Pauper Primer: Love Train

This Pauper Primer comes to us from our friend, jphsnake. It was written awhile ago so some parts of the article may be dated.

[d title=”Love Train by jphsnake (Pauper)”]
4 Simic Guildgate
3 Island
3 Seat of the Synod
1 Tree of Tales
8 Forest
2 Tranquill Thicket
1 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Wall of Roots
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Axebane Guardian
2 Gatecreeper Vine
2 Deadly Recluse
3 Drift of Phantasms
1 Shield Sphere
4 Trinket Mage
4 Mulldrifter

3 Freed from the Real
3 Vines of Vastwood
2 Viridian Longbow
2 Train of Thought

2 Hydroblast
2 Nourish
2 Moment’s Peace
2 Deadly Recluse
2 Muddle The Mixture
2 Gigadrowse
1 Fangren Maurader
1 Tranquility
1 Viridian Longbow [/d]

Playing Love Train

Love Train is a really cool deck, because it is a combo deck that encourages interaction. Every part of the combo can be interacted with, and it can interact with most decks. Describing this deck would be to describe a fair version of fissure that is both fun to play with and against. However, it takes a lot of play skill to pilot correctly, and there are plenty of mistakes that all of us make. I am going to go through the common lines of play in this deck and then cover the matchups. I still haven’t developed a stock sideboard yet, so I am still open to suggestions

Lines of Play

There are lots of small interactions that make the deck run smoothly. I will address them as opening (the first 3 turns), midgame (general interactions with the deck), and endgame (going off).


Mulliganing: overall this deck is a pretty good for mulligans. Usually its correct to play 21-22 lands, with about 2-3 cycling lands for the lategame. You will have a 80-90% chance of having a blue source, a 80-90% chance of having at least 1 untapped land, and 70-80% chance of having a decent hand of between 2-4 lands. If you keep a 1 land hand on the draw, you will have a 60-65% chance of a drawing a land by turn 2, but only a 40% chance on the play. Here are some of the keepable/not keepable mulligans:

Throw these out:
1-land hands on the play
1-land hands on the draw in bad matchups
5-land lands without both a turn 2 play and Trinket Mage or Mulldrifter
6-land hands
Hands 3+ blue cards and no blue sources (Axebane Guardian counts as a blue source)

You can keep these hands:
5-card hands with mana
1-land hands on the draw with decent matchups (especially if you have the guildgate)

Turn 1: You don’t have a lot of turn 1 plays except for longbow and cycling the thicket if flooded, so usually T1 is a guildgate. You can play T1 longbow in place of a guildgate if you plan on abusing the longbow (eg. Goblins, WW, Elves, and Delver). One card to watch out on the draw is spreading seas, don’t screw up your mana base If you don’t need to. Also, hold on to the shield sphere until you need it to block or up your wall count.

Turn 2: This is your wall turn. If you only have 1 wall in your hand, play it, otherwise follow these guidelines about your turn 2 plays of Battlement, Roots, Gatecreeper, and Recluse.
Battlement T2: Default on this. It provides a tremendous mana advantage

Gatecreeper T2: If you are playing against black, play gatecreeper vine as it protects against edicts. Usually look for Islands or guildgates if you have no use for the tempo loss.

Roots T2: If there is a big ground threat, play Wall of Roots. You can also play Wall of Roots if you are flooded and have cycling lands and/or vines in your hand or you really need to resolve Viridian Longbow.

Recluse T2: If there is a big threat and you need to be defensive, or if you have a T1 longbow against aggro, play a Deadly Recluse.

Other T2: If you have no walls, you can play tapped lands, cycling, train for 1 against fast aggro/combo, or leave vines up.

Turn3: this is the important turn for this deck.

Longbow T3: Start Pinging if you have guys you need to kill, ex. Deadly Recluse+longbow against slivers. If you played wall of roots turn 2, and have a long bow in your hand, you can start pinging right away.

Gatecreeper T3: Play gatecreeper T3 and forwards if you are missing land drops and can afford to grind.

Battlement T3: Develop your battlement, if you have overgrown battlement, play your walls using your lands first before tapping it, you can get more mana this way. Wall of roots is a really strong T3 play as it is essentially free with battlement (+1 mana from battlement, +1 mana from the hasty wall activation). Remember that you can play walls and 3 drops with Overgrown battlement on turn 3 and your turn 3 can function without lands.

Drift T3: Play against Delver. Transmute usually comes after T3

Trinket Mage T3: this is a really good card as it provides flexibility. What to find, though? If you have a deadly recluse against aggro or if you want to set up the combo, then you should find the longbow. If you have some pretty big threats, find the shield sphere, and if your hand is mulldrifters and your opponent is control, find a seat. If you have no green mana, find tree.

Axebane T3: Axebane is the hardest question to see if on T3. The rule of thumb is that if you can protect it, you can play it turn 3 regardless if the combo is in your hand or not, because even if the combo is not in your hand, a T4 mulldrifer chain or a massive Train on T4 is pretty good.

Guildgate T3: if you don’t have a mana-wall T2, refer back to a turn 2 play

Other T3: Against decks like DelverFiend, it might be smart to leave a vines to prevent them from going off.


In some matchups, the midgame does not exists, in about ¼ of the games, you can go off after the opening plays, and in some of the non-interactive matchups, they will kill you after the opening, but for most aggro and control matchups, there is a big midgame . The most important part of the midgame is to develop the line of play to get to a favorable endgame. Failing on that objective will bring you to a bad ending. The good thing about Love Train is that, you can change your midgame based on your opponents play style pretty easy with all the mana and cards you have access to. Many of your wins will be determined based off of your opponent misinterpreting your midgame.

Midgame Lines of Play:

The great thing about this deck is that there are no dead cards in whatever line of play you choose, so switching your line of play is not something that takes a lot of investment, but that makes your opponent very confused and prone to many play errors. Love Train can play Aggro, Combo, and Control, and that is why it’s a good deck.


To race combo decks

Here you devote your resources to finding and protecting the combo, this is usually good if your opponent has little pressure and little disruption or if they are straining their mana-base. If you are playing against a non-interactive deck, you have to race them with the combo kill regardless if you want to or not.

Combo kill lines a.k.a trains (From Fastest to Slowest):
1. Axebane->Freed->Endgame (T4-5)
2. Axebane->Drift->Freed->Endgame (T4-6)
3. Drift->Axebane->Freed->Endgame (this is slower than the previous due to Axebane’s summoning sickness) (T5-7)
4. Axebane (Drift->Axebane)->Train/Mulldrifter->Freed (Drift->Freed)->Endgame (T 6-8)
5. Train/Mulldrifter-> Axebane (Drift->Axebane)-> Freed (Drift->Freed)->Endgame (T 7-9)
6. Train/Mulldrifter-> Axebane (Drift->Axebane)-> Train/Mulldrifter ->Freed (Drift->Freed)->Endgame (T 7-10)

(Vines or other disruption always welcome in any of these 6 combo lines ^_^)

The combo kill can happen anywhere from T 4-10 (though usually between 4-7), and usually this is how you have to race decks, especially non-interactive decks. Usually, you should probably abandon the combo kill if you have to look for lines 5-6 and/or you expect that you opponent has counters and removal for everything. However, against non-interactive decks like burn, you pretty much have to is follow this line of play regardless of what happens. In the non-interactive matchups, you should usually EVOKE mulldrifter as you need to dig for the combo and have the mana to play it.


To grind control decks

You want to play this against the control matchups if they have lots of hate for your walls, the signal to play this style is if you have multiple beaters in your hand and the control player starts counters and kills your walls but lets your drifters and mages live. In this line of play your goal is to put as much damage on the board as possible and beating down. You want to use your draw to draw threats and longbow handlers to kill blockers and ping your opponents to death. Here are your threats in order of effectiveness.

While you are playing the aggro list, you might come across the combo, if your opponent is still trying to kill your threats, you might quickly change your line of play to the combo kill and surprise them after they ignore your walls.

Priority lists for the Aggro Kill:
1. Mulldrifter: 2/2 with evasion, your best beater, also draws you more threats
2. Trinket Mage: 2/2, lets you draw a longbow to add more damage
3. Deadly Recluse: 1/2, attacks and is difficult to block, a total beast with the longbow at removing blockers
4. Longbow: turns all your walls on. When you have lots of mana, you can switch the longbow between walls and really pile on the damage
5. Drift of Phantasms: It can transmute into trinket mage, giving you an extra beater/longbow. While paying 6 mana for it is kind of awkward , lots of decks will have fits trying to deal with both walls and beaters.
6. Freed from the Real: If longbow is active, this lets you play blaze every turn. Putting it on a wall (especially shield sphere or drift) makes it hard to remove as well
7. Vines of Vastwood: Remember Stompy??? Protect your creatures first, and when your opponent is about to die, blow them out!

The coup de grace of the Aggro kill is Train of Thought, once you resolve a train against a control deck you will then be able to deploy too many threats, and they wont be able to deal with all of them.

Sometimes, the hardest decision is to play out your freed from the real or to spend your vines on protecting a mulldrifter. You should commit to the aggro endgame once your opponent is at 10-less life and with few cards in hand or if your opponent ruined your combo kill.


