Paupers and Kings, Ep. 9: Hypermana

Voyaging Satyr

Hi everyone, and welcome to the ninth episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget. Today we’re ramping up to talk about … well, ramp. We’ve got Tooth and Nail to look at in Modern and Eldrazi Green to check out in Pauper. Let’s take a look!

Hypermana in Pauper

Partially inspired by Alex Ullman’s article on SCG last year, I wanted to take a look at the hypermana concept in both formats. Below we have Alex’s list from the article, and his write-up is more detailed than I will get here.

[d title=”Eldrazi Green by Alex Ullman (Pauper)”]
18 Snow-Covered Forest
2 Haunted Fengraf

4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Arbor Elf
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Wild Growth

4 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Fangren Marauder
4 Nest Invader
3 Ulamog’s Crusher
4 Aurochs Herd
4 Llanowar Sentinel
2 Fierce Empath
2 Krosan Tusker

1 Fangren Marauder
4 Scattershot Archer
3 Wickerbough Elder
1 Calming Verse
4 Thermokarst
2 Moment’s Peace [/d]

The plan in brief is to get a lot of mana early and play things like [c]Ulamog’s Crusher[/c] by turn 3. Nest Invader provides ramp and early blockers when necessary, while Krosan Tusker can help ramp or come down late game as a big body.

As I was playing it, I found the list to be vulnerable to flyers, so I would add some Spidersilk Armor into the sideboard I think to shore up those matches.

Hypermana in Modern

Tooth and Nail could also be called Eldrazi Green, by rights, since it is a mono-green shell that ramps up and (often) wins by getting Emrakul on the board. The key players are Emrakul, Xenagos, and Tooth and Nail. Everything else serves to ramp into the combo or protect you while you get there.

[d title=”Tooth and Nail (Modern)”]
22 Forest

4 Arbor Elf
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Overgrowth
4 Utopia Sprawl
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

3 Acidic Slime
2 Eternal Witness
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Harmonize
2 Primal Command
4 Tooth and Nail
2 Beast Within

1 Beast Within
4 Creeping Corrosion
4 Creeping Mold
2 Eyes of the Wisent
4 Naturalize [/d]

The deck is surprisingly resilient for a combo deck. While your opponent may counter your Tooth and Nails, you will eventually be able to hard-cast Emrakul if they take too long, and there often isn’t much that can be done after that. Wurmcoil is a key player against aggressive lists like burn and the deck can often get him down early enough to actually make a difference.

Xenagos is a key enabler here and the component that makes it so your wincon happens the same turn (not the next turn). Attacking with Emrakul is always fun, but even better when she is 30/30 and has haste. Getting in with a 12/12 lifelink wurm is also quite strong and, if it won’t win you the game outright, will often do so in a turn or two.

Cost-wise you’re looking at just 45 tix or so online to put the list together, or about $155 in paper. If you’ve picked up some of the spendier staples already (Emrakul, Wurmcoil, Primal Command) then the list costs almost nothing to try out. Make sure you find the inexpensive [c]Garruk Wildspeaker[/c] so you can save a couple tix. I got mine off Cardhoarder as MTGOTraders didn’t have any in stock at the time, though it appears they do have one now.

Hypermana on the Play

We definitely ramped, but did we crush? I played three matches with Eldrazi Green and lots and lots (and lots) of matches with Tooth and Nail. I’ve rotated them in the playlist by format for your viewing pleasure.


In a way, Eldrazi Green seems a bit “fair” in the current Pauper format. People have answers to Crusher and other big threats, and countermagic is a big component of the game right now, which stymies our plan somewhat. Tooth and Nail, on the other hand, was surprisingly resilient (it only needs to get one fatty out and that’s the game, usually), though it did have an issue on occasion with faster aggressive decks.

Next week on Paupers and Kings

Next week will be the 10th and last episode of Paupers and Kings, where we will look at Affinity in both formats. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you’ve enjoyed the series!

Until then, may your utopias always be sprawling.


Legacy on Mondays: Or You Could Just Play Burn

Welcome Back!

In this series, my goal is to get newer Legacy players into the format without breaking the bank. There are serious signs that the Legacy format is in decline, as one of the biggest supporters of the format, Star City Games, has relegated most of their opens to Standard, and made Legacy a Sunday-only IQ event. Some Wizards of the Coast employees have stated that they just “do not like” the format, and many are shying away from playing for Modern and Standard.

I do not want this to happen. Legacy is a very fun format, and its interactions and playstyle are distinct from those in other formats. I want you guys to get into this format however you can.

As for me, I initially just wanted a taste of the format, but once I got started I just wanted to play more eternal. Even if you just have a little bit of money to start playing, you can go to those Sunday IQs with a budget deck and still have the chance to clean house.

Last week I talked about how to get some staples to start the format if you do not want to play a budget deck, and instead wanted to get something quite competitive, but over a longer period of time. If there is a Legacy FNM (rare, to say the least!) in your area and you want to be there within a month, this article is for you. I am going to show you three decks, all of which can be acquired for a reasonable Legacy deck price, that you can play without buying a bunch of staples. And yes, one of them is Burn.

Let’s start with that, shall we?

I. Burn

[d title=”Burn by Peyton”]
Red Fire Dudes
4 Goblin Guide
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
3 Grim Lavamancer
Sudden Red Fire
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Fireblast
4 Price of Progress
3 Searing Blaze
Slower Red Fire
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
Red Fire That Sticks Around
2 Sulfuric Vortex
Realms of Red Fire
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
12 Mountain
Sideboard of Hate (And more Red Fire)
2 Sulfuric Vortex
3 Mindbreak Trap
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Smash to Smithereens
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Ashen Rider

This is my own list of Burn, and one that I am in the process of buying so that I can take it to a larger event which is pretty close to me in a few weeks. Note that I am meta’ing Burn; I do not expect much red hate and want to capitalize somewhat. I also like [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] in Legacy right now. Anyway, this deck has become even cheaper since Khans reprinted eight red fetches for us to use. [c]Grim Lavamancer[/c] is an amazing tool against decks like Death and Taxes, and there must be fetchlands to enable ol’ Grim.

Fetchlands increase the overall consistency of the deck through thinning, as well as enabling [c]Searing Blaze[/c] as a powerful card against creature decks. Optimally, this should be a 10-10 split for fetch/[c]Mountain[/c] ratio, but for an extra $60, I cannot justify adding two [c]Arid Mesa[/c] just for a slightly better ratio. Do not do it unless you are a serious Burn player, in which case you should also buy [c]Ensnaring Bridge[/c] for your sideboard.

This brings me to the attractiveness of this particular list. It plays the reprinted cheap fetches, an effective Burn maindeck without sacrificing key components for price, and the sideboard is effective yet budget-minded. The current TCGplayer cost of this deck after optimization for direct shipping at moderately played or better condition is as follows (sans Mountain):

Burn Price

At just under $350, this deck can be picked up without a lot of prior experience and win games. It is the perfect example of how speed meets consistency that has stood the test of time. Go out there and burn some face!

II. Manaless Dredge

[d title=”Manaless Dredge, Fairly Stock List by Peyton”]
A TON of Creatures that Do Graveyard Stuff
4 Balustrade Spy
2 Flayer of the Hatebound
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Golgari Thug
4 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Nether Shadow
4 Phantasmagorian
3 Shambling Shell
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Street Wraith
Stuff that Works from the Graveyard
4 Bridge from Below
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Dread Return
Some Enablers
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Mishra’s Bauble
Narrow Sideboard
4 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Mindbreak Trap
2 Sickening Shoal
1 Ashen Rider

Manaless Dredge is a newer deck that operates on discarding a dredger or the powerful [c]Phantasmagorian[/c] turn one, and then discarding a bunch of dredgers or dredging the following turn to pile up a graveyard quickly. The deck can combo kill as early as turn two with a [c]Balustrade Spy[/c] milling everything, then reanimating a [c]Flayer of the Hatebound[/c] followed by a huge Grave Troll for the win. You can also lock out the opponent with [c]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/c] if she is a more readily available win condition.

