The post-Neon Dynasty metagame is starting to take shape and would you believe a one mana artifact is once again setting the Pauper world ablaze? Saturday’s Challenge saw Rakdos Affinity split the finals with Stompy while Sunday’s Challenge was taken down by Rakdos Storm. But when we look at the top of the metagame we see a format that is more and more defined by Experimental Synthesizer.
The best decks in the format right now are Rakdos Affinity, Rakdos Storm, and Boros decks. While not every Boros deck runs Experimental Synthesizer, many do and try to extract extra value from the egg through Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher. The Rakdos decks do something similar with Deadly Dispute and other sacrifice outlets. Experimental Synthesizer provides so much material for these decks while also keeping the cards flowing. It is also cheap enough that it can sneak under counter magic and removing it does not stop it from generating another card.
Over the weekend there were 29 copies of Experimental Synthesizer in both Top 8s; there were 28 copies of Deadly Dispute.
All of these factors, in conjunction with a ton of aggressive shells, has pushed Pauper to be a much faster format than it was a few weeks ago. This in it of itself is not a bad thing (for example, complaints about the Monarch have dwindled recently), but it is still concerning. While Synthesizer does not break the mana system like Arcum’s Astrolabe, a resolved Synthesizer represents at least three cards in the average case.
Part of this speed is due in no small part to the format being new again. Midrange and Control decks take time to adjust in the wake of new threats. Old answers are not nearly as good against the new triumvirate. The metagame was also skewed week one to beating Moon-Circuit hacker and we are only now seeing a course correction.
So where does the format go from here? Trying to fight these decks on the Synthesizer axis is a losing battle as outside of Spell Pierce and Duress there are not a ton of proactive elements that are reasonable to run. That being said out of these two, Duress has more utility as a way to also delay Storm. Abrade also has utility as it not only hits every creature in Boros and many problem cards in Affinity, but it also can kill a Kessig Flamebreather.
Here is part of the puzzle: to fight these three decks requires an shift in the way people think about Pauper as a format. You cannot just hope to answer these decks once they are on the board because they play to the board better than just about anything else. Instead it is about disrupting their game plan at every step of the way in order to buy enough time to win. Here is where a deck like Death & Taxes could put in work but the closest thing Pauper has is Orzhov Rats which is fringe at best.