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A Glimpse at the New Pauper Meta

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Last week, Arcum's Astrolabe was banned from the Pauper format, greatly changing the landscape of the format in the process. While it's still pretty early to know exactly how things will shake out, we do have our first few glances at the metagame from two Magic Online events this weekend. This includes the second online PTQ this past Saturday as well as the weekly Challenge on Sunday.

First, let's have a look at the smaller Pauper Challenge results. As I understand it, roughly 65 players showed up to play - a fairly normal amount for your typical Challenges. Looking through things, we see a tremendous amount of Boros, in both the form of classic Boros Monarch and Boros Bully. There's some fresh play with people playing different cards in the lists like Custodi Squire, Seeker of the Way, and Guardian of the Guildpact in the Monarch lists. Historically, we've seen little of these cards in these kinds of lists, though Seeker is quite frequent in Bully lists.

We also saw some Tron, some Stompy, Affinity, and a couple oddball lists. Seeing an Inside Out Combo list pop up once again is really interesting to see in the mix again. We even saw a Dimir Teachings make top 8 this week, believe it or not!

Lightning Bolt
Llanowar Elves
Mystical Teachings

In the end, though, Burn was the list that ended up taking the whole thing down, besting Elves in the finals. Looking through the bracket as well as the lists shows that they also beat Boros Monarch - a historically awful matchup for the Burn list - and the Dimir Teachings list. The Teachings matchup is interesting. While Burn can come out swinging really hard for a fast, powerful victory, Teachings can also stabilize with countermagic, removal, and even lifegain thanks to the likes of Pristine Talisman.

Here's the winning list from the Challenge:


This looks like a pretty standard list all told, though was playing some especially key cards in the sideboard this time like Martyr of Ashes and Flaring Pain. These cards are somewhat common but don't always show up in many lists. Besides just going in all guns blazing, I firmly believe that these were a major factor in Burn taking down the event this weekend given the field. The Boros List they faced in the semifinals had the full four maindeck Prismatic Strands, even, so I'd easily bet that Flaring Pain was a big roleplayer in that victory.

All told, however, the meta was pretty small and what a lot of players expected. That said, we saw similar around the time of the so-called Blue Monday, where Gush and crew were banned. A ton of players started off right out of the gate with a number of Tron decks. Over the weeks that followed, however, Tron's metashare dropped tremendously as the meta adapted. I'd expect more of that to happen in these smaller Challenges in the coming weeks.

Next let's have look at the much bigger Pauper PTQ results. 149 players joined this event, a marked step down from the last one that had 214 players. I believe this drop in players is two-fold. The first reason is that unlike the last event, a lot of people didn't know this one was coming ahead of time. With the first online event, players found out about it weeks in advance and word spread quickly. This one didn't hit my radar until barely a week before the event itself.

The other reason is that the meta is so fresh post-banning that a number of grinders who might've otherwise tried didn't want to because of lack of testing. I'd also imagine that many of the usual suspects when it comes to major grinders were playing the MTG Arena Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend event on that client. They could've even been playing and testing more of the freshest hotness in Pioneer.

Whatever the reason, the turnout was still great and we had a number of decks in this event. We actually saw a much greater mix in the top lists this time, too. While the Challenge was largely Boros by a tremendous majority, here we saw much less of those lists. Boros Monarch did win the day, but it took out Izzet Faeries, a deck that many thought dead with the banning of Gush, to do so.

Pestilence
Goblin Bushwhacker
Mantle of Tides

Not only did we see Faeries here, but we also saw other old favorites like Mono-Black Control, Orzhov Pestilence, Red Deck Wins, Dimir Angler Control, and even another Teachings list in the mix. Mono-Blue Zoo, a list popularized by author Alex Ullman, also made a noted showing in 14th place. With a much bigger field of players bringing their A-game, we were really able to see the format shine and I think this is a great indicator of format health moving forward assuming Challenges follow it.

Here are the top lists from that event, both looking very similar to traditional builds of their respective archetypes in the past:



Golden Egg
Okiba-Gang Shinobi

The one real innovation we see in the Boros list is the lone inclusion of Golden Egg as one of the cards you can pick up with Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk. As a one-of over an Alchemist's Vial, I actually really like this. A lot of times Alchemist's Vial just sits there without any activation. While it's ability is still important, and in fact more so than Golden Egg, the Egg still offers great effects and versatility between one-time fixing and life gain - both of which can be critical.

Some readers may be pointing to the two copies of Okiba-Gang Shinobi as a fresh innovation for the list. In truth, we were actually seeing them popping up a decent amount earlier in the year. Players realized that between your copies of Bojuka Bog (and sometimes Mortuary Mire), along with Prophetic Prism, it's not difficult to splash for Black cards like the Shinobi or, more commonly, Reaping the Graves. You won't always see these cards, but it certainly pays to be ready for them just in case.

I'm very excited to see how the metagame continues to evolve. There's lots of great decks in the mix right now and we've yet to see a few classics still even. No Bogles, Heroic, Familiars, or even an attempt to retool Jeskai were in sight here. There's a bright future ahead for the Pauper format and I can't wait to see what it holds for us.

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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