Brave New Pauper World

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Brave New Pauper World

There was a complete silence about Pauper in the latest Banned & Restricted update. But how exactly is the format going today? Which new decks have emerged and which are at the top?

By Humberto, 02/24/21, translated by Humberto

In the last banned and restricted announcement, a small factor generated great repercussion in the Pauper community as a whole and was a topic of support and criticism by enthusiasts: There was not even a mention about the format in the announcement. Not a single note, not a single paragraph. This generated discussion and suggestions that the format is still irrelevant to Wizards, but I particularly see this issue in another way: For them, Pauper is healthy as a format today, and there was a direct intervention with a ban on

Fall from Favor

almost a month before this announcement that hugely changed the metagame of other formats

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Why exactly would Pauper look healthy? Well, the general definition of healthy means that the format is fun, has a good range of decks to play on and can self-regulate in terms of which decks are at the top, without having an absolute best deck. Among these, the fun factor is the most complex because it is an opinion that differs between players and communities. I, for one, am not considering the format so much fun because I believe that the most competitive games have become somewhat linear between those who accumulate more value with Monarch or with

Bonder's Ornament

, making Card Advantage engines in the format become the same for many decks and look kind of repetitive, with games being defined by those who spends more turns with Monarch or those who make more activations of the artifact, causing other Card Advantage mechanics (for example

Mulldrifter

+

Ephemerate

) seem unattractive because they require more slots and build-around. In short, I think that Monarch and

Bonder’s Ornament

make games repetitive and create little creative play or style. However, this is my conception. My view of reality and my personal dissatisfaction with the format. For many, Pauper is a lot of fun and, especially, very diverse. And in the diversity factor, I need to agree: We see entirely new decks appearing and putting in check other strategies already very well established in the format while strategies already known remain among the main decks of Metagame, creating the third factor that is the diversity among the decks that are at the top of the format. Pauper has never been more innovative since

Arcum’s Astrolabe

was in the format, we see a new deck or a new tech coming up every week and I believe it is necessary to start this article by exemplifying new decks and new techs that have emerged in recent months. And it's impossible to start anywhere else, if not for these two cards:
Cascade is a very profitable mechanic,

Bloodbraid Elf

has already been banned from Modern in the past, was the main Staple when she played in Standard and today is a great card in Jund. But what exactly did Cascade cards offer Pauper? In addition to a new Card Advantage mechanic, a reason for you to choose the “go-big” instead of the “go-wide”. That is, a reason for you to choose the long game or the big mana game and make threats that will generate a huge amount of value instead of trying to filll the board with a huge amount of cheap-costed creatures. This is due to the fact that both

Annoyed Altissaur

and

Boarding Party

are very good cards as creatures as they have immediate impact on the table and resilient bodies in addition to Cascade's 2-for-1 effect, something that Pauper lacked for years since your payoffs to ramp or to play with a higher cost Midrange did not compensate for deckbuilding concessions because you were able to have better effects at a lower cost. And Cascade cards offered several new and old ways to build some decks:
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Starting with Gruul Ponza, it is worth mentioning that this deck existed before, but suffered significantly from the fact that there was no payoff to work on after disrupting your opponent's lands. Not only can Cascade cards pull more LD, but they also serve as a great clock against decks that need good amounts of mana to operate, establishing the pressure needed to take advantage of the tempo loss caused to the opponent by destroying their lands. Ponza is possibly one of the reasons why Tron didn’t become the dominant deck of the format after banning

Fall from Favor

, as this deck naturally takes advantage of Tron's greedy mana to take the game, and Tron's

Pulse of Murasa

recursion becomes irrelevant when your creatures nullify the lifegain with a single attack.

