I’ve been taking Magic quite seriously for the past few years, after having some good finishes on the Grand Prix circuit as well as a few decent performances on the Pro Tour. However, in doing so I fell slightly behind on my studies… now, with a paltry four subjects needed to finish my degree, I decided to focus more on University.
A while ago, Mike Flores asked me if I wanted to join his mailing list for Pro Tour: Hollywood, which consisted of himself (obviously), Osyp Lebedowicz, and some of Osyp’s friends. I was quite happy to be a part that mailing list, as both Mike and Osyp are true masters of the game. In this article I’ll talk about all the crazy decks I created for the mailing list group, as well as the deck I ended up playing at the Pro Tour. I’ll also offer some advice regarding the playing of the deck should it be your choice come Regionals. I hope it will be useful for everyone planning to attend a Standard tournament any time soon… or if it’s not, I hope it’s a good read.
Ever since I played my Wild Pair deck in Grand Prix: Firenze, people have been asking me if it’s possible to build a deck around the six-mana enchantment every time a new format hits the tournament scene. In preparation for Hollywood, I thought about trying out a Standard Wild Pair deck.
The core is as follows:
2 Grinning Ignus
4 Wild Pair
4 Nantuko Husk
2 Juniper Order Ranger
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Murderous Redcap
4 Wall of Roots
1 Incandescent Soulstoke
The game-plan is as follows:
1) Play Wild Pair.
2) Play a 2/2 creature (or Wall of Roots and put a -0/-1 counter on it) to fetch Grinning Ignus.
3) Return Grinning Ignus to your hand, and play it to fetch Murderous Recap.
4) Return Grinning Ignus to your hand, and play it to fetch Nantuko Husk.
5) Return Grinning Ignus to your hand, and play it to fetch Incandescent Soulstoke.
6) Return Grinning Ignus to your hand, and play it to fetch Juniper Order Ranger.
7) Sacrifice Murderous Recap to Nantuko Husk as many times as needed until your opponent is reduced to zero life*.
*) With Juniper Order Ranger in play, Murderous Recap returns to play with no counters after dying, as the rules say that if a creature has both a +1/+1 counter (from the Ranger) and a -1/-1 counter (from persist), both get removed from the creature.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 2 Juniper Order Ranger
- 4 Greater Gargadon
- 2 Grinning Ignus
- 1 Incandescent Soulstoke
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Murderous Redcap
Playing with this deck is fun, but it isn’t competitive in this format, as all of the other decks in the metagame are pretty fast. I wouldn’t recommend playing it at any upcoming tournament. However, if you like deck designing, it might be an interesting challenge to try to make a competitive deck based on this one.
After the Wild Pair idea proved too inconsistent, I tried my hand at creating a Land Destruction deck. Land Destruction is a strategy that can do well in a new format. Why? Because destroying your opponent’s lands and then killing him with a big creature is usually a strategy that works against most decks regardless of format constraints, as almost everyone needs mana to play their spells.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Avalanche Riders
- 4 Magus of the Moon
- 4 Cloudthresher
- 4 Deus of Calamity
- 4 Fulminator Mage
Sadly, while this deck was really good on the play, it was not very impressive on the draw.
At this point, Osyp said that his friend Phil’s Medium Red deck was pretty good, so I decided to give it a try.
When I finally reached the cut-off point at which I’d promised myself I’d be settled on a deck choice, I picked up all the cards for this deck from GonÃ§alo Rodriguez (a Portuguese judge) and Miguel ProenÃ§a (a trading guru). Thank you guys!
My travel mate for this Pro Tour was JoÃ£o Cavaleiro, and he was looking forward to playing Evan Erwin Mono-Red deck, a deck which finished third at the StarCityGames.com $2000 Standard Open tournament.
After leaving Portugal, we played a lot of games with both decks and realized that the optimal deck would be a conglomeration of both builds. We thought about playing the Small Red Deck as our maindeck configuration, switching to Phil’s Medium Red after sideboarding… but in the end we didn’t play any of these decks, because we saw Brian Kibler playing an interesting Red deck, and we asked for the decklist.
I decided to play this deck even though I didn’t have any time left to test it, mainly because I didn’t really like anything else in the format. I finished 25th in the tournament, earning $1900 (minus a whopping 37% for taxes). I also picked up an important six Pro Points, which was a great result for someone that didn’t have much time to prepare for the tournament.
As you can see in the deck window above, the deck was designed by Patrick Sullivan. The original decklist had 4 Keldon Megalith instead of 4 Ghitu Encampment. The only change I would make to this deck would be to replace the 3 Serrated Arrows with 3 Sulfurous Blast in the sideboard, as I think I would have won some important matches if I’d had the option and access to Sulfurous Blasts.
