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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Sep 22 2014 12:00pm
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Between August 23rd and September 14th twelve different Pauper Weekend Events (resembling Daily Events) fired. Of these eleven had their results reported. The data from these tournaments are helping to provide information about the new face of Pauper. Here’s a hint - it looks a lot like the old face. However the data are providing us with some fantastic insights. 

Let’s go.

Heavy Hitters

There were 265 decks that went either 3-1 or 4-0. Out of these 53 had a match record without blemish meaning that 20% of all decks that had winning records also went 4-0. The most popular decks in the field of winners were Mono-Black Control at 15.09% (40 decks) and Delver Aggro at 12.83% (34 decks). Combined these decks make up more than a quarter of the winners metagame.

Reiterating a point I have been making for quite a while, one must enter a Pauper event with the expectation of playing against and beating these decks. While it may be reasonable to accept losses to other decks in the format, both MBC and Delver are too present to be ignored. Having a plan that folds easily to these behemoths should send you back to the deck binder. Going deeper this means having a deck that is both resilient to removal and counter magic. MBC capitalizes on its ability to keep opposing threats off the table while it progresses towards its own endgame of Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Corrupt. Being able to turn cards like Victim of Night or (Geth’s Verdict) off aides in overcoming the power of Swamps. Delver operates on a very different angle of attack, hoping to dominate the early game and keep threats off the board with counter magic. While Delver can recover in the latter stages it seeks to slam the door early. In turn the best ways to combat this include providing multiple threats that are not easily answered OR operating in such a way that Delver cannot optimize its usage of mana. This tends to mean acting during Delver’s upkeep if it at all possible to do so as it prevents the deck from taking positive action on its turn and you turn.

With that refresher out of the way, let’s look at the rest of the popular decks. Follow these two are White Weenie at 7.92% (21 decks) and Hexproof variants 7.17% (19 decks). While Hexproof may seem vulnerable to MBC and it’s Edicts on the surface the current crop of Rancor decks are exceptionally adept at sticking multiple 1/1 creatures and Ethereal Armor has always matched up well against Islands. White Weenie is just a stalwart churning out multiple threats and using its creatures, both real and tokened, to generate card advantage through combat. 


Moving over to the 4-0 bracket we see a similar picture. Delver comprised 15.09% (8 decks) of all undefeated lists. The next decks are White Weenie and Stompy, each with 9.43% (5 decks). MBC lags behind with only four 4-0 decks for 7.55%. MBC shares space with the Delver blue control (Delver MUC), Esper Combo, and Hexproof.

So far we have noticed a decided lack of red decks. This was not the case early in the month when Izzet Blitz and Goblins decks both performed very well (25% and 16.67% of the initial week’s 4-0 lists). These decks have been supplanted by decks featuring Rancor as the metagame has coalesced. From this, I am willing to postulate that Pauper in many ways continues to revolve around Chittering Rats and Counterspell. However there is a third slot, representing the beatdown, that is either occupied by Lightning Bolt decks or Rancor decks. When the more controlling decks adapt to one of these, the other ascends. This creates a dynamic metagame and one where correctly predicting which aggro deck is expected can reap rewards.

Moving beyond simple volume statistics I wanted to see how many decks of a particular archetype were able to make it to 4-0 against total number of those decks piloted. The so called “4-0 articulation” provided my first sets of surprising data. First, Delver MUC had the best articulation rate with four of its nine entries making it the end of a tournament unscathed for a transfer of 44.44%. With nine total entrants Delver MUC averaged fewer than one appearance per event. Moving to those archetypes that topped one deck per event Stompy tops the list with a 34.71% articulation rate (five of 14 decks). Esper Combo follows next with a rate of 30.77% (four of 13 lists). Dimir Teachings (27.27%, 3/11), White Weenie (23.81%, 5/21) and Delver (23.53%, 8/34) round out the top five. Mono-Black Control only had four of its 40 entrants make it to a 4-0 record for a paltry 10% articulation rate.

The information on articulation gives us a different view of the format. From this angle Stompy appears to be the most successful deck, especially given its percentage of all 4-0s. At the same time White Weenie, which ranks in the top five of all categories, cannot be underestimated. While the popular decks are hindered, it should be expected that the average rate be around 20%. Delver clears this easily but MBC misses it by a mile. The conclusion here is that while Delver and MBC define the winning lists it is Stompy and White Weenie that are potentially dominating the third round. 


Given the information above it becomes apparent that the format is defined by the decks Delver, MBC, White Weenie, and Stompy. As discussed in this article on my approach, I like to view Pauper in a sense of pillars. In this capacity I assigned each deck one of six pillars: Kor Skyfisher, Counterspell, Chittering Rats, Lightning Bolt, Rancor, and Engine. Engine is a pillar that encompasses any combo deck that is based around assembling a specific set of pieces for a desired effect outside the other five pillars. The results are as follows:

    Counterspell decks lead the format in both popularity and percentage of 4-0 decks. These decks include Delver, Delver MUC, and Dimir Teachings. One in four of these decks made it to 4-0.

      (Lightning Bolt) decks were the second most popular and tied for second in number of 4-0 lists. Comprised of Goblins, Burn, Izzet Blitz, and Affinity, Lightning Bolt decks were the third best at articulating to 4-0 with a rate of 17.24%.

      ( Chittering Rats) decks, also known as MBC, were the third most popular but had the least number of 4-0s. It’s articulation rate as also last.

     Engine, or Combo decks came next in overall popularity but were next to last in 4-0 percentage. Elves, Esper Combo, Tron, and Midnight Gond were also next to last in articulation rate.

