It’s been just over three weeks since four cards with the initiative were banned from Pauper and the new metagame has started to take shape. In the wake of the ban, there has been some serious upheaval, with several former staple decks finding themselves out of step with the format at large. Izzet and Dimir Faeries are struggling to keep up at the moment.
That’s not to say these decks are no longer good, just that as strategies that find themselves more on the control end of the spectrum, they need a settled meta to better exert their influence. Still, there are several reasons while slower Spellstutter Sprite decks may have fallen off. Several top strategies are running Makeshift Munitions as a sink for extra material and this enchantment works Sprite over rather nicely. The abundant number of Squadron Hawks and Kor Skyfishers also make life difficult for decks packing tiny flying creatures. Finally, there’s the small matter of expensive threats coming down cheap, bypassing Spellstutter Sprite’s most useful ability. With all that out of the way, let’s get to the latest Power Rankings.
10. Madness Burn
Madness Burn leverages Blood tokens to help fuel synergies with Fiery Temper and Kitchen Imp, while also turning on Galvanic Blast. That it can use Blood to filter lands into fresh spells is a massive boost to its late game prospects.
Bogles might be a mirage. While it’s for sure a solid deck, a lot of its success came earlier in this cycle where decks were less prepared for it in the sideboard. Now I would consider running Bogles to be a fairly big risk because not only have strategies had time to adjust, but the enchantment removal that’s good against Arbor Elf ramp decks also puts in work against Bogles.
Delver decks here also include newer builds that feature Tolarian Terror. Why have these decks succeeded while slower Faerie strategies have fallen off? In my opinion, it’s because these decks are far more aggressive than Dimir and Izzet Faeries. Delver can press its advantage with spells like Mutagenic Growth and Snap, not needing to commit mana to advance its position. Because it is far more suited to aggression it can use Spellstutter Sprite to pick off any early spell for an advantage and not have to hold it in reserve early for the opponent’s big payoff.
7. Mardu Synthesizer
Mardu Synthesizer takes pieces from several decks and fits them into one somewhat cohesive shell. There’s the Boros core of Kor Skyfisher, Glint Hawk and Seeker of the Way, coupled with artifacts like Experimental Synthesizer and Ichor Wellspring. The black comes in for Deadly Dispute or Terminate or Suffocating Fumes, but almost more importantly for Omen of the Dead. Omen and Skyfisher create a loop of always being able to rebuy the 2/3 flyer. The deck can also turn on Galvanic Blast and occasionally runs a Cleansing Wildfire package as well.
6. Gruul Ramp
Gruul Ramp is great at playing to the board and stealing wins with Thermokarst and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. That it can stick an Avenging Hunter early and accelerate into Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party means that even in games where land destruction isn’t as effective the deck can still end games in short order.
5. Boros Bully
Boros Bully has come a long way. It has adopted Lunarch Veteran and Sacred Cat to go along with Squadron Hawk and Battle Screech. Rally the Peasants is still a fantastic way to end games but the addition of Basilisk Gate has given Boros Bully another powerful angle of attack.
4. Kuldotha Red
You might be starting to notice a theme of decks leveraging artifact synergies. Kuldotha Red does this exceptionally well. Voldaren Epicure, Experimental Synthesizer, Chromatic Star and Great Furnace all provide fodder for both Kuldotha Rebirth and Galvanic Blast. The deck can apply a ton of pressure thanks to the typical burn package of Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Fireblast and Monastery Swiftspear, but can see a ton of cards thanks to Synthesizer alongside Reckless Impulse. Some builds also run Goblin Bushwhacker as another way to go over the top.
3. Dimir Terror
The heir apparent to Dimir Delver, Dimir Terror trades the Faeire/Ninja package for more cheap cantrips like Thought Scour and Mental Note in an effort to resolve quick copies of Gurmag Angler and Tolarian Terror. Terror is, well, a terror, in that it can be hard to remove once it hits the battlefield. The cost reduction on Terror gives this deck the ability to resolve multiple in quick succession and still have mana left over for Gurmag Angler, all with Counterspell backup.
2. Grixis Affinity
It took an incredibly powerful deck to knock Grixis Affinity out of the top spot. The deck is Affinity in mechanic only, instead resembling Grixis Control with lands that do it all – reduce the cost of key spells while also fueling all three of the deck’s draw two effects. Affinity has also added Kenku Artificer as a way to create yet another hard to solve threat. Despite its strength, the presence of other powerful control options has knocked Affinity down a notch.
Finally, a deck to take advantage of the Brainstorm/Squadron Hawk interaction in Pauper. CawGate is a white-blue control deck that uses its cheap threats coupled with Basilisk Gate to win the game. There’s no real trick to it, other than fetching copies of Squadron Hawk only to put several back with Brainstorm, and running the trick back. The deck is resilient thanks in part to the embalm on Sacred Cat but mostly because its main source of damage is housed in a land. Sprinkle in some The Modern Age and Guardian of the Guildpact with countermagic and you have a powerful midrange control deck that has turned Pauper on its ear.