With the release of Ravnica Allegiance just a couple weeks ago, we take our first look at updating Modern RG Ponza. With devastating effects like dropping turn two land destruction or a turn two Blood Moon, Ponza is a very fringe deck to be reckoned with. Ponza hasn’t quite had its time in the sun… or the moon… because of many of the turn 3-4 combo decks currently in the Modern format. With the banning of KCI (Krark-Clan Ironworks), this may allow Ponza to rise to a tier one deck, where I believe it belongs. Let’s take a closer look into Ponza’s history and then get into the updates and new additions to the deck.
The concept of Ponza, including the name, dates back to 1997 when Brian Kowal brought the deck to ProTour Rome. In the years following the deck posted many results and several incarnations. It gained the most fame from a January 2000 match between Jon Finkle (Vampiric Tutor control) and Chris Benafel (Ponza) in the finals US nationals. The name Ponza came from Ponza Rotta, a deep fried folded over pizza, served at Jimmy’s Grotto in Waukesha, WI. The deck can be split up into different classes of cards; crust (land), meat (creatures), red sauce (Land Destruction), and veggies (ramp). Ponza is noted as one of the original modern decks next to burn. It has a simple game plan stall out the early game with and destruction and removal, and then finish the game with large creatures.
Now that we know a little bit more about Ponza’s origins lets take a look at my current version of Modern RG Ponza. The list I’m bringing to you today is a list of my own creation where I’ve added a number of cards from the new Ravnica Allegiance set, and have received some insight from the other fine Ponza players over at MTG – Ponza. The cards I have added to the list from Ravnica Allegiance are a playset of Gruul Spellbreaker, 2 Rhythm of the Wild, and 2 Cindervines to the sideboard. Let’s take a look at the deck and then we will break down the new additions and the synergy with this already synergistic deck.
The first new card I really want to get into is Rhythm of the Wilds. Coming to us as an Uncommon from Ravnica Allegiance, this card is a beast of an enchantment. For a colorless, a red, and a green we get an enchantment that says “Creature spells you control can’t be countered”, “Nontoken Creatures you control have Riot.” One of the biggest synergies with this card is its interaction with Bloodbraid Elf’s Cascade trigger. Being able to be Cascaded into, Rhythm of the Wilds makes Bloodbraid Elf Uncounterable and come onto the battlefield with Riot. Bloodbraid Elf already comes in with Haste, so getting to add the 1/1 to its power and toughness is just added value. Another big synergy is with Inferno Titan. Giving Inferno Titan Haste means we get the initial 3 damage divided as we choose from its cast, but also now we get to attack that same turn getting to deal 3 more damage as we choose. Inferno Titan is already a 6/6 so being able to give it Haste off of Riot we get from Rhythm of the Wild – that’s a potential 12 damage that tun. Overall, I feel like Rhythm of the Wild is positioned well in a mid-range deck like Ponza for Modern.
Gruul Spellbraker, the 3/3 ogre warrior, comes to us as a rare from Ravnica Allegiance. I decided to go with a full playset of her while I was updating my RG Ponza list. Gruul Spellbreaker comes in for a colorless, a red, and a green, has Riot, Trample, and says “as long as it’s your turn, you and Gruul Spellbreaker have hexproof.” With a lot of ramp effects, Ponza is able to make three drops the new two drops. Gruul Spellbreaker comes in with Riot so you can either be attacking with a 3/3 turn two, or you can slam a 4/4 and wait until the next turn to smash face. With synergies from cards like Rhythm of the Wilds, it gives Gruul Spellbreaker Riot twice! Talk about a card that demands to be dealt with. Having just the right keywords and abilities I believe Gruul Spellbreaker just eeks into the Modern playable cards. I believe a deck like RG Ponza is the perfect Mid-range home for Gruul Spellbreaker. (Shoulda been a Goblin!)
Cindervines is the final addition from Ravnica Allegiance. Coming to us as a Rare, Cindervines says, “Whenever an opponent casts a noncreature spell, Cindervines deals 1 damage to that player,” and “pay 1, Sacrifice Cindervines: Destroy target artifact or enchantment. Cindervines deals 2 damage to that permanent’s controller.” I believe if you are playing Red and Green this will for sure be a sideboard card. With Decks like Storm, Burn, and Phoenix looming overhead Cindervines is the perfect catch-all sideboard card. The ability to take care of a pesky enchantment or artifact is an awesome addition, then getting to deal 2 damage to that permanent’s controller just makes this a better Destructive Revelry. I have two Cindervines in the sideboard, depending on where the meta goes this could easily be three or possibly even one in the main-board. I feel like Cinvdervines is a Modern playable card and a well-positioned rightly costed enchantment that packs a punch.
RG Ponza has evolved quite a lot from its origins. It still wants to do the same things it’s always done though, hate on lands, and put out huge creatures quick! The list I created from these new additions from Ravnica Allegiance I feel is right on par as mid-range additions. The new synergies from Rhythm of the Wild really make this feel like more of a creature build. Previous versions of RG Ponza that I have played had a lot more land destruction in them, which is always powerful, but this just feels great all around. My plan is to playtest this both in paper and through Magic Online. Right now this build is going off information from players who have made similar additions and my personal love for the new cards synergies within a deck I’ve been playing for years now.