The control route is to stall out the board. Remember that your walls are excellent blockers and that Deadly Recluse+ Longbow (or anyone+ longbow is really really good against creature decks). The goal of this route is to stall your opponents until you can get enough mana to use Longbow to lock them out of the game or if you find deadly recluse. Once you lock your opponent out of the game, you can go about your pace to win the game. Usually, this line of play is used against aggro decks, but there are games where you can block and or kill threats of the control player to deck them out or to time them out.

You lock your opponent down in phases, with each phase being harder and harder to beat. This is the most common order of the phases, but you can skip the phases if you have the resources to.
1. Blocking: block with your walls
2. Trading: start trading your mulldrifters and your trinket mages to clear some of the board
3. Pinging: kill their small threats
4. Multipinging/Deathtouch: Kill their big threats. This refers to either the Deadly recluse or strapping someone with Freed from the Real, or just having so mana walls, that you can kill anything. (FFTR is also a very expensive curse of chains, but a curse of chains nonetheless)
5. Card Advantage: Train/Mulldrifter
6. Win Con: Either Aggro or Combo win cons: Usually, your opponent will concede before this happens.

Being able to grind is super-important in the aggro matchups, the investment of the control matchup is simply one where you will spend your mana to clean the board rather than cast your big spells.


The endgame is when one person is on the verge of winning or if the game is about to end in a photo finish. In this section, it will be about how to win and/or not lose with this deck.

The Combo Kill: The combo kill is pretty simple. Simply suit up the axebane guardian and ping your opponent to death. All three combo pieces can be found by drifting. Conditions to go off
1. Axebane Guardian untaps
2. Another wall is in play
3. Freed From the Real resolves (may need protection)
4. Longbow in play or Train of Thought in hand, or capsize in hand
5. If they are not in play, you can find Longbow by Drift->Trinket Mage->Longbow or find Train by Muddle.
6. Win

If you have a choice as to how to go off, usually its to find the longbow, but if your opponent is playing counters of artifact destruction, you might just go for a train of thought and resolve multiple longbows.

All you need to have is access to 4 mana and 2 walls which is quite a small win condition to go off with freed. To go off with Drift, you need to have access to 7 mana (4 of which is blue). Make sure to count your mana before going off.

Protection is usually in the form of vines, muddle, or gigadrowse. Dispels, negates, and other counterspells usually work as well. Other protection spells are blessing or sheltering ward.

Alternate WinCons for brewers: Rolling Thunder/Torch, Pyromantics, Sprout Swarm, Capsize, Psionic Gift, Doorkeeper, Presence of Gond, Flamewave Invoker, Wildheart Invoker, and many others.

The Beatdown: It is OK to win by beating down your opponent, and something everyone needs to know about this deck is that this an acceptable way to do things. It can even help the combo kill by forcing your opponent to focus on removing your beaters and not your combo. You should beatdown when your opponent has an empty board with few cards in hand and is somewhere around ½ life.
If you are on the losing side of the endgame: If it comes to the scenario where you have to start chumping with your back against the wall, you still have a chance to win if you find the combo. You should try to set up a situation where topdecking a freed from the real, drift, trinket mage, or longbow can get you to win the game, (or vines if you are on the aggro route). This means, sacrificing all non-essential walls, try to keep axebane and another wall (preferably a mana-wall) on the board at all times. Because there are not that many requirements to win, you can pretty much use everything else in the endgame as damage prevention. In the rare situation that you are losing and they have 6 life or so, and topdecking a vines will win, keep around a 2/2.

Specific Matchups

These are matchups plays: No sideboard yet but I am thinking

Percentages lists
• Terrible: 30-70
• Bad (but winnable): 40-60
• Even: 50-50 (+/- to indicate the 5% advantage)
• Good (but losable): 60-40
• Amazing: 70-30

Aggro Decks

These are decks where you are control.


Prospect: Bad (40-60)

Your Worst Aggro Matchup. Delver is pretty tough because they have flyers you can’t interact with, but they can interact with you using both counterspells and bounce. However, if you can resolve an early longbow and keep a guy in play (hopefully deadly recluse), you can win the matchup. The thing that you need to do is protect recluse and play drift to buy time. They are trying to race with delver and use ninja and sprite to screw with you. You need to push through the longbow at all costs to beat delver and doing so wins the game.

Sideboard Cards: Deadly Recluse, Oona’s Gatewarden, Hidden Spider, Ezuri’s Archers, Wall of Tanglecord. Basically anything that can block them. Gigadrowse (?), dispel (?)
-1 Train, -1 Vines of Vastwood, -2 Battlement, -1 Shield Sphere
+2 Deadly Recluse, +1 Longbow, +2 Gigadrowse


Prospect: Even- (45-55)

I am even with goblins so far, but I feel that it is a much harder matchup than I think. Goblins are really a skill test. Your walls can stall them long enough to lock and win, but they might just get you in time. It’s a test of skill, but usually not your skill, as your job is basically to block until the combo assembles. Sparksmith is your public enemy #1 and needs to be killed. They can also interact with your combo as well as put pressure on you so be careful.

Sideboard Cards: Hydroblast!, Moment’s Peace. Kill an d prevent. Nourish (?)
-2 Train, -1 Vines, -2 Mulldrifter, -1 Tranquil Thicket
+2 Hydroblast, +2 Moment’s Peace, +2 Nourish


Prospect: Even to Good (50-50/60-40)

It depends really on what build they are playing. The stompy decks that play Garruk’s companions and River Boas to kill fissure are harder for us, but the stompy decks that play ledgewalkers are good because they cant race us very well. I predict that the second build will show up more and be that is the hope. Your goal here is to block and try to make them waste pumps on your walls rather than your face. The best blocking wall is Wall of Roots, so play that T2 against stompy. You can use Vines to stop their pump as a pretty sick tempo play. You can beat stompy either by getting a longbow lock with recluse or just going off as regular, even if they waste a vines to disrupt you, the vines is not going to your face.
The cards that you need to watch out for are hunger, rancor, pit skulk, and river boa everything else is pretty bad against you (though you might want to shoot Quirion ranger). Trinket mage and mulldrifter should be saved to block pit-skulks and ledgewalkers when possible. Drift of Phantasms is your ace in the hole to stop a hungry ledgewalker.

Sideboard Cards: Deadly Recluse, Moment’s Peace. Kill an d prevent. Nourish (?)
-2 Train, -1 Mulldrifter, -1 Tranquil Thicket, -2 Overgrown Battlement
+2 Deadly Recluse, +2 Moment’s Peace, +2 Nourish


Prospect: Even+ (55-45)

In the affinity matchup, your ability to stall 4/4’s and stop the atog fling is how to win against affinity. This means that Deadly Recluse and Wall of Roots are the keys to the matchup, and Vines of Vastwood is insane support as it means that all your walls can kill a myr enforcer as well as protect from their 4-8 removal pieces. You need to go off, get a recluse combo, resolve a Fangren Maurader to win, and that is not super difficult as the pressure that affinity puts can be dealt with as unlike Goblins, they are usually attacking with just a few creatures. However,
sometimes, they can poop their hand, and you have no chance.

Sideboard Cards: Deadly Recluse, Fangren Maurader, Moment’s Peace, Hydroblast.
-2 Train, -1 Mulldrifter, -1 Tranquil Thicket, -1 Overgrown Battlement, -1 Gatecreeper, -1 FFTR
+2 Deadly Recluse, +2 Moment’s, +2 Hydroblast, +1 Fangren Maurader


Prospect: Good (60-40)

Slivers is a deck that you can race mainly because they need to get out a bunch of lords to start going through your walls, and they won’t get there most of the time before you get the lock or the kill going. Virulent Sliver is something to watch out for because poison is harder to stop than life loss. However, they have much less ways of interacting with you than you them. Remember that you can stop a pesky sliver by blocking and playing kicked vines. If you have no deadly recluse or combo, you can try to FFTR a pinger to kill some of the lords. However, that being said, sometimes, with a bunch of lords, slivers just wins.

Sideboard Cards: See Stompy
-2 Train, -1 Mulldrifter, -1 Tranquil Thicket, -1 Overgrown Battlement
+2 Deadly Recluse, +2 Moment’s Peace, +1 Longbow

White Weenie

Prospect: Amazing (70-30)
White Weenie is at an awkward position where they can’t race you with their guys and Deadly Recluse just mows them down. To make matters worse, they don’t play a ton of relevant removal and their hate is nonexistent against you (maybe a disenchant or 2 and that’s it). Pack some extra longbows to make sure you don’t lose to disenchant and its smooth sailing.

Sideboard Cards: Deadly Recluse, Moment’s Peace. Kill and prevent.
-2 Train, -1 Tranquil Thicket
+2 Deadly Recluse, +1 Longbow

Combo Decks

These are decks where you are also combo.


Prospect: Terrible (30-70)

This matchup is probably worse than terrible as walls can’t stop lightning bolt but lightning bolt can stop walls. Maybe some aggressive sideboarding may get you there, but I doubt it. Their most devasting spell is searing blaze, and there’s not a whole lot to do about it.

