We are a month into Core 2020 season and more importantly a month into the unification of Pauper. Despite the the fact that Modern Horizons looks to have had a more profound impact on the format, we can start to draw some conclusions about where things are and where they are going. The July 28th Pauper Challenge provides a helpful guide for the current terrain.
Jeskai Blink is starting to emerge as the best three-color Arcum's Astrolabe deck. Rather than leaning on Trinket Mage, the deck sings thanks to Ephemerate and the interactions with Mulldrifter and Archaeomancer. The combination of these cards gives the deck powerful late game, that, if it get get there, feels unbeatable. Seeker of the Way and Aven Riftwatcher can help buy time. The winner of yesterday's challenge - Heisen01 - opted for the former. They also decided to include Custodi Squire as a way to treat the graveyard as a toolbox. Heisen01 also maindecked two copies of Mystic Remora, which makes a ton of sense in a metagame that has gone Ephemerate and Astrolabe happy. Even if it never draws you a card it can buy you time to get those tools the hard way: during your draw step.
Heisen01 took out Elves in the Quarterfinals and a mirror - albeit without Remora and Squire - in the Semifinals. They then secured victory by defeating Goblins.
But let's talk about Goblins. I am a huge fan of the deck (and the list I used in week one of the Pauper Premier League placed 12th in the event thanks to Sneaky Robot) and punninglinguist took a slightly different build all the way to the Finals. Punninglinguist beat Red Deck Wins in the Quarterfinals and then Hellsau on Flicker Tron in the Semifinals. It is that Semifinal victory that deserves note. Hellsau's deck is designed to beat aggressive strategies. It packs four copies of the combat phase blanking Stonehorn Dignitary main and two copies of Moment's Peace in the 60 (and four copies in the 75). Needless to say, Hellsau hates attacking. And yet Goblins got there. Goblins, thanks to Goblin Grenade, has quite a bit of reach - that is once it gets the opponent low enough it can simply start pointing burn at a life total. Unlike other Tron decks, Hellsau chose not to run Weather the Storm so outside of Pulse of Murasa it had no way to gain life at instant speed (outside of blinking a Lone Missionary). Although Goblins fell to Jeskai Blink in the finals, the fact that it could race a deck that dedicated one-tenth of its maindeck to besting beatdown is heartening.
And that is where things are. The current metagame has three distinct camps: Flicker Tron decks, Astrolabe Value decks, and Linear Aggro. While little has to change week-to-week for the first two buckets, Linear Aggro has to constantly adapt. While Stompy might be best one week, Heroic could be best the next, only to be quickly replaced by Goblins or Red Deck Wins. And that is to say nothing of decks like Affinity or Hexproof which can also snipe wins.
The question remains: is this as good as Pauper can be? While there exists a variety of cards seeing play, the number of viable engines has been reduced. To be clear, I am not calling for a ban of any one card, but rather want to see other engines be viable. The Astrolabe and Mnemonic Wall cores should be competitive, but so should Monarch (only appearing in three Top 32 decks) and Tethmos High Priest. Pauper might be good right now but I believe it can be better. Now that the format is officially recognized I am eager to see what Throne of Eldraine has in store.
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!