Commander Corner: Grenzo, Dungeon Warden

Welcome back,

In the High City of [c]Paliano[/c], there is a goblin who rules the underground. The council above sends the prisoners to his domain to be locked away forever. They will never be seen or heard from again. The only contact they will have is with the dungeon warden himself. He holds the keys to every lock in Paliano.

When he isn’t locking way wrongdoers, he schemes up ways to overthrow the council. His goal is to gain control of the High City, with the help of his many goblin assassins, and plunge it into chaos. He also wishes to slay his arch rival, [c]Muzzio, Visionary Architect[/c]. If he can take down Muzzio, he can take over the entire city. With enough time, he will surely succeed.

[c]Grenzo, Dungeon Warden[/c] is a bit of an odd commander. His [c]cellar door[/c]-esque ability isn’t a normal design for a creature. You can make him as big as you want, though, which is a huge plus.

It can be hard for any deck to really take advantage of this ability, especially in these colors. While we may not be able to abuse his ability, it can certainty pay off for us in the later stages of the game. He provides a solid mana-sink that lets us grab creatures from out of nowhere.

Let’s take a look at what Grenzo can come up with for us this week.

ArtID 153180_Nozzo, Goblin Dungeonkeeper_Final01

He schemes below the city, waiting for his chance to take over Paliano.

[d title=”Grenzo’s Cutthroats (EDH)”]


1 Grenzo, Dungeon Warden


1 Auntie’s Hovel

1 Blood Crypt

1 Bloodstained Mire

1 Cavern of Souls

1 Command Tower

1 Dragonskull Summit

1 Graven Cairns

16 Mountain

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

8 Swamp

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/d]



1 Adaptive Automaton

1 Battle Squadron

1 Beetleback Chief

1 Bloodmark Mentor

1 Boggart Harbinger

1 Boggart Mob

1 Frogtosser Banneret

1 Gempalm Incinerator

1 Goblin Bushwhacker

1 Goblin Chieftain

1 Goblin Guide

1 Goblin King

1 Goblin Lackey

1 Goblin Marshal

1 Goblin Matron

1 Goblin Piledriver

1 Goblin Recruiter

1 Goblin Ringleader

1 Goblin Ruinblaster

1 Goblin Sharpshooter[/d]


Creatures (cont.)

1 Goblin Warchief

1 Goblin Wardriver

1 Goblin Wizard

1 Horde of Boggarts

1 Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician

1 Jeering Instigator

1 Knucklebone Witch

1 Krenko, Mob Boss

1 Legion Loyalist

1 Lightning Crafter

1 Mad Auntie

1 Mogg War Marshal

1 Moggcatcher

1 Purphoros, God of the Forge

1 Reckless One

1 Siege-Gang Commander

1 Skirk Drill Sergeant

1 Skirk Prospector

1 Tuktuk Scrapper

1 Tuktuk the Explorer

1 Warren Instigator

1 Wort, Boggart Auntie[/d]



1 Doom Blade

1 Hero’s Downfall

1 Lightning Bolt

1 Tarfire

1 Terminate


1 Demonic Tutor

1 Dreadbore

1 Fodder Launch

1 Gamble

1 Mizzium Mortars

1 Patriarch’s Bidding

1 Warren Weirding[/d]



1 Goblin Warrens

1 Phyrexian Arena

1 Quest for the Goblin Lord

1 Shared Animosity

1 Sulfuric Vortex


1 Lightning Greaves

1 Obelisk of Urd

1 Reito Lantern

1 Sol Ring


1 Chandra, Pyromaster


This deck is meant to kill your opponent as fast as possible. Its low curve allows you to get ahead of your opponent and apply as much pressure as possible right from the start.

Many of these creatues either buff your team, apply tons of pressure, or search for more goblins. Grenzo acts as a huge finisher and can also find some creatures from the bottom of the deck with his ability. With [c]Reito Lantern[/c] out, he just turns into [c]Zombify[/c] on a stick. The amount of synergy and sheer aggression that this deck can put out will crush most opponents before they made any meaningful play. Pumping out threats consistently and turning creatures sideways is the name of the game, and Grenzo is happy to provide everything you might need to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

This deck does have an issue when it comes to the late game.

Since your creatures are much smaller then most, they will become outclassed the longer the game goes. You can remedy this by simply just going wide. You can produce as many goblin tokens as you can count with [c]Beetleback Chief[/c], [c]Goblin Marshal[/c], [c]Krenko, Mob Boss[/c], [c]Mogg War Marshal[/c], and [c]Siege-Gang Commander[/c]. Krenko can get out of hand quickly if left unchecked. He is usually the main way of winning in this deck besides just beating your opponent to death with all of your 1/1s and 2/2s.

When building this deck, I grouped up what type of goblins I wanted into different classes. There are four classes of goblins in this deck.

  1. There are the lords which give your team some type of buff, whether it be giving them +1/+1 or first strike. Cards like [c]Goblin King[/c], [c]Bloodmark Mentor[/c], and [c]Goblin Warchief[/c] fall here.
  2. Then there are the tutors, which search up any goblin that you need at the time. [c]Goblin Recruiter[/c], [c]Goblin Ringleader[/c], and [c]Moggcatcher[/c] will get the job done for us.
  3. Then there are the beaters, which are only there to beat your opponent senseless. Creatures like [c]Mogg War Marshal[/c], [c]Battle Squadron[/c], [c]Goblin Guide[/c], [c]Goblin Lackey[/c] and [c]Beetleback Chief[/c] are here to put the hurt on your opponent.
  4. The last class is called support. These cards don’t search up goblins, but merely keep them going by bringing them back or protecting them. [c]Goblin Wizard[/c], [c]Mad Auntie[/c], and [c]Wort, Boggart Auntie[/c] tend to fall in this category.

If a goblin did not fall into one of these four classes, then it didn’t make it into the deck. Cards that can fit into these categories will provide the most synergy and will work together to crush your opponent better than most.

While testing this deck, there were a few cards that were in here that ended up not making the cut. The big ones that I ended up cutting are [c]Goblin Rabblemaster[/c] and [c]Coat of Arms[/c]. [c]Goblin Rabblemaster[/c] may seem like an auto-include for a deck like this, but it does not play nice in an all-goblins strategy. While you almost always will be attacking, there are times when you have to hold your creatures back. Suiciding my lords into my opponents creatures almost always ended up in a loss. The card just doesn’t play well with other goblins.

[c]Coat of Arms[/c] ended up being cut because I found that [c]Obelisk of Urd[/c] ended up being simply better in most cases. I was able to get it out earlier than [c]Coat of Arms[/c] and it still provided basically the same effect, so I ended up choosing the Obelisk over it.

This deck is for anybody that likes a tribal theme, or just wants a hyper aggressive EDH deck. This deck is great at punishing any player that stumbles, which is an all-too-common thing in this format. Any opponent whose deck takes some time to set up shop will have a difficult time dealing with the pressure this deck can provide in an instant. If you like turning creatures sideways and racing your opponent, this is the deck for you.

Thank you for checking out this week’s Commander Corner. If you have any suggestions for a commander you want to be featured in a future article, let me know in the comments below. Next week, we go bigger. Much bigger. See you next time, my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

The Standard Pauper Show, Issue 30

Section 1: This week in Standard Pauper

Boy, that Brennon guys sure does love mono blue.

Section 2: Player run events

MPDC 27.12

26 January 2015
Standard · 14 Players
11 Decks · ~79% Reported
3 rounds Swiss
Top 4 playoff
Hosted by gwyned

1st Wins! by MyGalaxy
2nd Mono Blue… Again! by Trompinha
T4 Izzet Tokens by DoutorTyr
T4 Deck not found** by DrDemento

Cruise Watch: 2015
1st Place: 0 Cruise
2nd Place: 4 Cruise
3rd Place: 4 Cruise
4th Place: 0 Cruise

The cruise makes a serious comeback this week.

