Trust Me: Trusted Advisor In Modern

trusted advisor art

by Lev Novak

Let’s talk about an under-used, potentially broken Modern-legal uncommon.

No, not [c]Sky Hussar[/c] although there’s some synergy there. No, I’m talking about [c]Trusted Advisor[/c]

[c]Trusted Advisor[/c] is an odd card at first glance It’s a 1/2 for U, back when anything above a 1/1 was slapped with a drawback. But today, we’re exploiting that drawback.

Magic: Origins has provided a tremendous boost to [c]Trusted Advisor[/c] by offering two crucial cogs in [c]Harbringer Of The Tides[/c] and [c]Faerie Miscreant[/c].

[c]Harbringer Of The Tides[/c] gives us a strong, recurring tempo play and [c]Faerie Miscreant[/c] gives us an extra boost for running faeries, like [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c] and [c]Vendilion Clique[/c]. It’s also an extra faerie for [c]Mistbind Clique[/c] which, coincidentally, forms a lock with [c]Trusted Advisor[/c].

[c]Aether Vial[/c] is going to flash in those engines for free when we return them with the Advisor.

Huh. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Let’s take a look at the whole picture before we talk about any more of the individual cards.

[d title=”Trust Me (Modern)”]
11 Island
1 Plains
4 Flooded Strand
1 Polluted Delta
3 Seachrome Coast
2 Hallowed Fountain

4 Faerie Miscreant
4 Harbinger Of The Tides
2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
1 Master of Waves
2 Meddling Mage
4 Mistbind Clique
1 Restoration Angel
4 Sage of Epityr
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Trusted Advisor
2 Vendillion Clique
2 Voidmage Prodigy

4 Aether Vial

2 Meddling Mage
3 Rest In Peace
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Spellskite
2 Echoing Truth
2 Ephara, God Of The Polis
2 Pestermite [/d]

[c]Trusted Advisor[/c] is the engine of the deck, but every card here has seen at least some Modern play. No card here is jank, which is part of the deck’s appeal. If an opponent is burning out your [c]Trusted Advisor[/c] every game, you still have a potentially strong tempo game with fliers, beaters, and efficient disruption that comes packed on creatures.

Your ideal turn one play is an [c]Aether Vial[/c], followed by a [c]Sage of Epityr[/c] or a [c]Faerie Miscreant[/c] if you’re holding a [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c]. Once you set up the engine, drop your two-drop: either a [c]Meddling Mage[/c] to act as a pre-emptive [c]Remand[/c], a [c]Harbinger Of the Tides[/c] to fight off tempo or a [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c]. Then, drop a [c]Trusted Advisor[/c]. You can recycle all your triggers all game. And if your advisor eats removal, guess what? Your efficient troops can do their job.

You win by pecking at them in the air after an attrition game with Harbinger bounce and Spellstutter counters, or by a lock with [/c]Mistbind Clique[/c] or [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c] off your [c]Trusted Advisor[/c]. Remember that digging for that combo with a combination of [c]Sage of Epityr[/c], fetch lands, and [c]Trusted Advisor[/c] works nicely.

Sideboarding should speak for itself, though it’s flexible for your taste. [c]Meddling Mage[/c] is a pet favorite of mine in this deck, though. You can reset it with [c]Trusted Advisor[/c] and it works great at both blocking and drawing removal. [c]Pestermite[/c] is more of a budget replacement. [c]Ephara, God Of The Polis[/c], meanwhile, is a brutal and immovable piece in attrition wars and a secondary win condition.

[c]Sky Hussar[/c] may also be a card used for those fans of absurd, abusive value-decks.

Happy playing!

An open letter: The failings of MTGO’s trading system, and how to fix them.

Note: This article is courtesy of SirGog and is duplicated from his post on the official MTGO forums with his permission. Since it is an excellent post and really an issue that deserves more attention, I wanted to do my part to help get more eyes on it. I’ve done some format editing to improve readability, but the content remains untouched. -The Editor

Disclaimer: This thread was posted in late September 2014. It references some card values that may no longer be even close to accurate if you are reading this at a later date. Such is the nature of #MTGOFinance.

An open letter: The failings of MTGO’s trading system, and how to fix them.

Rather than explaining why I think the trading system in MTGO is the most serious ‘big problem’ with the client right now, I want to open by encouraging MTGO players to carry out a small experiment.

Over the next week, play as you normally would, and record how long you spend logged into the MTGO client. Don’t count extended AFK time, just the time you are mostly paying attention to the client.

Record how long you spend actually playing games of Magic or other related activities like building draft decks, and how much total downtime you have (time between tournament rounds, or time spent acquiring the [c]Mox Emerald[/c] your Vintage deck needs, or the time spent trying to sell the [c]Garruk, Apex Predator[/c] and the foil [c]Stoke the Flames[/c] you just drafted).

I believe that if you play either Limited or competitive Constructed much at all, you will find that collection management related downtime – selling unwanted cards, and seeking out desired ones – dramatically cuts into your Magic playing time.

Collection management is a big part of paper MTG, but like cards becoming accidentally damaged, or incorrect judge calls, it is something that the digital version of the game can do differently and can do better than paper.

This letter is about my proposals to decrease the time wasted on collection management by players, so that we can spend more time on the parts of MTGO that we actually enjoy – competitive-minded decision making in a world of incomplete information and nearly unlimited possibilities.

A bit on trade history:

This is background info and can be skipped, but may interest some.

MTGO player-to-player trading was originally designed, like many other parts of the game, to mirror paper trading fairly closely. Players can either stick their currently unneeded cards into trade binders (making them visible to prospective trade partners) or they can keep certain cards in reserve. (For example, I might own four [c]City of Traitors[/c] that I don’t put in my trade binder, but if you have a [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] I want I might be willing to make them visible then). All transactions are direct player-to-player trades.

Early on, before I started playing on MTGO, the Event Ticket became THE established currency of trading. It could have been packs instead, but for various reasons related to prize support, liquidity of certain boosters, and tickets being a cheaper object than packs, tickets made more sense as a currency. Tix being a trade currency has been given ‘official’ approval by WotC in many an article since then, for example in articles that focus on budget decks.

Early in MTGO, card liquidity* was low, until around the era of Betrayers of Kamigawa, when human dealers were phased out in favor of bots. Early bots didn’t handle the whole trade, they just spammed a trade message in various channels over and over alerting you to the offers the human behind the bot was offering, but soon the fully automated bots appeared and then became common.
Owning a trade bot was initially extremely lucrative and their coding was a guarded secret, but in time they became widespread and margins became lower. Now, it is effectively impossible to be a dealer on MTGO without running multiple bots 24/7, the human element of trading from MTGO’s early days is completely gone, and there is third party bot software available to ‘buy’ a license for in exchange for a fee.

This isn’t an attempt at nostalgia for the old days. I think the automation of trading has been a good thing in general – drafters can offload undesired cards with less effort than before, Constructed players (competitive or casual) can assemble decks more easily and at a lower price, and price speculators can quickly acquire 200 copies of the card they expect to be the Next Big Thing. In short, liquidity in the market has increased, and this is a good thing.

However, there are problems as it stands.

* – For those without economics knowledge, ‘liquidity’ means how easily something can be traded. Increased liquidity generally reduces the gap between buy and sell prices. You can see this in paper Magic, where many dealers will offer a higher percentage of their sell price for highly-in-demand Standard cards they can move quickly than they offer for hard-to-sell cards like a Japanese foil [c]Goblin Welder[/c] (even though the latter will command a high price if you find the right buyer).

Problems with the current system:

Firstly, event tickets are indivisible, meaning that players cannot trade for low value cards without trusting a bot that has a partial ticket accounting system or finding a mutually acceptable low value trade item. This is not a good system at all as more than 95% of the cards opened in booster packs have a value well south of one ticket.

This rewards unscrupulous bot owners (closing one bot and reopening a new account can result in you stealing up to 99 cents from each of a LARGE number of players, this really adds up). It also has nonmonetary effects – it feels much worse to trade for obscure cards. Consider a card like [c]Clone[/c] – making a trade of one event ticket for four copies of [c]Clone[/c] feels really bad, even when there is the promise of future credit. (At the time of writing, M14 Clone’s price was 0.03 tickets on the first bot I checked).

This negative feeling extends even to people who value their time – I don’t mind spending USD 0.88 for the convenience of quickly finding four copies of a desired card, but I do feel bad about hitting ‘confirm’ on a trade where I’m getting only 12% of the value of what I am trading away.

Secondly, if you want a card, there is no easy way to find someone that has the card you want. You can go to the message boards and find someone that claims to have the card you want, but due to the messageboard reflecting only what people claim to have and a limited amount of characters that can be typed into a message, it will not necessarily be accurate.

