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The Top Decks of Pauper


Just over a month ago, Tolarian Community College posted the announcement video about the Pauper Mythic Championship Qualifier (rebranded from Pro Tour Qualifiers) at MagicFest Los Angeles. Now we're less than two weeks away from the event and there's rarely been a better opportunity to examine the meta once more. In doing so, we can try to gain an expectation of what we might see at the event.

The last time I talked about the metagame and examined its health, I had a lot to talk about, up to and including bans. I still think most of what I said in that piece still applies with regards to the history, context, and overall state of things. Despite that, there's something that wasn't covered: the actual decks!

To the surprise of pretty much no one, the format's top dogs are Dimir Delver and two different flavors of Boros - Monarch and Bully. The former is very clearly the boogieman of the format, as the highest performing single deck over the last few months. On their own, the Monarch and Bully builds of Boros have reasonable metashares, but when combined it rivals, if not exceeds Dimir Delver. It's a reasonable thing to do, as both are similar in many ways, with Bully being more aggro-based and Monarch being more midrange.

Each of these decks is a cut above the rest and often times decks just aren't able to keep up with them. What has resulted in a largely two archetype metagame, with a significantly smaller number of other decks peppered into the mix. Due to it becoming a battle between Dimir Delver and the two Boros builds, the two have been adjusting their lists week after week to one up in the other.

This inbred metagame, in addition to the sweet new card Skewer the Critics, has allowed Burn to enter the meta once again. Coined the "most okayest" deck by the guys on the Color Commontary podcast, this deck swung to first place a few weeks ago due to the two top dogs trying to one-up one another endlessly. In the process, they cut cards such as Radiant Fountain which gain life in an effort to edge out the tougher competition. This allowed for Burn to enter the fray once more.

With new toys at its disposal, it crushed hard with no less than three lists in the top 8 of the February 3rd Magic Online Challenge. In the weeks since, the deck has been seeing some diminishing returns but is a force to be reckoned with nevertheless. It's cheap and people have access to Burn across multiple formats. Because of this, it's definitely a safe bet to say we'll be seeing it quite a bit more in the weeks still to come.

Arguably the third pillar of the format, Tron has still been showing up here and there as well. Despite a significantly smaller showing since the downshift of Foil in Ultimate Masters, Tron remains a force to be reckoned with, especially in the hands of the right pilot. Players like Hampuse1 (pilot of the above list) or Entropy263, well known for playing Tron, are still putting up reasonable numbers. Few of them are topping the events, though, and so the pillar has fallen a bit for the time being, despite the fact that it preys so effectively on Boros decks.

Another classic archetype, Elves has been showing up quite a bit. Why? The deck actually has surprisingly strong game against Dimir Delver, Boros, and Tron decks alike. The problem is, sometimes the deck just loses to its own bad draws and folds to truly ridiculous draws from the opponent. Given the opportunity, however, it can overrun, or at the very least out-grind your opponent and crush them handily. It does take some effort but if you can manage it, your efforts will be strongly rewarded.

Finally in the core metagame right now we're seeing a strong amount of Mono-Blue Delver creeping in. Sometimes all you need is a good old fashioned Delver list to take down some of the big bads of the format. The deck actually has surprisingly strong game against Boros Monarch, with the deck often having a tough time keeping up with Delver. It also historically fairs reasonably well against the likes of Tron. With so many skilled pilots running it lately, it's no surprise that it's doing so well.

Beyond these lists we're seeing a few outliers such as Orzhov Pestilence, great for handling Boros, Mono-Blue Delver, and especially Elves. Bogles has also been making a small showing, being great against Dimir Delver decks which often run zero Chainer's Edict anywhere in the 75. Past that we see a few Izzet Delver, Affinity, and even Enchantment Control creeping in.

Despite being such a narrow format at the top, it's still interesting to see a decent number of decks showing up at events. There's still a number of lists that were once at the top of the heap all but missing though. Where have the classic archetypes like Stompy, Izzet Blitz, Inside Out Combo, Familiars, and Heroic gone? Even ones that were making a solid showing for a tiny bit like Rakdos Monarch have already fallen by the wayside, or else make small one-off appearances like Mono-Black Control, Dimir Alchemy, and Slivers.

Many of these lists, once at the top of the metagame, have sunk to being virtually fringe in the face of Dimir Delver and Boros' reign. Despite that, I think we'll see quite a bit of diversity at the MCQ itself. I'll be diving a bit deeper into that with some event predictions next week. No matter what takes it though, I hope I'll see you there slinging some commons in an effort to claw your way to the Mythic Championship!

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