Weekly Metagame: New Modern Innovations, a broken Pauper & Legacy stabilizing

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Weekly Metagame: New Modern Innovations, a broken Pauper & Legacy stabilizing

This week, we can see Standard and Pioneer stabilized. Modern keeps bringing more innovations, Legacy is stabilizing, and Pauper is definitely broken!

By Romeu, 06/24/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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We're back with the Weekly Metagame.This week, I'll again be covering the Top 32 of this weekend's events, as it gives us a broader view of how formats are developing, while also allowing us to see how formats are that have already stabilized. I would always like to emphasize that we analyze all competitive formats based on the results of Challenges and other official or large tournaments. Therefore, the metagame of minor events or leagues may differ, as these have their cycle and/or their player base.

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That said, let's get down to business:

Standard

As usual, we will first list the Top 32 and Top 8 of both Challenges before we talk about the format in question. The Top 32 of the Standard Challenge on Saturday, June 19th was composed by: 8 Naya Adventures 7 Prismari Dragons 6 Jeskai Cycling 3 Temur Adventures 2 Mono-Red Aggro 2 Temur Lukka 1 Gruul Magda 1 Sultai Ultimatum 1 Dimir Rogues And the Top 8 had the following decks: 4 Naya Adventures 3 Jeskai Cycling 1 Sultai Control On Sunday, June 20th, the Standard Challenge had the following archetypes: 8 Naya Adventures 5 Jeskai Cycling 5 Mono-Red Aggro 4 Sultai Ultimatum 3 Dimir Rogues 2 Prismari Dragons 2 Temur Adventures 1 Temur Lukka 1 Gruul Magda 1 Rakdos Sacrifice With the Top 8: 3 Jeskai Cycling 1 Naya Adventures 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Gruul Magda 1 Rakdos Sacrifice 1 Sultai Ultimatum The most notorious fact of this weekend is definitely an even smaller share of the Sultai Ultimatum in the Top 32 and the gigantic rise of Naya Adventures.
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Naya Adventures had already demonstrated, since the Strixhaven Championship, that they had a good matchup against Izzet Dragons and Sultai Ultimatum while standing out against other major decks of the format. The mix of Card Advantage with a fast clock and access to some of the best creatures of the format like Bonecrusher Giant and Elite Spellbinder, plus a robust manabase that still has the support of Jaspera Sentinel makes Naya Adventures a deck capable of establishing enough pressure against Sultai Ultimatum and able to trade resources valiantly against Izzet Dragons.
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Another deck that has stood out is Jeskai Cycling, which probably has something to do with the fact that the Improbable Alliance tokens block very well in the air, the fact that the deck attacks from different angles with a fast game plan and the fact that Zenith Flare is a perfect inevitability button in virtually every match. Unfortunately, there's not much to be said about the Standard. The format is stable as it cycles through which deck stands out the most each week, and will remain that way until the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Historic

The Top 32 of the Insight E-sports 5k of this weeked was composed of: 12 Izzet Phoenix 4 Jeskai Control 3 Temur Creativity 2 Izzet Creativity 2 Five-Color Niv-Mizzet 2 Azorius Auras 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Jeskai Cycling 1 Mono-Black Ramp 1 Simic Aggro 1 Orzhov Aggro 1 Selesnya Company And the Top 8 had the following decks: 3 Izzet Phoenix 1 Azorius Auras 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Izzet Creativity 1 Temur Creativity What can we make of the first big Historic event after the Time Warp ban? The first thing is that Blue-Red Decks are still the best option for the format.
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Today, Izzet Phoenix is ​​definitely the best deck in the format, with a total of 12 copies in the Top 32 and 3 copies in the Top 8, the deck stands out as extremely efficient, as the format has cards like Brainstorm and Faithless Looting that allow the archetype to function to its full potential. The question remains whether Izzet Phoenix is ​​a good best deck in the format, as is the case with other Blue-Based decks in other metagames such as Legacy. For a deck to be a “good” best deck, it needs to function as a sort of “Fun Police”. In other words, being the deck that dictates the direction of the format, putting pressure on decks that seek to do fancy things like Combo decks, while having a balanced match against fair decks.

