For the few readers that will take their time going through this report, you should know that I will try my best to be as accurate as possible in my recollection of the events; I will try not to be too verbose wherever I feel I shouldn’t be, though. I would also ask my opponents for forgiveness: I don’t remember all of your names; therefore, I am not going to name you, with few exceptions, for the sake of uniformity Be also aware that both Turn 3, Quarterfinals and Finals were streamed by the Twitch Channel of “Il Labirinto Comics and Games”, egregiously managed by Gabriele Borghetti and Andrea Cossu (both of whom are also part of the “Bojuka Pod” cast, a podcast you should definitely give a try to). I suggest you go fetch that streams to have a better grasp of the games I played.
Hi, I am Troy McClure, you may remember me for… Joking aside, for those who don’t know me my name is Francesco Quagliata (Cariddis on MTGO), I have been playing Pauper since 2014 and I think myself as a decent MTG player. I got some results on the competitive Italian MTG Pauper circuit such as a Top8 during at Paupergeddon 2019 and first place at the second Italian Pauper Open.
As those of you who met me know, my pet deck is and will always be Elves. Since I live my MTG career by the motto “Always bring your pet deck to a tournament, as long as it is a Tier 1 deck” though, I left my pointed-eared friends on a shelf for now.
This introduction brings us towards the next paragraph…
“Either you die a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain”; this is what Jesus said to his disciples in the Gospel. Or maybe it was Harvey Dent, who knows. It was the days following Paupergeddon Milano/Lecco 2023, when I opened the Pauperwave website and found the lists of the top 8. And there I saw him: the poet, the prophet Jame Truffaz who carried the word of BG Gardens (aka NerogiardiniTM) and struck me like Batman on the road to Damascus. Or maybe it was St. Paul, doesn’t matter. What matters is that I started testing the deck and immediately found it interesting. Basically, it was a midrange deck that uses its resources to eliminate the presence of threats on the board and, consequently, support emblem generators that bring an incremental advantage in the medium/long term.
Pros of playing BG Gardens:
- Highly customizable (from the Guildsworn Prowler version to the Jame Truffaz version without monarchs, to the Tommaso Loss version, to the terrible version played with 4 Campfires mainboard and without finishers)
- Good setup against Boros and other midrange decks
- The deck has a decent range of “forgiveness” of mistakes made by the player, compared to other decks that are more “punishing” in case a suboptimal play is made.
Disadvantages of playing BG Gardens:
- It is difficult to manage Ux decks.
- Like his grandfather Mono Black Control, he dies if he doesn’t play spells consistently along the mana curve.
- It struggles against faster combo decks.
That said, I personally chose this deck because it’s a tier, I like to play it, and because I tend to be monogamous with decks, and I like to settle on the same archetype for long periods.
The initial iterations I played of this deck were more like the one played by Messiah Jame Truffaz. However, the more I continued to follow him on social media, the more I saw lists that diverged from my taste as a magic player. I tried various hybrid forms for some time, even bringing the deck to Paupergeddon Roma 2023 in November, where I got a Lava Zombie-like result (4/3). But it was there that the big change happened at the tournament’s top 8: Truffaz, the Pope Leo X of BG Gardens, saw the Lega Pauper Pisa take Luther’s place and post a new decklist on the doors of the archetype’s church. I had the pleasure of talking with both Tommaso Loss and Stefano Mannella and consulting about main and side choices. In light of what I discussed with them and my own personal considerations, I came to my current list:
Golgari Gardens by Francesco Quagliata, Winner Awesome Pauper Platinum Edition, 14/01/2024
3 Crypt Rats
3 Thorn of the Black Rose
3 Avenging Hunter
2 Troll of Khazad-dum
4 Tithing Blade
1 Blood Fountain
4 Cast Down
4 Deadly Dispute
3 Fanatical Offering
2 Reckoner’s Bargain
2 Spinning Darkness
1 Haunted Mire
4 Khalni Garden
1 Witch’s Cottage
3 Relic of Progenitus
1 Rotten Reunion
3 Drown in Sorrow
The main difference between my list and that of the Tuscans is the presence of 3 Duress in the main deck: I found a single copy to be too situational, and I wanted to have an extra angle of attack main deck against archetypes that use Counterspell. This is why I went with this option (which will reward me during the Awesome Pauper, as you can read later). Another substantial difference is the choice of playing 4 Campfires in the sideboard, which I personally find better than Weather the Storm: the former can replace the artefacts (which potentially will be sided out) as a sac outlet for the card draw spells in the deck, they are strong in the mirror, and I find them more manageable from a mana curve standpoint; the latter are not so versastile. This is my personal choice, not at all definitive or binding, and I believe that in the end the sideboard is a matter of personal taste. Honorable mention for the mono copy of Rotten Reunion, MVP of this tournament and placed there to take the monarch/initiative back vs the mirror, as well as for the obvious value of graveyard-specific hate.
