Of Monsters And Magic

Brennan DeCandio had an excellent weekend at SCG Dallas, but he’s not done yet! He’s hitting the road to SCG Philly! Here, he goes over his explosive Monsters deck and if he’d have the courage to run it back!

Last weekend in Dallas we got our first look at what new Standard looks
like and boy was it a refreshing take from what we’ve been seeing the past
several months! We saw Mono-Red Aggro assert its dominance much like was
expected as well, as an old favorite in Mardu Vehicles made a comeback
showing that it’s truly great to be aggressive week one of a new format.

Hazoret the Fervent is truly the defining card of this early metagame we
find ourselves in, as it’s the premier finisher for both Mardu Vehicles and
Mono-Red. The banning of Ramunap Ruins might have seemed to be a death note
to the deck, but those who were paying attention to the online 5-0
decklists surely had noted that it was a mere flesh wound to the beast that
is red in this format. Since the loss of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Mardu
Vehicles has gone from this midrange/control transformational plan in the
sideboard to just packing Hazoret the Fervent and utilizing the powerful
punch that Heart of Kiran packs to really punish an opponent who stumbles.

Some of you are like me and don’t like jumping on board to the most
aggressive thing possible and want to play with some new and exciting
cards! That happens to be exactly what I did this past weekend in Dallas to
a respectable 10-4-1 personal record with G/R Monsters.

Right before the event I was highly skeptical about playing this deck
because I was in control of not just my own fate but that of my teammates
for the event: The Tannon Grace and Harlan Firer. The deck was
largely untested and despite getting in about twenty matches or so on Magic
Online leading up to the event, I did note some holes in the deck as far as
how it attacked certain matchups. One thing of note I was most concerned
with is the lack of answers to the previously mentioned Hazoret the
Fervent, which the G/R color combination just doesn’t have access to. My
main way of dealing with it is using Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer to
race it in the air. While that sounds great in theory, Mono-Red doesn’t
always give you the time to set up an early defense to get a race even

Despite my concern, the matchup isn’t as bad as it might seem because
you’re really only under the gun if they have an ideal draw on the play. I
was 3-1 against aggressive red strategies over the weekend, but
unfortunately one of those losses was for a win and in to the top 8.

The real determinant for me this weekend that encouraged me to register the
75 that I did came from fellow Team BCW member Jim Davis, who said, “Worst
case scenario you’re just playing a bunch of insanely powerful threats.”
From there, I wrote out my decklist and slept soundly. He’s right; the
worst I was doing here is playing some of the best power to cost creatures
in the format and topping my curve with Glorybringer, who’s never been bad.
While this deck isn’t as all in on aggression as the previously mentioned
Mardu Vehicles and Mono-Red, it does have the resiliency that they don’t
with cards like Jadelight Ranger and Scrapheap Scrounger to help grind out
a later game.

So where do we go from here? We’ve established that Hazoret the Fervent is
a problem for this deck, and while I’d like to say that we can easily point
to a card that exists in the sets we have access to that we can play
outside of Hour of Devastation, there really isn’t one that deals with the
problematic God from Amonkhet. While we could
venture into another color for cards like Hour of Glory or Cast Out to help
answer such cards, one answer already exists.

The old saying, “If you can’t beat em, join em!” is one expression I’d say
makes a lot of sense here. Hazoret the Fervent is a card I was already
considering for the deck prior to SCG Dallas, but wasn’t sure it was the
right fit for the deck. With the rise of Mono-Red and Hazoret the Fervent
in particular, why not just throw it into an already aggressive deck that
could use more hard to deal with threats and late game mana sinks? While
we’re certainly not able to turn Hazoret the Fervent on as an attacker as
consistently as some of the other aggressive decks, we are able to make use
of extra mana and extra cards to pitch to ultimately cross the finish line
with Hazoret’s ability to chuck cards at your opponent’s face. We’ll be
taking advantage of the fact that Hazoret the Fervent turns Rhonas the
Indomitable on all the time and when able to block itself, does a pretty
good job at fighting opposing Hazorets while allowing you to race in the

The other notable sideboard change is removing Chandra’s Defeat as a whole
here despite red being one of your more challenging matchups. You’ll find
that the most annoying red creature to deal with is, in fact, Bomat Courier
which isn’t a red card at all and steals more games than most cards in the
deck. The replacement is a card that I figured would have more of an impact
on green sideboards when Ixalan first was released since it lines
up so well against a great deal of Mono-Red and Mardu Vehicles threats.

