Long live Pauper!
Or something like that. Maybe I need a new opening phrase...how's this?
Oh Pauper, Pauper, wherefore art thou Pauper?
These days, it seems like a pretty reasonable question to ask. Community participation in the Pauper format is perhaps at its lowest since my introduction to it (roughly January 2012, if my first ever Pauper video is any indication). I could be wrong, or merely blowing things out of proportion, but let's just say that Pauper is not winning any Magic: The Gathering popularity contests. What makes me feel this way? The unfortunate decline of Pauper events on Magic Online.
First came what I previously referred to as "Decimation Day," when Wizards announced that Pauper Daily Events would not be returning. More recently, common-slingers have been witnessing the slow and sad decline of Pauper Premier Events. As you can see here, the last Premier to actually fire took place on April 13th. On the bright side, it did feature a Top 8 comprised of eight distinct decklists, which makes it somewhat difficult to cite a stagnant metagame as the Premier-killing culprit.
Now there are a few ways to look at the path (or is it crash course?) our format has been traveling on, and through this article I'd like to present just a couple of those viewpoints. My hope is that a handful of you will chip in and help me make some sense out of everything that's transpired over the past five months.
Viewpoint One: Competition and Pauper Are Now Mutually Exclusive
"Pauper is a competitive Eternal format played mostly on Magic Online using exclusively common cards."
That definition requires some obvious alterations if we're under the assumption that Viewpoint One is correct (as far as I'm concerned, it might not be).
With 2-man and 8-man queues as Pauper's only Wizards-propagated events, the format has lost a significant degree of its appeal in terms of affordability, feasibility and measurability. Magic Online patrons can no longer look to Pauper for worthwhile expected value by way of booster pack payouts, nor can they plan their schedule around a surefire (or "sure to fire") competitive event.
Since only one deck can go better than 2-1 in a Pauper 8-man, players and content creators alike end up having far less usable data when it comes to successful decks or an identifiable Pauper metagame. I'm assuming most of us can recognize the downsides of such a deficiency, though there may actually be something to be gained from the lack of data (which I'll be touching on here in a moment).
As a counterargument to Viewpoint One, I'd like to highlight some of the non-Wizards tournament options that are available to the (dwindling?) Pauper faithful. The first comes by way of longtime Standard Pauper flagship, PDCMagic. Their Monday Pauper Daily Challenge is one of the best options for those interested in the Standard Pauper format (which I wrote about not all that long ago). Not only are these events free to enter, but they also let us elevate the consistency of Limited strategies (like W/x Heroic) to a level that only Constructed can provide. Here is a recent example:
- 4 Akroan Skyguard
- 4 Azorius Arrester
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Keening Apparition
- 4 Loyal Pegasus
- 4 Wingsteed Rider
- 2 Hopeful Eidolon
I like! Well, for the most part. I think an extra blue source or two couldn't hurt, but overall there are some pretty cool things going on with this deck. Azorius Aggro can execute a number of tempo plays, make very large flying creatures, and facilitate significant life swings with a pair of maindeck Hopeful Eidolons.
The sheer number of evasive threats is already a plus, with Cloudfin Raptor capable of growing to a 3/4 with the help of Daring Skyjek. The big tech here, however, is probably Hidden Strings. Alone the two mana sorcery can grow a pair of Skyguards or Wingsteed Riders, or one of each. But it gets better. With evasive threats triggering cipher, this effect gets repeated every turn (resulting in a sort of double Slith Firewalker syndrome...wait, is that too dated? Double Stromkirk Noble syndrome?). Throw in some protection spells (Gods Willing, which scrys, or Mizzium Skin, which can save everyone) that also trigger heroic and we've got ourselves a tasty little strategy.
With Azorius I really appreciate the diversity of sideboard options, including the fact that opponents will be made to respect our potential countermagic. One- and two-mana tricks like Apostle's Blessing, Snap, and Vines of Vastwood have proven to be high impact in Classic Pauper, and the Standard Pauper equivalents (the aforementioned protection spells, and even a card like Dispel) are no slouches either.