Sideboard Cards: Hydroblast, Nourish, Muddle the Mixture.
-2 Train, -2 Recluse, -1 Thicket, -1 Mulldrifter
+2 Hydroblast, +2 Muddle The Mixture, +2 Nourish (Muddle searches for Nourish)


Prospect: Bad (40-60)

Because you might have the small chance of a recluse lock, race, or being able to block, this matchup is somewhat winnable though not good. Your sideboarding can make it better though. Remember that you can use vines to stop them from making their guys unblockable or dealing lethal with the strobe. Also, Freed from the real is also very inefficient removal. Other than that, good luck I guess.

Sideboard Cards: Hydroblast, Moment’s Peace
-2 Train , -1 Thicket, -1 Mulldrifter, -1 Battlement
+2 Hydroblast, +1 Recluse, +2 Moment’s Peace


Prospect: Unknown (probably even) (50-50)

I’ve not played this matchup. I assume its just a race though. They can consistently win faster than you can but you can interact with them so its probably a wash.

Sideboard Cards: Longbow, Deadly Recluse
-1 Train, -2 Vines
+2 Deadly Recluse, +1 Longbow

The Mirror:

Prospect: Unknown (probably even) (50-50)

I’ve not played the mirror before, however, from my theory, it seems to be a lesson in Deadly Recluse Longbow interactions more than anything else. Other than that, vines of vastwood can be used to disrupt the combo.

-1 Thicket, -1 Trinket Mage, -1 Gatecreeper
+2 Deadly Recluse, +1 Longbow


Prospect: Even + (55-45)

Probably your best combo matchup as you can do one thing that you can’t do in any other combo matchup: block. Not only can you block, you can block for ages until the armor or mask come out. You need to be mindful of the ledgewalker, once it’s played, respond with a drift if you are missing multiple combo pieces. Deadly recluse is an insane blocker in this matchup! This is also favors you because you they can’t interact with you.

Sideboard Cards: Moment’s Peace, Naturalize (Wickerborough Elder)
-2 Train, -1 Mulldrifter, -1 Battlement, -1 Thicket
+2 Deadly Recluse, +1 Tranquility (can be searched for), +2 Moment’s Peace

Control Decks

These are decks where you are Aggro.

MUC: Bad (40-60)

This is your worst control matchup as there are certain key spells that the MUC player needs to counter (like viridian longbow) and they are golden. They can also protect delvers and spire golems, making them a much better aggro deck than you are. This matchup might even be terrible but I think I have a chance. You pretty much lose G1 unless you can sneak in the combo somewhere, and you will need to sideboard into your game 2. Probably into Gigadrowse to get a few free turns. But yeah, it is not an easy matchup. Counter control is MUCH harder than removal control.

Sideboard Cards: Gigadrowse, train, any alternate wincons
-1 Gatecreeper, -2 Wall of Roots, -1 Drift, -1 Trinket Mage, -3 Vines
+2 Recluse, +1 Longbow, +2 Gigadrowse, +1 Train, +2 Muddle

U/x control:

Prospect: Even- to Even+ (45-55/55-45)

This control is usually a hybrid control that plays counterspells backed with removal. Usually these are UW, UB, and UR control. Some of them play a tron manabase with teachings as well. Depending on the number of counterspells they play, it can be good or bad. The more counterspells and the more mana they can generate, the harder the matchup is. The reason is that usually the control player can project when they have removal and not all removal hits your creatures. The only real type of removal that can crush you is swirling sandstorm (but don’t tell anyone to use that!)

The good news that you will always have a better matchup against any splashing colors than MUC because these decks divert too many resources away from counterspelling but cant apply the pressure that delver can.

Playing against these decks is pretty skill intensive, you want to resolve your spells in order of crappiest to best, and see if anything bites counters and removal. If they save their counters and removal, you want to spend your turns building mana to cast train or other draw spells to get your longbow and other threats to resolve so you can overwhelm them with aggro. If they kill everything, just go for the combo and kill them that way. The important thing is to make do with whatever they give you.

Sideboard Cards: Gigadrowse, train, Vines
-1 Gatecreeper, -2 Recluse, -2 Drift
+2 Gigadrowse, +1 Train, +2 Muddle

MBC (w/Corrupt):

Prospect: Good (60-40)

The only reason this matchup is better than other black control matchups is because of corrupt. Corrupt swings the game in their direction giving them reach and makes it harder for your aggro plan to succeed. That being said, they are unlikely to get a lot of non-corrupt damage through and there is no guarantee that they will even reach that kind of mana but it is something to think about in the MBC matchup.

Sideboard Cards: Gigadrowse, train, Vines
-2 Recluse, -2 Drift
+1 Nourish, +1 Train, +2 Muddle

Kitty Control:

Prospect: Good to Amazing (60-40/70-30)

These decks are too slow to put enough pressure on you, don’t play enough removal to handle your threats, and cant outdraw you or deal with all the things that are going on. Boros-kitty has a better prospect against you than Azorius-Kitty as it is faster and can play instant-speed removal as well as aim all the burn to your face. That being said, it’s really a crapshoot for them too. All you really need to do is play your mana walls, wait for a response, and get them to waste their removal on your walls, if they don’t then just punish them with mulldrifters and trains. If they kill the walls, punish them with the combo. And Gigadrowse just wrecks their tempo.

Two important notes: don’t play your longbows until you have gigadrowse or hydroblast protection as they are good at destroying them, and don’t lead with a basic forest. Spreading seas can ruin your day.

Sideboard Cards: train, hydroblast (BK), Gigadrowse (AK)
-2 Recluse, -1 Drift, -1 Trinket Mage
+1 Train, +1 Gigadrowse +1 Tranquility
-3 Drift
+1 Train, +2 Hydroblast

B/(x) control:

Prospect: Amazing (70-30) (worse if you are not skilled)

This is mainly for MBC (without corrupt), and Trinket. See the kitty analysis to see why this matchup really good for us. Remember, that you will take the path that the control player gives you and life is good. The thing is, just make them run out of removal.

-2 Recluse, -1 Drift
+1 Train, +2 Muddle

Spiteful Leeches: A Combo List for Pauper Gauntlet S3

blessing of leeches.crop

I originally put this list together in response to a challenge issued by Deluxeicoff. It has fared surprisingly well in testing, so I thought I would submit it to season 3 of the Pauper Gauntlet, alongside Illusory Tricks. It could probably use some fine-tuning, but here is the list as it stands now.

[d title=”Spiteful Leeches by Bava (Pauper)”]

4 Crypt Rats
4 Cuombajj Witches
4 Heliod’s Pilgrim
4 Icatian Javelineers


4 Blessing of Leeches
2 Eternal Thirst
4 Guilty Conscience
2 Midnight Charm
4 Pharika’s Cure
4 Shred Memory
2 Spiteful Shadows


4 Evolving Wilds
4 Orzhov Guildgate
2 Plains
4 Scoured Barrens
8 Swamp


1 Castigate
1 Circle of Protection: Black
1 Circle of Protection: Blue
1 Circle of Protection: Green
1 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Circle of Protection: White
1 Contaminated Ground
1 Echoing Decay
1 Exhume
4 Funeral Pyre
1 Leave No Trace
1 Rest for the Weary [/d]

This list is everything I like. It is both a janky combo deck and a toolbox deck, utilizing Heliod’s Pilgrim to fetch up the requisite auras and the transmute cards to fetch the requisite 2-drops. Note that while Pilgrim cannot fetch a CoP the transmute cards can, which is why there is one of each in the SB. The only non-one-off, non-two-drop in the board is Funeral Pyre, and that mainly just because if our opponent isn’t playing creatures then we can’t combo off. You can use Guilty Conscience as a piece of removal if you are desperate.

Deck strengths: Works very well as a control list. With all of the witches and rats in the main, aggro decks have a really hard time getting around us.

Deck weaknesses: Many opponents can protect their creatures or are willing to destroy them to stop us comboing off. Counter magic is a real pain, and control decks in general are very challenging for us to beat. Even so, if we land the right CoP we can often endure against many of these lists, though they often run Capsize or another bounce effect to ruin our plans.

Win Cons: Realistically there are three ways to win. We can occassionally control the board well enough to start beating down and win in a conventional manner. We can put Blessing of Leeches and Eternal Thirst on a Crypt Rats and go nuts. Or we can put Blessing of Leeches and Guilty Conscience and Spiteful Shadows on one of our opponent’s creatures, then do damage to it somehow to initiate the combo which is infinite death. For the last one, just don’t forget to stack your Blessing of Leeches regeneration shields beforehand (easier for you to stack them all at once). Your opponent will have to click on their creature and pick which regeneration shield they want to use, which is useful to know and point out since there is literally no indication of this on screen at the time.

Strategy Notes: Blessing of Leeches has flash! Cast it in response to burn spells to save your own guy (esp. Crypt Rats). If you Eternal Thirst the Rats then they will often try and burn in response, letting to respond with leeches and cackle. This also means that you *can* combo off with just 3 mana if you have a pinger on the board. Leech their creature during their end step, then add Shadows and Conscience during your turn, then ping. GG. When you can, stack your Crypt Rat triggers 1 damage at a time (holding priority) to avoid blowouts from Prot / Regen etc.

