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Magical Christmas Lands

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Something happened in the process of writing my article on Pauper midrange decks. I did a search for any Black or Green creature that had the glorious text “draw a card” printed in the textbox. I was looking for a Phyrexian Arena — some sort of recurring card advantage that could sit on the battlefield. Grim Harvest is great but only does so much and Tortured Existence requires a lot of jumping through hoops. Imagine my surprise when I ran across this Planar Chaos beauty:

Fa'adiyah Seer

Fa'adiyah Seer is a color shifted Sindbad. The card has a unique application as it can provide a steady stream of cards as long as they are lands. Now there are ways to mitigate this — Pauper has access to a bevy of graveyard centered mechanics — Delirium, Flashback, Madness, Threshold, Unearth — as well as cards that benefit from the discard pile — Gurmag Angler and Undead Servant spring to mind.

But that is not where my mind went first. Instead it went to a deck I saw on Twitter during the era of Peregrine Drake. While I’ve not been able to uncover the exact list the deck looked something like this:


Evincar's Justice
While the exact list may not be right the gist is the same. The goal was to establish a clean board state and then use a combination of Pristine Talisman and Evincar's Justice to lock down the game. The combination is not unknown in Pauper is at sees regular play in Dimir Teachings decks. Crypt Rats and Chainer's Edict keep creatures off the board, especially those larger than a 2/2.

The other element of the deck is grounded in its lands. Raven's Crime is a potent tool for stripping an adversary’s hand and leaving them in topdeck mode. Tilling Treefolk lets you build your own Mulldrifter with the upside that if you can resolve the 3-drop the card draw cannot be countered. Gurmag Angler does a good job on mop up duty and the rest of the deck attempts to support the core.

There’s a lot to like about Golgari Lands. It has a hard to disrupt advantage engine that requires playing plenty of lands. The deck has a few resilient angles of attack between Retrace and Grim Harvest. It is well suited for a long game but lacks the tools needed to fight the current metagame.

Pauper has skewed toward the aggressive end of the spectrum. Affinity, Delver, and Stompy remain at the top of the standings but they are joined by a bevy of go wide decks. Elves, Goblins, and Kuldotha Tokens (complete with Kuldotha Rebirth and Battle Screech) are adept at establishing a dominant army early. While relying on Crypt Rats and Evincar's Justice to perform mop up duty is fine these cards lose some of their efficacy when they are cast when also far behind on life total. The answer to this problem takes us back to Eventide but forces us into a different color.

Flame Jab
When I brought up the idea of running with Golgari Lands frequent collaborator Jason Sirichoke recommended adding Red for Flame Jab. I was skeptical initially and showed off a list with a single copy of the sorcery. Jason quickly sent one back with three copies. After a few test matches I saw he was correct.

An active Flame Jab makes it very difficult for any deck that relies on small creatures to keep a threat on the table. Trading multiple lands to keep a high life total is easier when those lands will come back later thanks to Tilling Treefolk. That same Treefolk provides a decent blocker which can absorb a hit or two before dying for the case. All this combined with Pulse of Murasa can help to keep Lands alive until it can stick a board wipe. The strong defensive measures came at the cost of Raven's Crime which found a new home in the sideboard.

I was never a huge fan of Pristine Talisman but Syphon Life fit a similar role. A common thanks to Modern Masters the ability to both bolster your own life total and act as a win condition is attractive in this style of deck. Rounding out the deck were a copy of Battlefield Scrounger for when the game went too long, two copies of Strangling Soot for additional removal, and a single Spore Frog to attempt a Grim Harvest-Fog style lock. The first draft of the deck showed promise and yielded a positive result for me in the Pauper league.


Fa'adiyah Seer proved to be a excellent way to accelerate your engine. A Seer on turn two churns through the deck allowing you to see more cards and dump key pieces into bin. Flipping over a spell with Retrace only to refill your hand with land is almost as good as drawing a key spell. While Strangling Soot and Chainer's Edict are expensive on the second go around, flipping them with Seer is hardly the worst case scenario.

The sideboard does a lot of heavy lifting here. Many decks will pack a Relic of Progenitus in games two and three so turning over an Ancient Grudge is about as good as it gets. Last Rites is a bit of a catchall but setting it up with a turn two Mulch can be absolutely backbreaking.

There were some issues with Jund Lands. Pulse of Murasa was great but would occasionally clog my hand early. Additionally while Fa'adiyah Seer was great having four was too many. I made a few changes, including finding home for a Grim Discovery, and went back into the league. I improved on my 3-2 endeavor with a 4-1 record.


Crop Rotation
The biggest change from the first to second version is the Crop Rotation package. After watching Jarvis Yu’s matches from Grand Prix Seattle 2015 I realized the potential to get a land at instant speed can help with certain matchups. Casting it at end step to get a Mortuary Mire and sculpt a draw is great, but wiping the board of Undying creatures and responding with an instant speed Bojuka Bog can be a blow out. Grim Discovery is a fine replacement for Pulse of Murasa and makes up for the inability to gain life by getting two cards much of the time.

The changes in the sideboard were done to help fight against Affinity. Ghastly Demise can take out just about anything Affinity can present while Fangren Marauder presents a threat that can negate an Atog. Caustic Caterpillar is better with Grim Harvest and has the added bonus of being able to take out a Curse of the Pierced Heart or an Oubliette.

