Philosophy of Fire 2K5: Kuroda-Style Big Red for the LCQ and Standard

When looking at a new Standard season, it’s always a good idea to peak back at the previous year’s Block Constructed Pro Tour and see what ideas you can take from that tournament. Today Flores uses Masashiro Kuroda’s winning deck from Kobe and turns it into what may once again be one of the best decks in the format.

A few weeks ago I tested a Red Deck from French Regionals. I really liked that deck, especially against mono-Green Tooth and Nail, due to its powerful attack and complete dominance of the early turns. Over many games, I learned to measure out strikes with the mighty Genju of the Spires, take advantage of Chrome Mox and Slith Firewalker, and control the board with the unsung Vulshok Sorcerer. The deck was sometimes great, but erratic. I probably don’t like explosive draws as much as I should; in fact I am pretty conservative about certain things. I love Mox in the opening hand… hate it any time after. Overall I actually hate a lot of Claudel’s numbers. Like, why play three Seething Songs? How does that make sense? I have played hundreds of games with Big Red, G/R, and quick Red Decks, and I can say without a shred of doubt that the fourth Arc-Slogger is better than any copy of Kumano, Master Yamabushi; not only does Arc-Slogger’s ability cost half the mana, he has five toughness. The main reason I liked him in Champs testing, for example, was that he could get in a fight with Molder Slug and walk away (more than the Slug could usually say). Arc-Slogger is the scariest creature in Standard right now. How can you not play four?

Anyway, I did what I always do and dug up some old lists. In my mind, the Red Deck has never been more on top of the world in recent years than it was at PT: Kobe. Several Red Decks made the Top 8 in Kobe; in fact, they made up more than half a Top 8 in a tournament that allowed players to summon Arcbound Ravager and Cloak him up with Skullclamp. Really! They let them do that back then. With no more artifact lands, it didn’t make sense to start from one of the two Furnace Dragon decks, and if I was going to make any really meaningful deviations, I’d have to jump the Firewalker/Molten Rain builds too… jump them straight to the top.

Masahiro Kuroda’s deck is a testament to Red Deck design. It is elegant in its straightforward simplicity; it does what it does well and doesn’t try to do anything else. More than beating out 238 other players, many of whom had Disciple of the Vault at their disposal, Kuroda took sole possession of Day One by defeating Raphael Levy Tooth and Nail to go 8-0 and finished off Gabriel Nassif Tooth and Nail in the finals. In a format where Tooth and Nail is being hyped as the #1 deck, Kuroda’s Go Anan Deck seemed like a good place to start.

Kuroda’s deck from Kobe:

16 Mountain

4 Darksteel Citadel

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

4 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Arc-Slogger

4 Electrostatic Bolt

4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Barbed Lightning

4 Damping Matrix

4 Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

4 Fireball

4 Detonate


4 Molten Rain

4 Echoing Ruin

2 Talisman of Indulgence

2 Talisman of Impulse

3 Furnace Dragon

My main:


See Below.


Because I wanted to keep 4 Shrapnel Blast, it became an issue to revise the artifact count. I was already down 4 Darksteel Citadel, so some fudging had to be done in the spells section.

Electrostatic Bolt -> Magma Jet

Without Affinity in the metagame, Electrostatic Bolt loses its pedigree. Even if there were still a significant number of Affinity decks, I would find room for the Jet, which I loved in Extended.

Detonate -> Molten Rain

Molten Rain is a card that Kuroda sided. His default opponent would take 0 from a Detonate; mine will take 2 from a Molten Rain doing essentially the same thing. Molten Rain gives you an advantage against Tooth and Nail and is important as a small Fireball. In fact, it costs the exact same amount as a two-pointer. It’s important to note that if you can buy back one Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], you only have to count to three if you play a Molten Rain on a non-basic.

Fireball -> Beacon of Destruction + Sowing Salt

Beacon of Destruction is just a better Fireball in most matchups. This card is severely underplayed given its power level and speed. It is a perfect answer to an opposing Slogger and really helps you count to four. It is particularly strong in this deck due to Arc-Slogger and Sensei’s Divining Top. Beacon’s very nature makes playing four kind of silly, so I added Sowing Salt as Molten Rain #5. You mise against Tooth and Nail but pretty much always draw it against White Weenie.