For example, take two cards at opposite ends of the desirability spectrum, [c]Clone[/c] and [c]Cryptic Command[/c]. (At the time of writing, the first bot I checked is buying a Modern Masters Cryptic Command at 21.01 tickets and selling at 23.49, there may be better deals out there but I will use those prices to make a point).

A search in the client for the text string ‘Cryptic’ will find a selection of bots that claim to have Cryptic Command in stock at a certain price. This can be misleading. Often what they mean is ‘The last time I updated this message I was selling Cryptic Command at 23.49 tickets, but since then I sold my last copy’, or ‘The last time I updated this message I was selling Cryptic Command at 23.49 tickets, but since then I decided to up the price to 24.99 tickets and I hope you don’t notice or don’t mind’. Your search will also find bots that are offering to buy Cryptic Command at various prices, as well as people that are trading Cryptic Commands but will not disclose their prices.

A search for ‘Command’ or ‘Cryptic Command’ will work but will show less results, as people familiar with Magic lingo often abbreviate this card as just ‘Cryptic’ and those search terms will not connect with this abbreviation. A player unfamiliar with the nuances of MTGO trading and card nicknames may be disheartened to see only a small number of people claiming to deal with this card.

It’s worse again if you want a specific edition of the card. Try to find someone – anyone – that will sell you the fourth foil Alara Reborn [c]Maelstrom Pulse[/c] you want in order to complete a playset where every card is identical, or an ME4 [c]Tundra[/c].

A search for ‘Clone’ on the other hand will show very few results, as while a large number of players have the card and are happy to trade it, they do not consider this fact worth advertising.
Thirdly (and this has already been shown above), there is no requirement that players honour their publicly advertised prices. This is a major timewaster for people that are trying to source a card. Many of the larger bot chains have algorithms written into them that actually dynamically increase card prices as you try to buy more copies of it. So buying one [c]Cryptic Command[/c] might cost you 23.49 tickets, but buying two might cost you 23.79 tickets each, and four might cost 24.49 each.

Fourth, the trade system generally requires people using it to have at least a basic grasp of English (or more specifically, for two trade partners to share a language, but in practice that means English as all bots I’ve ever seen are in English). My suggestions would overcome that barrier, allowing me (a person who speaks only English) to trade to a player that speaks only Japanese. It would also improve the experience of trading with a person who speaks French as a first language alongside just a few words of English.

Fifth, and most importantly, trades require both partners to be online. This dramatically favours bots over human dealers, to the point that human dealers basically no longer exist, and many dealers that sell items bots do not handle well (such as complete sets) often post a classified ad and have a bot auto-reply saying “Hey, thanks for the interest, I’m AFK, try again at 6.30pm Pacific Standard Time”.

Finally, the trade system as it stands does not support large trades. About a year ago, I traded a very large number of tickets (500 at the time, that was a fair price then although it would not be now) for four sets of Return to Ravnica, and had to talk the set seller through a way to do the trade that didn’t expose either of us to potential fraud. Otherwise, I could have let them take 400 tickets in one trade and taken all the mythics and rares, and then blocked them, effectively stealing nearly 100 tickets. This could be much worse with 4x foil sets or other huge transactions, such as trades for a foil [c]Black Lotus[/c]. Whilst I believe WotC would take a hard line against using deception in trades, it would be better if the system simply did not allow it.

My suggestions:

Firstly, eliminate event tickets and replace them with an account balance that is used to enter tournaments, purchase digital MTGO products from the store and can be used as a currency to conduct trades (but never withdrawn for cash).

If there are legal reasons (gambling laws) and/or credit card fraud reasons that prevent this being done, instead introduce a new digital object, the ‘chip’, which represents one-thousandth of an event ticket. Allow event tickets to be ‘opened’ like boosters (becoming 1000 chips), and phase out Event Tickets, using chips as the new way to pay tournament entry fees. So you could enter a 2 ticket Constructed 1v1 queue by paying 2 Event Tickets, or alternately by paying 2000 chips.

Either of these would solve problem 1 outright. Low value cards would immediately become readily tradeable, as the vast majority of cards still hold a value of at least one-tenth of a cent.
Secondly, keep the person-to-person trading interface that exists now, but create and heavily promote a new trading system that mirrors the broker-based market in the MMO EVE Online (and consider paying CCP, the makers of EVE, to help you implement it into MTGO). Copy that system exactly, except do not include any equivalent of EVE’s Margin Trading (require a 100% escrow under all circumstances) and do not respect distance/location in the way EVE does. Here’s how it would work:

Suggestion #1 – Sell Orders:

This is basically a buyout-only ‘auction house’.

A ‘sell order’ is a pledge to sell a card for a certain price, if a buyer can be found in a given timeframe. The card in question is removed from your collection and placed in escrow for the duration of the sell order. If a buyer is found, the card is delivered from escrow to that buyer immediately, and the tickets/chips/account balance is transferred to the seller. If the sell order does not fill, the card is returned from escrow to the seller at the end of the time period.

I see no reason to augment the sell order option with an ‘auction house’ or ‘best offer’ options when you have…

Suggestion #2 – Buy Orders:

A ‘buy order is the reverse – a pledge to buy a card for a given price, if a seller can be found in the relevant timeframe. The entire price of the cards in question is deducted from your account balance and put in escrow (alternately, tix and chips are put in escrow).

If a seller is found you get the cards and they get the escrow; if no seller is found, you get the currency back when the order expires.

Buy and sell orders can be cancelled at any time if you change your mind, and in the event of the announcement of a card being banned or unbanned in any format, all outstanding buy/sell orders up for that card are immediately suspended until the player next logs on, at which point they will receive a message “The card [c]Show and Tell[/c] has been banned in the Legacy format, do you still want to offer 105.003 tickets for each of four copies of Urza’s Saga foil [c]Show and Tell[/c]?”

Buy and sell orders would be anonymous, and would treat different versions of a card as totally different objects. (Example: a Mercadian Masques [c]Counterspell[/c] would be treated as a different item to a Tempest [c]Counterspell[/c], even though many players would consider them interchangeable, however a text search for [c]Counterspell[/c] would show both, as well as their foil versions, and the various other printings of the card from 7E, Master’s Edition sets, preconstructed decks, promos and other products).

Players could look at their objects in escrow, buy orders and sell orders at any time, cancel orders at any time, and modify an individual buy or sell order once per hour. (Once per hour prevents 0.001 ticket price wars being won by bots that are programmed to check if they have been undercut or outbid every minute).

An example in practice:

– I want to acquire three copies of the card [c]Voice of Resurgence[/c]. Being a little vain, I want my Voices to be shiny. (At the time of writing, the first bot I checked is buying foil Voice of Resurgence for 33.42 and selling for 40.49, so ‘fair price’ is around 36-37 tickets.)

– I browse the sell orders and see a total four foil Voices for sale, at 36.999, 37.000, 41.000 and 236.000 tickets.

– I decide to buy the two cheaper copies of the card, but feel 41 is more than I’m prepared to pay (and I sure as hell am not paying 236). Without me ever knowing who I am trading with, I select ‘buy’ on the first two. My account balance drops by $73.999 (tracked to a tenth of a cent), the two foil Voices are transferred from escrow into my account, and the account balance of my two trading partners is increased by $36.999 and $37 respectively.

– I then decide to post my own buy order to try to get the third one more cheaply than 41.000. Looking at the buy orders up currently, I see four at 24.777, 28.599, 30.600 and 30.602. I consider offering 30.603, but then think that I will get the card more quickly if I offer a little more, and so I offer 35.000 and set a duration of 72 hours on my offer. My account balance goes down by $35, and this store credit goes into escrow. For the next three days, if anyone wants to sell a foil Voice for 35 tickets, even if I am offline, they can sell it to my order.

– Before anyone fills my order, the DCI shocks everyone by emergency banning Voice of Resurgence in Legacy. (Don’t make banned/restricted list announcements drunk, folks). I don’t care, as I wanted the card for a Modern deck. My order now goes into stasis until I log on and confirm ‘yes, I still want the card at that price’ at which point the three day period begins again (or alternately, I could elect to cancel the order and offer it again at a lower price).

A second example:

I play an M15 draft, and one of the cards I acquire is an [c]In Garruk’s Wake[/c]. It is my ninth copy. I do not want this card, I don’t want any of the nine, but I cannot be bothered posting a sell order to try to get top dollar for it. I just want them gone.

I right click it in the collection and a list of buy orders for the card appears on my screen. The first person is offering 0.032 tickets for (M15 non-foil) In Garruk’s Wake but is only buying four copies. The second person (presumably a dealer) is offering 0.027 tickets for the card but is willing to buy as many as 233 copies.

I then am given the option ‘Sell four copies for 0.032 tickets each?’ which I click. After a confirmation window, 0.128 tickets leaves the first buyer’s escrow and is credited to my account balance. Then I right-click the In Garruk’s Wakes again, and have the option ‘Sell 5 copies for 0.027 tickets each?’ Again I accept, and the IGWs go to the dealer, and $0.135 is added to my store balance.

