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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Oct 20 2007 8:31am
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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 paupermagic.com

Classic PDC has suffered in the popularity department recently. The format is seen as boring and not fun due to three “dominating decks.” I use quotation marks here because I do not feel any one of these decks is as dominating as people say, rather people just do not seek to exploit openings where they exist. The three decks in question are the unholy triumvirate of Cloak, MUC, and Burn Range. These decks come from different ends of the aggressive-control spectrum and have very different paths to victory. However, they have one thing in common- they force noninteractivity. In the interactive game of Magic, these decks seek to create a noninteractive game state.

Let us begin by breaking down each of these decks and explaining why they create a noninteractive game state, starting with Cloak. Cloak is an aggressive mid-range Green-White deck. It runs fairly efficient, unsolvable creatures such as River Boa, Guardian of the Guildpact, and Silhana Ledgewalker along side Judgment's Phantoms. To supplement these cards, Cloak runs its namesake, Armadillo Cloak, along side Vulshok Morningstar and pump spells. The plan is to Cloak up a creature and then just beat down with a nigh-invulnerable and difficult to block creature. After sideboarding, the deck brings in defensive stalwarts such as Penumbra Spider to help hold down the fort, making it a defensive monster that slowly wins through lifelinked monsters.

Armadillo Cloak
Fireblast

This deck limits interactivity by dominating the Red Zone. Cloak is one of the best cards available in PDC, but has the inherent card-disadvantage of being an Aura. Putting it on an unsolvable creature helps to remedy this issue. Once applied, few decks can punch through the life gain. By gaining life and neutralizing many removal spells, Cloak neutralizes much of what the opponent can do, rendering the game generally stagnant.

Burn Range prevents interactivity in a very different way. Rather than rendering everything the opponent does a futile act, the Red deck simply aims burn at the dome- in the form of Instants and Creatures- until the opponent is a steaming pile of ash. The problem is Classic PDC has reached a critical mass of great burn spells, so this tends to happen very quickly; a nut draw from Burn Range can kill on turn three (three Mountains, three Lightning Bolts, three Rift Bolts, one Fireblast).

Burn Range limits interactivity by being fast. Starting on turn one, it establishes itself as the aggro deck and does take its foot off the gas pedal. That means potentially starting on turn zero, the defender has to assume a fortress position and play from behind, and as my beloved Mets recently found out, playing from behind is a difficult proposition (for our international readers, the Mets are a baseball team that totally imploded and lost so much in the final two weeks that they missed the playoffs- the biggest collapse in Major League Baseball history in the last two weeks of September, BDM and I weep together). This forced defense limits the actions a defender can take, greatly pressing them towards the realm of inactivity.

The last deck in this trilogy is MUC. Typically, this deck runs counterspells and Spire Golems to great effect. Counters keep the board clear and Golem usually goes the distance. With the help of strong card advantage cards, this deck can often dominate all stages of the game and slowly grind out victories against opponents that are not prepared for a strong counter wall and hard to kill win condition. Since MUC forces an opponent to play through denial, it seeks to deny activity.

These three decks are powerful extremes of the Classic PDC meta. They represent strategies that seek to break a fundamental aspect of Magic: it is a two player contest. The question then arises, how does one answer these decks? The answer is to force interaction.

Forcing interaction is by no means a new concept in Magic. Look across the formats- forcing interactivity is a valid strategy when metagames become games of solitaire. Even Vintage, the most absurd of formats, is held together by interactive cards. Duress, Force of Will, and Misdirection all serve to force Vintage players to interact in a way the format does not want. Instead, the format seems to be about resolving Yawgmoth's Will for the win, but these interactive cards seek to change that. Please note, that I am no Vintage expert, and everything I just wrote is a gross understatement about the depth of the format, but I need to simplify here- I am not as verbose or attentive to minutiae as Mr. Menendian. Granted, Vintage seems to be very much about quashing interactivity, but there are decks that seek to exploit that, while forcing their own brand of non-interaction.

