Perilous Game Day

As you regular readers know, Matt has been messing with card choices in Mono-Red Aggro. Today, he’s decided to shift his focus to hardcore control! Sometimes, you just feel like blowing everything up!

Red seems to be the color du jour, and I’m pretty excited about that.

It’s been a long time since a goblin deck got the attention of the Standard metagame, but it’s got a grapple hold on it now; everyone’s looking to Red for
the answers to the plagues of devotion.

Last week
, I highlighted my own version of the popular Mono-Red Aggro strategy, and this week I took it to Game Day to prove or invalidate my hypothesis about the
deck’s potential. Hammerhand and Thunderous Might may not be Lightning Strike or Legion Loyalist, but they’ve gotta be decent enough to keep the theme
going into the fall, don’t they?

After a few minor adjustments, the list looked like this.

I was certain, down to the last slot, that this was the best configuration of red cards I could muster, but I was still nervous about my tough matchups.
Nevertheless, my hands were getting hot.

Game 1 – Mono-Black Devotion (2-0)

Round 2 – Mono-Blue Devotion (2-1)

Round 3 – Mono-Green Devotion (0-2)

Round 4 – Mono-Blue Devotion (1-2)

Total Record: 2-2

Well, that’s not super. What went wrong? Determining what went wrong consisted of three factual realizations.

Fact 1: Mono-Blue Devotion is pretty tough

I used to think that Mono-Black Devotion was the best deck in the format; I still think it’s probably objectively the best list, but Mono-Blue is no joke.
Although I clinched round 2, we proceeded to play several games after that, and I couldn’t snag a single win. The second time I fought the list, I couldn’t
get past a couple Nightveil Specters and on-time Tidebinder Mages. Deck’s a real solid choice.

Fact 2: Green stops you dead

I built the list with the idea that I could either win or get so far ahead on damage that I’d have basically won by the time my opponent jammed a real
threat, e.g. Polukranos, World Eater. The problem is that it was still fairly difficult to sneak around Burning-Tree Emissary and Courser of Kruphix
profitably. I needed way more than four Hammerhands.

Fact 3: The deck has trouble reaching

This list, and potentially other red lists that don’t play a set of direct damage, are pretty much dead if they haven’t gotten your opponent below ten life
by turn 3 or 4. Any longer than that and they’ll be putting enough pressure on you to make you think twice before attacking.

More serious, sideboarded playtesting revealed the weaker cards in the deck which, thankfully, weren’t my deviations. Firedrinker Satyr was by far the
worst choice. Its only place is against Mono-Black Devotion or U/W Control; it looks pretty terrible when you need to attack through a Thassa, God of the
Sea or block a Nylea, God of the Hunt. I was never happy with it, and after opting to switch back to a familiar choice, Satyr Hoplite, further playtesting
revealed it was a much better choice.

Even though Game Day was not as fiscally successful as I had hoped, we all earned a promo copy of Reclamation Sage, and our particular shop also provided a
complimentary pack of M15 to soften the blow of defeat. I used it to Pack War with my first-round opponent and found my rare at the very bottom of the

Oblivion Stone is back. Time to slow tthhinggs doooowwwwnnnnnnn…

Perilous Vault provides a true sweeper worthy of the strictest Commander lists, but it also provides a reliable sweeper for Standard too. Naturally, any
deck that uses it would be very, very slow and rely on non-permanent spells to effect its plan. This proved to be a challenging prospect given
today’s environment, but the challenge might surely pay off in the end.

A collection of several kinds of sweepers might be the best plan, and here was my initial list, brewed while M15 previews were still fresh in our mind.

This list provides depth, variety, and robustness, potentially providing an out for every situation. Hand and board manipulation to the nth degree, and
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and nearly a full complement of temples could keep it consistent enough.

As I tested this list to share with everyone, it proved itself to be, to say the least, clunky. Hands like this were typical and rightly unkeepable.

Fated Retribution Sign in Blood Mutavault Sacred Foundry Temple of Triumph Corrupt Celestial Flare

Bearing in mind this weekend’s demonstration of the metagame, this deck was too shaky. Lots of games involved flooding on two colors of mana, lacking the
third, and blocking with Mutavaults before I met an embarrassing demise. I realized that today’s Standard environment is pretty underpowered compared to
Standard formats in the past few years; formats that contained Eternal staples like Delver of Secrets, Liliana of the Veil, Stoneforge Mystic, and
Tarmogoyf. Only a handful of cards from our current Standard have made the big leap; they make up for this lower power level with consistency. Depending on
where Khans of Tarkir takes us, this could remain the norm.

