What happens when something broken gets fixed? We’re starting to see the answer. The March 1st Pauper Showcase put Pauper on a larger stage. Showcases are intended to attract a larger segment of the Magic Online player pool. March 1st saw Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl make Top 8 and Players Tour Top 8 competitor Tommy Ashton finish in the money.
More importantly, these slightly higher profile events help to test the hypothesis that there exists two Pauper formats: those of the die hard players and one that exists when the format opens up. On Sunday, as has been the case in the past when the player pool expands, the format looked far from solved.
There are a few things that jump out from Sunday. First is the pedestrian performance by Flicker Tron. Yes, one deck made Top 8 and yes, it averaged a Top 16 finish. At the same time it was out-performed by both variants of Boros as the average Boros finish was better than the average Tron finish. Mystic Sanctuary decks took a hit, which makes sense in a world of Boros. Stompy was nowhere to be found and Azorius Familiars won the day.
Let’s posit, then that Flicker Tron is the best deck. It makes sense – it has a combo-prison end game that can lock out almost every deck in the format. Mystic Sanctuary tempo decks, whether they be Delver or another variety, are able to pack a ton of countermagic to disrupt Tron’s plan. And it isn’t any one Mystic Sanctuary deck but rather the weight of multiple that could help keep the behemoth down.
At the same time this can help to explain the surge in Boros decks. Boros has a traditionally good matchup against Mystic Sanctuary decks. As such is appears that the metagame cycle has righted itself. Yet where is Stompy? The metagame stalwart also has a good matchup against Delver but was nowhere to be found on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues.
This chart includes every list with ~2% or above (4 appearances) or a Top 8. I want to draw attention to the Win+:Volume column. A score of 1 indicates the deck averages a Top 16 finish. With at least 2% of the entire volume, the best decks by this metric are Flicker Tron, Delver, Boros Bully, and Boros Monarch; Stompy is not that far behind. Yet the sheer volume of Flicker Tron could skew the numbers. While its metagame volume is steadily declining week over week, it still sets the tone for the format.
Going into this weekend I would be prepared for a resurgence of Tron as the metagame is ripe for a return.
Tier deck I’d play: Delver. I think loading up on counterspells is a solid plan to beat Tron. I would considered sideboard copies of Vulshok Morningstar and Neurok Stealthsuit as a way to fight Boros decks.
Rogue deck I’d play: Mono-White Tokens. I think Battle Screech is well positioned at the moment and the ability to win on turn four with Guardians’ Pledge should not be discounted.