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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jan 26 2007 12:00am
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PDC is an all player run format on Magic Online.  It consists of competitive games using exclusively commons cards.  Games can be found in the "/join pdc" room and events can be found on the Magic Online official message boards.  For more information please visit paupermagic.com.

“Turn my guys sideways. Did I win? No? Good game!”

These are the words of Jamie Wakefield, Green Mage extraordinaire. It can also be seen as guiding strategy of many PDC decks, specifically those of the aggressive variety. Commonly called aggro decks, these piles of sixty adhere to the Flores Philosophy of Fire and attempt to reduce the opposition to zero life points as quickly as possible. These decks apply pressure backed up with varied forms of disruption, but one thing remains the same: the goal is reduce the opposing life total from twenty to zero as quickly as possible. But not all of them achieve the goal of Fire in the same way. Rather, there are multiple ways that aggro decks can go about their plan. This article seeks to examine the similarities and differences of these main strategies, what they do, and how they do it. These decks, however, do not include aggro-control or mid-range aggro, since those decks can be seen through the lens of card advantage rather than the Philosophy of Fire. I will be referencing three decks I presented in my last article, which you can find here. To give the decks something in common, I will be using the basic unit of Shock, meaning two damage for one mana. Also, it is important to understand that by aggro, I mean a deck that wins through creatures and pressure. Billy Moreno may have put it best when he said control decks take damage until they stop taking damage. Aggro does not simply mean having creatures, it is a mindset.


The common denominator


The Holy Trinity of Aggro

The Trinity are not decks, but rather ideas. They are best exemplified by three decks from my previous article, however. But first, the concepts. First is Power. Power decks are designed to achieve victory through the sheer strength of the cards involved. Each card is individually powerful but when combined with other powerful cards, can create a hard to overcome obstacle. Rather than simply powerful decks, these decks strive to seek cards whose power compliment each other in ways that will produce extra damage. The next deck building theory is that of Curve. Rather than using simply powerful cards, these decks are designed to maximize every land drop and win on best utilization of resources. Often times for these decks, Shocks are not good enough, and cards such as Lava Spike become more appropriate since it can deal maximum damage for minimal cost. The last of the Trinity is Synergy. Decks built on this principle are centered around a common theme, and all cards are designed to enhance that theme. The more cards of a particular style in Synergy deck, the more potent the attack. It is important to note that few decks are pure in any one of these facets. Rather, most aggro decks encompass two of these theories. The decks I am going to use to better explain these construction philosophies are ones that I feel better exemplify one of these three ideals over the others.
Moving back to my last article, three of the most influential decks in PDC history are also three that are the best examples of this Trinity. Like I mentioned above, there is some overlap for the decks, but the decks that follow are the ones that I feel are the best examples of one theory over the others. Let us begin.

Theory: Power, Deck: RG Aggro

RG is arguably the most powerful aggro deck in the field. It simply plays the best Shocks. Some can get used twice, and others stick around to grow with each discarded card. The Shocks in RG stick around and beat effectively. The burn in this deck serve both a disruption role as a way to remove blockers but they also serve as additional pressure. While RG does exhibit qualities of both curve (no good aggro deck lacks this aspect) and synergy (in the form of Wild Mongrel combined with Basking Rootwalla and Firebolt), it wins on the sheer strength of its cards. In nearly every mana slot, RG plays the most powerful card available in PDC. It plays the best 2 drops in Wild Mongrel and River Boa, and some the best burn spells, including Kaervek's Torch, Firebolt, and Incinerate. While this deck does try to curve out and exploit card synergy, its path to victory is through Power; it simply plays better cards than you. The ideal draws for this deck are those focused around applying beats and pressure and doing something I reference often: putting the opponent on the back foot. Creatures followed by burn means that this deck is rarely even anything but the beatdown.


Theory: Curve, Deck: TDR

TDR was designed to win by overwhelming the opponent by hitting every drop. Lands were maximized by playing cards such as Oxidda Golem that were effectively big Shocks that stuck around. If the Golem hit twice, it was the equivalent of three Shocks for three mana; pure maximization of drops. While the deck does play some absurdly powerful cards- Sparksmith as repeatable removal for example- it won on the strength of its curve. By adhering to a tight curve, every turn a TDR deck took was one closer to winning, since damage was always dealt. In my clan report for the deck, long lost to the annals of the internet, I wrote about the potential damage of each card. The results were staggering, with nearly every card acting as a Shock or better. And one was hit every turn, and they often stuck around. Curve decks seek that Shock every turn, but they stick around, so that instead of taking ten turns to win, it will take between four and five (that was the first math I had done in a long long time).


