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The State of Pauper: Old Classics


It's day two of Pauper Week here on CoolStuffInc.com! Today I'm here to help get you all prepped and ready for what to expect in the coming weeks with the awesome new Pauper Premiere league. This league is sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com and the very first stream will happen this Thursday, July 11th at 9pm EST. For more info, check out this article laying out all the details.

With that, we're going to check in with what's going on in the Pauper metagame. It's been a little over a week since format unification happened and we've also had some time for Modern Horizons to break its way into the format. While I'm going to be discussing at length some of the more extensive changes those have made to the format as a whole, I want to focus on something a little simpler: checking in on the old standbys that probably haven't changed all that much.

To start, we're going to take a look at long time boogieman of the format: Delver. This time, we're specifically going to look at the Izzet Delver, or Skred Delver, variation. Riffs on the Dimir version and attempts at Mono-Blue in the wake of the bannings of Gush, Gitaxian Probe, and Daze have all been tried and tested since the last B&R announcement. In this time, though, it's become heavily apparent that the version which lost the least amount of cards - Izzet Delver - is the winner of the bunch.

As it turns out, this deck only lost the free draws it got from playing Gush, and even then the deck only played two or three copies. The core package is still as strong as ever and well worth playing. Countering spells with Spellstutter Sprite only to bounce it with an attacking Ninja of the Deep Hours or else just blind flipping a Delver of Secrets will still get you there.

Some decks have even been trying the new hotness of Faerie Seer as an alternative to Faerie Miscreant. There's even a fairly clean switch to Accumulated Knowledge being used in place of Gush and it's been putting in quite a lot of work. Just remember that in a mirror match, AK counts the number of cards in both players' graveyards and not just your own.

Next up is another ever-popular list: Burn.

Burn continues to be an oddity of the Pauper format. It sits atop the MTG Goldfish page but largely based on its sheer volume of decks popping up in the Challenge Top 32s. A closer look at the actual top of those events shows a significantly lower number of lists doing well, but being a cheap and easy to play deck means plenty of people are willing to take it for a spin.

The deck hasn't changed all that much since the banning of Gitaxian Probe but some slots are being tested with different cards. It's mostly quick, cheap burn spells that get thrown at your opponent's face and backed by creatures like Thermo-Alchemist and Ghitu Lavarunner. The goal? Count to twenty as fast as possible.

While cards like Prismatic Strands are showing up less and less as of late, the real card Burn has to worry about now is Weather the Storm. This brand new Storm card really puts the hurt on a bunch of aggressive strategies, but few more than Burn. You can either play a bunch of spells and then cast this card to gain a bunch of life or else cast it in response to the end of a chain of burn spells slung at your face to cancel them out.

While plenty of players have already voiced concern about the continued hindrance to aggro strategies Weather the Storm has caused, it has bettered the Burn matchup for one deck in particular: Elves.

Compared to most of the lists in this article, Elves has arguably changed the most of late. While we didn't get too much by way of main deck creatures in Modern Horizons, we did get the incredible addition of Winding Way. The card is the real deal and has been putting up some serious work in the deck as of late, even enabling the killing of the sacred cow that is Distant Melody. Doing this allows us to cut our one Island and focus ourselves more as a dedicated Mono-Green build.

There is still a lot of work to be done with this list, however. Winding Way putting the cards into the graveyard as opposed to the bottom of your deck creates some major potential to lose your sideboard cards entirely if they're in your top four cards. Because of this, a number of the slots have switched over to more creature based strategies or else relying on cards with Flashback. The numbers still don't feel quite right and it may even turn out in the long run that Melody is still the better way to play the deck. Make no mistake, though: as the deck continues to evolve I will absolutely be there testing and talking about it.

Elves wasn't the only deck to get a really sweet upgrade from Modern Horizons either.

