Anything But: Let’s Talk All-Kill

Welcome back, Pauper fans! Usually I try to avoid the “current events” of the format, as every other contributor, or any Pauper player at this point, has their own opinion and makes every effort to share it whether you want to hear it or not. Unfortunately for me, the format is in a bit of a gray area right now that cannot be overlooked. The first thing you’ll notice in this week’s article is that there is no Competitive Corner.

The Competitive Corner has been a regular section of this series, and the information was based upon the results provided from Daily Events. When I first moved the series here to MTGO Academy, Wizards had just started to reduce what results we got, but I continued to provide the information for the Competitive Corner because readers felt that it still provided some high-quality information. From there I went as far as to start watching replays of every event, and shortly after that, we encountered the dark days of competitive MTGO. As we all know, the decision came down to shut down all events in favor of on-demand 8-player queues. When this happened I remained in the group of people who was not raging and was quite optimistic. What they told us at the time was that they were figuring out what to do about the client issues in order to correct the problems that we’d been seeing with events, and that they would let us know what would happen with Daily Events. While many thought this spelled the end, I continued to tout the fact that there was no point being pessimistic until we actually knew what was going to happen with Dailies.

Well, at this point we know. I won’t waste my time discussing my thoughts on the new Daily Event structure, because like it or not, that’s what it is now (HINT: I don’t like it), and the bottom line is that at least they are back and there weren’t any major changes to payout or entry fee. However, as Pauper players, the part that you need to concern yourself with is that in exchange for bringing back Pauper Daily Events, we’ve instead been given a set of Premier Events. Now I’m going to try my best not to get too ranty here, but these are simply a poor substitution for Dailies. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen my disgust at the removal of Pauper Dailies and the reaction I’ve seen from too many over this.

Despite such issues as the terrible timing of these events and the requirement for the events to fire, there is a bigger concern I have. For me the problem is the time investment that is required for joining a PE. As hard as it may be for some of us who do not grind events for a living to find four hours that we can set aside to play in a Daily Event, it becomes almost impossible to devote the time required to play in a PE. For those who are not familiar, a PE can require six to seven hours of your time, and that is something most of us don’t have in one go. As much as we love this game, most of us have other jobs and relationships to maintain, and finding that kind of time block isn’t possible for many. I am in this category, and my biggest gripe is that this new change has made it so Wizards has essentially now prevented me from playing my favorite format competitively.

The response I’ve heard from people when I say this has been mostly along the lines of, “Well I do have time to play these PEs, so I’m ok with this,” and it has also been added, “Well if you don’t have time, you can go join 8-player queues.” What galls me most about this is these comments are coming from people who, when Daily Events were first completely removed, complained the loudest about being forced into playing 8-player queues. I’ve complained a lot about 8-player queues and continue to do so, but in the end I’ll simply say they are not an acceptable substitute for Daily Events.

What we’ve seen so far from Wizards indicates no future for the return of Daily Events for Pauper. I, for one, am tired of putting a smile on my face and trying to move on. False optimism can only take people so far, and at this point my tank on it is dry. The topic is not a pleasant one for me, so instead of talking any more on it, we’re going to move on and talk about an ongoing experiment I’ve been running with the all-kill format…

For those readers who have followed me for a while, you would have seen these two articles I put up on MTGO Academy about this concept. For those who don’t, allow me to explain…

The idea of the all-kill format is one that people who are familiar with competitive Starcraft will definitely know. It is often used there in team leagues, and I’ve always thought it was a really cool approach to competitive play. As a team format for MtG, here is how we worked it out:

  • Each team consisted of three players and each player registered with one deck.
  • Teams would compete against each other in race to the best of 5 matches.
  • Each team would start 1v1 following typical settings for matches.
  • The winner of the first match would stay around and the opposing team would then send out one of the remaining players.
  • This would continue with the winner staying and loser being eliminated until a team has won three total matches.
  • If a team’s first player wins three straight matches, making it 3-0, then it is considered an All-Kill.


