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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Jun 10 2021 12:00pm

Hello my friends, Modern Horizons 2 is here and already shaking up the format like an earthquake! From dual indestructible artifact lands to storms of squirrels falling from the skies, a considerable amount of people in the Pauper community are already talking about bannings and my bet is that: yes, there will be bannings.

While we wait and see what else unwraps from Modern Horizons 2 for Pauper and how this story unfolds, I would like to do my little wrap up about Strixhaven: School of Mages. 

Strixhaven: School of Mages wasn't a particularly high power set. 

Yet, surprisingly, it had a solid impact on the Pauper format: with multiple decks being modified or even emerging from the flow of new cards.

The set managed to sneak into the format by providing very unique cards. Sometimes fitting the current pool of cards like pieces of the puzzle, performing specific roles and enabling new strategies.

As far as I am concerned, I would say Strixhaven was a great set for Pauper, bringing new toys to the metagame but not degenerating the power balance.

Let's list and talk about six cards that - at some level - already had a real impact on the Pauper metagame. Then let's talk about six cards that didn't quite get there, but that I do see having some potential and that I would love to see seeing play.

Six cards that had an impact on the competitive meta:

1 - Bayou Groff:

For a long time, Carapace Forger held the title of most efficient green fattie creature in Pauper. It's title is being challenged at this point.

Sure, Carapace Forger doesn't require you to sacrifice a creature and that is not an irrelevant cost. But Forger also requires you to be playing artifact lands and that is not a small problem either. In the end of day, Carapace Forger only fits in Temur Affinity. Any deck you try to build around Forger will naturally tend to become a version of Temur Affinity, because that is simply the strongest option around that card. 

Bayou Groff on the other hand shines in monogreen decks, and being mono colored has it's perks in Pauper. Green does offer some sacrifice fodder, my favorite being Khalni Garden and Young Wolf.  Most lists running Bayou Groff have been running two copies of Khalni Garden, I would try four copies honestly (slightly increasing the land count). Let's not forget that plant tokens can be used to other purposes than enabling a turn two Groff, like being enchanted with Rancor or a chump block to enable Hunger of the Howlpack with morbid mode on.

Would I love to see both Carapace and Groff side by side, working together to smash opponents early in the morning. Pipe dream? Almost certainly, but you know I have to try.

Coming back to reality, the fact is Bayou Groff provided stompy with an early efficient threat that survives against Fiery Cannonade, and that is no small feature. Not only has this card had an impact on the metagame, I think it came to stay and will become stronger and stronger as people figure out how to build around it.

2 - First Day of Class:

Ahh, Goblins, who doesn't love Goblins? Oh well, probably people having to play against them! First Day of Class enabled a whole new archetype in Pauper. Simply put, the combination of Putrid Goblin and First Day of Class creates an infinite sacrifice fodder that you can abuse with cards like Goblin Sledder.

Right now the decks abusing this combo are very focused on finding the pieces. I think it's fine but I have to wonder if more aggressive versions of this deck are possible. In theory, First Day of Class can be used as an aggressive tool as long as you have ways to produce multiple creatures in the same turn after casting it. Even a card like Kuldotha Rebirth could possibly be an interesting option there, offering a new angle of attack.

That said, it is undeniable that deck already became part of the metagame, showing both in leagues and challenges!

3 - Serpentine Curve:

The first time I saw this deck, I saw it on the fine Snap Bolt Games channel on YouTube, in the hands of Milkk (Milkk is the MTGO nickname, his name is Max I believe). Milkk Has been streaming a lot of different and interesting stuff lately it is worth to check it out.

Here we have Max playing Serpentine:

Izzet control decks, based around spells and Pieces of the Puzzle aren't exactly a new thing. There already were versions running Flurry of Horns or even Goblin Wizardry as their kill conditions.