The deck is not overly expensive, but MUST play four white Leyline in the sideboard to shore up the Burn and Storm match-ups. Those are likely to be disastrous game one, as you cannot interact and must combo kill before they do. [c]Mindbreak Trap[/c] is also important, as the Storm player can potentially remove a turn zero Leyline before combo. These cards are not cheap. Creature decks can also be pretty hard, so a couple of post-board options like [c]Contagion[/c] or [c]Sickening Shoal[/c] are needed to ensure victory. Otherwise, Iona isn’t cheap, and neither are typical dredge pieces.

Here is the cost of the entire deck, following the same criteria as before:

Dredge price

The deck only costs a bit more than Burn, and this is mostly because 4 [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] is a $120 investment straight away. I am honestly not sure which is a “better” deck. Dredge can certainly be faster and more powerful in certain matchups and metagames, but some metas are just rife with graveyard hate. The same can be said for Burn, but Manaless Dredge can also just win before the opponent assembles some hate, which is less likely for the Burn deck.

The other nice thing about playing Manaless Dredge is that it opens the possibility for playing normal, mana-infused Dredge in the future, which I personally prefer. Normal Dredge has better answers to hate, and is potentially equally explosive if not more so a la [c]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/c]. If you like cool combo for little monetary investment, this is the one for you.

III. Enchantress

[d title=”Legit Enchantress by Peyton”]
3 Elephant Grass
2 Exploration
3 Mirri’s Guile
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Wild Growth
2 Rest in Peace
4 Enchantress’s Presence
3 Sterling Grove
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Solitary Confinement
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne

Enchanted Ladies (And Cthulhu)
4 Argothian Enchantress
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Enchanted Realms
4 Serra’s Sanctum
4 Windswept Heath
1 Plains
11 Forest

Magical Enchanted Lady Finder (And sometimes some short guy)
4 Green Sun’s Zenith
Lonely Metal Hat
1 Helm of Obedience

Wicked Hateboard
3 Stony Silence
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Curse of Exhaustion
4 Leyline of Sanctity
3 Carpet of Flowers
1 Choke
1 Gaddock Teeg [/d]

This one is a bit of a shocker to be on here, and is the most pricey of the three decks. Unlike the others, I would like to start with this deck’s price point:


Enchantress Price

Clearly, that is a lot higher than Burn or Dredge, by a margin of $200. Then why in the heck is it in this article? Well, for a Legacy deck, $570 is a surprisingly low number. For those of you unfamiliar with Enchantress, it is basically a combo deck that chains together an insane number of enchantments while drawing cards with the Enchantresses and their Presences while maintaining a [c]Solitary Confinement[/c] lock. The deck wins with Helm/RIP, a hard cast Flying Spaghetti Monster, or a ton of Sigil angels.

The deck is older and has barely seen any play at all in recent years. That being said, I think the deck could make a comeback. For a reasonable amount of money, this deck crushes aggro and most tempo decks, and has great post-board game against most combo and control decks. If you want to invest a bit more in the format, and get a “true” competitive (albeit declining) deck, I highly recommend Enchantress. This list would benefit from one maindeck [c]Karakas[/c], but this is not necessary for it to function.

That’s all for this week. I hope you have found the article helpful! If you have any questions or comments, post them below or email me at [email protected]

Thanks for reading, and I will see you next week when I talk about how to pick, build, and play a deck with those staples you bought. Cheers!


Cheap as Chips, Ep. 6: The Deck Colonel Kurtz Would Play


Which is worse? Getting hit with ten poison counters or being milled to zero cards?

Neither is fun, and some would even argue neither is a respectable, gentlemanly way of winning the game of Magic. Others would say that in war, the end justifies the means.

I’m not sure yet where I fall in this debate, but I’m always mildly impressed by mill decks that can get the job done without any creatures on the battlefield. From a playing perspective, however, pure mill decks don’t float my boat. I’m a simpleton that likes to swing with critters that do regular, old-fashioned, face-beating damage.

So my first milling deck – one of the first decks I ever brewed – aimed to mill a moderate amount of cards and then win with one of the biggest creatures in the game of Magic. Queue Marlon Brando:

The horror… The… ho-rror!

Hungry Centipede

Hungry Centipede is a deck that tries to build very large creatures by milling cards into your opponent’s graveyard. It is structured first-and-foremost around the tried-and-true [c]Duskmantle Guildmage[/c]-[c]Mindcrank[/c] combo. This is win-con number one. But as this combo is sensitive to removal, the deck uses a weenie attack ([c]Jace’s Phantasm[/c] and [c]Wight of Precinct Six[/c]) to distract your opponent long enough to either hit the combo or play a huge [c]Consuming Aberration[/c] and go to town with it.

As many decks will have the blockers to keep the huge centipede-horror at bay, the alternate-alternate win condition is to cast [c]Rite of Consumption[/c] or [c]Essence Harvest[/c] on a huge Wight or Consuming Aberration.

[d title=”Hungry Centipede (Modern)”]

4 Drowned Catacomb

2 Halimar Depths

1 Nephalia Drownyard

9 Island

8 Swamp


4 Hedron Crab

4 Jace’s Phantasm

4 Wight of Precinct Six

4 Duskmantle Guildmage

3 Consuming Aberration

4 Tome Scour

4 Memory Sluice

4 Mindcrank

1 Rite of Consumption

2 Essence Harvest

2 Murderous Cut

2 Geth’s Verdict

1 Cranial Archive

2 Skaab Ruinator

2 Bonehoard

2 Sultai Scavenger

2 Soulflayer

2 Necropolis Fiend

2 Killing Wave [/d]

Ideal gameflow:

T1: Play a Hedron Crab, Jace’s Phantasm or Tome Scour/Memory Sluice.

T2: Play another Crab, a Jace’s Phantasm or either of the Duskmantle/Mindcrank combo.

T3: Play a Wight of Precinct Six, a Jace’s Phantasm or either of the combo pieces.

T4: If you have 4 land down and your combo pieces, enact Duskmantle’s first ability, play a Tome Scour or Memory Sluice, go to the next duel.

T5: Blow up the combo here, or if it’s been removed then play a Consuming Aberration.

T6-T7: Essence Harvest the Aberration or swing with it. If you’ve done a bit of damage already, you can also Essence Harvest a big Wight or even a Jace’s Phantasm to push through the final damage.


The current sideboard for this deck attempts to completely change the strategy of attack against decks that can either stop you from milling them ([c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c], [c]Aegis of the Gods[/c]) or that benefit excessively from you milling them ([c]Vengevine[/c] and other dredge/delve decks).

Put in all the delve critters (judge for yourself whether you need the [c]Murderous Cut[/c]) and take out either the Jace’s Phantasm, a Mindcrank or two, and all the Consuming Aberrations. Mill yourself and use the graveyard cards to play your big delve guys.


Paupers and Kings, Ep. 8: Sliver Hive

slivers playing poker

Hi everyone, and welcome to the eighth episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget. Today we’re talking about the tribiest of all the Magic tribes: Slivers!

Slivers in Pauper

So our hive in Pauper is all about Sliver Lords. Get enough Muscle, Predatory, and Sinew Slivers and your opponent’s hard-won [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] will look like a small fish that needs to be thrown back. Virulent Sliver is another favorite, while most of the other slivers contribute to combat damage in one way or another.

Here’s our list from TheBaartol.

[d title=”Slivers by TheBaartol (Pauper)”]
2 Blossoming Sands
10 Plains
10 Forest

4 Muscle Sliver
2 Quick Sliver
4 Plated Sliver
4 Predatory Sliver
4 Sidewinder Sliver
4 Sinew Sliver
2 Spinneret Sliver
3 Talon Sliver
4 Virulent Sliver

4 Commune with Nature
3 Journey to Nowhere

2 Spinneret Sliver
2 Gleeful Sabotage
4 Obsidian Acolyte
3 Standard Bearer
4 Circle of Protection: Red

All the interesting slivers are above common rarity. What we get in Pauper are a lot of slivers that change power and toughness, one way or another. Flanking makes it so that blocking a sliver lord with a bunch of 1/1s doesn’t work at all (surprisingly important) and first strike, reach, and even flash are all relevant abilities against some big decks in the current meta.

[c]Commune with Nature[/c] helps us find the right sliver at the right time, while Journey helps us clear out threats like Angler, Crusher, or Marauders on the opponent’s side. There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Pauper slivers; just get big and beat face.