At first it may sound a lot more complicated than it really is. The basic parts to remember were that it was a best of five matches, and winner stays on. In the first attempt to try out this new format of competitive play, I ran the JSTL and used four teams of three who competed over the period of a month to see who would come out on top. If you missed out on my coverage of this you can still find the articles up on Casting Commons, and here is my final wrap-up for the event.

We had also done this, as you can see in my previous MTGO Academy articles, as the very first Academy Showcase. After these two events had completed I talked with many of those who had participated to get a general idea of how they felt about the new approach. The biggest issue that we found when we played this in the league format had to do with the coordination of teams, which wasn’t surprising to anyone. Before running the league, I spent a lot of time talking with different people, including the sponsors (thanks again MTGO Academy!), and we were aware of the fact that this would be the biggest hurdle. It is unsurprising because, when you’re dealing with teams of three, you are then coordinating the time schedules of six different people, which can be near impossible, especially with an international player community. The logistics proved to be a big problem, and we ended up not paying out a third-place team because two of the four simply stopped participating in the middle of the league.

Needless to say, it was a mess. While I did deem the experiment to basically be a failure, and we probably will not see a Season 2 of the JSTL, there was a silver lining to the whole thing. In talking to those who did actually participate, the consensus was the same; while the logistics of teams was a complete disaster, there was a lot of fun to be had in the all-kill format itself. To some extent the team aspect was important and a few players liked that there was an opportunity to sit and cheer on teammates, but it seemed that this wasn’t enough value in this to balance the logistics struggles.

So from there I set out to determine if this was something that should just be scrapped for competitive Magic, or to see if I could come up with a new approach that might work out. Some days later, with still no answer, I had basically put it out of mind until I had a flash of insight. It was one of those kind of moments that is often accompanied by a head slap as you go, “Oh duh, why didn’t I think of this earlier?!” I realized that with the biggest issue being the coordination of teams, why not run it as one player with three decks instead of three players each with one deck? Seems simple once you hear it, doesn’t it? This would eliminate the biggest issue of player coordination because, instead of trying to line up the schedules of six people, you’d only be lining up the schedules of two.

The biggest concern from here would simply be the time investment. As I stated earlier I am well aware of the time requirement that must be made for things because I myself have a crazy-busy schedule that I try to play Magic around. When you consider the time spent in a Daily Event, you’re looking at probably around four hours if each round has a match that plays until time, and that is only four rounds. When you look at a single round for an all-kill game, you’re looking at the possibility of the match having to go to a fifth match to decide a winner, and if each of those five games plays out to time, we could be looking at a five-hour investment for a single round. To me this is a stretch, but must be considered. I personally don’t think it would be common for a match to go to all five games let alone involve timing out in each of those matches. My thought was that this could work if we brought back the all-kill league and ran it this way instead of as in a team format.

However, as we did the first time, I wanted to be sure that we tested it out as part of the Academy Showcase before we moved forward, and I asked anyone to provide monetary support for an event. So as you may have seen this weekend, we gathered together a few people off my buddies list and gave the event a shot. So let’s introduce our contestants…

The first to join was a familiar face to those here at MTGO Academy, BlippyTheSlug. Usually a Modern writer, I’m fairly certain Blippy had not played much, if any, Pauper until this point. I was grateful to have him helping out, but more importantly I thought it was great to have a player with a blind perspective not only on the Pauper format, but the all-kill format as well. This even went to the point where he asked to be provided blindly with decks to play with. So I decided on the following three: Mono-Black Control, Affinity, and Stompy. My thought was this is what a generic person would anticipate on bringing. These deck types encompass control and aggro as well as, to a lesser extent, combo. Now I know people will be upset at me referring to Affinity as combo, but there are some combo interactions there that I thought would be friendlier to someone with no experience than something like Sage Combo.

