Anything But: Building Posts

This has been an incredibly busy few weeks in the world of Pauper. For anyone who missed it, please allow me to self-promote for a second and recommend you check out my Introduction to Competitive Pauper, 2nd Edition. There have also been lots of discussion, writing, new Theros spoilers, and rumors from the Community Cup regarding what Wizards expects out of the Pauper format. This last part will be my focus this week. For those who may have missed the discussion, we got some notes on the format and how Wizards felt about it through Alex Ullman and Matthew Watkins. I’m not going to go into much detail on it, so I recommend checking out the link to get a quick summary, but as always, before getting too far into things, let’s take a look at the Competitive Corner.

It feels like it has been a while since I’ve mentioned this, but recent events have urged me to do so once again. This section of my series is entirely community-driven, and I’ve made many changes in the past based upon that feedback in order to provide the most utility possible. This has led to name changes, reclassifications of decks, and a change in how some numbers are run. I also want to remind people that the information we are provided for Daily Event results has been limited by the brains at Wizards, and therefore this information is only a small glimpse into what the metagame actually is for Pauper. Combining these two things, I went in under the assumption that more information was the best way to get around this limitation and included the many parts of the Spotlight section. Based upon feedback, I’ve come to realize that my articles are already pretty long, and the message I’m trying to convey is often lost within that.

As a result, I’m going to start making slight changes to correct this where I can, starting with the removal of the deck spotlight section. What I’ve found is that there is often not even a deck worth spotlighting each week because sometimes you just end up with a week where we’ve seen it all before. I realized that if there is a deck that I want to showcase, it is probably better that I do so in an article itself and then can give it more attention and respect than a single paragraph and a decklist. As I said, this is a small change, but hopefully as time goes on, I’ll be able to find additional ways to improve the format.

Daily Event Results 8/22 – 9/4

It seems to be a regular thing these days to see three decks sitting easily within 50% of the winning metagame. Continually unsurprising is seeing FissurePost sitting at the top spot with DelverBlue right behind it. For those who missed it, I offered last week’s results on my Twitter, which echoed the strong showing by Stompy at number three once again. We did see some big jumps in showings by Eye Candy and especially Hexproof, which got a lot of positive press recently. The deck has a seemingly good match against the oppressive FissurePost deck, thanks to the hexproof mechanic, but they still can bounce all your enchantments without much trouble. We also saw some great numbers from Elves and Goblins, which I personally thought was awesome because they are two really enjoyable aggro decks that can get a bit combo-y, too.

Here are this week’s rogues…

1. FamiliarStorm – 5
2. MBC – 5
3. Slivers – 3
4. Burn – 3
5. DimirTrinket – 2
6. MWA – 1
7. Tortured Reanimator – 1
8. WatchRites – 1
9. Teachings Control – 1
10. DimirPost – 1
11. Orz Aggro – 1
12. GW Tokens – 1

We had an interesting combination this week of old rogues making an appearance and typical non-rogues falling flat. Starting off with those fringe rogues, we saw an Orz Aggro deck make an appearance, and GW Tokens showed up, which is a deck that never really took off. Some of our fallen heroes include MBC and FamiliarStorm, as well as Slivers, which many, including myself, thought would be an established tier 3 deck. During last week, it looked like we were on pace to start seeing one Slivers showing a day, but the deck just can’t hold up in a FissurePost based metagame.

Here’s how the undefeated odds are looking…

As I keep saying, the undefeated list has really settled itself out, and there won’t be much big change. That being said, we did see FissurePost coming up with 21 undefeated showings this week and Hexproof stepping up to five. This is the highest undefeated count we’ve seen for Hexproof. The last two weeks we saw two undefeated showings each week, and before that was a long drought where Hexproof didn’t see a single undefeated showing. Also was a big week for Elves, which managed a top undefeated count this week as well with four.

We’re going to unfortunately take another week off from the Spotlight section for two reasons. The first is that I’m working on how to better navigate and possibly shrink this section without losing quality. The second reason is because I’ve got a friend of mine, who is significantly smarter than I when it comes to Excel, helping me create a new workbook to easily track this information. By reducing the time investment required, it opens up some potential for perhaps tracking more and simply presenting better quality data. Unfortunately, we’ve run into a couple errors in the current version that need to be hammered out.