Like all creature decks in Pauper, the slivers hive suffers from a lack of reach. If your opponent keeps your board clear and gets you into top deck mode, you need to rip some good cards (lord after lord after lord) or things will probably go badly for you. There is no card draw (commune replaces itself, but doesn’t provide card advantage) and no tricks (aside from being able to flash in a lord or other sliver to change combat math). You draw 7 to start, 1 per turn, and you had better make sure that’s enough.

Slivers in Modern

Slivers in Modern is slightly more multi-faceted than in Pauper, though we lose some impact because MoDo is damn weird. Sliver-cycling, for instance, appears to be broken on MtGO, so even though it would be a very handy effect, we don’t get it.

What we do get are some lords, some evasion, some ramp, regeneration, and even a little indestructible.

[d title=”Slivers by Bava (Modern)”]
4 Jund Panorama
3 Forest
2 Swamp
4 Sliver Hive
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Ancient Ziggurat

4 Galerider Sliver
2 Virulent Sliver
1 Striking Sliver
4 Predatory Sliver
4 Sinew Sliver
4 Manaweft Sliver
1 Darkheart Sliver
4 Sedge Sliver
4 Necrotic Sliver
1 Sliver Hivelord
2 Firewake Sliver

4 Lead the Stampede
4 Æther Vial

3 Harmonic Sliver
3 Diffusion Sliver
2 Essence Sliver
1 Syphon Sliver
3 Frenetic Sliver
2 Virulent Sliver
1 Darkheart Sliver [/d]

As our only non-creature spells, Lead the Stampede and Aether Vial do WORK getting your slivers out in a way that is difficult for opponents to deal with. Harmonic Sliver out of the board can deal with nasty enchantments on the other side of the board (e.g. Splinter Twin and Jeskai Ascendancy), especially if you get to flash it in with a vial. The entire sideboard is composed of various slivers to help make sure we don’t mess up our Lead the Stampede numbers, which prefer a large majority of creatures for best impact.

Our mana base is handy for casting Slivers, but crummy for activating abilities (like Regenerate off our Sedge Slivers); some of them can’t even help cast Lead, so we definitely have some trade-offs for the easy creature mana.

If you’re really on a budget, trade out the [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] for some more basic lands, and the [c]Aether Vial[/c]s can become a Chord of Calling or some card draw or even more Slivers. There are a bunch of fun Slivers we’re not even using in this list that could make it into the Main, so you’ve definitely got options. Other than those cards, the deck is really inexpensive and surprisingly competitive. Let’s check out some games.

Slivers on the Play

Get big, beat face. There are some variations, but this is our general theme. Check it out.


Mess with the best, hive like the rest.

Next week on Paupers and Kings

Next week we ramp things up (literally) and talk about hyper-mana in both formats. As always, if you have recommendations for Modern / Pauper lists that cross formats, let me know in the comments.

Until next time, may all your hives be harmonic.


Legacy on Mondays: How to Get Into Eternal, Part I

True-Name Nemesis Art

Welcome Back!

Eternal formats are amazing. They have the largest card pool in the game, the play is fast and furious, and the sheer card power is much higher than that of all other formats. That being said, it can also be very daunting to get into playing Legacy because of the sheer price tag. Take a look at the winning deck from the SCG Premier IQ in Baltimore on January 3:

#1 Painter

Allow me to draw your attention to a couple of numbers. The first is the price of the deck from Cardhoarders on MTGO. At 447 Tickets, that is not too bad for a Legacy deck. But in paper, it is a whole ‘nother story. This deck costs a whopping $1765 at bare minimum, with a likely majority of cards in not-so-great condition. Both of these numbers are quite high, and it is highly unlikely that someone wanting to get into Legacy will have 1.7k to drop on Imperial Painter right at the start.

That is the point of this guide: I want to help aspiring Legacy players get into the format without killing their wallets, despite the exorbitant price of most competitive Legacy decks. Note that Vintage players are laughing at me non-stop while I drone about how much Legacy costs. I will focus primarily on paper Magic for price references, as MTGO prices are comparatively much less, but keep in mind that the methods outlined in these few articles apply to both.

So, let’s assume that you are a newbie with $400 and you are out to start your road to becoming a competitive Legacy player. Unfortunately, $400 will not get you a highly competitive deck straight away. Well, I think that Burn hovers around the $300-$350 mark, but let’s also assume that you are not going to play Burn. What do you do with your $400 if you cannot get a full deck? This is the answer:

Buy Staples.

Step One for you is simple. Do not attempt to build a full deck; you will fail on most accounts. Instead, I would recommend that you keep saving up money and continue playing your current format for a while. With your $300, you have a options:

1. Buy a playset of [c]Force of Will[/c].
2. Buy a playset of [c]Wasteland[/c].
3. Buy a playset of [c]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/c].

force of will

The first choice is rather obvious. [c]Force of Will[/c] is the Legacy staple card. Almost every Blue deck in the format runs Force. Even combo decks like Reanimator use a playset to protect the combo. If you are playing paper Magic, this is also a safe investment to make. The price on Force will NEVER go down, since it will likely not be reprinted in any future sets. (It is not on the Reserved list so it is a reprint is not impossible, however.) If you ever decide to move out of Legacy, your Forces will sell for at least the same price for which you bought them. Choose this option if you are fairly certain you want to play a Delver variant, Reanimator, Sneak and Show, Miracles, Other Blue Deck #3,084… Take your pick!

Picking up a set of [c]Wasteland[/c] is the second option you have. [c]Wasteland[/c] is similar to Force in that a large portion of decks play this card. Most combo decks do not, but some non-Blue decks like Death and Taxes do. If you think you will want to play some “fair” deck, [c]Wasteland[/c] is a safe bet to get as well. Plus, a playset usually does not cost a full $400, so you may also be able to squeeze a couple of fetchlands or a dual in there as well.

This third option will apply to many fewer people than the previous two. [c]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/c] is reserved, so is guaranteed to never be reprinted, and is a good investment only if your heart is set on playing very unfair Magic. I recommend that you buy LED as your first staple playset only if you want to play [c]Ad Nauseam[/c] Tendrils, Dredge (NOT manaless), or perhaps Belcher. If you do not want to play any of those decks, look away NOW. This card will not be a helpful, re-usable part of your collection. Same as with [c]Wasteland[/c], you can probably squeeze an extra card or two into your $400 with a playset of these. Just remember – this is only for combo junkies that KNOW that they want to play one of the aforementioned decks.


So, you have purchased your first staple card. You now own a card that can be used in all sorts of decks, and will enable you to play a wide variety of the format without having to spend a ton of money every time you want to build something new. Next week I will cover how to build decks and expand your eternal collection without dropping more money down the drain than you need to. A couple of closing words: I do NOT recommend buying dual lands at the start of your Legacy experience. Decks need tweaking and tuning to get land count right, and spending too much money on unnecessary lands can drain your resources. In case you want to expand a bit more past the standard Force/Waste suite, here are a few more common cards you may want to pick up:

  • [c]Tarmogoyf[/c]
  • [c]Stoneforge Mystic[/c]
  • [c]Rishadan Port[/c]
  • [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c]
  • [c]Daze[/c]
  • [c]Vendilion Clique[/c] (NEVER buy a playset of Cliques. No deck plays a full 4 V Clique.)
  • [c]Brainstorm[/c]
  • [c]Delver of Secrets[/c]
  • [c]Lightning Bolt[/c]
  • [c]Green Sun’s Zenith[/c]

Do your research and look for decks that you find appealing. Remember that your staples are good in multiple decks, and that your choices are not totally limited by owning only [c]Force of Will[/c] at the start. You will be glad to have purchased the good old free [c]Counterspell[/c] when things get competitive in your local or MTGO Legacy scene.

Thanks for reading and hope to see you next week!

Cheap as Chips, Ep. 5: Enjoy a hot mug of Golgari


I’m lazy when it comes to card advantage. It’s a bad brewing habit I’m trying to break – stuff a bunch of cool synergistic creatures and spells into a deck, then realize you don’t have any ‘card advantage’ spells. Take out two or three cards and add a few [c]Curiosity[/c], [c]Read the Bones[/c] or [c]Hunter’s Insight[/c] into the mix. Deck done, ok let’s go play!

