Yesterday the Pauper Format Panel released its view on the current state of the format and everything was quiet for about a day. And then Kalikaiz – someone I respect quite a bit when it comes to Pauper – released this thread on Twitter:
And just like that, the conversation began anew.
Once again, I am going to put this in the big font:
These are my opinions and not those of the Pauper Format Panel. I am not the Scarlet Witch and do not have the kind of power.
Okay let’s go.
Is Affinity a problem? Even if the numbers do not bear it out long term the perception is that the core of the deck has become an issue for Pauper. The Bridges have provided the deck with all the reward and none of the risk. The points about Dust to Dust are valid in that it might be the best sideboard card for the matchup but it still is a two-for-one where you’re spending three mana to deal with two cards which cost almost nothing, if not entirely free. The addition of Deadly Dispute (and other sacrifice outlets) means that you aren’t even going to get the full value off of Dust to Dust all of the time. This has led to a format that is reliant on a sideboard card that isn’t doing the job it is assigned.
But that’s not the whole story. Affinity has eaten up a lot of real estate thanks to its powerful core – material, Galvanic Blast, and Deadly Dispute is a solid combination and forms the backbone of many different strategies at the moment. That Dust to Dust is ineffective here is part of the problem but it is more that the Dust to Dust plan – that is blowing up lands in an attempt to buy time – works better when it involves actual Land Destruction. The Thermokarst decks have picked up steam as a way to go over the top. They run a consistent mana engine that gets them to Cascade threats early and can dominate a “fair” game. The result is a combination of problematic cards and play patterns that many people find less than fun. I do not like using “fun” as a metric since it is so subjective, but when a format becomes “blow up your lands and win” or “blow up your lands and lose”, there might be something underfoot.
So hypothetically speaking what happens if the Bridges go away? The hope is that other decks can assert themselves in an old new way. Boros and Faeries return and Affinity sticks around in a more vulnerable state. The hope then would be that aggressive decks could make a comeback and help handle the Cascade/Land Destruction decks that are currently keeping bounceland strategies from competing.
If the Bridges go Affintiy probably reverts to a viable Tier 1.5/2 option. The deck still has to face the wrath of Mox Monkey but with Deadly Dispute and Makeshift Munitions that probably is not as scary a proposition. Maybe Etherium Spinner catches on for real this time or the deck just cycles through various less robust cores from week to week.
Boros is likely to get stronger in such a world. Without having to dedicate the same number of sideboard slots to Dust to Dust it can round out its extra stack with some of white’s more powerful sideboard options. What probably won’t happen is a return to the decks that relied on four drops – why would Boros do this with access to Experimental Synthesizer? – as it can be far more efficient and lean.
Faeries will continue to do what it always does and be one of the best decks in the format. Maybe it gets better with fewer copies of Makeshift Munitions but maybe it also takes a hit as more people can focus on Spellstutter Sprite as opposed to Myr Enforcer. Perhaps something needs to be banned from this core in the future but honestly at this point who knows?
But what about aggro? We’ve seen the emergence of a Goblin deck that leans on artifacts and Kuldotha Rebirth but other than that the innovation has mostly been in “go tall” decks like Bogles and Infect. This is not a Pauper problem as much as one that plagues non-rotating formats. The removal gets better, the card draw gets more efficient, but it’s really hard to have a better aggro creature than a 2/2 for one mana.
I don’t think the decline of Affinity – and with it Krark-Clan Shaman and Makeshift Munitions- is going to lead to a resurgence in aggro decks akin to Stompy. I do not think the incentives are there to play traditional beatdown in Pauper. Will creature-combo return? Possibly, but that doesn’t mean the Thermokarsts are going away.
Pauper is on the same timeline as other non-rotating formats. Over time the interaction will get cheaper and more efficient. The best card draw will rise to the top and creature decks are forced to look for another angle. Legacy has Death & Taxes and Modern has at different times had Hammer Time, Hardened Scales, and Humans (as well as others).
So really, what’s the problem?
The problem is not only about cards at the moment but rather that the cards present are encouraging some less than ideal play patterns. The hope appears to be that by knocking the Bridges down (and potentially taking some other cards with them) the format can achieve some previous state of grace. The hope is that doing this removes the incentives to engage in those play patterns and instead opens things up.
But my question is this: does it? Does removing the Bridges and sure, let’s throw the Monarch in (as it is also a popular subject in these discussions) really change things up? If such action is taken, what do you think will happen?
Mono-Black Control is a deck that has, by and large, been surpassed by the format. When almost every color has two and three drops that generate value the incentive chain Chittering Rats into Gray Merchant of Asphodel is low. No one bats an eye at this (and in fact MBC is a bit of a meme in some competitive spheres). The same can be said of Stompy but for different reasons. Unless you want to take a phalanx of chainsaws to the format, I’m not sure traditional aggro can every achieve the level of success it did when Stompy was at its apex.
But this is just one person’s opinion and I want to hear from you: what action do you think should be taken and, importantly, what are the consequences of that action? What will the format look like if your plan is enacted? Sound off in the comments, in the #MTGPauper Discord, or in the replies to the tweet where I post this.