One Month of Zendikar Rising

I am not going to waste words discussing the October 10 and October 11 Challenges. Flicker Tron took down 10 of the 16 Top 8 slots. I want to take a look at the first four weeks of this season: 8 Challenges and one PTQ. What does the winner’s metagame look like and why did some jabroni tweet this?

Before diving any deeper I am going to recommend you take a few moments to review this post. In it I go over my methodology for looking at the winner’s metagame. Needless to say, Tron is killing it on every metric.

Let’s start by looking at the most played decks in the Top 32. In order to qualify for a discrete section and not be sequestered in “Other”, a deck needed to comprise at least 2% of the Top 32 metagame (roughly equal to 6 appearances). This means decks like traditional Affinity, Azorius Familiars, and Mono Black Control did not make the cut.

On raw volume the metagame looks fairly diverse. There are a dozen archetypes that make up at least 2% of the metagame. If you group the two Boros Palace Sentinel decks together, you have four archetypes at over 10% of the Top 32 metagame. If you’re wondering why these are not listen in descending order, just you wait. There is one thing that gives me pause. 17.8% of the Top 32 metagame is made up of hyper linear decks (Bogles, Burn, Elves, WonderWalls). These are all decks that try to attack on a non-traditional axis and, in all likelihood, are aimed at Tron. This is important when we take a look at the next breakdown.

This chart takes a look at the accumulated Win+ of each archetype and takes it as a percentage of the sum of all Win+ scores.

It’s neat that Dimir Faeries and Boros Bully improve on their performance when it comes to Weighted Volume. And the hyper linear decks perform almost exactly the same in this chart. But that’s burying the lede because Tron chewing the scenery. Almost a quarter of all Wins above X-3. That’s a fantastic rate. While this is absolutely bolstered by last weekend’s dominant performance, Tron’s Weighted Volume is an 8.44% increase over it’s actual volume. By comparison, the cumulative increase of the other four decks with a positive delta (Dimir Faeries, Boros Bully, Bogles, Elves) is 2.39%. Tron is over three times as successful as those four decks, combined.

In 9 events, Flicker Tron won three (and was in line for a fourth according to anecdotes, if not for clock issues). Flicker Tron has 23 Top 8s (nearly a third of all the Top 8 slots) and the next best decks (Dimir Faeries, Boros Bully, Boros Monarch) have 6 each. Add in Stompy (5 Top 8s) and those four decks have as many Top 8s as Flicker Tron in the same 9 week span.

Clearly something needs to be done. If Pauper was Standard, action would be a foregone conclusion. Last week I gave my suggestions for changes:

  • Ban Tron: At this point there is no reason these cards should continue to be legal as they’ve proven time and time again to be too good. Go ahead an unban Expedition Map while you’re at it.
  • Ban Monarch: A Monarch is a cool mechanic but in reality a free card every turn is too good in a two player format.
  • Ban Burning-Tree Emissary: If you remove late game incentives, you have to also remove draws that overrun control decks with ease and removing BTE takes some pressure off slower decks.
  • Ban Ephemerate: Ephemerate is basically the Monarch when paired with Mnemonic Wall or Archaeomancer except it’s also a tutor; removing Monarch but leaving this engine will create the same problems.

I do want to take a moment to discuss why I think adding more powerful card via downshifts is a bad idea. Over the past year we have seen what happens when you add more and more powerful cards to a format that is already unbalanced. Standard has been, for lack of a better term, a turbo-charged go-kart on a salt flat. Things are out of control and that has coincided with a conscious effort to raise the power level across the board. Doing this in Pauper is not likely to boost fringe archetypes but rather provide the best decks more tools since they are already set up to adopt new cards. You would have to pump prime Pauper with an entire small set of new options to better balance the scales.

I understand the desire to play with powerful cards and do cool things, but at some point something will need to be done to level the Pauper playing field. The card pool is growing and if the powers that be are not more aggressive with their use of the ban hammer, the format could very easily collapse under its own weight before much longer.

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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