This is How I Consistently beat Ponza in MTG Pauper Everytime

Ponza has been, for a while, one of the most hated strategies across MTG formats, and Pauper is no exception.

There is no worse feeling than trying to play a game and not being able to resolve anything because you are missing resources, and the feeling gets even worse if you are getting mana screwed initially.

Well, that's what Ponza in Pauper tries to take advantage of, a format where the land average is around 20 per deck and where mana fixing most of the time enters the battlefield tapped.

When you pair that with a turn two OTP “destroy your land” or, most commonly known, “Ponza” effect, it suddenly creates a very oppressive strategy against most of the midrange decks of the meta.

Still, it's far from perfect, and in today's article, I will go over how you can win matches against Ponza's strategies and how to play against them, but first, let's understand the enemy.

Breaking down Ponza's weaknesses

So Ponza has some issues worth mentioning, but overall is not a bad deck, just to be clear.

But let's break down some stuff: it's a 17 land deck. This, by default, will be a bad signal for a deck that needs to play things on a curve. This will require you to aggressively mulligan to have a decent amount of land mixed with cheap spells to develop your plans.

Ok, but let's say I have the lands. What other problems could the deck have? In one word: Consistency.

Twenty-four of your spells are over the two-mana barrier meaning that you can easily get hands like these:

That by default is a mulligan, and most likely, your best hand would like to be similar to this:

Now the question is, how consistent is the strategy reliable enough? For starters, you have ten three drops that can hit the battlefield on turn two, but only four of them, thermokarst, function in the way this deck intends, meaning set your opponents back.

This is critical as, in the past, decks ran more Ponza effects like stone rain, so consistency has been shattered. Also, this strategy loses a lot of tempo by being on the draw (OTD), especially against blue decks that can keep up spell pierce or counterspell against a turn two Ponza effect, but if they get past that barrier, it's effortless for blue decks to take control as they won't care much if they get their lands destroyed on turn four or something

Also, this deck only has three removals, which is not the best against the aggressive starts some other decks may have.

Another problem for Ponza players arises if you kill their Arbor Elf, as it sets them back a lot, especially if they relied on it to untap lands that have been previously enchanted with Wild Growth. Again, the deck is alright, but it requires you to have multiple things to go well to overperform. Ideally, your best hand on the play should look like this:

But given the number of copies this deck has, it makes it possible but inconsistent.

Ways to beat Ponza

If you notice these flaws, as an opponent, you can play around the deck in some different ways. Here are the ones that are mostly commonly used:

  • Kill the Arbor Elf

  • Siding in enchantment removal on the play against their mana fixers

  • Play only fetch lands, and don't crack them until you hold counter

  • Keep up Ghostly Flicker

  • Keep up Counterspell

Or, you know, just play burn and kill their Arbor Elf on sight and burn them to oblivion.

I think there is more to it than that, but if you notice the weak spots, Ponza is not that threatening, at least not this version.

That being said, I do believe that Ponza is a strong option in formats with no open decklists, as the surprise factor plays a big role in taking wins against unprepared decks, and therefore, one of the reasons for this deck's good performance, despite its weakness.

Cascade is a good, but weak on Ponza

Last but not least, in my personal experience, Cascade targets are awful in Ponza.

The worst feeling ever is just to do all the trouble to play an Annoyed Altisaur that meets Snuff Out, and that cascades into an Arbor Elf/Utopia Sprawl/Wild Growth. Those ten cards don't impact the board in later portions of the game, and that, more often than not, create a sentiment of sadness whenever you cascade into them, but, for what is worth, Generous Ent was a cut addition as a way to fix your mana on early turns, but more importantly, a reliable Annoyed Altisaur cascade target.

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading up until here, most of this conversation came in a discord chat over last week, but I wanted to share it with everyone as well. Special thanks to everyone on the Micklash discord server for starting it over!

Take care, and we will catch up on my next rant!


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