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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jan 01 2014 7:11am
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I. Introduction

More than three years ago, in response to having to answer the same questions over and over again as the host of the popular Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, I decided to create a New Player Primer. The goal was to create a single document that would comprehensively cover all the information a new player would need to play not only in MPDC, but in most of the other popular PREs as well. The result was this document, published right here on PureMTGO back in September of 2010. While that document served a valuable role for the community, subsequent updates to Magic Online, Gatherling, and have rendered some of that information obsolete. And so, today I present this new and updated version, with a wealth of information and videos to equip a new generation of players with all they need to participate in MPDC and other similar PREs.

The information presented below is organized into six sections, roughly following the same order one normally takes in participating in MPDC.  Hopefully this will make it easy to scan down to find a particular topic. While much of this information is designed to be valuable for newcomers, even some of our regular players might find some useful tidbits of information below. Finally, since this document is primarily targeted for those interested in Standard Pauper, near the end you will also find a valuable list of resources for that format. So, without further ado, let's get started!

II. Creating a Deck

The first step in participating in any event is to create a deck that is valid for the format in question. For any PRE using the Standard Pauper format, the following guidelines should be observed:

  • Must be Standard Pauper legal, according to the Standard Pauper filter on Magic Online. As of this writing, this includes all Commons from the Standard format: Theros, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze, and Magic 2014. You can always check here to verify which sets are currently included in Standard.
  • Cards from earlier sets that were reprinted in a Standard set are also legal; these are known as proxies. For example, you could include a 7th Edition version of Shock, since this card was reprinted in Magic 2014.
  • Commons from earlier sets that were reprinted in a Standard set but not as Commons are not legal in Standard Pauper, and thus will be listed as invalid according to the Standard Pauper filter. This includes cards like Arrest. While Arrest was printed as a Common in Scars of Mirrodin, in the Standard set it is only printed as an Uncommon from Return to Ravnica, and thus is not Standard Pauper legal.

If you would like a detailed guide on how to create a deck on Magic Online, check the videos below.

 Instructions for Magic Online version 3

Instructions for Magic Online new client


III. Registration

The next step in participating in an event is to register for the event itself. While the specifics vary by event or by host, registration is typically handled in one of two ways:

A. Registration through Magic Online

Most older events used Magic Online itself to process registrations. For these events, the first 30 minutes of any event is typically reserved for registration. To register, players need to join the indicated channel or channels. In case you are unfamiliar with that terminology, a channel is simply a chat-room shared by anyone who chooses to join the same channel. MPDC uses two different channels: MPDC and MPDCCOM. The MPDC channel is used for general communication during the event, and is also suitable for chatting with players, griping about the shuffler, and other such banter. The MPDCCOM channel, on the other hand, is used only for "official" communication, including requests to register, drop, or to report the result of your matches. In any case, registration for MPDC is quite simple. Join the MPDC and MPDCCOM channels, and in MPDCCOM, type "reg". The host will typically respond in some way indicating that your request has been accepted, but generally if you type "reg" or something similar into the channel, you can rest assured that the host has seen your request and added you to the event.

B. Registration through Gatherling

More recently, hosts have started using an online software called Gatherling to process registrations. For these events, your first step is to register your account in this software, which you can do here. Once you have an account, log into Gatherling. You will find yourself on the Player Control Panel page. Under the heading "PREREGISTER FOR EVENTS" you will see the name of the event in question and a link that reads "Register." Click on this link, enter your decklist, and click "Create Deck." Then, back on your Player Control Panel, under the "PREREGISTER FOR EVENTS" heading, you will now see the word "Registered" next to the event name. Additionally, the deck will now be listed at the top of the page under the heading "RECENT DECKS."