Of my six complaints about the trade system, this proposed overhaul would address five. The only one not covered is the availability of obscure cards, as many human players will not bother posting them. However, it is likely that dealers (human or bots) will fill that void, making sure that there is still liquidity in the [c]Chimney Imp[/c] market – and more relevantly, in the market for low (non-zero) demand, low supply cards like foil [c]Massacre[/c].

Monetizing the Trade System:

WotC are a business, and implementing this system so far looks like a lot of cost for no revenue gain. There’d be customer goodwill (which is meaningful) and also perhaps some people drafting a little more often as they can sell their cards more quickly (which is revenue even if those players are ‘infinite’ and never personally spend money at the MTGO store, as every 8-4 draft of ‘normal’ sets consumes 12 packs net and 16 tickets, netting WotC USD 63.88 in revenue). But there are other ways they could get more out of the system without undermining customer goodwill. Taking a cut from each trade (even a 0.5% cut) would cost this goodwill, and I don’t even think it’s the best way to monetize the system either.

Presently, a moderate number of players pay third parties for licenses to use their trading bot software. WotC should have a goal: to get this money in their pockets instead.

A concrete suggestion:

Firstly, there should be a limit of buy orders and sell orders active at any time for a given account. Something like 8 buy orders and 8 sell orders, with buy orders capped at 4 copies of the card (no limit for sell orders), and order duration capped at 72 hours, would be a good starting point. Or alternately, a limit of having 100 total orders (with multiple copies of a card counting multiple times, so ‘Want to Buy: 3 Wasteland’ would take up 3 of your 100 orders).

That is enough to post buy orders for most of a Constructed deck at once, especially when you consider that you’d be buying many cards directly from other people’s sell orders, but it is not enough to run an online dealership or to build sets at bargain prices for redemption purposes.

Secondly, players would have the option to pay USD6 per month (by credit card, or by event tickets/account balance/chips) to have these restrictions almost entirely removed. USD6 is a fairly arbitrary estimate at being a price that seems reasonable but generates real, ongoing revenue. Accounts that pay this charge would have a limit of 500 buy orders, 500 sell orders, and a cap of 12 copies of a card per order and 7 day time limits. Effectively, paying this $6 per month gets you all of the benefits of running a single bot now, but the money goes to WotC, not a third party bot coder.

Finally, players would have the option to pay USD50 per month to have the restrictions entirely removed. This expensive option would give you the benefits currently reserved for people that run trade bots on a dozen accounts or more.

Players with one of the premium trading options would pay in advance, and be automatically downgraded to a free account if they do not trade at all for a month (so as to avoid the customer relations nightmare of ‘oops, I forgot to downgrade my account before going on a cruise for six months’). At the time of downgrading, excess orders would not be automatically cancelled, instead the player would be unable to post new ones until they fall under their new maximum.

A second option to monetize the system is to require a deposit on sell order listings and buy order listings, that is refunded in full if the order fills. This would dramatically cut down the number of ‘nuisance’ listings where someone posts a ridiculous lowball price such as ‘Buying foil FUT Tarmogoyf, 12 tix’ in the hopes that someone misreads that as 120 tix. This deposit could be as high as 1% of the order amount, and it would serve as a tax on dealers much more than a tax on the Limited and Constructed players that generate WotC revenue.

In summary:

The only people that speak highly of MTGO’s current trading system are the dealers that make a living (or at least heavily subsidize their hobby) from being the middleman between buyers and sellers that cannot find each other.

The prevalence of third party bots available for license is a necessary evil right now, but poses major risks to MTGO’s integrity. There has already been at least one incident where a ‘trading bot’ program had trojans built into it that allowed the bot owners to potentially steal cards from those running the bot. If this happened on a big scale, it would be both a public relations nightmare for Wizards, and a financial risk too (as undoubtedly, some people who had had their accounts cleaned out by a thief would file chargebacks against anything they had recently purchased from Wizards).

In addition, it’s hard to know how much strain bot chains put on the server currently, but it must be significant, given that there seem to be over a thousand bot accounts logged on at any time, they usually have large numbers of cards for trade, and opening trade with a bot would query the server ‘How many of each card does this player have for trade?’ every time.
There’s two more advantages WotC gain before even considering possible revenue from the trading system.

Firstly, by speeding up collection management, players that draft a lot will spend less time on collection management, potentially allowing them to fit in one more draft here and there.
Secondly, by having supply and demand driven broad price guidelines publicly available in-client, WotC aren’t intervening in the secondary market, but they still manage to minimize the number of times a new player goes through the horrible experience of being badly ripped off in a trade. Even if it’s only a small amount, it leaves a foul taste in your mouth when you realize that the [c]Flusterstorm[/c] you just sold thinking it was a useless card actually is worth something. This might improve new player retention.

For these reasons, I feel replacing the present trade system with a buy order/sell order system should be the next ‘big project’ undertaken by MTGO management after the completion of leagues (which I personally don’t enjoy much but am looking forward to seeing as I know a lot of people have wanted them and it is good to see their voices heard). If done well, it will make customers happy, entice them to spend more, and assist in retention and growth – a trifecta that can only be good for MTGO and WotC.

Pauper Gauntlet Competitor #14: AzoriusKitty by ShaffaWaffa5

by David Shaffer (ShaffaWaffa5)

Editor’s Note: David wrote this some time ago for MTGOStrat but it was never published. Since David is such an excellent deck-builder, author, and Magic player, once we got permission to do so we jumped at the chance to publish it. Keep in mind that some parts of the article may be out of date.

I. Introduction

AzoriusKitty is a midrange deck inspired by Boroskitty’s [mtg_card]Ichor Wellspring[/mtg_card] manipulation engine. The deck was an attempt to make the midrange manipulation engine more effective against Fissurepost decks. The deck, however, plays more like a tap out control deck.

The objective is to get out a permanent, like [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card], or [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card] and return it to your hand via a “bounce” creature like [mtg_card]Kor Skyfisher[/mtg_card], or [mtg_card]Dream Stalker[/mtg_card]. The deck wins in a grindy fashion, slowly accumulating card advantage over the opponent. The deck also gains inordinate amounts of life, which allows it to weather aggro decks designed to deal a quick 20 damage.

II. The Deck

[mtg_deck title=”AzoriusKitty (Pauper)”]
4 Azorius Chancery
2 Azorius Guildgate
4 Kabira Crossroads
8 Island
3 Plains
1 Lonely Sandbar
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Dream Stalker
4 Mulldrifter
2 Sea Gate Oracle
3 Lone Missionary
2 Reality Acid
4 Journey to Nowhere
2 Momentary Blink
4 Preordain
2 Serrated Arrows
4 Spreading Seas
3 Piracy Charm
1 Reality Acid
1 Piracy Charm
3 Kor Sanctifiers
2 Train of Thought
2 Holy Light
2 Circle of Protection: Black
2 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Hydroblast

III. Core

Ideal Bounce Targets

[mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] – This card is the backbone of the AzoriusKitty engine. The card is more important for its ability to draw cards over and over again via bouncing, than to impact the board state. But, [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] does have the ability to cripple the greedy manabases in the format, and often wins matches single-seasidly. If used properly, it is the best card in the deck.

[mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card] – Although some people refer to this deck as Acid Trip, [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card] is one of the weaker cards in the deck. The card allows the bounce creatures to become pseudo vindicates. Originally included to interact with [mtg_card]Cloudpost[/mtg_card] laden manabases, the card is still a catchall for the diversity of permanents in the Pauper metagame. Do not be surprised to see the card exit from the deck list as the format’s emphasis is placed more on creatures. If Tron didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be in the 75.

[mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card] – One of the surprising elements about the Azoriuskitty deck is its ability to gain lots of life. [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card] is the primary life gain source. Often the deck needs a two drop permanent so that the bounce creatures aren’t forced to return lands to its owner’s hand. Missionary provides an additional early bounce target, and trades well in creature based match-ups.

[mtg_card]Sea Gate Oracle[/mtg_card] – A two-of bounce target that also blocks opposing cheap threats. The three mana casting cost makes it difficult to resolve in time against some decks. So they are limited to two copies.

[mtg_card]Mulldrifter[/mtg_card] – A perennial card drawing powerhouse is made even better through additional rebuys.

[mtg_card]Lonely Sandbar[/mtg_card] – This land allows you to mitigate some mana flooding, by playing it early, then picking it up to cycle it late.

[mtg_card]Kabira Crossroads[/mtg_card] – This bounce target is one that your bounce creatures will very rarely target. The “bounce lands” however are how you maximize your value from the Crossroads. In a pinch, AND ONLY IN A PINCH, you can use your bounce creatures on this land to gain a little bit of value.