Turn 1 VS Boros (2-0)
I hold on to seven cards while my unlucky opponent mulls to five. The game proceeded in the first few turns with some simple board exchanges and spot removals; I noticed that my opponent plays Seeker of the Way and Foundry Helix, atypical choices compared to what I expected in his deck. I experienced some panic when I missed the fifth land drop for three consecutive turns, not being able to play the Avenging Hunter I had in my hand, but finally a Troll of Khazad-dûm said “bonjour!” from the top of the deck allowing me to play initiative with removals as backup and to close the game shortly after. I haven’t seen Galvanic Blast, Journey to Nowhere, nor Barbed Battlefist; I’ve only seen Seeker of the Way, Foundry Helix, Glint Hawk and Experimental Synthesizer.
Side: +3 Drown in Sorrow, – 3 Duress
Since I didn’t see Journey to Nowhere,I decided not to side in too much so that the deck core maintained its integrity. There is merit in siding Deglamer to make some tempo play and deprive my opponent of the rocks necessary to his board advantage, but I decided against it in the end. All this is a beautiful and touching consideration, except that my opponent spent the first six turns with only white mana on the board and died with 3 Lightning Bolts in his hand while my table was populated with monarchs, initiatives, treasures, maps and garden gnomes.
Turn 2 VS BG Gardens (2-0)
I kept the initial seven cards with two lands and a Deadly Dispute. I just needed a rock or another land and we’re good to go, what could possibly go wrong? Well, I spent five turns on two lands only while my opponent expanded his base mana in an increasingly worrying way. On turn six/seven I managed to get back in the game while my opponent had: lots of lands, Blood Fountain, a flipped Tithing Blade and a Campfire! The opponent confessed that he followed Tommaso Loss’s list, swapping a single copy of Reckoner’s Bargain in the main deck for Campfire. I smile imagining Tommaso’s face when he finds out (I hope it will happen by reading this report). An exchange of monarchs and initiatives continues, while I am drained more and more. It also happened that both me and the opponent missed the final initiative trigger. My game was saved by my opponent’s mistake: he activated Blood Fountain, decided to switch to aggro mode and took from the yard two Avenging Hunters instead of the Crypt Rats I had previously killed. This choice gave me enough time to fill the board with a Troll of Khazad-dûm and a skeleton with menace, and to kill him before he could dig into the deck for another w-rat of God (badum tss!).
Side: +1 Rotten Reunion, +2 Campfire, -2 Spinning Darkness, -1 Lembas
I don’t remember if my opponent had to mull to six or kept his opening end, but he started with a classic Khalni Garden play. I proceeded to play land + Duress and find that his hand had no fuel except for a Deadly Dispute that I promptly took from him. This gave me enough time to set up my emblem generators long before him, who was slowed down by a lack of resources and drew a lot of tapped lands. By the time the opponent managed to get back into the game, I already had the monarch and the initiative, with another copy of both in my hand, and a Campfire on the field that kept me well high on life points. The timer was on my side as G1 had gone fairly long, and my opponent concedes knowing that he can’t get out of it.