Sideboard Plan

Delver: +1 Echoing Decay, +1 Castigate, +1 CoP Blue | -2 Blessing of Leeches, -1 Shred Memory

Esper Familiar: Shred Memory can wreck the GY here. Feel free to cast it when necessary. If Grixis then consider bringing in CoP Red. +1 Castigate, +1 Echoing Decay | -2 Eternal Thirst

MBC: CoP Black is key but Gary is tiresome. +1 CoP Black, +1 Castigate, +1 Echoing Decay | -2 Eternal Thirst, -1 Icatian Javilineers

Delverfiend: Stick a CoP Red and win (generally). +1 CoP Red, +1 CoP Blue, +1 Castigate | -2 Midnight Charm, -1 Blessing of Leeches

Boros/Jeskai-Kitty: They will bolt their own stuff. Jerks. Try and combo off when they are tapped out. We have plenty of time to build the combo in the early game, usually. If we stick the Blessing on their guy then bolts won’t matter but still have to watch out for Journey. Crypt Rat wincon is real, though Journey also ruins that. +1 CoP Red, +1 CoP White, +1 Castigate | -2 Midnight Charm, -1 Guilty Conscience

Stompy: CoP Green wins? Don’t die before you can get there. Crypt Rat win also very solid. +1 CoP Green, +1 Echoing Decay, +1 Rest for the Weary | -2 Midnight Charm, -1 Blessing of Leeches

Elves: Kill all their stuff, like, for real. Their lifegain doesn’t matter if we hit our combo, since it is infinite. +1 CoP Green, +1 Echoing Decay | -2 Midnight Charm

Goblins: Again, kill all their stuff! A leechy rat with lifegain is GG, watch out for burn. +1 CoP Red, +1 Echoing Decay, +1 Rest for the Weary | -2 Midnight Charm, -1 Guilty Conscience

RUG Tron: If they don’t have Capsize then you might be in okay shape. +1 CoP Green, +1 CoP Red, +1 Contaminated Ground | -2 Midnight Charm, -1 Blessing of Leeches

Burn: Get your protection down before they kill you. Forget the combo, generally. Use removal on your own guys to gain life if you need to. +1 CoP Red, +1 Rest for the Weary, +1 Castigate, +1 Leave No Trace (for Curses), +1 Exhume, +1 Contaminated Ground| -2 Spiteful Shadows, -4 Guilty Conscience

White Weenie: This should be a good match-up both for keeping their board clear and hitting our combo. Watch out for Journey and attacking into Celestial Flare if you have some awesome rats. +1 CoP White, +1 Echoing Decay | -1 Blessing of Leeches, -1 Guilty Conscience

Affinity: They can fling a guy in response to the combo. Super-annoying. Getting Super-Rats is the best win-con. +1 Castigate, +1 CoP Red | -2 Midnight Charm

UB Angler: Surprise them with the combo g1; go control g2-3. Rats good but die to Disfigure and Agony Warp, even with Leeches. They have no way to win if you land both CoPs. +1 Castigate, +1 CoP Blue, +1 CoP Black, +1 Echoing Decay | -2 Midnight Charm, -1 Blessing of Leeches, -1 Guilty Conscience

Bonus Videos!

I almost forget I had some videos playing versions of this list. Enjoy!

Two Matches

Vs Goblins

The Pauper Brewer’s Cup, Week Eight: A Tinker’s Toolbox


It’s the final week of brewing. Submit your lists this week and let’s go out with a bang! Next week will wrap up the brewing portion, declaring the final winners and outlining the gauntlet portion of the event. Our good friends at Cardhoarder are sponsoring the event with 50 store credits, so there will definitely be some prizes on the line.

By now you know the score. If you’re new here, don’t worry, I’ll go over it each week. This week’s article has two sections. First you get to vote on your favorite list from our top contenders last week. Second, you get to submit new lists around a new theme, which will be voted on next week. Here is a reminder of how this whole thing works.

The Pauper Brewer’s Cup

Here are some rules and stuff.

  1. Every week, I will offer some kind of constraint or challenge to our readers.
  2. Submit a fun, innovative, or powerful brew built around those constraints.
  3. Your submission must be legal for Pauper in Magic Online. Guidelines are here.
  4. I will select three lists out of your submissions, and you will get to vote for that week’s winner.
  5. After 8 weeks we will have 8 innovative brews, and they will enter the gauntlet portion of the Brewer’s Cup.
  6. Whoever owns (submitted) the deck that wins this gauntlet will be endowed with fabulous riches (to be determined) and great esteem.

If any of that doesn’t make sense, ask for clarifications in the comments. The idea is that we should have fun sharing ideas and brewing, maybe discover some new, powerful decks, and in general support and promote the format we love the most, Pauper.

If at any point you have a suggestion for a theme or challenge, send those along too. I will do my best, but I am relying upon the ingenuity of you guys to make this thing really successful. I know you won’t let me down!

So, rules and stuff aside, let’s get down to business.

Week Six Winner

Light votes this week, but we had a close race.

Artificial Sweetener by Icepick23 takes the win and will move into the gauntlet portion of the challenge. Shnuffles came in a close second (Rebel Tron) with Marvin just behind (GR Tron).

Voting for Week Seven

Things are getting quiet around here. Are you guys burnt out? Are the challenges no good? I am afraid that my own innovation in defining the challenges has been lacking, but hopefully we can jump back in and get a lot of submissions this week. In the meantime, here are my top three “combo lists” for your voting pleasure.

[d title=”Elusive Helix Combo by han.s0lo”]

1 Battered Golem
4 Mirran Spy
4 Zephyr Scribe
4 Retraction Helix
4 Banishing Knack
Zero-Cost Artifacts
4 Lotus Petal
4 Spidersilk Net
4 Elusive Spellfist
1 Golem Foundry
1 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Ponder
3 Preordain
2 Trinket Mage
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Lonely Sandbar
4 Seat of the Synod
8 Island
4 Dispel
4 Hydroblast
3 Vapor Snag
4 Apostle’s Blessing [/d]

We got [c]Banishing Knack[/c] in Eventide, and this combo has existed since. It got a little attention when Knack was functionally reprinted as [c]Retraction Helix[/c] (I tried some lists out myself, notably with Elves), but it didn’t stick around. Han made it into the spotlight here, mainly, for his excellent use of new cards which are worth exploring in this combo, namely [c]Zephyr Scribe[/c] and [c]Elusive Spellfist[/c].

As we all know, the key to combo in Pauper is redundancy (or consistency, really, which redundancy provides) – we have redundancy here for sure. I see 9 untapper creatures, 8 “knacks”, and 6 wincons, along with some extra reach with Trinket Mage and cantrips. If anything I would be worried about missing a wincon, but then, you only need one of those.

[d title=”That Sinking Feeling by marvin02″]

4 Morselhoarder
4 Sinking Feeling
4 Hermetic Study
Ramp and Fixing
4 Wild Cantor
4 Tinder Wall
4 Manamorphose
4 Search for Tomorrow
Other Spells
4 Commune with the Gods
3 Vines of Vastwood
1 Karametra’s Favor
2 Serrated Arrows
21 Forest
1 Island
2 Apostle’s Blessing
2 Circle of Protection: Green
2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Moment’s Peace
1 Pyroblast
3 Scattershot Archer
1 Vines of Vastwood
3 Wickerbough Elder [/d]

We don’t get to see [c]Morselhoarder[/c] very often, probably because he costs a whopping 6 mana. That said, this list seems fun and I love the idea of screwing over Affinity and Hexproof with infinite [c]Wickerbough Elder[/c] activations.

[d title=”UW Manifest by honkbonkington”]

2 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Tranquil Cove
7 Island
3 Plains
4 Ulamog’s Crusher
2 Hand of Emrakul
4 Cloudshift
4 Momentary Blink
4 Brainstorm
4 Spell Pierce
3 Daze
2 Disrupt
4 Soul Summons
4 Write into Being
4 Ponder
3 Preordain
4 Lone Missionary
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Holy Light
3 Mana Leak
2 Ivory Giant [/d]

I have enjoyed cheating in big dudes via flicker effects in the past, and this list is all in on that plan. Manifest is a new and interesting way to do this; I don’t know if it is better or worse than the morph / evoke tricks used in the past, but certainly worth exploring.

Vote Here!

Alright, which of these three lists do you like the most? Submit your votes by the end of the week. One vote per reader, please.

Week Eight: A Tinker’s Toolbox

Toolbox lists are always a treat, allowing you to find the right tool at the right time to get the job done. While [c]Trinket Mage[/c] and [c]Heliod’s Pilgrim[/c] are kind of the go-to toolbox enablers in Pauper, we have other options in terms of Transmute and even, to some extent, Tortured Existence (the latter being sort of a GY toolbox strategy.) I’m sure there are even other toolbox tools I’m not aware of; so you can use whatever toolbox enabler you like, but there should be at least four of them, and a sufficient number of “tools” to make the whole thing feel worthwhile.

  1. Brew up a fun, interesting, powerful, janky, or otherwise underexplored “toolbox” list for Pauper.

Submissions will be judged on power, innovation, and how well you work within the constraints.

This is a brewing contest, so creativity is paramount.

Submit your brews and ideas

That’s it! Submit your lists in the comments below. Yes, that means other people can see your stuff and copy it or adapt it, but I do really want this to be an opportunity for us to discuss and brew together for Pauper.