Savage Swipe is an absolute house and makes total sense for Stompy. It's so good, in fact, that unlike the Epic Confrontations it's replacing, it's maindeckable as a four-of. Most of your deck's creatures end up as 2/2s and both pumping them and killing an opponent's creature is a huge deal. Even as an Elves player, a deck with a notoriously high win rate against Stompy, it's been much harder to beat them back when their clock goes up substantially thanks to this card. Time will tell if Stompy is truly back on the map, but I couldn't be more excited to see it back as a real contender in the meta.

Speaking of old favorites entering back into the meta with style, let's talk Affinity for a minute.

When I first checked out the Pauper format in 2011, Affinity was the first deck I tried out. I played the deck in Standard, Modern, and even Legacy and was hyped to try it out in Pauper. While I realized the all commons version wasn't quite for me, it's somewhat amazed me that after all these years, the full 75 is nearly identical to the version I played back then. It hasn't been doing quite so hot for awhile but now all of a sudden has made some very big finishes at first place in both the last two Magic Online Pauper events: a Format Playoff and a Format Challenge.

So what changed that allowed the deck to get where it is now? There's two things really. The first is the addition of Arcum's Astrolabe to the Pauper format. This innocuous card has been taking over the meta and creating three-to-five color good stuff piles (more on these tomorrow). With the rise of this deck and bannings, the counter-heavy Delver decks have started falling off and Prismatic Strands is being played less and less. This means that Affinity's biggest payoff - Flinging Atogs at unsuspecting opponents - is a lot more viable now.

The second reason is that the London Mulligan is a tremendous boon for Affinity. If you've never played Pauper Affinity, then let me tell you that mulliganing with the deck sucks. It's hard finding the right color lands or sometimes finding any lands at all. By allowing yourself to set up a better hand of six or even five, you enable a lot more effective plays with the deck, thus making it more consistent overall.

I expect the deck's thunder to be stolen soon, however. The better Affinity does, after all, the more artifact hate people start packing. Get those Gorilla Shamans ready for some Shenanigans!

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Mono-Black Control has also been doing quite well for itself lately. Not only does it prey quite effectively on the elevated number of creature decks that we've seen of late, it too just got a sweet new addition thanks to Modern Horizons. In most cases, the new card Defile is just a better version of Disfigure. On turn one it's worse, but most of the time if you're looking to kill something that early, it's probably a 1/1 anyways, and it only scales up from there.

Most of the rest of the list is pretty stock these days, though as usual, a few of the card choices vary from pilot to pilot. This list, for example, is running Thorn of the Black Rose when Mono-Black decks haven't been running it quite as much. Seeing Victim of Night as well is somewhat of a surprise at first glance, but less so when you realize there hasn't been quite as many Gurmag Anglers floating about.

In a similar vein, Orzhov Pestilence is still an archetype as well but it hasn't been showing up as much quite as late. While a few lists have taken to trying out Arcum's Astrolabe, the greater deck hasn't changed much at all. If you want a more in-depth read on that archetype, be sure to check out my article on the deck here

It's ultimately good that these decks have been showing up a bit more, though, because there's one last deck that's showing up quite a lot lately: Bogles.

Yup, this sure is a Bogles list all right. Hexproof creatures, auras, suit 'em up with the fat pants and swing. Not hard right? Well the deck has always struggled somewhat with consistency issues pertaining to getting the right mana. Players have tried innovating with a number of cards in the past, the last one being Unbridled Growth. Unfortunately, though, to draw the card from this one, you need to lose the mana fixing.

Enter Arcum's Astrolabe. Players have been cutting a few auras (blasphemy I say!) in favor of this one mana artifact that both smoothes out your mana and your draws. You sacrifice a little power but it's worth it for the payoff in the end. Even better, the deck also sees a tremendous upgrade from the London Mulligan, as mulliganing with Bogles in the past was quite painful.

All this talk about Arcum's Astrolabe has me itching to discuss the card much more at length tomorrow with the second part of this metagame update. If you think you're seen me bring it up a bunch here, trust me, you haven't seen anything yet. The decks I'm going to discuss tomorrow are getting really strange and there's a ton going on within them. I hope you join me then as we continue leading up to the start of the first ever Pauper Premiere League on Thursday!

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