Clearly, there are much more sophisticated ways to achieve card advantage. I don’t know those, and they probably cost a lot of tickets – but let’s at least try to see if we can move from caveman-dumb to middle grade-school clever in terms of keeping a stock of cards in hand or on the battlefield.

We’ll do it in Golgari, my favorite color-combo for budget Modern and a word so smooth it could easily be a high-end organic coffee blend. And so…


Glissa and Friends

Glissa and Friends is a deck that aims to beat opponents with little critters that either refuse to die or can be recurred repeatedly via [c]Glissa, the Traitor[/c]’s triggered ability. In addition, a two-card combo with [c]Devoted Druid[/c] and [c]Quillspike[/c] offers the potential for a supersized kill-swing that your opponent will need to respect. Glissa herself is a beast of an elf that demands removal.

The main fighters are bantamweight swinger [c]Safehold Elite[/c] and super flyweight [c]Perilous Myr[/c]. The former can persist indefinitely thanks to Quillspike or [c]Bow of Nylea[/c] removing the -1 counter. The Myr blocks, dies, does damage on its way out, and then recurs later thanks to Glissa. [c]Vault Skirge[/c] is included to give you another pesky critter that your opponent will eventually want to remove (and that Glissa can bring back).

On the defensive side, Glissa can recur [c]Executioner’s Capsule[/c], giving you plenty of removal. The amount of dying going on makes [c]Tragic Slip[/c] a good secondary removal choice.

In addition to allowing your persisting to persist, [c]Bow of Nylea[/c] provides a life-gain option and takes care of pesky flying critters. Needless to say, giving all your attackers deathtouch means far more dying, and thus more recurring. Keeping a Glissa on the battlefield is a challenge, hence the addition of [c]Mwonvuli Beast Tracker[/c].

If you need more power on the battlefield (against a removal heavy deck, for example), bring in [c]Soulflayer[/c] which can gain Glissa’s awesome deathtouch+first strike ability, or gain flying courtesy of an exiled [c]Vault Skirge[/c].

[d title=”Glissa and Friends (Modern)”]


1 Bojuka Bog

1 Golgari Rot Farm

4 Woodland Cemetery

10 Forest

8 Swamp


2 Vault Skirge

4 Safehold Elite

3 Perilous Myr

3 Devoted Druid

4 Quillspike

4 Glissa, the Traitor

2 Mwonvuli Beast Tracker


4 Executioner’s Capsule

2 Tragic Slip

2 Explorer’s Scope

2 Grisly Salvage

2 Read the Bones

2 Bow of Nylea


2 Hex Parasite

2 Nihil Spellbomb

2 Pithing Needle

2 Gleeful Sabotage

1 Cranial Archive

2 Infest

2 Putrefy

2 Soulflayer


Ideal gameflow:

T1: Play an Executioner’s Capsule.

T2: Play either Safehold Elite or Perilous Myr.

T3: Swing with your critter, play Bow of Nylea or Quillspike.

T4: Use mana to remove a -1 counter on Safehold Elite, play a Devoted Druid or leave mana open for Executioner’s Capsule if your opponent has a combo piece on the battlefield (Pestermite, etc).

T5: Play Glissa and start to kill stuff, recurring either a Capsule or a Myr.

T6: Go off with your combo on a cleared battlefield, or just keep swinging with your critters if your combo pieces have been removed. 

The sideboard is a mix of cards intended to deal with planeswalkers, pesky artifacts and enchantments, and a bit more brute force with Soulflayer. This is a fun one to play with, but I’m not sure there’s enough firepower in the mainboard to keep up with the top decks. A card like [c]Mishra’s Bauble[/c] would be good a good upgrade if you have the budget for it. Me? For now I’m sticking with [c]Read the Bones[/c].

Have ideas for budget decks in Modern? Send them my way in the comments below!

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 7: Izzet Blitz!

nivmagus elemental

You can’t blitz someone without using an exclamation mark. It simply cannot be done. I’ve tried.

Hi everyone, and welcome to the seventh episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget. Today’s article will be a bit short, but that’s okay, because we’re all about blitzing this week and, if you know anything about blitzing you know this: it’s over fast!

Blitz in Pauper

Known by various names but probably most commonly as “Delverfiend,” the blitz list in Pauper is all about guys that get bigger when you cast spells. These days that means [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] and [c]Nivix Cyclops[/c]. There used to be some flying gnomes in the list, but they got replaced by the strictly better ‘clops.

Get big and get sneaky. After your creatures have grown enough, your options are to get through with an unblockable ability, [c]Apostle’s Blessing[/c], or, thanks to the new [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c], trample and doublestrike. Surucucu has been playing Delverfiend pretty much nonstop since it has been a list, and he wins with it ALL THE TIME. So if you’re looking for a starting point, use his list. Deluxeicoff has brewed around fiend quite a bit too; he was one of the first people I saw running [c]Gush[/c] in the list, and these days it appears to be more of a staple.

Here is a list from a recent Surucucu daily run.

[d title=”Delverfiend by Surucucu (Pauper)”]
9 Island
5 Mountain
3 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops

4 Preordain
2 Treasure Cruise
4 Apostle’s Blessing
1 Dispel
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mutagenic Growth
1 Piracy Charm
3 Temur Battle Rage
4 Ponder
2 Gush
4 Gitaxian Probe

1 Treasure Cruise
2 Electrickery
1 Faithless Looting
2 Flame Slash
1 Flaring Pain
2 Hydroblast
2 Stormbound Geist
4 Pyroblast [/d]

Against lists with no answers, Delver of Secrets himself can often close out the game, and is even a fine Battle Rage target. Flipped, he can hit for 10 with a battle rage and piracy charm. The charm itself is another unblockable effect, more often than not, or can be used to strip your opponent of his draw if necessary, kill an x/1 creature, or change combat math. It works in every mode.

Older versions of the list used more unblockable effects. Current variants use fewer, mainly just Blessing, and are happy to run over the opponent with trample damage, if necessary. With MBC on the outs, currently, Delverfiend is well-positioned. It is very strong against Delver lists and does fine against the UR variants as well. Any “fair” creature lists will have a hard time racing (it is a “blitz” deck after all), while there is plenty there to work around removal, too. Gush and Treasure Cruise help keep the deck from running out of steam.

Blitz in Modern

One of my very favorite cards in Modern is [c]Nivmagus Elemental[/c]. His ability is unique in that he can eat spells on the stack and get bigger, permanently. With the new “Prowess” ability, I figured there were some other creatures that wouldn’t mind spells getting eaten, so long as they were cast in the first place, and so I developed this new, ultra budget UR Blitz list for Modern.

[d title=”Nivmagus Blitz by Bava (Modern)”]
4 Sulfur Falls
8 Mountain
4 Island

4 Kiln Fiend
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Nivmagus Elemental

2 Ground Rift
4 Apostle’s Blessing
3 Gut Shot
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Artful Dodge
3 Hidden Strings
4 Manamorphose
2 Temur Battle Rage

4 Dismember
2 Shattering Spree
3 Young Pyromancer
2 Pyroclasm
4 Dispel [/d]

Very similar to Delverfiend, we grow creatures and either run over or sneak through our opponents’ defenses. With a focus more on Nivmagus we tend more towards free spells that he can eat, hence the full set of Gitaxian Probe and Mutagenic Growth, along with the Gut Shots. [c]Ground Rift[/c] can null a blocker but really shines when played as the 3rd, 4th, or 5th spell in the turn, giving your Elemental as much as +10/+10 to swing in for the win.

Looking the list over now, I could see taking out Gut Shot and adding another Lightning Bolt and Battle Rage, but it does play pretty well as it sits. Gut Shot is good tech against [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c], which is still flying around all over the place in Modern.

Dismember is the only non-budget card in the list (though Gitaxian Probe was spiking recently); I like having the very difficult to deal with removal for lists that are faster or more explosive than us (Infect, Affinity, Twin), but you could cut it for cheaper red removal if it is too costly.

On the Play with Izzet Blitz

We ran into a sick amount of U Delver in Pauper. It’s a strong match-up for us, but not necessarily “fun” to run up against three times in a row. Still, if you play Pauper right now, you’re probably used to it. The format is sick with islands. Our Modern match-ups were more varied, and we had some good blow-outs and were, in turn, blown out. All in all, both lists feel competitive though the words “glass cannon” do come to mind every so often.


