On this Thanksgiving week in the United States, we pause to reflect upon the things that make us truly grateful. We express our gratitude for the things, the opportunities, and the people that enrich our lives. And we dissect the Pauper Standard metagame, looking for clues or ideas about strategies with which to rip the format wide open.
In this article, I will give you some Thanksgiving week food for thought about how the metagame has evolved in the past four weeks. I'll publish the wisdom of ChronicHeaves in the form of an interview I conducted with him. And lastly, I'll compile a list of the ten most influential cards in Standard right now.
So go grab a gravy boat and a ladle and sit back as we nibble on some Standard knowledge together.
Oh, and there's a link to Podcast #6 inside.
Before the first of the Alara Standard events, many noteworthy prognosticators of the Standard format, myself included, made no small secret about our expectations for the success of enemy-colored hybrid decks, particularly UR, WB, and GU. Neither the Overbeing nor the Divinity has yet had his day, though the Dominus -- at least for a time -- seemed to be living up to his name. But he, too, has fallen by the wayside, as bigger, beefier, and more metallic decks start to rise to the top.
We can chart the progress of the metagame very simply by looking at Gatherling's automated metagame reports and paying special attention to the finals matches at each Standard event. I'll save you some time, though, and publish the data here (you just ate a lot of turkey and you're loafing on the sofa with your laptop; the rest of the family rightly thinks you're a nerd):
SPDC 7.01: Faerie Control vs. Kithkin
MPDC 4.02: Red Deck Wins vs. Blightning Burn
SPDC 7.02: Dominus Deck Wins vs. Paradise Lost [Aggro]
MPDC 4.03: Esper Control vs. DDW
SPDC 7.03: Esper Control vs. Shield of Valeron [Aggro-Control]
MPDC 4.04: Rogue Control vs. RDW/DDW
SPDC 7.04: Rogues vs. RDW
What does that mean? It means that you better gain some life, son. You better make your opponent start topdecking a lot sooner than he was planning on. You better put up huge, unburnable walls that keep goblin hordes from swarming you (and take out the Intimidator Initiate, while you're at it... on second thought, the defense plan doesn't seem so good here.) If you weren't running 4 copies of Recumbent Bliss, now's as good a time as any to get them in there. Same goes with Bog-Strider Ash, who can be pretty nasty against goblin-heavy red decks. Black has an instant-speed graveyard hoser that gains you a considerable three life. It's pretty much useless against RDW, but it could come in against Esper decks, too...
And of course, if you're in red, you would ideally want a way to get your guys out from under the Recumbent Bliss since it hugely impedes your main win strategy. Of course, if you're fast enough out of the gate, and use your cards efficiently enough, you may be able to win in spite of the aura, since it's nowhere near as swingy as Aven Riftwatcher or Blind Hunter or Faith's Fetters. Black has an option called Bone Splinters, but that would require you to commit to a second color.
Also, I'm disappointed (but not surprised) to see a lack of Burntree at the finals tables. We've yet to settle on an "established" build, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We need to adapt to the metagame. However, I think that some of the more recent changes to the core build I proposed in the official thread are taking us off-course. The deck was originally metagamed against Faeries in Block, and also had an extremely good game against RDW. (Back then I had Hurly-Burly maindeck.) One of the few significant problems in the wider format is the card Terror, which is seeing mind-bogglingly little play (partly because of the Esper explosion of Week 3, I'm sure). In a format without Terror, Burntree looks really good against the decks that are seeing heavy play. One word of caution, though: don't sacrifice the ability to play both an aggro and a control game. If you remove the aggro elements from the deck (such as Safehold Elite), you're crippling us in control matchups, which are certainly out there.
The other deck I would encourage Standard Paupers to test is jaknife's MBuC deck. It's quick, consistent, builds tremendous card advantage, has reach and metagame tools, and fills a hole in the metagame (namely, black). This deck will definitely be strong in a world dominated by Burntree, so maybe if Burntree is the next big thing, MBuC will be the next next big thing.
One of PDC's most controversial personalities is back and already put up his first gold medal performance on Thursday with a modification of 3soteric's WU Rogue Control list. This is the third straight week with nearly identical lists making 1st on both Monday and Thursday, so I was curious to pick the brain of the "Johnny-Come-Lately" and find out if, indeed, he chose to run it simply because it had won on Monday. There's no doubt that winning 1st place is a huge publicity boost for your decklist, but there's a little more to it than that...
Polyjak: Why did you decide to play the WU Rogues list that won on Monday?
Did you make any changes, and if so, why?
What makes the deck a good choice in the current metagame?
Would you play the deck again, and if so, what changes would you make?
I want to give credit to 3soteric for making the Deft Duelist connection with Latchkey Faerie, which along with Pestermite was missing from my attempts at UW before. Both have turned out to be fantastic options, and definitely pushes the deck over the top from average to good.
And a question for the readers -- do you find value in interviews with players like this? Is this a worthwhile exercise? Post a comment below. You could even submit some questions for future interviews -- and I'll try to get them answered, either in an article or in a future podcast.
This is a list I posted originally in my clan's private forum, but no one really wanted to argue with me about it. So I'll open it up to the entire community. The way I see it, Standard is currently defined by a relatively narrow set of cards. These aren't necessarily the most powerful cards, just the most influential. As you can see, there is certainly room for disagreement, and I'd love to get a discussion started about it. Well, here goes.
In no particular order:
Wickerbough Elder - Between the hybrid auras, white's strong removal auras, and Esper's artifact creatures, this guy is a must-play.
Recumbent Bliss - The best lifegain spell we have. It serves three purposes -- negates an attacker, clears a path for your own attackers, and gains life automatically.
Bog-Strider Ash - Great evasion, a big butt, and additional lifegain for midrange and control builds with trees.
Deft Duelist - Defies most commonly played answers to creature threats.
Sanctum Gargoyle - Wicked beats, the new finisher (along with Mulldrifter and Strix) for control decks. Also gets stuff back from the dead.
Tidehollow Strix - Aggressively powered for the cost, with evasion and built-in removal, which can be brought back from the graveyard with the Gargoyle... a must-play in Esper-based decks.
Mulldrifter - Still shows up in every blue deck.
Clout of the Dominus - Just the threat of this card still has the metagame on red (or is it blue-red) alert.
Whew, that's a lot of information! It was educational for me to go through the process of writing it, so I hope reading it will be equally eludicating for you. Please leave a comment below if you are grateful for this free article! I am certainly grateful for the time you spent reading it!
And, if you have any more time on your hands and would like to listen to PDC Podcast #6, which is in my opinion a turning point for all future casts, here's the link:
Thanks for reading, and thanks for listening! Time for more cranberry sauce...