Win +: Measures all wins better than X-3 in Swiss (X-2 is 1, X-1 is 2, etc). Measures a deck’s relative strength against the field in that event
K-Wins: Measures all wins less all losses, Top 8 inclusive. Measures a deck’s strength in a winner’s metagame
The April 8 and April 9 Pauper Challenges tell us a similar story to the weeks before: Grixis Affinity and Kuldotha Red are two of the better decks in the format, but Faeries is not far behind. In the ten challenges since March 11 Faeries has 12 Top 8s with a win – the same count as Grixis Affinity in three fewer appearances (Kuldotha Red, for the record, has 14 Top 8s and four wins in 64 Top 32 finishes). During the same same it has the best average Swiss finish and the best average finish, Swiss and Top 8, when looking at the Top 32 metagame. Whether or not it can stay in the top three remains to be seen. If history is any indicator, Faerie’s slot rotates between different flavors of blue, having cycled through CawGate and Dimir Terror, while the other major players jockey for position in and around the top of the metagame.
Here we can see some of the limitation of challenge data. These events, while regular, are relatively small compared to the volume of matches being played on Magic Online. The weekend challenges hover between the mid-40s and mid-70s for player count, meaning that any deck that has five or more pilots will make an outsized impression in the volume. This is one reason why I track results over a set’s release: it helps to provide insight as to what is happening given a set pool of cards. But even that does not always tell us how games play out.
Pauper, right now, is going through some serious game play growing pains. There are a few decks in the metagame that, given their power level or strategy, can leave people feel like they are playing “non-games”. Kuldotha Red has draws that just get there while Gruul Cascade is built on trying to prevent the opponent from actively doing anything. The result is that these strategies can leave the person on the other side of the table feeling as if they lack any sort of agency in actual game actions.
This is the reality of non-rotating formats once they reach a certain size. There are some matchups which are utterly lopsided or hinge on drawing a very specific card. Maybe I’ve been watching too many Legacy videos involving Chalice of the Void recently, but this is also nothing new to Pauper. Before there was Gruul Cascade there was Mono-Black Land Destruction which was never popular but could Choking Sands you out of the game. Before Kuldotha Red there was Burn which could still catch people unaware. The difference between past and present is that these decks are, for the time being, good.
That has nothing to do with what happened over the weekend, but it is a thought that’s been rattling around my skull for a while. As for looking forward, we are in the final week of Phyrexia season and one card I feel should be seeing more play is Anoint with Affliction. While it does miss many of the larger threats in the metagame it does something important in removing the animated lands from Kenku Artificer. While it is slow it also does trade with everything out of Kuldotha Red as well while also nabbing most of the standard inclusions in Faeries outside Ninja of the Deep Hours. I do not think you necessarily need to go all in on Corrupted, but I’m not sure it would hurt either. Whether this is a modified version of Black Garden or a Carrion Feeder based sacrifice deck with Crawling Chorus and Blightbelly Rat, I think you want to be using Swamps next weekend.
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