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By: Copperfield, Colin Abele
Sep 10 2010 9:54am
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Welcome, Standard Pauper mages, to the first edition of what I hope will be a comprehensive bi-weekly update of our favorite metagame. Standard & Pauper will model itself off a more serious publication that tracks market data, but instead of stocks and bonds, we're keeping track of decks and metagame shifts here.  This article itself is a cross-post from where it first appeared on PDC Magic.

At PDC Magic, there are two player-run events for Standard each week.  The SPDC series is currently in it's 14th season, and MPDC has hit double digits in series ten.  Both series are great fun to play in, and can be both challenging for the veteran competitor and friendly to those just getting their feet wet.  The current seasons began just a few weeks ago, and saw Magic 2011 rotate in while retaining all cards from Alara block onward.  Thus, this seasons end will see the final state of ALA-ZEN Standard.

Here, we'll track that maturing process.  Each update will see a Top Story where the biggest changes will be commented on.  A Side Story will mention that second-most-important-thing-of-note that doesn't quite make it to the top of the conversation, but is still worth mentioning.  At the end, I'll toss in an Editorial Page where I'll briefly share my own opinions, but also turn the forums over to you for your thoughts.

That's the dressing, but the meat and potatoes of these articles will be the Common Stock Index, your Standard & Poor's style ranking of what decks are winning and your summary of the metagame's shift in the past weeks.  We'll keep track of how many medals and entries have been won for as many varieties of deck archetypes as possible, so you'll be able to see at-a-glance what you might expect after you type "reg" in the next MPDC or SPDC tournament.

If this sounds like fun, let's get started!  For our first issue, I've compiled the Gatherling data from the past three weeks just to get us started.  Hence, here's our top stories and deck rankings for the Standard metagame since M11 dropped on MTGO:

Standard & Pauper

Volume 1, Issue 1: 06 September 2010

Top Story: Squadron Hawks Leads M11 Air Invasion

Magic 2011 was released on Magic Online last month, and so far the clear metagame-changing powerhouse common in that set has been Squadron Hawk At 1W a simple 1/1 flying creature usually isn't enough to shake things up, but since one of these can tutor for the other three for free, the card's power in Standard has quickly revealed itself. 

Since rotating in, three of the past six gold medal winning decks have included this card as a key strategic piece.  A deck called A Squadron of Hawks won the first Standard event in which M11 was legal; the most recent update to this strategy used the white Soul Sisters to bolster it's life total at the same time it was building up it's army of fliers and tokens; and in between an Ugly-influenced list called Hawkeye took the top spot.  Thus, Squadron Hawks have already proven both powerful and popular.

Some groundwork was necessary for the birds' success.  Prior data from the RoE season shows that a metagame inundated with a variety of successful tokens decks thanks to numerous token generators and finishers in the most recent expansion set.  So it should come as no surprise that a card that essentially draws you three free little dudes has found a home in decks that win by getting lots of free little out to abuse.  The linked-to thread on tokens in the Standard forums reveals that the topic of both building and dealing with tokens decks has been and remains a hot topic among Standard paupers today.

By looking at last season's data therein and comparing it to the beginning of this season, a start metagame shift in the tokens archetype becomes clear: GW varieties, with or without the Soul Sisters, have replaced the URG Shared Discovery decks as the most dominant approach to the strategy.  In fact, the RG Raid Bombardment builds of old have almost completely dissappeared, replaced by what our Side Story shows is an obvious successor...

Side Story: Standard Becomes a Selesnya Sanctuary

Ravnica block may be long gone (and still ruled by Parlor Tricks...this week's APDC Block Tournament saw a mirror match in the finals) but the Green-White Selesnya guild is far and away the most popular color choice in M11 Standard.

This conclusion comes as a result of several factors coming together.  As mentioned above, the color pairing has become the most popular combination in the dominating Tokens variants.  But this is only part and partial to the guild's success: the other half of its wins and true fielding of force is the continued popularity of Exalted Army.

In fact, the numbers show that GW Exalted has been entered in Standard more than any other deck, more than all tokens varieties combined and the second-most entered style, WUB Esper.  Add a a few entries of Trampletoes, Aura Gnarlid, and just generally efficient Bears builds, and Selesnya in general reaches nearly twenty entries and posts close to a 50% ratio of making the cut after the Swiss.

Editorial: One Life To Live Reruns Suck

Speaking of 50%, this has been the threshold for white's presence alone in Standard: each event has been at least 50% white.  At it's peak so far, white was 81% of decks reported at MPDC 10.03 included white cards.  Why?

Well, nearly each time, it was to include the life-gaining combo of Kor Skyfisher and either Lone Missionary or Kabira Crossroads, if not both.  Since Zendikar block dropped, the Skyfisher and the Crossroads itself proved strong enough to run in basically anything.  It's practically half the basis of the still-popular WB Control deck's life gaining sub-theme.

Since Zendikar, though, things have gotten worse.  Lone Missionary's addition to the triumvirate is resulting in very high life totals...and by extension, rather long matches in the MPDC and SPDC rounds.  With the a double Soul Warden strategy showing potency in the most popular colors and most popular archetype, life gain just went through the roof for this pauper.

