Another weekend and another pair of Challenges are in the books. Saturday held largely true to recent history with an impressive showing by Grixis Affinity while on Sunday it was an affair that showed off the power of Spellstutter Sprite. The meta at large remains largely unchanged, with Affinity still lapping the field, so I wanted to take a few moments to talk about some heartening news (outside of my duties with the Pauper Format Panel).
The first thing I want to talk about is the variety in decks that exist outside of Affinity. In the first eight weeks of Crimson Vow season there were 21 different decks that either made top 8 or accounted for 2% of the Top 32 metagame. This weekend we saw another list make top 8 in Izzet Curve. We are also seeing the evolution of long standing archetypes, like Boros Bully.
Bully has been a format staple for years but the addition of Lunarch Veteran and the move away from Thraben Inspector marks one of the first foundational shifts the deck, or really any popular strategy – has undergone in recent memory. If the format ever settles into a healthier place I will be excited to see these decks choose the correct number of one drops each week, trying to figure out if the life matters more than the card.
The second piece that gives me hope is Challenge attendance. For years the Sunday Challenge would routinely hit seven rounds. In the wake of several formats involving cards that would eventually be banned, it was sometimes a struggle to fire a six round challenge. The past two Sundays saw the return of the lucky number seven round tournaments. Whether this is a bug or a feature of Affinity remains to be seen, but if the totality of the format ever becomes as fun the second tier then I think we are in a good spot. There’s a lot of space to explore in Pauper under the surface, as evidenced by the Leagues. I hope that diversity can make it to the Challenges as well.