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By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 28 2011 11:15am
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I. Introducton

Now that Innistrad has finally been released on Magic Online, the time has come to discuss how the disappearance of Magic 2011 and Zendikar Block has profoundly impacted the Standard Pauper format. What only a few weeks ago was a thriving metagame with at least eight distinct and battle-proven choices has now been more or less gutted, leaving the format wide open for new contenders to emerge. Many of the cards that defined this format have been lost; several new cards have emerged that may, in time, shape the format around them. But clearly this new metagame will be distinctly different from what has come before. Thus, the purpose of this article is to take a sweeping overview of what has been lost within the format, highlight a few decks that have emerged with most of their pieces intact, and give some initial thoughts about which cards seem the most likely to define new decklists in this new metagame.

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. In many ways the format is now a blank canvas, creating a unique opportunity for newcomers to get their first taste of Standard Pauper and begin to add color and definition to this unique format.

So, let's start with a brief overview of what has been lost with the rotation of Standard.

II. What Has Been Lost

As the new metagame begins to take shape next week with the new seasons of MPDC and SPDC (which is the other weekly PRE featuring this format), one thing is for sure - it will look very different than what many of us are used to. Let's explore why:

1. Mana and color fixing has been greatly reduced.

One of the reasons that Control decks were so powerful in Standard Pauper recently is the plethora of fetchlands and color-fixing that were available to any deck. With eight Common Fetchlands plus Prophetic Prism, one could easily run a three or four color deck with very little concern about having the right mana at the right time. Without these options, it will be very difficult for any deck to even run three colors without at least including Green as a major part of the deck. More than likely mono-colored and two color decks will now be the norm.

2. There are very few options when it comes to card draw and/or card filtering.

Another reason that Control archetypes where so dominant is the presence of several powerful ways of drawing additional cards and filtering out unwanted cards from the top of the Library. Foresee was perhaps one of the most powerful cards in the metagame for its ability to do both, but cards like Preordain, Sea Gate OracleProphetic Prism, and even Squadron Hawk played their role as well. With this reduced presence comes the ability for more aggressive decks to emerge without having to worry about falling so quickly behind in card advantage.

3. There are fewer creatures with ETB effects and significantly less options to abuse them. 

Another hallmark of the recent metagame has been the reliance upon recurring creatures with advantageous 'enters the battlefield' abilities. While several such creatures have rotated out, the ability to abuse those that remain is significantly reduced now that Kor Skyfisher has departed from Standard Pauper. Now, one can longer infinitely chain Gravediggers together, repeatedly bounce Prophetic Prism for a steady source of additional cards, squeeze additional life out of Lone Missionary, destroy multiple artifacts with Kor Sanctifiers, or get additional value out of Pith Driller or Bala Ged Scorpion. I predict that the metagame will see a more pronounced presence of vanilla and 'french vanilla' creatures as a result.

4. There are not as many answers to specific strategies.

A large cardpool allowed the presence of some very specific answers to particular strategies. Kor Sanctifiers was the best answer to an opponent's Artifacts and Enchantments. Shrivel and Seismic Shudder were great answers to token or weenie strategies, and also worked wonders against Infect. Bojuka Bog was a nice counter to Graveyard recursion without taking up a spell slot. These three particular strategies, while certainly different, will still exist in the new metagame; but now a player's ability to directly attack such strategies has been greatly reduced.

III. What Remains

Although the format has dramatically shifted with the rotation of Standard, there are actually a handful of decks that have emerged relatively intact. While none of these would have been considered Tier 1 decks, they are each certainly worthy of consideration. If designing a new decklist from scratch isn't one of your strengths, these might serve as an excellent place to jump into the format until time and experience reveal what the strongest decks of this new Standard Pauper will be. So, let's take a look at what I consider the three best decks to survive rotation.

