Limited Lessons – Red Deck Wins in Shadowmoor Draft

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Tuesday, June 24th – We’ve all heard of Red Deck Wins… variations on the theme have shaken up formats from Legacy to Block Constructed. In triple Shadowmoor Draft, Nick Eisel believes that such an aggressive archetype is ripe for the big time. With many of the key components going late, this is an archetype that bears close examination…

Before I get started this week, I must say I will definitely have a walkthrough written up for next week. As I write this we are driving home from vacation at Myrtle Beach, and while I did get in a couple of drafts this week, none were really great in terms of walkthrough content. If there’s interest I’ll also be more than willing to do multiple walkthroughs in a row, to compensate for not having done any yet.

For this week, I want to discuss my latest pet archetype in Shadowmoor Limited: the Mono-Red deck. This deck plays a lot like an aggressive BR build, which initially made me hesitant to do another strategy guide for such a similar approach. The difference, of course, is that this deck doesn’t have any Swamps in it, and thus it is a little more focused. Mono-Red is also a lot more concerned with burning someone out, and BR tends to be more concerned on just killing everything the opponent plays.

I’m anxious to see the results from Grand Prix: Indianapolis this weekend, but I have a feeling that Swamps will just as bad there as they have been in our regular drafts. This is all assuming you don’t have Incremental Blight, or can’t splash it with Elsewhere Flasks. [Editor’s Note — Obviously, this article was submitted while the GP was in progress.]

This has become one of my favorite archetypes because you can never truly count it out of a game. The commons in this set are very good at going to the face, and even if you stabilize you have to worry about the Red deck just topdecking that last burn spell and finishing you off. The overall game plan is pretty simple: play lots of small aggressive dorks and then finish the opponent with an avalanche of burn.

Drafting this deck is a lot like drafting the Mill deck, except it’s really hard to go for this and miss. This tends to make the strategy more commonly available, so go for it. Both decks use a lot of commons that aren’t really playable in other strategies, but the Red deck has plenty of choices and won’t just fold if you don’t get enough Drowners or Memory Sluices. This is probably the closest a Limited archetype has ever gotten to Red Deck Wins.

Burn Trail
This is the one deck where I might take this card over Power of Fire. This is assuming that I already know I’m Mono-Red and I also don’t have any Pili-Palas hanging around. Burn Trail is the absolute nuts in this deck, as you should be Conspiring it virtually every time with ease. Killing two guys is great , but quite often I find myself going to the dome for all six points here.

Intimidator Initiate
Sure, there will be other decks like GR or BR that will occasionally take this guy. Most of the time, however, you’ll get him very late, and multiples are just fine as you would ideally want one in play every game. This guy enables you to get a ton of damage through early and then forces the opponent to leave multiple blockers at home giving you even more time to draw into burn spells. He also pumps your turn 2 play, which is usually…

Mudbrawler Cohort
This was one of the initial reasons I started toying with the archetype, and I’ve found that you can never have enough of this guy. I’m not sure what to say except he’s super cheap and should do a good bit of damage or trade with an actual card like Thistledown Duo, since your opponent will be put on D more often than not.

Tattermunge Duo
Huge for the cost, and Forestwalk is essentially irrelevant most of the time anyway. This deck features a bunch of cheap spells which make this guy even more vicious in the early turns.

Poison the Well
I could probably write this whole article focusing on strategy involving this card. Allow me to first cover the basics.

1) This is never a dead card in a deck like Mono-Red, as it will still Shock the opponent on the later turns.
2) Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes this card so you will get it 13th more often than not.
3) Multiples are awesome, but only if you’re on the play and play a guy or two beforehand.
4) The format is very fast, so you’d really rather not have multiples of this in your maindeck as it’s kind of risky.

My basic strategy here is to run one or possibly two of these maindeck (in a less powerful card pool). That way you still have the chance to accidentally just mana-screw somebody in game 1, or the card will be good if you win the die roll. I like having the ability to board up to four copies or more of this in the right matchups. Against slower decks like GR this will be very annoying when you go one-drop, two-drop, kill your land, and they can’t cast any of their large men. When you realize that you can also kill their Devoted Druids/Scuttlemutts with your other removal, you should see how powerful Poison the Well can be.

My overall recommendation would be that it’s fine to maindeck one of these and plan on boarding them in for slower matchups or when you’re on the play. I probably wouldn’t bring them in against UW even if I’m on the play, because I don’t think that’s really going to help much in a matchup where most of their spells are cheap and their deck is aggressive. There are plenty of archetypes that this strategy will absolutely wreck, and it’s important to pay attention during game 1 to decide if you should “move in” or not. There are even some instances against slower decks where it’s fine to just board in the full amount of these when you’re on the draw, because they aren’t going to pressure you enough anyway and they will probably just lose to multiple Poisons.

Smash to Smithereens
Definitely board this in if you see a couple of good targets, as it complements the overall strategy extremely well. Wizards really seems to be pushing burn with the commons in this set. As far as maindecking this goes, I could see it if your deck just didn’t end up so great or you saw a higher than average number of good Scarecrows in the draft (multiple Scuttlemutts comes to mind).