Either way, at some point during the registration process you will need to enter your decklist. Here's how to do that on version 3 of the Magic Online client:

  1. If you haven't already done so, browse over to Gatherling over at, create an account, and log in.
  2. After log in, you will find yourself in your Player Control Panel. The most recent events you participated in will be listed in the left-hand column, with a [Create Deck] link for any decklist that you have not entered. Click on this link, which will take you to the Deck Database screen. Or, if you preregister for an event on Gatherling, you will automatically be taken to the Deck Database screen.
  3. From MTGO, go into the Deck Editor section, and load up the Deck you wish to enter into Gatherling.
  4. Once you've loaded the Deck into the Deck Editor, click "Save As", and select "Local Text Deck" in the upper left hand corner. Then save the Deck somewhere you can easily find it (like on your Desktop).
  5. Browse in your computer over to that location, and open up the text file.
  6. Copy and paste the contents of the text file into the appropriate sections in the Deck Database screen on Gatherling. Be sure and give your deck a memorable name and include which Archetype the deck falls into.
  7. Finally, click "Create Deck" at the bottom of that window, and Gatherling will automatically sort your entry and display the completed entry.

And here's how to enter your decklist on the new version of the Magic Online client:

  1. If you haven't already done so, browse over to Gatherling over at, create an account, and log in.
  2. After log in, you will find yourself in your Player Control Panel. The most recent events you participated in will be listed in the left-hand column, with a [Create Deck] link for any decklist that you have not entered. Click on this link, which will take you to the Deck Database screen. Or, if you preregister for an event on Gatherling, you will automatically be taken to the Deck Database screen.
  3. From MTGO, go into the Collection section, and load up the Deck you wish to enter into Gatherling. Right click on the deck name, then choose "Export." When the new window comes up, select the pane entitled "Save as Type," and select "Plain Text format." Then save the Deck somewhere you can easily find it (like on your Desktop).
  4. Browse in your computer over to that location, and open up the text file.
  5. Copy and paste the contents of the text file into the appropriate sections in the Deck Database screen on Gatherling. Be sure and give your deck a memorable name and include which Archetype the deck falls into.
  6. Finally, click "Create Deck" at the bottom of that window, and Gatherling will automatically sort your entry and display the completed entry.

Once you have completed these steps, you are now registered to play in the event!

Pro Tip #1: While in most cases the order in which you register doesn't matter, it actually can make a difference, particular if the number of players in an event is small. Registration order is considered the final tiebreaker, so in the unlikely event that two players have identical tiebreaker stats (which will be discussed more fully below), the player who registered earlier will be ranked higher than the other.

You can a detailed walkthrough covering all this information in the videos below:



III. Setting Up Your Match

After registration has closed, the host will review the tournament rules and direct all players to where they can find the Pairings and Standings during the event. Once the host has announced that Pairings are available, you will need to check either the Tournament Event thread or the Player Control Panel on Gatherling to see which player you will be facing in the current Round. For most PREs, matches are played out in a particular room on Magic Online, which is called the Anything Goes room on the version 3 client or the Getting Serious room on the new client. Either you or your opponent will need to create a Table in this room, which is simply a fancy term for creating a new match through the MTGO client. While technically it is the responsibility of the first player listed to create the Table, this convention is not generally followed by most players. Click the "New Game" button, and create a Table according to these guidelines:

  • Your Match should be set to Constructed (Open Play).
  • Your Match should be set to the Standard Pauper format.
  • Your Match should be set to One-on-One Duel.
  • Your Match should be set to Best 2 out of 3 on the version 3 client or 2 Wins per Match on the new client.
  • Your Match should be set to 30 minute Event Timer on the version 3 client or 25 minute Event Time on the new client.
  • Your Match should be set to Allow Watchers.
  • Your Match should include in the comments box: "MPDC X.XX Round Y", where X.XX is the Event ID (season number + dot + event number) and Y is the current round. Technically, players often ignore the Event ID and simply use the Round number, which is also acceptable.

If your opponent creates the table instead of you, please take a moment to ensure that the table is setup correctly before joining, and PM either your opponent or the host if it does not appear to be correct.

Also, be sure NOT to use the "Challenge" function of the MTGO client for MPDC. Games that are created this way are not placed in the proper room. This confuses other players and makes it harder for the host to monitor the progress of the Round or to join a game if a conflict arises.

