One Step Ahead of Kuldotha Red in Standard

Thursday, February 10 – Kuldotha Red edged out Shape Anew in the poll last week, and Gerry, SCG Invitational winner, played it at SCG Open: Indianapolis. Today, he brings you major updates on the deck for SCG Open: DC!

With nearly 1600 votes last week, Kuldotha Red edged out Shape Anew by less than a percentage point. Granted, even with Shape Anew ahead by a
percentage, I was planning on playing K-Red. Tim Bulger, the man of much aggression, is flying to Paris this week, and I wanted to help him test a
potential deck. In addition to that, the deck seemed like the best by far.

It all started at the Prerelease when Jason Ford proxied up a Kuldotha Red list he got from Nick Spagnolo. Nick couldn’t stop singing its
praises, which is strange considering Nick’s affinity for control decks. However, he also speaks highly of any single deck that he’s
currently playing. It’s important to have confidence in any decision you make, but you also need to be realistic, critical, and aware of reality.

Anyway, Julian Booher and I were testing Valakut vs. U/B and B/U/G, neither of which I liked. Valakut was as good as always but felt mediocre. I
imagined that despite getting some new toys, U/B was still going to be roughly the same. It would struggle against most decks game one, as it has a mix
of cards that are good in certain matchups and thus needs to draw the correct cards and typically in the right order. The sideboard games are usually
pretty easy though.

After I got bored of playing games, we were trying to decide what to do. As always, no one could make a decision. I wasn’t quite at the point
where I felt like jumping in and deciding everyone’s festivities for the evening, so in the meantime, I goldfished Jason’s deck.

I vaguely recall questioning Jason’s/Nick’s card choices. “I remember Ornithopter being terrible in this deck when I tried it before.
Signal Pest? Is that a card?”

I was muttering random bits of “wisdom” to no one in particular, but it was quite clear that I wasn’t even close to making any sense.
One other thing was very interesting — I kept goldfishing on turn 3.

“Hmm, I don’t remember old Kuldotha Red being this consistent…” I handed the deck off to Matthias with some thoughts.
“Devastating Summons probably sucks. You also want to cut a Mox. Flayer Husk might be good.”

We headed to a movie (which is far too embarrassing to name), but I kept the deck in the back of my mind. I kept thinking, “Maybe Contested War
Zone puts it over the top…”

I brewed the list for the next couple days, posted my article, and then did further testing with Tbulge. The deck was definitely for real, and I was
not so secretly hoping that it would win the vote. When I saw that it was neck and neck with Shape Anew, a deck that wasn’t very good and
certainly not good against K-Red, I knew what I was going to play.

Conrad Kolos once criticized me for posting my decks before I go to a tournament, as he said that I was giving up too much edge. I disagreed, since
typically, I’m playing a known deck or something where they can at least guess what’s in my deck. I’d rather help the community get
information than further my own personal interests, and helping the community helps me anyway, so I’ve never minded.

I posted my updated list to my blog and watched the fireworks fly.

In the meantime, I talked a bit to Michael Pozsgay and Nick Spagnolo about their list, and Pozsgay attempted to sell me on Devastating Summons. He said
that he casts it for one a lot, but that seemed horrid to me. Surely the card was capable of so much more, and if you were casting it for one, there
were better things you could be doing.

I was wrong. Casting it for one is like a mini-Rebirth, and that is still good enough to make the deck.

On the drive from Minneapolis to Indianapolis, both places I could call “home” at various points in my life, I spoke with Ari Lax, and he
suggested Raid Bombardment. I was willing to play one, if only to test it for Tbulge, but in addition to not being able to find any, Ari later told me
that it wasn’t very good.

The morning of the SCG Open in Indy, it was apparent that I had created a buzz. Within minutes, Contested War Zone was entirely sold out, although they
were still a mere $2 apiece. Meanwhile, Ben Bleiweiss was scouring eBay, scooping up all the cheap copies he could find.

Everyone knew my decklist and my tricks, but I was innovating still. I devised a plan for the mirror that I still consider perfect, and all my friends
put a couple Forked Bolts into the maindeck. Forked Bolt also seemed better than Arc Trail in the sideboard.

Minutes before the tournament, Ari suggested that I add a land to my deck, and if you know me at all, convincing me to add lands doesn’t take
much. Years ago, I developed a theory that most Magic players play at least one too few lands in their control decks. Similarly, when I’m playing
an aggressive deck, I will usually cut a land. When I’m playing control, I want to make every land drop, whereas when I’m attacking, I want
to draw a lot of spells.

In this instance, I wasn’t entirely sure how many lands I really wanted, so I went with Ari’s gut and my past experiences.