Damping Matrix -> Wayfarer’s Bauble

I just needed to keep the artifact count high enough, and one of the main complaints I have with Red Decks in general is their draw consistency. Wayfarer’s Bauble gives you a good ramp in the early game (you can hit Solemn Simulacrum on three and Slogger with activation mana open on four). This thins your deck, interacts favorably with Sensei’s Divining Top, and gives you late game Shrapnel Blast ammunition.

Barbed Lighting -> Sensei’s Divining Top

I cut the worst card in Kuroda’s deck for the most overrated card in Standard. I’m not backpedaling on my Top opinion in Tooth and Nail, but in this deck, the Top does three key things:

1. Most importantly, it is a highly synergistic artifact in combination with Shrapnel Blast. The best trick is to use the Top and then respond with Shrapnel Blast. The Top will be sacrificed so you don’t have a stupid Top any more, but you will still get to draw the card.

Draw Cards At Freshuffle.top!

2. This deck runs Solemn Simulacrum, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Arc-Slogger, Beacon of Destruction, and Magma Jet, meaning it has more top-of-the-library resets than any Tooth and Nail deck. Also keep in mind that if you are looking to set up a combo, Tooth and Nail wants to hit a three land combo and draw Tooth and Nail and have two Green sources in play about turn 5 whereas if this deck counts up any four “fives” or say two fives, a Pulse, and a Molten Rain, the opponent is dead. Who gets more mileage out of the Top?

3. The main problem with Red Decks is that they often have to run weird amounts of mana. Look at Star Wars Kid deck from the LCQ; he has 30 mana sources in a deck with two-drops. This leads to really erratic draws. I saw Pat Sullivan, arguably the best player in the LCQ, die horribly to Tooth and Nail in Round 1 just because his deck kept spitting up Chrome Moxes and he had nothing to do with them (should have played my deck). [SWK Q’d. Sulli played the same deck as SWK. No one who played Flores’s deck made the Top 8. But Sulli should have played Flores’s deck… – Knut, not sure how that makes sense but I still like Mike’s deck, regardless] In this deck, because you can set up a two-card kill very easily, the Top allows you to actually end the game with 1-2 uses. Did I mention you can blow up the stupid Top so you don’t have to look at it any more?

Originally several very good players were going to run my deck at the Philly LCQ. All of them switched at the last minute and all of them died horribly in the first few rounds. Vs. standout Anand Khare picked it up at the last minute and went 6-1 before being eliminated at four in the morning by young Brett Blackman. Brett, a rosy cheeked but deadly fifteen-year-old, elected not to use his slot so he could continue playing in the JSS. What a hater.

Anyway, I ran the deck up against the same gauntlet I have been testing the past couple of weeks. Here are the results:

French Red:

9-1 in favor of Kuroda-Style Red

4 Chrome Mox

3 Arc-Slogger

2 Demolish

3 Genju Of The Spires

4 Hearth Kami

2 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

4 Magma Jet

3 Molten Rain

3 Seething Song

4 Slith Firewalker

3 Stone Rain

2 Volcanic Hammer

4 Vulshok Sorcerer

3 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Shinka, The Bloodsoaked Keep

15 Mountain


4 Defense Grid

3 Oblivion Stone

3 Pyroclasm

4 Sowing Salt

1 Shatter

This matchup is very easy. Back in the day, Wisconsin players used to say “Thanks for the bye, Sligh!” when facing littler Red decks. The French Red gets a fast beatdown but is very erratic. It can have a perfect seven that farts into a bunch of useless Seething Songs, for instance, yet can’t really beat Molten Rain if you are correctly blocking. This matchup really reminded me of my RDW testing from Extended where the decks seemed similar but our version was heavily favored with the right man at the helm. The 9-1 stat is probably a little deceiving… Many of the wins were really close, but it is a matter of the Kuroda-Style Red being able to close with lethal burn very easily v. the French Red’s inability to penetrate.