In some cases, the number of players for a given Round may not be even. In this case, a Bye will be awarded to a randomly chosen player. However, except in the case of Round 1 (where all players obviously have equal records), the Bye will only be awarded to a player who has the worst record among the remaining players. If you receive a Bye, you do not play a Match, but your record improves just as if you had won a Match.

Pro Tip #2: While your total Points earned from a Bye is the same as a Match Win (3 points), the round in which you have a Bye does not have any effect on your tiebreakers; it is essentially ignored in determining these statistics. Because of this, a Bye is generally not desirable for a player who believes he or she will have a strong showing in the tournament. A Bye is always better than a Match Loss, but technically is not as good as a Match Win, all other things being equal.

IV. After the Match

Once your match has concluded, it is important to report the results of the match to the host. In fact, both players are required to report their results, regardless of whether they won or lost. The exact process depends on whether your host is using Magic Online or Gatherling to handle registration.

A. Registration through Magic Online

Click over to the channel designated for match reports. Type in whether you won or lost (W or L for short), and then the number of games you won and lost in the match. For example, if you won two games back-to-back in the match, you would type "W 2-0." Or, if you lost two out of the three games in the match, you would type "L 1-2." You may also include pertinent information about your result, such as "opponent had an illegal card" or "opponent's time expired," but please keep such comments brief and to the point.

Also, if you decide to leave the event for whatever reason, please include the word "drop" in your report so that the host knows not to include you in the next round's Pairings. Please do not simply drop from the event without notifying the host in this way.

B. Registration through Gatherling

Back on your Player Control Panel, scroll down until you see heading "ACTIVE MATCHES." Click on the "Report Result" button, select the appropriate response, then click on "Submit Match Report." Gatherling will then ask you to confirm your result. If it is correct, click on "Verify Match Report." If not, click on "Go Back and Correct." Once this complete, the entry under "ACTIVE MATCHES" will now read "Report Submitted."

If you decide at this point to drop, scroll back up in your Player Control Panel to the heading "ACTIVE EVENTS," and select "Drop From Event." Once again you will be asked to confirm, after which you will be dropped. While you do not need to notify the host of your decision, please be sure to report your most recent match before dropping.

Pro Tip #3: If you drop for whatever reason, but circumstances change such that you would like to continue with the tournament before the current round has finished, you will need to notify the host to be reentered into the event. Typically, the host will gladly allow you to continue in the event as long as a new round has not yet been paired.

V. Standings

After the conclusion of the second and subsequent rounds, you will have an opportunity to view the current standings before the next round begins. If the host is using Magic Online to handle registration, these standings will be posted in the Tournament Event Thread. Or, if the host is using Gatherling to handle registration, the standings are available by clicking on the "Current Standings" button located under the "ACTIVE EVENTS" heading on your Player Control Panel.

The Standings report will look something like this:

While there is quite a bit of information displayed here, the two most relevant pieces of information are your overall ranking in the tournament (displayed at the far left just before your MTGO username) and the number of Points you've accumulated. For this report, you receive 3 points whenever you win a match, and 0 points when you lose a match (a bye counts as a win in this case). This, at a glance, allows you to know where you rank in relation to the other players and to verify that the host has correctly entered your results. If that's enough information for you, feel free to skip down to the next section. Otherwise, let's try and break down exactly what all this information means.

As you can see, for any event, you will have multiple players with the same overall Points. In order to determine ranking when Points are equal, tiebreakers are necessary. Tiebreakers are based on three statistics: Opponent's Match Win Percentage (abbreviated OMW%), Player's Game Win Percentage (PGW%), and Opponent's Game Win Percentage (OGW%). This is also their relative order of importance, as PGW% is only relevant in the case of equal OMW% stats, and likewise OGW% is only relevant in the case of equal OGW% and PGW%. Let's break down what these indicate.

