Yes, boys and girls, it’s time to once again to hop on the trolley to the Land of Make Believe (I got rights to it once that Mister Rogers finally got around to hanging up his cardigan) enter the magical realm of the Bad Deckbuilder’s Corner, where Dave here tries to pass himself off as a deck builder non pareil. That, or I was hurting for column ideas, and this is what I came up with.
No, not really. I actually do have a couple of decks that aren’t half-bad. At least, I don’t think so.
First off: Time for Dark Ponza to make its comeback.
For those with short spans of attention: Dark Ponza is based on the original mono-red Ponza design, based around scads of land kill and burn with something big as the finisher. Dark Ponza splashes black for access to cards like Void, Despoil, and Trench Wurm in the Masques/Invasion block version. Well, we don’t have Despoil anymore, but we do have a lot more red land kill, so…
Dark Ponza v3.0
4 Stone Rain
4 Earth Rift
4 Fire Diamond
4 Urza’s Rage
2 Shivan Dragon
4 Urborg Volcano
4 Sulfurous Springs
2 Shadowblood Ridge
2 Barbarian Ring
Let’s start with the land kill, the backbone of Dark Ponza. We have the ubiquitous Stone Rain and Pillage, and now they have their slightly more expensive counterparts in Odyssey – Demolish at 3R and Earth Rift at 3R, with a flashback of 5RR… It can almost be counted as the”fifth” land kill spell. Dear Lord, the environment is so chock full of red land destruction spells right now. Tremble almost makes the cut in the deck, even if it is a bad Raze. If only there were an equivalent spell to Tectonic Break… I’m sorry, but Epicenter doesn’t quite fit the bill. I’d even take Rain of Salt if it were available.
Mirari is one of those”looks-better-than-it-is” cards, but has the potential to shine in this deck. If you can drop a turn five Mirari, the next turn you can start doubling land kill spells. I’m not 100% sold on it yet, but in games where I get it out — and start using it — I tend to win. Two is the right number for the deck.
The burn count is a little low, but that’s (sort of) made up for by the reusability of Firebolt. Urza’s Rage will kill just about anything annoying out there, guaranteed, and has the potential to end the game in style with Mirari and fifteen mana. Yeah, yeah, by the time you get to fifteen mana, the game should already be over. Earthquake, of course, is an excellent board clearer and can be a finisher if need be.
Void is the only reason this deck is”Dark Ponza” and not mono-red Ponza Ponza. There will be situations where you need to clear the board and fast – and with enough pro-red beasties out there to worry about, Void fills the void admirably (I’d promise that would be the last bad pun, but I know there are more coming).
I only wish there I could find a way to stick the Trench Wurm in here, but as I discovered with the Trench Wurm in the earliest iterations of the deck, he’s pricey to cast and pricey to use. A black 3/3 is nothing to scoff at… But on turn four, I need to kill land, not play creatures. A Dwarven Miner would be perfect, since he’s a turn two play that can be played as a Stone Rain on non-basics. Man alive, I miss having Dust Bowl for this deck. For now, he’s relegated to the sideboard, but may migrate main if I discover that non-basics threaten to rule the environment
Once I settled on the land kill quotient and burn spells, the big question was, what was the fatty for the kill going to be? It used to be versatile Masticore, then I dabbled with Flowstone Overseer once Urza’s Block went out, but now, I think we’re gonna kick it old school with the big bad Shivan Dragon. Great googly moogly – it’s like 1996 all over again!
Show me another creature that can end the game as quick as the big Shivan and I’ll slap it in here – but for now, two Dragons seems just about right. I thought about Pyre Zombie, but without a greater commitment to black, he seemed a little unfeasible. Plus, the Dragon flies! Forget this graveyard recursion crap, a flying pumpable 5/5 is the wave of the future!
The sideboard, again, is a work in progress. Price of Glory, definitely, over Boil. David Price new favorite card will lock down those annoying counterspell decks quite well. Trench Wurm has already been mentioned. Obliterate also has a place as well, and probably Pyroclasm, what with all these squirrels running around. After that, I’m still playing with different cards.
With the departure of”free” spells like Daze, Thwart and Misdirection, the banes of Ponza decks are now gone. Land destruction should be as good as ever. There is, however, the addition of Divert, which is brutal in the early game. Without Rishadan Port to help lock down an opponent, it’s something that must be watched for. A turn three Stone Rain is good. A turn five Stone Rain? Not as good.
Speaking of Divert, here’s a nifty little deck – my version of the old Turbo Xerox archetype, which happens to pack it main. With the reprint of Foreshadow, now known as Predict, we can safely predict that Turbo Xerox will be a viable Standard deck. We can also predict that Dave will continue to make bad puns until the cows do indeed come home.
Turbo Xerox, I believe, was the brainchild of Alan Comer some years back. (If I’m wrong, the correct creator can send me his hate mail.) One of the many drawing engines it utilized was the synergy with Memory Lapse and Foreshadow. Memory Lapse a spell, follow it up with Foreshadow, and not only get two cards but get rid of the annoying spell permanently. It used a lot of cheap cantrips, like Urza’s Bauble, and a seemingly low mana count, but it could overcome that with the many card drawing effects to get it the mana it needed to roll.
It made a brief splash at Nationals this year, being run by the likes of Adrian Sullivan and Bob Maher, and it might be primed for greater prominent with the release of Odyssey:
I really, really wanted to find a way to put the Shadowmage Infiltrator in this deck. He’s one cheaper than the Magpie, has an evasion ability, and can’t be targeted by black creature removal. However, that would mean watering down the already thin mana base by adding non-basics and/or including come-into-play-tapped lands, and that just wouldn’t do. The deck thrives on having a turn one play to smooth out the mana base – either Opt or Sleight of Hand – to get to quick counterspell mana. So I don’t”fink” Finkel makes the deck.
Stop this man before he puns again.
With the loss of the Thwart, Daze, and Foil, I’ve gone more”old school” and put Force Spike in the deck as the early counter threat. Against aggro speed decks, the extra turn that even the threat of having a Force Spike in your hand is invaluable. Syncopate, I’ve discovered, ain’t half bad, either.
Divert, I’ve found, is huge, in the early game. For one mana, you can steer a Stone Rain to the other side of the table or win a counter war, a la Misdirection. And it’s another card that opponents must play around.
The creature base is pretty much identical to the versions run at Nationals this year; two”Fat Motis” for the kill, two Glacial Walls to deter big fatties, and four Magpies to draw cards.
The sideboard…well, I’ve got no idea on it quite yet. I’ve presently got a couple more Walls, Hibernations, Wash Outs and an extra Mahamoti, but I’m still playing around for other stuff. Perhaps Boomerang or even Evacuation for additional bounce, and I also think Chamber of Manipulation has possibilities against creature rush decks.
These two decks are pretty rough but show promise. I won’t go so far to state that I’ll play one of these decks at States, but one never knows.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more horrible puns/decks to think up.