Peebles Primers — Wrath Decks in Lorwyn Standard

States is coming!
If you haven’t noticed, Lorwyn is a block about creatures. You know what’s really good in a format where a whole ton of creatures just appeared? Wrath of God. Damnation. Molten Disaster. Today’s Peebles Primers takes a look at some of the more entertaining directions such a strategy may take for Champs, and throws up a slew of interesting decklists and ideas. If you’re looking for an edge on the Standard competition, look no further!

At CMU, the time between the prerelease and street release for a new set is usually filled with drafting; multiple players win boxes in the main event, and multiple players win prizes in sanctioned drafts and flights. This year, things didn’t go quite as well as they usually do. With only about four boxes worth of product between eight of us, we’ve only been able to do a handful of drafts, as opposed to the usual mass.

In the absence of continuous booster drafts, I have been working closely with friend, teammate, and one-time roommate Steve Nagy to attempt to solve the upcoming Standard format in time for Champs. We’ve tried the old and the new, and the findings have been somewhere between the expected and the dreaded.

If you haven’t noticed, Lorwyn is a block about creatures. You know what’s really good in a format where a whole ton of creatures just appeared? Wrath of God. Damnation. Molten Disaster. When we stopped making the White, Green/White, Blue/White, Green/Red, and Green/Black creature decks, we turned to the Wrath decks. The one that I fell in love with was nearly Mono-Black, “splashing” for Molten Disaster and a few sideboard cards.

This was where the brainstorming started. The idea here was that you would control the board better than any other deck, which shouldn’t be hard when you’re sporting seven sweepers, ten spot-removal spells, and two Fireballs. Without Phyrexian Arena, we used Graveborn Muse to help make headway in the card advantage department, and it often comboed with Korlash to draw quite a few extras off the top.

However, it had some glaring problems. First up, this list sports eight cards that are heavily Swamp-reliant, and yet there are only nine Swamps and three Urborgs. Without the power of Careful Consideration or the tutoring of Tolaria West, there’s just no guarantee that you’ll have the Urborg you’ll need to power your spells up. Without Urborg, Korlash is almost irrelevant (unless you can Grandeur him) before turn 6, and Tendrils is clunky at best. At the same time, the deck against which you most want Tendrils (Red/Green Aggro) is the deck against which Tendrils is at its worst, due to Greater Gargadon.

Meanwhile, Thoughtseize was great against control decks as a way to make sure that your Muse would stick, but so mind-bendingly bad against Aggro decks that it became clear that it was time to kick it to the sideboard. Similarly, Profane Command was everything you want a Fireball to be, and more, against the counter-light Teachings control decks, but it was so unwieldy against aggressive decks that it often floundered in your hand while you died. Finally, all of the artifacts meant that the deck was simply drowning in its own mana, a problem against all flavors of decks.

So, after our first round of testing, we moved to:

Sideboard Options
x Detritivore
x Haunting Hymn
x Slay
x Thoughtseize

The first thing that you’ll notice is the move away from Urborg. No Urborg means no Korlash and no Tendrils, but the replacements played far better than the originals ever did. Plague Sliver might be slightly more painful than Korlash, but you don’t need to worry about your lands to have a 5/5 on turn 3, and that’s often all you need against an aggressive deck. However, without the life-gain from Tendrils of Corruption, we needed a way to keep our head above water against decks with burn spells. Enter Loxodon Warhammer. The Hammer is in no way new technology, but it does what it does very well. Toss it on a Sliver or Tombstalker, and there won’t be much standing in between you and victory. The card is even good against control, where it can turn Urza’s Factory from a legitimate attrition threat into a fast game-winner and trample over Sacred Mesa tokens. I also bumped up the number of Tombstalkers, both because they’re the best blocker in the deck and because I wanted more men with which to swing.

The Soots that replaced Tendrils (in terms of use) are also often more powerful than the original. Against slower draws, you can easily play it and flash it back, and they’re four more outs to Gaddock Teeg, man of the hour. This version of the deck ran much more smoothly, and had much more power than the original, simply because it was more streamlined.

However, we ended up ultimately scrapping the deck. It was in the 40/60 range against Red/Green Aggro, the 35/65 range against Teachings Control, and the 70/30 range against non-Red Aggro, but our assumption is that the two decks it lost two would be the two most-played decks. The final consensus was that the deck was not good enough, though it always felt like it was right on the edge of being amazing; sideboarding greatly improved your odds against Teachings decks, so only the mediocre numbers against Red/Green were holding it back. Part of me wishes that this deck had made it through testing with a better record; it’s fun to play and clearly very powerful. It feels as though it’s simply one good card away from being a very serious contender.

