I’m not sure what inspired me, but recently I got an idea to make a Pauper deck around Pollenbright Druid and Travel Preparations. The idea was simple enough: get +1/+1 counters on my creatures, then proliferate. I started mulling over the idea, and after about a week of puzzling on and off I had a list. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s a lot easier to tweak a list once you have a deck in front of you, rather than agonizing over every detail in the design phase.

Pollenbright Stompy

Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

I pulled together what cards I could for my initial idea, and adjusted my list based on what was available; as it turns out, Serrated Arrows are harder to find than I thought, so the first version only had one copy. One thing I was uncertain about was my land count, since I haven’t really built a deck like this before, so I had to experiment a bit. After a few test draws against myself I settled on the a land count I have now, and made a few cuts to the deck that just weren’t working. Phantom Tiger, for instance, was an early inclusion, but it wasn’t as strong as I was hoping it would be. I’m sad to see it go, because I think it has some potential, but at three mana it was a little too clunky, and the damage prevention wasn’t nearly as resilient as I thought it would be. Similarly, Bloom Hulk looked decent, but the high mana cost for what you got was actually really underwhelming.

Ultimately, the core of the deck became Safehold Elite and Rancor. Together they form a real threat that just refuses to die. Rancor keeps coming back on its own, and each time the Elite hits the graveyard it can be “reset” by putting a +1/+1 counter on it. Since most of the deck puts these counters on creatures, that’s really a trivial task. This gives me a steady stream of blockers, if I’m on the defensive, or an army I can recklessly throw at my opponent with little to no consequences.

Those +1/+1 counters also get sprinkled around to buff other creatures, turning anything in the deck into a big monster if needed. The counters can also be proliferated with Pollenbright Druid, shifting things even further in my favour. It’s not unreasonable to imagine a single Druid adding two or four additional counters when it enters play, which is a pretty good deal for two mana.

Things get even better with an Ivy Lane Denizen in play. Bond Beetle does a mean impression of Travel Preparations with the Denizen in play, and when a Pollenbright Druid comes in I can stack the triggers to add a counter somewhere first, then proliferate it with the Druid. Safehold Elite also becomes effectively inmortal with the Denizen, since they can get a +1/+1 counter right away when they persist. Fans of Pauper may recognize the Elite/Denizen loop, which goes infinite with any sacrifice outlet, but without any Black mana it doesn’t really work; I’m just playing it in a painfully fair way here.

The aforementioned Serrated Arrows is actually quite good with Pollenbright Druid. Not only does the Druid add an extra arrowhead counter, but any creature already tagged by the Arrows gets an additional -1/-1 counter when proliferating! It’s a bit slow as far as removal is concerned, but it does have the possibility of destroying three or more creatures over the course of a game, so that’s something. The plan is just to force my opponent to block at some point, but having a way of removing utility creatures is certainly important.

The creature that really ties this all of this together is actually Invasive Species; it does a remarkably good impression of Kor Skyfisher, albeit without the evasion. Ideally it will pick up a Pollenbright Druid so that it can buff the team a second time, but if I’m low on cards it can grab an Abundant Growth to draw another, or even just a Bond Beetle for another counter. If the game is going especially long, an Invasive Species could even pick up Serrated Arrows to reset it.


Finally, Lead the Stampede gives the deck some raw card advantage, potentially drawing up to five creature cards (though usually only two or three). While it can’t get Serrated Arrows or Rancor, the deck is so creature heavy it’s bound to hit something. Having a way to refuel after getting hit by a bunch of removal, or having a way to push the deck over the top if left unchecked is great, and Lead the Stampede fits the bill nicely. While an argument could be made that I should be using Winding Way instead, I like looking at that additional card; it makes finding at least two creatures a bit easier.


As far as the mana base is concerned, I’m running a few more tapped lands than I generally like for a mostly-mono-coloured deck. I wanted to make sure I could always flash back Travel Preparations, and having colour fixing also opened up options for my sideboard. Abundant Growth goes a long way toward fixing my mana, but I worry about Spellstutter Sprite jumping in and countering it. Hence the inclusion of Blossoming Sands.

Having Tranquil Thicket also come into play tapped is a little problematic, too, but I love having the option of cycling it away when I am flooding out. The deck doesn’t have a lot to do with its excess mana in the late game, so ditching the land for a redraw is perfect. Plus I could always bounce it with Invasive Species when I don’t need it in play anymore….



The icing on the Stompy cake is Cave of Temptation, a new addition to Pauper in Modern Horizons. As a stand-in for Shimmering Grotto, it helps with the colour splash for Travel Preparations, but its true strength lies in giving the deck something to do in the late game if it draws too many lands. Sacrificing a Cave to put two +1/+1 counters on a creature doesn’t seem like much, but when that extra punch is coming from your land slot it’s a nice bonus. Cave of Temptation is actually surprisingly good, and it’s a land that I feel might find its way into a few more Pauper decks over time. It’s certainly a nice fit here.

My sideboard is a bit of a mess, I’ll admit, but it does have a plan. Return to Nature is a decent catch-all card, able to deal with a problematic Ghostly Flicker or Pestilence with equal measure, while Sunlance gives me a little bit more early game interaction against problematic creatures. Entourage of Trest can, in theory, provide me with extra card advantage against creatureless decks, or even a way to steal the Monarch if need be. As for Spore Frog, it protects me against the likes of Tireless Tribe combo. Amusingly enough, Vines of Vastwood also helps to protect against these sorts of creature combos by making the creature in question untargetable for a spell like Inside Out or Temur Battle Rage, while primarily being a way for me to push through extra damage or to win combats against big threats. Pulse of Murasa is just a good card, but I’m not sure that’s the case with Revive and Vivien’s Grizzly; having them in the sideboard is a bit of an experiment. Maybe they’re terrible, but I just don’t know.

At the end of the day this deck really just wants to curve out and attack with big threats turn after turn. It probably can’t keep up with any of the top decks, but this feels like a decent starting point. I’m sure I’ll make some tweaks and upgrades along the way, but as it is the deck feels pretty good to play.

I’ll admit that when I was building the deck I started to think about how I might try to include more cards like Entourage of Trest or Penumbra Spider in the main deck, but I think I’d have to overhaul the entire list. The focus in Pollenbright Stompy really is on +1/+1 counters, and that helps drive a lot of the deck-building decisions. While I would still be trying to win with creature beat-down, the execution of that game plan would likely be completely different.

A more value-centric list may prove to be stronger, but I like what I’ve put together here. Safehold Elite and Young Wolf make the deck pretty resilient to most removal, and Invasive Species has really impressed me during preliminary test games. it feels like a green Kor Skyfisher, and that feels good. Ivy Lane Denizen is a powerhouse when it gets going, and the list overall fits together very nicely. The deck’s main weaknesses are its lack of interaction and vulnerability to counterspells. That’s mostly from being a green deck, so there might not be much that can be done about it. Hopefully having a lot of big threats is enough to counteract that.

I guess I’ll just have to do more testing to see.

*It was pointed out to me that, with the exception of the two copies of Entourage of Trest in the sideboard, this deck is also completely Modern legal. I don’t think I’d recommend using it in that format, but who am I to stop you?

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