Paupers and Kings, Ep. 10: Robot Uprising

arcbound-ravager-730x280

Hi everyone, and welcome to the tenth and final episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget. I hope you have enjoyed the series, and have taken advantage of some of the crossover archetypes to break into either Modern or Pauper (or both). I’ve had a lot of fun playing lists across the formats and have myself learned a lot more about Modern in the process. If you missed an episode, here is a link to all ten articles.

For our final week we’re taking a look at Affinity. The goal in both formats is similar: smash down a bunch of robots and/or artificers and beat face. In Modern our guys tend to be free or very cheap, and we get a lot of them, and we gain value with cards like Signal Pest, Cranial Plating, and Arcbound Ravager. In Pauper we rely more on the metalcraft ability and Affinity for Artifacts to cheat out 4/4s before our opponent knows what’s happening.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Affinity in Pauper

We’re playing Eredion’s list in Pauper, a choice I made after he stomped me with it in a Daily Event while I was playing Hexproof. His mastery of the list notwithstanding, I like a lot of the choices he has made in putting his list together as well. Here is his 75:

[d title=”Affinity by Eredion (Pauper)”]
Land
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Tree of Tales
4 Darksteel Citadel
2 Vault of Whispers

Creatures
4 Atog
4 Carapace Forger
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer

Spells
4 Thoughtcast
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Perilous Research
2 Fling

Utility
2 Flayer Husk
2 Ichor Wellspring
3 Prophetic Prism
3 Springleaf Drum
4 Chromatic Star

Sideboard
3 Dispel
2 Doom Blade
2 Electrickery
1 Krark-Clan Shaman
2 Serene Heart
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Relic of Progenitus [/d]

The stars of Affinity in Pauper are Myr Enforcer and Carapace Forger, and many a match is won by simply swinging in with these mighty 4/4s before your opponent has a chance to mount much of a defense. Even so, the creature that really inspires fear in the list is, of course, the wily [c]Atog[/c]. Anytime he is on the table, especially in the mid- to late-game, he can be a game-winning threat. Because of his potential for explosiveness, your opponent is often forced to make bad blocks, lose advantage on the board, and eventually be either overrun to have something giant [c]Fling[/c]ed at his face.

[c]Flayer Husk[/c] is great in the mirror and gets your guys out of [c]Flame Slash[/c] range, while also providing another 1-drop artifact to fuel your Affinity count. Six draw spells help ensure that you don’t run out of gas and, combined with nine cantripping artifacts, you can really draw cards with the best control lists, at least for awhile.

Eighteen land feels right, and the [c]Vault of Whispers[/c] help enable [c]Doom Blade[/c] out of the board, a necessity for guys like [c]Fangren Marauder[/c] who will, left unchecked, completely ruin your day.

Eredion’s list is on the cheap end, even for Pauper, mainly because he doesn’t run [c]Hydroblast[/c] or [c]Pyroblast[/c] in the sideboard. That said, it’s a well-tuned list that will compete with any deck you run up against; you’re more than getting your money’s worth. It’s under 10 tix to put together online, and just $34 to build in paper.

Myr-Enforcer

Affinity in Modern

For Modern, we started with iBelieveable’s list, and modified it to be slightly more on the budget end. You have a lot of choices when building Affinity in Modern, which I love. Some lists run as many [c]Master of Etherium[/c] as possible alongside [c]Welding Jar[/c]s to protect them, while others focus more on exploding out of the gate and winning as early as possible. Affinity can win on turn three and will often win by turn four, well before some opponents have done more than put down a mana dork or gotten their mana bases under control. Here is the Modern list we played.

[d title=”Affinity (Modern)”]
Land
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Glimmervoid
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Island

Creatures
4 Arcbound Ravager
1 Etched Champion
3 Master of Etherium
4 Signal Pest
4 Steel Overseer
4 Vault Skirge
4 Ornithopter
4 Memnite

Spells
4 Thoughtcast
4 Cranial Plating
4 Springleaf Drum

Sideboard
3 Etched Champion
2 Chalice of the Void
4 Dismember
2 Torpor Orb
1 Whipflare
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Illness in the Ranks [/d]

The number of must-answer threats here is huge. [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c], [c]Steel Overseer[/c], [c]Master of Etherium[/c], and [c]Cranial Plating[/c] all have a major impact and will win unless answered. Even if they take care of your creatures on the ground, your lands are ready to transform and start flying over the battlefield. [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c] can easily win in a single swing with a cranial plating later on in the game, and at that point your opponent will be hoping to top-deck answers since they’ve likely used all their resources handling your other threats.

