Magic Memories: Pestilence

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Apr 6, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    As I've probably already mentioned far too many times by now, I actually first learned Magic through the original Portal set, which was an attempt at simplifying the game. It had no artifacts or enchantments, no nonbasic lands, and instead of having instants, there were certain cards with "sorcery" as a type that had rules text indicating when they were to be played. Artistically, the set was beautiful. It had some strong cards that players would continue to use even after becoming experienced. But it had major problems as an introductory product and was pretty much doomed to failure.

    I did acquire some cheap older cards, and then started to get a feel for Magic outside of the Portal environment after I obtained a Fifth Edition two-player starter product, which came with a neat rulebook. I wish I still had that rulebook. My favorite part was that in the glossary section, which mostly provided concise definitions for game terms and some popular lingo, had a silly easter egg. The entry for "Enduring Renewal" read "see Fallen Angel." The entry for "Fallen Angel" read "see Ornithopter." The entry for "Ornithopter" read "see Loop, Infinite." And the entry for "Loop, Infinite" read "see Enduring Renewal."

    I learned the rules, kind of, but was still pretty clueless about deckbuilding and such. Presumably, gradual experience would eventually have enlightened me, but the product that really changed everything for me were the Urza's Saga theme decks, which I would guess I got as a birthday present or something. My first two were "Tombstone" and "The Plague." I later bought the other two on my own. Playing with the "Tombstone" deck may have been one of the biggest influences on my approach to the game. The deck itself isn't particularly powerful, but it showcased interactions that I wasn't familiar with, and I began modifying it into my first control deck, or something like a kind of proto-control deck, anyway. And then there was "The Plague."

    7 Plains
    12 Swamp
    3 Drifting Meadow
    2 Polluted Mire
    1 Blood Vassal
    3 Disciple of Grace
    1 Flesh Reaver
    1 Sanctum Guardian
    1 Silent Attendant
    3 Unworthy Dead
    3 Voice of Grace
    3 Wall of Junk
    2 Disenchant
    2 Expunge
    2 Humble
    1 Befoul
    1 Corrupt
    1 Opal Acrolith
    1 Pariah
    4 Pestilence
    2 Rune of Protection: Black
    1 Sicken
    1 Worship
    2 Urza's Armor

    For an experienced player, even as a casual deck, that list is pretty mild. But the theme decks were generally built at a very low level of power, and this was one of the strongest. In particular, it packed a punch by having four copies of Pestilence.

    I don't know how many decks I built over the years that included Pestilence. A lot. Nearly all of them also employed the Urza's Armor tech that I first discovered with this theme deck.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    My earliest Pestilence decks were based on what I'd seen in the Urza's Saga theme deck, and explored similar strategies. I remember little of my actual lists from those days, but I went with more focus. In the precon, there's a sort of partial Suicide Black deck mixed in with white cards that offer utility and mitigate the self-harm aspect. I think that I basically cut that and went for a more explosive version of a Pestilence deck, adding Dark Ritual, adding Drain Life, including more copies of Corrupt, etc.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    For some reason, and I honestly can't remember what it was, I shifted from black/white Pestilence decks to black/red. In retrospect, this seems a bit strange to me, as white has the deepest pool of creatures with Protection from Black and has more relevant utility, such as Disenchant. My memory on this is very hazy, but it might have been that Nick (Al0ysiusHWWW) challenged me to build a deck using a particular card or that I just was fixated on a card. In either case, it would have been one of either Ogre Enforcer or Mana Flare. Ogre Enforcer is a very strange card, and its ability makes it surprisingly resilient. Mana Flare allows for large, sometimes lethal bursts of Pestilence damage. And of course, I also used Bubbling Muck, something that I somehow overlooked in the thread I made about the card earlier. Oops.

    In at least one version of my black/red Pestilence deck, I used Manabarbs, which synergized with Urza's Armor. Back then, mana burn was part of the game, so getting out multiple copies of Mana Flare and Manabarbs could severely constrain opponents.

