Today I want to focus on Modern and share my thoughts about RG Ponza — a deck that goes out of the box into a format dominated by well-known strategies like GW Heliod, Death’s Shadows, Prowess, and Esper Control.
RG Ponza was my favorite deck when I started playing, even though it wasn’t very competitive. The mana denial wasn’t good enough to steal the game, but thanks to the new version, RG Ponza now has a chance to be a contender in the metagame.
RG PONZA – DECKLIST
This is the list that Juaspas played in his first-place finish at the last Modern Super Qualifier, gaining the last available spot for the upcoming Strixhaven Championship.
The game plan is simple and strong. Play one between Arbor Elf or Utopia Sprawl on turn one, attack your opponent’s mana base with Pillage or Blood Moon on turn two, and try to win the game by generating advantages with cards like Seasoned Pyromancer, Bloodbraid Elf, Karn, the Great Creator or Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
Threats are the main difference between the old and new versions of Ponza. The deck in the old version was able to win with creatures (Tarmogoyf, Glorybringer, Elder Gargaroth, etc.), but it suffered when played against decks plentiful with Path to Exile. The new deck lacks some big monsters but has more types of threats that don’t go through the attack phase.
Karn, the Great Creator is a new addition that could be used for silver bullets from the sideboard or in combo with Liquimetal Coating for a mana denial strategy. Karn adapts your gameplay for the myriad strategies of the large Modern format.
The deck can be divided in four main sections:
This deck needs to steal a turn of play. Attacking the mana base of your opponent at turn two or more can be devastating and will decrease the impact of a Pillage or a Blood Moon played at turn four or more. I suggest to mulligan an opening hand with seven cards without one of these two cards.
This old Ponza version has Blood Moon as the main star, because it destroys all decks that don’t have access to a large number of basic lands. Pillage looks more specific for Tron’s match-up, but a turn two and three Pillage could be a free win.
Lightning Bolt is the best red removal spell in Modern and is a must in the format. Bonecrusher Giant, with 2 mana for 2 damage, is an underpowered removal in Modern, but its versatility as both a removal and creature allows Bonecrusher Giant to gain three spots in the main deck.
Ponza has three different lines for winning the game: 7 planeswalker, 8 creatures, and 2 Gods. Klothys, which despite being a creature can’t attack most of the time, is great for draining life points and a perfect main deck hate card against the graveyard. Path of Exile doesn’t affect Klothys’s devotion ability if your devotion is less than seven.
Now let’s analyze how the deck performs against the metagame’s most present tiers and how to side in and out. Remember that playing Karn, the Great Creator means that some cards in your sideboard will never be added to the main deck because they are silver bullets for the Great Creator.
RG PONZA – SIDEBOARD
Attacking the mana base is not the right approach because you need to spend your early game trying to kill your opponent’s creatures instead of destroying lands. Keep Blood Moon in the maindeck, because playing it prevents Burn from casting Boros Charm and Lightning Helix.
Pillage can gain a two-for-one against Heliod by destroying a land enchanted by Utopia Sprawl and killing a Walking Ballista. It’s important to stay untapped with a removal spell if your opponent has Heliod in play or if you are scared by Collected Company.
This match-up is great because RG Ponza can crack Esper’s fragile mana base with Pillage or Blood Moon. The number of Planeswalkers allows the deck to be resilient to removals like Fatal Push or Go for The Throat. I’m still not sure if I want to board in the Relic of Progenitus for the fourth Lightning Bolt.
This match-up has a great enemy — Stormwing Entity plus Mutagenic Growth — but it’s playable if your opponent doesn’t cast an early Stormwing Entity. If you have both, Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl, play the enchantment on turn one because your opponent plays a ton of removal with mana value 1.
Another great match-up for this deck where there is room for Pillage and Blood Moon. Karn is great because it stops all spheres and Oblivion Stone. When combined with Liquimetal Coating, Karn will close the game in a few turns.
This match-up is close because the deck doesn’t have a true removal for cards like Death’s Shadow or Scourge of the Skyclaves, but your opponent can easily die from a turn two Blood Moon. The easiest way to lose the match is a Temur Battle Rage on a big threat, so you have to understand when and how to deal combat damage to your opponent.