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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jan 26 2015 1:00pm
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Next week Fate Reforged will grace the digital shelves and Pauper will get a cart load of new toys. As the season punctuated by Khans of Tarkir and the impact of Treasure Cruise draws to a close now is an excellent time to look at the results of the previous months en masse and garner a better understanding of the winner’s landscape.

I recorded the results of every officially reported Daily Event between the weeks of October 20th, 2014 and January 12th, 2015 (inclusive). The start date was selected due to the fact that prior to those events Magic Online featured a bug which allowed non-online commons such as High Tide and Hymn to Tourach, otherwise not legal, to be played in Pauper. Additionally, a bug affecting Fade Away has been prevalent recently which can cause the game to crash which has without a doubt had some impact on results. However, Pauper operated for months with Oubliette not returning a creature upon destruction, so I opted to keep the Fade Away bug results in the calculations.

The method I use is relatively simple: tally every deck that goes 3-1 or 4-0. While one enterprising member of the Pauper community endeavors to watch the results of every event (and Tom Scud deserves much credit for this) I am sticking only to those lists officially reported. This gives us a glimpse into the winners metagame. A deck that accrues three wins earns one point, four wins gets four points. These numbers come from Seth Burn who is far better at math than I am, but the way he described it is that a 4-0 is around four times as hard to achieve as a 3-1. The formula here puts an emphasis on going undefeated and overpowering other decks, and since we are trying to see what is most successful this makes perfect sense.

First off, the ten most popular winning decks of the season: 

1.     Delver (14.35% of all winners)
2.     Affinity (9.42%)
3.     MBC (7.83%)
4.     Izzet Blitz (7.54%)
5.     Esper Combo (7.1%)
6.     Stompy (6.67%)
7.     Hexproof (5.94%)
8.     Izzet Control (4.78%)
9.     Burn (4.49%)
10.  Izzet Midrange (3.91%)

Two notes:

     The differentiation between Izzet lists comes down to the details. Izzet Blitz is a Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops deck that wants to win via a one shot kill. Izzet Control is a one-for-one removal deck while Izzet Midrange uses similar creatures to Izzet Blitz but lacks the emphasis on a one shot kill.

       The top ten decks represent 72.03% of all winners. 

These numbers should not be surprising to anyone. Delver runs some of the most powerful spells available to Pauper while also being a potential best home for Treasure Cruise. The sequence of Delver of Secrets into Cloud of Faeries with Spellstutter Sprite backup is one of the, if not the strongest opening available to Pauper.

Looking just at the winner’s popularity we begin to see some of the issues with Pauper. Delver appears to be the best deck and it is not very close, with no other deck topping 10%. Compare this to relatively healthy metagames where no deck is able to maintain such strong popularity and power over an approximate three month span without some action being taken. And even though it is anecdotal, Delver has been the acme of the format for quite a while.

Things appear much more insidious when one digs into the 4-0 only numbers. In this span, 138 decks were officially reported as going 4-0. Here are the most popular 4-0 decks: 

1.     Delver (18.84% of all 4-0s)
2.     Esper Combo (13.04%)
3.     Affinity (8.7%)
4.     Hexproof (7.25%)
5.     MBC (7.25%)
6.     Izzet Blitz (6.52%)
7.     Izzet Midrange (4.35%)
8.     Burn (3.62%)
9.     Izzet Control (3.62%)
10.  Stompy (3.62%) 

Delver and Esper Combo appear even stronger here, both topping one-tenth of all winners. Combined these decks account for almost one-third of all 4-0 decks. Every other top ten deck from winner’s popularity saw a decline from popularity to 4-0 popularity. While this may be a result of small sample size it is still alarming. Given a balance of power one would expect results to remain within a small range when translating from overall numbers to undefeated lists. Instead we are able to see two decks perform much better than their peers.

Based on these numbers a few truths start to emerge.

       Pauper remains a format with a Fundamental Turn of four. The Fundamental Turn is the turn by which control of a game is asserted either through victory or control. In the past this was the turn of Spire Golem + Counterspell backup or a Tendrils of Corruption as a pseudo Time Walk. Currently it is an average goldfish for decks like Affinity, Izzet Blitz, and Esper Combo (while retaining the Counterspell + threat) realm. The Fundamental Turn has remained the same but the environment has changed drastically.

       Traditional beatdown is not a path to success. While there are five decks I would classify as aggressive in the top ten, only Stompy lacks any combo element. Simply put attacking for two, three, or four is a joke. This is in part because the spells available outclass the creatures but it remains alarming.

