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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jul 19 2012 7:22am
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I. Introduction

In my previous article, I explained why I believe that the Standard Pauper format should be supported by Wizards of the Coast on Magic Online. I reasoned that Standard Pauper not only is a great format for new players to learn the intricacies of the game itself and the MTGO client, but that it will also generate additional revenue for Wizards of the Coast - directly, through additional booster sales and event entry costs, and indirectly by helping more players move into more expensive and complex formats like Standard and Limited. I have been very pleased with the response to that article, which has had more views and more comments than any of my other articles to date. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to read it before continuing, as much of what I will be covering today assumes familiarity with the contents of my previous article.

As the Standard Pauper format has been discussed over the past few months, I have noticed that the same objections to officially supporting the format seem to be voiced again and again. It is thus the purpose of this article to summarize these objections and show that they are mostly based upon assumptions that do not seem to be true against the data I have collected. As many of my readers know, I am the host of a weekly Player Run Event that features the Standard Pauper format known as Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, or MPDC as it is more commonly known. I will primarily be basing my data upon my two years of experience hosting this event, backed up by the database known as Gatherling maintained at PDCMagic.com, which captures most of the relevant information from not only every MPDC event but also several others PREs that take place each and every week.

So, let's take a look at the three most common objections to official support of the Standard Pauper format.

III. Three Common Objections

1. Standard Pauper has a very small player base; it's too small to be a supported format.

The first objection is that Standard Pauper is only played by a handful of people. This objection essentially argues that Standard Pauper is just a fringe format, one without a large enough player base to warrant giving it official support. This concept seems to be behind how WotC responded in the latest Development Chat when Standard Pauper was brought up:

"WotC_K: We have talked about out Standard Pauper (and I have gotten quite a few emails about it thanks to JoeKewwl). If we did offer it, it would be in the Casual Play room first so we could see how much demand there actually is for it."

So, exactly how large is the player base? Let's consider two numbers. First, let's look at the attendance at the two weekly Standard Pauper PREs so far this year:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While obviously not identical, these graphs are remarkably similar. Attendance at both events so far this year has varied from a low in the mid teens to a high around 40. Taking the average attendance so far this year, MPDC averages over 30 players per event, while SPDC averages over 25. The trend is also that attendance is gradually increasing over time for both events. Bear in mind too that while there is some crossover between the two events, MPDC is played at a European friendly time (6:00pm GMT), while SPDC is played at an American friendly time (12:30 GMT), so the player bases tend to be fairly unique. It is thus not unusual for 40+ different people to participate in one of these weekly events.

Second, let's talk about the total number of players who participate in Standard Pauper. I took the time to log the unique player names that have participated in MPDC and SPDC over the past 12 months. I ended up just shy of 450 unique players who have participated in a Standard Pauper event over the past year. While obviously only a fraction of these players are still active in these two events, this is still a remarkable number of people who have played the format.

Based on these numbers, I think it's safe to say that the format already supports a large number of players, and that's without any official support. It is logical to believe that should Standard Pauper become an official format, one would see this number increase significantly. Therefore, the objection that player base for this format is too small to receive official support is simply unfounded.

2. The metagame is so simple that it will quickly be solved or grow stale.

The second most common objection to giving official support to Standard Pauper is the argument that the metagame isn't diverse enough. While I am not aware of any official response from WotC to this end, it is quite common among other players. This objection essentially argues that since Standard Pauper has such a small cardpool, it isn't diverse enough to support a wide variety of decks. In such an environment, players will quickly figure out what the best deck is and only play that archetype, leading quickly to boredom with the format. So, let's take a look at some data. Just how diverse is the format?

To start out, let's review the metagame from Season 16 of MPDC. Note that every time a new set enters into Standard, MPDC begins a new season. Season 16, which began with the release of Dark Ascension, featured 10 events over the course of 3 months, averaging 32 players per event. Over the course of those 10 events, 45 Swiss rounds were played, resulting in just shy of 600 different matches. However, only approximately 65% of players reported the decklist that they played during the event, meaning that I have measurable data only for about 390 of the matches over the course of those 10 events. But out of those 390 matches, which decks performed the best over time?

