Double Or Nothing: Red Rain

Last week, Jim showed you his gauntlet for Standard, which he’s using to prepare for Champs. This week, he updates you on how his gauntlet has altered in the course of playtesting… And brings in a new deck to test against it! How will Mono Red Land Destruction fare against The Gauntlet?

Well, a whole week has gone by and I’ve put some more time in with the decks I outlined in my last article. Unsurprisingly, there are a few changes. I’ll list them deck-by-deck below with suggested, first-pass sideboards. Once I’ve covered the six decks I’ll move on to our first deck to brave the gauntlet: Red Rain.

To start with, I’m very happy with the Goblin deck. It seems to work as intended – but when the control decks get their better draws, it has problems. It has trouble, as you’d suspect, with mass removal and has a hard time against Story Circle. The Circle forces you to overcommit to get damage in, making you a good target for a Wrath of God or Oblivion Stone. The sideboard needs to be able to deal with the Circle, kill a Stone, and turn off MBC’s life gain.

We start with Sulfuric Vortex. It was risky with Transcendence in the environment – but not any more. I’d also like to try the”sideboard in Patriarch’s Bidding” option that many seem to be playing. Adding Two Swamps, four Bloodstained Mires, and a pair of Cities of Brass doesn’t hurt the mana base that much but allows you to come back really well from a Stone or a Wrath. My changes and sideboard are as follows:

Changes to Goblins main deck:

-7 Mountain

-1 Goblin Burrows

+4 Bloodstained Mire

+2 Swamp

+2 City of Brass

Goblin Sideboard

4 Sulfuric Vortex

3 Patriarch’s Bidding

3 Shatter

4 Sparksmith

1 Obliterate

We can’t have so many non-red producing lands in the deck, and so a Goblin Burrows has been cut. I’ve added some Shatters to help against”random” artifacts but we don’t want to be sideboarding too many cards in or out in any one matchup unless it’s really tough for us, as we’ll dilute the deck too much. Sparksmiths come in against any creature-based deck, and we add one Obliterate as a reset button in matches where we might have to reset the game.

The White deck did better than I hoped against creature decks but had no real long game against the control decks; Oblivion Stone is particularly bad for us. Mana Leak helped out now and then, since stopping that turn 4 Wrath of God often meant game. I liked the Skyhunter Cubs when equipped, but all too often they sat there as a ground-based 2/2. I’ve replaced them with Leonin Den-Guards. He’s a fine creature against Goblins and Elves, costs one less and becomes a 4/4 house when equipped. I’m also adding a fourth Empyrial Plate – when you do see them, it’s normally game.

I also found Artifacts a real problem, and so four Annuls make the sideboard, as do a pair of Wipe Cleans to help against Story Circle and Phyrexian Arena. Worship with a Knight on the table didn’t win as many games as I’d like against Goblins thanks to Pyrite Spellbomb, so something a little bigger will be needed in the sideboard.

Changes to Equipped White’s main deck:

-3 Skyhunter Cub

-1 Wrath of God

+3 Leonin Den-Guard

+1 Empyrial Plate

Equipped White sideboard:

4 Annul

2 Wipe Clean

2 Dawn Elemental

1 Worship

2 Second Sunrise

1 Wrath of God

1 Akroma’s Vengeance

2 Karma

Between Akroma’s Vengeance, Wipe Clean and Annul we should be able to cope with artifacts and enchantments that wreck us. Worship and the two Dawn Elementals strengthen the deck against Goblins and Second Sunrise can help against any deck that uses Wrath and the Stone to stay alive. Karma is an obvious choice to add.

Red Elves has so many problems against Goblins that it’s not really worth running at all, as just one Goblin Sharpshooter ruins your day. It’s useful in the gauntlet, though, so I’ve built it a sideboard with some of the tools it needs.

Red Elves Sideboard

2 Caller of the Claw

4 Naturalize

4 Steely Resolve

3 Elvish Champion

2 Gempalm Incinerator

The Champions make your fragile men a little more beefy. Naturalize and Caller of the Claw are obvious inclusions. Steely Resolve is the only way you’ll win against Goblins and Gempalm Incinerator helps kill annoying Sharpshooters. Once again, though, I wouldn’t run this deck at States.