Mono-Green Tooth and Nail

6-4 in favor of Kuroda-Style Red

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Duplicant

2 Mindslaver

3 Oblivion Stone

2 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Sundering Titan

4 Eternal Witness

2 Plow Under

4 Reap And Sow

1 Rude Awakening

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Tooth And Nail

3 Vine Trellis

1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

10 Forest

1 Okina, Temple To The Grandfathers

4 Urza’s Mine

4 Urza’s Power Plant

4 Urza’s Tower


1 Oblivion Stone

1 Sundering Titan

1 Triskelion

1 Mephidross Vampire

4 Kodama’s Reach

3 Naturalize

2 Plow Under

1 Rude Awakening

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

I was actually very disappointed. Of the four games Tooth won, two of the games it was on 1-2, meaning that I probably screwed up somewhere along the way. I lost one where I resolved Sowing Salt somehow (don’t ask how… I’ve blocked the horrid memory obviously), and I lost one where I was greedy and let a Duplicant beat me down. My idea was to get my Pulse going. I went to 13 not realizing that I was dead on board to the Duplicant and a Kiki-Jiki / Colossus engine (playing for the win next turn, assuming Sundering Titan). That game was just careless, and I think the matchup is better than 6-4. If G/R is 8-2, I don’t see why the more vulnerable Green deck shouldn’t be a better percentage.


8-2 in favor of Kuroda-Style Red

3 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Troll Ascetic

4 Birds Of Paradise

4 Eternal Witness

2 Naturalize

2 Pulse Of The Tangle

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

2 Viridian Zealot

4 Arc-Slogger

1 Fireball

2 Grab the Reins

3 Magma Jet

1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

2 City Of Brass

1 Okina, Temple To The Grandfathers

1 Shinka, The Bloodsoaked Keep

11 Forest

7 Mountains


3 Cranial Extraction

4 Boil

2 Genju of the Cedars

4 Pyroclasm

2 Sowing Salt

At the point that I beat the T1 Birds, T2 Troll, T3 Troll draw I decided my deck was awesome against attack-oriented opponents. I played Bauble into four mana on turn 3, which let me play Top and buy back the Pulse. Next turn I Blasted into Pulse + Pulse and ripped a land for Blackjack on turn 5 when I was dead on board to Arc-Slogger. Nice game (i.e. the kind where you feel like an ass from the other side of the table).

In one of the losses my only non-land spells were two Wayfarer’s Baubles, two Molten Rains, and a Pulse. I actually almost won that one but the Jitte had something to say about it (lethal Slogger on top). In BOTH games I lost, I was either one turn off of winning or able to deal 22 damage or both, but Umezawa’s Jitte meant I had to deal 24. If Jitte rises, this deck gets worse, so we’ll have to continue to watch the Top 8 listings.

Gydion WW:

4-6 in favor of WW

2 Bonesplitter

3 Chrome Mox

3 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Glorious Anthem

3 Hokori, Dust Drinker

3 Isamaru, Hound of Konda

2 Kami of the Ancient Law

4 Lantern Kami

4 Leonin Skyhunter

3 Otherworldly Journey

4 Shining Shoal

2 Skyhunter Skirmisher

4 Suntail Hawk

1 Eiganjo Castle

18 Plains

Damn you Gydion! Whoever you are! Wherever you are! I have been testing the forums WW every single deck and it continues to get “not mashed” by my decks. There was only 1 blowout, when the WW played double Bonesplitter on turn 1, had Skirmisher on turn 2, and I had no Magma Jet. All the other games were either close or blowouts in favor of Kuroda-Style Red, but Magic doesn’t care about blowouts or not, only dubyas and els. The WW can’t beat Arc-Slogger, so if you resolve it, you pretty much win. Their “trump” is Shining Shoal, but that card is actually a blank if Slogger is in play. The real annoying cards are Glorious Anthem and Dust-Drinker; together they make for a tough board to beat. The worst card in your deck is Molten Rain Sowing Salt, which you replace with Fireball and some artifacts.