And now for another deck with a bad case of Mono:

4 Loyal Pegasus
4 Mardu Hordechief
4 Selfless Cathar
4 Sungrace Pegasus
3 Akroan Skyguard
3 Jeskai Student
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Triplicate Spirits
3 Inspired Charge
2 Ajani’s Presence
2 Gods Willing
2 Pillar of Light
19 Plains
2 Radiant Fountain

4 Divine Favor
3 Smite the Monstrous
3 Erase
2 Pillar of Light
1 Ajani’s Presence
2 Gods Willing

Now, lets look at an opening hand:

I love it! It has dudes, pump and protection.

The curve is different than we have seen, no tower of power here:

Now let’s look at the next six cards:

Wow, if this is typical of the sort of draws you get, then sign me up!

Section 3: Fate Reforged

This weekend marks the beginning of Fate Reforged cards on Magic Online. You will need to pick them up but I recommend waiting as long as possible. Commons do not drop seriously until drafting starts. If you buy them this weekend, expect to pay at least .25 tix per card.

Now that you have tempered your fervent card buying, it is time to talk about what to pick up. Please voice your opinions in the comments below.

I’ll start. I think [c]Write Into Being[/c] will be a fantastic pick up. If there is no divination in the M16, I feel this is an excellent replacement.

Write into being lets you do something divination never has. It puts a body on the board. You get to smooth your next draw by choosing whether to put the non-manifested card on either the top or bottom. Divination on turn three leaves you open, while write into being helps steady up the board. Also, the nice thing about manifest is that you can play a creature who is manifest but simply paying its mana cost. Also, if it is a morph, you can pay the morph cost if it is cheaper.

Now, you go!

The Standard Pauper Show, Ep 33

Standard Pauper! Amazing decks! Gary keeps Cruising and Brennon takes to the skies to manifest his greatness. Sam’s cube is examined for its possible paper greatness. All this plus the end of the Pauper Gauntlet.

Thanks for tuning in to the really big Standard Pauper Show!




google +:

Tasigur’s Greed: Sultai Midrange in Modern

Fate Reforged has hit the scene and [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] has already seen some fringe Modern play which makes me very happy. Tasigur is basically a [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] stapled to a [c]Treasure Trove[/c]. While he isn’t completely broken he gives, what I believe, a new flavor and flexibility to midrange decks.

Here is a rough list I came up with that might be decent.

[d title=”Sultai Midrange (Modern)”]
1 Forest
2 Islands
2 Swamps
3 Polluted Delta
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Creeping Tar Pit
3 Watery Grave
1 Sunken Ruin
3 Tectonic Edge
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Breeding Pool

4 Tarmogoyf
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Eternal Witness
1 Vendilion Clique

4 Abrupt Decay
1 Murderous Cut
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Thoughtseize
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Mana Leak
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Disfigure
1 Hero’s Downfall

2 Creeping Corrosion
2 Golgari Charm
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
1 Countersquall
1 Fracturing Gust
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
3 Fulminator Mage
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Damnation
1 Sword of Light and Shadow [/d]

What you really lose from playing Sultai over Abzan midrange is [c]Path to Exile[/c] and [c]Lingering Souls[/c]. From Jund, we really only lose [c]Lightning Bolt[/c]. There are a few more key pieces in Jund, but I think Abzan is just better as a beast than Jund.

So what does Sultai get? Basically more spot removal and countermagic. While countermagic isn’t great for the mirror match or against other midrange decks, it will help you insure control over grindy decks and even more so against combo decks. No only can we strip our opponent’s hand with [c]Thoughtseize[/c] and [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c], but we can continue to keep up pressure with [c]Remand[/c] to out-tempo our opponent and push in more damage.

The one anti-synergy in this list that really stinks is how delve can hurt our own [c]Tarmogoyf[/c]. Still, he always gets bigger in the long run so it shouldn’t hurt much. We could also be playing [c]Dark Confidant[/c], but this isn’t the deck that wants to get hurt over extra cards. We want to get early pressure and keep it that way, and Bob just dies to pretty much any removal spell. Snapcaster gives us additional removal and countermagic and we all know how good [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] can be when doing that.

[c]Vendilion Clique[/c] also plays the Flash game, letting us make sure the coast is clear or prevent our opponent from stabilizing. I’ve seen too many games where a turn three Clique single-handedly won the whole game.

Really, though, the heart of the deck is [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] himself. He allows you to play a cheap threat for only a single black and keep up disruption throughout your opponent’s turn. In the midrange mirror, you can one-for-one until someone gets their fuel going and then it’s all over. Tasigur? You can get the fuel while also keeping your opponent on tilt. He isn’t perfect, but he seems good enough to get card advantage from. It’s also why we are playing [c]Murderous Cut[/c] to help better the selection in our graveyard to force our opponent to give us what we need.

[c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] can also help filter our graveyard as well as keep our opponent from getting value out of their own Tasigurs! While Tasigur is not a single blue for a flying 3/2 insectile aberration, he’s a single black for a 4/5 with “4 mana: draw a card.” [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] and [c]Azure Mage[/c]? Yes, please!

Some of the one-of spot removal spells might seem off, and that’s a choice that I like to do when I make and brew decks. Not only does it let me see what could possibly be useful in the deck, but it gives me more diversity in different situations. It also gives us options with Tasigur and makes it more difficult for our opponent to play around certain cards.

[c]Hero’s Downfall[/c] lets us deal with not only creatures, but planeswalkers as well. In the midrange mirror it can kill [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c] if we can’t connect to her with our creatures. [c]Slaughter Pact[/c] gives us a reasonable kill spell while we are tapped out or need to get rid of a creature immediately, mostly good against Splinter Twin if they try to go off quickly or they try going for the long game. Yeah, we have to pay for its cost on our upkeep, but it still allows us to apply pressure while we are tapped out.

[c]Disfigure[/c] kills smaller creatures or cheap threats, but it can also win us the Tarmogoyf war during combat. They block our Tarmogoyf with theirs? Well, now it can get -2/-2! [c]Murderous Cut[/c], as noted before, can help us filter our graveyard to better abuse Tasigur with while also providing a cheap removal spell.

What I would like to talk about is [c]Mana Leak[/c]. Why not play [c]Remand[/c] over Mana Leak? Because I’d rather deal with the threat now than trying to find ways to deal with it later. Yes, it draws us a card, but Tasigur can do the same thing. In the late game [c]Remand[/c] can prove to be useless while Mana Leak can stop the spell right in its tracks. It could be possible that we want to find room for [c]Cryptic Command[/c], though I doubt it works in this particular list. It’s just too blue-mana intensive to fit into the deck.

Tasigur is really sweet because so far he has been seen in Abzan and Jund midrange and I only wanted to bring up the possibility of building around him. It’s even possible that we can just play straight Green/Black good stuff. Though what I would love to try is fitting him into something like a Grixis control build. It’s hard to tell, but I really believe he has a home in Modern somewhere. With straight GB we can just play things like [c]Courser of Kruphix[/c], more hand disruption, and even mainboard that [c]Dark Confidant[/c] to give us another draw engine. Grixis control? Play a more grindy game and hope Tasigur gives us an edge that we desperately need. It would be cute to see a [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c] returned with Tasigur’s ability.

Not having tested this deck, but have been playing midrange decks in Modern before, I would enjoy testing this deck. What cruel things will you do with the Sultai Khan?

Have fun Brewing!


Modern Upheaval: Some Post-Ban Brews

Happy Wednesday everyone!

I’ll be brief: I’m sad about the bans, but not because I played Pod or Delver. I enjoyed playing against both of those decks because I was 50/50 in the first and favorable in the second. I personally don’t think the latter was oppressive, but oh well.

The point is that it happened. It has been an awkward week since because all Daily Event results posted have been totally uninteresting. No new tech matters until the bans take effect. All I can do is speculate what will be good in the time to come.

