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By: Gloinoin, Tom Rouse
May 17 2007 9:42am
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Evolution of a Deck or a History of Pauper; one Deck at a Time.

Often the progress of a format can be charted to how a deck adapts and evolve to fit the meta game of a time, in formats such as extended and the eternal formats this progress is often gradual, responding to new decks or incorporating minor tweaks to improve certain match ups. On the flip side of this is a format such as Block, where a deck's evolution can easily turn into its elimination from the meta game if it is unable to adapt to deal with new threats. However pauper finds itself in a unique situation, there is no set meta game from week to week, let alone month to month and so players must often adapt in a vacuum, due to this the ability to predict changes becomes almost as important as the previous weeks results when determining the next step a deck should take. By and large this fluid meta leads to the decks that make it up shifting rapidly, currently Orzhov Blink and MUC are dominant, but when was the last time that old dominating force UW cogs reared its head? Our format doesn't lose sets during to rotation, so why should it lose decks?  One possible suggestion is boredom, as a community we get bored of seeing the same decks week in week out and so constantly develop new ones to avoid stagnation. A second alternative theory is akin to what has been mentioned earlier, older decks simply cannot cope with the tides of change and become swept away, lost in the mists of time. (I apologise for the metaphors, I'm in the middle of preparing for an English exam and well they just come naturally).


However as with any such situation, there is always an exception to the rule and it is this exception I wish to talk about today. As anyone who's played PDC can probably guess, the exception I'm going to talk about is a deck close to my heart, it is of course Red/Green beat down, one of the few decks that has been a constant threat for as long as I've been involved in PDC (since the beginning of the euro and mini events for anyone who cares). So without further adieu, lets step back in time and see what we can unveil from some early PDC events (note I'd go earlier, but the boards wipe prevents this. This is the earliest example I can find, from Euro PDC 1.07, despite elimination round finishes before it, this is the earliest record of my list I have.

Euro PDC 1.07 – First Place. RG beat down

12 Forest
8 Mountain
2 Penumbra Bobcat
3 Horned Kavu
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Firebolt
4 Wild Mongrel
4 Basking Rootwalla
3 Fiery Temper
4 Phantom Tiger
2 Forgotten Cave
2 Krosan Tusker
2 Nantuko Vigilante
4 Barbed Lightning
2 Vulshok Morningstar

Sideboard
4 Smash
3 Horned Troll
3 Moment's Peace
1 Nantuko Vigilante
4 Drooling Ogre
Looking at the list there are some obvious differences between it and the lists you'll see nowadays. The one which strikes me first is the presence of Krosan Tusker,  in the days before Ravnica mana fixing was precious and well, I was new to the format and had an unhealthy love for the card. At the time the top decks were affinity and TDR ( red sligh for the newer devotees), both frighteningly powerful aggro decks but with very different game plans. Phantom Tiger, Penumbra Bobcat and Vulshok Morningstar were the slots devoted to fighting the little red menace, all of them forced 2 for 1's or better from the red deck, allowing the slightly slower gruul deck a chance to establish its board position and go on the offensive. Drooling Ogre and Horned Troll out the sideboard contributed to this plan, coming in for Tuskers and Elves, which although good in the abstract did little to help against small red men backed up by Burn.

Phantom Tiger

Against affinity, fewer dedicated slots were needed main, the gruul deck has always had a reasonable match up and the 2 main deck vigilante were the only nod to the presence of affinity and as much as anything they often found themselves removing troublesome Circles of Protection. The sideboard adds Smash, at the time I was obsessed with Card Advantage winning aggro mirrors, something which in hindsight was wrong. Cheap answers were the way to go and with the cards available that slot should almost certainly have been Echoing Ruin.

The core of the deck however looks remarkably similar to that which we see today and the reason for this is simple, better creatures are not likely to be printed any time soon, certainly nothing on the Wild Mongrel power level. Phantom Tiger is slowly being phased out, but the last major changes to the deck came with the release of Mirage, which led to this little beauty of a list.