My build of MBC includes a bunch of cards that don’t seem to be favourites right now – notably Wrench Mind. I included it mainly to see how it played, and it worked very well against the gauntlet. You’ll notice that the gauntlet decks aren’t playing many artifacts. If you expect a lot of artifacts it certainly shouldn’t be in the deck. One other change I’d consider important is the addition of Phyrexian Arena.

Changes to MBC’s main deck:

-2 Undead Gladiator

-1 Nekrataal

-2 Ambition’s Cost

-1 Diabolic Tutor

-1 Decree of Pain

-1 Wrench Mind

-3 Swamp

+4 Phyrexian Arena

+1 Mind Sludge

+2 Infest

+1 Consume Spirit

+3 Barren Moor

Decree of Pain, whilst useful, rarely gets hard cast and Infest does its -2/-2 job a lot cheaper. Four Tutors seems one too many right now and with four Phyrexian Arenas coming into the deck we have plenty of card drawing to make two of the three Gladiators and the Ambition’s Costs unnecessary. As I’m adding Infests, one of the Nekrataals can come out but they’re too good to take out altogether. The bulk of the Wrench Minds stay in, as they’re great against creature decks and control decks with only a handful of Artifacts.

MBC Sideboard:

1 Mind Sludge

2 Undead Gladiator

1 Infest

3 Withered Wretch

1 Wrench Mind

2 Royal Assassin

1 Stabilizer

1 Arc of Blight

1 Grim Reminder

1 Soul Feast

1 Underworld Dreams

The main deck is stacked against creatures, but an extra Infest wouldn’t go amiss. The Mind Sludge, Wrench Mind and Undead Gladiators can come in against any control decks. Withered Wretch helps out against Zombie and Goblin Bidding decks and deals with Eternal Dragons that just won’t die. Lastly, we play a bunch of silver bullets that our Tutors, Arenas, and Gladiator can let us dig for or fetch.

R/W Slide’s main deck hasn’t changed at all but the sideboard is slowly crystallizing. Ivory Mask gains two places to help out against MBC’s Consume Spirits and Mind Sludges – taking out those two cards alone will be a huge help. Two artifacts can really ruin your day – Oblivion Stone and Stabilizer – and so four Shatters make it into the board, with four Silver Knights to help out against Goblins. Graveyards seem to be more active than I thought, with plenty of Eternal Dragons and Undead Gladiators alongside Zombie decks and Goblin Bidding decks, and so Scrabbling Claws makes an appearance. Finally we play Wipe Clean for the mirror match.

R/W Slide Sideboard

4 Shatter

4 Silver Knight

2 Ivory Mask

2 Scrabbling Claws

3 Wipe Clean

The last deck in the gauntlet, U/W Control, is still doing much better than I hoped. Against creature decks, it packs all the removal you’d ever need alongside Story Circle – every single-colored deck’s nightmare. The Eternal Dragons and Solemn Simulacrums are excellent, and as long as they live just one turn, the Thieving Magpies are very good, too. Exalted Angels are a must-kill card against Goblins.

Its biggest problem was against MBC. A single successful Mind Sludge on turn 5 wrecks your game. They can kill your card drawing creatures and blow up your Story Circle. We found that the best bet was to drop a turn 3 Story Circle, followed by a turn 4 Oblivion Stone. On turn 5, you leave four mana untapped, and keep four mana untapped whenever they have an Oblivion Stone in play. In response to blowing theirs up you, drop a Fate counter on the Story Circle, ensuring that they have to use two Stones to destroy each circle. I’m very happy with the main deck.

U/W Control Sideboard

4 Silver Knight

2 Story Circle

1 Discombobulate

2 Rewind

2 Ivory Mask

2 Altar’s Light

1 Akroma’s Vengeance

Against Goblins, the four Silver Knights add an extra bit of control you really need. They stop the abusive draws a Goblin deck can have that kill you before a turn 4 or 5 Wrath. Ivory Mask and Story Circle make MBC’s job harder, as well as playing our fourth Discombobulate and two more Rewinds. If we need to kill artifacts, we have one Akroma’s Vengeance and a pair of Altar’s Lights. Finally, a singular Tempest of Light helps against Slide decks.

