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By: gwyned, gwyned
Nov 15 2010 1:46am
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I. Introduction

As I mentioned in my previous articles, the goal of this series is to highlight winning decklists from Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, commonly referred to as MPDC. 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 EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. With a brand new season beginning soon, now is the perfect time for newcomers to get their first taste of Standard Pauper.

This week I am bringing you something a little bit different - my own version of the popular Star Spangled Beats deck which I piloted to a 2nd place finish in the recent MPDC Season 10 Worlds. Due to the time constraints of hosting the event, not to mention the horrible effects that a prolonged experience with the MTGO client creates on my hardware, I was unable to do a live video-vast of any of my matches. Instead, in this edition I want to bring you a retrospective look back at one of my more interesting matches - a mirror match against a similar America-style list. But first, I want to review my thought process in revising the original Star Spangled Beats deck, which proved to be one of the strongest decklists of the season. So before you get started, check out the version linked above.

II. The Decklist

A. Revising the Decklist

For the most part, the original Star Spangled Beats was already a strong list, making use of some of the best creatures and spells available in Standard Pauper. However, given the metagame going into Worlds, there were a few important tweaks that I believed would make a big difference in the overall performance of the deck. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The first change was to completely remove Deft Duelist from the list. For most of my Standard Pauper experience (which began around the release of Shards of Alara), this card was a strong reason to play Blue/White. While a 2/1 is nothing impressive, the combination of First Strike and Shroud was amazing, making this rogue a formidable weapon on both offense and defense. However, this was before the rise of Calcite Snapper and Sea Gate Oracle into the metagame, both of whom can profitably block Deft Duelist and serve similar roles in both offense and defense. Additionally, the rise of token-based strategies meant that most decks were including Seismic Shudder or Shrivel in their Sideboard arsenal, further weakening Deft Duelist. Given those realities, this once formidable asset had become a virtual liability, and thus had to go.

2. This shift allowed the inclusion of what proved to be one of the strongest cards in the metagame: Halimar Wavewatch. This assessment may strike some as strange, so allow me to explain. Over the last season, Black had mostly become the odd color out, removing Black removal from the equation. Additionally, Blue was present in the majority of winning decklists. As a 0/6 for 4 mana, this merfolk soldier was thus not only very difficult to kill (requiring a 2-for-1 from your opponent), but also served as a powerful late-game mana sink, leveling up to a formidable 6/6 with Islandwalk. Even the threat of leveling Halimar Wavewatch up to its full potential made it something of a lightning-rod, forcing opponents to either deal with it at some point or very quickly lose the game. Thus, while this card had made an appearance as a Sideboard option, I believed it was strong enough to move up into the Main.

3. Another strong option moved up from the Sideboard was Vithian Stinger. It has been interesting for me to see that Wizards has gradually pushed these "pingers" out of Common in recent sets, which is a testament to their overall strength. Furthermore, this card was particularly apt given the metagame going into Worlds. While decent against some token-style strategies, this gem really shines against one particular creature: Squadron Hawk, the surprise addition from Magic 2011. Since successfully resolving an early Squadron Hawk (and thus gaining the whole "squadron") was such an important part of the strategy of these America-style decks, it made perfect sense to include some specific hate against them, especially given the overall versatility of dealing 1 damage to target creature or player.

4. I also wanted to strengthen the mana base of the decklist. While generally the mana base was sufficient given some decent draws, my hope was that by including both Prophetic Prism and Rupture Spire as one-ofs, I would give myself a couple of additional outs in those instances of color-screw, something that happens all-too-often in Standard Pauper when attempting to leverage three different colors, especially when one needs access to all three more-or-less equally. I also dropped a single Kabira Crossroads, keeping the number of 'come into play tapped' lands the same and giving the decklist equal access to all three mana sources. Additionally, Prophetic Prism has the added bonus of being a great early bounce target for Kor Skyfisher, squeezing some extra value out of its virtual 'cycling' ability.

5. Next, with the changes I had made, I had to make some critical adjustments to the number of Creatures and Spells that the deck was running, as there simply wasn't room for playsets of all of the different assets I wanted to include. Minimizing the Vithian Stingers down to 2 was an easy choice. From there, I then made the somewhat more difficult decision to take out a single copy of both Lone Missionary and Halimar Wavewatch, leaving the decklist with a formidable 20 creatures. One last cut had to be made, and in the end I removed a copy of Foresee. Although very strong, Foresee is not the kind of card I like to have in my opener most games, and certainly seeing multiples of it early is typically not great. Reducing it down to 3 minimized both of these outcomes while still allowing me to find it mid to late game where it was strongest.

