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)”]
Land
9 Plains
4 Mountain
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Clifftop Retreat

Creatures
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

Artifacts
4 Genesis Chamber

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

Sideboard
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)”]
Land
4 Khalni Garden
3 Forest
4 Blossoming Sands
7 Plains
4 Selesnya Sanctuary

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

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

Sideboard
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.

/bava

Breaking the Sundial in Modern

sundial-of-the-infinite-title

[c]Sundial of the Infinite[/c] has the unique ability to end your turn. At least for Modern there is no other card that can do this. Intrigued by this, the question for me was how to benefit from that.

How can we break this card? Why is ending your turn a good thing? What does it do?

sundial-of-the-infinite-cardThe short answer is the stack will be emptied which means that everything on the stack will be countered. This includes abilities and spells that usually cannot be countered.

First let’s have a look at what you can do with this without combining it with other cards.

Ending your own turn is beneficial if your opponent tries to fetch a land at the end of your turn (your opponent won’t get any land if you respond to the trigger from the fetch land). You can counter flash creatures by ending your turn which forces your opponent to play [c]Restoration Angel[/c] or [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c] or [c]Pestermite[/c] in their own turn forcing them to tap out (which makes it harder for them to counter spells that you play in your own turn).

So in itself the Sundial is an okay card against [c]Splinter Twin[/c] combo. Moreover, you can prevent undying or persisting creatures from coming back – which I most of the time use against [c]Kitchen Finks[/c]. And last but not least you will be able to counter instant removal of your creatures.

With this in mind I did some research. I watched a video on Channel Fireball with a Legacy brew which got me excited. The only other list I found came from tcdecks.net.

But I did not want to build a true combo deck that is centered totally on [c]Sundial of the Infinite[/c] because in my opinion non-blue combo decks always struggle to get their pieces together. There is just not enough quality card draw or tutoring in Modern and it is difficult to force the combo through without counterspell backup. So I wanted a synergy-deck that has combo potential but all the individual pieces should work together but not be worthless on their own.

sundial-of-the-infinite-header

After some thirty matches my actual list looks like this:

[d title=”Breaking Sundial (Modern)”]
Lands
4 Ghost Quarter
7 Plains
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Rugged Prairie
2 Mountain
1 Temple of Triumph

Creatures
3 Flickerwisp
2 Akroma, Angel of Fury
2 Blade Splicer
1 Sun Titan
3 Wall of Omens
4 Glimmerpoint Stag

Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
3 Path to Exile

Artifacts
4 Æther Vial
4 Sundial of the Infinite
3 Mimic Vat

Sideboard
4 Rest in Peace
1 Path to Exile
2 Wear/Tear
4 Anger of the Gods
4 Leyline of Sanctity
[/d]

The deck itself is a RW Midrange deck. [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], [c]Lightning Helix[/c], and [c]Path to Exile[/c] are in it to keep you alive by eliminating early threats.

[c]Aether Vial[/c] makes your creatures hard to counter – and you can use the Vial to enter [c]Glimmerpoint Stag[/c] or [c]Flickerwisp[/c] at the end of your opponents turn to exile a permanent. The exiled permanent will come back at your end step so it will be away for a whole turn which sometimes is a very good thing. This is also good for countering things like [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c]’s ability or the casting of [c]Splinter Twin[/c]. The idea is borrowed from Hatebears where it works well.

[c]Wall of Omens[/c] draws you a card, blocks early aggression, and helps a lot to improve the matchup vs [c]Birthing Pod[/c] and [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c]. Also the wall is a very good target for Flickerwisp and Glimmerpoint Stag.

[c]Flickerwisp[/c] and [c]Glimmerpoint Stag[/c] are the all-stars of this deck – they interact with everything. They pair very well with [c]Blade Splicer[/c] by giving you extra golem tokes and if you use them on a morphed [c]Akroma[/c] you get her back face-up which is pretty good.

It is even more fun when you get the Sundial. The “return the exiled permanent” trigger of both Flickerwisp and Glimmerpoint Stag will only trigger once. By using the sundial’s ability in response to the return trigger you will empty the stack and the permanent will stay exiled forever. So you can remove anything including lands.

Add [c]Mimic Vat[/c] to the mix. Together with the Sundial the Vat is just broken. For three mana you get a token with haste, usually some sort of awesome ETB effect, and then for one more mana, you end your turn with Sundial and the token, which would have been exiled, gets to stick around for good. Awesome.

Loose Ends: Sun Titan and the Mana Base

Right now I am unable to decide if [c]Battlefield Forge[/c] is better than [c]Clifftop Retreat[/c]. And I don’t know if [c]Arid Mesa[/c] might be better than both of them. I decided against fetch lands because of the Sundial (I did not want to be in a situation where I have to end the turn while my fetch trigger is on the stack).