I like drawing two cards for {U} so I added in 4x [c]Thoughtcast[/c] from the original list. Some lists run [c]Galvanic Blast[/c] or even [c]Dispatch[/c], but I liked staying in a single color as much as possible. I was tempted to try out [c]Ensoul Artifact[/c] because it works so nicely with [c]Darksteel Citadel[/c] and [c]Vault Skirge[/c] but it didn’t end up in this list. All of our threats are viable on their own, using an extra card and opening ourselves up to a 2-for-1 situation didn’t seem ideal.

You can make Affinity a budget list in Modern, more or less, just by taking out [c]Mox Opal[/c]. I’m sure it’s handy for explosive starts, but at $150 for a playset online, I’m happy to pass. After that, you’re looking at $15 for the 4x [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c]s, $50 for the 8x Nexus lands, and less than $30 for the rest of the mainboard. That’s under $100 online for the main 60.

For the sideboard, [c]Etched Champion[/c], [c]Ancient Grudge[/c], [c]Whipflare[/c], and [c]Dismember[/c] all are important players, and none of them are too expensive. After that you can fill in with whatever awesome artifacts you have laying around: [c]Pithing Needle[/c], [c]Chalice of the Void[/c], and [c]Torpor Orb[/c] are all cards that can do work. [c]Glimmervoid[/c] and [c]Springleaf Drum[/c] mean you can bring in nearly any color from the board, so cards like [c]Rule of Law[/c] and [c]Illness in the Ranks[/c] are viable options too, just don’t get greedy with any cards that require double mana unless it is {U}{U}, since that’s the only color we can really call our own.

Affinity on the Play

Three videos for each format this week. I played far, far more in Modern as I enjoyed the deck so thoroughly, but only filmed three. My current record with Modern Affinity is 10-2, though, and it is now my favorite Modern list alongside U Tron.

 

In Pauper, Affinity rewards practice and expertise. I’ve played against Eredion twice now in Daily Events, and while we are 1-1, his expertise with Affinity is apparent regardless of if he wins or loses. My point is that the deck is stronger than it seems by watching me play it; I’m sure my misplays were numerous and costly.

Next week on Paupers and Kings

Sadly, there is no next week on Paupers and Kings. Thanks for tuning in to the series, and I hope you enjoyed it! My next endeavor will have a stronger, more particular focus on Pauper and the competitive metagame. Let me know what directions you’d like to me to take, or if you’d like to see anything in particular covered for Pauper.

Until then, may your craniums always be plated.

/bava

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 9: Hypermana

Voyaging Satyr

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

Hypermana in Pauper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hypermana in Modern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hypermana on the Play

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

 

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

Next week on Paupers and Kings

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

Until then, may your utopias always be sprawling.

/bava

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 8: Sliver Hive

slivers playing poker

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

Slivers in Pauper

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

Here’s our list from TheBaartol.

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

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

Spells
4 Commune with Nature
3 Journey to Nowhere

Sideboard
2 Spinneret Sliver
2 Gleeful Sabotage
4 Obsidian Acolyte
3 Standard Bearer
4 Circle of Protection: Red
[/d]

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

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

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

Slivers in Modern

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

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

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

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

Spells
4 Lead the Stampede
4 Æther Vial

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

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

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

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

Slivers on the Play

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

 

Mess with the best, hive like the rest.

Next week on Paupers and Kings

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

Until next time, may all your hives be harmonic.

/bava

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 7: Izzet Blitz!

nivmagus elemental

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

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

Blitz in Pauper

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

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

Here is a list from a recent Surucucu daily run.

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

Creatures
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops

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

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

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

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

Blitz in Modern

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

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

Creatures
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Nivmagus Elemental

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

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

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

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

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

On the Play with Izzet Blitz

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

 

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

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

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

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

/bava

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

Creatures
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

Sideboard
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)”]
Land
4 Cavern of Souls
8 Forest
4 Rootbound Crag

Creatures
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

Sideboard
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.

/bava

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

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 4: Blue Tron

platinum angel In its heart lies the secret of immortality.

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

Part of the idea behind this series is that if you find a list you like to play in one format, you can take that enjoyment and your skill with that list into another format. Using last week as an example, if you love playing and are good with Living End in Modern, I reasoned that you would also enjoy and be good at playing Damned Rats in Pauper.

For my own part, I’ve found this concept to hold true during my play-testing. I enjoy the lists similarly and skills from one transfer across to the other. This week, though, was a little strange. While the lists this week play similarly, I enjoyed playing one much more than the other. Perhaps it was just my own limited experience, the large number of play mistakes I made, and the weird, grindy match-ups I endured, but I had a hard time enjoying Magic playing Rhystic Tron in Pauper. It is slow, finicky, and packs a whopping three win conditions which, hey, better hit or you’re looking at beating your opponent only through sheer force of will and superior patience.