    Perhaps the most impressive incarnation of the black/red Pestilence deck used Repercussion. In multiplayer games with Pestilence and Urza's Armor, Repercussion could end the game in one fell swoop, blasting every opponent for N+1, where N was the number of creatures that opponent had on the board. Hm, this would have been a fun use of Varchild's War-Riders, but I never got that far. I switched back to black/white, again for reasons I don't remember at all, and Nick carried on my legacy of a black/red Pestilence deck. His version lasted several more years, dominating some multiplayer games in high school (I wasn't there, as we went to different high schools, but I'm guessing the games were won via the Repercussion interaction) before he eventually took it apart.
  4. TomB Administrative Assistant

    I tried building a deck using Repercussion and Aether Flash that used the War-Riders and stuff like Caltrops, but it wasn't very reliable. Never thought to use Pestilence though...:)
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    You know, somehow I completely forgot that Repercussion existed up until I made this thread, which is strange to me because I'm a big fan of Urza's Destiny. At some point it dawned on me and I had a flashback to when my friend basically ran the table in a multiplayer game at the after-school game club (way back when I was in 8th grade :confused:) with his black/red Pestilence deck. He was probably also using Earthquake (or should have been).
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    For reasons that, as with much of this stuff, I've completely forgotten, I had a strange convention of naming my Pestilence decks after isotopes. Probably what happened was that I arbitrarily called my first black/white Pestilence deck "Hydrogen." And then the next version was "Hydrogen 2" which sounded like the name of an isotope: deuterium or hydrogen-2. Then when I switched to black/red, I switched from Hydrogen to Helium. So when I switched back to black/white, it was Hydrogen-3.

    When I finally made a monoblack Pestilence deck, I skipped over most of the periodic table and chose an isotope that sounded like it could actually do some damage to the stuff around it, as with the card Pestilence: Radium-228. Many years later I decided that it was a silly name and just stuck with "Pestilence." But at first, my monoblack Pestilence deck was always "Radium-228."
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I got the idea of using Urza's Armor with Pestilence from that preconstructed deck and never really gave up on it. At 6 mana, Urza's Armor can be a bit much, but it's generally a good card, blanking opposing 1/X attackers entirely and linearly cutting down damage that opponents can dish out, which means that unless they're using one big damage source, they have to work harder to get ahead. Another tool from the precon that I kept using was Corrupt, which is an excellent card. Because it scales with swamps, it is better in a monoblack deck a two-color deck. I found that this applied to other cards I wanted to use, notably including Pestilence itself. But the card that tipped the balance and convinced me to make the switch to monoblack was an obscure creature from Homelands.


    Black doesn't usually get access to protection from black. I think that at the time, it was just this card, Spirit of the Night, and Minion of Leshrac. Those other two weren't really suitable for a Pestilence deck, but Cemetery Gate was perfect. It came down the turn before Pestilence, could hold off a single attacker of any reasonable size, and was completely immune to Pestilence.
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    My monoblack Pestilence or "Radium" deck had a few different incarnations over the years. I had one throughout high school. Later, I took apart all of my decks except for Burn. Then one of the first decks I built was a similar Pestilence deck to my old one. When my entire collection was consolidated with my friend's cards at his house, he took my decks apart, so when I got back to constructing decks, I rebuilt my Pestilence deck again. I've since taken it apart, but might revive it for like, the fourth time. So I have lists that I either wrote down at the time or attempted to reconstruct from memory, but couldn't say exactly what I used when.

    The stable core of my monoblack Pestilence deck consisted of four copies each of Pestilence, Dark Ritual, Urza's Armor, Corrupt, Drain Life, Cemetery Gate, and Hymn to Tourach. That's about half of the deck right there, and most of the rest is just Swamps anyway. Exact lists varied in the other details, though. Common inclusions were Cabal Coffers, Persecute, Duress, Darkling Stalker, Fog of Gnats, Demonic Tutor, Coercion, Soul Burn, Chimeric Idol, Nevinyrral's Disk, Frozen Shade, Lake of the Dead, and Culling the Weak.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    The Urza's Saga Pestilence had amazing art. The set also made Pestilence a common instead of an uncommon, which had amusing consequences for Limited formats. Having Pestilence at common was also relevant for Peasant Magic...

    Many years ago, a member here by the name of Ephraim was a big advocate for Peasant Magic. Thanks in part to Ephraim's persuading, I converted my monoblack Pestilence deck to be Peasant-legal (this was one of my Pestilence deck's several incarnations). The deck hadn't been using rares much anyway, so this wasn't a big change. Pestilence was my primary Peasant deck for the time I played the format. Ultimately, the format sort of fell off the map and for a while there didn't seem to be an active site for it, but more recently I've seen that people are still keeping the format going in some form:

    It's too bad that Peasant has fallen by the wayside while Pauper has become the widely known limited rarity format. I always thought Peasant was far superior.

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