Copperfield's picture
By: Copperfield, Colin Abele
Dec 02 2013 12:10pm
Login to post comments


Cabel's STANDARD & PAUPER on PureMTGO - December 2013 - Vol. III No. 1 - Early THEROS Season

Welcome to Standard & Pauper, the monthly online magazine dedicated to competitive Standard Pauper.  This is where  we will put the Standard Pauper metagame and MPDC PRE series under the microscope with easy-to-read and entertaining analysis and commentary.  All available Standard Pauper metagame data and discussion will be considered. Standard & Pauper is brought to you by Cabel the Pauper and Pure MTGO.

The Top Story: 


Crypt Incursion Psychic Strike Pilfered Plans Grisly Spectacle

The new season of Standard Pauper in a post-Theros world presents players with one of the most unique, interesting, eclectic early metagames in the history of the format.  If you have been paying Standard Pauper actively, you have likely come across a Blue & Black deck that seems to do nothing but counter every spell you cast. And kill every creature you summon to the battlefield. And draw extra cards every other turn.  And then proceeds to win when you have exactly zero cards in your library.  Or by dozens of swings from a lone Archaeomancer. 

Fun times!

 The deck first debuted at the second event of the season with Adner's Dimir Slow Mill.  Many originally thought such a thing was a fluke.  They believed their thoughts were confirmed in the next event when four follow-up entrants failed to make the cut.  But Mundisv decided to give it another shot and went on to win the next three events in a row, most recently with this build:

UB Dimir Mill
1st Place by Mundisv in MPDC 23.06 (6-1) 25 Nov 2013
4 cards

Other Spells
Devour Flesh
Essence Scatter
Grisly Spectacle
4 Pharika's Cure
Pilfered Plans
Psychic Strike
3 Thassa's Bounty
Crypt Incursion
Tome Scour
25 cards

Dimir Guildgate
24 cards

Tome Scour

There is really not much to tell about the deck beyond its storied performance.  One of the many unique things I like about this build is that it's a "what you see is what you get" deck.  It's nothing but counter spells, removal spells, and draw spells.  And some of these have just enough mill attached to them to make a difference in the very, very long game.  The only creatures are Archaeomancer and the only other card worth mentioning is Crypt Incursion.  You only need to play with or against the deck once to find out how long Dimir Mill last live against even the meanest aggro decks thanks to Crypt. 

Oh, and in the sideboard, there are even more stock control instants and sorceries.  Plus an extra copy of  - you guessed it - Crypt Incursion!

 Beyond this brief introductory blub, I will resist the urge to fill up more webpages with my own amateurish discussion.  That said, Dimir Mill has been talked about pretty much everywhere Standard Pauper gets talked about.  So instead of boring you by repeating all that's been said already, I'll gladly direct you to the many Dimir Mill articles written by other Standard Pauper writers and players.  It's a good idea to compile the information at this time given how influential the deck has become one of the most talked-about decks ever in the format.

Here is the  full round-up of the best Dimir Mill articles currently available.  To start, the host of the MPDC series himself, gwyned, has written most extensively about Dimir Mill on his blog, Writer Adept, and right here on PureMTGO.  

First, he has a basic run-down of what's in the deck and how it plays:  WRITER ADEPT: Dimir Mill.  Then, some strategies and tips for defeating the deck:  WRITER ADEPT: Beating Dimir Mill.  Next, an examination of other avenues the deck might pursue:  WRITER ADEPT: Options for Dimir Mill.  And finally, another article on defeating this menace:   PURE MTGO: Taking Down Dimir Mill.

Following his impressive winning streak, MundisV offered his own thoughts on recent tweaks and approaches in this piece on the Standard Pauper Players blog:  STANDARD PAUPER PLAYERS BLOG: Beating Dimir Beaters

 As always, Standard Pauper enthusiasts should frequently visit the format forums on, still the community that keeps Monday Pauper Deck Challenge running and the format alive after so many years.  There are already two threads for discussion Dimir Mill compared to an average of...uh... none for the rest of the decks.  So whether you're here to master the format or get a new feel for it, you should at least checkout the chatter.  You should consider adding your own thoughts to the ongoing dialogue as well!  

