Announcing the Pauper Format Panel

Posted in News on January 10, 2022

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

I love Pauper.

Around 15 years ago, I remember starting to play the format on Magic Online, back when it was just a player-run format. I immediately fell in love with the constraints and unique cards that could see play here and nowhere else.

The format has come a long way since then! For one, I can no longer cast Empty the Warrens (which is for the better). It's also grown a lot thanks to events on Magic Online and massive support from the community.

Today, I want to announce something big for Pauper, a change that helps the format's health and ties right into the community. In fact, if you want to watch it (which I do recommend you do, as you'll get even more than you do in this article), it's today's episode of Good Morning Magic:

But this was a big enough deal that I wanted to make sure there was a text version, too. So, dear reader, here we are! Let me give you the rundown.

Unique Challenges

Whenever a new set comes out, I always enjoy watching people pore over the commons to see which ones might have a shot at Pauper.

With ancillary sets, like Commander Legends and Modern Horizons 2, consistently released in addition to our Standard sets, it increases the number of cards each year that enter the Pauper format. And while it's exciting to get sets like those, which have commons of a different power level than usual, it also increases the chance that they're going to see play in Pauper. And sometimes . . . in big ways. We've seen this play out right in front of us with cards like Fall from Favor and Chatterstorm completely defining the format. Both of those cards ended up being banned.

While their impact on the format was definitely felt, both of them took a while to get banned.

Why is that? Why did it take so long?

I want to be transparent with you here about the challenges. To properly decide to ban a card, it takes a lot of discussion, format knowledge, and analysis. And Pauper, while a format that is very much enjoyed by tons of players, is still a format that is substantially smaller in terms of player population than other formats like Standard and Modern—and those take a lot of attention. Additionally, while our competitive Play Design team knows the primary competitive formats extremely well, Pauper is not an area of strong expertise for most people at Wizards.

So, we've found ourselves in a position where the people who normally work on banning cards don't have the bandwidth nor the format expertise to craft the format in the way many Pauper players would appreciate. This is entirely reasonable—I wouldn't ask our play designers to reprioritize Pauper over Standard and Modern playtesting and design decisions—but also caused trouble in the Pauper format because of the long lag times.

We've been stuck in kind of a tough spot, which hasn't made anyone very happy.

Unique challenges sometimes need unique solutions, and so Aaron Forsythe and I spearheaded an idea that has finally come to fruition.

Today, I'm excited to announce the Pauper Format Panel, or PFP for short.

Introducing: The Pauper Format Panel

Pauper has always had an incredible community. The PFP takes that and puts those expert community members as a driving force behind the format.

The Pauper Format Panel consists of seven people, including myself and six notable Pauper community members from around the world. We're going to be discussing the format and providing recommendations of action to the Play Design team at Wizards. This will cause action such as bannings to take place much quicker, eliminating the challenges that slowed us down previously.

Now, you might hear this and immediately think of two other similar bodies for a different format: the Commander Rules Committee, who makes all ban and format decisions for Commander, and the Commander Advisory Group, who helps inform and discuss matters with the Rules Committee.

That's a natural comparison to draw. However, this is not quite like of those groups. It sits somewhere between them. If the Commander Rules Committee is a 10 on the scale of "final decision making," in that they are the arbiters of all decisions, I'd say the Pauper Format Panel will be about an 8.

What the PFP will be doing is working together to come up with our recommendations for any banned cards. Then I, as the Wizards member, will take this to our internal teams at Wizards for further discussion.

Most of the time, I predict that the PFP decisions will be taken wholesale and put into action. Occasionally, there may be additional questions asked by our Play Design group that we should dig into, but often Play Design will trust the expertise of the PFP.

Now, who are the people in this group?

Pauper is a format played across the world, both online and in Paper. It was important to me to find people to represent this. So, in addition to myself, the team is:

Mirco Ciavatta (Italy) – If you've spent any time playing Pauper on Magic Online, there's a decent chance you've come up against the formidable Heisen01 at some point. He also takes his online skills into the real-life arena, where he has won the Italian Paupergeddon tournament series twice! A Streamer and YouTuber focused on Pauper, he uploads new Pauper content every few days on his YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @Heisen01.

Emma Partlow (UK) – A Magic strategist and writer for TCGplayer, she's also half of the BMCast, a podcast about a variety of Constructed formats that has featured Pauper plenty. She loves playing Pauper, and you don't want to get between her and her Slippery Bogles! Find her on Twitter @emmmzyne.

Ryuji Saito (Japan) – One of the three people behind the Japanese Pauper website PauperMTG.com, Ryuji is a student of the format and explores both the competitive and more offbeat parts of the format. The content he helps create is worth watching even if you don't speak Japanese! Follow him on Twitter @saito_o3.

Paige Smith (USA) – A stalwart of the Magic Online trenches and notorious for her skill with Elves, Paige has written tons on Pauper and contributed to the format a great deal. She currently writes for CoolStuffInc, and you can find her on Twitter @TheMaverickGal.

Alex Ullman (USA) – Alex has been a staple of the Pauper community for as long as I can remember. Between his in-depth Pauper analysis on his blog, countless articles, Discord presence, and more, he has become one of the most well-known Pauper players. Find him on Twitter @NerdtotheCore.

Alexandre Weber (Brazil) – On top of being an excellent player (check out gameplay on his YouTube channel!), Alexandre is also in touch with the Brazilian community, even running Pauper events as a tournament organizer. Go follow him on Twitter @Webermtg.

But don't just take it from me—you can go watch my video above where each member introduces themselves. Go check it out!

I'm very excited to welcome all six of these people into the PFP. And of course, as time goes on, there may be additional members added or some members may leave.

Upcoming Plans

Now that the PFP has been formed, we've just started discussing possible changes to the current Pauper format as of last week. We know many players have been asking for changes, and while we don't have anything to announce at this time, you can expect to hear more soon. We're unlikely to announce any changes while Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty previews are happening, so if there are changes to be made, I would expect them either before previews begin or after previews end.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for the format, what we should ban, feedback on the PFP, or anything else, feel free to contact us. Everyone's Twitter handle is above, and you can find me on Twitter @GavinVerhey . . . as well as on my Tumblr, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or even by sending an email to BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com. I'd love to hear any thoughts you have.

This is a brand-new experiment, and I'm really excited to dig into the format with the rest of the group. I look forward to shaping a thriving Pauper format, one that people can fall in love with just as I did so many years ago.

Talk with you more soon,

Gavin
Email: BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com
Instagram: GavinVerhey
TikTok: @GavinVerhey
Tumblr: GavInsight
Twitter: @GavinVerhey
YouTube: Good Morning Magic

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