Three months ago, we embarked on a grand experiment. One hundred and fifty-two players, representing fifteen countries, joined the first ever Hipsters of the Coast tournament. The format was Standard Pauper, which has a surprisingly diverse metagame, a large and devoted following, and almost no cost of entry. After eight rounds/weeks of swiss, a format rotation, and the top 8, we finally have a champion. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, congratulations to the first ever Hipsters of the Coast champion, Hugh Kramer!


(Matt Jones and I are filling the role of scale birds.)

The tournament was such a smashing success that we’ve decided to host another one! That’s right, we’re doing another tournament! The format will be Standard Proletariat (also known as SilverBlack – all commons and uncommons from Standard are legal for play). I’ll be posting the rules and signups for it soon, but I’m delighted to announce that it’ll be happening and happening soon.

Heartwood Storyteller

As for the tournament now past, there are a few stories that I’d like to share. There are too many people to thank individually, though I must give credit to Hipsters for enabling and hosting me, all of my players for their outstanding sportsmanship and attitudes, and gwyned, hero of Standard Pauper, for all of his support. The story I must share is the unusual tale of the Taiga, the tournament’s grand prize, and how it and the tournament have helped me grow as a player.

Sol Ring

Flash back to fall of 2011. Triple Innistrad was the draft format du jour. I’d been back to the game for a year and change and was starting to get a hang on drafting. I was going through a rough patch of real life stuff and Magic was a welcome escape. On December 4th, 2011, Twenty Sided Store regular Smith (who’s damned good at Magic) ran a sixteen person common/uncommon cube tournament at the store. I felt a bit out of my depth as many of the best players from the store were participating.

After taking a loss in the first round, I won every match, making the cut top four. In the semifinals, I played the (in)famous Jason Chan, who would famously take ten damage off his own Zombie Cutthroat (he didn’t simply recast it when I Jilted it). As Jason would say, after that, I “cwushed him.” In the finals, I played Smith himself and won (my first time ever beating him), netting the grand prize: Smith’s Revised Taiga (which had been sitting in his binder, untraded for an enternity.

The tournament was a huge moment for me, as it was the first time I felt confident in my competence as a player. I saw the players around me as more than expert players who I could never hope to play against. Smith even declared us as having a (friendly) rivalry, and when the best player at Twenty Sided says that to you, you’ve gotta feel at least a little proud.


Jump forward one year to December of 2012. Smith and I were brewing Standard Pauper decks for the first ever Twenty Sided Players Championship. I settled on a Bant Flickermancer deck of my own design while Smith elected to play a powerful black deck. I came in fifteenth place out of sixteen (my inability to draw Seraph of Dawn, Archaeomancer, or Ghostly Flicker in eight straight games of Standard Pauper started my tournament off horribly). Smith won the event, becoming the first (and reigning) champion of Twenty Sided.

After the Championship, he and I continued smashing Standard Pauper decks against each other. I’d fallen for the format; brewing was fun! Even though I didn’t have good results to show for it, I was content to continue building decks and playing Constructed where I was previously an exclusively Limited player.

Ethereal Armor

Over the summer, my other Standard Pauper testing partner, Dana, suggested I run my own tournament for Hipsters. Well, I did just that, as you’re likely aware. I built my own deck from scratch and felt confident enough to write my first first ever deck tech on it. Smith eschewed my deck for the main portion of the tournament, opting instead for monoblues skies (which was one of the most popular decks, alongside UR and BUG Flickermancer).

When the format rotated (and the tournament was still in its swiss portion), I created a hexproof-less Junk deck full of Bestow creatures, Auramancer, Read the Bones, and Ethereal Armor that smashed every control deck Smith brought to bear. (I might have bragged to gwyned more than a little about my baby, but hey, I felt better about this deck than any other I’d ever made.)

After beating Smith enough times, he finally agreed to pilot that deck. As you may be aware, only one person played Junk Enchantments in the top eight of our tournament.


That’s right, Smith is short for Hugh Smith Kramer, and the Taiga that he just won is the Taiga that I won from him two years ago. The reigning Twenty Sided Store Champion and newest addition to Hipsters of the Coast is also the reigning Hipsters of the Coast champion. I told you that the guy’s pretty damned good at Magic. (Now that Taiga can go back to rotting in his binder.)

(Also, I feel like I can finally build a halfway decent deck.) Render Silent

The last thing I’d like to say is something I realize I never wrote in my tournament rules: what tournament hosts were/will be permitted to do in the last/next tournament (I didn’t think of publicly detailing it since I ran the event by myself). I don’t want my failure to post my own procedure to reflect poorly on Hugh or on Hipsters of the Coast.

During the swiss portion of the event, I had access to screenshots of most matches, so I had a sense of what decks were being played. I did not share any of this information (or build my own deck accordingly), except in one case: when I did a broad analysis of the metagame (saying that BUG, monoblue, and UR were the most popular decks), which is information that I shared publicly on this site and with gwyned on Twitter. While I had many friends in the event (including two who made top eight), I never shared tournament information that wasn’t be available on this site. I did test with several players in the tournament and shared my own decks, but I never shared any other players’ deck or decklists or told players to plan to play/build against a particular deck.

When I received decklists for the top 8, they remained private until I revealed them to the top 4 players (since top 8 players weren’t obligated to submit their decklists until they right before played their quarterfinal matches). I received these decklists after handing off the junk enchantments deck and did not adjust it or recommend adjustments based on other decks.

I’m sorry that I didn’t publicly codify this earlier. The truth is that I expected the tournament to be a smaller affair, filled primarily with people I knew in real life, where there’d be an implicit understanding that the tournament would be fair and transparent. Hipsters were eligible for prizes as everyone knew I’d be running the tournament alone (interestingly, Hugh wasn’t writing for Hipsters when the event began).

That said, the tournament was much, much bigger than I’d intended. I’m delighted by the size it ballooned to and the high quality of player that filled it (in terms of Magic skill, kindness, and sportsmanship). I’m proud to see my friend and Standard Pauper testing partner, Hugh take down the entire event (with a deck that I designed). I recognize that I should have explicitly stated the rules governing my own procedure, and for that failure, I apologize. I promise that there was nothing shady going on behind the scenes and I’d like to address any such concerns presently and publicly before anyone asks about them. If you have any questions, concerns, or recommendations about how I should run events or can be more transparent, please comment below or contact me directly.

I’m a skeptical person (blame my degree in philosophy), so I felt that this must be said (because I’d expect at least one person to suspect foul play).

Rest for the Weary

Phew! Sorry for the semi-quasi-legalese, but I had to put that out there. I remain flabbergasted by how well the Standard Pauper tournament went and am optimistic that we’ll have something similar when we move to Standard Proletariat. As always, it’s a pleasure to write for you, and thank you for reading.

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Magic Online username: Zennith

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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