The time is right for a Pauper Grand Prix.
I never thought I would write those words. 2018 was a banner year for the format that culminated in a path to the Magic Online Championship through commons. This means that in 2019 we can see someone who makes it to a tabletop Mythic Championship based on their ability to play Pauper.
That is awesome.
I guess I never thought about it too hard, but one reason I was hesitant to support a Pauper Grand Prix was because of the disparity I perceived between my format of choice and the wider world of Magic. Pauper, to me, was always a step toward something greater. Yet as time went on, Magic Online found more ways to bring Pauper up to the level of other formats on the platform. Then Pauper started to get design considerations, specifically in reprint sets, and increased recognition from all corners of the Magic-sphere. Now, with a format championship and competitive leagues it is on equal footing with Modern and Legacy. Pauper has certainly grown up in the past year.
Why does this matter? If the main thrust of a Grand Prix main event is to qualify some number of people for a Mythic Championship, then the precedent has already been set. In 2019 you can qualify for these events by playing Pauper, so why can’t it translate to the tabletop world?
The shift from Pro Tours to Mythic Championships and from Grand Prix to MagicFests has also helped Pauper’s case. Simply put, Grand Prix main events will mean something different in 2019. Thanks to the Magic Pro League, there is a chance these tournaments will have a smaller impact on the highest level of play, especially as Pro Player Club benefits are phased out. From my outsider view this implies that Grand Prix will look more like old multi-slot PTQs than the high profile events that were so key in the Player of Year races in years past. Combine this with weekly MPL events that could compete for viewers and you have a circuit with lower stakes.
CFB Events has opted not to announce formats for these tournaments too far in advance. This allows the organizer the flexibility to adjust away from stale formats in favor of more exciting ones. While Standard is currently great, that is not always the case. Having a Pauper Grand Prix in Brazil, Italy, or the United States (three countries with a huge paper Pauper presence) could be a nice change of pace. I would probably avoid Brazil since that geo-region gets so few Grand Prix as it stands. Otherwise, Pauper could provide a creative respite from the grind while still providing interesting game play.
There are some obstacles to overcome. Some staples, specifically Oubliette, are hard to come by. Wizards of the Coast has shown a willingness to reprint key cards like Chainer’s Edict and Circular Logic, but with no more Masters sets coming in the near future it may be hard to sneak these cards into products. In a similar vein, Pauper is not exactly a big mover of product. Transporting cards is expensive for vendors and the margins on a card like Delver of Secrets are incredibly thin, if not a net negative. This can be ameliorated in some respects by putting Pauper at a double Grand Prix, perhaps paired with Modern. Such a pairing could make hauling Pauper more palatable.
The final barrier is perhaps the easiest one to overcome: Wizards of the Coast. While the company that makes Magic has done a great job of supporting the format digitally on Magic Online and Arena, it has been less willing to do so in tabletop. This is not to say that the rules do not exist but rather Wizards has yet to officially declare the rules for analog Pauper. The issue is that cards like Hymn to Tourach and Merchant Scroll have physical common printings but none online. As of now, CFB Events runs paper Pauper event using the online legality list. A simple edict from Wizards could render this official and put an end to some amount of consternation in the community.
Taking all of this together, it makes sense for 2019 to be the year of a Pauper Grand Prix. The time is right to put someone into a Mythic Championship playing a format that has been propped up and supported by a fervent community and has gained recognition from those that make the game. Looking at the calendar of MagicFests, perhaps Seattle is the perfect fit. It’s a double event and Seattle also has an established scene thanks to the Rags 2 Riches paper tournament series.
Years ago anything beyond a Pauper Daily Event was a pipe dream. In 2019, the time is right for a Grand Prix. The only question that remains is will it happen or will I be writing something similar in a year’s time?