Ya know, it seems like I could write this article every year for Regionals and States and it would be true at least 75% of the time: The large standard tournaments always seem to herald the arrival of a Red/Green speed deck that is built to decimate bad draws and control decks. Not only that, but every year those decks seem to perform very well at Regionals (for whatever reason), always making them one of the”decks to beat.”
The question I hope to answer today is”How exactly do you beat them?”
Looking at the problem, the blame this time rests squarely on the shoulders of one Kai”Das ist ein Butcher Orgg” Budde. Like mythical Atlas, he shrugged over on The Sideboard and for better or worse, we were left to pick up the pieces of a newly-jumbled metagame. No other Magic writer on the planet is as influential as Kai, and for good reason: Nobody else wins as much as Kai. When people with billions of dollars talk to you about the stock market, smart folks listen closely because it’s just possible they may have some wisdom to impart to your lowly ears. The same is true for Kai and the game of Magic.
That said, if Kai is touting a new deck, experience has shown that you should put some serious thought and playtesting into that deck before choosing to run it at a big tournament. Why, you ask? Because it was designed by Kai Budde, of course. Picking up a Kai-designed control deck and attempting to play it is a slightly less intimidating proposition than trying to run Turboland, but most folks who do either of those activities will have the same results. Where Kai (or Zvi) can’t seem to lose with the deck, you just won’t be able to win with it.
The reason for that has to do with something my group (who they are I don’t know, but it sounds more official and less arrogant if you work in a group instead of by yourself…) refers to as”margin of error.” Margin of error is simply defined as,”how many mistakes you can afford to make with a deck and still be able to win.” With decks like Sligh or U/G Madness, the margin for error is relatively high, as your opponents will either be able to deal with your onslaught or they won’t, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to help your chances. You simply lay on the beats, apply the burn, and hope you don’t run out of pressure before your opponent can stabilize.
On the flip side, a Kai-designed control deck frequently has very little margin of error for the average player (Kai may think they have a great deal of margin for error in his hands, but he’s Kai and therefore represents wormsign the likes of which God has never seen), so unless you are capable of playing flawlessly or you put in a very large amount of practice with said deck, you will probably have a very difficult time winning. This is the type of deck that is said to offer you a lot of opportunities to”outplay your opponent,” but unless you know the deck quite well and happen to be a good player, you probably won’t be able to outplay anybody with it.
However, a Kai-designed aggro deck is a horse of an entirely different color, and I just said so. Kai aggro decks have big, voluminous margins (think Marco Blume’s pants) of error that allow you to come back from almost anywhere to win games. The beats start early, they accelerate quickly, and by the time your opponent has stabilized the ground they are probably in burn range and live in fear that every spell you pull from the top of your deck will be the final two points of damage you needed to finish them off. That’s not to say that Kai’s R/G build doesn’t offer you the opportunity to outplay your opponent as well – it does – but it features many fewer decisions that have to be correct in order to win than Budde-Wake, making it a deck that is easier to play and easier to win with (dangle).
For those who need a refresher course as to exactly what I’m talking about (and if you do, then where have you been?), here’s the decklist.
Let’s face it, R/G in its current incarnation is a menace, and it will be everywhere at Regionals. IT. MUST. BE. STOPPED!
Actually that was just me being overdramatic, but the idea has merit. Exactly what do you have to do in order to stop R/G?
Well, for starters you can play Astral Slide. This single card (plus some cyclers) blunts a good portion of R/G’s effectiveness. Look at it this way… having an Astral Slide on the table makes Call of the Herd and Elephant Guide dead cards. As soon as you make those eight cards dead, you take the deck and turn it from a very solid aggressive deck into a bad Frog-in-a-Blender build (Translation: something that will definitely not be winning Regionals). This should drastically improve your chances of defeating this deck. In fact, the prominence of R/G in the Regionals metagame is likely to result in a resurgence for W/R AstroGlide decks. That’s a fancy way of saying in a Rock, Paper, Scissors world, when R/G pushes Tog to the side of the metagame, AstroGlide gets seen through beer goggles and looks a lot better than she did after the Chicago Masters.
Ah, lube and beer goggles… Where would my articles be without them?
The second item on my list that really causes problems for Kai’s R/G deck is Smother. I was playtesting with James”Slacker” Bean (who might even have a new article to post this week) over the last week, and it seemed like every damned time that I played an Elephant Guide on a Wild Mongrel it got Smothered. In case you haven’t looked too closely at the decklist, every single creature in Kai’s deck can be Smothered, meaning there are always an abundance of targets for you to crush. However, a smart player will typically want to wait until you can get a two-for-one card advantage by Smothering a creature when they try to cast Elephant Guide on one of their creatures. Doing this slows down their engine of fast beats and can drastically improve your board position.
Unfortunately most Black decks we’ve tested that run a lot of creatures simply lose to R/G. Therefore if you want to run Smother, you are left with a choice of Mono-Black Control, Tog, or something else entirely (though not that decklist, as it isn’t very tuned). Good versions of at least two-thirds of those decks exist in our database, but reports of their success against R/G vary widely.
Option number three in the”Red/Green Menace Survival Guide” is to play lots of fat, and play it fast. The best possible option for that idea right now resides in the W/G realm, whether it be in the”Beasts” form from France (and originally attributed to J. Gary Wisenheimer) or the”W/G Beats” deck that qualified Lukas Rohland in Brandenberg, Germany.
These decks seem to handle other aggro decks with relative ease while providing enough pressure to keep Control decks honest as well. You’ll also notice a conspicuous absence of discussion about the Beasts deck lately, which could mean that people want to play that deck at Regionals and therefore are not talking about it much now in an effort to keep it on the downlow. Anyway, a simple rule against R/G for either of these decks is that if you get Exalted Angel or Ravenous Baloth on the board and it lives a single turn, you can usually expect to win.
Option number four in the Survival Guide is to revert to form and play U/G Madness. If I were going to play that deck, I’d play Cunningham’s version so that I could be assured of getting my 6/6 flyers every game. R/G cannot deal with multiple 6/6 kids on a regular basis, so unless they get a lightning start, U/G still stands a good chance of winning due to the fact that Wonder continues to make blocking completely pretty much impossible. Games 2 and 3 are pretty dependent on whether U/G draws enough answers to Ensnaring Bridge to win.
That’s all for now, as I just wanted to take a quick look at what options you have available to you to try and beat what will most assuredly be the most played deck at Regionals. Next time (and I promise this is true),”The Gauntlet.”
The Holy Knut
“I want ’em to love me like they love Pop”