At PDC Magic, you can find discussion of the deck in general at PDCMAGIC FORUMS / STANDARD: Deck Archetype.  You can even get in on the (premature) chatter regarding key cards to neuter at the PDCMAGIC FORUMS / STANDARD: Ban-Hammer thread.

I hope you enjoy reading these articles and threads as much as I have.  They examine the deck from every conceivable angle, and might well be worth future reference if the archetype sticks around.  Which I am sure it will!  Hopefully you don't find Dimir Mill too annoying or infuriating because it does look as though the deck will be around for a long, long time.  I see this as both a good thing and a bad thing (and kind of ugly) but in the end, I'm kind of glad it's happened.  I'll elaborate on this in the upcoming Editorial Page.
Before we got to that, let's first take stock of the numbers the early Theros season has presented us.
First, we have the Top 8 Decks of the Standard Pauper format.  Following that will be our analysis of all decks of the metagame combined along with a check on the balance between aggro and control archetypes.  As always, my commentary will continue and an extra bonus chart is more than likely.
 Standard Pauper TOP 8 DECKS - Early Theros Season
DIMIR MILL 4       9 4 / 13 (31%)
MONO BLACK 1 1 4 7 11 13 / 24 (54%)
BOROS AGGRO 1   1 2 7 4 / 11 (36%)
Aura / Hexproof   2   2 8 4 / 12 (33%)
ORZHOV   1 3 3 10 7 / 17 (41%)
MONO RED   1   2 7 3 / 10 (30%)
BG "Bad Touch"   1   1 3 2 / 5 (40%)
AZORIUS       1 5 1 / 6 (17%)

I couldn't make this stuff up if it I tried! A control mill deck at the top of the early season in Standard Pauper?? And the "color" black in first position while a full multi-color block is in print??  Now I'd have to be a gifted dreamer and MTG prophet to have foretold this list of Top 8 Decks in the early Theros season of the competitive Standard Pauper metagame.  I guess I just can't predict stuff before it happens, but I'm not too bad at examining stuff that has already happened.

Recognizing this personal paradox, I won't try to predict the future too much in this series.  As for Dimir Mill,  we'll have to wait  (and you'll have to check back next month.) to see if the dreaded control/mill strategy-at-large continues its historic winning streak.  All the while, gnawing at its heels, two other black-based control decks are nearest to dethroning it once and for all.   In any case, Standard & Pauper will continue to update the above table cumulatively each issue, with data mined straight from PDCMagic's own Gatherling. 

Next, I am pleased to announce that - in keeping with the holiday season all year  - Standard & Pauper will also have pie every month....
Two full helpings of PIE!!

Standard Pauper - DECKS & ARCHETYPES - Early THEROS Season

Expanding on  the Top 8 Decks data, the first pie compares ALL the types of decks entered EVERY time that deck was entered, if even once.  This should give a good idea of the variety of decks one can imagine facing in the Swiss rounds of MPDC, but I've still emphasized the four most entered decks.  This somewhat mirrors our Aggro-Control wheel this week, and it reveals a more balanced meta than one would realize what with all this uproar about slow mill decks.
For our fourth and final Bonus Graphic of the Month, I will select another interesting and/or influential Standard Pauper metagame statistic to chart.  For the inaugural edition of the re-booted series, I'll keep things as simple as possible and just  go with balance between the five colors.  PDC Magic's Gatherling keeps track of the  percentage of decks running at least one card of each color.. Above we see this data is telling us  that devotion to black has been very strong of late.   
That's all for taking stock of the metagame through visualized data summaries. Check back next month and we'll to see if any shifts develop with even more tables, charts, and graphs.  Coming up next...
The Side Story!
There's Enchantments EVERYWHERE in Standard Pauper These Days!
I will likely start to track the Top 8 Cards next month for the bonus chart.  But it's too early yet  to commit.  Things can always change quickly.  However, if I were to compile a list of cards, I'm sure some of the Enchantment-themed cards shown above would be contenders. If one the main ideas of Theros from a design perspective is to have  "enchantments matter" - and if a key design principle is "if it doesn't work at common, it doesn't work" for the set's theme - then this theme and the set itself is a great success.  There are now more enchantments clogging up Standard Pauper battlefields than ever before.

