There's a rare feeling beyond fun, though. When you feel at peace with a format ... When you have solved a format so decisively that crushing people ten times better than you (with a strategy they wrote off or never looked into) is effortless ....
My best friend Chris and I solved a format.
I remember it very clearly. My opponent's confused, almost sick, facial expressions. Only four minutes into the round and they were already packing up their belongings to head back over to the Pro Player Lounge. One after another, people just looked at us with disgust and anger. I had never felt so good at something, never felt like I was in so much control.
Sometimes the Volrath inside me wants to feel that way again. Unfortunately, "solving" a format is a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Luckily, there's a tier one deck in Pauper that plays with poison counters:
Green-White Slivers seems to have emerged as the deck to beat after the dust has settled with the new Pauper four-person queues on Magic Online. Normally I wouldn't examine an archetype that already exists, but I could not help myself this time. I played in a tons of Pauper queues over the last few weeks and something happened to me that has never happened before:
I lost to poison counters.
It was infuriating, sentimental, and hilarious all at the same time. I just failed to grasp that the game had ended. I had learned what it felt like to be on the other side of the table. It started to get me all nostalgic, and I felt like I needed to be playing with Virulent Sliver again.
I examined the Pauper format a bit last month, but I never got a chance to explore the most powerful archetypes in the format. I would like to give you guys some insight into what decks you actually want to beat before you wade in the waters of the Pauper four-person queues.
Green-White Slivers is extremely aggressive. Its creature base is a dream come true. Its curve is outrageously consistent. It has answers to virtually every other deck in the format and, despite the mirror being absolute hell, it's a load of fun to play.
Here's the list I've been playing with lately.
I'll start by explaining the card choices:
Plated Sliver: A 1/2 for one mana is a fine deal when its creature type is relevant. Plated Sliver is often an attacking 2/3 on turn two or a 3/4 with flanking on turn three. This is a deck that wants at least twelve one-drops, and one-drops don't get much better than this.
Virulent Sliver: The least important one-drop in the deck. Virulent Sliver is nice because, if drawn in multiples, it can kill the opponent in very short order. I do not know if I would go so far as to say that Virulent Sliver is my favorite creature of all time, but it has certainly won me more money than any other creature.
Spinneret Sliver: This is always your biggest guy. The mirror is often decided by which player draws more Thrill of the Hunt. If both players draw the same number of those, then the player that draws more Spinneret Slivers usually wins the game.
Holy Light: Holy Light is a necessary evil. A lot of people are going to be playing Empty the Warrens and Holy Light is the best way to combat it. I've won my fair share of games when my opponent has Emptied for eight tokens on turn one. This card allows you to win those games.
Prismatic Strands: Strands is a useful combat trick in the mirror, but its inclusion is mainly a means to prevent us from taking a Grapeshot for twenty or more to the face or having our board wiped by Evincar's Justice. A lot of times against Grapeshot-based Storm decks it is correct to just play Prismatic Strands on your opponent's end step without preventing any damage. Just leave some guys untapped and you can continue to play out your hand and beat face without always leaving three lands untapped.
Temporal Isolation: The best "removal" spell available in our colors. Temporal Isolation and Pacifism are both good in their own way. Temporal Isolation gets the nod because of flash, but I can see the format changing in a way that favors Pacifism. (The more Ninjas people have running around, the better Pacifism becomes.)
Thrill of the Hunt: Pauper is a really good format because cards that you loved in Limited are actually just as awesome in a Constructed format. I remember games where I had Thrill of the Hunt in my hand and just could not conceive a series of events where I could lose the game. Thrill of the Hunt would always at least one-for-one an opponent and make them play a dramatically different game for the rest of the match. It is very important to play the full four Thrill of the Hunt; Green-White Slivers is very popular and the mirror match is extremely dependent on which player draws more Thrill of the Hunt.
Circle of Protection: Red: The burn deck still has a pretty decent following and CoP: Red is the best way to just say, "I win."
Wildsize and Sudden Strength: I used to have a bunch of Armadillo Cloaks clogging up most of these slots, but I never really found them to be exceptionally impressive. A cloaked creature generally just gets double blocked in the mirror, you get two-for-oned and gain a few life. So, Armadillo Cloak does not get sided in against the mirror. Unfortunately, Slivers is the defining creature-based deck in the format, and if I don't want to side my Cloaks in against the creature deck, where do I want them? They're obviously fine against red, but I'm already happy with my Circle of Protection: Red.
I said before that Thrill of the Hunt decides most mirror matches. I wanted some cards in my sideboard that could act as additional Thrill of the Hunts. These cards are really good choice in the mirror where equal creature size generally creates trade city. It's also nice that these cards make your Slivers large enough that your opponent will have to play and flashback Thrill of the Hunt to win the war. I know that's just a one-for-one, but it's one Thrill of the Hunt down in the attrition war.
I really enjoy playing decks like this. Lets take it for a test drive.
