Magic: the Gathering
Pauper Izzet Serpentine Deck tech & Sideboard guide - part 1
On today's article, I present you a complete guide to Pauper's newest deck: Izzet Serpentine!
Izzet Serpentine, which I think it has a great potential to be a competitive roleplayer while also being extremely fun to play with. Furthermore, I have made some good results with it on Leagues and a Top 16 on a Pauper Challenge, and I believe the deck can fit against the current field easily.
This Deck's Origin
Okay, so what's the advantage of playing with that card? The token is big, but is being big enough? Does size matter, anyway?That's when jpvasku, a great friend, deckbuilding partner and co-author of the final list, came up with the big catch: this is not a Control deck. All removals, counters and card advantage that the deck generates are only means to reach the deck's Gran Finale. The deck is actually a combo. A combo of only two cards, which basically consists of connecting a huge 20+ power token to the opponent's face using Fling or Maximize Velocity. The biggest weakness of the decks that I've presented so far was the need to tapout and / or the vulnerability against removals, but it turns out that this doesn't matter anymore when you win the game on-spot, giving little to no opportunity for your opponent to interact!
Izzet Serpentine Deck tech!
G1: I'll start now with what must be one of the most difficult matchups in the deck. Dimir Faeries interacts very well with this deck. They play many efficient counters and removals against our Serpentine Curve like Cast Down, Snuff Out and Chainer’s Edict. The efficiency of removals and counters makes it almost impossible to win on the board using normal combat, so we are practically obliged to win with Fling. We have clean answers for fairies, ninjas and Gurmag Angler. The tricky thing here is letting the Monarch resolve. This is a match in which we have no way of fighting for the crown. If you are far from lethal, always try to
counterAugur of Bolas and Thorn of the Black Rose / Azure Fleet Admiral. If the opponent manages to resolve a Monarch, run as fast as possible to end the game. The match is usually won because of Fling itself. Always try to remove the creatures in order not to allow them to play a Ninja and make more value than your opponent with Pieces of the Puzzle and Frantic Inventory. Always try to play around Spellstutter Sprite. If you are on the draw, it might be better to cast your Preordain in turn 1 may be better than playing a tapped land, as this eliminates the risk of it being countered on the next turn by a faerie.
Post side:Things get a little better for us. Goblin Wizardry comes in and helps us deal with the opponent's removals and monarch plan. Making two bodies in the opponent's end step is perfect for stealing the monarch and imposing a reasonable clock, in addition to playing better against removals. The opponent will usually be forced to deal with them, and while he spends cards and mana on it, you can take advantage of the pressure from the goblins to resolve your efficient spells and accumulate counters, removals and the final pieces of the combo. Whenever you go to the beatdown plan with the goblins, take extra care with Echoing Truth and remember that you can remove your targeting goblin to save others. If all the extra counters(Dispel and Pyroblast) you have added are not enough to guarantee the goblins' combo or aggression, you can take a full control stance until you find Gigadrowse and then end the game with Fling. Just keep in mind that Gigadrowse does not necessarily have to be used for going for the combo, and that will apply to all matches it comes in: In certain situations (usually when you are behind) it can be used equally well to turn your opponent's mana in his final step and ensure on your turn that you can resolve a Fiery Cannonade + Pieces of the Puzzle, ensuring that the removal connects and you replenish your hand.
The sideboard plan here is almost identical to the plan against Dimir Faeries: the only difference is that we side our Fiery Cannonade and move to Negate instead. Cannonade is not so good without the faeries, and without Spellstutter Sprite and Ninja of the Deep Hours, our Negate becomes a good form of interaction.
G1:The posture in this match is similar to the posture against Faeries, the combo is our main wincon, and we just need to hold on until then. But this matchup is much more tranquil (the match is still difficult, but not as difficult as the version with the faeries), we don't need to play around Spellstutter or Ninjas. This deck doesn't have many threats, we just need to remove the Delver of Secrets and Gurmag Angler and take that special care with the Monarch.