6. Finally, I reduced by one copy each Seismic Shudder, Into the Roil, and Relic of Progenitus in order to fit three copies of Negate into the Sideboard. While not a strong option, Negate has the advantage of allowing the list to deal with effects that it otherwise could not combat, including Raid Bombardment, Inspired Charge, and Fling (to mention a few) and had some marginal use to provide protection against removal, particularly in the case of Journey to Nowhere on a Leveled Halimar Wavewatch. In retrospect, I should have also cut the Calcite Snapper, as the Wavewatch fills a very similar purpose. Oblivion Ring would have been a much stronger choice, giving the deck additional outs against both Enchantments and high Toughness creatures, including rival Wavewatchers in the mirror and Ulamog's Crusher in Token-style decks.

B. Playing the Deck

America's End plays out like most Control decks, giving up time and early Life to generate both Card Advantage and a lock on the game-state, eventually allowing incremental advantage to build until it overwhelms your opponent. Sea Gate Oracle shines in this style of list, giving you both a strong defensive Creature and a combination of both card-filtering and card-draw, both of which are invaluable in Control. Lone Missionary works in a similar fashion, although the not-insignificant Lifegain is still secondary compared to the advantages of the Oracle. Along the same lines, viewing Squadron Hawk as Card Advantage seems somewhat counter-intuitive, as this weenie flyer seems better suited for a more aggressive deck. However, pulling all four hawks into your hand is a powerful move at any point in the match, allowing you to refill your hand virtually for free. Additionally, swinging in for three or four damage a turn with the whole squadron is both surprisingly effective and quite satisfying. Unfortunately, these hawks also tend to be ideal targets for an opponent's Staggershock, negating their virtual card advantage and overall effectiveness. Kor Skyfisher is also an important part of the deck. While its strongest use is bouncing and replaying Sea Gate Oracle for maximum card advantage, this soldier can hold back opposing fliers as well as mount a fairly effective offense all its own. However, all these creatures pale in comparison to Halimar Wavewatch, which becomes the most important card in the deck against any opponent with Islands. As a result, it is well worth your while to slow-roll this card until an opponent is tapped out to ensure that you can add that all important first level counter. And even against non-Blue mages, this merfolk excels as both early defense and a late-game finisher. Finally, the full suite of 12 burn spells gives the deck the reach it needs to finish off a weakened opponent. Indeed, almost every game won ends with an opponent on the receiving end of this "burn to the face."

The Sideboard is fairly intuitive and straightforward. Relic of Progenitus is the defacto counter against any and all Graveyard recursion, and one that will be sorely missed once the Shards of Alara block rotates out of Standard. Seismic Shudder is typically best against most Token-style decklists, although it can also be quite effective against Boros Landfall or even mirror America decks if the pilot is relying heavily upon Deft Duelist or Lone Missionary. Into the Roil might seem somewhat surprising, but the tempo gained by bouncing a fully leveled Halimar Wavewatch or an Ulamog's Crusher summoned through the sacrifice of multiple tokens is definitely worth the inclusion of this card. Both Negate and Calcite Snapper were mentioned above; while the former certainly has some use against certain strategies, the latter is only strong when as a substitute for the Wavewatch against non-Blue mages or against decks running an unusually high amount of Removal.

III. The Match

 Perhaps my biggest frustration in playing Control decks is the need to not miss Land-drops. Since you are already trading time and Life for eventual control, you really can't afford to also get behind on mana. I felt very fortunate to draw into not only my 3rd land, but also all 3 colors, by Round 3 here. Having 2 Sea Gate Oracles and 2 Kor Skyfishers early was very key to this game, boosting me to a very strong start. Foresee was just the icing on the cake, and I probably should have played it out earlier rather than getting the Vithian Stinger into play.

 At this point my opponent and I are more or less at parity, with decent positions on the virtual Battlefield, although as I noted my opponent was ahead in Card Advantage at that point. However, my opponent is soon able to push for a very significant advantage, and the fact that I draw multiple lands in a row at a critical juncture in the match does not help my chances of victory. Fortunately the combination of Kor Skyfisher and Lone Missionary off of a top-decked Foresee pulls me out of it, and coupled with yet another Foresee, even with a minor play mistake I am able to come back for the win.

