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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Nov 16 2008 8:07am
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PDC is an all player run format on Magic Online.  It consists of competitive games using exclusively commons cards.  Games can be found in the "/join pdc" room and events can be found on the Magic Online official message boards.  For more information please visit pdcmagic.com.

Pauper Standard has benefited immensely from the exit strategy of Aven Riftwatcher, Momentary Blink, and Tendrils of Corruption has opened the door for a whole new mess of decks, and that was before the advent of Alara. The aforementioned cards were long-game control's best friends because they prolonged the game until a dominating board position can be established, and then it was all downhill.

Creature saving measures? Not as strong.

Cheap life gain? No where to be seen.

Awesome removal spells? Well, those have not gone away totally.

Right now Standard seems to be spreading along the spectrum once more. Before Shards rotated in, many of the decks seemed to fit into one of two major categories: long game control or hyper-aggro. Yes, with the release of Eventide there was some shake up in what was competitive but Alara has given Standard a true breath of fresh air. It is a welcome change and a deck builders paradise.

So where to begin? The flattening of the format has allowed numerous strategies to appear. I tend to be attracted to aggressive strategies first and since this format seemed ripe for an aggro deck, I settled on going for a Black and Red build. I focused on the raw power of Blightning and the Tribal synergy of Lorwyn Block to build this Goblin/Warrior build:

I like several things about this deck. First, it can deal a ton of damage quickly. A triggered Clanger into a Deathraiders into a Blightning can eat a life total rather quickly. The Initiate continues to impress, allowing the deck to force through damage against some of the slower control decks that have emerged. The Cohorts allow the deck to attack for four damage on turn two, an action of which I have grown fond. The combination of Recover and Viscera Dragger make for some neat interactions. In the mid-game, these two cards can allow you to dig through a decent chunk of your deck in chained together. Dragger is just wonderful here, providing a hefty top end- there are not many creatures that it loses to in a fight-or it lets you dig deeper. Dragger also helps to break up stalls by swinging twice or just coming off the bench in the late game to be a surprise attacker.

I loved playing this deck for the first few days of Alara Standard. Everyone was trying out the new cards and had left some of their aura-aggro decks behind. Once those started filtering back into test games, I found that this aggro build had a good plan against decks based around Clout of the Dominus but had issues against a (Slippery Boggle) enchanted with a Favor of the Overbeing. This deck was very popular towards the end of last season and this deck has issues punching through a 3/3 vigilant untargetable flying Bronx cheer. Then people began running Deft Duelist and this deck cannot easily handle the Bant bear. While a sideboard (Hurly Burly) might do the trick, I am not fully sold. That being said, this deck does perform well against control and other Red aggro, so keep that in mind.

After being blown out by numerous turn two Duelists, I decided to try my hand at a UW aggro-control option. Duelist is an ideal creature for this style of deck since it is hard to remove and easy to protect. Backed up with
Remove Soul, Duelist can really go to town in Standard. It stops most Red decks cold if it can come down early in game one and this deck packs the counter magic to protect it from (Hurly Burly) in games two and beyond.



This is a very rough sketch, but so far I have had success with this build. Ponder is absolutely stellar in this deck. The low average mana cost and numerous filtering cards allow me to cheat all the way down to 20 lands with out consequence (thus far). The cards I have been least impressed with are the White two drops, but I have yet to find a suitable replacement.

Ideally, this deck will either Ponder or lay a Squire turn one, a threat on turn two, and then just protect the board, picking off threats with counters,
Unsummon, and Oblivion Ring. If the game state stalls, you draw into all your Duelists and it makes it very hard for them to get through. That being said, this deck is not build for the long game and could have some issues with the Treefolk Midrange decks that have been popping up (think GR big mana splashing Swamp for Resounding Thunder. If I were looking for a good aggro-control deck, I would start here.

Of course, I would then think about moving to my next shell: Faeries.



This is my build and I am not happy with it thus far. It is not a bad deck, but it just feels underpowered. I prefer this version which is much more aggressive than the builds that have been running around. The more controlling versions eschew the early beaters and Pestermite for more removal, Dreamspoiler Witches, and Sentinels of Glen Elendra. To me, that version is far too reactive and in my experience prone to big mana strategies.

Like the Azorius deck above, this list seeks to lay a threat and then start whittling away at life totals. Except the threat in this deck is most often a 1/1. The goal with this deck is to slowly build up threats and answers, slowly eating life points until one turn you just vomit up a hand of little androgynous anthropomorphic insects and win.

The Capsules in the sideboard are awesome against control. Often you just have spare mana and you run out a capsule and then a few turns later, you crack it for cards. It rarely is bad and sneaks around
Remove Soul, unlike Mulldrifter. Agony Warp has been every bit as good as advertised, often wrecking a combat phase or acting as a Bolt Fog combo. That card alone is reason enough to try to run Dimir in this format. Spellstutter Sprite is such a beating it makes me wonder why more people do not play around this creature. I have witnessed far too many games end because someone played into this Spell Blast.

