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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jan 05 2015 1:00pm
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I. Introduction

Another year has come and gone, and like many people, I find the start of a new year is a great chance to take stock of what's happened over the past year and think about what's to come in the one ahead. As a longtime enthusiast of the Standard Pauper format, it also seemed a great opportunity to dive deep into the current state of my beloved format and offer my thoughts on how things stand today and my hopes for the future. I believe I am uniquely suited for this task. Primarily, I am the host of a weekly Player Run Event called MPDC, which runs a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format with prizes awarded to the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. I also regular publish articles on the format here on PureMTGO as well as several times a week on my blog. So for this article, I want to focus on four topics: first, the impact of the new client on Standard Pauper; second, some great sources of information on the format; third, my thoughts on the current Standard Pauper metagame; and finally,  hints as to what lies ahead in the new year.

II. The New Client and Standard Pauper

As has been widely discussed, the transition to the new client has been frustrating to say the least. Even now, I still hear from players in the community complaining about various bugs, crashes, and disconnects that make their experience difficult at best and impossible at worst. Some users can't seem to login with any consistency; others have had major bugs affect the outcome of matches; and I personally even had to cancel an event due to a server crash. While I don't have any specific data to back it up, I believe that this transition has hurt the casual player more than most. With less invested in the program, and amidst a host of bad publicity, there is very little to keep these players coming back to Magic Online.

Unfortunately, this has had a major impact on Standard Pauper for the simple reason that it is, by and large, an online only format. Worse, it's a format supported by a community that doesn't want to invest a great deal of time or money into the game, typically because they cannot afford to do so. Not that long ago, MPDC was drawing as many as 40 players every week; now we're lucky if we reach the upper teens in attendance. Back in August of 2013, Hipsters of the Coast ran a 'league-style" event in Standard Pauper that ended up drawing over 150 players from 15 different countries. But in a similar league run by MagicGatheringStrat that concluded just last week, it drew only 32 players.

So what's to be done? Ultimately, I continue to believe that Standard Pauper is worth saving. But to do so, our community will need to step up and do their part. That means players need to keep showing up, to play casual games when they are online, to submit feedback to Wizards of the Coast, to promote the format on social media, and even to create content like this. Fortunately, even a small format like Standard Pauper now has a variety of sources of information on it. Let's take a look at some of them.

III. Standard Pauper Events and Resources

While I have been hosting and writing about Standard Pauper for more than five years now, I am delighted to see the community that has grown up around the format is creating more online content than ever before. Of course, anytime you try and include everyone, someone inevitably gets left out. But here are the events and resources that I am aware of for Standard Pauper. And if I've missed something, please let me know in the comments.

A. Events

There are currently two Player Run Events each week for Standard Pauper - the aforementioned Monday Pauper Deck Challenge (otherwise known as MPDC) and its sister event Standard Pauper Deck Challenge (or SPDC for short). Both take place at 2pm EST / 7pm GMT and utilize the same basic structure and rules. SPDC takes place on Sundays, while MPDC takes place on Mondays. Both of these events also use the Gatherling database on to track tournament results, which means there is always a wealth of information on the metagame available there.

Additionally, from time to time, there are "league" style events run in the Standard Pauper format, where players are paired up to play a single match each week. Such an event just finished up over at MagicGatheringStrat, but I unaware of any others that are planned at this time.

B. Websites

There are several great sites that periodically cover Standard Pauper. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. PureMTGO: You're reading this right now, so obviously you know about it. Mundisv is a fairly new author on the format for this site. Copperfield (otherwise known as Cabel) had a long running series that is also highly recommended. You can also check out my previous articles here at PureMTGO as well.
  2. MagicGatheringStrat: This is the permanent home of the Standard Pauper Show, a weekly podcast covering all things Pauper with a special emphasis on Standard Pauper. This is a great place to keep up with what's going on in the metagame. Additionally, check out the Standard Pauper section of their YouTube channel for some great video content.
  3. Standard Pauper Players: This is the blog for the only Magic Online clan dedicated exclusively to Standard Pauper. While clan features are quite meager on the client currently, this is still well worth checking out. And if you're interesting in joining the clan, let me know. I am currently holding the reins of Clan Captain until we can find a permanent replacement.
  4. The Draft Brewery: This blog is written by Chris Baker, the official chiropractor for ChannelFireball and a major enthusiast of the format. In addition to his blog posts, he also maintains a very active YouTube channel filled with video replays on his Standard Pauper matches. All of his content is highly recommended.
  5. MTGSalvation: While they do not have a section exclusively devoted to Standard Pauper, you can find some discussion on the format in the Paper Pauper / Peasant section of their forums. This also happens to be my site of choice for spoilers, for whatever that's worth.
  6. Writer Adept: And last but not least is my own blog. I write three times a week, and try to cover Standard Pauper more often than not. I also have a YouTube channel, although I have not been utilizing video as much as I would like.

So with all that great information at your fingertips, now it's time to talk about my favorite part of the state of Standard Pauper - the metagame!

IV. The Standard Pauper Metagame

The current metagame is in an interesting place. Typically, aggro strategies dominate a new format, then are slowly pushed out by control builds as the metagame matures. More recently, White Weenie has stayed at the top of the heap, generally having good matchups against just about anything in the format. Right now, the metagame is divided almost straight down the middle between aggro and control, with three major archetypes dominating the Top 4 of these events. Interestingly enough, of these three, two of them have considerable variation in their contents from event to event, with no exact list proving to be the best. Let's take a look at each of these in turn.

