Going Back to Back with RUG

Thursday, November 18th – Dan Jordan has enjoyed much success in his young Magic career, including his most recent achievement in going back-to-back at SCG Standard Opens with RUG. What’s his take on the deck?

Hey there! My name is Dan Jordan. I’m nineteen years of age, and I’m from the great city of Albany, New York. This is the same general area where Ken Krouner, Adam Chambers, Benjamin Farkas, and Benjamin Lundquist all emerged from. I played in Pro Tour Austin last year finishing with a Top 200 performance and Pro Tour Amsterdam this year with a thirteenth-place finish. Recently I won back-to-back StarCityGames.com Standard Opens in both Charlotte and Boston.

I’ve had a history of doing well by playing the best deck but with minor metagame calls to adjust to the format. I’ve been playing competitively for five years now and have qualified for the Pro Tour four times, although I’ve only played in two out of the four Pro Tours that I qualified for. You may be asking yourself why I didn’t play in the other two Pro Tours that I qualified for.

Well the reason behind that is because my mother is a part of the same ever-growing fan club that JSS Superstar Brett Blackman’s mother started. This fan club involves letting their children play in Pro Tour Qualifiers but having no intention of letting their children play in said Pro Tour. Let’s just say that me and my mom haven’t seen eye-to-eye since the day I won my first PTQ I ever played in, and she denied me the rare adventure to play in Pro Tour Los Angeles. Aren’t moms great?

Now over the past few weeks, I’ve battled with the new R/U/G Control deck. Here’s the list that I played at the recent StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Boston.

You may notice that I made some changes between that list and the one that I played with in Charlotte. I decided to cut the Avenger of Zendikar, Deprive, and Volition Reins from the maindeck. I then moved three Goblin Ruinblasters from the sideboard to the maindeck and added a Spell Pierce, an Obstinate Baloth, and a Pyroclasm in their place. I made these changes due to the fact that after my win in Charlotte, I thought that the R/U/G Control deck would gain in popularity. I thought that Goblin Ruinblaster really shined in the mirror, as well in the as U/B Control matchup, which I played against four times in Charlotte.

Now let’s review why this deck is so good and why you should expect it to gain popularity in future Standard tournaments.


Goblin Ruinblaster:

Goblin Ruinblaster gives you a major edge in your control matchups. It’s very hard to overcome a turn 3 Goblin Ruinblaster whether you’re on the play or the draw. Control decks rely on their mana base. So when a creature that disrupts their mana base and applies pressure, it’s a huge tempo swing in our favor.

Frost Titan:

This card has jumped from $5 to $20 in a matter of a couple of weeks and for good reasons. You’ll literally win a game on the back of Frost Titan alone in some circumstances; it’s that good. A 6/6 for six mana that keeps a potential threat locked down, is tough to kill, and applies pressure on your opponent is pretty much as good as it gets.

Lotus Cobra:

A 2/1 for two mana that can lead to some of the most ridiculous turns in Standard today. A turn when you untap with a Lotus Cobra in play puts you so far ahead in any matchup that your opponent should just sign the slip on the spot and walk away.

Oracle of Mul Daya:

The way you’re able to manipulate your library with cards like Preordain and Jace, the Mind Sculptor leads to unbelievable synergy with an Oracle of Mul Daya on the battlefield. An Oracle of Mul Daya and a Lotus Cobra on the battlefield can lead to the most explosive turns that this deck can produce.

Lightning Bolt:

Lightning Bolt has been a staple card in Standard since Wizards of the Coast reprinted it in Magic 2010. It’s also the only way you have any chance in your aggro matchups such as Elves, Fauna Shaman decks, Red Deck Wins, and Kuldotha Red. Four Lightning Bolts is a must in this deck!

Mana Leak:

Mana Leak is a card that’s going to be included in any Standard deck with blue in it. Otherwise your opponents are just going to walk all over you with their own Frost Titans.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor:

I’d just like to say that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the best card in Standard without a doubt. Resolving a Jace, the Mind Sculptor can swing any game to your favor. The reason why it has become so good after the recent Standard rotation is that your opponent can no long play a Bloodbraid Elf, cascade into a Maelstrom Pulse, and kill your Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Now you can play it without the worry of someone playing one spell and going from being in control to getting utterly blown out. Not to mention you’re allowed to abuse its Brainstorm ability with cards like Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn, and Preordain by getting rid of cards that you wouldn’t want on top of your deck otherwise.


