Inside the Metagame: Regionals 2004 – Red Green Landkill

This week, I want to talk about a deck that is a part of the metagame, but I have been constantly advising you against it in just about every one of my past metagame articles. Even though I put the beats on this deck, I still think it is important to talk about for the sake of a more complete understanding of the metagame. That, and it isn’t actually as bad as I let on.

Regionals is coming up in just a few weeks. I will be revealing my personal deck choice the week of the tournament. I am still undecided, but have narrowed it down to two decks – neither of which are Affinity or Goblin Bidding. They are both fine decks, but personally I cannot stand them. I got a little too much exposure to Affinity in my Kobe testing, and I don’t think I’ve ever done well with Goblins in my deck, unless I also had Manakins in the deck with them (according to the Flores article last week I played it in 1999 – ah, Manakin Slywalker…). No, I will go with something more familiar and comfortable. You should always play the deck you enjoy most… that way, even if you are losing, you are still having fun.

This week, I want to talk about a deck that is a part of the metagame, but I have been constantly advising you against it in just about every one of my past metagame articles. Even though I put the beats on this deck, I still think it is important to talk about for the sake of a more complete understanding of the metagame. That, and it isn’t actually as bad as I let on. The big problem with Red/Green is that it is supposed to beat certain decks, and then it doesn’t even beat those decks most of the time. In essence, you want to play Red/Green Land destruction if you expect a metagame with Goblins and Mono-White. You can also build it to be much better versus Affinity, or have your sideboard packed with Viridian Shamans and Oxidizes (and or Viridian Zealot). The deck is supposedly good versus Goblins because of the fatties (Baloth being the best) plus Pyroclasms and/or Starstorms. It is supposed to be good versus White because you can make a clock with one card while putting the hurt on their mana, hopefully turning off their Temples of the False God.

You know what? In theory, this actually sounds like a very good deck. If I didn’t do any testing for Regionals, I might decide to run this deck. Reality and theory are not always in line. The truth is that the land destruction that you have against the White decks really hurts you against the Goblin decks, and the beasts are too slow to put a decent clock on the White decks. Still, when it all comes together and you get the right draw, the deck performs impressively. The key to making the deck work is to always draw Birds of Paradise, and possibly a Vine Trellis to help out. That will let you start playing your five-mana beasts on turn 3 and winning should be a lot easier from there. You could go for a more Ponza-ish build that would be mono-Red with Chrome Moxen and Slith Firewalkers, but there are too many cheap creatures around these days for Firewalker to get a groove on.

The basic plan of the deck is to accelerate out fatties or slow down your opponent via mana denial… pray they are mana screwed. Once (if) your board develops, you can do all sorts of good things like using Contested Cliffs and activating Arc-Slogger. Basically, if your board ever develops properly, you should win the game, unless you are playing against White and they cast Wrath of God on you. Sometimes you get a really good landkill draw and it is hard for them to recover no matter what they are playing… Pyroclasm will often play a key role in this. I chose Pyroclasm over Starstorm because I believe it to be better. Starstorm is better versus Decree of Justice, but Pyroclasm is better versus the other decks in general; it helps you when you need to be helped most – turns 2 and 3.

The best thing you can get going is Contested Cliffs. This card lets R/G control the board with style. Affinity will cringe at the thought of their creatures getting killed in response to modular. Goblins will cry as their Piledrivers are shot down while their ability is on the stack. Anything with four toughness might as well hop right into the graveyard. The Cliffs is really the backbone of the deck, even though it looks merely like an added bonus. Without it, G/R would not stand a chance without playing loads of instant-based removal.

Here is the deck:

7 Mountain

8 Forest

4 Contested Cliffs

4 Wooded Foothills

2 Plow Under

4 Pyroclasm

4 Molten Rain

4 Stone Rain

4 Creeping Mold

4 Vine Trellis

4 Ravenous Baloth

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Arc-Slogger

4 Molder Slug

Vs. MWC and U/W

R/G has a game plan versus the slow control decks… to blow up their land. Now unlike versus most decks, you do not have to blow up all of their lands. Your goal is to blow up enough land so they can’t do anything very useful. Keeping them on three mana or less is ideal. If you can do this, feel free to put a little pressure on – but don’t overcommit. They will draw out of it and then Wrath. If you can follow up your landkill spree with a Plow Under, it very well could seal the deal. If you can’t keep them off of three mana, at least try to keep them off of six mana since it will avert Akroma’s Vengeance.

