Effective January 14, Fall from Favor is banned in Pauper. The Commander Legends Aura turned the format on its ear and narrowed the band of viable competitive decks. A full turn faster than other monarch cards, Fall from Favor could also lock down the best threat on the other side of the table, thereby making it that much harder to ever lose the monarchy. While this will see Pauper’s overall format health improve it is only the first step in the right direction.
Once introduced, Fall from Favor helped to rocket blue Spellstutter Sprite decks to the top of the metagame. In the 15 Pauper Challenge results available from Wizards of the Coast (the January 10 Challenge has yet to post its results), three of the five best decks were built around Fall from Favor and Spellstutter Sprite. Dimir, Izzet and Mono Blue Faeries all put a slightly different twist on the blue tempo-control shell but the results were staggering: five Challenge Wins and 36 Top 8s. That’s one-third of all wins and 30 percent of all Top 8s. The various Faeries decks did this while also occupying almost 26 percent of the entire Top 32.
On top of this, these blue monarch decks forced out almost all other monarch builds. Previously, the monarchy helped to prop up white and black midrange builds. In the previous season – Zendikar Rising with 18 challenges and one PTQ – the two varieties of Palace Sentinels Boros took home a combined 25 Top 8s and five wins. Since Fall from Favor, these two builds have a total of 14 Top 8s and no wins; they went from around 24 percent of all Top 8 slots to just under 12 percent. Considering that blue was already the best color in Pauper, it didn’t need to encroach on the game plan of Boros – but that’s exactly what Fall from Favor did.
All in all, this is a good change. None of the decks that ran Fall from Favor are going away but they all have to adjust. I’m sure some will turn to other monarchy options since a few were already trending that way prior to Commander Legends. Dimir Faeries is the hardest hit since it loses out on Snuff Out equity. Snuff Out was a great answer to Fall from Favor since you could develop your board while holding the “free” removal spell to render their Aura useless. Jeskai Affinity also gets hit but that deck had largely fallen off. As for a card that goes up in value, Disdainful Stroke has the advantage of hitting every monarchy enabler while also stopping Mulldrifter and half of Mystical Teachings.
I call this a good first step and that brings us to the latter half of the announcement. Ian Duke discusses the issues surrounding Tron and the monarchy. I’ve laid out the problems Monarch poses to the format multiple times but what about Tron? Tron has the advantage of having a powerful mana engine that requires no spell slots. Despite a relatively recent ban to Expedition Map, Tron decks have remained a dominant force. Tron not only has the ability to cast multiple spells in each turn cycle, but it also has access to the very best cards in the format thanks to an abundance of mana fixing. The result is a metagame monster that has not shown any real signs of slowing down. In the 19 events tracked during the Zendikar Rising season, the dominant Tron strategy – Flicker Tron – won six events and took down a total of 39 Top 8 slots; 31.6 percent of the wins and 25.7 percent of Top 8 slots. In the past 15 recorded Challenges, Flicker Tron won four and had 22 Top 8s. These are gaudy numbers especially considering that there was another dominant archetype floating around thanks to Fall from Favor.
With a two slot Pauper Super PTQ coming on January 23, I would advise anyone interested in playing in the event to practice with Flicker Tron. It’s been the best deck in the format for well over a year. If you want to try and beat Tron, consider picking up either Elves or WonderWalls – two strategies powered by Lead the Stampede and Winding Way – as these two have good Tron matchups while also holding their own against the various Spellstutter Sprite decks.