[c]Sun Titan[/c] is some sort of a wild card. It is expensive. It is defensive. But so far it won me every duel in which I could resolve it. Still my mind is not settled on this card.

A Look at the Sideboard

[c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c]: Good vs Burn, the discard/rack deck, and [c]Ad Nauseam[/c] combo. Mediocre but better than nothing vs [c]Scapeshift[/c]. I usually board out Sun Titan and Path to Exile.

[c]Rest in Peace[/c]: Comes in vs Cruise Control and [c]Dig through Time[/c]. It is great against [c]Living End[/c] and it’s okay if your opponent is heavily relying on [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]. Also helps against [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c]/[c]Unburial Rites[/c] combo. The Sun Titan and the Mimic Vats are replaced because Rest in Peace shuts them down.

[c]Anger of the Gods[/c]: If the eleven removal spells from the main deck just aren’t enough then this will help. It comes in vs random aggro decks like Zoo or the occasional Goblins or Merfolk decks and it helps against Affinity. I replace Sun Titan, both Akromas, and a Glimmerpoint Stag with it.

[c]Wear / Tear[/c]: I use it against Affinity because I cannot use [c]Stony Silence[/c] (it will lock down my own artifacts). It is good vs [c]Splinter Twin[/c] and [c]Birthing Pod[/c], too.

[c]Path to Exile[/c]: Sometimes the three damage of Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix are not enough – either because the creature I kill comes back or because the toughness is four or greater. In these situations I bring in the Path.

That’s it for now. I hope you will give this (cheap) list a try and come up with some improvements. If you want to try it out I recommend using a “stop” in your own end step.

Have fun!

/Tobias

How Did We Forget? Modern Landfall

Hi all,

As I have stated before, I have won more packs with [c]Forest[/c] than any other land type, between Standard and Pauper Stompy and Modern Infect and Bogles. As an introduction to Modern Boros Landfall, I want to explain why Monogreen Infect was so good.

Why Landfall?

Well, first of all, we have new and cheap fetchlands.

Many Modern games don’t seem close. It is my main gripe with the format. Many players play the metagame instead of the game. What I mean by this is that they find an optimal time to pilot a certain deck, and they crush the opponents that have the weak match-ups. Burn was favorable, and now Modern players sleeve up [c]Proclamation of Rebirth[/c] and [c]Martyr of Sands[/c]. I did the same thing with [c]Daybreak Coronet[/c]. Timeless decks are those that transcend this process and neither crush opponents nor get crushed by opponents. Instead, games are often very close and down to a turn or a single card draw.

Monogreen Infect was bizarrely able to play the long game or win before turn 4. When it was paired against combo or Tron, it would play a creature on the first two turns and play two or three pump spells by turn 3. In other games, the [c]Cathedral of War[/c] cards would act as pump spells, and the [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c] and [c]Groundswell[/c] would act instead as [c]Counterspell[/c] effects, increasing the toughness beyond what [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] or [c]Anger of the Gods[/c] would destroy or blanking [c]Path to Exile[/c] by granting hexproof. In addition, the Vines would counter [c]Splinter Twin[/c], which was relevant as well.

So the second reason I want to explore the Boros Landfall strategy is that many ideas seen in Monogreen Infect are transferable to Boros Aggro. Your lands are uncounterable pump effects for [c]Steppe Lynx[/c] and [c]Plated Geopede[/c], and creatures like [c]Figure of Destiny[/c] pump themselves without investing more cards. Even a [c]Shard Volley[/c] can act as a pseudo-[c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] if you sacrifice [c]Flagstones of Trokair[/c] to pay its cost.

Boros Aggro allows you to play a turn 4 or before game when you have to or to nickel and dime opponents with your Landfall triggers in response to removal. In addition, you have so much reach with your Burn spells that you only require one good swing from a creature in many match-ups. What’s more is that you’re playing white, and white sideboard cards are at an all-time high right now. Let’s take a look at the deck:

[d title=”Boros To Tears (Modern)”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Flagstones to Trokair
1 Plains
4 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goblin Guide
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Plated Geopede
4 Steppe Lynx

Other Spells
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Shard Volley

Sideboard
3 Aven Mindcensor
1 Blind Obedience
2 Electrickery
1 Fracturing Gust
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Mark of Asylum
3 Molten Rain
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben [/d]

Card Choices

In the main 60, I have decided to start with, essentially, 15 4-ofs. The list probably has a [c]Grim Lavamancer[/c] and a [c]Shard Volley[/c] too many. [c]Grim Lavamancer[/c] feels very strong on MTGO right now. I am tempted to run [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] with the high number of instants and fetch-lands, but I just haven’t felt good about it in lists without chaining cantrips together (I tried it in Zoo, Affinity, and Eggs variants and didn’t like it). Instead, I will take advantage of the graveyard by destroying my opponents’ [c]Delver of Secrets[/c], [c]Young Pyromancer[/c], blockers, etc.