A. Kuldotha Red

This aggressive list emerged after the release of Scars of Mirrodin and used the combination of red burn spells and synergistic Artifacts to quickly overwhelm an opponent in the first few rounds before he or she could establish a board presence and stabilize through casting better creatures. With the losses that the Control archetype has seen with the rotation, a hyper-aggressive deck is probably a much stronger choice in this new metagame, and thus Kuldotha Red may once again be a viable contender. This particular list has only lost Goblin Bushwhacker, Lightning Bolt, Searing Blaze, and Teetering Peaks; of these, only Goblin Bushwhacker cannot easily be replaced. Possible new inclusions from Innistrad could include such cards as Bloodcrazed Neonate, Brimstone Volley, Crossway Vampire, Geistflame, and Nightbird's Clutches.

B. White Weenie

White Weenie has been a perennial favorite in many different Magic formats, and remains a viable option in Pauper as well. While any such decklist in Standard Pauper gladly included the four best White creatures in the pre-rotation format (consisting of Kor Skyfisher, Squadron Hawk, Kor Sanctifiers, and Lone Missionary), the strategy itself is still quite viable even apart from these particular creatures. In this case, that strategy is simply to drop as many fliers as possible onto the virtual Battlefield, enhance them with cheap Equipment and/or pump, and overwhelm an opponent. In addition to the four creatures mentioned above, this list also lost Dawnglare Invoker, Knight of Cliffhaven, Kitesail Apprentice, Journey to Nowhere, and Kabira Crossroads. However, there are several good to great replacements found in Innistrad. For creatures, Chapel Geist, Doomed Traveler, Thraben Sentry, Village Bell-ringer, and Voiceless Spirit are all worth considering. Blazing Torch and Rebuke might also find a home in just such a deck.

C. Infect

played by FlxEx in MPDC 14 Worlds
4 Blighted Agent
4 Cystbearer
4 Glistener Elf
3 Blight Mamba
15 cards

Other Spells
4 Apostle's Blessing
4 Distortion Strike
4 Giant Growth
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Vines of Vastwood
3 Preordain
23 cards
10 Forest
7 Island
3 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Evolving Wilds
22 cards

4 Dispel
3 Rot Wolf
3 Nature's Claim
3 Fog
2 Corpse Cur
15 cards
Blighted Agent

Last but certainly not least is Infect, which certainly has proven itself as a viable option in Standard Pauper, particularly after its pilot, FlxEx, captured the MPDC Season 14 Championship! It turns out that starting your opponent off with only 10 Life and instantly negating all Lifegain is pretty strong, particularly when one can simply bypass any opposing creatures. While this particular version works essentially like a Combo deck, waiting for the right combination of Infect creatures, evasion, protection, and pump, future versions are unlikely to function quite this smoothly. From this list, Distortion Strike, Giant Growth, Vines of Vastwood, Preordain, the fetchlands, Nature's Claim, and Dispel are no longer available; but it is the loss of Distortion Strike that will be the most painful. Vines of Vastwood can easily be replaced with Ranger's Guile; Ponder makes a suitable analog to Preordain, and Negate can be used in place of Dispel; but without the ability to grant instant Evasion via Distortion Strike, Infect will have a more difficult time bypassing an opponent's creatures. Nonetheless, I predict that we have not seen the last of this particular strategy.

IV. What Will Be Found

Of course, these three decks are certainly not the only viable options in this new environment; more than likely, they are not even the best. As is usually the case after a major change in the format, there will be one or two brand new strategies that will initially become the decks to beat in the metagame. While it is certainly too early for me to predict what form these strategies will take, I want to conclude this article with a quick snapshot of some of the potential synergies that will become the foundation for these emerging new decklists.

A. UB Control






The most obvious strategy to emerge from Innistrad is a Blue-based Control list that takes advantage of what is arguably the most powerful Common in Innistrad - Forbidden Alchemy. To take full advantage of this card, one must have some way of interacting with the cards that will get placed into the Graveyard. Stitched Drake is the perfect combination with this effect, allowing you to drop a 3/4 flier as soon as Turn 4, which is quite strong in Standard Pauper. Ghoulraiser and Gravedigger are also clear choices, allowing you to instead recur any creatures sent to the Graveyard by Forbidden Alchemy. Finally, Flashback cards such as Think Twice have great synergy with this as well, almost circumventing the 'drawback' from Forbidden Alchemy. Add to this mix several creatures with solid 'enters the battlefield' type effects (such as Phyrexian Rager or Aether Adept), combine with removal spells and countermagic, and one has a very powerful and solid strategy.