I love the smell of Nivmagus Elemental in the morning. It smells like victory.

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

We’re getting tribal again next week, with the most synergiest tribe of all time, Slivers! As always, if you have recommendations for Modern / Pauper lists that cross formats, let me know in the comments.

Until next time, may your elementals always have double-strike.


Cheap as Chips, Ep. 4: Lickety-split, Cipher Trick

hidden strings

It’s shocking. With fetches and shocklands everywhere, your well-heeled opponents are often at 14-15 life by the time they’ve established a board position – and that’s if you haven’t already hit them with an attack or two.
 Mind you, they don’t care – because their game plan is to go off the next turn with an auto-kill, or otherwise lock you down and make it impossible to push through the final 8-10 points of damage.

But if you can somehow postpone their combo-licious game plan and take advantage of the shockland hit… well folks, that’s what we budget brewers call a window of opportunity.

How about messing with their lands? Land destruction is too slow, you say? Hmm, ok. So let’s try [c]Contaminated Ground[/c] and [c]Pooling Venom[/c] and see where they take us.

Et voila:

Cipher Tricks
Cipher Tricks is a deck that aims to use [c]Hidden Strings[/c] on evasive hexproof critters to tap your opponent’s land for extra damage. In many match-ups, turning your opponent’s best dual or Urza land into a lowly Swamp will slow them down the crucial one or two turns you need to become the big spoon to their little spoon. Even if you don’t find Hidden Strings, they will still likely need to tap their lands and ping themselves with damage. Untapping your own lands with Hidden Strings allows mana to be used twice in one turn – so say hello to my little fren’ [c]Mana Leak[/c].

All this extra card playing does burn through your hand fast, however. So [c]Curiosity[/c] is used to counteract the overall card disadvantage of the strategy. (Initially, a whopping three cards must be in play to do 3-4 damage per turn. While this can escalate with more enchantments on more lands, it’s not very efficient).

On the defensive side, you can tap to kill creatures with [c]Royal Assassin[/c] or [c]Agent of the Fates[/c]. For decks able to counteract land enchantments (karoo lands, for example), the sideboard has some additional creatures and removal. You’ll need to draw into removal pronto to have any hope against very fast decks (Infect, Affinity).

[d title=”Cipher Tricks”]


1 Bojuka Bog

2 Dimir Aqueduct

4 Drowned Catacomb

2 Exotic Orchard

7 Swamp

7 Island


4 Invisible Stalker

4 Nightveil Specter

2 Royal Assassin

2 Agent of the Fates


3 Curiosity

2 Dispel

4 Hidden Strings

4 Mana Leak

4 Contaminated Ground

4 Pooling Venom

4 Cloudform


2 Negate

2 Trickbind

3 Aetherize

2 Echoing Decay

2 Agent of the Fates

1 Royal Assassin

2 Murderous Cut

1 Nihil Spellbomb


Ideal gameflow:
T1 – Play a land, pass the turn.
T2 – Play either [c]Invisible Stalker[/c] or [c]Contaminated Ground[/c].
T3 – Play a critter if you haven’t already. Play [c]Hidden Strings[/c], tapping your opponent’s land for damage and untapping your land for [c]Mana Leak[/c] or [c]Dispel[/c]. If Hidden Strings isn’t around, play [c]Cloudform[/c] and hope you draw into your cipher spell soon – because a 1/1 Stalker and a 2/2 Cloudform critter do not make for a very impressive attack all by their lonesome.
T4 – Play more land enchantments and/or creatures. Play your [c]Nightveil Specter[/c] here but be aware this guy is just there to soak up a Lightning Bolt and keep it off your face. While a specter can win you the game if left unblocked for several turns, that won’t happen very often.
T5 – Continue to play land enchantments and tap them with Hidden Strings. Untap a karoo land the turn you play it and use your defensive cards to keep your opponent from crushing you.  There are several tricks with Hidden Strings to be aware of, so let’s look at that now:

A short Hidden Strings user guideline
In descending order of importance, Hidden Strings is used to: 1) Tap your opponent’s land to do damage, 2) Tap your opponent’s critters so you can attack over them or kill them with [c]Royal Assassin[/c], 3) Untap your lands for counter or removal mana, 4) Untap your creatures for a pseudo-vigilance effect (key point: you can target Royal Assassin or Agent of the Fates to kill more than one creature per turn).

How to kill three creatures in one turn
It’s fun and anyone can do it: 1) Tap [c]Royal Assassin[/c] to kill a tapped critter, 2) Cast Hidden Strings and tap another critter while untapping your assassin. Tap the assassin to kill the second creature, 3) Cipher Hidden Strings and attack with your unblockable creature, the cipher goes off and you can tap/untap to kill a third creature.

Now, hold on, I know you’re thinking ‘or instead of the shenigans you could play one card called [c]Damnation[/c]….’ Yes, but this keeps your board position intact to constrict him to death with land enchantments on following turns. Options to sweep only your opponent’s creatures and keep all of yours alive are mana-intensive, so the Royal Assassin trick does have a place in many match-ups. It won’t be enough to deal with a huge token army, however.

Regardless, the key for this deck is messing with your opponent’s lands. If you can completely Swampify a non-black color from a three-color deck, for example, you may be able to pull off the upset win. Expect some rage quits with this one!

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 6: Combo Elves

nettle sentinel Though Shadowmoor’s monster-haunted wilds beckon, she never leaves her post.

Hi everyone, and welcome to the sixth episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget. Today we’re not only talking about Elves, a tribal theme that works in every format (except Standard, I suppose), we’re going to talk specifically about Combo Elves.

I’m excited because it’s one of my favorite archetypes and, were it more powerful, I’d play Elves in every format I could. From the first printing of [c]Llanowar Elves[/c] in Alpha, there have been more and cooler elves added to the toolbox in nearly every expansion.

I’ll be clear from the get-go, though. While Elves can win games, and even matches, and maybe even an event or two, they are not powerful or consistent enough to be “tier 1” in either Pauper or Modern.

They’re pretty darn fun, though, so if you like to swarm the board and hit giant combos, tutor out Emrakul, gain tons of life, and make things miserable for your opponent, then by all means, read on.

Let’s take a look at Pauper first this week.

Elves in Pauper

There are more straightforward lists in Pauper. Their goal is to swarm the board with elves and win with [c]Timberwatch Elf[/c] activations. They may or may not be better than this list, but the combo player in me loves the idea of “going off”, so here you go.

We hit our combo in this list by getting a [c]Lys Alana Huntmaster[/c] (or two or three) and maybe some [c]Nettle Sentinel[/c]s (or two or three) and at least one [c]Birchlore Ranger[/c] (one is enough) and then chaining a bunch of elves into a [c]Distant Melody[/c] into a bunch MORE elves into, finally, a singleton [c]Mob Justice[/c].

Yes, a lot of cards are involved. But since everything we are doing along the way serves our purpose anyway (nothing is there solely for the combo, save the 1x Mob Justice) we can still never hit the combo and play a great Elf game. Here is the full list, courtesy of Deluxeicoff.

[d title=”Combo Elves by Deluxeicoff (Pauper)”]
Mana Stuff
8 Forest
4 Land Grant
4 Springleaf Drum
2 Abundant Growth

4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Scattershot Archer
4 Priest of Titania
4 Wellwisher
4 Timberwatch Elf
4 Lys Alana Huntmaster
4 Birchlore Rangers

Elf Magicks
1 Viridian Longbow
1 Mob Justice
4 Distant Melody
4 Gitaxian Probe

4 Thermokarst
4 Hydroblast
3 Flame Slash
1 Disturbed Burial
3 Spidersilk Armor [/d]

Running a list with only 8 lands is fun and helps not stall out in the mid-game via flood. Wellwisher and Timberwatch provide a lot of resilience and threat, respectively, and Quirion Ranger, the deck’s allstar, backs up anything that taps to do something cool (Wellwisher, Timberwatch, Scattershot, Priest, or anything holding a Longbow).

