Pauper Format Panel Shakes Things Up
This week the newly-enacted Pauper Format Panel is already making moves to shake up the format, with three bans hitting arguably the top two decks in the format, Affinity, and Tron.
In his article announcing the ban, Wizards' Gavin Verhey laid out the reasoning behind the bannings of these cards, and a bit more of the philosophy of the format. One of the first quotes that immediately stuck out to me was: "On a larger format scale, we think cards that let you easily play all five colors "for free" (replacing themselves) are probably not healthy for the format."
This is a good rule of thumb, as it improves format diversity by reducing the possibility for 'good stuff' decks, playing all the best cards in all five colors, as both Affinity and Tron have done in the past. Bonder's Ornament and Prophetic Prism were selected for this reason. Additionally, both cards were targeted over other color fixers like Icy Manalith, because they were card neutral. This means that they both replace themselves with card draws, fixing your mana without the cost of a card. "This issue concerns having the mana to cast combined with returning your card," Verhey said.
The Fall of Atog
While sad, the banning of everyone's favorite grinning monster Atog makes sense, as it was the cleanest way to reduce the power of the Affinity deck. The most interesting note to me about the Atog ban was not the explanation of the ban itself, but this note at the end: "Finally, because I am sure some people will be curious, with Atog banned, we also think there is a decent chance we can return Sojourner's Companion to the deck in a future banned and restricted announcement."
Even without the beloved Atog, the Affinity deck will remain a top deck in Pauper and may end up getting an old toy back in the future.
Does This Make Pauper A Wide-Open Format?
I don't think this will turn Pauper into a fully wide-open format where previously tier three or two decks will suddenly be contenders. These bans only serve to bring the S-tier decks back down to tier-one level. Boros Monarch, Izzet Skred, and other top decks in the format remain good, and will now have a more even playing field on which to do battle with Tron and Affinity. Bearing all those factors in mind then, what should we play?
Play What You Like
The deck I'm most excited to sleeve back up and bring to the table is the deck I always play in Pauper: Faeries. Spellstutter Sprite is one of my all-time favorite cards. As both interaction and a small threat, Spellstutter is the kind of card that plays well in the vein of my favorite style of Magic decks, regardless of format. Faeries is definitely one of those decks. There are two versions of Faeries in the current Pauper, but the one that appeals most to me is Dimir Faeries. This is the pre-banning version of the deck:
Bonder's Ornament is obviously out, but I'm not sure what comes in to replace it. I will likely add an additional Chainer's Edict until I have an idea of what to expect from the format.
More Bannings On The Horizon?
When they announced the Pauper ban on Twitter, Wizards also noted that we will have an additional B&R announcement on Tuesday.
This has many speculating that Wizards could take action on Modern and Legacy. I'm not enough of an expert to speak on the current state of Legacy. From what I've read on Twitter, the pitchforks are no longer out over Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, though the monkey remains a strong pillar of the format. That leads me to believe that we won't see any action on Legacy. Modern on the other hand is a different story.
If you've been following the Modern metagame in the last year, you'll note that the curves of many decks have been getting lower. It's all to accommodate having Lurrus of the Dream-Den as our fuzzy companion. David had this card in his sights when he did his Modern Banlist Watch List update back at the end of December. If Wizards is taking action on Modern, I strongly suspect the Cat Nightmare is at the top of their list of cards. Five of the top 15 archetypes in Modern, Hammer Time, Death's Shadow, Burn, Jund, and Mill, have all dropped the mana values of their permanents to accommodate Lurrus.
I'd go so far as to make the claim that the only reason Mill is currently a Tier-one strategy, is because the curves of these decks have gotten so low. A single Tasha's Hideous Laughter can now wipe out nearly a third of a player's library. When you compare library vs. life total, Tasha's Hideous Laughter is at a better rate than any single spell in the Burn deck.
Bans Beyond Lurrus
Short of Wizards banning every card on David's watchlist, I don't anticipate them taking action against any card beyond Lurrus in Modern if they even do that. Like it or not, the post-Horizons Modern format is here to stay. Of course, Modern is not the only format where Lurrus is legal. It's possible, though unlikely, that they might take it out of Pioneer as well if they do.
It's quite possible there are formats I'm not even thinking about at the moment that Wizards is preparing to drop the ban hammer on. That said, what do you think? Do you agree with the Pauper bannings? Should Lurrus be banned in Modern? Is Ragavan fine in Legacy? If you could have something banned from any format, what would it be? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.