This matchup is supposed to be good because of your landkill, but your creatures are so slow and clunky that you really can’t make good use of the time you buy with the landkill. Adding some one-drop or two-drop attackers to the deck might help a lot. Sideboarding in Drooling Ogre might be a good idea. I would stay away from using Flashfires, because the White decks get most of their mana from non-Plains lands anyhow, plus they often have Weathered Wayfarer. Dwarven Blastminer might prove move effective. You should be sure to have some way to deal with Exalted Angel (anything from Wing Snare to Fireball), because it will beat you silly.

Vs. Slide

This is a very similar matchup, but a bit better for you because much of their removal is damage based, and you roll up with a stack full of fatties. Use the same strategies, targeting one color of mana (White is probably better to target). Putting Troll Ascetic in the deck will make this matchup better. I didn’t use it because this is the only matchup where it makes a big difference – all the other decks are too fast for the Troll to really matter. Stabilizer can help, but watch out with your Slugs if you plan to bring this in. Boarding out Slugs for Culling Scales can actually help deal with all the enchantments. If you have Viridian Zealots, Nantuko Vigilante, or Naturalize in the sideboard for Affinity, they can help here as well.

Vs. Goblin-x

This matchup is okay for you, assuming you get the right draw. You can use all the components of your deck (even the landkill to keep them off Bidding mana), but you have to draw them in the right order or it can get ugly. Your greatest weapon is Pyroclasm. It kills everything (minus Goblin Sledder tricks) and buys you the turn or two you need to get an Arc-Slogger or Baloth out and go to town. Goblins have a hard time winning versus big slogs, but they can always sneak a win in by casting Bidding, so watch out for this! Keep them low on Black mana (or mana in general). Getting a Cliffs active is insane – just wait until the end of their turn to use it if at all possible – you never know when they will pull some trick to kill your guy via burn (also note they can make their guys bigger with Sledder).

Vs. Affinity

This matchup always ends in a landslide victory… but not always for the same deck. R/G once again has many tool and options available to hate out Affinity, and but success varies depending on the build. Pyroclasms, Viridian Shamans, Oxidizes, Zealots, you name it, R/G can pack it… not to mention standard artifact hate like Detonate. With enough effort, you can push this matchup very much into your favor. If the metagame was really 50% Affinity like everyone believes, then R/G wouldn’t be such a bad choice to play – but mark my words, not as much Affinity will be around as you might think. The only tricky part to this matchup is deciding to hit lands or non land-artifacts. I say go for the land. It really cripples them, and gives you time to deal with the rest. Use this little trick to determine if you are winning – if a Shrapnel Blast can wreck your game plan, you are not winning. If they can’t afford to Blast you, you are crushing them. I’m not saying that Blast is the key to the matchup or anything, but it’s a good rule of thumb… I will name it the Blast Buffer.

Vs. R/G

The mirror can be very bad for you or good for you. I know that sounds strange, since mirror matchups are supposed to be 50/50-ish, but I can tell you that my build is bad in the mirror since it has no Troll Ascetics. The amount of hate you have will determine how good you are in the mirror. Honestly, the hate will probably get you more wins and you aren’t likely enough to face the mirror to run Trolls, so don’t sweat it.

Vs. Zombies

Zombies is a rough matchup. They have good removal for your expensive creatures, lots of ways to get card advantage and nullify your landkill, and enough cheap spells that they won’t be hurting for mana too much when it matters. If you can get a Contested Cliffs going it will dominate the board, but that is basically your only way to win besides playing out a legion of beasts and just swinging in until your opponent can no longer move. Sideboarding in more creature control like Starstorm can be very helpful for dealing with Rotlung Reanimators, Graveborn Muses, and the like, but watch out for Twisted Abomination… that guy is hard to stop.

Now I know this article isn’t quite as long and intricate as usual, but the deck has a lot to do with it. This is a very straightforward deck, and I have seen some people have success with it. If you are looking to play a deck with few decisions, then this could be your ticket. The only thing that is tricky about the deck is the sideboard – for the first time, R/G has a rather adaptable sideboard for whatever you think the Metagame will be. There is lots of artifact hate and creature sweeping effects, not to mention mana denial. You should basically take it and adapt it for your local metagame.

For most of you, this article is more about what to expect to play around when you are paired vs. R/G, because you don’t want to play with it. For you, I recommend watching out for Starstorm and Pyroclasm. Some builds also use Electrostatic Bolt and Oxidize. There aren’t too many tricks, but they run just enough to make you miserable if you feel like double blocking that beast they keep attacking you with.

Overall, I do not recommend playing this deck. While on paper it looks like a solid beater deck, it falls apart in practice. There just isn’t enough tempo here to make the deck work without cheaper threats. In the end it winds up being a bad version of Ponza.

Until next time, get inside the Metagame.

Nate Heiss

(insert large empty void)

[email protected]