Pauper: stomping around with Stompy

rancor magic the gathering

Since the day I held my first Magic cards in my tiny, pre-pubescent hands, I had a weakness for the color green and big, bad creatures. Wait, let me correct the latter one: I had a love for seemingly tiny critters who would turn into unstoppable powerhouses at my command. Back then, I had assembled a Spike deck, revolving around the +1/+1 counters being moved from one Spike to another, creating some massive slug-like creatures. It was awesome when I stomped my brother with 8/8 monstrosities. Rancor helped making that possible and for that, it will forever have a special place in my heart.

Pauper allows me to give Rancor another go with the oh so popular Stompy deck. Playing Stompy revolves around playing tiny creatures and injecting them with stuff like the aforementioned¬†Rancor or Shield of the Oversoul, turning them into formidable foes. However, it doesn’t stop there. Instants like Groundswell and Gather Courage give your servants that final boost, overrunning your enemy’s creatures with all the force green commons can muster.

When I put it like that, it sounds like playing Stompy doesn’t require much finesse. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a format where decks like Delver have ways to ignore your creatures completely, simply rushing for another way of winning, leading your mob to victory is tricky. The cards in your deck allow you only limited immunity against creature removal. Sure, you can pump up your creatures to survive removal like Lightning Bolt, but hexproofing them against anything else is hard. That’s why tactical use of Vines of Vastwood and your ever so handy Silhana Ledgewalker is so important. Buff up that Ledgewalker, annul your opponent’s removal and sweep in for some killing blows.

I’m still rounding out the deck, but so far, I’m satisfied with it. Granted, my lack of skill and control of this deck has resulted in quite some losses, but every game teaches me something new. Soon, I’ll stomp them. I’ll stomp them all.

Chin out!

Pauper: playing Magic without going broke

pauper magic vincent van gogh

“The Pauper, reimagined” by Vincent van Gogh and yours truly.

Some time ago, I wrote about my return to the hobby of Magic: the Gathering. Sadly, since my posts, the amount of games played has crashed to zero. The reasons? A lack of players and other financial priorities. Yep, guys and gals, Magic: the Gathering is a pretty expensive hobby if you want to keep up with other players, and I’d rather spend my money on things like food instead of cardboard. Though a few cards of Magic would probably fill my stomach as well, they are a pain to eat and not really nutritious.

Anyway, I still have the urge to throw down cards and pretend I’m a badass planeswalker, and so I found an outlet in Magic: the Gathering Online (or just MtGO). While that game allows me to play with a truckload of other players from all over the world any time I want to, I still have to pay money for the cards. This time, they aren’t even made of cardboard, but of bits and bytes! I can’t eat bits and bytes!

Luckily, a friend of mine introduced me to the funky format known as Pauper. In Pauper, you build a normal deck, but you can only use common cards. In other words: you can only use the cheap cards nobody wants (alright, that’s an exaggeration). Even better, the format has been recognized by Wizards of the Coast and boasts an active and ever-growing community of players. Playing Magic without going bankrupt? Can this be true?

Yes, it can be true. Over the past weeks, I’ve been test-driving my first version of a green Stompy deck, and I’m surprised by how cool games with only commons can be. I’m getting my butt handed to me by some wicked awesome decks, and it’s good to see that Pauper recquires the same fine-tuning and tactical thinking as other, more famous formats. Also, playing this format saves my bankroll and allows me to take the lady out for dinner more ocassionally.

Thank you, Pauper, for not making me eat cardboard.

The sealed Maze & learning to be humble

vizkopa guildmage gatecrash magic the gathering

The cool thing about playing Magic again is that I notice how much I know about the game. When I saw “how much I know”, I actually mean that I don’t know shit and I just won’t admit it to you to pretend I’m some kind of card games prodigy. The power of denial!