OMW% is the percentage of matches that your opponent has won. Since this is your primary tiebreaker, it is in your best interest for whomever you play to win all of his or her matches, other than when he or she plays you, of course! Next, PGW% is the percentage of games you have won over the course of each match. In other words, for tiebreakers, a 2-0 Match Win is more desirable than a 2-1 Match Win. Similarly, a 1-2 Match Loss is also stronger than a 0-2 Match Loss. The final tiebreaker, OGW%, is the same statistic as PGW%, except that it tracks your opponent's games instead of your own.

Pro Tip #4: The final column on Standings has nothing to do with tiebreakers. It merely lists the results for each player. The letters stand for Matches Played (P), Matches Won (W), Matches Disqualified (D), and Byes Received (B).

VI. Special Situations

Sometimes, something unexpected happens. While not every contingency can be planned for, most of the time you can find a solution within the full Tournament Information and Rules section of the MPDC Season Document; these rules are also reprinted in the Tournament Event thread for each event. For the sake of this primer though, I've included a more user-friendly format below consisting of common questions and answers that covers most of the common situations.

  • Question #1: How do you determine how many rounds the event will include? For most events, this is solely dependent upon attendance. For MPDC in particularly, with 17 or less players, the event includes 3 Rounds of Swiss with a Top 4 Playoff. With 18-23 players, the event includes 3 Rounds of Swiss with a Top 8 Playoff. With 24-32 players, the event runs 4 Swiss Rounds with a Top 8 Playoff. With 33-49 players, the event runs 5 Swiss Rounds with a Top 8 Playoff. Finally, with 50 players or more players, the event runs 6 Swiss Rounds with a Top 8 Playoff.
  • Question #2: What happens if my opponent doesn't show up for our match? For the sake of timeliness, all players are required to start their match within 10 minutes of the Pairing announcement from the host. If your opponent is not showing up after you have created the game table, the first step is to PM him or her, assuming your opponent is online. If your opponent still is not responding, PM the host and let him or her know the situation. The host will then determine when time has expired and award the missing player a match-loss. Please be patient with your fellow players and extend grace when unforeseen circumstances lead to short delays. As always, if you have an issue with a player's conduct, PM your host and ask him or her to resolve the situation.
  • Question #3: What happens if a player plays an illegal card? A player whose plays an illegal card automatically loses the match he or she is playing in. He or she must then substitute Basic Lands for any illegal cards in the deck, and then may continue the tournament as usual. However, a second violation in the same event will result in a full disqualification. If you suspect your opponent has played an illegal card, ask the host to join your table to confirm.
  • Question #4: What happens if a player's timer reaches zero during the match? If a player's timer reaches zero, his or her opponent automatically wins the match. The player whose timer expired would report "L 0-2" if he or she did not win a game prior to time expiring or "L 1-2" if he or she won a game prior to time expiring.
  • Question #5: What should I do if my opponent, or another player, is being rude, uncivil, or displaying poor sportsmanship? In this situation, your best option is to PM the host and let him know about the situation. If the behavior is occurring during a match, ask the host to join the table. Should the situation warrant, the host will ask the offending player to change his behavior. In the highly unusual case of repeat offenders, the host may disqualify the player and/or ban that player from future events.
  • Question #6: What kind of chat is acceptable in the MPDC channels or in game tables? Assuming that the content is not offensive or abusive, chat on most topics is permitted during the event in the MPDC channel. Please do not use the MPDCCOM channel for anything other than official match reports, registration, or dropping from an event.
  • Question #7: What happens if the MTGO server experiences a crash, or otherwise goes down due to technical issues? In the case of server-wide technical issues, the host will communicate with the players via the Tournament Event thread. Based on the severity of the problems, the event may be postponed or canceled. Be sure and watch the Tournament Event thread for any updates from the host.

VII. Resources

Since this document is primarily focused on Standard Pauper PREs, it will conclude with a list of helpful resources. With the continued growth and support of this great format, the information available to new players is greater than ever before.