Lists need to be submitted before next Tuesday, August 4, to be considered.

I will pick three submissions to highlight in next week’s article, and you guys will get to vote to decide the winner.

Our Forum Guidelines and Style Guide are available here, so you can make your decklist look like a list. Please use it.

Other thoughts, comments, or concerns? Suggestions for a weekly challenge? Leave those in the comments too!

Last but not least, if you like this challenge or any of our other content, please consider supporting us via our Patreon.

Happy brewing!



The Pauper Brewer’s Cup, Week Seven: Apprehension Engine


Wow, it’s the penultimate episode of the Pauper Brewer’s Cup, and either we’re losing steam or you you guys didn’t find much inspiration in the Tron / Ramp challenge. If it is the latter, my apologies. You have one more chance to send me suggestions for next week. After that we will jump into the “gauntlet” portion of this challenge, where your lists will fight for honor and glory.

By now you know the score. If you’re new here, don’t worry, I’ll go over it each week. This week’s article has two sections. First you get to vote on your favorite list from our top contenders last week. Second, you get to submit new lists around a new theme, which will be voted on next week. Here is a reminder of how this whole thing works.

The Pauper Brewer’s Cup

Here are some rules and stuff.

  1. Every week, I will offer some kind of constraint or challenge to our readers.
  2. Submit a fun, innovative, or powerful brew built around those constraints.
  3. Your submission must be legal for Pauper in Magic Online. Guidelines are here.
  4. I will select three lists out of your submissions, and you will get to vote for that week’s winner.
  5. After 8 weeks we will have 8 innovative brews, and they will enter the gauntlet portion of the Brewer’s Cup.
  6. Whoever owns (submitted) the deck that wins this gauntlet will be endowed with fabulous riches (to be determined) and great esteem.

If any of that doesn’t make sense, ask for clarifications in the comments. The idea is that we should have fun sharing ideas and brewing, maybe discover some new, powerful decks, and in general support and promote the format we love the most, Pauper.

If at any point you have a suggestion for a theme or challenge, send those along too. I will do my best, but I am relying upon the ingenuity of you guys to make this thing really successful. I know you won’t let me down!

So, rules and stuff aside, let’s get down to business.

Week Five Winner

Light votes this week, but we had a close race.

ModernFever secures the win with his “All Deaths Welcome” list, edging out obZen’s Grixis Go list by a single vote. Midnight_Memory brought up the rear but was just five votes back from second. Congratulations to Modern_Fever! All Deaths Welcome is not the fifth list to make it into the gauntlet portion of the Brewer’s Cup.

Voting for Week Six

We were light on submissions this week, but not on quality. The challenge was to brew a Tron or Ramp list, and you guys delivered. Here are my three favorites.

[d title=”Urza’s Rebellious Teenage Phase by Shnuffles”]

4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
1 Bojuka Bog
10 Plains
3 Expedition Map
Rebel Tutors
4 Ramosian Sergeant
4 Ramosian Lieutenant
4 Defiant Falcon
4 Amrou Scout
1 Blightspeaker
Utility Rebels
3 Zealot il-Vec
3 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Thermal Glider
1 Nightwind Glider
1 Amrou Seekers
1 Children of Korlis
3 Journey to Nowhere
4 Bound in Silence
2 Samite Censer-Bearer
1 Errant Doomsayers
1 Aven Riftwatcher
2 Lightbringer
1 Nightwind Glider
2 Thermal Glider
1 Zealot il-Vec
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Gravepurge [/d]

I like the title, and rebels + tron lands makes good sense. Aside from using Tron, it isn’t the most innovative Rebels list in the world, but still looks like it would be good fun to play and could be a competitor. Never underestimate the power of the rebellion!

[d title=”Artificial Sweetener by Icepick23″]

4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Plains
4 Ancient Den
Recur Engine
4 Remember the Fallen
3 Salvage Scout
3 Sanctum Gargoyle
Recur Targets
3 Arcbound Bruiser
4 Arcbound Worker
2 Arcbound Stinger
2 Guardian Automaton
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Origin Spellbomb
Utility Cards
4 Auriok Sunchaser
3 Thermal Navigator
4 Whispersilk Cloak
1 Circle of Protection: Green
2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Circle of Protection: Blue
2 Vulshok Morningstar
2 Disenchant
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Dust to Dust
1 Mana Tithe
1 Sunbeam Spellbomb [/d]

Using the modular guys with recursion is interesting, and you have a sac outlet in [c]Thermal Navigator[/c] to push modular bonuses as needed. 4x [c]Whispersilk Cloak[/c] feels like too many, but otherwise the list seems solid enough. Icepick submitted a second list, but he dropped the land count to 17 and added in some Expedition Maps. I like maps, but generally you don’t want to replace land with them, especially not down to 17. It’s weird how greedy people get with mana in Pauper. Even with the Tron lands, I’d probably run 22 or so, adding in some dual-purpose lands like [c]Haunted Fengraf[/c] or [c]Quicksand[/c].

[d title=”GR Tron Control by Marvin02″]

4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
8 Forest
1 Rugged Highlands
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Tinder Wall
4 Satyr Wayfinder
2 Ulamog’s Crusher
2 Lotus Petal
4 Crop Rotation
4 Faithless Looting
4 Firebolt
1 Flame Jab
2 Prophetic Prism
4 Mulch
1 Morgue Theft
4 Earth Rift
2 Swirling Sandstorm
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Canopy Claws
1 Electrickery
2 Fangren Marauder
2 Moment’s Peace
3 Pyroblast
2 Serene Heart
2 Swirling Sandstorm [/d]

This is both a Tron deck AND a ramp deck, so it fits the brief twice over. I love [c]Swirling Sandstorm[/c] and it makes me happy to see it in use here. I’m not sure about the “retrace vs card draw” idea, since there isn’t a lot of retrace in here, but I approve of the list nonetheless.

Vote Here!

Alright, which of these three lists do you like the most? Submit your votes by the end of the week. One vote per reader, please.

Week Seven: Apprehension Engine

I’m reading Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway right now, and in the story there is a device called the Apprehension Engine. What it actually does is somewhat mysterious at this point, but the gist seems to be that it removes all mystery, granting perfect knowledge and banishing the unknown. Or something like that. There are tiny, golden mechanical bees. They go off and unlock more bees. And more bees. And more bees. Essentially it is a chain reaction that may (or may not) lead to an armageddon of some kind. All of which is a roundabout way of getting to my point, which is that your deck should cause a chain reaction of some kind that should lead to armageddon for your opponent.

tl;dr build me an awesome Pauper combo deck.

There are lot of unexplored combos in Pauper. If you have seen my [c]Blessing of Leeches[/c] videos on the channel, you know that some are jankier than others. Even so, there is a TON of unexplored space, here; okay, so maybe not in terms of tier 1 potential, but plenty of solid t2 stuff that might be ready for its moment to shine. Your combo list doesn’t need to be “infinite” but it should do something powerful when it goes off. For instance, one-land spy is not an infinite combo, but generally does enough to kill your opponent. Same with [c]Songs of the Damned[/c]. Infinite combos are in no way discouraged, of course, just so long as they do something worthwhile. Infinitely playing and bouncing creatures, to no other effect, isn’t very impressive.

  1. Brew up a fun, interesting, powerful, janky, or otherwise underexplored Combo list for Classic Pauper.

I am willing to consider that [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] “combos” with cantrips, and that infect combos with pump spells, but it better be more “interesting” than that or it won’t pass muster.

Submissions will be judged on power, innovation, and how well you work within the constraints.

This is a brewing contest, so creativity is paramount.

Submit your brews and ideas

That’s it! Submit your lists in the comments below. Yes, that means other people can see your stuff and copy it or adapt it, but I do really want this to be an opportunity for us to discuss and brew together for Pauper.

Lists need to be submitted before next Tuesday, August 4, to be considered.

I will pick three submissions to highlight in next week’s article, and you guys will get to vote to decide the winner.

Our Forum Guidelines and Style Guide are available here, so you can make your decklist look like a list. Please use it.

Other thoughts, comments, or concerns? Suggestions for a weekly challenge? Leave those in the comments too!

Last but not least, if you like this challenge or any of our other content, please consider supporting us via our Patreon.

Happy brewing!



Probability and Eggs

Hello all,

While playing Eggs, you can get yourself into a few sticky situations. In this article I will attempt to explain just how sticky those situations can be. Should you go for it, or will you likely end up with egg on your face?

Probability and Hypergeometry

First, let me direct you to this site: Hypergeometric Calculator. Getting accustomed to the use of this site while playing MTGO or getting a few ranges of probability for paper Magic will improve your game immensely.

Here are a few facts about the Modern format and probability:
1) While playing combo, you want to assemble two or more cards to win.
2) By deciding to keep an opening hand, you have one or more of those cards.
3) Most Modern cantrips function as an extra draw step for the immediate turn: [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c], [c]Serum Visions[/c], etc. [c]Sleight of Hand[/c] is an exception.
4) Some Modern decks, like Eggs and Storm, instead have engines that let you draw many cards.

