July 25-26 Pauper Weekend in Review

Another weekend, another two Challenges. The metagame continues to take shape in the wake of the Expedition Map and Mystic Sanctuary bans. A significant portion of the community believes that these bans did noting to hinder Tron and in some ways, made the deck better. We are only four Challenges deep, so let’s take a look.

I’m going to revisit some of the terminology I use when examining data. First is Win+ – this is a score assigned for wins above an X-3 record. An X-2 record in a Pauper Challenge is worth a Win+ of 1, X-1 is 2, and X-0 is 3. This provides a way to measure successful archetypes (those that finish int he Top 32) against each other. The closer a Win+ is to an archetype’s volume, the more likely it is to have finished in the Top 16 than outside of it.

Look at Saturday it’s hard to argue Tron had a great day. The Win+:Volume ratio is exactly 1 and Tron placed 4 decks in the Top 8 (granted across two different iterations of the deck). Stompy, by comparison, also achieved a ratio of 1 in 5 appearances (two in the Top 8). Which deck did better? That’s subjective, but you can make a case for either, mostly based upon the fact that if you look exclusively at Flicker Tron it has a ratio under one. Still, Tron being Tron, it’s fair to give it the nod.

To be clear, this event caused a heated discussion in the Pauper Discord I manage. The presence of four Tron decks in the Top 8 reignited the call for bans, claiming that banning Expedition Map had not done enough to weaken Tron. The conceit of the argument is that the Tron mana engine itself is broken in Pauper and the ability to do multiple things every turn will keep it head and shoulders above the rest of the format.

On Sunday there were no copies of Tron in the Top 8.

So does that mean everything is fine?

Of course not, but one event doesn’t mean everything is broken either.

Tron is going to have a spotlight on it for as long as it remains legal in Pauper. It is incredibly powerful and acts as a hard limit for many other strategies in the format. But we simply do not have enough information to make an informed decision at this juncture.

Here is a look at the top performing archetypes out of the four post-ban challenges. This looks at every deck with at least 2% metagame volume (~3 appearances) or a Top 8. While Flicker Tron and Stompy are leading in the Win+ race and Top 8 race, they aren’t lapping the field. If you fold both Tron variants into one it looks like the best deck, but not by a lot. Let’s look at similar data from Ikoria season.

Again, the cut off is a Top 8 or 2% total volume (13 appearances). The difference in numbers here is staggering, especially at the top of the metagame. Interesting note: Stompy has maintained the same Win+:Volume ratio.

So what does this all mean? Basically that I do not have enough data to an informed decision. While Tron may have access to turn three Tron more often thanks to Crop Rotation it also has that Tron more susceptible to counter magic. Tron has also adjusted faster than other decks because it had to do so. It may be true that Tron is still a problem and time will bear that out if it’s true, but the possibility still exists that the format is in a much better place.

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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