One of the first Modern decks I ever helped build was a throwback Smallpox deck. The win condition at the time was Wurm Harvest, and while it didn't win a ton of games, it definitely displayed some power and was really fun when it worked or when you got to “combo” Flagstones of Trokair with Smallpox.
I forgot about the deck for many years, but Warren Woodward reminded us all in the best way last week, making the Top 16 of Grand Prix Las Vegas with this beauty. Discard, removal, Lingering Souls and even a little land destruction mixed in? That's a proposition I can't pass up.
I love everything this deck has going on. It's a bit of a blunt instrument, but man it can hammer pretty hard. The gameplan is straightforward – answer either proactively or reactively everything an opponent could possible do. From discard early to removal later, this deck has it all.
And, many times, it has it all in just one card: Smallpox.
This deck has so many ways to take advantage of the pox. With the only non-token creatures being Bloodghast, the sacrifice clause is no biggie. Neither is discard, thanks to the Bloodghast and Lingering Souls. And the land death – arguably the most punishing part of the “symmetrical” card – is mitigated by Flagstones of Trokair, which immediately replaces it and mana fixes at the same time.
There are very few decks that aren't just crushed by a Smallpox resolving on the second turn, and even fewer than can dig out from it while being bombarded with the huge amounts of discard and removal this deck packs in around it. While the deck can struggle to answer big, resolved threats, most of the time opponents won't even get that far before our endgame comes online.
Lingering Souls is, as always, just an insane Magic card. For something so unassuming on the surface, it really is crazy just how good this card always is. It's joined by a trio of planeswalkers that can all end the game in their own way. Liliana of the Veil is the best planeswalker in Modern and probably in Magic outside of Jace, and it's joined by both Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Sorin, Solemn Visitor, both of which create armies to win the game on their own after you've locked down the board.
Woodward took the deck to the Top 16 of Grand Prix Vegas, and I see little reason to believe it was a fluke. The deck may not be the most flexible thing in Modern, but it does what it does very well, and I would not be at all surprised to see it pop up more. The matches I recorded with the deck were very fun, and honestly many of them felt like the Smallpox deck was heavily favored. If keeping opponents from ever getting off the ground is your thing, look no further than this punisher, and enjoy picking up your wins along the way. I expect there will be plenty of them.
Thanks for reading,
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