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By: gwyned, gwyned
Nov 04 2015 3:59pm
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I. What's All the Fuss About?

In the weekly Magic Online announcements for October 27, Wizards of the Coast casually announced that several formats were being removed from Magic Online, including Standard Pauper. The community was quick to respond, particularly those who regularly participate in Tribal Wars and Standard Pauper. Not too long afterwards, Robert Schuster posted a short response on the Magic Online Tumblr page detailing the reasons behind the decision. Their rationale, in essence, is this:

  • These formats represent less than one percent of play on Magic Online.
  • These formats fragment the player base.
  • These formats force players to wait too long to find a match.
  • Development can't afford to take the time to playtest and develop cards for these formats.
  • Development can't afford to take the time to test card interactions or maintain legality lists for these formats.

Let me offer this disclaimer: I unequivocally support the community efforts to rally around these casual formats in general and particularly for Tribal Wars specifically, since it not only offers enjoyable player run events but also because of the promise by Aaron Forsythe that the format wouldn't ever be removed. But in this article, I want to clearly show how while Schuster's arguments may be valid against some of the other formats, they simply do not apply to Standard Pauper (with one caveat, which I will discuss below).

II. Why Schuster's Reasons Don't Make Sense

So, let's examine each of his points and discuss why I believe they don't make sense when discussing Standard Pauper.

A. Claim #1: Standard Pauper represents less than one percent of play on Magic Online.

I could argue against this, but without access to either the data or the manner in which it was collected, I will just have to take Wizards of the Coast's word that this is true. What I do know is that every week we see at least 15 players participate in two different Player Run Events for Standard Pauper, and that the 'league-style' event I am currently running has drawn over 60 players. But let's even throw that out. Compared to the large number of players who participate in Standard and Limited on Magic Online, the number of players who play Standard Pauper is always going to be small, for two reasons:

First, you get what you support. If a format isn't officially sanctioned with prizes on Magic Online, and isn't advertised or discussed by Wizards of the Coast, is it any surprise that the vast majority of users don't play it? With the recent closure of the Wizards Forums, there are very few means by which the current community can attract new players to the format, save by word of mouth, social media, and those who stumble upon the websites devoted to the format.

Second, Standard Pauper has always served as a kind of on-ramp for new players on Magic Online. It's a format that is cheap, relatively easy to play, supportive of new players, and helps them build the skills they will need to compete in the mainline formats. In the six years I've been playing Standard Pauper (most of which I have served as host for one of the two weekly events), I have seen many players find great success in our events, earn some cards as prizes, and eventually start competing in Standard or Limited, leaving behind Standard Pauper. In this way, Standard Pauper is actually good for Wizards of the Coast. It provides new players an easy way to learn the obtuse and arcane workings of Magic Online in a friendly and forgiving environment.

B. Claim #2: Standard Pauper fragments the player base.

This is absurd. The very fact that there are so many different ways to play on Magic Online is part of its appeal. It is unimaginable that someone who is regularly participating in Standard or Limited would stop playing in those events simply because Standard Pauper exists as an option. Furthermore, the fact that so few players are playing Standard Pauper is proof in and of itself that it isn't actually fragmenting the player base. I have no doubt that if one were to examine the data, the number of players participating in Standard or Limited was not reduced at all when the Standard Pauper filter was added to Magic Online.

On the flipside, the decision to remove Standard Pauper from Magic Online has the potential to disenfranchise existing players. While some in our community only play Standard Pauper, others also choose to play in other mainline formats. But by removing Standard Pauper, odds are good that those players will not respond favorably.

C. Claim #3: Having Standard Pauper as an option makes for a poor user experience, since it will take too long for players to find a match in the format.

Granted, if the number of people playing in any format is small, it will take longer for any individual player to find a match for that format. But the problem with this logic is that this decision will actually make it harder for those players who want to play to find a match. Prior to adding the Standard Pauper filter, players were forced to create their game as a Standard match with a label that read 'Standard Pauper only' or something to that effect. And I know from my own personal experience as well as talking to many others, that most of the time only one match in three would someone actually take the time to read the label. Without the filter, it will take much longer for players who want to play Standard Pauper to find a match.

