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By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 07 2011 1:04am
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I. Introduction

Welcome to another special edition of Standard Pauper Deck Tech. This series, which originally ran during Season 9 of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, took the winning decklist from each week's tournament and offered an analysis of the components, a quick run-down of the deck's strategy and Sideboard, and a video-cast of a sample match showcasing the deck. While it was quite time-consuming to prepare that level of information each and every week, it was also one of my greatest successes as a writer, and one that I hope to repeat in an upcoming season of MPDC. But for now, this article will offer my readers a similar depth of information on what has become the stand-out deck of Season 14 of MPDC - Monochrome Midrager, which I affectionately have nicknamed Hawks!.

As always in my articles, let me remind you that the goal of this series is to highlight relevant information about the Standard Pauper format from the results of 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 / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. Season 14 is quickly drawing to a close, and with the release of Innistrad and the rotation of the Standard format, this upcoming season would be a great chance to experience the spectacular format that is Standard Pauper.

At least to me, Hawks! is a decklist with a fascinating backstory, combining the midrange power of a perennial Standard Pauper archetype - BW Control - with three of the most potent card-advantage engines in the current metagame - Kor Skyfisher, Squadron Hawk, and Glint Hawk. Before looking at the decklist itself, it is worth a quick detour to take a closer look at these elements and how their presence in the metagame gave rise to this particular decklist.

II. Historical Perspective

Although largely absent from the metagame over the past few months, for a time BW Control was an important presence in Standard Pauper. Prior to the release of Scars of Mirrodin, BW Control lists had several Top 8 appearances, including at least three 1st place finishes during Season 8 and 9 of MPDC, including this list run by Mikkelinski. Despite its control moniker, this archetype has always been more of a mid-range deck, lacking enough card-draw to have the same level of inevitability that usually characterizes Control archetypes in Standard Pauper. Essentially, the deck relied upon powerful creatures (Kor SkyfisherKor Sanctifiers, Crypt Ripper) along with a large suite of removal (including the best reason to play the deck - Tendrils of Corruption), and significant Graveyard recursion (Gravedigger and Cadaver Imp). Interestingly enough, once Alara Block rotated out of Standard, most of the deck's components where still present, allowing it to see continued play, although never to the same level of success. More recent appearances include this Top 8 finish in MPDC 12.09 by diamonddawg and this more interesting variant by olstyn that placed in Top 4 in MPDC 13.02. However, it would take the addition of an innocuous looking card from Scars of Mirrodin to revitalize this archetype.

Back in Season 13 of MPDC, in a metagame that was dramatically skewed towards Infect, a new decklist emerged that came to be known as Metalhawk, which was a RW Aggro deck that took advantage of playing a high number of artifacts, allowing youto reliably get Glint Hawk onto the Battlefield early and simultaneously achieve card-advantage by comboing with Ichor Wellspring or Prophetic Prism. The result was a fairly effective decklist, which I covered in my previous Standard Pauper Deck Tech, located here. While Metalhawk continues to be an effective choice, the inclusion of the combination of Glint Hawk + Prophetic Prism/Ichor Wellspring  in a more aggressive-style deck limited the player's ability to take full advantage of it. So, it seems quite natural that this particular combination found a much better fit in an archetype that could provide such an advantage - BW Control. And thus it was that Monochrome Midranger made its first appearance, piloted to a Top 4 finish by Yantos in MPDC 14.03.

III. The Decklist

Monochromatic Midranger
by Yantos
4 Glint Hawk
4 Gravedigger
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Squadron Hawk
3 Kor Sanctifiers
3 Pith Driller
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Doom Blade
4 Prophetic Prism
3 Sylvok Lifestaff
11 cards
10 Plains
7 Swamp
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Kabira Crossroads
2 Terramorphic Expanse
23 cards

Pith Driller

IV. Deck Strategies

Like most midrange style decks, Hawks! can easily switch between an Aggro or Control strategy, depending on the numerous factors that play out in any given game. One could easily curve out into an aggressive start with a Turn 2 Squadron Hawk, followed up with a Turn 3 Prophetic Prism bounced with a Glint Hawk, and followed on Turn 4 by another pair of Squadron Hawks, a replayed Prophetic Prism bounced by Kor Skyfisher, a cast and equipped Sylvok Lifestaff in conjunction with another Hawk, or even a Pith Driller to take out an opponent's creature. On the other hand, one can also take a longer game approach, saving one's Glint Hawks and Kor Skyfishers to play and replay Prophetic Prism and relying upon Phyrexian Rager both for early defense and additional card advantage. Such a strategy usually needs to be tied to trading off your creatures while they are equipped with the Lifestaff, giving you sufficient lifegain to keep your head above water long enough for you to survive your opponent's early barrage and put your extra cards to their best use.

