Magic: the Gathering


Pauper: The New Bans, MH3 and the format's needs

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Banning All That Glitters was more than expected for Pauper, but what does it tell us about its needs, how they are being addressed in Magic's design and how we have reacted to changes in the format?

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A new update to the banned and restricted list has come out, and with it, two major changes have occurred in Pauper:

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The first was the ban of All That Glitters, a card that was downshifted in Commander Masters and, since then, has grown in presence in the format with each new release, with the culmination of its ban being given by Novice Inspector and Boros Synthesizer's ability to adopt the card into its strategy.

The second was the banning of any card that makes Stickers or Attractions in eternal formats, including Pauper, where one in specific, known as “Name-Sticker” Goblin was the center of several controversial debates surrounding its ability and changes caused by Magic Online's inability to reproduce the effects of Stickers on the platform.


Both bring pertinent changes to Pauper's Metagame, and in this article, I address the main consequences of the ban and what they say about the format and its needs as we approach Modern Horizons 3.

Cranial Plating was banned for a reason

There is a pattern in my experience with Magic that tends to repeat itself from one format to another over the years and which, for the most part, tends to materialize with a ban: the more I like a deck or card, the more likely it is to be banned.

Almost all of my Pauper articles over the last few months have been around All That Glitters. After all, the enchantment first allowed playing a more straightforward version of Affinity without going through all the click interactions of the Grixis variants, while it also became a staple in Boros Synthesizer, a value-based archetype, with Novice Inspector, gained the potential to exercise the same “combo-kill” as Affinity.

Both decks were fast, consistent, had plenty of good matchups and a few very bad matchups, and even allowed playing many Leagues in a single day due to the speed of the games and their “free win” potential with All That Glitters - main reason which why the card deserved a ban a few months from now.

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Cranial Plating is banned for a reason, and All That Glitters, while it didn't stay in play and allowed some unfavorable trades, emulated the same effects too well to stay on Pauper for long.

Furthermore, it is impossible to ignore that “combo kill” was a recurring problem with Affinity and that led to the banning of Atog and Disciple of the Vault - even if in other colors and depending on the combat phase for work, Affinity would certainly make the most of the enchantment, as it did - and later, other archetypes began to do even when they didn't have such an “all-in” plan.

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But this ban - the fourth in Affinity's recent history - takes us to another, more troublesome point: any card that interacts very well with artifacts can break Pauper. If we have another Sojourner’s Companion, Affinity dominates the Metagame, if we have another Atog, even if its ability only works as a sorcery, Affinity predominates. If we have another All That Glitters just for artifacts, Affinity predominates - and even without any of these pieces, Affinity can continue to predominate with any less relevant support.

For practical purposes, Affinity has become what, for years, Delver and Faeries were for Pauper until the fateful banning of Gush and Daze, and for years, we saw influencers fervently advocating for the banning of these cards or even cantrips - and some of these, today, claim that there is no reason to ban MH2's Bridges or Mirrodin's artifact lands.

More specifically, PFP's message about these two cycles is that the impact of their absence would be of little relevance to the format in the case of Bridges, or the fact that many players like Artifact Lands as part of Pauper's staples, both points valid, in addition to another one a little less commented on in official words: Magic players never know what they want, and normally, they don't measure the consequences of their desires around reprints and bans.


One of my biggest concerns with Pauper and more aggressive interventions against Affinity or Kuldotha Red is what comes next. If we remove “fast Aggro”, naturally, Midranges come in - and would these Midranges be able to contain Big Mana decks if they return? Would Pauper players be willing to play again against Lock-Control decks like Tron was before they banned Bonder’s Ornament?

After all, which format do Pauper players really consider ideal? Because a standard answer like “a Metagame where every macro-archetype is competitively viable” does not work for practical purposes in eternal formats - a more predominant proposal will consequently prey on those that are weak against it. We can have Aggro, Control, Midrange, Tempo and Combo present - we do currently - but one category will always be better than the others.

And finally, what exactly does Pauper need?

Whether it's more bans, unbans, or insertion of specific cards, the answer to this question is also not unanimous. In the end, the community will always look a little more at what evidence we want and/or what archetypes we prefer to play and/or face than at things as they are - and even PFP probably doesn't have a unified answer than Pauper it should be, and the design of Magic and the way Limited is built in each expansion is what dictates the changes in the format.

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Today, given the problematic circumstances surrounding Affinity, I say that Pauper requires more efficient answers to artifacts in a more comprehensive manner, such as the insertion of Vandalblast and/or other cards that can punish Bridges and help to keep the archetype in check, since Kuldotha Red, for example, is easier to mitigate damage (at least until we have Skullcrack's downshift), while Affinity is always rebuilding, reinventing and gaining additions that make it pass the threshold of acceptable.