[mtg_card]Plains[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Island[/mtg_card] – A basic land in this deck is sometimes – but rarely – the optimal bounce target. With so many “comes into play tapped” lands, you sometimes will need to bounce a land that comes into play untapped. Usually this happens if you’re a bit mana constrained, but you also need to get a board presence to prevent falling behind. Try to plan ahead. Once you get good at this, you’ll realize that [mtg_card]Azorius Chancery[/mtg_card] doesn’t always bounce a [mtg_card]Kabira Crossroads[/mtg_card].

The Bouncers

[mtg_card]Kor Skyfisher[/mtg_card] – The chief bouncer in this deck. This card is very aggressively costed, and the draw back is almost always a benefit for this deck.

[mtg_card]Dream Stalker[/mtg_card] – X/5s are very good in this format. This guy blocks [mtg_card]Myr Enforcer[/mtg_card] for days, and its 1 power is surprisingly effective at holding back armies of goblins and elves. Look to gum up the ground with this guy before taking over the air.

[mtg_card]Azorius Chancery[/mtg_card] – This “bounce land” helps you get additional value out of your [mtg_card]Kabira Crossroads[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Lonely Sandbar[/mtg_card].


[mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card] – This “flicker effect” works as a way to protect your creatures, while accruing more value. In match-ups where it is good, it is very good. But you really only want one at a time, so there are only two in the deck.

[mtg_card]Journey to Nowhere[/mtg_card] – This removal spell is an all-star in this deck. You can use it to take out any problem creature. But you can also use it to reduce the mana costs on Bounce targets (i.e. Journey your own tapped Mulldrifter, then Dream Stalker, bouncing Journey, and returning your Drifter to play. This nets 3 mana). You can also do the old cast Journey, target their guy and with the target on the stack you Blink your bounce guy to return your Journey and permanently exile their creature.

[mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card] – A nod to the power of [mtg_card]Delver of Secrets[/mtg_card] decks, this 1 mana kill spell is never a dead draw. Use it to take our a Turn 1 Delver, to mess up Spellstutter math, or to make your opponent discard their last [mtg_card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/mtg_card]. Also, all the modes are relevant. With big 1/5 [mtg_card]Dream Stalker[/mtg_card] Charm is a legitimate pump spell, and with main deck [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] you can make a creature unblockable against any deck.

[mtg_card]Azorius Guildgate[/mtg_card] – The last land in the deck is not one that you want to bounce. But I’ve found the added bit of mana flexibility is important for complicated turns where there is a lot of casting and recasting of spells. Arguably this land should be a [mtg_card]Terramorphic Expanse[/mtg_card], and I wouldn’t fault you if you went that direction.

The match-ups

Affinity: +3 [mtg_card]Kor Sanctifiers[/mtg_card], 2 [mtg_card]Hydroblast[/mtg_card] 2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Red[/mtg_card]/ – 1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -3 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Serrated Arrows[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card]

Affinity is one of the better match-ups if you know how to play it properly. Game one is a little difficult, but you have the edge after sideboard. Post board, you really want to recur your [mtg_card]Kor Sanctifiers[/mtg_card] to continuously blow up your opponent’s lands and [mtg_card]Myr Enforcer[/mtg_card]. You need to always keep in mind the presence of [mtg_card]Atog[/mtg_card] + [mtg_card]Disciple of the Vault[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Fling[/mtg_card]. If they have one of the combo pieces and you are in danger of getting blown out if they draw the other piece, then your first priority becomes getting rid of the combo piece.

Burn: +2 [mtg_card]Hydroblast[/mtg_card] +2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Red[/mtg_card]/ -2 [mtg_card]Serrated Arrows[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card]

This IS the easiest match-up. If you can bounce a [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card] twice it is nearly impossible to lose. Games 2 and 3, when you can land a COP: Red, their best plan is to try and mill you out by killing your threats.

Delver: +2 [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card] +2 [mtg_card]Kor Santifiers[/mtg_card] / -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card]

This match-up is about 45/55 in Delver’s favor. Delver needs to counter a lot of stuff in this match-up, and life gain is surprisingly good for them. Post board look to land an arrows, and use [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card] to take out a Spellstutter at a crucial time. If you don’t lose quickly, you’re in a great position. Make sure you [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] your own lands in this game, because [mtg_card]Daze[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Gush[/mtg_card] can counter them or knock them off at inconvenient times.

DelverFiend: +2 [mtg_card]Hydroblast[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Red[/mtg_card]/ -1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Mulldrifter[/mtg_card]

This match-up is slightly favorable, but they can still get the God draw on you. So I’d put it at 55/45. Landing a COP: Red usually ends the game, but they sometimes do have [mtg_card]Flaring Pain[/mtg_card] to get around it.

Elves: +2 [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card] +2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Green[/mtg_card] +1 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card] / -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Mulldrifter[/mtg_card]

This match-up is bad. It is like 40/60 bad. The entire match-up revolves around their [mtg_card]Distant Melody[/mtg_card]. If they can resolve one of those, you will lose. Try to keep them off of blue mana as much as possible. If the meta fills up with elves look to add Negate to the sideboard.

Familiar Denizen: +2 [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card] +1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card] / -2 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card]

Again this is another terrible match-up, about 20/80. This match-up is basically as bad as familiar storm was a few month ago because we don’t have enough instant speed removal, or ways to interact with their combo. You are the aggressive deck here, and look to [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] their mana while you fly over the top.

Goblins: +2 [mtg_card]Holy light[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Red[/mtg_card] / -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -1[mtg_card]Mulldrifter[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card]

This match-up is a favorable one, but Goblins can get there with a double Bushwhacker draw. We want to get guys out as quickly as possible, and [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card] when they have an odd number of X/1s out, to increase our value. Look to [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] here for help because Goblins players tend to keep one landers on the draw.

Hexproof: +2 [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card] +3 [mtg_card]Kor Sanctifiers[/mtg_card] +1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card]/ -2 [mtg_card]Serrated Arrows[/mtg_card], -3 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Journey to Nowhere[/mtg_card]

This match-up is another difficult one, but if you expect a lot of hexproof there are easy steps to make it better. [mtg_card]Patrician’s Scorn[/mtg_card] can do work here. The trick is to try and [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] them off white. Remember if you Seas a [mtg_card]Forest[/mtg_card] that has a [mtg_card]Utopia Sprawl[/mtg_card] you’ll knock the Sprawl off. Aside from that we’re using [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card] to bump off [mtg_card]Ethereal Armor[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Ancestral Mask[/mtg_card].

Out of the sideboard remember COP: Green doesn’t target so that card tends to auto win the game, and you can recur [mtg_card]Kor Sanctifiers[/mtg_card] to blow up [mtg_card]Ethereal Armor[/mtg_card] after [mtg_card]Ethereal Armor[/mtg_card].

MBC: +2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Black[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Kor Sanctifiers[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Train of Thought[/mtg_card]/ -1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -3 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card]

Before [mtg_card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/mtg_card] this match-up was a cake walk. Now our game plan is to keep them off pips as much as possible and to out attrition them. When we land a COP: Black, they can only Gary us to death. Sometimes they can do it, and other times they can’t. This match-up is 55/45 in our favor. But it is also build dependent. We’re much more likely to win if they run X/1s.

Stompy: +2 [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card] / -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card]

You get to attack this match-up from multiple directions. By Seasing their land you get to limit their ability to cast creatures; by gaining life, you mitigate their ability to play the burn game plan; and by playing solid blockers and cheap removal you drag the game out until they are in top deck mode. Keep hands that can interact early and you’ll be fine.

Make sure you [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card] their [mtg_card]Quirion Ranger[/mtg_card] so your [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card] can hit safely, and use your [mtg_card]Holy Light[/mtg_card] on [mtg_card]Silhana Ledgewalker[/mtg_card].

MUC: -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card]/ +2 [mtg_card]Train of Thought[/mtg_card]

This match-up was abysmal and will be game one. But [mtg_card]Train of Thought[/mtg_card] makes all the difference. If you can force them to play 1-for-1 until you get off a big Train, you’ll win this game more often than not. They only have 8 threats usually, so a big part of our game plan is to kill their threats and let them mill themselves.

UR Control: +2 [mtg_card]Train of Thought[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Hydroblast[/mtg_card] +1 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card]/ -2 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Lone Missionary[/mtg_card], -2 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card]

This is a very tactical match-up, but I’ve found it favorable. The way you win is to follow this pattern. First, play aggressively. You want to put pressure on your opponent and make them draw as many cards as possible and to expend as much energy as they can to deal with your threats. Our goal in this phase is to force them to use a lot of [mtg_card]Counterspell[/mtg_card]s, [mtg_card]Compulsive Research[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Firebolt[/mtg_card]s. Sometimes you can mise a win with the aggression, but that isn’t our primary goal.

