It feels good to be writing these again. The last time I looked at the Pauper Power Rankings was July, almost halfway through the scourge of Squirrel Storm. Well, Chatterstorm has been banned and things have somewhat returned to normal. While the format is continuing to adjust to a metagame without a dominant combo deck, it has lost some elasticity. That is, many of the decks that were unable to compete with in the old three-headed monster metagame (Affinity, Dimir, Squirrel Storm) have yet to regain their footing. That and we are only one week into the release of Midnight Hunt and as such some of the potential hits from that set have yet to make their mark.
Bogles was the early winner after the bans took effect. The cards that are traditionally good against Bogles – Electrickery and Chainer’s Edict – were absolutely terrible in the pre-ban metagame. And in the first week, people decided to take advantage and put Auras on Gladecover Scouts. After that, however, people adjusted. There are more black decks running Edict-style removal and, as a result, Bogles has taken a step back.
Elves is a deck that many stick with through thick and thin, even if it is not the best choice. This is due to the deck’s mana flexibility, allowing it to run a wide variety of answers. Since Fiery Cannonade barely mattered during Squirrel Summer, Elves was well set up to have a strong start. The problem? Dimir Faeries remained popular and Pestilence decks emerged as a strong meta choice, keeping Elves down.
8. Izzet Faeries
Izzet Faeries is a great deck that can leverage the combination of Ninja of the Deep Hours and Spellstutter Sprite. The problem is that Dimir Faeries can do the same thing but comes with a free removal spell in Snuff Out and a better game-ending threat in Gurmag Angler. When can Izzet Faeries shine? When Skred is a better option than Snuff Out.
7. Familiar Combo
Pauper Grixis Familiars by Entropy263
Familiar Combo has been around Pauper for quite a while. These decks use the Familiars from Planeshift to reduce the cost of key spells and win with Archaeomancer loops. The new kid on the block is Grixis Familiars which can use Ardent Elementalist. Using a combination involving two copies of Nightscape Familiar and Snap, this deck can generate an unbound amount of mana and eventually start digging for a kill. It uses the still-legal Galvanic Relay to reload if it cannot win the game, but has access to two different avenues of victory: Lightning Bolt and Compulsive Research.
6. Wildfire/Cascade Midrange
Cleansing Wildfire has been a boon to midrange strategies in Pauper. The ability to ramp while drawing a card gives you access to two of the best parts of a turn in the early stages of the game. These decks tend to be base red-green thanks to Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party. They combine cheap removal with abundant two-for-ones in an effort to outvalue the opponent. The ramp package makes it fairly easy for them to get ahead, and once they do it can be difficult to stop the Boarding Party.
5. Wildfire/Ephemerate Midrange
Pauper Jeskai Ephemerate by Beenew
These decks use a similar Cleansing Wildfire package but instead of leaning on the cascade mechanic, they look to pair Ephemerate with either Ardent Elementalist or Archaeomancer. These decks are more content to one-for-one early, knowing they will recoup the card advantage in the mid and late game. They’re also able to run a wider variety of potential answers since they can use their graveyard as a place to store key spells, always at the ready thanks to Ephemerate.
4. Orzhov Pestilence
Pestilence remains a heck of a Magic card. Once it hits the battlefield, it has a profound effect on the game, helping to keep things under control. While the exact composition of these decks differ – some opting for an almost creatureless build and others running a full Kor Skyfisher package – they’re at their core board control decks. They want to keep creatures off the opponent’s side of the battlefield so their team can go to work.
3. Goblin Combo
Goblin Combo was all the rage in early Strixhaven season but it fell off rather quickly. It was not that the deck was bad, just that it was challenging to pilot on Magic Online and had a number of pinch points that were easily targeted. In the post-Chatterstorm era, it’s the best First Day of Class deck in the format. The strategy got a huge boost thanks to Deadly Dispute. It now has a way to cash in unnecessary lands and extraneous Treasure from Impulsive Pilferer. I do not think this deck can sustain its results consistently, but it looks like it will remain a threat to spike a Top 8 with some regularity.
2. Grixis Affinity
Affinity lost Sojourner’s Companion in the most recent ban announcement. While that has certainly hindered Affinity’s prospects as a beatdown deck, it has done nothing to stop it from Flinging Atog at people’s face. More builds have opted to include Disciple of the Vault and Deadly Dispute, giving Affinity more card draw and another angle of attack. While it’s easier to survive against Affinity, it remains resilient thanks to its newfound mana base dodging artifact removal.
1. Dimir Faeries
Dimir Faeries was the only one of the Big Three decks from Squirrel Summer to not have a card banned. It follows that it would be one of the more popular options early and, well, it certainly was. In the first two Midnight Hunt Challenges (and a Showcase Qualifier), the deck had 8 Top 8 finishes and two wins. Dimir Faeries has been great for a long time but has never been this far-and-away the best deck in the format. We have already seen some decks emerge – namely Pestilence – dead-set on beating Dimir. While Dimir will never go away the question remains – can it stand up to the test of being on top with a target on its forehead?