Oh yeah, and that Longbow is a valid win condition, too. If you’re playing Bant Fog, or the board is stalled and you can’t get through, a combination of Longbow and Quirion Ranger and a boatload of both creatures and mana can equal quite a few activations per turn. You can use that to hit your opponent in the face (ideal) or clear the board to get through with combat damage (also acceptable but less cool).

Good match-ups include Mono Blue Delver, any creature list, and anything else that isn’t concentrated on blowing your elves up all the time. UR Control can be tough, as can MBC and any other “true” control list, while Burn and Goblins both run more or less even.

There’s nothing too spendy here, in Pauper terms, but with [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] seeing play in a number of formats, it has risen in price to $2-3 each, so you could consider [c]Manamorphose[/c] as a cantripping alternative, though it doesn’t have the benefit of allowing you a glimpse into your opponent’s game plan. It can help you hit {U} for Melody and {R} for Justice, though, so it’s not without benefits.

Nettle Sentinel is slightly spendy but indespensible, so don’t skimp there. She also does double-duty in our Modern list, so if you’re building both, you definitely can’t skip picking up a playset.

Speaking of Modern, let’s check out that list.

Combo Elves in Modern

I looked at a lot of lists to try and put something together that was competitive but didn’t use any of the spendier cards. [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c] is the main finisher in most Elf lists, and for good reason. I had the idea, though, that if you’re really “going off”, then he’s an excessive use of $20. I put in [c]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/c] instead, who I had from last week’s Boros Soul Sisters list, and who finished the opponent off quickly if you get the [c]Cloudstone Curio[/c] engine going.

Here is the list I came up with. Adding more $ could definitely make it better, but it still works pretty well as it stands AND is super-budget in this form.

[d title=”Cloudstone Elves (Modern)”]
4 Cavern of Souls
8 Forest
4 Rootbound Crag

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Heritage Druid
1 Vigor
2 Joraga Warcaller
2 Joraga Treespeaker
1 Eternal Witness
3 Wren’s Run Packmaster
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Wild Cantor

Spells and Artifacts
3 Cloudstone Curio
3 Lead the Stampede
3 Chord of Calling

3 Viridian Shaman
2 Beast Within
3 Essence Warden
2 Choke
2 Dismember
3 Back to Nature [/d]

The classic combo with Cloudstone Curio is Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid. Add any other one mana elf and you are bouncing guys and netting 2 mana every bounce. Add in Elvish Visionary and you are (eventually) drawing through your entire deck.

And if you’re playing online it is truly the clunkiest, least short-cuttable combo in the history of history. You’re gonna get carpal tunnel doing this thing, all to gain one mana and one card per rotation, until (eventually) you hit something interesting.

Interesting cards include a [c]Chord of Calling[/c] (to hit [c]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/c]), or the super-awesome (and cheap) [c]Wren’s Run Packmaster[/c], who can put Splinter Twin to shame by creating endless 2/2 wolf tokens with Deathtouch, but only if you’re willing to click until your hand falls off. Some lists run [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] which is another legit way to end a game off an endless mana combo into a big Chord. Emrakul is only $10 and fits in a number of interesting lists, so if you have a little scratch, it’s a worthy investment.

I had a hard time figuring out the right number of Chord and Lead the Stampede. Most games I preferred coming up with Lead, mainly because I wasn’t running the big guys I needed to Chord into a big win, but I just wanted to draw a bunch more Elves and keep my board (and combo) moving along progressively. Running 6x of the two may be too much, though, so cutting some for other choices could work.

I picked up Cavern of Souls because it fits into so many tribal strategies (the natural budget strategies for most formats), but they could easily be forests here. If you get a couple, you can name “God” with one to make sure Purphoros doesn’t get disrupted; otherwise they’re not doing a whole lot except helping you work around countermagic and (I only learned this from comments on my soul sisters videos) [c]Chalice of the Void[/c] if your opponent brings it in to mess with you.

The key pieces here are the combo slots: Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, and Cloudstone Curio. None of them are really “cheap”, but after you spend that $20 or so, you can really build any kind of elf list you want. Find a mana sink or a good target for Chord and the rest of the list kind of puts itself together. There are plenty of good ideas in this thread at Salvation, and various others on Reddit.

If you come up with any cool strategies on the cheap, be sure to let me know in the comments. I like the list I made, but keep feeling like I’m missing something that would make it better.

But hey, we’ve talked the talk, now let’s walk the walk. Here are the gameplay videos for Elves this week.

On the Play with Combo Elves

We had some good match-ups in Pauper, which may make it seem like we’re unstoppable. Hey, sometimes that’s true. Modern is a bit less forgiving, but we do get to combo off and show the unstoppable power of a good Elf engine once it gets going.

Do you have your own favorite elves lists, in any format? Let me know. As I mentioned, I love Elves and would play them all the time if I could get away with it.

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

Next week we’ll be blitzing our opponents with aggressive Izzet lists. As always, if you have recommendations for Modern / Pauper lists that crossover formats, let me know in the comments.

Until next time, may your Melodies ever be Distant.


Paupers and Kings, Ep. 5: Soul Sisters

soul sisters

Hi everyone, and welcome to the fifth episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget.

How do you feel about gaining life in Magic? Sure, it’s handy against Burn, but most people who know about these things will tell you that gaining life doesn’t advance the game and it is, in general, a bad strategy. So how is it that we have these lists where lifegain is a major priority?

The trick, of course, is that lifegain can only be a part of the plan.

This week we are looking at Soul Sisters lists in Modern and Pauper.

The sisters in the spotlight are [c]Soul Warden[/c] and [c]Soul’s Attendant[/c]. Ignoring the fact that Attendant is a hopeless fraud of a healer (read her flavor text), these two lovely humans fit in nicely with a number of strategies that utilize lifegain to do broken things. Maybe not broken things, but pretty powerful things.

Let’s take a look, first, at our Modern list for the week.

Wary Soul Sisters

There are more “standard” mono-colored Soul Sisters lists in Modern, but meh. You’ve seen ’em, and I wanted to do something a little different and more fun. So instead of those we’re playing with a Boros build that abuses [c]Norin the Wary[/c] and [c]Champion of the Parish[/c], along with a bunch of lifegain, to make giant face-beaters and win the game. Here is the list we’re using, adapted from this list from Uota on Goldfish.

[d title=”Wary Soul Sisters by Uota (Modern)”]
9 Plains
4 Mountain
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Clifftop Retreat

4 Ajani’s Pridemate
4 Champion of the Parish
2 Mentor of the Meek
3 Norin the Wary
2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
3 Ranger of Eos
4 Soul Warden
3 Soul’s Attendant
1 Legion Loyalist

4 Genesis Chamber

2 Return to the Ranks
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Path to Exile

1 Aven Mindcensor
2 Electrickery
2 Mark of Asylum
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
1 Suppression Field
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Sowing Salt
2 Wear/Tear [/d]

The interactions are pretty straight-forward and hinge around getting Norin onto the board. Once he hits, he is bouncing in and out on all of your turns and usually on your opponents’ turns as well. This lets you:

  • Gain life with the soul sisters.
  • Grow your Champions (and Pridemates if you’re gaining life).
  • Create Myr tokens, duplicating any other benefits you may be receiving (except Champions).
  • Kill your opponent with Purphoros triggers.

Mentor of the Meek helps make sure you don’t run out of gas, while Legion Loyalist is tutorable via Ranger of Eos and enables you to swing in effectively once your army has gotten big and tough enough. Return to the Ranks provides some resilience to sweepers, while Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile clear out annoying threats across the table.

Wary Soul Sisters on a Budget

I sprung for some more expensive cards than I might, normally, because they are land and sideboard staples. [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] is, namely, a great card for most tribal lists, so I picked up a playset. It has the major added benefit of working around Chalice, which is otherwise a very strong piece of SB hate against all our one-drops. Still, the best place to start budgetizing lists is usually in the mana base. It has an impact, for sure, but you can still get the right lands and play your game without a hitch plenty of the time.

Ranger of Eos and Purphoros are both strong components of the list, but it kind of works without them, so you could save some money there. You will be missing out on tutors and wincons, though, so consider alternatives. More Mentors could come in to replace Ranger, and you could consider [c]Harsh Sustenance[/c] as a cheap wincon if you found a way to splash black.