Theory: Synergy, Deck: Affinity

Affinity the mechanic is powerful. Rush of Knowledge is powerful The deck has, perhaps, the ugliest curve of all time unless it is acting synergistically. Affinity is linear- the more cards of a certain type played, the better the deck gets. No one is going to be playing Frogmite in a pure curve deck. Rather, this deck plays on the synergy of the cards involved to create additional power. The cards themselves are, well, bad. Put together though, they are something greater- kind of like Voltron, or those Transformers that made on bigger Transformer, you know, like the original Predacons. These decks are prone to bad draws and at the same time explosive openings. The cards are able to build upon each other to achieve something spectacular. Synergy decks, unlike the other two, are more reliant on the sums of their parts and have problems winning off of topdecks unless another piece of the puzzle is in play.


These decks all have some overlap. All three have Power, RG and TDR have Curve, and TDR plays with some amount of synergy. As I said, though, the decks mentioned are the best examples of the theories. What this means to me is that every aggro deck in PDC is a derivative of one of these three base builds. I do not mean to say that all Power based decks use Red or Green, but rather they seek to mimic what RG Aggro can do. Similarly, Curve decks mimic TDR and Synergy decks seek to approximate Affinity. Why do the decks do this? Because not only are these decks the best examples of the Holy Trinity of Aggro, but they might just be the best in each category as the closest possible “pure” examples. These decks are the best at what they do- that is why they are still played and still sideboarded against today. All aggro decks strive to achieve something that these decks are capable of. When aggro decks become too concerned with acting outside of their strengths, the deck will have a greater chance to fail. To help illustrate my points, a list. This list contains some tried and true decks, and some that are still experimental but show promise.


Deck: SnowRos, Theories: Curve, Power
4 Goblin Legionnaire
4 Incinerate
2 Kaervek's Torch
4 Kami of Ancient Law
3 Molten Rain
4 Skirk Marauder
4 Skyknight Legionnaire
4 Benalish Cavalry
3 Gelid Shackles
2 Rift Bolt
4 Skred
1 Secluded Steppe
7 Snow-Covered Mountain
6 Snow-Covered Plains
3 Boros Garrison
1 Forgotten Cave
4 Terramorphic Expanse


This deck is very much in the vein of RG in that it seeks to play the most powerful cards available in the colors at each cost. However, unlike many other RW builds, this deck also seeks to maximize land drops, leading to pinnacles of efficiency such as Skred and Rift Bolt, both of which can be seen as better than Shock. On top of that, it plays two Shocks on legs in the forms of Skirk Marauder and Goblin Legionnaire. The card Gelid Shackles also fits into this mode as it allows each land drop to be used even when there are no spells to be cast. Disruption here comes in the form of burn and land destruction, again putting the opponent on the defensive. RG's influence can be seen in the sheer power of cards used where as Curve can be seen in the fact that no card in the deck has to cost more than three. This in turn lets the deck run 22 lands, four of which are Terramorphic Expanse and three of which are Boros Garrison. The curve, starting truly at two, lets these tap lands be run with little detriment to the overall goal of 20 damage.

Goblin Legionnaire

Multiple Shocks for the price of a Lightning Helix


Deck: Zombies!, Theories: Curve, Synergy

4 Crypt Creeper
3 Gempalm Polluter
2 Infernal Caretaker
4 Last Gasp
3 Putrid Imp
4 Shambling Shell
2 Shepherd of Rot
4 Skinthinner
3 Strength of Night
4 Wretched Anurid
2 Grim Harvest
3 Gutless Ghoul
2 Barren Moor
2 Forest
4 Golgari Rot Farm
10 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse


This deck is one that I really enjoy playing because it is prone to some absolutely obscene wins. It has a tight curve, topping out at four for a kicked Strength of Night, one of the most obscenely powerful cards available in PDC. I mean in this deck, it plays instant Overrun. The power of the Strength is enhanced because of the decks ability to curve out at four, usually with five power on the table by the time the Green Zombie booster comes online. And the fact that this is a tribal deck means that the more creatures in play, the better each other card gets. Too often, Gempalm Polluter plays the role of finisher and Infernal Caretaker may be the best Raise Dead of all time. This deck is fast, powerful, but fragile as well. The low toughness and vulnerable creatures are a trade off for the ability to sometimes just outright win, very much like Affinity. Ideally, this deck would like more disruption and larger men and more power. Instead, it has to rely on power created through a tight Curve and tribal Synergy, but the Strength of Nights give the deck some semblance of Power.

