After July 23 and July 24, Pauper has a full month with the Double Masters 2022 downshifts available and several weeks of some Battle for Baldur’s Gate cards distributed on Magic Online. The resulting format is somehow entirely expected and full of surprises.
Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room – Monastery Swiftspear. This one card has had a massive impact on the format. Not only is its natural home the most popular deck, but it has also cropped up in both the Rakdos Madness Burn deck paired with Seeker of the Way in Boros Blitz. Swiftspear is a fantastic aggressive threat – the kind the format has sought for years to make beatdown decks viable – and it has done just that.
All that being said, Red Blitz is merely good. It might be the most popular discrete deck but it is less popular than Spellstutter Sprite decks overall and has fewer Top 8 finishes as well. Despite its strength the strategy has natural foils. Now, no one life gain spell is going to stop Temur Battle Rage, but enough of them round after round will make for a much rougher go of things. Similarly having access to the correct removal (do I have to bring up Dead Weight every week?) can buy you the time needed to establish your game plan.
Before we get to the real winner of July I want to talk about Basilisk Gate. This card has proven to be an absolute house. GateBlade was an early winner and Gate based game plans have continued to perform. However they have not matched Zoohn’s original GateBlade success. This may be part of the midrange problem – where midrange decks can perform well in league, where the meta is more open, but struggle in Challenges if they do not come with the right suite of answers. For example, going into next week I would want to be prepared for Affinity (it did win Sunday after all) and Spellstutter Sprite.
What? You thought it went away? Spellstutter Sprite decks – Delver, Faeries, Izzet Faeries, Dimir Faeries – have 23 Top 8 finishes (almost 36%), almost 27% of the Top 32 volume and over 32% of the Winner’s Metagame. Spellstutter Sprite gets better the lower the overall mana curve of the format AND these decks do well in more open metagames. The result is that blue decks are doing exceptionally well, which means Kor Skyfisher and Battle Screech could be a smart meta call moving into next weekend.
So here’s where I am at: the format is still about Monastery Swiftspear and failing to have a plan for it is a plan to fail. However, you need to be prepared to beat Spellstutter Sprite while not ignoring the fact that Affinity is still a viable deck. If I were trying to game the meta, I would want to be a Kor Skyfisher deck with access to efficient removal that does a good job of handling Swiftspear but also has a plan to beat a Guardian of the Guildpact with a Basilisk Gate. If I wanted to do something completely left of center, I would look at a go-wide green deck that can pressure a life total or one that attacks resources. Whether this is something in the vein of Stompy or one that can resolve a quick Ulamog’s Crusher remains to be seen.
But really, I’d probably play Kor Skyfisher.
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