The powerful Bestow mechanic is mostly responsible for this. But look at the culprits above again.  It's not Bestow they all have in common, nor even the Enchantment card type.  Nope.  Once again, stupid, boring White is the problem!
One of the names I've decided to track some of the decks of the metagame under is Aura/Hexproof.  You can see them represented on the Top 8 Decks table and Decks of the Meta Pie this week.  These decks all vary in many ways, from color combinations to aggro, midrange, and control approaches.  But pretty much all of the have some white for these key concept enablers, from Bant Hexproof to Selesnya Auras  and Bestow Junk.
Here is a good recent example of a deck using both the Aura and Hexproof approaches, and doing rather well with both:
BANT Auras / Hexproof
2nd Place by beatnik bobby in MPDC 23.05 (4-2) 18 Nov 2013
4 Gatecreeper Vine
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Saruli Gatekeepers
3 Centaur Healer
2 Auramancer
2 Keening Apparition
2 Rubbleback Rhino
21 cards

Other Spells
4 Hopeful Eidolon
4 Ethereal Armor
3 Celestial Flare
3 Forced Adaptation
2 Aqueous Form
2 Pacifism
1 Divine Favor
1 Last Thoughts
4 Unknown Shores
14 cards
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
2 Forest
2 Plains
16 cards

Yes, most Aura and Hexproof concepts revolve around Bestow as this mechanic is quite flexible and a good potential card advantage resource.  Hopeful Eidolon is the most popular and the lifelink bonus it grants is not to be underestimated.  As a one drop, he is nice for aggressive starts, and later he essentially counts as two lifelink beaters in one.  Auramancer further exploits this virtual card advantage with some absolute value of its own that exploits the new mechanic perfectly.  She's now a Gravedigger in addition to a Pacifism-recycling machine, and also presents a decent 2/2 body to enchant.
But the real source of any Aura-based decks' power today is Ethereal Armor.  Dropping an Eidolon on turn one and following up with one of these often creates the one of the most difficult starts to recover from in the format.   This card is the corner stone when assembling the massive threat that Aura/Hexproof decks are looking to win with in a one or two big swings.  By filling out the deck with Pacifism, that trusty-yet-bland card now acts as additional pump while still taking care of just about any creature.  Other enchantment-based removal is available in black, most notably Stab Wound, and a few places in blue.  When first toying with this approach, I chose to rely on green Enchant Land cards for mana-fixing in order to increase Ethereal Armor counts and was pleased with the outcome...
I soon moved on to other decks, and most early Aura players did as well.  Hexproof players took notice of their ideas, though, and adopted many of the same new cards and strategies.  As such, I will still group them together until there is a more specific split.  I can easily see the Aura strategy being applied to established archetypes, such as Boros or Orzhov, or spicing up decks that are in the low-to-mid tier like Red Decks or the Pump builds.
Even though that hasn't happened yet and Auras aren't that big a slice of the metagame, that final Keening Apparition up there deserves mention.  This ghost is probably one of the most popular sideboard cards around, perfect for both running and dealing with enchantments.  Which are everywhere and can be very threatening.  Black, as I mentioned, has Stab Wound to nullify your threat while being one on its own.  Red's Madcap Skills plays a pivotal role in Boros and Red Decks and has an under-utilized array of aggressive auras.
Enchantments are populating the Standard Pauper format like never before.  Being able to blow them up reliably is a good idea to keep in mind when building decks in this environment. Keening Apparition will likely be a top sideboard choice, and many are suggesting that enchantment hate is maid deck material now.  Even if they are not the biggest thing going in the format, no other development is more worthy of mentioning in our first Side Story this season.
Dimir Mill: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Well, I am as surprised as you probably are.  A new block gets started and after the big rotation when we all expect aggro to shape things, a control deck shows up.  And it doesn't just win, but it does so as slowly and methodically as a late-season control deck would.  Even more so!  So I believe that any negative reaction to Dimir Mill has to do with our expectations of where the metagame should be right now.  It might even be good for Standard Pauper, not bad...

...even if can get pretty ugly.

Consider first the history of the format:  Very few Mill decks have ever won a tournament or even come close in Standard Pauper's history.  Those that did were more often the pet decks of their designers, and, along with them, their circle of playtesters and a few folks who just have to try everything.  Like me!

