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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Aug 24 2015 12:00pm
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My first steps into the new landscape of competitive Pauper revolved around playing the Draw-Go game. While there was early success it could not be sustained. Izzet Tron is a strong choice but at its core it is still a control deck. Therein resides the problem. Control decks have to pack the right answers to be effective. The top of the Pauper results are highly visible but nothing is illuminated in the two person queues. Those queues are Groundhog Day - round one until the end of time.

The conundrum is trying to find the correct answers for unknown questions. Some control decks - notable the Dimir Teachings deck - seeks to respond by including cards with broad applications that can be fought on a temporal scale (going under). Other control decks - Mono-Black Control comes to mind- attempts to fight to format on its main axis (or rather the perceived angle of attack) in creatures. These do not appeal to me in that if I am going to leave myself open to clearly bad matchups, I would rather put myself in the position of posing the threats than trying to solve their problem.

 

After I settled on attacking, I had to explore the nature of the format as it stands today. Here is the framework from which I drew my conclusions.

 

First off the best decks are clearly Esper Combo and Delver. Almost as important these decks are both very popular in the winner’s circle. Esper Combo is capable of simply steamrolling any opponent and Delver has game against the field. These two decks are clearly going to be present and failing to prepare for them is as good as flushing an entry fee down the toilet.

 

The next two decks I had at the corners of my diagram were Stompy and MBC. Mono-Black Control is like Delver in that it can go toe-to-toe with just about anything in the metagame. Stompy represents the second fastest deck in this quad and has been a very popular choice in recent weeks.

 

No matter what I selected I wanted to have at least a chance at winning against these four. Other decks like Burn and Izzet Blitz exist but they are strategies that I would feel more comfortable addressing in the sideboard. As it turns out, the deck I selected actually does not mind playing against these two and has built in resilience against other aggressive decks

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It is going to be easier to explain my choices if you see the deck first. So here we it is:

 

 

 

I settled on Hexproof for a few reasons unrelated to the aforementioned decks. First I have quite a bit of experience with the deck. Hexproof is a hyper-linear deck in that it wants to repeat a specific line of play as often as possible. To aide this some versions have relied on Commune with the Gods or Kruphix’s Insight to reload. I have opted instead to include Heliod’s Pilgrim. Pilgrim provides a body as well as a card and the body half is relevant. One of Hexproof’s weaknesses is that it is soft to Diabolic Edict style effects and Heliod’s Pilgrim can mitigate that. Pilgrim also lets the deck run a few specialty Auras - Favor of the Overbeing enchanting a Slippery Bogle is the tiniest of Serra Angels. In order to aid the redundancy I have opted to include Qasali Pridemage as well. Exalted is similar to an Aura in that it sits around to boost power. Unlike Auras it can share its bonus to multiple creatures (Rancor notwithstanding).

 

Snake Umbra is a personal choice. I like the option to recoup cards in longer matchups. While Hexproof is rarely assuming a role where the number of cards will really matter. That being said the ability to draw extra cards while also protecting a threat in combat is hard to pass up. Spider Umbra is great, but Snake Umbra can break games against attrition decks wide open.

 

The ideal game state is turn one Hexproof creature turn two load it up and start attacking. Khalni Garden is another “one drop” but it is vulnerable to traditional removal. Hexproof is excellent against decks packing Lightning Bolt, Snap, and other targeted cards, turning its creatures into a form of virtual card advantage. Unlike Izzet Blitz which requires an additional card - like Apostle’s Blessing - Hexproof turns off most removal simply by resolving creatures. In a format that many seem to define by creatures the ability to just blank a wide swatch of spells in certain decks is enticing.

 

The key to winning with Hexproof is playing around the hate while also continuing to apply pressure. Often times this means learning how play into The Fear.

