Deep Analysis – Elves Reborn

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Thursday, April 23rd – With the upcoming release of Alara Reborn on everyone’s mind, Richard Feldman concocts an intriguing Red/Green Beatdown deck utilizing a selection of the multicolor goodies on the table. He shares his list and sideboarding strategies, runs the deck against a pair of the format’s top contenders, and records the results!

Two cards in Alara Reborn make GR Beatdown far more interesting than it has ever been in Alara Standard. The first card has been getting plenty of press on her own: the amazing Bloodbraid Elf. Two threats for the price of one, three power worth of haste… the list goes on.

The second, which has gotten much less press, is Colossal Might. This is a Standard format in which blocking – and especially chump blocking – is arguably the most common defensive tactic used against aggressive creature decks, and as such, this is usually not only a one-for-one, it will also commonly be five to six damage to the opponent’s face for two mana. (If an opponent chumps Bloodbraid Elf with a Bitterblossom token, for example, normally they take zero; with Might they take six trample and still lose the token.) It can also potentially counter Agony Warp and Volcanic Fallouts.

Might lets you run roughshod over the defensive strategy of token chumping, while giving a Green-Red deck an additional tool beyond Flame Javelin with which to deal with Five-Color Control’s Walls. It’s cheap, explosive, and has huge potential to be game-changing.

With all that in mind, I set to building a GR Beatdown deck. As far as I’m concerned, the best cards available for a post-Alara Reborn Standard GR Beatdown deck are:

Figure of Destiny
Wren’s Run Vanquisher
Boggart Ram-Gang
Bloodbraid Elf
Flame Javelin
Colossal Might

I don’t like Mogg Fanatic in this environment; except against Blightning, basically the only creatures it can shoot and kill are Scion of Oona, Spellstutter Sprite, and tokens. In some formats, a 1/1 that can sac for a point to the dome would be fine, but those formats are typically ones where chumping a big creature to buy time for burn spells to come online is valuable, but precious few decks in this format are playing such creatures at the moment.

In my previous experiments with GR Beats featuring Figure and Flame Javelin, I have tried to include Treetop Village almost as a reflex. However, what I discovered was that in most of the games you lose with GR, you don’t empty your hand – meaning you never had enough spare mana to activate Treetop – and being unable to cast Flame Javelin or activate Figure early spells doom more often than the free beater spells victory. If I had eight Fire-Lit Thickets, I might be more inclined to fit Treetop, but for now I’m sticking with the all-Red manabase.

Here’s a starting point:

4 Karplusan Forest
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
4 Savage Lands
12 Mountain

24 lands might be on the heavy side, given that the curve currently tops out at four copies of Bloodbraid Elf, but I can always trim one later if I don’t end up adding anything to the top of the curve.

Given that every single creature I’ve included so far is either higher up on the curve than Volcanic Fallout (that’s you, Bloodbraid Elf) or can survive a Fallout, it seems like the best sweeper in the format would be an awesome maindeck addition. Assuming I want four copies apiece of each of the aforementioned “must-haves” plus four Volcanic Fallouts, I’ve already put 24 cards into my maindeck. Thus, with 24 lands and 24 spells in the deck, I need to include two more four-ofs to reach sixty cards.

Unfortunately, as the only Elves I am currently playing besides Wren’s Run Vanquisher are the Bloodbraids, I now have an uncomfortable choice to make. Either I can add 6-8 more subpar Elves to the deck, or I can ditch Wren’s Run Vanquisher, the best two-drop available to a green-red deck, in favor of alternatives.

Here are some two-drop packages I could run.

4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Bramblewood Paragon
4 Elvish Warrior

This is the package I went with intuitively. Elvish Warrior survives Volcanic Fallout, wins in a fight against Knight of Meadowgrain, Tidehollow Sculler, Mutavault, and so on. Paragon dies to Fallout, but pumps up Elvish Warrior, Wren’s Run Vanquisher (when you have another Elf available to reveal), other Paragons, and – by far, most excitingly – Boggart Ram-Gang. The curve-out of turn 2 Paragon, turn 3 4/4 Haste Trample Wither behemoth is absolutely incredible, as you can imagine.

The problem with this package is that Elvish Warrior costs GG. This means that I will likely need to do something like replacing four of my Mountains with Reflecting Pools, making it more difficult to cast turn 1 Figure.

An alternate package:

4 Rip Clan Crasher
4 Stigma Lasher
4 Hellspark Elemental

This excludes the Elf component altogether, in favor of more hasty damage to the face. The upside to this is that you get to play Stigma Lasher, which is much better against Walls than Elvish Warrior or Bramblewood Paragon, and which is a big deal against sideboarded Kitchen Finks and the like.