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Izzet Phoenix is ​​actually good against fair decks, while interacting poorly against combo decks or non-interactive decks like Auras. Today, the deck has an average of 60% winrate against the rest of the Metagame, which is a significant number even for a fair deck.
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On the other spectrum of URx decks, we have the Indomitable Creativity decks. Following the Pioneer molds, Creativity decks have moved from trying to win the game based on putting a Velomachus Lorehold on the board and win the game with a streak of extra turns to try to approach difficult-to-remove threats and/or the Sage of the Falls combo with The Locust God.
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One deck that has stood out in recent weeks is Azorius Auras, which has a positive matchup against most URx decks. With Thoughtseize and the other discards being poor options for dealing with Izzet Phoenix and the format having taken a turn where reactive disruptions are better than the proactive ones, the Azorius version gained more space as it has a more dedicated game plan and which can set a faster clock while also producing a lot of value.

Pioneer

Here's Saturday's Pioneer Challenge's Top 32: 5 Bant Spirits 4 Gruul Aggro 3 Izzet Phoenix 3 Jund Food 2 Mono-Black Aggro 2 Rakdos Pyromancer 2 Grixis Arcanist 2 Lotus Combo 1 Lotus Turns 1 Mono-Green Devotion 1 Dimir Control 1 Orzhov Auras 1 Selesnya Company 1 Azorius Control 1 Jeskai Creativity 1 Temur Opus And its Top 8: 2 Jund Food 2 Izzet Phoenix 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Mono-Green Devotion 1 Lotus Combo 1 Bant Spirits On Sunday, we had: 6 Bant Spirits 4 Mono-Black Aggro 4 Izzet Phoenix 3 Mono-Green Devotion 2 Niv-to-Light 2 Rakdos Pyromancer 2 Boros Burn 2 Izzet Prowess 2 Lotus Combo 1 Jund Sacrifice 1 Dimir Control 1 Azorius Yorion 1 Gruul Aggro 1 Izzet Creativity With the Top 8 being made of: 3 Mono-Black Aggro 2 Bant Spirits 1 Izzet Phoenix 1 Niv-to-Light 1 Mono-Green Devotion Pioneer still retains a diverse and healthy Metagame as far as I can tell:
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Bant Spirits and its variants have been growing in popularity for a few weeks now, and today they own around 11% of the Metagame in the last 30 days. The deck features a Tempo plan, using a pack of proactive creatures and a strong tribal synergy coupled with cards that have good disruptive effects such as Mausoleum Wanderer, Shacklegeist and Spell Queller, creating an extremely robust list that can still use Collected Company to close the game quickly or get more value.
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But the list that stood out the most for me this week was Bolov0's Mono-Black Aggro, which won both Challenges. Mono-Black has been present in Pioneer since its inception, even becoming the best deck for a while until Smuggler's Copter was banned and, despite not being the synergy machine that it was with the vehicle, the deck is still featuring a lot of resilience and a game plan with multiple powerful threats.
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Another archetype that stood out this week were the Gruul Aggro variants, which grew in numbers last Saturday and have a highly explosive game plan in a mix of efficient mana dorks and low-curve impacting creatures, coupled with even more explosive turns with Burning-Tree Emissary and a strong free-win button with Embercleave.

Modern

Saturday, we had the following Top 32 on Modern Challenge: 4 Gruul Ponza 3 Izzet Tempo 3 Dimir Urza 2 Golgari Lantern 2 Four-Color Turns 2 Amulet Titan 2 Hammer Time 2 Golgari Yawgmoth 1 Grixis Urza 1 Izzet Delver 1 Merfolk 1 Esper Control