I also seriously doubt that a new player will create a Standard Pauper table, get frustrated finding a match, and then uninstall Magic Online as a result.

D. Claim #4: Development can't afford to take the time to playtest and develop cards for Standard Pauper.

This is just strange. The entire brilliance of Standard Pauper is that it benefits from all of the development work that goes into Standard. As long as Standard Pauper isn't a sanctioned format (meaning one in which there are official events with prizes), there is no reason that development needs to playtest or develop cards for it.  If there is a Common that is unbalanced or breaks the format, it stands to reason that such a card will get banned in Standard, automatically correcting the issue for Standard Pauper. The community neither requests nor needs any sort of official playtesting or development for Standard Pauper.

E. Claim #5: Development can't afford to take time to test card interactions or maintain legality lists for Standard Pauper.

Once again, this argument misses what Standard Pauper is all about. Development already tests every card interaction in Standard. These interactions are fully tested and programmed, and no interactions exist in Standard Pauper that don't already exist in Standard Pauper. There is literally zero extra effort required to test for Standard Pauper. Additionally, the legality list for Standard Pauper is identical to that of Standard, save that it also excludes non-Commons. This should be trivial to program, representing a miniscule investment of time and resources. In other words, Standard Pauper can exist without almost any cost to development or programming time.

III. What You Can Do

I've written before about how I firmly believe that Standard Pauper is actually good for Wizards of the Coast as a company as well as good for the online community that surrounds it. I've also answered objections about why it should exist as well. Now, more than ever, the community is depending on each and every person to make their voice heard. Let's save Standard Pauper. Here's how you can get involved:

  • If you're on Twitter, contact @mtg_lee, @mtgworth, @wizards_magic, @MagicOnline, and @RobertJSchuster and tell them that you support Standard Pauper. Use the hashtag #mtgo as well.
  • You can also contact Wizards of the Coast Customer Service by following these instructions. Make sure you select Magic Online as your product.
  • You can also E-mail them directly at

In your interactions, be polite, be gracious, be professional, be respectful; but also be passionate, be insistent, be firm, be determined, be loud. Don't let them sweep this under the rug. Refuse to take "no" for an answer.

I'm determined to make sure that Standard Pauper remains on Magic Online. Won't you join me?


RIGHT! by ComixWriter at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 12:48
ComixWriter's picture

Your passion shines through like a beacon to (other players and) me.

As an adult with autism and a serious physical disease, my opportunities for playing face-to-face are few. As a gift in August, my wife gave me an MGTO account. Since that time, I've spent less than $10 total and easily crafted more than a dozen different decks to play between the Standard Pauper and Tribal Wars formats. Please ignore my tournament records; I'm winning in other ways.

As a former therapist, and PhD student, I studied creative ways for autistic individuals to improve communications. Using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), I began to read multicultural, non-verbal emotional expressions with greater success. Over time, I taught clients and friends how to build predictive empathy. This formed the basis of an international, award-winning comic book. If you've seen Ekman's movie "Inside Out" or watched the television show "Lie to Me," you are familiar with FACS that we use in our comics, too (Ekman was my mentor, btw).

...but MTGO doesn't require face-to-face opponents. We communicate with typed words, or MAYBE a podcast. We use the internet to post topics, set gaming times, and report player-ran tournaments. To me, I feel totally blind. No amount of emoticons convey how someone is really feeling, but most people cannot mask instinctual responses to any interaction. All of my expensive education is worthless to me in blind games via texts and clicks.

Why in the world would I want this playing environment? I need to grow, personally and professionally. Not one person ever was cruel or belittling to me. They don't know who I am nor do they care. Like visiting a foreign country, we interact better by having a guide or friend who shows us new customs, new ideas, and things we may otherwise have missed. Just yesterday, another friendly gamer (Telcar) showed me the game menu, and explained not only what the stages do online and how/when to click, but shared his typical settings and combat tricks about holding priority. He and others have bounced deck ideas off of me and want to play me, to improve their decks and give me more experience. Although I felt blind going into this format, even Tribal Wars, the PEOPLE who play these games are genuine professionals. Before I played Tribal Wars, I created an achievement!