It would not be an Alex Ullman deck building session without an attempt at Mono-Black Control, so here is my outline:

This is probably the roughest deck, but the quality of removal is so high right now it seems silly to not throw it all into one deck and just go. I am really excited about Blister Beetle, as it seems to be techy against tribal strategies. Again, a capsule gets the job done coming down early and threatening a whole mess of creatures that are commonly played. Viscera Dragger is stellar here for all the same reasons it was good before, only this time to Hill Giant mode actually matters. Onyx Goblet acts as a long game win condition, grinding life totals slowly in place of the big swing spells like Consume Spirit and Corrupt. I went with the Gravedigger/(Warren Pilferer) split because I was going to be chucking a ton of my excess lands to Crime and wanted a reliable way to get back my two-for-ones late. This is also the reason that this build does not run Mournwhelk. If midrange Green is a force to be reckoned with, I can easily see this deck getting the job done. That being said, it almost definitely needs Festercreep in the board to combat swarm decks.

Finally, a three color special that is really good at one thing: drawing cards.




This deck is just a blast to play. You just sit back and keep drawing good cards. Eventually you just have too much good stuff and just overwhelm on sheer card quality. I'm still trying to find the right mix of spells for this bad boy but if I had to pick a midrange deck, this would be it.

Also, Resounding Silence is absurd if you get to pull off the ultimate. It totally wrecks the other side of the board and there is not much they can do to stop you pulling the hadouken.

Keep slingin' commons-



by cRUMMYdUMMY at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 11:02
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Golden Cricket is harder to chump block, but easier to remove.  Safehold Elite survives the chump or removal and still leaves you with a 1/1.  On top of that, Golden Cricket's activation cost, might leave you short on mana to play counterspells, especially since you are mana light.

Sighted-Caste Sorcerer is pretty terrible, I wasn't thinking straight.

Unsummon is better as a sideboard card.  DDW isn't as big a metagame concern as before.  Sure Clout wrecks you and you have no answers, but it's pretty bad in most other matchups.

 Blister Beetle hasn't been that great for me, maybe you've had better experiences with it. 

I don't think Capsule will change any plays coming down on turn 1, though I could be wrong.

Did you try running another cycler like Aphotic Wisps instead of Grixis Panorama?  Costs the same, and you get the added benefit of turning off auras and occassionally getting extra damage through.

by 53N531 at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 22:31
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I was really kind of let down; I think you might have grown a bit out of touch in a way with some things. Other things however, like creativity, are still top notch.

I have to agree with SPG, I had thought that it would be widely known by now, especially by you Alex, about the negligible effect of deck thinning due to search lands in relation to the positional disadvantage you incur by limiting your early mana development.

I also have been working on a faeries list and I like yours pretty good. I have been using the 'reactive' list you mentioned and I must agree that I find it rather lacking in certain aspects that I find are resolved by the approach you took. I suggest changing Recover to Footbottom Feast as a way to survive long bouts versus EsPer control and to increase your creature count.

Too often in this format are decks running plentiful amounts of what you indeed yourself claim to be very good removal and it is very difficult to stick creatures in play considering the lack of density that Faeries typically has; especially considering how Faeries typically plays its matchup in relation to more aggressive decks. Therefore, I think including more creatures is probably the best way to effectively improve the deck's performance. I would find space to do this by going to 22 land and cutting down to 6 counters maindeck instead of 8. In my experience, 22 land is sufficient even with the higher-end controlling Faerie build.


-- Sensei 

by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 06:19
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First, with regards to the Panorama- I stand by my decision for the time being.  Again, my testing has shown 22 to be too few and 23 to me too many.  Also, why go to 61?  So I can run 23 Swamps?  That seems like the worst justifcation for going to 61 ever.  The mana is fine and if you diagree, please test the deck and post your changes either here or at PDCmagic.com.

Sensei:Sorry to disappoint, but I wrote this article very early last week before the two Standard event results came in.  At the time of writing these decks were more appropriate to what was being played in PDC and in events.  As for the Faeries list, I will look into your suggestions but I am not a fan of Footbottom Feast- the creatures in this deck are not worth the potential tempo loss of just ripping creature after creature.  I would sooner run Gravedigger or Warren Pilferers than Feast.