The downside is that Rip Clan and Hellspark (I could see Incinerate or Tarfire or Magma Spray in the Hellspark slot, although that would leave you light on actual creatures to play turn 2) are vastly inferior to Wren’s Run Vanquisher and have much less broken draw potential than Bramblewood Paragon. These creatures also all die to Volcanic Fallout, which not only creates a conflict between wanting to cast a devastating sweeper (which also goes to the dome!) and not wanting to lose your team, it also makes you actually vulnerable to Fallouts from Five-Color Control.

I have tried various variations on this second package, including splashing Black for a certain 3/1 trample, or White for a certain Kami of Ancient Law lookalike, but both suffered from the Fallout problem and lacked the broken draw potential of the Elf package.

Ultimately, I went with the Elves, and after a few tweaks, ended up here.

GR Elves

4 Savage Lands
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
3 Reflecting Pool
8 Mountain

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Bramblewood Paragon
3 Elvish Warrior

4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Boggart Ram-Gang

4 Volcanic Fallout
4 Flame Javelin
2 Magma Spray
4 Colossal Might

4 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Pyroclasm
2 Stigma Lasher
2 Magma Spray
1 Pithing Needle

There are a lot of small synergies in this deck. Bloodbraid Elf into Volcanic Fallout is excellent, for example, as the Fallout resolves before the Elf, leaving a generally clear path for the 3/2 Haster to barge through and drop the opponent’s life total by five on the turn. Paragon into Ram-Gang is a huge beating as well, and Colossal Might in conjunction with Volcanic Fallout can let my two-toughness men not only survive the sweep, but also crash through the aftermath for four extra damage.

I had to eschew first-turn Green plays like Llanowar Elves and Wild Nacatl due to an inability to produce Green mana on the first turn, but so far I haven’t really missed them. Aside from Mogg Fanatic and Figure, most decks are making their first board-affecting plays on turn 2 anyway, so I am at least keeping pace if not actually pulling ahead.

I’m not sure if Paragon or Elvish Warrior deserves to be a three-of, but I’m pretty confident I do not want four of either. Paragon dies to Fallout, but generates broken draws. Warrior is sturdier, and better in creature combat himself, but is tougher to cast and does not generate broken draws. For now I will stick with maxing out on Paragons and see what happens.

Magma Spray was Tarfire at one point, but it so rarely went to the dome (only against Five-Color Control, really), I decided it would make more sense to turn it into something superior against Kitchen Finks, Murderous Redcap, and Reveillark, and just board it out against Five-Color. I also tried Incinerate in that slot, but it was just too slow. When I wanted a spot removal spell, I really wanted it to be as cheap as possible, and the only reason I was okay with Flame Javelin costing three was that it could take out such a wide range of targets.


The board plans for the deck are pretty straightforward.

Versus Faeries and BW:
-2 Magma Spray
-4 Bramblewood Paragon
+2 Pyroclasm
+4 Ashenmoor Gouger

Pyroclasm is a serious upgrade over Magma Spray in both these matchups, and Paragon is less exciting when I have seven Pyroclasm effects in my deck.

Versus Five-Color Control:
+4 Ashenmoor Gouger
+2 Stigma Lasher
-4 Volcanic Fallout
-2 Magma Spray

I’m basically cutting my do-nothings for useful cards here.

Versus Boat Brew:
-4 Colossal Might
-4 Volcanic Fallout
+3 Ashenmoor Gouger
+2 Magma Spray
+2 Stigma Lasher
+1 Pithing Needle

I am not sure about taking out Volcanic Fallout here, but it seems correct given the curve considerations associated with bringing in Gouger. Might has to come out because of Path to Exile, which makes it way too easy for them to get two-for-ones.

Magma Spray is the ideal answer to Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap, and has the added bonus of hobbling Reveillark, while Stigma Lasher and Pithing Needle provide various means of keeping Ajani Vengeant from getting out of control.

Versus Blightning:
+4 Kitchen Finks
-4 Volcanic Fallout

Kitchen Finks is as savage as ever against other Red decks.

Finally, here are some game sets to give you a feel for how the deck plays out.

RG Elves versus Faeries

I battled DJ Kastner’s Top Eight list from the SCG $5K.

Game 1:

I’ll recap this one in its entirety.

RG: Mountain, Figure, go.

Faeries: Secluded Glen, go.

RG: Bramblewood Paragon, beat you to 19.

Faeries: Island, Bitterblossom.

RG: Boggart Ram-Gang with Paragon hookup, beat you to 11.

Faeries: Make a token, go to 10, play Jace and draw.

RG: Play a second Ram-Gang, attack for the win.

An actual turn 4 kill!

Game 2: I mull to six and keep a four-lander rather than going to five. He Thoughtseizes one of my threats and Agony Warps the other, and I literally draw only lands for the rest of the game. Awkward.

Game 3: I lead with Figure and Bramblewood Paragon, while he has Bitterblossom, Agony Warp for my Figure, and Mistbind Clique. I Javelin the Clique and he Thoughtseizes my Bloodbraid Elf. This is fine, as I have plentiful burn. He has Spellstutter Sprite for my second Javelin of the game, but nothing for my third, or for the Fallout and Colossal Might that finish him off.

