Paupers and Kings, Ep. 5: Soul Sisters

soul sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wary Soul Sisters

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

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

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

Artifacts
4 Genesis Chamber

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

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

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

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

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

Wary Soul Sisters on a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

Midnight Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the videos for this week’s lists.

 

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

Next week on Paupers and Kings

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

Until next time, may your Norins ever be wary.

/bava

Threat Evaluation, Part Three: Mountain, Go.

The order of these Threat Evaluation articles is listed by historic power level. Grixis will always be the most powerful combination of colors in Magic in my mind because of how long the game existed before Tarmogoyf. Control Slaver and The Perfect Storm are two format defining decks in the most powerful format: Vintage.

All that aside, what are we up against if we see a Mountain, pass? Burn. You’re up against Burn, and you are 25% done with game one.

For this period in time, the article could end there. [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] has gotten everyone all shook up, and time will tell whether it is just a flash in the pan. In fact, stay tuned for an article about how it shakes up the game, not just the format.

Nevertheless, if we’re being fair, there are lots of other options. As we did in the Swamp, Go article, we will similarly ignore the lists we have already posted.* First, let’s cover the mono-red lists. It is interesting to see once again that there are more mono-red options than mono-blue.

*- I have realized that there are already omissions in previous articles of decks that I have missed. These will be covered in the final article six, and the first five will be edited to include them for easier reference.

Bringer of the Red Dawn

A look at the mono-red decks in Modern.

Burn

Or, how this same effect is reaching critical mass, this is distinguished from Red Deck Wins by fewer creatures and the inclusion of [c]Lava Spike[/c] or any other card that targets the player only.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Spark Elemental[/c]. Other than that, trust me, you’ll know.

Red Deck Wins

Here the player is using burn to remove blockers but still bringing the heat with [c]Goblin Guide[/c], [c]Vexing Devil[/c], and [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c].

Tell-tale signs: [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] is used here and not in Burn. Also, maindeck [c]Molten Rain[/c], [c]Blood Moon[/c] and/or [c]Shrine of Burning Rage[/c] may show up.

Skred Red/Snow Control

This deck is perfect in the right meta, and today’s meta is not it because of all the combo. Any deck trying to beat Skred Red with creatures is going to have a tough time: it has mass removal with [c]Pyroclasm[/c] and [c]Blasphemous Act[/c], the best spot removal with [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] and [c]Skred[/c], and [c]Boros Reckoner[/c]. Dragons will come to clean house at the end of the day.

Tell-tale signs: Unless some Burn player is being cute, [c]Snow-Covered Mountain[/c] without any source of Green mana lets you know what you’re up against.

Goblins

Well, the thing is, this is a pretty consistent turn four aggro deck against a goldfish. Some decks function as goldfish for four turns, so sometimes Goblins gets there. It loses so much in the port from Legacy, though, that it can’t consistently compete.

Tell-tale Signs: [c]Foundry Street Denizen[/c], any spell that puts a 1/1 Goblin token into play are used here and nowhere else.

Red Sun’s Zenith

The decks listed in this category are seen frequently and not mono-red but also do not include blue or black.

Gruul Scapeshift

Omitting the blue element for [c]Primeval Titan[/c], Gruul Scapeshift has the combo kill or a potent beat-down plan with giants and [c]Polukranos, World Eater[/c]. The deck is required to play a significant amount of Mountains for the [c]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/c] kill, so the double green mana costed beaters can be awkward.

Tell-tale signs: If it looks like [c]Scapeshift[/c] but plays [c]Khalni Heart Expedition[/c], [c]Magma Jet[/c], or [c]Explore[/c], don’t breathe a sigh of relief thinking your opponent is screwed off blue.

Zoo

Once again, a deck has cards that include “Mountain” in their text, and this time it’s the once-banned [c]Wild Nacatl[/c]. Now we’re left scratching our heads as to why it was banned. Variants include [c]Tribal Flames[/c] Zoo that splashes blue for [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c] and [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] or little zoo with [c]Loam Lion[/c], [c]Kird Ape[/c], and even maindeck [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c].

