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Bringing Back Pauper Stompy


One of the great things about the Pauper format is that there's an ebb and flow to the metagame. Decks rise and fall in both playability and popularity but never truly fade away, instead waiting for the right moment to make a comeback. We've seen this with everything from Affinity and Elves to the likes of Tron (in all its forms) and, yes, even the format boogieman Izzet Delver. This happens because another archetype, or in some cases a specific card, pushes the deck in question down for a period of time.

Right now, we're seeing this with the format's classic creature-based aggro deck: Mono-Green Stompy. As longtime Pauper author Alex Ullman wrote a few weeks ago, Stompy has been on a tremendous downturn as of late. The deck saw a massive surge in popularity throughout 2017 when Burning-Tree Emissary was downshifted in Modern Masters 2017 as the card offered some insanely explosive starts.

Burning-Tree Emissary

Hunger of the Howlpack
Using its new toy, it wasn't hard for Stompy to push through its gameplan harder than ever before. You could easily go for a turn one Nettle Sentinel and then follow it up the next turn by attacking and then playing three Burning-Tree Emissaries into a Nest Invader. In doing this you not only have an insane board of attackers, but also numerous blockers and an excellent way to set up some tremendously impactful Hunger of the Howlpacks by sacrificing the Eldrazi Spawn token. The deck also began to once again use the slippery Silhana Ledgewalker coupled with Auras like Elephant Guide to push through opponent's defenses at an alarming rate. Since the Ledgewalker is hexproof as well, it's nigh impossible to answer through traditional methods. All of these, alongside the other great creatures in your arsenal, are meant to push you through to kill your opponents at rapid rates.

In the months that followed the appearance of Burning-Tree Emissary, however, a few notable things started happening. While BTE was initially seen as the breakout card from MM17, alongside Dinrova Horror for various Tron builds, Augur of Bolas soon started finding a home in multiple Blue decks. The card seems a bit mediocre at first glance. A 1/3 doesn't attack well and there's a lot of potential for the enters-the-battlefield ability to miss or otherwise not do much at all. People started building around the card a bit more to utilize the ability better and in turn discovered something else: the card might not attack well, but it blocks aggressive decks extremely well. This was no more true than in the case of Stompy, where 2 power creatures are the norm.

Another major reason was the rise of Elves with Iconic Masters. Long seen as a solidly tier two deck, Elves got a major power boost in the form of Lead the Stampede. The card single-handedly allowed the deck to gain a rapid advantage early or come back smoothly from an onslaught of removal. As a result, Elves started showing up in significantly higher numbers, much to the chagrin of Stompy players everywhere. You see, Elves acts as a foil to Stompy on multiple fronts. The biggest of these is that it has a ridiculous amount of life gain in the form of Wellwisher and Essence Warden, as well as Luminescent Rain out of the sideboard. In addition, with cards like Lys Alana Huntmaster you can create a never-ending army of blockers as you stabilize and Elvish Vanguard can get tall enough to block literally anything thrown at it and survive.

The format got even less kind to the deck as the year went on. Burn saw continual resurgences especially with the release of Ghitu Lavarunner in Dominaria and, as a result, the format began to run more incidental lifegain effects than ever. Some decks even formatted themselves around the strategy, from Rally Gond with a Soul Sisters package to Orzhov Pestilence, which also attacks with continual removal. Archetypes like Tron and Boros began pushing Fog effects with cards like Moment's Peace and Prismatic Strands, respectively. Black decks even started popping up more and more, with many effective blockers and removal spells. It started to feel like a really bad time to be Stompy.

I believe, however, that with the advent of the Competitive Pauper Leagues on Magic Online, Stompy is poised for a resurgence. The reason? A lot of the decks I just mentioned aren't going to be making quite as mighty of a showing in these leagues. As I laid out last week, decks like Burn, Mono-Black Control, and Dimir are often played because they've proven their worth as decently performing decks that are extremely affordable. Unfortunately, they won't hold up as well in the Competitive Leagues where many of the archetypes they prey on won't show up nearly as much.

In addition, it's safe to assume that the meta is going to be a ton of Delver, Boros, and Tron. Traditionally, Stompy does quite well against Delver. It's not hard to race them before they can get going, and while the Izzet brand gets a little more firepower in Lightning Bolt and Skred, Stompy is often just faster. The same goes with Boros and Tron. While the decks do both pack Fog-style abilities meant to combat aggressive strategies, Stompy can come out swinging before they can get them online and take them down reasonably.

Stompy lists have also evolved, or arguably devolved, into an older format in order to better combat these and other lists. Lately we're seeing the return of the Wild Mongrel and Basking Rootwalla package as a way to combat things like Doom Blade-type spells, Prismatic Strands, and even Circle of Protection: Green. River Boa is reappearing to better handle Delver and Viridian Longbow handles Elves with ease. What's more is your arsenal gets better tuned to fight the multitude of decks out there once you reach your sideboard.

Already we've seen old Stompy players like Hyrmfaxe make appearances playing this great deck. While the deck is known as being easy to pick up, it's a challenge to become a master with it, figuring out what creatures to play when, whether to use Vines of Vastwood as a pump spell or a counterspell, and ways to sideboard most effectively. All of these are difficult because of the subtleties in many games. Thankfully, Stompy is viewed as a great deck to blaze through leagues with, allowing you to get a better grasp of the format at a quicker rate. The more you play it, the more you learn it.

Even if it takes time to truly push yourself to the top level of Stompy players, it's a great way to push into the format. Now more than ever, you're able to grapple with the meta in a manner that can steal you games and crush the competition. Most important of all, you can crank out a league in just over an hour, allowing you to pick up Qualifier and Format Points at an absurdly rapid rate. The more you play and the better you do, the quicker you can ensure your path to the Pro Tour opens before you.

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