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By: Tom Scud, Tom Scudder
Apr 27 2015 11:00am
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 Insectile Aberration

With four weeks of the current Pauper metagame in the books, it's possible to declare a few winners and losers. 

I observe three pauper events a week, watching enough games to determine what each deck is. This three-game sample involves half the number of games that Wizards of the Coast (theoretically) reports on their web site, but the additional information lets us know which decks are punching above their weight, and which decks are in the winner's circle mainly through strength of numbers. My full results are recorded in a spreadsheet that can be found here - for historical interest's sake, I also have spreadsheets from the FRF and KtK seasons.

For the first four weeks, the most popular decks in my sample were Mono-Black Control (17%), Affinity (10%), Delver (10%), UR Fiend (9%), and Stompy (7%), adding up to 53% of the decks played. Another five lists (Burn, Goblins, UB Control, Boros Kitty, and Esper Fae Combo) each made up between 3% and 4% of the decks played. The remaining 30 percent of the decks were split among dozens of other choices.

By far the most successful of these decks was the long-time bully of the format, mono-blue Delver. Although it was only a little more than half as widely played as Mono-Black Control, the deck won more packs than any other deck (233 vs. 219 for MBC). Nearly half of the Delver decks entered finished 3-1 or better, and the decks recorded a combined match winning percentage of nearly 60 percent. The deck has grown stronger over the weeks - after a poor week one when only one-quarter of the Delver decks managed a winning record, in weeks three and four, Delver decks finished in the money at a 56% and 58% clip, respectively. In week four, the deck won a crazy 65% of its matches.

In the meantime, the other two most popular decks, Mono-Black Control and Affinity, have both failed to win as often as the average deck. The average entry in a pauper daily event finishes 3-1 or better 32% of the time; MBC recorded a 29% cash percentage and Affinity only 26%, though Affinity made some of that ground back by finishing 4-0 at a better-than-average clip. Affinity has been up-and-down, with good weeks in weeks one and three and poor results in weeks two and four, while MBC has been consistently mediocre.

Of the remaining two top-five decks, Stompy returned a solid performance, with 38% of its decks finishing with a winning record, and UR Fiend managed a slightly above-average 33% cash rate despite the fact that on paper its matchup with MBC, the most popular deck in the format, looks horrible.

Rogues

Looking beyond the top five, a handful of decks stand out.

kor skyfisherichor wellspringlightning bolt

The Boros Kitty deck, sometimes called Kuldotha Boros, is a white-red deck that secures card advantage by playing and replaying 2-mana artifact cantrips, usually a full playset of Prophetic Prism and Ichor Wellspring plus occasionally an Elsewhere Flask or two. These cards turn the drawback of Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk into an advantage; although the idea sounds clunky, in practice the deck can grind a lot of cards out of this interaction. The deck controls the board with red burn and white removal; the artifact count is high enough that Galvanic Blast usually goes for 4 damage, and Journey to Nowhere deals with problem creatures like Gurmag Angler quite nicely. The deck made up just over 3% of my sample, and managed a 3-1 or better record in 46% of its entries.

timberwatch elfnettle sentinelbirchlore rangers

The Elf combo deck was even more successful, with a winning record in 52% of its entries, although with only 17 total entries recorded, you have to worry that a couple fluky performances could have inflated that value. The deck works by casting lots of cheap elves, then either using Priest of Titania to generate massive amounts of mana, Timberwatch Elf to attack with a single huge elf, Distant Melody to draw a million cards, or some combination of the three. In theory, the deck has a terrible matchup with Mono Black Control, which makes me worry about its long-term viability in the current meta, but it has definitely made some noise in the opening weeks.

battle screechraise the alarmtriplicate spirits

While the mono-white tokens deck that Alex Ullman covered a few weeks ago made little impact in the first three weeks of the new meta, the deck came out in force in week four. My week four sample included nine of the decks, among which were five true mono-white decks and four decks that splashed blue. Out of those nine decks, six finished 3-1 and a seventh went 4-0. Beyond what Alex talked about in his article, the interesting new twist is the White-Blue decks, which use seven blue mana sources to splash four copies of Keep Watch, a card that can easily be a draw-four or draw-five in the deck.