We may as well start with the bad news…this isn’t a good matchup. They have big, cheap creatures and the ability to gain life. Don’t try to kill their creatures if you don’t have any kind of pressure, because they will just play more and bigger guys. It’s important to understand that the Mono-Red deck can’t play a control game against Elves. I recommend taking a beat down approach, playing some efficient cheap creatures to put them into burn range as soon as possible, or playing all the burn spells targeting your opponent and simply praying that you can be faster than him.
On the play: +4 Lash Out, +4 Magus of the Moon, +3 Sulfurous Blast, -4 Sulfur Elemental, -3 Shock, -4 Tattermunge Maniac.
On the draw: +4 Lash Out, +3 Sulfurous Blast, +1 Magus of the Moon, -4 Sulfur Elemental, -4 Tattermunge Maniac.
I like Magus of the Moon in this matchup, because Elves only plays around five basic lands. However, they are less impressive on the draw, as they will be able to play Civic Wayfinder before you get a chance to play the Magus.
Against Faeries, you want to put lots of pressure during the early game. Later on you need to burn them at the end of their turn. Be careful to choose the right moments to attack with your lands, as they might just be waiting to play their spot removal. Sulfur Elemental is quite good in this matchup, because they can’t counter it and allows the Red mage to play creatures on the Faerie player’s turn. Overall this is a very good matchup, and the Red deck should win around 80% of the time.
On the draw: +2 Lash Out, +4 Magus of the Moon, -2 Ghitu Encampment, -4 Shock.
On the play: -4 Shock, +4 Magus of the Moon.
Magus is great in this matchup, because they only play around four basic lands. On the draw I like to reduce the number of lands to 22, as the only way I can see myself losing is to draw too many lands. However, on the play I keep the original 24 lands in order to decrease the chances of taking a mulligan, which in this case would hurt a lot.
I played twice against Merfolk on the Pro Tour, and I realized that some players try to play the control roll versus Mono-Red, hiding behind their countermagic. The problem with that strategy is that it will allow the Red mage to control the pace of the game, as the Blue mages won’t have much to do on the turns where their opponent doesn’t play any spell. Against Merfolk it’s all about board position and how fast each deck can be. Keep in mind that most of the creatures they are playing are sub-optimal, and they will only get a good value from playing them if they get either Merrow Reejerey or Lord of Atlantis. If you can kill those lords, their deck is not impressive… remember, all Mutavaults get +1/+1 and Islandwalk, so, if Lord of Atlantis is in play there might be a good spot for the Red mage to deal some extra damage.
On the draw: +4 Lash Out, +3 Sulfurous Blast, -2 Rift Bolt, -4 Tattermunge Maniac, -1 Ghitu Encampment.
On the play: +4 Lash Out +3 Sulfurous Blast, -4 Tattermunge Maniac, -3 Rift Bolt.
On the draw, I only remove 1 Ghitu Encampment in this matchup, because the Red deck won’t always be the aggressor and I want to play Sulfurous Blast, increasing the average converted mana cost of the deck. Rift Bolt gets less value in this matchup because there is the need for instant speed removal in order to kill Merrow Reejerey and Lord of Atlantis.
Doran might be more explosive than Elves, but it is also more fragile. While against Elves it’s usually wrong to burn their first turn creature, I like that play against Doran because the chance of getting them color screwed is a lot bigger.
+4 Lash Out, +4 Magus of the Moon, -4 Tattermunge Maniac, -4 Sulfur Elemental
I can understand the argument of keeping the Sulfur Elementals, but I don’t want to put myself playing an attrition war against a deck that is better at it than mine. The plan against Doran is to try to attack their mana in order to get enough time to gather burn spells and kill them.
They will have the late game, so the key to win this matchup is to deal a lot of damage on the first 2-3 turns, and burn them during their turn after those initial turns. They are playing a combo deck that requires having their creatures in their graveyard, so it’s important to not help them do that by choosing the right moments to attack.
+4 Magus of the Moon, -4 Shock
They are quite vulnerable to Magus, and Shock is worse than anything else in this matchup.
I prefer to draw first in the Red mirror, as in this matchup usually both players will be trading resources while dealing a little damage here and there, and the extra card is key in attrition wars.
+4 Greater Gargadon, +3 Sulfurous Blast, +4 Lash Out, -4 Sulfur Elemental, -4 Tattermunge Maniac, -3 Magus of the Moon
It’s important to understand that neither player can just play burn spells targeting the guy across the table, because the creatures are more efficient in dealing damage than other spells and the attacking-with-guys player would have a strict advantage. That’s why Greater Gargadon is the key card after sideboarding, as the games will be slow enough to allow the 9/7 to hit the table most of the time. You can break the symmetry of Sulfurous Blast by not committing too many resources to the board.
Overall, the deck is pretty good, and after spending a few minutes reading my article, anyone should be able to play the deck without spending much time testing it.
Feel free to ask questions in the forums, and I will try to answer them all as soon as possible.