After some testing during my bye rounds, the round three pairings finally went up, and I was both excited and nervous. Excited because my deck was new
and awesome, but nervous because I had a lot to live up to.

I tried discussing various splashes with people in order to fight sweepers, but we stuck with Idols and Tuktuks. This is what I registered:

I had the obligatory round-three feature match, this time against WW Quest.

In the first game, his first play was a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, and I killed him on turn 4 through a bunch of blockers. For the second, he had a
Quest, and unlike my match when I was playing Vampires, there was nothing I could even bluff to get me out of it. Argentum Armor isn’t the end of
the world, but my draw was far too poor to keep up.

In the final game, he again had a quick Quest, but I had my miser’s Phyrexian Revoker to shut it off. Kor Firewalker basically shut off my army,
and we settled in for a long, drawn-out game that was eventually won with his fliers. I failed to draw anything noteworthy.

For round four, I was matched up against Jon Medina with an updated U/R Control deck. It looked like he was possibly playing Pyromancer Ascension, but
a quick Inferno Titan told me otherwise. Pyroclasm and Inferno Titan are bad news game one, which led me to believe that I needed some sort of
anti-sweeper maindeck, rather than in the sideboard.

I crushed him game two with Jinxed Idol, but it all fell apart in game three. For game one, I was a little too overzealous and didn’t play around
Pyroclasm, despite him telegraphing it. I just wasn’t sure he had it maindeck, so I decided not to listen to the little DarkestMage inside of me
and was punished for it.

By the time game three rolled around, I was a rock. Discipline was my middle name but possibly even my first. I was content to get in some points here
and there with a previously kicked Goblin Bushwhacker (each time you cast this should be accompanied by a cry of ” BUSHWHACKAAAAAAAH” and should almost never be unkicked).

I snuck in a Jinxed Idol, shipped it over with the aforementioned Bushwhacker, and he responded with a Koth. I cast the Kuldotha Rebirth and Goblin
Bushwhacker I was sandbagging but had some options.

I knew he had Pyroclasm in hand from an earlier Goblin Guide, so my team wasn’t going to get in more than one attack. I had no hand while he had
plenty of cards but only Mountain, Mountain, Island, Tectonic Edge, Tectonic Edge for lands.

He was at eleven, and I could attack him to three; he would go to one from the Jinxed Idol but could give it back with Koth. If I attacked his Koth
(with four loyalty), then he’d be at five, then three, but he would need to draw a creature to give the Idol back. Even then, I was still drawing
incredibly live.

I went with the “get him dead now” plan, assuming I peeled a creature but bricked some draw steps, and that was that. If I attacked Koth,
I’m pretty sure that would put him nearly drawing dead. I punted the match away and was now sitting at 2-2 after my two byes.

I fought back next round, defeating a B/U/G Fauna Shaman deck, but then ran afoul of the mirror in round six. He was on the play in game one and always
had the initiative.

Typically, the mirror is a giant attrition battle. No person is going to get far enough ahead to win early, since all of your cards trade with each
other. However, I was bottlenecked on mana and couldn’t cast my Goblin Wardriver fast enough. Panic Spellbomb snuck through the last few points.

It was fine though. I had the nut sideboard plan for the mirror, cutting Contested War Zones, Signal Pest, and a decent amount of artifacts for the
removal and Tuktuks. Much to his surprise, I put him on the play in game two. With seven two-for-one removal spells, two Sparkmages, and three Tuktuks,
it was unlikely that the game wasn’t going to go late.

Once again, he got ahead but never committed a one-toughness creature that would turn on my Arc Trail. Instead, I was forced to take some beats; Hero
of Oxid Ridge and Panic Spellbomb pushed through more damage, but I stabilized at four life. I made a mistake when I domed him for one instead of
killing my own Tuktuk with Arc Trail, but the game still progressed with me a heavy favorite.

I had one more creature than he did with a Bushwhacker still in hand and with his having zero cards, but five turns later, he had Rebirthed twice and
kicked his own Bushwhacker, and I had twice as many lands as he did.

At 1-3 in matches played, I dropped. I was somewhat sad and disheartened to have done so poorly, but I also suffered from having very strange pairings.
Making game-losing mistakes certainly didn’t help as well.

Ben Hayes and Chr&erson were crushing the tournament, so I felt all right. We can’t all be winners after all. I wasn’t quite down and
out though. I called Tbulge and told him of my experiences and what I thought needed to be changed. Several people helped me discuss strategy and what
I should change and even helped me test out some ideas.

