Commander Legends has hit Pauper and, well, things are getting weird.
In order to better understand what’s going on I want to take a macro view of the format. Even though Monarch and Tron are the dominant strategies in the format, the defining card in Pauper may just be Burning-Tree Emissary. The ability to present two or more threats on the second turn of the game means that slower decks need to compensate. Until the Fiery Cannonade downshift there was no reliable way to clear the board before turn four. This led to Palace Sentinel decks leaning on Prismatic Strands while Tron decks went with Moment’s Peace. Since these decks simply needed more time to enact their end game, it became easier to blunt assaults rather than try to keep creatures off the battlefield.
Aggressive decks adapted as much as they could. They tried to lower their kill to turn four. In most scenarios, that’s the window available before the Fog rolls in. This required eeking out every bit of potential damage.
This was was before Fall from Favor.
Fall from Favor not only gives you the Monarch on turn three, but it turns off the opponent’s best attacker. In other words, that window for aggro is now like a doggy door.
Fall from Favor is everywhere in the new Pauper metagame. Most Spellstutter Sprite decks have adopted the card as another way to keep the cards flowing. These decks have one of the best possible openers with Fall, leading on a Faerie Seer and then passing with Spellstutter Sprite up to take out their turn two play. If it never comes, it doesn’t matter. Just flash in the Sprite, swing in and then enchant your own creature with Fall. Now you have the Monarch and are not likely to lose it… unless of course your opponent has their own Fall from Favor.
Pauper Mono Blue Faeries by PauloCabral_BR
Pauper Dimir Faeries by Beicodegeia
Pauper Izzet Faeries by Modern_Monkey
Outside of traditional Monarch decks, Fall from Favor is becoming more and more popular. In this update of the old “legend rule,” where you could play a legend to blow up the same legend of your opponent’s, Fall from Favor is seeing play specifically to counteract opposing copies. The result is that, right now, Pauper is starting to resemble Monarch: the Format. While we know that the format’s health is under additional scrutiny – Gavin Verhey has said as much – it’s still an awkward time to try anything that isn’t Monarch or Tron.
Pauper Four Color Ephemerate by Saidin.raken
Pauper Azorius Familiars by saidin.raken
Speaking of Tron, even it has started running the monarch cards more consistently. While some have opted to include Fall from Favor in the sideboard, others are looking to Staunch Throneguard as a main deck inclusion because free cards are good.
Pauper Flicker Tron by Hampuse1
Pauper Flicker Tron by Joker10289
Blue Tempo and Tron decks aren’t the only established builds to add Fall from Favor. Jeskai Affinity – a mashup of traditional Myr Enforcer Affinity and Kor Skyfisher-powered Galvanic Blast decks – has also taken to the new Aura. While Jeskai Affinity is relatively fragile, the addition of a super cantrip removal spell was enough to propel it to back-to-back Challenge wins on the last weekend of November.
Pauper Jeskai Affinity by Hamuda
How do you fight against Fall from Favor? There are a few ways. The first is to run cheap or free interaction. Cards like Gut Shot, Snapback and Snuff Out go up in value as a way to counteract your opponent’s attempt to enchant their own creature. If they go for your creature, well, Village Rites exists and should be seeing a bit more play than it does currently. You could also look to run Apostle’s Blessing or Vines of Vastwood or just go for broke and main deck Pyroblast.
An aside: I don’t think this is a healthy spot for Pauper. I think that a non-rotating format that asks folks to consistently include hate cards to even have a chance at success is a bad spot. Formats like Legacy and Vintage can get away with it since they contain cards from the entire history of the game, but they also have checks that Pauper lacks. Blood Moon, Force of Will, Veil of Summer and Wasteland aren’t walking through that door anytime soon.
Fiery Cannonade is also seeing quite a bit of play. I think the card would see significantly more play if not for the prevalence of Fall from Favor. Since being aggressive is a big ask currently, Cannonade is showing up as a one or two-of in main decks with more in the sideboard. In a world without Fall from Favor, I could see this being a three-to-one split but for now, one is often enough.
Pauper Tron by Kampo
Author’s note: This deck registered a 13 card sideboard, this is not typo.
Benevolent Blessing has also made its way into the format. Heroic is a mono white aggressive deck that wants to go tall with Akroan Skyguard or Lagonna-Band Trailblazer. Cho-Manno’s Blessing was already an archetype staple but it would prove problematic when trying to protect a creature from Journey to Nowhere or get through a Palace Sentinels for lethal as it would remove existing Auras. Benevolent Blessing sidesteps this and provides a similar effect. Considering how many protection effects Heroic can run, this deck could be poised to pick up some win shares if it can close the game before Fogs take over.
Pauper Heroic by Murk
Perhaps the biggest gain from Commander Legends has been in various Arbor Elf ramp decks. These decks use the established engine of Arbor Elf with Utopia Sprawl and Wild Growth to power out massive threats. The latest set brought two huge threats – Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party – which come with cascade. That means that no matter what, you’re likely to get one key spell. These ramp decks usually come with a land destruction package as well aimed at keeping Tron in check. The addition of a cascade endgame means that it’s possible to buy enough time with Stone Rains to actually win the game. Of course, free cards are tough to pass up and some of these decks have taken to running monarch cards as well.
Pauper Temur Ramp by ManamanVanTurk
Pauper Gruul Ramp by Hamuda
There’s more to explore, of course. Eyeblight Massacre has yet to show up and Fleshbag Marauder is still riding the pine. Makeshift Munitions has popped up – once in Affinity and once in Boros Bully – as a way to peck in for the final few points of damage. At the end of the day though, the first chapter in the Pauper story of Commander Legends is all about monarchy and, for the time being, we are going to have to learn to live with the crown.