I wish I had something new to say. Burn had another good week at the February 24 Pauper Challenge. LightningBolt.dek took three slots in the Top 8 and another 4 in the Top 16. Here's the part of our story where people mockingly ask for a Lightning Bolt ban.
Got that out of your system?
Burn did have a great week. The size of the challenge also meant that four players made the Top 32 with a losing record, indicated with a '~' in the chart.
This brings me to an interesting fork in the road. Up until now I've been counting these decks as they have appeared in the Top 32, and rarely more than once per challenge. How important is it to count them if they appear more frequently? If we are concerning ourselves with the winner's metagame is it accurate to consider decks that did not end up with a winning record?
I do not have an answer to this and until I am convinced otherwise I will keep counting them since I have done so to this point.
So why is Burn having such a breakout? Burn is one of the few decks in the format that really does not care what its opponent is doing. While many of the top decks try their best to limit interaction in some ways, Burn just attacks from a completely different angle. Moment's Peace is useless against it and you can only trade three cards for three damage so many times before you're out of cards (while Burn still has more Bolts). Unlike other combo decks - Elves, Tribe, Hexproof - removal is basically dead against the deck.
Skewer the Critics has also been a huge addition. People have been leaning on Dispel as a piece of cheap interaction and Skewer conveniently avoids the counter. Spell Pierce should see more play but decks can be slow to adjust.
I am not going top spend a ton of time on the season stats this week. The cutoff to be considered was 4 appearances (with some Top 8s appearing at the bottom just to be visible).
Dimir Delver is performing five Top 8s better than expectation.
Okay but what does that mean?
Given how often a Win+ 1 deck makes the Top 8, Dimir Delver should have close to 8 appearances in the elimination round this season.
It has 13.
There may be a correlation between how often the deck is played and how often it makes the Top 8 but just because a deck is heavily played doesn't mean it is going to make Top 8 more often. Boros Monarch has made the Top 32 the same number of times as Dimir Delver and yet has performed worse. It is averaging two fewer X-2 finishes - that is two more Dimir Delver decks have appeared in the Top 16 compared to Boros Monarch.
There could be numerous reasons for this discrepancy. Early in the season Boros Bully far outnumbered Boros Monarch in appearances. Yet given its popularity, Bully has dropped significantly in its ability to finish strong - it has a similar number of X-2 finishes as it does X-3 finishes.
Let's look at the top three decks of the moment: Dimir, Monarch, and Burn. Burn is arguably performing better than Dimir Delver when comparing Win+ to Volume. Yet it still is performing closer to expectation than the Delver deck. That is, Burn is just as good as it should be when it comes to making Top 8.
What can we infer from this?
Burn is a far easier deck to hate out than Dimir Delver. Life gain is easy to come by and a shift to Lone Missionary and Seeker of the Way could make it far harder for Burn to gain a foothold. Dimir Delver, however, can be seen as a more powerful deck that has fewer weaknesses. Despite being the top dog for the better part of three months it is still out performing most other decks in the winner's bracket.
This weekend the Pauper Mythic Qualifier is taking place at MagicFest LA. As of this writing there are over 70 people registered and my guess is that number is only going to go up in the next few days. The information gleaned from this event will be of huge importance - for the first time there's an incentive with massive implications for winning - going to London to play in the second Mythic Championship. People are going to bring their best.
And cream rises to the top.
What happens in LA is going to do a lot to inform us all about the true state of format health. I hope it's healthier than the challenge metagame.
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!