Hello, everybody! This is Principal Magic Designer Gavin Verhey and member of the Pauper Format Panel, which is the group that monitors Pauper and its banned list. As a group of six individuals from around the world, we are always talking Pauper, crunching data, and deciding whether to change anything in the format.

I'll get straight to today's change and then cut into why we made this change. All That Glitters is now banned in Pauper. This change is effective immediately for tabletop and later today on Magic Online if not already.

All That Glitters

Why this card? Why only this card? Let me walk you through everything.

We'll begin by looking back at our last announcement. When we last had a B&R back in December, we banned Monastery Swiftspear as a knock against the red deck. That downshift from Double Masters 2022 slowly crept up over the course of a year to eventually make a red deck that was not necessarily too strong but far too polar. We banned Swiftspear in the hope of bringing that a bit back in line. At the time, we said this of All That Glitters:

"Affinity has been playable in Pauper for a very long time. It's been resilient to bans like Atog and picked up new toys along the way. Most recently, All That Glitters gave the deck a whole new spin with a white-blue version that can slap it on an Ornithopter or Gingerbrute and hit hard out of nowhere.

Additionally, there are a lot of sideboard options available when it comes to ways that both fight artifacts or even just kill creatures that are holding an All That Glitters. If red is a little weakened, that should open some sideboard slots to help against Affinity. Even just four more removal spells that hit creatures can go a long way toward fighting this build.

Ultimately, we decided to hold on to Affinity for now, see what happens with this change to Mono-Red, and consider it more in a future update depending on what this does."

Well, welcome to that future update.

In the time since this last ban, All That Glitters has moved from being solely in White-Blue Affinity to appearing in other builds, such as Blue-Red-White Affinity … and then making the leap outside Affinity, appearing even in Red-White Synthesizer decks. It turns out that slapping one of these on a Glint Hawk and attacking in for 8 damage out of nowhere is good enough—and when the games go long, it's possible to kill out of nowhere with a double All That Glitters turn. The addition of Novice Inspector to the format leads to it being very easy to build up an early artifact count on the pack of 8 Inspectors in a deck.

All That Glitters is a card that makes it so that you never want to tap out. If you don't have answers early, you can die incredibly easily, yet you still have to be worried about it late in the game. The play pattern is just not very enjoyable: it both speeds up Pauper, something we've been trying to push back against, and creates polarizing games.

How are the decks with it doing? Well, they've had a lot of success. In addition to many top challenge finishes and omnipresence in leagues, the win rates are good: the Red-White Synthesizer deck with All That Glitters has positive match win rates against Mono-Red, Terror, and Affinity—three of the biggest decks in the format. It does falter some against decks like Black-Green Gardens, which has tons of removal and can accrue more advantage over times, but that polarity and ability to kill from nowhere still exists.

It's also the kind of card that creates a high impact on the format even when it's not involved in the match-up. The kinds of viable decks all have to measure up to defeating a polarizing card like All That Glitters, and that impact can greatly reduce the number of options in the format.

We did look at alternatives. The other primary option that came up many times were the artifact lands. Many cards sit on the banned list for the price of keeping the artifact lands legal. Atog, Disciple of the Vault, and Sojourner's Companion all have paid the price in the past few years.

So, we looked at the Modern Horizons 2 Bridges again. However, what we found, as we built up our own lists and tried them out, is that it was not nearly as big of a hit as you might expect. The problematic White-Blue Affinity deck thrived on the back of mostly using original untapped Mirrodin artifact lands, and while the Three-Color Affinity decks play some Bridges, they still have room for additional ones and their actual artifact land count would not be reduced by much. The Red-White Synthesizer decks do play Rustvale Bridge but still usually have three to four copies each of Ancient Den and Great Furnace, so while it does hit these decks slightly, for such a huge ban event to get rid of the Bridges, it wouldn't do as much as you might imagine. The decks would have a little worse mana, and it would remove some of their resilience by making artifact removal like Ancient Grudge stronger, but those decks would still have a high artifact land density.

We then, of course, did talk about getting rid of the Mirrodin artifact lands instead of or in addition to the Bridges. However, whenever we talk about these lands, our view is that they're something Pauper players enjoy as a staple of the format: a lot goes with them if they go away. We'd love to hear any feedback on this from you all, so please send it our way.

So, of those paths, banning All That Glitters became clear. And from there, we began looking at if we should ban—or unban—anything else.

The other primary place to consider knocking a card from was Mono-Red. Still boasting a strong (though not out of bounds) win rate and creating a lot of polarity, Mono-Red continues to be a staple of the format. Though weaker without Swiftspear and mostly moving away from the four-ofs in both Reckless Impulse and Wrenn's Resolve lists, Mono-Red picked up Goblin Tomb Raider in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan and Reckless Lackey in Outlaws of Thunder Junction, which has certainly given it some strong replacement tools.

What in red do you hit if you hit a card? Kuldotha Rebirth and Goblin Bushwhacker make for a blisteringly fast kill from hand combination in that deck, turning three mana into 8 attacking power in a single turn.