 

The Fear is a concept as old as tournament Magic itself. It is the idea that your opponent is holding the exact card(s) needed to win. With Hexproof, the Fear manifests itself as counters, edicts, and Electrickery. Sometimes Hexproof can play around the Fear but more often than not I have found that the reason this phenomena trudges into relevance is because if they do have It then Hexproof is absolutely dead. In these instances it can often be correct to fight that pit in your stomach and actually go face first into whatever they may hold. Why? Because waiting does not bode well for Hexproof. The longer the game goes the more likely the Fear becomes real so might as well press the aggressive advantage and charge headlong. The best example I can think of is Counterspell. Often Counterspell (or Spellstutter Sprite) will only matter the turn before Hexproof can win. Here it is correct to weigh the amount of time bought by the perceived counter against the chances of them not having it and going for the win.

 

So Hexproof is a deck that wants to enact a game plan and has some glaring holes. Yet I still decided to run it. Why?

 

It comes down to the fundamentals. Right now in Pauper the Philosophy of Fire and Tempo matter more than Card Advantage. Esper Combo is a deck that wants to manipulate a set resource - the number of cards in the library. While it cheats on turns thanks to Cloud of Faeries it is still, at its core, akin to an aggro deck. Hexproof has draws that can race Esper Combo and has access to cards in the sideboard that help the cause. Aerial Volley and Epic Confrontation combine to help keep Esper Combo off of key pieces, often buying enough time and stealing enough tempo to keep the game in hand. There is no perfect sideboard plan for fighting Esper, but trying to interact with their creatures is better than loading up on Thermokarst and hoping to hit.

 

Delver is a rather interesting pairing. Here is where the Fear matters most. Games play out one of two ways. Either Hexproof will hit every drop and quickly put Delver on the backfoot or Delver will establish an early defense and prevent anything relevant from resolving. Here is where the sideboard I propose comes in handy. Siding into extra threats at the cost of low impact Auras - Abundant Growth in this case- makes it easier to actually overwhelm defenses. River Boa may turn on Snap but it also represents an impossible to block threat against Delver. Again, Aerial Volley pays dividends. Casting it on upkeep often will choke Delver on mana which is one way to keep the Fear at bay.

 

Stompy, the third deck I considered, is another event matchup. The advantage Hexproof has is that it can access Armadillo Cloak and, in this case, Hopeful Eidolon. Odd as it may seem Hexproof is the control deck in this pairing and Epic Confrontation is necessary to contain their army. If Stompy is unable to resolve copies of Groundswell and Vines of Vastwood for huge chunks of damage then Hexproof should be able to prevail. Snake Umbra may be at its best here in that it can keeps the cards flowing.

 

Finally there is Mono-Black Control. Out of the four I listed this is the pairing I least want to see. Chainer’s Edict is a nightmare and if the deck features cards like Geth’s Verdict then the games can become unwinnable. Khalni Garden and Heliod’s Pilgrim are maindeck concessions to this reality. Valeron Outlander is something I am trying out as a way to add threats while also continuing to blank certain removal. No number of Disfigure or Oubliette will matter and increasing the threat count can only help. Again, the idea here is to simply stick to the plan and try to attack for victory. The current reliance on Chainer’s Edict bodes well for Hexproof in that it becomes easier to play around the removal.

 

Hexproof is not the only choice for Pauper. Rather it represents a deck that, with the right cards and the proper mindset, represents a strong choice for taking on the two-person queues. I am not sure I’d take this deck into a longer event, but for an endless stream of first rounds one could make a worse choice.

 

Keep slingin’ commons-

-Alex

 

SpikeBoyM on Magic Online

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10 Comments

Is it time to ban in Pauper? by ComixWriter at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 11:12
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I understand metagames have archtypes, and competitive decks need to be mindful of probable plays from opponents. However, as a new MTGO player, I am discouraged by how abusive some archtypes may be. I wonder if Wizards of the Coast thinks similarly, and opts to no longer offer Pauper Tournaments.

Delver reigned supreme in recent past when it was part of the Standard card pool. Today, Standard Pauper can enjoy those temporary difficult-to-play-against cards (read: almost anything with Heroic, it seems). Even if too tough in a homebrew, players can work around their limited options in the Standard common card pool. I can even pick up a deck from my local card shop without breaking a sweat or my wallet.