Instead, our objective is to mill them out. The second phase, the “mill phase” begins once the tide starts to swing in their favor. In the mill phase you start killing their threats as soon as they present them. We applied pressure in phase one because we want to force our opponents to use [mtg_card]Counterspell[/mtg_card]s early so they can’t protect their creatures later. We also wanted to pressure our opponents because we want them to [mtg_card]Compulsive Research[/mtg_card] themselves. That way they can’t point them at us later to foil our mill strategy. They will draw more cards than us, but with Arrows, Charms, and Journeys we have more than enough fodder to deal with their 11 creatures and residual [mtg_card]Counterspell[/mtg_card]s.

Also remember, try to stay above 16 life so that you don’t get burned to death. Don’t forget to bounce your Crossroads with your Chanceries. And each [mtg_card]Firebolt[/mtg_card] they aim at an early creature is another 2 life you have access to in the second phase of the game.

White Weenie: +3 [c]Kor Sanctifiers[/c], +1 [c]Piracy Charm[/c] / -2 [mtg_card]Momentary Blink[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card], -1 [mtg_card]Sea Gate Oracle[/mtg_card]

This match-up plays out a lot like Stompy. But this Weenie is more favorable match-up since they are slower and tend to rely more on the permanent types that our Sanctifiers can blow up. They have resilient creatures, but our Journeys dodge all their multi-use creatures. Look to clog the ground up with [mtg_card]Dream Stalker[/mtg_card]s and clear the skies with your removal. Their only problem card is [mtg_card]Guardian of the Guildpact[/mtg_card] if you can avoid or race him, you’ll win.

Tron: +2 [mtg_card]Hydroblast[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Circle of Protection: Red[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card]/ -2 [mtg_card]Serrated Arrows[/mtg_card], -3 [mtg_card]Piracy Charm[/mtg_card]

This is a favorable and fun match-up. The objective here is to keep them off Tron as long as possible by [mtg_card]Reality Acid[/mtg_card]ing or [mtg_card]Spreading Seas[/mtg_card]ing the same tron piece over and over. Sometimes it is unclear what piece is necessary to attack, but a common situation that occurs is you Seas the third Tron piece, then they fetch out a duplicate piece. You then need to bounce the Seas and place it on a different Tron piece. While doing this, you simultaneously creature them to death.

Save your Journeys for their [mtg_card]Ulamog’s Crusher[/mtg_card]s and [mtg_card]Fangren Marauder[/mtg_card]s.

Tron usually has access to a bit of post-board land destruction and enchantment removal, so be aware of that. Use your Blasts on the LD, and make sure you have a way to deal with having your COP: Red attacked. Their best win-con against us is [mtg_card]Rolling Thunder[/mtg_card].

If you’re having trouble with this match-up, I previously had [mtg_card]Curse of the Bloody Tome[/mtg_card] in my sideboard. I have brought that in against them to great success. It allows you to mitigate their removal. You might also want to try [mtg_card]Train of Thought[/mtg_card] if you find yourself getting out carded.

Exhume and Crush: A Primer

by David Shaffer (Shaffawaffa5)

Editor’s Note: David wrote this some time ago for MTGOStrat but it was never published. Since David is such an excellent deck-builder, author, and Magic player, once we got permission to do so we jumped at the chance to publish it. Keep in mind that some parts of the article may be out of date.

[d title=”Exhume Control (Pauper)”]


3 Bojuka Bog

4 Dimir Aqueduct

9 Island

2 Swamp

4 Terramorphic Expanse


4 Mulldrifter

3 Ulamog’s Crusher


2 Agony Warp

4 Compulsive Research

2 Counterspell

2 Diabolic Edict

1 Doom Blade

4 Exhume

2 Innocent Blood

1 Nihil Spellbomb

4 Preordain

2 Probe

4 Prohibit

2 Serrated Arrows

1 Tragic Slip


2 Doom Blade

2 Duress

2 Evincar’s Justice

3 Hydroblast

2 Piracy Charm

1 Probe

1 Ulamog’s Crusher

1 Wail of the Nim

1 Walker of the Grove


This deck originated as a whacky idea I had to transform the historically all-in Reanimator deck into a more controllish list. That’s right we usually cast [c]Ulamog’s Crusher[/c] to win the game. About once every other game, however, we are Exhuming at least one [c]Ulamog’s Crusher[/c] into play. But [c]Exhume[/c] does more in this list than in your traditional Reanimator deck. You’re also able to exhume back a [c]Mulldrifter[/c].

Historically, the all-in Reanimator decks try to win before the opponent can establish a board presence. The all-in Reanimator pilot avoids Exhume’s symmetrical nature by winning before their opponent can get a creature in the graveyard. But this plan is inconsistent and easily disruptable. In Exhume Control we approach the problem in a different way. We bypass Exhume’s symmetrical nature in one of three ways.

First we can avoid removing our opponent’s creatures and Exhume as quickly as possible. This is akin to the traditional reanimator route. Second, we use [c]Bojuka Bog[/c] or [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c] to remove our opponent’s graveyard. Third, we Exhume back a [c]Mulldrifter[/c]. A resolved Mulldrifter is a three for one. So if we cast [c]Exhume[/c] and our opponent returns a creature like [c]Myr Enforcer[/c] or [c]Nettle Sentinel[/c] then we’re actually up a card in the exchange. This is the least preferred route of bypassing Exhume’s symmetrical nature, but sometimes the small bit of card advantage or the 2/2 flier is all you need to lock up the game.

The rest of the deck is a pretty standard control shell. But I’ll highlight a few cards.

[c]Probe[/c] has been good in any match-up you’re not getting steamrolled in, but it has been an absolute all-star in any control match-up. The ability to pitch your unwanted Crushers for more valuable cards, and make your opponent discard their last few cards is very powerful.

[c]Tragic Slip[/c], a recommendation by KimS has been a great addition. You’re able to trigger morbid off [c]Mulldrifter[/c] Evokes, and your other removal. Having an early answer to [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] and a cheap answer that allows you to play around [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c] is very nice. The card’s flexibility has had me thinking that I might add more.

[c]Innocent Blood[/c] has been right on the edge for me. Sometimes you need the cheap removal. Taking out a turn one Delver is really important, and having a removal spell with counter backup on turn three is also pretty nice. Plus it has been beneficial that it is a sorcery so it can get around [c]Dispel[/c] in the Delver-Fiend match-up. At the same time [c]Innocent Blood[/c] has been a little awkward. Sometimes you’ve got a Crusher or Drifter out, but you need some removal to take out potentially lethal attackers. [c]Innocent Blood[/c] is miserable here. If you wanted to cut it, I would respect your decision.

The last card I want to highlight is [c]Prohibit[/c]. I think it is also just good enough. It has some relevant target in every deck. Even against MonoB, who casts infinite three drops, [c]Prohibit[/c] allows you to [c]Exhume[/c] a Crusher and keep up countermagic against their 2-mana removal. Or you can counter an early [c]Sign in Blood[/c]. The other deck that you sort of lack targets against is Tron. Tron is already a great match-up, so I tend to just fire off [c]Prohibit[/c]s on their mana fixing. In all other match-ups, I’ve found [c]Prohibit[/c] is about as good as a [c]Counterspell[/c].

Positives and Negatives of the Deck


This deck plays out as the control deck of control decks. With recent rises in UR Control, Teachings, Tron, and MonoU control, this deck out controls them all. We’re seldom the beat down because we have more card advantage and a very powerful end game that makes it difficult for our opponents to interact with us.

Most aggressive decks that don’t have the ability to interact with our game play will fall victim to our removal suite. We have a lot of one for one removal spells. But we also have [c]Evincar’s Justice[/c] and [c]Serrated Arrows[/c] to mow down strategies that build outward quickly.

Lastly, we always have the combo kill. A lot of control decks in the current meta have some match-ups that they just can’t win. From my understanding, UR control basically can’t beat green decks, Tron has a hard time with Familiars, etc. These decks aren’t great for us either. We are even more controllish than them. But against all these problem decks Exhume Control can miss a turn 3-4 Crusher and hope that gets there. While this option is not always ideal, at least an option to go combo exists.


Exhume Control can be tempoed out by decks that can hinder our game plan. Delver of course is the staple tempo-er and is a challenging opponent. MonoB control can win games off the back of a steady stream of 2/2s for 3, hand/creature disruption and a well-timed Gray Merchant. U/R control or MonoU control can tempo us out as well with a counter magic backed Delver.

The deck also can get unlucky and draw the wrong parts of its deck. Because it is a combo oriented control deck, it has awkward draws slightly more often than your traditional control deck. In addition to times when you can get mana screwed or draw no draw spells, sometimes with Exhume Control you get all your Exhumes but no creatures or no way to remove your opponent’s threat laden graveyard. Sometimes you get all the creatures and no Exhumes. This additional element of variance doesn’t happen all that often, but it is certainly a knock against the deck because it forces you to play even better to mitigate the additional variance.