In all of the discussion recently about the Pauper format, the one thing that, of course, has caught the eye of myself and I’m sure many other writers, is murmurings over an incoming ban. Whenever you receive a hint of something like this, it is understandable that everyone will want to talk about it. The card at the forefront of discussion on bans is Temporal Fissure and for good reason. I don’t think there are many people out there who would argue in favor of the FissurePost deck, but where I wanted to focus was on another observation made. If you take a chance to read that comment made by Alex Ullman, he offers the opinion that Wizards might decide to ban Cloudpost instead of Temporal Fissure, as this would offer Wizards the opportunity to have the “quirky” Temporal Fissure decks that they wanted without the dominance of the current FissurePost lists.

Now let me be clear for a minute here. This isn’t an article discussing bans. I’m not going to be talking about my opinion on whether or not Cloudpost should be banned. What this is instead is the finishing of a project I started awhile ago called Building Posts. This was built off of an article I wrote called JunkPost. This could be a risky endeavor because this will be a three-part series talking about 8-Post, and if a ban against Cloudpost is issued mid-series… well, we’ll just have to improvise. Now the JunkPost title did bother a few people; the concept of the article was basically a discussion on the 8-Post mana base and its impact on a deck.

Consider some of the odd 8-Post variants that we’ve encountered in the Pauper metagame. Whenever I heard players debating the banning of Cloudpost, the discussion kept coming back to this idea that the mana the locus lands were able to generate was detrimental to the format because it acted as an enabler for decks that were deemed to have no right being in the format in the first place. It proves to be an interesting debate when you consider that cards like Condescend or Capsize are considered to be “unplayable” in competition without the heavy mana base that the locus lands provide. So I set out to take a look at the many different forms of 8-Post. We’ve seen several different approaches when it comes down to 8-Post decks, from mono-colored to dual-colored decks. In this first part, we’re going to take a look at what 8-Post has to offer us when it comes to mono-colored decks.

This is one of the few 8-Post decks we’ve seen that is aggro-focused, whereas what we’re usually used to seeing are the control variants such as IzzetPost. Most would assume that the reason to run an aggro variant of an 8-Post deck would be to get large, high-cost creatures into play earlier than you would usually be able to. The RebelPost deck, however, takes a much different approach, as it looks to get a large number of smaller creatures onto the battlefield. The biggest reason this particular deck can get away with using the 8-Post mana base for smaller creatures is because there are few solid options available in Pauper for mass removal. While options such as Crypt Rats and Echoing Decay are available, they don’t see as much play now that we’re past the days of Empty the Warrens storm. You can still run across these in Mono-Black Control matches, but it is less prevalent in the current metagame.

The strength of the deck really comes in two parts: utility and creature count. Remember, if you will, the article I wrote about the toolbox quality of Teachings Control. In those particular decks, you’re using Mystical Teachings in order to find utility cards to help you in whatever situation you found yourself in. With RebelPost, you can find that same utility, except instead of finding instant spells, you’re searching out rebels. This was mostly made possible in Masques Block when a number of rebel-typed creatures were printed with the ability to pay a certain amount of mana in order to find a rebel and put it onto the battlefield. This last part is really the critical benefit. If you consider most tutor abilities, you’re searching for a card and putting it in your hand at best, but there are a few tutor spells that give you this extra benefit of putting it onto the battlefield. This means that you can, at instant speed, do things like find a blocker or gain life. The RebelPost deck was an okay option, but got significantly stronger when Modern Masters was printed and Bound in Silence was made common. This meant that the deck could now use the tutor ability on those rebels to pacify a creature at instant-speed, which gave the deck a decent control balance to its aggro strategy.

In this particular case, it can’t be argued that the 8-Post mana base isn’t the driving factor for this deck. While the ability to search for a rebel and put it onto the battlefield is strong, the cheapest cost to do this is 3 mana, and more commonly you can expect to pay 4. To pay 4 mana to put a creature on the battlefield that would cost you only 2 mana in the first place seems a bit ridiculous at times, but actually becomes accessible once you can produce that 4 mana by tapping a single land. This really can get out of hand as you get more and more of the rebels into play, and with the tutor ability, you can quickly load up your side of the battlefield. Let’s take a look at an example. Imagine you have four locus lands on the field; as long as one of those is a Cloudpost you can activate a rebel and still have mana left over. If you have four basic lands on the field, then you’re going to be able to only activate one rebel and then be tapped out. As the number of Cloudposts in that scenario increases, the number of activations increases, while the four basic lands still leaves you with only one.

