Illusory Tricks: Better than Second Place

Last year’s Pauper Gauntlet was a lot of fun, and Illusory Tricks, the only deck I’ve ever brewed that is worth mentioning, came in second. This year, though … this year.

Runner-up isn’t good enough.

I maintain that Illusory Tricks is the best 19-land deck in Pauper Magic. In fact, it might be the best Pauper deck out there.

Yeah, sure. BorosKitty won the Pauper Gauntlet last year. And yeah, I’ve never beaten BorosKitty with Illusory Tricks. None of that matters, though. This year, Tricks are going to be played, and we’re going to take home the gold. How, you ask? By being meaner and more resilient than ever. Here is the current deck list.

[d title=”Illusory Tricks, v.4″]
Land
18 Island
1 Quicksand

Creatures
4 Krovikan Mist
4 Dream Stalker
4 Cloudfin Raptor
2 Phantasmal Bear
3 Fathom Seer
3 Spire Golem
2 Stormbound Geist
1 Mulldrifter

Spells
4 Counterspell
4 Vapor Snag
4 Preordain
2 Piracy Charm
2 Deprive

Artifacts
2 Bonesplitter

Sideboard
2 Stormbound Geist
4 Hydroblast
2 Coral Net
2 Curse of Chains
3 Mulldrifter
2 Serrated Arrows [/d]

The current list is a collaborative effort between Chris Weaver (cweaver) and Ahniwa Ferrari (bava). It no longer folds to control like it once did, and it still plays great matches against most decks in the meta. The hardest match-ups are Hexproof and other evasive decks like Green One. Affinity can also be tough. None of those are unwinnable, but they can be challenging.

But then, what’s life without a challenge?

Dan played Illusory Tricks recently in a Pauper Playthrough against MBC. The match highlights just how well Tricks deals with control these days.

 

And here is a recent match I played against Affinity.

 

And here is Chris playing in a 2-man against Hexproof.

 

So as you can see, even in its toughest match-ups, Tricks has game. Will it be enough to win this year’s Gauntlet? I say YES, but we’ll all have to watch and find out.

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.

Control:

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

Creatures
2 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Mnemonic Wall
4 Mulldrifter

Spells
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

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

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

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

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

Sideboard
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)”]
Lands
1 Barren Moor
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Island
7 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Vault of Whispers

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

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

Sideboard
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)”]
Lands
18 Island
2 Quicksand

Creatures
4 Delver of Secrets
1 Frostburn Weird
4 Spire Golem

Spells
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

Sideboard
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.

-Chris

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
Grapeshot
Invigorate

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)”]

Lands
17 Forest

Creatures
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

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

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

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

Creatures
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

Spells
2 Death Spark
2 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt

Sideboard
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)”]
Lands
4 Forgotten Cave
15 Mountain

Creatures
4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Keldon Marauders

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

Sideboard
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)”]
Lands
2 Secluded Steppe
20 Plains

Creatures
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

Spells
4 Bonesplitter
3 Journey to Nowhere
2 Prismatic Strands

Sideboard
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.

Stompy:

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.

Goblins:

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.

Burn:

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.