  1. Obtaining Cards - While Magic Online is supported by several great third-party vendors, is the premiere source for all your Magic Online needs. You can purchase cards directly through their online website or through any of their well-stocked bots. Speaking of bots, they also boast both a free bot and a penny bot, which are great resources to obtain cards for free (or very nearly so). MTGOTraders also sponsors MPDC as well as other Player Run Events, providing free prize support for these events. For all this and more, they come highly recommended.
  2. Joining a Clan - One of the great features of Magic Online is the ability to join a clan, which is simply a group of like-minded players to trade with, test with, exchange strategy with, or just chat about whatever is on your mind. There is currently a large clan dedicated to the Standard Pauper format called Standard Pauper Players. New members are always welcome. Check them out and hit up clan captain Adner on Magic Online for an invitation.
  3. Learning About the Format - There are now multiple blogs that feature information on the Standard Pauper format:
  • Cabel the Pauper - Standard Pauper player Cabel maintains a daily blog with information on Standard Pauper, fantasy gaming and writing, as well as philosophy, music, politics, religion, current events, pop culture, the online experience, and life in general. Cabel also writes for PureMTGO under the username Copperfield and his articles can be found here.
  • The Draft Brewery - Channel Fireball's Team Chiropractor Chris Baker periodically writes about the Standard Pauper format, including an excellent article on 10 Reasons to Play Standard Pauper.
  • MTGOStrat - The MTGOStrat website covers a wide variety of Magic topics, but does include information on Standard Pauper from time to time. The site boasts a regular series entitled Standard Deviations devoted exclusively to this format.
  • PDCMagic - is the original home of the Pauper format and the Gatherling software, and includes a dedicated forum for the Standard Pauper format.
  • Writer Adept - Standard Pauper enthusiast gwyned (that's me!) blogs twice a week, focusing primarily on Standard Pauper while also covering video games, fantasy writing, and a hodgepodge of other interests. gwyned also regularly submits content here at PureMTGO - check here for all these past articles.

VIII. Conclusion

And with that, I conclude this updated New Player Primer. 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 follow me on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see across the virtual table soon!


Great Stuff! by Copperfield at Wed, 01/01/2014 - 12:43
Copperfield's picture

Thanks for putting this together, Gwyned, great work with very useful information. I declare this the most important Standard Pauper article of 2014!

Tricks with the V3: If you by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 01/02/2014 - 00:01
Kumagoro42's picture

Tricks with the V3:

If you want to look at, say, only the blue cards, you don't need to unselect every other color, you just right-click on the blue mana symbol and the client will select only that one and unselect the others.
Same for type of cards: right-click on creature, you'll get only those.
Do you want to reset the filter? Right-click on an empty area of the toolbar, everything will go back to default (including the format filter).

What's the purpose of keeping all the cards in the card pool shown as images? You'll see them in the column at the right already, while browsing through them. That only makes browsing harder.

You want to select all versions, though, because otherwise the client will add a random version (including stupid DPA) rather than the one you actually own/plan to buy for the deck.

Another reason why you do NOT want to have the card pool shown as images (you can switch that back and forth with the text/eye icons that are right under the NEW button) is that in text mode you don't need to use the slow and clumsy "search" window – everything you need to know to jump to the card you want, provided you already know its name or at least what its name starts with – is select anything in the NAME column and leave the mouse hovering there. At that point, just start typing the name on your keyboard, the pool will instantly go there. For instance, if you want to add Clone to your deck, you don't *search* for Clone. You type C, L, O and you'll see the pool going to Cabal Archon (first card with C), then Clan Defiance (first card with CL), then Cloak and Dagger (first card with CLO), then Clone. If you're fast at typing, you'll be there in one second and without changing the filter (which would then need time to change back) or scrolling or anything.
You can do the same trick in the other columns as well: click on the CREATURE TYPE column, for instance, and now everything is ordered by subtype. Type GOB and you can instantly start browsing through all the Goblins in existence. Want to see only the black ones? Double-click on the black mana symbol, and voilà.

When you build as much as I do, these tricks spare you HOURS of pointless scrolling, clicking and waiting for the client to respond. (I should actually do an article about that, because everyone needs to know what V3 can do, so that they'll end up giving the beta the same fucntionalities, which currently aren't there).