So how do we use the Hypergeometric Calculator to play Magic? Well, let’s say we are playing [c]Ad Nauseam[/c] combo, and we have [c]Angel’s Grace[/c] and six mana but not the namesake piece. If our opponent has a three-turn clock on us, then we have three draw steps.
In the “Population size” space of the Calculator, we enter the size of our library. I’ll say 50.
Any one of our four [c]Ad Nauseam[/c]s is a success, so we enter 4 in the “Number of Successes in population” space.
We have three draw steps remaining, so we enter 3 in “Sample Size.”
Only one [c]Ad Nauseam[/c] will do the trick, so we enter 1 in “Number of Successes” and press “Calculate.”

The website spits out five new numbers, and the last of these is the likelihood that in three cards, we will draw one or more [c]Ad Nauseam[/c]. With no other factors, we have a 22% chance to win this game. Looking at it in long-range match terms (which you should when picking a deck), we will win one out of every five games that this situation comes up.

But that isn’t the fun part. Here, we are saying that we find the card or die. What if our clock is unknown? What if the [c]Splinter Twin[/c] player has three untapped lands at the beginning of our turn? Or what if Affinity has 7 artifacts, [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c], and [c]Cranial Plating[/c], and one more artifact will kill us? Here we can decide what the cost is to try and go for it, and what percentage of the time we should win in these scenarios. Additionally, these scenarios come up very frequently.

Scenario #1: We need Ironworks
Often on turns three and four we will have three eggs and four mana available: [c]Chromatic Star[/c], [c]Chromatic Sphere[/c], and [c]Terrarion[/c]. Since each of these eggs replace their activation costs with added mana, we can sacrifice them all and have three chances to draw [c]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/c]. Again, we use our population size of 50 here, and all of our numbers in the previous example are the same: 4 successes, 3 chances, 1 success matters. Only one in five games will we find [c]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/c] with this method. A [c]Faith’s Reward[/c] can help us recoup our losses, but we can’t keep the cycle going without more mana. Here, without knowing that we are going to die next turn, it is only good to wait or have the value [c]Faith’s Reward[/c] turn. Continuing to cantrip is only good if we have [c]Open the Vaults[/c] and are on that plan.

Scenario #2: We need Faith’s Reward or Open the Vaults
In this scenario, it is turn four, and we have tapped out to play and resolve [c]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/c]. We have played a [c]Terrarion[/c], [c]Chromatic Star[/c], [c]Chromatic Sphere[/c], and [c]Ichor Wellspring[/c]. No amount of mana will be a problem, but we do not have either of our 7 combo pieces.
Population – 50
Number of Successes – 7
Sample Size – 4
Number of Successes in Sample – 1
We find here that we have a 47% percent chance to find [c]Faith’s Reward[/c] or [c]Open the Vaults[/c] from these four cards alone, and we will win half these games based on this probability.

What’s beautiful about playing Eggs, though, is that we can adjust our number of “successes” also to the cards that simply let us keep going. A land is a dud, but each egg piece allows us to lower our population and a new chance to “hit calculate,” as it were. Even [c]Reshape[/c] can find [c]Ichor Wellspring[/c] and likely be easily cast. In this scenario, while needing [c]Faith’s Reward[/c] or [c]Open the Vaults[/c], we give “success” the definition of the ability to keep playing, likely finding a win, instead of one of the seven cards outright. Usually this works. Let me acknowledge my failures in Math here and tell you that this is the section of the article that gets a little squirrelly.

Population – 50
Number of Successes – 21 (our eggs in deck – the ones I have mentioned on the table)
Sample size – 4
Number of successes in sample – 1

Here, our deck will only fail us and provide land, [c]Lotus Bloom[/c], [c]Mox Opal[/c], land one in ten games. We have a 90% chance to “win” with [c]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/c] and a handful of baubles provided that our opponent has no interaction. And let’s admit it; interaction will be tough against Eggs.

Application in Paper

Knowing that the probability of drawing 1 card in 50 with 3 chances comes up so much that I have used it twice in this article: roughly 20% chance of working. How do the numbers adjust, roughly, per Eggs in play and cards in deck?

Well, if it is cards in our deck, the probability is affected very minutely. With 51 cards in the deck, our 22.55% probability (from 50 cards in the deck) becomes 22.13%. With 49 cards in the deck, the probability is 22.98%. So you get half a percentage point per card in the deck.

If it is Egg cantrips, the probability is a little greater affected. If we have four draws on the board and 50 cards in the library (instead of the previously used 3 draws), or 22% moves to 29%. With two draws instead of three, our likelihood drops to 15%. Every egg cantrip is worth 7% at finding what we need! This shows how important it is to continue to develop your board and not sacrifice eggs randomly until you are ready to go off.

Probability is a fascinating thing to explore while playing Magic: The Gathering, and it obviously has many applications outside of playing Eggs. If you want to improve your game, consider where these calculations can be used with your deck. Should you [c]Thoughtseize[/c] this combo piece or that one based on the clock you have? If you have looked at your opponent’s hand earlier in the game, what are the chances he has drawn a piece of interaction? Should you go for it? It’s a beautiful study, and you will win more by exploring it.


Legacy on Mondays: Mono-Budget Reanimator


Welcome Back!

I know, it’s been quite a long while since I have shown myself on this here website. Life has been harsh to me over the past few months. I got slammed with work, and I am not going to lie – my mental and physical health have not been good either. These things get in the way of me doing what I love sometimes, which is writing articles and making videos about the best CCG in the world. Fortunately, things have calmed down, and I can get back to writing!

So, when deciding what to write for the return, I thought I would bring out a classic Legacy deck that you can pick up and play without breaking the bank. Have you ever wanted to play Reanimator, but couldn’t afford the fetches, duals, and [c]Force of Will[/c]s? Well, then this is the deck for you! In mono-black, this deck gets the bonus of being blisteringly fast with [c]Dark Ritual[/c], while still being protected by discard. Check it out:

[d title=”Mono-Black Reanimator (Legacy)”]
4 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
4 Putrid Imp
1 Ashen Rider
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lotus Petal
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Entomb
4 Animate Dead
4 Exhume
4 Reanimate
12 Swamp
4 Bloodstained Mire [/d]


You’re probably reading this because the title says mono-Budget Reanimator. Legacy is an amazing format, but it can be expensive to play if you are just starting out. Reanimator is a strategy that people have tried to break in formats like Modern, but the tools are just not as available in the non-eternal formats. Fortunately, the means to play this powerful archetype are readily available in Legacy, and you can use them without spending too much cash on the format!

This deck runs sub – $300 with the fetchlands. Those are removable easily – I just find that they add a little bit of consistency to the draws of this deck by thinning out Swamps. Perhaps you already have Mires for Burn, in which case there is no reason NOT to run them, but they can also be abandoned to get the cost below $250. Note that this is in paper… Online, with fetches, this deck runs the astonishing price of only $100!

Price of Mono b reanimator

And that’s if you buy from *cough* MTGOTraders. You can probably do a little bit better trading for the cards or getting them from real humans.

The Deck Itself

Optimally, you are looking to reanimate some fat as soon as possible. Preferably the fat is actually rather skinny and spiky, in the form of [c]Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur[/c]. The faster we can get Jinny-G online, the faster we can win. The reason for playing four copies is simple. He enables us to continue to reanimate other creatures every turn. Drawing seven cards at the end of our turn allows us to pick up and then discard more big creatures, while keeping reanimation spells in hand to bring them back from the dead on our next turn. I like Jinny G more than [c]Griselbrand[/c] in this version because he also reduces the opponent’s hand size by seven, meaning that they cannot hold any reactive spells against us and cannot counter anything we play after Gitaxias comes down. This is preferable since we do not have countermagic to fight against opposing counterspells that might stymie the reanimation of other meanies.

The order in which you optimally want to reanimate creatures is as follows: Jin-Gitaxias > [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] or [c] Iona, Shield of Emeria[/c] (depending on whether or not you can / want to fully lock your opponent out of the game or need to mop up some creatures first) > [c]Ashen Rider[/c] (more permanent mop-up) > [c]Sphinx of the Steel Wind[/c] (Close out the game). Generally by the time you hit your second reanimation, the game is yours. If you fear [c]Swords to Plowshares[/c], Iona on White prevents your opponent from top-decking Swords to kill Iona or Jinny G. If countermagic is an issue, name Blue. If an army of dorks is staring you down with a [c]Batterskull[/c] about to smash your face, play Elesh Norn. If your opponent is totally screwed on board, just throw down a Sphinx and beat face.

This is enabled by [c]Entomb[/c], which is the best tool to selectively find any of your bullet reanimation targets. The other easy way to get them into the graveyard is with [c]Putrid Imp[/c]. I like the Imp because we are playing eight cards in the maindeck that can be reanimated, so there is a decent chance one or two will end up in your hand eventually. The Imp also eats Liliana edicts like a boss when we have only reanimated one creature. [c]Cabal Therapy[/c] also has great synergy with the Imp. Therapy can be used on your own hand to bin fatties, or on the opponent to check is the coast is clear and / or remove their interactive spells. [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] also works quite well with Therapy; it enables us to name precisely what we want the opponent to discard, or allows us to ignore the opponent’s hand and use Therapy to bin our creatures should we have no other outlet to do so.