Anyway, last Thursday, all the denial in the world couldn’t help me against discovering that I still have to learn a lot when it comes to this game. Two lessons I learned that they were:

  • Sealed play is complicated
  • Never underestimate unoptimized decks

Let’s start with the first lesson. Since my buddy Dee and I couldn’t make it to any of our local Prereleases, we bought a bunch of boosters and played some Sealed Deck. Each of us got four boosters of Dragon’s Maze and one Gatecrash and Return to Ravnica booster. I hoped for a lot of green and black and some fancy Golgari cards, since I wanted to try the scavenge mechanic, but Lady Luck had a different plan for me. I ended up playing a red-blue-green deck with just seven creatures, trying to control the game with some fancy Izzet cards. Let’s just say I lost marvelously against Dee’s far superior deck, which taught me that building decks in a Sealed format is a whole lotta harder than I thought. Also, luck seems to be an important factor, but I feel like a good knowledge about which cards play well together is far more important than drawing the right cards. Homework for the next time: read up on Sealed strategies and get to know a set before playing it.

So, that was my first lesson, but what about that second one? Well, after playing with our Sealed decks, Dee and I grabbed our Standard decks, added a few cards from our boosters (Weapon Surge is awesome in a Boros deck) and started playing. Before I go deeper into this, you have to know that we are both casual players. We’re so casual that, so far, we haven’t played in any FNM and we don’t have a DCI number. However, I would consider Dee a bit more casual than me. While I use some of my free time to read up on cool combos and killer decks, Dee builds his deck around what he enjoys to play. There’s nothing wrong with that, I actually envy him for this laid-back attitude. However, his unoptimized decks give me a dangerous feeling of security, thinking that I can just stomp him with me recently pimped Boros deck. My first matches against him confirmed this belief, but after he tweaked his deck somewhat and found out what he wanted it to do, I had a huge problem.

pontiff of blight dragon's maze magic mtg the gathering

This dude didn’t make it any easier for me

You see, Dee plays Orzhov right now, which is no surprise to me. He loves the color black, and Orzhov’s extort mechanic gives him what he wants: extra life and ping damage. The problem his deck had against me was the fact that my Boros deck starts running as soon as I have two lands in play. I just keep dropping Battalion creatures, harassing him every turn until I obliterate him beneath a legion of Wojek Halberdiers, Skyknight Legionnaires and the occasional Frontline Medic. That’s just what happens when a slow, underperforming control deck meets a fast weenie deck. Fortunately, Dee is not the type to give up easily. Match after match, he evaluated cards and changed his decks. After five or six matches, my hubris would cost me dear when his master plan unfolded.

You see, I totally underestimated the deadly power of combining lifelink, extort and Vizkopa Guildmage’s second ability. The latter one still haunts me, for it was the reasing Dee could swoop in for a crushing 18 damage in a single turn, while filling up his own life points. I don’t recall the exact combo, but when he performed it, I was baffled. Needless to say, his deck crushed me during that match, and as we shook hands, I was really proud of his tweaking skills. This is why I enjoy playing with him: you can bash him over and over again, but he will come back trying with a new approach. Kudos, Dee, kudos!

So here I am, having learned two vital lessons in one four-hour long session of Magic. I’m glad to see that Dee is enjoying our return to the hobby as much as I do, and I’m looking forward to playing even more in the future, potentially trying some Commander / EDH. Magic keeps surprising me, and I regret I haven’t returned to it earlier on.

So, what are your experiences so far with Dragon’s Maze? Do you also suck at Sealed play, or would you like to share some tips concerning the format? What lessons have you learned by playing Magic?

Slivers slither back into Magic

Just a few hours ago, Wizards of the Coast spoiled us with a look at some cards from their next core set Magic 2014. It’s normal for Wizards to give us a few spoilers way before the release of the set, but the cards we’ve seen now are proof of the return of one of Magic’s most iconic creature types: slivers. These nasty-looking beasts have first been sighted in the Tempest set, and had their last public appearance in Future Sight. Now, July will be the month they return to Standard play,

This has me hyped for two reasons. First of all, I hate sliver decks. I recall the days one of my friends built one, and though it was not complete, it annoyed the hell out of me that if he survived long enough, all his creatures had trample, flying, first strike and all other tools needed to ruin my day. However, I love slivers since I just love tribal mechanics. Focusing on a certain creature type gives me focus, and makes it easy for me to pick cards for a deck. Now, I’m actually considering building a sliver deck as soon as “M14” comes around, not just as a way to recover from childhood traumas.

How do you feel about the return of these hive-minds? What else do you hope to find in Magic 2014?