Last time I wrote about a deck that treated me well, I gave a long explanation detailing my absence from the writing circuit. So where have I been this time? One word: Testing. I’m not going to bother with foreshadowing. I won the PTQ, got the girl, and saved the day. By that of course I mean, I won the PTQ with the deck that my teammates and I worked on, tweaked, and felt was the best deck since day one, and my preparation was rewarded with a dominating day that included four total game losses on the way to a 9-0-2 record and qualification for Pro Tour: Columbus. Sure, I have some fairly interesting anecdotes from the day, but honestly, how many of you really care about me beating up on some guys?
Instead of all that, I’ll give you some insight on what I feel is the no doubt bar none best deck to play in MBC, R/G, a.k.a. the GFC Freshmaker, how the deck came about, why the deck is AWESOME, and what to do in each and every matchup.
Before I begin, I need to give tremendous credit to my teammates, the Get Fresh Crew. While most of you out there in Readerville wouldn’t recognize the names of my teammates and friends, these guys deserve recognition and soon enough, they’ll get it. Many games in this particular tournament were won because I was prepared for the worst due to my teammates play skill, and when my opponent did not make the exact correct play, I was able to capitalize. American Magic has moved away from Constructed in recent years, mostly due to lack of preparation, and Europeans and Asians have taken most of the top finishes. Sure, maybe we’re unheard of for the most part, but my victory is a testament to the power of preparation and understanding of the format and the deck you bring to the table. On to the decklist and the card analysis:
The GFC Freshmaker was a creation initially of myself and Cedric Phillips, developed when we began to search for a viable sideboarding plan for our Mono-Green list. The idea of land destruction was brought up to shore up control matchups, and while the Mono-Green decklist didn’t end up sticking around too long, the land destruction plan got us to thinking. We decided that a G/R deck that could abuse cheap removal against aggressive decks in order to survive until the late game would be a viable idea, with both Green and Red land destruction spells in the sideboard.
Upon our arrival at the first set of PTQs at Origins, the prevalence of Tooth and Nail surprised us, and at a late-night meeting of the GFC, we decided that maindeck land destruction was a good idea. A single Molten Rain or Creeping Mold could set Tooth and Nail back far enough to allow win via burn or Arc-Slogger. Our performance at Origins was outstanding, with five players in the top 16 of the first PTQ, including three in the top 8, and another two top 16s on day two, with another top 8.
After the success at Origins, the deck underwent some changes before ending up as the winning decklist shown above. The emergence of the U/G Crystal Shard deck and surge in Affinity decks playing cards like Somber Hoverguard forced even more changes.
A no-brainer, as drawing Eternal Witness at any point in the game is a happy thought. While U/G may have the best way of abusing Witness, the R/G deck definitely has the best targets to return. Whether it is a Fireball that was burned in the early game as removal or perhaps a Scry spell to fix the next two draws, or maybe a Land Destruction spell to put the game on ice, Eternal Witness is always going to be great.
Bags, have you lost your mind? Isn’t Viridian Shaman so much better? Knut, you publish this guy as a feature writer? The answers to those questions are maybe, definitely not, and for whatever reason, yes. Let’s take a look at what brought me to Ouphe Vandals.
Against Affinity, Viridian Shaman is probably better, but by how much? Ouphe Vandals can sit in play and wait for something useful to counter, such as Arcbound Ravager’s ability, or Cranial Plating becoming equipped. What about the rest of the field? U/G Crystal Shard doesn’t even get a single use out of the Crystal Shard before it is destroyed, and in the meantime, the Vandals can provide some beatdown, anemic as it may be. What about Tooth and Nail? The main weapons that they have against you include both Mindslaver and Oblivion Stone, usually played and activated in the same turn. A single Ouphe Vandals can eliminate any outs that they have before you kill them.
Against Mono-Green, both cards are Gray Ogres, but Vandals will never destroy your own Solemn Simulacrum. In the difficult U/W matchup, Ouphe Vandals hits the board turn 3 without any problem, ready to deal with Vedalken Shackles or Oblivion Stone, even one protected by Leonin Abunas (that’s right, it doesn’t target the artifact…click the link if you don’t believe me). And don’t even begin to start on the Vandals advantages against KCI, where he forces so much extra work that he can win the game all on his own.
