Pauper is in a weird place right now. After the release of Modern Horizons 2, the format saw a huge uptick in the popularity of two decks – Storm and Affinity. It made sense that these two decks would take off given the tools they received in the set. Modern Horizons 2 put a capstone on the broken things available in Pauper by pushing potent strategies to their logical endpoint. The result is a format that is being dominated by a few supercharged decks while another strategy tries to act as a restrictor plate on their fun. Because of this, today’s Pauper Power Rankings are going to look a little different.
Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has only been out for a few days but it has already made a dent. Rather than look at the top 10 decks in Pauper, I’m going to discuss what I feel are the five best positioned decks right now. Unlike previous entries in this series, I’m not going to lean as hard on the data I collect, mostly because there’s not a ton available at this time. The other reason: the big three decks are chewing up over two-thirds of the Top 32 metagame, so everything else is going to be fighting for scraps. Let’s get to it!
5. Soul Sisters
Pauper Soul Sisters by _against_
Ajani’s Pridemate has been on the downshift wishlist of many Pauper players for several years, and while the Unicorn comes down a turn later, it gets the same bonus and has an extra point of power. Now, instead of having to turn sideways with a bunch of 1/1s, Soul Sisters can present a threat that often has north of eight power. It also got a new toy in Priest of Ancient Lore that not only draws a card but it also gains you life.
The deck works like this. Early on, it wants to play out Soul Warden or Soul’s Attendant. It then wants to gain life and eventually stick and protect a Unicorn, which if everything is going according to plan, should resolve as a 5/4. Then, attack. The deck also has a decent go wide plan with Squadron Hawk and Battle Screech. Silverflame Ritual is a nice way to permanently boost your toughness unlike Guardians’ Pledge or Rally the Peasants.
Soul Sisters can simply gain enough life to survive against Storm and Affinity, with Suture Priest putting a damper on a Squirrel army. Against the other big deck in the format – Dimir – it can present enough threats to overcome their removal. The fact that it can also trade with Dimir’s flyers gives it some game in the matchup.
4. Wildfire Midrange
Pauper Wildfire Midrange by Heisen01
This is a catch-all for decks that pair Cleansing Wildfire with the indestructible lands from Modern Horizons 2. The idea is to ramp on turn two while also drawing a card. These decks either look like the old Jund Cascade decks from Strixhaven season or various Ephemerate midrange decks. These decks win either by getting ahead on tempo by blowing up one of Storm’s lands or by trying to accrue enough value to counteract Affinity. Some of these decks have decided to adopt Geomancer’s Gambit as extra copies of Cleansing Wildfire.
Wildfire Midrange decks tend to win on the back of their answer suite. If they’re able to draw the game out long enough and survive, they can then turn the corner. While these decks all have access to red, some of the more successful versions lean heavily on white for access to Dust to Dust. This card has become a go-to answer for Affinity. In the past, Affinity was kept in check since its mana base was vulnerable to Gorilla Shaman. The same lands that enable Cleansing Wildfire have taken away Mox Monkey’s angle of attack. Dust to Dust has no such restriction as it exiles and is a reason to run white in today’s Pauper.
Dimir Delver and Dimir Faeries get to run some of the best cheap interaction and counter magic available in Pauper. They both have great card draw and have adopted the monarch – either Azure Fleet Admiral or Thorn of the Black Rose – as persistent forms of card advantage. These two strategies accounted for almost 18 percent of the Top 32 metagame during the five weeks of Modern Horizons 2 season and took home 19 Top 8s and two wins (it added two Top 8s in the first week of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms season).
If there’s a fair deck to play in Pauper currently, it’s Dimir. Unlike the top two decks in the format, Dimir doesn’t power out free 4/4s or an army of Squirrels. Instead, it just does its best to stop the opponent from doing anything that will matter. The thing is, it can be incredibly hard to do this when the other decks at the top can present a ton of free 4/4s or a horde of Squirrels, regardless of how many counterspells are being held.
Give a deck like Affinity another Myr Enforcer in Sojourner’s Companion and you have the makings of a dangerous deck. Remove one of the best checks on the archetype by giving it indestructible lands and you have a monster. Affinity now can win by beating down with free 4/4s (as opposed to paying two like a chump for Carapace Forger) or by going over the top with Atog and Fling. Affinity also got a boost thanks to the prevalence of Storm as it can run Krark-Clan Shaman main. This gives the deck a strong board control element that has made it difficult for other creature decks to find a lane in the current meta.
How good is Affinity currently? Last season, it took home 29 percent of the Top 32 metagame and 22 Top 8s (with four wins). In the first two challenges of this season, it notched 19 appearances with six more Top 8s and two more wins.
1. Squirrel Storm
What else can be said about this deck? Pauper has access to some of the best mana rituals and card filtering while also containing a number of lands that excel in Storm decks. The combination of First Day of Class and Chatterstorm gave all these pieces the spout they so desperately needed.
Why is Storm number one? It’s not there by much and you can make the argument Affinity belongs here. However, Storm is currently defining the format. While Affinity’s results are marginally better, it’s hard to argue that Storm exerts more pressure on the earliest turns of the games. It also has strong numbers in its own right. Last season, Storm had 20 Top 8s and two wins with just over 20 percent of the metagame. Last weekend, it added 16 more appearances and five Top 8s.