Not Very Effective: Hitting Veteran

When we last left off I had a team set for my climb to Veteran. I had Roserade in the front with Gallade on the switch, Magnezone in the back. After running into one too many Dragonite leads I flipped my lead and close and was ready to make my run.

And then I dropped down to a 2315 ELO. Thankfully someone had commented on my post, suggesting a team that lead on Roserade with an Alolan Muk on the switch, Sirfetch’d in the back. I commented that the team was incredibly soft to flyers which prompted a “well you’re right” but it got me thinking as to what flying types I was seeing. Usually they were Charizard, Dragonite, and Talonflame. The redditor had suggested meshing my two teams and they were right, but got the closer wrong.

The team I have been using since that post is as follows:

Roserade on the lead with Bullet Seed – Weather Ball (Fire)/Leaf Storm.

Alolan Muk as a safe swap with Poison Jab – Dark Pulse/Sludge Wave

Lapras as the closer with Ice Shard – Surf/Ice Beam

Here are my end of day ELOs since running that squad:

  • 2356
  • 2444
  • 2545

So yes, this is the team I used to hit Veteran and am likely to keep using for the time being as I try to push my ELO higher still. My goal is to end this season as Veteran with an over 2500 ELO with a stretch goal of hitting expert. Both are in my grasp but I need to play smart.

Roserade is a strong lead. It has relatively few bad matchups (I only instantly swap if I see a flying type or a fire type). You can easily build up to a Weather Ball or Leaf Storm to pressure opponents and force them to shield. Against Empoleon leads I tend to build up to a Leaf Storm and unleash it before swapping into Muk in an effort to catch their move. If they don’t shield it almost one shots them and if they do, I am in a position to farm. The other interesting lead to face is Abomasnow as you can get to a Weather Ball before they get to theirs, allowing you to pressure shields and swap.

A-Muk is a great switch and Poison Jab gives it some fast move pressure. At the advice of that same redditor, I build up to a Sludge Wave and then lead with a Dark Pulse. This usually gets the shield which then lets me either farm down or pressure with Dark Pulse.

Lapras does Lapras things. It chews through Dragonite and most flyers while pressuring Talonflame with Surf. While not the fastest attacker, it serves as a solid anchor for the team that can help cover many of Roserade’s shortcomings.

This team is about energy management and well timed swaps. Roserade can generate energy at a pretty good clip and as such to can easily have a move stored on it when you swap. Leaf Storm is also a move some people do not anticipate to come first – I took out a Lapras lead today by unloading a Leaf Storm which prompted an instant concession. Muk can pressure some opposing swaps with Poison Jab, letting you build up a move on your swap. I also will often build up to two Surfs on Lapras in an effort to chunk down the opponent and have something in the tank.

I am under no illusions that this is a top tier team – it’s serviceable. What it is, however, is accessible to players under level 40, giving those of us without access to XL Pokemon a shot against the bulkier battlers. And while it is not a guarantee, this team does have game against XL Umbreon, XL Mandibuzz, and XL Stunfisk. Lapras is decent against all three and Roserade can pressure Umbreon and Stunfisk.

Since finishing my climb to Veteran I’ve bumped up to 2603 ELO with a few more sets to finish today. Here’s to keeping my head on straight as I keep on climbing.

Not Very Effective: Time for Premier Cup

It’s been a hot minute since I updated the world on my trials in PokemonGo Battle League. Participating in Open Ultra League was interesting. After settling into Gengar-Gyarados-Lapras, I had a fairly steady climb. After my last post where my ELO stood at 2248, here is how things went leading up to the switch to Ultra Premier Cup (these represent my end of day ELO rating):

  • 2318
  • 2302
  • 2290
  • 2417
  • 2431
  • 2431
  • 2474

That 2474 came on last Saturday. I took off Sunday, confident that Veteran rank was in reach. I did one set of Open Ultra on Monday where I went 1-4 and dropped to 2432. I was not worried as I knew I had a good line for the Premier Cup and waited for the roll over before getting in a few more sets.

My line starting Premier Cup was Sirfetch’d in the lead (Counter-Leaf Blade/Brave Bird), Alolan Muk on the swap (Poison Jab – Dark Pulse/Acid Spray) and Lapras in the back (Ice Shard – Ice Beam/Surf). This was the team I had settled on last Premier Cup and carried my final few sets in a positive direction.

After going 3-2 in my first set to boost my rating back 2447 I went 2-8 across my next two sets with this team and ended Monday at 2363. My confidence in the lineup wavered and I tried to figure out where I was losing.