Maybe Vintage was not the best example

Suppression Field

Forcing interaction is about taking the germ terms away from those in power. Leyline of the Void and other graveyard hate cards do this against Dredge strategies; Trinisphere does it against Mind's Desire and Suppression Field does wonders against Psychatog and others. These decks seek to limit the non-interactive factors of their opposing decks. Instead, they set their own rules of engagement.

From these examples, it can been said that interactivity exists on a spectrum. The best way to shift interactivity in your favor is to severely limit the ability for your opponent to be interactive. In the world of PDC, this tends towards limiting interactivity rather than denying it to your opponent. Since the format of PDC lacks cards that can add costs and stall tactics, different avenues to limiting must be found.

So what are viable limiting paths? One is a card I normally hate on, but here is extremely important: Guardian of the Guildpact. This card shuts down most conventional removal and can be a huge player in the quest to limit interaction. Against a mono-colored adversary or one that lacks serious removal, Guardian is golden. This illustrates an important aspect of swinging interactivity in your favor in the PDC metagame: running the pesky creature.

I had previously advocated Galina's Knight as a maindeck option for UW decks because of its ability to shut down certain aspects of Burn Range- this is the same principle. Running creatures that can effectively negate spells shifts the momentum in your favor. Almost every color has access to a creature that fits the bill- Black needs some help from Grim Harvest and Red has to pair with Black to find Shivan Zombie, which is only limiting against White decks (still an important card to know). Anything with shroud fits the bill here, as do many regenerators, now that Lightning Bolt has usurped Incinerate in many builds with limited burn slots. There are other less obviously examples, however.

Shambling Shell is actually stellar in this role because it dodges all forms of removal and comes back for more no matter what. On top of that, it is a very good beater and can aide in helping other creatures on your team. All in all, Shell can be extremely pesky.

Daunting Defender

When the meta shifts towards damage based removal, however, Daunting Defender becomes much better. This creature makes sure that there can be no equitable trades as long as he is involved, and having two on the table makes for some very good stall situations. In the right deck, this creature can dominate the ground. The Defender is hell on any aggro deck as well, fudging combat math significantly. It is hard for any creature to break through one, let alone two of the Clerics. Just another example of shifting interactivity your way.

Sadly, the spells that help to shift the game your way are all rather boring: counterspells and Shelter effects. These spells really can hurt opposing strategies and neuter key cards. Similar, prevention effects, in moderation, can prove useful. Loading up a deck with Fog style cards is a risky prospect, as the deck starts to rely on your opponent's inability to play rather than winning. As the adage goes, it is better to win than to not lose.

Attacking those three decks listed earlier is a different study altogether. Each needs to be targeted in a specific way in order to prevent them from dominating the game.  Cloak has a hard time dominating the game with out its namesake. As such, spells that deal with Enchantments are vital to beating the deck. Community member Kingritz made the discovery of Cloudchaser Kestrel, which not only nukes a Cloak when it enters play, but has the added bonus of being able to change the color of one to White, making it fall off GotG. Tech indeed. Similar cards will help, as do Disenchant effects in both White and Green, and Blue's bounce, such as Echoing Truth and often swing combat in your favor, if you are smart about it. In order to create interactivity here, the goal is to eliminate that which stalls the game- Cloak. If you are able to keep a large flier on the table, one capable of holding off a Cloaked Ledgewalker, then you might be able to pull through. Being able to stop Cloak is key, no matter how it is done. Doing so leaves them in the unenviable position of wielding a sub-par GW aggro or mid-range deck.

Similarly, rending their attacks meaningless could accomplish the same action. If you are running Freed, it does not matter how much life is gained- you can win. Along these lines, if a viable library depletion deck every sprung up, it would be action on a different set of standards, and therefore not care about Cloak's dominance (at least until it reached zero life).

Burn Range is a different beast. Beating the Red menace requires patience and unfair trades. It also requires a strong defense. As such, the aforementioned Knights and Defenders could go a long way in stopping their offensive juggernaut if they ever hit the board. Playing cards that are good against aggro while being defensive could help in this matchup- Renewed Faith has proven to be quite useful and stalling until a more dominating position can be established. Aven Riftwatcher can fill the same role coming out of the board, providing a huge life buffer and getting in there once or twice for good measure.

