Wizards of the Coast has banned Expedition Map and Mystic Sanctuary in Magic: the Gathering’s Pauper format.

Also banned: Arcum’s Astrolabe in Modern, as well as Nexus of Fate and Burning-Tree Emissary in Historic. And Oath of Nissa was unbanned in Pioneer.

Expedition Map

Last May, Wizards massively changed the Pauper format when it banned three cards—Gush, Gitaxian Probe, and Daze—that formed the core of an extremely powerful Blue tempo deck.

In that announcement, Wizards acknowledged “the possibility that weakening blue tempo decks may cause a rise in the popularity of Tron decks.” However, at the time, they believed “that this combination of bans will result in a healthier mix of aggro, tempo, control, combo, and midrange that can adjust to balance out each other’s populations.” Wizards said that they would continue to monitor the Pauper metagame but wanted to “to allow time for it to readjust rather than making assumptions about what the results will be.”

A little over a year later, it appears that Wizards has concluded that Tron has in fact risen to the point where it is harming the Pauper metagame. “Tron decks have remained steadily popular and strong,” Wizards said today, “sometimes nearing 25% of the field among top finishing decks in Magic Online Pauper tournaments.”

“This trend, in combination with community feedback, has prompted us to take a look at the role of Tron decks in the Pauper metagame,” they continued. “While it can be a good thing for metagame diversity to have an archetype that plays differently from many other strategies, we are seeing some negative effects in terms of repetitive game play, recursive play patterns and lock states. This puts pressure on other decks to be able to deal with such game states or else race the Tron decks, and generally restricts viable deckbuilding space.”

To address these issues, Wizards is banning Expedition Map in order “reduce the speed and consistency with which Tron decks assemble their mana engine and eventual loop or lock states.”

Since Pauper restricts decks to only those cards that have been printed at the common rarity, the Pauper iteration of Tron focuses on a combo to lock opponents out of the game rather than powering out a Turn 3 Karn, Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine. That combo uses Stonehorn Dignitary to prevent opponents from attacking, Ghostly Flicker to blink the Stonehorn Dignitary and prevent opponents from attacking again, and Mnemonic Wall to re-buy Ghostly Flicker, which can then blink both Stonehorn Dignitary and Mnemonic Wall and start the loop over again.

Pauper Tron

Creature (9)
Dinrova Horror
Stonehorn Dignitary
Mnemonic Wall

Artifact (11)
Bonder’s Ornament
Expedition Map
Prophetic Prism

Instant (17)
Pulse of Murasa
Ghostly Flicker
Mystical Teachings
Moment’s Peace

Sorcery (1)
Rolling Thunder

Land (22)
Bojuka Bog
Remote Isle
Thriving Isle
Cave of Temptation
Urza’s Tower
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Mine
Sideboard (15)
Dinrova Horror
Moment’s Peace
Rolling Thunder
Ancient Grudge
Blue Elemental Blast
Weather the Storm
Stonehorn Dignitary
Red Elemental Blast


Mystic Sanctuary

Mystic Sanctuary, on the other hand, directly contributed to repetitive loops that lock opponents out of the game. “While decks often only play a couple copies of Mystic Sanctuary,” Wizards said, “it is proving to be another key contributor of negative pressure on the metagame by enabling end game loops. As a card that’s likely to continue causing problems down the road, we’re choosing also to ban Mystic Sanctuary in Pauper.”

One of the most common loops that Mystic Sanctuary enabled involved locking opponents out with recurring counterspells. UB Delver, for example, would use Counterspell or Deprive to counter an opponent’s spell, then use Mystic Sanctuary to re-buy that counterspell to another use, then use Tragic Lesson to return Mystic Sanctuary to UB Delver player’s hand in order to re-buy the counterspell once again.

Pauper UB Delver

Creatures (12)
Delver of Secrets
Augur of Bolas
Gurmag Angler

Spells (28)
Agony Warp
Echoing Decay
Echoing Truth
Tragic Lesson
Snuff Out
Lands (20)
Ash Barrens
Evolving Wilds
Mystic Sanctuary
Terramorphic Expanse

Sideboard (15)
Relic of Progenitus
Unexpected Fangs
Stormbound Geist
Suffocating Fumes
Thorn of the Black Rose

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