This is a work in progress, and the deck can and probably will change as time goes on.
Do you like janky combo decks? Do you live for the moment when your opponent has to read your combo cards several times and call a judge at least once a match? Do you like twin esq two card combos that are hard to deal with? Do you like winning on turn 2, but also having the ability to turn into control? Pili-Pala may be the deck for you!!! Pili-Pala Decklist
--Card Choices -Creatures Pili-Pala You have to have this in play to combo off and win, so play it as a 4 of ALWAYS. It may be tempting to go down a copy or two, but don't. You'll need them. Run 4. Grand Architect This card is even more essential than Pili-Pala because it gives you a better option on the Faerie Conclave plan and if you have to, they can be a beater in multiples. I once had a game where my opponent surgical extracted all of the copies of Pili-Pala from my deck. I then proceeded to draw all 4 copies and swing for 12 every turn until he died. ALWAYS RUN 4! Laboratory Maniac While many people will tell you otherwise, this card essential to have at least SOMEWHERE in your 75. Main deck this if you are running into a lot of players who run leyline of sanctity, or similar effects. In the unlikely case that you resort to the beat down plan, he is also buffed by Architect. Run at least 1 in the 75 Azure Mage RUN THESE. Anyone who looks at your list will tell you that some other instant and/or sorcery is better. It's not. Most of them are not beaters for the beat down plan, and if they are they are too much mana and probably cannot be tutored by Muddle the Mixture, and they are not buffed by Architect. The reason you play this is that when you have infinite mana, you can use this to draw you deck. Run at least 2. Walking Ballista This is another win con that you can use to deal infinite damage to win the game, but it is a creature and is therefore only worth it against agro matchups like menfolk or infect to ping lords/buffable creatures. It dies to literally almost any removal that control decks bother playing, and it requires you to run Tolaria West, which comes in tapped, to tutor for it. Run 0-2 in the side, but no more than that. Drift of Phantasms This card is bad, but you NEED to run it. a 0/5 defender for 3 mana is bad, even by the standard of defenders, and if you actually cast this card instead of transmuting it, be prepared for some ridicule from nearby players. Unfortunately, run 4. -Countermagic Pact of Negation In this deck, this is better than force of will. In this deck, you have to untap with Pili-Pala on the field. Often times, you will play Architect and then immediately tap Architect to play Pili-Pala, and this is the situation you should go for if you don't think you can win turn 2. Because of this, you either will have infinite mana at you upkeep to pay for this, or you aren't planning to untap. In 9-10 Situations, this is a strictly better version of Force of Will in your deck. Run 4 in the main. Force of Will This is the main reason many people bother running blue in legacy, other than cantrips. While in this deck this is a strictly worse version of Pact of Negation, it gives us zero mana counterspell numbers 9-12. Run 4 in the main. Daze This card is good against value based decks, combo, and agro. This is next to useless in the late game, unless you end up in a counter war and your opponent taps out, or if they decide to play their cards on curve, which still isn't great against any deck running blue as Force of Will just shuts it down. The only good thing about this is that it encourages three for ones, as the main way to counteract this is Force of Will. Run 4 in your 75, and at least 2 in the main. Counterspell This is bad. Its good, but its bad. In this type of deck, any counter that costs mana slows you down and only gets stuck in your hand. Run 0-3 in the side. Muddle the Mixture This is a Pili-Pala. This is a Pyromantics. This is a Azure Mage. This is a partial Negate. YOU NEED TO RUN THIS. Run 4 in the main, no less. Unsubstantiate This is great in the side against abrupt decay. Run 1-2 in your 75. Mana Leak/Remand In legacy, you shouldn't be running this. The only reason you should even consider this is if you are playing on a budget or are planning to upgrade from the modern version of the deck. Don't run this, unless you have a good reason. -Non-Land Mana Chrome Mox This is what lets you win on turn two. Run 4 in the main. Simian/Elvish Spirit Guide These are strictly worse than Chrome Mox, and slightly better than Lotus Petal. If you are going all in on the combo, and don't want to have the beatdown backup plan, then this is great. Run 0, or run 8. There is no in-between. Lotus Petal This is really bad, as it dies to chalice on zero, it can be countered, and it can only be used once. This is only viable if you are going all in AND are using Mox Opal. Run 0, or run 4. There is no in-between. Mox Opal This either REALLY good, or REALLY bad. Only run this if you are going all in, and even then, this still isn't great. If you are not running actual lands, this HAS TO BE A FOUR OF. Otherwise, run all of the other listed artifact mana along with this and hope you don't have too many in your opening hand. Run 0-4. -Draw Spells Ponder This is a auto include. You need to find the combo and a finisher to win, and this does that. Always run 4. Preordain Usually, it is correct to run some number of these, even though they only let you see two cards down if you want one of the top two on top. Run 2-4. Impulse In the modern version of the deck, you run anticipate, and this is strictly better, however, it is a little expensive mana wise for what it does. Run 0-1. Brainstorm This is bad in the main deck, as there is no way to shuffle without ponder so you are literally drawing your worst cards for the next two turns. This does, however, shine in the sideboard as it saves your combo pieces from hand disruption at instant speed. Run 0-2 in the side. Gitaxian Probe Don't run this unless you are running the landless version of the deck. Yes, this