A Healthy Pauper Meta Is A Winter Without Snow


"I hear the sounds of melting snow outside my window every night and with the first faint scent of spring, I remember life exists" - John J. Geddes


In Mid-June, Modern Horizons (MH1) hit the ground running, instantly impacting every format in which it was legal. Green Beatdown decks were gifted with Savage Swipe, we saw the reprints of Snow-Covered Lands, a cycle of "Horizon" Lands, Urza and Yawgmoth made an appearance, a Force of Will knockoff, and even a ridiculous 2-mana planeswalker that recently felt the weight of the ban-hammer. Underneath the power and price tag of the individual pieces, one unassuming snow-artifact wreaked havoc on my beloved format, Pauper.

By now, we've all seen and probably felt the influence that Arcum's Astrolabe had with its nigh-unstoppable engine in the Jeskai decks; however, since its banning almost a month ago, the popular decks that were once suffocating under the sheer weight of its presence are now flourishing and its been a long while since we've see a Pauper meta this healthy, this diverse, and - frankly - this much fun.


It should be no surprise that in Labe's absence, many varieties of Boros decks have risen to the top of meta list. Whether its Boros Tokens, Metalcraft, or Monarch, these fiery, go-wide decks are proving to be the new brews to beat when it comes to the competitive tournaments, both online and in paper. Over the last twenty events to report, Boros has posted eleven top-8 finishes and eight top-16 finishes. With the diversity of decks you will find in Pauper, week in and week out, there is no way argue what a feat that is. Boros does not stand alone at the top, though. Urzatron, Mono-Green Stompy, and Burn fight to round out spots 2-4 of the meta-share, typically.


So? - You may ask. These decks were popular before Astrolabe - you may say.


And you're correct, but if you know anything about me - and as of right now, you probably don't - it's that the reason I love Pauper is for the sheer breadth of possibilities there are when brewing a deck. Even if net-decking is your thing, its reasonable, if not expected, that you'll make a few tweaks to add that extra layer of customization to your list. I mean why not? We're talking pennies for Legacy Lite power.


Seven thousand-two hundred-seventy four. That's how many Pauper-legal cards currently exist in Magic the Gathering. That's a lot of possibilities. And that's a lot of whistles to whet.


Nothing demonstrates the creativeness of the Pauper community as much as the recent Dimir decks that have had a chance to breath now that the snow has melted. Simply and generically listed as "Dimir Control", you find a collection of wildly fun and inventive decks, including the hilariously frustrating 95 Card U/B Teachings list by username: Lampalot.


Your more-reasonably sized tournament decks aim to barrage the board with counterspells, cantrips, flashbacking tutors, recurring bounce spells, and non-combat damage in order to fill their bin and drop a Gurmag Angler as quick as this format will allow us. However, being a creatureless list, this steamroller looks to win through looping Evincar's Justice, preferably while keeping the poor, opposing sap on the other side of table helpless to do much about it. Outside of that, it's main win-con is attrition. There are enough cards and life-gain in this deck to allow it to let your opponent's library simply waste away.


95 Card UB Teachings - Lampalot

All ridiculousness aside, this deck is difficult to manage correctly, and there's a lot of black ice underneath you when in the driver's seat of this barreling lowry.


Let's look at something a little more... submissive?


On November 11th, we had two different Dimir Control decks finish in the top 5 of an MTGO Pauper League, and one UB Delver list that cracked the Top 16. In my books, that's a happy day for the esteemed guild.


Dimir Control - RainmakerLuke

This second place finisher shows us that, when finely tuned, Dimir is a card-drawing Pauper powerhouse while it eliminates any threat its opponent may present, assuming they are able to successfully cast anything in the first place.


The name of the game here is "dig, then dig some more". Or maybe its "if at first you don't Zombie Fish, dig dig again." Huh.


Not only to you get to stack the top of your library by utilizing playsets of both Ponder and Preordain, then draw what seems like half of your deck with three Mulldrifters and four Accumulated Knowledge, but the removal suite of Edicts, Agony Warps, Echoing Decays, et al are sure to fill your yard with enough Delve-fodder to cast multiple Angler's. With this low costed offensive, its not out of the realm of possibilities to drop a heaving Zombie Fish by turn four. Then, by using your Augur of Bolas' to bring the un-delved spells back to your hand, you can sufficiently load up for Zombie Fish #2. Believe me, sitting across the table from an invasion like that is not a clock you'll enjoy being on.


From these two lists alone, I think you can see the creative and frustrating possibilities that Dimir promises. It can be a difficult archetype to manage, as you've got to be constantly mindful of your resources and not let yourself get too caught up with doing only the "fun stuff" like drawing cards and dropping bombs, and none of the necessary stuff like watching your opponent's moves, knowing when to hold that Edict or Exclude until just the right time, etc. After all, leaving mana open for counterspells probably means you pushing back to fun stuff another turn or two, but alas, it's what must be done. This archetype is as much fun to play as its design is wide open; it is simultaneously reactive, proactive, and interactive.


If I may borrow from Mr. Geddes above: "I see the sights of melting snow on my monitor every night and with the first faint scent of a new meta, I remember fun exists."


~Brad

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