The time is finally upon us with the first ever Pauper Mythic Championship Qualifier happening at MagicFest Los Angeles this Saturday. If you hang out in Pauper circles, it's really hard to escape the discussion. Since the Professor's video announcement, it's been a constant mode of discussion and, as of the writing of this article, there are already 71 players signed up and counting. We have well known players playing including the Professor himself, popular stream Caleb Durward, Richmond Pauper champion Jherjames Bisconde, and beloved Pauper streamer Deluxeicoff all attending. All of this signals the event will feature some fairly stiff competition.
With so many people coming, the question becomes how do we prepare for this event? We look to events like we had last year, including the SCG Con Classic and the Pauper Championship events at Grand Prixs Las Vegas and Richmond for reference.
Some of you may be familiar with a piece I wrote leading up to a couple of the former events on Hipsters of the Coast that talked about preparing for these events. In it, I outlined my thoughts on various ways people will likely build their decks and ways to battle back. As it turns out, I was wrong on many points, largely because the event was going to be a blind meta and we'd never had very many large-scale events for the format like this.
For example, one prediction I made was that players would bring what they were able to afford based on what they have in their collection. I myself have built decks using this criteria and I know it's something many Pauper players do as well. In actuality, we saw a healthy diversity of different kinds of decks at each event. The top tables may have generally felt a little more homogenous, but we saw tremendous diversity elsewhere.
Delver and Boros absolutely made the top tables but we also had Elves, Mono-Black Control, Mono-Blue Faerie Control, and even the elusive Tortured Existence. Burn, Dimir Alchemy, and a really crazy Songs of the Damned combo deck that MTG Goldfish gave a small deck tech on.
Instead of bringing what they can afford, people brought either what they knew or what they saw was doing well in the metagame. Players were rewarded with a number of great experiences. For example, my Swiss rounds at SCG Con included the following decks:
- Boros Monarch
- Stonehorn Tron
- Enchantment Control
- Mono-Blue Delver
There's some real spice in that mix, especially with the likes of lesser-seen decks like Zombies and Enchantment Control represented. Walking around the tables showed decks like Slivers, Burn, and even a crazy Wall of Glare combo deck.
All in all, this represents you can, and will, face nearly anything at this event. If you play you should go in with the expectation that you can find yourself against any one of the deck from tier one all the way down to tier three. Players will bring what they know and love and, if they have greater format knowledge than most of the field, can do well no matter the circumstances. Having that knowledge is actually crucial so that you can be aware of what threats to deal with. For example, at both SCG Con and the Richmond Championship, I had players in the Top 8 lose to me on Elves because they weren't as well-versed in the meta and didn't deal with targets that needed to be removed. In one case, this allowed me to go off and go deep with my board state. The other allowed me to win the game outright, locking me into the finals.
Despite this, I think it's not a stretch to say we will see a number of certain decks specifically. Dimir Delver is often cited as the best deck in the format with plenty of results suggesting that to be accurate. What's more, the deck plays very much like a true Legacy deck with free spells and cheap threats abound. It's very likely this will be a draw for a number of players to pick up the deck who enjoy these more intense decks.
On the other hand, we have Boros Monarch and Boros Bully. The two similar archetypes are poised to do some real damage and bring some serious representation to the event. It's very likely that Deluxeicoff will be on Boros Bully if no one else, largely as he was the one who developed the deck. It won't just be him, though, as there's plenty of power to both Boros builds that many players can pick up, jam some games, and do amazing with.
While the current metagame has largely built itself on the back of those major archetypes, another has been rising up to take advantage of the fighting between them. The printing of Skewer the Critics brought with it a fresh slew of players jamming Burn once again. When looking at the clock the deck presents, Skewer doesn't really change too much overall. What it does do, however, is offer more consistency to the deck's gameplay. Couple this with a decent Dimir Delver matchup, thanks to being able to grind through countermagic and race, and Boros removing a lot of their life gain and damage prevention, and you've got a meta ripe for the return of Burn.
Ultimately I don't expect Burn to win the event or anything, but it would be wrong to ignore its presence. People will absolutely be playing it, especially given both new tech and recent results. If you prepare properly, you can often handle the deck with relative ease. I encourage you highly to respect the deck and bring the proper tools to battle it effectively.
Beyond the metagame's current top tier lists, there's still plenty more I would expect to see. Tron is always a great option. With customizability, a love (and loathing) of big mana decks in other formats, and ease of playing compared to Magic Online, it's not a stretch to say we'll definitely be seeing quite a bit at the event. At events like SCG Con and the Richmond Championship, there were only a handful of Tron lists that showed up and none made the top tables. Still, it's safe to say we'll be seeing it in some capacity this weekend.
Next there's the ever popular Elves deck. A lot of people really like to run this deck as their first Pauper deck because of the crazy board states and gameplay the deck allows. In both SCG Con and Richmond, there was a tremendous amount of the deck being run. We've seen this happen a lot at the Rags to Riches events held in Washington as well, even if the events aren't quite as reflective on the basis that their events run using a legality not used at most other places. It's a popular deck and as such an Electrickery or well placed Bolt spell can go a long way.
A small side note also for players playing Elves: be careful of symmetrical abilities. Old templating on some cards like Timberwatch Elf, Wellwisher, and Priest of Titania are affected by every elf on the battlefield, and not just yours. This is especially a big deal when it comes to Elvish Vanguard as you can miss triggers when an opponent puts an elf into play. Because this event will be played at Competitive REL, if you miss this trigger, you will not be able to put a counter on it afterward.
Finally there's the old style of Delver decks. Dimir Delver is the freshest hotness around but people still cling to the classics. It's not a stretch to say that we'll see a solid amount of Mono-Blue Delver as well, as that deck is still putting up some amount of numbers. What isn't doing quite so hot, however, is Izzet Delver. Despite that, people have had it as their deck for awhile, spent money on it, and/or just enjoy the deck, and as such will run it at the event in spite of a meta working against them.
Lastly there's the lower tier decks. This includes decks like Orzhov Pestilence, Bogles, and classics like Affinity, Mono-Black Control, Stompy. While these decks may not be the top dogs of the metagame, it's easy to guess we'll still see them in some capacity. They've showed up in the past in spite of the metagame and should be respected regardless of how well positioned they may be. Bring your life gain to handle aggro, your artifact and enchantment hate, and your extra countermagic, assuming your deck allows it.
With that, I hope you choose your list wisely, or if nothing else come representing your favorite underdog archetype. What do I think will win it all? It's really hard to say. Izzet Delver won both the Championship events last year and Elves won the SCG Con Classic. It's not a stretch to say Delver and Boros are the favorites, but it could just as easily be someone else. It could be you being whisked off to Mythic Championship II in London at the end of April.
With that I'll see you all at MagicFest LA this weekend. What am I running at the PTQ? I'm actually uncertain and have been bouncing back and forth between my all-time favorite Elves and next favorite Boros Monarch. I'm personally best with Elves, but it feels softer, especially in a meta that will likely be filled to the brim with Burn. So we'll see as I test and prepare. I hope to see you at the table with me, slinging commons at Pauper's most competitive event to date. If you see me, the Professor, Deluxeicoff, Jherjames, or any of the numerous well known Pauper players, be sure to say hey! I can't wait to see you all there!