Two Wrongs Make A Right

Last week, I said good-bye to our former editor-in-chief of StarCity, . This week, I’m saying hello to our NEW editor-in-chief, the Ferrett. Welcome aboard! And now, on to the meat of the article. Okay, now: I want everyone to think of their favorite color to play in Magic. (Thinking of green in all of…

Last week, I said good-bye to our former editor-in-chief of StarCity, Omeed Dariani. This week, I’m saying hello to our NEW editor-in-chief, the Ferrett. Welcome aboard!

And now, on to the meat of the article.

Okay, now: I want everyone to think of their favorite color to play in Magic. (Thinking of green in all of its natural glory…) Now – everyone who thought of red, take a hammer and hit yourself in the fingers. Red is despicable. I can’t stand it. But on the other hand, it does have its’ uses. Sneak Attack is a fun red card, and Blaze makes my easier-to-go-off version of Bargain a winner. So I rescind my previous statement of red’s unutterable foulness.

But there is one thing that is unutterably foul: Ponza.

I heartily dislike (must … avoid … hate) Ponza. Whenever I see an Avalanche Riders, my stomach churns. The problem with Ponza is that it’s full of near-perfectly designed cards. Saber Ants is a perfectly designed card. It has a perfect power/toughness and casting cost, as well as set! Miscalculation is also a very close to perfect card, as an average of Force Spike and Mana Leak with Cycling. But there are SO many perfectly designed cards in Ponza: Pillage, Avalanche Riders, Fire Diamond, Shock, etc. Now I’m sure that Ponza, in all of its’ perfect glory, loses… but not to me. I’ve had awful luck versus Ponza.

So if it’s so good, why don’t I play it? The answer is simple: I prefer my soul to remain in MY possession, instead of being sold to the Dark Gods of Magic. But on the other hand, if my contract with the Gods of Play is to stay in effect, I have to maintain at least a moderate win percentage, and part of winning is playing with a good deck. So I was faced with quite a quandary.

And then Yawgmoth knocked on my door. He’s not as bad as everyone says he is, and the color of evil that possesses his soul offered me a solution to my problem. I could have the power of Ponza without that disgusting feeling of playing Ponza. The perfect solution: Dark Ponza.

Before I go on, here’s the decklist I’m currently using:

2x Vampiric Tutor
2x Ring of Gix
4x Stupor
4x Dark Ritual
2x Yawgmoth’s Will
2x Thrashing Wumpus
2x Despoil
2x Massacre
4x Befoul
4x Rain of Tears
4x Duress
3x Abyssal Specter

1x Dust Bowl
4x Rishadan Port
3x Peat Bog
17x Swamp

Now I’ll go ahead and admit that Dark Ponza doesn’t do as well as Evil Ponza (the original red version), but it definitely doesn’t have that same awful feeling. There are basically five parts to the deck, and when they work together correctly the deck is nearly unstoppable. The five parts of the deck follow.

Just like every other deck, Dark Ponza has to have a mana base. This deck has a cushy 25 lands with 4 Dark Rituals. Black mana is a key to Thrashing Wumpus, so only five non-black mana-producing lands are included. However, I don’t consider Rishadan Port a mana source. It is so good in this deck for its second ability that I almost feel guilty tapping it for mana.

Land Destruction
Ponza’s defining quality is its ability to destroy or otherwise control land. Dark Ponza is no different. Dark Ponza sports ten land destruction spells (Befoul, Rain of Tears, and Despoil). There’s also Ring of Gix and Rishadan Port for mana denial. Finally, the sole Dust Bowl can be used for additional land destruction. That’s seventeen ways to control land.

Creature Control
Main deck Massacre all the way, eh? I can’t stand Rebels. They’re not quite as evil as Ponza, but they’re so BORING. However, they’re pretty good and practically ever-present in the present tourney scene. So main deck Massacre is a pretty good call. It’s also good against green, even if you DO have to hard cast it. Befoul and Ring of Gix work in parallel as creature control as well as land control, and Thrashing Wumpus gets rid of anything of equal or lesser value.

Hand Control
There’s nothing so sweet as having control of your opponents’ mana while they have no cards in hand. Dark Ponza packs Duress, Stupor, and Abyssal Specter for hand control. That’s 11 ways to knock out your opponent’s threats BEFORE they become a problem, and Abyssal Specter does it turn after turn after turn…

Creatures and Support
The main weakness of this deck is that it only has five creatures. I am heavily considering adding Spawning Pools for just this reason. However, the creatures of the deck go hand-in-hand with the deck’s sole drive in life: Control. The Thrashing Wumpus can deal seven damage a "turn" as well as take out small creatures, and the Abyssal Specter will be your opponent’s least favorite thing to see when he has no cards in hand and is under Port/Ring lock. Additionally, Abyssal Specters are colossal in pairs, and Vampiric Tutor can help with that (or anything else, for that matter). Yawgmoth’s Will lets you recycle everything in your deck, making it some good.

Well, there you have it: A Ponza deck without that unwholesome Ponza feeling. Oftentimes if things don’t work out right away, the deck falls apart – but when things really start to get rolling, it’s hard to stop the madness. This deck has a tendency to be mana flooded, and that being said, I have decided to add in Spawning Pools. That’ll give you something to do when you have a Swamp and three Dark Rituals in your hand (as happened to me recently).

Allow me to present to you an example of what happens when this deck really works well: It has beaten Replenish twice in three in four matchups. Not bad, eh? Early discard took out the Plains he had been holding back after I destroyed the only one he had on the board. Two Ports and a Ring later, I always had him down to a three mana threshold. That is, on any given turn, I made sure that he couldn’t reach four mana. Then the Abyssal Specter showed up. Land destruction always came at the perfect times, and the Specter annihilated his hand until it was taking the only card he had left each turn. After ten turns of Specter beats, Replenish went up in smoke with about twenty enchantments and two or three Replenishes in the graveyard.

Does that mean that this a huge metagame choice? Not exactly. The very next game, I had more mana than you could shake a stick at, and I had absolutely no answer to the enchantment horde that descended upon my head. I never said that this deck was good; I just said that it was a holier attempt at Ponza than anything with Mountains in it.

But, a deck should never be described as simply "morally better than another." So I’m presenting this deck to you, the public, for review. Last time I did this, I got quite a few good suggestions. I’m hoping that you can help me again. You can send any comments you may have to the address following my name.

So, that’s it for this week. Only time will tell what wonders my fingers will lend to you on the next. And, in the words of our esteemed departed editor:

Take care.

Daniel Crane
[email protected]*

*Haven’t seen that in a while, have you? That’s our new editor’s first change: Email addresses back on the articles. Hooray for the Ferrett. Hooray!