On September 8th Hellsau won the Challenge with Flicker Tron. Five Jeskai decks made the Top 8. Despite the fact the interaction of Mulldriter and Ephemerate have dominated the Pauper metagame for the past several months, there have not been many innovations when it comes to countering the menace.
But don't worry - there were plenty of copies of Leave no Trace for Heroic and Hexproof - the scourge of September 1st.
To be fair it is hard to metagame against the Jeskai deck - and against Ephemerate-Mulldrifter- in the abstract. The decks that are able to run these cards dedicate multiple slots to cheap interaction to protect their engine. Some decks can come prepared - Spellstutter Sprite is quite good at eating Ephemerate - but the best Sprite decks these days just so happen to also be Jeskai decks.
There are ways to fight the engine. Magma Spray and Last Breath can exile creatures in response to Ephemerate. Castigate can nab the card directly from the hand. There are a bounty of cards that can hit a spell in the graveyard, provided the shields are down. Heck, Faerie Trickery can get it off the stack for good, as can Syncopate and Liquify.
Have all of these been attempted? Possibly. It is also possible that running these cards might leave you at a disadvantage against the rest of the field.
Still, Jeskai was five of the Top 8 decks on Sunday with another three in the Top 16. If you add up all Ephemerate-Mulldrifter decks in the Top 16, you come out to 10: 8 Jeskai, 2 Tron. That's out of 15 such decks in the Top 32. A 66% conversion rate to a 5-2 or better record is pretty darn good.
And this is a sustained level of success, at least with regards to Jeskai. On August 11, Jeskai decks comprised 25% of the challenge Top 32 decks and accumulated 30% of all Win+ points. By the end of Sunday the volume shrunk to 24.72% but the Win+ volume rose to 32.96%. Even as the deck gets less popular, it gets better.
These numbers should give Pauper players pause. They indicate that nothing can keep Jeskai down. Even if you want to take solace in the results from Sunday that means Tron is the hero (and we all know the Tron memes at this point). With Throne of Eldraine looking to play in space that will not benefit the format of commons it means that other action may need to be taken to ensure the health of the format moving forward.
Yes I'm talking about bans. Arcum's Astrolabe, Ephemerate, and Tron.
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!