Supporting Pox

Discussion in 'Cube Talk' started by VibeBox, May 16, 2013.


What Archetype should get a Primer next?

Wildfire 2 vote(s) 18.2%
Tokens 5 vote(s) 45.5%
Reanimator 2 vote(s) 18.2%
Blink 2 vote(s) 18.2%
  1. VibeBox Contributor

    The Pox Black archetype is a somewhat recent development and I think one of the most interesting and Cube specific. Our very own Matt Kranstuber is in large part responsible for innovating and subsequently popularizing this archetype through his articles and podcasts. Due to a confluence of factors Cube is perhaps the biggest spotlight Pox has ever had as a deck and certainly as a theme. In my book this ranks it among the most unique and insightful contributions Cube has made to the game as a whole, but it also presents a problem. Many players, even many cubers, have not had experience drafting around, building with, or playing with not only Pox itself, but many of the cards involved. Hopefully this primer will help illuminate how to get the most out of this archetype as either a player or Cube designer.
    First it is best to talk about what a modern Pox deck is and what it does. What are its goals, and how does it achieve them? At its heart the archetype is an aggressive one. Behind all the niche enablers and intricacies it still wants turn its crew sideways and attack you to death. In the same way that a white aggro deck will gladly Armageddon and wrap things up with an Isamaru, Pox is ultimately going to attack with a Bloodghast after enacting it's own disruptive gameplan against you. What this means more than anything is that when drafting the deck the pilot must value premium creatures over almost anything. Like a mono red player snapping up Goblin Guides and Ash Zealots, the Pox player must grab a high density of Carnophages and Geralf's Messengers, lest they jump through hoops to build a neat synergistic deck only to fall short of sealing the deal.
    The nature of the aforementioned disruptive package is what makes Pox such a unique archetype. The juice behind the aggro plan of this deck comes in the form of a specific subset of exploitable "symetric" cards. Together the cards on this list form a backbone of powerful effects the Pox player uses to gain an advantage by keeping the game in its early developmental phases.

    The Bread and Butter

    Death Cloud
    Braids, Cabal Minion
    Tangle Wire

    The common element of these cards is that they favor the player who can either get by with less or has a more resilient set of resources. In each case a seemingly symmetrical effect starts to look a great deal less so when one side needs only to attack with a Sarcomancy token to complete their game plan. The more of these key cards a player can get into a deck the more potent the deck should be, as it will more reliably be able to create and exploit these technically symmetrical situations. However, even with five or six of these "brass ring" cards the deck will fail miserably without a critical mass in another category, the enablers. getting ahead through the situations a Pox deck can create can be done in multiple ways, but the most valuable is through recursive elements.


    Nether Traitor
    Nether Spirit
    Geralf's Messenger
    Reassembling Skeleton
    Murderous Redcap
    Akuta, Born of Ash
    Nether Shadow
    Ashen Ghoul
    Butcher Ghoul
    Stinkweed Imp
    Undead Gladiator
    Oversold Cemetery
    Oath of Ghouls
    Crucible of Worlds

    These are the preferred conscripts in the Pox army, or in some cases the engines of recursion that can fuel an attack through the heavy losses associated with some of the premier disruption cards. Anything that enables the Pox player to sacrifice the necessary bodies and still end up with power on board is high valuable to the archetype. Bloodghast in particular is an all-star in a Pox deck. His unique ability to bring the beats in a recursive manner without a continued mana investment is right up the Pox player's alley. However these narrow beaters are not the only way to come out ahead. One class of cards can really help power through certain effects through sheer numbers.


    Marsh Flitter
    Bloodline Keeper
    Grave Titan
    Skeletal Vampire
    Pawn of Ulamog
    Lingering Souls

    Whether it's Lingering Souls fueling a Smokestack or Bitterblossom keeping an opponent locked under a Contagion, tokens can often be had at a price that makes them ideal to be sacrificed without losing too much value, while still presenting a reasonable threat if not dealt with in the absence of such an effect. Equipment can help legitimize the threat of these meager bodies, and are already highly desirable due to the fact that one or two small threats may often be relied upon to close out games. But equipment aren't the only cards to see a boost in value due to the particular nature of creatures Pox is prone to running. With a plethora of disposable bodies around several cards start to look much more enticing.

    Value Components

    Recurring Nightmare
    Stronghold Assassin
    Goblin Bombardment
    Greater Gargadon
    Blasting Station
    Blood Artist
    Spawning Pit

    Synergies are abound with this class of cards in any deck with enough of these eminently expendable creatures. Gravecrawler in particular is a standout in this department, as he can sometimes combine with things like Attrition or Goblin Bombardment to look like a virtual machine gun.
    These aren't the only cards the Pox player will be able to squeeze value out of though. Due to the combination of sacrifice outlets, graveyard focus, and disposable bodies all in an aggro package many cards take on new-found strength. Our next group of cards is filled with these suddenly more enticing cards that will often fill out a Pox deck. Anything disruptive and aggressive is of interest, but new and interesting synergies are often discovered the longer Pox has to feel out it's place in a Cube.