There are two relevant facts that come out of this data. First, the performance of a given deck tends to peak at a certain point and then either decline sharply or at the very least wax and wane in success. Second, the three best performing decks accounted for only 121 wins out of a total of 390 matches, or approximately 30%. Even counting all seven of the best performing decks of the season, they include only 246 wins out of the total 390, or approximately 63%. While I must grant that this data is certainly miniscule compared to the total number of matches played over a season of sanctioned Standard play, I still would contend that it demonstrates a fairly healthy and diverse metagame.

Also of note is that there is a significant amount of variation even among decks that ended up being classified in the same archetype. While so-called "net-decking" happens in MPDC just like most formats of Magic, there is still no clear consensus that a certain set of 60 cards is the strongest build of a particular deck. This too is a sign that there is room in the metagame for tweaking and personal preference, even in established archetypes.

So was this particular season of MPDC a fluke, or are these results consistent over time? While I myself have not run these numbers, I have relied upon the excellent analysis done by fellow Standard Pauper player PiDave, who tracked the metagame at the end of MPDC for Seasons 12, 13, and 14, along with his final article about half way through Season 15. Feel free to check out those articles, but my summary of his data is that there is a consistent pattern over time of a diverse and healthy metagame for MPDC, and by extension, for the Standard Pauper format.

Therefore, based on these numbers, I believe the objection that Standard Pauper cannot support a strong metagame is flawed. Despite its smaller cardpool, Standard Pauper supports a variety of different archetypes, with plenty of variation even within an archetype. While certain archetypes may be recognized as one of the strongest for a particular season, by no means does this indicate that such a deck dominates the metagame in an unhealthy way. Standard Pauper supports a rich and varied metagame, and I contend that it would continue to do so even under the increased scrutiny that official recognition would bring.

3. Official support for Standard Pauper would split the player base of the whole Pauper format, breaking both in the process.

The third objection to Standard Pauper receiving official support is the argument that it would divide the player base. At its heart, this argument states that since only a small percentage of players on Magic Online will play Pauper in any capacity, splitting that format into two (or more!) formats would not increase the total number of players, but only split the current player base into two different subgroups, neither of which would be large enough to support a format in a healthy way.

This, essentially, was WotC's official position when questioned about Standard Pauper during the Community Cup early last summer. This statement set off quite a firestorm of responses from the Standard Pauper community, which you can read about here. But what is most interesting is the consistent observation that the majority of players tend to move on to increasingly more complex formats. In other words, new players start out with very simple, non-competitive decks, start competing in Pauper variant PREs like Standard Pauper, then move into Classic Pauper, then begin to enter into sanctioned Classic Pauper events, and then move on to the marquee formats of Standard and Limited. Except in the rare case when expert players "cash out" by selling their collection and then later return, it is rare indeed to see players move backwards in the progression, moving from a more complex environment to a simpler one. Indeed, as a I mentioned last time, most players start in a format that is cheap and has less complexity, then gradually move on to more expensive and more complicated formats as their confidence and skill grows over time.

Unfortunately, the movement of players from one format to another is very difficult to get any solid data on, at least with the resources I have at my disposal. And even with solid data, it is always difficult to extrapolate from what has happened in the past to what might happen in the future if Standard Pauper received official recognition as a format. Nonetheless, the opinion from the majority of players who have been involved in Pauper for many years is that obtaining support for Standard Pauper would pose no threat to either Classic Pauper or Standard, and in fact over time would serve to increase participation with both of those formats. In the absence of any compelling data to the contrary, I believe that the objection that official recognition for Standard Pauper would split the player base is at the very least overstated and probably not even a valid concern.

IV. Conclusion

Therefore, in conclusion, I believe that these objections to Standard Pauper as an official format are without warrant. On the whole, the evidence is that Standard Pauper would be good both for players and for Wizards of the Coast. But the only way this is going to happen is if we as the community of players make our voices heard. As a reminder, here's what you can do about that:

1. Create visibility for the format by participating in Standard Pauper PREs and creating matches with the appropriate label in the Just For Fun room.
2. Link others to these articles using social media.
3. E-mail the appropriate people, which would mean:

  • Contacting Chris Kiritz, who is the business manager for Magic Online and runs the day to day operations, at chris.kiritz@wizards.com.
  • Contacting Magic Online's Customer Service at this link: http://wizards.custhelp.com/app/ask. You will need to be logged into your WotC forums account to use this link.

