Pauper Ban Predictions: What Needs to Go?
Magic: The Gathering's pauper format has long been a fan favourite way to play the game, but many are arguing that it's in rough shape.
Since the release of Modern Horizons II earlier this year, powerful cards have had a warping effect on the metagame with just three decks making up around half of all decks being entered into events.
With a banned and restricted announcement set to be released later this week, today's blog post sees Team Norse Thunder's Dave Scotford taking a look at the state of the format and giving his views on what needs to be axed.
Lay of the Land
Pauper is an awesome format. There's really nothing quite like being able to dig through the whole, rich history of Magic: The Gathering's back catalogue of common cards and piece together a deck. Even though decks are made up of 'only' commons, they really do pack a powerful punch.
The format has always felt like a fan favourite and there are big, powerful voices from across the Magic community who are really strong Pauper advocates - like The Professor at Tolarian Community College. The Professor, among others, often says the format feels like "legacy light" and it's a fair thing to say. It's a diverse format, a powerful and fun one too, and being able to build decks on a budget that use cards from throughout the game's history is exciting.
However, all is not well in the Pauper world. When Modern Horizons II was released earlier this year, multiple really powerful cards entered the format and that really shook things up. Other eternal formats were also affected in the same way. That's not always a bad thing, but when cards come in and warp whole formats around them, it's neither healthy or enjoyable.
Affinity: Atog On the Block
One of the things that I've always enjoyed the most about Pauper is the diversity of the decks that you come up against. Sure, there are always some that have a slightly higher level of representation than others, but it always felt like there was more diversity compared to other constructed formats.
At the time of writing, the top three decks make up 17%, 14%, and 12% of the format respectively while the rest of the field sits at around 3% and 4%. That's not diverse. Affinity decks, with Atog at the helm, holds the top spot.
Atog was first released in 1994, and though many players on Twitter are calling for its head, I don't think it's the right target. The fact that Atog has been around for so long without feeling so broken before makes it seem like it's over-representation in Pauper is a symptom of a problem and not the problem itself. The deck has always been very much 'a thing', but right now, I think it's too much, so something does need to be done.
Modern Horizons II brought with it ten different indestructible dual artifact lands as commons - like Silverbluff Bridge and Goldmire Bridge. Not only do these lands power up the deck as it relies on having artifacts in play, but the fact that they're dual lands helps Affinity get around its previously inconsistent mana base - the thing that was holding it back from becoming an all-consuming dominant deck.
The indestructible dual artifact lands should be banned. Yes, all ten of them. However, I don't quite see Wizards of the Coast taking that step, so my prediction here is that Atog gets hit with a ban instead.
Squirrels, Squirrels Everywhere
Chatterstorm is a really, really powerful card and one that created quite a lot of social media hype as soon as it was revealed. Sometimes reality doesn't quite live up to the hype, but in Chatterstorm's case, the reality is more than matching expectations. Creating a 1/1 squirrel token at sorcery speed isn't really a problem, but give the card Storm and that's where all hell breaks loose.
The Storm mechanic has a bit of a history with the Pauper format. Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens were given the boot years ago, and so were cards that helped enable Storm's strategy - drawing and playing lots of cards in a single turn to benefit from duplicated effects. To see the mechanic still being printed on new cards isn't something that I'm a fan of.
Chatterstorm has helped make sure games can end on turn three pretty consistently, and that's just not a fun game to play. Pauper has lots of ways to ensure speed and consistency so Storm decks have a great environment to do well in, so it's no surprise that Chatterstorm is thriving. Chatterstorm needs to be banned, and so does Galvanic Relay as an enabler. However, I think Wizards of the Coast will hit only Chatterstorm.
Stutter for Faeries
Faeries is the third most popular deck in the Pauper format right now and it's quite easy to see why. It has plenty of good creatures, lots of ways to interact with opposing player's decks, and is really consistent. The deck plays some of the best blue cards of all time, like Counterspell and Brainstorm, and pairs them with some of the best black removal options like Cast Down and Echoing Decay.
However, I don't think the deck needs to see a ban to bring it back into line. The format has been warped around Affinity and Storm and so that has forced other decks out of consideration. The decks that have been forced out, or at least pushed down a little, look like they could have a good time of things against Faeries so there's no need to counteract it.
There are some calling for Spellstutter Sprite to get hit with a ban, but I don't think there's any need. Wizards of the Coast never quite fail to surprise me, so wouldn't bet my house on it, but I think they might agree and my prediction is nothing from the deck gets banned.
I know that I've just sat here and essentially written a thousand-word plus essay on why I think 11 different cards should be banned, but I'm not a ban happy player. I'd much rather see no need for bans, but sometimes, when a format is in such a warped and broken place, a ban is the only option.
Bans hurt players by taking away decks from them - decks that both time and money were invested in - and it hurts Wizards of the Coast as their design team's credibility gets hit if too many cards are needing to be banned too often. However, I just don't see any other way that Wizards of the Coast can deal with the artifact lands and Chatterstorm.
I've played Pauper since I started playing Magic back in 2017, though I've only recently become the team's official MTG Pauper player. Making sure there's a healthy, fun, and interesting metagame is something I'm really passionate about. I think the cards that I've called for a banning of will help us get back to a place that is healthy, fun, and interesting.