Next up was Shaffawaffa5, who was actually the first to volunteer for the experiment. The decks that he chose to run were definitely in his wheelhouse, and I was not surprised at the first two. If you missed my article on his 1-Land Combo deck you can find it here, and the Reality Acid deck is also something he has continued to champion. The third choice was interesting to me, but again not totally surprising in a way. These deck choices also fell in the lines of aggro, control, combo; however, they were different approaches than the decks I supplied to Blippy. The deck, I’ve been told, called Green One was an interesting combination between Stompy and Hexproof that was actually put together by another player in the event. Since I’m sure many will want to know what it looked like here it is…

Next up was cweaver, who had actually participated in the JSTL. While I had first requested players who had not participated in the league so that I could get a wider range of feedback, we were short on people and cweaver was able to step in and help out. Ultimately it was a good addition because I was able to get feedback on the change from teams to single player all-kill. His decks of choice were Stompy, Goblins, and what I believe he said was “gimped” DelverBlue (he had recently sold off his Gushes and Dazes). These were again decks I had seen him play with before, and I was excited to see the Goblins deck, which actually sometimes plays more like a red control deck thanks to the Sparksmiths.

After a bit of a wait, we were finally able to find a fourth player. Unfortunately, I had planned this before the announcement came out about the new PE schedule, so it conflicted and both deluxeicoff and cweaver were already registered for the PE when I was looking to fill in the remaining two slots. This would cause some future delays, but I was grateful for the volunteers nonetheless. What kind of interested me about the decks of choice from deluxe was that they were all essentially aggro-based strategies. With Stompy, Hexproof, and Elves up to bat, they were all aggressive; however, they all approached the aggro game in different ways.

Now, for those of you who missed out watching the live stream and want to check out the matches, you can do so in the videos below…

I will say that there are some delayed parts as I said we did have two players who multi-queued to help me out, and in the end I decided to stop the stream early because things had slowed down to a crawl, and it was no longer interesting to watch, not to mention I’ve been a bit under the weather so my voice has been strained to say the least. That said ,I do encourage you to check them out if you missed them because it gives you a better idea of how all-kill matches play out. I’m going to briefly show results, but I’ve added spoiler tags for those who may want them!

First Round

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Matches were randomly put together, and we had a split between our two PE players. It was a little surprising to see that neither game went to five, nor we did not see an all-kill. In our game with Blippy and cweaver, cweaver was able to go on a tear and get up to a quick 2-0 with Stompy against some really tough matchups. While it looked like an upcoming all-kill for cweaver, Blippy would manage to steal that away with an Affinity win, but that would be the only one he’d take. On the other side of the board, we saw shaffa starting off as expected with his 1-Land Combo that made quick work of deluxe’s Elves. I for one thought this would be the match most likely to go to five games, but the power and lifegain of deluxe’s Hexproof would be too much for the remainder of shaffa’s line up.



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This is where things slowed down. Due to both players participating in other events at the same time, I had dropped the stream. What really surprised me was the speed at which the games played out when they were played. In the first match deluxe pulled off a surprising win with Elves after cweaver came out to a quick start, but had to afk to address a real-life problem. I think this would cost him the round, but he brought out Goblins, and in a matchup as old as the game, we saw Elves crumble under the power of the Sparksmith. From there deluxe went back to his old reliable Hexproof deck, a deck that he managed to win many a Daily Event with, and it would be too much for any of cweaver’s remaining decks to handle.


In the end, the feedback I got from those involved was that the match format was fun, something I had heard from those previously involved. It would also seem, from feedback received from cweaver, who had played both types, that it definitely worked much smoother with single players as opposed to teams. Going into this, we were aware of two potential issues remaining with the format: time investment and whether or not there would be enough people with three decks to play. While there was nothing that could really be done about the time, I did create a poll to see who in the community would be able to front the necessary decks, and was happily surprised to see that there were a majority who could bring three. I guess the timing of the PE among other things would keep people from coming out. Timing went relatively quicker than expected, but still the general consensus has been that more than two rounds in a day would be near impossible, and only a single round is ideal.

Where the all-kill format goes from here for Magic remains to be seen, but I do want to offer a final thanks to the players who took time out of their Saturday to join the event. We did pay out all who played, so for the ticket contribution, huge thanks goes out to MTGO Academy for sponsoring.

