Baby, I Just Wanna Go Fast

In today’s article, Mark advocates playing a fast aggro deck at the SCG Standard Open in Dallas, Texas this weekend.

Midafternoon. Dinner date. She’s the girl of your dreams, and she’s waiting for you at her favorite restaurant. This is the kind of evening that makes wishes come true, and baby, you want it. You start to feel your foot push down a little harder on the gas pedal without even realizing it, knowing that when you make it there her smile will erupt like a volcano and you’ll be helpless against the wake.

There is only one small problem—you’re running late. She hates that.

You feel that familiar tension rising in your chest. Is this going to ruin everything? What did you do to deserve this?

How much is she worth to you?

How much do you want this?

Stop. Breath. Figure out shortcuts. Can you get there faster? Sometimes the most obvious route is the one that bears the least fruit. The straight shot has too many lights, and the traffic might be too heavy. Maybe the interstate? If there’s an accident, you’re done for. You need to be crafty. Think. Think.

Think, damn it.

Then . . . calmness. It washes over you. You think of the perfect way to get there, and it should shave off enough time so that you get there without a hitch.

Your instincts are proved right thankfully. You make your way through the doors and to the table that she’s sitting at. My god . . . there she is. With a little mix of speed and careful thought, you figured out how to make the best of what could have been a disaster. Your reward?

Everything you ever wanted and more.

For the last month I’ve been nothing more than a spectator when it comes to Magic, only playing Magic Online and watching every event that occurs on the weekend. This break from my usual routine has given me a unique insight into the format because instead of being in the thick of it I’ve grown adept at predicting what decks will perform well at upcoming events based on the results of previous tournaments.

A week ago I had a few friends playing in a $5,000 tournament, and when they asked what they should play, I told them either Esper Control or W/R Aggro but W/R Aggro was my pick by a mile. They were confused to say the least. Usually I’ll give them some control or grindy deck to battle with because that’s me. That’s what they expect. In the words of international sex symbol Dikembe Mutombo, “No! No! No . . . not today!”

There is a lot of merit to playing fast decks at the moment. There is a plethora of people out there right now trying to be powerful or go over the top, and playing something that just runs over them in quick fashion is the ticket to beating them before they even get off the ground. This was extremely evident as the deck started posting respectable finishes online.

For reference, this is what they played upon my recommendation.

It took a few weeks for the deck to gain some traction since it initially burst onto the scene, but Ross Merriam gave people a great framework for what to build off of when it comes to an aggressive and a consistent configuration that will pretty much stymie the two best decks out there: Mono-Black Devotion and Esper Control. I love being the deck that dictates the pace of the match with cards like Sphinx’s Revelation; Jace, Architect of Thought; and Supreme Verdict, but there was something about this deck . . .

It kept beating me.

That’s what there was about it.

I was putting up very consistent results on Magic Online with Esper Control, but every so often I’d get absolutely smashed by W/R or Mono-Red Aggro. These decks have taken a backseat to the more powerful Devotion strategies, but their time might just be dawning again. I figured this kind of strategy would do very well in a room full of vulnerable decks. It served them well, putting all of them in the Top 8 and Top 16.

All that homework is turning out to come in handy!

Take this past weekend for instance:

Ben Lundquist crafted a very potent deck. What makes Boros so powerful at the moment is that it has the ability to invalidate a lot of cards from the most-played decks out there. Take a look at what Boros can do for you:

  • Four Boros Charms: Supreme Verdict? LOL K. Since being printed, Boros Charm has been a nightmare for control mages everywhere. When your curve starts at one and becomes deadly at three, a casual turn 4 “save all my guys and attack you for lethal” is devastating. Couple that the reach of four damage to the face of an opponent with a low life total and you have a game-breaking card.
  • Brave the Elements: Isn’t it cute how the Devotion decks all start with the word “Mono” in front of them? Brave the Elements blanks the removal that Mono-Black Devotion uses while letting you attack through a Master of Waves generated army against Mono-Blue Devotion. Esper Control’s removal is mostly black, so a timely Brave can let your attackers keep on trucking.
  • Twelve One-Drop Creatures: One of the best ways to make sure your opponent’s removal isn’t good against you is to, you know, just kill them before they can do anything. One of the hardest things I faced with Esper Control was an uncontested amount of damage before I could stabilize, and then when I started to get back in the game, I was killed by either Boros Charms or Burning Earth.
  • A Great Anti-Creature Package: It might be easy to see why a deck like this is good against control, but it’s also fantastic against other creature decks. Precinct Captain is already a beating to attack through, and Spear of Heliod makes your team bigger and screws up their attacking. Your sideboard gives amazing cards like Pacifism, Mizzium Mortars, Warleader’s Helix, Banisher Priest, and Fiendslayer Paladin. These all can ruin a creature deck’s day.

