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Horns

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Hello boys and girls!

Create two 2/3 red minotaurs with haste.

Who doesn't want to do that?!

Flurry of Horns is not a new card. Not even close. But for some reason none of us decided to start playing with it until earlier this year.

Personally I haven't looked back!

My initial thoughts on this deck type were presented here, but I'd like to start somewhat fresh with my overview since I've been able to play and tweak it a considerable amount since.

There are actually two versions of this deck currently in rotation for me, one that runs Thunderous Wrath alongside Ponder, Brainstorm and fetches, and one that doesn't. To keep things relatively simple I'm going to talk about this one, also known as the one that doesn't. I do want to point out that at this point in time I feel like both versions appear to be equally viable. In case it matters to you, this “non-Wrath” deck is less decision-intensive but seemingly about as powerful as its Thunderous older brother.

Izzet “No-Puzzle” (a reference to the fact that we're little more than a Pieces of the Puzzle strategy that isn't running Pieces of the Puzzle) is a control deck, and doesn't require much more explanation than a typical control deck does.

It intends to “stay in the game” (not die or fall too far behind) early on, develop resource superiority in the middle of the game and conquer the enemy with an “endgame” in the later stages.

What makes this particular strategy stand out in these terms is the fact that it transitions from the “develop superiority” phase to the “conquer the enemy” phase very quickly!

I learned this around the same time that I managed to reach the following elementary conclusion...

Wow Flurry of Horns is good(!), and up to this point has been a ridiculously underrated card in the format. I'm talking one of the most undervalued spells I've come across in quite some time. The carnivorous minotaur hordes have continuously been winning me games and exceeding my expectations. In fact, I'm taking back my initial statement. Flurry of Horns is not good, it's excellent.

To say that 90 percent of the time I opt to tap out for Flurry of Horns once I reach five mana (rather than elect a more cautious line of play) is to make a conservative estimate. And I don't get punished for doing so. I will spend all of my mana on Flurry with Counterspell in my hand. I will spend all of my mana on Flurry with Mulldrifter in my hand. I'm telling you this to illustrate that casting Flurry is usually the best play to make, and usually beats what the opponent is doing (if our deck has been doing its job up to that point).

In a world where Burning-Tree Emissary is helping Pauper mages flood the board with 2/2s, it's quite nice to have a deck that answers back with 1/3s and 2/3s!

Perhaps I'll get into the nooks and crannies of this strategy further at a later date, but the fact of the matter is that I'm still developing the list and gathering up adequate amounts of data.

I do want to try and help people out with some sideboarding information, particularly in the case of three specific Pauper matchups. Let's go ahead and jump into that right now!

Basic Sideboarding Guide and Info

Mono Blue Delver

-1 Augur of Bolas

-4 Counterspell

-1 Deprive

-1 Flurry of Horns

+1 Electrickery

+1 Magma Spray

+3 Pyroblast

+2 Stormbound Geist

It may seem counterintuitive to take out permission spells against a deck that uses permission to stop us, but just hear me out for a second:

If you were told to pick any event to compete in, and that the person competing against you would be UFC superstar Conor McGregor, the absolute last event you would pick would be Mixed Martial Arts, right?

Maybe you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, so now apply a similar line of reasoning to our matchup against Delver: trying to outperform Delver on the axis of casting permission spells is like trying to beat Usain Bolt in a foot race. It's one of the things they're the very best at.

It makes a lot more sense to fight them on an axis where we can actually excel. In this case, we're converting our deck into a mechanism that is better at removing creatures from the board than Delver is at adding creatures to the board!

This is not to say that we have zero permission in the deck after sideboarding. Rather, all of our permission (one Dispel and three Pyroblast at this point) is very cheap to cast. This not only allows us to be as mana-efficient as possible, but also helps us win “stack battles” on our terms by overloading Delver's permission with a barrage of cheap instants. Furthermore, Pyroblast doubles as a potent removal spell, which further accentuates our plan of being better at removing creatures from the board than Delver is at adding creatures to the board.

Most of Delver's threats fly, so Augur of Bolas is really only able to keep Ninja of the Deep Hours at bay. We can afford to shave one copy of him. What's more, Delver is not good at dealing with pronounced opposing board positions, particularly creatures that are 2/3 or larger. This means we don't need to max out on the five-drop Flurry of Horns. Resolving just one or two copies will be enough to smash them (again, if our deck has been working up to this point), and we don't want early game hands clogged with such expensive spells.

Mono Green Stompy

-3 Counterspell

-1 Deprive

+1 Electrickery

+1 Harvest Pyre

+1 Magma Spray

+1 Relic of Progenitus

I'm rather disappointed to say that this is the matchup I've wanted to see the most of, but have regrettably seen very little of. I feel like if Izzet No-Puzzle does not have a very favorable Stompy matchup then there isn't really much of a point to running it whatsoever.