In order to do so, first I look at the cards that benefit the most from the bans. Here is a list in no particular order.

Cards that win from the bannings

1) [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c]: Already he lead one of the most consistent online pack-winners, and now he has gained simply by not being gutted with the bannings. Gone are the concerns of easy access to [c]Orzhov Pontiff[/c], [c]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/c], and even [c]Murderous Redcap[/c] to ruin Affinity’s day. Gone are the blowouts from [c]Forked Bolt[/c]. Historically at the top of the Modern heap with Twin and Pod, now he shares the throne with one less ruler and a lot more openings. Affinity will stunt the emergence of many decks during this time of uncertainty simply because it is a fast and consistent aggro deck.

2) [c]Splinter Twin[/c]: Even though [c]Dig Through Time[/c] seemed to be tailor-made for Twin combo, the deck lost its primary predator in U/R Delver. Unfortunately after untapping with [c]Delver of Secrets[/c], [c]Young Pyromancer[/c], or [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] in play, the Delver player was free to interact a turn or two sooner than the Twin deck was. Now that their power level has been nuked, Twin will likely restore its place in the big three.

So the question we ask ourselves is, what will take Pod’s place as the third oppressive and common match? One of the following are the answers I find most likely:

3) [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c]: Lily’s first two effects were garbage against Delver. The +1 effect read “Turn one card in your opponent’s hand into a [c]Lotus Petal[/c],” and the second read “Your opponent loses a minute amount of value from their [c]Young Pyromancer[/c].” Similarly, against Pod, your opponent used their board and their library moreso than their hand, and so many of their creatures didn’t mind being sacrificed. In fact, it was their purpose. Now, though, she and the decks to which she belongs are ready for a return. Like many others, I expect Junk and Jund to be powerful forces in the near future. What’s more: former [c]Birthing Pod[/c] players own most of the cards and know how to play with [c]Abrupt Decay[/c] and the like.

4) [c]Scapeshift[/c]: Similar to [c]Splinter Twin[/c], its critical turn is a bit later than Delver’s was, and similar to Twin, the ways to interact with it are unreliable. [c]Scapeshift[/c]-centered decks may emerge as the third big contender in Pod’s place.

5) [c]Karn Liberated[/c]: Tron was a solid choice in a meta with a lot of [c]Birthing Pod[/c] and [c]Splinter Twin[/c]. Similarly, it will be a force in a meta that simply replaces Pod with Junk.

So what gains as a result of these gains?

I think you all know me by now well enough to say that rather than picking up the next best thing during changes like this, I’m curious to know what is really good against the next best thing. I think many of you are right there with me. It is obvious that players are scrambling for cards immune to [c]Abrupt Decay[/c]; here are some of the price spikes today:

  • [c]Sower of Temptation[/c]
  • [c]Thrun, the Last Troll[/c]
  • [c]Phyrexian Obliterator[/c]
  • [c]Sword of Feast and Famine[/c]
  • [c]Baneslayer Angel[/c]
  • [c]Thundermaw Hellkite[/c]

This prices come from

Each of the creatures in the above list cost 4 or more and are very effective finishers (or thieves of finishers) for a variety of decks. The Sword provides protection to decay, even if it does not protect itself, and it creates a beater that cannot be blocked by [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] and [c]Siege Rhino[/c].

Brew #1

While brewing for the upcoming Modern, I ask myself a few questions: What isn’t going to get crushed by either ability of [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c]? What doesn’t die to [c]Abrupt Decay[/c]? What can disrupt [c]Splinter Twin[/c] and keep Affinity in check? My gut reaction is Orzhov Tokens.

Just like Lily’s +1 ability, Tokens’ suite of discard spells were mocked by [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]. While [c]Zealous Persecution[/c] was a solid answer to [c]Young Pyromancer[/c], in general the deck traded one removal spell for each of the opponent’s threats one at a time, so [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] hurt Tokens’ ability to stop the opponent from winning.

Now, though, Tokens has all the answers. [c]Zealous Persecution[/c] can wreck Affinity’s board, [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c] and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] easily disrupt the turn 4 combo decks, and the deck can keep up with Junk and Jund while flying over the top of them for the win.

What I’m most excited about with Tokens, though, is the inclusion of [c]Monastery Mentor[/c]. Can there be a more apt home for the new [c]Young Pyromancer[/c] than a deck that is composed primarily of non-creature spells that produce creatures and pump tokens?

Here is my draft for post-Ban, post-Fate Reforged Orzhov Tokens.

[d title=”Drinkard Tokens (Modern)”]
4 Godless Shrine
2 Isolated Chapel
4 Marsh Flats
6 Plains
2 Vault of the Archangel
3 Windbrisk Heights
2 Windswept Heath

3 Monastery Mentor

Other Spells
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
1 Murderous Cut
4 Path to Exile
1 Phyrexian Arena
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
3 Spectral Procession
2 Thoughtseize
3 Zealous Persecution

1 Disenchant
2 Kor Firewalker
3 Mirran Crusader
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stain the Mind
2 Stony Silence
1 Sundering Growth
1 Utter End
1 Zealous Persecution[/d]

This deck has the burden of proof placed upon it that it can answer what the opponent does, since cards like [c]Honor of the Pure[/c] and [c]Raise the Alarm[/c] are a bit underwhelming alone. Still, when its pieces come together, the pace of its disruption, removal, and overpowering swarm are forces impossible to answer.

Brew #2

I keep making the argument that [c]Become Immense[/c] was better than [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] in Burn decks. In Burn, [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] can be huge and draw three Bolts. It also can draw two lands and a [c]Goblin Guide[/c] well after your creatures have become irrelevant. It can draw [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] when your opponent’s hand is empty. Your opponent could have a [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] in play. I have enjoyed playing Burn with the best [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] around ([c]Wild Nacatl[/c]) and the superior [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] in Burn decks.

Now that [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is banned, other delve cards are getting an honest look, and I am tempted to shoe-horn [c]Become Immense[/c] into a U/R Delver deck. Besides the success I’ve had with [c]Become Immense[/c], I think that the evasion from [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] and the sheer numbers of attackers with [c]Young Pyromancer[/c] and the surprise [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] attack-you-for-8 play makes Delver a natural home for the new and improved [c]Revenge of the Hunted[/c]. Here is my first crack at the concept:

[d title=”Drinkard RUG Delver (Modern)”]
2 Breeding Pool
3 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
3 Polluted Delta
2 Steam Vents
3 Wooded Foothills

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Monastery Swiftspear
1 Snapcaster Mage
4 Young Pyromancer

Other Spells
3 Become Immense
1 Burst Lightning
2 Forked Bolt
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Izzet Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Mutagenic Growth
4 Serum Visions
3 Spell Pierce
3 Thought Scour
3 Vapor Snag

2 Blood Moon
1 Dismember
1 Dispel
2 Flash Freeze
1 Forked Bolt
2 Hibernation
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Mutagenic Growth
1 Negate
2 Smash to Smithereens
1 Spell Pierce[/d]

This deck is a lot more geared around the strategy of playing stuff on your turn. I wonder if [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] even belongs in here, to help beat the Tron decks you will face. Do I think [c]Become Immense[/c] is as solid here as it is in Naya or as [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] once was? Certainly not, but I do think you will get some free wins from it often enough.

There will be a lot of contention for the third spot at the head of the Modern metagame. Who knows, maybe even Affinity or Twin will get pushed out in all of the commotion. Personally, I think everyone’s testing should include Junk, Tron, Twin, Scapeshift, Bogles, Burn, and Affinity before entering into a Daily Event. It wouldn’t hurt to be sure you have game against [c]Amulet of Vigor[/c], [c]Lord of Atlantis[/c], and [c]Through The Breach[/c], either.

Hope you’re all equipped, that you’ve got some good luck, and that you’re having fun.


Paupers and Kings, Ep. 1: GW Bogles

Hi everyone, and welcome to the first episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget.