How does one even FIND Stutter Sprite nowadays? Who has a playset of Cloud of Faeries just lying around in a binder? I suggest that in order to be relevant, Pauper may need to draw a line, and this line means banning at least one of the two previously named cards. Perhaps I can go farther: ban cards older than Modern age. If the goal of Pauper is to empower people to play competitively, having access to cards would seem to be a high priority. While I'm sure I can find a Cloud of Faeries through online sales, it doesn't seem fun to me.

Imagine the next generation of players gathering at a table to learn to play Pauper. We may have a Hexproof deck, like this OP thread. We could have Stompy, and even MBC with Gary. Now, I drop a Cloud of Faeries onto the table, and wait five minutes for everyone to read the card. Imagine their frowns when I tell them that this card is older than some of the people sitting at the table. Yes, I could redefine my limits to a Standard card pool, but why limit myself just because of a few cards? Modern has a rich card pool from which to draw, removes some abused cards from play, and makes the game more accessible to a larger population. Isn't this the whole POINT of Pauper play? If we have our own versions of the Power Nine, we'd play in a lot of different tournaments, I bet. However, we don't, and have to make due with something else. Isn't this the genesis of Pauper play- not having access to ONE or a small number of very breakable cards?

In trying to position ourselves as the every-man card game players, we threaten to alienate the next generation (read: longevity) of this format. Yeah, ban a card or two. My suggestion is to look at the cards being abused as a restriction to allowing more diversity, greater staying power, while keeping to a common mindset. In your local neighborhoods, I challenge anyone reading this post to find a PHYSICAL copy of Cloud of Faeries in their local brick-and-mortar stores. Now, find a play set inn your hometown. How much did they cost? How easy was it to break into a game format with those cards literally in hand? How "common" is Pauper, really?

My own research lead me to find ZERO copies of the above-named cards in York, Lancaster, Altoona, Johnstown, Bedford, Baltimore, and Harrisburg hobby shops. Again, how easily do we toss-around the word "common" to justify our own feelings of have-nots-the-Power9, when really, some cards that win the format really aren't so common anymore.

Pauper has become elitist, and has become the very thing which it stood against. Outside of Standard Pauper, I see the format being a bunch of people who can't spend the cash of a Power 9 set but still feel the need to dominate competition using cards from 1998. How many other cards were banned from that set because of play balance? Why do we let a similar disruptive card get a pass because it is a common-rarity card? It seems foolish to think lightly of a card from the "Combo Winter" set just because it is common, but the whole FORMAT is common-based? In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King. So too is Cloud of Faeries, and other threats from beyond Modern builds.

In summation: An out-of-print card from a powerful set printed EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO can hardly be called "common." Continuing to think it IS welcomed into the card pool is a direct middle-finger raised to the next generation of Pauper players, and justifies WotC's lack of commitment to how we currently run the format as a barrier to new players.

EIGHTEEN YEARS?! You've grown-up and are a legal adult now, Cloud of Faeries. Time to move out and get your own apartment.

I am willing to bet that your by Lagrange at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 12:10
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I am willing to bet that your friends can read Cloud of Faeries in less than five minutes.

First, let us agree that Stutter Spirite and Cloud of Faeries are common and easy to find on MTGO. Second, I dont think that the availability of the paper card in your local area is very good benchmark for banning in an online format. You are free to play standard pauper with your friends in paper or online. As an online format it was not very popular because of the very limited card pool.

And I bet that... by ComixWriter at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 13:01
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You probably play with a full playset of these named cards.

Are you suggesting that Pauper be ONLY an online format? It seems to me that your disdain of the printed copies means you prefer to play online over in-person play with physical, not proxied, cards.

Yes, I know I'm free to play Standard pauper among friends in persona nd online. Standard Pauper isn't my threat, nor the threat to the longevity of the format.

