The other night I pulled off a 3-0 finish to become one of the first two players to advance into the playoffs of the Pauper Premier League (#mtgppl1). It was a thrilling night of Pauping, and I needed a 3-0 finish within my pod in order to reach the requisite four wins to be playoff-eligible.
With everything on the line and nary a loss to expend, I needed a spicy 75 in my MTGO digital deckbox. My weapon of choice? Mono-Green Stompy beatdown! Today, I’ll be sharing my experiences through two weeks (pods) of PPL and break down the fundamentals of building and playing Mono-Green Stompy in Pauper.
Going the Extra Green Mile with Mono-Green Stompy in Pauper
Week 1 of PPL, my Mono Black Control deck left me in the black. I piloted my pet deck to a disappointing 1-2 finish. To be fair, I expected 1.5 wins after I saw the lists I was up against. I felt strongly favored against Emma Handy’s Mono U Delver, strongly un-favored against Adam Yurchick’s Jeskai Astrolabe, and a coin flip against CVM’s Burn deck.
Unfortunately, I lost the coin flip in a razor thin game three to a top-decked Molten Rain (after I Duressed away the first one!) that kept me off Gray Merchant of Asphodel for a critical extra turn. Also, the land he targeted was a Bojuka Bog to shorten my clock and rub extra salt into the wound/earth!
No complaints, just a fantastic, tight match of Magic that didn’t break my way this time.
The format for PPL is that players play round-robin in two pods, each containing four players. In order to advance to the Playoff Round, a player needs to win a minimum of four total matches. Starting 1-2 meant I’d need to go undefeated the following week or go home. Needing a 3-0 is precarious enough, but circumstances made my situation even more daunting because I was on the schedule to play the following week and had Mythic Championship IV and travel back from Spain impeding my ability to test!
What do you do when you’ve got an important event and suboptimal ability to test? Well, I relied heavily upon the experience of the wise RIW Pauper sages and balanced their advice against cold, hard metrics. When I wrote my post-“Free Blue Banning” metagame analysis, there were three decks that significantly improved their winner’s metagame percentages: Mono Black and Affinity both doubled their representation, and Stompy increased its rate by a ridiculous 600% clip.
Mono Black turned out to be fool’s gold, and here’s why. If I had played week 1 I think it would have been a great choice. All of the testing I did for Pauper was before the Modern B&R announcement, and once that landed I switched my focus to practicing Modern for the MC. A lot has changed in two weeks and MBC went from being great against the default Blue Aggro Decks (Delver) to terrible against them (Jeskai Astrolabe). It’s simply too hard to run a deck out of cards when it’s running Mulldrifter, Ephemerate, and 8 gating creatures that cantrip.
My gut instinct was to play Adam’s Jeskai Astrolabe deck because I think it’s tier 1 and the type of deck I excel at playing. I sent him a message and asked if he minded if I played his 75, and he told me to go for it. But I also felt a pull to play Stompy; a deck going from 1% to 6% metagame share is a strong signal. I hadn’t played much with Stompy, but I had played against it a lot with MBC. I felt like MBC should be heavily favored, but was surprised by how much trouble it had putting Stompy away. I can’t imagine there are many decks with an inherently better Stompy match up than Mono Removal Black, so if Stompy could put MBC to the test I knew it had to be a great deck.
Metagame metrics combined with respect for the deck and agreement with my friends in the Pauper group chat led me to take a leap of faith to become a Ninja Turtle.
Stomp the Yard
I got the list I played from Chris Shavers, one of the week-in-week-out Pauper players at my LGS. He’s been locked into the deck for months, so I knew he’d have a finely tuned list. At RIW, the deck is nicknamed “Swole Bois” because the creatures are ripped and get pumped up to brawl.
