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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
May 04 2015 12:00pm
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We are going to start today by talking about a card that no longer exists: Treasure Cruise. Sure, physical and digital copies are still technically available but the reality is they simply do not matter in Pauper. The ban of Treasure Cruise has allowed the format some room to breathe and in the wake of Dragons of Tarkir those have been rather deep breaths. The format has shifted away from being about reaching an apex of power as soon as possible and the format has taken on a completely different texture.

Before we can explore this new landscape we must first fully understand what Treasure Cruise did. As long as it was legal the boat was far and away the single most powerful spell a player could cast. Resolving a Cruise was so important that previously underappreciated cards like Mental Note and Thought Scour became immediate staples. Velocity - the rate at which cards moved from the library and hand to the graveyard, sometimes for no effect beyond replacing itself, mattered a great deal because such actions built towards resolving a game breaking spell. Three cards for a single mana left plenty over to continue affect the board, meaning that a single Treasure Cruise could often be back breaking. Unless of course you could cast your own Cruise.

Pauper, therefore, became a race to the top. If a deck was not running Treasure Cruise it was trying to enact a game ending combo. The best fair deck while Treasure Cruise was legal was White Weenie Tokens - one that tried to match Treasure Cruise’s raw card advantage with armies of tokens. Affinity was the best non-Cruise deck and it only held that title due to its ability to chain together Thoughtcasts and robust suite of 4/4 creatures. Fling and Atog also helped quite a bit.

When Treasure Cruise left the format decks were quick to adapt. Boards could take time to develop once again and decks like Mono-Black Control reasserted their position in the metagame. In fact MBC has become to most popular deck - surpassing Delver for the number one spot. On some level, this makes sense. MBC has better tools than Delver to fight the wide swath of random decks that have sprung up since Treasure Cruise got the axe. Many of these decks rely on creature forward strategies to win and if there is one thing MBC is great at it is killing things dead.

Oddly enough MBC is also one of the decks best set up to beat MBC. Currently, the mirror devolves into trading haymakers with Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Corrupt being the right and left hooks. Oubliette, a card I have often derided, is huge here as it not only represents a tempo swing but a swing in black mana symbols as well - take two of yours; add two to mine. While it is possible to fight the mirror on an axis of attrition, problems arise in the top deck phase as haymakers tend to trump the grind when ripped from the top.

Delver has taken position as second most popular. Some of this may be backlash - the deck is clearly less powerful without Treasure Cruise and some pilots may have moved to different decks to try and find that same potency crest. Delver also suffers because of its inability to permanently alter a board state. While Piracy Charm is excellent at picking off small threats, Delver has trouble dealing with a resolved Chittering Rats or Gray Merchant of Asphodel (to say nothing of Gurmag Angler). As MBC has exploded in popularity like a new One Direction song, it stands to follow that decks that have a hard time removing permanents to take a step backwards. The fact it remains a strong choice is due to Delver’s ability to have one of the best openings in the game - Delver of Secrets into Cloud of Faeries with Spellstutter Sprite backup.

Speaking of great openings, the best deck on non-volume metrics so far has been Affinity. Affinity can match Delver for sick opening plays, sometimes vomiting out multiple 4/4s on turn two. That’s not all - Affinity can also assemble a kill with Atog and Fling. The excision of Treasure Cruise has let Affinity assert itself as the deck with the most raw power.

Affinity does have some a key weaknesses. Highly vulnerable to Artifact hate it has seen a decline, at least anecdotally, when Goblins is heavily played. Goblins is the best home for Gorilla Shaman, a key card in fighting any deck reliant on Artifact Lands.

The new Pauper landscape is comprised of largely the same cards, albeit in different volumes, than before. As such, some lynchpin cards have changed.

Flame Slash’s stock has gone down. Whereas before Dragons of Tarkir removing creatures was all that mattered, the reemergence of Mono-Black Control means that taking something off the board matters second to when it goes away. Flame Slash was fantastic because it killed almost everything for a single mana. With more copies of Chittering Rats and Gray Merchant of Asphodel running wild, the ability to remove those creatures at the end of an opponent’s turn and then playing your own threat (or threats) is now paramount. As such, cards like Galvanic Blast and  Grasp of Darkness have seen their value rise.

A focus on one-for-one removal has also let White Weenie Tokens return to the metagame. So far, White Weenie Tokens has had the best one week performance of a non-Delver, non-MBC deck. Battle Screech and Triplicate Spirits means that the token deck is capable of assembling an army in the blink of an eye and Guardians' Pledge makes this rather paltry army lethal quickly. Which begs the question: how can a token deck exist with so much MBC?

The answer is people are skimping on Crypt Rats. Right now the longest standing Pauper sweeper may be the most important card in the format. Many MBC decks are cutting copies to find room for other disruptive elements. I believe this is a mistake and that three copies main is correct. The ability to simply sweep the board and follow it up with a Gray Merchant is too powerful to ignore.

In a similar vein I believe more decks should be adopting Twin Bolt. While it is not as broadly powerful as Electrickery, the flexibility of Twin Bolt to kill a two-toughness creature OR two one-toughness creatures cannot be understated. If there was ever a card to fight Delver this is it. The only thing holding this card back, it seems, is the lack of a red deck that really wants to play the instant speed control game. Izzet Control is around on the fringe, but the premier red deck is based around Kiln Fiend which means sorcery speed is the way to go. If I were looking to attack the format from a unique angle, however, I would absolutely want to pack four Twin Bolts in my sixty.

As of the writing of this article I have recorded the results of 26 Daily Events in the Dragons of Tarkir season. Based on my metrics, here is your current Pauper top 10: 

10. Elves/Kuldotha Boros
9. Esper Combo
7. Burn/Stompy
6. Goblins
5. White Weenie Tokens
4. Izzet Blitz
3. Delver
2. Affinity
1. Mono-Black Control

It finally seems that blue is no longer the clear best color in the format. 

Keep slingin’ commons-

SpikeBoyM on Magic Online


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