Today we’re looking at everyone’s favorite list to hate, Bogles / Hexproof.

Why Hexproof?

We’re starting with Hexproof, in particular, because the list plays very similarly across formats. In both Pauper and Modern you are playing a near solitaire-esque game of Magic; building a Voltron with Auras and busting through for massive damage and life gain.

Strengths of Hexproof / Bogles

  1. Life gain against other aggro decks makes it very hard for them to race you
  2. Null your opponent’s targeted removal
  3. Good early game and late game, can be aggressive and grindy

Weaknesses of Hexproof / Bogles

  1. Weak to specific hate from sideboard (aura sweepers are a mean thing)
  2. Clunky hands require aggressive mulligans
  3. Weak to discard and sacrifice effects

Hexproof in Pauper

For whatever reason, we tend to call this deck “Hexproof” in Pauper but “Bogles” in Modern. That’s the nomenclature I’ll use from here on it, but it’s the same deck. The Hexproof list we’re favoring today is from Dain5, who has been placing in recent Pauper Daily Events with it.

I like this list because the mana base is incredibly consistent; gone are the tap lands, instead we’re rocking 17 green sources and 12 spells that can help us get white when we need it.

Here is the list:

[d title=”Hexproof by Dain5 (Pauper)”]
16 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Khalni Garden

4 Aura Gnarlid
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Slippery Bogle

4 Abundant Growth
3 Ancestral Mask
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Rancor
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Armadillo Cloak
4 Manamorphose

1 Flaring Pain
3 Gleeful Sabotage
2 Hornet Sting
3 Scattershot Archer
3 Young Wolf
3 Moment’s Peace [/d]

It’s a cheap list even by Pauper standards, except for one troublemaker. [c]Ancestral Mask[/c] run at $4 each right now, so you’re blowing some cash if you want those. Replacing them with Umbras (Hyena, Spider, Snake as you prefer) would be fine if you wanted to save some cash. Running regular forests is fine too; I added the snow-covered but they honestly don’t do anything.

The goal of this list is to land a Hexproof guy (of which there are 12), load on some auras (of which there are 16) and beat face. Ledgewalker has the added bonus of being difficult to block, and Gnarlid comes down later in the game, often as a large, unblockable beater.

Bogles in Modern

The list works about the same way in Modern, but has a few all-stars that raise the power level, provide consistency, and (unfortunately) require a more complicated mana base. The list we’re looking at today is adapted from Dust_’s winning list. Let’s take a look.

[d title=”Bogles (Modern)”]
4 Brushland
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Wooded Bastion
3 Forest
4 Plains
1 Dryad Arbor

4 Gladecover Scout
4 Kor Spiritdancer
4 Slippery Bogle

3 Path to Exile
4 Daybreak Coronet
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Hyena Umbra
1 Keen Sense
4 Rancor
4 Spider Umbra
2 Spirit Mantle
2 Spirit Link

3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Choke
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Nature’s Claim
2 Stony Silence
4 Rest in Peace [/d]

This budget list still has a few cards that break the bank, especially compared to Pauper. [c]Daybreak Coronet[/c] is the biggest transgressor. Unfortunately, you really can’t play Bogles in Modern without that card, it is simply way too strong.

[c]Kor Spiritdancer[/c] can be replaced by another Hexproof creature, even [c]Silhana Ledgewalker[/c] could come in. You lose some consistency because the card draw you can get off her is really helpful especially in stalled out games, but can save almost $15.

[c]Path to Exile[/c] can be [c]Condemn[/c] or even [c]Journey to Nowhere[/c] though neither card is as good as Path.

The mana base is about as good and cheap as I can get it. We’re saving about $100 with this base, mainly by omitted [c]Windswept Heath[/c], a card that is amazing but also awfully expensive. Let’s take a look at how we’re getting mana.

[c]Brushland[/c] is an amazing dual land in a list like Bogles. It is always untapped and it always provides either {G} or {W}. The one life lost is (usually) easily made up with the lifegain we have going. If there’s a list to run this land, it’s Bogles.

With 7 basics in the list, [c]Sunpetal Grove[/c] has a decent chance to come into play untapped and give you whatever color mana you may need. On the other hand, half the time it’s a guildgate, which isn’t always awesome.

[c]Wooded Bastion[/c] is an allstar. It allows you to play [c]Forest[/c] on turn 1 and then rock {W}{W} on turn 2. This let’s you hit a 1-drop Hexproof guy and then rock any two of your 1-mana enchantments on turn 2, swinging in with a 6/4 first-striking trampler, for instance, or something else ridiculous.

[c]Dryad Arbor[/c] eats sacrifice effects. You can, alternately, buff it up and swing in, assuming no one else is around to wear all those auras.

Some of our sideboard choices are expensive. [c]Choke[/c] can hose big blue lists, but since they’re not always our biggest concern, you could omit it. [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c] is amazing against certain lists, though. My board includes [c]Rest in Peace[/c] which is actually my favorite sideboard card of all time and a great answer to anyone testing out Dredge decks. [c]Stony Silence[/c] hoses a lot of lists including Affinity, and it’s also cheap. Forge-Tender can come in as Hexproof guy #9-12 with the added bonus that they are immune to red sweepers; they can also save your face from damage in a pinch.

On the Play

So how do these look in play? I took them both our for three matches, and the results speak for themselves. Check out the playlist.


For those counting along at home, that’s 6-0 in the tournament practice room. 3-0 in each format. Hard to do much better than that!

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

I’m going to try and do this as a weekly series. Is that cool with you all? We have lots more great crossover potential, including Goblins, Burn, Mono-Green Stompy, Delver, Tron, and others. Which lists do you want to see me try out? Let me know down in the comments.

Until then, may you opponent always be holding useless Doom Blades.


Commander Corner: Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

Welcome back,

Instead of looking at regular Commander, I’ve decided to look at the newly emerging format that is Tiny Leaders. Tiny Leaders is a spin-off of the Commander format. It generally follows the same rules as its larger brethren in terms of its basic structure, but that’s where the similarities end.

Instead of a hundred card deck, each player only has fifty cards. Players also start at twenty five life instead of forty, and get access to a ten card sideboard. The largest difference, though, is that every card in each player’s deck must have a converted mana cost of three or less.

This massive restriction makes this format more akin to Legacy than anything, as many of the decks are full of Legacy staples. With that in mind I decided to essentially build a Standard deck. While that may sound like a bad idea, the deck in question is still quite powerful. As the only Minimander in Jeskai, let’s take a look at what [c]Shu Yun[/c] can do for us.


He can end an opponents life in an instant without uttering a single word

[d title= “Shu Yun’s Warriors (Tiny Leaders)]


1 Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest


1 Adarkar Wastes

1 Celestial Colonnade

1 City of Brass

1 Clifftop Retreat

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Flooded Strand

1 Glacial Fortress

1 Hallowed Fountain

1 Mountain

1 Mystic Monastery

1 Plains

1 Sacred Foundry

1 Steam Vents

1 Sulfur Falls

1 Terramorphic Expanse[/d]



1 Akroan Skyguard

1 Battlefield Thaumaturge

1 Battlewise Hoplite

1 Fabled Hero

1 Favored Hoplite

1 Grim Lavamancer

1 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer

1 Phalanx Leader

1 Sage of Hours

1 Satyr Hoplite

1 Tethmos High Priest

1 Wingsteed Rider[/d]



1 Aerial Formation

1 Ajani’s Presence

1 Aurelia’s Fury

1 Boros Charm

1 Crypsis

1 Defiant Strike

1 Emerge Unscathed

1 Hope and Glory

1 Lightning Bolt

1 Path to Exile

1 Prismatic Boon

1 Reality Shift

1 Refocus

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Titan’s Strength

1 Triton Tactics


1 Distortion Strike

1 Launch the Fleet


1 Jeskai Ascendancy

1 Unquestioned Authority[/d]



1 Condemn

1 Council’s Judgment

1 Electrickery

1 Gods Willing

1 Kor Firewalker

1 Mizzium Mortars

1 Rest in Peace

1 Shattering Spree

1 Spellskite

1 Wear // Tear[/d]

This deck is designed to make combat a nightmare for your opponent. As long as you have mana up, your opponent should be wary. You might just have a trick up your sleeve that potentially will be a blow out for them. Most of the time, actually, you will. And even if you don’t, that fear will still be in your opponent’s mind.

