The Magic: The Gathering Pauper format has been dominated heavily by the Blue-Black Delver deck as of late. It makes up approximately 25 percent of the meta and boasts a high win rate of 55 percent. The dominance of this deck caused Wizards of the Coast to announce that three cards from it would be banned: Gitaxian Probe, Gush, and Daze. These cards create an unbalanced play environment, allowing for less interactivity and a blue-dominated meta. The ban list will take effect in paper on May 24, and in Magic Online on May 20 at 12 p.m. PT.
Phyrexian mana has always been notorious for being unbalanced, and Gitaxian Probe is no exception. A cantrip that you have to pay no mana for is already pretty good. The fact that it gives you free information as well just makes it even more ridiculous. It’s already banned in Modern and Legacy and restricted in Vintage. It makes bluffing virtually impossible for the opponent and leads to less interaction. Therefore, it’s no surprise to many that Probe got the ax in yet another format.
Gush also commits the sin of being a “free” spell. On the surface, picking up two islands seems like a huge tempo loss and enough of a drawback to balance the card. Unfortunately, cards that have ways to cheat mana costs are rarely fair. Being an instant that lets you draw even when it appears you’re tapped out is pretty ridiculous. Couple that with Blue-Black Delver’s ability to run mostly 1- and 2-cost spells and that means the land drawback is hardly a cost. Gush was already banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage. Now, it’s banned in Pauper format too.
Daze is yet another free spell (You might be noticing a pattern by now.) that discourages interactivity. “Turn 1 Island, play Delver of Secrets, Daze counter a removal spell” was a very common line. Oftentimes Daze created a subgame, forcing the opponent to have one extra up at all times to play around the Daze that the opponent may or may not have. Being able to tap out and still have a counterspell is inherently unbalanced, and so Daze got the ax in Pauper.
What this means for the Pauper format
With the death of these three spells, expect Delver decks to drop in popularity. That’s not to say they won’t still be good, but they won’t be nearly as dominant as before. Blue still has an arsenal of cantrips, powerful creatures, and counterspells to take games. Mono-Red Burn, Rainbow Tron, and Red-White Weenie all look like strong options going forward to step up and fill the role Blue-Black Delver was filling. It’s hard to predict how the Pauper format will shift for sure, but it will most likely be towards more non-blue strategies.
For a full analysis of the bans and the reasoning behind them, check out WOTC’s official statement.
WOTC announced that no changes would be made to other formats. In addition, the London mulligan rule will not be implemented as of yet. The metas of other competitive formats have been deemed healthy. They did state that they will be monitoring Modern closely to see how Modern Horizons impacts it and that they will make changes accordingly.
What are your predictions for the Pauper format? Will Delver decks fall out of favor, or do the hits need to be more severe? Should there have been changes to any of the other formats? Let us know down in the comments below!