Explore costs two mana, it cantrips for you, and it allows you to put an extra land in play on your second turn. Need I say more?


In game 3 of the finals of the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Boston, I kept a one-lander with Preordain along with other cantrips and was confident I’d get there. It allows you to see up to three cards in order to make future decisions, allowing me to turn my seven-card hand potentially into a ten-card hand. Between my first turn and my second turn, it would allow me to go an extra three cards deep if I didn’t find a land. The best thing about Preordain is that it’s a live topdeck at any juncture during your match.


1 Goblin Ruinblaster:

The fourth Goblin Ruinblaster is in the sideboard because there was no room for it in the main. It’s very good in your control matchups and in the mirror.

1 Volition Reins:

The miser’s Volition Reins is mainly for your control matchups as well. It’s a backup plan for when your opponents feel safe enough to resolve their best spell, and then you take it.

3 Spell Pierce:

Spell Pierce is a very good card. It’s one of those types of cards that your opponents usually never play around because they’re too busy trying to play around a Mana Leak. It also lets you play your big threats safely one turn earlier, because most of the times you want to have a counterspell in hand to deal with the answer your opponent would have for anything that you play. So by having Spell Pierce, you can play any threat in your hand with only one mana open for Spell Pierce instead of the normal two mana for a Mana Leak.

1 Ratchet Bomb:

Ratchet Bomb in a way is an extra Pyroclasm. It’s in the sideboard to deal with the same thing Pyroclasm is trying to beat such as Elves, Red Deck Wins, and Fauna Shaman decks.

4 Pyroclasm:

This deck needs four Pyroclasm in its sideboard. Without Pyroclasm, you don’t have enough time to stabilize your board position against aggro decks. Not to mention sometimes it can give you enormous tempo swings in the form of three-for-ones or four-for-ones.

2 Flashfreeze:

Flashfreeze helps in the late game against decks like Valakut Ramp and Red Deck Wins where Mana Leak wouldn’t have a chance of countering anything. Mainly where Flashfreeze is at its best is against Primeval Titan decks where matchups just revolve around a Primeval Titan resolving.

3 Obstinate Baloth:

This was a card that I was very impressed with in Boston. Not only does it gain you four life right off the bat, but it also saves you on average another four damage in the form of blocking creatures and forcing your opponents to kill it. Overall this card was phenomenal, and I might even consider moving it up to a full playset.

Now what you all have probably been wondering about, sideboard plans.

Against Red Deck Wins:

+1 Ratchet Bomb, +4 Pyroclasm, +2 Flashfreeze, +3 Obstinate Baloth

-3 Goblin Ruinblaster, -3 Oracle of Mul Daya, -2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, -2 Lotus Cobra

In this matchup, you want to sideboard out cards that are generally going to be slow. I like to keep in a couple of Jace, the Mind Sculptors just in case I don’t find an answer to a Kargan Dragonlord. One round against Red Deck Wins, in Boston, my opponent had a fully leveled Kargan Dragonlord, and I peeled a Jace, the Mind Sculptor off the top of my deck to swing the game in my favor. Although, at other times it can be a very below average card because you’re at the will of whatever your opponent feels like doing. Oracle of Mul Daya, Goblin Ruinblaster, and two Lotus Cobras all come out because they’re too slow, and I feel that the Lotus Cobras can be good but often are killed on turn 2 and makes you play into an Arc Trail or a Searing Blaze which will usually put you out of reach of winning. Overall in this matchup, you need to mulligan aggressively game 1 to a hand with Lightning Bolt in it, but after game 1 it gets much better for you.

Against Valakut Ramp:

+1 Goblin Ruinblaster, +2 Flashfreeze, +3 Spell Pierce

-4 Lightning Bolt, -2 Mana Leak

For this matchup, your plan is easy. Slow down their mana acceleration, and under no circumstances let a Primeval Titan resolve. Lightning Bolts are quite awful in this matchup, and I like trimming the Mana Leaks due to bringing in five more counterspells. Goblin Ruinblaster isn’t amazing in this matchup, but it’s still good. It kills Raging Ravines and more importantly Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. This matchup is in our favor for sure. The only edge that the Valakut Ramp players have is when you’re put into a position to counter a Primeval Titan, and then they get to play a Summoning Trap for free.