Nickpzo – TPDC 3.01 Top 4
4 Barbed Lightning
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Firebolt
9 Forest
2 Granger Guildmage
2 Gruul Turf
4 Incinerate
2 Kaervek's Torch
4 Llanowar Elves
9 Mountain
2 Nantuko Vigilante
4 Phantom Tiger
2 River Boa
2 Tranquil Thicket
2 Vulshok Morningstar
4 Wild Mongrel

Sideboard
3 Golgari Brownscale
2 Granger Guildmage
2 Nantuko Vigilante
2 River Boa
2 Tel-Jilad Chosen
4 Tin Street Hooligan

River Boa
                                                    
Incinerate


As you can see there have been a number of changes to both the main deck and the sideboard, 3 sets had been added to the classic pool since then, along with the last staple main deck additions to the deck, River Boa, Incinerate and Kaervek's Torch also coming into existence. Gruul Turf has also helped smooth the mana base somewhat, rendering Krosan Tusker sadly obsolete. This deck still had affinity as a target, with 8 potential sideboard cards able to come in, but there are also hints to a changes in the meta. By this time Red/Green was beginning to be recognised as the dominant deck and this version is built to dominate the mirror. 14 main deck burn spells, alongside 2 Granger Guildmages help give the edge, while also giving considerable reach against the mid range Orzhov decks that were just beginning to emerge. Morningstar is still hanging on in there, but the sideboard bears no resemblence to the first one we studied, Horned Troll and Smash have been replaced by River Boa and Tin Street Hooligan, while the reusable 2/3 body of Brownscale is a better all purpose answer to aggro then Moment's Peace.

We have just one final deck from the past to consider, before we do a time spiral style hop into the present. This time the meta is a more defined one, the event is arguably the biggest in PDC alongside TPDC Worlds, I'm naturally referring to the end of season Euro Championships. So of course what better way to cap a season than with the old warhorse winning the whole thing.
Euro PDC Season 3 Worlds – First Place
4 Basking Rootwalla
2 Fireblast
4 Firebolt
10 Forest
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Gruul Turf
3 Horned Kavu
4 Incinerate
3 Kaervek's Torch
3 Llanowar Elves
8 Mountain
3 Nantuko Vigilante
4 Phantom Tiger
4 River Boa
2 Tranquil Thicket
4 Wild Mongrel

Sideboard
3 Jolrael's Centaur
2 Molten Rain
4 Stone Rain
2 Naturalize
4 Tin Street Hooligan

As we can see the deck has evolved over the course of the season, Llanowar Elves returning to the main to help power out the sideboard Land Destruction as early as possible. The main deck has finally seen Barbed Lightning lost to the ages, while a full 4 River Boa's have entered the arena. These changes are due to the rise of MUC, barring a turn 3 Repulse, turn 2 Boa on the play generally meant game over in control match ups, Force Spike not yet appearing as standard in the blue control lists. In the sideboard, substantial changes are also seen, for this event a meta of Orzhov, Affinity and MUC was expected and so the sideboard is geared around beating those decks, with multiple relevant cards to side in for each match up and Jolreal's centaur coming in against most decks with black in them. Tin Street Hooligan even manages to show up against MUC, to assassinate Spire Golem The final of this event was against Nickpzo, with a list very similar to the one shown earlier in the article, proving that both Elf filled and non Elf filled lists remained viable.

Finally, to the relief of all I'm sure, we move into the present, well close to the present anyway to examine the defining red/green list of this season. The deck has changed subtly, mostly due to the diligent work of Lost But Seeking, while some input from SpikeboyM led to the introduction of Skirk Marauders to the deck.

Mini 5.06 – Top 4
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Firebolt
9 Forest
2 Forgotten Cave
3 Granger Guildmage
1 Gruul Turf
4 Incinerate
2 Kaervek's Torch
7 Mountain
3 Nantuko Vigilante
4 River Boa
3 Scab-Clan Mauler
3 Skirk Marauder
1 Tranquil Thicket
4 Wild Mongrel
4 Rift Bolt
2 Terramorphic Expanse

Sideboard
3 Jolrael's Centaur
1 Kaervek's Torch
2 Molten Rain
1 Nantuko Vigilante
2 Naturalize
4 Stone Rain
2 Streetbreaker Wurm