Ben Stark was adamant that K-Red wasn’t a real deck, so I wanted to play a few games against his Valakut deck. I went 10-2 or something similar
in game ones, although I knew he didn’t play any sweepers maindeck. Regardless, if I were to play the deck again, I would be packing some sort of
anti-sweeper card maindeck anyway, so I wouldn’t have been completely kold to them.

Jinxed Idol, Dark Tutelage, and Stoneforge Mystic are the candidates in the running for my anti-sweeper of choice. Right now, I like a combination of
Idol and Tutelage in the 75 but could definitely see trying out other things.

This is what I’d play if I could do it again:

So what’s different?

Peace Out, Goblin Guide!

You stink in this deck. As Kibler explained in my forums last week, “To be fair, the power of Goblin Guide is contextual. If your deck is full of
burn spells, getting in 4-6 damage with one card dramatically cuts down on the number of cards required to kill your opponent. Goblin Guide in a deck
that is built around assembling a critical mass of creatures is less of a threat, because creatures are more easily dealt with than burn by most

I agree completely. Last week, I wrote that the Goblin Guide starts were the worst for the deck, and that was true. At times, the Goblin Guide hands
were incapable of winning at all. Whenever I would draw one, it was almost a mulligan. While it’s a “good” card, nothing is sacred.

Flayer Husk definitely isn’t great, but it’s most likely better than Goblin Guide. It has more synergy with the rest of the deck, and once
your Pest is dead, you can equip your Wardriver and safely attack through their 2/2. A random blocker holding back your team is something that can
happen, but having an equipment can allow you to break the stall.

The Addition of Black

While Tuktuk was just adorable, and at times unbeatable, there are enough ways around it for it to be a consistent sideboard card. Having Tuktuk facing
down a Ratchet Bomb is always awkward. You have to overextend in order for them to blow up the Bomb; otherwise you risk them simply Disfiguring Tuktuk
and Bomb-ing your token.

Rather than just say, “This deck loses to Ratchet Bomb and other sweepers; I’m not going to play it,” you should think about how the
deck is good against anything and everything else. Therefore, you should work on fixing the deck exactly because of how good it is against the rest of
the field.

The options that I’ve found are going big to ignore things like Ratchet Bomb and Pyroclasm or having something that dodges them like Koth of the
Hammer, Molten-Tail Masticore, or Chimeric Mass. Splashing Stoneforge Mystic to grab equipment is another option. I tried Bonehoard on its own, but
when you lead with Rebirth and that gets dealt with, your Bonehoard isn’t impressive.

Other splashes include green for Beastmaster Ascension or black for Dark Tutelage. Having some sort of engine seems like the best way to fight sweepers
and of those, Dark Tutelage seems best. Beastmaster or equipment isn’t any good when all of your guys are dead.

Go for the Throat is a nice little card that kills Vampire Nighthawk, arguably the worst creature for the deck. Answering Grave Titan is a nice bonus.
Playing more than one is asking for trouble. If you ever draw two, it messes with your draw too much; therefore, the correct number is one.

Sweeper Hate Maindeck

Jinxed Idol is good against most decks, or at least better than you’d think. When you’re up on creatures, something like five to three, but
can’t attack because their guys are bigger, trading creatures via Jinxed Idol turns into a solid plan. Obviously a “real” card would be
better, but Jinxed Idol isn’t quite dead. It still turns on Mox Opal and can be sacrificed to Kuldotha Rebirth.


Most of the questions about the deck involve sideboarding, but nothing is set in stone. Against sweepers, I’ve been cutting some amount of
creatures that just die to it, while being careful not to lower my artifact count too much.

Mark of Mutiny is for Primeval Titan and, if resolved, should be enough to kill them. If you still come up short, can you imagine if you had the
Mark/Jinxed Idol combo? Oh my…

The mirror is the interesting part. As I said earlier, you end up wanting to side out a lot of cards and becoming more of a control deck. This time, I
have some lands to board in for the War Zones if you are so inclined. Although it’s all about attrition, I’m not sure if you want to side
in Tutelage and play first, side in Tutelage and draw first, or just draw first.

I wish I could redo the weeks leading up to the tournament. In this case, Conrad was right. I shouldn’t post the list of the glass cannon deck
I’m planning on playing. Any other time, it seems fine for me to post it, but this time made a huge difference.

If I were going to Paris, I would play Valakut but only because I had to watch myself play Kuldotha Red rather poorly. I know Valakut well, am
comfortable with it, and my ringer friends (Brandon Nelson, Drew Levin, Julian Booher, Christian Valenti) all seemed to be doing well with it.

Either way, I’m excited to see what new decks pop up at Pro Tour Paris. Hopefully, Kuldotha Red makes its mark!