The main difference between the build my friends played and Ben’s was that they advocated a slightly more planeswalker-centered approach, which proved to be very good. I like what Ben did more, however, since it obviously gives you more reach in more matchups. Burning Earth is fantastic at supplementing aggressive draws because even if they have a Supreme Verdict it could potentially be too much damage for them to survive a second wave.

Another deck that has been giving me fits recently has been Mono-Red Aggro. This deck comes in a few different flavors, one of which was able to Top 8 the latest SCG Standard Open in Los Angeles.

Patrick Sullivan, aka the bane of my control player’s existence, in a very brief post on Facebook simply said, “If I were playing in #SCGLA instead of commenting, I would play this.” Thanks, PSulli. Sometime you’ll have to ship me some Magic Online tickets to ease the pain of my losses. 

Thomas Pannell opted for this more aggressive version of Mono-Red Aggro, eschewing heavy hitters like Boros Reckoner and Fanatic of Mogis for the mini Fireball that is Foundry Street Denizen. The Denizen can lead to some extremely powerful draws along with Burning-Tree Emissary, allowing for huge attacks on turn 2 and even more damage on turn 3 with Chandra’s Phoenix.

Pannell was smart for taking Patrick’s advice to the T because it yielded a Top 8 berth. In the same sense that W/R Aggro is able to beat the control decks, Mono-Red Aggro shows little mercy to people who want to sit around and craft a game, which makes it very, very good in a format where people are constantly trying to jam Esper Control. You’re a pretty big dog to Mono-Blue Devotion, but being great against the other 90% of the field seems as good a reason as any to jam Mountains. If I were going to battle with red tomorrow, here’s an example of what I would entertain playing:

Part of the reason I like Rakdos Shred-Freak right now is because a lot of decks are packing cards that can’t kill it. A lot of people have been advocating Rakdos Cackler because Ultimate Price and Doom Blade do nothing against it, and Shred-Freak has the same benefit while still adding to the devotion of Fanatic. It might not be popular, but I love Fanatic of Mogis. I love winning games out of nowhere, and against a stalled board just being able to take a huge chunk out of your opponent’s life is not something to scoff at.

I wouldn’t fault you for playing either build since they both hit very hard and fast and let you take advantage of a slower opponent.

The next deck I want to talk about is one that two people have approached me with on Facebook this week, which is strange because it’s something I’ve been working on as a bit of a side project.

G/R Aggro is a fantastic deck that is capable of some seriously explosive draws, but it takes a beating from cards like Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. What if we could change that? Props to Jay Dee and Andrew Elliot for the inspiration.

The mana in this deck is what I think needs the most work since it feels fairly awkward, but it does a lot of what I’m looking to do against the format. Burning-Tree Emissary is the card that brings this deck together since the mana fixing seems very important. Early testing showed that you can do some pretty filthy things on turn 2 with Emissary in your hand, sometimes casting a Sylvan Caryatid off of it and accelerating yourself into a turn 3 Polukranos or even letting you cast your Experiment One and then following it up with a Rakdos Cackler for the evolve trigger, putting six power on the board by turn 2.

The two parts of this deck that differentiate it from typical Gruul are Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall. Thoughtseize might be the most powerful card in the entire format, and being able to cast it to take away a potential removal spell is incredibly strong. This can up the potency of your draw tenfold and make sure your creatures plow through to the red zone. Hero’s Downfall serves the same purpose, but it gets the added bonus of being able to kill problematic planeswalkers like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Jace, Architect of Thought.

One of the cards out of the sideboard that should steal a lot of games is Pack Rat. This card has been racking up a ton of wins lately, and in this deck being cast on turn 2 could be horrible for your opponent. Mistcutter Hydra is your answer to Mono-Blue Devotion and is deadly in multiples. The rest is essentially utility—bringing in Xenagos against midrange and control decks along with Destructive Revelry to quell any Detention Spheres.

While this is just a rough draft, it still seems to have some promise. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to share them in the comment section!

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This week finally marks my return to playing some live Magic, and to say I am excited would be a freakish understatement. This month is going to be a lot of playing, testing, and getting ready for the Invitational in Las Vegas in December. Yeah. We’re going. That’s where the Bunny Ranch is ya know.

As for now, though, I’m about to go meet a very cute girl.

Her name is Bynx.

She’s my cat. She cuddles.

Be jealous.

Catch ya on the flip-

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