Playing Pauper with the Soul Sisters
- Ryan Scicluna
I came across an interesting Soul Sister’s combo deck at my local LGS. This got me thinking about Soul Sisters in Pauper and, in this article, I take a look at three different version of Soul Sisters for Pauper each a little different from the other.
Before we go into details of the actual pauper decks, I first want to take a look into the Modern version of Soul Sisters. This will give us some information on how the deck has changed between Modern and Pauper.
When somebody mentions Soul's Attendant or Soul Warden, most MTG players will automatically think of the Modern deck by Kyle Sanchez, popularized by Jake Lehmkuhl who took it to a Top 8 in a StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Denver in 2010. The deck focuses on gaining a bunch of life thanks to the titular sisters in order to power up Ajani's Pridemate and Serra Ascendant quickly. There have been a number of variants of the deck, including using Squadron Hawk in combination with Martyr of Sands to gain life even faster and other variants using Thalia's Lieutenant and Archangel of Thune for anthems effects. Some decks also run playsets of Flagstones of Trokair to search more Plains and increasing the chances of drawing what you need.
|16Plains||4Ajani's Pridemate||3Elspeth, Knight-Errant|
|4Kabira Crossroads||4Kor Firewalker||1Oblivion Ring|
|4Tectonic Edge||4Ranger of Eos||4Brave the Elements|
|4Serra Ascendant||4Survival Cache|
|1Sun Titan||1War Priest of Thune||3Luminarch Ascension|
|2Oblivion Ring||3Celestial Purge||3Path to Exile|
|2Linvala, Keeper of Silence|
The idea of the original Modern Souls Sisters is to play either the attendant or warden on turn 1 and start gaining life by playing the other creatures, especially Ajani's Pridemate. Eventually the deck tries to win by having large Pridemates and/or 6/6 lifelink flying Serra Ascendants. The deck uses Elspeth, Knight-Errant for more creatures (either for more lifegain and/or blockers) and to give evasion (flying) to your Pridemate. The rest of the deck utilises Brave the Elemets to protect your creatures and Survival Cache for card draw (and life gain).
So how does the Modern version of Soul Sisters translated into the Pauper Format? After all, the key cards which make the deck possible are both common and thus, legal in Pauper.
So what about Soul Sisters in Pauper. Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant are both 1 white mana 1/1 creatures that gain the player 1 life if another creature hits the field. The problem with adapting the Modern deck for Pauper comes from the payoff. There is no Pridemate or Serra Ascendant in Pauper, so it's unclear what all that life will do. Gaining life, good as it can be, is not enough to close out games in and of itself. As a result, Soul Sisters needs to change drastically in order to be playable in Pauper.
With that, let's look at three different ways we can play Soul Sisters in Pauper.
GW Selesnya Soul Sisters Combo
The idea behind the Green White Soul Sisters deck in Pauper, as explained by Eric Froehlich in his article about a similar deck, is to use the life gaining effect of Soul's Attendant or Soul Warden and then combine them with token generating spells such as Battle Screech, Cenn's Enlistment and most importantly, the combo of the deck Midnight Guard enchanted with Presence of Gond. Presence of Gond allows you to tap the enchanted creature to create a 1/1 Elf token, while Midnight Guard untaps each time a creature enters the battlefield. This creates a cycle of infinite life and infinite creatures as long as you have a “soul” creature on the field with the Midnight Guard + Presence of Gond combo active.
Other cards in the deck focus on protection and giving you enough time to assemble the combo. Benevolent Bodyguard can give protection to your creatures, while also gaining you some life while Journey to Nowhere and Oblivion Ring can get rid of any annoying creatures or nonland permanents respectively. Gods Willing is a very useful protection spell which also allows you to Scry 1. Veteran Armorer increases the toughness of your 1/1s, making them out of reach to your opponents' Electrickery. Commune with the Gods allows you to dig deeper for your enchantments or creatures, which is ideal if your combo requires both a creature and an enchantment. Khalni Garden is a land that produces a 0/1 token and taps for green. The token is good for both life gain and blocking.
|9Plains||4Benevolent Bodyguard||4Commune with the Gods|
|3Blossoming Sands||4Soul Warden||2Battle Screech|
|3Khalni Garden||4Soul's Attendant||2Cenn's Enlistment|
|4Evolving Wilds||4Veteran Armorer||2Journey to Nowhere|
|3Forest||4Midnight Guard||2Gods Willing|
|4Soul's Attendant||2Oblivion Ring|
|4Presence of Gond|
|2Natural State||2Nature's Claim||2Relic of Progenitus|
|2Scattershot Archer||2Circle of Protection: Red||3Valeron Outlander|
This is a very fun deck to pilot with some strong payoffs. The deck can hold its own against most decks in the current meta. However, like many combo decks, if the opponent sees what you are trying to do, you will find it very hard to pull off your combo, if you manage at all. The problem with such a deck is that even though the original idea is to have a 2 card combo, in reality most of the time this ends up being a 3 card combo because you will need to protect your Midnight Guard once it hits the field while also enchanting it with the Presence of Gond, or waiting until you have enough mana to cast your combo in the same turn. If your opponent is playing blue, they will always have counter magic ready and other colors tend to play heavy on removal once they see the combo. Against decks such as Stompy Green, it ends up becoming a race, which this deck rarely wins; as the rate at which you gain life is slower than the damage you will be dealt.
