Positive EV – Red Deck Wins versus Turboland: The Turboland Perspective

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Tuesday, August 3rd – Hall of Famer Antoine Ruel packed the powerful Mono Red strategy in today’s Duel With Ruel. On the opposite side of the table sat Manuel Bucher, pitching the popular Turboland strategy into the fray. While the match is no cake-walk, there are percentage points to be gained by correct deck choice and sterling play. Manu leads the way…

This week, I am testing Turboland versus Mono Red with my usual test partner Antoine Ruel. Before we commence, a quick announcement: I am now moving to writing bi-weekly, and so my next article will be all about my preparation and performance at Swiss Nationals.

For the testing today, I am playing Kalle Sundberd’s Turboland deck, with which he made Top 8 at the recent Finnish National Championships:

I don’t expect to win a lot of pre-board games. The cards I am playing don’t have a lot of impact on the board until I play Avenger of Zendikar. Mono Red has a ton of good solutions to everything aside from the Avenger. While I am playing a host of cards that are not very good, cards that only have a small impact on the game, the Mono Red player doesn’t have a single dead card in his deck. After sideboarding, I will get some cards that I hope will have much bigger impact on the games. At the time of writing, I haven’t yet cast an Obstinate Baloth against Mono Red, and if the card is crushing I might have a chance in post-board games.

As a reminder, here’s the Mono Red deck Antoine is playing:

Antoine might have one of the best main decks against Turboland, but his sideboard doesn’t seem very exciting at all.

Maindeck Games (2 wins, 22 losses, 8.4% games won)

I got crushed during these games, and I didn’t feel I had the slightest of chances at any time. After winning a game, I got very excited about things. This happened twice. There are only a few tricks you have to know in order to improve the match-up, but even so, the tricks won’t turn this into anything like a fair fight.

When playing Halimar Depths in the early game, you should always have a land on the very top (unless you need to draw the very top card immediately), in order to gain maximum advantage from your opponent’s Goblin Guides.

When your opponent attacks with a guy that has trample, and you have a guy with the same amount of toughness (or more) than the guy with which your opponent is attacking, in addition to smaller guys (especially Plant tokens), you should often block with both guys. If your opponent shoots burn at the guy with which you are blocking, he’ll often gain additional damage by doing so, alongside killing your guy.

The Sideboard
+4 Obstinate Baloth
+2 Flashfreeze
+2 Pelakka Wurm
+2 Fog
-4 Lotus Cobra
-3 Avenger of Zendikar
-1 Time Warp
-2 Mind Spring

Avenger of Zendikar isn’t very good, since it is extremely slow. I don’t want to cut four, since you still need some ways to win. One of the plans is to either draw Pelakka Wurm, a lot of Obstinate Baloths, or the one-of remaining Avenger of Zendikar. The alternative is to keep a Mind Spring. If you keep a Mind Spring as a late game drop, you need to draw at least one Baloth in every game in which you want to Mind Spring. Avenger of Zendikar can still win some games on its own, as my lonely game 1 victories prove.

Time Warp isn’t very good, but again, it helps you reach the point where you can cast Pelakka Wurm. In addition, they make the Obstinate Baloths a kill condition, and can actually make them able to race your opponent.

Lotus Cobra never produced mana in any of the games in which he was cast. I am still not sure if cutting the Cobra is the right move. If you play a turn 2 Cobra, your opponent wants to kill it immediately. Since there is a less of a chance of actually casting something big from it in post board games, I still cut it, as I expected Antoine to know when it was better to actually kill the Cobra or build up his board position.

Sideboarded Games (12 wins, 14 losses, 46.2% games won)

On the play: 7 wins, 6 losses
On the draw: 5 wins,8 losses

Playing Obstinate Baloth doesn’t help a lot. At least, that’s if you’re only playing one Baloth per game. The card would be excellent if we played cards that impacted the board before playing the 4/4, but if Obstinate Baloth is the first card that impacts the board, and one of the few cards in the deck that does, it doesn’t do a lot if you don’t draw them in multiples. Drawing one Obstinate Baloth almost doesn’t help. Drawing two gives you a real chance. Drawing three of them actually puts you in good shape. In a deck like Jund, the card will have a lot more impact in the match up.