Mono-Black Control:

6-4 in favor of Kuroda-Style Red

3 Chrome Mox

4 Guardian Idol

3 Sensei’s Divining Top

4 Solemn Simulacrum

2 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

3 Consume Spirit

2 Cranial Extraction

3 Death Cloud

3 Kokusho, The Evening Star

2 Persecute

2 Phyrexian Arena

3 Yukora, The Prisoner

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

17 Swamp


3 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

2 Cranial Extraction

4 Nezumi Shortfang

3 Oblivion Stone

3 Hideous Laughter

Here is the 10 game set:

1. Persecuted for four cards on turn three. Won.

2. Persecuted for four cards on turn three. Won.

3. Persecuted for four cards on turn three. Won.

4. Persecuted for four cards on turn three. Lost to the SECOND Kokusho.

5. Turn three Yukora through double Molten Rain (nice one), followed by Jitte and double Kokusho (again). Lost.

6. Yukora attacking on turn four with Shizo. Won, h3h.

7. Very good Cloud for two stops superb start, killing EXACTLY Arc-Slogger and Jens, clearing hand of EXACTLYs two Pulses. Won when I topped into Beacon. GG.

8. Turn three Yukora, turn four Persecute, turn five Kokusho. Lost.

3. Persecuted for five cards on turn three. Won.

10. Lost to super quick Death Cloud against Bauble + Jens + Idol draw. Would have won on the play.

PersecuteI was surprised to win all the games where I got my hand smashed on turn 3. Jonny Magic sure didn’t lose those games back at Nationals 2000. The reason is that Red has all the symmetry breakers – Molten Rain, Solemn Simulacrum, and Wayfarer’s Bauble all break up the efficacy of Death Cloud, and the Red Deck’s Tops are the best in any deck. Because the Black deck is always hurting itself, the Red deck can just Top into cheap burn to win, or it can rebuild after a Cloud.

On the other hand, the Red deck tended to lose to the fast 5/5 draws. The Mono-Black is not the kind of deck I want to play against every round. It’s favorable and I bring in Stone Rain and possibly two more slots, but it’s always a nail-biter.

This isn’t really relevant but I asked Dan for a quote so he dug this up for me:

“I can see all the intellectual titans getting ready to send me witty insights such as ‘lol, d00d, how culd u play mono-red, you suck’, so I guess I’d better defend my decision to do so.

“What I reckoned was that if my opponent was careless enough to lay a Swamp, then I would win. The control decks such as Upheaval or mono-black cannot handle hasty monsters and burn spells, while black creature decks manage the astonishing feat of somehow having even less powerful creatures than the red deck, and bounce spells and Butchers lose to red burn spells.”

“I played a first turn Spark Mage and Ben picked it up and read it. Then he started to giggle nervously. “Everyone knows you can’t play mono-red in OBC? Don’t they?!?”. Ben had turned up with a Psychatog deck. It might sound strange, but I believe that his plan was that he was going to cast a six mana sorcery and then have enough mana left over to cast a three casting-cost creature. Apparently, this strategy has been very popular in recent months.”

“How can red lose to black? They both have some creatures and some spells which kill creatures, but red spells also kill players and black puts cards which damage itself in its deck so it can beat blue. Red has intrinsic strategic mechanic i made this term up matchup advantage.”



2-1 in favor of Kuroda-Style Red

2 Blasting Station

2 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Beacon of Creation

4 Birds Of Paradise

4 Blanchwood Armor

2 Fangren Fistborn

2 Genju of the Cedars

2 Isao, Enlightened Bushi

3 Karstoderm

3 Kodama Of The North Tree

2 Plow Under

4 Troll Ascetic

4 Viridian Zealot

21 Forest

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfaters


4 Creeping Mold

2 Dosan the Falling Leaf

2 Gaea’s Herald

3 Gale Force

4 Wear Away

I didn’t think this was going to be a big matchup and sort of just messed around a little bit. I don’t know how long 2-1 holds up over a 10 game set or anything, but it’s probably worth testing more given how the LCQ went.