But it's not just Affinity that Pauper requires answers to. Would Deafening Silence and the like have helped stop Storm? Would Tron have gotten such heavy bans if we had better interactions with non-basic lands? Would Monastery Swiftspear be as oppressive if other decks had more efficient first and second turns?

The format has a chronic problem around how proactive additions are much easier to get into common Limited slots than answers to them. A Rule of Law is extremely frustrating to open as a common while Chatterstorm was acceptable because it helped enable archetypes, and as consequence, Pauper always ends up suffering from threats because its responses are too slow to them - and this process will not change.

We can only hope that high-power level sets, like Modern Horizons or Masters, have the answers we need without affecting their Draft and Sealed environment too much - cards like Vandalblast, for example, fit in relatively well in that regard while Deafening Silence already feels a bit parasitic and frustrating to play against.

Until then, Pauper must play with what they have and behave accordingly. The PFP may have been slow to ban All That Glitters, but the warning sign became more evident the moment Boros Synthesizer transformed into Boros Glitters - the format has a history with combo hybrids - and, in the end, they made the right decision to ban the Cranial Plating we had at home.


Stickers were a mistake, and Wizards finally admitted it

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Stickers and Attractions were two of the biggest atrocities the design team has ever done to Magic's eternal formats. The idea of printing eternal-legal cards at an Un-set might seem fun in theory, but, in practice, it caused one of the most absurd discrepancies ever between the real and digital environments, and all because of the card above: “Name-Sticker” Goblin.

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As we can see, the online version of the card is mechanically different from the original, with its own set of rules focused on dice rolling as Magic Online was unable to reproduce the function of Stickers, thus creating a potentially more powerful digital card which starred in some archetypes for a few weeks until Pauper stabilized and/or players realized that the card was not as necessary in most decks.

But the presence of “Name-Sticker” in Magic Online set a very dangerous precedent: the possibility of different formats, even when the card pool is the same both on paper and digitally - we already have problems with Commander and Universes Beyond sets that did not arrive in MTGO with cards that affected Legacy and Vintage, and the possibility of inserting Stickers and Attractions and any other convoluted mechanic into MTGO would create even more discrepancies in their experience between the two environments.

In the end, Stickers were a mistake on Wizards' part and created logistical issues that were too complex to be legal in any competitive format. Even in Commander - a format where they intended these mechanics to be fun - their presence and the Attractions only made the matches even longer and more convoluted to follow.

MH3 has a certain card with the potential to be banned, but which one?

Another important detail in this Monday's Banned and Restricted announcement was the statement that there is a card in Modern Horizons 3 that will probably be banned from Pauper because it is too similar to a card already banned from the format.

Among the main options that fit the game's design philosophy and whose potential doesn't seem too absurd for Modern (such as Daze and Gush), the following cards stand out as potential candidates for “similar effects” with the aforementioned spell.

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Atog and Disciple of the Vault are easy to understand: artifacts are present in MH3 and mechanics such as Improvise and Affinity are confirmed. Therefore, the insertion of creatures that sacrifice artifacts to increase their power and/or that benefit when artifacts are destroyed or sacrificed seems like a logical proposal for Limited.

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Storm seems unlikely this time, but we're talking about Modern Horizons, and we can't rule out the possibility of having another spell that makes tokens and/or damage to the opponent like a common one - even something like Brain Freeze could make it into MH3 as reprint and downshift.


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Colorless Mana and Eldrazi are confirmed in the expansion. Therefore, an Arcum’s Astrolabe that cares about being cast via colorless mana instead of snow would make sense and be equally troublesome for Pauper and other eternal formats.

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Eldrazi are creatures that tend to require a lot of colorless mana to function. Therefore, a new card in the Cloudpost cycle and/or a similar mechanic would prove to be an issue, especially if it interacts with Urza's lands.

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Proactive untap effects are historically broken and could boost Familiars to very high levels in the post-MH3 weeks, so it wouldn't be surprising if a preemptive ban happened in this case.

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Finally, we have cards whose effects are just too strong. A free pump like Invigorate would be a problem even with the increase in popularity of red decks with plenty of blockers and with Snuff Out being a Pauper staple.

A Hymn to Tourach with more variance (like revealing two at random and discarding the non-land cards) could happen, and while I would expect this spell in an uncommon slot, it wouldn't be surprising if, for some reason, it was released as a common.

New Horizons Approach

While we wait for the previews of MH3, we will have little time to enjoy Pauper without All That Glitters, and Metagame should end up adapting little until the next set, whose potential to completely impact and change the entire competitive scene is very high.

Therefore, we will need patience before we claim that a new deck is broken or any other common social media claim in the first few weeks post-bans and in the weeks following MH3 - after all, we are already aware that a specific card can actually break the balance of the Metagame and is already on the PFP radar.

Thanks for reading!