The heroic mechanic is really powerful in this format. Anything that can beat a [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] in combat is a force to be reckoned with. These cheap combat tricks and heroic creatures will go a long way to ensure that your opponent dies quickly. If not, [c]Shu Yun[/c] will step in and get the job done.

[c]Shu Yun[/c] is a commander that doesn’t mess around. If he is left unanswered for a couple turns he will kill your opponent himself, guaranteed.

Being able to turn any combat trick or pump effect into a boatload of damage via his ability is powerful. It turns any non-creature spell you have into a threat on its own. Those bolts and paths will clear the way for your double-striking monsters. Even if [c]Shu Yun[/c] is the only creature on the board, it’s still possible to kill your opponent as long as you clear the path for him. He also makes a good blocker, as he will beat most creatures in combat if you get to use his ability.

I’ve been looking for a shell to put [c]Battlefield Thaumaturge[/c] in, and I think I finally found it. He works very well in this strategy as he frees up your mana a little and combos with some cards that can win you the game. Being able to ping your opponents entire team with [c]Aurelia’s Fury[/c] for two mana will most likely end the game right then and there. [c]Prismatic Boon[/c] will have the same effect, as it also helps you shove your creatures through. It also plays defensively which is nice. [c]Launch the Fleet[/c] might not end the game, but it will be difficult for your opponents to overcome, especially if you have an active [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c].

The largest problem I’ve had with this deck is if your opponent is playing [c]Pernicious Deed[/c]. It’s this deck’s worst enemy. There aren’t many ways to prevent this card from taking out your team at instant speed outside of [c]Boros Charm[/c]. If the deed goes off and you don’t have your charm, you’re pretty much going to lose. If you know your opponent is playing Deed then I would suggest racing them before they can draw it and get it into play. Outside of that, though, you shouldn’t have to worry about much. One-for-one removal can easily be dealt with using the handful of protection spells we are packing.

This deck is about messing with your opponents’ minds. It helps to have a good poker face while playing with this deck since being able to bluff that you have something in your hand (or the other way around) is important. You have to keep them second-guessing themselves. The more they do this, the higher the chance that they will play right into your hands. Being able to mess with your opponent just by leaving mana up is entertaining, as they won’t know whether sending in their best creature might result in a loss. Over time your creatures will overpower anything that will come your way. Just make it seem like you have nothing, and wait for them to send their team in. Then watch their face as their attack backfires in spectacular fashion. Trust me, it’s a good feeling.

Thank you for checking out this week’s Commander Corner. Like always, if you have any suggestions for Commanders for me to check out, let me know in the comments below. Next week, we look to the underground of the High City to meet the man who pulls the strings from below. See you soon, my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

The Standard Pauper Show, Issue 29

Section 1: This week in Standard Pauper

Man, these review shows can go long. Not Limited Resources long, but long enough!

Very few cards floated our boat. A few standouts were:

Here were a couple of cards that on the surface, are bad. However, I think they can work if you put some effort into it:

Yes, the casting cost on these is ridiculous, but this is Standard Pauper, we take what we can get!

Section 2: New Brews for you to use

As you saw on the show, you did watch The Standard Pauper Show didn’t you? I made a Mono Red “Stompy” deck:

4 Akroan Crusader
4 Goblin Heelcutter
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Mardu Scout

3 Collateral Damage
2 Lightning Strike
4 Titan’s Strength
3 Act of Treason
3 Bathe in Dragonfire
2 Tormenting Voice
4 Dragon Mantle
4 Hammerhand

19 Mountain

1 Bathe in Dragonfire
4 Deathbellow Raider
3 Flurry of Horns
2 Lightning Strike
3 Magma Spray
2 Tormenting Voice

Should there be more creatures? Maybe 21 lands.

I think this could be the start of something good. It is fast and if you added the [c]Valley Dasher[/c] you may over whelm the already blazing Boros deck.

This deck has a subtheme of taking their creatures and striking back. With the [c]Collateral Damage[/c] spell you can either sac their own guy for more humiliation or you can dash in for 3 then sac for 3 more. Not saying it is ideal but I think the extra punch is a good thing.

This deck could potentially benefit from the [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c]. You could use a dasher and hit them for 6 or pump up the Hoplite and go for broke.

MPDC 27.11

19 January 2015
Standard · 18 Players
12 Decks · ~67% Reported
3 rounds Swiss
Top 8 playoff
Hosted by gwyned

1st Galaxy White by Zoltan
2nd WR Heroic by goomy1
T4 Boros Heroic by benne433
T4 Death Control by DoutorTyr
T8 Boros heroic by Carnuz
T8 Deck not found** by Maltercio
T8 Looses to a Great Scouring Merchant by MyGalaxy
T8 R(uthelis)DW by Ruthelis

Cruise Watch: 2015
1st Place: 0 Cruise
2nd Place: 0 Cruise
3rd Place: 0 Cruise
4th Place: 0 Cruise
0 through top 8

The ban hammer is strong!

Standard · Aggro
Top 8 by Ruthelis in MPDC 27.11 (2-2)

For purely selfish reasons I thought I would show this winner:

4 Akroan Crusader
4 Borderland Marauder
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Minotaur Skullcleaver
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Valley Dasher
4 Dragon Mantle
4 Hammerhand
4 Lightning Strike
4 Titan’s Strength
1 Trumpet Blast
19 Mountain

4 Magma Spray
4 Forge Devil
2 Rouse the Mob
2 Scouring Sands
2 Inferno Fist
1 Act of Treason

I see this deck as the predecessor to my aforementioned deck. Interesting take on RDW.

Now, lets look at an opening hand:

Here is no, what I would call adequate, target for hammer hands. However, could still use it and lightning strike to remove a blocker.

The curve is more of a slope:

My fear with keeping 3 lands is the flood.

Now let’s look at the next six cards:

The flood is real!

I am not too confident this opening 13 can get us there. That is why I included tormenting voices in my deck. We need the draw!

I like it though. Simple, clean, beat foes around the neck and shoulders.

Section 3: Fate Reforged PreRelease

So, as Sam mentioned, I went 4-0-0 over all at my LGS prerelease. I was pretty happy.

Game 1 vs The L2 Judge at the event: 2-0-0 I was worried, he has quite the reputation at that store for being a strong player.

Game 2 vs Jeskai: 2-1-0 It was close in all three games. However, I had just enough in the last game. It was 5 to 8 and my little dashers who could beat in for just enough.

Game 3 vs Son of the Judge: 2-1-0 When we sat down he said “I will avenge my father!” I liked that kid. Game three almost went to time, but again the dashers did their thing and kept going.

Game 4 vs I think it was Mardu splashing blue: 2-0-0 He was a cool guy. We ended up talking about cards after the game longer than the game went on.

For those interested, here is my deck list:

1 Ainok Tracker
2 Goblin Heelcutter
1 Gore Swine
1 Jeskai Elder
1 Mardu Heart-Piercer
1 Mardu Scout
1 Orc Sureshot
1 Qarsi High Priest
1 Sage-Eye Avengers
1 Scaldkin
2 Sultai Emissary
1 Torrent Elemental

1 Arc Lightning
1 Bathe in Dragonfire
1 Cloudform
1 Enhanced Awareness
1 Reality Shift
1 Refocus
1 Supplant Form
1 Wild Slash
1 Write into Being

1 Bloodfell Caves
1 Dismal Backwater
1 Frontier Bivouac
6 Island
4 Mountain
3 Swamp
1 Swiftwater Cliffs

[c]Write into Being[/c] is soooo good. I will likely build a deck that has 4 of them. [c]Cloudform[/c] is also really strong. I really wish it was common.