Pelakka Wurm was really good if you got an Obstinate Baloth onto the battlefield beforehand, and it will often win the game immediately.

I think I won more games than I should have in post-board testing. Even though all I did was fetch up Obstinate Baloths and Pelakka Wurms, I drew many more copies of these guys than I actually should have; there were many games in which I had a four copies of a combination of Pelakka Wurms and Obstinate Baloths.

Both Fog and Flashfreeze are decent weapons. Don’t play the cards as late as possible. Depending on your draw, you shouldn’t Flashfreeze a Ball Lightning effect, assuming you have a lot of Baloths (or lifegain effects). When drawing these, you are only likely to lose to Kargan Dragonlord. You should Fog in the early game whenever you can prevent six damage or more.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor gets a lot better in post-board games. Not only is it able to stop Kargan Dragonlord for a while, you also can recast your Baloths and Pelakka Wurms for some extra life. And you also can protect the Planeswalker from time to time, blocking with your big guys.

At French Nationals, a friend of mine — Lucas Florent — made Top 8 with his Turboland list:

The only thing I dislike about this list is the missing fourth Oracle of Mul Daya. The combination of Oracle, Lotus Cobra, and Jace is so great that you want to have them all as often as possible. With Garruk Wildspeaker and Into the Roil, you have more cards in your deck that impact the game, and cutting one of the Avengers of Zendikar makes sense to me. With the amount of cards you draw, coupled with your library manipulation, you are very likely to find an Avenger when you need it, but whenever you have one or more Avengers of Zendikar in your opening hand, you don’t feel anything but apathy for the card.

The sideboard adds a new tool against slower decks, with Eye of Ugin and the Eldrazi. I am not sure if this strategy is good, since the opponents against which you are boarding it in usually have access to Tectonic Edge. Once you get the engine going, Ulamog might be slightly better than Kozilek.

By losing Pelakka Wurm, you lose a lot of equity against Mono Red, but since the match-up is not very winnable anyway, I don’t mind cutting down on those. I am not even sure if Obstinate Baloth is good in the sideboard; maybe it’s simply better to abandon the Mono Red match-up entirely.

I really like the addition of Spell Pierce in the sideboard. It might not help against Mono Red, but it seems like the best answer to any version of Jace your opponent might present.

I think Turboland decks have a lot of new potential with the release of M11. Not only do you get new tools with the popular Primeval Titan and Cultivate, you also get options like splashing Destructive Force, or going for Red/Green and Valakut combos. One list I like a lot, a list that is definitely Turboland-alike, is Noah Long Top 8 deck from the Canadian National Championships.

I actually think that this list actually has a good chance against Mono Red, since you have Destructive Force to cripple your opponent. I am not a huge fan of the addition of Lightning Bolt and Flashfreeze to the deck, and I’d much rather have a more focused list. I would like to see a third Khalni Garden in the deck, so you are able to fetch up two of them with Primeval Titan even when you’ve already drawn a copy. I would also really like to see at least one Tectonic Edge in the list.

I agree that you are not able to include Lotus Cobra in this decklist, but I would like to see some copies of Oracle of Mul Daya in the deck. It has a lot of synergy with what the deck is doing, and it messes up your opponent’s sideboarding a lot. Even though it dies to Destructive Force, you are very likely to be in great shape once you untap with the Oracle and are able to play the powerful Wildfire effect.

If you are planning to play Turboland in an upcoming Standard tournament, I would try to play as many versions as possible before deciding which build to play. Most of them will appear very similar, so you don’t give up a lot of play percentage between lists, but finding the best possible decklist for you will have a big impact on the result of the tournament.

Good luck at your upcoming events, and thanks for reading!

Manu B