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