A. Izzet Control

This deck was crafted by Chris Baker, and it immediately made a major impact on the format. It is remarkable that it runs absolutely no creature spells, instead relying on a massive card-draw engine, token generating spells, and burn to power through the deck and eventually overwhelm its opponent. The strategy is simple: cast a bunch of cards to power out multiple Treasure Cruises, which in turn supports casting even more cards, until the massive card advantage you generate is unstoppable. Nullify, Lightning Strike, Magma Spray, and Voyage's End suffice to keep early aggressors at bay until this plan can be realized. Out of the board, it can also draw on a full suite of permission spells to counter other control decks, or wipe out early aggro with Scouring Sands. If you're looking for the ultimate in value, this is probably the deck to play.

B. MonoBlack Control

This deck emerged as a contender with the release of Theros, and has continued to see widespread and successful play in the metagame, largely due to the powerful synergies of Disciple of Phenax and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, two of the better Commons to see print in recent times. Add in decent removal with Pharika's Cure and Debilitating Injury, some card draw with Read the Bones, graveyard recursion with Font of Return, and some additional value creatures, and you have quite the potent mix. Interestingly enough, this mono-Black core has been also used in Orzhov and Dimir builds as well, with a fairly even split between mono-colored and dual-colored lists in terms of winning. The ability to splash cards like Treasure Cruise, Benthic Giant, Last Breath, or Scholar of Athreos have given this deck some additional options. This deck is pretty much in line with other top Standard Pauper Control archetypes of the past.

C. Boros Heroic

Boros Heroic
1st place by Bava in MagicGatheringStrat Community League #3
3 Akroan Crusader
4 Akroan Skyguard
4 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
4 Satyr Hoplite
2 Jeskai Student
2 Ainok Bond-Kin
19 cards

Other Spells
2 Inferno Fist
4 Defiant Strike
4 Feat of Resistance
4 Chosen by Heliod
4 Dragon Mantle
4 Gods Willing
22 cards
4 Wind-Scarred Crag
5 Mountain
6 Plains
4 Evolving Wilds
19 cards

Dragon Mantle

Of all three decks, this one has a wide variety of builds, including some that drop one of the colors for either a White Weenie or Red Deck Wins style archetype. But in all three cases, they rely on a common core of cards that I believe are best represented by this Boros build. Unlike the other two decks, this one is all about rapid aggression. Nearly all of the creatures feature the Heroic mechanic, and one can craft some amazing combos utilizing the suite of creature auras, protection, and combat tricks. Like any combo deck, it does run the risk of drawing the wrong selection of cards. But when it comes together, it is easily capable of a turn four or five win. Drop your creatures, protect them with Gods Willing and Feat of Resistance, buff them with Chosen by Heliod, Dragon Mantle, or Inferno Fist, and smash your opponent down as quickly as possible. If you want a deck that is quick, fairly straightforward, and capable of some busted starts, this is your pick right here.

Now, even though these three decks represent the bulk of the metagame, that's not to say that there are no other viable choices. In fact, over the past couple months, fifteen different archetypes have made at least one Top 4 finish in either MPDC or SPDC. Here's a snapshot of how these different decks have been represented in the Top 4:

Considering that the Standard Pauper set is at its smallest possible size right now (with only four expansion sets and one core set), this is an impressive amount of variety! And as I mentioned, with even the top performing decks seeing quite a bit of variation in their actual lists, there is still plenty of room for innovation and experimentation in the metagame right now.

So what's next for the format? I'm glad you asked!

V. What's To Come

I'm quite optimistic and even excited for the future of Standard Pauper. In this next year, we've got the release of three expansion sets, each of which is sure to reshape the metagame and bring players both new and old back to the virtual table. As Magic Online continues to stabilize, I believe that the casual crowd will start to filter back online (especially if leagues get off the ground and are successful), and that attendance at both MPDC and SPDC will continue to rebound from our current lull. I also anticipate that more and more content will be published in the format, whether here at PureMTGO, over at MagicGatheringStrat, from Chris Baker, or possibly even from new players.

For my part, I have several new endeavors in the works. First, I intend to follow up this article with a special feature length deck tech on the three major deck archetypes leading up to the end of season capstone tournaments for both MPDC and SPDC. Second, I will soon be announcing a special Standard Pauper Sealed League that will start up soon, which you can read more about here. Third, I hope to find new ways of bringing exposure to our format by branching out into sites like reddit and mtgsalvation. And finally, I will continue to host our weekly PRE, tweet and blog about the format, create videos, and bring attention to the format as best I can.

VI. Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this look into the State of Standard Pauper. For those of you who are already part of our great Standard Pauper community, thanks for all you do. For those of you who have yet to dip your toe in, let me encourage you to do so! Standard Pauper is a great format, and one that challenges both new players and veterans alike. Come join us on a Sunday or Monday afternoon for our weekly PREs, or just pick up some games in the casual room. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time for my first deck tech of the new year!


Great overview! by ahniwa at Mon, 01/05/2015 - 13:33
ahniwa's picture

Thanks for the mention and for the excellent overview of Standard Pauper resources! I'm looking forward to the Sealed League! /bava

I use to play and still wants by bdgp009 at Mon, 01/05/2015 - 23:53
bdgp009's picture

I use to play and still wants to play Standard Pauper but the timing just doesn't suit my real life time. Still I try to tinker with different brews of standard pauper from time to time. I hope someday Wizards will give the players of Standard pauper a chance to have their own competition even with only a minimal prize structure and let them have that deserve qp's to enter MOCS. Keep up the good work Mr. Gwyned.