Like I mentioned previously, let's get the Magic Online community talking about Standard Pauper. Make this a request that Wizards of the Coast can't ignore, but let's do so in a way that is polite, reasonable, yet firm. As for me, I will continue to do my part in hosting Monday Pauper Deck Challenge and submitting articles on the format here at PureMTGO.com. Thanks to everyone who participates in the format, comments on my articles, and continue to give me support for all that I do. I am sincerely grateful for the great community here. Also, let me remind you that if you would like a sneak peak at my content before it goes live here at PureMTGO.com, you can always browse over to YouTube.com, 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. See you next time!

18 Comments

450 unique players in the last year by JMason at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 08:09
JMason's picture

While 450 unique players in a year sounds like a good thing, have you checked the last log in date for each of those users? When I did this for my clan I discovered that if a player has not logged in for 2 weeks then they have likely quit mtgo. So 76 of our 124 members at that time had quit mtgo (61%). If the same ratio holds true for your 450 players, then only 174 will have been retained as potential sources of income to wotc.

Not surprisingly I didn't by gwyned at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 09:28
gwyned's picture

Not surprisingly I didn't take the time to manually check all 450 users. However, even if only a fraction of those are still online, the number is still indicative of lots of interest in the format. New players are finding the PRE and participating, and that trend is likely to continue.

New recruits are going to try by JMason at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 10:10
JMason's picture

New recruits are going to try out the inexpensive formats, so of course will be highly represented in std pre, but many quit anyway.
I'm just saying you can't inflate demand for the format by including everyone who has ever tried it briefly (just like I can't claim 120 clan members when I know only 40 are active).

The flaw by howlett23 at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 19:03
howlett23's picture

in your argument is advertising and that people will hear about and continue to try the format, whether they be new players who eventually quit or old player who love it or are looking for something new....I have never heard of you or your clan, so it's really apples to oranges with your numbers

PS. I'm not trying to discredit your points, just stating I don't think the correlation is relevant

while I don't really have an by JustSin at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 08:23
JustSin's picture

while I don't really have an opinion on this one way or the other I feel there were a few things that were, at the very least, overlooked...

RE Point 1: I think participation numbers are well and good, but you have to keep in mind a few things... first is that these are free to play events... not all players are willing to put up tickets to join events and will rather join PREs not to mention the current time of those PREs might be more favorable to players than whatever block is assigned via the DE schedule... next you have to consider that you're looking at two events and not taking into account how many individuals are playing both events, which makes the graphs a little misleading

RE Point 3: I think this is a valid point by the anti-side of things and yet I feel you didn't actually address it... I read those paragraphs and find they really don't tell me why you think it wouldn't divide the playerbase... there is a comment about an outcry from the community of points why it wouldn't but in order to get some idea of the reason (since you didn't sum it up) I had to read through forum responses which had one maybe two valid points and a bunch of std players saying "i prefer std to classic"... well of course you do.. that's why you're on a STD pauper forum... of course std people are going to for it, but that's not exactly an unbiased opinion

Wow, still seeing arguments by rpitcher at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 08:47
rpitcher's picture

Wow, still seeing arguments against the format.

I don't enjoy all the formats in Magic, but I welcome any format that might draw more people to the game.

I do enjoy Standard Pauper, and I appreciate the efforts of Gwyned and others who host and support the format.

I'd like to see WOTC embrace Standard Pauper as an entry level vehicle. The small card pool and "easy" complexity of the cards seem to make it appropriate for newer players. The low start up costs for players might make it attractive for people who were otherwise scared away by the $796 Standard decks. We all know how easy it is to become "hooked" on Magic - imagine getting hooked for $6.99?

If it were to be embraced as an entry level format, the events would have to be set up appropriately. I envision something similar to the Swiss Draft event format. The cost/prize structure would be a fine dance for WOTC, as they would have to balance the attractiveness of the events between serious players and newer players to round up enough interest.

I've been playing Magic since Revised. For years I tried the serious side of the game....PTQ's, GranPrix's, but with little success. I just don't take the game seriously enough to compete at high levels (ie: I'm a srub!) I do love the game though, and play it regularly in less serious environments (Pauper!) I guess that puts me in the casual camp, and that's fine by me. My money is still good, and I'd spend more of it on Magic if there were casual events to spend it on. (Okay the whole idea of a tournement event is moving away from casual, but I think a Swiss Standard Pauper with low prize supports is more casual than an online Premier Events. Right?)