So I gave the Dimir Mill deck a run while also checking out the history of mill strategies in Standard Pauper.  On a historical note, I have not been able to find any comparable example of a Mill deck winning so often and becoming so widely adopted by such a sizable slice of the player-base in Standard Pauper history. .  It's also a rarity that mill decks receive more than passing mention in the greater Standard Pauper web-ring.  Dimir Mill is clearly one of the most successful and talked-about decks in Format History.

All this is nothing but a good thing.  We have a uniquely historic deck on our hands.  If it continues to do well the rest of the season - indeed, it may have last until the Ravnica block rotates - then it will definitely be remembered as one of the great decks of Standard Pauper history.

The bad part of this is...why'd it have to be this thing, anyway?  I won't get whiny, but I did attempt to play the thing and could not seem to match the winning results the deck has posted.  It makes me feel like a bad player when I lose.  It makes me feel plain old bad when I have to play against it.  And it makes me feel bad just countering and killing things all the time.  And I can tell it makes at least a few others feel bad, too. 

And that's the ugly truth that Dimir Mill reveals, I think, because we can both respect and detest this thing at the same time.  Or at least that seems like the least ugly perspective to take if being a better Standard Pauper player and winning the tourney is the idea.  And if we want to stick to this format, we may not have a choice.  Because like it or not, if you want to start playing Standard Pauper seriously, you are going to have to face - and play - Dimir Mill.  Some folks like it, some folks don't, and that's not Dimir Mill's fault. It's just because there's different types of players, even in a small niche format like Standard Pauper. 

Which, despite being played with only commons from the Standard card pool - by far the most inexpensive competitive format you can play on MTGO - there is a freaking MILL deck that's been winning in the EARLY season!  If our favorite format is capable of something like that in the present, just think of what might be possible in the future. 

So partly because of Dimir Mill and partly in spite of it, it's a good time to be a Standard Pauper player.  There's more to think and write about than meets the eye.  And there's more matches to play, too!  So I'm off.  Thanks for reading Standard & Pauper.  See you next month.  Peace,



Wow, I do admire your energy, by JMason at Mon, 12/02/2013 - 17:46
JMason's picture

Wow, I do admire your energy, there's masses of detail to absorb here.
Can you possibly find a way to make the points on the color chart match the colors - following red for green and green for red gets a bit confusing.

Thanks JMason by Copperfield at Mon, 12/02/2013 - 18:42
Copperfield's picture

Glad you liked the article. The points on the color line graph bothered me, too, I was able to get the lines themselves to correspond with the colors, I'll have time to figure out how get the points to match. That and a couple other general formatting problems I see should be taken care of in January :-)

This is just my opinion, but by MarcosPMA at Mon, 12/02/2013 - 21:04
MarcosPMA's picture

This is just my opinion, but I feel that the Dimir Mill deck excels because it offer the pilot a lot of 1 for 1 answers in a format where a lot of your opponents can only drop 1 creature per turn. In Standard/Standard Silverblack, there are enough good creatures where you can overwhelm the control player easily by going 1 drop, 1 drop 1 drop, or 1 drop, BTE BTE etc, and make the 1 for 1 removal too slow. The 1 for 1 removal isn't overly taxed because the mill will get rid of problematic cards in addition to keeping you alive, and then Crypt Incursion just gets insane late game. Other than the Dimir Mill deck having problematic draws, the only way to beat it is to present more than 1 threat at a time. Token generating cards or a swarm strategy would work best. Other than the mirror, no control deck can actually win (unless you go into sideboard tech) since Dimir Mill will always take the control role in that matchup, and it's a role it does quite well.

TL;DR: Dimir Mill is good.

Great article btw!

Valuable Opinion by Copperfield at Tue, 12/03/2013 - 11:22
Copperfield's picture

Thanks, that sort of analysis from the perspective of a higher-rarity format is very valuable. This gives us another generality of the format we can consider each season and some specifics about how Dimir Mill works this time. Glad you liked!

Just want to note for all other readers, I am currently maintaining a pretty much daily blog about pretty much only Standard Pauper: Hope you enjoy that, too!