Center Stage: Cleansing Wildfire

Before I go any further I want to give you a heads up: here there be spoilers for Zendikar Rising. If you don’t want to learn any cards in the set ahead of time, just click out of this page and you’ll be none the wiser.

Is the coast clear?


It’s not a secret that Tron is a borderline oppressive force in Pauper. The abundance of mana provided by the trio gives Tron decks the ability to do more things in a given turn cycle. Given the relatively flat power level of Pauper, this allows Tron decks to pull ahead to a nigh insurmountable lead in the game.

One thing that always comes up in discussions about Tron is the concept of land destruction. Despite Pauper having access to some very power land destruction options, the strategy fails against Tron. This is due to a few elements.

  1. Tron does not need the Tron to operate early, which is when land destruction is at its best.
  2. Tron can protect lands with Ghostly Flicker or Pulse of Murasa, or render land destruction moot with Crop Rotation.
  3. Taking a turn off of pressuring Tron to attack their mana is not a winning trade off.

I want to talk about this last point a little more. Land destruction and mana denial has worked as a strategy when you can attack a deck’s resources and life total concurrently. A classic example of this is Red Deck Wins from Onslaught era Extended. Here’s a list from Hall of Famer Zvi:

Jackal Pup and Slith Firewalker could apply pressure like few other cards in that era and following them up with a Stone Rain or Pillage could buy enough time until a Blistering Firecat could deal the final few points. But look at all those lock pieces. Red Deck Wins could use both Wasteland and Rishadan Port to deny the opponent a chance to do, well, anything. Since Red Deck Wins had suck a low curve this was hardly a problem.

Pauper has a ton of good aggressive one and two drops. What it lacks is the supplemental ways to tax resources. This means that in order for land destruction to be viable it cannot be tempo negative.

For the regulars out there: how many times have you played against Black Ponza and not really cared about them blowing up your land since you had a threat?

That is where today’s card comes in: Cleansing Wildfire.

One of the best cards in Pauper is Burning-Tree Emissary and now you can lead Goblin Cohort into Burning-Tree Emissary into this two mana spell. The not-Sinkhole is at its best against bounceland heavy strategies (namely Boros) as it can take away a land drop. But what about Tron – how does it fare there?

Here’s a short answer: I don’t think Tron is going anywhere. I do think Cleansing Wildfire does good work buying red decks another turn. I do not think that this is even the first nail in the deck’s coffin. Why? Because Tron can just adjust its play style and not expose a Tron land until after the ideal Wildfire turn. At that point this just becomes another annoyance rather than a roadblock.

Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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