Tangent: this list was dead on arrival. Perilous Vault was one of my better cards, so let’s take the consistency of non-shard mana to explore where we can
take this colorless sweeper. White was the weakest color in this list, and I didn’t like the spell-based finishers it offered anyway. Black seems
reasonable but potentially too obvious and linear. Thirty removal spells, four Corrupt, etc. What’s a wacky way to open up the Vault?

Our lady in leafy armor provides the unique interaction of casting her, untapping four Forests, and casting the Vault. Your opponent now has two things to
worry about, and what they go after depends on their plan. If you need to sweep the board, any 4/4 Elementals she constructs won’t get locked away.

Green provides the necessary ramp, a unique retinue of spells, and the right finishers to make things spicy. Mono-Green control has always been a favorite
archetype of mine, after all.


I tried to make a green deck without creatures, and I just couldn’t stick to my guns. Nevertheless, these creatures pull their weight in the defensive
department, and there’s even a couple on top to finish the job.

Hornet Nest was arguably one of the tougher rares to fight in Sealed, and my thought is, if it’s a bear for even the best Sealed decks, it probably has a
corner use in Standard. Block their beefiest dude and then chuckle as your opponent struggles to discover a profitable attack. It deserves some respect, to
say the least.

Wall of Mulch is another attack-stuffer; when it’s time to open the Vault, just crack it for a card and watch as the rest of the world gets shuttered. The
deck should have had a name like Green Eggs and Wham or something. Hmm…

Hornet Queen is the top end; five deathtouch blockers or six flying power can all do the jobs well in much the same way that the spell Howl of the Night
Pack can. If you have all Forests, Howl provides fourteen power at minimum, but it lacks evasion. Sometimes less is more, but I’ll let you be the judge of
that. Scuttling Doom Engine is another finisher, and it interacts with the Trading Posts found below.


In a deck where we want to commit as little to the board as possible, Font of Fertility solves the mana ramp problem. I wish we had Rampant Growth these
days (or Nature’s Lore, if we’re dreaming), but Font of Fertility is the next best thing. We could easily splash a color with this, if we decide to come
back later and tweak.

Fog is a weird, but essential part of this plan. Consistent land drops mean Fog is a Time Walk against aggro decks, and you shouldn’t underestimate the
power of a card with that kind of swing. It’s strictly bad card advantage, sure, but if you stick a Perilous Vault on turn 4 with a Forest available,
you’re gonna unlock that Vault worry-free the next turn.

Bramblecrush has been one of my absolute favorite utility spells since Innistrad. The flavor is great, the color pie isn’t violated, and you can even do it
off Nissa’s “untap four Forest” ability for maximum efficiency.


Nissa, Worldwaker has proven herself as one of the premier planeswalkers in the format; she has the powerful ability to ramp in ways Xenagos, the Reveler
only dreams of ramping, and her ability to create a tough-to-target 4/4 Elemental on command is invaluable in the late game. Play the full four.

Similarly, I like a full boat of Perilous Vault. They aren’t bad in multiples, just slow; you can’t front-load a couple. Trading Post provides some
artifact synergy and some staying power in the form of lifegain and 0/1 Goat blockers. Never underestimate the Post!


22 Forests don’t lie; this is a Nissa deck, through and through. Consistency is key, and you almost always want to untap four Forests after landing her.
Darksteel Citadels interact with Trading Post, of course, and they are the most appealing target for Nissa’s animation ability. Mutavault seemed worse in
every way, although I suppose you could sacrifice it to Wall of Mulch in a pinch.


Being a non-creature green deck gives us fairly limited sideboard options, but there are still several to choose from. Ratchet Bomb is a slow, but
recyclable sweeper for the fastest decks in the format. It feels pretty good to put that on one and just watch a mono-red list scramble to do the math.
Skylasher and Mistcutter Hydra are both meant for any list with blue, whether it’s a devotion or a control list. Hunter’s Ambush will be Fogs five, six,
and seven in some matchups, but it will also provide some enticing blowouts when you block with Insect tokens and wipe the field. Reclamation Sage provides
the benefit of a Naturalize effect and a two-power body for the low price of three mana. Even if it gets swept away, you’ll have gotten good value. It also
deals with a card that’s seeing some sideboard play and utterly shuts down the deck: Phyrexian Revoker. This can trade with it in combat or kill it
outright. Similarly, Elixir of Immortality can boost your life a bit; with the help of Trading Post, it’s also a nigh-uncounterable recycle effect.

Green as a core sounds like a fun idea, but I’m sure you could splash something else in to make the list even more enticing. Blue provides cards like Prime
Speaker Zegana to replenish your hand, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave helps lock down a big threat. Black gives us access to cards like Gaze of Granite and
top-end killers like Corrupt and Worst Fears.

This is just the beginning of my love for the artifacts from M15. For now though, where does Perilous Vault fit in your control plans? Is it too sweeping,
or does it provide enough power to garner consideration?