If you have been living under a rock, you might not have noticed the groundbreaking news of the first MCQ in the wonderful format of Pauper. Not only did the MCQ take place, but we even got to see the Top 8 featured with some excellent commentary.
What we saw in the Top 8 was a mix of new and old decks that came to life. This was interesting, given the somewhat different MTGO metagame. On Magic Online, decks are rather “specialized” to negate some of the variance that sometimes occurs.
Going into the final days left to qualify for the Pauper Playoff, I am still at a low point of 20 points. That means I need an additional 15 points if I want to make it to the format playoff.
Now that I’m qualified with 81 points in Vintage and have 33 points in Modern, which means I will get there as well, I need to focus on Legacy and Pauper. My goal is to get 5 points in Pauper on each day of this week. So, how will I accomplish that?
The online metagame has a lot of Burn running the streets, and while a lot of strategies are viable, I think that if you don’t have a good matchup against Burn, you will not collect trophies in the league. This takes me to a deck that I’d like to share which was on my mind recently. I played it in a few challenges, and I think it’s well suited to help me deal with my lack of points!
WB (Welcome Back) Pestilence
WB Pestilence by Michael BondeBUY DECK
This deck is a sweet mix of burn killer, grinding station, and synergy engine that beats a lot of the current metagame, if it starts rolling.
The primary engine of the deck consists of Guardian of the Guildpact and Pestilence. Since there aren’t many multicolored removal spells besides Dinrova Horror, we can keep our pestilence on the board and the Spirit becomes a poor man’s True-Name Nemesis.
This way, the deck establishes a broken synergy, that doubles as a removal spell for every card in the format, and as a win condition. Be it through beatdown or pinging one Swamp at a time, you will win.
This makes us address the problem of the symmetry of the life loss. Because of that, Pestilence is not a reliable way of closing out games. Luckily we play white, and that gives us many ways to put lifegain into our deck, be it on the spells that we play or the lands that we need – which makes the deck a Burn killer.
With a mix of maindeck Scoured Barrens, Aven Riftwatcher, Arashin Cleric and Radiant Fountain, which we may all replay thanks to Kor Skyfisher, we will usually be ahead on the life total. That makes Pestilence great, but also negates enough burn spells from the mono red menace to get out of their reach and end the game.
Besides the lifegain and Pestilence plan, the rest of the deck is a classic white-black midrange deck with value creatures. Thraben Inspector, Phyrexian Rager, Kor Skyfisher, Palace Sentinels and Okiba-Gang Shinobi get you ahead on cards and Prophetic Prism gives you some card draw while fixing your mana.
Now with the deck list known and understood, let’s talk about some matchups.
The Burn Matchup
Their entire plan is to just smoke us out with damage. Their best way of doing this is with cards like Thermo-Alchemist, attacking creatures and recurring damage from Curse of the Pierced Heart. This forces us to leave in some removal spells for the creatures, but besides that, the game plan is simple. Gain as much life as possible and kill our opponent fast enough. Often, they can only board in a Flaring Pain for our Prismatic Strands and Molten Rain for our Karoo lands. This means, what we see in game 1 is also going to be the determiner for games 2 and 3.
The Kuldotha Boros Matchup
This deck has an overall strategy that is somewhat similar to our own. It’s a grindy white-based midrange deck with the ability to deal a lot of damage quite fast, since they play red instead of black. I approach the matchup like any other grindy matchup. Just always keep in mind what they do given how many cards they have in hand. The reason you should do this, is that they often won’t fire off Lightning Bolts and Galvanic Blast but accumulate them. And if they draw a bunch, then try and go for the throat. This enables us to act accordingly. So, if they have 5 cards in hand, and haven’t done much for the last couple of turns, there is a chance that they hold 9 or more points of direct damage. This might seem like a stupid thing to do, but since it is a grindy matchup, it’s a big deal. You need to know what to play around and how “risky” we can be with cards like Palace Sentinels.
Since they play white, they have some tools of their own that we need to be aware of. Namely lifegain, Prismatic Strands and enchantment removal in the form of Leave No Trace.
The Blue-Black Delver Matchup
This deck is one of the trickier matchups since the lifegain sometimes matters, and the same goes for the Pestilence plan and even the removal plan. Main deck they often have “only” 12 creatures, of which a flipped Delver and a fast Gurmag Angler are the only 8 that matter to us. The rest of the deck consists of draw spells, removal and counters. That makes it easy to fall behind quickly. What I often do is try to get to a point where I can double-spell, to get around their counters, and then prolong the game as much as I can. My rationale is that Raven’s Crime can shred their hand in the late game, and even without Pestilence we can kill 13 threats. That makes us a clear favorite, so long as we don’t get too far behind and manage to go long without too big of a lifeloss early on.
After board, they will have Stormbound Geist and Dispels, which makes the early game about controlling their graveyard, so that we can kill off the flyers without losing too much tempo and cards.
The Inside Out Combo Matchup
They try to kill us with the combo, so in case they have a Tireless Tribe, we should respect the combo immensely. They need two blue sources to combo through a blocker, so the more blue sources they have, the more Dispels we need to play around.
The Tron Matchup
This matchup can be annoying, because sometimes they just have a bunch of fast mana, and then it’s an uphill battle. In the games where they have to assemble their fast mana first, we can have a setup that’s able to deal with their Mnemonic Wall or we get to discard some of their threats. A Pestilence on the board is how we should deal with some versions of the deck, but before we go to the sideboard, it is pretty hard to beat them. A card that shines, when put to good use, is our maindeck Bojuka Bog. Eating up their graveyard one Bog at a time is a good strategy in game 1. They often don’t have much to board in, so what we see from them in the first game is often what we can expect after sideboards as well.
The Elves Matchup
Just like the Inside Out combo, the Elves deck is a straightforward Elfball deck, that just quickly puts as many small green people on the battlefield as it can. In this matchup, Prismatic Strands shines, and allows us to establish a small lifetotal cushion before we need to take action. A resolved Pestilence almost always means game over for Elves – but we need to get to a point in the game, where we can afford to do this.
Our 1 for 1 removal plan is solid against Elves. We should aim to kill token generators and mana accelerants because they can get out of hand quickly. If they get a Lys Alana Huntmaster to stick and combine it with a Timberwatch Elf or Elvish Vanguard, that means trouble. Be careful to target the first and the best, because our removal can come in handy later in the game.
They often sideboard 2 or 3 enchantment removal and Harsh Sustenance in some cases to try and cheese us.
I hope my notes and sideboard guides for the different matchups can help you, my fellow grinders, to obtain the last few QPs or Format Points.
One thing I want to tell you before I say goodbye, is a Note on Prismatic Strands. You often sit with it in hand and try to get as much value from it as possible. But when you play the card Palace Sentinels, it can be essential to cast it a bit earlier, so we can advance our board and maintain the ability to cast the Prismatic Strands for free with an untapped creature. Loosing the monarch with this deck is often a losing move, since a lot of the decks have more creatures, or play Prismatic Strands as well. When these decks can keep the monarchy through more creatures than us, they can get too far ahead on the board for us to ever get it back. Therefore, the opportunity to deploy blockers each turn with no obligation to keep up 3 mana for Prismatic Strands each turn, can be what tips the scales in our favor. It doesn’t come up often, but when it does, it’s important to understand that sometimes firing off Prismatic Strands for minimal value is a necessary evil to stay the monarch.
Can’t wait to see you all in the playoff or in the Pauper leagues!
Until next time
Michael Bonde // Lampalot