This past weekend was the first set of challenges since the Initiative was taken down a notch. The resulting metagame has some familiar features but is hardly the same old Pauper. As anticipated, Affinity came out in numbers but was it a force to be reckoned with?
Affinity was almost certainly the best deck on the weekend, taking down 4 Top 8 slots in 12 Top 32 appearances. It averaged close to a Top 16 finish in the Swiss rounds and taking those four Top 8s into account had 27 more wins than losses. If these numbers were consistent for several weeks there might be an underlying issue with the deck but as it stands this weekend is just the first set of data.
So what are the take-aways from this weekend beyond the presence of Affinity? In my mind there are four.
Tolarian Terror is Real
The absence of Faeries is not surprising as that archetype tends to do better in more settled metagames. However the number of Dimir decks featuring Tolarian Terror might be a small bad omen for Spellstutter Sprite and Friends. Terror has some serious closing power but demands a deck full of spells as opposed to creatures. If Terror is as good as believed it could split Faerie stalwarts and open up the metagame some, giving a sense of dynamism between weeks when Terror is better than Sprite and vice versa.
Basilisk Gate is a fantastic damage engine in otherwise anemic offensive decks. CawGate might be a fine collection of cards but without access to the Gate it can take forever to close out games. There are multiple varieties of Gate decks but my favorite right now might be the one starts with the Cauldron Familiar engine, backs it up with Deadly Dispute, and ends on Basilisk Gate.
The New Old Red
Kuldotha Red looks to be the leading red deck in the new metagame. It is low enough to the ground and has enough burn to supplement Monastery Swiftspear. I thought that given the meta shift that Red Blitz would be a larger factor but it seems that people cannot get away from value and Kuldotha Red, thanks to Experimental Syntheszier, has that covered.
On Ramp to Initiative
The Initiative is still present in the metagame, finding a home in the Green-X Arbor Elf ramp decks. These decks can accelerate into land destruction and top their curve with cascade threats like Annoyed Altisaur. Avenging Hunter slots perfectly into these decks and provides more persistent advantage than Owlbear. At the same time these decks are somewhat vulnerable to awkward draws and low to the ground decks that can get their threats under Stone Rain, so it remains to be seen if they have staying power.
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