Seal of Fire style cards are also strong here, as they limit the ability for explosive openings. By playing the proactive answer, the Burn player may be more hesitant to lay threats without a back up. This can buy the all important time, and help create a stronger defensive position. COP: Red is actually not very strong comparatively because it is a huge mana sink and prevents you from establishing a good position early.

Getting around the dominance of MUC can take multiple forms. One is running your own counter suite, to help force through important spells. This also has the added benefit of forcing a counter war, where you can waste additional spells in the MUC players hand. However, this only works in conjunction with other strategies.

As mentioned, creatures with shroud help shift interactivity towards your end of the spectrum. Resolving one such creature against MUC usually means it will stay on the board. Similarly, forcing through a sizable threat, such as a large Werebear, usually means bad times for the Blue mage. This is done by amassing threats in hand and then baiting counters out until a threat is resolved. It is not fun and requires a significant amount of patience, but is one of the best ways to force your action on MUC.

As I was writing this article, the meta shifted (amazing, considering it took me only a week to compile this) to where decks based around Momentary Blink have risen to the top of the pack. Knowing this, it is important to make sure your forced interactions are able to handle these decks, which are usually based on utility creatures. A strong answer here, which works against many decks and are not necessarily dead against any of the listed decks is Innocent Blood. Even if a creature is Blinked, Blood still requires a sacrifice.

Every deck wants to limit interactivity. The decks listed in this article are the best at the shut-down offensive, not allowing anything to be brought up in defense. These are just some tips, and they are the proverbial tip of the iceberg for helping to swing the pendulum in your favor. Remember, cards are just as strong in PDC as they are in PDC- scour those spoilers for the cards that can play spoiler.

Bonus Section: Lorwyn Mechanics

Lorwyn will be with us soon enough, and while a full set review will be forthcoming, I've decided to do a quick look at what each different mechanic might offer PDC. I am going to exclude Champion, since it does not appear on any common cards.

Changeling is interesting. In certain decks, it opens up possibilities for Tribal benefits without overloading on tribe specific cards. Wirewood Savage seems much stronger in this environment, thanks mainly to Nameless Inversion. These cards may also help fill out Tribal based decks, providing decent sized bodies in otherwise lacking decks. They may also prove to be a decent foil to Slivers in PDC Standard, as you will gain all the benefits without giving up much in return. Changeling should make an impact, but it will not provide a huge shift in any format. It is a nice mechanic, providing good interactions and making certain cards potentially stronger. The big winner of these cards will most likely be the mentioned removal spell.

Similarly, Tribal could prove interesting all on its own. Tarfire is nice, and Warren Pilferers and (Boggart Birth Right) could make for a pretty mean Black-Red Goblin deck. Skulltap might be nice. Elves, Kithkin, Merfolk, and Faeries all seem to be the big winners in the Tribes. Giants simply do not have enough at common to make a good dent, although (Blind Spot Giant) might make an impact. Treefolk have one card, the Instant, potential cantrip Creeping Mold could be the back bone of a mid-range deck. Here, though, the rich get richer, and those not as rich get to be the middle-class. Tribal should make a strong impact in Standard, and might have some implications for Classic.

Evoke is interesting. People are already clamoring about how good it is with Blink, and how if you have Blink, these creatures are insane. Except this will also prove mana intensive. These creatures will most likely make the biggest impact in Standard, where the high mana cost will not be as prohibitive as the format is slower than Classic. Evoke creatures will also fit in nicely with the Blink decks of that format. In Classic, I would not be surprised if the Blue Evokers make a splash, as those decks that would play them could easily afford the mana cost for full price.

Finally, Clash. I like Clash, as it rewards different styles of deck building. The Goblin and Merfolk Clash creatures should both see heavy play in all formats, as they are cheap and provide a good sized body, in color, for the cost. Clash can allow for card selection, a la Scry, all while providing solid effects. Similarly, there are some decks that benefit from running cards with higher costs, namely Affinity and decks that run the Affinity Golems. I actually feel that after Tribal, Clash will have a huge impact across all formats, but will take a while to catch on.