The Manabase

You may be tempted to run [c]Ghost Quarter[/c]. I wouldn’t fault you. There are times when you get to play a [c]Ghost Quarter[/c], activate it to destroy [c]Flagstones of Trokair[/c] and trigger one Landfall ability per [c]Plated Geopede[/c] and [c]Steppe Lynx[/c]. When you do, though, you will notice, as I did, that the deck runs too few basics to take advantage of it as often as we would like.

I find that many Aggro players are chronically playing too few lands. They are scared that they will flood out and lose games. This deck compensates for that in that each land drop is a [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c]. We don’t mind drawing lands nearly as much as other aggressive decks do.

[c]Flagstones of Trokair[/c] is not played nearly as much today as before the new legend rule, for good reason, but I still play it to work with [c]Shard Volley[/c]. At worst, if I draw two, I can get two landfall activations out of the second.

The Creatures

Again, the rule here is that we want creatures to be powerful alone, and investments that we make into the creatures can not result in blowouts.

[c]Figure of Destiny[/c] becomes a 4/4 fairly easily and with no investment beyond paying mana. The four toughness is required to beat [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], and activating his ultimate is not entirely unlikely in many games.

[c]Goblin Guide[/c] is a staple of the archetype, though he gets sided out a lot. If not for the popularity of cards like [c]Gut Shot[/c] and [c]Forked Bolt[/c], there may be an argument for playing [c]Dryad Militant[/c] in his place. As it is, he gets in a lot of early damage that is not dependent on land drops or other spells.

[c]Steppe Lynx[/c] and [c]Plated Geopede[/c] are the deck’s namesake. They easily deal an early 4-8 damage to the opponent in the early game, and they can gather in multiples as you play fetchlands leading up to the big finale. They also go great with [c]Boros Charm[/c] when you have to race your opponent.

Other Spells

[c]Boros Charm[/c] is relevant in all three of its modes. 4 damage is a significant amount of reach to deliver straight to your opponent’s dome. [c]Anger of the Gods[/c], [c]Supreme Verdict[/c], and [c]Day of Judgment[/c] are all essentially countered by granting your permanents indestructibility. Next, double strike deals loads of damage in combination with your landfall creatures. Finally, the first strike (given along with “double” strike) acts as removal of your opponents’ blockers before you go all-in. It’s a great card and difficult to play around.

[c]Lightning Bolt[/c] would be a difficult omission in a deck with [c]Shard Volley[/c]. It is critical in today’s game to remove blockers and threats, and it helps to reach a critical mass of burn spells in the deck.

[c]Lightning Helix[/c] is one of very few pieces of hate against Burn, and it also helps us gain some tempo against [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] based decks. So far, with the clock the deck provides, it seems to be enough.

[c]Shard Volley[/c] clears the way, finishes the opponent off, and deals 5 damage in many situations.

The sideboard

This space is a bit awkward. This deck loves to have untapped lands, particularly fetchlands, so instant-speed blowouts like [c]Wear[/c], [c]Smash to Smithereens[/c], [c]Path to Exile[/c], and [c]Combust[/c] are very appealing. At the same time, I really like the sorcery-speed and permanent-based hate with the aggressive clock that this deck provides.

Against [c]Scapeshift[/c], we side most heavily. 4 [c]Goblin Guide[/c], and some number of burn spells including [c]Grim Lavamancer[/c] come out for 3 [c]Aven Mindcensor[/c], 1 [c]Mark of Asylum[c/], 3 [c]Molten Rain[/c] and 1 [c]Thalia, Guardien of Thraben[/c]. This matchup is still rough. I really hate [c]Scapeshift[/c], but mostly because I rarely play counterspells or [c]Thoughtseize[/c].

Against Delver, we want [c]Electrickery[/c], [c]Mark of Asylum[/c], and [c]Rest in Peace[/c]. We will remove our 4 [c]Goblin Guide[/c] for them.

Against Affinity, [c]Electrickery[/c], [c]Kataki, War’s Wage[/c], [c]Fracturing Gust[/c], and [c]Stony Silence[/c] come in for a number of [c]Boros Charm[/c] and [c]Figure of Destiny[/c].

Finally, against Burn we bring in our lonely [c]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/c] and [c]Blind Obedience[/c] for 2 [c]Shard Volley[/c].

I hope you enjoyed this article and will try out this Modern Aggro list. It was a staple when [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] was banned, and it can really cut through some matches today as well. I don’t want to act like I’m some kind of oracle or Sam Black-type metagame solver, but when I predicted Bogles were good, they made it all the way to the #3 deck in the metagame. Then I told you Zoo could actually be viable in Legacy, and the very next day it turned up on mtggoldfish, after months of absence. I missed with [c]Notion Thief[/c] and [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c], but I think I’m correct to say that this deck can make you some money. Either way, good luck, have fun.

-drinkard