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It is interesting to see how the archetype has evolved, and the inclusion of cards like

Sarulf's Packmate

makes the Land Destruction plan less present, opting to become a ramp deck with some disruption and land acceleration to achieve as much value as possible in combining

Arbor Elf

with

Utopia Sprawl

and

Wild Growth

.
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Another deck that follows a similar theme, but chooses to play the "fair game" with removals and 2-for-1 effects is the Jund Cascade, which works very close to the molds of the old Jund lists in Standard, where you had a higher curve than what we see in Modern, which normally closed in

Bituminous Blast

and

Broodmate Dragon

, but in the Pauper version, the top of the curve are the creatures with Cascade themselves, and a

Boarding Party

casting a

Blightning

for free is still painful, regardless of whether it was in 2010 Standard or Pauper. The deck has a good versatility of responses while its ramps never lose value as they are also part of its card advantage engine, especially

Bonder’s Ornament

, making almost every topdeck good and every Cascade target useful.
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Following an idea similar to Jund's, Sultai Midrange may not have access to

Boarding Party

, but gains access to

Mulldrifter

and

Coiling Oracle

to maintain Card Advantage, in addition to better responses on the sideboard for certain matches. The deck can also include

Pestilence

as a means of keeping the board clean, which is a feat in a three-color deck that is only possible thanks to the inclusion of

Bonder's Ornament

to fix mana and ramp.
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Although it already exists in the form of the Walls Combo, Cascade Walls was its natural evolution, playing Cascade creatures way earlier than expected which, in turn, will pull other impact cards onto the table that will allow you to cast more creatures with Cascade that hopefully will have Haste thanks to

Tuktuk Rubblefort

. The deck can still operate as a combo deck when needed, most of the time choosing to leave the combo pieces on the Sideboard to be used in specific matches such as those where attacking becomes less relevant like Tron. It is worth remembering that Cascade decks are not the only new decks in the format, though.
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A deck that gained space and has made results even in Challenges and even managed a Top 8 on the PTQ was Cycling Storm. The deck has been theorized since the launch of Ikoria, with the inclusion of

Drannith Stinger

in the format and its game plan includes cycling a large number of creatures, to then generate mana with

Songs of the Damned

and

Cabal Ritual

and then return these creatures with

Reaping the Graves

and, with a

Drannith Stinger

on the board, cycle the creatures in your hand again to create your own version of

Grapeshot

, while being able to use spells like

Manamorphose

and

Land Grant

to fix the mana and increase the Storm counts when necessary. Cycling Storm is far from being a simple deck to play, and requires great understanding of the deck to work as it has specific lines of play and some very complex ones to be seen at first. So, it is a deck that if you want to play with it, you should dedicate a few days or even weeks to understand how it works perfectly.
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The Mono-Black Aristocrats is a deck that had been built slowly over the years and it took some time before the set of good cards like

Bone Picker

,

Village Rites

and

Fleshbag Marauder

arrived to the format to justify the construction of this deck.

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Despite not making the most expressive results, the deck has a great synergy between its cards and has good interactions that establish a significant clock and a low curve against unprepared opponents. The deck also has lines of play that require some training and in-depth thinking, as it is usually necessary to always play your cards with the next play or turn in mind.
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Last but not least, I emphasize the Jeskai Black of the player Hiro_Taquara, who came in second place in Pauper Warriors (a Brazilian free tournament that had over 100 players) with this list, which mixes elements of the current Mardu Monarch with the old Jeskai Ephemerate, using a certain inevitability to win the game with favorable exchanges while accumulating huge amount of Card Advantage. Manabase seems a little scarily confusing, but apparently it worked for the player and there is a lot of planning in it, as this player has been piloting this deck for quite a while.
What about the rest of the format?
The other decks of the format are our well-know old friends:
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Faeries decks (both Izzet and Dimir) today make up about 14% of the Metagame, which is much less than the usual 20/25% that we were used to seeing in almost the entire year of 2020 and before. The archetype gained a lot of new elements in the last year, including with

Cast Down

serving as the main motivator to move on to play Dimir Faeries, and the inclusion of the new Kaldheim dual lands created new techs like

