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2018: The Year of Commons


At the end of 2017, the Professor from Tolarian Community College posted a tweet stating how awesome it would be if there was a Pauper Grand Prix or SCG Open event. What followed was a massive outpouring of support for the format on all fronts. ChannelFireball immediately asked what would be the preferred city for a Pauper GP while SCG's Cedric Phillips tweeted out a poll to gauge interest levels in Pauper events. What followed could only be described as arguably the best year Pauper has ever had.

Paper Events At Last

Within only a few weeks of the Professor's original tweet, ChannelFireball announced Pauper side events for the first couple Grand Prixs of the year with the Professor touring them. The attendance was almost overwhelming with hundreds of players showing up to sling commons left and right. London had arguably the biggest, with over 300 players showing up, cheering the success of the format.

Soon afterward SCG announced a Pauper Classic event at their new SCG Con event set for June. This would be arguably the first major full event for Pauper in paper, not including Card Kingdom's Rags to Riches events. Those don't follow the Standard MTGO-based legality but rather a unified list combining paper and online, so many people saw this as different. Not long after, ChannelFireball not only made Pauper side events a permanent GP fixture, but events that could be played throughout the entire weekend.

In the months that followed, both would copy each other in a way. CFB Events announced that with GP Las Vegas, they would hold a Pauper Championship, a special event with its own trophy for the winner. They would go on to hold more of these events throughout the year. In addition, like CFB Events, SCG added Pauper to everyday side events at each of their opens.

Each of these events came with thunderous approval. I myself won the SCG Con Classic event and had a fantastic time. We had over 120 players, more than the Standard and Legacy Classics also held that weekend. The Championships that were held also went over amazingly well, with numerous players showing up to sling some commons. I went to the Championship in Richmond, losing in the finals to fellow format grinder and friend Jherjames Bisconde. The turnout in the smaller side events has gone down quite a bit from the initial flood of support, but it's still going stronger than ever before.

A New Wave of Content

It's been wonderful watching Pauper grow so much as a format in only a year's time, but that only scratches the surface of what the format has had to offer this year. With the initial hype came innumerable players putting out content for the format. Sites like SCG, ChannelFireball, and our own CoolStuffInc.com (at the time as GatheringMagic) began releasing tons of content. Popular streamers like NumotTheNummy and Gaby Spartz even did a few streams taking different decks for a spin.

A lot of fresh faces showed up and joined the content creation scene, or else pushed their content to brand new levels. Plenty of players began posting videos to YouTube about the format. The Professor himself began putting out tons of new videos with the fresh boom he and others brought to the table, offering deck techs and overviews of new sets. Mathonical, a well loved grinder who frequently does well at larger events with his own takes on various archetypes, began to put up replays of various Magic Online Challenges and Leagues.

Some players did this with their streams. Long time Pauper channel PAUPERGANDA continued to bring to the table lots of off the wall decks in an attempt to beat the metagame of the day. One of his brews even became a major new archetype: Boros Bully. A fresh take on the long standing Boros archetypes, it strikes a solid middle ground between the Kuldotha Boros builds of old and the Monarch builds that have stood at the top of the meta for months. While that deck is quickly become his most recent claim to fame, he's known for bringing together a lot of wildly creative lists sure to appeal to anyone.

Speaking of wild brews, another amazing content creator appeared in late 2017 and really came into his own in 2018: Jeff, aka AnyNewProvince. This Canadian produces some of the most wholesome and enjoyable content across any format and while he's not the best gameplay-wise, he both never claims to be and is a joy to watch in spite of that. He streams brews he and his community build to see if they're up to snuff at taking on the format or not and other times takes decks performing well in leagues and challenges to see how they do. When he finishes, he then uploads the replays to his YouTube channel. He's quite possibly my favorite Pauper content creator to date and well worth checking out.

Some many more competitive players have joined the streaming game as well. Birbman263 is an accomplished Tron player who has been jamming a bunch of different decks of late. PascalGMTG, despite streaming infrequently, has performed well with multiple different decks, and not just in Pauper. Lastly is newcomer Nasty, who has been one of the top recent performers, bringing the Angler/Dimir Delver archetype to the forefront of the metagame. All three of these players have won challenges and consistently put up top results in leagues. If you want to up your game, these are absolutely three of the top players to watch.

Not everyone brought content to players via video content though. Longtime Pauper writer Alex Ullman joined ChannelFireball where he writes about different decks and aspects of the metagame. While he produces articles there, he also posts breakdowns of Magic Online Challenge metagames on the side, going into depth about the numbers and what they represent. While he used to post these to his Facebook page, he has started covering posting on his Blogspot page as of late. With so few people putting out written pieces on the format, it's always great to see others, especially longtime players, continuing to do so today.

Finally there's been some cool podcasts showing up. The biggest is easily the duo of Mike and Adrian over at Color Commontary, who have recently joined the Hipsters of the Coast team, bringing more Pauper content to the forefront. Common Knowledge also has spent a lot of time this year putting out fantastic content with excellent insights about the format.

Lastly, I'd be making a huge mistake by not mentioning the plethora of incredible people in the Brazilian and Italian scene raising the format up. While I'm not as directly familiar with specific content creators, these two countries are frequent champions of the format. As such there's tons of non-English content to be found out there, some even by top players in the Magic Online scene.