Turn 3 VS Cawgates (2-0)
“Why pay a tournament entry fee to face a person, when you can pay less money and face them in the local league every Monday?” This is the question I ask myself as I was getting mentally ready to face one of my two teammates from the Lega Pauper Cornaredo (LPKor), Simone Ledda, in turn three. Surely those who have seen the streaming will remember the games better than me, since I am narrating everything by heart and old age gets even the best of us.
The first three/four rounds went on without any particular highlights, but it is the following rounds that dominate the match up: if the board is free and BG manages to protect monarch or initiative, the game is almost won; otherwise, there is a risk that Cawgates’ advantage becomes no longer manageable due to Counterspell and flyers. I was helped by the Duress + Thorn of the Black Rose play, which allowed me to discard the Counterspell that Simone had in his hand, and to support the monarch undisturbed. My opponent found himself with four lands in hand and little to rely upon at the topdeck, and decided to concede.
Side: -2 Spinning Darkness, -1 Lembas, -1 Fanatical Offering, +3 Drown in Sorrow, +1 Rotten Reunion
Again, nice and bold, happy, turn five I had Duress and Thorn of the Black Rose in my hands. I play Duress and… HORROR! Opponent had two Counterspells in hand. I discarded one and tried to find the perfect spot to safely play the monarch. The problem was that Simone slammed Palace Sentinels on his turn. Rotten Reunion came to my rescue when I casted it at the end of my opponent’s turn; I had two creatures to retake monarch with. I killed his Palace Sentinels, took back the monarch and from there the exchanges began: a creature enters, you remove it, the opponent neutralizes avenging, an intense ping-pong of resources followed. The two most critical moments between the various exchanges were:
- Simone with Guardian of the Guildpact and Sacred Cat on the field, and Counterspell still in hand from when I played Duress at the beginning. I had Drown in Sorrow, Defile and a Tithing Blade. 6 lands untapped. I casted Drown in Sorrow as bait, hoping that it would have been targeted by my opponent’s Counterspell, allowing me to kill the cat and guardian later. Luckily, it worked and I managed to fix the board state in my favor.
- Monarch taken by the Cawgates player, me with Avenging Hunter and Crypt Rats 2/2 on the field (thanks to the map token he successfully explored) while he had Palace Sentinels and Sacred Cat. Prismatic Strands was in the opponent’s graveyard. Simone at ten life, decided to take seven damage from Avenging Hunter (he had two +1/+1 counters on it) dropping to three, and allowing me to close out the game on his next turn.
As always, it was an honor and a pleasure to play against Simone Ledda due to his high skill level and sex appeal.
Turn 4 VS UB Control (2-1)
I was playing against another guy who, like me and Simone Ledda, made to top8 during this day. Starting with the Dimir dual land in his first round, I realized that I was about to face an unfavorable match up.
The first game was quite uneventful as my opponent didn’t seem to do much in the first few rounds. I had so many good spots where I could have played a monarch, or an initiative, or an ace of spades, or whatever the damn I wanted. Instead, the deck made me draw seven (7) swamps in a row, opponent slammed monarch and I decided to concede it.
Side: –2 Spinning Darkness, -1 Lembas, -1 Fanatical Offering, +3 Drown in Sorrow, +1 Rotten Reunion
My opponent decided to side in Nihil Spellbomb, and I felt relieved: I find graveyard hate to be pretty much useless against gardens. Personally, I think that it is not as game-destructive towards the deck’s plan as people think, and that by siding it in the opponents choose to side out far more useful cards. The game continued with a couple of exchanges but in the end between monarch and initiative I began to accumulate a lot of advantage and the wanted to play G3 before the timer ran out.
Due to my mistake while presenting the deck to the opponent, I got a warning and three additional minutes on the clock. Despite this drawback and a mull to six, I managed to bring home the game: the opponent countered a monarch in my turn, played his Thorn of the Black Rose back in his but was then tapped out; this allowed me to take the initiative undisturbed with a board too strong to be able to take it back.
