I won't lie, I might be one of the few players who enjoys casting Bloodbraid Elf more than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. So when they were unbanned together last week, I naturally began thinking of new homes for ol' BBE—Allies, Naya Blitz, Berserker Tribal—you name it.
Also, Land Death. Because of course I would—who doesn't like casting Bloodbraid Elf on turn two? It's Bloodbraid's world, and I'm happy to live in it playing Ponza and blowing up some lands.
Ponza has existed on the fringes of Modern for quite a while, but I honestly believe it is going to hit the mainstream in a big way thanks to Bloodbraid Elf. The deck already plays the most powerful non-Tron man shell in Modern in Arbor Elf plus Utopia Sprawl – which is capable of producing four mana on turn two – and in a meta of Tron and decks trying to get to high mana counts for planeswalkers, blowing up some lands is a mighty fine strategy. Oh, and did I mention we're playing a full playset of Blood Moon?
And no deck does that better than Ponza. From Stone Rain to Mwonvuli Acid-Moss to Molten Rain or Crumble to Dust, Ponza does two things very well: ramping its own mana while setting opponents back on mana. And when it does ramp its own mana, it makes great use of it, in the form of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Stormbreath Dragon and even Inferno Titan, which is exactly as good as you remember it being back in its Standard days.
The problem the deck had before was that it often stalled out – you would draw all the mana acceleration but not the payoff, or get stuck on three or four mana while your big cards stalled in your hand and your opponent recovered because you couldn't apply any pressure.
Bloodbraid perfectly fills that hole, and does so better in this deck than any other in the format. Cascading into Blood Moon or Stone Rain is absolutely busted, and thanks to the fact that unlike in other BBE decks our Bloodbraid isn't at the top of the curve, even cascading into a mana dork or Utopia Sprawl is a big-time play, because it gives you that crucial fifth or sixth mana to play your bomb. And, by the way, Bloodbraid Elf provides exactly the kind of pressure you need while you're hiding behind a Blood Moon or a few early Stone Rains.
I really can't stress enough that Bloodbraid Elf is exactly what this strategy needed to take the leap from also-ran to legitimate contender in Modern. Your broken starts are even more broken, and in games where things don't go to plan and you need to grind, Bloodbraid is again the perfect card for doing that. With access to powerful sideboard options – including Ancient Grudge, the best sideboard card against Lantern Control in the format – Ponza can interact with almost any deck in the format (combo matchups probably need help; Trinisphere seems to be the best option).
I loved playing this one, and I would not be at all surprised to see Ponza make its way onto the top tables. People serially underestimate this deck, but Bloodbraid Elf is going to change that.
Thanks for reading.