Crummy: Why is Safehold Elite strictly superior?  It does not fly, lie Golden Cricket can do; it does not boost combat stats like Skirmisher can.  Yes, it survives removal but then you're left with a 1/1.  The idea of this deck is to attack and the two drops in this deck all do that very well.  Elite is a fine creature, but I'm not sure it is right for this deck.  As for Somnomancer, I love that card, but I am not sure it is the right call right now.  I will consider it however.  Sighted Caste: Are you serious?  A 1/1 for two?  Squire only makes the cut because it can attack for two on turn two and then boost all creatures after.   Sorcerer takes the spot of an aggressive creature and then just sits there.  Unsummon also saves me from removal and it also is a turn one answer to Clout of the Dominus.  I mean, if they go Hopper/Clout on turn two and you bounce the Goblin, do you realize how insane of a play that is?  Apparently not.
Blister Beetle has been stellar- look around Standard an count all the low toughness creatures.  Not to many people are happy to trade their Gizzly Bear with a Ravenous Rats post combat.  Goblet is still being test.  Capsule is quite good as it can fundamentally change the face of the game if it comes down on turn one.  Suddenly, no creature they have is safe (bar Black creatures).  I really like this card.

BAMF plays out like this: block early, counter large threats, neutralize their creatures, draw a ton of cards, win.


by spg at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 09:05
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I'm a much bigger fan of four copies of Grixis Panorama then I am of one - you really need a bunch of deck thinning effects before they really start to have any statistical significance. Even the original Onslaught fetchlands weren't that great for deck thinning by the math, and those didn't require a mana investment.

I do really like the idea of running that deck with Mulldrifter and Agony Warp.

by spg at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 07:43
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Because 22+1 is actually 23 when your 23rd is a mana-producing land with no other real utility, and seems to just be inferior to basic Swamp.  If there was something like Desert/Wasteland/etc. avaialble in Pauper, then I could understand it - but Grixis Panorama just doesn't do anything for you, at least as far as I can tell.  Maybe I'm wrong, but saying it's "right" doesn't really give us anything to discuss.

by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 08:37
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Fair.  Here is my reasoning:

In the entire deck, there is one card that cares about having more than one Swamp available at any given time, the aforementioned Unmake.  Now, in all likelihood, I will not be casting Unmake on turn three, as those first few turns should be saved for Inversion, Beetle, and Capsule.  Therefore, not having BBB on turn three is not critical.  And even if it was, I could spend turn two sitting on Inversion and cycling for the Swamp so that on turn three I could have Unmake mana up.  To be honest, further testing has shown maybe I want a second Panorama.  Unlike other MBC decks, this one does not need to max out on land for Corrupt (Classic) or Consume Spirit (Classic and Extended) so late lands all get fed into Crime.  

Now I will be honest, I am a fan of incrimental gains in deck quality in MBC decks as I feel the decks tend to pack higher quality cards than many others and with lack of access to cards like Mulldrifter, this davantage can be important in the mid to late game in my mind.  Now another option is to add in some more Panoramas and go for the Grixis Splash of Drifter and Agony Warp.


by spg at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 06:43
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Going to 61 cards to fix a mana ratio issue is pretty much the ONLY reason to ever run 61, not the worst.

If 22/60 is too little, and 23/60 is too much, then 23/61 should be just about right.

by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 11/17/2008 - 07:05
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Except as I've said, 22+1 is "right," do why go to 61?

Grixis Panorama? by spg at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 08:39
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Why does your MBC deck run Grixis Panorama?

by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 10:29
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Random deck thinning for late game?

by SpikeBoyM at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 11:22
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I always felt too land heavy at 23 Swamps, too land light at 22, but 22+1 felt and currently plays right.

Great writeup. by cRUMMYdUMMY at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 15:20
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I understand that these are really rough sketches, but a lot of the cards being played are of questionable quality.  The only ones that looks tested are Rakdos Sligh and Faeries.

 In Guyliner, why are you running those terrible two drops?  Safehold Elite is superior to both.  Other alternatives are Sighted-Caste Sorcerer or Somnomancer.  Why use Unsummon?  Oblivion Ring already handles the enchantments.  I would probably use Burrenton Bombardiers or Surge of Thoughweft as they are both great combat tricks to save yourself from removal.

 In MBC, why Executioner's Capsule over Terror when you have no artifact recursion?  In my own testing, Onyx Goblet and especially Blister Beetle are better as sideboard cards.

 BAMF is very interesting and I honestly cannot envision how that would play out. 

by spg at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 15:28
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I guess I just don't understand when you would want it in a game over just basic Swamp.  You definitely don't want to draw it early and miss access to BBB for Unmake.  I guess it's ok to draw late in the game, but the deck thinning benefit is basically negligible.  At this point you need to invest part of a turn to convert it into black mana if need be (for Unmake + unearth moves), although the colorless mana should be ok at this point.

If it's a balance thing (23 too heavy, 22 too light), then running a colorless land doesn't seem like the best solution.  You could consider going to 61 cards to sort it out?