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Option Two


Peregrine Drake

Peregrine Drake was not banned.

I’m just as shocked as you are.

Despite the evidence that seemed to indicate that Peregrine Drake would go the way of Cloud of Faeries, Pauper will continue to have a defining combo deck until at least January. Since there was no ban there was no associated article explaining the decision.

I’m a tad flummoxed as to why the card remains legal. While Peregrine Drake combo does have a significant number of answers the cycle of Drake, Ghostly Flicker, and Archaeomancer has dominated the format for months. Since the release of Eternal Masters decks featuring the combo occupy over 25% of all 5-0 finishes. The strategy has also pushed format stalwarts — Mono-Black Control and Jeskai Midrange —to the fringe. Pauper has gotten faster as a format, despite the fact that it seems to revolve around a 5-drop.

The question remains, then, why would Peregrine Drake be allowed to remain legal. I have some ideas.

First is that Wizards believes that Peregrine Drake is good for Pauper. While hardly a plurality of the format in the past, midrange strategies were popular and put up respectable numbers when broken elements (such as Treasure Cruise) were removed. The ban of Cloud of Faeries was a boon to these decks as it gave them greater freedom to act on turn two in the face of Delver and Spellstutter Sprite. The introduction of Peregrine Drake combo meant that there was less time to for these decks to develop their position. It could be that the powers that be wanted to see a change.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Pushing midrange strategies to be more proactive is hardly a bad thing. These decks have relied on tricks with Glint Hawk and committing resources for Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Now any deck that resides in the middle of the road has to be a bit faster. Where in the past it would not be uncommon to see cards that cost four or more mana, now I feel that spending more than 3 mana on a card will be wrong more often than not. More expensive spells may be worth it — Mulldrifter is a card, after all — but they have to be game changing.

Wizards may also believe that Peregrine Drake has enough answers in the format. Relic of Progenitus and Nihil Spellbomb see heavy play while Bojuka Bog is almost ubiquitous in decks that need Black mana. Every deck can access Faerie Macabre but that card only delays the combo and does little to stop the torrent of card advantage from Mulldrifter.

That is to say nothing of the removal present in Pauper. Lightning Bolt is the gold standard while Terminate is just gold. Various other cheap kill spells exist and it could be that Wizards believes that there are enough to keep Peregrine Drake in check when combined with other elements present in the format.

Pauper has not had a metagame shake up in quite some time. The continued presence of Peregrine Drake means that decks will have to adjust. There is a feeling that some players were riding out the presence of Drake, hoping that the ban would revert the format to a prior state.

But there is only moving forward.

If Wizards believes Drake is good for the format then it is on Pauper to adapt. As I said previously expensive spells get worse. Sorcery speed removal also plummets in value as you need to be able to take out creatures on your opponent’s turn. Ghastly Demise and Vendetta go up in value while Chainer's Edict takes a hit.

The funny thing about this is that once Chainer's Edict is bad it is almost immediately good again. Decks like Hexproof and Izzet Blitz thrive when non-targeted removal is absent. Running Chainer's Edict and Geth's Verdict in the sideboard may be correct from here on out. For those of you looking to flash things back it might be time to explore Strangling Soot. It may not help against Hexproof but it is a two-for-one.

Strangling Soot
The above deck is an adaptation of a B/R deck that went 5-0 last week. Scottish National Champion Stephen Murray did some work with the list and I took it a little further. Strangling Soot helps to keep the board clear and Chainer's Edict helps on mop up duty. Warren Pilferers might be a bit expensive but a single copy provides a late game option to increase threat density. Night's Whisper is a powerful card but it needs to be paired with early removal to protect a life total and the combination of Firebolt, Lightning Bolt, and Duress help accomplish that end. Finally, Addle is a strong option that gives two color decks access to a powerful disruptive effect. I won’t lie — it’s also fun to play the guessing game and get it right.

My next thoughts on the continued presence of Peregrine Drake is that it is being used to promote Pauper. I know that this idea is the one that requires a significantly sized tin foil hat but hear me out. In the days following the non-ban there were more people uninvolved in Pauper talking about the format than ever before. It is quite possible that players who had never even considered the format started to investigate it after hearing prominent personalities discuss the lack of the ban.

Having a powerful endgame and do things outside the normal range of the rules of Magic is appealing. The decks do this all while not being as obviously oppressive as Mirrodin-era Standard Affinity and the combination of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic.

Treasure Cruise
Pauper represents a break from the regular cycle of Magic Online. Standard, Modern, Draft, and Cube — these are all known quantities. Pauper, while established, represents a break from what can otherwise be a somewhat monotonous grind. In this way exposing more people to the format in a roundabout way can only serve to improve participation. If a ban happens in the future then it is likely this players could stick around to try their hand at the new landscape.

Okay, taking off my tinfoil crown now, I have one final thought on why there was no ban. It could be that Wizards has taken the stance that Pauper only needs a ban once per year. Treasure Cruise was banned in March of 2015 and Cloud of Faeries got the axe in January of 2016. While there is a nine month gap (same between Cloud of Faeries and last week), they each take place in a different year on the calendar.

A pattern like this gives Pauper some amount of stability. Knowing that the metagame will only receive a significant shake up once per year allows those who want to play with something above the curve a decent length of time to do so. It also gives people who are tired of losing to the combo and discrete terminus.

Peregrine Drake is here for the time being. Kaladesh is coming to Magic Online this week. It is a time to iterate on old decks and innovate the new ones. I’m not quite sure where I could start but I know I want to run cheap removal that exiles. I’m not sure I can pull the trigger on running Last Breath but it might be the card that can make Plains relevant again. It may be time to further explore the cards from Battle for Zendikar that exile. Spell Shrivel and Complete Disregard — maybe it is your time to shine.

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