"From nuts to Soup"
On June 18th of this year, Modern Horizons II awoke from its underwater prison and unleashed itself upon human civilization. It was big, it was terrifying, and it spawned forth a very powerful and very legal set of pieces never before printed for the Pauper format.
From the start, brewers knew the powerful triumvirate of Chatterstorm, Galvanic Relay, and Sojourner's Companion meant the return of Affinity and Storm to the format in the biggest of ways. So big in fact, that for nearly twelve weeks the digital Pauper metagame was dominated by three top-tier decks; Chitterstorm, Affinity, and Dimir Faeries. The former, which often presented a turn-two kill and not many ways with which to interact, was a frustrating experience for players longing to encounter archetypes other than these three in their matchups.
With no immediate response from Wizards of the Coast, players began voicing their concerns over the predominance of this terrible trio of lists, representing nearly an average of 80% of all Online Challenge submissions.
Unfortunately, the player base was left with only echoes of silence from the Wizards design team. In the 11th hour (or week I should say) the Pauper community been had enough. In one of the most punk rock displays of camaraderie and sportsmanship, several challengers banded together to protest the current state of the format at the Pauper Preliminary on September 2nd.
In poetic fashion, only three lists were submitted to the event; one Izzet Affinity deck and two different lists consisting of only 60 lands. In the end, the Affinity player conceded in the finals to ensure a victory for one of the "Oops, all lands!" decks in an effort to send a stronger message than before.
This time around the message was received and prompted the following response from Wizards the next day:
On Wednesday, September 8th a new banned restricted announcement dropped to the delight of many, which detailed the banning of Chatterstorm and Sojourner's Companion effective immediately.
For Chatterstorm, one of the reasons cited was "Storm combo decks had the highest non-mirror match win rate among top decks and earned by far the most 5-0 performances in Magic Online leagues."
The case of Sojourner's Companion was an axolotl of a different color where Ian Duke shared the following regarding the perspective surrounding Affinity. "...from a pure win-rate perspective, the metagame seemed to adapt successfully, with the most popular Grixis Affinity variants settling in at just under 50% non-mirror match win rate. That said, while Affinity was being kept in check by a small number of top decks, its win rate against many of the less represented decks was high. To open the metagame to more diversity, we're choosing to ban Sojourner's Companion."
Although many players still seem to be skeptical of Galvanic Relay not being included among the affected cards, Wizards detailed they would like to "allow players to experiment with slower, lower-powered versions of the deck."
In this way, other decks that utilize Relay to generate value can continue to be iterated upon.
Emerging from underneath the rubble caused by months of 2/2 squirrel tokens with Haste and hordes of silver-scaled 4/4's at "all must go" prices, the community has already begun speculating on what kind of lists will fill the chasm of gravity left by these newly handcuffed pieces.
Just in time for the werewolves and witches set Innistrad: Midnight Hunt releasing later this month, the palpable tension within the format has finally been released freeing players to brew and pilot all sorts of wonderful stew again...
and there was much rejoicing.