I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, though. I started out this week wanting to build Tron in both formats. I could have done RUG Tron in Pauper and RG Tron in Modern, but the latter is prohibitively expensive for this, an article about building on a budget. Rhystic Tron has been the hot new Tron list in Pauper, so I went with Blue Tron in Modern, and couldn’t be happier with how the two relate. In many ways, they are very similar.

Modern does have its own UW Tron which utilizes [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c] and also looks like loads of fun but is, again, significantly more expensive. We’ll look at variants in each format as we go.

Let’s take a closer look at our Pauper list this week.

UW Tron in Pauper

Most of the conversation I’ve seen about this list has been over on Reddit. MTGO user d1n0sauR claims credit for the original idea, but Saibod / obZen has seen the most success with it in PCT and Daily play. I chose to use one of Saibod’s lists since I am familiar with his abilities as a brewer and tinkerer and his successes with the list are a good marker of its power.

Rhystic Tron seeks to get Tron online, stay alive with Rhystic Circle, and, eventually, win. Somehow.

It is fairly good at accomplishing the first two goals. RUG Tron is better at getting Tron online (as is RG Tron in Modern), which is part of the reason UW Tron packs Signets in Pauper (and Talismans in Modern). These allow you to ramp up faster than your opponent, regardless of whether or not you get your Tron online.

[d title=”UW Rhystic Tron by Saibod (Pauper)”]
Land
1 Remote Isle
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Haunted Fengraf
1 Quicksand
4 Tranquil Cove
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

Artifacts
4 Expedition Map
4 Azorius Signet
2 Izzet Signet
1 Relic of Progenitus

Win Conditions
2 Ulamog’s Crusher
1 Kaervek’s Torch

Card Draw
4 Compulsive Research
2 Impulse
2 Deep Analysis

Control
2 Fade Away
4 Condescend
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Rhystic Circle

Sideboard
2 Fade Away
4 Earth Rift
2 Gorilla Shaman
2 Hydroblast
1 Capsize
3 Pyroblast
1 Orim’s Thunder [/d]

The win conditions themselves are fine, except for when they’re not. Crusher doesn’t do anything when it hits the board and, as the saying goes, it dies to removal. MBC will never, ever let it live. In fact, they’ll be so happy they get to blow up a creature with all the removal they’ve been sitting on.

Decks with red removal will have a harder time dealing with the 8/8, but those decks are mostly running blue now as well and likely have more counterspells than we do. White lists usually have [c]Journey to Nowhere[/c] and even Affinity can throw down a [c]Doom Blade[/c] or two [c]Galvanic Blast[/c]s. We do have [c]Condescend[/c]s to keep the crushers alive, but they still feel pretty fragile.

Kaervek’s Torch is harder to disrupt, but it can be hard to get around decks with multiple counterspells or too much life gain. As a 1-of, you also run the risk of finding it at the very bottom of your deck, even with all your card draw.

One synergy I really enjoy is [c]Rhystic Circle[/c] and [c]Fade Away[/c]. Since your opponent will likely be tapping a lot of mana to get some damage through on their turn, Fade Away can do some serious work when you cast it on your turn, disrupting their mana and destroying their permanents like nobody’s business. This works best against aggressive creatures strategies, though, which are not at their most popular in Pauper right now.

Ultimately, I feel like Rhystic Tron is focused too much on reacting to what your opponent is doing and not enough on “being the problem.”

RUG Tron is ultimately the stronger deck in Pauper and is much better at being the problem. It’s also about half the cost, since we can cut [c]Hydroblast[/c] and [c]Gorilla Shaman[/c] from the sideboard, as [c]Fangren Marauder[/c] nulls the need for that particular SB tech.

Now let’s take a look at Modern.

Blue Tron in Modern

If you are interested in seeing how successful Mono Blue Tron can be in Modern, you need look no further than Shoktroopa’s daily results. Premier results, too. That’s a whole lot of wins and quite a few are undefeated.

The list I chose to run is inspired by Shoktroopa’s successes and explained in good detail in Jacob Van Lunen’s article on ChannelFireball. The plan here hinges more around: get [c]Platinum Angel[/c] into play, protect [c]Platinum Angel[/c], profit. It’s a classic three-step plan to fame and riches. Here’s the list.

