Pauper Power Rankings – Zendikar Rising Edition

With another set release on the horizon it’s time to take a look back. Double Masters had a massive impact on Pauper, adding both Abrade and Cast Down to the card pool. While these cards helped some decks improve their results, the top of the metagame remained largely similar.

A little bit about how I determine my rankings. For every published Pauper Challenge (and similar) event, I look at the Top 32 lists. Every deck gets a point for wins above an X-3 record. For example, in a six round Challenge a 4-2 deck would earn 1 point for its archetype and a 6-0 deck would earn 3. Using this model, a 1 point finish is roughly analogous to a Top 16 and a 2 point finish is roughly a Top 8. For Double Masters, I looked at 12 Challenges as two Challenges never had their results published. Let’s see how the decks stack up to last time.

10. Boros Bully

How the mighty have fallen. This aggressive take on Boros has had a hard time as of late. Boros Bully is a Faithless Looting deck that seeks to leverage the powerful spell with cards like Squadron Hawk, Battle Screech, and Prismatic Strands. It wants to create a decently sized air force and then win with a burst of damage thanks to Rally the Peasants. Even in a metagame heavy with Stonehorn Dignitary, Bully was a consistent contender.

What happened? Suffocating Fumes happened. Before Ikoria, Electrickery was the sweeper of choice and it just so happened to be countered by Prismatic Strands. Fumes is a -1/-1 effect and eats tokens for breakfast. While Boros Bully has counterplay in Lumithread Field and Ramosian Rally, decks are maindecking Fumes making it a tougher road for 1/1 flyers.

9. Jeskai Ephemerate

This was the deck I pegged as “rising fast” a month ago. While it had a respectable season (4 Top 8s in 11 trips to the Top 32, including a 4-Color variant), it hasn’t broken through quite yet. Why? Jeskai Ephemerate plays in a very similar space to the dominant Tron decks, only without the mana engine. Ephemerate can pack more pinpoint removal – like Skred – into its list, it loses out on the flexibility provided by Delver of Secrets.

8. Dimir Delver

Legacy quality threats Delver of Secrets and Gurmag Angler help keep this deck afloat. Dimir Delver gets to run high impact spells like Snuff Out and Counterspell while also applying pressure with its cheap threats. The deck struggles due to the fact that it runs a low density of these threats. The result is that when Dimir Delver runs into removal heavy builds it can be brickwalled.

7. WonderWalls

Pauper WonderWalls - Mathonical - Top 8 September 13 Pauper Challenge

This deck is wild. It uses the mana production of Overgrown Battlement and Axebane Guardian to go arbitrarily large with cards like Freed from the Real or Galvanic Alchemist. It then uses the spout of Bloodrite Invoker to end the game. Despite looking a bit odd on paper, the deck is incredibly resilient. It has a powerful tutor in Drift of Phantasms that can get multiple key pieces of the combo (Axebane Guardian, Freed from the Real, Galvanic Alchemist, Vivien’s Grizzly, Bloodrite Invoker) or protection (Pulse of Murasa, Reaping the Graves). If you’re looking for a deck that’s a little off center (that has an excellent Tron matchup), this is the deck for you.

6. Burn

Burn gets no respect. While it is not an elite deck by any stretch of the means, it does put up solid results (6 Top 8s including a win in 24 Top 32 appearances). The biggest strike against Burn is that once it gets popular there is a ton of extremely effective hate ready to be deployed. Beating one Lone Missionary is easy, but beating it and Ephemerate is a lot harder.

5. Izzet Faeries

Not much has changed for Izzet Faeries, and that doesn’t bode well. While the deck has added Abrade in some instances, it still struggles against Boros Monarch (which we’ll get to in a bit). Cast Down has hurt Izzet Faeries quite a bit by giving Dimir versions of the deck a Skred analogue that does not demand as much from a mana base.

4. Stompy

The best aggro deck in the format has gone about as far as it can go. Between Moment’s Peace, Prismatic Strands, and Stonehorn Dignitary, there is a lot getting in the way of beatdown being a successful strategy. Out of all the Top 10 decks, Stompy has the worst score relative to its volume. It has earned 26 points for wins above X-3 in 44 appearances – a 0.59 ratio. Two other archetypes have at least 40 appearances – Dimir Faeries (0.8) and Flicker Tron (0.92). Even with a win this season, Stompy looks downright sad compared to the top tier.

3. Dimir Faeries

Pauper Dimir Faeries - Cicciogire - Winner September 13 Pauper Challenge

Speaking of the top tier, here is where it starts. Dimir Faeries has two wins on the season and 12 Top 8s in 40 Top 32 finishes. That’s pretty darn good. The deck uses the tried and true combination of Spellstutter Sprite and Ninja of the Deep Hours. Access to black gives the deck Snuff Out and Cast Down, but also provides the late game tandem of Gurmag Angler and Thorn of the Black Rose. Dimir Faeries has been on a steady rise in the back half of 2020 and I expect to see this deck perform for the remainder of the year.

2. Boros Monarch

Remember in the Stompy section how I talked about the ratio of Dimir Faeries and Flicker Tron? Boros Monarch (inclusive of decks with a heavier black component) have the best ratio of any deck with at least 30 appearances: 1.09. The archetype has 14 Top 8s in 35 recorded Top 32 appearances which gives it the best conversion rate out of all the archetypes. Boros Monarch is a fantastic deck that is only poised to get better with the addition of Spare Supplies. The only thing that could change this deck’s fortune is Cleansing Wildfire. The deck leans hard on Boros Garrison and many builds have minimized the number of Plains and Mountains in order to facilitate high impact black cards like Okiba-Gang Shinobi and Reaping the Graves. A Wildfire on Garrison is a massive tempo swing and could potentially be a Sinkhole that draws a card. I think Boros will survive, but may have to streamline its mana base to remain a contender.

1. Flicker Tron

Last time I wrote how the banning of Expedition Map did nothing to hinder Tron. The deck put up 2 wins and 17 Top 8s in 53 Top 32 appearances. It took home nearly 18% of wins above X-3, clearing the next best by 4.5%. As of late these decks have taken to running fewer creatures, leaning on the Mnemonic Wall engine while returning to Rolling Thunder as a way to not only keep the board clear but to end games as well.

Tron will probably remain on top as it does not have to fear Cleansing Wildfire the way a Boros Garrison deck does. The deck can bide its time with Tron pieces and seek to protect them later with Ghostly Flicker or countermagic. In sideboarded games – where the two mana spell is more likely to appear – Tron has access to Blue Elemental Blast. Basically, don’t expect the immovable object to move.

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