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1 Ad Nauseam 1 Living End 1 Niv-to-Light 1 Hardened Scales 1 Jund Arcanist 1 Four-color Valki 1 Living End And the event finished with the following Top 8: 2 Four-Color Turns 1 Grixis Urza 1 Amulet Titan 1 Jeskai Monkeyblade 1 Izzet Delver 1 Dimir Urza 1 Gruul Ponza On Sunday, we had: 4 Hammer Time 3 Dimir Urza 2 Jeskai Monkeyblade 2 Living End 2 Izzet Blitz 1 Golgari Yawgmoth 1 Amulet Titan 1 Izzet Delver 1 Eldrazi Tron 1 Jund 1 Enchantress 1 Tron 1 Niv-to-Light 1 Rakdos Shadow 1 Boros Death & Taxes 1 Gruul Ponza 1 Humans 1 Esper Control 1 Ad Nauseam 1 Azorius Spirits 1 Grixis Urza 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Soulflayer 1 Esper Stoneblade And the Top 8: 1 Izzet Blitz 1 Golgari Yawgmoth 1 Izzet Delver 1 Amulet Titan 1 Hammer Time 1 Grixis Urza 1 Eldrazi Tron 1 Jeskai Monkeyblade Modern Horizons II continues to bring new features to the format as players explore new options and possibilities with new cards in the set.
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Combining Urza, Lord High Artificer with Urza's Saga is almost poetic and predestined, but how about adding Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and The Underworld Cookbook to the recipe, along with Emry, Lurker of the Loch for more interactions with Mishra's Bauble and other discarded cards, and finally, why not add Thought Monitor as a creature version of Thoughtcast and create an extremely synergistic engine, which manages to have value and grind the game effortlessly while the tokens produced by Urza and his saga become gigantic threats? How about adding red and playing with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer which can take the game on its own if not answered and interacts well with the deck's game plan as it creates Treasure tokens? Honestly, while it's not exactly clear what I should call this deck (and therefore call them Urza decks), this archetype seems like a powerful competitor in the current Modern, and it wouldn't surprise me to see it in Tier 1 of the format in the coming weeks!
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Speaking of artifacts, another deck that returned to the Modern Metagame is the famous opponents' torturer: Lantern Control The inclusion of Urza's Saga gave the deck a card that serves both as a tutor for its main pieces like Lantern of Insight and Codex Shrededer, and also gave a mix of alternate wincondition with the tokens that can be produced by the card and a toolbox aspect with cards like Grafdigger's Cage, Pithing Needle, Pyrite Spellbomb, and more. The deck now adopts a Golgari base to work with, with occasional discards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek being the primary means of interaction, while Assassin's Trophy responds to threats that land on the opponent's board.
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With the significant increase in artifacts, low-cost spells, and Blood Moon's interaction with Urza's Saga, Ponza seems well positioned to impact the Metagame and serve as a way to police these new synergies. The list above, for example, has an abundance of cards dedicated to interrupting the opponent's low-cost spells, as well as destroying their artifacts. Moreover, the deck has a great interaction between Gorilla Shaman and Liquimetal Coating, where you can turn your opponent's lands into artifacts and then destroy them for one mana. The deck also makes use of Fury, the least valued elemental from the new Modern Horizons II cycle, but it works very well in this archetype, where your game tends to linger, and you can ramp up enough to play it paying its mana cost as early as turn 3. And a 3/3 Double Strike that potentially clears the opponent's board isn't bad at all.

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Finally, Obsidian Charmaw has been appearing on some lists and potentially costs 4 mana in matches where it really matters, being an evasive body that clocks fast while destroying an opponent's essential land.
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Another deck that stood out and made two Top 8 in the Challenges was Izzet Delver. This list follows similar patterns to what the deck tries to do in Legacy, but without access to cards like Force of Will, the deck ends up having a more focused nature on how the archetype works in Pauper, with Dimir Delver, where without free spells, you use several low-cost spells to maintain the advantage over your opponent while attacking with threats and maintain a Counterspell backup. Having the consistency of 8 “Delvers” with Dragon's Rage Channeler is a good way to keep the pressure on your opponent, and since Mishra's Bauble is the best cantrip in the format, I'm not surprised that this plan game works so well. The deck also has Thought Scour to speed Murktide Regent into play, and the card is a true evasive monster in this archetype, as you'll commonly have 4 or more instants, or sorceries in the graveyard. Another card that stands out is Unholy Heat, which kills pretty much everything in the format for just one mana when Delirium is active.

Pauper

Speaking of Pauper, how's the format going after the third week of Modern Horizons II? On Saturday, we had the following decks on the Top 32: 11 Affinity 5 Dimir Delver 5 Rakdos Storm 2 Gruul Storm 2 Grixis Cascade 1 Dimir Faeries 1 Izzet Delver 1 Orzhov Pestilence 1 Tron And the following Top 8: 4 Rakdos Storm 1 Gruul Storm 1 Affinity 1 Dimir Delver 1 Grixis Cascade And on Sunday, we had: 10 Affinity 9 Rakdos Cascade 5 Dimir Delver 2 Gruul Strom 2 Burn 1 Tron 1 Elves 1 Izzet Faeries 1 Dimir Faeries And the Top 8 decks were: 3 Rakdos Storm 3 Affinity 1 Dimir Delver 1 Gruul Storm As much as I really enjoy playing with unfair decks and I am taking advantage of this period to play Storm, do we really need another week to conclude that Pauper is broken? Everyone knew that adding Chatterstorm would be problematic for the format, and everyone knew that tinkering with Affinity could be dangerous. If Wizards itself was aware of the risks this posed to the format, why are they taking so long to take an action about it? It's a bit unfortunate that this is happening precisely in the month that ManaTraders decided to do a Pauper event. And it's even more regrettable that the event will take place within this polarized format, as this event and its qualifiers throughout the month were a great way to make players who normally wouldn't be interested in the format to see how the Pauper can be fun, competitive and extremely skill- and knowledge-intensive. However, with the format as it is, the impression is negative: That of a format that has only three, maybe four viable decks and the rest is there in limbo because today's main decks are absurdly broken and/or are trying to prey on the weakness of the broken decks. This will definitely make Pauper look unattractive, and players who are playing the format because of this weekend's ManaTraders Series will definitely have no motivation to continue playing the format. So, for the sake of the format and an event that can introduce many people to Pauper, I was really expecting a banned and restricted announcement this week. Storm is too efficient and too fast, and Affinity is too consistent.
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But no matter how much I or other people complain about the format, we have to look at things as they are.

