps your creatures from being locked down.

In addition, this enchantment may work against other flying threats such as Aven Riftwatcher and Kor Skyfisher in various Team America, Esper Control, and White Weenie variants.  Even though many Stompy decks run Scryb Sprites, Dizzying Gaze probably isn't worth sideboarding in for that match-up.


Pauper is a straightforward environment.  It allows for deck construction using only cards that have been printed as common on MTGO (note that this means that some cards printed as common in paper Magic are not legal in Pauper and that some cards have been printed as common Online, but never in paper, and these are legal).  The banned list for Classic Pauper is very manageable and consists of exactly one card:

Each week there are three regular Classic Pauper events.  Wizards of the Coast hosts a weekly Pauper Challenge Premier Event.  The Pauper Challenge is currently paying prizes in Magic 2010 booster packs:
Place Prizes QPs
1st 30 Magic 2010 booster packs 3
2nd 20 Magic 2010 booster packs 3
3rd - 4th 12 Magic 2010 booster packs 3
5th - 8th 6 Magic 2010 booster packs 3
9th - 16th 3 Magic 2010 booster packs 0

The next Pauper Challenge Premier Event will be held:

  • Saturday July 17, 2010 at 5PM EDT
  • Sunday July 25, 2010 at 11AM EDT

In addition to the Pauper Challenge, there are currently two player run events using the Classic Pauper format.  The first is the Tuesday Pauper Deck Challenge (or TPDC), which is held on Tuesdays at 7:30 PM EST.  The second is the European Pauper Deck Challenge (or EPDC), which is held on Thursdays at 3:30 PM EST.

Note that EPDC is on hiatus while a search for a new permanent host is underway for season 2.  If you are interested in volunteering to be the host, please check here.

The following table provides an overview of each event showing the number of players for each event and the deck archetypes that reached each round of the finals of these events.


The following pie chart illustrates the overall performance of the archetypes to reach the finals of each tournament.


Five different decks reached the top eight of the PE and TPDC had at least seven different decks in the finals (one deck is unavailable).  Once again the distribution of decks among the Top 8 of the PE and PRE shows how wide open Pauper is as a format.

Before getting into a discussion of the metagame, here is a breakdown to the deck archetypes found in Classic Pauper.  While some archetypes are perennial top performers in these tournaments, other archetypes are more sporadic in the performance.  The list below identifies the most common archetypes in Pauper Classic.  This list will be updated as new archetypes enter the collective consciousness of Pauper Classic.  While many players will have a slightly different perspectives on why a deck fits into an archetype or not, these definitions will be used to breakdown the metagame for each week's tournaments.

The graphs provided indicate the number of decks of the archetype that reached the Top 8 of the week's Pauper Challenge PE.

  • Affinity
    Using artifact lands and other low-cost artifacts, this deck casts Frogmite and Myr Enforcer cheaply and then uses Thoughtcast and Rush of Knowledge to keep a hand full of cards to build an insurmountable battlefield presence.  Affinity can be a single or multiple colored deck, but is always centered around blue.  With Springleaf Drum, the deck can easily support one or more splash colors providing it with the ability to use a handful of slots in the main deck and the entire sideboard to the best options to combat the field regardless of color requirements.

  • Black/White Control
    This deck leverages these enemy colors to utilize powerful multicolored cards such as Castigate and Unmake to limit the opponents options.  The variations among these decks ranges from heavy discard to heavy creature control with a wide range middle points.  Most modern versions run Pestilence, Guardian of the Guildpact, and Wall of Hope, providing for extensive life gain to stymie many opposing decks.


  • Blue/Black Control
    Starting with Agony Warp and including card draw, discard, counterspells, and creature control from these two colors, this deck typically attempts to control both spells cast and eliminate creatures that enter the battlefield.  There are two sub-archetypes of Blue/Black Control.  The first centers around Mystical Teachings and a large mana base to pull the most relevant instants from the deck at any time.  The second eschews Mystical Teachings to include more raw card draw.  The Mystical Teachings variation will occasionally include a third color, typically white but infrequently red, but still operates very similarly to the two-colored version.


  • Blue/Red Aggro-Control
    This deck pulls in blue's card draw and Counterspell with red's direct damage (Lightning Bolt and Firebolt for example) to produce sufficient power to minimize the opponent's presence on the board and to keep a full hand.  The key card in the deck is Steamcore Weird which provides for a 1/3 blocker while often eliminating an opposing creature when it comes into play (potentially multiple times with due to Dream Stalker or Ninja of the Deep Hours).

  • Elves
    While Storm may the primary combo deck of Pauper, Elves has the ability to strike for lethal damage before an opponent establishes a battlefield presence.  Build around Nettle Sentinel and Birchlore Rangers to produce piles of mana, the deck deals lethal damage using Timberwatch Elf and Wirewood Pride.  Some versions splash blue for massive card draw from Distant Melody.