Just before the Odyssey Block rotated out, I made a list of decks that were seeing play. If you included Tier 2 and decks that I kept seeing but wouldn’t beat Tier 1 decks, there were a lot. Obviously, U/G died a death, as did Wake and Reanimator. G/W Beasts lost most of its key cards and control decks all lost Circular Logic and Compulsion. Even so, that leaves a lot of decks to look at. I could look at B/W Control, but all I could do is moan at the lack of Cabal Therapy, Haunting Echoes, and Skeletal Scrying. I could look at Zombies and realize that it probably still loses to Goblins; after all, neither deck has lost much and neither looks to have gained much.

I though I’d look at an old favorite instead – namely, land destruction decks.

Wizards have mentioned that decks based around land destruction are frustrating for new and old players alike. After all, who wants to sit around with a hand full of spells knowing every land you put on the table is doomed? In order to try and stop the deck they’ve started printing more four-mana land destruction spells and have publicly stated that they don’t want to make it viable.

Then they go and print Molten Rain.

It’s almost as if one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. One hand is saying”We’ll never print anything like Nevinyrral’s Disk or Powder Keg again because it’s too unbalancing” and the other cheerfully makes Oblivion Stone. Then they complain about land destruction and print another three casting-cost spell. Admittedly just one three casting cost spell doesn’t mean a deck is Tier 1 or even Tier 2 – but we’ve got to give it a try, haven’t we?

I started by looking through all of the spells available to us in Standard. I like the idea of Chrome Mox speeding us up, and using Chalice of the Void to lock down those pesky one- and two-casting cost spells that slip out. Icy Manipulator is available to tie up the one land we just can’t blow up.

On the downside, including all of these anti-land spells will probably mean we’ll die to Goblins. They only really need two or three land, and our build is running twenty-five lands in the deck. Even if we run twenty-five land destruction spells, a couple of one- or two-casting-cost critters will make it out and probably spoil our day, so we have to be able to kill critters fast and often.

Red Rain

Creatures (4):

4 Grid Monitor

Other Spells (32):

4 Stone Rain

4 Molten Rain

4 Ark of Blight

4 Pyroclasm

4 Volcanic Hammer

2 Hammer of Bogardan

2 Starstorm

3 Form of the Dragon

1 Decree of Annihilation

4 Chrome Mox

Land (24):

14 Mountain

4 Forgotten Cave

4 Shivan Oasis

2 Wooded Foothills

We’re playing with twenty-eight mana sources, but four of those cycle and two thin our deck. I’m playing the Oasis to see how it affects the deck. A key weakness we have is against Enchantments and if the deck plays well with the four Oasis and two Foothills, we can board in a few Naturalize and a Forest if we need to. I’ve chosen twelve land destruction spells. I’d like to play something better than Ark of Blight, but blowing up a land on turn 3 is very important.

The space that’s left is aimed at dealing with Goblins. Starstorm and Pyroclasm kill many goblins at a time, giving us a little card advantage. Volcanic Hammer can help finish off our opponent, kill Clickslithers, and most other creatures. Hammer of Bogardan helps us kill guys and gives control decks fits.

Grid Monitor looks to be an excellent creature – better even than Steel Golem. With no other real creatures in the deck we’re not worried about his restriction, and if we’re blowing up land it should be difficult for most decks to deal with him. Form of the Dragon is a stranger inclusion, but my reasoning is as follows: I’m going to be blowing up land and have a blocker. I’ve got plenty of burn to kill small creatures and so Form of the Dragon can stabilize my life at five and either kill my opponent in four turns – less with the Grid Monitor, obviously – or kill their best creature.

The numbers of some of these might be wrong, but we’re sure to find out in testing. I started with Goblins.