Match 1 vs. Blue-Black Parlor Trick Variant
Game 1: I win the play and keep an opening hand of Plains, Forest, Sidewinder Sliver, Sinew Sliver, Muscle Sliver, Thrill of the Hunt, and Thrill of the Hunt. Opening hands don't get much better than that. I play my Sidewinder Sliver and pass. My opponent plays a Swamp and passes. I draw a Plated Sliver, play my Muscle Sliver, and attack for 2. My opponent plays a Ravenous Rats, and I discard a Thrill of the Hunt. On my turn I draw a Plains, play both my Slivers and attack for six. My opponent chump blocks. On his turn he plays a Terror on my Muscle Sliver before playing a Dimir Aqueduct. On my turn I draw a Prismatic Strands and attack for six. I pass the turn. On my opponent's turn he hardcasts a Ninja of the Deep Hours. On my turn I draw a Tranquil Thicket and attack with my team, he blocks my Muscle Sliver and I flashback the Thrill of the Hunt in my graveyard. My opponent plays a Mulldrifter on his turn, but the Sinew Sliver on the top of my deck spells the end of the game.
I sideboard in four Obsidian Acolyte and one Prismatic Strands, and side out one Holy Light and four Temporal Isolation. I know he has Ninjas in his deck, so my Temporal Isolations are especially bad here. I'm siding in the extra Strands with the expectation that he, a black deck, will bring in Evincar's Justice.
Game 2: I keep Tranquil Thicket, Plains, Muscle Sliver, Sinew Sliver, Spinneret Sliver, Obsidian Acolyte, Thrill of the Hunt on the draw. My opponent plays a Terramorphic Expanse on turn one and passes. I draw a Prismatic Strands, play my Tranquil Thicket, and pass. My opponent plays a turn-two Ravenous Rats and I discard my Prismatic Strands. I draw another Plains and play Obsidian Acolyte, putting the brakes on my opponent's strategy. My opponent plays a land and passes. I play my Muscle Sliver, attack for 1, and pass. My opponent evokes a Mulldrifter. I draw a Plated Sliver, play my Sinew Sliver, attack for 4, and play my Spinneret Sliver. The next turn is a bit awkward as my opponent plays an Evincar's Justice and I just flashback my Prismatic Strands. I keep attacking and leaving a single blocker behind. I assume my opponent's hand is full of black removal, but the Acolyte is preventing him from doing much. The game ends in a short fashion.
Match 2 vs. Green-White Slivers (Mirror)
Game 1: I'm on the draw and keep Spinneret Sliver, Spinneret Sliver, Thrill of the Hunt, Virulent Sliver, Forest, Forest, and Forest. My opponent plays a Secluded Steppe on turn one and passes. I draw a Sinew Sliver, play my Virulent Sliver, and pass. My opponent plays a Muscle Sliver. On my turn I attack for two, my opponent takes it. I then play my Spinneret Sliver. My opponent plays another Muscle Sliver—he's stuck on two lands—and passes. I draw a Plains, play it, and attack with my Spinneret Sliver and Virulent Sliver, My opponent attempts the double block on my Spinneret, and I use the Thrill of the Hunt plus flashback. My opponent draws for his turn and concedes.
I sideboard in four Wildsize and one Sudden Strength, take out three Holy Light and two Sidewinder Sliver. On the play I'd probably take out Prismatic Strands over the Sidewinder, but Sidewinder seems to be a liability in the mirror when on the draw.
Game 2: I mulligan on the draw and keep Plains, Forest, Tranquil Thicket, Plated Sliver, Thrill of the Hunt, Wildsize. My opponent plays a turn one Plated Sliver. I draw another Wildsize, play my Plated Sliver, and pass. My opponent plays his Sinew Sliver and passes. I draw another Tranquil Thicket, play my Forest, and pass. My opponent plays another Sinew Sliver and attacks with both his creatures. I block one and take three damage. I cycle one of my Thickets on his end step and draw a Sudden Strength. I draw another Forest, play it, and pass. My opponent attacks with his team and I block one of his Sinew Slivers. He plays Thrill of the Hunt and flashback, and I play a single Thrill. I cycle into another Forest on his end step and draw a Virulent Sliver for my turn; I play it and pass. My opponent attacks again and I block two of his creatures. I use Wildsize to get rid of one of his pump Slivers. He plays a Spinneret Sliver and passes. I draw another Virulent Sliver on my turn, play it, and pass. My opponent attacks with his team again. I double-block the Spinneret Sliver and he uses Thrill and flashback; I use the other half of my Thrill to save my guys. On my turn I draw a Spinneret Sliver of my own, play it, and pass the turn. My opponent continues the attack, but this time I have Wildsize to gain some card advantage and kill his Spinneret Sliver. He plays another Spinneret Sliver and passes with no cards in hand. I draw a Thrill of the Hunt and attack with one guy. He blocks with his Spinneret Sliver, and I play Sudden Strength. On his turn he simple plays a land and passes. I continue to press my advantage and keep attacking with one guy; it seems like every time he blocks I have the trick. He draws into a few more creatures, but he can't keep up with the extra cards I've netted through my pump spells. My Spinneret Sliver goes the distance.
I hope you guys enjoyed my take on Green-White Slivers in Pauper. The deck is extraordinarily powerful and has game against most, if not all, decks in the field. I strongly suggest you give Slivers a whirl if you have the chance.
I'm off to Kyoto for the Pro Tour. Wish me luck!