  • Esper Control
    This flexible archetype varies from build-to-build, but commonly includes Aven Riftwatcher, Mulldrifter, Disfigure, and Echoing Decay.  The deck seeks to trigger enters the battlefield effects and gain creature advantage through cheating creatures into play through Amrou Scout-like abilities or the saving and reusing creatures with Momentary Blink.  This deck leverages the strengths of blue's card draw and black's creature destruction with efficient white creatures and flexible sideboard options.

  • Goblins
    A red deck featuring aggressive, low cost red creatures with a smattering of direct damage.  The deck can run as few as 18 lands and rarely runs more than 7 non-creature spells, leaving space for more than 30 red creatures with casting costs of 2 or less.  Goblins is a really a sub-archetype of Sligh, but Goblins is the version you are most likely to see in Pauper, so this archetype is indicated as Goblins/Sligh (rather than Sligh/Goblins).  Typical inclusions are Goblin Sledder, Mogg Fanatic, and Sparksmith.

  • IzzetPost
    This control deck centers around three cards.  Cloudpost powers out Capsize with buyback and Rolling Thunder to significant amounts of damage.  While a significant portion of the deck is engineered to provide a mana ramp (Expedition Map to search for Cloudpost and Dimir Signet & Izzet Signet to increase mana production).  Card draw and enough counterspells and direct damage round out the deck to allow it to reach the mid-game when its strategy can take control of the game.


  • Mono-Blue Control
    The quintessential blue deck that comes into varieties.  The basic variation runs a plethora of counterspells (including Counterspell) and card draw (such as Brainstorm and Think Twice) in combination with a few creatures (Mulldrifter and Spire Golem being the most common) to provide a methodical approach to outlasting and then defeating an opponent.  A fae version includes multiple faeries such as Spellstutter Sprite and Pestermite to replace instants in the first version for creatures with similar, those less utilitarian, abilities.  Some variations run a few bounce spells (such as Into the Roil) to deal with anything permanent that makes it through their counterspells.

  • Parlor Tricks
    One of the most customizable decks in all of pauper.  This archetype is a red, black, and blue combination built around snow-covered lands and Skred.  Creatures such as Mulldrifter and Izzet Chronarch are used to refill a player's hand.  The only other standard card in the deck is Probe.  The deck utilizes a wide range of control mechanisms including additional creature destruction such as Strangling Soot, discard such as Ravenous Rats, card draw such as Train of Thought, and counterspells such as Memory Lapse.

  • Red Deck Wins (or RDW)
    Red Deck Wins is an archetype that has existed in a wide variety of environments.  The deck uses a limited number of creatures to back a exhaustive range of direct damage spells.  Running as few as 16 land, the deck can draw into damage inflicting spells on a consistent basis.  Common inclusions in Red Deck Wins are Lightning Bolt, Spark Elemental, and FireblastKiln Fiend and Needle Drop show up in some variations for longer lasting threats and card draw, respectively.

  • Slivers
    In pauper, this archetype is White and Green and centers around the Muscle Sliver and Sinew Sliver to produce very large, cheap creatures.  With Virulent Sliver, the deck has an option that allows it to win even against decks that gain a substantial amount of life.  Finally, the deck features Thrill of the Hunt to protect its creatures from direct damage and trades with blockers.

  • Stompy
    Primarily a green deck, the Stompy archetype features a heavy preponderance of creatures and a low land count.  Where Sligh and Zoo contain direct damage and control elements, Stompy uses spells to increase the effectiveness of their creatures and end the game before an opponent can mount a concentrated defense.  Cards such as Giant Growth, Jungle Lion, Rancor, and Skarrgan Pit-Skulk are common inclusions.

  • Storm
    This is the premier combo deck of pauper and comes in two flavors.  One variation uses only red and blue to produce its cascade of mana production and card draw leading up to its finale, while the other includes black in place of some of the blue card draw and some of the red mana creation.  Both versions ramp up to Empty the Warrens or Grapeshot as their finale.  The red/blue variation will run Goblin Bushwhacker to expedite a win condition via Empty the Warrens.

  • Team America
    This blue, white, and red control deck leverages enters the battlefield effects such as Aven Riftwatcher and Sea Gate Oracle with opportunities to reuse those effects through cards such as Kor Skyfisher and Momentary Blink for a robust approach that includes card draw, life gain, and creature advantage.  The deck incorporates enough red cards to ruin the opponent's battlefield presence and allow for a board sweep with Martyr of Ashes.



  • White Weenie
    A deck centered around efficient white creatures with low casting costs or low suspend costs.  The deck tends to run a high percentage of creatures (sometimes more than 50% of the deck).  The deck typically includes Order of Leitbur, Razor Golem, and Shade of Trokair.  There is a sub-archetype of white weenie that focuses on a soldier theme and highlights Veteran Armorsmith and Veteran Swordsmith.

As more archetypes reach the top 8 of the Premier Event or show sufficient prominence in the Player Run Events, they will be added to this list.  As new sets are released, the contents of specific archetypes are likely to evolve over time, and as such, descriptions will be reviewed and updated periodically.  As an eternal format, the historical performance of archetypes is an indication of the robustness of certain strategies, but does not necessarily indicate future performance as new cards enter the card pool.