The R/G deck loves having a guy to play on turn 3… so why make it a simple Gray Ogre (which Shaman was most of the time) rather than a creature that could be potentially gamebreaking later.
People that eschew this card in favor of Wayfarer’s Bauble are either barns of a certain Brainburst Premium Writer who may/may not have actually played the deck or buffoons. Jens is three cards in one, a mana fixer, mana accelerant, excellent defensive creature, and sometimes he gets to bring the beats. On turn 1-2, the R/G deck can seldom afford to spend its mana accelerating to four, which without Jens is just an empty slot on the curve!
This card is so good that one of my teammates actually had a dream where he had a pet Arc-Slogger, affectionately named Mr. Big Slogs. Mr. Big Slogs is the best creature in this format, and unchecked, he will win the game all on his own very quickly. Remember, he has on average four activations that cost you nothing. I’ve taken to not even looking at the cards I remove, but if you must, at least don’t consider it card disadvantage or complain when you remove all your <insert card that you want name here>. Mr. Big Slogs will always treat you right.
Mark Molder is the brother of Arc-Slogger. Sometimes he’ll be better, but even as a large body that dies only to Black removal, he is spectacular. He acts as Sloggers #4-6 much of the time, but being a nail in the coffin of Affinity or decks reliant on Artifact Lands gives him some extra value. The third Slug in the sideboard comes in each and every match. Fun Molder Slug Fact: Killing a Platinum Angel or Darksteel Colossus with Molder Slug is one of the best feelings that you can get in this format.
Fits perfectly into the deck’s core strategy against aggressive decks. Extremely efficient removal, excellent synergy with Eternal Witness, and very strong against all of the aggro decks in the field, Electrostatic Bolt is great when it’s good, and gets sided out otherwise.
Perhaps the key card of the deck in terms of flexibility, Magma Jet is not only efficient removal but also very important at setting up draw quality throughout the course of a game. Turn 2 Magma Jet to the opponent is more often than not the correct play, as most decks where Magma Jet would be useful as creature removal will have already played a threat that you can kill, and against decks with few cheap threats, the idea of setting up the next few turns with a combination of land destruction and efficient threats for the matchup is a very strong one.
This card is the most questioned card in the deck. Something that most people fail to realize is just how often this card truly shines. Any game where you are on the play, a turn 3 Molten Rain is going to be backbreaking in terms of tempo, and backed with any sort of threat, can spell game over on the spot. A common sequence of plays sees the Freshmaker playing turn 2 Magma Jet to set up turn 3 Molten Rain followed by either Creeping Mold or Solemn Simulacrum, then topped off with a large creature. Between the low land counts of the format, the heavy mana commitments of the two-color control decks, and the existence of Tooth and Nail as a prominent archetype, Molten Rain will usually be a strong play. Even in its weakest matchups it can be devastating, limiting what an Affinity deck can do by cutting off a color of mana or keeping Mono-Green from being able to do multiple things in a turn.
Supplemental land destruction in most matchups, the versatility of Creeping Mold cannot be denied. Helps to clean up messes against Affinity, whether they be out of control Arcbound Ravagers or Cranial Platings or something as simple as helping to shut out Red mana to prevent a lethal Shrapnel Blast. Not to be ignored is the capability in other matchups to destroy key cards such as Crystal Shard or March of the Machines. Creeping Mold is the girl with the great body but questionable face; it’s not the prettiest card, but it certainly gets things done.
Most of the other people who play this deck love Fireball, and while I consider it a good card and a staple of the deck, I hate drawing it in my opening hand. On the other hand, besides Eternal Witness, there generally isn’t going to be a better topdeck/Scry than this near the end of a game. Used often for creature removal, you should never fret about”wasting” Fireball, as Eternal Witness can recover one for the game-ending blast.
Mana – Being able to cast the early game removal outweighs the need to be able to cast an early Eternal Witness. Turn 3 Molten Rain is a powerful play in this format, and not having the mana to cast it can be frustrating. I feel that the land count is right on the money where it is, as Jens and Scry can help to alleviate some of the mana concerns.
