Arctic_Ghost's picture
By: Arctic_Ghost, Arctic_Ghost
Mar 27 2023 3:20pm

Years ago when I first got into Magic Online, the only deck I could afford to build was an Izzet land destruction deck that had Magnivore as the win condition. I got lucky because at the time, Mono Green Scryb Ranger decks were everywhere and I constructed my deck in a way to easily beat it. I suppose that is why land destruction, as much as I hate it, will always have a soft spot in my heart.

In Pauper, land destruction is either a good strategy or a really bad strategy. You will either win games easily or lose games easily because your land destruction will do nothing while being attacked by creatures. However, in the current meta today, aggro isn’t all that popular while midrange and controlling decks are the talk of the town. I haven’t looked at Ponza in a while so today we change that.

The list we will be looking at today achieved 1st place in the Pauper challenge that took place on 3/5/2023 and was piloted by the player hockeybro26. I won’t waste anymore time. It’s time to rock!

Arbor Elf – While Arbor Elf isn’t usually a popular option when it comes to ramping. However, in this deck you play 6 land enchantments as your ramp and Arbor Elf works great with them.

Jewel Thief – One of my favorite creatures. It does everything this kinda of deck would want. It comes down early, is an aggressive creature, has vigilance so it plays great defense as well and it helps you ramp as it brings a treasure token. We need more creatures like this.

Llanowar Visionary – A fantastic creature for a midrange ramp deck. Not the biggest, but it draws a card when it comes down.

Avenging Hunter – This was just the card Ponza was looking for. You Not only is this creature able to finish games quickly, but you are able to play defense very well and I think we all know by now how broken the Initiative is.

Boarding Party and Annoyed Altisaur – Here are the main win conditions for the deck. Both do a great job and I am happy to see 4 Altisaur instead of 2.

Thermokarst and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss – Here are your land destruction spells. If you feel like you want another land destruction spell, I think 1 copy of Reap and Sow is fine, but I wouldn’t play more than 9 land destruction spells total. I also wouldn’t play 9 in general but that is just me.

Skred – I love the addition of this card over Lightning Bolt and I never liked Bolt in the deck to be honest. It was extremely rare I ever was in a position where having it won me an otherwise unwinnable game. while having only 3 copies upsets me, you only have 60 spots to work with and need to make cuts somewhere. Skred is also one of the worst cards to Cascade into most of the time.

Utopia Sprawl and Wild Growth – Here are your ramp cards for the deck. We see these because it gives you a better chance of going turn 2 Thermokarst and curve out from there. The reason to have these over more Elves in my opinion is because killing creatures is far easier than enchantments in most archetypes. Especially game 1.

The manabase is extremely simple with 15 Snow-Covered Forest and 4 copies of Highland Forest, You could add 1 Snow-Covered Mountain, but there is a couple of problems with that. Utopia Sprawl only works with Forests and you need to maximize your ability to start on turn 1. You don’t want the possibility of having an opening hand of Snow-Covered Mountain and Highland Forest as your lands, trust me.

The Sideboard

Deglamer and Natural Obsolescence – Laugh hysterically at indestructible artifacts. I want to note that Deglamer is better because it does not actually target, you get to choose. While this might not come up often, better to be safe than sorry.

Fiery Cannonade – Board wipes are always a good thing to have access to. This is one of the best.

Gorilla Shaman – How many times do we have to tell you no Affinity?

Penumbra Spider – This is a fantastic card against a plethora of decks. It takes 2 removal spells to deal with and is an awesome card for defense.

Weather the Storm – Enjoy this Burn mages!

Verdict and Final Thoughts

Love it or hate it, Ponza decks will always be a thing in almost any format. With Pauper in particular, land destruction has become somewhat more popular over the years because of how little aggro there is these days and how popular the midrange style of deck is.

Gruul Ponza hasn’t changed much since the last time I took a look at it and that isn’t a bad thing. This means that if you have played the deck before, it will be very familiar.

Gruul Ponza is a very meta dependent deck. If you play it in the right meta, you have a good chance of succeeding, if you play it in the wrong meta, you will most likely have a bad time. I will say though that from my experience, Ponza is very opening hand dependent and the problem is that it does not mulligan well.

If you draw your land destruction spells too late or outside of your opening hand, they will most likely be dead draws. If you draw the wrong creatures at the wrong time, you will have a hard time competing. If you don’t draw your ramp extremely early, you have the risk of being far too slow. I want you to keep these things in mind before picking up the deck because Ponza is great when things work, but otherwise it can feel a little glass cannon.

Should you play this deck? If you believe your meta is slow and has decks trying to be greedy, I think Ponza is fine. If the format is too fast or combo heavy, Ponza will either have to adjust heavily or you should maybe pick up another deck entirely. That is how I look at it.

However, with all this being said, as always, do remember my words are not gospel. I will always encourage you to try a deck that I bring you despite my personal feelings. Remember that results will vary and always remember to practice!

Would you like to compete in a free Pauper tournament with some great prizes? Head on over to on Tuesday nights at 8pm EDT and play in our weekly Pauper Classic Tuesday's event! Join the chat #PCT to chat with us and feel free to find most of the competitors on Discord!

Thank you so much for reading. Best of luck to you in your next tournament and I’ll catch you all next time!