The April 9 and April 10 Pauper Challenges start us on our second four week tour of the format in the wake of the latest round of bans. The Top 8s from these events were fairly diverse, with 12 different archetypes making it to the single elimination rounds – Grixis Affinity and Dimir Faeries each had three Top 8 finishes across the weekend. Even if you group macro archetypes (Affinity, Boros, Faeries), you get ten different stripes in the Top 8 on the weekend.
I think it goes without saying that the biggest three decks in the format currently are Affinity, Boros, and Faeries. While other strategies can (and do) succeed, these three are the best, and this is due in no small part to their flexibility. Affinity can run the best cards and cheap threats while Faeries can shift colors to best meet the metagame. Boros has at least five different builds that can be tailored for most fields.
This chart looks at the top strategies in Pauper and their chunk of the Winner’s Metagame, week over week. The most volatile of these appears to be Affinity, which has fairly large swings week over week. Boros tends to be somewhat more consistent, but still can get caught off guard. Faeries had a fantastic week one (which can be expected in a new metagame) but has since settled into a consistent pace. I believe that Faeries is the best deck in the format right now and is benefiting immensely from the format discourse.
Depending on where you get your information, Pauper is either in a great place or is a format where decks are trying to race past one another, not that these are mutually exclusive phenomena. However I think that there are some greater issues at play.
These three decks are all fantastic at generating card advantage while also pressing a tempo advantage (Affinity through cheating mana, Boros through producing multiple threats, Faeries through a flash game). This in turn creates a landscape where other decks struggle to fight on both these axes. The result is that a lot of the decks outside of the top tier end up being hyper-linear decks that are focused on enacting their gameplan. There are exceptions to this – Jeskai Ephmerate and Dimir Angler spring to mind – but for the most part if you venture outside the top of the metagame you are doing to see a bunch of go-karts zipping past each other. None of this is to say that interacting is a fool’s errand but rather you have to decide how you are going to interact. Given that these decks can just draw more cards than you the best way appears to be trying to play a tempo game.
So what does that all mean for this week? Considering how popular aggressive red strategies have been the past two weeks I would expect a decent amount of life gain to rear its head. But Poison counters do not care about your life total and I would be trying to find the best Infect deck to try and steal a win or seven.
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