If the Affinity matchup is 50/50 in game one, after sideboarding you bring in a boatload of additional efficient removal and it becomes a laugher. Scry is totally busted in the Freshmaker and rewards careful play and better planning. Often times I use this to tap a mana source during the opponent’s upkeep when they have Welding Jar out, buying me an extra turn and at the same time setting up my next two draws. Justice is a very powerful sideboard card against Affinity, KCI, and U/G Shard, where pinpoint removal can give you a rather pronounced advantage. I consider this the best all-purpose Artifact removal in the format, so it gets the nod in the four-of slot over Oxidize.
Speaking of Oxidize, here it is, ready to enable the most broken starts against Affinity and KCI. Its reduced mana cost can sometimes come into play with Eternal Witness synergy, and being able to circumnavigate Welding Jar is handy. Not much more to say here, as chances are that if you’ve played this format at all, you’ve played with or against Oxidize.
Grab the Reins
Nice draft deck, dude. In all seriousness, Grab the Reins is an extremely potent weapon against any deck with a similar strategy to your own, as well as Tooth and Nail. Remember, Grab the Reins can be used as a simple Fling some of the time or as a very powerful burn spell. GtR is a gamebreaking spell and often times will be able to win games on its own.
An all-purpose solution that fill in a few holes in the deck. Cards like Beacon of Creation, Pristine Angel, Myr Incubator, and Leonin Abunas can cause problems, and Oblivion Stone goes a long way to solving them all. Extremely powerful in the mirror as a way to gain card advantage as well, and if they don’t play Ouphe Vandals, it can send the game spiraling in your favor.
Creeping Mold – See Above
Molder Slug – See Above
You’re playing Ouphe Vandals and not <insert card here>?
This card simply is not that good in this format. All of the decks in this format either play many small, efficient threats, or a few large, nearly unstoppable threats. Troll Ascetic is neither, acting only as a midsize threat with a virtual upkeep of two mana against any decent opponent. Not only that, but it’s extremely rough on the mana and does nothing particularly well. Troll will usually be swarmed or outclassed.
The removal of this from the deck caused quite a stir in the GFC, but after playing the deck for so long, it was simply evident that this was no longer carrying it’s weight. If you expect an extremely heavy Affinity metagame, feel free to put this back in the deck, but if things stay as varied as they are as of now, stick with Ouphe Vandals.
Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
This deck has neither the time nor the resources to make this card truly effective. Once thought to be the best sideboard option against Mono-Green, slowly but surely all of the team members came around on this card, proclaiming it virtually useless in the process.
Just too slow and unwieldy for this deck, and a virtual dead draw in the late game, which is truly painful. Compare this with Jens and you’ll see why this got the axe recently.
Talisman of Impulse
A wonderful card for this deck in any other format, simply too vulnerable to splash damage to consider a wise choice right now. If things took a wild swing in favor of no maindeck artifact removal, then perhaps this would find its way back into the deck, but until then, this remains on the sidelines looking forlorn.
I feel that if you play this deck properly, there are no truly terrible matchups in the established metagame. Sure, there are draws by certain decks that can defeat you, but for the most part, you have all the tools you need to fight the fight against each and every deck out there.
Game One – Burn is extremely effective against them, and clogging up the ground is relatively easy with random creatures. Blinkmoth Nexus is susceptible to land destruction, and once an Arc-Slogger hits, it’s usually game over if Slogs does not die immediately to Shrapnel Blast. A Molder Slug puts the nail in the coffin. If they get an extremely fast draw, you could be in for some trouble, but for the most part, this is simply a battle of who can exert their will on the game. If your plan succeeds, you assuredly win, but finding the time to do so can be very difficult.
Games Two and Three: Attacking their resources becomes much easier, as the slow cards have been stripped from the deck in favor of more efficient removal and an additional game-ender in the form of Molder Slug. This matchup goes from difficult game one to a cakewalk in games two and three, assuming a reasonable draw from the Freshmaker.
Big Red w/ Artifact Lands (or Talisman):
Game One – You simply are playing better cards than they are playing. Unfortunately, they have access to a ridiculous amount of burn, so be very careful and try to minimize the damage done by Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], and stay wary of Shrapnel Blast. Molder Slug is a house against them, and you can remove their Arc-Sloggers and attack their mana. Usually that’s enough, as the difficult to remove Slug coupled with recurring land destruction is often times too much for them to handle.
