We’ve done it!
As of last week, Dime a Dozen had officially made it past the two-year mark! Do you remember the very first article? You’ll notice that it lines up fairly closely with the current online release of Magic 2015. Additionally, today marks our 50th installment for the column, making Dime a Dozen one of the longest-running Pauper columns ever (the only one I can think of with a more extensive lifespan was Alex Ullman‘s run with SCG)!
I want to take a moment to thank every single person who has tuned in to Dime a Dozen, shared a link or written a comment. And I certainly have to recognize all of the great people here at MTGO Academy (especially PlanetWalls and ChrisKool). Thank you all very much for the support and inspiration!
A lot has certainly changed over the course of two years. When I started, Pauper was a format with a ridiculous level of popularity (in fact, it was second only to Standard in terms of MTGO format participation)! After a period of time which I referred to as “The Golden Age of Pauper Content,” the format was fated to take a turn for the worse. As of 2014 Pauper’s representation and popularity have dropped tremendously, prompting many to ask the question “Is Pauper Dying?” Thanks to a number of sites that still support the format in one way or another (including this one), Dime a Dozen continues to have some format developments to discuss.
Which brings us to today’s topic: recent rogue decks!
Today we’re going to check out some spicy lists, namely ones that have made appearances in either 8-Man Queues or gatherling.com’s Pauper Classic Tuesday event series (currently in its sixth season). We’ve got a couple of familiar archetypes with some eye-opening card choices, and a potentially new archetype for the format. Exciting stuff!
Let’s jump right in with our first spotlight deck.
Altar of Sacrifice
The following deck went 4-1 in Pauper Classic Tuesdays’ most recent event, 6.12. It beat out respectable foes, Mono-Red Burn, Dimir Teachings, Azorius Kitty and Mono-Red Goblins, respectively. To top it all off, this deck is (from what I can tell) relatively unprecedented! While I think “Rakdos Sacrifice” makes for a decent title, its pilot opted for a sleeker name:
BR Husk by PendulousSkin
The closest thing we’ve seen to a deck like this is Rakdos Tortured Existence (piloted against me by former Academy scribe Michael Radzwilla in this video series). But without the namesake enchantment or a significant graveyard theme, BR Husk establishes itself as a different animal altogether.
BR Husk is the latest in a long line of synergistic, attrition-based strategies. These strategies intend to gradually gain a resource advantage by seeing more cards, netting 2-for-1 and “going bigger.” To understand the concept of going bigger in detail, check out Simon Goertzen’s “Axis of Aggression” from this article.
The game plan for this deck tends to shift depending on what is on the other side of the table. This makes BR Husk effectively a midrange deck, albeit with a number of bells and whistles. To put it more eloquently, I’ll reference Hall of Fame veteran Luis Scott-Vargas’ article on Midrange (an archetype he was not a fan of at the time). Here is a quote from said article:
“If the midrange deck is playing against a dedicated aggro deck, then it tries to be the control, and if it is playing against a true control deck, it tries to take on the aggro role.”
BR Husk conveniently has the tools to pull this chameleon trick off, though I would argue it’s better-suited against aggressive strategies than controlling ones. What we’ve got with this deck is an arguably necessary triumvirate of Pauper attrition: card advantage, removal and life gain. These three attributes are found in some of the format’s grindiest decks, including Azorius Kitty and Boros Kitty.
The deck’s primary win conditions are Carrion Feeder and Nantuko Husk (note that Husk could just as well be a 2/1 split with functional reprint Vampire Aristocrat), since either can become a giant unwieldy beater. Moreover, BR Husk can also generate an intimidating board presence despite only having 15 creatures. This is due to its token production via Dragon Fodder and Scars of Mirrodin’s Kuldotha Rebirth.
Synergistically, there are two value creatures that don’t mind being sacrificed to their zombie compatriots one bit. These are, of course, Goblin Arsonist and Mogg War Marshal. Adding to the synergy is Sylvok Lifestaff (also from Scars of Mirrodin…man that set was influential, it almost deserves its own written focus! Totally not foreshadowing.), which is a devastating inclusion believe it or not. Against Mono Red Burn, and even Goblins, the Lifestaff is a hard and fast means of stopping the game cold. It’s applications don’t end there, since with multiples out, a game plan can be crafted around beating various opponents in dynamic races.
I question the removal suite just a bit, though I understand the rationale behind Lightning Bolt. The classic instant can potentially net some wins by dealing direct damage, and I imagine this deck can win out of nowhere with enough timely sacrifices and a Bolt or two. My main issue is that Bolt doesn’t offer up the same potency against Affinity-size creatures as Flame Slash would. What’s more, the above list doesn’t have a lot of contingencies for Affinity in its sideboard. Perhaps the matchup is already good? Husk can theoretically get Atog-big, and the deck overall has a lot of chump blockers. Somehow I still feel like either a split, or total conversion involving Flame Slash would be superior.