 This game certainly demonstrates the strength of an early Squadron Hawk when your opponent doesn't have any defenses in the air. Although having two Staggershocks allows me to get rid of them, it comes at the cost of tempo, and my opponent simply is able to take advantage of that tempo swing to refill with multiple Foresees and multiple Sea Gate Oracles thanks to Kor Skyfisher, making my situation pretty desperate. Despite the fact that I don't feel that Calcite Snapper is that strong, here my opponent uses it to great effect against me, and eventually defeat is inevitable.

This game it was my turn to live the dream of the early combination of Lone Missionary, bounce it and replay with Kor Skyfisher, and gain some card advantage and tempo by means of Staggershock. The dream continues with getting multiple uses out of Sea Gate Oracle with additional Kor Skyfishers, and by mid game I am in a very strong game-state. Another factor that plays into almost any mirror-match is time, and in this game I did a good job of managing my clock to stay ahead of my opponent. Had I not been able to win quickly with two fully-leveled Wavewatchers, I might still have stolen a win through the clock.

IV. Conclusion

And with that, I conclude this special 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. Let me also extend a special thanks to all my fellow Standard Pauper players who have taken the time to thank me for these articles. I truly believe that Standard Pauper is an important format, at least for Magic Online, and I also enjoy the opportunity to meet new Standard Pauper players and help them jump into this format. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts, watch the videos, and comment on my articles. See you next time!


Another five-star entry. One by Copperfield at Tue, 11/16/2010 - 01:25
Copperfield's picture

Another five-star entry. One thing I'd like to point out is that even though this match was a replay of a game from before the Alara rotation, all the cards present are still Standard legal. So while I initially thought this would be "old news," it's still entirely relevant. Keep up the good work!

TheDandyFop's picture

During game 2 you should have sacrificed the fetchland pre-Foresee. That way you don't waste the card filtering. It is a small effect in this particular case since you only bottomed one land. That land is now randomly floating in your library however, instead of locked onto the bottom as something you may never draw. If you had a Foresee that revealed 4 lands, and you had bottomed them all, sacrificing your fetch after that would significantly hurt your future card quality.


Equipment. by TheDandyFop at Wed, 11/17/2010 - 13:15
TheDandyFop's picture

I was thinking about how a card like Bonesplitter would play out here. Most will not have a reasonable way to remove it main deck in this format. It can be bounced with Kor Skyfisher on turn 2, which is certainly useful to speed up your game. It upgrades all of your creatures into meaningful threats.

I am at this point a limited specialist of sorts(MTGO Draft Player of the Year 2010 - 18th place, MTGO Draft Player of t he Year 2009 - 2nd place). That said, I often found that cards like Sea-Gate Oracle in ROE limited, which is a format I achieved a high level of success in, would end up having a purely defensive role, protecting you while providing card advantage. In the late game the body would at some point often cease to be particularly meaningful. Against control builds in particular, it was very nice to have ways to enhance him with equipment to turn him into a meaningful attacker to add to my clock speed. Equipment on your guys, turning what would be fairly irrelevant bodies in the late game into one beatstick after another can tend to be a deciding factor.

To sum up, I suggest testing Bonesplitter as a reasonable 1 drop in a deck lacking in them, that will upgrade the card quality of any creature you have in play, doubling or tripling their clock speed and giving them the capacity to attack through or trade with larger creatures. Also, if you are on the play, t1 Bonesplitter, t2 Kor Skyfisher has got to be a strong line of play in this format. If your opponent is on a slow start the ability to go t3 Splitter/Equip bash, placing them on a 5 turn clock before they have done anything meaningful will lead to free wins combined with the direct damage angle of this deck.

I suggest testing 2-3 copies.

Thanks for writing.

DOH! by TheDandyFop at Wed, 11/17/2010 - 13:18
TheDandyFop's picture

-STANDARD- Pauper.

No Bonesplitters, boo-hoo. Oops. I have egg on my face. At least I realized it as soon as I submitted!

In that case may I suggest you consider testing adventuring gear? It'd be slightly less consistent, and would probably make you want to move to 8 fetches. Considering the manabase of this deck, that might not be so very bad.