Serpentine Curve really took this archetype to another level. As spells accumulate in your graveyard and exiled area, the potential size of Serpentine Curve's token becomes massive. At some point, you are able to produce 20/20 tokens or bigger. Even Fling appears in some of these decklists, as a way to ensure the little token connects even against decks packing tons of removal.

It is a solid deck and I really think it is here to stay!

4 - Frost Trickster:

Talking about Milkk, he recently streamed a couple leagues with Monoblue Faeries featuring Frost Trickster. I know the card looks sort of weak at first glance but it actually fills an important gap in Monoblue Faeries, dealing with blockers, gaining tempo and providing better consistency for Ninja of the Deep Hours.

I actually faced this deck in a league and I witnessed first hand how powerful it can be, turn two ninja is quite real in Monoblue Faeries and Trickster keeps the ball rolling while being one more evasive body to deal with.

Here an example of a Monoblue Faeries using Trickster:

I am not saying this is the most powerful deck of this new batch, but don't underestimate it! It can tempo out really well with a good draw!

5 - Quandrix Pledgemage:

Since we are mentioning streamers and monoblue, what better moment to talk about this big boy? The streamer that abused this one was Deluxe from the awesome Pauper YouTube channel Pauperganda.

Deluxe is really focused on fast aggressive decks and his version of monoblue with Quandrix couldn't be more the case. Evasion, creatures that grow with spells and a plethora of cantrips and protection spells make this deck a headache to deal with sometimes.

Quandrix Pledgemage making some results:

I did face this deck both in leagues and in the practice room. It can be a bit shaky against heavy removal lists but the good draws can be hard to deal with. Again: do not underestimate it, play carefully and give it a try if you like this type of strategy.

While Quandrix Pledgemage really loves monoblue decks, I wonder if it could fit a nice "monogreen heroic" deck featuring some ramp and Setessan Oathsworn. Probably more of a casual thing, but would be interesting to see.

6 - Resculpt:

Another card that did show up a little bit in the competitive scene is Resculpt.

This card would be actually better if it didn't exile the creature or artifact, making you sacrifice it instead. In that case it would work really well with cards like Chromatic Star for example.

That said, the card is solid and it has been seeing some play, both in affinity and some monoblue aggro decks.

The fact you can actually target one of opponent's creatures or artifacts and who knows, maybe Repeal it later gives us a nice little bonus of versatility.

Being at instant speed doesn't hurt either, especially for monoblue decks. Giving you a response to removal, a surprise blocker or a great E.O.T. (end of turn) play when your opponent plays around your Counterspell.

It is a solid card in the right shell, I wonder if it can justify a couple Khalni Gardens in a monoblue deck. Also, extra bonus points if you play Augur of Bolas, grab Resculpt and then promote Augur into a 4/4 with it. 

Here we have a monoblue deck with Resculpt putting up some results:

Honorable Mention:

While they didn't have a huge impact in games, I feel the obligation to mention the enemy color lands that are capable of scrying, like Quandrix Campus for example.

All of them are probably auto-includes filling a couple slots of almost any deck that contains enemy colors, giving us a bit more consistency late game.

The exception would be in decks that play Skred and need a high count of snow-covered lands, other than that case, there is nearly no downside running a couple of those lands.

The reason they didn't make it to my list is because they didn't really change the metagame that much, they just added a little bit of consistency to some already pretty consistent decks, having a marginal role in a format full of high quality card draw and fix already. That said, they are very playable because there is nearly no downside to them.

Six cards I would love to see seeing play:

1 - Blood Researcher:

I love soul sisters and Blood Researcher is an awesome reward for this type of strategy.

In way, it is quite similar to Ajani's Pridemate, a card that actually saw play in the busted Modern format a couple years ago.

So, maybe there is hope for Blood Researcher if WOTC keeps printing more strong lifegain themed cards for Pauper. Right now I am not sure if Blood Researcher is viable in a competitive strategy, the fact that Pauper is a format full of efficient removal doesn't help that case very much.