Now that we have been through high level overviews and breakdowns, here are the first and second place decks from the week's Pauper events:

1st Place Pauper Challenge Premier Event Mono Blue Control

Creatures (17)

1 Mulldrifter
3 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Pestermite
1 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Spire Golem

Spells (20)

4 Condescend
4 Counterspell
2 Dispel
3 Echoing Truth
1 Exclude
1 Remove Soul
1 Serrated Arrows
4 Think Twice

Lands (23)

19 Island
4 Quicksand

Sideboard (15)

1 Deep Analysis
2 Dispel
4 Hydroblast
3 Mulldrifter
2 Oona's Gatewarden
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Serrated Arrows

Niabock 2nd Place Pauper Challenge Premier Event Mono Black Control

Creatures (16)

4 Chittering Rats
4 Crypt Rats
2 Phyrexian Rager
4 Ravenous Rats
2 Twisted Abomination

Spells (20)

4 Corrupt
4 Diabolic Edict
3 Doom Blade
1 Grim Harvest
4 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Unearth

Lands (24)

24 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

3 Augur of Skulls
4 Duress
4 Innocent Blood
4 Mind Rot

solset1970118 1st Place TPDC Player Run Event Mono Black Control

Creatures (22)

4 Chittering Rats
4 Crypt Rats
3 Augur of Skulls
3 Phyrexian Rager
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
2 Pit Keeper
2 Twisted Abomination
2 Warren Pilferers

Spells (15)

4 Corrupt
4 Sign in Blood
3 Tendrils of Corruption
2 Echoing Decay
1 Disfigure
1 Innocent Blood

Lands (23)

23 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

4 Duress
3 Nausea
3 Innocent Blood
2 Disfigure
1 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
1 Augur of Skulls
1 Death Denied

Calam1ty 2nd Place TPDC Player Run Event Red Deck Wins

Creatures (8)

4 Keldon Marauders
4 Spark Elemental

Spells (34)

4 Chain Lightning
4 Fireblast
4 Incinerate
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Needle Drop
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
2 Shard Volley

Lands (18)

18 Mountain

Sideboard (15)

4 Fiery Temper
3 Molten Rain
3 Flaring Pain
3 Smash to Smithereens
2 Martyr of Ashes

The art used in Pauper Recap comes from:

Good luck navigating the currents of Pauper Classic and I hope this provides a useful resource for the overall environment.



rockin start. With regards by deluxeicoff at Mon, 07/19/2010 - 12:56
deluxeicoff's picture

rockin start. With regards to the tournament in question - I really think it would be easiest and best if all 8 players knew the field they were facing, then had to use the same sideboard for every matchup. Maindecked changes should be closely watched - a slight change up from a top 8 listing is ok, but no major archetype shifts etc.., Each deck is going to have a bad matchup of the other seven, this is a major point :)

If this is to go forward, let's decide on that last spot. I agree with you that WW is a good 7th slot. Once the top 8 decks are identified, perhaps a vote could happen next posting of this for the players of each said thing...or not. If this fizzles, (which murphy's law says it should as there are so many variables) I won't be surprised, but it would be a grand experiement, that could perhaps be revisited each year.

First of all, I would say by Dolmir at Mon, 07/19/2010 - 16:22
Dolmir's picture

First of all, I would say that the old style of banners is much better. Full color backgrounds make the graphic too hard to look at.

Now about the article: I think you can do better. There is hardly any new content here and there is no analysis at all - just stats and decklists. Why don't you try to address the mono-color trend? I also think your archetype list badly needs to be trimmed. Just by reading your article I can tell that "Team America" is a version of UW blink that splashes red. Are the decks so different that you need to include both? The same applies to Esper control and a couple others.

Thanks for the input on the by kalandine at Mon, 07/19/2010 - 17:15
kalandine's picture

Thanks for the input on the backgrounds. I will see what everyone else says and go with the majority. I will the bolder graphic as I thnk the Mono-Black Control and Team America charts look better. Goblins looks just as bad as the original chart, and both versions looked bad because it is hard to find large versions for the art for goblins which mono-chromatic.

As for new content, each week will include updats to the charts and deck lists as well as a perspective, casual deck, and potentially discussion of a card which stands out to me. If this isn't sufficient new content, then I doubt the Recap is what you are looking for.

That being said, I agree that the discussion of the performance and advantages of mono-colored decks is a worthy topic of interest. Expect to see this is the Perspective for the recap of the past PE.

On the topic of archetypes, this is something I covered in a previous Recap. The breakdown of archetypes is a rather personal perspective of when the differentiation between two decks constitutes a difference in different archetypes. I think Team America is something between Blue/Red Aggro-Control and Blue/White Blink, but all three have overlap and different versions within the archetypes overlap more than others. It is definitely a fine line as I group Blue/Black control that splashes white for one spells or sidebaord cards as different than Esper control that includes a substantial amount of white spells.

For now, I expect these archetypes stand, but that doesn't mean I am unwilling to reevaluate moving forward.