Playing with Probe and a few fetchlands also enables to play a “virtual” 52-card deck. This helps up consistency without access to [c]Brainstorm[/c] and [c]Careful Study[/c]. This deck also has more consistent turn 1 reanimations. [c]Lotus Petal[/c] in conjunction with [c]Dark Ritual[/c] lets us have two or three mana on turn one pretty consistently, which is often all we need to [c]Entomb[/c] / discard a creature and [c]Reanimate[/c] or [c]Exhume[/c] it. The other nice thing about this deck is that it is incredibly redundant. With 12 reanimation effects, one or two counterspells will not fully shut us down if we cannot Therapy the opponent. Just play another [c]Animate Dead[/c] on the next turn!


The other nice thing about playing Mono-black is that you can build an effective sideboard without having to drop a ton of money. Your options range from cards like [c]Mindbreak Trap[/c] to stop Storm to general utility in [c]Ratchet Bomb[/c] and [c]Pithing Needle[/c] to more discard in [c]Duress[/c] and [c]Thoughtseize[/c]. The sideboard can be tweaked to suit your metagame easily. Even with Miracles up the Yang in the current meta, most decks are running one [c]Rest in Peace[/c] as the only graveyard hate. You can beat this mere annoyance easily with A) Speed or B) Any number of answers from discard or those Ratchet Bombs.

That’s all for this week. I hope you enjoy smashing your opponent’s expensive Miracles faces with a 100 ticket Legacy deck that is a blast to play on the cheap.

Thanks for reading, and see you in future articles!

The Many Flavors of Goblins in Modern

krenkos command art

Hi all,

Everyone goes gaga over tribes, and Goblins are no exception. They’re cheap to buy and cheap to cast, and droves of them often swing for lethal by the critical turn four. Still, they aren’t producing results. Perhaps it is because we are giving them the wrong role. Consider where they are most powerful in Legacy: a slew of them mix with [c]Rishadan Port[/c] and [c]Wasteland[/c] for a control deck. Again, in Vintage, where many decks win with a few cards, the go-to game plan is [c]Goblin Lackey[/c] on turn one into [c]Goblin Warchief[/c] and [c]Earwig Squad[/c] on turn two. This is a very controlling strategy.

In Modern, we have been focused on one thing: attacking quickly, and reaching with [c]Goblin Guide[/c]. The most recent exciting thing for many Goblins enthusiasts has been [c]Howl of the Horde[/c]. A turn four triple [c]Goblin Grenade[/c] still doesn’t launch our green friends to success, though.

Instead of the aggressive strategy, then, let’s try and take Goblins through the other two modes of play: Control and Combo.

Control Goblins

What exactly are we trying to control with a red-based deck, and how do Goblins contribute to it?

Looking at Modern as a whole, we want to have favorable percentages, or at least plans, against Twin, Abzan, Affinity, Infect, Burn, and Amulet Bloom.

vs. Twin – First of all, we can assert the aggressor role and race. Traditional Goblins decks have been blown out by [c]Electrolyze[/c] in the match-up, but we can do better than a horde of x/1 creatures. Sideboard [c]Combust[/c] and [c]Rending Volley[/c] keep them off their combo plan, and other pieces of burn removal ensure that we can get there.

vs. Abzan – This is a nightmare matchup for Goblins. If they develop their mana, we will throw fodder into massive rhinos and lhurgoyfs until finally succumbing to the stampede. Goblins do not have to allow them to develop their mana, though. We have two of the most powerful effects against Abzan available: [c]Magus of the Moon[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c]. We can bolt their birds or target them with [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c].

vs. Affinity – It is strictly a race, but we can play cards that give us the edge in the race: [c]Tin Street Hooligan[/c] seems limited in scope, but a beater for two that grows is efficient enough. [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] keeps [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c] shenanigans at bay, and our sideboard has the most powerful effects available to beat Affinity.

vs. Infect – Infect folds to sufficient removal. [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] and [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], coupled with a nice clock should eliminate their [c]Blighted Agent[/c] and [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c] so that we can keep blocking and establishing a clock.

vs. Burn – Like Affinity, we are out to race Burn, but [c]Aether Vial[/c] keeps us from just losing whenever they have an [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] and are ahead, and [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] post side will give us a lot of life since we are casting red spells as well.

vs. Amulet Bloom – We have the only relevant cards against the [c]Primeval Titan[/c] plan and the [c]Hive Mind[/c] plan: [c]Magus of the Moon[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c].

So why choose Goblins for a control deck, anyway? Well, [c]Goblin Rabblemaster[/c] has shown himself to be a capable card even in Jund Midrange, so if those same wheels get turning in Goblins, the train will be hard to stop.

Now that we know what we need to have a plan against archetypes, let’s see if we can build a deck with consistency and pressure.

[d title=”Control Goblins (Modern)”]
4 Copperline Gorge
8 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

4 Ember Hauler
1 Goblin King
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Magus of the Moon
1 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Tin Street Hooligan
4 Warren Instigator

Other Spells
4 Aether Vial
3 Blood Moon
4 Lightning Bolt

1 Blood Moon
4 Dragon’s Claw
4 Rending Volley
4 Searing Blaze
1 Shattering Spree
1 Tin Street Hooligan [/d]

If we’re being honest, this is really a deck that is looking for free wins with turn 2, [c]Simian Spirit Guide[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c] or [c]Magus of the Moon[/c]. Of course, while this works against a massive portion of the format, we have to place it in a shell that can still win otherwise.

Looking back at the list, I like our chances here against the format. The only deck that gives me a lot of pause is Zoo, and that is why the 4 [c]Searing Blaze[/c] are in the sideboard.

Combo Goblins

Modern does not have anything remotely close to [c]Food Chain[/c] in terms of power level, but when we fail to port a list from Legacy or Vintage into Modern, we know our next step: old Extended.

There is a long-forgotten piece of equipment that combined nicely with Goblins and Shamans there: [c]Thornbite Staff[/c]. Together with [c]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/c], a number of infinite combinations are present. The easiest two are [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] and [c]Lightning Crafter[/c], winning on the spot. [c]Ember Hauler[/c] may or may not win immediately, but he will certainly get you close. Aside from those, we can likely easily clear the board with [c]Siege-Gang Commander[/c] or [c]Lightning Crafter[/c].

[d title=”Combo Goblins (Modern)”]
20 Mountain

4 Ember Hauler
4 Goblin Chieftain
4 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
4 Lightning Crafter
4 Mogg Fanatic
2 Mogg War Marshall
1 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Warren Instigator

Other Spells
4 Aether Vial
4 Thornbite Staff

4 Blood Moon
4 Dragon’s Claw
4 Rending Volley
3 Shattering Spree[/d]

Finally, since so many want to do stuff like this …

[d title=”Aggro Goblins (Modern)”]
20 Mountain

4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Goblin Buswhacker
4 Goblin Chieftain
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Mogg War Marshall

Other Spells
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Krenko’s Command
4 Obelisk of Urd
4 Shared Animosity[/d]

If it isn’t [c]Foundry Street Denizen[/c] into [c]Krenko’s Command[/c] (attack for 3) into [c]Hordeling Outburst[/c] AND [c]Obelisk of Urd[/c], then my friend, it isn’t curving out.

So will any green men rise to the top besides Elves, aided now by [c]Collected Company[/c]? I think if we shift gears away from Aggro, Goblins can do it!


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!


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.


Over and Over and Over and Over: Modern Ad Nauseam


Modern is in a weird place, and yet I’ve come to enjoy its wild rides and quick combo decks that have come and gone. When it comes to Magic, I’m usually playing a weird lock deck such as Goblin Stompy for Legacy, and in Modern I use to play a ton of Storm. However, when my meta started to have a ton of control decks, my storm deck sort of fell to pieces. I took a break and when I came back, I found something that touched my heart over and over again.

Over and over again.

And over and over again.

And over and over again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you [c]Ad Nauseam[/c].

[d title=”Ad Nauseam (Modern)”]
2 Watery Grave
2 Flooded Strand
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Polluted Delta
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Marsh Flats
1 Seachrome Coast
2 Darkslick Shores
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Tolaria West
1 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Island
1 Swamp
1 Plains

4 Simian Spirit Guide

4 Serum Visions
2 Sleight of Hand
2 Peer Through Depths
1 Mystical Teachings
1 Dig Through Time
1 Slaughter Pact
3 Phyrexian Unlife
3 Pact of Negation
3 Pentad Prism
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Angel’s Grace
4 Ad Nauseam
1 Lightning Storm

4 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Torpor Orb
1 Echoing Truth
1 Damnation
2 Drown in Sorrow
1 Pact of Negation
1 Commandeer
1 Silence
1 Thoughtseize
1 Conflagrate [/d]

This deck (my personal list) has been forgotten once more in the world of Modern Magic. When Modern was just getting going, this deck was underrated and no one respected it, therefore no one had really the guts to pilot it. However, during Pro Tour Born of the Gods it got 9th place. While not a Top 8 finish, it still shows the strength of the deck and what it can bring to the table. It started to gain popularity, but then was once more returned to rest. But like any deck it’s ready to resurface sooner or later!

How does this deck win?

