No time to mess about. States is fast approaching, and you’ve got a deck to pick. It’s time to ask the question. In a situation like this, what would Dave Price do?
Dave Price, for those who don’t know, is the one and only King of Red. He won Pro Tour: Los Angeles way back in 1997 playing a mono-Red deck and dominated successive U.S. Nationals with some of the finest Red beatdown decks ever to grace the Magic scene. That’s why I have absolutely every confidence when I say that Dave would have played…
Back when Dave won PT: LA, everyone knew that mono-Red beatdown was the best deck. That meant that absolutely everyone made a mono-Red deck and then tested against it. All the best pros in the world had decks which they were absolutely confident beat mono-Red.
Which helped keep the number of Red decks down to a mere four out of the top 8.
Affinity now is like mono-Red was then. Everyone knows how good it is, and everyone will have tested against it. Or, more precisely, they’ll have tested against old versions of Affinity decks. They’ll have tested against Aeo Pacquette’s deck from Worlds, and think that they can win after sideboarding because they are bringing in lots of sideboard cards and the Affinity decks which they test against have nothing against them.
What Dave did in 1997 was notice that the control decks were relying on Bottle Gnomes to hold off his 2/1 creatures (I know it sounds weird, but that was really the best plan that the top players in the world could think of to stop the Red deck). So he added four copies of Giant Strength to his deck, and all of a sudden, the Bottle Gnomes were about as bad as, well, Bottle Gnomes are now.
If you play Affinity at States, you’ll play against some people who haven’t been paying attention during the past year and haven’t prepared against Affinity decks, and do unspeakable things to them. And then you’ll be playing against a bunch of Green-based and Red-based decks, which have a load of artifact removal and some big creatures. The Affinity decks Mike Flores has been testing against haven’t been all that good against such decks, because they are set up to win the mirror match and to defeat U/W control decks and Goblin decks.
So what Dave Price would do is turn up with an Affinity deck set up to beat the decks that think that they have the advantage against Affinity. Don’t leave home without your Atogs and Moriok Riggers – we already know that these give the heavy artifact removal decks massive problems from Block Constructed, and some artifact removal for the mirror. Something sort of like this:
So there you are, your deck for States sorte…
…What? You don’t want to play Affinity? It’s boring? You don’t have 4 Arcbound Ravagers? Want to play with some of the new cards?
In that case, let’s move on to our other special guest.
If States were tomorrow, what would Jamie Wakefield play?
For those who don’t know, Jamie Wakefield, while he never had the deck-building skills or tournament success to rival Dave Price, is fondly remembered for his tournament reports and insistence of victory on his own terms. I feel confident in saying that Jamie would never have played Affinity, his love of bad Green and Black decks was far too strong for that.
I think it’s not unfair to say that all of you who like the cool new Green cards in recent sets have a lot to thank Jamie for. During all of the many years that Green was the worst color (think of how White is now, but worse), Jamie kept on whinging and attracted more notice than any of the other miserable, sniveling Green mages. Eventually, Wizards of the Cost Research and Development took notice and gave Green most of the cards and mechanics which made White good, which had the unexpected and pleasant side effect of making White decks miserably bad.
Since this week is Green Week, I decided to have a look at these Black/Green control decks that some of the people in the forums who managed to refrain from writing solely in capital letters have been championing. Unfortunately, nobody took me up on my challenge of sending me the Black/Green control deck that beat every deck except U/W control, so I had to go and look for a version to start testing. After I had had the shock of discovering that there is a discussion thread about how to make Ponza decks which is more than one hundred pages long, I decided that the best place to start was with Shlomi Mir’s Black/Green deck, which has garnered much praise.
After playing a few games with it, I was pleasantly surprised. Ha Ha Dead Elf and Kodama’s Reach did an awful lot to reduce the threat of mana screw which I had assumed which would cripple a deck which was trying to cast spells with the casting cost 1GG and xBBB. Thing was, though, I tested against Affinity, and maybe it is just that I am not very good, but I can’t agree with the statement that “We have a slight advantage game one, and it merely improves after sideboarding.” There are an awful lot of cards in Shlomi’s deck which do nothing against Affinity. There are 33 lands or spells which get land, four six-mana creatures and four five-mana spells which don’t kill creatures. I also found that with only 4 Dragons as finishers, there would be games where the B/G deck would get control but then spend turn after turn not drawing a finisher, leaving the Affinity or Red Deck time to come back and win the game. I’d go through some games where I would draw enough early removal to hold off the Affinity deck and then follow up with a big creature or a game winning Death Cloud, but there were an awful lot more where I wouldn’t draw enough removal, or nothing to seal the deal once I’d seen off the initial assault.
