While Grixis Affinity remains the most popular deck, as mentioned last week the raw volume of Spellstutter Sprite/Ninja of the Deep Hours decks approaches a similar metagame share. But we are starting to see more obvious ill effects of the current state of things. Take, for example, this Top 8 Boros Bully list by The_nayr from Sunday:
Four copies of Dust to Dust main is a metagame call to be sure but it is far from a bad one. Bully already has the tools to throw away dead cards in Faithless Looting, and was the deck that ran maindeck copies of Red Elemental Blast during Fall from Favor’s hey-day. We had already seen decks shift to maindeck copies of Abrade to fight Bonder’s Ornament, this is just a logical extension of that point, albeit with a far more narrow card.
Is this indicative of a problem? Maybe, considering that running Dust to Dust main isn’t even a guaranteed win against Affinity. If decks feel priced into running the card, even if it doesn’t get the job done, then I would say there’s something to be concerned about.
But even then, that does not begin to address all the potential issues present in Pauper at the moment. The fact remains that Spellstutter Sprite decks remain a force in the metagame, one that is much harder to “hate out” with sideboard options. Instead these decks traditionally where help in check by the presence of Stompy.
Stompy has been popping up again after a decent vacation from the metagame. The deck is capable of presenting numerous threats in short order, and can run an offense that often side-steps Faeries (River Boa, for example). Stompy does have an uphill climb considering the popularity of both Pestilence as a strategy and Fiery Cannonade as a card, and that’s completely ignoring the fact that Affinity can often win before Stompy has a chance. All that being said, if Affinity was returned to a previous power level then perhaps Stompy could emerge as a more natural limit on Faeries power.
This returns to the argument I made before the most recent bans: the Modern Horizons 2 artifact lands are a problem. They remove one of Affinity’s key vulnerabilities and are having a warping effect. The strength of Affinity also means that decks that could normally help to constrain the other dominant strategy are relegated to a lower tier of competitive viability. In the long run, I believe these lands will have to go for the sake of Pauper.