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The Power of Pauper: I'm The Problem, It's Me

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of The Power of Pauper! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be talking all about the Banned and Restricted announcement from this past Monday in which Monastery Swiftspear was banned in Pauper! It's going to be a wild ride for sure! Because of this, while I will talk about the Challenges and mention their Top 8s, I will not be putting any decklists or data outside of the winner of the event for these events due to them being mainly from the pre-ban metagame.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Dec 4, 2023 Banned and Restricted Announcement - Monastery Swiftspear Banned in Pauper

This past week we had a Banned and Restricted Announcement with a change to the Pauper format. That's right. It happened. Taylor Swift is banned in Pauper.

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Well, not quite. But Monastery Swiftspear was banned in the format this past week, and with the banning we got not just an article explaining the changes but also a video that goes along with it.

You can find the article here and the video down below in the embed. I highly recommend you watch or read these as it really does a great job of explaining the bannings.

First off, I want to thank Gavin and the Pauper Format Panel for continuing to provide some of the best and most transparent explanations when it comes to their internal processes and thoughts on the format. All of the PFP members that I interact with are absolutely some of the best people and have only love for the format and wish to see it succeed. I know that their job here is pretty thankless and they often get hit with criticism, but I want them all to know they're all doing a great job and their contributions are absolutely appreciated.

So let's recap some of the information we did receive about this banning. One of the big pieces of commentary that stuck out here from Mono-Red's perspective and why they chose to ban a card from the deck, despite its medium non-mirror win rate, was the concepts of polarization. Mono-Red is a deck that has a very strong game one against a wide range of the field, but it's post-board games tend to suffer due to the large amount of sideboard effects that can beat it. Sound familiar? If you've ever played a graveyard deck in any format ever, or remember times like Hogaak in Modern, you can see where this is going. This is what we call overcorrecting and it's happening because Mono-Red was so incredibly dominant in terms of metagame share that the only way to beat the deck down is to overcorrect. I'm firmly reminded of periods such as the Karn Forge era of Vintage where BUG was the most popular deck because it was the only deck in the format that positively beat up on Karn Forge.

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The PFP team did consider banning several other cards from Mono-Red that they mentioned, primarily things like Wrenn's Resolve, Reckless Impulse to even newer threats like Goblin Tomb Raider. They mention that despite this, they kept circling back to Swiftspear for a few very good reasons. One is that Swiftspear interacts highly positively with many of the aforementioned effects as well as the fact that Swiftspear dodges a lot of common 2 toughness removal in the format and it leads to some of the deck's most explosive starts.

It's with this that they chose to only hit Swiftspear instead of hitting other cards from this deck. This is a big thing and I agree with them that starting small and going from here is a smart move. Multiple bannings can often upset an ecosystem of a format's metagame, and sometimes it is better to let the metagame breathe a little before seeing if further action is required, except in situations where it's very clear that another aspect of the format would simply take over. Examples of this are things like when both Lurrus and Zirda were banned in Legacy, where removing Lurrus would have just created a power gap for Zirda to fill which would have required it to have been banned as well. Pauper doesn't currently seem to have this issue with a lot of the diverse aspects of the current format, so I think only banning one card was a good move here. The PFP did say however that if there needs to be further changes they would not hesitate to come back in and perform additional bans as needed.

They also talked a lot about other decks, namely Affinity and Terror. One of the things about Affinity is that its win rate is also fairly medium (similar win rate of 50.5% non-mirror) but the thing about Affinity is that unlike Mono-Red, Affinity has both good and bad matchups in game one, with a slant against in post-board games due to some very flexible and useful sideboard cards that beat up on artifact decks without much compromising the makeup of the sideboard. The PFP did discuss the possibility of cards like All That Glitters, the original artifact lands, and the Bridge lands, but ultimately decided that this long stalwart of the format was just fine, and I think that's a correct take. There are lots of ways to interact with Affinity, and while it's had its broken time in the sun to shine, I don't think it's there right now.

Terror decks also came up in this conversation, and we talked a bit about Terror in last week's article. It's refreshing to see that a lot of the data lines up from our discussion from then. Terror decks, especially Mono Blue Terror have very sub par win rates and a few different natural predators in the format such as Affinity, Gates, Faeries, and even Walls. In addition, new cards such as Tithing Blade from Lost Caverns of Ixalan have improved decks like Golgari Gardens versus this deck as well. In the end I think it's fine that no changes were made to Terror, as there are multiple variants of the deck between Mono Blue, Izzet, and Dimir, and having multiple styles of "tempo/control" variants in the format is nice for players who like to metagame, and none of the variants seem to be doing all that well at the moment.

The article did mention again that they considered being more aggressive overall and hitting things from several archetypes, but again I think this would have proven to be a bit too disastrous for the format and shake-up for shake-up's sake is not a good reason to perform bans. It is better as I said before to allow metagames to breathe and I think this is a fine change to the format for a card that has proven to be very polarizing.

One other thing that came up was the win rates of other various decks. This is a great piece of data here to look at, because it gives us a strong idea of what decks are really good in the format. They also discussed again in reversing bans and unbanning cards. Again cards like Prophetic Prism, Sinkhole, Hymn to Tourach, and even High Tide. The article and video go into better detail on this for sure.

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Oh right this thing. The video and article also mentioned this, due to the differences in implementation between this card in paper and on Magic Online. It was mentioned that this is something they're going to be keeping an eye on in the wake of the Swiftspear ban due to these differences and there's no hesitation in banning if it becomes a real problem and disconnect between paper and MTGO.

At the end of the day I will continue to say that the PFP continues to provide high-quality, transparent looks at how they handle bannings, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of the Swiftspear ban. Will Mono Red continue to be too good? I think only time will tell and we will need to spend some time seeing how things evolve before making a move on anything else.

Pauper Challenge 12/2

The first Challenge event of the weekend was the Saturday event.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here. Let's look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Bogles 1st Make_it_Right
Burn 2nd Mattallmight
Jeskai Affinity 3rd medvedev
Burn 4th TheRealJulys
Burn 5th _DissonancE_
Dimir Terror 6th O_danielakos
Burn 7th mRichi
Burn 8th LBBL

Swifty decided to definitely go on a blaze of glory this last weekend before the banning. At the end of the event though it was Bogles that won. Congrats!

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Pauper Challenge 12/3

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the Sunday event.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here. Let's look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Dimir Terror 1st abijhavs
Golgari Gardens 2nd grinderA
Azorius Affinity 3rd LasVegasChaos
Jeskai Affinity 4th rob85tx
Orzhov Control 5th SulleyCrusher
Dimir Faeries 6th outZEROo
Grixis Affinity 7th LuffyDoChapeuDePalha
Burn 8th Liv_One

Burn got mostly shut out this go around as other decks rose to the top. At the end of the event it was Dimir Terror that won. Congrats!

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Around the Web

  • Kalikaiz has a video on Treasure Storm. Check it out here.
  • Alex Ullman gives his take on the Swiftspear ban. Check it out here.
  • StompyMTG also gives their take on the Swiftspear ban. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 deck lists over here.

Mono Black Devotion is always sweet.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for continuing to support the column and join us next week as we continue our journey into Pauper!

As always you can reach me at all my associated links via my Link Tree! In addition, I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the MTGPauper Discord Server.

Until next time!

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