Some of it was me being out of practice. There was one match I lost where I had a Brave Bird loaded against a Venusaur with one shield. Connecting with Brave Bird would win me the match. Instead I tried to bait with Leaf Blade and they didn’t shield. This was a mistake as I should have realized Brave Bird was my best win condition. I had a Lapras left that they did not know about. The Lapras could have chunked down Venusaur and maybe I would have been able to get off another Brave Bird in the end.

That being said I was seeing a number of backlines that were giving me trouble. Abomasnow, Empoleon, and Venusaur in the back gave me fits. Once I get more reps in this time around in Ultra Premier, these are the kind of lines I can reliably predict and then line up my Sirfetch’d line correctly. This early in a cup’s life, however, I am still sussing out what people are running and have not built up enough pattern recognition to figure out proper alignment.

After two match losses Tuesday morning, I switched to my other old reliable Ultra Premier line. This one sees Roserade (Bullet Seed – Weather Ball-Fire/Leaf Storm) in the lead with Gallade on the switch (Confusion – Leaf Blade/Close Combat) and Magnezone (Spark – Mirror Shot/Wild Charge) in the back. The idea behind this comp is that Roserade can put on a ton pressure early with its quick charging moves. It also can chew up leads like Venusaur and Empoleon while holding its own against anything that isn’t Flying or Fire type. Gallade is a solid swap and Confusion can chunk down a ton. Magnezone is there as a way to handle problematic flyers and deal with Dragon types while also putting in work against Abomasnow.

After going 0-2 with my original line I managed a 2-0-1 to round out my first set of Tuesday (2362). I then rattled off three straight 3-2 sets to boost me up to 2404. I should have put down my phone and called it a day. I had a positive run and was getting the hang of my team again as I am pretty sure I left at least three wins on the table from being out of practice.

Reader, you can see where this is going.

My last set was a 1-4 affair that plummeted me to 2360. Here there were at least two games I could have conceivably won if I had played correctly. I think I was too distracted and too eager to get my sets in. I saw the chance to make more progress towards my season goal (hitting Veteran and ending above a 2500 ELO) and instead got jumpy.

So tomorrow I’m going to try something different. I’m going to take my time and if I can end up going positive after two sets, I might do one more. If I’m negative, there’s a good chance I’ll let it lie for a day until I can get my head right again. There are a few more weeks to go and I know I can hit my target.

I just can’t get in my own way.

August 7-8 Pauper Weekend in Review

We have entered the second four week chunk of the Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms season. This is normally a time to take stock and see where the format is trending. The August 7 and August 8 Challenges gave us an insight into which way the wind is blowing. Spoiler alert: Not much has changed.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. 64% of the Top 32 ran one of the big three decks. They took down over 83% of all wins above an X-3 record. These decks took down 11 out of 16 Top 8 slots.

I really don’t have much else to say at this point. Dimir Faeries was the best deck on the weekend and Squirrel Storm continues to exert its unique pressure. Even when Dust to Dust is the most commonly played card in the format, Affinity put up pretty good numbers overall.

So what can you do if you do not want to play one of these? I’m not entirely sure. I would want to start on running red removal for cards like Electrostatic Bolt and Flame Slash, but you will also need a way to handle Gurmag Angler – Unholy Heat springs to mind. Similarly you will need a way to handle an army of Squirrels as early as turn two. Is it time for Simian Spirit Guide in order to high roll a turn two Fiery Cannonade? I’m not saying no…

July 31-August 1 Pauper Weekend in Review

Let’s get on with it. After the July 31 and August 1 Pauper Challenge, the first four weeks of Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms season looks like this:

This chart includes all archetypes to clear the 2% volume threshold (approximately 5 appearances)

It’s hard to separate this chart from the problems currently facing the format. Storm, Dimir, and Affinity represent a nigh-unassailable Big 3. Storm has 31.25% of all Top 8s while just over 21% of Top 32 volume. Dimir Delver/Faeries combine for 23.44% of all Top 8s with just over 18% of Top 32 Volume. Affinity is the most popular deck but has just under 22% of all Top 8s despite making up almost 27% of the Top 32 volume. Combined these decks account for around 66% of the Top 32 metagame.

How do they stack up against the rest of the field?

Weighted Volume takes each deck in the Top 32 Swiss result and compares it to an X-3 record. For each Swiss win above X-3 a deck gets 1 point. Totally the number of Top 32 wins above X-3, that gives us a pool and then we can use this number to see how decks are doing relative to each other. These three decks combined are occupying over 77% of that Winner’s Metagame.

