Preparing for Core 2021 in Pauper

Hello everyone. This post is going to talk a little bit about the trends in the Pauper metagame over the course of Ikoria season and try to give you an edge going into the new season. Let's get to it.

First and foremost I want to talk about Bonder's Ornament and the Thriving Lands. These cards just had their drop rate increased in Magic Online Treasure Chests. This means that once more copies hit the system I would prepare to see more Flicker Tron decks leaning on Ornament and more decks like Boros Monarch that use one or two base colors and dip into a third (or fourth) color for high impact splash cards (think Reaping the Graves). 

Next up are the six most important decks from Ikoria season. I broke down the season into three periods - the first two running four weeks each and the last running two weeks. Each of these are represented by a "check in" where I measure a deck's popularity and it's weighted metagame share against the seasonal average (see the dotted lines). Weighted metagame, represented by Win+, examines an archetype's share of wins above an X-3 record. First up is the ever stalwart Stompy.

Stompy started the season as a fringe player but ended as one of the best decks (that isn't Tron). Stompy is capable of applying pressure and can swap its creature suite to best combat the metagame. The biggest problem it has is that the best deck in the format runs Stonehorn Dignitary. This means Stompy's window of opportunity is at most five turns. We can see that Stompy is leveling off at the end of the third check in and we'll see later this coincides with a rise in Tron. 

What this means for week one: Stompy is still going to be a popular option so be prepared, but it likely will struggle for the next few weeks after that before finding a groove again.

Affinity had an interesting season. It's curve is basically the inverse of Tron's. What does this mean? In my opinion, as Tron moves to focus more on defending itself from the combat phase it falls susceptible to Fling. Of course Affinity is also quite good at getting a deck withing Galvanic Blast phase early and often. As Tron adapts and can run the right countermeasures the machine is bound to breakdown.

What this means for week one: Affinity is a sleeper contender. I'd look at Dispersal Shield in the Metallic Rebuke Slot.

Take Legacy quality threats and back it up with some of the best cheap interaction in the game (as well as overpowered cantrips) and you get Dimir Delver. The aggro-control deck started the season at the crest of a curve and then things took a turn for the worse. Part of this may be attributed to the rise of Izzet Faeries and part could be the shift in Gurmag Angler decks to lean on Spellstutter Sprite instead of Ninja of the Deep Hours.

What this means for week one: If you're dead set on playing Gurmag Angler, consider a Spellstutter Sprite build.

What happened? Boros Bully started the season on a heater but it has crashed. If I had to wager a guess it's the addition of Suffocating Fumes as a maindeck quality card that has made Battle Screech and Squadron Hawk less reliable. Pair this with the addition of Thriving Lands giving Boros Monarch a boost and you have a recipe for deck detention. Still, we can see a small surge and Warded Battlements gives a persistent aggressive boost that also turns on Prismatic Strands.

What this means for week one: Bully is a sleeper contender, but I'd wait until week two before busting it out.

Mystic Sanctuary is a really dumb Magic card. Izzet Faeries has started to level off and it's weighted volume is starting to converge with it's actual volume. Still, it's doing this at around 12% which is a significant portion of the metagame. You absolutely have to prepare to fight against this strategy if you want to compete in Pauper this season.

What this means for week one: Izzet Faeries is still a tier one strategy and if you don't have a plan for beating it why are you even showing up?

The other decks are scaled at 15% of below. Meanwhile, Flicker Tron averages a weighted volume above every other deck featured in this run down. It is the archenemy and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the nature of Tron means it can more easily adopt new cards. If a card is powerful enough it doesn't matter how expensive it is - Tron will make it work. And we all have to live with that for now.

What this means for week one: Just ban something already.

Going into Core 2021, I full expect Flicker Tron and Izzet Faeries to be the decks to beat. Stompy and Affinity are contenders for the top spot in the second tier, but they're fighting for third place. If a viable Exhume deck emerges it could change things, but that's a big ask when the backup spell costs five.


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