Anything But: What Now?

I spent a good bit of time trying to come up with some witty, sarcastic and yet temporary new title for our Competitive Corner to classify the awkward 8-player results we’ve been given. Unfortunately, creativity escaped me here and I’ve felt that there needed to be some type of direct discussion about this weird period for Magic Online. So first let’s take a look at the worthless results we’ve been given…

First off I want to offer my thanks to BlippyTheSlug for the formatting. I debated how to present the data and found the way he was approaching it was easily the most effective. Second off I want to apologize for this. While I have no control over what information is provided or whether or not we have Daily Events, I still find myself embarrassed that this is even being presented as a “legitimate” metagame. I cannot in good faith show you this information and try to pass it off as something you should use to understand what is being played competitively. All I can say recommend to take this information at face value and appreciate it as a list of popular decks.

We’re at a really awkward period for Magic Online. As things stand now, the only competitive play that is available for constructed decks is going to be 8-player queues, but at the same time we know that Daily Events will be coming back. The one thing that can be taken away from this experience is easily the importance of Daily Events to the MTGO community. We’ve seen fewer people playing, prices dropping, and more importantly, how it has impacted contributors. I’ve said it once if I’ve said it a million times, but because Pauper is an entirely online format, it is a bit more fragile than other formats. Please don’t get me wrong; I will stand by it for a long time, and it has a great metagame, solid decks, and a power level that may surprise many people who have not played it. Keeping that all in mind, the only events that are sanctioned by Wizards are those played in client. Without Daily Events, there is a struggle that goes on behind the scene for contributors. Some may sit back and scoff at this, but it has an impact over what is discussed.

Some contributors have taken time to put up some videos of 8-player events, but there are so many flaws behind these events, starting first and foremost with the entry cost. This article is already going to be a little ranty, so I’m going to do you a favor and not speak out against 8-player events as much as I want to. Instead I just want to note that I’m glad we have them; however, I cannot wait until we get Daily Events back. When it comes to other formats there is still plenty to talk about as there is a supported paper structure. Big paper events put on by Wizards, streamed, and widely reported provide people with lots to talk about. Unfortunately Pauper has always had a bit of a younger brother mindset despite its popularity. I’ve talked to a few different contributors in the Pauper community who just didn’t know where to go next, and who can blame them? None of us want to put out sub-par content.

So while we’re all sitting around kicking our feet and twiddling our thumbs, everyone is wondering, what do we do now? All we’re doing right now is killing time until Daily Events come back. The first thing I’m going to offer is a trip back to our roots. In the beginning we’re all casual players. I know no one who sat down to Magic for the very first time ever and wanted to play at only the most competitive of levels. Most of us started off by playing something silly with rules we made up ourselves because we didn’t quite understand how certain interactions worked. In the beginning of my days writing, Pauper and otherwise, I wrote entirely about casual play. While I can see some eyes rolling, I think it is important to remind people that this series is actually based on Pauper as a whole and not just competitive play. Recently we’ve been very focused on Daily Events because there has been so much to talk about on the competitive side of things, but there are plenty of fun, casual decks out there.

Even if, God forbid, you take time to play in a non-Pauper format, I suggest playing some casual games. In fact I’ll openly admit that the majority of my time spent in game involves casual and multiplayer games. Too often do we get caught up in the competitive nature of the game and whether or not we can “go infinite,” and I get that. It is tempting, of course, to find that sweet spot where you never again have to pay to play, but too many people look down on the casual player. Take a minute and go play a casual game while there are no other events to focus on. My best recommendation for putting together a casual deck usually starts with looking at cards you love but which don’t have a home in competitive decks…

Here are just a few suggestions of my favorite cards to tinker around with. Many of the two-colored cards present a good opportunity to try and build something new. Or if combo decks are more your fancy, you can try something a bit more tricky like the Treasure Hunt or Grisly Salvage. When messing around with these you can de-stress a bit and maybe even stumble across something new that can be used in competitive play when Daily Events come back. Just consider what some messing around did for Balustrade Spy. Consider if you will, a deck you like or an interaction you favor, and you might be able to find an alternative approach. For example, I’m a big fan of “enters the battlefield” effects and the interaction that comes from BorosKitty, so it makes sense that one of my favorite casual decks looks to try to abuse these effects in the same way. I talked about the deck before, but consider the strength of Kor Skyfisher, and now use it in a deck without white thanks to Lava Zombies.

