Deck Tech: Mono-Black Pox with Reid Duke
Magic Online Championship Series winner Reid Duke is a rising star in the Magic community, with his win in San Francisco the icing on a a solid year of Magic. The Invitational offered Reid a chance to add the cherry on top, and he hasn't wasted that opportunity. Starting off strong in Legacy, it wasn't much of a surprise to see Reid performing well in this event—but it was a bit of a surprise to see his weapon of choice.
Magic Online and Legacy master, Reid Duke.
Turns out that Mono-Black Pox and Reid go way back. “It's a pet deck I've had for quite a while,” he admitted. “I played Mono-Black Pox in a Grand Prix in 2007 or something.” Since then, the archetype has remained in the back of his brain. “Every time a new set comes out it hasn't been quite good enough…but then Liliana came out, and I knew it was time.” Innistrad's Liliana of the Veil patches a hole in Pox's strategy while also offering it an additional weapon.
The deck certainly improved with the addition of Liliana, but did its place in the metagame? Reid certainly thinks so, and has been chalking up wins against all the tempo-oriented strategies. “Basically, as ridiculous as it sounds, this deck is really good against other decks that are going to have a mix of creatures, lands, and cards in hand,” he said with a laugh. That's certainly a broad swath, but Reid explained the logic further. “It's really good against Tarmogoyf decks, because they're designed to operate off one creature, a few lands, and a few cards in hand—Smallpox totally decimates them.” The greedy Delver RUG decks are certainly in a bad way, as Reid's manabase nearly blanks Wasteland, a card that can barely cast a spell in that deck, and his own disruption can leave them with no colored mana.
Another advantage Reid has enjoyed thus far: the element of surprise. “Having so many cards that you don't see in other archetypes, you'll randomly run into big advantages,” he said. “If someone's trying to land Progenitus or Emrakul, you're like, 'Ok, I have twelve cards in my deck that can kill that.' In other matchups, they can just play that and win.” Preying on opposing autopilot is a time-honored rogues' tradition!
Constructing the deck, Reid carefully wrought his spell base. “I wanted to play at least one copy of every card I wanted to play with,” Reid said, explaining his maindeck bullets. “I wound up with one Nether Void, one Abyss, one copy of actual Pox…I guess the biggest new addition is I'm maindecking a Spinning Darkness, which has been insane. It's very good against Merfolk and Delver decks, and it's also helpful because if you draw both Nether Spirits, you can manage your graveyard a little bit.”
In addition to the discard effects of Smallpox and Hymn to Tourach, Reid's packing Inquisition of Kozilek while eschewing Thoughtseize. “This deck is very slow and has very little lifgain, so I wanted to minimize the damage I'd take, especially if you draw the actual card Pox,” he said. The spell isn't strictly superior, but the advantages outweigh the losses for Reid. “Sometimes it comes up that I want to take Jace, but the only real card that comes up is Force of Will, which is terrible against this deck. If they pay the alternate cost, they're playing right into my hands!”
Another blast from the past is Cursed Scroll. Alongside Nether Spirit, the Scroll allows Reid to create an inexorable clock an actually close out the game, keeping opponents from drawing their way back into the fight. “Cursed Scroll is not one of those cards that you're always glad to see in the opener,” he admitted, “but it's a very important roleplayer. This deck is very low on win conditions, and Cursed Scroll is a reliable one.” Operating as a Shock-on-a-stick has its advantages as well. “Merfolk's a tough matchup because the normal way to win is you manascrew them and make sure they have no cards in their hand, but that's really hard due to Aether Vial,” Reid said. “If you can stop the early rush and get a Scroll into play, they don't really have anything they can do. More or less, the same is true for Delver and Goblins.”
Reid's Pox list will be his only weapon over the last few rounds, and could very well make or break an invitational Top 8 finish. Check it out!