A few other points are worth keeping in mind. First, while Prophetic Prism is certainly your Artifact of choice for bringing Glint Hawks onto the virtual Battlefield, Pith Driller is another excellent choice, even if your opponent's board lacks a one Toughness creature. Reducing a Kor Skyfisher down to a 1/2 is almost as effective as killing it, assuming your opponent lacks the ability or the time to bounce it back to his or her hand. Second, although once relegated primarily to the Sideboard, Kor Sanctifiers is surprisingly good in the current metagame, especially in the mirror. Typically your best target is an opponent's Sylvok Lifestaff, preventing them from getting any advantage from trading off creatures and slowing down their offense much more than one would think given the relatively tiny boost in Power from the staff. For mirror matches, however, one might also consider Prophetic Prism as an alternative target for the trigger. As I can personally attest to, destroying an opponent's Prophetic Prism on Turn 4 can completely shut down his or her card advantage engine, and at times even lock additional Glint Hawks in his or her hand. Finally, when all else has been played out, keep in mind all of the options at your disposal from the bounce ability of Kor Skyfisher. One can bounce a Kabira Crossroads to squeeze in a few extra points of much needed Life, bounce a Kor Sanctifiers to take out an additional artifact, gain further card-advantage off Phyrexian Rager, or play and immediately bounce back Gravedigger, potentially creating a virtual lock-out on your opponent, where any creature killed is immediately recycled and brought back to the virtual Battlefield.

V. Tweaking the Decklist

Although the initial decklist from Yantos was solid, I saw several tweaks that I believed would bring significant improvements:

1. Perhaps the most glaring omission from the original list was not including at least two Bojuka Bogs in the Main. Given the sheer amount of Graveyard recursion that is played in Standard Pauper (6 out of the Top 8 in MPDC 14.06 included Gravedigger), this ETB tapped Land from Worldwake seems like it should be an auto-include. In fact, I would argue that this is a better answer to Graveyard recursion than Nihil Spellbomb, simply because as a Land it doesn't take up any spell slots. While a significant number of these ETB tapped Lands can slow down the decklist, Hawks! has a low enough curve that this factor rarely makes a significant difference. And even better, since the deck only relies upon two colors, the addition of these Lands doesn't negatively impact the mana base of the deck the way that this card does in some of the three and four color decks that also include it.

2. Another minor weakness that I saw with the original decklist was its small number of slots devoted to removal. One of the hallmarks of the typical BW Control lists was a reliance upon a large number of removal spells to keep the opponent's side of the virtual Battlefield clear. While Doom Blade continues to be the removal spell of choice for any decklist that can run it, its inability to deal with Black cards has become an increasing liability of late in Standard Pauper, given the resurgence of Black creatures in the metagame. Grasp of Darkness seems the perfect solution to both problems. With only a few notable exceptions (Gorehorn Minotaurs and Ulamog's Crusher come immediately to mind), Grasp is strong enough to take out almost any creature in the metagame, and even gets around any Regeneration effects. While its  casting cost does have implications for the deck's mana base, the inclusion of four Prophetic Prisms means that this is rarely an issue. While lacking enough room for another playset, it seemed prudent to add a few copies to my final list.

3. While including Bojuka Bog goes a long way towards countering Graveyard recursion strategies, against certain decks it only makes sense to include further hate to stop any such tricks before they can get going. For this reason I went ahead and included a couple Nihil Spellbombs in the Sideboard of my list. For the most part, I believe these should be brought in only against other heavy Black decks, which currently includes Mono Black and other BW Midranger decks. As a minor bonus, this spellbomb actually fits well into the deck's existing synergies. First, it's an early Artifact that can enable a Turn 2 Glint Hawk, for a strong, aggressive start. Second, it can simply be cycled in a pinch, giving you one additional draw to find that desperately needed Lifegain or removal spell to keep you in the game for another round. While certainly not a great card, sometimes specific strategies demand special answers.

4. There are two other cards that I believe would be strong additions to the Sideboard. First, Ruthless Invasion is surprisingly effective against other Control decks, allowing you to smash in for a surprising Alpha Strike once you've built up an effective board presence. While Falter-style effects are not typically good in Standard Pauper, the sheer number of creatures in this deck makes it a worthwhile option to Sideboard into. Second, Vendetta is an often-forgotten answer against a specific decklist: Infect. While not a major presence in the metagame right now, Vendetta is the perfect cheap removal spell, allowing you to get off multiple removal spells in a turn to get around whatever answer your opponent is holding in hand. And, of course, the loss of life is meaningless when your opponent can only give you Poison Counters!

If I were to run this decklist in a tournament today, this is what my list would include:


VI. The Match


VII. Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this Standard Pauper Deck Tech on this unique decklist. In closing, let me remind you that 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. You can also now follow me on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. 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 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!

VIII. Bonus Content

Over a year ago, I completed a massive primer on Monday Pauper Deck Challenge with the intent of providing a step-by-step guide for new players wanting to participate in this weekly tournament. If you've ever wondered what participation in a Pauper Tournament is like, or specifically what it takes to participate in MPDC, this would be an excellent place to find that information. Included in the article are also several tips and tricks that may even benefit others who have participated in such an event before. Intrigued? Then check out the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge New Player Primer! Enjoy.


Awesome as usual. :) by PiDave at Fri, 10/07/2011 - 03:57
PiDave's picture

Awesome as usual. :)

Great article by Yantos at Fri, 10/07/2011 - 05:53
Yantos's picture

Great article! Always good to get a perspective on the deck from an experienced player :)

After the first tourney it was obvious the deck needed some graveyard hate but I never liked Bojuka Bog. The deck usually utilizes all the mana it gets so I was never able to slowroll the land to a point when its ability was needed.

Also wanted to add that Shrivel has been great against Infect decks (besides being awesome vs tokens). It kills a majority of their creatures and/or makes opponents use valuable pump spells to survive during my turn. Best sideboard card so far :)

Keep up the great work!