Is anyone else feeling the effects of cabin fever?
I know I am.
I’m having these incredibly vivid dreams that are directly influence by the current events. Not to share too much, but I had a dream that someone came to my apartment to let me know my mother’s mother had died of COVID-19 and then went to shake my hand in condolences. Right after I shot the suit a nasty glare I woke up and worried about my father’s mother, who is currently in a nursing home in Long Island.
My mother’s mother died in 2008.
It’s okay to feel things right now, and it’s important to be distracted by the things that interest us as we try to find a new center in an ever changing world. The bounty of Pauper results from this past week has been a much need opiate to take my mind off of the search a suitable face covering (thank you runner’s balaclava) and worrying about my two-year old son and the long lasting impact of him not being around his friends for the foreseeable future.
I’m sharing this as catharsis but also to let you know that it’s okay to feel so many things all at once.
The March 29th Challenge gave us Flicker Tron’s first victory since January 19th. Despite racking up more Top 8 finishes than any other archetype this season the deck has regressed to the mean. While a top contender and a format defining archetype, it is not the unassailable titan it was during Throne of Eldraine season.
Let’s get into the numbers for a bit. I assign every deck that goes X-2 or better a score based on performance. An X-2 record is one point, X-1 is two, and X-0 is three. I then take the sum of this score (labeled as Win+ in my documents) and figure out each archetype’s weighted volume as it relates to actual volume. During Throne of Eldraine season, Flicker Tron lapped the field with a delta of 6.99%. Only two other decks with more than 10 appearances had a positive delta (1.21% and 0.11%). This season Flicker Tron’s delta currently sits at 2.5%. There are five decks with positive deltas and at least 10 appearances (inclusive of the April 1st Super Qualifier, which we’ll get to in a minute).
That’s eight different archetypes in the Top 8. The two rising stars in this group are Dimir Delver and Azorius Familairs. Neither of these decks are new but they have been performing well this season. Both are Mystic Sanctuary decks but go about using that card rather differently. Dimir Delver uses Sanctuary in combination with Deprive and Tragic Lesson to put a lock on the end-game card advantage war. Familiars loops Ghostly Flicker through the land to get enough Sage’s Row Denizen triggers to end the game.
In advance of the April 1st Super Qualifier I tweeted that I would play either Heroic or a Boros Monarch with access to Standard Bearer. The top two spots – and the Players Tour qualifications – went to Boros decks with Palace Sentinels but they were both the aggressive Bully variant. And nary a Flagbearer to be found.
Again we see a variety of decks in the Top 8 – 7 archetypes this time – but there were three Mystic Sanctuary decks. Affinity continued to have an solid if unremarkable season, while Burn keeps putting up Top 8s despite having a high fail rate for finishing outside the elimination rounds.
So where does this leave the format as we move towards the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths? Ghostly Flicker continues to be a format defining card but it is hardly the limiting factor it had been in the past. Mystic Sanctuary decks are picking up steam but the best build varies from week to week. The next set looks poised to shake things up if only because the new keyword – Mutate – looks to give Pauper access to slightly different go-tall strategies.
This is the top of the Pauper metagame at the current moment. The threshold for making it here is around 2% of total volume, or 8 appearances. Even if you lump these into macro archetypes, there still appears to be diversity.
- Mystic Sanctuary tempo – 25.79% of the winner’s metagame
- Flicker Tron – 16.04%
- Boros – 13.52%
- Affinity – 10.38%
- Stompy – 8.18%
- Burn – 5.97%
- Elves – 5.35%
- Azorius Familiars – 2.52%
- Bogles – 2.52%
If you want to come for the top of the metagame, you need a plan for the following:
- Graveyard based engines
- A large army of small flyers
- A smaller army of bigger threats
That doesn’t take into account the explosive starts of Affinity and Elves. But this is a good start.
What would I play into this weekend? Something like this:
Pestilence is a very good card at the moment and this deck is a solid shell for the enchantment. While I would want access to some number of Monarch in the 75, having access to the Grim Harvest engine is a decent approximation that also gets around having your crown stolen. HeWhoisintheWater has been playing this style of deck for quite some time and I trust them when it comes to Orzhov Pestilence builds.