Phyrexia: All Will Be One Pauper Season Recap

The Phyrexia: All Will Be One Pauper season has ended. Ten weeks saw 20 Challenges and one Super Qualifier on Magic Online while it also contained the absolutely massive Paupergeddon Milan in Italy. That being said this article will focus on the data from the online metagame. The overarching story is one that will sound familiar to anyone who has played Pauper over the past several months, but there is a lot of nuance that will get lost if you only pay attention to the headlines.

A quick aside: While I am a member of the Pauper Format Panel, I see my role on this page as one where I talk about the format from the perspective of a player. The suggestions I make here are made with the intent to provide different ways to approach the format that may yield you success. Good? Good.

A second aside on terminology: I use a few different metrics when looking at the Top 32 metagame. The first is just Raw Volume. The second is Win+, which takes the sum of all wins at X-2 or better in the Swiss and assigns a score; Win+ is helpful in measuring a deck’s Swiss round performance. K-Wins takes all of a deck’s wins and subtracts its losses, Top 8 inclusive; this helps to give a measure of overall performance. The final is one I call True Volume, which takes the average of all three volumes (Actual, Win+, K-Win). This number helps to provide the most robust image of a deck’s performance in the metagame.

Defining the Metagame

Grixis Affinity and Kuldotha Red continue to define the Pauper metagame. Kuldotha Red was the most popular deck in the Top 32 metagame with 120 appearances alongside 20 Top 8 finishes and an impressive 6 wins (including the Super Qualifier). The deck also had an average Win+ of 0.58 and a K-Win average of 1.6. Grixis Affinity had 94 finishes in the Top 32, taking down a whopping 28 Top 8 slots and winning three events. Affinity’s Win+ average clocked in at 0.83 and it’s K-Win average settled at 1.84. When looking at True Volume, Kuldotha Red finished with 16.11% (down 1.64% from its actual volume) while Affinity closed the season with a True Volume of 14.92% (up 1.01% from it’s actual volume).

What does this all mean? Both of these are very good strategies that are solid choices for anyone looking to get into Pauper. Kuldotha Red is a bit more volatile and despite winning the most events in the season averaged a finish closer to 17th place than inside the Top 16. Affinity, on the other hand, had a better average finish in the Swiss. Player gathered data shows that both of these decks have acceptable non-mirror win rates, with Affinity hovering in the 50% range while Red often dips below that number. Yet these two decks are often to focal point of frustration in Pauper circles.

Perhaps this is because they get to simply be. The power of these decks means that overall there is relatively little fine tuning that needs to go into the builds. The strength of the core strategy is high enough that stock lists can perform admirably in a given event. Compare this the the other decks in the metagame which have to be constructed with these two in mind. Now it can be debated whether or not this is a “good thing” but from my vantage point there are always going to be decks that are the focal point of a metagame and it’s the job of the meta to adjust – especially when those threats are known.

Faeries, Again

And adjust the meta has. One of the biggest stories of this season has been the rise of Mono Blue Faeries. The deck has taken on a far more aggressive slant, eschewing Preordain for Faerie Miscreant and moving to maindeck copies of Mutagenic Growth as a standard inclusion. Faeries had a True volume of 9.35% over the first four weeks of the season and jumped to 13.10% over the second four weeks. The final five events saw Faeries end with 18.42% of the True volume. All told on the season the blue menace took home 13.10% of the True volume, 0.67% higher than it’s Top 32 presence. In 84 Top 32 finishes it had 20 Top 8s (the same as Red) and two victories.

Faeries is a low to the ground card advantage machine. Moon-Circuit Hacker, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Of One Mind allow it to load up on cards while pressing its advantage in a damage race. If the deck can get to a point where it can resolve Snap into Spellstutter Sprite it can take over on tempo. Cheap countermagic such as Spell Pierce can help the deck maintain its advantage at a low cost. All told Faeries is looking to be a good choice moving into March of the Machine season.

Death and Taxes

Another story to come out of this season was the return of Mono White Aggro to the metagame. Practically a non-factor in the first four weeks of the season (two total Top 32 finishes), the deck came on strong in the second four weeks (10 Top 32 finishes, 5 Top 8s, 1 win) and had 3 more Top 8 finishes with 11 more Top 32s in the final five events. Like Faeries, Mono White Aggro is a low to the ground deck that wants to press its advantage via creatures. While it lacks the stack interaction of blue it makes up for this in burst damage with the likes of Steadfast Unicorn and Guardians’ Pledge.

The deck also has a decent number of options that are not always standard inclusions. Some builds are able to pivot into a Monarch or Initiative build while some lean on Militia Bugler. Recommission was commonly seen but is hardly a requirement these days. Instead it is all about picking creatures that are slightly better on rate than the other choices on curve. Then, thanks to Prismatic Strands, it can steal combat steps and win the old fashioned way: via combat.

Hardly Ephemeral

I don’t want to write this without acknowledging two of the better decks from the season: Azorius Familiars and Flicker Tron. Both of these strategies lean on a mana advantage (either from the Tron Lands or from Sunscape Familiar) to super charge the Ghostly Flicker/Ephemerate loop with Archaeomancer/Mnemonic Wall. From here these decks get to cherry pick the best option from their graveyard and eventually win the game thanks to their overwhelming advantage and ability to lock the opponent out of meaningful action.

Flicker Tron had seven Top 8 finishes in 26 appearances in the Top 32, concluding the season with 3.02% of the True volume (+0.07% over actual volume). Familiars ended with 5.32% of the True volume (+1.04% over actual volume), 14 Top 8s and 2 wins. It also had a positively gaudy 0.97 Win+ average, placing its average finish right around the Top 16; its K-Win average was 2.38 which correlates to a finish between 8th and 16th. These decks cannot be discounted moving forward and, despite their relatively small metagame presence, are major players.

Odds and Ends

Here are a final few thoughts that I’d be remiss to exclude from this wrap up:

  • Paupergeddon Milan showed the power of Altar Tron – a Myr Retriever/Ashnod’s Altar/Golem Foundry deck. This strategy has some limitations imposed by the Magic Online user interface which may be artificially depressing its numbers.
  • The surge of both Faeries and Mono White Aggro does give me some pause in that these two decks are incredibly consistent in part to their mana base. If the meta is pushing decks towards being a single color that may not be ideal for long term format health.
  • March of the Machine has a lot of interesting cards for Pauper and while some folks are concerned about Wrenn’s Resolve, I see this set as far more likely to bolster non-red archetypes than send Monastery Swiftspear to another level.

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Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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