4 Aether Spellbomb

4 Vedalken Shackles

4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Gifts Ungiven

4 Hinder

4 Mana Leak

1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

4 Rewind

4 Thirst For Knowledge

3 Time Stop

2 Blinkmoth Nexus

18 Island

4 Stalking Stones


2 Razormane Masticore

2 Bribery

2 Condescend

1 Echoing Truth

1 Evacuation

3 Jushi Apprentice

1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

2 Thieving Magpie

1 Time Stop

This is the matchup that really matters, and I put it off until the end because I knew what the outcome would be. Mono-Blue won 3 games before I hung up Game Ones and started to work on sideboard strategies. The Mono-Blue matchup was also the reason that a lot of my friends bagged on the deck; even though they liked the board strategy, never winning game one was a bear.

I did a lot of thinking about Winning the Sideboard War and concluded that in order to win consistently, Kuroda-Style Red couldn’t just go for a quick Boil or something: it had to really set up Inevitability over the course of many games. Mono-Blue will be the most important matchup at the top tables at Regionals and having a powerful but erratic plan is the kind of thing that you do in a tournament where you’re ruining 2-3 guys’ days and you drop the ball in that 10th round yourself. You can play Boil if you want but I elected instead to just play 2 Boseiju and 4 Fireballs. I side in some light land destruction, too, but those cards are there for Stalking Stones mostly. The goal is to make it impossible for the opponent to win. You do this by robbing him of his win conditions while firing away with uncounterable burn spells. The only reason Mono-Blue can beat Boseiju is because it’s in a Mono-Green deck that bends over to Temporal Adept. A Red Deck can stop that card with Fireball, Magma Jet, whatever. Temporal Adept is no problem and you can play to exhaust their Time Stops over the course of a game. You have more than enough Beacons and Fireballs to rob them of every single Time Stop while every one of your cards is a setup to lethal. How do you think they feel about Time Stop on their own upkeep?

I won 14 straight games boarded, none of them close. You drop in life a bit due to your own land but Blue can’t actually kill you if you play conservatively. In an actual tournament, I’d bet that most opponents will be unwilling to tap out for early card advantage because you might have Boil, so you’re looking at Thirst for Knowledge on turn five probably, and even then only if they can at least bluff Spectral Shift… that’s why I elected not to Boil at all (but, again, you can if you want).

As for the rest of my board, this is what I came up with Teddy Cardgame:

2 Culling Scales

2 Engineered Explosives

4 Fireball

2 Grab the Reins

1 Sowing Salt

2 Stone Rain

2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

I actually want more Scales/Explosives but really only have Grabs to cut. I think the fact that I like Grabs so much makes them bad. You shouldn’t like your cards. You should be willing to spend your cards like water, discard them, and so on. Love of cardboard is a sign of a weak player.

Pat suggested:

-2 Culling Scales

-2 Engineered Explosives

-2 Grab the Reins

+4 Oblivion Stone

+2 Duplicant

Duplicant is just a more versatile Grab the Reins. It’s probably better in the mirror, but that’s arguable. It’s less awesome v. a Kokusho, but also more consistent.

I’m not sure about the Stones yet. I think I’d like lots of Culling Scales because WW is the worst matchup Game One, but then again maybe you want a million Explosives against Beacon Green. WW might side in Damping Matrix, which is awesome if you’re boarding Culling Scales and terrible if you’re boarding Oblivion Stone… It’s all about correctly figuring out what everyone will side 1-2 months from now.

In sum, this deck tests better than anything I’ve touched in a while, but the rise of Beacon Green and Jitte generally in Standard might make it a bad choice by the time U.S. Regionals roll around. I’m not sure on the sideboard as a whole, but the nine cards I have set in stone are absolutely awesome. Fireball is great against Adept and the Blue mage’s face… but also help you live long enough against WW to deploy Arc-Slogger; once Slogger comes down it’s really hard to lose.

Little things I like about this deck:

That’s it.