[d title=”Mono Blue Tron – Van Lunen (Modern)”]
Land
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Tolaria West
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Academy Ruins
7 Island
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

Creatures
3 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Treasure Mage
3 Platinum Angel
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Artifacts
4 Talisman of Dominance
4 Expedition Map
1 Mindslaver

Draw and Control
4 Remand
4 Condescend
3 Repeal
1 Spell Burst
3 Pact of Negation
4 Thirst for Knowledge

Sideboard
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Negate
1 Oblivion Stone
2 Dismember
2 Squelch
1 Sundering Titan
1 Aetherize
1 Island
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Bottle Gnomes [/d]

The amount of card draw and scrying in the list help make it very consistent and unlike RG Tron, it’s very resilient against having its Tron pieces removed. Being just one color, mana constraints are easy to get around, and the base itself is very simple. Angel wins against most strategies, especially with ample counter protection. Wurmcoil beats the rest, including Jund, especially with [c]Academy Ruins[/c] in play.

[c]Mindslaver[/c] lock is also a very real win condition but, as Dan reminded me, you need something else in play to actually win with it. Some creature, some card draw, some something. You’re using your draw every turn to get the Mindslaver back, so you don’t get any new cards to work with. You can hope your opponent draws into something interesting that you can use against him, but even then, without some way to do damage, all you can do is stall the game forever. (Edit: poopgobbler69 illuminated me in the comments that since you’re not drawing from your deck anymore – you just keep drawing Mindslaver – you will eventually Mill your opponent out. So the lock is a win-con all on its own!)

I had a blast playing with this list and it felt really powerful. Even though it was mentioned in Van Lunen’s article, I didn’t catch on how good [c]Pact of Negation[/c] is with Platinum Angel in play. It makes [c]Force of Will[/c] look like a bad card. [c]Tolaria West[/c] can transmute for a Pact in a pinch, and you can grab it with a Map, making it pretty easy to secure more counterspell backup in a pinch.

We’re looking at Modern, so let’s talk cost.

The list is already cheap out of the box. Shoktroopa’s list runs just $108 online and proves it is worth every penny. We can cut some costs without sacrificing too much, but some key money cards have to stick around.

One [c]Oblivion Stone[/c] should stay in the 75, as should two [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]s. We can drop Oboro for an island in a pinch, and switch out the [c]Remand[/c]s for [c]Mana Leak[/c]s or possibly [c]Spell Snare[/c]s. Most of the other cards aren’t too spendy, though when you’re adding $1 here and $2 there, it can add up, especially if you’re used to Pauper prices. Still, if the deck appeals to you and you want to break into Modern, you would be hard-pressed to find a deck that packs as much punch for the dollar. And hey, if you can think of one, tell me about it!

On the Play

How did these lists fare in practice? Let’s take a look!

 

I mixed them up to switch off between Modern and Pauper lists, so you can get a better idea of how each plays. Skip around as you see fit. As I alluded to previously, I had much more fun playing the Modern list than the Pauper list. I did have some weird Pauper match-ups (and difficult ones for this list), so that could have something to do with it. If you have experience with either list and can weigh in on play mistakes or your own experiences, please do share!

Next week on Paupers and Kings

I’ve got some fun Soul Sisters lists lined up for next week’s article. As always, if you have ideas for Pauper / Modern crossovers or favorite lists to share, please do.

Until next week, may your angels always be platinum.

/bava

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 3: Living End

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

This week I’m doing something a little bit different. Where I usually find a Pauper deck and port it into Modern, this time around I’ve gone the other way. Today we’re starting with a budget Modern list, and finding its corollary in Pauper. And to add a bit of complexity, the Modern list we’re looking at is Living End, with its signature rare card sitting in the center of the deck’s strategy. But fear not, we will find budget lists in both formats that, if not identical, play in a similar fashion and use many of the same cards.

Living End in Modern

We’ll start with our Modern list, Living End by Travis Woo. Travis updated his list in an article just this month, so the version we’re looking at is fresh as it gets. Check out his original list in the article and my slightly more budget version below. Aside from the mana base, the only difference you’ll notice is [c]Avalanche Riders[/c] instead of [c]Fulminator Mage[/c].

[d title=”Living End by Travis Woo (Modern)”]
Land
4 Savage Lands
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
3 Mountain
3 Swamp
1 Plains

Creatures
3 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Street Wraith
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Deadshot Minotaur
2 Shriekmaw
4 Jungle Weaver
4 Pale Recluse
4 Avalanche Riders

Spells
2 Beast Within
4 Demonic Dread
4 Violent Outburst
3 Living End

Sideboard
2 Shriekmaw
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence
2 Slaughter Games
1 Ricochet Trap
1 Kataki, War’s Wage [/d]

If you’re not familiar with Living End, I will (again) point you to Travis’s article. The basic gist, though, is that you cycle a bunch of guys for 2-3 turns, and then cascade into a Living End. With 8 cascade spells that can only hit Living End, you’re bound to find one early, especially with all the cycling you are doing. Once you hit End, you clear your opponent’s board, bring back a bunch of beefy guys on your side, and proceed to beat face. Of course, we’re playing Modern, so it is rarely that simple or that broken. Even so, it’s remarkably consistent.

