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Magic the Classroom #70 - Pauper Lists

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Is that the bell I hear?

Summer is over already? But I don’t want to go back.

Alas, time stops for no man, and our summer has dwindled away. So I figure it’s time for another installment of Magic the Classroom.

Since no one likes to hit the books right away, I figure I’ll do the old standby and ask you how your summer went. While you’re working on that, I’ll share with you what I did with mine.

Building a Thief

My summer began by looking for Pauper deck lists. I had a plan to write an article that would be a comprehensive analysis of the most popular deck types. Most people would just scour the Internet, but I decided I would do my research in the field. I hit as many casual and tournament practice Pauper games as I could fit in, and began logging the cards played against me.

That could lead to enough data to extrapolate multiple deck lists, but I went further. I built a deck designed to see the maximum number of cards possible. At the time, the deck was a bit innovative, and I received multiple comments like “I like your deck” and “cool idea.” But that was short-lived; just the other day, I had a rather long conversation where an opponent convinced me that my deck was being played a lot more and that it was actually competitive. Go figure!

I had it all figured out. I was going to gather decks and put similar decks in a spreadsheet together and then give you a composite list. I’m sure you’ve seen the type. In Mono-Green Post, you can expect an average of 3.4 Ulamog's Crusher. I had meticulously gathered and sorted and formatted, but then Armageddon happened. My hard drive crashed. So unfortunately I can’t bring you any data from that month of work. I will share with you the deck that I used. Feel free to use it yourself.

In my defense, I didn’t start with the idea of stealing deck lists. I was just challenging myself to build a deck around the common that I personally had the most copies of. Jace's Erasure won out by two copies over Tome Scour. I have fifty-seven copies of the Erasure. If you followed my work last summer, you know that I drafted mono-Blue mill in M11 a lot.

Building a Partner

After the crash, I had lost my own entire deck list as well. So I started from scratch. At that time, I was beginning to frequent the multiplayer room on Magic Online, mostly playing Two-Headed Giant. If you play 2HG online, you will find it based on the original rules. Both teams begin with 40 life, and you can mulligan to seven cards once, so combo and control decks have a slight advantage over aggro builds. Additionally, partners are assigned randomly, so a team could also have eight copies of a card between both decks.

Before the crash, I was playing a Blightsteel Colossus/Shape Anew deck in 2HG. The advantage of a deck with Infect is pretty significant in the current online format. Online still only takes 10 poison counters to knock a player out, while his partner will stay with the remaining life. That is a lot of life for one person, but two-on-one deck advantage is normally a winner. The disadvantage of using Infect in multiplayer is that everyone will hate you. I actually had players bow out of games just because I had poisoned them in a previous match. Even if I was playing a different deck, they would see an Island, and just assume I was going to cast a Shape Anew. To run an Infect deck just goes against the spirit and feel of the room. Most players in the multiplayer room are extremely nice to one another. That’s what you would expect when you can randomly have anyone as a partner.

So I decided to build a deck that was the best partner ever. I looked over decks that I had played as a starting point. Of those decks, the one that jumped out at me first was my Cat’s Meow deck. I wrote about something like it at the end of last school year. I went by memory when I did the rebuild, so the deck I built was close to the one in that article but not exact.

This deck handled almost every creature-based strategy with ease. The quick-rush decks (mostly Elves) couldn’t do 40 before I equalized with a DoJ or a mass −1 from an Engine. Mana-ramp decks with their large fatties feel even easier, since I also had mana available. The part of the game that I had almost no influence in was planeswalkers and combo pieces. For a stretch of about two weeks, my teams lost to Bloodchief Ascension/Mindcrank or Venser's emblem numerous times.

Sadly, my partners also rarely had answers to these issues. So I started looking for more options. White itself didn’t yield too many, but I did toy around with Ratchet Bomb for a while. The bomb worked great for decks, I knew, but I just had too many instances of over-Ratcheting. I realize that this is more player fault than poor card choice, but still I dropped it from the list.

Going Green

The real breakthrough came when I added some Green to the deck. I was driven to add Green by Beast Within. It became an automatic four-of. Now I had the option of destroying anything, and the 3/3 token was almost never a threat. Next-turn Day, Maze’ing the token, or even the −1/proliferate route answered the call wonderfully. To make room for it, I dropped the Journey to Nowhere. The Journey was a good answer in the deck when it was made, since the metagame had very little enchantment removal being played. Recent developments have caused that to change, and cards like Acidic Slime are popping up more and more.