Mono White Tokens
The mono white pauper version of Soul Sisters is all about making creature tokens while gaining life in an aggro strategy. Eventually overrunning the opponent with the tokens while they are pumped thanks to Guardians' Pledge, which for 1WW gives all our creatures +2/+2.
The star of this deck is Suture Priest, costing 1W and with the effect of gaining you 1 life if a creature enters the battlefield under your control and, making your opponent lose 1 life if a creature enters the battlefield under their control. Adding another Soul sister's effect in a deck focused on making tokens is good, however, the best part of Suture Priest is that it punishes your opponents for playing creatures. As a result the distance between your life total and your opponents' will only get bigger by just creatures entering the battlefield. Top this off with an aggressive strategy and the gap gets even bigger. The deck runs cards such as Doomed Traveller, Battle Screech, Cenn's Enlistment, and Raise the Alarms as token generators. A couple of Icatian Javelineers act as an early drop to put pressure against your opponent's threats. The Javelineers can also clear the way from blockers for a finishing blow with your pumped creatures. Squadron Hawk adds more fuel to your plays while thinning your deck and an easy target to equip with Bonesplitter. Quicksand, in this deck, is very useful as it can take out most creatures that Journey to Nowhere will miss, making sure you have a clear way for attacks.
|18Plains||4Doomed Traveler||4Guardians' Pledge|
|3Quicksand||4Soul Warden||2Raise the Alarm|
|4Soul's Attendant||3Battle Screech|
|4Squadron Hawk||2Cenn's Enlistment|
|4Suture Priest||4Journey to Nowhere|
|2Cho-Manno's Blessing||2Relic of Progenitus||4Lumithread Field|
|2Oblivion Ring||2Rune of Protection: Red||3Standard Bearer|
This deck can be quite explosive with the aim of gaining life, dealing damage, and waiting for your opponents to play enough creatures so that they will be within lethal thanks to the Suture Priest. The deck's sideboard is very important as the deck can suffer a lot in game two. Lumithread Field is a morph enchantment most players will not expect, especially if flipped during combat. Standard Bearer will nullify your opponent's pump/removal spells as your opponent will have to target it first. Oblivion Ring provides some needed protection against non-creature permanents and Cho-Manno's Blessing can be flashed to either make a creature survive a battle or making it unblockable against a grindy match or even protect our Suture Priest.
WB Orzhov Extort Souls Sisters
Our last version of Soul Sisters in Pauper is a white-black variant, which tries to gain as much life while also making the opponents lose life whenevera creature enters the battlefield under their control or through other spells. This deck includes a playset of Blood Seeker together with a playset of Suture Priest to heavily punish the opponent for playing creatures. Another key aspect of this deck is Extort. Thanks to Tithe Drinker, a 2/1 with lifelink for WB, all our other spells drain even more life out of the opponent if we decide to spend 1 extra mana when casting our spells. To help with the Extort plan this deck includes 4 copies of Basilica Screecher a 1/2 bat with flying and extort for 1B.
This deck still uses Battle Screech as token generator with the chance to flash it back in the same turn we play it. However, since this deck tries to play the long game, a single copy of Lab Rats will allow us to cast it each turn with the Buyback cost, so that we can keep recasting the spell, hopefully with extort, each turn. This means that if we have any of the soul creatures out or the suture priest, we will be gaining more and more life (thanks to the rat token and extort). Pillory of the Sleepless replaces Journey to Nowhere as a kind of removal spell, which also drains the opponent. Unmake permanently removes any threats which we can't handle, while Harsh Sustenance can either deal with a creature or inflict direct damage to the opponent while we gaining us some life. Sign in Blood acts as card draw and Disturbed Burial is another spell with Buyback that lets us return creatures to the hand from the graveyard used for blocking. Orzhov Basilica makes us return a land to our hand so that we can recast Syphon Life for its Retrace cost from the graveyard.
|7Plains||4Soul Warden||1Lab Rats|
|3Orzhov Basilica||4Soul's Attendant||3Sign in Blood|
|3Scoured Barrens||4Suture Priest||1Disturbed Burial|
|7Swamp||4Blood Seeker||2Syphon Life|
|3Tithe Drinker||2Battle Screech|
|4Basilica Screecher||3Pillory of the Sleepless|
|2Rune of Protection: Green||2Bojuka Bog||4Lumithread Field|
|2Oblivion Ring||2Rune of Protection: Red||3Standard Bearer|
Black-White Soul sisters can get out of control really fast. With a way to drain the opponent's life whenever you cast a spell and an opportunity for you to gain even more life just by casting creatures, the deck can be a real nightmare for your opponents. However, the deck suffers against tempo decks such as blue delver, as countering and unsummoning your creatures will allow them to get the upper hand. In such a scenario, speed and aggressive plays will be key. The sideboard has some answers against Burn and Stompy Green with the rest of the cards being useful in most matchups.
Those are three ways you can play Soul Sisters in Pauper with a relative budget. As you can imagine, they are very different from the original Modern deck and, even though the Modern deck was made possible by two common cards, the rest of the strategy changes depending on the shell. The core of the decks is always about gaining life, but each deck uses this in different overarching strategies.
What do you think? Did you try any of these decks? How would you change them or upgrade them? Do you have any suggestions for future Pauper deck techs?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.