Turno 5 Intentional Draw
Turno 6 Intentional Draw
I ended up in the Top8 third in terms of rankings and we decide to fight for the unending glory.
QUARTERFINALS VS UW Familiars (2-1)
I played against Pietro Bragioto, who I consider one of the top hundred best pauper players in Italy, if not in the world. A man of unquestionable skill, questionable love for ugly cards, and a very bad sense of aesthetics (since he plays bleached cards).
The first game saw a bold Pietro thinking that I played a single copy of Duress and not playing around it, only to be proved terribly wrong and die by the hands of the dynamic duo Duress + Thorn of the Black Rose.
Side: -2 Spinning Darkness, -1 Lembas, -1 Fanatical Offering, +3 Relic of Progenitus, +1 Rotten Reunion
This game, on the other hand, was anything but good, with the deck drawing badly and Pietro showing all his skill in action, sealing my defeat with a mix of Counterspell, Murmuring Mystic, and Archaeomancer.
Thanks to two Relics of Progenitus immediately played, combined with my opponent seeing few answers in the first turns, I managed to support the emblems and protect them enough to guarantee me a card advantage and board advantage; this was enough to close the game without the possibility of a comeback.
SEMFINAL VS Cawgates (conceded by opponent)
I found myself in the semifinals again against Simone Ledda. However, since we had already decided to split the prizes and were therefore only playing for glory, he decided to give me the game. One of the other semi-finalists did the same thing, evidently they both had a life outside the MTG world, unlike me and Alessandro Moretti.
FINAL VS UW Familiars (2-1)
I played against the famous, the very strong, and for some the fascinating Alessandro Moretti. An award-winning Pauper player, there are more Top8 including his name than stars in the Solar System. He also played his second favorite deck after Mono Black Control/Ponza, UW Familiars.
G1 ended very quickly with Moretti conceding on a Crypt Rats played of turn four, revealing a somewhat suboptimal hand. He chose to play on better odds in the following games.
Side: -2 Spinning Darkness, -1 Lembas, -1 Fanatical Offering, +3 Relic of Progenitus, +1 Rotten Reunion
For those who have watched the stream, be aware that I know and I apologize. I am aware of what I did. Dishonor on me, on my family, on my cow. But since I won G1, and gambling addiction is an intrinsic component of Magic players, I decided to hold an unlikely hand against all odds, thinking I’d solve it on the top deck. Spoiler: it didn’t happen, I played three awfully bad turns and decided to concede..
Fortunately, the final game was different from the first two, and featured a much better beautiful Magic: The Gathering. I don’t remember exactly what exchanges there were, but in the end, I managed to come out on top thanks to my draw engines and an asserted presence in the board since the early turns. As with Pietro before, it was a pleasure to play against an opponent of such high skill level.
I’m very happy with the list I played. Not having encountered a single Jeskai/UW Glitters was strange, as I would have expected to face the deck at least one. Same thing for Kuldotha, but not knowing the meta share yet, I don’t know if they weren’t there or if I just dodged the match ups. The deck is in danger of dying to flood/screw very often, but there is little to be done about it, it resembles Boros midrange in this aspect. I could try to play third Troll of Khazad-dûm or a Barren Moor, but these are choices to be considered thoroughly.
I would like to thank Labirinto Comics for organizing the event, the very kind and helpful judges, and all the people with whom I had the pleasure of chatting during the event. Praise and congratulations to the cast of Bojuka Pod who commented on the event, but also to the two absentees as you make a well-made podcast that everyone should listen to. A special thanks goes to my reference league, the Lega Pauper Cornaredo or LPKor League, full of good players and people able to transmit, each in their own way, their passion for this wonderful game. My travel companions for today were the aforementioned Simone Ledda and the dreamer Valerio Gariboldi, who, unlike the cynical writer here, continues to play his pet deck.
I want to finish the report with a quote from a card. In my other writings I used to put a phrase pertinent to my pet deck, but the time of the elves is over, at least for now…
“Beware anything born among the dead” – Tolarian saying.