Sometimes a deck comes along that combines a lot of things I like. And when that happens, you know I have to show it off on Mining Modern. So how about discard, planeswalkers and land destruction?
Enter Pox and Friends.
I've played a fair amount of Smallpox in my life, going back to when the win condition was Wurm Harvest. While it didn't win a ton of games, it definitely displayed some power and was really fun when it worked or when you got to "combo" Flagstones of Trokair with Smallpox.
The archetype faded out of memory for a long time, but as Modern as become more diverse, with many strategies floating around with vastly different gameplans, Smallpox has seen a small resurgence since its many modes answer a lot of different angles, from the hand disruption to land destruction to basic removal. And when Lingering Souls is an option, a lot is possible.
But this version is even better – it's the return of Superfriends. If you're not familiar with the term, decks that used to run a dozen or more planeswalkers were termed "superfriends," because all the planeswalkers got along so nicely. With the change to the rules that means we can now have Liliana of the Veil on the battlefield at the same time as Liliana, the Last Hope, strategies like this are starting to pick up steam again. I explored the concept with Tribal Tezzeret, but this goes a step further and is even better.
This deck runs a full 12 planeswalkers, and when the basic plan is "rip apart their hands, their lands and their creatures early, then have something to win with," it turns out planeswalkers fit the bill perfectly. A mess of Liliana (including throwback Liliana Vess – which I even got to ultimate in one of the games!) alongside a helping of Gideons, with some Sorin and Elspeth thrown in, means this deck has plenty of finishing power, and can position itself into board states where opponents are kept constantly off-guard while we are getting value turn after turn from our planeswalkers.
The deck I played ran two Bloodghast, which are both a sweet discard to Collective Brutality and a value engine late, but honestly may not be needed. Games are hardly ever decided by the Bloodghast, and they don't serve the primary plan of protecting the planeswalkers after you set the stage with Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality. I'm not sure exactly what I would want in their place, but something like Blessed Alliance or even Damnation (or Bontu's Last Reckoning since it plays so well with the 'walkers, if we're really going deep) might do more to help the plan.
There are very few decks that aren't just crushed by a Smallpox resolving on the second turn, and even fewer than can dig out from it while being bombarded with the huge amounts of discard and removal this deck packs in around it. While the deck can struggle to answer big, resolved threats, most of the time opponents won't even get that far before our endgame comes online.
The sideboard is there for the problematic matchups, but with access to both white and black most of the best options are open. Want the good Leylines? You got 'em. Want Stony Silence and Surgical Extraction? You got it. Need some anti-Storm cards? There's room for that too. With the main deck so geared toward ripping apart opponents' hands, it doesn't take much from the sideboard to swing games.
This deck is a blast to play, but more than that it's also legitimately very good in Modern. A build of this deck doing well in the last Modern Challenge really caught my eye, but I've seen people playing it more and more in paper as well. In short, I think this is a "real" deck that I would absolutely suggesting taking to a large tournament if you are practiced with Smallpox.
Thanks for reading,