[c]Condemn[/c] is my favorite budget alternative to Path and will do in a pinch.

Even as it stands the list is less than 150 tix. For the price, you’re not getting something as powerful as the U Tron list we looked at last week, but it can still blow out games and does quite well in certain match-ups. It is also very fun to play.

Now let’s check out our Pauper list this week.

Midnight Presence

If you watch videos on our YouTube channel at all, you will recognize this list from the Pauper Gauntlet, submitted by mad brewer, Aught3. While it packs the Midnight Guard / Presence of Gond combo in the list, it is more of a midrange list that stalls your opponent with lifegain, grows an army of saprolings, and then swings in for a massive alpha strike. Here is the list.

[d title=”Midnight Presence by Aught3 (Pauper)”]
4 Khalni Garden
3 Forest
4 Blossoming Sands
7 Plains
4 Selesnya Sanctuary

4 Midnight Guard
4 Pallid Mycoderm
4 Selesnya Evangel
4 Soul Warden
4 Soul’s Attendant
4 Veteran Armorer

4 Presence of Gond
3 Scatter the Seeds
4 Sprout Swarm
3 Spidersilk Armor

3 Gleeful Sabotage
4 Scattershot Archer
4 Standard Bearer
3 Sunlance
1 Prismatic Strands [/d]

Along with stalling out via lifegain, the main Spidersilk Armors allow your creatures to get big and, along with the Veteran Armorers, give you good blocks to shut down your opponent’s offense. After that, it is just a matter of growing your army much, much, much larger than theirs, and then smashing in with a Pallid Mycoderm activation (or 2 or 3 or 4) to make your saproling tokens mean business.

You win with the combo from time to time as well, but Presence of Gond does good work on any creature you cast it on, while the Guard does a good job blocking things like Spire Golem that your 1/1s have an issue handling.

If you want to try something different in Pauper, I recommend taking this list for a spin. It is surprisingly strong against a lot of lists, but it does have some very bad matchups. MBC lists with edicts and discard aren’t too bad; MBC lists with direct removal and Pestilence / Crypt Rats are much harder. UR Control is a challenge. We probably just lose to Familiars. For competitive play, this deck does exactly what you don’t want to do in the current meta, it tries to be fair and play its own game. It gets punished for its efforts.

All the same, it’s a great deck for the practice room, and wins as much as it loses.

Here are the videos for this week’s lists.


I took Midnight Presence for a spin in a Pauper Daily Event. Those videos will be up on our YouTube channel soonish, so keep an eye out.

Next week on Paupers and Kings

I’m abusing combo elves for next week’s article, and it should be a ton of fun. As always, if you have recommendations for Modern / Pauper lists that crossover formats, let me know in the comments.

Until next time, may your Norins ever be wary.


Cheap as Chips, Ep. 3: Cake and Ice Cream

Ice cream and chocolate cake. Bagels and cream cheese. Prosciutto e melone. Trample and regenerate.

Some things in life go together so well that, as time passes, you really can’t imagine one without the other. In the pantheon of Magic creature static abilities, trample holds a special place. Almost every other creature static ability is designed to either wound your opponent or wound your opponent’s creatures. A few static abilities do neither, but instead help protect your creature.

But trample? Trample is all about crushing through a wall of critters to smash your opponent’s face all in one go. Do that and also throw in the ability to protect your creature and you are well on your way to a rib-tickling good time at the Magic table.

Enter [c]Lotleth Troll[/c].

Now, before we go further, let me say that at a current price of 0.25 tickets on Mtgotraders, Lotleth Troll is at the outer end of what we uber-budget brewers are willing to spend on a card. But for Lotleth Troll, it’s worth it. We want this guy so bad we’re going to build a deck with 8x of them (well, sort of, keep reading). This deck may stretch our 5-ticket limit, but let’s see what we can do.

Lotleth Troll’s ‘discard a creature’ buff ability led me to think that adding [c]Necrotic Ooze[/c] would allow a range of fun activated abilities to stay on the table even if a pile of creatures are in the graveyard. And if one of your precious Lotleth Trolls should somehow perish, Necrotic Ooze becomes a big impersonator of the troll (well, ok, minus the trample, but that’s what [c]Rancor[/c] is for).

The starting point falls within the same overall playbook as my rogue deck from last week: play weenies that can grow, and disrupt your opponent’s hand while you’re hitting them in the face. The difference here is better disruption, but at the cost of having some more expensive 4-mana critters. [c]Necrotic Ooze[/c] offers up a range of possibilities. Let’s see what I came up with:

[d title+”Necrotic Troll”]


8 Forest

9 Swamp

4 Woodland Cemetery

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Golgari Rot Farm


2 Slithering Shade

1 Elvish Mystic

2 Scute Mob

2 Slitherhead

4 Lotleth Troll

1 Royal Assassin

4 Necrotic Ooze

1 Glissa Sunseeker

2 Reaper of the Wilds

1 Avatar of Woe


2 Despise

2 Duress

3 Extirpate

3 Rancor

1 Font of Return

2 Wrench Mind

4 Grisly Salvage


1 Font of Return

2 Geth’s Verdict

1 Infest

1 Memoricide

2 Murderous Cut

2 Killing Wave

2 Gleeful Sabotage

2 Great Sable Stag

2 Glissa Sunseeker


Ideal gameflow:

T1: Disrupt your opponent’s hand. Consider using Extirpate to remove a set of fetch lands from the game, for example.

T2: Play Lotleth Troll. You know you want to. In fact, this is risky here because you have no mana to protect him. It requires a monumental amount of patience, but try to play him next turn. Instead play one of your one-drop dorks or disrupt again.

T3: Okay, play your Lotleth Troll here so you can protect him.

T4: Discard a Slitherhead and then scavenge it. Swing with a 4/3 trampler. Grisly Salvage or Wrench Mind, while leaving black mana open to protect Mr. Lotleth.

T5: Now consider some of your other creatures, primarily [c]Necrotic Ooze[/c] or [c]Reaper of the Wilds[/c]. Depending on what’s in your graveyard, you can tap the Ooze to destroy stuff, buff it by discarding creatures, or give it hexproof or deathtouch.

The many options you’ll have make this a fun deck to play with. I feel it’s missing a big finisher, however. There’s no real way to jump up and surprise your opponent with a huge pile of damage (like [c]Notorious Throng[/c] from my deck last week, for example). But your board presence by T6 can get substantial if you have a [c]Scute Mob[/c] down and either of your 4-drops. The question with this deck is whether there’s really enough power to close out fast enough to avoid the T5-T6 kills that most premium Modern decks can easily manage.

Card analysis:

[c]Duress[/c], [c]Despise[/c], [c]Wrench Mind[/c], [c]Extirpate[/c]: These cards work well together as combo-busters, but they do take up a lot of space I would normally reserve for weenies. But I feel like the deck lacks power against tier-1 or 2 match-up without a bit of disruption.

[c]Slithering Shade[/c]: Once in the graveyard, allows you to pump your [c]Necrotic Ooze[/c].

[c]Scute Mob[/c]: Loads of fun when he starts to grow.

[c]Slitherhead[/c]: A key engine to grow Lotleth Troll.

[c]Font of Return[/c]: You may end up with too many critters in the graveyard. A single Font is there as deep back-up. Do you guys know rugby? This card is your full-back.

[c]Royal Assassin[/c], [c]Glissa Sunseeker[/c], [c]Avatar of Woe[/c]: My attempt to be a bit tricksy with Necrotic Ooze. You want these cards in your graveyard, so toss them to Lotleth Troll’s ability if you can.

[c]Necrotic Ooze[/c], [c]Reaper of the Wilds[/c]: Four mana creatures are not the normal style for a budget deck that needs to swing fast before the combos start going off. Reaper’s scry ability is great, she also helps out in the graveyard. I just couldn’t resist.

Sideboard: Just some standard removal cards and [c]Great Sable Stag[/c] if you run into dimir colors. The [c]Killing Wave[/c] is my attempt at a budget [c]Damnation[/c]. Yeah I know, not the same thing. I feel like this sideboard needs a lot of improvement. Let me know what you think.

How does it play? Let’s check out some sample games.

Cheap as Chips, Ep. 2: Going Rogue

Last week I discussed the win-win game theory model of budget Magic. This theory posits that you win even if you lose, because moral victories count when your entire deck costs less than your opponents one-drop.

