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By: bigmb, bigmb
Feb 04 2011 12:26pm
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If I'm building a deck in pauper, and green is included, mana fixing and acceleration are typically the only motivation for green. Borderland Ranger, Sylvan Ranger, and Civic Wayfinder are a few of my favorite green cards. I like the 2/2's more because they trade more often, and they've replace themselves. Other green favorites include Sakura-Tribe Elder, Krosan Tusker, Kodama's Reach, and Cultivate. As a result of the crazy land fixing, I often want uses for the mana. Aurochs Herd and Llanowar Sentinel are amazing uses for late game mana, and you even get a fancy Mulldrifter by the name of Citanul Woodreaders. All three of these options are great and lead to more beats, but eventually they fall out and you can be left with an empty hand and a ton of mana. If your opponent is playing any sort of removal, you could even have an empty board as you watch your opponent win while you draw lands and reaches. At this point you consider, does green have any recursive way to spend mana to maybe spit out 1/1's every turn? Is there some way I can do this somewhat safely, fearing only the almighty counterspell? The answer, of course, is:

Sprout Swarm.

Sprout Swarm allows you to, at instant speed, spit out a free 1/1 on turn 5 (assuming no mana accelerator). Further, once a few of them are out, you can begin using them to spit out more and more. Discard is not really an issue, because if you're late game and forced into a Sprout Swarm spam, odds are you're drawing lands. Simply hold a couple. With a couple lands in hand, even cards like Mind Rot won't deter your master plans!

Of course, like all cards, the limitations of this card are limited. Against many decks with blue, it is simply countered. A spell being counter is not a valid argument for not playing it, however, because any card that would fit into this slot could be countered. The real downside is the idea of drawing two of them. Once the 2nd is drawn, you have a 1/1 flash token. I hate to make an argument for Ashcoat Bear, but he makes the case himself. Against discard, which is a match you really want this card because of their removal, you run the risk of losing it anyways. Even holding a couple lands, if your opponent rips a couple Mind Rots, you would probably rather just take a risk on some fatty.

As a result, when applicable, I try to fit this guy in as a singleton. If I can find one slot, I find the card is usually worth it.


The next card I would like to discuss is:

Guardian of the Guildpact

This is one of those cards that wins games all by itself. Outs definitely exist and see periodic play, such as Agony Warp and Diabolic Edict but more often than not the removal one can expect to see look like Doom Blade, Lightning Bolt, (Staggering Shock), and other great cards. As a result, you have a 2/3 unblockable creature that can favorably block your opponent all day. Also, Armadillo Cloak.

The real appeal of this card is that he does not have to be in a deck built around him. In Naya cloak variations, he fits in smoothly. In white weenie lists, he is a bit slower than much of the deck -- but he's a game winner.

Consider a variety of popular decks that have made their presence known over time:

Gobbies -- Very yes.

WW -- Can't draw too many in the mirror (unless, of course, you have only 3 land...)

MGA -- If you live til turn 4, you need only fear the fliers

MBA -- Again, happy times.

MBC -- Yes please!

MUC -- If he resolves, he finds Quicksand, Spire Golem, or Errant Ephemeron just runs you over. Ok, not great here...

Storm -- By turn 4 you need disruption or wins, so he's boarded out

Misc aggro -- Winner

Misc control -- Usually winner, evades so much removal

This is roughly 7/9 matchups in which you're happy to see him. Definitely worthy of consideration.

Bottom line is this: if I'm playing white in classic pauper, I am going to try to squeeze him into my deck. There are times, such as the recent 2nd place deck in TPDC 15.02, when white has a specific purpose and cannot afford such a bulky card. Aside from storm, seldom can this guy be overlooked, even if white is just splashed.


Lastly, my favorite card in pauper deserves attention.  Uncounterable draw engines that play in worst case scenarios as sorcery speed Inspiration make me happy. Further, when the card can randomly win games by drawing 5, 6, 7, 8 cards late game, it is absolutely impossible to overlook. In conjunction with cards like Izzet Chronarch and Mnemonic Wall it can be recurred, and with cards like Rolling Thunder it always results in a win. The card, of course, is:

Train of Thought

Consider a late game in which your deck is at least half blue. You and your opponent have teetered out around 8-12 life and are playing off the top. His turn, he rips a savage 2/2 and proceeds to scare you a little. On your turn, you rip Train of Thought and draw 5 cards. Who wins? I cannot count the number of times this has happened while playing izzet.

Consider a more early game perspective. You have a hand you feel the need to keep with just two lands. Maybe you're on the draw, have a couple sea gate oracles, and are on the draw. Turn 3 comes around with no land. Not your best option, but it cycles.

Lets say you get a couple more land drops, but your stack of Mulldrifters are dying to be played and you have four land. If only your late game bomb was actually Counsel of the Soratami...wait a minute! For one more mana, it is!!!

In conjunction with any recurrence, it becomes much less fair for your opponent. This is just one of those cards that, at any point in the game, you are happy to see it in your hand.