I know what you’re thinking. Here I am talking about Mono-Blue 8-Post decks, and I’m not showing you the Temporal Fissure variant. Why? In our current metagame, there are three different types of FissurePost; UG, UW, and Mono-Blue. Of these three, the mono-blue version is the strongest, but there really isn’t much to say about it. The deck is strong, it will most likely be banned out, and it can survive without the 8-Post mana base (although it won’t be as dangerous), but the bottom line is: it’s boring. What I would much rather focus on is the BluePost deck that we were starting to see during the end of days of Red Storm and Infect.

It’s not a big stretch to imagine the 8-Post mana base in a control deck. Longtime players have become more than familiar with strong control variants like IzzetPost and DimirPost. These two decks splash red and black respectively in order to provide options for board control, something that blue doesn’t do very well. Blue has always provided solid options for countermagic, but relies on bounce abilities in order to deal with creatures that manage to make it past and onto the battlefield. When you remove those options and go into mono-blue territory, you’re going to have a larger reliance upon countermagic to get the job done.

So does the deck get by without the 8-Post mana base? Well, yes and no. If you remove the 8-Post mana base in a blue control deck, you still have a blue control deck, which is something we’ve seen many times. The real difference would come in card choice. While we’ve seen many successful blue control decks, they do so with a much different set of cards. BluePost takes advantage of the extra mana in order to play a number of those spells we discussed earlier that would be too costly to play otherwise, including countermagic like Condescend, creatures like Ulamog’s Crusher, and the Ghostly Flicker-Mnemonic Wall combo. So the ability of the deck to survive beyond the 8-Post mana base will basically come down to a debate over semantics, as we can see solid mono-blue control decks in Pauper, but with a change in approach when it comes to card choice.

When you consider the five colors in Magic, black is the only one that has not seen an 8-Post deck in competitive Pauper. Each of the other colors have had at least a single showing in Daily Events, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I were the only one who had ever attempted to build a mono-black one. Keeping that in mind, I have to say this is one of my favorite pet projects, and I really enjoy playing this deck. Part of the original plan for this look at 8-Post decks was to attempt to build the versions of 8-Post that haven’t seen Pauper tournament success.

In Pauper, black tends to bring the most options for creature control and discard; however, most of these require a heavy investment to black mana or will have a nonblack stipulation. When you are running a deck with the 8-Post mana base, you can’t rely on having a heavy investment in any particular color and will be looking instead for spells that cost a single colored mana and lots of colorless mana. During this experiment, I learned a lot about 8-Post decks, including the value of Prophetic Prism, which may be your only source for colored mana in some draws. This means that draw spells like Sign in Blood or creature kill like Victim of Night can be hard to play despite the fact that you’re running no other colors. The main idea behind the deck was the printing of Essence Harvest in combination with large creatures like Twisted Abomination and Ulamog’s Crusher. From there I realized how the extra life gained off of spells like that and Spinning Darkness was a great complement to the heavy life gaining potential of Glimmerpost. This also works great in a color like black where drawing cards means you’re paying life. I figured that 8-Post seemed like a perfect fit to run heavy draw-for-life effects, and even Snuff Out, which could be played for life instead of mana.

To me this seemed like a perfect match, and I’m going to continue to tinker with it up until a point where it’s banned out, but there are some flaws with the strategy. If you look at a typical 8-Post deck like IzzetPost, you have a deck that starts off slow, but through the life gained on Glimmerpost and cheap removal, the deck can basically stall until the late game when it has an established mana base and draws through almost its entire deck in order to find its win condition. This means that as the 8-Post player, you may find yourself with lower life totals until a point where you can stabilize, and then it is all uphill from there. During this time you’re doing what you can to control the battlefield and minimize damage while drawing cards. In a Suicide BlackPost deck, you’re going to still be drawing cards in an attempt to stabilize and trying to control the game. The difference is that when you’re drawing cards, you’re paying life and when you kill creatures, you’re probably doing so by dealing self-damage through something like Evincar’s Justice. So you’re still receiving that early damage that IzzetPost does, but at the same time you’ll be doing damage to yourself trying to draw answers and kill creatures. Pauper has become a format with an aggro-heavy metagame that moves at a relatively fast pace. Keeping up can be tough for a deck like this to do, especially against a deck like Stompy that wants you to kill its creatures.