Mono-Green “Swole Bois” Stompy
3-0 Pauper Premier League
16 Forest 4 Quirion Ranger 4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk 4 Burning-Tree Emissary 4 Nettle Sentinel 4 Nest Invader 2 Wild Mongrel 2 Vault Skirge 2 River Boa 4 Savage Swipe 4 Rancor 4 Vines of Vastwood 4 Hunger of the Howlpack 2 Mutagenic Growth Sideboard 4 Gleeful Sabotage 2 Gut Shot 2 Scattershot Archer 3 Relic of Progenitus 2 Weather the Storm 2 Viridian Longbow
The one change I made to Chris’s 75 was to cut two main-deck Moldervine Cloaks for two River Boas. I made the change in the dark without getting to test other than goldfishing some hands, but three mana, Sorcery-speed Auras seemed like a liability in a deck with 16 lands.
In hindsight, I like playing exactly 1 Moldervine Cloak and I would cut the fourth Hunger of the Howlpack for it.
Cobra Khan exceeded my expectations, which is impressive considering I haven’t even played a deck where islandwalk has mattered yet! Big Boa has been important because of its ability to play strong offense but also defense (when teamed up with Quirion Ranger, River Boa can even run both attacks and blocks). Overall, it’s a great way to wear an opponent down and out of options. It’s also worth noting that it’s a safe target for Rancor even if the opponent has a Lightning Bolt or Skred up since they won’t be able to kill your creature in response to break up Rancor recursion.
Astrolabe has dominated the Pauper discussion (and rightly so!) as the card has been rapidly redefining the format since it’s release in Modern Horizons. However, there’s another Modern Horizons card that many people have been sleeping on:
It doesn’t stand out as sexy in the abstract, but in practice the card is lit. It’s basically Searing Blaze for a single G! Pump my bear, eat your Skyfisher, bash you for 4. Savage Swipe also gives Mono-Green Stompy access to something it has never had before: a legitimate, good removal spell. For instance, in PPL Brian Coval slammed a quick Standard Bearer in game two. The card is usually a death sentence for a deck full of pump spells and Auras, but I was able to easily smack down the flag man for value at the cost of a single G without missing a beat.
Savage Swipe may be a secret powerhouse, but Rancor is a known busted card. The trample and recursive damage are one of the ways Stompy is able to grind through other creature matchups. A common play pattern is Stompy attacks with a 4/2 trampler, opponent blocks with a 2/2, and Stompy plays a pump spell such as Vines of Vastwood. The added toughness saves our creature, and the trample provided by Rancor pushes through a whopping six damage.
Rancor is a sick combo with Vault Skirge in racing situations. It’s also nice when going all in on a big Wild Mongrel. Keep in mind that bouncing your lands with Quirion Ranger for added boosts with Mongrel is a thing.
I love 2 copies of Mutagenic Growth in the deck because of the utility and tempo it provides. I can run my creatures into their creatures and win combat while using all of my mana to deploy more threats. It’s also a free counterspell for early game Lightning Bolts, Skreds, Firebolts, and Chain Lightnings. And it’s a true blowout when an opponent attacks into a board where all of your lands and creatures are tapped, and you play Mutagenic Growth on Nettle Sentinel to untap it and eat their attacker.
Here’s another cool synergy. Both of these are good cards in general, but together they make for some extremely high impact plays. Sacrifice the Eldrazi Spawn to trigger morbid in combat. Or build a Vault Skirge into an Exalted Angel. Or get those counters onto a creature wearing Rancor.
There’s not a ton we need to do during sideboarding other than address specific cards or tactics that can take advantage of how linear Stompy is. There’s not something else we can transform into and so post board we are always going to remain a mean, green, beatdown machine.
Gleeful Sabotage is our best sideboard card, and it should be no surprise to see four copies. It’s a powerhouse against Affinity and Hexproof Auras. Our deck is packed with cheap green creatures which makes the conspire cost free and easy. We can even cast it turn 2 with conspire with the help of a Burning-Tree Emissary to double Stone Rain an opposing Affinity player.
It also has other important applications:
I would lock in four copies of Gleeful Sabotage before I even worried about my fifth card.
