May 16-17 Pauper Weekend in Review

The weekend of May 16-17 took place on the fifth week of Ikoria season. After one month, Flicker Tron proved itself to be the top deck but not by a massive margin. At the end of the first four weeks of Ikoria season we saw a resurgence of Mono Black Control and saw Izzet Faeries drop even more creatures. How would the second month kick off?

May 16 Pauper Challenge

The May 16th Challenge was all about Mystic Sanctuary. Five of the Top 8 decks ran the land alongside the Deprive and Tragic Lesson engine. Rounding out the Top 8: two copies of Elves and a copy of Flicker Tron. A Dimir Delver player ran the table in the Swiss and ended up in the Top 4 but the finals pitted Izzet Delver against Izzet Faeries.

Currently there are three five ways to play Mystic Sanctuary in a non-combo setting. The mono blue varietals- Delver and Mono Blue Control – have had some success but seem to be lagging behind the other potential builds. Delver has a hard time dealing with creatures once they hit the battlefield and has to resort to a pure tempo game in order to press the advantage. Mono Blue Control has the advantage of being able to run Desert but has not put up impressive numbers in the Challenges.

That leaves the Dimir and Izzet builds. Izzet Delver has continued to put up respectable numbers. It trades tempo plays for the ability to run Lightning Bolt and Skred. Where in the past these decks could potentially run out of steam, Mystic Sanctuary has given them a chance to redraw their best spells late. The big difference between Izzet Delver and Izzet Faeries is that the Delver variants skew aggressive. More and more, Izzet Faeries is trimming down to Augur of Bolas, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Spellstutter Sprite as its creature package, looking more like a flash deck of old.

Dimir Delver lacks the reach of Izzet builds but trades that for the ability to stick Gurmag Angler. The Dimir decks are able to run a wider gamut of removal, although none of it can be aimed at a life total. Some of these decks have also added Thorn of the Black Rose for a way to steal the Monarch and cement their own advantage engines. And while Dimir Delver has done well in Challenge Swiss rounds, it seems to stumble more often than Izzet in the Top 8.

May 17th Challenge

Where May 16th had plenty of Mono Black Control decks finish outside the Top 16, May 17th saw the deck finish in the Top 8 and Top 16. In fact, four decks with access to Crypt Rats and/or Pestilence finished in the Top 16 (placing two in the Top 8). These cards are quite good against the small creatures in Mystic Sanctuary decks.

Speaking of those decks, two made the Top 8 – Izzet Delver and Izzet Faeries. The latter, piloted to a 7-0 finish by Luis Scott-Vargas, was eliminated by hjc piloting Izzet Delver in the Top 8. So of course hjc won the whole thing. Sunday’s Top 8 was more diverse than Saturday’s. As a whole, more archetypes finished in the Top 32.

There are some trends to keep an eye on. First is the struggles of Stompy. The strategy appears to be having a real problem between the success of Flicker Tron and the recent popularity of black based removal decks. Second is the staying power of Mono Black Control. As Boros Monarch has faded, MBC has risen to take hold of the Monarch midrange spot. These decks have shifted ever so slightly to defend their most valuable resource: the Monarch. Defile has certainly helped in this situation but so has the move back to Geth’s Verdict. As always, Gray Merchant of Asphodel ends games.

Looking ahead to the weekend of May 23 and 24, I would absolutely expect to see more Izzet Mystic Sanctuary decks. A smart counter would be to run Boros Monarch or Elves. I would lean into a Boros Monarch deck that has extra reach as a way to close the door on Flicker Tron.

Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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