As it stands, Pauper masquerades as an easy format to enter, but it's not meeting the needs of newer, younger players, with cards still in use that may be older than some players. Pauper is not evolving, many people either love (read: they play with 'em) or hate (read: don't have access to 'em to even try). If an opponent announces they play Delver of Esper combos, I bet a lot of players concede with their homebrewed decks that won't stand a competitive, albeit fun, chance.

What does it take to ban Treasure Cruise, or Grapeshot? These cards have a following that suggest banning them inn play. Why is Cloud of Faeries SO important to keep after EIGHTEEN years of use? I contend the death of Cloud of Faeries also suggests the death of cheap netdecking and unimaginative minds. This is the biggest block to overcome- tradition as a rule without growing to adapt play to newer markets and players.

What else from pre-Modern era would suffer from restrictions, if not flat-out banning? If one card is the sword on which Pauper wants to die, that is sad. I chose to target the easy and access to cards for competitive play, and find that pre-Modern ear cards provide a stumbling block.

If my test to find the cards in my area is too limited, where's your result? Please provide the names and contact information of brick-and-mortar stores who sell mint or near mint copies of pre-Modern cards; get bonus points by sharing their pricing information. You can't easily dismiss my premise without following up with your own research to prove me wrong.

Again, the card is 18 years old. Professional athletes retire after about two decades- let the faeries retire, too, and create a much needed opening in competitive decks. Else, I'll just buy my own online playset of faeries and play in competition-sanctioned tournaments...oh, wait...

You suggest that we would have a very limited card pool from which to draw if pre-Modern were banned. What else, aside from CoF, would be dented in this push? Seriously, if Standard Pauper has a following with a card pool of about a year's supply of common cards, I think we could unceremoniously dump whatever (specific cards, please) pre-Modern era cards brought to play.

Plus, there's a different aesthetic of older cards that are incongruent with new card designs and printings. Saying, "Pick any common card from whenever" actually suggests that the card pool is already too limited, and we NEED twenty-year old cards to play a competitive match. Is that what the Pauper format stands for- antiquity and broken design JUST because it's a common card? Grapeshot feels sad...

Event Horizon Games in by Misterpid at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 13:17
Misterpid's picture

Event Horizon Games in Raleigh has them for 89 cents each.

http://eventhorizongames.crystalcommerce.com/products/search?q=Cloud+of+...

Also, Urza's Legacy was released in 1999. That's only SIXTEEN years ago, not EIGHTEEN.

Thanks, Misterpid by ComixWriter at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 17:06
ComixWriter's picture

Yes, I see the NM quality. Am surprised they even have the oldest version of the card, not the reprint.

My apologies about the time: Urza block was started in 1998, and and miscalculated. Still, dickering about two years when we have at least a decade and a half in the sun warrants some staying power of the card. Has nothing that good been printed in a dozen+ years? If so, why aren't those cards climbing tournaments as easily as the fey?

Wouldn't a truly imaginative by Paul Leicht at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 15:29
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Wouldn't a truly imaginative mind find a way to beat Cloud of Faeries? This seems if you pardon my saying so more of a pet peave you have than an actual objection.

I understand your point, but I wonder how much of it is personal salt from finding the format frustrating and how much is actual well thought out analysis.

My own experience with pauper is it is many things to many people. If you are finding it too hard, perhaps switch whom you play with or seek out the ways to improve your game so that cards like Cloud of Faeries do not hinder your fun.

That said, there is also nothing stopping you from making up your own rules with the people you play with: No cards from Before Invasion as a rule eliminates a few troublesome cards, for example.

Printed Copies of Older Cards by ComixWriter at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 11:26
ComixWriter's picture

This is the non-printed copy of Cloud of Faeries. Also, notice the relatively inexpensive prices for the cards. This is good. Now, find me a MINT copy of the card for play.

http://magiccards.info/ul/en/29.html

http://www.mtgotraders.com/st by Paul Leicht at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 12:56
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http://www.mtgotraders.com/store/search.php?q=cloud+of+faeries&x=0&y=0 <---mtgo traders prices on cloud of fairies. You can by a play set for .28 of a tix. Seems reasonable to me.