Did you know, there are no other Flying, Hexproof, for 3 mana? This is the only one. Also, it is a 2/2. Heck, there are only 4 creature with natural flying and hexproof in the game! This seems like a build around card. [c] Aven Fleetwing[/c] is the closest but Cloudform is just straight up better.

So, what cards are you most looking forward to once rotation occurs?

The Standard Pauper Show, Ep 32

Not Gruul? Then set review. This week it’s Green Red and Multicolor. Izzett Kicks and Golgari Butt fights abound. Set review smash!!
The Gauntlet is entering the end game and only 3 decks remain. Who will be the champion! The guys review two rounds.
This is the Standard Pauper Show!

Ascending Into Modern

Last week I reviewed my Ad Nauseam deck and detailed why I think it will be good post-bannings. I still feel true to my word. The bannings for January 19th have finally been revealed and I have to say that I’m very happy with the decisions. Formats now can be renewed and a new beginning has come, and one such deck was possibly given the chance to still rise in the ranks of Modern’s glorious gauntlet. [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] can still shine and, seeing [c]Birthing Pod[/c] has kicked the bucket, Jeskai Control can now return from the brink.

With [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and [c]Dig Through Time[/c]now banned, the deck becomes a lot slower. So is playing things like Thought Scour and Izzet Charm still worth it? Possibly, but probably not as much now. [c]Fatesticher[/c] and [c]Faerie Conclaves[/c] are still our main nightmare fuel to get the combo going. However, [c]Wind Zendikon[/c] has seen some play in the Legacy version and now with some space to fill up, why not try it in Modern?

Here is a rough draft of a list I’ve come up with. This hasn’t been tested yet, but I will try it out in the near future.

[d title=”Next Level Ascendancy”]
4 Fatesticher

4 Jeskai Ascendancy
4 Serum Visions
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Remand
2 Path to Exile
3 Thought Scour
3 Izzet Charm
2 Peek
2 Telling Time
2 Wind Zendikon
1 Gut Shot

3 Faerie Conclave
3 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Seachrome Coast
3 Steam Vents
1 Celestial Colonnade
4 Deceiver Exarch
3 Pestermite
4 Splinter Twin
2 Swan Song
1 Gigadrowse
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker [/d]

Not having tested this version of the deck yet, I feel like it isn’t in its prime but it’s a start.

[c]Peek[/c] lets us draw additional cards at instant speed without paying life and gives us a leg on what the opponent is up to. It also allows us to keep up [c]Path to Exile[/c] and [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] on turn one so we can be more reactive to our opponents.

[c]Remand[/c] is still good to stop our opponent from developing his board state, but [c]Telling Time[/c] lets us dig further at instant speed to insure we can get our combo pieces on time in case the opponent is playing anything we don’t need to worry about.

[c]Wind Zendikon[/c] insures we have some other way to combo off – a backup plan. It still triggers Ascendancy while comboing off so its possibly we may want more. The same goes for [c]Celestial Colonnade[/c] in that it acts as a slow win condition but also serves to let us combo off. It’s very mana intensive, but its there and should be respected in how it can push our late game clock.

[c]Gut Shot[/c] also gives us a way to let us trigger our Jeskai Ascendancy faster and gives us more mana with things like [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c], though I’m compelled to play things like [c]Lightning Helix[/c] over it. The lifegain is really nice, but [c]Gut Shot[/c] lets us kill mana dorks like [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] and even problem cards like [c]Young Pyromancer[/c].

The sideboard is transformational and this is an option that I feel more geared towards. Some like the straight [c]Young Pyromancer[/c] package but with the bannings he doesn’t seem to be as good, though he remains a win condition nonetheless. [c]Monastery Mentor[/c] is a possible inclusion with or replacement for the young wizard, but it’s probably too slow. Sure, it can make bigger dudes later in the game, but it just dies to all sorts of removal that we can’t answer effectively.

We have a [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c] package to get [c]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/c] or [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] alongside [c]Unburial Rites[/c] to lock our opponents out of the game, but it feels like it is a sideboard option used too often and people will honestly plan for.

[c]Silence[/c] feels like it can be a good sideboard inclusion to grant us a way around control decks, but that’s what the [c]Gigadrowse[/c] is also there for. It’s difficult for our opponent to counter and play around us if we can manage to tap down all their lands. A trick to remember is when you cast Gigadrowse and replicate it, if you opponent is impatient with a [c]Counterflux[/c] they can counter the gigadrowse, even with overload. However, they have to wait for the Replicate triggers to resolve. So make sure when you cast Gigadrowse and see a following overloaded Counterflux, just smile and say, “Sure, my Gigadrowse is countered. My replicate trigger resolves?” Its a bit like Cascade – just don’t be impatient. It is silly to point out, but cute all the same.

Another sideboard option we can think about having is [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c], especially since Jeskai Control will most likely be on the rise due to the new bannings. Sure, the list loses [c]Dig Through Time[/c] itself, but with [c]Birthing Pod[/c] now leaving the format, there isn’t much stopping it. Pod was its worst matchup and Jeskai Control can more than likely dominate the metagame. Geist lets us dodge control’s removal while still having burn and dig spells for the late game. If they have an answer for Geist, it might already be too late for them.

The transformational sideboard into [c]Splinter Twin[/c] allows us to kill the opponent when they least expect it. If they tap out turn three without us having a [c]Fatesticher[/c] in the yard or Jeskai Ascendancy in play, they might be thrown off balance when we just slam [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c] or a [c]Pestermite[/c] and show them the [c]Splinter Twin[/c] for the game. It’s something I want to test out to hopefully allow us to trick the opponent, and who doesn’t like that?!

If that sideboard option doesn’t really tickle you, then it’s possible you want something more stable and diverse like this.

[d title”Next Level Ascendancy Sideboard v2″]
4 Young Pyromancer
2 Wear // Tear
2 Torpor Orb
2 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Path to Exile
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Vendilion Clique[/d]

This version is a bit transformational as well but still lets you grind out games instead of comboing off against tough matches. Young Pyromancer still works great with Jeskai Ascendancy and Geist of Saint Traft as noted lets us pressure our opponents. Hurkyl’s Recall is added because I’m pretty confident that Affinity will come back and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Vendilion Clique is good in the mirror and combo matches while applying pressure.

I’m not gonna lie – This feels like a weaker Jeskai Control and slower than Scapeshift. Though it never hurts to sit down and test a deck. Honestly, Modern is all about getting good with a deck you feel comfortable with. Most decks you just can’t pick up and instantly pilot. Many Modern decks take time and some dedication to truly know the ins and outs of a deck, and this deck might be just one of those. I use to play a ton of Jeskai Control when it was extremely popular, but I got bored of it so quickly because that’s just how I felt about control. I haven’t touched a control deck in some time and this is my first take on it. While Ad Nauseam sat in my backpack I was playing Jeskai Combo before the bannings and now I still want to give it a chance before I tuck it away and go back to drawing my entire deck the old fashion way (much quicker and more painful).

UR Storm might even be better than this list and I would have to say it is – afterall it was the first Modern deck I built and competitively played. This Jeskai Combo deck feels as if it’s going to be more difficult to pilot, seeing as you can’t just willy-nilly play the cards in your hand while discarding to Jeskai Ascendancy. It will take some time learning the deck but overall I’m comfortable in testing it out and hopefully making it work in the new Modern metagame. With UR Delver being pushed out of the format and Pod now getting the banhammer, it might be time for a new deck to completely shine and this might be the one. Not this list in particular, but possibly something along these lines. I believe the manadork version is now completely dead and shouldn’t even be looked upon (and it wasn’t honestly all that good in the first place).