While some bits of the Wakefield School of Magic are more useful than others, one lesson worth considering is that “it’s the last fatty that will kill you”. A Black/Green deck has the ability to hold off early assaults with removal, and use mana acceleration to cast fat creature after fat creature until the demise of the opponent. The only way I changed the deck was to make it more resilient in the early game against evil Affinity decks and have more fatties.
Here’s the version I ended up with:
4 Echoing Decay
4 Eternal Witness
3 Viridian Shaman
4 Ha Ha Dead Elf
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Kokusho, Very Mean Dragon
2 Death Cloud
2 Rend Flesh
2 Barter in Blood
2 Greater Harvester (the Brothers Very Grimm)
2 Molder Slug
I took out the Sylvan Scryings and Boseiju, because I reckon that if your opponent is tapping Blue mana and countering your spells then either it is round one, or you are already in the loser’s bracket. Against decks with artifacts, put in the seven artifact removal and take out 2 Harvester, 2 Reach, 2 Death Cloud and 1 mean Dragon. Against control decks, take out 4 Oxidize, 3 Shamans and a Slug and put in the eight other sideboard cards.
This isn’t a strict Jamie Wakefield deck, because it is not mono-colored, and does not have 62 cards in it. It is, however, a lot of fun to play, and well set up to handle the wide variety of decks which are likely to be on display at States. Do customize this to suit your tastes – if you want to have a couple of Rude Awakenings, that is perfectly reasonable, or more Naturalizes in case of some random enchantments.
So, you’ve seen over the last few weeks a wide variety of powerful decks. The choice is yours. Play the best deck, play a flexible but fun deck, even, if you are very brave, play one of Mike Flores‘ creations, the choice is yours. Good luck!
…Oh, you want to know what I’ll be playing? I won’t be. I don’t live in America. But if I were, I’d start by taking a guess at the metagame:
There will be random creature decks, including Samurai decks, Rat decks and other such. There will be some interesting, but not very well tuned, combo decks. And the two main decks will be Affinity and Green-based decks with Eternal Witness, lots of artifact removal, and either Tooth and Nail and big creatures or Blue or Black cards.
So I would try to make a Red deck which could hold its own against both of the main decks and still be able to roll over the various random decks.
One of the things about playing small Red creatures and lots of burn spells is that whatever your opponent is playing, you will win a bunch of games just from when their deck doesn’t quite work as it should. I don’t quite accept either the statement that beatdown decks aren’t worth considering because of Affinity. Although Affinity is the quickest beatdown deck out there, the way that other decks combat it is with lots of artifact removal, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be able to cope with non-artifact beatdown decks.
Which leaves the following:
4 Hearth Kami
4 Slith Firewalker
4 Vulshok Sorcerer
4 Electrostatic Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Volcanic Hammer
2 Zozu, the Punisher
1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
2 Chrome Mox
The changes from the previous version are taking out the expensive cards for more removal to support the cheap creatures and Sorcerers to remove Elders and Eternal Witnesses with minimal pain (thanks to Noah Weil for pointing out how good these are in the current environment). I don’t think that the more controllish version of Red Decks can handle the Green decks with their acceleration, targeted creature removal, and Plow Unders.
Finally, it’s time for a competition. I shall be awarding prizes to people who do good work in service of the Mountain. Prizes are available in the following categories:
Most Elves killed
Greatest humiliation of a Blue/White deck
Largest amount of direct damage remaining in hand upon death of opponent
Best overall performance with a Red Deck
If you would like to be considered in any of these categories, please send a post to the forums or to Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2 after States with your tournament report and nomination for which category you would like to be considered for.
P.S. I don’t often do this, but those of you who do read books might like to obtain a copy of “Bodyguard of Lightning” by Stan Nicholls. I knew I had to read a copy after reading the summary on the back cover:
“Look at me. Look at the orc. I have your hatred and fear but I have earned your respect.
Maras-Dantia was our home, and home to the dwarves, elves and all the other old races, long before your kind spilled into our lives.
Hear my story. Feel the flow of my blood and be thankful. Thankful that it was me, and not you, who bore the sword. Thankful to the orcs; born to fight, destined to win peace for all.”
— Dan Paskins