The August 11th Pauper Challenge was the second in a row to be won by a Burning-Tree Emissary deck. This is hot on the heels of some yahoo writing about how creatures have a hard time keeping pace in Pauper. So let's look at the results in context.
The winning deck - Red Deck Wins - went through two Jeskai midrange decks before defeating Delver. Last week's winning Stompy deck beat two Jeskai midrange decks before coming out ahead of Hexproof. Both times the aggro decks completely avoided Tron in the elimination rounds and more specifically, they dodged the brand of Tron that can blank a combat phase. Would the result have been the same if, for example TopGrinder was in the same half of the bracket as Modern_Monkey?
When I wrote about creatures and their relative lack of strength, I feel like I glossed over a key point. It is not that the creatures that already exist are bad. Rather, as new cards get added to the format it is far easier for spells to break through than creatures. This creates an imbalance in the arms race between aggro and control strategies. My hope is that moving forward we see more synergy driven aggressive creatures in the vein of Cloudfin Raptor to help bolster decks - and players - that like turning creatures sideways.
Back to the metagame at large. The various builds of Jeskai Midrange continue to succeed at a decent clip. Three main stripes have emerged. The first, Jeskai Trinket, is typified by the presence of Trinket Mage. The more popular (and arguably better) build is Jeskai Blink, leaning harder on Ephemerate. Jeskai Faeries is not as strong as the other builds and gets the moniker from running Spellstutter Sprite and other Faerie synergies. Flicker Tron continues to put up strong numbers.
Being blunt for a second, the strength of the prison Tron decks has me concerned for the long term health of the format. I think a Turbo Fog deck existing is good as a check for when beatdown gets too powerful. However, when Turbo Fog becomes a sustained dominant strategy, that chokes off an entire angle of attack in a metagame. The fail rate of these Tron decks is non-zero, but they are incredibly consistent and can often lock down a game starting turn four. If they are on the play against beatdown, that could mean game over.
The cut off for being featured this week is either a single Top 8 finish or four appearances across the 6 challenges. The three Jeskai decks listed before total 47 appearances - or around 25% of all decks represented across the last month and a half. All those loop Tron decks? 22 total appearances, or almost 11.5%. Burning-Tree Emissary does slightly better with 24 appearances and 12.5% of all Top 32 decks.
So going fast seems to be a way to win. If Jeskai is popular, and aggro beats Jeskai, the question that remains is how to defeat Tron? The answer is to sidestep combat damage. Stompy might struggle here, but Goblin Grenade is great and ending games. Fling - out of both Affinity and Hexproof - works. And then there's my personal favorite in Falkenrath Noble.
2019 is going to be a banner year for Pauper. I want to continue to be at the forefront of the metagame. If you like the work I do, please consider becoming a Patron. Thank you!