Stay tuned, I will be providing a full common review, well, of the cards that might make an impact at least, in the not too distant future.

Keep slingin' commons-

Alex

Momentary Blink

 

0 Comments

by khirareq at Mon, 10/22/2007 - 10:18
khirareq's picture

I had a great big long post written up, but I know how Dreager hates those.  So I'll make three brief points:

Wizards is capable of printing mass removal at common without screwing up limited.  The Martyr, the echoing cycle, Nausea, squall, all great examples of mass removal in various colors that didn't mess up limited.  I'm asking for more like that, please.  And maybe something in white; I don't think we have seen that yet.  The closest we've come is lowland tracker, which I think you'll agree isn't very close.

Regarding sponsorship; let me hedge my bet.  I don't think official sponsorship is the way to go, but I am a little curious about what would happen if we got prize support from an official sponsor.  It's never been done in PDC to my knowledge.  The closest we've come is MPDC.  During their inaugural events, there was awesome prize support provided by the host.  This resulted in attendance numbers parralleling those of SPDC, a much more established tournament.  MPDC hasn't been renowned as a particularly innovative tournament, but standard is always churning anyway, so it would be more difficult to tell.  Once prize support waned, the number of participants waned as well.

PDCers as a rule are egocentric.  They care more about the fame and notoriety that comes with winning than the pecunary gain they recieve from doing so.  I wouldn't have it any other way. In a perverse way this makes the community stronger, since you are less likely to want to piss off the people among whom you would be famous.  Non-classic PDC tournaments simply offer more fame than classic tournaments do right now.  It is my belief that if they offered trophies, power rankings and weekly event reports, attendance would skyrocket.  The format is filled with untapped potential; PDCers simply need a reason to tap it.

More background on the discussion of the popularity of classic can be found at the link below.  It's a fun read, full of famous paupers bickering at each other:

http://www.paupermagic.com/Forums/tabid/54/forumid/-1/threadid/4298/scop...

by khirareq at Mon, 10/22/2007 - 07:34
khirareq's picture

Indeed.  The issue of the popularity of Classic was discussed a few months ago on the paupermagic.com forums, and various solutions were bandied about.  I don't believe any of them have been implemented yet.  Perhaps in the next season we'll see some change.

I agree with Runeliger that a lack of reward for one's efforts is one of the causes of the stagnation in classic.  I disagree with him about the reward, though.  I would prefer not to see official WOTC involvement in the format.  If any members of R&D are listening, though, PLEASE PRINT MORE COMMON MASS REMOVAL ONCE MARTYR OF ASHES ROTATES.  Preferably in a non-red color.  Like squall or crypt rats.  Thank you.

by runeliger at Mon, 10/22/2007 - 09:28
runeliger's picture

The problem with your request of mass removal at the common slot is that mass removal is usually granted to three colors via three different ways. White and black share on occasion the destroy all creatures effect, and red has damage removal. The problem with printing a common mass removal spell is simply... it would pretty much screw up limited. Having too many decent mass removal spells in the common slot would make curved creatures a bad proposition. Imagine, if every rift bolt in TPF was actually a common slot pyroclasm? I don't want to imagine that.

 

Also, this site is for everyone #1. There's Erik with information about all the forums happenings that most people (IE me :P ) don't want to sit down and read about, there's Alex with his amazing PDC articles and his attempts to breath life into PDC, and Evu whose articles are so awesome and so long, I usually read half of it and come back later to get the full enjoyment out of it.

 However, my opinion reflects innovation. History tells us, individuals create solutions based on needs to. Why was the cotton gin invented? Slavery was dying down, and there needed to be a more efficent way of harvesting cotton.  Why is Greater Gargadon being played in almost every red deck even though at the beginning everyone thought it sucked? Because, pepole were running shennanigans like Tendrils of Corruption, and it became necessary to find a tech that dealt with the urborg + tendrils combo. 

However, another key issue behind all of these things was that the inventor stood to gain a lot. Whitney made a fortune (quite literally) and that was his goal. If you've ever seen a red deck with gargadon top 8, I can point you there as a person reaping the benefits.

Likewise, I believe PDC needs a huge sponsership. I intuitively look to WotC because they're the ones with the least to lose from doing so. Heath can't support a 2x prize tournament with DCI reporter and maintain deck checks, prevent cheating, and gather enough people to pay 6 tixs to. WotC can, has, and hopefully will.

Feel free to talk to me about this

-Seb

Motivation by Polyjak (Unregistered) 70.162.187.64 (not verified) at Sun, 10/21/2007 - 22:44
Polyjak (Unregistered) 70.162.187.64's picture

First of all, I am one of the many who is against WotC involving themselves in PDC.

Second, while Classic may be currently stagnant, Standard is far from it. Acknowledging the interest level of the Lorwyn commons just shows that Lorwyn brings something new and exciting to PDC, Standard in particular.

Part of having an 'eternal' format like Classic is having 'eternal' decks. But there are new decks being designed. Grand Entrance. These decks win -- even win Worlds Championships. I think the bleak state of the format some of you perceive from this article is far from the truth.

If this is a site purely for Spikes, maybe PDC doesn't appeal to you. But there are plenty of players who think Pauper on MTGO is just as exciting as ever!

by urzishra (Unregistered) 74.214.249.213 (not verified) at Sun, 10/21/2007 - 19:48
urzishra (Unregistered) 74.214.249.213's picture

I always enjoy the articles..

 I too find that without official support there is not really a great reward to playing PDC outside of not playing against the same net decks in the casual rooms (however, ive found that more people play discard, counter, and burn more in PDC then any other format..)

 I like classic too.. but it is a rock paper scisors format right now.. PDC is hard to make a good combo deck as combo pieces are generally rare with the enablers uncommon.. but you know.. i like the format.

Nice work by Polyjak (Unregistered) 70.162.187.64 (not verified) at Sat, 10/20/2007 - 18:14
Polyjak (Unregistered) 70.162.187.64's picture

Good to see simple articles that focus on one aspect of the PDC play experience.

Those three decks all have different play feels, but they exploit the same concept of interactivity. Very interesting -- and useful not just for Classic!

Thanks, Spike!
 

What the format lacks. by runeliger at Sat, 10/20/2007 - 23:32
runeliger's picture

For me, I believe the format inevitably lacks the fund support. As a tournament player, or just any player who's out to do whatever, without adequate reward, there's not as much motivation to break the format, or solve the format (depending on your outlook). Thus, individuals posessing the know-how to effectively do so (not saying PDC players are bad, but to be honest there are 1000s of more people trying to break Lorywn Standard than PDC now) are missing.

What the format needs is sometihng similar to what WoTC did for Classic... offical support. If it can get that offical support that it needs, I'm sure the format will instantly be revitalized, given the fact it's probably the cheapest one to play (with the exception of Momir Basic).

So my 2 cents is basically, the format needs more players to beat these dominant decks, and it needs to beat these dominant decks to attract more players, is circular, and nothing gets done... So it may be time for WoTC to step in...

 

Also, Lorywn rocks in terms of its upcoming commons.

 

Good ariticle by MechtaK (Unregistered) 70.252.173.32 (not verified) at Sat, 10/20/2007 - 16:12
MechtaK (Unregistered) 70.252.173.32's picture

Since my eventual goal is to get into playing PDC, I found this article very informative.  Having yet to play a single PDC game, see what the standards are, and how to deal with them, gave me more insight than the pauper site has given me.  The deck I had in mind to make... needs some tweaking now to work in the standard metagame.  Although, in all likelihood, I'll probably only play causally, since I work during most of the tourneys.  Thanks for the info!

Keep this Writer Employed by Me5794 (Unregistered) 24.129.21.79 (not verified) at Sat, 10/20/2007 - 18:12
Me5794 (Unregistered) 24.129.21.79's picture

Very good read.

 I always enjoy articles that provide help or teach you something. Walk throughs are nice, but they don't often provide insight.

 

Great job and keep it up