Sideboard: -4 [c]Exhume[/c], -1 [c]Crusher[/c], -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -1 [c]Probe[/c]: + 2 [c]Dispel[/c], +2 [c]Piracy Charm[/c], +1 [c]Wail of Nim[/c], +2 [c]Doomblade[/c]

The match-up everyone cares the most about is also slightly unfavorable. [c]Exhume[/c] is pretty bad here since if they Spellstutter it, and if you counter the Stutter or kill a faerie in response the Exhume, the [c]Exhume[/c]’s resolution will give them their guy back. [c]Ninja of the Deep Hours[/c] is the biggest issue they bring main deck, as he can get them more threats than you can deal with. Post-board you need to counter every Stormbound Geist you see, as he makes your edicts and arrows terrible. If they can reset him via Ninja or [c]Snap[/c], then you’ve probably lost.

Having said all of that, the match-up is not unwinnable. I feel tweaks exist to make this match-up better. I’ve been content with my build because lately I feel like Delver is down in popularity. When it ticks up you’ll see more Delver hate out of me.


Sideboard: -2 [c]Agony Warp[/c], -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -2 [c]Serrated Arrows[/c], -1 [c]Prohibit[/c]: +2 [c]Doomblade[/c] +3 [c]Hydroblast[/c] +1 Crusher

The analysis here is kind of tricky. In my opinion the match-up depends on the caliber of the Affinity player. If they are good, you’re going to be closer to 50/50 against them – in fact, it’s probably die roll + variance dependent. But if they are your average run of the mill Affinity player, then I like my chances. The goal is to Crush quickly. They have a hard time dealing with an early Crusher. Use your Prohibits on Atogs and Carapace Forgers if you can.

U/R Control

Sideboard: -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -2 [c]Innocent Blood[/c], -2 [c]Island[/c], -1 [c]Dimir Aquaduct[/c], -1 [c]Prohibit[/c]: +3 [c]Hydroblast[/c], +1 [c]Crusher[/c], +2 [c]Dispel[/c], +1 [c]Probe[/c]

Exhume Control was built to take advantage of decks playing [c]Exclude[/c]. Exhume allows you to circumvent that particular counter spell and fight your battles solely against [c]Counterspell[/c]. If Crusher enters the battlefield their only real answer is to double [c]Flameslash[/c] it. While I’ve only played this match-up a handful of times, I like my odds. It has felt good every time, except when I played against the guy who invented the U/R deck. He just outplayed me.

The U/R pilot needs to be the aggressor so try to keep hands that has access to a way to kill a turn one Delver. If you stay above 16, and out of Firebolt range, your life is a lot better.


Sideboard: -2 [c]Agony Warp[/c], -2 [c]Prohibit[/c], -2 [c]Serrated Arrows[/c]: +2 [c]Doomblade[/c], +2 [c]Hydroblast[/c], +1 [c]Probe[/c], +1 Crusher

Tron is a very good match-up. I’ve been turn three troned multiple times and I don’t really care. Use [c]Counterspell[/c] on their [c]Mulldrifter[/c]s and removal on [c]Fangren Maurader[/c]s. Once you get out a Crusher, the game usually ends in short order. This is the match-up I am most happy to see.

[c]Bojuka Bog[/c] does pretty good work in this match-up. Allowing you to control [c]Haunted Fengraf[/c] targets and to remove [c]Firebolt[/c]s and [c]Deep Analysis[/c] is a lot of value out of a land.


Sideboard: -1 [c]Doomblade[/c], -1 Crusher, -2 [c]Prohibit[/c]: +1 [c]Probe[/c], +1 [c]Walker of the Grove[/c], +2 [c]Evincar’s Justice[/c]

MonoB is a weird match-up, and it is slightly unfavorable. If they can start chaining 2/2s into each other you have a tough time. They usually win via a tempo game. Try to keep them off their guys, and try to Probe their hand away. The match-up isn’t unwinnable by any stretch. In fact it always feels like I barely lose. If they don’t get their normal draw you probably win, because they won’t be able to eek out the last few points. It feels like if they don’t play a turn 3 dude you’re over 50% to win.

Again I think this match-up is tuneable. If you feel like you’re going to see a lot of monoB then maybe you want to switch counterspell packages. Go with [c]Exclude[/c]s and some X counter spell like [c]Powersink[/c] or [c]Condescend[/c]. A lot of the problem is that [c]Prohibit[/c] and [c]Doomblade[/c] are bad main deck inclusions here.

MonoU Control

Sideboard: -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -1 [c]Island[/c], -1 [c]Dimir Aqueduct[/c], -2 [c]Prohibit[/c]: +2 [c]Doomblade[/c], +1 [c]Probe[/c], +2 [c]Dispel[/c]

This is another good match-up. It is possibly just as good as Tron. Here, [c]Bojuka Bog[/c] is a silent all-star. It takes out their draw engine in [c]Think Twice[/c], [c]Accumulated Knowledge[/c], and [c]Oona’s Grace[/c]. You have so many must counters that eventually they run out of them. Then you [c]Probe[/c] them and the game is over.

Their best line is to tempo you out. They are the aggressor. So try to keep a hand that doesn’t get blown out by Delver + counter magic. If they give you time, remember you’re in no rush to Crush. They are playing into our hands.


Sideboard: -2 [c]Serrated Arrows[/c], -1 [c]Tragic Slip[/c], -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -1 [c]Doomblade[/c], -2 [c]Innocent Blood[/c]: +2 [c]Dispel[/c], +1 [c]Probe[/c], +1 [c]Crusher[/c], +3 [c]Hydroblast[/c]

This is actually a harder match-up than you’d think, but I think it is 50/50. You are trying to crush quickly, because you cut them off of mana. Since most of their spells do about the same amount of damage counter them whenever you can. Spend your turns where you don’t have counter magic drawing into more counter magic or combo pieces. You often don’t want to counter [c]Keldon Mauraders[/c], because it is usually the only card you can get some value out of with your removal.


Sideboard: -1 [c]Exhume[/c], -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -1 [c]Probe[/c], -1 [c]Crusher[/c]: +2 [c]Evincar’s Justice[/c], +2 [c]Doomblade[/c]

The resilient threats are annoying, but I’ve won most of my matches against them. I don’t feel I’ve played them enough to say whether the match-up is good or not. My advice is to try to one for one them as much as possible and keep rancor off of their guys. Try to crush as soon as possible. Bringing in the sweepers post board usually puts game 2 and 3 in our favor. Don’t be surprised if you lose game one.

Hexproof Auras

Sideboard: -2 [c]Serrated Arrows[/c], -1 [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c], -2 [c]Agony Warp[/c]: +1 [c]Ulamog’s Crusher[/c], +2 [c]Evincar’s Justice[/c], +1 [c]Wail of Nim[/c]

I’ve won both of my competitive matches against Hexproof Auras, but I’ve done a bit of testing since. I think this match-up is pretty poor with the current build. We only really have 4 edicts, and Prohibit is a bit weak to a turn 3-4 Armadillo Cloak or Mask. They can also just build up guys so big that Crusher looks like chump change. If you find yourself going against them frequently, look to add more edicts to the 75. I think this match-up can be made good if it is something you’re concerned about.


Sideboard: -2 [c]Innocent Blood[/c], -2 [c]Diabolic Edict[/c], -1 [c]Compulsive Research[/c]: +2 [c]Doomblade[/c], +2 [c]Piracy Charm[/c], +1 [c]Probe[/c], +1 [c]Ulamog’s Crusher[/c].

This one is a battle, but it’s a fun fight. Currently, I’ve only played against them a few times and I’m roughly 50/50. Most of my matches have been extremely close, going to epic game 3s where either I, or my opponent, made a costly mistake. Their only real way for them to handle Crusher is to [c]Snap[/c] or [c]Capsize[/c] it. Our goal is to Crush ASAP, but we also need some counter magic up to prevent bouncing. We should win if we can keep them off familiars early and turn 4 or 5 a Crusher with counter backup.

[c]Bojuka Bog[/c] and [c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c] are also good in this match-up since they hinder [c]Mnemonic Wall[/c] and makes [c]Reap the Graves[/c] a dead card. Reap is usually the card they use to beat control decks and our land makes it awful. Ding!

Teachings Control

This fringe deck has made a few appearances lately, mostly at the hands of someoldguy. The deck uses a lot of graveyard shenanigans to reach its goal. Fortunately we come main deck equipped to deal with strategies like these. [c]Bojuka Bog[/c] knocks out unspent [c]Mystical Teachings[/c], [c]Grim Harvest[/c], any lingering [c]Ghostly Flicker[/c]s, and removes any extra creatures that Harvest or [c]Soul Manipulation[/c] could target.