This odd little list was actually the starting place for my writing of the original JunkPost article. There has only been one showing of this particular version of 8-Post, but it is hands down one of the funniest things I’ve seen. Let’s put the deck into perspective for a minute. When this deck managed to make a 3-1 showing, we were in the era before the most recent bans went into place, when IzzetPost was one of the most heavily played decks in the metagame. Because of its heavy play we were seeing most, if not all, IzzetPost players running a full set of Earth Rift in their sideboards. I’m guessing this held some of the inspiration for the creation of this deck, as you’re looking at a version of 8-Post that is running 12 land destruction spells in the maindeck, not including the ability to flashback Earth Rifts for an additional use.

While heavy land destruction isn’t uncommon (we’ll get to the green version in a second here), the funnier part of the deck is the fact that it almost works as 8-Post burn. The deck brings in the two options that IzzetPost used to rely on as a finisher; Rolling Thunder/Kaervek’s Torch and Ulamog’s Crusher. However, where IzzetPost would run a single copy of Rolling Thunder and maybe two copies of Ulamog’s Crusher, this deck just gets ridiculous. Not only does it bring in all that land destruction, but it is running a full set of Ulamog’s Crushers and Rolling Thunders, not to mention the additional copies of Kaervek’s Torch. Ultimately what this is doing is compensating for the fact that the deck does not have the power to draw cards (since it leaves out blue); the more copies you have of a spell, you need the more likely you are to draw one, and a big Rolling Thunder can gain an advantage against aggro in a way analogous to drawing cards.

I don’t think I need to waste much time discussing the feasibility of this deck without the 8-Post mana base. Not only would it not work very well, but I’m not even entirely sure it needed to exist in the first place. As creative as the deck is, it really fits in that category of “fringe” decks. Having given the deck several tries, not only does it need the 8-Post mana base to function, but even with it the deck doesn’t really function that well. That being said, the deck can be a lot of fun because it still has that great feeling you get when you cast something stupid thanks to the 8-Post mana base.

GreenPost is perhaps the oldest deck we’ve had with that featured the 8-Post mana base. Like RebelPost, the deck focuses the mana to feature a more aggro-centric strategy, but instead of playing a swarm of creatures, the deck looks to play a number of bigger creatures as quickly as possible. As you can see this was the first deck to run a heavy list of land destruction spells in the maindeck, which gave it advantages against land-dependent decks like blue-based 8-Post and FamiliarStorm. Green land destruction gains a significant advantage over something like Stone Rain as spells like Mwonvuli Acid-Moss and Reap and Sow worked as mana ramp. The ability of the deck to ramp into the necessary pieces of the 8-Post is unmatched by any other deck, even with the heavy draw of IzzetPost. Not only can the deck fetch out locus lands with the staple Expedition Maps, but it also has access to spells like Crop Rotation that provide the ability to find any land.

All things considered, you have to consider the deck to be a bit underwhelming at first. While the deck runs a set of 22 creatures, there is a significant amount of loss due to eight walls and four tutors in Fierce Empath. These almost seem necessary given the deck’s approach since it is trying to bring out larger creatures at a faster pace. We’re all familiar with the beats that can come from that Turn 4 Ulamog’s Crusher, but what you may not realize is the card advantage the creatures can create. While the deck can’t make up for the loss of card draw without the use of blue, you’re looking at the ability to tutor up your win conditions thanks to Fierce Empath and especially Aurochs Herd. Some newer decks, like this one discussed by Alex Ullman (which is worth the read as he goes into great detail on the deck), have taken to including more large creatures and even Llanowar Sentinel that has a similar tutor ability to that of Aurochs Herd. Also, a little more than a year ago, Michael Radzwilla wrote an article employing similar strategies for MTGO Academy.