    Supporting Cast

    Nether Void
    Dark Confidant
    Dusk Urchins
    Liliana of the Veil
    Carrion Feeder
    Mortician Beetle
    Abyssal Persecutor
    Ankh of Mishra
    Buried Alive
    Mind Twist
    Hymn to Tourach
    Cabal Therapy
    Vampiric Tutor
    Demonic Tutor
    Jinxed Choker
    Grafted Wargear
    Chrome Mox
    Mox Diamond
    Strip Mine
    Flagstones of Trokair
    Rain of Tears
    Rancid Earth
    Choking Sands
    Grim Discovery
    Toshiro Umezawa
    Krovikan Horror
    Sewer Nemesis
    Shadowborn Demon
    Quest for the Gravelord
    Ritual of the Machine
    Pithing Needle
    Fleshbag Marauder
    Innocent Blood

    Please enjoy this draft walkthrough if you'd like to see a Pox deck as it's drafted. I didn't play it the super tightest, but hopefully it conveys the general priorities of a Pox drafter.

    Breaking Singleton
    For those of you who may be inclined to break singleton in your Cubes, Pox can certainly benefit from this practice. While there are plenty of candidates as to what deserves additional representation, to me there are two clear standouts in the creature department. Gravecrawler and Bloodghast are in a tier of their own when it comes to top shelf bodies. Braids, Cabal Minion is perhaps another to consider, as her combination of abusable symmetry along with ability to attack can be a real boon to the archetype.
    On the non-creature side, additional copies of Pox and Smallpox could certainly help boost the power of these decks. Not having attempted this myself, I can't give more specific advice than to add an additional copy of each and test. More or less may be appropriate for your environment.
    [if someone with experience breaking singleton wants to rework this section it'd be much appreciated]

    Sections to be completed:
    Example decklists
    advice for Modern cubes or breaking singleton
    primer video
  2. Eric Chan Hyalopterous Lemure

    I'd meant to reply to this post earlier, but then stuff happened and I forgot. But I don't want to let this thread slide into obscurity, because Pox is a sweet archetype, and Kranny is indisputably its Chief Architect.

    I don't have much to add to your initial primer, but if I could derail it for a second, I wanted to touch on a closely related archetype. I run a Modern cube, which immediately puts a bunch of constraints on the availability of some key spells (read: Pox). But there's a deck that shares many common elements, which Jason is a huge proponent of: black recursive aggro. This deck goes lighter on the hand and board disruption elements, and goes all-in on the suite of recursive black creatures. Your Gravecrawlers, Bloodghasts, Reassembling Skeletons, and their ilk. Instead of being the central cog, the Pox elements become the supporting cast. All the same, the deck really likes symmetrical discard, so Rotting Rats and especially Liliana of the Veil are important pieces. Symmetrical sacrifice is, of course, welcome as always, so stuff like Fleshbag Marauder and Innocent Blood shine here.

    Jason will be the first to tell you that Goblin Bombardment is the card that ties the whole thing together. I don't have that because of my Modern constraints, so Blasting Station is the best possible machine gun over here. Mortarpod is another sac outlet I've been happy with. Jinxed Idol is one I'm testing, but haven't come to a conclusion on yet. I've seen some folks run Butcher Ghoul, though that's personally too deep for me.

    Again, I'm not trying to steal the thunder from this excellent guide, but I thought I'd throw the notion out there that supporting Pox is something of a spectrum. You can go all-in on the Pox idea, where you build around resource denial and always look to keep the game in the early stages. Or you can have Pox be a supporting element to the black aggro decks, which lord knows need a big boost in most everyone's cubes.
  3. Jason Waddell Administrator

    I tried to push Pox/Smokestack for a long time. It wasn't bad, but, forcing so many BBB cards has a strong impact on your environment. I like(d) Smallpox, but things like Death Cloud were super unwieldy. It's a fun archetype in theory, but the actual cards that make it possible felt way too rigid. Not only is Pox very narrow, but its casting cost gives you very little flexibility in terms of what that archetype's decks look like from draft to draft.

    Unlike say, Birthing Pod or Zombies, which have a ton of different looks.

    Contamination is a cool piece of tech. I'll have to keep that in mind.
  4. VibeBox Contributor

    i forgot goblin bombardment and mortarpod! thanks!

    not at all! in fact i think your points deserve inclusion in the primer itself. a sort of "what if i run a Modern Cube?" section. if you don't mind of course
  5. VibeBox Contributor

    i agree about death cloud. i don't run it and i think it's too expensive and clunky to be a lynchpin like Pox itself is.
    i can also agree that too much triple black can be bad for your format. i try to avoid triple colored as much as possible and have very few left in my cube. black does end up being more mana intensive, but i think as long as it's managed it can be a price worth paying for a distinct identity in the color.
    as for variation, yeah the mono or heavy black decks can be repetitive, but i think you can still get varying looks out of b/r or b/w aggro.

    you can thank kranstuber
  6. Eric Chan Hyalopterous Lemure

    I think Death Cloud is secretly a BG card in disguise. I remember seeing some old Modern lists— or was it Extended? This was a while ago, anyways— where people ramped up to ungodly amounts of mana to power out a large volume of toxic gases. In any case, I doubt it's suitable for any but the most niche of cubes.