The Granger Guildmage/Scab-Clan Mauler package has also reappeared, the rise in tempo decks has made the elf/Kavu package feel more clunky, there is too much risk of your turn 1 elf dying to make it worthwhile. Additionally there is the obvious synergy between Rift Bolt and Scab-Clan Mauler which makes the choice an obvious one. Otherwise the main change is the loss of Phantom Tiger, for the utility of Skirk Marauder, who provides both an additional beater along with some measure of utility and can in certain match ups take a removal spell intended for a Vigilante. The sideboard still bears a striking resemblance to earlier boards, but with the addition of a couple of utility slots at the expense of Tin Street Hooligan. This is due to the demise of Affinity, slots can be devoted to beating more relevant match ups, particularly the presence of Streetbreaker Wurm to act as a Guardian of the Guildpact deterrent.

Finally, where would any history article be without a peek into what the future may hold for us, I'm unwilling to share an untuned deck list, but instead here's quick run-down of cards I feel may be of some use to the red/green deck in the future.

Ghostfire; Possibly the most obvious addition to the deck, it gives an answer to GOTG, which isn't dead in other match ups, RG has been known to run Yamabushi's Flame and this card functionally fills a similar niche.

Gathan Raiders; Adds another potential morph and gives a second way to get free Rootwalla's down, a 3/3 for 3 is never a bad thing and the Hellbent will be relevant enough of the time to make this card the most likely contender to actually make the main deck of Red/Green. If this makes an appearance, expect to see Fiery Temper make its return as Raiders tag-team partner.

Kavu Primarch; a bit of a stretch, but Siege Wurm has seen play out the board for the mirror and this can come down early unaided if needed. A sideboard slot at best, but I was running short of ideas.


Wild Mongrel

And that I'm afraid is that for the list of Future Sight cards that may actually make an impact, in standard there are more which may be relevant, but that alas is an article for another time. Red/Green aggro is here to stay and will only get more powerful as time goes on, the only issue is what cards make way to fit in newcomers and that my friends is something only testing will prove. Will a card ever emerge that is strong enough to force Wild Mongrel out of the deck? Not likely, unless R&D gets hit by a bus sometime in the near future. I hope this article has been of interest to people and if it has, I could continue the study with other decks, Affinity is an obvious option, as is MUC although I must confess to having little personal experience with either. If not, sound off in the comments as to what you'd like to see future articles contain.

6 Comments

Good job! by SpikeBoyM at Fri, 05/18/2007 - 09:05
SpikeBoyM's picture

Strong article. It is a shame we do not have access to the "ancient" RG lists which were purely anti-Affinity, with maindeck Electrostatic Bolt and Tel-Jilad Chosen.

by tusker at Fri, 05/18/2007 - 07:38
tusker's picture

Excellent article, Tom. I really like the general theme of detailing the evolution of a deck throughout PDC history and I look forward to future installments.

Another article I'd love to read from you would be one detailing a subject you touched upon a couple of times in this article: the Aggro Mirror Match. You mentioned that your thinking had changed a bit over time on how to best play the mirror and I would really appreciate learning more about how you approach this matchup.

Keep up the great work and Good Luck at Worlds! (/me hopes for a detailed tourney report)

Good to see more REAL Pauper Writers by Anonymous (Unregistered) 167.88.178.70 (not verified) at Thu, 05/17/2007 - 11:57
Anonymous (Unregistered) 167.88.178.70's picture

Well done Tom! Nice to see another article from a well respected and well like Pauper. The article was well detailed and well informed. Keep up the good work

by Gloinoin at Thu, 05/17/2007 - 09:55
Gloinoin's picture

Thanks for the comment:), I'v discussed the pictures with Heath and that'll be something I'll work on for the next article.

Great information by Hollow0n3 at Thu, 05/17/2007 - 09:57
Hollow0n3's picture

The articles itself is pretty good, but as AJ said before, consider tables for the next one. =)

AJ_Impy's picture

A fine debut article, but I strongly recommend putting your pictures and decks into tables for ease of reading. Your writing style is clear, the text is informative and well researched. Keep it up.