We also are Exhuming instead of casting creatures, so we shut off Manipulation and [c]Exclude[/c] targets. As such, we are really the deck with more counter magic available so when we cast a kicked Probe we’ll usually win the counter battle over its resolution. And once we win that, they’ll usually scoop.


This match-up is in our favor. They are quick, but we have tons of removal. We also have ways to back up our removal with countermagic so they can’t resolve [c]Apostle’s Blessing[/c]. The goal is to kill their guys as quickly as possible. If you do this, then later you can [c]Probe[/c] them out of the game. In game 1 try to kill their Delvers and [c]Kiln Fiends[/c] with your [c]Agony Warp[/c]s and save your Edicts and [c]Doomblade[/c] for [c]Nivix Cyclops[/c]. If you don’t use your removal on the right guy, then you’ll end up unable to kill the guy you need to.


The last match-up I’ll talk about is Elves, since I’m seeing an uptick in the little green men. Game one can be hard. Try to focus on taking out [c]Timberwatch[/c] and [c]Lys Alana Huntmaster[/c] with removal. Try to counter [c]Distant Melody[/c] or kill their blue producing creatures and you should be able to win once you resolve a [c]Serrated Arrows[/c]. Games 2 and 3 are pretty easy because [c]Evincar’s Justice[/c] is [c]Damnation[/c] against them.

Introduction to Pauper part 2

by Chris Weaver

In Part 1, I talked about reasons to join Pauper along with the core deck archetypes. I went into strengths and weaknesses of the pure aggro decks. Today, I will be discussing the pure control choices available to you.


[d title=”Blue-Red Cloudpost(Finespoo)”]
4 Cloudpost
4 Glimmerpost
7 Island
3 Izzet Guildgate
6 Mountain

2 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Mnemonic Wall
4 Mulldrifter

1 Condescend
1 Electrickery
1 Electrostatic Bolt
1 Firebolt
3 Flame Slash
1 Lightning Bolt
4 Preordain
1 Harvest Pyre
2 Mana Leak
4 Prophetic Prism
1 Rolling Thunder
1 Capsize
3 Compulsive Research
2 Ghostly Flicker
2 Mystical Teachings
1 Serrated Arrows

1 Firebolt
2 Hydroblast
2 Ancient Grudge
3 Stone Rain
4 Pyroblast
3 Earth Rift [/d]

[d title=”Mono Black Control(sneakattackkid)”]
4 Barren Moor
2 Polluted Mire
17 Swamp

3 Augur of Skulls
3 Ravenous Rats
4 Chittering Rats
3 Crypt Rats
4 Phyrexian Rager
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi

3 Dead Weight
2 Duress
3 Unearth
2 Echoing Decay
4 Geth’s Verdict
4 Sign in Blood

2 Tendrils of Corruption
2 Rendclaw Trow
1 Victim of Night
1 Snuff Out
2 Corrupt
1 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
1 Sorin’s Thirst
4 Choking Sands
1 Duress [/d]

[d title=”Blue-Black Trinket Control(Din_Mamma)”]
1 Barren Moor
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Island
7 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Vault of Whispers

4 Fume Spitter
4 Augur of Skulls
2 Chittering Rats
3 Crypt Rats
3 Trinket Mage
4 Mulldrifter

2 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
3 Tragic Slip
3 Undying Evil
4 Diabolic Edict
2 Grim Harvest
4 Sign in Blood

2 Chittering Rats
1 Crypt Rats
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Duress
1 Distress
1 Deep Analysis
2 Spinning Darkness
2 Geth’s Verdict [/d]

[d title=”Mono Blue Control(Shyft4)”]
18 Island
2 Quicksand

4 Delver of Secrets
1 Frostburn Weird
4 Spire Golem

4 Portent
2 Brainstorm
2 Preordain
3 Thought Scour
4 Piracy Charm
4 Counterspell
3 Logic Knot
4 Memory Lapse
1 Exclude
2 Gush
2 Repeal

4 Dispel
4 Hydroblast
3 Coast Watcher
2 Weatherseed Faeries
2 Serrated Arrows [/d]

These decks all actively LIKE playing the long game. They eek out card advantage and board control and eventually win in turns 10 and up. Each deck has pros and cons, so we’ll break these down as before.

UR Cloudpost:

Pros: with an array of answers to multiple different situations, UR Post players seem to “have it all.” Their topdecks in late games are far more powerful than other decks, so when they’ve stabilized, they’ve actually usually won. It might take them awhile to get there, of course, but it’s a matter of time before they stick a threat or just straight bludgeon you with a huge Rolling Thunder. UR Post can generate more mana than any other fair deck via the Cloudpost engine, and can remove threats through counterspells or protection just because they have access to more mana and utility spells than opponents.

Cons: This deck can easily lose in the first few turns of the game because they don’t have the mana base ready to deal with a multitude of attackers in the early turns. They often spend the first 3 turns playing tapped lands or fixing their mana before they can take control. Post decks can also suffer against big tempo plays, such as an early Temporal Fissure or even just a simple Boomerang on a Cloudpost. The removal suite for the UR decks also has a major issue dealing with hexproof creatures, outside of Counterspelling them.

Mono Black Control:

Pros: Hand destruction and creature destruction are Black’s specialty throughout Magic’s history. MBC is no exception, attacking the board of opponents and their hand as well. Black has great sideboard options as well, including “free” kill spells like Snuff Out and Spinning Darkness, along with land destruction and more kill and discard spells!

Cons: MBC is incredibly slow, and opponents can fairly easily recover with a few good topdecks. MBC decks can’t provide reasonable clocks on opponents either: The creatures are all small and don’t protect themselves, dying to a simple Firebolt most of the time. If your only threat gets Bolted, you’re relying on topdecks to get you back into the game. Even if you get back into the game, another Bolt puts you back at square 1, relying on topdecks to get you back in. The lack of card draw other than Sign in Blood can also be hugely detrimental, and black has no way to generate lots of extra mana like Cloudpost does. MBC often loses just based on not topdecking well.

UB Trinket Control:

Pros: Trinket Control plays more like a MBC deck with the bonus of utilizing blue for card draw and card advantage. It abuses Mulldrifters and Trinket Mages to stabilize the board and fetch important artifacts. Evoking a Mulldrifter, then casting Undying Evil on it nets you +2 cards and a 3/3 flying body. It has good to favorable matchups against much of the format. It attacks opposing hands and boards just like MBC, and uses Blue to refill your hand.

Cons: Stormpost. Seriously. The deck isn’t fast enough to kill a Stormpost player before they go off, and doesn’t use Counterspells to disrupt the combo. Hand destruction is the only tool you have against Stormpost, and that’s not even very good when they can redraw their hand with a few Compulsive Researches and a Mulldrifter. It has at least a 50/50 matchup against every other deck in the format(except Burn, because once again, no Counterspells). You can play the matchup lottery and hope to not encounter Stormpost decks, but every other deck you have a good matchup against.

Mono Blue Control:

Pros: MUC is an older idea, long before Delver of Secrets got tossed into the Faerie deck to make the more common Mono U deck of the format. MUC is interesting though, and has the bonus of having all of the Counterspells be unconditional. This means you’ll never groan when an opponent plays a 3 mana spell when you have a Spellstutter in hand that’s 1 Faerie short. Your opponent can’t kill the Spellstutter to render the Counterspell trigger useless. Opponents will often sideboard against you assuming that you have Faeries in the deck, making some of their choices rather silly. You also get the bonus of almost never having dead cards in hand, like the Faeries variety often does. Ninja of the Deep Hours isn’t that impressive if opponents remove your creatures before you can Ninjitsu.

You also get premium card selection, since you get to pick and choose which cards you want with 1 mana cantrips, which coincidentally let you blind flip Delvers on turn 2 more often. On top of that, you get to manipulate opponents’ libraries with Portent, Memory Lapse, and Thought Scour. This lets you get rid of troublesome cards or make opponents draw dead.

Cons: It’s harder to deal with early threats like Nettle Sentinel and Mogg Conscripts because Piracy Charm doesn’t kill them. This means you’re relying on Spire Golem and Frostburn Weird defensively, and hoping to live long enough to get Counterspells effective. You can often get swarmed by opponents flooding the board. You also run a serious risk of just running out of Counterspells and not being able to counter critical Mulldrifters in the late game. It’s very easy to lose control quickly too. Opposing Cloudpost decks can resolve a Compulsive Research or Mulldrifter or two, and you just get out-carded by them.


An Introduction to Pauper Part 1

by Chris Weaver

Definition of Pauper: Pauper is a Magic Online format in which all cards used must have been printed at the common rarity in a Magic Online set or product. Common promo cards are only legal if the card has been printed at the common rarity in a set or product. Other than that, the usual rules for Constructed decks apply (a minimum deck size of 60 cards in the main deck, an optional 15-card sideboard, and so on). If a common version of a particular card was ever released on Magic Online, any versions of that card printed at other rarities are also legal in this format.
Example: Counterspell was a common card in the Seventh Edition core set, which was released on Magic Online. Counterspell was reprinted in Masters Edition II with an uncommon expansion symbol. Both versions of the card can be used in the Pauper format.

