It’s good to be back.
I want to start this off with an apology to you, the reader, and especially to my Patrons. I try to put this recap out every week but sometimes life takes precedence. Last week was one of those weeks. We had a health scare in my family that involved a lengthy ER visit. While everything is back to normal and we are recovering, the time I would have spent writing was focused on my family. And I don’t regret a second of it.
But here we are. It’s been two weeks since I’ve said anything and the format has shifted quite a bit. It all started on the February 16th Pauper Challenge. After weeks of sustained excellence, Flicker Tron took a hit. And an old friend emerged at the top of the heap.
Delver decks are back. While these decks all had some different flourishes they skewed aggressive in their creature suite. They all also packed four copies of Counterspell and two copies of Deprive, backed up with Mystic Sanctuary. One of the best ways to stop Flicker Tron from doing its thing is to simply stop it from doing its thing. While these cards are a significant sacrifice for the sake of board development, it can be worth eschewing board position to set up a solid defense.
Some of the Delver decks opted to run Force Spike, but almost always one or two copies. This seems suspect as Force Spike is at its best in the early game, meaning you want at least three copies. The spell does retain some utility later on in games when mana is tight and counterwars abound, but two still doesn’t sit right.
I want to draw attention to the column labeled Win+:Vol.. This ratio approximates an average finish, and a ratio of 1 here means a deck finishes X-2 on average. For the first time in a long time, Flicker Tron dropped below 1. Meanwhile, Delver and Stompy (the deck that won the Challenge) are the two archetypes (with above 2% of the metagame volume) that are above that line.
So of course the most recent weekend saw the aftershocks of Delver day. Let’s start with the February 22nd PTQ.
We only received Top 16 data for the PTQ. And Boros Monarch came out on top. Fun fact: this was Boros Monarch’s first finish of note in the Theros Beyond Death season. The deck had been sidelined by Flicker Tron but when Delver and Stompy come out, Boros Monarch can shine. The Bully version of Boros also put up solid numbers and Burn shined, compared to its usual results. While there is not a lot to glean from this result, it does reinforce the hypothesis that Pauper Challenge regulars approach the metagame differently than the wider MTGO ecosystem.
Now what about yesterday’s Challenge?
February 23rd saw the return of Flicker Tron, but not at the expense of Boros. Monarch won back to back events, reaffirming its role in the metagame. We also see a decent number of Mystic Sanctuary decks as well as a decline in more traditional aggressive strategies: Stompy, Red Deck Wins, etc.
The trend over the past two weeks has pushed the metagame towards midrange. Delver and Monarch operate in the scrum – the portion of the metagame where interactive elements are of high value. If I were preparing to play in next week’s Challenge and I did not want to play Tron, I would try to find a Clock. That is, a deck that could beat Boros and Tron before defensive measures come online. I would also want a deck that could go toe-to-toe with Delver.
I’m high on Battle Screech strategies for March 1st and, somewhat conversely, I’m also bullish on Pestilence strategies. If you are on an aggressive Battle Screech deck, I wouldn’t sideboard to beat Tron – your goal should be to run force multipliers and win before they get a foothold. For Pestilence decks, bring in the disruption to tax the hand and exile the graveyard.