Pauper: Bans will never solve the Real Problem
Affinity's predominance is just another symptom of a larger and chronic issue Pauper has been facing for years, and there's no ban that can solve it.
The Current Scenario: Affinity is Broken
Problematic cards a Symptom, not the Disease
endless spiral of problems that only grows every year. If bans occur on Affinity, we'll still be debating a number of other mechanics, decks, and interactions which are problematic for the format, and wondering when/if Wizards intends to take action on them, or if they'll let the format wither and need to fend for itself to deal with such issues. Below is a list of many cards, decks, or mechanics not included in Affinity that are considered problematic for the format at some scale. Keep in mind that they don't necessarily represent my particular view (although I agree with some of them):
no Control deck will be better than Tron, as it can break the mana math and make more plays in a single turn than any other deck that doesn't run Urza lands would. In addition, Tron is another extremely limiting archetype, as it is a powerful natural predator of Midranges, while also managing to suppress most Aggro decks with its fog-effects and Stonehorn Dignitary soft-lock. It's interesting to think, however, that Tron has been put in check recently because of Cleansing Wildfire's (also problematic) interaction with indestructible lands.
Bans Won't Solve Everything
see facts for what they are, not what we would like them to be.And the unfortunate reality from which I see is that even if we banned twenty or more cards, the format would remain problematic and/or it would only take to the next Masters or Horizons to break the format again because Magic has changed drastically, especially in the last three or four years, with the FIRE being applied in the most different aspects and increasing the individual power and effects of each card in every competitive format, as well as taking bolder measures with the formats, commonly bringing cards that end up being problematic for a competitive scenario, but also tens or hundreds of cards that positively impact the Metagame, and bring new ideas or reinforce lesser-known archetypes. For example, we may be having a terrible time with Affinity right now, but have you stopped to realize that
Mono-Red Blitz, thanks to Festival Crasher, Kessig Flamebreather, Ancestral Anger and Reckless Impulse, is becoming a real thing? Ardent Elementalist, or Late to Dinner, or how Sarulf's Packmate became a staple for Cascade decks, or how First Day of Class brought a powerful but not unfair combo to Pauper with Moggwarts? On the other hand, this significant increase in Power Level will bring problematic cards more often, so it becomes necessary to dose when a card really needs to be banned or not, and when an archetype is being oppressive or not because the game trend is that, in both common and Mythic-Rare slots, more and more powerful cards will be introduced over the years, and when we're always asking for direct interventions, we're trying to get back to a Pauper that just might not even exist more because the game has changed as a whole. Also, it's understandable that while we're seeing more and more cards and more decks coming up, the format is still entrenched in the same “old” archetypes during this time: Faeries, Monarch, Tron, and Affinity, leaving little room for other decks to appear because they need to be
very goodto compete with such well-defined strategies and get their space in the Metagame, as happened with archetypes like Ephemerate, Cascade and Moggwarts, this is how competitive formats work. Despite considering that there is still a lot of undiscovered potential in the format's interactions (a few years ago, Grixis Affinity would have been a joke compared to Temur versions and Rakdos would be unthinkable), Pauper is no longer the “brewer's paradise”, and it has its estabilished pillars that need to be respected when putting together your list.
there will always be best decks, and even if all the pillars of the format were banned today, others would emerge, and we would likely be having this same discussion again in six months or less.
Pauper has a nemesis, It's called Limited
Limited defines Pauper's future. In particular, the relationship between Pauper and Limited is strangely abusive: To improve draft and sealed, certain cards dangerous to the format are placed in the common slots because they promote an interesting and fun play styles, while the answers which are equally relevant to these issues never comes as common because they break the Limited's symmetry Consequently, Pauper receives several degenerative impactful cards because they are important/fun for Limited, but does not receive the efficient answers to deal with them because they promote an anti-game state or are too specific for common slots.
keeping in mind that they are dedicated to the Pauper, as with this common cycle from Modern Horizons, where all of them were a big hit and impacted, or still impact, the format in some positive way most of the time, and when we see cards being added that seem to serve this purpose, which might be the case with the recent red cards package, they tend to benefit the Metagame without creating a very high Power Level discrepancy. But the format suffers from a severe disease at the roots of its development, a chronic problem that is directly linked to all the situations where there have been oppressive strategies and broken decks in recent years, with them always being symptoms of a much bigger issue:
Pauper is a format subservient to the Limited of each release, which can commonly bring good threats, but significantly limits the number of answers and efficient ways to deal with powerful effects and archetypes, such as Storm or Affinity, creating a scenario where the format is always subject to the risk of what each set might accidentally bring to break it, without having the best ways to police these inclusions because the specific answers to these strategies are too specific, or too restrictive for Limited's common slots, creating a constant and repetitive state of Metagame health crisis, especially on non-Standard-oriented sets, where the Power Level tends to be higher.And as long as Pauper is directly linked to Limited, additions to the format will always pose a risk, or be downright boring.