In my professional life, I feel very confident that I have great autism-related connections and can get things done on this front. Currently, I'm working with educators to develop comic book-paced self-care instruction materials. My LinkedIn and Twitter followers are among the world's best recognized leaders in autism education, and more than one mainstream giant comic book company executive also follows and watches.

...but I'm growing at MTGO, too. When I contacted about an order, I introduced myself to them. My comments about their customer service hit reddit, and was a nice nod to autism acceptance by them.

At 41 years old, I battle my health. I won wars at higher education and in courtrooms (I was a court room therapist). Now, MTGO threatens my new-found enjoyment by going back on its promise about Tribal Wars, and offers incompatible arguments to justify their removal of Standard Pauper. I started with standard pauper due to its price and a known format. When discussing mental health, more professionals than just me would encourage a smaller area in which new people can acclimate. Owing to its lower price entry point ("Pauper" is in the name!), more people could use these formats as a form of self-expression, social risk, and they might just have some fun...if they play their cards right. To me, as a mental health and autism advocate, is a large rebuke of disempowered segments of the population. Sure, I'm part of the "less than 1%" of the offenders who "fractures" the player base, but I am a person. I'm a person with autism. In the United States, our tribe constitutes about 1% of the total population, too. Thanks, WotC, for making me feel as welcomed as the vast part of society. Despite your efforts and broken promises, the players will still retain creative expression, regardless of filters or support, in spite of you and be stronger because of this fight.

WotC casts Channel. WotC casts Fireball. Within our collective communities, we are sure to hold at least one Cancel...

I'm giving WotC a face of a new player who really enjoys these formats. I want them to know who - specifically - they would be intentionally hurting by their proposed changes.

RIGHT! by ComixWriter at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 12:50
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(deleted duplicate post)

Truth by Hearts at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 13:41
Hearts's picture

In wotc's eyes the truth is simply something that makes it easier to argue for something when they make use of it.

If wotc believes the truth isnt good for this "something" then they dont make use of it, which means we sometimes see wotc presenting articles/public announcements with no truths at all (not even partial truths).

This article is amazing. by Adam_the_Mentat at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 13:41
Adam_the_Mentat's picture

This is a perfect response. I just feel it will be ignored, as are all the wants and requests from the casual gamer. It's hard to ignore the death of these formats, the death of purchasing commander decks in the mtgo store, the death of our voices in decisions like who participates in the community cup. Now SCG has all but put the death knell into Legacy, and our cries and woes are ignored, only to be replaced with "hey have you guys seen this awesome standard/modern streamer?"
Their whole tactic of "ignore that, hey look over here" is insulting and easy to spot. More and more I feel like modern and standard players who grind and drop money are the only ones who matter, and we dumb schlubs who helped make the game popular with otu casual, kitchen top approach have served our purpose, now step aside.

Pauper is dead, long live pauper. by Deemed at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 15:00
Deemed's picture

I used to play a lot SPDC back in the day, but let's be honest, pauper is an already limiting format, do we really need a subset of it? So let's get over it, if you dislike standard, focus on modern preferably, or even legacy if that's your thing. Do like twoo did, get your favorite pauper deck and migrate it to other format. (ref to ninja bear). Brew, test, try new ideas. Magic is only growing more and more, specially on eternal formats, corners can be found in such a huge card pool. Let's evolve and move on.

Well said. All the best in by AJ_Impy at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 15:07
AJ_Impy's picture

Well said. All the best in this fight, but given the lack of engagement from WotC with the communities around these formats, we're in for a grim time.

There are two ways to look at by ArchGenius at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 15:11
ArchGenius's picture

There are two ways to look at casual formats. They either distract and remove users from spending more money and time on participating in sanctioned tournaments or they promote interest in the game itself and drive interest in cards that might not otherwise be desirable.

It's obvious which view WotC takes on the issue.

As always awesome job writing by joekewwl at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 15:33
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As always awesome job writing George.
I pretty much said this in my emails to wotc last week.
Not as flavorful as you but they knew where i was coming from. Please email wotc if you want to see these formats remain.
Tribal and Standard Pauper.

