Creating a Splinter Twin Situation in Pauper MTG

The Pauper metagame has been relatively stable for the past several weeks. The most popular decks are Grixis Affinity and Kuldotha Red, both of which play to the board early and try to close out games with reach and efficient card draw. The next tier down is made up of Basilisk Gate white decks, Dimir Terror and Orzhov Ephemerate, all of which try to bide their time and use light control elements to their advantage. While there are other viable archetypes out there, these are the ones that have the most sustained success. And that is what makes them vulnerable to a deck designed to go over the top.

What exactly is a Splinter Twin situation? Derived from the Standard and Modern decks using Splinter Twin with Pestermite or Deceiver Exarch, it has become shorthand for any two-card combination that outright wins the game. Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian is a more recent example of a Standard Splinter Twin situation that had to be banned out of Standard. Just last weekend, Team ChannelFireball brought Izzet Creativity to the Pioneer Pro Tour which, while not a strict two-card combo, created a pastiche of a Splinter Twin situation with Xenagos, God of Revels enhancing a Worldspine Wurm to attack for lethal damage. 

Traditionally, Splinter Twin style combos find a home in decks that can survive long enough to set up their victory formation. Historically this has meant a base blue deck that can use countermagic to defend the combination and cantrips to sculpt a hand. These decks are quite good at going over the top of the opponent as they simply need to assemble a suite of cards to find victory. Could such a set of cards exist in Pauper?


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Obviously the answer is yes, otherwise why would I be writing this article? Midnight Guard and Presence of Gond creates an unbound number of tokens that, provided you can untap with them, attack for the win. There are a number of issues with this combo, not the least of which is that both pieces fall on the same spot of the curve and neither has flash. This means that in order to set up a win, you need to sequence these into each other and then also have protection, meaning that this combo will win on turn five at the earliest. The other big strike against these two cards is that neither are blue, meaning you cannot easily interact on the stack. Previous decks that ran this combo were Battle Screech strategies that could pivot into a regular token aggro game plan. I’m not a huge fan of Battle Screech these days as it’s a four-mana card that does not win the game, but there have been some recent additions to Pauper that make Midnight Gond a more attractive option.

Recommission is a neat piece of technology that can bring back a Midnight Guard from the graveyard. It also has a roundabout way of getting back a Presence of Gond if it reanimates an Auramancer. Tamiyo’s Safekeeping might be the best Apostles’ Blessing ever for this deck as it can not only save a Midnight Guard but it can also protect a Presence of Gond. However, the card that made me most want to revisit this deck is Bitter Reunion. Being able to dig towards your combo pieces is nice but that it can give your creatures haste is the real allure. Once on the table, Bitter Reunion means that Gond on Guard is either an instant army or an army that can attack if the main pieces are not affected by summoning sickness.

There is another reason this end game is at the forefront of my mind and that is Soul Warden. I’m of the mindset that one of the paths to victory against the top decks right now is to play to the board and absorb damage when possible. Soul Warden might be fragile but if left alone, it can gain a ton of life, especially if Kuldotha Rebirth is showing up in force. Even if it eats a Lightning Bolt, that’s three damage not directed at your face. The rest of the creature suite is made up of white’s value package with Thraben Inspector and Spirited Companion helping the churn. These two do a great job of blocking and biding time until the Splinter Twin can show up.

This strategy also is a fantastic home for Prismatic Strands as a way to defend against attacks while also protecting Midnight Guard from damage-based removal. Since you want to see plenty of cards, something like Commune with the Gods – which finds both halves of your win condition while filling the yard – makes perfect sense. While the build I’m presenting today is largely white and green, you can make a case for a build that is base Boros and uses Faithless Looting in place of Commune, but I’m less keen on that. 

Why? I want to lean more into green. I found in early runs of the deck that the mana is a pinch point, especially if I want to be running Bitter Reunion. A card like Abundant Growth could go a long way towards helping smooth out draws. It’s possible the deck also wants some number of Kruphix’s Insight as a way to load up enchantments while digging towards victory.

After some time spent in the Magic Online Leagues, here is where I am at.

Pauper Naya Twin by Alex Ullman


Naya Twin wants to build out its board and just keep up on cards. It does not need to try to win the game early but rather it just wants to survive as long as possible until it can put its combo pieces together. You want to use Prismatic Strands, Tamiyo’s Safekeeping and Ramosian Rally as ways to defend your win as opposed to delaying a loss. That being said, if it’s going to buy you the time you need to win, it’s often correct to spend these cards as protection.

What do you think of Naya Twin? Is this a deck you are going to take to your next Pauper event?

3 thoughts on “Creating a Splinter Twin Situation in Pauper MTG”

  1. Is it really worth splashing red for bitter reunion? What about Crashing Drawbridge? It doesn’t dig for the combo pieces but it grants haste, doesn’t require splashing a third color, and it seems decent against early agro. 🙂

    Love these articles Alex. Pauper is the format that got be back into magic after a 15 year hiatus!

  2. Why bother with the gainlands when you can have thriving gates in your 3-color-deck?
    And why play only 3 of your Combo piece?

  3. Yeah, Crashing Drawbridge seems better than the red splash. Also, Blacksmith’s Skill is your copies 5-8 of Tamiyo’s Safekeeping of you need them.

    I worry about the fight against blue control though. Mana Tithe and Lapse of Certainty are available, but…

    Disciple of the Sun has interesting text but at 4W, it’s way too slow.

    Mine Excavation could have some potential, maybe?

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