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Done Before it Starts


Is there any card in Modern that has ended more games before they started than Smallpox? It’s been awhile since the card has seen the spotlight, but it’s a very powerful card, particularly against decks low to the ground and highly dependent on a specific combination of resources. Given all the best decks in Modern currently fit that description, it seems like a great time to try to break Smallpox:

This deck is all about breaking the symmetry of the card Smallpox. You don’t have cheap creatures, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to sacrifice one of those. You’re playing 25 lands to compensate for having to sacrifice one or two early on in the game, and two of them are copies of Flagstones of Trokair, which is just patently unfair. As far as cards in hand go, you’re building to take advantage of symmetrical discard effects like Liliana of the Veil and Smallpox with the likes of Lingering Souls and Dark Confidant.

The whole idea is you can keep your opponent very low on resources, maximizing the value of something like Liliana of the Veil and your various discard and removal spells by denying your opponent the critical mass of resources required to get their synergy-based decks online. While they’re struggling, you can start pulling ahead with Dark Confidant, Lingering Souls, and even Monastery Mentor. Once you’re ahead on tangible resources rather than just cards in hand, you can lean on Death Cloud and other haymakers to bury your opponent in value and prevent them from recovering.

The most telling card in this list is Mana Tithe. Force Spike is likely a card that would see a moderate amount of Modern play, but Mana Tithe sees effectively none. This is because decks that want Mana Tithe also want to tap out early in the game for creatures and other proactive elements, leaving Mana Tithe dead most of the time when you’d want to leave up mana. Enter Smallpox. If you can keep your opponent stalled on lands, suddenly Mana Tithe is live well into the mid and late game, which makes it a much more palatable inclusion.

All in all, if your opponents are playing decks highly dependent on synergy and faster starts, then you may want to consider crushing their dreams with Smallpox. If that’s the kind of thing you’re looking to try, this seems like a fantastic list to start with.

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