Pauper Meta Report - First week of July 2023

Lessons Learned from LOTR (Current Pauper Metagame)

After a couple of weeks of looking at results on MTGO (Challenges, Qualifiers, Leagues, etc.), the Pauper meta seems like it's still the same, although I must say that the burn dominance has been a bit shattered thanks to the rise in popularity of Dimir Terror Decks.

This is because of one card: Lórien Revealed.

As previously highlighted in my TOP 10 LOTR cards video, Its job may seem simple, a replacement of an Ash Barrens, but actually, it does a bit more than that. First of all, it also helps with fixing your colors as it can fetch for duals like Contaminated Aquifer, but also, it has a terrific synergy with both Brainstorm and most notably, Tolarian Terror, as you are sending an instant that tutors a land to the graveyard that also makes your 5/5 creature cheaper.

Now, if you align this with the fact that Burn suffers a lot from handling big creatures and that Dimir has the tendency to run from one to two Unexpected Fangs, all of a sudden, what it was previously a bad match now it turns into an even worse one for Burn. When it comes to competitive magic, you either get to be the best deck against the meta or the deck that consistently beats the latter and in Dimir’s Terror case, it's quickly becoming the deck that is suited the most to beat burn.

But What about Affinity?

Affinity has been, for a while, the other contender to be the best deck in the meta, but a few things have changed over the last couple of sets. For starters, Wrenn's Resolve gave Burn more depth (again, I also foresaw this on my top 10 mom cards for pauper video lol), as it now has given a chance to become an even grinder deck, but what put the needle in the coffin for Affinity, was that now (and pretty much every other deck in Pauper) got access to the newly introduced Cast Into the Fire, as now red decks have a way to slow down and disrupt Affinity mana base.

This is a HUGE deal, because setting them back in the initial turns can be devastating. Imagine this curve: T1 swiftspear, T2 exile their land with Cast Into the Fire. Not only they have to rebuild, but also most of affinity lands come into play tapped. Meaning that in the meantime, at least in the next few turns, the swiftspearwill be dealing tons of more free damage.

But wait, there's more! Decks like caw gate now are running a few copies of Cast Into the Fire in the main deck, and if you pair that with four copies Dust to Dust in sideboard this match now has become even worse, and since a one mana exile effect is easy to splash, affinity now has something extra to worry about in the next few months.

And the Rest of the Meta?

Boros got a buff with Lembas, Cat gates is apparently a thing now, Mono blue is shifting from faeries to Terror builds thanks to Lórien Revealed, and Jeskai Ephemerate has also welcomed the latter along with Cast Into the Fire.

Overall, this shy complementary set gave powerful tools to multiple decks in the format.

So, is it healthier NOW?

Not quite. First, we have to understand a couple of things.

In-person metagame and Online metagame are different sides of the same coin.

What I mean by this is that while it may seem that the in-person metagame is diverse and that the “healthy” feeling is echoed by people with a lot of reach within the community, they look at it from the paper perspective, where people KNOW, that if they don’t pack from five to six slots against BURN, and the rest against Affinity, they won't have a chance. To go a bit beyond that, most of the latest Paupergeddon Top 8 lists were even running Cast Into The Fire in main deck to battle the popular affinity decks, which speaks to itself about the current pauper health state.

But let's forget about that for a moment. Now, let's look at the Online meta, where at least 90% of the matches of Pauper as a whole are being played. In Challenges, Leagues, and other premium events, BURN was at least 20% of the field for a while, if not more. Now, this number has been replaced with Dimir in the Format, but you can still expect around 10 to 15% of the field running burn while Affinity also shares the same numbers.

The point being? While it seems that the format has self-corrected thanks to the Dimir Terror resurgence, I wouldn't just say, “yeah, but the paper experience is different, so it's good”. That reasoning only implies that you are just taking into consideration 10% of the field, which by sheer numbers, is wrong.

As a final note on this, for some reason, I can’t understand that Ponza strategies have been rising in popularity. This creates a weird online meta where the most hated strategy, land destroy and burn, are dominant. That is often perceived as unhealthy, but I would better describe it as a hostile place where midrange decks can't shine because they are just shut down. Not to mention that Affinity decks also prey on most of the slower midrange decks.

LOTR Overperformers

Most notably, as you may already have wondered, the one mana cycle creatures are now being used on most decks as compliment cards that enable them to run more spells for fewer lands.

One thing to remember is that these creatures can also tutor for the Eldraine lands that aren't banned, and as such Witch's Cottage is seeing a bit more play on mono-black decks thanks to the Troll of Khazad-dûm.

Generous Ent has a similar situation, as I've seen it in Selesnya Food builds as a way to tutor for the green Eldraine land, but more importantly, it's a perfect card to run in ponza decks as Annoyed Altisaur has another target to cascade into.

LOTR Underperformers

One statement can summarize this: the ring mechanic sucks for Pauper.

This is not because it's strictly bad, but rather that only the second and final “chapters” are the useful ones, but more importantly, you don't get any value after the fourth tempt trigger.

It also doesn't align with the strategies it can fit into, as ideally, you need to run it on aggressive cards to provide grind elements, but the tempt cards are either not aggressive or too expensive for Pauper standards.

Props to Snapbolt to try and make a mono blue version of it work, but in his words, “they seemed terrible” and don't improve anything on an already established archetype.

Brews vs. Competitive Game

Recently over the weekend, the discussion of whether or not Brews on Pauper are viable rose to some player's attention, as often they seem unable to perform well thanks to the current Pauper meta.

My position is as follows:

Brews are possible. They can be competitive, ignoring some portion of the meta, as in, be good against affinity, and terror, but lose horribly against burn or the other way around. The key is that brews need to have a decent amount of power level for pauper standards. As long as that requirement is met, the sky is the limit. Any not t1 deck will always have a bad match.

Top Decks of the Week

Here's a brief compilation of the decks and tournament lists from the week that did good and surprisingly well during the first week of July 2023. The most notable by far is Caw Gates.

Given how the metagame is shifting, since Dimir Terror is rising in popularity, it's only natural that decks with good matches, like Caw Gates, are doing well in recent results, as last weekend it overcame the Saturday Challenge as it came in the first place. This weekend, it did not only do that, but also the second place was also a Caw Gates deck. It's notable that the inclusion of Cast Into the Fire in both the main deck and sideboard gives the deck more reach against affinity, and the three to four mandatory Hydroblast, as a compliment, makes this deck a great choice if you don't expect many Gruul Ponza decks running Rampant.

Brew of the Week Award

Medvedev is doing the Lord's work by innovating and revamping mono-black control as we know it. They added a complete set of Troll of Khazad-dûm along with other cycle creatures as a way to use Exhume as early as turn two and start bashing your opponents with seemingly unblockable damage. If plans fail, Thorn of the Black Rose can start taking over the game thanks to the monarch's ability while you rebuild and destroy your opponent's board with your suit of removal.

Wrap Up

After a couple of weeks, and just looking at the data from online tournaments, the meta seems to be around the same: the top decks are the ones we already know, Dimir, Burn, Affinity, and Ponza. The rest of them are just trying to catch up and get wins against a third of the top ones. LOTR is a very good set for Pauper overall and has impacted the format way more than I anticipated, not by the mechanics it brought, but rather because of the multiple supplementary and sideboard cards it came with.

Thank you so much for reading until here. I plan to do this every week, so I hope you have enjoyed this brief email. Take care, and we will meet again next week!

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