Wednesday, September 25, 2019

September 22 Pauper Challenge Winner's Metagame Breakdown

11 Challenges, one Mythic Championship Qualifier, and one Format Playoff. The Core 2020 season closed with the September 22 Pauper Challenge. Throne of Eldraine is coming and the format is likely to experience some shifts before the October 7th Banned and Restricted List Update even if nothing ends up leaving the format.
The narrative coming out of Sunday was the "fall" of Jeskai. Despite making up half of the Top 8 only one build of Jeskai made the Top 4 and it was crowded out of the Finals. The other three decks in the Top 4 were all Stompy decks with slightly different creature suites. So which archetype had a better day? 

I don't have a solid answer. Jeskai decks were more popular - 9 total appearances - and they took home 40% of the Win+ points available in the Challenge. At the same time, Stompy won the dang thing and had three decks in the Top 4. It had 28% of all Win+ with 15.6% of the field. Compare this to Jeskai's 40% in 31.25% of the Top 32. If you were asking me to pick a winner on Sunday I would give the edge to Stompy, but not by a mile.
And isn't that the story of Core 2020 season? Jeskai is the most popular deck and racks up Top 8 appearances - 34 out of 96 total Top 8s - but doesn't win nearly as often. All Jeskai variants have 3 Challenge wins - Stompy has 4 in 10 Top 8 appearances.
(These numbers are inclusive of the MCQ but not the Format Playoff, as that tournament only reported the Top 16).

Jeskai, for better or worse, defined the last 13 weeks of high level Pauper play. It may be more accurate to say that the interaction of Mulldrifter and Ephemerate were the focal point, with Arcum's Astrolabe finding these cards and fixing mana, but that generates another question: is it okay for a format to have a clear best interaction around which everything revolves?
This question gets to the heart of differing opinions about what Pauper should be. Should there be a static point at the center that everyone is coming for, or should that center loci shift over time - and if so how long is appropriate?

Over the 12 events (in 13 weeks), Jeskai made up a quarter of all Top 32 appearances but it accounted for over a third of all Win+. Put another way: for every record 5-2 or better, Jeskai accounted for 1/3 of those wins. When looking at every other macro-archetype, the next best performer was Burning-Tree Emissary at nearly 13%. Beyond that you have Ethereal Armor decks and Tron decks that try to play the same game as Jeskai, only with a mana abundance. Should the core of Arcum's Astrolabe-Ephemerate-Mulldrifter-Archaeomancer/Mnemonic Wall account for over a third of the Top 32 and over 40% of the weighted metagame? That's a question for the folks in Renton.

My hope? Regardless of whether or not anything gets banned I'd like to see some evening out of these numbers. Moving into Throne of Eldraine season I'd like to see a smaller delta in the Jeskai numbers and I would like to see other decks claw back some of the metagame share. Whether this means people adopting maindeck hate measures or an overload of sideboard silver bullets, I'd like to see the meta pull itself free of Jeskai's gravtitational pull.

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!

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