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This week came Gruul Storm, which is theoretically one turn faster than Rakdos Storm and has a more robust manabase against opponent's hate. The deck chooses to use only 6 Forests in its manabase, and includes Land Grant to serve as additional “Lands” as it tutors a Forest and increases the Storm count. The deck then uses a base very similar to that of Rakdos Storm, but invests in the use of Wild Cantor as another manafixer and "free spell" and Tinder Wall as another "ritual", and it pairs these cards with Bequethal to draw cards by sacrificing them, which I confess is an interaction I've never seen in the format. This way, the deck tends to be more explosive than the Rakdos versions, it draws fewer dead cards as it has fewer lands AND trades some redundancy for speed, which is essential when it comes to Mirror match.
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When we have a polarized format and played around one or two broken decks, it's natural for people to come up with what we call “Hate Decks”. That is, decks that are exclusively dedicated to dealing and responding to what the format's oppressive decks play. An example of this occasion that I remember until now was back in the Standard days when Caw-Blade was by far the best deck in the format (which eventually led to the then rare event of a Standard ban from Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor), and players tried to use several lists with different types of hates to deal with the archetype, such as Stoneblade versions using a Selesnya base to access Vengevine and artifact responses on Maindeck. This seems to be the case with Grixis Cascade that made results in both of this weekend's Challenges. As the main decks of the format are Affinity and Storm, this deck bets on always having the best answers to deal with these decks. To attack Storm, the deck has a playset of Cleansing Wildfire and Geomancer's Gambit, in addition to Fiery Cannonade. To attack Affinity, the deck has, in addition to the LDs, Galvanic Blast and Snuff Out to deal with the creatures, as well as Chainer's Edict which will always be a useful removal if that what your opponent does is have an army of 4/4 creatures on the board. The deck also relies on the interaction between Corrupted Zendikon and the new Artifact Lands to always have access to a blocker against the deck's creatures, in addition to serving as an attacking creature on an empty board. But not only answers if a deck lives, it needs to win the game somehow and Boarding Party is an efficient way to set a clock after you have responded to what your opponent has played, and casting it is not so hard when you can ramp using your spells on your artifact lands.
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Finally, it seems that Dimir Delver is the best version of Blue-Based decks to deal with this current Metagame. The ability to set a fast clock and respond to what your opponent plays using little or no mana seems to favor the constant 2-for-1 that the Faeries lists propose.

Legacy

Last, but not least, we have Legacy. On Saturday, the Legacy Challenge finished with the following Top 32: 3 Izzet Delver 3 Doomsday 3 Mono-Red Stompy 2 Sneak and Show 2 Temur Delver 2 Omni-Tell 1 Bant Standstill 1 Bomberman 1 Jeskai Midrange 1 Selesnya Depths 1 Mono-Green Post 1 Death & Taxes 1 Temur Uro 1 Dimir Shadow 1 Jund 1 Painter Stone 1 Azorius Urza 1 Witherbloom Combo 1 Kiki-Twin 1 Hogaak 1 Lands 1 Infect And the Top 8: 2 Doomsday 1 Jeskai Midrange 1 Bomberman 1 Mono-Red Stompy 1 Selesnya Depths

