I’m going to start by saying this: don’t put too much stock in the Showcase Qualifier results. Shortly after the event finished, Top 8 competitor Simon Nielsen tweeted that none of the Flicker Tron decks in the 25 person field made Top 8. In fact, only one such deck finished with a winning record.
Pauper Challenges already have a relatively small player pool but a 25 person tournament that cuts to Top 8 after five rounds isn’t representative of the metagame at large even if the top decks look familiar. The lone Mono Black Control deck in the winner’s bracket went undefeated in the Swiss but is that enough to proclaim the deck “is back”? Not for me. Even though two more builds made the Top 8 of Sunday’s Challenge, I would be cautious before throwing my chips down with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. But I’ll talk more about that later.
As has been the case, Saturday’s Challenge was a six round affair. Boros Monarch took down the tournament and two slots in the Top 8 despite barely making a blip thus far in Ikoria season.
Out of the top decks, Flikcer Tron only did alright by its own gaudy standards. Boros put on a clinic and for at least a day the midrange crown shifted from a Mystic Sanctuary to a Wind-Scarred Crag. Despite Boros’ victory, I found the winner’s list to be ambitious, adding two copies of Cave of Temptation to a deck splashing two black cards is just begging to lose to your mana. Then again, I’ve long rallied against cards like Radiant Fountain in Boros so what do I know?
Sunday’s Challenge saw two more Mono Black Control decks in the Top 8 but, once again, Flicker Tron won the Challenge. Despite placing only three copies in the Top 32, one went all the way for the fourth time in Ikoria season. Despite having what appeared to be a bad weekend, the deck still managed three Top 8 slots and maintains a weighted metagame volume over of 22.2%, compared to its real volume of 17.7%
So what does this weekend tell us? There are a few decks to beat – namely Flicker Tron, Boros builds, and Delver decks. Stompy and Affinity are the most consistent aggressive options and do a fine job of applying pressure. But beyond these, everything is up in the air. The fringe elements of the metagame exist but they struggle to establish a foothold. i think I would be less alarmed by this if every deck would eventually regress to their expected performance. Most do, except for Flicker Tron.
Mono Black Control was a big winner on the weekend and expect there to be plenty of people trying to win on the back of Gary this week. Still, the deck isn’t back, especially since it hasn’t gotten anything new. Instead, I expect various Boros Monarch builds to emerge as the defacto midrange option this week. If you’re dead set on playing black, though, I would run some sort of persistent engine like Grim Harvest or Kor Skyfisher and Omen of the Dead.