Scattershot Archer is nice against Spellstutter Sprite decks. Archer also can team up with Quirion Ranger to pick off Mulldrifter, Glint Hawk, and Delver and can even overpower 1-toughness fliers with Sunken City in play.
Again, we can pair up Longbow with Quirion Ranger to generate lots of pings. Since we don’t have burn for reach, Longbow is our best way to grind through Fog recursion locks. It’s also a great tool against Elves.
Weather the Storm is another great Modern Horizons Pauper staple. The new default anti-Burn technology for Green.
Priest of Titania and Well Wisher must be answered against Elves, and the same is true about Standard Bearer. With the four Savage Swipes in the main, Stompy has six ways to interact with these backbreakers (other than to force a chump block with early pressure). Be sure to bring these in against Delver/Spellstutter Sprite decks.
The cards I’m most likely to board out:
If they don’t have creatures, this is uncastable.
The card varies wildly in utility from one match up to another.
If an opponent has a lot of targeted, instant-speed removal it’s often correct to hem your pants. I have yet to sideboard out a creature.
Don’t Underestimate Stompy
One of the most interesting parts of my experience playing Stompy in pod #2 was the other players all thought they had good matchups against Stompy and all thought the other players had good matchups as well.
I two fisted the matchups the night before and found I was strongly favored against White Tron and Hexproof Auras and slightly favored against BG Aristocrats, though I thought it was likely, given a larger sample size, I was likely a slight underdog to Aristocrats. The Aristocrat matchup felt extremely dependant on how well their draws lined up with my threats and whether they drew Tragic Slip.
“You don’t know the power of the dark side of the Forest.”
These weren’t exactly randoms I was playing against either! Brian Coval, Andraes Peterson, and Alex Ullman are all terrific Pauper players/experts, and so I was a little shocked I was considered the underdog in each match up. It reminded me of when I won the SCG Open with a breakout performance of Atarka Red, and coverage literally picked me to lose every time, but all my deck did was win.
The games played out how I expected. If anything, I had relatively weak draws compared to an average hand. I mulliganed six times in the first four games and was still quickly 4-0. On the play against Hexproof Auras, I kept a 1 land hand that would be the nuts if I hit it, missed my second land drop, and still had checkmate on turn five.
I don’t mean to sell the deck as being unbeatable or that it can easily defeat anything, but I do think the deck is much stronger and more consistent than most people realize. I’ll also say the deck is trickier to play than one might expect. The name “Stompy” brings to mind an idea of mindlessly spewing a bunch of dorks on the table and beating down. In fact, there are a ton of difficult and risky decisions to be made about how to deploy and when and how to use your combat tricks. Knowing when and how to pick your fights and maximize the impact of Auras are always high-risk, high-reward moments in a game.
Pauper Stompy reminds me of playing Red Deck Wins. It’s an easy deck to play poorly and get some free wins, but it’s a tricky deck to win hard matchups and tough games with. For a deck that is maximum aggressive, there are game states where pumping the brakes and being patient is the route to victory. It takes a little practice, but it’s a deck that rewards strong play that can also earn you some free wins.
I also don’t think underestimating Stompy is a difficult thing to do. I certainly did at first.
The first time I played against it: “I think he just got really lucky and drew better than me. I had a great match up!”
The second time I played against it: “Maybe this deck is better than I thought. But it looks so janky… Matchup is probably closer than I thought.”
The third time I played against it: “Okay, this deck is legit good. 50/50 matchup.”
The fourth time I played against it: “Ugh, I don’t want to play this matchup.”
Overall, I think Stompy is one of the strongest options in Pauper right now. It’s fast enough to consistently get underneath Arcum’s Astrolabe and Tron, and the redundancy of bulky creatures and combat tricks make it solid against opposing creature decks. Savage Swipe shores up a huge problem the archetype had in the past (i.e. a lack of removal). I’m not ready to say it’s tier 1, but it’s a deck that can wreak some havoc, especially when people don’t see it coming.