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By: gwyned, gwyned
Aug 18 2010 12:21am
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I. Introduction

As I mentioned in my previous articles, the goal of this series is to highlight the winning decklist from each event in Monday Pauper Deck Challenge this season. MPDC is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EDT in the /join MPDC room. By the time this article goes to press, we will have just officially launched a new season of MPDC, so I encourage you to shuffle together your own virtual Standard Pauper deck and join the fun!

For this week, I am actually reviewing a list that was played by my featured opponent in the finals of MPDC 9.09, a list that krocan then brought back and successfully piloted to fame as the Champion of MPDC Season 9 Worlds. Although typically G/W decks have not been strong in the current Standard metagame (at least since Shield of the Oversoul rotated out), this aggressive deck relies upon a horde of creatures and very little removal to fight its way to victory, and in the process finally earned a top spot for a common with considerable potential, Aura Gnarlid, and managed to do so without a single Aura in the deck! So here's what the list consists of:

II. The Decklist

Compared to some of the complex 5 color control decks that saw play in Standard Pauper, Exalted Army is refreshingly simple. With 30 creatures in the Maindeck, and another 5 available in the Sideboard, it is clear that the overall strategy of the deck is to turn Creatures sideways to maraud across the virtual Battlefield turn after turn until your opponent's Life is reduced to zero. The exact mix of creatures, however, is worth some discussion, as there are several combinations that are particularly relevant. First, the deck runs 14 Creatures with the Exalted keyword, allowing one to pump up an attacking creature to increasingly larger size. This is most effective with Creatures with Evasion (such as the perennial favorite Kor Skyfisher but also Aven Squire), but also is surprisingly effective with Aura Gnarlid. Indeed, the inclusion of this unique critter is perhaps the genius of the deck, allowing one to finally take advantage of the Gnarlid's somewhat unusual form of Evasion without relying upon Auras, which generally are not great, even in Pauper.

Second, the Steppe Lynx combos well with the 6 Fetchlands including in the decklist, which otherwise would seem extreme for a list that is only running two colors. These can make this little kitty into a formidable monster, especially when you've got multiples of them on the Battlefield. Interestingly enough, the Exalted mechanic also helps make up for the inherent weakness of the Steppe Lynx, as even without a Land to trigger the Landfall one can simply swing in with it and take advantage of the boost without even risking a more important Creature.

Third, the Elvish Visionarys and Lone Missionarys create some needed card advantage. Obviously this is straight-forward with the Visionary, which replaces itself immediately while providing a simple 1/1, which while not typically valued as worth a single card, is still a nice bonus for such a low casting cost. In the case of the Lone Missionary, the card advantage comes from the value of gaining 4 Life, which again is decent value on the back of a 2/1 body. In fact, Lone Missionary has single-handedly been responsible for keeping most Red Deck Wins and Burn archetypes out of the top of the Standard Pauper metagame, even to the point where on multiple occasions I heard players only somewhat-jokingly complain that it should be banned. The fact that both of these can be reused thanks to the bounce effect of Kor Skyfisher also increases their value in this deck.

Finally, both the Qasali Pridemage and the Court Archers have a role to play in this deck. In addition to being a very solid Turn 2 play, the Pridemage is a decent choice against lists relying upon Artifacts and Enchantments, allowing you additional spots in your Sideboard thanks to the absence of dedicated Artifact/Enchantment hate. The Court Archers shine thanks to Reach, allowing them to block most of the pesky Flyers that are sprinkled throughout the metagame, especially the aforementioned Kor Skyfisher, which continues to be present in any deck that can run her. While the effect of these cards is somewhat minor, they still provide some needed advantage against particular archetypes.

Other than creatures, there is little else to speak of. Journey to Nowhere, coupled with the Oblivion Rings in the Sideboard, make for a nice Removal package against decklists that don't include ways of destroying them, but unfortunately such decks are increasingly rare. Naturalize, Solemn Offering, Qasali Pridemage, Kor Sanctifiers, and even Mold Shambler are popular Sideboard options, and as such the value of this Removal suite is less than stellar. Of course, given the aggressive starts Exalted Army is capable of, one could easily argue that an opponent is unlikely to have the time to draw such answers.