The good news was that it taught us what we wanted our decks to do. We wanted our Aggro decks to be able to come out fast, go over or through a fatty wall, and have something to follow a Wrath. Gargadon wasn’t always an option for the Wrath protection, since a Split Second Disaster will stop you from eating your Fanatics, War Marshals, and so on. We wanted our Control decks to find a plan and execute it. You needed to be able to get to the point where you had the mana to operate your deck, and then you needed to be able to stabilize and refill. Awkward mana draws meant that you were swarmed over before you had a chance to do anything; even if you got that Damnation off, the Incinerates that followed it would do you in before you could find your feet.

Going in to testing, our “stock” Red/Green list looked like this:

This decklist was taken from the pages of the MiseTings forums; when it comes time to make gauntlet lists, Internet forums are the place to start. The core creatures and spells are unchanged from the days of Ravnica, though the loss of Char is one that will be felt for some time. Tarfire is obviously great with Tarmogoyf, and the high number of cheap spells meant that the Magus came online very often.

The weakest spells in the deck were the Might of Old Krosas, and the manabase wasn’t pretty either. We re-worked it to include Keldon Megaliths, both because they’re amazingly strong against Control decks and because they’re an out to Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender. We also turned it away from its apparent Green-heaviness and more towards Red; after all, there are only four Green spells in the deck.

We also replaced the Mights with a brainstorm payoff: Inner-Flame Acolyte. We found that we wanted a real threat to play after a sweeper took out our early plays, and a 4/2 haste was just what we were looking for. However, the real key to the Acolyte is the Evoke play. With Tarmogoyf, you’re often giving an effective +3/+1 and Haste, and with Keldon Marauders you’re turning one mana into five damage. It’s a great way to increase the explosiveness of the deck without hurting its consistency or game-plan.

For the sideboard, we’ve been thinking about various possibilities. Magus of the Moon is an obvious one, while Fortune Thief could easily break the back of any Gaddock Teeg deck. Sulfur Elemental comes to mind when you think about good cards against a White-Weenie based deck, but the real reason I think it deserves board space is Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender. This innocuous little guy can be responsible for a huge amount of losses, as it holds off essentially your whole deck and then eventually picks up a Griffin Guide (or similar) and swings for the fences. In one game that we played, the Green/White deck had its whole board tapped, except for a Saffi, after a pre-alpha designed to kill off the Red/Green deck’s mass of War Marshal tokens. When a slew of burn spells, Acolytes, and sacked lands put the GW deck in a tight spot, Saffi simply targeted the Forge-Tender. The Tender then sacrificed itself to prevent four points of Acolyte damage and make a Griffin, the now-untapped Forge-Tender and the Griffin token blocked two incoming Tarmogoyfs, and then the Forge-Tender sacrificed itself again to prevent nine Gargadon points. Worry about this card.

We also started changing our Blue/Black control ideas. We started out with Steve Sadin Wydwen Teachings deck, but eventually moved away from the Teachings engine and towards a more proactive version of the deck. I worked on it on my own, from a different direction (a newer version of the Black Disaster deck), and Steve worked on it on his own, as an update to Steve Sadin update to Conrad Kolos’s Nationals deck.

The differences between our eventual list and Sadin’s come mainly in how proactive we wanted the deck. The only real cuts were Thoughtseize and one Trickery, for which we added an additional Tombstalker and Consideration, as well as three Slaughter Pacts. The Pacts give you more ways to defeat Gaddock Teeg, who is extremely potent against this particular build of Blue/Black Control. The reason that we cut Thoughtseize from this deck is the same as the reason we cut it from the Mono-Black deck: it’s just too bad against aggressive decks.

It is possible that you don’t want to actually replace Cancels with Trickeries; Cancel can stop Changeling spells. On the other hand, the Trickery actually stops any Haakon tricks your opponent might try, and it can’t be countered by itself (which can be good or bad, depending on what end of the exchange you’re on). Steve thinks that we should continue to trim the three-mana counterspells; they’re relatively awkward to cast when you’re using Mind Stone to get from two mana to four mana.

I am sure that new gems from Lorwyn will find their way into decks like the Red/Green Aggro list above, and I’m hopeful that we’ll locate an entirely new deck that’s competitive. The only thing like this that I’ve come across so far is the infinite life deck (Soul Warden or Essence Warden plus three looping Champion creatures gives you infinite life, and Harbingers work well with Champions to find you all three to go off), but I’m sure it’s out there. Hopefully these decks and thoughts line up with what you may have found on your own, and if they don’t, then hopefully they’ve at least given you something to think about.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM