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By: Tarmotog, Naoto Watabe
Feb 06 2008 1:30am
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Today, I’ll step aside from my usual topic of Singleton and talk about the Pauper Prismatic Singleton format. (It’s different, even if it has singleton in the name).

Pauper Prismatic Singleton is a format where your deck is only commons (pauper), needs a minimum deck size of 250 and at least 20 of each color (prismatic) and a maximum of a copy of a card is allowed in the deck, except for basic lands (singleton).
Banned cards: Stuff with transmute and Mystical Teachings.
People assume that every card that can search for non land cards are banned. That is not true. With this knowledge, I’ll share some secret technology that I have employed in my deck.
The Characteristic of the Format
Pauper Prismatic Singleton (PPS) as we know is played solely by commons. This means that there will be a showdown between all the good draft picks across the entire Magic multiverse (unlike pauper decks that are usually more focused). You won’t see "ultra-broken" plays in the format. (Although you will get to see horrifying stuff like Train of Thought for five, return to hand, repeat. That's not broken right?)
The format is relatively young because it has yet to evolve past basic understanding and there are not that many people playing it unlike other formats. (Not saying that it will get alot more complicated, but it's just rather steamlined now which might change in the future.)
At common level, there is hardly any mass removal so your deck might lose when your opponent can build up his/her troops to a number at least two more than yours.
(Similar to certain limited formats or traditional Magic)
The two cards capable of wiping out teams are Swirling Sandstorm and Subterranean Shambler so I make it a point to have both in my deck.
Swirling Sandstorm
A common WoG!
Next, we look at the Prismatic Singleton part of it. You have to play at least twenty of every color and at common level, not all colors were made equal. My favorite is blue followed by black, green, red, white. Blue is game fixing. Black is utility and pace setting. Green is mana fixing. Red is efficient removals and White is powerful support spells. Why I rank white the least is because many of the good white cards are enchantments. I try not to play enchantments because they can be foiled when people play enchantment removal (which is a given in this format) and also by creatures that bounce their friends. Usually in limited, more than half your opponent can't do anything about your stickers. Here, everyone has at least some method to get around them. However, there are a number of white cards that are very powerful that can fill the minimum of twenty.
Tip: Play hybrid cards or gold cards to cheat on colors if you have to.
Before I continue, I will take a brief mention of a theory which Mike Flores introduced, about Magic games going through three phases, that you can read here:  http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/article/15164.html (you need premium to read this or you can wait till it is open to the public).
A Magic Game goes through these three phases:Phase 1 (Basically Manascrewed): any point(s) in the game that exist before crossing the Minimum Game Threshold
Phase 2: mostly defined by errors
Phase 3 (The Trump Mode): is a special point that exists for some decks where that deck is actively dictating the field of battle and only a small subset of the opponent's cards still matter.
Phase 1 means you do not have the mana available to play your cards. If you’re stuck here, you are manascrewed and can make barely relevant plays because you will not be able to play out your hand.

Phase 2 is the area where you “play magic”. Cast your cards, do stuff, interact.

Phase 3 means your opponent is basically waiting to topdeck a handful of cards because if he doesn’t, he will lose. You are in a highly advantageous position here. For example, you cast Simic Sky Swallower against a deck only has Wrath of God to answer to it. I can’t really explain in terms of commons as I do not havea full understanding of this phase. Another example I can think of is the casting of Vedalken Shackles against creature based decks. You have not won yet but your opponent needs to get out artifact removal or lose eventually. You are "actively dictating the field of battle".
The reason I am talking about this theory is because in PPS, this is ultimately relevant.
Most games are made or lost in phase one because you are mana screwed. In a minimum deck size of 250, assuming people play forty lands (100), we should see lands every two of five cards (in the long run). However, because of the size of the deck, people are more prone to be subjected to the wrong side of the bell curve. That means we can have a majority of our lands lying at the bottom of the library while we struggle to topdeck through ten top cards and not draw our third land. In a smaller deck, the actual probability of drawing the land card is a much higher even though it is statistically the same because there are simply lesser cards. Every non-land card you draw in a smaller deck increases the chances of drawing a land by a greater percentage than that of a larger deck.
This means that in this format, you're pretty much stuck in phase 1 most of the time unless you do something about it.
Therefore, the utmost priority is to get out of phase 1 as soon as possible.
If I want to win, I would dedicate as many cards as possible, without destroying the integrity of the deck, to fixing mana.
How this can be done is:
1) Play cards that find lands
2) Play cards that have scry
3) Play cards that have clash
4) Play cards that draw cards
5) Play lands that produce more than one colored mana (Ravnica’s “Karoo” lands)
6) Use cards that produce colored mana (like Prismatic Lens)

Read the flavor text. It says it all.

This portion of the deck, especially choice the green mana fixers is really up to each individual. Throughout the years, there have been many cards that allow us to search for basic lands, enchant lands to make more colored mana etc. To choose the perfect number and the optimal cards is not what I can do at this point in time so simply play which cards you like.
From here, I’ll go on to talk about phase 2. As you can imagine, once you get your mana out, you want to immediately sprint to get into a superior board and hand position. To do this, you have to make very good card selection because if you draw a dead card, you are probably going to lose.
I suggest playing cards that are at least two for one or even more because you cannot expect to win if you "one for one"  your opponent all the time because your opponent will eventually play cards that net massive card advantage and overrun you while you remain "poor" with your hand size.
Creatures that have “come into play” effects are the best. They serve at least a two for one. Mulldrifter is one for three. You get a 2/2 flyer and two cards. This part is the obvious part. Most PPS decks revolve around such cards. You do not have to shy away from cards that cost five mana because by the time you stabilize your mana, you probably would have sic?
The gems in this area are:
1) Cards with kicker (they usually do alot more than without and you usually can pay for it kicked)
2) Cards that have buyback (Whispers of the Muse was common )
3) Cards with flashback
4) Cards that recycle cards (Like Recover)
5) Cards that are reusable (Sparksmith?)
6) Creatures that are worth more than its one body. (Penumbra Spider is like two cards in one)
7) Cards that find other cards (Fierce Empath is legal by the way)
Winning Strategies
You should roughly have an idea of how your deck should be like now. You can win in this format using two strategies.

1) Overwhelm your opponent by beating him down before he can stabilize.
2) Overwhelm your opponent by card and board advantage.
([secret strategy]: Wreck your opponent's mana with everything you have and slowly beat with creatures. This is highly unfriendly and I don't think you want to resort to this because this format is not really about putting your opponent out of the game while you actually can do so. I personally wouldn't because I prefer to win with a game going on but you don't have to be subjected to my thinking. )
For the 1st strategy, you employ cards that have evasion and are of high quality, somewhat like a limited format. The advantage of this type of deck is that you can take advantage of your opponent while he is still stuck in phase 1. Even if he gets out of phase 1, he will need to quickly put plugs to stem the bleeding. It is not very likely that he can answer every single threat plus you would have removals too.

The downside to this is that if your opponent gets into phase 2 before you, you are very likely going to lose because the usual decks run plenty of card advantage. It’s very hard to lose when you have more cards and your opponent is not doing anything much.
The famous “There are no wrong threats, only wrong answers” by Dave Price (not worded exactly but from memory) is very true here. If you have a 5/5 flyer and your opponent can’t stop it, you will win in a few turns. Your opponents’ card cannot answer every card. By pushing for quality, you will be able to make conditional cards like Strangling Soot dead. You can effectively go into phase 3 where only a topdeck "broader" creature kill can save him.
Equipment is gold here. Every creature becomes more efficient. I like Opaline Bracers in this aspect. It’s almost +4/+4 or at least +3/+3. Everyone can turn sideways.
For the 2nd strategy, you will jam pack cards that get you into your game and you will break down your opponents hand and board by trading your one card for a few. Unless he draws cards to enable him to recover from that state, you would outright win.
The downside to this strategy is that there will be times when you lose out on tempo because you need at least 2 turns to efficiently react unless you have tons of mana.
I prefer the 2nd strategy because it’s simply more alluring. You get to show off powerful cards like most other players.
More Cool Stuff You Can Do in the Format
Now I will reveal the secret technology of…
Tribal cards!
(I've seen people come up with the same conclusion. I just can't tell how far because you never get to see more than 10% of another player's deck)
Before you go “huh?” let me explain.
Actually, the most tribal card in my “technology” revolve around Nameless Inversion. The special thing about this card is that it is the one card that can get into your hand the most consistently.
Why? You have wizardcycling and slivercycling, Wirewood Herald (which can get Eyeblight’s Ending too) and Aurochs Herd. Once you get to play Nameless Inversion, cards like Cruel Revival have more added value to them.
The most neglected tribe which I think was most elegantly designed was the spirit tribe from the Kamigawa block. Soulshift lets you pick up Nameless Inversion again.
Also, wizardcycling also has an altogether different use. It can get cards like Pit Keeper or Anarchist that let you get back cards you want. It’s the ultimate tutor. (Not in any other format but this. LoL! Thanks for the weird cards Wotc!)
The rawest form of card advantage comes from the Rebel tribe. With Blightspeaker and Amrou Scout, you can chain up a few more guys by paying mana. If the masques block comes online, the rebels can do a whole lot more chaining. I’ll be waiting for that.
Vedalken AEthermage

THE Tutor!

This is a “sleeping” part of the format because everyone is simply trying to get value from obvious cards but they do not really see this. The tribal part of PPS allows you to make a more consistent deck by its ability to search out cards, therefore upping the real count of a single card to actually so much more.
The best way to make a deck is to pool out every single limited MVP and choose amongst them which fit best into your deck. It is safe to assume that the games are going to go into mid game. Cards like invokers can take games out of nowhere, Grim Harvest is the single most powerful card in the format because it can recur good creatures forever, Sprout Swarm can let you do cute things and common X spells can turn the game around. People like the format probably because they want to play the "better lousy" cards and win.
Important Notice
Always play your game in the Prismatic Format. Although you cannot be sure that your opponent is playing strictly singleton (you can't tell pauper until you start playing anyway), you want to host your games under the prismatic format because it gives you:

The Big Deck Mulligan!!
If you have 0,1,6,7 lands in your hand, you can opt to take this "free" mulligan (you don't lose a card) which your opponent can opt to take with you. 
After the Big Deck Mulligan, you will have the choice to take normal mulligans (the one which makes you lose a card per mulligan).
This is only available in the Prismatic Format.
One Last Tip of the Day
In slow formats such as PPS or Rainbow Stairwell, always draw first (even if you want to be aggresive). Some people have successfully grasp this but others cannot get over the counterintuitive choice.

Firstly, the format is slow. You and your opponent will spend the first few turns building up. In other formats, you don't let the other player play first because you would be a step behind in the building up of the board position. They win in four to five turns. They get the upperhand by playing first because the other player can only play reactively.
Even Igo (a game where you use pieces to surround the opponents pieces which originated from China and is rather popular in Japan/Korea) acknowledges this "advantage of playing first" by giving the opponent some points as compensation, similar to how Magic acknowledges this by giving the non-starting player a card (you wouldn't want more life would you?).
Yet in PPS or other slow formats where people have a much more difficult time making full use of this advantage, the one extra card has much more value.
Think about it. Your deck is cranky. You may not be drawing lands for the next few turns. Any card drawing is inherently good. A free card by going second to fix your hand is alot more valuable than playing first because you might not even be able to get out of phase 1 to start pressurizing your opponent into playing to react to you (which is the usual case in faster formats).
If you can't understand this, just try drawing first on the next few games and let your body choose which choice it prefers.
Last words 

PPS is cheap to build, feels like limited, fun to play and most of all, you learn alot every game. I think in time to come, people will pick up this format as a very fun casual format (not a competitive one) to play when they get annoyed with other formats where people just play expensive cards and win by sheer power.

Sorry for not having a decklist up. It would have been alot easier to study (would it? being 250 cards and all..) but I think the guidelines are more than sufficient. The rest can be picked up from your opponents (your best place to learn).

Try it out. It's worth the effort.  


by Tarmotog at Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:44
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Um.. To be honest, I have minimal cards from the tribal categories. For example the rebel chain just gets you a handful of rebels. The reason, like you stated, is that the rebels are pretty weak. However, just by being able to chain out the simple few is more than sufficient which is why you shouldn't stuff your deck with the "useless" few.

The tribal concept I'm talking about is not about getting a few tribes to work. I seriously don't think it would. It's more of some little things like to wizardcycle into some relevant wizard or use wirewood herald to get eyeblight's ending. The main idea of doing such things is to compact your deck so that certain cards are able to appear with double or triple the consistency.

I do agree about the "big power range" point but it just so happens that some commons just have more value in this format as compared to say their respective limited formats. If you look throughout the years, many commons are simply a different version of card A or say a card with a new annoying ability. When I say they do not vary much, I mean it in this way. For example: Train of Thought wasn't that great a card in RGD. It was almost "just another common card draw" together with compulsive research. However in this format, the value of train of thought rises exponentially because of the amount of mana acceleration played which allow it to be replicated many many more times.

Another example would be probe which is supposed to be similar to those draw x, discard x-1 spells but the kicker is really wrecking. In IPA, probe was not bad. In PPS, Probe is a kick in the groin.

The difference in value come from the characteristics of this format although relatively, they are designed to be similar and they worked similarly to their other counterparts in their time.

Hopefully cards would have a new way of doing things so that we will have more different effects to work with.

by JMason (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 02/08/2008 - 05:05
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First, I didn't intend to come across as offended, and I welcome new ideas. I do rather disagree with some of your assessments though. You say "commons don't vary that much in what they do ". On the contrary I think that there is a big range of power among commons. I also think that while having a rebel chain might be nice, and does help with card advantage, most of the rebels are underpowered in the format. Would you rather have Blade of the 6th Pride or Coalition Honor Guard for instance? My experience in PPS is that individual card power has a greater effect on the game than tribal synergy.

I'm not saying that successful tribal based PPS decks are impossible, but most successful PPS deck builders currently limit tribal aspects to small inclusions. I think this is based on experience that tribal is not good. To answer that question, yessterday I did throw together a deck based on tribal principles to see how it plays. All the tutors, slivers, rebels, soulshift, flashback, trinket mage, changelings etc., plus all the scrivener and similar cards, some equipment and then draw, removal and mana fixing spells. I only played one game so far, and was easily beaten. I'll play some more games to see if I can learn anything useful.

by JMason (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 02/07/2008 - 07:33
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I don't think players have overlooked the tribal angle at all, but perhaps it has never been taken to the nth degree in a successful deck. Part of this I see as the general uselessness of Nameless Inversion, which is only good when it removes opposing creatures, and many players are using high toughness and evasive creatures, or have counterspells and bounce to work around it. It's useless against Aurochs, Guardian of Guildpact, Noble Templar, and a long list of commonly seen creatures.

by Tarmotog at Thu, 02/07/2008 - 09:53
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Of course I don't assume that people who play don't know. If you have been playing the PPS format, even if you didn't think about it, you would definitely pick it up soon after you see people play it.

What I want to do is introduce the format, not break the format with unknown tech, which is near impossible given the fact that commons don't vary that much in what they do and it is so very easy to replicate what you see. What I say is pretty much "duh" to anyone who has been playing the format for a decent amount of time.

I take it for granted that random readers do not have in-depth knowledge in this area and I try to show them as many little tips and tricks within the trade that I know off. I hope you are not offended by what I write.

by Tarmotog at Wed, 02/06/2008 - 21:38
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Evu: Sorry I missed Crypt Rats (even if I played against them) *embarassed*

I cannot justify my "incomplete undestanding" of Mike Flores' theory. It is a theory that tries to explain general magic. The theory uses words like "some decks", "actively dictate" and "small subset" all of which are subjected to value judgement. In more powerful formats, the line becomes very clear. It is because the powerful effects from certain cards allow for this occurance. To put this theory into the PPS format is difficult as commons were not made to be game altering. If I were to say, PPS does not fall into a deck that has a phase 3. While I might be wrong, only those with more understanding can point it out.

To be fair, I would say that the point of the theory is to zoom in on the importance of phase 1 and phase 3 is unneccessary here. However, I am aware that it does not look nice to show that I'm talking about something yet I have yet to completely grasp it.

Anonymous: Thanx. I don't think there would be a fully pimped version, being all commons and all but I suppose I should have put up a list. I find that it's a format that needs quite alot of time to refine the deck because the changes are so minute in value. I really think that people should assemble a deck together, play against people and pick up which cards are better and which cards are not and change their cards after that. The deck evolves quite a far amount. As a starter, I would suggest playing minimal red and white while having more green, blue and black. =)

by Evu at Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:30
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Thanks for writing about this format, and especially for sharing the Tribal tech, which I hadn't thought about before.

You missed a couple of common sweepers -- Martyr of Ashes and Crypt Rats come to mind, although they do require significant dedication to a color.

One thing that bothered me about the article was the part where you said "I can’t really explain in terms of commons as I do not have a full understanding of this phase."  If you're going to write about something you don't have a full understanding of, take the time to get a full understanding.  Think about it, talk it over with some friends or fellow writers, maybe play some games and try to analyze them.  There's no deadline here, so you have as much time as you need to work on improving your article before submitting it.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 01/30/2008 - 09:47
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Super article. I would personally have liked to see a stock list. If not a fully pimped version. Just to give new players a jumping off point. well thought out article and nicely written.

re by don_quichote (not verified) at Mon, 02/23/2009 - 07:07
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for those who would like to learn more about PPS, we have a growing community at :

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Nice article ! If anybody is by don_quichote (not verified) at Thu, 09/24/2009 - 06:04
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Nice article !
If anybody is interested to learn more about the PPS format, come and visit our dedicated forum here : http://atfreeforum.com/pps

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