Living In A Brewer's Paradise

While there's been no shortage of fantastic fresh content throughout 2018, the true spice came to us in a swath of new decks and old classics revitalized. We were already starting strong coming off 2017 with Iconic Masters bringing in some new great cards. Lead The Stampede was making big waves in Elves and being tested in Slivers. Others weren't making quite the leap. People kept looking at Seeker of the Way in an attempt to make it into the format defining card it appeared to be when first spoiled.

In the beginning of 2018, however, players in one of the primary Pauper Discord servers began collaborating on a deck using Seeker and another new downshift Emerge Unscathed. This deck eventually became Mono-White Heroic, a deck many had been attempting to make work but never seemed to be able to quite get there - until now.

The deck focuses on suiting up creatures with the Heroic keyword and slamming them at your opponent, with a few tricks along the way. Simple, efficient, and great to pick up and play, it was a worthy addition to the Pauper metagame.

As I mentioned in my article last week, Orzhov Pestilence made a fresh showing throughout the year. While the combo of Pestilence and Guardian of the Guildpact is nothing new, it found new life against the current meta with some fresh cards. Another archetype that got a facelift was Familiars, thanks largely to grinder and content creator 420dragon. While there's far too many versions to drop in a single list, he managed to bring the format's old boogie man back into the meta starting off with the printing of Prosperous Pirates in Ixalan in 2017. With endless ways to build it, it's safe to say we've only scratched the surface of these decks and there's going to be new tech showing up in the near future.

Next there were a couple new Tron builds popping up. Versions like Dinrova Tron, Murasa Tron, and Temur Tron made their usual appearances, but others had new ways to go about it. Some went all in on the fogging aspect of some builds and doubled down with the likes of Stonehorn Dignitary, stopping opponents cold until they could wipe the board and go in for the kill. Frequent brewer and grinder Mlovbo had other ideas, however, making an entirely new Azorius build, also known as Rhystic Tron, offering new ways to control board states and take down opponents.

Lastly, the Discord brewers went at it again, this time working on the old Angler Delver deck. They took the old version, which focused more heavily on filling the graveyard, and retooled it to be closer to a proper Legacy deck. They even modeled it specifically after Dimir Death's Shadow, apparent by the use of cards like Snuff Out which have seen play in that archetype throughout the year. The deck has already made tremendous waves, becoming arguably the best deck in the format. If you want to know more about the intricacies of the deck, be sure to check out my article from earlier in December as well as Nasty's stream as he's arguably the top player of the archetype currently.

New Competition, Downshifts, and the Future

Last but not least, the final months of 2018 brought some major exciting changes. Firstly, Wizards announced Competitive Leagues were coming to Magic Online. These haven't entirely been as successful as many hoped to date, but that's not entirely surprising. After all, Arena came out this year to thunderous applause from players in a time when Standard was both thriving and its best in years. Couple that with it being close to the holidays and it's easy to see why numbers have been somewhat low.

Despite all of that, the recent addition of Format Points have now opened a pathway to a Mythic Championship (formerly Pro Tour). Many already play Modern and Legacy and will be focusing there to earn FPs for those formats specifically, but it's not a stretch to imagine plenty more will be playing to have even more opportunities to enter that most coveted of events. Want to know more about how that works and what to expect? Check out the piece I wrote on it when these were announced!

Finally Ultimate Masters was both announced and released and with it came a number of spicy downshifts. While many have yet to see play, people are hard at work trying them out. Players everywhere have been brewing with Tethmos High Priest most of all in an attempt to break it. An infinite combo using Crown of Flames and Tinder Wall has already been discovered, but the combo is highly inconsistent and isn't quite there just yet.

What has been seeing play though is Fire // Ice, making on and off appearances in various decks from Tron to Blitz, and more majorly: Foil. When Foil was first spoiled, the community was heavily divided. Many players thought the trade-off of having to 3-for-1 yourself wasn't worth it and wouldn't see much play. Others saw it differently, noting especially the interaction with the card Gush, as you could play it for its alternate cost and discard one of the Islands you drew and the next worst card in your hand to counter something an opponent is trying to kill you with.

What's happened since is that the interaction found a home in Angler Delver and has been absolutely tearing up the format since. With bigger haymakers, more effective removal, and an arguably better counter package than any other Delver list previously, the deck has completely taken over, with a regularly strong showing in events since the release of Ultimate Masters.

It's become so big, even, that when people started charting the numbers, it was showing a higher winrate over pretty much all other decks across the last year with wild trajectory. In a highly controversial article, Alex Ullman contended that Gush is likely too strong for the format and Foil was the straw that broke the camel's back. Many insist that Gush is fine for the format and that Foil should be shown the door in its place. Others still suggest that something else like Augur of Bolas, Preordain, Delver of Secrets, or even Urzatron pieces or Monarch cards should be banned first and foremost.

I personally feel that at this point, Gush is similar to how Splinter Twin was at the time of its banning: loved by many, but has likely overstayed its welcome. Like Twin, people love playing with it so much they don't want to see it go and also like Twin will likely continually ask Wizards to bring it back into the format.

Regardless of what happens, Pauper will march on. We've had arguably the best year ever for the format and I expect 2019 will bring with it plenty of surprises. I myself will continue to bring plenty of content both here with CoolStuffInc.com and streaming on Twitch in the new year. I hope many others do the same and join the ever expanding crowd of content creators for one of the best community grown formats of all time.

Who knows, we may just yet see a Pauper GP happen like the Professor pondered at the beginning of the year. Until then, may your new year be filled to the brim with commons!

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