Alternatively, one could also go in a more aggressive direction, taking advantage of some of the new aggressive creatures and spells from Innistrad and combining them with the Bloodthirst creatures from Magic 2012. Assuming one can drop her early and connect with your opponent, Bloodcrazed Neonate can become quite the powerful beater. Crossway Vampire and Nightbird's Clutches can assist with this plan, and are likewise strong choices to help achieve Bloodthirst for Gorehorn Minotaurs or Blood Ogre. Combined with some solid removal in the form of Incinerate, Brimstone Volley, Geistflame, and the like, and one has a very aggressive 'Red Deck Wins' style decklist capable of fast victories.

C. Hexproof Aura





Another strategy that has been appearing as of late attempts to take advantage of the Hexproof creatures in Standard Pauper by placing powerful Auras on them. Generally, Auras make for poor play, since they open you up to being two-for-one'd by a well-timed removal spell from your opponent. Hexproof sidesteps this problem somewhat, although one might argue that Aven Fleetwing, Sacred Wolf and Gladecover Scout are not the kind of creatures one generally wants to run. In any case, one could use this base to assemble a Combo archetype of sorts, using Ponder and draw spells to assemble the combination and pump-style effects to go for a well-timed Alpha Strike. Whether this strategy is viable longterm, however, remains to be seen.

D. Izzet Delver






One of the more interesting 'flip' creatures to emerge from Innistrad is Delver of Secrets, which for a single  can transform into a powerful 3/2 flier as early as Turn 2, assuming one can stack enough Instants and Sorceries into your deck to make your odds of revealing one a fairly good bet. Since this deck doesn't want much else in the way of creatures, counter magic will be a must, using it to protect your transformed Delver from removal while also utilizing your spells to good advantage. Silent Departure, Brimstone Volley, Think Twice, and the like are great choices for such spells, especially since Forbidden Alchemy likewise seems a natural inclusion. Balancing the right amount of bounce, counters, burn spells, creatures, and other spells will be quite the challenge, but if that balance could be found, I believe this could also be a powerful strategy in the new metagame.

E. Werewolves






It remains to be seen if this will indeed be viable, but I suspect that a Werewolves deck will see play in Standard Pauper, particularly as more of Innistrad is released into the wild. It should go without saying that the best Werewolves are those that are solid before being transformed, and Villagers of Estwald is probably the best example of this at Common. Other potential includes in this deck are Tormented Pariah, Grizzled Outcasts, and Village Ironsmith. One will then need both to protect your investment with Ranger's Guile and take advantage of your strong beaters with Prey Upon. Combine these cards with other powerful Green creatures, some Red removal, and perhaps Moonmist, and one has another potentially strong decklist. Time will tell whether or not this is good enough to make a strong presence in the metagame, although I personally suspect that it will not come into its own until a few more Werewolves are released.

V. Conclusion

And with that I conclude this look into what has been lost and what will be found in the upcoming season of MPDC with the rotation of Standard and the release of Innistrad. 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 appreciate all the feedback, the support, and the encouragement I have received. See you next time!


Great as per usual. I may by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/28/2011 - 17:22
Paul Leicht's picture

Great as per usual. I may have to start building for standard pauper again just because of these articles. :)

Thanks by gwyned at Fri, 10/28/2011 - 18:11
gwyned's picture

Thanks so much. I personally think this is a great time to get started again. There are seemingly lots of options, and Innistrad is a fairly interesting set.

Delver is quite good in the by JMason at Sat, 10/29/2011 - 04:59
JMason's picture

Delver is quite good in the UB control deck since you have at least 12 instants or sorceries. That gives you two fast 3 power fliers. Not bad.

Delver by gwyned at Sat, 10/29/2011 - 14:58
gwyned's picture

Yeah that's the deck I'm playing with right now. I've seen it a lot in UB decks, but not sure it's the right fit there, since that deck plays a lot fewer instants and sorceries.

Great article. by GrandAdmiral at Sat, 10/29/2011 - 06:32
GrandAdmiral's picture

Even though I'll miss Skyfisher shenanigans, I can't wait to see what a new standard season will bring to Pauper.