October 23-24 Pauper Weekend in Review

I don’t want to go into depth about the October 23 and October 24 Pauper Challenges since they took place under the auspices of the Faerie Miscreant bug. That is, instead of needing a copy on the battlefield to draw a card, Miscreant was (and remains currently) bugged so that it draws a card all on its own. So while only three Top 32 decks from the entire weekend ran Miscreant, it feels awkward to dive too deep into the results.

Especially since once again, the best decks remain Grixis Affinity and Spellstutter Sprite builds (led by Dimir Faeries). Over the past two weekends these two macro-archetypes combine to account for nearly 70% of the Top 32 metagame and almost 72% of all Top 8 slots.

Today I want to use this space to talk about what I would like to see from the Pauper metagame in broad strokes. I often get accused of searching out an elusive “healthy” metagame without nailing down what I mean. So here it goes.

Over time, a healthy metagame would have a number of decks and strategies that can range from 8% to 20% of the winner’s metagame, while never sustaining numbers above 25% for appreciable lengths of time. There should be a decision from week to week about what the best options are for a given tournament; it should not be a forgone conclusion that one or two decks are always the optimal choice.

That is not to say there should not be a “Top Tier” but rather that the decks at the apex should have natural counterplay from other viable options.

Now this is incredibly hard to achieve in a non-rotating format. Due to the weight of history certain strategies are going to have more and better options. Historically speaking, non-rotating formats that reach back to the start of Magic favor blue because for several years blue was overpowered.

So that comes to the next aspect of what I believe is needed for a healthy metagame: intentional and regular bans. The fact is that Pauper has needed several bans for several years. As time rolls on the issues compound. Occasionally, such as after Fall from Favor was banned and before Modern Horizons 2 hit, there was a period of relative balance even if there was a power push. Now, we are still dealing with the fallout from Modern Horizons 2 completely upending a delicate balance.

The bans are never going to be cut and dry easy in a format like Pauper. A lot of the cards that cause problems are core to the format’s identity. That is part of what got us into the power creep problem. In an effort to combat historically great cards, new potent options were released into the environment. These had to go and as a result the decks that have subsisted on broken cards for much of the format’s history have continued to perform.

Healthy formats don’t just exist – they have to be curated. The fact is that Pauper can be great, but it needs some attention.

I wanted to take a few moments to give a shout-out to my Patreon Community. They are always ready to talk about Pauper and look for potential solutions to the metagame and the format’s woes. If you’re interested in becoming a Patron, you can sign up here. Rewards start at $1 a month.

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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