The first two games I won easily – mainly due to Pyroclasm. Blowing up a pair of Goblins, then a land or two and dropping a Grid Monitor with burn in hand seemed to be game. The next few games, Goblins got the drop on me. I either didn’t see Pyroclasm or Starstorm, or I started drawing land after land after land. Form of the Dragon works well – as long as you can keep their land count low. It’s obviously awful when they can cast Rorix Bladewing

As I played a few more games, I found myself flooded more often that I’d like – perhaps twenty-eight mana sources is too many – and I found Chrome Mox sitting in my hand game after game. When you’re running so many land and some artifacts, you don’t want to be throwing cards away to get your mana in the early game. In three or four games I drew a Mox when I wanted a land, and in only one game did a turn 2 Mox result in a turn 2 Stone Rain. Even then, against Goblins, the disadvantage of having to throw away a card is just too much.

So the first changes are:

-4 Chrome Mox

-1 Volcanic Hammer

+2 Mountain

+2 Lay Waste

+1 Starstorm

I’m going down to twenty-six mana sources to see how that works out, increasing the number of mass removal spells and using the two remaining slots to bolster our land destruction spells. I played a few more games with this setup and found the deck performed a little better. I wasn’t stuck with Moxen in my hand and it was just winning a few more games. For now, I’ll leave Goblins alone. I think we nominate four Gempalm Incinerators for the sideboard and possibly the fourth Starstorm.

Next up I tried MBC. MBC needs a lot of land, and hopefully Form of the Dragon will be game when we get it down. They’ll have a lot of dead cards thanks to my lack of creatures, but I won’t have many targets for mine, either – luckily, most of mine can be sent straight to the head or cycled away.

The first few games went as I imagined they should. MBC sat there with expensive cards and Terror, Infest, and Nekrataal in the grip, useless. I recursed Hammer for a win and Grid Monitor and a few Molten Rains got another. Form of the Dragon pulled out a third.

A few games later and I was still winning! MBC is just too full of spells that are useless, even if you only destroy three or four land they have real trouble dealing with the Grid Monitor and Consume Spirit doesn’t really do too much against a recurring Hammer of Bogardan.

Looking at MBC’s current board, it really is in trouble. A fourth Wrench Mind will help – a little. A timely Withered Wretch might be able to take care of a Hammer, but there isn’t much else. Rogue is good!

Meanwhile, we get to board out our Pyroclasms. I’d like to add another pair of Lay Wastes or Demolishes to strengthen the land destruction theme.

White Weenie is next in the gauntlet, so we’ll give that one a spin. I’d expect White to be able to cause us many more problems as we can’t get rid of a Silver Knight, and Worship will end our party. We can’t get rid of the Equipment at the moment, and they don’t need much land to get going.

After losing five straight games to little white critters, I was beginning to despair. The deck did well against Goblins and MBC – how could White Weenie put a spanner in the works? The answer is, of course, that Red Rain is too slow. By the time you’re blowing up their land, they’ve already got their threats on the table. Without a way to get rid of Silver Knight, the deck has a really hard time, even if Grid Monitor makes an appearance in time, The Knight can quickly become a 6/6 monster thanks to Empyrial Armor. The deck certainly needs a little more removal, and Pyrite Spellbomb is the obvious choice – perhaps displacing Gempalm Incinerator as our Weenie control spell of choice. We also need a way to deal with Equipment, and Shatter is an obvious suggestion.

Red Elves is still in our gauntlet and, before I even played against it, I guessed what was about to happen. Five wins later, even with bad draws it was obvious that Elves stands no chance. You concentrate on killing their Timberwatch Elves and the board sweepers will do the rest. Even a Caller of the Claw is only a minor inconvenience. On the other hand, Elves was the first deck to cope with Grid Monitor; their maindecked Viridian Shaman worked wonders.

Two more to go and the penultimate deck I’d like to look at is R/W Slide. I’m not sure how I expect Astral Slide to do, as it has so much land and I can’t really deal with Lightning Rift. I guess I have to hope that I draw enough land destruction.

