Video Daily Digest: A Pox On Modern

Ross Merriam has a Magical crush on Smallpox in Modern, so when this deck went 5-0 in a Competitive Modern League, he couldn’t help himself. Warning for SCG Atlanta attendees: may contain Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

A day will come when my unfettered attraction to Smallpox fades and we break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. Today we band together for another valiant effort toward breaking into the open but crowded Modern metagame.

I’ve noted this before but it bears repeating: the primary issue facing Smallpox decks is creating a sufficient clock. There is enough cheap disruption available that creating a deck which aggressively trades resources to the point of consistently crippling both players in the early turns of the game is rather easy. Between Flagstones of Trokair, Bloodghast, and Lingering Souls, you have enough cards that break the symmetry of Smallpox to create a small resource edge, giving you an advantage in the ensuing topdeck war.

That’s the bread and butter of Smallpox decks, but your opponent will draw out of their initially weak position given enough time, so you have to apply significant pressure, and Lingering Souls and Bloodghast don’t do that well enough. With so many slots in the deck devoted to trading cards with your opponent, it’s difficult to generate additional pressure. You really need a one-card “army in a can” that still has an incredibly efficient rate.

Does anyone know of a card that fits that description? Maybe a white planeswalker that’s been terrorizing Standard for months on end with no signs of stopping?

…nothing? Okay, I guess we’re done here. Have a great day, everyone.

Oh yeah, that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar card is a thing that exists. I guess that will work because it’s, you know, perfect.

And not only is Gideon a great card by itself, its inclusion alongside typical planeswalkers Liliana of the Veil and Sorin, Solemn Visitor leads to the last innovative inclusion in this list: Oath of Liliana. In games where both players are light on resources, every little edge in value is important, so even if your overpriced Edict only makes a single 2/2 that’s going to swing some games.

Maybe the Zombie swings a race in your favor, trades for a creature, or pressures an opposing planeswalker, which discard-heavy decks typically struggle with. All of these are fine outcomes and that small edge may be enough to bring the deck into contention.

Smallpox is great against Death’s Shadow, which is both land-light and depends on singular large creatures, so this deck is probably the best-positioned it’s ever been. Whether that’s a good or bad thing for my relationship with the card remains to be seen.