I am not going to rehash potential solutions to the problems here (hint hint: cards need to banned). What I do want to propose is a way to try and prevent this from happening again. And with that I’m going to make a plea to the fine folks who make Magic:

Don’t stop making high impact cards for Pauper, however please do not be afraid of banning cards on Day Zero. Twice in the past calendar year cards have been released into the format that, before their release, people inside and outside the building saw as problematic (Fall from Favor and Chatterstorm). In both instances, these people were correct. Pauper is relatively small compared to the target format for both of these cards (Limited game play) and banning them before they saw any play would do very little to hurt their intended utility.

And since I know that Day Zero bans are not likely to happen (and would set a dangerous precedent if they did come to pass), please consider expedited bans if fears bear fruit.

What You Shouldn’t Do in GBL

If you’re the kind of person to go looking for Go Battle League advice on the internet, there’s going to be a few people who tell you to stick with a team. It’s a logical conclusion as good team comps should have play against a wide swath of the metagame. You’re also likely to find people telling you to avoid playing while tilted. That is to say play when your mind is clear and you’re not in the midst of a losing streak; when you can focus on the battles themselves.

As someone who plays the game from a disadvantage (one of my own making as I am not level 40 and have not dedicated myself to finding a full suite of GBL staples), I find these statements to ring a little hollow. While I may be able to come up with solid team comps, there is something to be said for when the meta shifts with your ELO and suddenly your team is no longer finding the right matchups to succeed. For me, especially after coming off a series of good sets, this can lead to tilt.

After closing out Wednesday at 2205 I felt good. Thursday things went a bit sideways. I had two sets where I had two wins, two losses, and a draw and five wins across the other three sets. This dropped me to 2133. I figured that the Sirfetch’d-Lapras’-AMuk team was still a solid choice given that those two draws came down to lag and just mistiming moves. I resolved to have a better day on Friday.

Friday started worse. I dropped to 2119 in my first set before bouncing back to 2134 in my second. Then in my third I just ran into awkward leads and I started to panic. I finished at 2118 and put the game down. I tried to figure out a way forward given what I was seeing. For whatever reason I was running into more and more XL Talonflame – something my team had trouble handling. While Lapras had a solid matchup I could not line up my squad such that Lapras could square off against the fire bird.

I made a chart of the backlines I was running up against and noticed a trend of Fire/Flying types and Steel or Fire/Flying and Fairy. I was also running into a fair share of Ghosts and Fighters/Counter users in the front. Finally I saw a smattering of Venusaur and Swampert as well, and more than one Cresselia and Umbreon.

Armed with this I went back to something I often use when trying to climb out of a ditch – an ABB line. I am not a huge fan of these all the time but they can give me a feeling of agency over my battles in a way that forces me to focus. Given what I was seeing I figured that a double Water backline, while risky given Venusaur and Melmetal, gave me a good chance against everything else I was seeing.

I put Gengar (Shadow Claw-Shadow Punch/Shadow Ball) in the lead with Gyarados (Dragon Breath-Aqua Tail/Crunch) on the switch. Lapras (Ice Shard-Surf/Ice Beam) remains my closer of choice this season. In the seven sets since I switched to this team I rose from 2118 to 2248 (5-0, 3-2, 4-1, 2-3, 3-2, 1-4, 4-1).

The team works like many ABB lines where you will swap into Gyarados to draw out whatever is best against a Water type only to close things out with Lapras. But make no mistake – this team is carried by Gengar. Gengar can put a ton of pressure on opponents early thanks to its raw damage output and games often hinge on proper use of Gengar.

If I have an advantageous lead I’ll stay in and against a bad lead I will instantly swap. Against middling leads, however, is where I go dancing. I will often build up to a Shadow Ball and launch a Shadow Punch, then swap immediately into Gyarados. This move is most effective against both Talonflame and Empoleon leads as I can soak their move and then farm down with Dragon Breath or build up to a decent energy reserve. I then have residual energy on Gengar that I can use to pressure whatever comes in the back. It also allows me to preserve shields for Gengar which is vital in the mid and late game.

The thing that scares me most with this team is Venusaur because of course it does. Now Venusaur is not unbeatable thanks to Gengar and even Lapras has some game if you have a shield or energy advantage. Still, the best place to see Venusaur is in the lead where you can position your Gengar and Lapras ideally to farm it.