But even at the highest evaluation, they are $4 a play set in paper. What's the big deal? (And trust me you can find them minty at that price.)

Thanks, Paul by ComixWriter at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 17:03
ComixWriter's picture

Paul, you seem like a spot of brilliant reason. Thanks for your critical insights.
Yes, I am frustrated that more local players in the south-central PA and MD region don't play physical cards in pauper. I thought it might be because of availability, but you and others have shown me that the cards are available for purchase. I suppose I live in a region devoid of brick-and-mortar stores offering pauper as part of their typical FNM and sponsored tournaments. This is why I went to MTGO in the first place- I don't get out of the house very often, but would attend a weekly pauper gaming event, even if just casual. Without these events in place, despite requests from myself and others interested in the format (who are, by most accounts, younger than myself (I'm 40)), I go online. In some of my first days' worth of matches, I saw a ton of Delvers and Esper combos, which seemed to reinforce my belief that MTGO is full of these archtypes. Yes, I could play them too. Maybe I SHOULD play a Delver or Esper deck as my staple; I'm pretty sure I would win with enough experience. I have a set list of actions I want to see unfold in the combo, and I could be just another "DEsper" bully.

My more important questions are these, I think: Pick any banned card in Pauper. Why was it banned but Cloud of Faeries gets a pass? What triggers needs be happen to warrant ANY kind of banning? How many of those triggers were in place for already-banned cards, and how much sunshine did their card faces see in their prime? Has Cloud of Faeries or other cards that seem to completely define tournament-worthy decks been flipping the same triggers? When an entire pauper deck can be bought for less than an Event ticket, should CoF be about a third of that price? <--- I ask because I don't know; is an investment of even .28 event tickets for a deck a smart or comparable price range? If so, I'm completely too cheap because I bought a fun MTGO homebrew for less than a ticket.

Again, thanks, Paul. You seem intelligent and respectful, which is in too short of supply these days in general.

Thanks for the compliments. I by Paul Leicht at Tue, 08/25/2015 - 18:31
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Thanks for the compliments. I do try to be respectful.

The biggest issue with banning cards in a format like Pauper which lets be serious is really "Legacy Pauper", is that these cards are all in relative balance with each other. Yes I agree the common card has been pretty well nerfed in more recent sets (except in specific examples like Gary who dominated with MBC for a while and of course Treasure Cruise (yikes!).) But banning specific legacy cards hoping that this will fix the brokeness of the older commons as a group is a vain one. Others will gain supremacy as has been repeatedly shown. What bans are good for is keeping the uber commons from being the only options for reasonable play and for breaking up trends where the only tournament decks played include the offending card(s). Even if there are great answers to those cards if everyone is playing the same thing, WOTC has shown it will step in and make bans. Sometimes that cripple the archetype (Birthing Pod in Modern and yes I am still bitter about this :)), sometimes that just make it less popular (Storm in any format).

As to budget building in pauper well yeah. You can pay through the nose for some commons. Daze on MTGO comes to mind in particular at 21.03 per non foil version. And there are other outliers. Sometimes it has to do with rarity of set (MM was poorly drafted as a cycle and Nemesis was even less drafted.) Interestingly Daze in paper is 1/7th the online price (which is still 3x the price of your deck.) So sometimes the oddity of MTGO economics works the other way around. And still there will be expensive cards.

Diabolic Edict was very expensive for a long time online as was Rancor (before UL was released online). Armadillo Cloak was super pricy a few years ago. Now it is .04 of a tix. That said, part of the reason why cards are pricy is that they become pricy when the deck they are in is highly favored. Even if it isn't good, if people love it (Birthing Pod was like this forever) the price of its cards will sky rocket and dealers will be loath to drop prices just because a deck recently goes out of favor. This leads to a perpetual "Elite" class of cards regardless of commonality.

Finding how to enjoy the format(s) with the budget you have is part of the challenge. Sounds to me like you've solved that at least partially.