I feel like this deck alone provides a strong reason for my wanting to see Cloudpost stay available because as soon as it is gone, we’re probably not going to see a deck use Aurochs Herd ever again, and that would suck! Okay — that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but considering this deck without the 8-Post mana base is interesting. While green has a lot of options to ramp mana from dorks like Llanowar Elves to simple spells, if you have to waste a lot of room in your deck to add those spells, then you’re going to find that your deck isn’t as effective. Not to mention the fact that I’m not even positive you can ramp your mana base as effectively using spells/walls/dorks with the same speed that you can see with Cloudposts. We have seen some decks do somewhat similar things thanks to the heavy mana production of multiple elves, but that really changes the focus of the deck entirely. The only thing I think might be doable is to switch the mana base to the tron engine. Switching to this over locus lands does require the use of an additional four land slots, but with the ability of green to search for nonbasic lands with the likes of Crop Rotation, it may be possible that the deck can be held together without much loss.

Now this list is not serious and probably shouldn’t even see casual play, but I wanted to share it as part of the experiment. As part of my look at what the 8-Post mana base could support, I decided to try every possibility including what I’ve called ColorlessPost. If you caught the original series as I was working on it via YouTube, then you might realize that this deck has changed quite a bit since the initial build. The idea behind it was to use Golem Foundry paired with some cheaper artifacts like the spellbombs to generate a lot of golem tokens. The deck has some serious flaws, including not being able to find the control we get from red or black, nor the draw we see in blue. Since you’re deciding to not use any colors, you obviously don’t get any of the usual benefits those colors grant.

I still thought there could be some potential to the deck, as there were a number of big artifact creatures that were printed and yet have been unplayable. As you can see, there is no sideboard because, again, it was an experiment about viability. What this list, which is the current state of the deck, doesn’t illustrate to you is how many different attempts and redesigns I did to see if I couldn’t find a way to make it work. During this entire experiment, there were two deck attempts I made that provided the best proof of the fact that the 8-Post mana base doesn’t automatically make a deck strong. The other was a UW deck that looked to use that heavy mana generation to make creatures with the level-up ability playable, which was a terrible idea. While the 8-Post mana base does have some times where it turns unplayable cards into something worth running, it is still only a mana base and can’t win games. What it does is create the opportunity to win games through life gain and mana generation.

So next week we’re going to continue to take a look at what the inclusion of Cloudpost and Glimmerpost in Pauper has created within the format. Before I leave you guys for the week, I want to encourage everyone to follow me on Twitter @MTGOJustSin as it is the best way to provide feedback, get opinions, and so on. I really want to emphasize the feedback part because I don’t want it to be forgotten that I write to try and provide what is beneficial to you. While I may not always choose to follow input given, it lets me know what people may not find helpful, if they want me to do something differently, and so on. You’ll also find that I’m often looking for input or opinions on certain things, and if you don’t like me, I suggest you join Twitter to follow the other great contributors to the game. It really provides people with a great opportunity to directly interact, even if you are limited to 140 characters!

  1. Thanks for the linkage to my gobos! Fantastic article. Little sad to see your deck spotlight though, because I always aim to get my decks there. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to get used to having only another 5k words to read.

  2. Haha thanks man, like I said I think it’ll help keep articles more focused and now decks that would have been in spotlight will get a whole article feature instead, something to shoot for!

  3. I don’t like bans, hate them. Be creative with the new sets to offset a lobsided card in all formats. Bans should NEVER happen!! Be creative! Design cards to modify our formats without banning cards. If you make it we should be able to play it, c’mon its been 20 years and and you’re still banning cards????

  4. I’ve always been opposed to bannings too, but here I think they are necessary. Ban Temporal Fissure & Cloudpost ~ if I had a preference it would be Cloudpost but I would be happy if either got the ban hammer. Let Tron come back.

  5. Wizards has said outright that they don’t design for Pauper; they design for limited first, and other constructed formats second. The problem with throwing a card in for Pauper is that it would necessarily be at common, and would therefore have a major impact on the limited format, whereas they can throw some kind of hoser or other balancing card in at rare/mythic to affect standard or modern and have it just be a random trash rare (or bomb) in limited.

  6. Tom has it right, but that’s where I thought there was potential in modern masters like set where they had a few spells move down in rarity

  7. I don’t think the problem is Cloudpost, but the bust mechanic that is Storm. My opinion is: Why hurt all of the other, fair, Post decks because Storm is, yet again, a format breaker. To look at it in a different light, Cloudpost = Fun, Temporal Fissure = Will never be fun…ever. Outside if Fissure the things Post does all have answers. So, really think about it. Fissure needs to go, no arguments for keeping should be valid.