Arctic_Ghost's picture
By: Arctic_Ghost, Arctic_Ghost
May 20 2021 12:00pm

I know a lot of you love UR Puzzle control (I do as well). While Strixhaven has not made a huge impact on the Pauper meta, today I want to bring to your attention another Izzet control list, where it’s main win condition has Serpentine Curve.

The list we will be looking at today, was part of the 5-0 league dump from 4/28/2021 and was piloted by the player Kampo. This is pretty much as old school control as you can get and I am not gonna lie, I think the list is really cool. Let’s check it out!

The first thing you will notice, is that between the main deck and sideboard, there are, in fact, 0 actual creatures in the deck. You are all spells and there are some good ones to cast.

Serpentine Curve – Here is your main win condition for the deck. After you have taken control over the game, cast this and you should have a token that is at least 10 power, making for a quick clock. Be careful though, as simple Cast Down or Journey to Nowhere to remove it.

Fling – While you can attack with your Fractal token and win that way, Fling offers a different approach. This is quite useful, since if there is a clogged up battlefield, your token doesn’t have Trample, so this is another way to win.

Maximize Velocity – This is also another way to combo with your Fractal Token. You can just send this spell to the graveyard off of Thought Scour or not select it with Pieces of the Puzzle and then cast it later to make a giant Token have haste and swing for lethal in the same turn. I am unsure if this is better than having a second copy of Fling, but it hasn’t seemed bad.

Skred – With enough Snow lands out, this will deal with just about any creature in the format. The best part, is it is instant speed. I am sure by now, we all know how good Skred is.

Lightning Bolt – I am sure no one is surprised by this one being here. Bolt being able to deal 3 damage to the face, does actually come up if your Token got in for some damage, but you need to drive the final few points home for the win.

Fiery Cannonade – Board wipe spells are pretty crucial these days in the Pauper format. I am just surprised to only see 1 copy in the main deck.

Counterspell – If you are a blue control deck (and your manabase supports it), never play less than 4 of the best counter spell in the format.

Dispel – A great spell for fighting just about anything instant related. Dispel is especially useful when you are trying to combo off and win the game.

Brainstorm and Preordain – You have plenty of ways to get the cards you put back on top with Brainstorm either into your graveyard or shuffled away, making it a great way to gain card advantage. As far as Preordain goes, you are trying to fight the long game, so being able to push bad cards to the bottom and smooth out your draws is a must.

Thought Scour – Not the best card in the world, but it does have good synergy with Brainstorm and it does put 2 spells in the graveyard to make your Serpentine Curve grow faster. However, I don’t like this card because when you are casting it blind (meaning you don’t know what is on top of your deck), you can get unlucky and mill 2 important cards. I am biased because I am not a lucky person.

Frantic Inventory – This deck wants to draw a ton of cards and Frantic Inventory does that over time. Between Pieces of the Puzzle and Thought Scour, you can mill a copy or 2 and still get value later on.

Pieces of the Puzzle – Although it is sorcery speed, it lets you see 5 cards deep, get 2 spells and it can put cards in your graveyard, such as Maximize Velocity or Frantic Inventory, so that you can get value off of them later. Pieces is a fair version of Fact or Fiction that gets the job done when you need it to.

The Manabase isn’t anything too special. You have 3 copies of Ash Barrens and 3 copies of Evolving Wilds as your fetch lands to help fix mana. 4 copies of Volatile Fjord as your dual land and then 11 Snow basics. You could go to 8 Island and 3 Mountain, but you lean more towards blue spells, so I like the 9 and 2 split. As far as Barrens or Wilds being at 4, remember that Barrens costs you 1 mana to find a color, but it can come into play untapped. Wilds fixes your mana, but the land comes into play tapped. I think a 3 and 3 split is fine, but if you want a 4 and 2 split, I would add the 4th Barrens personally.

The Sideboard

Blue Elemental Blast – If you have access to blue, make sure to include some number of these in the sideboard.

Dispel – Always good to have access to another copy when you are up against a counter or heavy removal deck.

Echoing Truth – Although it is 2 mana, it can be a good catch all that can deal with almost anything. Also very good against token based strategies.

Fiery Cannonade – Board wipes are important in today’s pauper meta, so make sure you are prepared.

Gigadrowse – Against control archetypes, this is great. It taps out your opponents blue mana and then you can easily make a token and either Fling it or you can give it haste and win the game. I am a big fan of seeing this in the sideboard. I wouldn’t play more than a couple of copies however, since you only need 1 to win and you don’t want to draw too many of them because other than helping you win the next turn, it doesn’t do all that much.

Goblin Wizardry – In the case of you needing more win conditions, this is a great option. You can make the tokens at instant speed and then cycle through your cantrips, pumping your Goblins and then win the game over the course of the next few turns. I find this to be a good option against Tron because you can just counter their Fog effects.

Negate – A good catch all counter spell that is fairly easy on the mana.

Red Elemental Blast – A great way of dealing with blue decks.

Relic of Progenitus – Graveyard is always a good thing to have access to, but please remember that if you want to remove an entire graveyard, you are going to be exiling your own, which is bad for your win condition.

Swirling Sandstorm – I am very sad to see only 1 copy of this in the sideboard, as I think this particular card is crucial to beating most aggro archetypes. I want at least 3 copies because against aggro, your 1 for 1 removal will only get you so far and you don’t necessarily win the game quickly enough.

Verdict and Conclusion

It has been quite sometime since a relatively archetype truly made me smile and made me have fun playing magic. I can honestly say, this archetype has done both of those things.

The cool thing about Combo-Control decks are they while you are controlling the game, you are also setting up a combo kill to end the game somewhat quickly. While this deck does want to get a little into the late game and you can just attack your opponent to death with your Fractal token, it is quite easy to sculpt the perfect hand and win the game on the spot.

My only personal gripe with this list in particular is that when I was messing around with it, I felt like it didn’t handle creature decks well enough, I felt I wanted more board wipes. I changed out 1 Thought Scour and moved the second copy of Fiery Cannonade to the main deck. I also took out the Relic of Progentius and added 2 more copies of Swirling Sandstorm. I don’t claim these changes to be correct, but this is what I personally felt was missing from the deck.

I find Sandstorm to be necessary to the sideboard for aggro matchups, however, it does not help against the Faeries archetypes. If you want to prepare for those matchups, a third copy of Fiery Cannonade or a copy of Electrickery is a good idea, but you will have to take something out of the sideboard. Make sure you test to see which numbers can be messed around with.

One minor problem this deck has is graveyard removal. Since your win condition is based around having cards in the graveyard, cards such as Relic of Progenitus can really mess with your game plan. You do have Goblin Wizardry out of the sideboard if you feel your opponent will bring in graveyard hate, but being 1/1s and dying to your own board wipe spells, won’t help much against an aggro deck. Just keep these things in mind.

Do I think you should play this deck? I think for the leagues yes, I think this archetype is powerful and just getting started. For the challenges though, I think this list needs a bit more maturing before I would risk it, but as time goes on and as this archetype becomes more refined, I think it will put up numbers.

As of writing this article, I found another version of this archetype that is Dimir instead of Izzet. This deck was part of the 5-0 dump from 5/5/2021 and piloted by the player HJC. It doesn’t have a combo kill in it, but instead has Gurmag Angler as another win condition and plays 4 copies of Thought Scour to turbo the big monster out quickly.

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 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!