Games Two and Three – Grab the Reins can get you out of any messes created by Arc-Slogger or Megatog, and the additional Molder Slug and Creeping Mold continue the assault on their lands. Be careful of Shunt from them, but careful play can and will get you around that. Tel-Jilad Justice comes in to help deal with Blinkmoth Nexus and any artifact lands/talisman, as well as setting up the draws nicely.
Game One – The U/G Shard has certain threats that it has an extremely difficult time dealing with efficiently. Molder Slug and Arc-Slogger are two such threats, and Ouphe Vandals can really mess up any plans that they have. Land destruction can take a bite out of a fairly fragile mana base, although multiple Eternal Witnesses certainly spell trouble for R/G. Instant speed removal can stop disaster with Crystal Shard active, so save your burn for those situations.
Games Two and Three – Now you have instant speed removal for Crystal Shard too. I do not think very highly of this deck and think it’s extremely overhyped. I’ve yet to lose a match to it in sanctioned play, so I really don’t think it’s something to be feared.
Game One – I can’t possibly make this clear enough, but the plan against Mono-Green is to keep the board as clear as possible to minimize the impact of Beacon of Creation and allow Arc-Slogger to dominate. Fireballing a Viridian Zealot on turn 2 is probably a good play, and being able to attack once or twice will usually be enough. Set aside a removal spell for Fangren Firstborn and use the rest of your removal liberally. Whatever you do, do not risk any of your big creatures entering combat with a Troll Ascetic with two mana open unless you absolutely have to, out of respect for Predator’s Strike. Try to keep their mana in check and Troll will cease to be a real problem.
Games Two and Three – Things get much easier with the inclusion of Oblivion Stone as an easy out against Beacon of Creation and the lack of instant speed removal available to them. Grab the Reins can take out sideboarded Karstoderms or Molder Slugs, all while clearing the way for the big guys, or perhaps just be used as a burn spell to finish them off. On the play, I would strongly consider siding all of the Ouphe Vandals out (along with a Solemn Simulacrum or two) in favor of keeping the land destruction plan in, as crippling their mana can be devastating. Always target Forests with land destruction, as Blinkmoth Nexus rarely means very much.
U/W Pristine Angel:
Game One – Keeping their Plains count down is vital, as Vedalken Shackles is not nearly as deadly as either Pristine Angel or Pulse of the Fields. Try to be the aggressor, disrupting them at each and every turn while building up your large threats.
Games Two and Three – Oblivion Stone shines here, providing a firm answer to both Pristine Angel as well as Leonin Abunas protected artifacts. Grab the Reins comes in as another instant speed option against Pristine Angel and Abunas itself, while the troublesome Molder Slug and additional Creeping Mold take the place of inefficient creature removal. At one point, I considered this matchup very difficult, but after sideboarding you simply have too many must-counter spells, and the countermagic in this format beyond Condescend is lacking.
Tooth and Nail:
Game One – Land destruction puts a huge crimp in any plans that they have, and Ouphe Vandals act as a nail in the coffin, preventing any sort of Mindslaver or Oblivion Stone shenanigans. Molder Slug is extremely difficult for them to deal with outside of Tooth and Nail itself, and forces them to find an answer rather than simply killing you.
Games Two and Three – Things do not get much more difficult, as additional power cards come in for useless removal, with Grab the Reins starring as both a way to get rid of Darksteel Colossus as well as a way to deal them eleven damage. Controlling the mana game gets easier, and overall, this is a very favorable matchup.
Game One: Land advantage is the name of the game, as the difference between playing an Arc-Slogger with two mana open compared to no mana open is enormous. Early Molten Rains/Solemn Simulacrums mean almost as much as large creatures. Proper mulliganing as well as careful use of Eternal Witness and Magma Jet can set the game in your favor.
I could probably go on and on about the deck, and any specific questions or feedback can be addressed in the forums or at [email protected]. Once again, I’d like to thank my teammates for their tireless testing and hard work, and I wish anyone luck that decides to play what I consider the strongest deck in the format. The deck will treat you right if you take the time to learn all of its subtle nuances.
Always Stay Fresh,
GFC Founding Member