In case you didn't know, Stompy is currently the top dog within the realm of 5-0 Pauper League performers, and this is due largely in part to the addition of Burning-Tree Emissary.

With all that being said, I think the above “ins and outs” currently make the most sense, and offer up the best configuration for us to run with after Game 1. In order to justify my sideboarding choices a bit further, I'd like to reference an awesome article on control decks written by PVDDR nearly five years ago. This is what he has to say about sideboarding against aggressive strategies:

Against aggro, you’ll generally want to bring in cheap answers. You don’t care that you have many of those, because your late game is naturally more powerful anyway, and as long as you don’t go overboard you should be fine.”

The question now becomes “are we packing the right answers?” in addition to “are we packing enough of those answers?”

Dropping two-mana permission spells from our deck seems ideal, because Stompy is already going to be on the board by the time we could even employ any of those. They represent a significant tempo loss during critical early game turns when we could be spending our mana in an attempt to manage the enemy's existing board state.

In addition, Stompy pilots can “bait” out our Counterspells by playing a less-important threat first. You might be thinking “well just don't counter it” but it's not that simple. To allow a less-important creature to resolve just because a more-important one may or may not follow it up is a presumptive and often foolish waste of mana, and a blatant withholding of the resource we have in our hand. Removal usually functions much more efficiently, since we can point it at whichever aggressor places us in the most imminent danger, and we can do so at a time of our choosing.

Electrickery can cut down boards inhabited by Quirion Rangers, Vault Skirges and eldrazi spawn tokens. Two copies of Magma Spray and one copy of Relic of Progenitus should reduce Young Wolf to a marginal annoyance, though it's possible that our 1/3 Augurs and 2/3 minotaurs are already capable of doing that for us. Relic has an added benefit of sniping Rancors before they return to the Stompy pilot's greedy little fingers.

A possible blind-spot in our current version of the deck is our inability to handle the rather prominent Stompy beater known as River Boa. Boa can not only stand up to our removal if the opponent leaves lands untapped, it can also manage to slither past our blockers and crack us for damage.

Currently I feel like the two best answers to this pest are Serrated Arrows and the much younger Spontaneous Mutation. Unlike Curse of Chains or Narcolepsy, these cards don't get absolutely wrecked by the activated ability of Quirion Ranger. Arrows is likely the all-around more powerful card, and if protection from red creatures like Crimson Acolyte and Guardian of the Guildpact start seeing play then it could even become a necessary inclusion.

Stormbound Geist
Versions:
Dark Ascension (Foil)

Mono Red Burn

The explosive offense provided by Flurry of Horns makes our Game One against Burn a lot better than it would be otherwise. The initial contest will certainly be close, but I've found myself pulling out many more of these Game Ones than I ever expected to. At the same time, their deck is far better-suited towards enacting its Game One plan than we are at stopping it, so the key to winning this matchup (one I currently consider to be slightly favorable) comes down to our sideboarding and execution in the follow-up games.

-1 Electrickery

-3 Flame Slash

-1 Harvest Pyre

-1 Magma Spray

-1 Think Twice

+3 Hydroblast

+2 Spreading Seas

+2 Stormbound Geist

Our abundance of creature removal turns into a frustrating overabundance against a deck that plays far more instants and sorceries than it does creatures. We still want to have a bit of removal though, because dealing with Keldon Marauders and Thermo-Alchemist is unquestionably critical. Lightning Bolt gets the nod over Flame Slash because it hits these threats at instant speed, and it can go upstairs in a matchup where racing to the finish line is nothing short of paramount.

Hydroblast does it all here, perhaps most notably though it can remove a Curse of the Pierced Heart even after it has resolved.

Spreading Seas is cheap cycling, far better than ineffectual excess removal, and restricts the mana of a deck that doesn't play many lands, needs RR for Searing Blaze and wants to pitch two Mountains to Fireblast. The addition of Spreading Seas after board is primarily why we extract one copy of Think Twice: there's no point in being glutted with two mana draw.

Lastly Stormbound Geist replaces our previously dead slots with additional offense. It's not insane, but considering the fact that in this matchup games are won within a turn or two of being lost, it's not necessarily something to scoff at either.

I hope these sideboarding tips have been insightful! Please use them to the best of your ability.

Fists of Flurry

Today's article will not include a video portion since we took up so much time breaking the deck down and looking at specific matchups.

However, I'll be sure to record some intense battles with the deck for our next episode!

It's going to be fun watching the metagame develop, especially because I can continue tuning my list and getting these minotaurs primed to run the top decks over.

That's the plan, anyway...

As always, thanks for reading. Until next time, GG!

Jason Moore
Jason Moore

About Jason Moore

Jason Moore is 25 years old, and a resident of Los Angeles California. He began playing Magic seriously in 2010, and has developed a strong interest in MTGO and the Pauper format. He is one of the hosts of the podcast Pauper's Cage, and has covered Pauper on other websites and his YouTube page. His other interests include acting, writing and playing guitar.

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