As a secondary strategy we’re happy to use Living End as a Plague Wind against our opponent and start hard-casting beefy creatures in the mid-game. The spiders, which Woo swears by, are often larger than anything our opponents are playing, and they have the added benefit of blocking Delver and other flying pests.

The interesting thing about this list is that, for its strong power level, it’s mostly running commons, especially in the creature slots. In fact, aside from [c]Avalanche Riders[/c], every single creature / cycler in this list is a common! All the other spells and most of the sideboard are not, of course, but an all-common cast of creatures plus cheaping out on land leaves us with an inexpensive start to a strong list.

I spent about $17 to put this list together, not counting some cards I already owned. I think that’s the cheapest “real” Modern list I’ve built to date. The land base could be improved for as little as another $16, but I enjoy playing a list before I decide how much to invest in it, and we can play this list just fine with this practically free mana base. Now let’s check out our Pauper list.

Living End in Pauper?

Obviously we don’t get [c]Living End[/c] itself in Pauper, so we can’t build an identical list. It turns out, though, that Pauper does have a list that fills a similar niche and uses many of the same cycling creatures. It’s a list that goes by a few names but I’m going to call it by the interaction that makes up its wincon, Damned Rats.

I’m largely aware of this list because it has had a champion for as long as I’ve followed Pauper, and that is Tom the Scud. There is plenty of other good development around this idea, but we’re using Tom’s list this week, as found over in MTG Salvation.

[d title=”Damned Rats by Tom the Scud (Pauper)”]
Land
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Island
8 Swamp
5 Forest

Creatures
4 Architects of Will
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Street Wraith
1 Blood Celebrant
2 Mnemonic Wall
3 Pit Keeper
4 Stinkweed Imp
3 Crypt Rats

Spells
3 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Songs of the Damned
2 Commune with the Gods
4 Tortured Existence

Sideboard
3 Chainer’s Edict
1 Crypt Rats
3 Duress
1 Festercreep
2 Fume Spitter
1 Gnaw to the Bone
2 Moment’s Peace
2 Spore Frog [/d]

Where LE runs 20 cycling creatures, this list packs 16, but also has [c]Stinkweed Imp[/c] and his Dredge 5, which is really the main way to fill the yard. Based on the name, you may have guessed, but the wincon here is to cast [c]Songs of the Damned[/c] for tons of mana and kill your opponent with a massive [c]Crypt Rats[/c] activation. [c]Gnaw to the Bone[/c] is there to keep you alive until that can happen and, just as importantly, to make sure you can kill your opponent with the rats without killing yourself.

[c]Mnemonic Wall[/c] provides some inevitibility, ensuring you can bring back the Songs when you need it. The deck is good at getting creatures back from the yard thanks to Pit Keeper and Tortured Existence; it’s poor at getting non-creatures back, though. The [c]Blood Celebrant[/c] enables your blue mana if you happen to dredge your 1x Island into the yard.

The list is fun to play and surprisingly powerful. Creature strategies have few ways to interact with you, and between your Imps killing their guys and your Gnaws gaining you life, they will be hard-pressed to win unless they finish you off quickly. Counterspells can be a pain, but since the Imps always come back, and we get to cast all the Gnaws twice, our opponents will usually run out of counters before we run out of gas.

Graveyard disruption is definitely a problem, though, and with [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and Familiars out there demanding to be answered, most opponents will be packing some in the sideboard. Black decks are running [c]Bojuka Bog[/c] and everyone has a [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] or two to cause us problems. Aside from [c]Duress[/c] we have no way to stop a relic from hosing us, so until we have a card in Pauper that shuffles the yard back into our library, we’re wide open to being hated out.

Luckily, just as Living End can play a good midgame by hard casting its creatures, Rats can do the same. We’re not dead if our yard goes away, we’ve still got plenty of decently -sized creatures we can cast, but the game gets a lot more difficult.

On the Play

So how do these decks look in play? I took each of them out for some test matches. Check ’em out below.

 

The land destruction package can be surprisingly effective in Modern. Otherwise, both lists require a lot of practice to play well, and if they didn’t show as well as they could, here, it’s likely because of my poor play. Even so, we saw some good competition in both formats, and both lists held their own quite well.

Most importantly, each deck is unique in its format. If you like doing something different and playing with unique wincons, I strongly recommend checking out both these lists.

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

Three weeks in, what’s next? I’ll be covering Tron next week, so if you would like to pitch your favorite lists, please do so in the comments. Have other archetypes you want to see crossover in Pauper and Modern? Let me know!

Until next week, may your end always be living and your songs, damned.

/bava

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 2: Mono-Green Stompy

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

Today we’re looking at the winner of Season 2 of the Pauper Gauntlet, Mono-Green Stompy.