       (Rancor) decks, including Stompy and Hexproof, were the next on the volume list but tied Lightning Bolt for second in the undefeated bracket. However, these decks had the best rate of converting to 4-0.

       Finally, Kor Skyfisher decks, White Weenie and Kuldotha Boros, were the least played and were fourth in 4-0s. These decks tied Counterspell for the second base in moving from 3-1 to 4-0.

From this information Rancor appears defining card of the first month. While other cards made up more of the format, Rancor decks performed at a high level and were able to go from 3-1 to 4-0 at a better rate than any other. Similarly, MBC is extremely popular but does not seem to have the same ability to go without a loss. These numbers hold up when looking at macro-archetypes as well. 


Just as I assigned each deck a pillar, I also assigned them a macro archetype. These were:






       Midrange Aggro

       Midrange Control

When viewed through this lens all decks, aside from Midrange Control (you guessed it - MBC) and Aggro-Combo performed reasonably similar. I’ll post my complete chart at the end of the article but this data tells us that there are no bad choices for going into the format. The goal is not to pick the correct plan of attack as much as it is to pick the correct deck and pillar. The success of Aggro and Control lead me to believe that the most important cards in the format align with Rancor and Counterspell. 

Here is a link to the data. If you disagree with my classifications or ideas about pillars please let me know - I want Pauper to be dissected like other formats and disagreements are only going to promote knowledge given civil discourse. The information, as I have broken it down, gives us the following perspectives:

       Any macro-archetype is valid, but aggressive strategies fare slightly better than reactive ones.

       (Counterspell) and Chittering Rats are the most popular pillars but aggressive Rancor decks and midrange Kor Skyfisher decks perform better, on average.

       The format largely revolves around Lightning Bolt and Rancor. These cards interact favorably with the main threats of the format (creatures). Rancor enhances them while Lightning Bolt both supplements their plan or removes creatures from the board. Counterspell decks can employ Spellstutter Sprite (and often do) to contain these spells while Chittering Rats decks try to negate the efficacy of damage. Only one of these two aggressive pillars can be ascendant at any one time, with the other taking a back seat.

       MBC deserves better builds and better pilots. 

These are my thoughts - what are yours? 

Keep slingin’ commons-

SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
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"MBC deserves better builds by ScionOfJustice at Mon, 09/22/2014 - 20:09
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"MBC deserves better builds and better pilots."

-As a MBC pilot, I'm currently not exactly a big fan of yours.

I think he has a point, by longtimegone at Mon, 09/22/2014 - 21:00
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I think he has a point, though it could have been worded better.

The two top decks in the format are clearly MBC and Delver, and MBC is significantly cheaper to build. I think this leads to a lot of inexperienced players running the deck, and many of them still doing OK with it because the deck has a lot of innate power. It's not so much that there are not some good MBC players, but there might be a lower average skill level among it's players for the reason I mention above.

From a numbers perspective, I by MarcosPMA at Tue, 09/23/2014 - 17:26
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From a numbers perspective, I do think he has a point, although at face value, it seems like an insult. Per his data, 40 decks of MBC went 3-1/4-0, but only 4 of those are 4-0 decks (36 3-1). He compares it to Delver, which has the same amount of popularity, but had more 4-0 decks (8 out of 34). If both have a similar power level (which I would assume so given the popularity of each), then they should have equal amounts of success. Given that this isn't the case (at least so far), then one can say that skill/build is what is keeping back 3-1 pilots from going 4-0. Unless Delver is a far superior deck than MBC, then it feels like MBC is underachieving in terms of 4-0 pilots. That's what I took from it.

Oubliette by ahniwa at Wed, 09/24/2014 - 15:22
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Every single MBC 3-1 and 4-0 list this past weekend had 2x Oubliette in the main. Maybe they know something you don't, and not the other way around?

While possible, I don't think by SpikeBoyM at Wed, 09/24/2014 - 15:41
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While possible, I don't think it's likely. Oubliette is a holdover from when the card was bugged and, while fine, fights so many other cards at the three drop slot.
I think this might be a case of Information Cascade working to the detriment of a deck.


Hmmm, I think there is more by ahniwa at Wed, 09/24/2014 - 19:46
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Hmmm, I think there is more to it than that. Maybe a quick pros and cons:

Con 1 - Fights for space in 3cmc spot.

Con 2 - No longer bugged, so can be destroyed and opp can get creature back.

Con 3 - Sorcery speed.

Pro 1 - The only removal being run in MBC that does something other than send a creature to GY. Good against recursion decks including TE, others.

Pro 2 - Adds 2 devotion to Gary. This seems to me it would be very helpful in the mirror, where it's a game of attrition and who plays bigger Garys makes a difference.

Pro 3 - Targeted removal that kills anything in one spell including Young Wolf, Stormbound Geist, Loyal Cathar, etc.

There are good points on both sides, but I think the benefits are enough that running 2x seems like a pretty good call, alongside another suite of faster, lower-cmc removal.

What surprised me over the weekend, really, was how many MBC decks ran Tendrils.

:Pro 2 - Adds 2 devotion to by longtimegone at Thu, 09/25/2014 - 04:44
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:Pro 2 - Adds 2 devotion to Gary. This seems to me it would be very helpful in the mirror, where it's a game of attrition and who plays bigger Garys makes a difference.

This made the difference to get to lethal in 2 close games for me this weekend.

:Pro 3

Don't forget a Nettle Sentinel and his little Rancor too.

:What surprised me over the weekend, really, was how many MBC decks ran Tendrils

I took two different MBC decks 3-1 this weekend, first one with more traditional cheaper removal, then one of the Tendrils/Corrupt builds. The tendrils gave a *lot* of comeback potential, they come online a bit later, but they are usually able to gain back more life than you lost to the delay.