MTGO has plenty of events to make money from serious players. It lacks events to make money from less serious players. Standard Pauper could be it.

I'm not arguing against the by JMason at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 10:00
JMason's picture

I'm not arguing against the format, I'm simply pointing out suspect reasoning that might damage the outcome of the campaign.

JMason, I didn't mean to by rpitcher at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 17:49
rpitcher's picture

JMason, I didn't mean to suggest you were arguing against the format. I'm sorry it seemed that way. I had re-read comments at gwyneds previous article prior to posting here, and some of comments over there influenced my post. I agree with a more recent poster who says it's only fair to hear both sides of the issue.

I'm with JMason on this, I'm by JustSin at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 11:12
JustSin's picture

I'm with JMason on this, I'm not exactly against the format, just pointing out some serious flaws in an attempted counter-argument... I get the pro-argument of "it works nice as an intro to mtg" but most of the pro-arguments are "std pauper should be sanctioned because the people who already like it think its good"... I like prismatic, but I'm not going to say wizards should make it a thing

I used to play STD Pauper all by ChrisMH77 at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 10:37
ChrisMH77's picture

I used to play STD Pauper all the time. The main reason I got frustrated was the fact of not having a STD Pauper filter in the client to use while making games. Nothing sucks more than to try to test out a STD Pauper deck to find out your opponent did not read the description and is playing with a Tier 1 Classic Pauper deck. I still from time to time try to get back into the format and come across the same issues and I do not want to play in events with untested decks.

I guess what I am saying is that I would love to see STD Pauper become an official format, it would defiantly make me want to get back into the format knowing that I could play without worry of playing against decks that I know I have no chance against.

From experience over the years that I was playing STD Pauper I can say that the events were always packed full of players, most of the time 30 or more players making 4 or 5 rounds of swiss followed by a Top 8.

Voices of the community by joekewwl at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 13:26
joekewwl's picture
5

Good job gwyned.
Keep them coming.
I would also say that dont hate the posters who are negative or just seem to be negative.
We have to hear both sides of this.
When wotc reads these articles and comments, and yes I can say that I know they do because I point them here to read these to make sure they are very aware of it, they need to see what us the community as a whole thinks, not the just those of us who are 110% for this.
I feel that those posters out there who has comment against this happening are not saying they dont want to see it happen.
Jmason is only pointing out what others might , atleast hes being constructive and not just negative in a bad way. I can see where hes comeing from and I dont want anyone to feel they can voice concerns or just want to point out the pros and cons.
Im sure he wants this to happen as much as anyone.
So please keep commenting guys and lets keep showing wotc we notonly want this but need it.

One thing HAS come to pass by Paul Leicht at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 13:43
Paul Leicht's picture

One thing HAS come to pass already in the sneak preview. You can construct Standard Pauper decks with a proper filter now. (Of course the v4 editor has some serious flaws but hopefully those will be fixed.) I am admittedly neutral to the idea of a Standard Pauper SE/PE since I generally do not participate in those, but I think the dedication of those who are fighting for it is noteworthy to say the least.

:) by joekewwl at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 20:01
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:)

Wow.. I'm e-mailing THIS to by lenney at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 16:55
lenney's picture

Wow.. I'm e-mailing THIS to WOTC.. Hands down the most comprehensive list of data concerning Standard Pauper. I'm glad you took the time to do this b/c I knew in my gut all along that the data was in favor of sanctioning Standard Pauper.

more the better by joekewwl at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 20:01
joekewwl's picture

I already sent it, but feel free to do also.
The more they hear from us the community the better.

I also tweeted both of these by oraymw at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 20:04
oraymw's picture

I also tweeted both of these articles at them. Doing my best to get the word out about it.

isn't the new client meant to by Psychobabble at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 21:31
Psychobabble's picture

isn't the new client meant to be able to support any type of format that a player makes up? I'm sure I heard that that was the intention somewhere. If that's the case, then this all becomes moot, unless you're asking for official tournament support which seems highly unlikely given the recent moves away from classic pauper and momir.

nope by joekewwl at Fri, 07/20/2012 - 09:29
joekewwl's picture

The current client doesnt support filtering of any format.. Only the ones that we had already in the V3 client.
I of all people would know this.
It was talked about wanting the new client to be able to do this down the road at some point
Chris K said he wanted a client that could someday allow players to set up a game by the filters for whatever type they wanted to play.