Why Stompy?

Since it is a mono-colored list, we immediately get some bang out of our buck in Modern by skipping on Fetch lands and other expensive mana sources. It also makes the list very consistent. Play a forest, play a dude, beat face. Stompy is a real contender in Pauper, but doesn’t really make events in Modern right now. We’ll take a look at why that might be a little further down the page.

Strengths of Stompy

  • Like Zoo, Stompy aims to have creatures with great stats for the cost
  • Unlike Zoo, Stompy never has to worry about having the wrong land to play or buff its creatures. It’s very consistent.
  • Stompy is great at delivering early pressure, getting the opponent low on life in the early game

Weaknesses of Stompy

  • Works on a single axis, attack with creatures; if that doesn’t work, you’re out of luck
  • Weak against life gain
  • Prone to clogged board states, has no way to punch through effectively in the end-game

Stompy in Pauper

After 13 grueling rounds, Dan just called Season 2 of the Pauper Gauntlet to a close, and guess who won?

That’s right, with only Burn and Stompy left going into the 2-man rounds, Stompy emerged victorious. This is the list that Dan played, which is from Chris Weaver and detailed in another article on our site.

[c]Hunger of the Howlpack[/c] is one of my favorite cards in green creature strategies, and I’m happy to see some in this list. Otherwise it’s got all your favorite green dudes and rocking pump spells.

Here is the list:

[d title=”Stompy by cweaver (Pauper)”]
Lands
17 Forest

Creatures
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Young Wolf
4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
4 Garruk’s Companion
2 Shinen of Life’s Roar
3 Wild Mongrel

Spells
4 Rancor
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Groundswell
3 Gather Courage
3 Hunger of the Howlpack

Sideboard
3 Nourish
1 Bonesplitter
3 Gleeful Sabotage
1 Viridian Longbow
4 Scattershot Archer
3 Spore Frog [/d]

Chris was one of the few people to run [c]Garruk’s Companion[/c] at the time, but more lists have picked it up since then. Getting a 3/2 beater for {G}{G} is already pretty good; getting trample in the mix is a bonus. Stompy can have issues getting around / over blocks after the first few turns; guys like this, and Pit-Skulk, and Shinen, help make sure that the list doesn’t stall out.

One of my favorite plays is sticking a Hunger on Pit-Skulk, delivering an unblockable 5/5 in most match-ups, and GG from your opponent unless they’re packing non-damage-based removal.

The only price sticking point in Stompy, from a Pauper perspective, is [c]Nettle Sentinel[/c], who is currently running at $1.41. Honestly, though, just buy him. That elf is a rockstar and he will make your Stompy deck that much better. You won’t find a better 1-CMC 2/2 in the format.

Stompy in Modern

Alright, so we know that Stompy is good in Pauper. But can we brew up a good Modern port that doesn’t break the bank? We can certainly achieve the latter part; whether or not the list is any good, though, is up for debate. Here is what I came up with.

[d title=”Budget Stompy by bava (Modern)”]
Land
2 Treetop Village
4 Rootbound Crag
16 Forest

Creatures
4 Dryad Militant
4 Experiment One
4 Kalonian Tusker
4 Leatherback Baloth
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Predator Ooze
2 Kitchen Finks
2 Garruk’s Companion

Spells
2 Aspect of Hydra
4 Rancor
4 Vines of Vastwood
2 Prey Upon

Sideboard
3 Choke
3 Back to Nature
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Prey Upon
2 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Gut Shot
1 Dismember [/d]

If there’s an expensive card in this list, it’s because I already owned copies. Otherwise I started with the primer over on Salvation and took out anything that cost too much. The result may be that I went too budget to remain competitive.

The list above is very nearly a Silverblack list. We lost [c]Thrun[/c] and [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] from the main, and [c]Creeping Corrosion[/c] from the board. I’ve seen [c]Dungrove Elder[/c] in lists as well, and think he would be a good addition at least as a 2x. We have 6x creature slots to work with if we take out Predator Ooze, Finks, and Companion.

Even then, though, the main weakness of this list remains. It only attacks on one axis, and if your opponent is prepared to deal with a creature strategy, at all, you may be completely out of luck. There’s aren’t any tricks up Stompy’s sleeves in Modern and, for whatever reason, it lacks some of that punch-through that Pauper Stompy gets with Pit-Skulk and Shinen.

My recommendation?

If you want to play Stompy in Modern, keep the list cheap and play for funsies. Otherwise, I suggest one of two alternatives that remain Stompy-esque.

Mono-Green Devotion

Kind of looks like Stompy, but works much, much differently. Here is a list from Michael Jacob’s excellent article at SCG.