Post side: The plan is identical as to against Faries too. Goblin Wizardry is even better in this match than against Faeries and their clock is also much slower, so assuming control posture while you put the combo pieces together is easier. Use your counters to counter the opponent's worthy spells or to resolve yours, and just wait for a window to cast the Goblins or to go off.
Thought Scour comes out for the same reasons as the previous matches, the side is very similar in itself, the most striking difference is that here are the Skred that are trimmed, as Lightning Bolt already solves the opponent's threats and has the option to be used as direct damage. Leave Skred only if Spire Golem is used.
G1:Similar to match against Dimir Faeries, focus on the beginning of the game in keeping your land drops and keeping the board controlled to avoid ninjas, continue to counter monarchs and Augur of Bolas. Try to make a maximum of 1-to-1 exchanges at the beginning of the game to feed the graveyard and do not let your opponent stabilize the board. Always look for windows to resolve Pieces of the Puzzle and, in the future, to resolve Serpentine Curve. The big difference of this match for Dimir is that your opponent will not be able to remove your token without spending multiple Skred (and sometimes not even so). Then run to get the token as soon as possible and start putting pressure.
Post side:In the following games the plan to just resolve the Serpentine Curve is a little more difficult, but not unfeasible. Always keep an eye on how many Pyroblasts / Red Elemental Blasts the opponent has before resolving Serpentine Curve. Alternatively, it is also possible to go to the Goblin Wizardry plan, which is great for conjuring up your opponent's turnover to force an action. The Gigadrowse plan is also available, and if the game is favorable (board clear, both players waiting for the other to take the initiative) it is the safest plan.
Fiery Cannonade is basicly useless in the match, and Skred is very ineffective too, as all creatures on Tron are already great when they hit the battlefield. Thought Scour and Serpentine Curve come out to open slots for extra counterspells. Gigadrowse to try to end the game with Fling.
G1: This is a very complicated match in game 1, we often don't have enough pressure to threaten them. Try to delay them from assembling Tron and then resolve Serpentine Curve as soon as possible. They will have to spend resources and mana to protect themselves from it, which can give you a window to win with Fling. If you are attacking, avoid countering Moment's Peace (unless you are pro lethal), save your counterspells for more relevant cards, such as Mnemonic Wall, Mulldrifter and Bonder's Ornament.
Post side:Now we go off with all available counterspells we have. We will go to the combo plan, fighting for the opponent's value spells whenever possible, until we manage to fit Fling. Remember that Gigadrowse helps a lot to do this, but against TRON it is not a definite plan: he can use Ghostly Flicker and Unwind to untap the lands after Gigadrowse, so always keep that in mind when risking the combo.
All of our targeted removals come out because of the hexproof creatures. We are left with just one Dispel, to interact with the opponent's sideboard. Negate to counter the most relevant auras, Echoing Truth to remove them from the field if they have resolved. Pyroblast is used to interact with a possible Dispel and can also counter Slippery Bogle. Swirling Sandstorm and Fiery Cannonade enter as they are the only ways to kill your opponent's creatures. Goblin Wizardry serves to occupy the slots left .
G1:One of the worst matches on our deck, as we interact awfully with the opponent's creatures. All of them have hexproof, making Lightning Bolt and Skred virtually useless. Our only hope of victory in the first game is to try to counter the more powerful auras like Ethereal Armor and Ancestral Mask, or kill your opponent's creatures with Fiery Cannonade before they get too big. Try to create a large token as quickly as possible while countering the auras that would make his creature bigger than yours.
Post side:The plan is the same, but now we have fewer dead cards in the deck and more counters and interactions for the creatures. We also have Echoing Truth, which allows us to remove the most important aura from the board at a crucial point in the game.
Negate comes in as an extra counter for problematic auras, Echoing Truth to remove creatures with many counters and enchantments, and Dispel to deal with the instant-speed protection spells. Fiery Cannonade is unlikely to find targets, and Maximize Velocity is unlikely to find an empty board without blockers. Brainstorm goes out to make space.