How long will I stick with this team? As long as I can. I’m under no illusions that too many teams involving Venusaur and Melmetal can end my gains. I also am going to have to watch for when the tides shift and I start seeing more Obstagoon in the front. For now though I’m going to keep trying to claw my way up the ladder.

The Search for a Shorter Title: GBL Open Ultra Day 2

Technically today was a success in that I gained ELO – up from 2193 to 2205. Such a small gain tells its own story. Let’s start with my first set where I ran the same squad as yesterday.

Note: I won’t list every battle, instead only focusing on those that proved interesting.

I went 1-4 in my first set which dropped be down to 2148. Some of these losses were bad matchups and one definitely was an overtap loss. The worst, however, was one where I did not burn a shield. I lost to Articuno lead with Swampert and Registeel in the back. On pure matchups I should have had a fair shot at a win. Not knowing my move counts against Articuno cost me as I let a Hurricane hit my Typhlosion and that was the deal breaker. If I had that health I likely would have been able to close it out but instead I ended up in the hole to start the day.

Given the last three sets I had with the Typhlosion team (1-4, 3-2, 1-4) I was already feeling as if the meta at my current ELO was hostile to my squad. I figured that an Incinerate fast move on Typhlosion would help some but I am not a fan of such slow animations on my lead. Instead I looked at the common leads I had faced over those sets and saw a decent number of Steel types and a lot of Obstagoon. A quick trip to PVPoke gave me the lead I needed: Escavalier (Counter – Drill Run/Megahorn). Escavalier is a ‘Mon I’ve used before and felt comfortable putting them in the front. I saw that my same Lapras (Ice Shard – Surf/Ice Beam) would be a solid cover. But that left me with the need for a safe swap. I knew I wanted something that could help against Machamp and Giratina – two opponents I had seen often – without being a dog to Steel types.

I settled on Flygon (Dragon Tail – Earth Power/Dragon Claw). Flygon may not have been the best choice but I have been interested in trying them out since the Dragon Tail rework and I figured that if it didn’t work I had this blog to keep me honest about that.

In my next 4 sets I went 3-2 every time for a total record of 12-8, and I definitely left two wins on the table. Here are some of my more interesting battles:

  • Clefable – Lapras – Registeel (Loss): This was in my first set with the team and going into the endgame I knew I wanted to bring in a full health Flygon to go against Registeel. But for some reason when my switch timer came up I went for Escavalier, which was low on health, and ended up losing the match.
  • Shadow Snorlax – Sirfetch’d – Abomasnow (Win): I thought I was toast. The match came down to Lapras against Abomasnow when I had one shield left. I had to shield an Energy Ball and I was sure my opponent was going to build up to a second Energy Ball and end my day. Instead they threw a Weather Ball and ditched, allowing me to farm down their Sirfetch’d to build up to an Ice Beam and snatch victory.
  • Machamp – Venusaur – Giratina (Win): I was down to a low health Escavalier and an unseen Lapras and figured that I was going to get farmed down by Machamp. Instead I blind swapped into Lapras and they did the same into Giratina. That gave me an opening to farm their dragon down and go on to win.
  • Gardevoir – Scizor – Empoleon (Win): My last battle of the day, I was able to win because my opponent got greedy. They over charged Empoleon in farming down my Flygon and I brought in a full health Lapras. They kept farming down, throwing one Drill Peck. I kept chugging along, building up to Surf when they swapped into Scizor. Scizor was at a pretty low HP count and I was able to farm it down enough, soaking Night Slashes, to the point where they brought in Empoleon again I could connect with one Surf for the win.

I am very likely to run this team back tomorrow. While I’m not seeing nearly as many Obstagoon leads (only two in the four sets), I saw enough Fairy and Steel types that Escavalier makes sense in the front.

Holding Myself Accountable in GO Battle League: Open Ultra Day 1

So this is something new for me – writing about Pokemon GO Battle League. I’m not going to go into too many details of the mechanics of battle in this piece (for my more Magic focused readers, I’m happy to answer questions and I’ll write something in this space soon), but instead I’m going to go forward with the understanding that if you’re reading this you have a general understanding of GO Battle League mechanics (or you really like me).

I haven’t played Open Ultra league since they started offering Premier Cup. I felt like I could not compete given that I lack many Legendary and Mythical options. However when looking at the Remix Cup meta on PVPoke I had a feeling of dread – as a level 39 battler I was cut off from XL Mons and as such would be at a significant disadvantage. So I looked at my options and Open Ultra and decided to make my push in that field despite lacking some top tier options.

