Long live Pauper!
So there's some good news and some bad news.
I'm going to start with the good news, though you may disagree with my line. The good news is that we have a fully spoiled expansion knocking on Classic Pauper's door! The impact Theros will have on the format is not yet known, but a few of its commons have certainly caught my eye. Additionally, Standard Pauper will have no shortage of Theros inclusions for the foreseeable future (be they newcomers or merely functional reprints).
And that brings us inevitably to the bad news.
You know that Izzet Cloudpost deck? The one we've been discussing, adjusting, and playing matches with for the past three articles? Well, it's getting banned. To be just a bit more specific, this card is getting banned.
No Cloudpost means no Izzet Cloudpost, which also means we'll need to start thinking about the subsequent direction of this column (we'll get to all that towards the end of the article). For now, however, we need to talk about the banning of Cloudpost in Pauper.
Many have complained about the pervasive influence that Cloudpost decks have had on the format, but the fact that Wizards actually banned their titular component is a huge deal. This is the kind of banning that is intended to shift an entire metagame and undoubtedly will succeed.
The decisive mana superiority granted by the Locus lands has long invalidated most Pauper control decks not playing them. Variations of Cloudpost have gradually bullied other strategies out of the format and discouraged players from committing to their favorite decks. The life-total bolstering of Glimmerpost when paired with Post's general late-game dominance has contributed to what a number of people have called a stale and unhealthy environment (since playing a deck that simply hopes to "dodge" Post has become a less and less viable option over time).
But Cloudpost certainly isn't the only culprit, nor is it the only card receiving a ban in Pauper. Let's not forget the bluish, bouncy, and oh so stormy . . .
This undoubtedly stems from the prominence of hybrid "Fissure Post" decks and the lack of suitable answers for the card itself. Similar logic led to the banning of Grapeshot and the simultaneous (yet less popular) banning of Empty the Warrens, which also had entire decks to their optimization.
This means that in the span of about nine months (the current bans will take effect on September 27), Pauper's banned list has jumped from just two cards up to seven. Allow me to list those cards out for those of you who are unaware:
That's two colorless cards, two blue cards, two red cards, and one green card. What seems to be the through line between these culprits? I'd say it involves a clearly disproportionate power level and/or a somewhat limited degree of interactivity. Of course, the merit of most (if not all) of these bans is debatable.
How do you feel about the banning of Cloudpost and Temporal Fissure? Do you feel like Wizards chose the right cards to remove? Did they need to take any action at all? I tend to see value in both sides of a given debate, and the case of these bans is no different. What I can see is a silver lining and a chance for an Eternal format's metagame to be broken wide open.
At the same time, I genuinely liked the Izzet Cloudpost deck, and I'm going to miss playing it. There are some possible substitutions for the deck moving forward, and I'll be sure to bring those up in just a bit.
In spite of the ban announcement, I'd like to share some of your great suggestions for the Izzet Cloudpost list from last time:
Izzet Cloudpost: Your Thoughts
"I think you are trying to do too much with the deck. I see so many silver bullets that are way too narrow for the current metagame. I am talking Hindering Torch, Curse of Chains, and Bojuka Bog with Capsize, Serrated Arrows, and Electrostatic Bolt being only slightly better.
The next thing is that the card draw is way too expensive to find the right answers in time. To be competitive, any deck needs to either interact with the opponent by turn 2 or win by turn 5. To have the right answers, something like Preordain or Ponder helps a lot." — Moritz Germesin
"Well, actually I think that the shell kinda has to change . . . like I don't get why you don't abuse the Ghostly Flicker more . . . like with Cloud of Faeries and Sea Gate Oracles . . . but then to play Temporal Fissure, you have to play things like Snap . . . Did you like the AKs? Seem SLOOOOW as heck . . . " — Lucas Goldberg Da Rosa
For what it's worth (which is not much), I did like the AKs. Sue me! In all seriousness though, thank you all very much for supporting my exploration of the deck; it is truly appreciated!
Without any further ado, let's consider what the future may hold for Classic Pauper once these landmark bans are implemented.
The Future Of Our Format
As far as I can tell, the non-Post and non-Fissure decks that thrived before the bans will not be negatively affected by their implementation (though I could be wrong about this). A competitive deck like Affinity should still be a strong choice moving forward. Delver of Secrets decks and Silhana Ledgewalker decks should also continue to see lots of play.
