After 11 weeks and 22 Challenges (and a Super Qualifier), the Kaldheim season has come to an end. The past three months has seen one of the more dynamic Pauper metagames in recent memory as the addition of the snow duals (with basic land types) and top-end cascade threats (from Commander Legends) managed to provide new incentives for Pauper players.
The Pauper metagame now has several major and secondary pillars. Some of the established best decks should be familiar with Tron and Spellstutter Sprite strategies continuing to perform well. The monarchy has been somewhat hampered as of late as cascade strategies have emerged. Monarch decks were excellent at accumulating resources and deploying them later. Cascade decks have the advantage of being able to resolve a threat and convert the resources “drawn” into an immediate impact. Behind these, we have various Affinity strategies, trying to capitalize on artifact lands, and decks built around Lead the Stampede and Winding Way.
As a reminder, here are last month’s Power Rankings:
10. Orzhov Midrange
9. Boros Bully
8. Jund Cascade
7. Gruul Ramp
3. Dimir Faeries
2. Izzet Faeries
1. Flicker Tron
You can’t keep a good aggressive deck down for too long. Stompy struggled for the first two-thirds of Kaldheim season but found a groove for the final few weeks. The biggest problem with Stompy is that it can struggle to adjust to new metagames. Stompy has become the de facto aggro strategy, but as a result, is priced into running the most efficient option from a damage perspective. This can often lead to situationally better cards riding the pine in favor of stalwart inclusions. Stompy might get a boost moving forward from Bayou Groff and it’ll be interesting to see if it can take hold.
By all accounts, Burn had a fine season. It finished with 11 Top 8s overall in 55 Top 32 appearances. I struggle to put Burn higher, mostly due to the fact that as soon as people want to hate the deck out of the metagame, they can do so with trivial ease. The current resurgence of Boros Bully also means there will be more copies of Prismatic Strands running around, which can make things difficult for Burn.
8. Jund Cascade
Jund Cascade was the breakout deck of Kaldheim season, but it’s had a tough time holding on to its initial glory. What happened? Jund (and similar decks) are at their best when Flicker Tron is not as dominant. Early in Kaldheim season, there were an abundance of decks using Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl to power out Mwonvuli Acid-Moss on turn two. While this sequence never spelled game over for Tron, their volume kept Tron down enough that Jund found a land. Well, things have changed and Tron is back. The result: Jund suffers.
7. Jeskai Affinity/Grixis Affinity
Pauper Grixis Affinity by Hamuda
Jeskai Affinity is established at this point, but Grixis Affinity has been on the upswing. While the archetype has been around for quite some time, it came to my attention in the current iteration from Pauper regular Hamuda. Grixis Affinity trades Thraben Inspector for Disciple of the Vault to apply additional pressure to a life total. The newest builds have additional reach thanks to the downshifting of Makeshift Munitions, giving this strategy yet another angle of attack.
WonderWalls has quietly become an established part of the Pauper metagame. One of the deck’s strengths is the fact that it can either go for a win with cascade or by putting Freed from the Real on Axebane Guardian and fetching up a Valakut Invoker, and it can easily sideboard into the other plan. This can wreak havoc on an opponent’s plans as attacking these two elements requires different tools at different stages of the game.
Elves has been revitalized by Jaspera Sentinel. It’s not that the deck needs the new take on Loam Dryad to succeed, but rather it provides another mana dork, and importantly one that doesn’t die to Electrickery. The Sentinel has also made splashing easier, giving Elves access to a wider suite of sideboard all-stars and the occasional main-deck spice in Harsh Sustenance or Valakut Invoker.
4. Dimir Faeries
Dimir Faeries killed it this season. The deck racked up 16 Top 8 appearances and four wins. It made use of two Kaldheim cards in Ice Tunnel and Behold the Multiverse, adding to its already robust roster. So why is it so low, relatively speaking? For all its success, Dimir Faeries also found itself on the outside of the Top 16 far more often than the other best decks.
3. Boros Bully
Pauper Boros Bully by SanPop
Boros Bully started out strong before taking a nosedive in the second four weeks of the season. The final three weeks saw it bounce back in a big way. What happened? It appears that Jund Cascade, with access to Fiery Cannonade, helped to keep Bully in check. As Jund fell by the wayside, it created a window for Bully to succeed once more. One innovation in this deck I think has staying power is from SanPop, who has skimped on copies of Rally the Peasants and Battle Screech to add Molten Rain and Pillage. Bully is well positioned to capitalize on the tempo gained off of a land destruction spell while marginally improving the Tron matchup.
2. Izzet Faeries
Blue cards are good. Red cards are good. Izzet Faeries continues to be a powerhouse in Pauper with 17 Top 8s and two wins. As long as Wizards keeps printing cheap red interaction and blue card filtering, Izzet Faeries will continue to put up results.
1. Flicker Tron
I’m running out of superlatives. Flicker Tron is an absurdly good deck and if it existed in any other format, my guess is that there would be several days worth of Twitter discourse by this point. Flicker Tron was the most popular deck in the Top 32 last season (93 appearances, or just over 13 percent of all Top 32s) and the deck with the most Top 8s (33, or nearly 19 percent of all Top 8s). If you made the Top 32 with Tron, you had better than a 33 percent chance of making the Top 8 – that’s really good. Chances are this is likely to continue as nothing in Strixhaven looks poised to dethrone the true monarch of Pauper.