Hello again, Premodern humans! A few weeks ago I posted an old 1998 Type II Pox deck on my Instagram account , and it got me thinking about whether the archetype could be viable in Premodern. A version of Pox is still played in Legacy, though it doesn’t usually use many copies of the original Pox. Throughout the decades though, the basic strategy of Pox decks has remained relatively unchanged: strip the opponent of all resources, grind them out through attrition, then close out the game with whatever you have left lying around.
First, let’s take a look at a mono-black version:
The first way to break Pox‘s symmetry is by playing a lot of artifacts and enchantments, as those permanents are ignored by the devastating effects of the disease. The mainboard here is artifact heavy, with some nice enchantments coming out of the sideboard. Phyrexian Arena deserves a special mention as it can be game-winning against control, though it’s a bit too risky in the maindeck against aggro strategies, especially since you’re attempting to resolve a card that can cause you to lose up to 7 life.
Another strategy for turning the symmetrical effect of Pox in your favor is to play a creatureless deck. Chimeric Idol is a great choice here as it can become a 3/3 beater when needed, but can sit there as a simple artifact when you’re casting Pox or Innocent Blood. The other routes to victory include Cursed Scroll, Mishra’s Factory and Nether Spirit, which can also synergize nicely with Cabal Therapy.
When it comes to Pox‘s discard effect, one of the best strategies is to get down to three other cards in hand when you cast it so that you’re only losing one, while your opponent will hopefully have to pitch two. The incentive to get cards out of your hand quickly allows you to go relatively heavy on cards that give you a powerful effect at the cost of card disadvantage, like Dark Ritual, Mox Diamond and Unmask.
The mono-black version is consistent and streamlined, but splashing white can actually give us access to even more raw power.
The main pickups with the addition of white are Vindicate and Gerrard’s Verdict, with Swords to Plowshares coming in to replace Innocent Blood. Vindicate allows you to strengthen the mana denial strategy even further, or take out an artifact or enchantment that your opponent is using to get around the Pox. Of course, the card can literally kill just about anything. Gerrard’s Verdict is an easy two-for-one, and if you do manage to get a little bit of life gain out of it, it can help offset the self-inflicted pain of casting Pox.