The March 6 and March 7 Pauper Challenges are perfect examples of how the format’s metagame has changed in the wake of Commander Legends and Kaldheim. The shift is seismic as it has upset Tron as the undisputed number one deck in Pauper. The repercussions are still being felt and will likely take another few weeks before they are fully sorted.
Before diving deeper, here are some notes on the weekend:
- Izzet Faeries and WonderWalls both had three Top 8 appearances with a win; Burn had three Top 8 appearances
- Elves, Flicker Tron, and Gruul Ramp each had two Top 8 appearances; Boros Bully rounded out the Top 8s.
- The Boros Bully deck went 7-0 in the Swiss on Sunday and lost in the finals was the only Boros deck in the Top 32 all weekend
- Traditional aggro had a poor showing: 2 Stompy, 2 Jeskai Affinity, 2 Heroic, 1 Bogles and combined these decks had two wins above the X-3 record
The rules of engagement for Pauper have changed. For so long the three main pillars of the format were Tron, Spellstutter Sprite, and Monarch. The addition of top end Cascade threats have knocked Monarch down a peg and in its place are Hypermana Decks. Hypermana decks are a subset of ramp strategies that try to weaponize their mana into game ending threats. These decks can get away with running Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl since their top end is “worth it”. These decks already existed in Pauper (Elves) but they are now getting their time in the spotlight.
Shifting from Monarch to Hypermana as a pillar requires adapting to the new battlefield. When the Monarch was on the throne games were about protracted card advantage and attrition fights. You had to get an edge on raw cards. While you could theoretically go under the Monarch deck, that was difficult due to the strength of removal in Pauper and other defensive measures. It was reasonable to spend a few turns developing your position if it meant you could go up cards in the long run.
Hypermana wants you to take your time. Hypermana wants you to worry about turn six while it’s preparing to resolve game ending threats on turn four. But that does not mean these decks are not without their vulnerabilities.
The top Hypermana decks rely on fragile creatures. Whether it’s Arbor Elf, Priest of Titania, Quirion Ranger, or Saruli Caretaker, these decks all lean on small creatures to get rolling. While they can “go off” without the aid of these creatures it makes the task that much harder. Rather than taking time to sculpt hands or fight the card economy battle, early turns can be spent dealing with on board threats since as well all know, the removal in Pauper is kinda great.
Could this new pillar prove problematic? Possibly. The history of Pauper is littered with powerful options that have been metagame warping. But for the foreseeable future I want to find the best technology to fight the current battles. And that means trying to not only play to the board but to also not put myself in a position to lose to a Stone Rain or a Cascade.