Tell-tale signs: Looking at a Naya-colored mana-base, you may be tempted to think you’re up against Kiki Pod, but that deck doesn’t play [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], burn spells, or [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c].

Boros Angel Twin

This midrange combo deck eschews [c]Pestermite[/c] and [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c] for [c]Restoration Angel[/c] and [c]Palace Guard[/c]. Alternatively, some flickering brews combine enter-the-battlefield effects such as [c]Blade Splicer[/c] with [c]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/c] and the angel.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Rugged Prairie[/c] is not played anywhere else. Also a Boros mana-base with any creatures that have a hint of Death and Taxes give the heads-up.

Norin The Wary

Here’s a very rarely seen deck in dailies that is seen quite frequently in the 2-man queues. Part Human aggro, part Soul Sisters, part EDH-level triggers, this deck is all fun, if underpowered.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Champion of the Parish[/c] is a good indicator, and this deck packs the Soul Sisters with red mana sources. [c]Norin the Wary[/c] and [c]Genesis Chamber[/c] are sure bets.

Red Scarab

Like a red scarab, you won’t see these as often, but they do happen and include Mountains.

Gruul Beats

This was a thing before the un-banning of [c]Wild Nacatl[/c]. Some players use [c]Faithless Looting[/c] and [c]Vengevine[/c] with all of the 1-drops, while others combine cards like [c]Burning-Tree Emissary[/c] and [c]Priest of Urabrask[/c] with [c]Myr Superion[/c] or [c]Storm Entity[/c]. These topped out at about $20, which is significantly less than the $1k Zoo decks of today.

Mono Red Storm

Here is a budget storm deck that skimps on sources of blue mana for purely monetary reasons.  Cards like [c]Goblin Electromancer[/c], [c]Desperate Ravings[/c], and the efficient draw package are replaced by [c]Empty the Warrens[/c], [c]Reforge the Soul[/c], and sometimes [c]Young Pyromancer[/c]. Some players run some number of [c]Burning Inquiry[/c], [c]Goblin Lore[/c], and [c]Locket of Yesterdays[/c]. The [c]Pyromancer Ascension[/c] and [c]Past in Flames[/c] engine is still the same.

Tell-tale signs: In the early game, you may see [c]Fungal Reaches[/c], [c]Wild Guess[/c], or a discarded [c]Increasing Vengeance[/c] or [c]Reforge the Soul[/c] without any blue sources. These cards aren’t used anywhere else.

Garga-geddon

The Mountains are essential for the turn 1 [c]Greater Gargadon[/c]. The player builds his resources with the Borderpost cycle while building up for a crippling [c]Restore Balance[/c] from a cascade spell.

Tell-tale signs: It’s easy to see this in the early game with the above mentioned cards. Other suspend spells may see play such as [c]Riftwing Cloudskate[/c].

Dragonstorm

I mean, who can resist? [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c] and [c]Thundermaw Hellkite[/c] are played on their own and quite hard-castable, and there are a host of other dragons that finish the game quite well when combined with [c]Dragonstorm[/c].

Tell-tale signs: A [c]Lotus Bloom[/c] is not used in UR Storm, but it will see play here. Also you may see a [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] combined with what otherwise looks like a storm deck.

Rumbling Crescendo

You can observe that these articles are getting smaller. We have precious few lists that are Green or White without including the other three colors. Fortunately, some of these decks are my favorites, so maybe I can flourish the descriptions up some for you all. In the meantime, here’s a Modern Silverblack brew with Mountains.

[d title=”Modern Silverblack Skred Red”]

Land

20 Snow-Covered Mountain

Creatures

4 Spitemare

4 Stormblood Berserker

4 Vulshok Refugee

Other Spells

2 Into the Maw of Hell

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Molten Rain

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Pyroclasm

4 Pyrohemia

2 Shrine of Burning Rage

4 Skred

Sideboard

4 Aura Barbs

1 Boil

4 Cryoclasm

2 Shrine of Burning Rage

4 Smash to Smithereens[/d]