"Development can't afford to by Generalissimo at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 17:11
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"Development can't afford to take the time to playtest and develop cards for these formats."

I find this excuse especially insulting, given that they've stated in the past that the *only* formats they playtest for are Standard and Limited.

I realize this isn't isn't in by FierceTable at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 22:12
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I realize this isn't isn't in line with what the author is trying to accomplish, but I just wanted to share that selling your MTGO collection to MTGOTraders is quick and easy and would greatly recommend them to anyone based on my recent experience. I don't think MTGO is going to die any time soon, but it's clear that in the immediate future they will not be supporting the things I love(d) to do with their program. I've fought to convince myself that many of the changes in the past several years were growing pains, but I can't justify that argument any longer. I will still follow the game and the articles on this site, but until WotC makes a real effort to revive kitchen table MTGO I will not be a financial supporter.

My thoughts on all the by Rerepete at Wed, 11/04/2015 - 22:31
Rerepete's picture

My thoughts on all the "casual" formats is this: WotC thinks that they have to program a separate filter for each format; all they need to do is allow multiple format formatting (legality checking). You want standard pauper? Tick the check boxes for standard, as well as for pauper.

Frankly, the deck builder in V3 was much better then V4 IMO, you could do a format analysis and see instantly what formats your deck was legal in and what cards were illegal for every other format. The problem in V3 with joining matches was that they jumped rapidly (as games filled/started) and sometimes ended on a match you did not want. (Again a simple fix of adding check box filters) There are times when I don't care if I am playing my standard legal deck against a modern deck.

I am of the opinion that the "auto-matching" feature is more of a PITA than the old system, since bugged/buddy-only games still try to get paired with the play button, and you are forced to manually join a different game or host a new one (and let someone else deal with the joining).

A great shame. Pauper and by JMason at Thu, 11/05/2015 - 08:12
JMason's picture

A great shame. Pauper and prismatic and 2HG are all favourites of mine. The appeal of MTGO is finding a community to play niche formats with. If I want the supported formats I can get that here at home.

I suppose if wotc aim to grow mtgo from a product with a few thousand customers into one with millions of customers then they're going to have to make radical changes. Makes me feel my loyalty to wotc was wasted effort.

The strange thing is and many by fluffy_bunny at Thu, 11/05/2015 - 09:07
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The strange thing is and many companies feel scared of this

Telling the truth (or true reason) is in many cases much easier accepted by customers (even thought they don't agree) then gving a reasoning that is simply incorrect.

In this case if they said:

We are abandoning these formats because we don't make enough profit of these.

Copperfield's picture

These are all excellent counter-arguments to the unbelievably fallacious official line of logic Wizards would have us follow. I'd add only this: Wizards and some other players telling Standard Pauper players to just play regular Standard and Pauper instead just don't get it. Lots of people play this format because the price of competitive Magic has become prohibitive to working class people and families. Some of us can afford no more than a few bucks each new set release. For some of us a fifteen dollar draft breaks the bank. For some of us, hundred-dollar mana bases full of fetch lands and ten-dollar chase commons aren't as important as food, shelter, medicine, and bills. Wizards is proving once again that like all capitalist institutions they don't care one lick about their customers; they care about their profits and the parent corporation's shareholders. It's incredibly and disgustingly classist of Wizards and other players to insist we just play formats that are flat-out unaffordable.

That said, I'll note for the record that Standard Pauper has been being played on Magic Online for going on nine years. We only had a filter for the past three and that's as much official support as we ever got or really asked for. If the format got off the ground and eventually began to thrive without a filter, using only resources such as chat rooms (#StandardPauper everybody, join it!) and the PDCMagic or PureMTGO websites, then we can continue to keep this format running thanks to things like the Standard Pauper Players Clan and their blog and the blogs of the MPDC and SPDC host and the regular content produced by MagicGatheringStrat. We started off this format as rebels who decided to play our format regardless of Wizards' support or even the lack of acknowledgment that we even existed. We can continue to do so even if they don't change their mind on this bone-headed, selfish, discriminatory decision they are on track to make.