Game 4: I mull to five but he goes to six and does not have Bitterblossom. He starts by Thoughtseizing my Figure, but has no immediate answer for my Wren’s Run Vanquisher. He stops Bramblewood Paragon and another Figure with Spellstutter Sprites, but I have Spray for his Sower and a Ram-Gang. He plays Mistbind Clique, but is low on life and so has to effectively throw it away blocking the Ram-Gang. Next turn I play Bloodbraid into his Cryptic Command when he is at 6. The Bloodbraid reveals Flame Javelin, so no matter which he counters (the Hasty Elf or the Javelin), I am able to burn him out next turn. [Don’t think this one works, chief… that’s the danger of new cards and mechanics – Craig.]

Game 5: He mulls to five and I have far too many threats for him to handle.

Game 6: He mulls to six and I sneak in an early Figure when he has no Blossom. It gets big, and when his only removal is a Sower that I promptly Magma Spray, it’s over.

Game 7: He Terrors two Figures, but I have two Fallouts to clear a path for my Elvish Warriors and Ram-Gangs.

Game 8: He has Thoughtseize for my only two-drop and then counters for most everything I play after that.

Game 9: We trade back and forth, him countering some stuff, shooting some stuff, me casting Flame Javelin on his Mistbind Clique, and so on. Eventually we are both pretty much in topdeck mode. I rip a Bloodbraid, which gets a Flame Javelin that knocks him to seven after my attack, but then he Sowers it and I have no answer. Then I rip Figure, and pump it up to 8/8 immediately. He has no answer, and I soon punch through with the Figure.

Game 10: He Thoughtseizes my Vanquisher and plays Blossom, but I have Elvish Warrior and Ram Gang, and Magma Spray for his Sower. The tokens play Forcefield for awhile, but he doesn’t find a way to deal with my two beaters before it’s too late for him to outrace his own Blossom.

8-2. Hell yeah, Red Decks against Faeries.

RG Elves versus BW Tokens

I battled Sean Mangner’s Finals list from the SCG $5K.

Game 1: I lead with Figure and play some other creatures, which he Terrors and Scullers away. I wipe out his Scullers with a Fallout and draw Paragon, allowing me to rebuild with Vanquisher and Paragon. Since he does not yet have a fifth land for Cloudgoat, he just plays Ajani and gains life, but two Mights give me exactly enough to finish him off.

Game 2: I start with a pair of Figures. One of them eats a Terror, but the other gets to 4/4. He tries to chump it with a Bitterblossom token, but I Might it and knock him to six. Blossom takes him to five, and then I untap and Javelin him.

Game 3: I one-up his Meadowgrain with Vanquisher, but he Terrors it right away. I Javelin it, but then he plays two Scullers. I topdeck Magma Spray to kill one, and then Javelin a second Meadowgrain. He plays Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession, and although I still have two Elvish Warriors, he is ahead in the damage race thanks to Meadowgrain and still has a Sculler sitting on my Colossal Might. I topdeck Bloodbraid, which serves up a Volcanic Fallout and allows me to clear his board and knock him from 16 to 7. Next turn my Elvish Warriors come across with Might for the win, despite his Cloudgoat Ranger.

Game 4: I have turn 2 Paragon, turn 3 Ram-Gang to his Knight of Meadowgrain. He Terrors the Ram-Gang and I play another. He has Glorious Anthem to beef up the Meadowgrain, but I Javelin it and keep plowing ahead with Damage. His Sculler steals my Volcanic Fallout and blocks and kills my Paragon, but the rest of my attackers take him to two, and then I play a Figure and pump it up to 4/4 immediately. He does not topdeck his way out of it.

Game 5: We trade back and forth for awhile, but eventually he topdecks a Cloudgoat on an empty board. I topdeck a Figure and pump it up to 4/4, but the Cloudgoat lets him Windbrisk Heights in a Spectral Procession to chump it, and I lose.

Game 6: I knock him to three, but he plays two consecutive Cloudgoats and an Ajani and all I have are some ground beaters that don’t size up. I don’t draw any burn spells before he kills me.

Game 7: He mulligans and gets stuck on two lands while I go to town on him.

Game 8: He mulls to four and I crush him.

Game 9: He has Terror for my early guys, then Procession, Procession, Goat, Goat. I have two Fallouts in there, but they aren’t enough to overcome his horde.

Game 10: He gets out Bitterblossom, two Anthems, and a Spectral Procession, but I have three Paragons and huge, huge Warriors. I knock him to three, but he clears away my troops except for a Figure. Then I topdeck Flame Javelin.

7-3. Also a damn good result.

In fairness, of the most popular four decks, I expected these two to be the more positive matchups; I expect Five-Color Control and Boat Brew to be tougher, but I am out of time for this week.

Enjoy Alara Reborn, and see you next week!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
[email protected]