The main idea is to draw your entire deck. While doing so you go to a negative life total, but fear not! This life total truly doesn’t matter because before you cast Ad Nauseam you should either have one of two things already out. You should have cast an [c]Angel’s Grace[/c] before the Ad Nauseam or already have a [c]Phyrexian Unlife[/c].

Each has its pros and cons, but they both get the combo going and get the job done. Ideally you want to cast Angel’s Grace only because it can’t be countered (Split Second is too good). While Phyrexian Unlife can pull off the combo with one less mana, giving it the possible turn 4 kill, it’s vulnerable to the one card you’ll probably hate the most (I’m staring at you [c]Abrupt Decay[/c] ). After you have a hefty hand of cards, you skim through them to find three Simian Spirit Guides and exile them and with that floating red mana you will cast [c]Lighnting Storm[/c].

A tip before casting Lighting Storm – ask how many cards are in your opponent’s hand. Once you find this out, set that many lands aside from you hand and discard the rest all-the-while you maintain priority with Lighting Storm on the stack. Keeping the extra lands in hand will give you insurance that your opponent can not redirect the original Crackling Doom at you!

You can play [c]Conflagrate[/c] instead of or alongside Lightning Storm, which is in the sideboard for me for the discard matchup (mainly Jund/Junk), though it doesn’t allow you to go off at instant speed.

Why would I recommend playing Ad Nauseam in Modern?

Simply put, it’s a deck that makes interaction hard for your opponent. While many combo decks get shut down with things like [c]Rest in Peace[/c] or even a [c]Rule of Law[/c], this deck has many ways around hate cards that decks like Storm cannot easily circumvent. Even [c]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/c] is no match for us! That [c]Pentad Prism[/c] now lets us gain three mana instead of the usual two thanks to the Guardian of Thraben!

People have mentioned to me that they wish free counter spells existed in the format. Well, we have [c]Pact of Negation[/c] and [c]Angel’s Grace[/c]. It’s almost like a [c]Force of Will[/c], but you pay a single white instead of paying a life. You also get to draw your entire deck without having to play [c]Omniscience[/c] or [c]Enter the Infinite[/c]. You get to draw your entire deck.

Your ENTIRE deck!

The deck is no longer an unknown creature within the Modern metagame. People will most likely know what you are playing simply by seeing your mana base, since not many decks in Modern play Esper colors. Still, it doesn’t have a place in people’s sideboards just yet. While everyone is trying to hate on UR Delver, Scapeshift, and Jeskai Ascendancy, your deck remains almost untouched.

In general, hate is very hard to come by against Ad Nauseam. [c]Ethersworn Canonist[/c], [c]Rule of Law[/c], and [c]Meddling Mage[/c] are probably the cards that give you the most pain, but there are certainly ways to work around them.

With Ethersworn Canonist or Rule of Law, you can simply have a Phyrexian Unlife out in play and at the end of your opponent’s turn you can cast your Ad Nauseam, draw your entire deck, and still be at negative life on your turn. On your Upkeep go ahead and cast the Lightning Storm and hope they don’t have a [c]Burrenton Forge-Tender[/c] out in play. Most people will have a Leyline of Sanctity of their own to stop your combo, but you can bounce it with Echoing Truth, no matter how many they have out!

Phyrexian Unlife also acts like extra life against Burn and Aggro decks, though there is a thing you need to know that most people fail to understand. If you are at, let’s say, 6 life and your opponent swings with attacking power of 10, you won’t go to 4 poison. It is only the next time you are dealt damage while you below zero that will give you poison.

In all honestly, I love playing this deck.

I’ve been piloting the deck for a few years and I’m happy to say I’m still enjoying it now. Every time I play it, I end up finding new tech that works, such as the new [c]Dig through Time[/c]. It’s only a single copy, but let’s just say there was one game where I looked at seventeen cards of my deck before taking my turn and it was a satisfaction I never felt before. It will at times let you grab both pieces of the combo which is something [c]Peer Through Depths[/c] can not do.

[c]Commandeer[/c] is also a newer addition seeing that [c]Counterflux[/c] is problematic for this deck. [c]Misdirection[/c] in Legacy? Heck yeah!

But the main reason I’m talking about this deck for my first article is because of the bannings that are coming around the corner. If [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and/or [c]Dig Through Time[/c] bite the dust, Ad Nauseam won’t take any pain and won’t have to retreat to an older ancestor. It has a rough matchup against the evil UR Delver, but if Treasure Cruise does go then it is possible the deck will only weaken and might not be tier 1 anymore.

I’m possibly going to do some coverage and videos of Ad Nauseam, seeing as it’s my main Modern deck and would like to get myself a MTGO deck in the works that isn’t Pauper.

In the meantime you should check out Binkabi’s coverage over on the YouTube channel. Here’s a playlist:


Thanks for taking your time to read my short article! Hope to see you next week!


Breaking the Sundial in Modern


[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

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.


After some thirty matches my actual list looks like this:

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

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

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
3 Path to Exile

4 Æther Vial
4 Sundial of the Infinite
3 Mimic Vat

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

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!


Legacy on Mondays: EPIC Combo

Welcome Back!

So as you all know, I am a huge fan of combo decks in this format. I spent a month writing about [c]High Tide[/c] for goodness’ sake! But this week I want to share a combo deck that is even crazier in some circumstances. I mean, [c]Omniscience[/c] is a helluva card. Before M13 though, we had a blue enchantment that was equally broken: [c]Dream Halls[/c]. For half the mana, both players get a way of going bananas and casting everything just by discarding a card with a common color. The best part of this deck is that it uses that weird, never-player rare from Conflux: [c]Conflux[/c]. Casting [c]Conflux[/c] with any card in the deck in hand allows us to pull of some incredibly broken things. Check out the list:

[d title=”Dream Halls”]
1 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Progenitus
3 Lotus Petal
4 Dream Halls
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Conflux
3 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Ponder
4 Show and Tell
4 Thoughtseize
4 Lim-Dûl’s Vault
5 Island
3 Ancient Tomb
4 Flooded Strand
1 Polluted Delta
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Underground Sea
2 Pithing Needle
3 Propaganda
2 Meditate
1 Hydroblast
1 Rushing River
2 Spell Pierce
4 Duress

The Setup

Like most combo decks, this one packs a plethora of spells to set up the combo turn. The classics like [c]Brainstorm[/c] and [c]Ponder[/c] are of course present, but there is one card here that is strangely good but awkwardly worded: [c]Lim-Dul’s Vault[/c]. The vault is amazing; for just a few life points it lets you set up amazing draws for a few turns.

Another part of the setup that I believe most people ignore is the pre-protection. Having 4 [c]Thoughtseize[/c] main deck allows us to remove some of the opponent’s permission before trying to get a [c]Dream Halls[/c] down. We then have [c]Force of Will[/c] to fight through whatever else they may have. Overall, the potential to have a safe combo is very high in this deck. As you will see in the next section, [c]Conflux[/c] also enables a very safe combo while trying to go off, as it can find [c]Force of Will[/c] while you attempt to kill them.

The Combo

Step 1: Get [c]Dream Halls[/c] in play. This can be achieved by hard-casting it with [c]Lotus Petal[/c] and [c]Ancient Tomb[/c], or by using [c]Show and Tell[/c]. [c]Show and Tell[/c] can also be used to just drop [c]Progenitus[/c] into play, which is brutal. He can also be cast using [c]Dream Halls[/c] if a combo is not available. This can just put away most fair decks.

Step 2: Cast [c]Conflux[/c] using the Halls. Search for [c]Bogardan Hellkite[/c], a [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c], another [c]Conflux[/c], [c]Force of Will[/c], and [c]Progenitus[/c].

Step 3: Discard the Hellkite to cast an Ultimatum, returning Hellkite to your hand.

Step 4: Cast the other [c]Conflux[/c], searching up the same things except keeping the Force in hand and the Hellkite.

Step 5: Repeat using all three [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c] to get the opponent to 5, then for the kill just cast the Hellkite with [c]Dream Halls[/c] for the final 5 damage.

Step 6: GG.

It is really an amazing deck. The fact that you are casting so many spells to win is rather irrelevant; the deck can find a [c]Force of Will[/c] every time you [c]Conflux[/c]. The [c]Progenitus[/c] backup plan is also very effective, especially against fair decks. Fortunately, [c]Dream Halls[/c] is also a state-based effect (I am pretty sure that’s what it is called? Judges, please confirm!), which means that [c]Pithing Needle[/c] and [c]Phyrexian Revoker[/c] are completely ineffective combo hate.

The sideboard also gives the deck some resiliency and backup against other strategies. It is fairly self-explanatory, except for [c]Raging River[/c] and [c]Meditate[/c]. The River is for matchups when lots of permanent removal, i.e. [c]Qasali Pridemage[/c] and friends, will be there to try and slow you down. Normally the land sac doesn’t matter too much, especially for the benefits of being able to hit two things instead of one. [c]Meditate[/c] is for the control matchups when drawing cards is worth skipping a turn. It also goes along quite nicely with [c]Lim-Dul’s Vault[/c] to get powerful combo hands.

Well, that’s all for this week. I hope you like the deck, and maybe you will play it instead of Sneak & Show for more fun and cool wins at your next event. Thanks for reading!