[d title=”Mono-Green Devotion by Michael Jacob (Modern)”]
Creatures
4 Arbor Elf
2 Birds of Paradise
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Eternal Witness
2 Joraga Treespeaker
3 Primeval Titan
3 Wistful Selkie
1 Wolfbriar Elemental

Planeswalkers
4 Garruk Wildspeaker

Lands
8 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Stomping Ground
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Spells
2 Abundant Growth
4 Utopia Sprawl
3 Genesis Wave
2 Primal Command

Sideboard
2 Spellskite
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Beast Within
1 Combust
1 Dismember
1 Nature’s Claim
2 Creeping Corrosion
1 Primal Command
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All [/d]

We lose anything that resembles “budget” in this list, but if you want to go Mono Green in Modern, I think this is your best bet. If you want to stay cheap and don’t mind mixing your colors, slightly, then I think Gruul Aggro is another excellent alternative to mono-green Stompy.

Gruul Aggro

We were seeing Gruul Aggro lists make events for awhile. Then Wild Nacatl was unbanned, and people who were playing Gruul mostly switched over to Zoo as the aggro list of choice. And hey, Zoo is a fine choice, but the competitive lists aren’t budget at all, running all the fetch lands and shock lands and [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] to boot.

Even so, Gruul remains the strong core of Zoo. Kird Ape is a 1-CMC 2/3. Wild Nacatl is a 2/2 even without a Plains in our list. Something like this list is a good place to start.

[d title=”Gruul Aggro (Modern)”]
Creatures
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Experiment One
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Goblin Guide
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Kird Ape
4 Stormblood Berserker

Spells
1 Dismember
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rancor
2 Vines of Vastwood

Land
4 Arid Mesa
4 Copperline Gorge
1 Forest
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground

Sideboard
2 Arc Trail
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
2 Dismember
2 Molten Rain
3 Skullcrack
2 Smash to Smithereens
2 Vines of Vastwood [/d]

Gruul tends to have more reach than just running green on its own. [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c] adds +4/+4 and trample and can’t be countered, and 4x [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] can clear a blocker or go for the face. If we’re off budget here it’s because of the mana base, which becomes even more important because you not only need your land to cast spells, but cards like Flinthoof Boar and Kird Ape also care what kind of land you have in play.

[c]Stomping Ground[/c] beats our budget lands in that it comes into play untapped, gives us both colors of mana, and counts as a Forest and a Mountain. It’s also $4 a pop.

My recommendation is just to run mostly basics and 4x [c]Evolving Wilds[/c] to help ensure a little more consistency. If you want to take out Goblin Guide, run 1x Plains and 4x [c]Wild Nacatl[/c]. You lose your turn one Shock and mess with your mana a bit, but a potential 1-CMC 3/3 is strong and the cat warrior remains just 15 cents.

If you don’t want [c]Dismember[/c] then you could run the much worse [c]Flame Slash[/c] or the slightly more CMC-expensive [c]Pit Fight[/c].

On the Play

So how do these look in play? I took them both out for three matches, and the results speak for themselves. Check out the playlist.

 

As expected, Pauper Stompy rocked. Modern Stompy? Not as much. There are a couple matches in there with an old Gruul Aggro list I had together at the end, so check those out if you want to see how Gruul compares, even in an older meta.

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

Two weeks in, what’s next? We have lots more great crossover potential, including Goblins, Burn, Delver, Tron, and others. Which lists do you want to see me try out? Let me know down in the comments.

Until then, may your Hungers always resolve for +3/+3.

/bava

Paupers and Kings, Ep. 1: GW Bogles

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

Today we’re looking at everyone’s favorite list to hate, Bogles / Hexproof.

Why Hexproof?

We’re starting with Hexproof, in particular, because the list plays very similarly across formats. In both Pauper and Modern you are playing a near solitaire-esque game of Magic; building a Voltron with Auras and busting through for massive damage and life gain.

Strengths of Hexproof / Bogles

  1. Life gain against other aggro decks makes it very hard for them to race you
  2. Null your opponent’s targeted removal
  3. Good early game and late game, can be aggressive and grindy

Weaknesses of Hexproof / Bogles

  1. Weak to specific hate from sideboard (aura sweepers are a mean thing)
  2. Clunky hands require aggressive mulligans
  3. Weak to discard and sacrifice effects

Hexproof in Pauper

For whatever reason, we tend to call this deck “Hexproof” in Pauper but “Bogles” in Modern. That’s the nomenclature I’ll use from here on it, but it’s the same deck. The Hexproof list we’re favoring today is from Dain5, who has been placing in recent Pauper Daily Events with it.

I like this list because the mana base is incredibly consistent; gone are the tap lands, instead we’re rocking 17 green sources and 12 spells that can help us get white when we need it.