Jund Lands is a deck for a specific metagame. When Pauper skews aggressive it can wreak havoc on beatdown players. It does struggle against other control decks, specifically those featuring Black. Mono-Black Control can play off the top extremely well and U/B Mulldrifter decks prove difficult for the same reason. It does not matter how Hellbent someone is if they can draw a refuel spell off the top and parlay that into cheap removal. Dimir decks with Mulldrifter are particularly problematic since they can also recur their own Bojuka Bog with Dimir Aqueduct.

That being said if you are looking for something different that can stall the beatdown Jund Lands is the deck for you. It also helps that it can make counterspells look a tad silly.

Let’s talk matchups.

Delver

Ancient Grudge
Caustic Caterpillar
Raven's Crime

While Delver is the current number one deck in Pauper it is not as dominant as it has been in the past. Relying on 1-toughness creatures Flame Jab does a ton of work in this matchup. Having a Jab and Red sources in the opener will make it hard for the Blue deck to establish any sort of offense. In games two or three be prepared to face off against Relic of Progenitus and Stormbound Geist so bringing in Ancient Grudge is a must. Caustic Caterpillar may also make sense if you want to limit their offense to Geists alone. Keep your life total high enough to active Crypt Rats for five — sink 3 mana into the Rats then respond by activating it for two to take out both sides of a Stormbound Geist — and bring in Raven's Crime as well. Syphon Life is expendable in this matchup as your life total should be high enough between gainlands and Pulse of Murasa.

Stompy

Flame Jab
Syphon Life
Chainer's Edict

Once again Flame Jab is worth its weight in gold. Using it to keep the board under control until a sweeper comes online. Playing out a Treefolk for no value other than blocking is perfectly acceptable. Raven's Crime is less useful here and comes out for additional removal. Crop Rotation also an come out for Syphon Life. The goal is to stay alive and kill everything on the board. The same trick for Stormbound Geist works on Young Wolf, only it is an activation of two followed by a response for an activation of one. Against Stompy it is often important to have a backup Chainer's Edict as they may respond to the Crypt Rats with a copy of Hunger of the Howlpack.

Affinity

Fangren Marauder

Affinity is the toughest of the big three. When Affinity gets one of their hands it is nearly impossible to beat even post board. Post board I bring in every artifact removal spell as well as Fangren Marauder at the expense of Raven's Crime, Flame Jab, Evincar's Justice, and Crop Rotation. Last rites may make an appearance as well as it can force the Affinity player to go into full on top deck mode while you build up a board. Resolving a Fangren Marauder is key as it can prevent any sort Atog-Fling shenanigans. Sometimes I will also side out a Mountain when I side out the Flame Jabs here to make room for another Syphon Life. If they have Disciple of the Vault I will leave a few Flame Jabs in just in case.

Kuldotha Tokens

Crypt Rats

This is a lot like Stompy except they have Lightning Bolt and Galvanic Blast. Keeping Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher off the table is important as they can help soften a life total to within burn range. Sideboarding is similar to Affinity in that you want the artifact removal. Raven's Crime retains utility as does Flame Jab but Crop Rotation is fine to cut. Taking out a Fa'adiyah Seer may also be needed to make space. The key in this matchup is to not play out a Golgari Rot Farm unless you can easily get it back with Pulse of Murasa as these decks may bring in Molten Rain to try and constrain your mana. Crypt Rats is our best card and once again you just need to stay alive long enough to get it active.

Elves

Flame Jab
Caustic Caterpillar

Perhaps our easiest of the popular matchups, the goal is to kill everything they put on the board. Flame Jab proves its worth once again and resolving either board wipe is just about good enough for the victory. Bringing in Caustic Caterpillar in games two and three is the way to go as they may bring in Spidersilk Armor as a way to bolster their defense and taking it out makes our lives that much easier.

Tron

Grim Harvest
Battlefield Scrounger

A top matchup where Flame Jab is worthless and we are disadvantaged in the first game. Games two and three, Jund Lands wants to load up on discard to try to take away Tron’s development. Once their hand is empty stop spending lands on Raven's Crime and instead shift to Syphon Life. Eventually Tron will be able to play off the top and it becomes more important to go after their life total than trying to stop them from casting spells. Grim Harvest and the second Battlefield Scrounger should come in. Caustic Caterpillar and Ancient Grudge may come in for Justice and a copy of Rats as a way to try and curtail access to specific mana through Prismatic Lens or Prophetic Prism.

Mono-Black Control/Dimir Mulldrifter decks

Last Rites
Caustic Caterpillar
Battlefield Scrounger

These are our toughest matchups. Both decks can refuel easily and can draw into cheap removal to keep themselves ahead. Mono-Black Control also has the Gray Merchant of Asphodel draw which can be nearly impossible to stop. Against both of these decks Last Rites and Raven's Crime are needed early to try and keep parity. Caustic Caterpillar comes in against Mono-Black to try and fight Pestilence and Oubliette while Ancient Grudge is needed against Dimir decks to try and stop their additional graveyard removal. Battlefield Scrounger is key in the latter pairing as a way to stay alive as the game goes long.

Jund Lands may not be the best deck in Pauper but it is definitely something different. Tilling Treefolk is a great way to burn through a deck while Retrace spells can convert lands into game ending spells. Finally who doesn’t want to give Fa'adiyah Seer a shot. So, if you want to try a deck off the beaten path, Jund Lands is for you.


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