Commander Legends is coming to Magic Online in a few short days. The set is poised to shake up Pauper in a big way between powerful Monarch cards and two new sweepers. It’s also been about a month since we took a look at the state of the format. Before we get to the Top 10 I want to talk about two archetypes that fell out of my rankings.
First is Jeskai Affinity. This looks like a hybrid of Boros Monarch and Affinity, often using blue just for Thoughtcast and Of One Mind. I had it as the tenth best deck in the format last time but since then it has struggled mightily with only one Top 8 in the back half of Zendikar Rising season. I do not think this deck is bad per se but rather it tries to take the best halves of two different decks and jam them together, bifurcating the game plan. I am not saying you can’t make a Kor Skyfisher – Atog deck work, but I don’t think it’s this build.
Next up is Izzet Faeries. The old standard was ranked eighth last time but has had a tough run as of late, again with only one Top 8 (a win). Unlike Jeskai Affinity I think this deck is strong enough to compete consistently but it has given up a decent amount of its win share to the black version of Faeries. Why? I chalk this up to two items. First, Snuff Out and Cast Down are better at hitting the threats the field presents than Skred. Izzet Faeries succeeded on the back of Skred’s ability to be a one mana snow plow. Snuff Out might not hit as many creatures but does have the upside of not costing mana. Cast Down is also fantastic on mop up duty. The second? Thorn of the Black Rose costs a mana less than Crown-Hunter Hireling. Because of this I think we are going to see a surge of Izzet decks post-Commander Legends since they get access to a three mana Monarch card and an excellent sweeper. There also happen to be a number of good Pirates to dodge Fiery Cannonade.
10. Azorius Familiars (Previously unranked)
A new entry to the list but hardly a new deck, Azorius Familiars uses Sunscape Familiar to enable a Ghostly Flicker endgame. Rather than leaning on Tron mana, Familiars deck leverages cards like Azorius Chancery to power out its turns. While the deck has had access to combo kills before – two Familiars, Sage’s Row Denizen, Ghostly Flicker, Archaeomancer, Island – it has shifted to a control deck that can grind out value while using Archaeomancer and Ephemerate to draw the perfect card for each situation. It can still kill with the Denizen but it is more likely to end the game with Mulldrifter beats these days.
9. Dimir Delver (Previously unranked)
Dimir Delver might share some cards with Dimir Faeries but it is a drastically different deck. Faeries leans harder on Spellstutter Sprite for interaction while Dimir Delver is all about resolving Delver of Secrets and Gurmag Angler. Dimir Delver came on strong late – 5 Top 8 finishes and a win in the back half of the season – but seems to lack the staying power of Dimir Faeries. This may be due to the low number of threats and the vulnerability to Journey to Nowhere. It remains to be seen if Feed the Swarm can bolster the deck in a meaningful way.
8. Bogles (Previous rank: 7)
Bogles is one of two decks that I believe is underplayed going into Commander Legends season. Bogles was remarkable consistent – 8 Top 8s – and has gotten a lot of tools recently. Ram Through gave the deck a way to win outside of combat and Thriving Grove made splashing easier. The deck is poised to add two high impact cards in Benevolent Blessing and Fall from Favor. Don’t sleep on the slippery bois.
7. Elves (Previous rank: 9)
Elves is the other deck I felt went underplayed over the past five weeks. It has also been a stable contender and has a variety of ways to go around Tron’s defenses. The addition of Eyeblight Massacre can improve some problematic matchups, giving it a cleaner answer to Standard Bearer against Boros decks. What remains to be seen is how well it can hold up in the face of Fiery Cannonade.
6. Boros Monarch (Previous rank: 5)
Boros ended the season in a relatively solid position – 13 Top 8s and 2 wins – and it gains access to Fiery Cannonade moving forward. What remains to be seen is whether or not white remains a core color for Monarch decks moving forward since more of these cards will be flying around. I think Boros Monarch will hold steady as the combination of Palace Sentinels and Prismatic Strands is too good to pass on.
5. Burn (Previous rank: 6)
What else needs to be said about Burn? It might gain on the format if more people are focused on the Monarch. It still has a tough road ahead thanks to Weather the Storm and the fact that it does not take much to sideboard the deck out of relevance if it ever gets too popular.
4. Boros Bully (Previous rank: 3)
Boros Bully’s future success hinges on how well it can handle Fiery Cannonade. Prismatic Strands is a start but that puts a lot of pressure on finding one early with Faithless Looting. It might mean that Hallow makes a comeback but that is asking a lot of an otherwise dead card. Do I think Bully will survive? Yes, but I think it’s going to lose a step.
3. Stompy (Previous rank: 4)
I want to count Stompy out. I want to say that Fiery Cannonade is the final nail in the coffin. But Stompy has, despite problems, been a consistent presence in Pauper despite the fact that on paper it should have been cast aside long ago. Expect the green machine to move to more cards like Mutagenic Growth and Gather Courage and potentially adopt some three toughness creatures – Drowsing Tyrranadon anyone?
2. Dimir Faeries (Previous rank: 2)
15 Top 8s and a win. Dimir Faeries was the second most popular deck during Zendikar Rising, logging 12.5% of the Top 32 metagame. The deck isn’t going anywhere and benefits from the addition of Fall from Favor. The ability to put this on your own Augur of Bolas and then return the Augur to your hand via Ninja of the Deep Hours can help mitigate the downside of keeping the aura in play.
1. Flicker Tron (Previous rank: 1)
Yes, this deck is still great. Almost 16% of the Top 32 metagame. It had 6 wins (out of 19 events) and 36 Top 8s – that’s about 24% of all Top 8 slots available. Tron remains the deck to beat and the ability to run Fiery Cannonade, and fetch it with Mystical Teachings, means that it isn’t like to be losing that top spot anytime soon