The deck that did not bark in the night

cloud of faeriesghostly flickermnemonic wall

The other big story of the month is the absence of a deck that many people, myself included, expected to play a strong role in the new meta. Neither the Grixis nor the Esper variants of the Cloud of Faeries combo deck provided even an average return to their pilots; the decks can't be considered a significant portion of the metagame. It's a huge drop in performance from the previous two seasons: during the KtK season, 45% of Esper decks finished 3-1 or better; for the FRF season, that grew to 57%. For the DtK season so far, only 26% of Esper Fae Combo decks finished in the money.

I honestly have no idea why the deck hasn't performed up to its previous results. Some people have suggested that the deck's difficulty means that new players' poor results drag it down, but the names I've seen while compiling the results include long-time players of the deck. But while I'm reluctant to write the deck off without having some idea what changed for it, it's undeniable that it is not the threat that it was in previous seasons. 

Matchups

For this week's matchups, I dropped the faerie combo decks and split the "field" into aggro (which mainly consisted of mono-red or mono-white creature decks), control (which includes blue-red, blue-black, red-white, and red-white-and-blue decks), and other (including both combo and mid-range decks). I also included a column for the burn matchup since games against burn require a very different set of tools than games against most aggressive decks. Again, more info can be found at my spreadsheet.

Deck vs. Affinity vs. Delver vs. MBC vs. Stompy vs. UR Fiend vs. Burn vs. Aggro vs. Control vs. Other
Affinity 2-2 4-6 0-3 3-2 4-1 0-1 4-9 7-5 3-4
Delver 6-4 2-2 7-7 3-3 4-1 5-0 3-2 2-2 12-3
MBC 3-0 7-7 9-9 1-3 1-3 0-3 3-6 5-4 9-7
Stompy 2-3 3-3 3-1 0-0 2-1 2-1 3-1 4-1 2-5
UR Fiend 1-4 1-4 3-1 1-2 3-3 1-1 6-1 4-5 4-3

As you can see, Delver's strength is that it has a neutral or better record against the established, tightly constructed decks and preys hard upon the slower mid-range and combo decks. The near-bye against burn doesn't hurt, either.

Stompy, on the other hand, isn't quite fast enough to outrace the combo decks but has a reasonable-to-good matchup with basically everything else.

MBC's biggest problem can be seen in its record versus the various aggressive decks - a combined 5-15 versus Stompy, UR Fiend, Burn, and generic aggro. The deck did manage an even record versus the mighty Delver, probably on the strength of Cuombajj Witches, which blanks almost all of Delver's creatures. It also whitewashed Affinity for the week, but a lower curve (and maybe a splurge for a playset of Crypt Rats) might be needed to take the deck to the next level.

The big takeaway for me from the UR Fiend deck's numbers is that you can't race the Kiln Fiend - a 6-1 record against the other aggro decks salvaged what was otherwise a poor week for the deck.

In closing, I'd like to thank Patrick Johnson, @patrickstocks on Twitter, for contributing a number of daily reports to this project, and especially for grabbing one on April 11th, while I was on vacation. Thanks also to Pauper Reddit contributors Najay1 and BravoWasBetter for posting another couple daily results during the week plus I was away.

2 Comments

Alex - thanks for the note. by Tom Scud at Mon, 04/27/2015 - 18:43
Tom Scud's picture

Alex - thanks for the note. Good point with reference to adding more explanation - that's a hard balance to strike.

With respect to affinity, I really hate trying to predict the deck; after a lot of trend-watching, it seems to go from boom to bust and back with no rhyme nor reason. I'm going to be crunching the matchup numbers for the various rogue decks tonight - will be interesting to see how that plays into your Goblins theory.

(somewhat later - good call on the Goblins - looks like the white and red decks ate Affinity's lunch; 4-1 for Goblins, 3-1 for Jeskai Caw Blade, 2-0 for Wu Tokens, 1-0 for Boros Kitty, 0-1 for WW, 1-1 for W Tokens; total of 11-4).

(I feel like I did some analysis there, but maybe I should separate it out into a "bottom line" somewhere).

Robby - thanks so much!

The Affinity deck is its own by Elbinac at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:01
Elbinac's picture

The Affinity deck is its own worst enemy sometimes, just how the deck goes.
You can draw the nuts and faceroll or flood out just like any other deck.

Though it gets rather infuriating when you keep a solid opener and then draw all of your remaining lands in one solid row with a deck that runs around 16.
Especially when it happens in a streak of game consecutively.

But, Random is random.