Games against Slide all came down to how much land you can destroy and how quickly you can play Grid Monitor. If you can hold them off until a Form of the Dragon, that too is a good play but the Monitor absorbed any mana they had left. If the Slide player gets to four mana and can drop Solemn Simulacrum and has an Astral Slide, you’d best kill it quickly or you’ll be in for a real hiding. Slide is packed with creature kill, and it’s largely useless against Red Rain – but they can cycle it away. Our creature kill isn’t so useful, either. Naturalize would be a great card to be able to board in at this point.

After boarding, Slide has access to Wipe Clean – which can really spoil your day after a Form of the Dragon, so much so I’d recommend boarding it out – and Shatter. Shatter works wonders against the few Grid Monitors and even an early Ark of Blight.

Last up to bat is U/W Control. I found that three land destruction spells, one an Ark of Blight, was necessary to get hold of the match and they had to have no Mana Leak in hand. After that a Grid Monitor could start the good fight but, often as not, would die to Wing Shards. The games were tough; if I could get in some early damage, get to seven mana, and get Form of the Dragon onto the table, the game was mine. If they survived, got out an early blocker, or managed to make an Exalted Angel, I was dead.

Luckily for us, we have the best sideboard cards you can imagine: Boil and Flashfires. Taking out the Pyroclasm for four Boils should certainly go some way to helping out, and a pair of Flashfires can easily come in for a Starstorm or two. Even so, U/W Slide has the perfect answer in Sacred Ground – also reprinted in Eighth. Once again, we have to hope that Naturalize will be enough.

The deck held up quite well, especially against MBC and Elves. It did quite well against Goblins, U/W Control and R/W Slide but got hammered by White Weenie. The deck as it stands is now:

Red Rain V.2

Creatures (4):

4 Grid Monitor

Other Spells (30):

4 Stone Rain

4 Molten Rain

4 Ark of Blight

4 Pyroclasm

3 Volcanic Hammer

2 Hammer of Bogardan

3 Starstorm

3 Form of the Dragon

1 Decree of Annihilation

2 Lay Waste

Land (26):

14 Mountain

4 Forgotten Cave

4 Shivan Oasis

3 Wooded Foothills

1 Forest

I’ve upped the number of Foothills by one more to give us just one more way of getting a Forest. I’d love the Forest to be in the sideboard but, as you’re about to see, it’s crowded enough already.


4 Pyrite Spellbomb

3 Boil

1 Demolish

1 Starstorm

4 Naturalize

2 Flashfires

I’m starting with a simple sideboard. Spellbombs come in against Goblins and White Weenie. Against Goblins I think you take out Lay Waste, Decree of Annihilation and a little more land destruction and bring in the fourth Starstorm. Against White Weenie, you have to take out something else to fit in your Naturalizes too which makes things tough. It might be that you take out as much land destruction as you need just to fit everything else in, as the game is a total disaster for us before boarding – so any plan sounds good right now!

Elves is like shooting fish in a barrel before we board, but the addition of one more Starstorm for one Lay Waste is probably enough. You can take out the Decree of Annihilation and possibly the other Lay Waste if you really want to kick their heads in.

MBC starts well enough without boarding, but we certainly bring in Demolish. We don’t have much room in the board for MBC but we did so well against it that we can afford to skimp. If you expect it to be really popular, you might have to drop a Boil or a Spellbomb for land destruction that’s useful against MBC just to be sure.

We need more firepower against both U/W Control and R/W Slide. Boil and Flashfires can come in against U/W, as can the additional Demolish. If you think they’re going to board in Silver Knight or Dawn Elemental and Worship, you might consider Pyrite Spellbomb, but Naturalize is probably better and takes care of Story Circle too. Against R/W Slide, we want our Flashfires and four Naturalizes. I’d take out the Pyroclasms against both control decks and possibly a few Volcanic Hammers. Form of the Dragon looks very weak against Slide.

So there you go; a land destruction deck. It’s not Tier One for sure – but with work, you could cause havoc in the second Tier and certainly upset any MBC players you run across.

Until next week,

Cheers, Jim

Team PhatBeats.