Spire Golem

being used on some lists, while

Behold the Multiverse

proved to be a great resource for card selection and card advantage.
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Today, Tron and Boros Monarch each occupy approximately 8% of the Metagame, which is a good number for two distinct archetypes where one is preys on Faeries and the other preys on Midranges. With new decks that can play the big mana plan and strategies that can prey on or ignore Tron, the archetype has somehow lost its position as the best deck of the format, able to adapt to any situation, and has gained strong natural predators with the launch of Commander Legends, significantly decreasing its predominance in the format. Boros Bully, in turn, became the main Monarch deck of the format, taking the space that used to be from Mardu because it has a more efficient clock and does not need so much setup to work, thus being able to establish the necessary pressure to being able to beat the new Big Mana decks even though they are already able to stabilize the game in the first turns, in addition to still serving as the best Faeries predator of the format and being the best version of Monarch to use

Cleansing Wildfire

.
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With approximately 6% of Metagame today, Burn has been reappearing in the format after a period of absence and still seems a good option in the format with so many decks needing to create an estabilished plan on the first turns and lacking interaction in the early game while your deck has the sole purpose of causing as much damage as possible in the least amount of turns.
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Orzhov Pestilence, or Orzhov Monarch, was a deck that used to be in the confines of the Tier 2 format, and today it has become one of the main competitors of the format with approximately 5% of the Metagame. What changed to make the deck what it is today was the inclusion of two cards specific to the format:

Bonder's Ornament

and

Cast Down

added to the deck tools it needed to change its deck construction to become a complete Control (where it previously needed to remain in the position of Midrange-Control in order not to lose Card Advantage), choosing to use few ercreatures, maximize the effect of discards and removals and generate an absolute value in mana advantage and card advantage with the new Ikoria artifact.

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In addition to these decks, other very well known decks of the format are also available for the competitive scenario, all of them with about 4% of the Metagame:
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In addition, several other decks are present in the format and making occasional minor results with about 2% of the Metagame such as Mono-White Heroic, Mono-Black Devotion, Azorius Familiar, Mardu Monarch and Goblins.
Conclusion
Despite criticism of factors like Monarch, Pauper is more diverse today than it was in recent years and the Monarch appear to be serving its natural purpose of being a regulator for decks that would possibly be unavailable or crushed by other forms of Card Advantage if the mechanics did not exist. Does it polarize Card Advantage in format? Yes. Does it punish for not interacting well and can just win the game on its own? Yeah. Does it make obsolete several existing interactions in the format that have the same purpose? Basically, yes. But Monarch became part of Pauper, one of its main pillars. And playing the format means playing with, dealing with, or working around Monarch for as long as it exists in Pauper. Apparently, the silence regarding the format in the last banned and restricted update reflects exactly what seems to be becoming factual for the community: There is a lot of room for innovation today in Pauper while we also see other old and new decks appearing and resurfacing in Challenges and community tournaments, thus offering a significant range of decks from which the player can choose and with different options to build his or her list to adapt to each Metagame. “Fun” is a variable factor for each player, and it is natural that there is a format and a metagame that we do not particularly like because of specific factors and personal preferences, but we need to analyze punctually whether this is our personal dissatisfaction or factual points that demonstrate a problem in the format and, at least currently in Pauper, I believe that my dissatisfaction has much more to do with a particular feeling than with the format itself. For Pauper, I can only hope that the next sets will bring more and more innovation and diversity to the format, with new strategies and techs emerging every month or even week. And if you're looking for another cheap format to play without investing a lot, Penny Dreadful matches everything you're looking for and is apparently a lot of fun in the current Season. But if you're having fun with Pauper today, remember that we have several free tournaments running on different days of the week at Cards Realm, and this Saturday we will have the second Pauper Masters Qualifier at 1 PM (on Brazilian Time Zone), with the registration fee of 2 TIX.

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Pauper Analysis Metagame
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