As a lover of red magic myself, this makes my blood boil.  I cannot be alone: I've seen others chatting that Lone Missionary broke Standard, or that M11's Ajani's Mantra is the straw that broke the camel's back.  I'm itching at a card to blame for these 40-point life totals...who do you feel is the culprit?  Do you feel that there's too much life gain in Standard to begin with?  Sound off!

And if you share my sense of doom, the last SPDC did offer us a glimmer of hope.  A refreshingly simple Red Goblins Deck calling itself "Goblin Sleigh" won the day that night, packing over thirty little red dudes if you count the Dragon Fodder tokens, and nothing more but some of the most fantastic burn ever printed to back it up. 

So as long as one of these beasty boys is able to blaze through those pasty, wimpy Kor every once in a while, I'll temper my calls to ban something.  That's the way I see it.  What are your thoughts?

Before you share, take a gander at...

The Common Stock Index

Top Decks of the Standard Pauper Metagame

Top Tier: Tokens/Hawks and Green-White Aggro vs. White/Black Control

The top tier at this time can be described as included two overlapping families of decks.  GW Aggro decks, particularly Exalted Army, are the most entered decktype, and includes a Tokens/Hawks variety.  Similarly, the Esper shard and it's various incarnations are proving to be the most popular and successful control decks in the format.  It should be noted that two-colored Esper varieties, a WB Control variant in particular, also include the Hawks strategy.

GW Squadron Hawks    
1st Place x1; 2nd Place x1; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x 0

GW Soul Sisters
1st Place  x1; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x0

WBR Hawkeye
1st Place  x1; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x0

GW Exalted Army
1st Place  x1; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x5; Non-Placing x4

GW Green White Aggro
1st Place  x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x2; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

WUB New Face of Esper
1st Place  x1; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x2; Non-Placing x7

WB Black White Control
1st Place  x0; 2nd Place x2; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x3; Non-Placing x3

UB Blue Black Control
1st Place  x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x4

WU Blue White Control
1st Place  x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x2; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x1

Mid Tier: Red-based Aggro vs. Blue-based Control vs. Blue & Red Aggro-Control

While not a concrete family of decks, those decks that have performing at mid-level recently have generally included either Red or Blue as one of many colors and present a balanced mix of aggressive and controlling decks, with most being midrange combinations of both.  Mono-red is also here by extension, but as a rising force; the focus is on the shard-styles that are currently taking advantage of a metagame with access to an unprecedented number of fetchlands and rather efficient mana-fixing artifacts, most notably Prophetic Prism.  Also here are the tokens decks that have been bumped down a tier thanks to Squadron Hawks ascension.

R Goblins
1st Place x1; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x0

UR Izzet
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x1; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x2

WUBRG Rioters/Good Stuff
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x2; Non-Placing x1

WUBR New Face of America
1st: Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x2; Non-Placing x1

BR Blightning
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x4

BRG Jund
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x3

URG Tokens
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

GWU Bant Allies
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x1; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

GWU Bant Tokens
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x1

UBR Grixis
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x1; Non-Placing x1

Low Tier: Red and/or White-based Older Archetypes

These are some of the decks that were entered more than a couple times in the past few MPDC and SPDC tournaments, but didn't make the cut to top 8.  They are mostly a collection of decks that have been played in the past season and are either updated slightly or not at all.  Hence, we have strong evidence that the metagame has evolved from it's previous incarnation as the same old decks have not been surviving the new environment.  The decks do continue to influence the current makeup of Standard color-wise, however, as most run either the most popular color (white) for access to it's strong life gain, or the coolest color (red) thanks to the availability of some high quality burn spells, and several of these decks that come closest to making the cut include both.  Indeed, they form the push that makes Kor Skyfisher the most played creature in Standard and Lightning Bolt the most played non creature spell.

WBR Ugly
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x4

RWU America
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

RW Boros
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

R Burn
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

RGW Naya Landfall
1st Place x0;  2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

GWU Aura Gnarlid
1st Place x0; 2nd Place x0; Top 4 x0; Top 8 x0; Non-Placing x2

That completes our run-down!  These aren't all the decks you'll see, and the Gatherling data isn't quite at 100% input (don't forget to enter your decks!), but that's the most comprehensive picture I've got for you.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.  Look forward for another update in two weeks after a couple more MPDC and SPDC events have given us new data to track.  Please note that my comments regarding which colors are the best/worst are, erm, color commentary only :-)  Feel free to debate anything I said or left out...indeed, feel free to offer suggestion for future editions!  The two goals of this series is provide a place where information is both compiled and analyzed by and for the pauper community.  So have it at and stay tuned.




Is your photo supposed to by lenney at Fri, 09/10/2010 - 18:27
lenney's picture

Is your photo supposed to appear sideways? Great article!

Welcome to PureMTGO. Always by gwyned at Sat, 09/11/2010 - 16:55
gwyned's picture

Welcome to PureMTGO. Always great to see another Standard Pauper writer! Let's hope the format continues to grow in popularity!

Thanks, folks! by Copperfield at Sat, 09/11/2010 - 19:52
Copperfield's picture

Gwyned, your Deck Tech series last season was a big inspiration for this endeavor, especially when you mentioned your schedule might be tighter this go round. Glad you can keep hosting the MPDC series!

And lenney...I'm going to have to mention something about your Standard MBC build that reached the finals! Also, the pic is actually upsdie down :-)