Strength of Night

Serious awesomeness


Deck: Cloak Stompy, Theories: Curve, Power

4 Armadillo Cloak
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Elvish Warrior
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Predator's Strike
3 Quirion Ranger
4 River Boa
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
4 Tangle Golem
4 Wild Mongrel
13 Forest
4 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Tranquil Thicket

Curve is obvious here, maxmizing all possible land drops through efficient beaters and throwing extra land through the Wild Mongrel filter. If a card in this deck is not a mana source, it is a Shock or better. The Power is also in the fact that it plays the best possible drops in each slot. Mongrel and Boa again are some of the best two drops available. Elvish Warrior is fantastic on both offense and defense, Skarrgan Pit-Skulk is an evasive Shock and do not even get me started on the simple power of Armadillo Cloak. While the deck has some synergy, it does not win through a cohesive thread that runs throughout the entire deck. Quirion Ranger is just good with Forests and the Cloak is just good. Looking at ancestors, like TDR this deck seeks to hit every land drop and like RG, it seeks to play the best possible cards that help the deck achieve its goal. A good deck, a fun deck, but lacks disruption that can often seal the deal for aggro decks.

Wild Mongrel

Come on, it's one of my articles, of course he's in here


Deck: 2Drop, Theories: Curve, Power

4 Blind Creeper
4 Drooling Ogre
4 Firebolt
4 Incinerate
4 Terminate
4 Wretched Anurid
2 Yamabushi's Flame
4 Brute Force
4 Gobhobbler Rats
4 Keldon Marauders
3 Barren Moor
3 Forgotten Cave
5 Mountain
5 Swamp
2 Rakdos Carnarium
4 Terramorphic Expanse


This is a relatively new take on the old Rakdos aggro strategy: beat and burn. However I went it a slighlt different direction with this deck. 2Drop seeks to maximize the amount of damage available by playing the highest power two drops available; most of the creatures act as three Shocks over two turns. In addition to that, it plays cards that are able to deal a high amount of damage compared to their mana cost: Brute Force in this case is almost superior to that basic burn spell. This deck subscribes to Power because of the high power to casting cost ratio of the cards involved. In the ideal game, this deck will drop a creature on turns two and three followed by two creatures on turn four with burn back up. While sub-par against other aggro decks, this deck has game on control and almost surprisingly, is pretty good against Orzhov Blink. Mostly this is due to the sheer size of the beaters, as 3/3's are hard for the 'Zhov to deal with. This one has potential, but has traces of Glass Cannon syndrome.

Brute Force

Not indicative of the deck, but man is that art cool


Deck: Pez, Theories: Synergy, Power


I do not have a working list for this deck, but here is how it works. This Golgari deck seeks to put out an obscene amount of Saprolings using Scatter the Seeds, Fists of Ironwood, and various Thallids to create a large token army. The Saprolings do their best Affinity impersonation to power out more of their woodland friends. Then it will either kill off opposing armies using Deathspore Thallids and then sacrifice the team to either Nantuko Husk or Carrion Feeder for the win. Some builds also include Echoing Courage. This deck is built on multiple internal synergies and also is capable of some truly powerful plays. However, because this type of deck is easily hated (a well timed Wail of the Nim ruins Pez's day), it only shows up from time to time and then only for brief periods. When it does show up, though, it is dominant.  Another deck in this vein is Fortify White Weenie, which seeks to lay multiple cheap threats followed by a game winning Fortify or (Kjledoran Warcry).