At first I only added in the Beastie. But after a few games, my satisfaction with the card was enough that I wanted to explore more Green options. The Sphere of the Suns was inferior to Rampant Growth in the acceleration department. Growth not only nets you an extra mana, it also isn’t dependent on proliferation to be effective throughout the game, and has the additional subtle benefit of thinning your deck by one. Sure you have to decide now what color you want, but you already have a Green source, so it’s typically a Plains-fetcher. Then I looked for other ways to remove permanents that Green may offer. Acidic Slime did offer a way to destroy a lot of combo pieces, but it was unable to handle any ’walkers and Mimic Vat could make my own Slime work against me. So Instead I went with a few Mold Shamblers. While Shambler cost an extra mana, the less restrictive targeting is worth it. Those slipped in in place of Trigon of Infestation, and had satisfying results. In fact, they became a soft win condition in themselves.

That is where I should have stopped with the Green, but I went nuts and dropped the White Sun's Zenith for a Green winner. To be honest, I was tired of casting Zenith at the end of my opponent’s turn and typing “MEOWWW, purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” in the text box. It was cute once or twice, but not TBS funny. So instead I added a nice Green beastie known as Terastodon. 9/9’s are nothing to sneeze at. Removing three permanents with the ability to get rid of them is even cooler. I know it sounds farfetched, but I actually had a one-on-one game where I converted my opponent’s last three lands into Elephants, then cast Contagion Engine with mana to proliferate. A 9/9 with an active Lux Cannon facing a totally empty field is a very lopsided table.

Big plays like this satisfied my inner Timmy, but in reality, the 18 mana it took to pull that play off could have been better served by fifteen 2/2 Cats generated at the end of turn. Last time I checked, there isn’t a 3-mana instant answer to that pride of kitties, and it wins in one turn while the Terastodon took two turns to finish. So I did switch back to the Zenith. So now my deck looked like this:

The Best 2HG Game

With the random assignment of teams, you can’t control who your partner is or what type of deck he will be playing. But every once in a while, you get a great copilot. Just after M12 became online-legal, I experienced one of my favorite games ever. What my partner played actually caused me to rethink my deck. It seemed at first that he had a better partner deck than I did. Our opponents were very smart players carrying some pretty bombish decks. One had a mana-ramp deck centered around Primeval Titan and Valakut with an Acidic Slime, while the other ran the Breeding Pool/Mimic Vat combo. I mention the Slime and the Vat because that is a mix that normally would devastate my ability to contribute to the game.

In my euphoria from our very dominant performance, I forgot to buddy and contact my partner for his exact list. But it went something like this.

I’m sure his list was more refined than this. I just listed everything I remember him playing as a four-of. The idea is pretty straightforward. Get an Archon of Justice out. Then start saccing it to exile permanents and draw cards with the eventual Mimic Vat or active Emeria recurring the Archon each turn. In our case, we actually got two Archons going before the game was over. One was working the Vat angle while the other kept coming in through Emeria. We would have had three, but the first was exiled thanks to a Vat destruction via Acidic Slime.

We did have an interesting rules scenario. At one point in the game, we had a Sylvan Ranger die to my Trigon of Corruption. It was my turn next, then my partner’s, then the Breeding Pool dude’s. My partner and the Breeder both had a Vat on the field. Who gets first dibs? Admittedly, the ability to haste in a Ranger was not a big deal at this point in the game, but the rule put a hitch in my partner’s plan.

I hope I’m explaining this correctly. The triggered ability of Mimic Vat goes on the stack in APNAP order. APNAP stands for “Active Player, Non-Active Player.” When choosing between multiple nonactive players, it goes in turn order. So the game checked for triggers in the following order: Ramp, me, Archon, Breeder. So the Breeder’s Vat went on the stack last. That means it resolved first, so the Breeder got first dibs. My partner and I had to chat about how to sac his Archons. If he were to sac during his turn, the Breeder would be able to put the Archon under his Vat. That would be bad, so we made sure to sac it during my turn and use its ability to exile their Vat.

Now for the bonus. What would have happened if he sacced during his turn but targeted the Breeder’s Vat with the exile ability?

Right Now

So now my deck has gone full circle back to mono-White. While I’m not just about Archon, I did add it to my deck. I did not add the Mimic Vat and Culling Dais shenanigans, but I did add Oblivion Ring to the list. O-Ring serves just as well as Beast Within in the deck, and I get to F6 through other players’ turns a lot more. I would love to hear what you think of these decks. Remember, the idea is to be a great partner in 2HG, not an individual winner.

There’s the bell. I hope this will be a good year for us all!

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