Here is the list:

[d title=”Hexproof by Dain5 (Pauper)”]
Land
16 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Khalni Garden

Creatures
4 Aura Gnarlid
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Slippery Bogle

Spells
4 Abundant Growth
3 Ancestral Mask
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Rancor
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Armadillo Cloak
4 Manamorphose

Sideboard
1 Flaring Pain
3 Gleeful Sabotage
2 Hornet Sting
3 Scattershot Archer
3 Young Wolf
3 Moment’s Peace [/d]

It’s a cheap list even by Pauper standards, except for one troublemaker. [c]Ancestral Mask[/c] run at $4 each right now, so you’re blowing some cash if you want those. Replacing them with Umbras (Hyena, Spider, Snake as you prefer) would be fine if you wanted to save some cash. Running regular forests is fine too; I added the snow-covered but they honestly don’t do anything.

The goal of this list is to land a Hexproof guy (of which there are 12), load on some auras (of which there are 16) and beat face. Ledgewalker has the added bonus of being difficult to block, and Gnarlid comes down later in the game, often as a large, unblockable beater.

Bogles in Modern

The list works about the same way in Modern, but has a few all-stars that raise the power level, provide consistency, and (unfortunately) require a more complicated mana base. The list we’re looking at today is adapted from Dust_’s winning list. Let’s take a look.

[d title=”Bogles (Modern)”]
Land
4 Brushland
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Wooded Bastion
3 Forest
4 Plains
1 Dryad Arbor

Creatures
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Kor Spiritdancer
4 Slippery Bogle

Spells
3 Path to Exile
4 Daybreak Coronet
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Hyena Umbra
1 Keen Sense
4 Rancor
4 Spider Umbra
2 Spirit Mantle
2 Spirit Link

Sideboard
3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Choke
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Nature’s Claim
2 Stony Silence
4 Rest in Peace [/d]

This budget list still has a few cards that break the bank, especially compared to Pauper. [c]Daybreak Coronet[/c] is the biggest transgressor. Unfortunately, you really can’t play Bogles in Modern without that card, it is simply way too strong.

[c]Kor Spiritdancer[/c] can be replaced by another Hexproof creature, even [c]Silhana Ledgewalker[/c] could come in. You lose some consistency because the card draw you can get off her is really helpful especially in stalled out games, but can save almost $15.

[c]Path to Exile[/c] can be [c]Condemn[/c] or even [c]Journey to Nowhere[/c] though neither card is as good as Path.

The mana base is about as good and cheap as I can get it. We’re saving about $100 with this base, mainly by omitted [c]Windswept Heath[/c], a card that is amazing but also awfully expensive. Let’s take a look at how we’re getting mana.

[c]Brushland[/c] is an amazing dual land in a list like Bogles. It is always untapped and it always provides either {G} or {W}. The one life lost is (usually) easily made up with the lifegain we have going. If there’s a list to run this land, it’s Bogles.

With 7 basics in the list, [c]Sunpetal Grove[/c] has a decent chance to come into play untapped and give you whatever color mana you may need. On the other hand, half the time it’s a guildgate, which isn’t always awesome.

[c]Wooded Bastion[/c] is an allstar. It allows you to play [c]Forest[/c] on turn 1 and then rock {W}{W} on turn 2. This let’s you hit a 1-drop Hexproof guy and then rock any two of your 1-mana enchantments on turn 2, swinging in with a 6/4 first-striking trampler, for instance, or something else ridiculous.

[c]Dryad Arbor[/c] eats sacrifice effects. You can, alternately, buff it up and swing in, assuming no one else is around to wear all those auras.

Some of our sideboard choices are expensive. [c]Choke[/c] can hose big blue lists, but since they’re not always our biggest concern, you could omit it. [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c] is amazing against certain lists, though. My board includes [c]Rest in Peace[/c] which is actually my favorite sideboard card of all time and a great answer to anyone testing out Dredge decks. [c]Stony Silence[/c] hoses a lot of lists including Affinity, and it’s also cheap. Forge-Tender can come in as Hexproof guy #9-12 with the added bonus that they are immune to red sweepers; they can also save your face from damage in a pinch.

On the Play

So how do these look in play? I took them both our for three matches, and the results speak for themselves. Check out the playlist.

 

For those counting along at home, that’s 6-0 in the tournament practice room. 3-0 in each format. Hard to do much better than that!

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

I’m going to try and do this as a weekly series. Is that cool with you all? We have lots more great crossover potential, including Goblins, Burn, Mono-Green Stompy, Delver, Tron, and others. Which lists do you want to see me try out? Let me know down in the comments.

Until then, may you opponent always be holding useless Doom Blades.

/bava