These cards shown may be fine by coolsucks at Fri, 02/04/2011 - 22:59
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These cards shown may be fine in certain periods, but right now none of them are fast enough to stop the problem decks, being esper storm, u/r ramp, goblins and affinity, if you put train of thought to the same test of what decks it is good against as guardian, what would it come out as positive against? Maybe MBC or MUC or other slow control decks without a real clock, but against any of the aggro decks, it seems awful.

These cards are not directly by bigmb at Sat, 02/05/2011 - 00:28
bigmb's picture

These cards are not directly applicable in the current meta -- I agree. This was the reason I chose them. Over time, metas continually shift and evolve. The purpose of this analysis, and future ones I plan to develop, is to analyze other cards not being played so that when metas change, people will be made more aware of their options and how to select cards for decks.

If the meta shifts back towards aggro and MUC, train of thought becomes an excellent addition. Of course, train of thought in MUC is bad because you don't want to tap out, but vs MUC it either draws you the cards to win or they discard their hand. Either way, you're happy.

When white weenies and gobbies started dying out, there was a large number of decks being played -- many with moderate success. Many of these rogue decks had good ideas but never got developed because they were subpar or someone overlooked a card or two that could have saved them. Hopefully articles like these and exposures to good cards that are not being played can help when future metas exist.

The roundabout point here is to avoid looking at the card exclusively in its current context, but instead try to be aware of the card as the metagame changes.

Hi big by grandpoobah at Mon, 02/07/2011 - 18:51
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We've chatted in game some, didn't realize you wrote for this site. I've played a lot of pauper and tend to comment on all the pauper articles here, so I've got to jump in here :)

So for starters, you picked a few interesting cards, but there's no coherent theme to the article. Why these 3 cards? And in what seems to be a recurring theme with Pauper articles, your analysis is quite cursory. Your discussion of Sprout Swarm fails to mention the most important thing: infinite combo. There's not a lot of truly infinite combos in Pauper, but Sprout Swarm is the key to one of them. For Guardian of the Guildpact, you only mention Armadillo Cloak in passing, and didn't mention Pestilence at all. For Train of Thought, where' the compare/contrast with Oona's Grace?

I think the reason I get annoyed with these Pauper articles is because Pauper players and the format in general are much (much) more sophisticated than these articles might lead people to believe. If major websites only publish articles with no real depth, then it might lead people to believe that serious players don't play pauper (not true), that the format is shallow (not true), or the worst, that anybody can whip up a competitive deck in no time (very very not true).

Sprout swarm is definitely by bigmb at Mon, 02/07/2011 - 22:56
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Sprout swarm is definitely not the best out for infinite combos. It has better uses as card advantage -- if people are building combo, they know their center pieces. If they are building something with green and need a misc 1 of or a win condition, bringing attention to a card like this can be useful.

Guardian of the Guildpact is good with Pestilence, and you are right -- I probably could have touched on it. I know the pestilence deck was viable for a while, but unless we find ourselves in an extremely creature heavy meta, I think the pestilence alone is too slow for almost all classic metas.

Train of thought and oona's grace do not deserve comparison. Oona's Grace is in a deck where you want to save mana for an instant and you do not care if you lose a land. Train of thought requires you to tap out on your turn -- so your deck must be ok with this (ie: not MUC) -- and it allows you to thrive on your lands. Instead of discarding them, you want as many in play as often as you can because you know that, once you hit train, you'll be thrilled to have them. Furthermore, you can use oona's all game and end game find yourself in a tight spot looking for mana. Train of thought does not encourage late game missing of land drops.

That said, the two cards have different functionality, belong in different decks, and therefore do not warrant a real comparison.

My purpose is not to sophisticate the format of pauper. I am trying to show people who play pauper that there are other cards out there begging to be played -- and they can be in winning decks. By showing more diversity, we show the format is not shallow.

Lastly, anybody whipping up a competitive deck in no time is not true. Anyone who has played knows this to be evident. The dynamic of pauper that is most appealing to me is that any -play style- can be created. Just because a deck that does not fit your tastes is not always in the top 8 does not mean it is not viable, it just means nobody has built it and won with it yet. With some testing, tweaking, and good card selection any style can be played well and be successful. I do not want everyone who logs in here or any site to see a bunch of decklists, cut/paste, and play it into the ground. I want to encourage people to play cards they may have overlooked.

Sprout swarm is overlooked because people playing green, right now, play greenpost, infect, or MGA. Guardian of the Guildpact is being overlooked because he costs 4 so people underestimate him and forget that your opponents cannot attack past, block, or remove him in many cases. Train of thought is overlooked because people playing blue feel the need to play MUC or some counter variant. None of these have to be the case, each of these cards is a viable contender for being a tier 1 deck, and I want people to be exposed to them. If you do not like my approach, fair enough, but I hope you understand the purpose.

Your response to me is by grandpoobah at Tue, 02/08/2011 - 09:15
grandpoobah's picture

Your response to me is probably better than the original article ;) I'm guessing that English isn't your native tongue, and in some cases I'm not sure I understand what you're saying and in some cases I don't think you understood me.