Next to PDCMagic, Gatherling (one of my favorite PRE, or "Player-Run Event" websites) is also letting its Pauper flag fly. Their Pauper Classic Tuesdays are alive and kicking, and feature creative spins on established archetypes. This 6-0 list should prove my point:
And that's quite a sideboard we've got there. While this isn't an incredibly polished board (at least from what I can tell), in an event like Classic Pauper Tuesday it doesn't have to be. This is because the level of competition in a Player-Run Event is generally a notch below that of something like an MTGO Daily. I do appreciate the fact that this board contains a lot of high impact one-ofs, which won't often result in "over boarding" (or in this case boarding out of key affinity enablers).
Lastly I'd like to point you guys in the direction of Alex Ullman's Facebook page. I do this not only because it's a solid resource for any Pauper fan, but also because Alex has been working on incentives for playing Pauper competitively (like the Poor Rogues Contest , which he launched in April).
So what do you think? Can Competitive Pauper thrive without Daily Events or even Premier Events? What is your take on the quality and quantity of the current PREs? For now let's put all that on the backburner and check out an alternative viewpoint.
Viewpoint Two: Pauper Is Not a Lost Cause; It's Been Liberated!
Liberated? How so? I want to address the field with which I'm most closely related, Pauper content. As a Pauper writer, I've sometimes felt that Daily and Premier Event results are a crutch, an obligation, or both (in other words, I needed them to produce good content). Furthermore, the multifaceted coverage of said results implies that Pauper is at its most interesting or relevant when looked at from a competitive standpoint. I'm starting to think that this is no longer the case.
So what does that mean? It means that writers like me can frequently just write about whatever we want! We can expand our notions of what a good Pauper article can be. We can cover decks that were never intended to see Daily or Premier Event play. We can explore other facets of the Pauper community, we can go beyond what Wizards deems congruent with its vision of the MTGO landscape. To this I say "Hell yeah!"
Like I was in my very first article for SCG, I'm still very open to adjusting the direction of this column. If you see a new avenue for us to explore in the wake of waning Premier Event participation, don't hesitate to let me know!
That is going to conclude my thoughts on Pauper's current condition. I'd love to hear what you guys think about the format, why Premiers have lost their appeal, and what's next for all of us as participants. To finish off this article, I'd like to reflect on our SCG column now that we've hit a pretty sweet milestone!
Drop and Give Me Twenty
That's right, today marks a solid twenty articles with SCG! Over that span of time I feel like I've certainly grown as a writer, and the support and feedback you all have given me has been nothing short of inspiring.
I wanted to take a moment to highlight a couple of articles that I'm particularly proud of, in case you are new to the column and/or are looking for some time to kill. The first of these is entitled " Addicted to Fair Things," and it was the first (and if memory serves me correctly, only) time a commenter ever referred to one of my articles as "brilliant." The second one was inspired by the contributions of Patrick "The Innovator" Chapin and is called " Applying the NLDB Seminar to Pauper."
Both "Fair Things" and "Applying" are intended to paint a more detailed picture of what Pauper is from a strategic and analytical standpoint, and I think they both came out pretty good. What is your favorite article so far?
There are also a couple of instances (here and here) of me providing video content for SCG. While the match results were nothing to scream about, I'm curious to know if anyone is interested in seeing more Pauper videos in the future.
Since this column is still very much about making your voices heard, I'm going to close with some of your comments from our last article. Thank you all so much!
Your Thoughts From Last Time
"But I really don't like [Journey Into] Nyx...Almost nothing [is] gonna see play in Classic Pauper, I think. The Fonts are pretty cool, but I think only the black one is good enough...and maybe Font of Fortune and Font of Ire...I was wondering if an American URW control running 2 copies of Font of Ire...and Auramancers to back it up, could see play, maybe?" - Fred Ramos
"Great article! I didn't even think about the Font, but you're right it is probably the best card coming out of the new set for Pauper.
I also think the red and white 1 cmc heroic guys have an outside shot at seeing some play. They are cheap, and have fine above average Pauper bodies after a single pump. Some people have already tried a Mono R[ed] Akroan Crusader/Kiln Fiend decks but to minimal success. It is possible these guys could provide the redundancy necessary to make some sort of heroic deck work." - David Joseph Shaffer
"I would put Grim Guardian on the honorable [mentions] too. That card is nuts in a strategy like Domain Zoo to bounce the enchantments and stuff. Also, Aspect of Gorgon caught my eye. There are no good enchantments that gives a creature death touch…for this low cost (besides Baleful Eidolon, I think)." - Bruno Armin
Here's to twenty more articles! Hope you've enjoyed. The floor is yours!