Would you guys like to see some live footage of the deck if possible, or see me play it online as video coverage? If so let me know and I will try to make it happen!


Win More, Lesson Two: Stay Winning

Hi all,

Last week I presented to you a style of deck selection and play called “Start By Winning.” Essentially, I encouraged everyone to select a deck that applies pressure as early as turn one. Essentially, we want to eliminate all losses that would come from our deck choice. Here are the key ideas from last week’s article:

1) Do not adopt a strategy that hopes to stop an opponent from an element of play.
If you pick a deck that attacks a certain axis, such as land destruction or discard, then know that some match-ups will be lost because your opponent is stable on that axis point. If you choose to play [c]Stone Rain[/c] maindeck, know that you will lose to an opponent who can operate on one or two lands every few matches. If you want to target your opponent with a lot of discard, know that your opponents will occasionally topdeck answers. If you want to prevent your opponents’ creatures from attacking or even surviving, then you can write off all the matches where your opponents don’t care to attack.

2) Do not choose a deck that hopes to put together two or more components.
If your deck’s strategy is dependent on assembling a combination of cards, then you are walking into games, matches, and events knowing that the odds are your deck will fold one or two times out of every ten. R/G Tron is extremely consistent at putting together [c]Urza’s Mine[/c], [c]Urza’s Tower[/c], and [c]Urza’s Power Plant[/c] by turn three. Still, each of its dedicated players knows that sometimes you won’t assemble the pieces, and others you will have loads of mana and nothing to do with them. Bogles, similarly, is relatively consistent at enchanting [c]Slippery Bogle[/c] with [c]Rancor[/c] and [c]Ethereal Armor[/c], but you have to accept that you are going to mulligan into oblivion a statistically significant number of times.

3) Assert the win from turn one.
Instead of preventing your opponent from winning or hoping that by turn three, your strategy will begin to take shape, I encouraged everyone to play aggressive one-drops: most notably, creatures with haste, the ability to grow and stay relevant over time, Infect, or a power of 3 are effective threats with which to open a game.

In short, when describing your deck to someone, you want to start with “It beats with (proposed creature X).” Your sentence doesn’t start with “it puts together” or “it stops the opponent from,” as these are not the most consistent ways to win.

This week, the phrase I want you to remember most is “Stay winning, but only just.”

Once you’ve followed my advice and played [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] or [c]Glistener Elf[/c] on turn one, what next? Well, fortunately, you’re in the driver’s seat, and you get to decide how things play out. You are winning. Your opponent has three options:
1) Neutralize your threat.
2) Win before you do.
3) Lose.

The decisions we make will keep your opponents’ options in mind, but we will break them down into the decisions on our turn and the decisions on their turn. Each decision will be made so that we stay winning, but only just. That is, we don’t want to extend ourselves so far that the opponent is more capable of neutralizing our threat or winning before we do.

During Our Turn

If you are winning with a deck that follows the “Win More” strategies, then it is usually correct to keep the upper hand and leave your mana untapped during your turn. However, you are keeping in mind your opponent’s option number two: “Win before you do.” If we are against a deck who either wins on turn four or begins to control the board on turn four, we may decide we need to apply pressure. Therefore, there are some questions we want to ask ourselves:

1) Does this threat reduce my opponent’s clock?
If my opponent is at 15 life, and I have four power on the board, then my opponent’s clock is four turns. It will likely be advantageous for me to play any creature at this point because it will reduce my opponent’s clock to three turns. However, if I have eight power on the board with my opponent at the same life total, it is highly unlikely that playing a creature here will be beneficial. This mistake is called overextending, and when I see players overextend I can easily sort them out as a lower caliber threat.

I will admit, albeit at the cost of the point I’m trying to make here, that this math has gotten much more difficult in recent history. It has been difficult to evaluate the opponent’s clock with cards like [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] and [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c], for example. Even [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] varies as an effective or under-performing threat.

2) Does playing this threat prevent me from being able to protect my board presence?
Tapping out of mana on your turn prevents you from removing your opponents’ defenses or protecting your offenses. Often it is better to hold up mana for removal, pump, or my favorite, [c]Boros Charm[/c].

3) Will an opponent’s answer set me back further than I am now?
Right now, I am in the lead, and if I gamble to advance that lead, an opponent may answer with [c]Day of Judgment[/c], [c]Electrolyze[/c], [c]Pyroclasm[/c] or another effect that not only negates my added play but also puts me further back than I am now. You have to gauge what your opponents’ answers to your threat are. If you are playing a deck with a removal suite of [c]Path to Exile[/c], burn spells, and [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], then it will likely be correct to add to your board presence. If your opponent is playing a mix of these effects and [c]Wrath of God[/c], then things get more complicated.

4) Does this threat preemptively answer something my opponent could do?
There are certain situations where you can anticipate what your opponent has or how they may try to answer you. For example, if my opponent is stuck on three mana for a few turns and can produce black, green, and white mana, I may assume that once he makes his fourth land drop, a [c]Siege Rhino[/c] will surely follow. Can I play a threat that will keep me winning even after his life gain and 5 toughness?

5) Can I bluff anything instead?
Throughout the course of this match, has your opponent seen a [c]Forked Bolt[/c], [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], [c]Boros Charm[/c], or other surprise? If so, they may be making decisions based on the fear. If you tap out, remember that you are removing your opponents’ reservations about how to develop their board state.

6) Most importantly, does tapping out here mean that I can’t prevent my opponent from winning before I do?
Between [c]Splinter Twin[/c], Infect creatures, [c]Birthing Pod[/c] (for a week), and others, we may simply lose to our opponent’s combo if we do not hold up mana for removal.

Most likely, we have mana available and means to interact with our opponent during his turn. When we do interact on their turn, they are forced to make some tough decisions, knowing that we are going to be untapping soon. Like during our turn, there is a series of questions we want to ask ourselves when our opponent makes a play. Once again, we are keeping in mind that we are winning, so we don’t want them to stop us from doing so or to win sooner.

During Our Opponents’ Turns

First of all, our opponents’ attempts to neutralize our threat could include a blocker or a removal spell. Here is how we decide when to react and to what extent.

1) Does this actually answer my threat?
In the case of removal spells, we can easily determine whether our threat is in jeopardy and how we can respond with [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c] or another pump effect. When our opponent plays a creature, though, we need to know how often we actually care. Does the creature trade favorably with my threat, like [c]Kitchen Finks[/c] or [c]Siege Rhino[/c]? If so, then we want to answer with [c]Dismember[/c] or [c]Path to Exile[/c]. When playing [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] and the like, though, often we can get away with ignoring the creature or letting it block so that our opponent will be down a card. This is especially true when playing cards like [c]Colossal Might[/c] and [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c].

Our opponents’ second hope is to win before we do. If it seems they can, we have to determine the best way to interact so that we have the upper hand again.

2) Is this his win condition? If so, is it faster than mine?
Measure your clock against your opponents’ clock often. When you have less time than they do, then it is time to interact.

3) When is the best time to remove the threat?
Often, when playing against aggressive decks that have the ability to pump their creatures, it is best to give your opponent the hit during combat and remove their threat after combat damage. There are a lot of pump spells, [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c], etc. flying around in Modern now, and you don’t want to waste a [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] on a [c]Goblin Guide[/c] when your opponent can play [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c], putting you down a card and four life. When playing [c]Path to Exile[/c], the best time to play is often during your opponent’s upkeep. They will not have access to the extra mana during their turn, and they will not be able to attack with the creature.

4) Is my removal best used on my opponent?
Just like evaluating whether or not to play a creature during your turn, we want to determine whether a [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] is best spent reducing the opponent’s clock. This is especially true if we can untap and continue to play more burn spells in addition to our attacks.

In Conclusion
This is probably the end of the “Win More” series. Part three would be simply labeled “Finish winning,” but I believe the site deserves more than an entire article stating “Combine [c]Boros Charm[/c] with [c]Become Immense[/c].” If you want to see some more decks that are geared to this strategy, please let me know in the comments section. I can show you the lists and the roles of their cards as they pertain to these two articles.