At any rate, so your theme is supposed to be "overlooked" cards for classic pauper? Ok, that's fine. But there's literally thousands of such cards, and it's still not clear why you picked these three. Guardian of the Guildpact isn't even overlooked, everybody knows about him, and he has been used successfully in competitive decks.

Your assertion that these cards are viable cards for "Tier 1" decks is at this point an unsupported assertion. Trying to encourage people to play cards that have been overlooked is a laudable goal, but cards are not played in a vacuum. You have to give people some context, meaning the combos or interactions or decks where the card might be useful. If you hope for these cards to be used more competitively then you should be telling us a new use for these cards, but you barely covered the known uses, much less reveal anything we didn't already know.

Let's look again at Sprout Swarm. It's an interesting card. But in your article you said nothing interesting about it, and in your comment, you said, "Sprout Swarm is definitely not the best out for infinite combos." And then you didn't explain any further. Well I don't know if it is or if it isn't, but there's only a handful of infinite combos in pauper, and I'm not sure any of them are any good. In my own opinion, the Sprout Swarm combo is closer to being useful than the other infinite combos. But you still haven't explained to your dear readers how to go infinite with the card in the first place.

But more importantly, why should anybody care? It generates 1/1 tokens, people get that. But generally, there are better ways to make tokens. What makes Sprout Swarm more interesting than other token generators? So it has buyback, but so does Lab Rats. Those are really expensive tokens, what good are they? Mogg War Marshal, Dragon Fodder, Kuldotha Rebirth, Raise the Alarm, the Eldrazi Spawn cards, and others are all better cards generally. There's two aspects to Sprout Swarm that bear closer scrutiny: Sprout Swarm generates Saprolings, and it has Convoke. Saprolings have some interesting properties, and might combine well with Proliferate. Convoke is what allows you to pump out a massive army of guys and is the reason you don't have to wait until turn 5.

So what are you going to do with your tokens? Play an RG Raid Bombardment deck? The other more efficient token generators will leave little room for Sprout Swarm, and besides attacking and convoking don't go well together. Where Sprout Swarm gets interesting is in a BG Sacrifice deck, with Carrion Feeder and Deathspore Thallid. There's really no point in talking about Sprout Swarm unless you mention Nettle Sentinel, Carrion Feeder/Nantuko Husk/Bloodthrone Vampire/etc, Thallids in general, and Deathspore Thallid in particular. These are the cards that really have a chance to take advantage of Sprout Swarm.

On to Guardian of the Guildpact. At 4cc, you have to work hard to make Guardian relevant. There are a few ways to make Guardian relevant: 1) ramp, 2) Armadillo Cloak, 3) Pestilence, 4) exalted. Your original article said, "Also, Armadillo Cloak." That was all the insight you gave on these important topics. One of the problems with Guardian, aside from being 4cc, is the prevalence of Agony Warp and artifact creatures, with Affinity being one of the top 3 decks right now. He is a good way to stop Atog, however. A WG Guardian/Cloak/Pridemage deck with a little mana ramping should have good game against affinity and have a reasonable game against goblins.

The Pestilence deck must use Dark Ritual to mana ramp, and uses Wall of Hope to keep ahead in life when using Pestilence. The en-Kor creatures in combination with Order of Leitbur also work well with Pestilence in a WB setting. In addition, there are lots of good WB cards that a Guardian/Pestilence deck can leverage.

As for Train of Thought, it's competing with all the blue draw spells, including Oona's Grace. And there are lots of draw spells. Train of Thought is very mana intensive. You have to have a LOT of mana for it to be any better than the other draw cards. This is why people don't use it much; generally there's just better ways to draw cards. True, the Replicate makes it harder to counter the card draw, but if you're playing this card, you're playing blue already, and you are probably doing the countering, not the other way around. If it only required colorless mana to replicate, then it would be more like a common Braingeyser, and it would see play, but Post decks don't have enough blue mana to take advantage of it. Foresee, Think Twice, Oona's Grace, Deep Analysis, and others set a pretty high bar, so the application for Train of Thought is very narrow. The best use I ever came up with was for the killing blow with Jace's Erasure. But even so, the draw/discard cards tend to work better with Jace's Erasure. The problem is that it's a sorcery. So even when you have the mana to make it worthwhile, it's hard to spend the mana, and early in the game, it sucks compared to the other draw cards. Comparing it to draw spells that nobody uses doesn't make a very compelling case.

Anyway, I just expect that if somebody gets paid to write an article, they should do better than I can in five minutes off the top of my head. I didn't get paid to write this comment. I don't want people to think that pauper has a lower standard.

If you want to write an article like this, here's my suggestion. Plan on writing a series of articles: 1 for each color, one for artifacts, one for lands, and one for multi-colored cards. Then for each article pick 10 overlooked cards, including at least 1 creature, 1 instant, 1 sorcery, and 1 enchantment, including some low CMC and some high CMC cards. For each card, explain what makes it interesting, what makes it unique, deserving of our attention. Discuss how you might use it, what cards it will combine with in interesting ways. Without a deck listing, describe a deck that might use it. That would be an article.