       Much like other Eternal formats, blue is a dominant force. Unlike other Eternal formats, Choke doesn’t exist here. 

The top ten decks tell a story that is continued once we begin to examine all results. While there were 50 or so distinct decks that scored a winning record in the Khans of Tarkir season, for the purposes of the following discussion they are going to be lumped into the following categories based upon how they play out: 

       Beatdown (Goblins, Stompy, White Weenie/Tokens)

       Cloud of Faeries Combo (Esper Familiars, Grixis Combo, Izzet Tron, Simic Combo)

       Combo/Aggro (Affinity, Burn, Elves, Hexproof, Izzet Blitz)

       Control (Dimir Control, Esper Control, Grixis Control, Turbo Fog)

       Delver (Delver tempo, Izzet Delver)

       Midrange (Dimir Trinket, Izzet Control/Midrange, Kuldotha Boros, MBC/variants, Temur Tron, Tortured Existence variants) 

Midrange appears to be comprised of the most disparate decks but aside from Tron they all seek to exhaust opposing resources and win with creatures. Tron fits because it wants to render resources obsolete thanks to mana.

These buckets represent the macro-strategies available to Pauper. During Khans of Tarkir, this is how they performed as 4-0 decks: 

1.     Combo/Aggro (27.54% of all 4-0s)

2.     Midrange (23.91%)

3.     Delver (19.57%)

4.     Cloud of Faeries Combo (17.39%)

5.     Beatdown (7.97%)

6.     Control (3.62%)

There is a huge slant here towards decks that ignore interactivity at a basic level. Combo and Combo/Aggro decks made up nearly 45% of all 4-0 decks which is alarming considering almost 24% of decks are Midrange running copious creature removal and another 3.62% are true control decks. Considering all these decks use creatures as their main engine, whether to deal damage or through Cloud of Faeries loops, the result stands out. When the two best interactive strategies are either Delver decks or Midrange and the one featuring creature removal allows creature based combo to succeed then something is amiss. 

What is slightly more frightening is the following:



Cloud of Faeries based decks, whether they be Delver or combo, are 37% of the 4-0 metagame. Non-interactive combination beatdown decks are 35.5% of the metagame. Everything else, including decks loaded with removal and control elements, represents 27.5% of the 4-0 metagame. 

The results of the Khans of Tarkir season to this point send a few clear signals:

       Delver is the best interactive deck.

       Non-interactive decks far outclass interactive decks.

       If you are not playing Cloud of Faeries, playing a combo/aggro deck is your best path to victory.

       Traditional beatdown is all but dead. 

As we prepare for the changes Fate Reforged may usher, however minor, I would play the following deck: 



Elves is another combo-aggro deck that is often relegated to the sidelines due to the prevalence of Mono-Black Control and Crypt Rats. While MBC remains a popular deck it has not been performing nearly as well in recent weeks as it had before Treasure Cruise caught on fire.

Elves wants to flood the board with small creatures before winning with Timberwatch Elf aided attacks. In the current field it can go far wider than Delver and post-sideboard has the tools to fight Esper Combo. An enticing attribute of the deck is its ability to gain an obscene amount of life and put the game out of reach for decks seeking to deal 20. While Electrickery is a real threat Spidersilk Armor helps in the post-sideboard games.

The numbers are far from perfect but I am pretty sold on three copies of Distant Melody. Having one in the opener is more or less a mulligan. The addition of Multani’s Acolyte and Sylvan Ranger add some much needed supplemental card draw and it is possible they should be a 2/2 split.

Unlike other Combo-Aggro decks Elves is more prone to bad draws since it lacks cards like Ponder and Thoughtcast, putting it on par with Burn in the velocity camp. However it is highly redundant and can empty its hand early making it possible to win through simple beatdown before shields go up.

As Pauper moves forward it will be interesting to see if the macro-archetypes shift. Given the relative power of Cloud of Faeries decks as compared to everything else this seems unlikely. 

Keep slingin’ commons-

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I ran elves a few times. by ScionOfJustice at Mon, 01/26/2015 - 13:54
ScionOfJustice's picture

I ran elves a few times. They also fall to electricery which is a very popular sideboard card and if you don't get out your spidersilk armor first, you pretty much get your board wiped.

Also, as someone who has played plenty of U-Delver, although the deck does run Cloud of Faeries, I wouldn't consider it a Cloud of Faeries based deck.