    Of course! This is our community's primer after all. Please don't even ask.
  7. Chris Taylor Contributor

    My vote for tokens because I planned on putting together a wildfire primer sometime this week :p

    Stinkweed imp is a sweet card for the pox deck as well: turns on oversold cemetery in one fell swoop, holds equipment, and is repeatedly recurrable in a pinch
  8. VibeBox Contributor

    thanks! stinky is a good call!
    i'll skip the wildfire primer then, cause the more people start working on these the faster we can get them all presentable and bundled in a pretty list of links for the aspiring cube designer/ player
  9. Jason Waddell Administrator

    Yeah, I'd really like to hear more about Tokens. Last week I got whooped by a Spectral Procession / Lingering Souls deck, and I don't even run any notable anthems. But I do run stuff like Hero of Bladehold, Sublime Archangel, Mirror Entity, Awakening Zone. And he had all of those. It was terrifying.
  10. VibeBox Contributor

    tbh those are some of the more notable"anthems". enchantements don't get much love from r&d, so now creatures like sublime archangel and company have dominated that design space.
    there's a few interesting enchantment anthems like muraganda petroglyphs but for the most part they're on the lower end of the power spectrum.
  11. Chris Taylor Contributor

    So clearly I'm not all that insane for re-making Glorious Anthem right? right? *Validation*
  12. Jason Waddell Administrator

    I really like your Anthems Chris. Glorious Anthem is a fun effect but is slightly overpriced for a cube power level. Yours feel more on par with what I'd be looking for.
  13. I push tokens really hard in my cube, and very much like having the archetype so strong. (This might have something to do with the fact that my tokens are all drawn by my kids...) Stuff like Mirari's Wake into Decree of Justice/Martial Coup/Increasing Devotion is a blast.

    Anthems work better in multiples. I've had three or four going at the same time, and it's gamebreaking. (It's also hard to put together, but is a reasonable reward for success.)

    I look forward to the primer!
  14. VibeBox Contributor

    my room mate and i were smoking this morning and magic talk lead to analyzing a random pro tour top 32 from 99 and i realized i hadn't included oath of ghouls which is probably worth testing as a redundancy for oversold cemetery.

    this is a cube weekend for me, and as those are rare (as is my proclivity toward drinking which i'll be doing starting in a couple hours) i'll be in no state to work on murgik stuff. but while i watch the new arrested development hung over on sunday i will probably work on it.
  15. Jason Waddell Administrator

    Oh, don't remind me. I'm supposed to watch the new season with my wife, but she is super busy with exams for the coming weeks. Which means I'll have to do the worst thing of all: lie wait.
  16. VibeBox Contributor

    hey kranstuber, now that your around the above is an opinion i would love to be talked out of. i haven't looked at your list recently, but i know you ran it for some time and probably have a lot more experience with it than i do since i haven't cast it since it's standard days.

    gonna try to work on this thread a bit today.
  17. First of all, love the primer and hope you continue to build it out and/or write a front page piece on it!

    As for Death Cloud, funny enough we just cut it last night in favor of trying out Rise of the Dark Realms from M14. I think Death Cloud is a great card, but as Eric pointed out, it's more of B/G card than a Pox enabler. That said, if black gets another aggressive planeswalker or Coffers-style ramp card, I might try to get it back in the mix.
  18. VibeBox Contributor

    Eric Chan likes this.
  19. Eric Chan Hyalopterous Lemure

    Vibe, this is fantastic!! Your mic is a little bit on the soft side, but aside from that, you come through loud and clear. I have to say that recording mock drafts on cubetutor as a way of teaching people how to draft an archetype is ingenious. You blast through pack two a little quickly, so I wouldn't mind hearing more of your thoughts as you mull over what to take.

    The only other advice I'd give is to zoom in on the draft window a bit more while recording. No need to see all those browser menus.

    But I gotta reiterate. This is sweet.
  20. Nice to hear that "@ riptide lab dot com"

    Better radio voice than I coulda mustered. Enthused about more content!
  21. Jason Waddell Administrator

    I liked the video. I did find skipping over the Hellspark Elemental a little surprising though (end of pack 1). That guy gives you a lot of mileage out of both discard and sacrifice effects.
  22. CML Contributor

    my fave anthem is Angel of Jubilation

    i am also a fan of Marshal's Anthem, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Creakwood Liege, Master Biomancer, Mikaeus, the Lunarch etc
  23. VibeBox Contributor

    Jason Waddell likes this.

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