Scatter the Seeds



Deck: Gray Skies, Theories: Power, Curve

4 Blind Hunter
3 Choking Sands
4 Echoing Decay
1 Grim Harvest
4 Kami of Ancient Law
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
3 Pillory of the Sleepless
4 Shrieking Grotesque
4 Mana Tithe
2 Pit Keeper
4 Trespasser il-Vec
2 Whitemane Lion
2 Barren Moor
2 Orzhov Basilica
7 Plains
1 Secluded Steppe
7 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse

Blind Hunter

He makes quite a few appearances as well


Until recently, I was very fond of saying that SnowRos was the best aggro deck I had designed. Recently, Cloak Stompy took that title. I think Gray Skies is going to take it next. This package again, seeks to exploit a tight Curve to maximize the amount of damage available. This deck has strong disruption, but not in the burn so commonly seen above. Rather, it borders on aggro-control with Choking Sands and Mana Tithe to ruin the opponents tempo. The creatures curve up to the four drop where arguably the best four drop in PDC, Blind Hunter sits, waiting to play at least two Shocks, many times more, to “burn” the opponent out. The one time I played this deck in an event, it went 3-1, with the loss being because I had to drop (the match was split 1-1 at the time). It is very trick laden, and as I said, borderline aggro-control because of the way it disrupts the opponent. However, it does know how to beat down. More importantly, it has a good defensive game plan against other aggro decks. Unlike the decks listed above, this is a Third Generation deck. Where as all the previous decks can be seen as direct descendants of the original three, this deck is a direct descendant of SnowRos in its game plan. This marks the first of the Third Generation aggro decks.  This marks one of the first of the Third Generation aggro decks.  Another such Third Generation deck is the BGR Madness Gambit I spoke about in my first article for this site.  It, however, is a hybrid coming from one aggro parent and one aggron-control parent, but still plays the aggro game based on Power and Synergy.  It is going to be very interesting to see what this generation has to hold.
Turn your guys sideways.  Do you win?  No?  Take another look at your deck and decide how you want to be the beatdown.


Something happened by SpikeBoyM at Sun, 04/22/2007 - 19:43
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For all those reading this article and scratching their heads, this is not the article that matches the title. There was a problem somewhere along the line. I'll try and get the original back up asap.


interesting thing :) by Bolivarus (not verified) at Mon, 02/19/2007 - 20:21
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see ID3 tag...

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 02/08/2007 - 19:01
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Good to see you writing, my pauper based clan on mtgo has often learned from your deck building skills and it's nice to have someone share knowledge of the format in another venue. With time, hopefully a short time, this format will be sanctioned. It's catching on fast online and I was playing in small all commons tourneys (as they were called back then) back when invasion came out. Cheers to your writing gig and insightful theory.

Great job,Pay Him More! by me5794 (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 01/30/2007 - 06:54
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I am Glad the MTGO traders have taken on an author that is an expert in the subject of PDC and PDC theory. Other authors have just skimmed the surface of what PDC really is. Alex was very consice in his point, is very professional in his writing, and with his interaction with other Paupers. Great Job Alex, i look forward to reading more

Lythand by Lythand at Mon, 01/29/2007 - 18:52
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I simply love PDC..I wish DCI would hold sanctioned PDC events. I think more players would be interested. Especialy players like myself who are on a budget, but like the Tournament scene, and dont have the money to buy 15-20 dollar duals for Standard events.

none by Hollow0n3 at Tue, 01/30/2007 - 04:46
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Nicely done, it is good to see you here. Beeing a PDC player myself i really enjoy reading some well written articles.

Good Job by Dreager_Ex at Tue, 01/30/2007 - 05:44
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I'm not the biggest PDC player but I'ts definetly its own format, completely different from normal Classic or STD. Good to see more articles on this. PS: I like that Decklist I may have to give it a try...

Great! by Elvish_Dragon at Mon, 01/29/2007 - 21:05
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Awesome! As a writer for budget myself, it's nice to seen new takes on innovative decks. Good writing and good use of pictures too!

Nice article Alex by MagicalTrevor (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 01/29/2007 - 21:57
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Nice article Spike. PDC isn't just about playing on a budget. It has a complicated meta game with many different arch types including combo and mono blue control. I would also say that the PDC player run events are one of the most professionally done on MTGO.

Great to see a good article about pdc by mtgotraders at Mon, 01/29/2007 - 16:41
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I love articles about pdc and the format owns. It's a great format for players of all budgets and I hope this article helps stir more interest in the format.

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