I hope the “Win More” series given you some insight on why your strategy may not be producing the results you want and on how to get there instead. These tips have been invaluable for me as a player. I’ve continued to succeed with the decklist and strategy from last week, placing 3-1 in the only daily I entered and getting to the finals* of Blippy’s event last night. I have spent less tickets than the number of packs that I have won with the deck, plus I have won $20 Canadian to use at Face to Face Games for paper cards. Gone forever are the days that I try to enchant a [c]Gladecover Scout[/c] or assemble a combo!

* – Latin for “placing second,” because otherwise instead of saying “getting to the finals,” I would say “winning.”

Good luck, have fun, win more.


Understanding Variance in Magic: An Introduction

“Oh man I was so unlucky, I got crushed game one and game two I mulled to five and I lost.”

“I was at 3 and he was dead on board but he drew lightning bolt for the win, such luck!”

How many of you have ever heard at least once this kind of sentence? Blaming bad luck for your losses is typical for an inexperienced player. What I want to talk you about today in my first article is what I believe is one of the centerpieces of being a great Magic player: understanding the role of variance.

What is Variance

It’s probably better to start with some mathematical concepts. Quoting Wikipedia: “In probability, theory, and statistics, variance measures how far a set of numbers is spread out.” This means that for every event, there’s an expected value called “mean,” and how the values are spread around the average value is measured by variance. For instance, an average value of 6 is reachable with two 4 and two 8 but also with two 1, one 3 and one 19. Variance in these cases will be different.

That’s all we really need to know to define variance. The problem, rather than being mathematical, is how this concept affects our mental state. Magic is a game closely related to probability and to explain it better I will provide an example using the most hated permanents in the game, land.

The number of lands that a deck plays is strictly in correlation with what it wants to accomplish and with how many lands it can operate (aka its mana curve). The magical number in limited, for instance, is 17 lands. We usually take this number for granted because our fathers taught us that we want to play that many lands and that’s what we will teach to our children, but have you ever considered why?

17 is the minimum number that guarantees you a reasonable chance of getting 4-5 lands around turn 5. Of course we could use 18, 19 or even 20 to have a better chance to hit land drops but that will cost us in terms of a higher chance of flooding out.

Let’s put down some numbers to explain better what I mean. Let’s assume a limited deck of 40 cards with 17 lands. We are in our fifth turn on the play which means we have already drawn 11 cards. I made a graph of the chance of getting from 1 to 11 lands in our 11 cards.


As predicted 4,5,6 lands are the most likely cases but the sum of those is not over 70% which means in the remaining 30% (3 games out of out ten) we are or screwing or flooding out on turn five. Of course 0,1, 9, 10, 11 lands are really remote cases (<1%) but remember, in the long run this is going to happen. Statistically speaking in a hundred or a thousand games you will face cases like that.

How our mental state is influenced

Have you ever felt anger, frustration, or sadness for your bad draws / opponent’s good draws? Well I’m here to tell you that a good understanding of this article may bring you a better peace of mind. In a perfect world, the perfect player that has no emotions and deals with variance in an objective way would be perfectly fine with losing to a mull to four G1 and G2 of a match, even 5 matches straight. The perfect player probably would like to play chess rather than Magic, though. A part of why we love the game is variance itself, the thrill of topdecking. The chance of defeating a better player is something difficult to find somewhere else.

Variance is both love and hate.

In the end I’m not saying that we should become robots and I’m not claiming to be perfectly fine when something bad happens to me, but I trained myself to be less influenced by dark thoughts that might be detrimental for my future games. Just understand that bad things happen, to you, to me, and to everybody. On this matter we are equally lucky so more or less we will screw or flood or get topdecked in the same way and we will lose as many games due to our flood as we will win games because our opponent is flooding out.

What getting angry does is take away our focus from two things: what we could have done differently to give us better chances to win, and; what we have to do in order to win the next game.

I saw dozen of players tilting badly after they got unlucky and literally throwing away games because in their mind the only thing they could think of was, “Why I’m so damn unlucky.” I also saw them keeping bad hands because, “It’s already the Xth mulligan today.” I played hundreds of competitive matches in my life, I took mulligans countless of times. I’m proud to say though that I never lose hope, I usually stay sharp, keep going, and I can remember happily winning with even 4 card hands. If you can wash away those negative thoughts you are putting yourself in the best position to win.

There’s a saying: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” (and don’t get mad because they are not oranges). The importance must be in doing good with what you have, not throwing out blame that you are not in the best spot possible to win. You will face screw, flood, better players than you, and bad matchups, but you have to keep playing. Blame is simple and is easier than focusing and fighting your way back into the game.

A helpful mindset is changing your goal: if your goal is just to win, and it doesn’t happen, you are going to blame bad luck. If instead you set the goal as “doing the best that I can,” it doesn’t matter if you are under bad circumstances, if you know at the end of the game that you did your best despite what happened in terms of variance you will still be happy for the loss, or at least not sad nor frustrated nor angry. Winning for you will become a consequence of doing the best you can do and losing won’t be about being unlucky.

Achieveing such a Zen condition can be pretty hard but also very rewarding in terms of self improvement and inner peace, and I will give you some examples to better understand that variance is a part of the game and that we have to embrace it as it is.

Understanding the role of Variance

Thinking in terms of the long run. I can’t say I’ve been frequently to casinos but what I got from watching people playing roulette is invaluable. Electronic roulettes are amazing because they provide you all a bunch of useful data such as last 100 spins. Once I saw a streak of 8 reds, roughly 0.4% chance that this might happen (without considering the 0). If you are betting on black numbers you simply end up in a bad streak, but statistically speaking considering a high pool sample, what’s going on is legitimate. The spins are like your matches, the more you play the more you will face weird things, like mulligan streaks or continuous floods / screws. It’s part of the game, we have to face it at some point.

“But you have to be in a position to be lucky.” -Kai Budde

This is one of the most important sentences in building you mindset regarding luck and variance. If you are playing a Standard match with Mardu and next turn you are dead you can still topdeck some points of burn to finish him off. If he’s at 4 you can still draw your remaining copies of [c]Stoke The Flames[/c], if he’s at 3 you have more chances by drawing also [c]Lightning Strike[/c], if he’s a 2 even [c]Crackling Doom[/c] would do the job! The point is if you bring your opponent within range because you played better, then you are in a better position to get “lucky” by topdecking the right card.

Look at this video


There’s no doubt that Craig Jones was extremely lucky. His chances were probably not more than 10% but his part in being lucky was the decision to [c]Char[/c] Olivier’s face instead of the creature or make some other plays. He saw that there was no other way to win expect with a topdecked [c]Lightning Helix[/c] and he worked for it.

The Concept of Deserving the Win

This is one misconception that I heard a lot from players. It’s not chess where the better player always win; in Magic there’s variance that can fill or widen the gap between the two player’s skills. A Magic game is always won due to the sum of variance and skill. A player can play badly but still win given the cards drawn by each player.

The Perfect Mindset

Once we have washed away all the dark thoughts, what we can do is think about what we could have done differently to win the game. Usually we have a certain degree of responsibility in our losses, so doing the best to understand what went wrong despite variance is an important exercise. One thing to avoid, though, is being obsessed with the fact that we are always at fault. Sometime we just can’t win. Sometimes we aren’t able to get a good enough perspective on our own play to tell which decisions we made might be questionable. Sometimes we make the right decisions the entire game and still lose. Usually I talk to people that I know are good and can give me a helpful outside perspective on my plays.

Wrap Up

Understanding variance is fundamental to achieve a good level of plays because it let us focus on being a better player. Also it’s better for our minds and for the overall enjoyment of the game. I hope you can toss out all the bad feeling that drawing outside the mean value might provide you and keep playing your best games of Magic.