While not able to interact with Hazoret the Fervent in any real meaningful
manner, being able to pick off Bomat Courier, Fanatical Firebrand, as well
as Toolcraft Exemplar and Veteran Motorist, Atzocan Archer functions as
both removal and a road block all in one. The problem with a card like
Deathgorge Scavenger is despite the fact that you’re gaining life, you’re
not playing against a deck like Burn in Modern where gaining two points at
a time is negating several of the cards in their hand. Mono-Red is coming
at you turn after turn with efficient creatures and hitting really hard.
Overall I wouldn’t be surprised to see a massive uptick in Atzocan Archer
as a sideboard card going forward for decks wanting help fighting the
Mono-Red matchup.

One card that’s slowly been taking the back seat in this deck is Ghalta,
Primal Hunger. It’s been a favorite of mine since the set’s release, but
the fact is, it’s not resilient enough to merit a spot in a deck like this
that really can’t have cards clogged in its hand. Over the course of the
weekend, I cast it twice: once a Ravenous Chupacabra ate it for lunch, and
the other time it was swept up in a Fumigate. While most cards will fall
into this category of creatures, they often don’t rot in your hand for all
too long prior.

The card whose praises I can’t sing enough about is Rekindling Phoenix. It
literally does everything for this deck and demands multiple answers to be
taken off the battlefield for good. I wouldn’t be shocked if it didn’t find
a home in several other decks that are looking for an evasive resilient
threat to have on turn 4, like the Grixis Energy decks that have been
popping up here and there.

While the appeal of Torrential Gearhulk is something I fully support, I
wouldn’t be opposed to making the deck a bit more aggressive and adding my
new favorite four-drop to the mix, giving the deck the midrange punch it
needs over some of the clunky blue cards that don’t really help against the
other aggressive decks in the format.

This approach to the deck takes you much less on the reactive side, cutting
cards like Glimmer of Genius and Supreme Will and replacing them with
Rekindling Phoenix and Dire Fleet Daredevil, which are much more effective
fighting the good fight while offering value against removal from opponents
or those silly enough to still sleeve up Ravenous Chupacabra.

I could see myself putting four Vraska’s Contempt in this deck. Lets take a
look at this card’s history, shall we? It was born into a format defined by
Longtusk Cub, Rogue Refiner, and Bristling Hydra where it’s too expensive
to really get you ahead of a Longtusk Cub, card disadvantage against a
Rogue Refiner, and unless you’re really lucky, you can never touch a
Bristling Hydra. Playing the G/R Monsters deck there was no card (aside
from Settle the Wreckage) I wanted to sit across from less. It’s an answer
to practically everything and gains you some life.

While I’m not a crazy person and wouldn’t go as far as to build a U/B
Control deck in this metagame where my goal is to Torrential Gearhulk back
a Vraska’s Contempt a bunch of times and hold up counterspells while doing
so, the Grixis Midrange decks do a great U/B Control impression when
casting Torrential Gearhulk while not durdling around in the early game and
getting run over.

Scraphead Scrounger is on the way up, so we should expect more Magma Sprays
. The little 3/2 that could is no joke when it comes to the beatdowns, and
having an answer to it when your goal isn’t to be even more aggressive is
something to concern yourself with this weekend in the Standard portion of
SCG Philly. Dire Fleet Daredevil is another card I fully expect to see a
ton of, since in general, cards in people’s decks are good against
themselves! Mono-Red plays Shock, Abrade, and Lightning Strike, all of
which are fantastic against Mono-Red. Now attach that to a 2/1 first strike
body, which demands an answer. Where its eventual home will be is still
unclear, but Grixis decks have longed for another playable two-drop
creature. This might just be it!

I have only just begun to explore this amazing new Standard format and am
looking forward to getting another crack at it this weekend in Philadelphia
with my teammates, The Tannon Grace and Caleb Durward. Here’s
hoping I get to see even more awesome new decks this weekend, and hopefully
figure something out to bring to the brand new meta we’re still getting a
grasp on.