But I would love to see some one coming up with a spicy brew around this card capable of performing in the leagues! At least we could say it would be awesome against burn!

Here we have a list from the awesome Pauper streamer Alexandre Weber, but we can consider this more of an experimental list, since this was in a Player Run Tournament, not in a league.


2 - Biblioplex Assistant:

I know this card is not as good as Archaeomancer, but the fact that we have a way of recycling instants and sorceries with a colorless creature now, does have some appeal to me.

I wonder how good that creature could be in a monoblack shell, combined with the most powerful instant monoblack has access to in Pauper: Reaping the Graves

And, of course, monoblack is full of efficient removal spells and draw spells that you might be interested in having back to your top, like Sign in Blood or Cast Down among others.

Is it good enough? I don't know. Is it something new? In a way it is, I would love to see someone try and succeed brewing with that card.

3 - Pilgrim of the Ages:

I have to admit, this card would be a lot better if it could bring any Plains to hand, not only the basic ones.

That said, I think this card does a lot actually, it is a persistent body for the late game, it creates a little bit of value, it helps decks to not lose land drops.

Sadly, I can't think of a home for this card right now, seems like it would be a solid add in midrange strategies. If it could grab Snowfield Sinkhole I am sure it would a nice option to fill a couple slots in Orzhov midrange decks. 

Boros might be interested in those, they actually seem to work decently with Faithless Looting providing discard fodder and value, might be okay. Overall I really like the card and I would love to see it doing find in some deck. Brew, people! Brew! 

4 - Biomathematician:

I did try this card a little bit and it felt a bit slow for the format, but I have to say I love the interaction it has with flickering spells.

As you flicker Biomathematician over and over, it won't give you a linear growth of power in the table. For each new token you already have you get more and more +1/+1 counters, giving augmenting returns as this goes on.

While it is not quite an exponential growth curve, like Kalonian Hydra is capable of providing for example, it will overwhelm any board presence in Pauper given enough time. Nothing can grow more than Biomathematician in Pauper except infinite combos, although those are actually linear, but going infinite.

So, yeah, that characteristic does make me have a special place in my hearth for Biomathematician and also I am obliged to mention the flavor...

Just imagine, while your opponent throws dragons, goblins, knights and vampires at you, you respond them all with the mighty almost unbeatable: Biomathematician!

I just had to research it and the biomathematics field actually exists in the real world. We can find and reach real biomathematician out there! If I ever suffer an attack from vampires, goblins and knights, now I know who to call! 

5 - Eureka Moment:

Ramping spells are ok and drawing extra cards is awesome. When we bring both together in one card, something feels almost wrong about it.

Tron is already a pretty broken deck and I am not sure there is any room for anything new in those builds. But I have to say (Eureka Moment) does look great in this sort of strategy. 

Not only we are reaching for Tron lands, we are often adding more of them to the board. Later in the game, that spell's cost might actually be mitigated by the extra tron lands you add to the board by casting it.

Is it good enough for Tron decks? I am not sure. Somebody should try it? I am sure the answer is yes, and my bet would be: yes it can put up some results.

6 - Fuming Effigy:

At first glance this card doesn't do that much, just a 4/3 for four mana with a very marginal ability. But the effect it provides is actually very unique and it can be enabled by cards that can exile cards from graveyards, like the long forgotten Zombie Scavengers (have you ever try this card? It is actually solid).

Let's also not forget that Pauper has ways to add tons and tons of creatures to your graveyard, from cycling to weird Balustrade Spy combo decks.

So maybe, someday, Fuming Effigy will be part of the kill condition in a weird combo deck, or some even stranger graveyard filling aggro deck. It is an unique strange card and I would love to see it working!

That is it for today, my friends, I hope you liked this article! What cards from Strixhaven do you think had an impact on Pauper? What cards would you like to see playing? Leave your comments below!

See you next time