lets you see their hand and expect what removal they have, but you would rather this card be COUNTERING that spell instead of just seeing it coming. Don't run this. Sleight of Hand/Serum Visions/Ancestral Visions/Anticipate See Remand/Mana Leak. Lands Academy Ruins This is super important to this deck. While not run as much in legacy, surgical extraction on Pili-Pala makes it harder (although not impossible) to win, and this can counteract that at instant speed. It also means that if you have one on the field and the mana to activate it, the only way to perminantly get rid of Pili-Pala is to exile it, except in odd fringe cases. This is legendary, and having two in your opening hand makes it highly unkeepable due to the low land count and you NEED to get to double blue to win with the combo. Even if you are on a budget, this is what you want to spend it on. I have never had a game were I played Ruins and didn't feel like I was closer to winning. Run exactly 1, no more, no less. Faerie Conclave This is your back up if someone somehow gets rid of every copy of pili-pala or grand architect. This is the best man land you can run as it is blue, and therefore buffed by grand architect, flies, and it trades with a flipped delver. Run 4. Mutavault Faerie Conclave is a hard card to come by. They cost basically nothing, but they are still hard to come by. You NEED to run a man land of some kind, and this is the next best thing. If you can't run conclaves, run 4. Tolaria West These are not horrible, but they are not good either. If you have the combo and need to protect zenith, this is good as you can tutor for a pact of negation before casting zenith for extra backup. It also finds Walking Ballista and Hanger back Walker, but Hanger back is just bad, and Walking Ballista is a sideboard card. Run at least 2 in the side if you run Ballistas. Blue Fetchlands If you want to run top, run these. If you want to mainboard brainstorm, run these. If you want to triple the cost of your mana base for very little actual advantage, run these. Run 0-6, but don't run more than that. Island This is the most powerful magic card ever printed. I don't know what wizards was on when they printed this card, but it has been reprinted in every set since alpha. Run as many as you see fit, but don't run too little. Run at least 3 in the main. Variants
While the regular version with the optional beatdown back up plan is probably the best, I have found (through hours of searching because this deck is way more popular in modern) that some people have found success with alternative versions of the deck.
Delver ~ This version forgoes pact of negation in favor of running the card Delver of secrets. The main idea behind this is the same one that surrounded modern tarmotwin. Your opponent only has so many removal and counter spells. This leaves them with one of two options. Get beaten to death while holding removal for the combo, and then failing to remove your threat before it is too late, or killing your threat and hoping you don't have the combo in hand.
Countertop ~ The deck already runs top, and LOTS of 1, 2, and 3 drops. This is also one of the main reasons to use blue colored fetches. Maybe the second most competitive version of the deck.
Manaless ~ This version doesn't bother with slow, outdated lands. I uses alternative sources of mana to play the combo, and can win turn 2 more consistiently than other versions, with the downside of losing daze and making pact of negation significantly worse.
This is my first primer, although I have been active in several different primers in the past. If you have any advice or questions about the primer, the deck, the matchups, or the card choices (i.e. "Is card A good with/against card B?") feel free to ask. I would be glad to discus the deck with you, and hopefully learn something new along the way. If you use this deck in a tournament, even if it is just an fnm size event, feel free to post results, but please also post a deck list as I am trying to put together data on the viability of different cards verses different decks. Also, have fun confusing people!
The iconic budget modern deck of this was always mono blue, cause budget, but it seems like this deck might be better as a blue red combo/control deck like twin is. The main upside to this combo when compared to others seems to be that the beatdown plan is already built into the deck, so why bother playing an all-in version with transmute cards and the like. Additionally, being able to cast big pyromaniacs for tempo in the late game seems sweet.
As far as running muddle the mixture, I personally like it as a counter spell that finds most parts of the combo. And you may be right, but the primer is nowhere near finished though. This is just based on the results that I have had from several different local tournaments, but I want to expand the cards to show izzit and temur colored variants and different options that can go with those. thank you for the input though, it is very much appreciated.
Great primer. Thanks a lot. Although I’m a modern player, still like to ask a question. I’m still confused about the usefulness of pact of negation.
Mana abilities don’t use the stack, so when the combo is on the table, pact isn’t usefull anymore. “You want to kill a como piece opponent? That’s fine! In response I make infinite mana”.
In the primer you say:
Often times, you will play Architect and then immediately tap Architect to play Pili-Pala, and this is the situation you should go for if you don't think you can win turn 2. Because of this, you either will have infinite mana at you upkeep to pay for this, or you aren't planning to untap.
This feels so risky. Opponent gets an opportunity to respond during your turn by destroying a combo piece. You will pact that of course. But then, it’s the opponent turn and you are tapped out. He destroys a combo piece. You loose at the beginning of your upkeep..
Why not saving up some mana to cast 1 mana counters like dispell or something. Is that really to slow?
Sorry if it’s a dumb question. Pretty new to this combo deck.