Now with that in mind, I unfortunately have to go back to the not-so-pleasant topic of the removal of Daily Events. When I started this article series on Pauper over a year ago, it steadily evolved and refined itself. While I may not be proud of every single article I’ve put forward, I think that if I were, then you as a reader should be concerned. I devoted many hours to Pauper because in this format I found exactly what I was looking for from this game. There were many great pieces I put together including two versions of my introduction to the format. While the series started off as a casual endeavor, the casual decks eventually ran dry, and the content has become more and more dependent on Daily Events.

At one point not long ago, a point was made about contributors for Pauper. While not everything said did I agree to, I agreed with the statement that those who discuss competitive play should be competitive participants at least at some level. This statement I agreed with, without question. I too think that at least at some level, if you want to talk about competitive play, you need to not be speaking as an outsider looking in or you will have no more to offer people than what they can glean themselves.

With the only options for competitive play being Daily Events, this was no problem. Joining in these every now and then was easily done, but now the competitive environment has completely changed. I’ve voiced my thoughts on 8-player events more than people care to hear about. The bottom line is that these events are not indicative of a real competitive environment. On the other end, we now have Premier Events, which are an okay option if you can participate. If you’ve read my series for a while, you may or may not be familiar with the fact that I travel, work more than my 40 hours each week, and am attending graduate school among other things. Finding the block of time required to join in a Premier event is not something that I can do.

In the end, whether or not I can participate in these events is partially irrelevant. The limited number of events that we now get is not something that I think will be enough to fuel the continuation of this series as it now stands. What little information we have been given from the guys behind the scenes at Wizards has shown no indication that there is a change on the way or that they have any desire to bring back Daily Events to this format we all love. So, as a result of these recent changes, I’m sorry to have to announce that Anything But will be put into an indefinite hiatus.

I want to thank those readers who have continued to follow my work and hope that you’ll at least give my future endeavors a quick read. Of course I want to also thank the guys at MTGO Academy, who gave me a shot and an opportunity to continue writing. I will be continuing to run the Academy Showcase each month for as long as they let me, so if you’re interested in participating, you can always find more information by following me on Twitter, which is important because we’re looking to do our first non-Pauper event come January. It will also be the best place to get updates on the return of the series at a point when/if I feel that it is right to bring it back.

You can follow me on Twitter @MTGOJustSin!

  1. This is unfortunate, and I hope you eventually make your return, you were a classy person to work with, and I enjoyed your stuff. Good luck in the future!

  2. @David Yolowski — JustSin regretfully will be going on indefinite hiatus with Anything But because (1) he will not be able to regularly participate in competitive Pauper events online given the time commitment of PEs and also thinks it his duty to be engaged with competitive Pauper if he’s going to write about it, and (2) there are no longer DE statistics to compile, and they served as the lifeblood of the regular Pauper metagame.

    However, JustSin will continue to work on the AcademyShowcase and still be involved in the Pauper community to some degree.

  3. This is sad news, i hate to see a writer who has impacted my magic life leave. I built my first pauper deck after reading one of your articles and eventually got my local play group involved as well. Now Pauper is a regular format we return to when we want a break from commander. Well i hope circumstances change and you are able to bring the column back.

  4. Thanks all for the kind words. As I’ve tried my best to say I, along with hopefully readers, have hopes the series can return at some point, but with the current state of Pauper being limited to only PEs and no change in sight I don’t think I can continue to just throw together content as is and be able to still stand behind what I’m putting out, which is important to me.

  5. I’m a big fan of that event now – I’ll do my best to not multi-cue next time (something I rarely do). It made me feel like a jackass :) Keep it up -

  6. I think data from 8-man events is still very helpful/relevant. Although we no longer have enough data to know what the exact percentages for the metagame breakdown are, the data you presented in your previous article still provided a pretty clear idea of which tier a deck currently belongs to. Honestly, someone who is trying to choose what deck they want to bring to a tournament or trying to decide how they want to design their sideboard doesn’t need to know that delver is currently at 15% of the metagame and MBC is at 13%. They just need to know that those are two of the top contenders in the current meta. Your data still gives them what they need to know. I would keep doing what you did in the previous article.