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1 Sneak and Show 1 Izzet Delver On Sunday, we had the following decks: 4 Izzet Delver 3 Mono-Green Post 3 Doomsday 2 Snow Miracles 2 Sneak and Show 2 Mono-Red Prison 2 Elves 2 The Epic Storm 2 Bant Uro 1 Grixis Delver 1 Bomberman 1 Mono-Red Stompy 1 Maverick 1 Azorius Urza 1 Hogaak 1 Niv-to-Light 1 Hollow One 1 Selesnya Depths 1 Golgari Depths 1 Lands And the following Top 8: 1 Snow Miracles 1 Azorius Urza 1 The Epic Storm 1 Maverick 1 Izzet Delver 1 Bant Uro 1 Sneak and Show 1 Hogaak The first thing we can notice is that Izzet Delver has no longer shown itself to be the Metagame monster it showed itself two weeks ago. Which is a great example of why we should wait before reacting in advance to a particular card or archetype, as the Metagame can always adapt and new archetypes can emerge to keep the deck or card in check, and it's also necessary to see the impact that other additions will bring to the format.
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Urza's Saga decks keep popping up on Legacy week after week in different ways. This week, it was Legacy's turn to follow Modern and decks with Urza, Lord High Artificer emerged in the format with good results. As the Legacy is a much more mana and spell intensive format, the Legacy version can make better use of cards like Chalice of the Void, Esper Sentinel and Ethersworn Canonist to punish the Tempo decks while also serving significantly as answers to other archetypes as well. The addition of Mox Opal and Lotus Petal and Ancient Tomb make the deck even more explosive and enable great interactions with Emry, Lurker of the Loch. Another interesting point is the inclusion of Cavern of Souls, since most of the relevant cards in the deck are Humans, and also the inclusion of Karakas, which serves as a protection for the main creatures in the deck, in addition to having an excellent interaction with Urza, as you can bounce him and replay him over and over again to create an army of Construct tokens.
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Another deck that has been highlighted in the last week is the Mono-Red Stompy, which uses the well-known “Sol Lands”, City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb and also accelerations such as Chrome Mox and Simian Spirit Guide to cast as soon as possible powerful threats like Hanweir Garrison, Goblin Rabblemaster and Fireflux Squad, or to play effects that are highly punitive to many of the decks that see play in the format today as Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere.
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In the lists that caught attention this week, we have this Izzet list that uses a toolbox with Imperial Recruiter and includes many cards added in Modern Horizons II like Rishadan Dockhand and Flametongue Yearling, which does an impressive job of being a 2-for-1 effect since most Legacy creatures don't tend to have a large body. The deck appears to work as a fair attrition deck that tries to gain an advantage with the most diverse effects and that, given enough time, can close the game with the Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo, both tutorable with Imperial Recruiter.
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Finally, another list that caught my attention was this list entirely focused on the Chain of Smog combo with Witherbloom Apprentice, but which also has a great focus in creating a disruptive base good enough to play a Grief without paying the mana cost and then reanimate it with effects such as Undying Evil, Malakir Rebirth, and Reanimate. It's worth noting that Legacy is a format where major decks tend to have some difficulty setting up a big board, and therefore it's possible to set a clock with Grief if you remove the opponent's right pieces with its ability

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However, Grief also counts as a great protection free spell in case your game plan is to combo with Witherbloom Apprentice and Chain of Smog, which is a combo that the opponent needs to respect throughout the game and can be easily found using cards like Dark Confidant, Once Upon a Time and Sylvan Library.

Conclusion

This was my review of the Metagame this week By all appearances, Standard and Pioneer are stable and healthy, while Historic continues to be dictated by URx decks. Modern continues to receive innovation after innovation each week, and although we are seeing some decks establishing themselves as competitive in the Metagame, we still see new archetypes making results and old competitors trying to reappear. Perhaps Urza’s Saga is being overused in the format, which could be a problem in the future depending on how other decks handle it. Legacy, on the other hand, seems to be stabilizing, and the additions of Modern Horizons II have definitely made a big difference to the format, creating more innovative ideas and establishing archetypes that were previously unfeasible in the Metagame like the new artifact-oriented decks. Pauper was the format that broke with the new set. Normally, I would say that we could wait another week to see the adaptation as new lists have emerged to respond to the main decks, but we are talking about a case where two archetypes are visibly above the others and the format lacks efficient responses to deal with both. Finally, one last point I'd like to mention is that I've been considering making separate Weekly Metagame articles, dividing them between Magic Arena-oriented formats (Standard and Historic) and Magic Online's eternal formats (Pioneer, Modern, Pauper and Legacy), to serve both audiences more efficiently. If you are interested in having these articles published in this way, please leave your comment!
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually Magic: The Gathering competitive formats. Pauper Masters' Organizer.

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