How Can Pauper be Fixed?
too longbecause the format was clearly broken since the season's third week, especially when they were aware of the risks that the inclusion of a mini-Empty the Warrens could bring. As for the more complex issue, the dependence of Pauper on Limited, I believe there are some solutions that can be applied to unlink formats and add cards needed by Pauper without ruining the Draft or Sealed experience of each Set. Now, unfortunately, I will need to enter unexplored and possibly utopian territory, partly abandoning my proposal of seeing things for what they are because there is no tangible solution that is already being applied, and I am under the moral obligation to, as I present a critique, also present proposals for solutions to the current problem or, otherwise, I would be just “complaining” about the matter.
Create an exclusive Pauper set or bundle in Magic Online.Wizards literally has a format where they do whatever they want, whenever they want: It's called Historic. And considering the digital origins that Pauper has, would it be so wrong or difficult to do the same for it? You could call it
Pauper Horizons, or whatever you like, but aiming to introduce uncommon and rare cards to the format, both to provide the means to deal with chronic problems, and to shake up the Metagame with specific downshifts that be interesting for the format's health. Of course, with every set dedicated to a specific format, it's possible that some additions or cards could break the Pauper, and a swift action would be needed to deal with these issues, but the introduction of a dedicated product could bring new cards to combat some of Metagame's most famous decks, or prepare them for more powerful downshifts with efficient answers, without the need to extrapolate into the common slot inclusions of a draft set. I don't think a product dedicated to Pauper is really viable for tabletop because it would need to be sold for a cheap price, and that's not what we usually see happening with products like Commander Collection and the like, which come with a specific cards bundle. However, there are
some tabletop products that could have punctual reprints:
Commander Decks:The Commander decks, which now come out with each set, are a great example of a product where there is the possibility of introducing cards to Pauper without necessarily going through the Limited. Imagine having cards like Deafening Silence or Shattering Spree added through a Commander Deck? And this action would not directly affect the market value of these cards (maybe it would even make them a bit more expensive), as they would have the same availability as any other card on the list.
The Listis a set of specific reprints that may come in Set Boosters for each release, and that include cards from other sets with a Planeswalker symbol in the corner of the bottom edge. These cards are not Standard-legal and do not come in Draft Boosters. So, one-off downshifts on this slot could be confusing because the mechanics of The List itself are
absurdlyconfusing, but it would make a viable option to introduce new cards to the format.
Challenger Decks:Pauper has become a gradually more expensive format each year, where many of the Tier 1 decks are over $50, so although the hypothesis is extremely unlikely given the value of a Standard or Pioneer Challenger Deck, introducing Pauper Challenger Decks and inserting downshifts into specific slots on the list would be another way to not only introduce new cards, but also introduce the format to many local communities. Can you imagine two or three copies of Skullcrack on the Sideboard of a Burn Challenger Deck? Terrifying, I know.
Secret Lair:Wizards makes all sorts of crazy products with Secret Lair (Seriously, they do all kinds of craziness,
really), ranging from basic lands full of rules text, to crossovers with other series and games, even... well, this:
Superdropor even a series of one or two Secret Lair product drops with the intention of introducing cards to Pauper (basically making the drop symbol a common card symbol) would be another way to solve the problem of Pauper's subservience to Limited, and an
extremely profitableoption for Wizards, as these products sell themselves as highly collectibles. That said, this is the option that I like least because Secret Lair is a very limited, expensive product and the inclusion of specific cards in Pauper without the availability increase could significantly increase the price tag of these cards, making the format even more expensive and creating an issue at its economy. However,
it's a crazy idea for an equally crazy product.Regardless of the way in which Wizards took this action, I would recommend to the community that
respond with their wallet and seek to support the productbecause, at the end of the day,
Magic, a game by which we hold dear, it's still a product to be sold by Hasbro, and if there's a language Hasbro fully understands, it's money. This was essentially the same advice I gave about Pioneer when they announced the Challenger Decks: The best way for a format to have more competitive and product support is for it to sell well and be well received by the public, and demonstrating that support is what opens up the initiative so that more products and more opportunities arise for a format.
What about Affinity?
needs to be bannedbecause the archetype is too consistent to be countered by the rest of the format and considering that eventually bans do occur (and this can take
a long while, given that Wizards took three months to resolve a format state that was much worse than the current one and took two or three weeks to temporarily ban Faerie Miscreant due to a bug), what are the angles by which direct intervention can be done?