Against Mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp:

+1 Goblin Ruinblaster, +1 Spell Pierce, +2 Flashfreeze

-4 Lightning Bolt

This is another matchup that’s in our favor. We board in extra countermagic and take out our Lightning Bolts because they do absolutely nothing. Just like against Valakut Ramp, it’s in our favor, but it’s even better because Goblin Ruinblaster has amazing value, because it will always have a good target. They can still win, but it relies on a Primeval Titan hitting the battlefield. Sound familiar? Don’t let this happen!

Against Elves:

+1 Ratchet Bomb, +3 Obstinate Baloth, +4 Pyroclasm

-1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, -3 Goblin Ruinblaster, -4 Mana Leak

This matchup is very close. Lightning Bolt can usually put it away for you because the targets that you have to deal with come in the forms of Elvish Archdruid, Joraga Warcaller, and Ezuri, Renegade Leader. The rest of their creatures tend not to matter because they’re either mana monkeys or Grizzly Bear type creatures. Besides the Goblin Ruinblasters, which obviously come out, and the one Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I bring out, you may be asking yourself, “Why take out Mana Leak?” Mana Leak isn’t good against Elves. You want to answer their threats with cards that will give you card advantage. Mana Leak is just a one-for-one, which locks down your mana and is very easy to play around. Overall you should expect to play against Elves at least once per tournament, but not to worry, because you should have no problem playing against it.

Against U/B Control:

+1 Goblin Ruinblaster, +1 Volition Reins, +3 Spell Pierce

-1 Mana Leak, -4 Lightning Bolt

I’ll play this matchup all day long especially with the maindeck Goblin Ruinblasters. We’re much faster than they are with all the same cards. I think my favorite thing about this matchup is resolving a Lotus Cobra. They have to waste a Doom Blade on it, and if they don’t have one, we get to have bizarre turns, as the game begins to get away from them. Sideboarding plans for this matchup are very straightforward. Lightning Bolt isn’t very good against control decks, and we trim one Mana Leak in order to make room for the fifth card to be sideboarded in. I’ve never lost against U/B Control, and every card you play in this matchup has premium value.

Against R/U/G Control (The Mirror):

+1 Goblin Ruinblaster, +1 Volition Reins

-1 Oracle of Mul Daya, -1 Mana Leak

The die roll is very important in the mirror matchup. Being on the play instead of the draw determines the value of cards like Lightning Bolt and Mana Leak. If you’re on the draw, you need to be able to answer a possible Lotus Cobra from the opposite side of the board via Lightning Bolt or you’re going to fall behind. Overall the mirror is going to be a bit of a crapshoot. There’s only so much you can control with skill, but the maindeck Goblin Ruinblasters will give you that extra edge that will keep you ahead in the matchup.

Besides the maindeck Goblin Ruinblasters, your best cards are Frost Titan, Lotus Cobra, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Another point to be made is that you need to value the cards that give you the most card advantage by not acting foolishly with them. What I mean by this is not going on autopilot as soon as you resolve a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Brainstorming. Sometimes it’s right to Fateseal in order to protect against pending Lightning Bolts or Raging Ravines. Play smart, and you’ll come out ahead in this matchup.

The Aftermath

Over the course of the two premier tournaments that I played this deck in, it performed really well. I’d recommend this deck to anyone going to any upcoming Standard tournaments. Every card in the deck has a very high power level and good synergy when being played together. This deck can require a decent skill level at times to play it to its highest potential, so if you’ve just sleeved it up, bring it to a couple local FNMs and give it a trial run. You’ll begin to realize all the interactions the deck has with its cards and how powerful they can be.

For the next couple of weeks there doesn’t seem to be any premier-level Standard events until the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Richmond. So until then, I’ll be playtesting this deck night and day trying to figure out everything there is to know about the format. This format is still very wide open, and there’s still a bunch of knowledge to be gained leading up to the Invitational.

I will be in Nashville this weekend for the Grand Prix. So if you see me there, come on by, and introduce yourself. I’ll most likely be there testing this deck. Let me know what you guys think of my first article in the forums.

See ya later…
Dan Jordan