What makes up a healthy metagame in a non-rotating Magic format? I think that depends on a number of factors. One of the big critiques of Modern, from a professional player standpoint, was that it was so wide open that it was difficult to feel prepared for a major event. This was a boon to both the casually competitive and aspirant player base. The wide open nature of Modern meant that it was possible to have “your deck” and have a shot. Something similar can be said for Legacy. It is tough to balance having a format with a plethora of options and one that can stand up to being played ad infinitum. This is why that, for competitive play, Wizards will often introduce new, smaller formats. Extended begat Modern which begat Pioneer which, in ten years will beget something new. For a format like Pauper, I think there is merit in having something of an unbalanced metagame provided it is relatively open.
In these four challenges there have been 68 decks that have finished with a 4-2 or better record. 45 of them are running at least one Monarch card in their 75 (66%). The decks break down like this:
- Monarch decks: 24 copies
- Spellstutter Sprite + Monarch: 14
- Jeskai Affinity w/Fall from Favor: 2
- Tron: 15 (including 5 with access to the Monarch)
All told these decks account for 81% of the top of the Winner’s metagame over four challenges. Now there is some variety in these archetypes – Boros Bully and Boros Monarch; Pestilence Control and Dimir Control options; Mono-Blue, Dimir, and Izzet Spellstutter Sprite builds; Tron with Staunch Throneguard main and Tron with Fall from Favor in the sideboard.
Is this healthy? It all depends on your point of view. On one hand there are options of what to play but at the same time the decks are slowly trending towards homogenizing. There were several images going around this weekend involving five copies of Fall from Favor on a battlefield, sometimes representing the Monarch changing hands half a dozen times.
Right now there are no real checks on the Monarch. More than that, aggressive decks outside of Boros Bully and Jeskai Affinity (the latter of which is soft to Gorilla Shaman) are non-existent. Playing out creatures is a massive risk since that opens you up to having it Fall from Favor and start giving your opponent more resources.
Gavin Verhey has said that Wizards is closely monitoring Pauper and that we can expect action if things are out of whack. I think my opinion is well known at this point – what do you think?
In the interim, if you are going to play Pauper I would advise against exposing yourself to Fall from Favor. Whether this means running Yavimaya Barbarian or just not running creatures, that last thing you want to do is make it easy for your opponent to draw cards. Gut Shot, Snapback, Snuff Out – these are going to be your friends moving forward. If you decide to run creatures, you better be sure to be packing enough ways to gain the crown back should your opponent be trying to win.