If in the end you just cannot bring yourself to play casual, and your competitive nature will not stop eating away at your attention span, then your choice for now is to play in the 8-player queues. The playing environment for 8-player events is significantly different than those of Daily Events. There are so many factors taken into consideration, and each event is starting at zero without taking into account the history of past events. What dictates what is played is big assumptions and time of day. It is hard to nail down what to play or what to attack. This has led to some odd things showing up as winners in the few results we’ve been given. I know I’ve lost to ridiculous decks personally in 8-player events that would not have been strong enough to survive a Daily Event and would have never shown otherwise. Consider the list of placements I’ve shown in the Competitive Corner. For example, the GW Tokens deck has had several showings in the top four, whereas in Daily Events you would see one showing in every nineteen events. Results remain altered by the environment, including Eye Candy which had started to really slow down… Greedy Tron, which was climbing in the top three of Daily Events, but which didn’t break 10 top four showings… you see where I’m going with this? Let’s take a look at a deck that managed a recent first place…

This downtime between events does leave a lot of room for testing new decks. Now IzzetControl is not a new concept, although the choices made here are a bit different than what we’ve seen. While this should not be something people jump into without knowledge, there is an opportunity here to get in testing for the deck. Before we had 8-player events available, the best chance a person had at testing a deck was in the 2-player queues, and this was a hard way to get an idea of what’s going on. You also have a chance to test in the Tournament Practice area, but we all know that the level of competitive play in there can be lacking. An 8-player event can be a fast, on demand way to test a deck in a competitive environment; however, do not forget the investment to play. That 6-ticket cost can be a lot for just generic testing, especially when you’re expecting a few losses as you work out a deck’s kinks, but for those with the tickets available to gamble you’ll find the event to be a great way to run the deck against several others in a tougher test.

In the end you have to gain victories where you can in these days of 8-player events. If you do find yourself in these events and hoping to do your best I may suggest trying something different. When we look at most competitive decks, no matter what the format, they tend to do one thing and do it well. Whether this is control or agro, there aren’t a lot of strong options that try to do multiple things well because in the end you really can’t. You can do many things averagely or one thing really well when it comes to decks. This is the basic reason why toolbox decks like Teachings have continued to struggle in regular competitive play. The 8-player events do provide you with a bit of a chance to cheat this. Here’s another deck we saw in a recent event…

A toolbox deck like Teachings Control will give you the whole array of control options to take down whatever you find yourself facing in the 8-player events. There will, of course, be a number of decks that are not so competitive, and a deck like this can provide you with the chance to take advantage of that while still managing to remain competitive against established decks as well. The uneasy nature of 8-player events could just be the perfect environment to bring back your favorite deck that has been hated out in Daily Events.

Maybe you find yourself waiting until Daily Events come back but don’t want to throw away 6 tickets in a single elimination event. I can’t blame you because I’m the same way. If this applies to you, well, I can only make one last recommendation beyond “wait” and that would be to check out Player-Run Events. Every Tuesday there is a Pauper event that takes place in the traditional Daily Event format; four rounds of swiss with payouts to 4-0 as well as 3-1. This is a regular event and provides a great competitive introduction; however, if you’re looking for a larger prize pool, I can recommend the Pauper Battle Royale. This PRE is a special occasion event and there will be another one on the 8th of December. This event, put together through the support of many contributors in the Pauper community, is mainly the brain child of the guys at who organized the event. This weekend’s event will be the second Battle Royale that they have put on, and the first one was a great success. This event is run just like a Premier Event with swiss rounds followed by a Top 8. With a huge prize pool and no cost to join, there is no reason you shouldn’t participate if you’re around. For more information about this weekend’s event head over to the CastingCommons website!

I don’t like being overly dramatic, but these are some trying times. If you find yourself in a fix for competitive Pauper, then realize there are options out there. Take a minute, and worst case… well you only have about a week to go right? In the meantime, try to make the best of it and perhaps check out some entertainment in the Academy Showcase, which will be Pauper once again this month before we venture into other formats. So until next time, for more information about this and everything else Pauper follow me on Twitter @MTGOJustSin!

  1. Well this basically summarized what all of the Pauper content producers have been feeling. While the focus of my content isn’t as grounded in Daily event results as yours I’ve been feeling the impact a lot on my work. I’m glad we don’t need to see what would happen if Dailies weren’t back till January or later. Hang in there.

  2. I think Wizards could sanction Pauper.
    Here in my city, we do Paper Pauper Tournaments twice in a month, we got like 20, 22 people every tournament, and we are planning to do a Paper Pauper National Tournament.

    I think it’s time to make Pauper a paper format as well.

  3. I think the data from 8-man events you present is still very helpful/relevant. Although we no longer have enough data to know what the exact percentages for the metagame breakdown are, your data still provides 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 this article.

  4. You are so awesome! I do not suppose I have read anything like that before.
    So wonderful to discover somebody with genuine thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!