Now let’s look at a deck that manages to roll all of my advice points into one ball of roguishly good fun. (Gameplay videos at the bottom as long as I can figure out how to link them!).

Notorious Rogues

The goal of this deck is to beat your opponent with a fast, unblockable weenie attack that is also (hopefully) forcing specter-style discards. For maximum impact however you need [c]Oona’s Blackguard[/c] on the battlefield and counters on your critters. Really, how often is that gonna happen? Forcing discards is therefore not the primary win condition, because most opponents have enough removal to avoid being spectered to death.

[d title=”Notorious Rogues (Modern)”]


9 Swamp

8 Island

4 Drowned Catacomb

1 Dimir Aqueduct

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Evolving Wilds


3 Earwig Squad

2 Infiltrator Il-Kor

4 Inkfathom Infiltrator

4 Invisible Stalker

4 Oona’s Blackguard

2 Stinkdrinker Bandit


1 Aetherize

2 Dispel

1 Echoing Truth

2 Mana Leak

4 Morsel Theft

3 Notorious Throng

2 Read the Bones

2 Curiosity


2 Aetherize

1 Dispel

1 Echoing Decay

2 Extirpate

2 Geth’s Verdict

2 Murderous Cut

2 Nihil Spellbomb

3 Trickbind


The main battlefield tactic is to swing every turn no matter what your opponent is putting on the board. Don’t stop attacking. Only in later turns should you consider playing a chump blocker to stop an attack or two. Swing even if it looks like death is imminent. If you have [c]Curiosity[/c] down or play [c]Morsel Theft[/c], you may well draw into a win condition. This deck loves come-from-behind victories. Like I said in the intro article, we are not trying to land a Pro tour spot with this deck – we are having fun!

The potential win conditions are [c]Earwig Squad[/c] landing with prowl and removing a key combo piece your opponent needs, or landing [c]Notorious Throng[/c] after a big hit. If you land Notorious Throng for its 6-mana prowl cost, you should win the game. [c]Stinkdrinker Bandit[/c] is another card that can win the game the turn it lands if you already have several hands on deck.

What else? Ah yes, the quicker picker-upper. The ‘defense-wins-games’ win condition is to resolve [c]AEtherize[/c] when your opponent is swinging for their big kill move. It will normally take them two turns to rebuild their army and you win in the meantime. If you don’t think bouncing two 6/7 Goyfs and then killing someone with a couple of 2/1 guys is your idea of fun – well … you and I aren’t gonna be friends.

Some combination of Stinkdrinker Bandit, Earwig Squad, Notorious Throng, and AEtherize is enough to win a surprising number of games with this very fun to play and very cheap to build deck (under four tickets!).

Ideal gameflow

T1 – Play a basic land. Watch your opponent play an expensive fetch land. Be a bit jealous but smile knowingly because you are going to win with a cheap-as-chips deck whereas they are eating tuna out of a can because their deck cost them a month’s rent.

T2 – Play an Infiltrator or Oona’s Blackguard and hope it’s not removed. Hah! Don’t count on it. A safer move is play [c]Invisible Stalker[/c] but that only turns out well if you are holding an Earwig Squad, a Morsel Theft to sneak in more damage, or Curiosity to draw cards with.

T3 – Play Blackguard or Earwig Squad. Your opponent may have an army breathing down your neck already. Don’t panic. If you played a critter on turn two and swing with it this turn, then your ideal play here is Earwig Squad. Resolve it, go get a cup of coffee and take an obnoxiously long time to study your opponent’s entire deck list. Gaze longingly at all the amazing land cards they have. Remove the three most expensive cards in the deck, the ones they are eating tuna because of. Exile them. Make a faux-polite comment like ‘oh i got lucky’ when in fact you want to say ‘ha! eat it sucker!’ (Actual advice: take a key combo piece or their best removal cards, I’m lookin’ at you Abrupt Decay).

T4 – Resolve an Infiltrator. If Blackguard is still there then you swing for 5-ish damage and force one discard. Then play another critter plus Morsel Theft. But you can also play Notorious Throng or leave the mana open for an AEtherize.

T5 – If all the above happened, you are set for the win by turn T6 or 7 latest. The cheap casting cost of your critters means it is possible to lose them all to a sweeper but rebuild and still win. Please play Earwig Squad here if you haven’t already. That should be obvious – never save the big guy for later, always resolve it for prowl cost on T3 or ASAP to remove a combo piece (and also consider what’s not visible in your opponent’s library, because if you only see three Path to Exile, they are likely holding the fourth).

Card analysis

The unblockable guys: [c]Invisible Stalker[/c] is great and there are a few ways to grow him in this deck. Even at 1-power the prowl cost comes online often enough to make him a worthwhile addition. [c]Inkfathom Infiltrator[/c] and [c]Infiltrator il-Kor[/c] are responsible for maybe 70% of the damage inflicted to opponents. They are your bread-and-butter guys. Love and respect them.

[c]Oona’s Blackguard[/c]: A mixed blessing. Weak overall as far as lords go. Potentially awesome when you get some build-your-own specters going. But normally this guy just soaks up removal. Because of that, don’t think of it as your win condition. More likely it’s the card you play to distract your opponent while you are working on your other win conditions. Having said that, if your opponent can’t get rid of this guy after a few turns, you normally win the game.

[c]Earwig Squad[/c]: This guy is a house. Tears up combo decks. I find that the effect is worth the 3-mana prowl cost. Even if you never swing or only chump block once, doesn’t matter. Still worth it.

[c]Stinkdrinker Bandit[/c]: This a new addition to the deck as I played Cloak and Dagger for a while. Bandit is an obvious keeper and combined with the unblockable critters he helps make up for Blackguard being a weak lord. This card makes Invisible Stalker way more playable.

[c]Notorious Throng[/c]: All kinds of awesome. Play this with Blackguard down and you normally win. Play this for its 6-mana prowl cost and you should always win. An extra turn? How do you not win when you have an extra turn? Of course, hard to do in practice which is why I only run 2-3 of them, not a full set.

[c]Morsel Theft[/c]: This card does a ton of work in this deck. I smile every time I draw it. Keeps me in a lot of games I might lose otherwise.

[c]Mana Leak[/c], [c]Dispel[/c]: Utility cards to protect your Blackguard and other critters. I would love to run more counterspells in this deck but I can’t find the space.

[c]Curiosity[/c]: This works fairly well. Best played on Invisible Stalker but I’ll throw it on anything if I can safely draw one card with it and then hope for more. Results in wins if you play it on Invisible Stalker early and they don’t have a sweeper.

[c]Read the Bones[/c]: After experimenting with [c]Dream Salvage[/c] and [c]Distant Melody[/c], I went back to this industry-standard, ISO-20,000 classic. I like Read the Bones better than [c]Foresee[/c] because the name is awesome to say, and that double-eyeball lady on Foresee freaks me out. If you look at the Foresee lady for more than two seconds you’re eyes hurt.


[c]AEtherize[/c]: Ssssh! Don’t tell anyone but I side this in almost every game. It’s a bit slow but believe me it works. I have won many games because of this card. It is so good I almost didn’t want to mention it in this write-up. It’s My Precious and I want to keep it secret. I can hear you saying, ‘yeah but there are lots of sweepers in Modern that destroy everything and they can’t be regenerated.’ Ok fine but those cards are not nearly as fun as giving your opponent back a fistful of cards that they can look at helplessly on their screen while you beat them to death the next turn with some 2-power guys.

[c]Echoing Decay[/c], [c]Murderous Cut[/c], [c]Geth’s Verdict[/c]: Removal is always good.

[c]Extirpate[/c]: Another attempt at a combo-buster, but without Duress or Despise to pick out cards, it’s seems too hopeful that what you need to strip will end up in the graveyard. I may pull this out for one of the alternate cards listed below.

[c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c]: Because emptying your opponent’s graveyard when they need it is almost as much fun as Aetherizing their attack.

Cards to think about: [c]Triton Shorestalker[/c], [c]Frogtosser Banneret[/c], [c]Cloak and Dagger[/c], [c]Specter’s Shroud[/c], [c]Raven’s Crime[/c].

Gameplay Videos