I ran two sets yesterday (July 26) with Lapras (Ice Shard – Ice Beam/Surf) lead, Sirfetch’d (Counter – Leaf Blade/Brave Bird) closer and Gengar (Shadow Claw – Shadow Punch/Sludgebomb) on the switch. I scored a 4-1 my first set and was riding high until my second set where I tanked and went 1-4. I ended the day with an ELO of 2155 (way off my season high of 2406) and took a look at what I faced to try and game plan for the next day.

I saw a ton of Steel-Fairy duos which wrecked the team I had set. I also noticed a fair amount of Giratina and Cresselia. Given what options I had at my disposal I settled on a Typhlosion lead (Shadow Claw – Blast Burn/Solar Beam) with Obstagoon (Counter – Night Slash/Hyper Beam) and Gyarados (Dragon Breath – Aqua Tail/Crunch) in the back.

Today I woke up and used a few minutes before the rest of my family stirred to do some battles with that team. I went 2-3 (ended on 2132) when I realized my backline might have been decent against Giratina but was pretty awkward against other Dragons and Fairy types. I went back into the tank and settled on Alolan Muk (Snarl – Dark Pulse/Gunk Shot) on the switch with the same Lapras as the closer.

My logic was this: Typhlosion with Shadow Claw could handle a lot of leads while storing energy and A-Muk is just a solid safe swap, with both giving me some game against Giratina and Fairy types. Lapras would give me some solid Fire coverage back up Dragon coverage. Surf was not the worst against opposing Steels and Swamperts either.

Here is how my sets broke down:

  1. 4-1 (2181)
    1. Abomasnow-Charizard-Machamp – Loss. I could have won this one except I forgot I had Acid Spray on Muk. If I had a decent Poison move I win.
    2. Blaziken-Alolan Muk-Cresselia – Win. I stayed in for the lead and matched them. I timed a switch to preserve my Muk against theirs and managed to Dark Pulse down their Cresselia.
    3. Gallade-Giratina-Clefable – Win.
    4. Venusaur-Alolan Muk-Empoleon – Win.
    5. Swampert-Alolan Muk-Giratina – Win. I swapped immediately and managed to win without really using Typhlosion.
  2. 4-1 (2223)
    1. Sirfetch’d-Articuno-Kingdra – Loss. I didn’t realize how much damage Leaf Blade would do to Typhlosion and it cost me.
    2. Obstagoon-Venusaur-Cresselia – Win.
    3. Scizor-Giratina-Obstagoon – Win.
    4. Cresselia-Giratina-X – Win. When they swapped into Giratina and I counter swapped, they conceded.
    5. Cresselia-Togekiss-Abomasnow – Win.
  3. 1-4 (2179)
    1. Machamp-Togekiss-Venusaur – Loss. I overtapped a Shadow Claw at the end. If I did not misclick I think I might have been able to win.
    2. Obstagoon-Talonflame-Cresselia – Loss.
    3. Poliwrath-Swampert-Alolan Muk – Loss.
    4. Lapras-Clefable-Giratina – Win.
    5. Escavalier-Swampert-Empoleon – Loss.
  4. 3-2 (2193)
    1. Obstagoon-Umbreon-Talonflame – Win. This was a tough one that I managed to steal by storing energy on Typhlosion and getting off three Blast Burns on Umbreon.
    2. Charizard-Giratina-Togekiss – Win.
    3. Empoleon-Alolan Muk-Gengar – Loss. When Gengar came out I conceded as I was too far behind.
    4. Alolan Muk-Swampert-Venusaur – Loss. The Venusaur came at the worst spot for me as I did not have enough time to get off two Ice Beams from Lapras.
    5. Dragonite-Charizard-Scizor – Win. I swapped immediately into Alolan Muk and overcharged. This let me get off enough Dark Pulses to bring down their Dragonite and line up Lapras with Charizard and Typhlosion with Scizor.

Overall: +38 ELO.

I was happy with the team but seriously considered switching it up after the fourth set. I was not set up to lock down Counter users/Fighters in the lead, as my swap would line up poorly with theirs. After the last set I feel decent about starting tomorrow’s with this line up but have potential Charizard, Blaziken, and Gyarados led teams ready in case things do not line up in my favor. That being said I think one of my losses in set 3 (Escavalier lead) is winnable if I time my moves better and don’t fall for shield baits.