There's also Galvanic Blast, for something more direct, that if you hit here would impact many decks: Synthesizer, Mono-Red, and some Affinity lists alike.

The polarity that the format had made cards that were good against red often not as good against All That Glitters decks, and vice versa, despite both being aggressive decks. Spot removal helps prevent dying to All That Glitters but is far less helpful against a token army from red, where you want a sweeper like Electrickery. Life gain can help buy time against red but is less meaningful when there's an 8/8 Glint Hawk staring you down. And so on. It's our hope that knocking All That Glitters will help here some.

Other than red and decks with All That Glitters, no archetype boasted anything that has changed enough that we felt a need to act. Several other decks, like Familiars, Caw-Gate, Black-Green Gardens, and so on all exist, are strong, and are doing fine. Tolarian Terror decks, despite being popular and people asking for their banning, do not carry a positive win rate, so it didn't make sense to hit that deck at this time.

We also talked a lot about unbanning cards.

The main discussed card: Prophetic Prism. We have been teetering back and forth on Prism as Pauper has evolved a lot since its original ban. Back then, Tron was one of the top dogs—a whole different world. It has since picked up Energy Refractor and been totally fine.

However, we didn't do it here for two main reasons. First, it's a card that also traditionally has seen play in Affinity and Red-White decks, both decks we're trying to weaken with this ban, and while I don't know whether they would play it, it seemed like an unnecessary risk. Second, by banning All That Glitters, it does slow the format down some, potentially opening the window for a deck like Tron to reappear, and we wanted to see if that would happen before giving it another tool. We're going to hold on this one for now, but it has a decent likelihood of reappearing sooner rather than later.

Speaking of which, I wanted to talk about our next check-in time and how it relates to today's banning. Modern Horizons 3 is coming up in just under a month. Traditionally, these sets add a lot of cards to Pauper, and I predict this one will be no exception.

We wanted to be sure to get rid of All That Glitters because, no matter how you slice it, it polarizes the format and pushes things to be faster than is ideal. Red is still a hot topic of discussion, as is unbanning Prism. But rather than change more things in the format before Modern Horizons 3 hits and Pauper is shaken up even more, we wanted to hit the one we knew we'd need to and then check in shortly after the release.

I'm going to be transparent here and provide a heads up that is a little unusual, and this is Gavin talking as someone who has been able to look through the commons of Modern Horizons 3. (The rest of the Pauper Format Panel doesn't see sets in advance.) There is one common from Modern Horizons 3 that has a high likelihood of needing to be banned in Pauper, as it is like a card we have banned in the past. That's totally fine, and, as always, Magic sets shouldn't revolve around Pauper—they should do what each set lead decides is the right choice for their set, and the Pauper format will react accordingly.

But the result of this is that I expect we'll be checking in very soon after Modern Horizons 3 to make any format adjustments needed. It's worth seeing these things bear out in practice, but I expect to keep a short leash on anything problematic—we don't want you playing a format that is broken for weeks and weeks like when, for example, Chatterstorm was released last time. That is the point at which you can expect other potential actions taken on some of the things mentioned above, if needed. But Modern Horizons sets have a long history of greatly impacting Pauper—so we're going to wait on any further changes until then.

Finally, one last topic. As you may have heard announced for other formats, stickers and Attractions will no longer be appearing in competitive play. We are applying this to Pauper as well for the same reasons. In Pauper, ________ Goblin is the primary card for which this matters. Given that the majority of Pauper is played on Magic Online, where the only sticker card is ________ Goblin, and that there aren't enough common Attractions to use in a Pauper deck, the outcome for most players here is that ________ Goblin will be leaving the format.

When the Play Design team asked me how I would feel about this change from a Pauper perspective, I gave a pretty strong vote of approval. While I commend the Magic Online team's efforts, stickers have created a slight fracturing in the format, where paper and online are not identical. ________ Goblin has been tough to get to work the same way in both paper and digital as I've called out in previous updates, and, in general, a randomly determined additional Ritual is not the kind of card that tends to contribute to the health of Pauper when it shows up.

There are some other paper-only decks, such as Sticker Stompy, that this will impact. And while fans of those decks may be sad, I appreciate that this removes that gap between both digital and paper for the health of Pauper.

Okay, that's everything for today. I expect I'll speak with you all again within a few weeks after Modern Horizons 3 releases, either to make any adjustments or, if things do in fact look alright, to update you on what we're thinking. In the meantime, please let those of us on the Pauper Format Panel know your thoughts—especially on the artifact lands, as it's a much-discussed topic. We'd love to hear from you.

On behalf of the entire Pauper Format Panel, this is Gavin, signing off for today.

Alex Ullman – @nerdtothecore
Alexandre Weber – @Webermtg
Emma Partlow – @Emmadpartlow
Gavin Verhey – @GavinVerhey
Mirco Ciavatta – @Heisen011
Paige Smith – @TheMaverickGal
Ryuji Saito – @Saito_o3