G1:Like Bogles, this is an awful match due to the difficulty we have in removing enemy creatures. Due to the high resistance they can obtain, in addition to instant protection spells and enchantments with totem armor, we will often need multiple removals on the same target to resolve it. If the opponent does not start with Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, we have better chances, as we can kill the other creatures (which have a lower resistance) before they get too big or responding to the opponent's auras. If you are unable to remove the creatures, you can try to make a Serpentine Curve large enough to block and counter the most dangerous spells until you combo-off. Remember that he can pass through your block with protection spells.
Post side:In the second game, it improves a little with Echoing Truth, as we now have the ability to "remove" a creature, no matter its size. Stay tuned with Benevolent Blessing for blue and other protective spells like Karametra's Blessing and Emerge Unscathed. The rest of the game is very similar to the previous one: try to resolve the creatures before they leave at the range of your removals and if you can't, counter the most relevant auras.
Counterspell is sided out since we are often forced to get red mana early, so the double cost of blue mana is very complicated. Pieces of the Puzzle comes out as being a little slow, Fling and Maximize Velocity are cut because the most efficient plan here is to control the board, and they don't help with that. Fiery Cannonade and Swirling Sandstorm are excellent sweepers in the match, Dispel is sided in to counter Vines of Vastwood and Hunger of the Howlpack and Echoing Truth to resolve a creature with many counters or River Boa , in addition to being a good answer for creatures enchanted by Elephant Guide.
G1:Your targeted removals should be used wisely here, it is necessary to know when to remove and when to play around Vines of Vastwood and Hunger of the Howlpack. Try to exchange enough counters and removals early in the game, to be able to cast Serpentine Curve big enough to block without difficulty. Take advantage of the turns your opponent takes with his lands tapped to remove the key creatures, so they have no chance of using Vines or Hunger. Be extra careful with River Boa and Silhana Ledgewalker, as we do not remove them easily.
Post side:Similar plan, but now we will have Swirling Sandstorm to help our board control. Try to make efficient exchanges at the beginning and resolve Thought Scour to fill the graveyard and reach Threshold as quickly as possible.
Maximize Velocity and Fling leave because in this matchup the combo is unnecessary, Brainstorm, Thought Scour leave to open slots for the sweepers. Echoing Truth comes in to deal with creatures that evade our targeted removals or just to delay a key creature while looking for another removal.
G1:In general, a smooth match, you have inexpensive targeted removals to interact with your opponent early and counterspells for their value cards. Always be on the lookout to kill the most important creatures before your opponent untap with them, such as Timberwatch Elf, Elvish Vanguard and Lys Alana Huntmaster. Priest of Titania is also a great target if it is cast in the first rounds, it allows you to delay your opponent a lot. Don't worry too much about Wellwisher unless you're about to combo. The lifegain is easily taken after you stabilize the board with multiple 20/20 tokens. It is important to note that the elves without much impact will eventually start hitting you, and we have no creatures on the deck other than that generated by Serpentine Curve. Therefore, it is important to resolve an early Curve to stop them. It doesn't have to be too big, just enough to block. The first game is usually won by controlling until Fiery Cannonade or Fling comes in.
Post side:The game that was already favorable is even more now. Swirling Sandstorm and the extra Fiery Cannonade shine a lot, and when resolved they usually define the game right there. Pay attention only to Negate and Hydroblast that the opponent can side in against you. Always try to cast sweepers with Dispel backup, or after having dealt with the creatures that generate blue mana.
You must side in all possible counterspells to delay Burn's lethal. Pieces of the Puzzle is trimmed for being a little slow, Fiery Cannonade comes out for being slow and having few targets. Brainstorm comes out to open a slot for more counters.
