After taking most of the week off from Pauper and instead focusing on Vintage Cube, I’m back to look at the results from the last weekend of 2020. The December 27 and December 28 Challenges show off a format that in some ways is more dynamic than it was before Commander Legends, but it other ways bears a startling resemblance to the days of Mystic Sanctuary.
There’s a scene in The Simpsons where Mr. Burns – the elderly billionaire – is visiting a doctor trying to find out why he hasn’t died. The physician uses a door and a handful of germ puppets. There are so many things trying to kill the man that none of them can actually get through the door. This leaves Burns believing his is invulnerable, despite the doctor’s meager protest.
The Pauper metagame has an air of variety these days. The addition of Fall from Favor has pushed Spellstutter Sprite decks back to the top of the heap. Izzet Faeries – which had been struggling before the latest release – had ten decks in the Top 32 on Saturday, placing three in the Top 8. Sunday saw the deck with four Top 32 finishes – half of those ending the Swiss in the elimination bracket. Out of 14 Top 32 placements, more than a third made the Top 8. This discounts the other Fall from Favor blue decks, which had two Top 8 finishes (both on Saturday) in 7 appearances. All told, the ultimate weekend of 2020 saw 21 decks that combined Fall from Favor with Spellstutter Sprite and 7 of them made Top 8.
Thus we have a veneer of variety. These are three distinct archetypes despite them all playing a similar game with their different pieces. Is this healthy or is it a sign of something wrong with Pauper?
Rumors of Tron’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The deck had two Top 8s, including a win , on the weekend. The deck is moving further away from Stonehorn Dignitary, cutting back to the minimum copies of Ephemerate and Ghostly Flicker and instead leaning harder on Mystical Teachings. Speaking of Teachings, Dimir Control has emerged as a fringe contender with a Top 8 finish on the weekend.
But the story of the weekend, to me at least, was Stompy. Many players had written their eulogy for Stompy after Fiery Cannonade had been revealed as a downshift. Instead pilots adapted, adding copies River Boa and Wild Mongrel while going to the bench for Safehold Elite and Young Wolf. In seven Top 32 finishes Stompy took home four Top 8 slots.
So where is Pauper heading into 2021? I think is very much like Mr. Burns. There are a lot of things wrong with the format at a competitive level but for now they are balancing each other out to some degree.
That “for now” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. The trend line seems to be an ascendant blue trio while Stompy has to do the work of keeping it in check. The big difference? A complete lack of Palace Sentinel based midrange decks. It’s weird to see but Palace Sentinels and Prismatic Strands had one Top 32 finish all weekend, and that was with the Strands in the sideboard.
The format has traded one symptom for another but the underlying issues remain.