Similarly, I personally am not a fan of Sigil Blessing. If the effect wasn't annulled by destroying its main target, this would be quite the potent card indeed! As it is, however, it can be difficult to find the right spot to really get full use out of it. While it certainly can be used to sidestep Burn-style destruction, it really wants to be used in an all-out Alpha strike against an unwitting opponent. But lacking the situation where an opponent is tapped-out or lacks a method of dealing with high Toughness (boosted, of course, through the Exalted mechanic), all it takes is a well-timed Doom Blade or Lightning Bolt to wipe out its effectiveness.  Vines of Vastwood is a much stronger anti-Destruction card, and while equally vulnerable to a Destruction spell in response, seems to be the better choice. On the other hand, one can only run 4 Vines of Vastwood, so perhaps Sigil Blessing effectively serves as two additional pseudo-copies.

III. The Match

 Is an extra point of damage and adding a single Creature to the Battlefield better than adding two Creatures to the Battlefield? In the spot I mentioned, I still think I made the right decision. In any case, this definitely demonstrates the power of the Exalted mechanic, especially in combination with Landfall, to punch through with some damage pretty quickly. Of course, it helped that my opponent used his remaining mana to pop his Relic of Progenitus instead of bolting the Steppe Lynx, which is what I somewhat suspected would happen. This also shows another useful feature of the Kor Skyfisher: the ability to get a pseudo-Land drop and stretch an extra mana out of your available Lands.

Despite my clear advantage in both Life totals and position on the Battlefield, one should never underestimate the ability of a Control archetype to stabilize the position and prevent an Aggro deck from capitalizing on its early lead. Fortunately the combination of Fetchlands and Steppe Lynx was potent enough to push damage past even the formidable double Calcite Snapper and Sea Gate Oracle, clearing the Battlefield and allowing me to punch in for the win.

 I definitely love the simplicity of a two color deck consisting of spells that are all low casting cost, as it makes for a much clearer path to victory. Here you can see why Sigil Blessing can be awkward. It's pretty sub-par as an answer to Burn (especially when you have a lot of Creatures at your disposal), but with only a couple of Creatures in play at a time, it's hard to get much value out of it. Later on, I was pleased that I correctly responded to the puzzling attack from the Calcite Snapper, anticipating some sort of trick even though I had no idea what it might be. Unfortunately for my opponent, it did not proceed as he had intended...

Here I was definitely too greedy with the Sigil Blessing. Rather than waiting for the Akrasan Squire to rid itself of Summoning Sickness, I should have just gone for the extra 4 damage and put myself in a slightly better position for what was to come. My opponent was building up quite the Card Advantage, and proper play would have been to try and end the game as quickly as possible before that advantage became insurmountable. Instead, my opponent was able to slow me down considerably, and made the game much longer than needed.

IV. Conclusion

And with that, I conclude another edition of Standard Pauper Deck Tech. Just a reminder, if you would like a sneak peak at my content before it goes live here at, you can always browse over to, search for "gwyned42," select one of my video-casts, and click the Subscribe button. As far as my plans for the future go, it became clear to me over the course of the last season of MPDC that the pace of producing an article and the accompanying video-cast each week is more than I can probably keep up with realistically. I plan on continuing to host MPDC for the foreseeable future, and so I definitely intend to continue to produce similar content concerning Standard Pauper, but I would expect to publish somewhat less frequently, perhaps as much as twice a month. Also, if there are different approaches that you would enjoy reading regarding this format, please feel free to use the comments below for such suggestions. I hope these articles have helped you gain a better perspective of Standard Pauper and the way in which the metagame players out in this format, and that such perspective encourages you to join in this ever-increasing community of Standard Pauper players. Until next time...

V. Bonus Content

For those of you who follow what's happening in the world of Magic through Twitter, let me remind you that you can follow all of my own Magic activities as well. So head over to Twitter and add gwyned42 to your list of people you are following. In the days and weeks ahead, I'll post updates, add links to additional videos, and share my thoughts on my various MTGO pursuits, including Draft, Limited, and perhaps even some commentary live from MPDC.

Also, for those who missed it, here are the results from MPDC Season 9 Worlds. Check out the Top 8 Decklists, and get ready for Magic 2011 to shake up the metagame! Hope to see you across the virtual Battlefield soon.


I agree about Sigil Blessing by lenney at Wed, 08/18/2010 - 00:37
lenney's picture

I agree about Sigil Blessing and would add that this deck is begging to try Inspired Charge as a 2of.

Sigil Blessing by krocan at Wed, 08/18/2010 - 18:09
krocan's picture

Hi, Sigil Blessing is in this deck only for defense. I've always feared of Shrivel and Seismic Shudder. It's good to say that I had a lot of luck in final against SupergrooveRocks control deck.

Thank you gwyned for running MPDC I looking forward to next event ;-)