Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Okay, okay... perhaps the power of this format isn't that of Legacy, Modern, or even Pioneer, but it is possible to pile up a bunch of wins against an unsuspecting mass with this sparkling, easy to pilot, Orzhov semi-brew. It's only a semi brew due to the fact that Orzhov is no stranger to the Pauper meta; however, when your opponent snidely remarks, "Oh, here comes the Pestilence, turn four, right on queue", you can smile, tell them nah, then swing for near-lethal damage.
This list is probably the closest you'll see me post to a true meta deck, but it's potential is far greater than most jank builds I write about. I find it helpful to skirt the meta periphery when it comes to just about any environment in which I find myself, whether it's at the tables of my LGS, or MTGArena or MTGO queues. Pauper sideboards are so predictable these days, that anything you can do to disrupt your opponents game-plan can only serve to help your cause.
No Pestilence, no problem.
If you peruse the recent archetype-activities, you may notice that a cool dozen Orzhov builds are disease based, while only 1-2 are straightforward creatures and spells. The contagion-carrying enchantment is so powerful that it really is no wonder why so many sideboards harbor mono-colored haters like Guardian of the Guildpact. Even when pilots opt out of using the 4-mana miasma, they typically just slot in Crypt Rats to take its place.
Now, I have nothing against either the Rats or Pestilence, but when you omit those two from your initial list, an entire world of harmony lays itself out before your eyes.
midlife orzhov - Buy This Deck
Hey, goober, where's the Pestilence - you might ask. Short answer: didn't need it. Tad longer answer: I do, however, foresee a world in which this ends up in the Sideboard, at most. Typically, though, you can just refer to the short answer.
If you notice anything about this list, it's that - off that bat - the Orzhov guild touches 22 of the 38 spells, and that's just in the mainboard. Spells like Crypt Rats and Pestilence, while powerful, are just a bit too devoted to Black to make them consistent here. Crypt Rats is a bit easier, in that respect; however, you still need to leave a few Swamps open to have any real effect on the board-state. I have toyed with the idea of slotting in one copy of Rats so long as I can find room for a copy or two of Soul Link. Come on, now. That's just hilarious.
I use the term "mid-range" here pretty liberally. In most of the games I have played with this beauty, it leaned a little closer to aggro. I mean, if you can find another mid-range deck that can drop a 7/7 lifelinker, on turn 2, let me know.
Turn 1: Plains, Nip Gwyllion
Turn 2: Swamp, Edge of the Divinity, Edge of the Divinity
Now, a fourteen point life swing so early in the game sounds absurd, and possibly a little unbelievable, but it happens. It happens more than you would think. I've done it and it's quite pleasing. I fully endorse this sort of behavior.
When you're not causing enraged GG's from across the table, and your draws play out a bit more fairly, the synergies between the hybrid mana removal spells like Castigate and Unmake are simply amazing with Nightsky Mimic. It's also not unheard of to drop the Mimic on turn 2, only to follow up with the aforementioned Edge of the Divinity for a 7/7 bomb, or Gift of Orzhova for a 5/5 flier with lifelink, on turn three, all the while having removed a potential threat from the board.
In this version of the list, your creatures are precious. There isn't many ways to save them, or bring them back, and that's where Prismatic Strands comes in. Typically, when you've got a strong board at your command, it's a hard pill to swallow tapping one of your lifelinkers, or massive fliers - queue the Angler with Gift of Orzhova attached. With access to Beckon Apparition, you've got at least one white chump that you don't mind turning sideways to flashback Strands to prevent some combat additional damage .
Castigate did not come in as handy as I would have liked it to. It is one of the better spells of its type in our format, but it was a corpse-in-hand versus go-wide aggro decks and one Gruul Madness/Burn list I ran into.
I do believe that 22 lands is possibly one too many. When I finalized this list, my first thought was "mid-range," so that amount of lands was pretty set in stone. However, after playing a handful of games, and realizing that it plays more like an aggro list, I do think that I can cut at least one land from the bunch. In about 40% of my games, I was forced to mulligan to six a few times, and five once, because my opening hands were laden with mana-producers. In two other games, I hit massive pockets of land after turn 5, or so. I'm not talking about an Elves! amount of lands, but I think 20-21 is perfect here.
If nothing else, this deck will gain you life - lots and lots of life. For this reason, I do enjoy a well-timed Final Payment, but I still think that it belongs more in the sideboard than the main. And you would not have argue very hard to convince me that Snuff Out deserves a 2-of next to the other removal spells in the main sixty. Lots of life means a lot more resources. Use it.
Fluid and graceful are two words that instantly come to mind when I run this deck. A ton of playable options present themselves to you every turn, but it is not an overly complicated strategy and, at a certain point, it almost plays itself. There are many tweaks still to be made here, but this elegant bruiser is one you can be confident in running as is.
If you have anything else you think would fit in this deck, drop it in the comments! Thanks for reading!