Theros Beyond Death is here and with it a new season! January 19th marked the first Pauper Challenge where the new set was legal. Still, Pauper is a non-rotating format and the inertia was on full display in Sunday’s six round affair.
Let’s start at the top: Flicker Tron won the first challenge of the season. The winner – kasa – went with a creature heavy build that featured one copy of Custodi Squire. They also ran a copy of Unwind, a card popularized by the Italian Pauper community. Kasa also upped the cantrip artifact count with one copy each of Guild Globe and Golden Egg. Unlike the other two Tron decks in the Top 8, kasa opted not to run Rain of Revelation.
There were three Mystic Sanctuary decks in the Top 8 as well: two copies of Dimir Delver and one Izzet Delver. Izzet Delver had one of its best showings in several months, with every Izzet tempo deck this week running Delver of Secrets. This is a change from last season, where the prevailing wisdom was to cut the one drop in favor of additional Faeries. These three decks all ran into each other, with the Dimir Delver players in a Top 8 mirror, before the survivor fell to Izzet Delver. Meanwhile, kasa beat two copies of Flicker Tron on their way to the Top 8.
So what does this Challenge tell us? The metagame has not shifted dramatically from the end of Throne of Eldraine season. That’s not great as one of the prevailing refrains when it comes to dominant decks is “let’s wait until the next set”. Now it is still early in the release cycle and cards are relatively hard to come by. At the same point, if a new strategy could emerge to take down the top decks, I am sure someone would have busted it out early to try and spike a tournament.
One player did run Theros Beyond Death cards to a Top 32 finish: Mathonical. Taking the Green Ponza deck, they added the two Escape creatures from the new set to give the deck some late game punch.
A similar deck made the Top 8 of the Pauper Champs and that event was dominated by Tron. The issue with these resource denial decks is that if you draw the pieces too late they are largely useless. The bigger issue with Tron is their mana base tends to be resistant to land destruction thanks to Ghostly Flicker. That being said, I like where Mathonical’s build is and I would try to find a home for some number of Outmuscle just to add a piece of interaction.