The best part about this card is that it’s cheap and works well with Intimidator Initiate. I’ll usually play one copy of this, but it kinda sucks that you can’t go to the head with it.

Blistering Dieflyn
This is a tricky one to evaluate because it depends what the rest of your deck looks like. I don’t really see a problem running one or two of these, as they are repeated Fireballs every turn if left unanswered. The archetype doesn’t have a ton of late-game options, and this can be a solid solution to that.

Boggart Arsonists
As I was starting to say earlier, when you’re playing against UW they will usually realize that they need to be the defender early in the game and start trading with your guys whenever they’re allowed to block (i.e. a turn you can’t trigger Initiate). This guy is a solid three-drop in any matchup, and he helps in UW because he will serve as a constant source of damage and screw up their plans. If they don’t start attacking instead of focusing on defense, you can just hit them with this and burn them out.

Sootstoke Kindler
This guy is a little less important here than in standard BR, because you don’t usually end up with too many guys that don’t already have Haste. That being said, I’ll definitely play one or possibly more if I got some Scuzzback Marauders or other large men that are in need of Haste.

Blazethorn Scarecrow and Rattleblaze Scarecrow
Both of these are playable in the deck, though the Rattleblaze is by far the better of the two. The extra mana isn’t a huge deal for two more power. Both are still good because they fit the game-plan, and Haste is what you’re looking for.

This card can create an archetype all by itself, although the pieces come together very rarely since the key component is Uncommon. I definitely wouldn’t mind playing this in Mono-Red, since it’s easy to Conspire and acts like a big burn spell. Since it rarely sees play in other decks, this is another card you can expect to get reasonably late.

I didn’t mention Puncture Bolt in this list because it’s pretty obvious that it’s great removal and will help you get some early damage in with your guys. The Hill Giants are also great in this archetype since you can clear the way of “off-color” blockers with removal and make something like Mudbrawler Raiders essentially unblockable against UW. Rustrazor Butcher is also a fine card just because it keeps the pressure on and helps Conspire Burn Trail. He’s also a great target for Power of Fire. Runes of the Deus is another card that can either be excellent or unplayable depending on how many GR guys you’ve drafted. It’s not too shabby on a big Red guy either, as you still get the double-strike.

Any other cards I didn’t mention that you feel are good here, please say so in the forums, but I purposely didn’t cover a lot of the obviously good hybrid cards that I’ve talked about in plenty of other articles in order to keep this specific to Mono-Red (Scuzzback Marauders, for example).

There are some seriously powerful uncommons that can make you want to draft this deck. While this is true for most archetypes, Mono-Red is a bit unique in this regard nonetheless.

Jaws of Stone
The absolute nuts? You betcha.

This card is better than Rolling Thunder ever was, and if you get this early in the draft it’s a perfectly good reason to set your sights on the archetype. It’s nice to not have to draw Elsewhere Flask to get maximum use out of it either.

Beseech the Queen
Got Jaws of Stone? If not, you do now.

I take this over virtually anything once I have a Jaws, as this will essentially act as a second copy. I may run a Manaforge Cinder or two if I draft Beseech, just to allow me to search for something other than my Jaws for less than six mana.

Flame Javelin
I have to mention this because it’s unreal, but I’m also not going to go into detail because if you can’t understand this then you should probably play a different game.

Pyre Charger
Good in basically no other archetypes and pretty solid here. It’s pretty easy to kill, but you can help it get through with Initiate often enough, and it’s still a two-drop that can hit pretty hard.

Ashenmoor Gouger & Boggart Ram-Gang
Both of these are huge for the cost and absolutely amazing in Mono-Red. Pick these very highly if you head down this path.

Spiteflame Witch
It’s usually worth adding a couple of Swamps to your deck for this guy. If nothing else he’s another solid two-drop, but he can help finish the job in the late game at the expense of maybe three Swamps in your manabase. Either that or get some Manaforge Cinders, which are nice because they also power up the Mudbrawler Cohort.

Torrent of Souls
This is another one that could make me run a couple of Swamps, as you can kill someone out of nowhere with it and your dorks usually end up sitting around in the late game and need a way to get through.

I have a few decklist examples for this archetype, but they all look pretty similar so I’ll just list one.

2 Initimidator Initiate
Manaforge Cinder
3 Mudbrawler Cohort
Rustrazor Butcher
Puncture Bolt
Sootstoke Kindler
Power of Fire
Pyre Charger
Tattermunge Duo
Flame Javelin
Boggart Arsonists
Mudbrawler Raiders
Poison the Well
2 Burn Trail
Scuzzback Marauders
Jaws of Stone
Beseech the Queen
16 Mountain

Relevant Sideboard:
3 Poison the Well
Smash to Smithereens

This deck did really well, as I was consistently able to Jaws for six or seven and just finish off any game that was already slightly in my favor. I do want to mention that if you ever open Knollspine Invocation you should instantly go into this deck, as that card is basically game over in a deck that is already planning on burning people out regularly.

See you next week, with a draft walkthrough.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]