Another iffy spell is Read the Bones, though I definitely get that it’s easier to cast than Sign in Blood. The deck isn’t crowded with 3-drops, and overall has a low curve (which is critical, take note, brewers!), so Read doesn’t bother me in theory. Would like to see how it plays out for myself to be sure, so I just might sleeve this baby up for a test spin!
The sideboard could potentially use a bit more variation, but I like how Cry of Contrition synergizes with the deck’s sacrifice outlets. I imagine this comes in to further perturb late game control strategies, and perhaps even combo as well.
Speaking of combo, our next deck certainly contains a combo or two. As we transition away from BR Husk I want to say congratulations to PendulousSkin on the result! If you have any thoughts to share on this cool-looking deck, you know where to put them (the comments section! Get your mind out of the gutter).
I’m just going to start this portion off with the decklist in question:
Izzet FlickerTron by Pulse You
Note: This deck took 2nd in an 8-Man Queue on July 22nd. The Queue info and other lists can be found here.
Yep. We knew this would happen at some point. In fact mergers between the Tron lands and Cloud of Faeries have been done before; they just haven’t quite caught on yet en masse.
This is possibly the epitome of the “decks I don’t like playing against” genre. Not for any particular reason other than this: sitting around while it goes off is both anticlimactic and non-interactive. Cloud of Faeries and Mnemonic Wall combo decks are also just generally difficult to play against and prepare for, which is another way of saying they’re typically quite good.
Izzet FlickerTron has the benefit of not only playing Tron lands, but also Izzet Boilerworks. The Karoo does little more as a land bouncer (though Remote Isle can be bounced and cycled with it), but adds to the deck’s number of viable untap targets for Cloud of Faeries.
There are a lot of expensive sorceries in this deck (Compulsive Research, Deep Analysis and Foresee), though they do help locate the infinite mana combo, which involves Cloud of Faeries, a couple super-lands, Ghostly Flicker and Mnemonic Wall. Flicker bounces the creatures, which then untap the lands and retrieve the Flicker. Rinse, wash, repeat. The end result is disgusting, especially if a Mulldrifter is around (generate infinite mana, then draw your entire deck? Yuck. I think this requires both Boilerworks to be in play though?). A lethal Kaervek’s Torch is the “quickest” kill, but if you have access to infinite mana you can probably win by other means too.
I think my biggest gripe with the list is the fact that there are four copies of Sea Gate Oracle and only three copies of Mulldrifter. The gap in power level between the two cards is so distinct that I think swapping out an Oracle for the Lorwyn elemental goes without saying. This leaves the deck short of one early game blocker, so additional shifting is probably necessary.
Three copies of Ghostly Flicker seems like a lot, especially with all the ways this deck can dig for one. In theory I would cut that number down to two, but in practice I could certainly be wrong.
How does this list beat other Tron decks? I suppose comboing before they can Crusher you is valid, but I feel like some answers to an opposing fatty would be useful, even Capsize. The instant with buyback has closed many a game for big mana Pauper decks, though its double blue casting requirement could certainly be rough in a deck with twelve colorless lands (Shimmering Grotto makes twelve and a half?).
I don’t have a whole lot to say about the sideboard, as it looks fairly straightforward to me. I think it’s about time to move as far away from this as we can… Bring on the next deck!
“I don’t think Goblin General is good enough since he has no immediate impact like the other goblin lords do.” – bilo
“I thinks Goblin General looks good in this deck…It is a threat they need to deal with. I think some split between Matron and General would be perfect.” – Lantis
It appears that someone out there agrees with that last sentiment.
Goblins by gonz
Gonz here decided to ask a very valuable question when deciding between two different choices: “why not both?” The most likely response would be “mana curve” or “18 lands.” But I’m not an expert on mana, so the above list might actually run without any hiccups on average.
As far as personal changes, I would start with cutting the Goblin Arsonists. Sparksmith does a better job of removing creatures, and we don’t exactly need extra one-drops in the deck. Furthermore, three copies of Arsonist and two copies of Death Spark is really redundant in terms of hosing x/1s. In my experience, decks with numerous x/1s will already struggle against us and don’t require this much antagonism.
My swaps would likely pan out in this fashion:
I feel like seven Goblin Sledder effects are preferable to six, though the difference might be virtually unrecognizable.
The only other initial changes I would make lie within the burn suite. I’m partial to Lightning Bolt in this deck due to its flexibility, and I’d personally be paranoid of the two copies of Fireblast ruining our opening hands.
We also need to ask ourselves, “How does the burn suite accentuate our preexisting game plan?” If we’re playing Goblin General and Matron to tutor him up (along with Bushwhackers), our plan is probably to overwhelm on the board with high damage-capable attackers. Also, the 3-drops offer us a bit more staying power than other blitz decks, so I don’t really see Fireblast as being all that necessary or congruent. This is just my opinion, however, and I’m certainly open to counter arguments.
What do you think of these decks? Will they continue to perform, or simply lose their potency?
And there it is! Dime a Dozen #50 is in the books. I again want to say thanks to all of you for reading, as it truly means a lot to me. I hope you’ve enjoyed, and I hope to see you for the next installments.
Until next time, my fellow commoners!