Example: Hymn to Tourach, another uncommon from Masters Edition II, is not legal for use in the Magic Online Pauper format. Even though Hymn to Tourach was printed as a common in the Fallen Empires set, that set was never released on Magic Online.

The Pauper banned list is:
Cranial Plating
Empty the Warrens
Frantic Search

So why play Pauper?

Pauper is an eternal format, which means you get to play with some of the most broken cards of all time. This also means your opponent has access to the same cards, of course. Being an eternal format though is a good long term investment: Once you buy in, you’re set as long as you own the cards to play.

It’s cheap! This is one of the primary reasons I got into Pauper, since I couldn’t keep up with the expense of Standard’s metagame. Every major deck in Pauper can be bought for the price of one Standard deck, excluding the relatively cheap Mono Red builds in Standard right now. If you get tired of your $40 Affinity deck, just spend another $40 to get a FULL Stompy deck. Decks pay for themselves with just two 3-1′s in Pauper Daily Events!

The metagame is stable at any random point in time. Fluctuations happen as with any format, but your deck isn’t obsolete the second Wizards prints a hate card. The cards are all there, and Wizards typically isn’t printing real hosers any longer. So your Goblins deck will likely be just as competive now as it will be after the next set release. Every once in awhile, Wizards even throws quite the bone to previous archetypes, reviving them(such as Foundry Street Denizen for Goblins).

There’s something for everyone in Pauper. If you like playing ultra-fast reckless aggression, we have a deck for that. If you like playing ultra heavy control drawing metric tons of cards and grinding out wins, we have a deck for that. If you like playing 20 spells in a single turn, turning a can’t win situation into a can’t lose situation, we have a deck for that!
The community is great! Barring a few bad peas in the pod, most Pauper players are friendly and will freely talk strategy and possible builds with you. They’ll tell you where you messed up and how you could have beaten them(after the fact, of course) if you ask them. I gladly answer any comments and questions posted on my articles and videos, and I love doing it.
When writing an introductory article, I like to start off with the basics. In Magic, there are 3 primary deck archetypes. This article will attempt to break down and dissect each archetype, and hopefully provide some insight into which archetype is right for you.

The 3 major players in any given format are: Aggro, Control, and Combo. I won’t go into which beats which, but let’s just say it’s a game of paper, rock, scissors.

Pauper is kind of an anomaly, because most major decktypes don’t fit into just 1 of these 3 categories. Pauper is an eternal format with tons of possibilities and deckbuilding potential, so most Pauper archetypes will sort of mesh 2 of the 3 archetypes. That being said, we can mostly say certain decks lend themselves more to one category than another. Almost as if it’s aggro splashing control, or control splashing combo.

Pure Aggro decks of the format:

[d title=”Stompy (hr_caldeira)”]

17 Forest

4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
4 Young Wolf
3 Shinen of Life’s Roar
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
2 Wild Mongrel

4 Gather Courage
4 Groundswell
3 Hunger of the Howlpack
4 Rancor
3 Vines of Vastwood

4 Scattershot Archer
4 Thermokarst
3 Faerie Macabre
4 Skyshroud Archer [/d]

[d title=”Goblins(DromarX)”]
17 Mountain

4 Mogg Conscripts
4 Mogg Raider
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Goblin Cohort
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Sparksmith
3 Goblin Arsonist
4 Foundry Street Denizen

2 Death Spark
2 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt

1 Electrickery
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
3 Pyroblast
2 Smash to Smithereens
3 Gorilla Shaman
2 Flame Slash
2 Flaring Pain
1 Flame Jab [/d]

[d title=”Burn (magicdownunder)”]
4 Forgotten Cave
15 Mountain

4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Keldon Marauders

4 Rift Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lava Spike
4 Needle Drop
4 Fireblast
1 Faithless Looting
4 Searing Blaze

4 Molten Rain
3 Smash to Smithereens
2 Martyr of Ashes
2 Electrickery
4 Curse of the Pierced Heart [/d]

[d title=”White Weenie(SteffenG)”]
2 Secluded Steppe
20 Plains

3 Doomed Traveler
4 Icatian Javelineers
4 War Falcon
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Loyal Cathar
4 Leonin Skyhunter
4 Veteran Armorer
2 Guardian of the Guildpact

4 Bonesplitter
3 Journey to Nowhere
2 Prismatic Strands

2 Patrician’s Scorn
2 Obsidian Acolyte
3 Dust to Dust
1 Divine Offering
3 Crimson Acolyte
4 Standard Bearer [/d]

These decks all attempt to win on turns 4-6, with some having significant late game reach. Each deck has its own pros and cons, so lets break these down.


Pros – Amazingly versatile creatures and Rancor. The pump spells are also amazingly diverse, serving to save your own creatures, pump for lethal, or prevent opponents from doing shenanigans on their own creatures such as Snapping their Cloud of Faeries for mana acceleration or Ghostly Flickering their Mnemonic Walls for infinite mana or life loops. Stompy is generally considered favored against Delver, UR Cloudpost. It preys on the slower decks of the format by beating them down before they can get an endgame plan. Stompy also has roughly 50/50 matches against most of the rest of the format, depending of course on the skill of the pilots and the build of the Stompy deck.

Cons – Stompy can really only do damage via creatures. This makes cards like Prismatic Strands and Moment’s Peace almost an auto-win for opponents. Stompy also runs a relatively light creature package for an aggro deck, sitting somewhere around 24 creatures for any given deck. This makes creature removal particularly effective against Stompy decks. If you kill their creatures, opponents can often get stuck with multiple pump spells in hand without a target. Stompy attempts to remedy this problem by playing creatures like Young Wolf and Safehold Elite. Of course those cards only go so far when other decks draw way more cards than Stompy and can provide multiple answers.


Pros – Redundancy! Goblins decks play multiple copies of the same effective cards(Mogg Conscripts = Goblin Cohort, Mogg Raider = Goblin Sledder), along with just providing an endless stream of 30+ Goblins. Every deck is just swarming you with weenies, and the tricks provided with Mogg Raider and Goblin Sledder can threaten an unblocked creature becomes a 7/7. Goblins also has burn reach to plow through Fog effects like Moment’s Peace. Death Spark is huge, since you can eliminate pesky blockers or unflipped Delvers. Death Spark is an engine as well, costing you a measily Goblin to buy it back. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had a Goblin deck held at bay with myself at 4 life, when he topdecks a Death Spark and proceeds to ping me to death. Goblin Bushwhacker is a beast, turning those 7 Goblins into straight up murder sticks threatening a whopping 16 damage on turn 4-5.

Cons – Alot of 1/1 creatures aren’t very threatening by themselves. The 2/2 creatures have drawbacks, requiring you to cast creatures to attack with them. This negates some combat tricks, such as Lightning Bolting a Spire Golem to get it off the table. Hydroblast is a VERY common sideboard hate card, and for 1 mana it counters a crucial Bushwhacker or kills a dude. The sideboard options are also pretty narrow and mostly reactive cards that thin out the Goblins deck’s critical plan of swarming with dudes and beating face in. In order to remove blockers, Goblins sometimes just HAS to 2-for-1 itself.


Pros – Extremely fast and violent. The deck requires little thinking beyond how to count to 20, and represents a fast clock for any deck without Counterspells. Sometimes decks just can’t compete, since their decks are often packed with ways to deal with creatures. Burn decks don’t particularly care about their creatures, the 3 damage spells are far more important.

Cons – Against any deck packing mainboard counterspells and lifegain, playing as a burn player is an almost unwinnable proposition. The sideboard options are even more narrow than Goblins, since Goblins at least have resilient threats after you bring in sideboard hate cards like Pyroblast.

White Weenie:

Pros – Lots of powerful creatures with resilient and important abilities. Almost every creature is a threat that must be dealt with or countered by opponents, and many creatures provide massive card advantage. White Weenie will typically be a more difficult matchup for opposing aggro strategies, since cards like Doomed Traveler and Loyal Cathar can block and leave behind bodies as well as taking out opposing creatures or pump spells. White Weenie also has great utility spells such as Journey to Nowhere and Prismatic Strands to turn the tides. Guardian of the Guildpack is a huge threat in Pauper. Very few decks have ways to deal with a resolved Guardian.

Cons – White Weenie is a turn or two slower than the other aggro decks, and suffers from the same problem Stompy has. It can really only deal damage via creatures. You can’t alpha strike on turn 4. The creatures can also be readily killed, no matter how resilient they are, making your deck slower by another turn, which gives opponents more time to stabilize. In Pauper, white suffers a major problem: jack of all trades, master of none.