Okay to get things out of the way, the Dominaria United season as we knew it is over thanks to a few bans. If you want the full run down, please check out this highly detailed video from Gavin Verhey (and the other members of the Pauper Format Panel [of which I am a member]).
Okay, with that out of the way we are almost ready to look forward. Why almost? Because before we can discuss the texture of the format after the bans take place we need to better understand what was taking place leading up to today. For the record here is every deck with at least four appearances in the Challenges (or a Top 8 finish):
There’s a lot of information in here and it can be tough to parse the signal from the noise. The Kuldotha Red numbers, for example, are heavily inflated by 13 appearances in the September 18 Challenge which may have been a reaction to the success of Initiative running up to last weekend. Still, we can use the data to help make some “best guesses” as to what things will look like moving forward.
First and foremost, despite being not as relevant for the past few weeks, Affinity is absolutely going to be a major player in Pauper. The deck has lost nothing and is poised to find its footing without being pressured as early thanks to Initiative. Krark-Clan Shaman and Makeshift Munitions might falter in the face of Monastery Swiftspear but they do alright against Goblin tokens. And speaking of, a rise in Affinity makes all decks that run artifacts as an integral component somewhat riskier thanks to the up tick in Dust to Dust.
But you can’t keep Monastery Swiftspear down. The strategy was one of the best leading up to Dominaria United and adapted to the world of Initiative. Swiftspear decks are incredibly efficient and can win from nowhere thanks to the decks ability to churn through cards. I fully expect Swiftspear decks to return as the format’s clock.
Speaking of clocks, you can expect some form of Spellstutter Sprite deck to be strong. Get it? Because it’s like clockwork. Okay they’re not all winners but you get the point. Combining cheap blue filtering and countermagic with a removal suite has been good for quite some time and is going to remain a powerful option. The only way these decks could drop off a cliff is if Tolarian Terror decks are that much better.
Tolarian Terror came on strong this weekend and it is not hard to see why. It rewards you for playing spells by coming down quickly but unlike Gurmag Angler it does not eat the graveyard. This means each Ponder in the bin is a persistent point of generic mana. Terror decks can trade early and often on the stack and then mop up with their large, hard-to-solve haymaker. Now you can still Snuff Out a Terror but I imagine that we might see a small uptick in Diabolic Edict like effects in an effort to end the reign of this card.
Finally, Initiative is not dead. Arbor Elf powered ramp decks have been a staple of the format for the better part of the year and they just added another tool. Avenging Hunter had already shown up in spots and Goliath Paladin looks like it can hold the fort rather well. The fact that this deck can also ramp into Imperial Oath – and those tokens can wear Forge counters rather well – means Selesnya Ramp may just be the next big midrange thing.
What decks do you think are going to show up this week? What strategies are you excited to play?
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