Alternatively, a slew of decks that were kept off the court by Cloudpost and Temporal Fissure can now fearlessly put on their game jerseys. Endearing but less respected control decks such as Dimir, Mono-Blue, and Mono Black have a much stronger chance of putting up consistent results in the competitive Daily Event sphere.
Slower, more synergistic strategies also have a fighting chance now that the most oppressive late game in the format will no longer be eclipsing them. Decks centered on Tortured Existence and even a card like Pestilence tended to pale in comparison to Post but will soon no longer have that problem.
The aggro field should end up considerably more dynamic now that creature decks can adopt a midrangey go bigger role against one another without worrying about being too slow for the format.
Goblins and White Weenie, two decks I'm quite fond of, have an opportunity to happily reclaim some real estate and sidle up alongside Mono-Green Stompy in terms of beatdown deck viability.
I want to point out an often overlooked mana engine in Pauper that may serve as a suitable replacement for the Locus lands. The mana engine in question? Urzatron!
Having seen close to zero play in Classic Pauper, the Urza lands (Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower) have always wallowed in Cloudpost and Glimmerpost's shadows. I would not be at all surprised to see former Post pilots begin experimenting with these somewhat serviceable replacements.
There are a few disadvantages to playing the Urza lands that I think should be highlighted. The first is that they require twelve slots rather than eight. Twelve colorless lands necessitate a deck with more fixing, making a card like Prophetic Prism an auto-include (most likely in addition to supplementary fixers).
Lastly, unlike the Posts, the Tron lands do not provide any incidental life gain. This may seem unimportant at first glance, but in my opinion it makes the difference between a deck that's powerful and a deck that's borderline unfair.
As a general note, I recommend that anyone looking to brew with Urza's Tower and friends first look at their Modern format counterparts for ideas and inspiration. Best of luck, and please keep us all posted on your findings!
The Future Of Our Column
It goes without saying that the deck we've been working on will have to be swapped out. Once again, I deeply appreciate everyone who has offered up opinions on my Izzet Cloudpost list and everyone who has been enjoying the recent content. If you'd like, our next article can serve as a final sendoff to the deck via one last hoorah in a Daily Event.
And that brings us to our first job: finding a new deck.
My previous aim of becoming a better control mage has now gotten a bit more complicated. Cloudpost more or less is control as far as Pauper is concerned, so choosing a suitable replacement for it is not exactly easy.
I've played variations of non-Post control decks, and I certainly like them. The problem is I have no idea which one of them is the most powerful.
If anything, we can take a couple into some Daily Events in order to see where they stand. We can also default back to one of the decks from my first article. For the sake of convenience, I'll post those lists below.
The Razes can probably be taken out of the board now, but otherwise this list still seems fine to me. It's not a control deck, but it still has a manageable degree of complexity.
- 2 Akrasan Squire
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 4 Icatian Javelineers
- 4 Kor Skyfisher
- 4 Leonin Skyhunter
- 4 Loyal Cathar
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 War Falcon
- 20 Plains
I would've played White Weenie with Post and Fissure still legal! Now that its two greatest nemeses are getting kicked out, it's no surprise that I'm quite optimistic about its chances.
The Future Of Our Column: You Tell Me
It's once again time to make your voices heard! Your votes as always will be tallied in the comments section.
Let's quickly go over our three primary courses of action once the bans take effect.
Option 1: Test Other Control Decks
This would involve sleeving up Dimir, Mono-Blue, and Mono-Black Control and seeing how they fare in Daily Events!
Option 2: Sleeve up Affinity
Here we would explore the various Affinity builds, settle on a list, and then start competing with it!
Option 3: Sleeve up White Weenie
The same steps would be taken as the second option but with White Weenie instead of Affinity.
If you'd like to make a completely unrelated suggestion, please do! I will be diligently scouring the comments for your most convincing arguments, so this time a majority vote is not necessarily the end all be all.
Maybe you'd like to see an Urzatron deck in Pauper, or maybe you'd like to see something completely out of left field. Let me know. Really!
Even though two of the format's heavyweights are getting the boot, we've got to keep calm and carry on! I hope you'll join me in exploring an uncertain frontier, a Pauper format in flux.
Until next time . . .