We are in the second four week chunk of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms season. After the Saturday and Sunday Challenges here is what the winner’s metagame looks like over the past four events (minimum 3 Top 32 appearances):
I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about the metagame as very little has changed. The best decks are the best by a proverbial order of magnitude. Instead I want to talk about what it is going to take to fix Pauper beyond a Chatterstorm ban.
First up, I think you absolutely have to hit Affinity. There are two viable options in my estimation: Atog and the new Indestructible Artifact Lands. While the Atog camp has some valid opinions I think the better target are the lands. Affinity has been in the format forever and Atog has been a part of the deck for much of its history. The big thing that held Affinity back was the vulnerability of its mana base. The fact that Affinity was such a high power deck and yet could be constrained if the meta was prepared was something I considered a feature of the format – someone who metagamed correctly could pick their spot with Affinity and do exceedingly well. The Indestructible Lands take away that vulnerability, making Affinity a low risk-high reward choice.
Affinity before Modern Horizons 2 is the deck many Pauper players want Storm to be – a strong option that can win but has available counterplay. Something Storm will likely never have. But we can return to this model of Affinity with banning the lands.
Now this is not great! It’s ten cards from the latest set as opposed to one card form the earliest years of Magic. And if Affinity were the only decks using these lands then maybe you could make a case for Atog. But we have also seen a rise of “good card soup” decks using the combination of these lands and Cleansing Wildfire to both ramp and draw cards. These decks are slowly creeping towards Arcum’s Astrolabe levels of core homogenity and if Pauper leaves the lands in tact I believe they will lead to less diversity in midrange decks over time.
After that I think you have to hit Tron and Monarch. These two cores have been dominant for far too long and have hindered development/diversity in both control and midrange decks. Tron makes any other long game deck obsolete thanks to its mana abundance. Monarch provides a hard to assail card advantage engine. Four years ago there were relatively few Pauper cards that could draw you a card every turn and now the list is far more robust (there are three new cards in Modern Horizons 2 alone).
Those are the bans I would make. I see Snuff Out bandied about a bunch since it’s a “free” spell that some see as running afoul of the justification for banning Daze and Gush. I think Snuff Out is a fair card and in a format with true aggro decks the four life is a significant drawback.
That takes care of cards I think need to leave the format. But that won’t be enough to rescue Pauper from its current state. There needs to be a reason to play Pauper if you aren’t a format regular. Before the proliferation of Cubes on Magic Online Pauper was a common pre-rotation distraction. Now, between Cube and Arena, if you’re sick of Standard then there are plenty of other formats to play and occupy your time. Now I could sit here all day and yell all day about how when Pauper is good, it’s a great format to play.
But that won’t matter if there isn’t something in it for people. Maybe it’s more Showcase Qualifiers or PTQs (or whatever they are called today). Maybe it’s making the MOCS – the one broadcast every quarter – use Pauper as one of its formats. I am not sure that the vocal and vibrant community can sustain Pauper without being able to draw more people in.
And that’s a shame because as I said, when Pauper is good, it’s great.