July 24-26 Pauper Weekend in Review

Another Monday and no changes to the banned list. I’m tired folks. After three weeks of Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms season here’s every deck with at least 2% of the Top 32 volume:

Affinity and Storm each hold 35% of all Top 8 slots this season and 5/6 wins between them. They are just under 50% of the metagame by volume and hold nearly 58% of the winner’s metagame share. Dimir Delver/Faeries and Delver are putting up respectable numbers but the long and short of it is that the metagame is adapting to the new normal and Pauper is shifting towards a three deck format (Affinity, Storm, Counterspell).

Maybe it was always this way. Maybe the format was always this unplayable garbage. I’d like to believe otherwise but honestly, I’m just tired.

July 17-18 Pauper Weekend in Review

I do not want to spend many words on the July 17 and July 18 Pauper Challenges. It isn’t that the results aren’t worth discussing but rather that all that can be said about the current metagame has been said multiple times: Affinity and Storm are miles better than almost everything else in the Challenges and until we see some bans, the metagame is going to remain stagnant.

After four Challenges, this is every deck to make at least 3 appearances in the Top 32 – a 2% volume threshold. It is clear that the metagame is heavily skewed towards the top. This wouldn’t be as large an issue if not for the fact that the metagame today looks remarkably similar to all of Modern Horizons 2 season – the same two decks at the top while Dimir strives to be relevant.

One thing I have done a poor job of discussing is what my ideal Pauper looks like. I tend to get lost in the numbers talking about what is dominant in the field and looking for edges or ruminating on format health. Today, instead of trudging through a well worn path, I want to talk about my vision for Pauper as a metagame and maybe more – as a format.

Pauper is a non-rotating format. Unlike other non-rotating formats it is rarity gated – that is only cards printed at common are legal. Because of the way set design works (and the nature of Magic itself) powerful effects – the same kind that tend to impact formats like Vintage, Legacy, and Modern – are printed at higher rarities. As a result it is harder to “shake up” Pauper with these releases as the cards entering the format are, inherently, of a lower power level.

This has changed somewhat in recent years. As Pauper has become more popular we have seen a slow uptick in the number of commons in non-Masters style sets that see play in the format. These cards rarely make huge waves but as we saw with First Day of Class that is not always the case. Part of the issue with new cards entering the format is that at common we already have many of the best iterations of effects – a better version of Lightning Bolt or Counterspell isn’t walking through the door. More than many other factors this prevents new cards from making waves in Pauper.

The lack of churn can lead to stagnating formats. If the majority of releases do not have a major impact then the competitive games are going to feature the same decks, cards, and strategies over and over. This in it of itself is not bad if there is a balance between the decks. When there are several viable decks – such as during Strixhaven season – then the fact that there may have been a best deck or two mattered less since each deck had reasonable counterplay in the meta and there were several strategies that could succeed given the correct metagame.

That metagame was a direct result of Commander Legends and the addition of Cascade threats to Pauper. Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Part provided counterplay to both Flicker Tron and Monarch endgames. That in turn made it so that these strategies were regressed a bit, allowing other strategies to emerge given proper metagaming. Compare that to the current state of affairs where it does not matter what deck emerges since it is going to get run over by Storm or Affinity.

My ideal Pauper metagame is one that is dynamic. There can be a best deck or a clear top tier but given the trends in the metagame a player can make the right call and be rewarded. The worst metagames, in my opinion, are ones where this choice is removed.

I understand some people like the current metagame. They like trying to get an edge with specific cards in the established decks. I like that too but I feel that when you’re dealing with a small set of potential options some of that fun is removed from the equation.

To be clear, if Storm and Affinity both had clear counterplay that could limit the efficacy of these strategies week over week, I would be fine with them existing.

But Alex, someone out there is surely saying, this is why Pauper needs more powerful downshifts.

The danger of relying on downshifts to solve the problems is that they are almost always answers as opposed to threats. For these cards to be printed at common there has to be an incredibly specific limited environment that calls for them at that rarity and, like it or not, Pauper has to come after Limited in design considerations. A card like Dryad Militant or Skullcrack would need pretty messed up Limited formats to be viable commons (and yet these are two of the more often mentioned options for downshifts).

I want Pauper to thrive and grow. I want there to be a huge swath of viable decks that, given a reasonable set of circumstances, could do well. I would love to see decks like Tortured Existence and Mono Black Control spike a victory or a Top 8 even if they come less frequently than Delver and Tron.

I know that, as I publish this, we may be less than 24 hours from a ban. I also know that at some point in the not too distant future, perhaps in as soon as two years, we may have a similar problem arise from the next Masters level product. My hope is by then we have a clearer idea of what Wizards wants Pauper to be and then we, as a community, can at least judge the new cards by that metric.