G1:The match against Burn is more difficult for this deck than the versions with faeries, as we do not have the extra counterspell of Spellstutter Sprite or creatures to impose a reasonable clock. We have to be as fast as possible so as not to lose. ALWAYS try to change your counters and removals (especially at Thermoalchemist) as early as possible, to have a window to resolve Serpentine Curve without taking lethal on the next turn. With the token on the board, accumulate value and use your counters until you win the game. Fling and Maximize Velocity are very useful in this game because they give you the possibility to end the game for you one turn beforehand.
Post side:The plan here doesn't change at all. The idea is the same, but now you will have better means of interaction with them.
Fiery Cannonade and Lightning Bolt leave because they tend to have very few targets, Thought Scour and Brainstorm leave to free up space. We will play the control role, so we also get rid of Fling and Maximize Velocity. Hydroblast is our only efficient removal against Atog, and Swirling Sandstorm manages to deal with all the opponent's other creatures at the same time and forces the opponent to sacrifice artifacts for Atog. Negate is very versatile and has numerous good targets. Dispel and Pyroblast interact well with opponent's counters and Thoughtcast.
G1:The first match can be very difficult, as we do not have a definitive removal for Atog. Try to delay them as much as possible, and punish the opponent's slowest starts. Countering the first Prophetic Prism can be very disruptive if they have no blue or red land. As the game develops, you should always try to counter Atog and save your Skred to Myr Enforcer. Remember that Atog does not only combo with Fling, but with Disciple of the Vault too, so if you have no way of countering Atog, at least try to remove the disciple to eliminate one of his combo pathways. You draw more cards and manage to stabilize the game with a Serpentine Curve big enough to block even Atog. The main difficulty will be the explosive early-game of affinity, with Atog or multiple Myr in the first turns. The opponent can also go on a more grind line of play, resolving Makeshift Munitions (which, with disciple, is even stronger) and slowly draining your life, and eventually ending with Galvanic Blast.
Post side:The main benefit we gain is being able to resolve the Atog with Hydroblast. The game is similar, but with much more interaction on both sides. Seeking to maximize interactions, we abandoned the combo plan and committed to fight for the board until it stabilized and finally attacked Serpentine Curve. Now being able to deal with Atog, one of our main targets to counter becomes Thoughtcast, preferably using Pyroblast or Negate. Fight over Atog and Thoughtcast, look for windows to resolve Pieces of the Puzzle and slowly take control of the match with the highest value of your spells.
Fling, Maximize Velocity and Serpentine Curve come out because we prefer not to go to the combo plan, and we will need to keep our mana open on most turns. Thought Scour and Brainstorm go out to make room for extra spells to interact with their combo. We entered with all of our available counters and Swirling Sandstorm and Fiery Cannonade to control the board. Goblin Wizardry enters as our new main victory plan.
G1:Always respect the opponent's combo, It is fast and needs only a few mana to go off. The good part is that we interact very well with their combo pieces. In addition to being able to counter First Day of Class, we can remove one of the key creatures and interrupt the sacrifice loop. Remember that if you are going to interrupt them using removals, always target Skirk Prospector (responding to persist) or Putrid Goblin (after he is sacrificed, responding to the First Day of Class trigger). This match is not difficult, but it can get out of control quickly because, in the same way that we can switch the game plan between control and combo, it can also switch between aggro and combo. It is possible for the opponent to build a respectable board with multiple Goblin Matron and Mogg War Marshal generating extra bodies and attacking you, forcing you to spend resources that would serve to stop the combo. If they go along that line, always try to remove key creatures to delay the lethal, like Goblin Sledder, Mogg Raider and Hissing Iguanar. To win, try to exhaust their resources and resolve a Serpentine Curve to apply pressure and / or block the attacking goblins. If they don’t have a relevant board, it's okay to just sit back and wait to have lethal with Fling or Maximize Velocity.
Post side:After the first game we can play a little more freely. With more removals and one mana answers, we can play more proactively while respecting the opponent's combo. Since playing instant speed is always better against this type of deck, we have changed our main win condition to Goblin Wizardry, so we can avoid tapping ourselves as much as we can and cast threats at the same time. Sweepers makes this matchup much easier.