So You Think You Can Brew #4

In this episode of Jim Davis’ So You Think You Can Brew, newcomer Brian Schlactus takes on defending champ Rob Caporino. Be sure to vote in the comments!

Good evening everyone! Welcome back to another episode of . . .


(Tremendous applause!)

The show where we take a couple of everyday Magic players, and see if they have what it takes to brew up a deck that can take down their local FNM . . . or maybe even ascend to greatness at the SCG Open Series and beyond!

(More tremendous applause!)

Last episode we saw Rob Caporino take down the burgeoning Gary Fingers dynasty, much like how the Germanic tribes once overthrew the mighty Roman Empire. While Gary Fingers had won the first two episodes of So You Think You Can Brew in convincing fashion, Rob was up to the challenge and is our new defending champion!

Let’s hear it for the champion, Rob Caporino!


Everyone give a big hand to the champ!

(Crowd chants: "Ca-por-ino! Ca-por-ino!")

Let’s get a refresher on who Rob is and where he hails from:


Now let’s introduce our challenger. Sporting a sweater that would make even the most avid of golfers green with envy, Brian Schlactus come on down! You’re the next contestant on . . . So You Think You Can Brew!

(Crowd goes wild!)


Let’s take a look at Brian’s bio:


All right, we have met our contestants; now for a quick rundown of the rules. Each contestant will present us with a brewed-up deck for the Standard format. We will then discuss the deck, looking at a number of factors, and provide some analysis and feedback to you, the audience! When all is said and done, every one of you will have a chance to cast your vote, and one of the decks will be crowned the winner! The contestant who brewed up the deck that wins the vote will move on to the next round! The loser? The loser must deal with the mockery and shaming of the rabble!

(Ooooos and ahhhhhs from the crowd.)

Sooooooo . . . DO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?!?!

(Tremendous applause!)

As the defending champ, Rob has elected to receive the ball first! He’s worked hard to resurrect an old favorite from the previous Standard format and looks to get Aristocratic!

Rob’s Brew

The Aristocrats rise again! Rob has brewed us up an aggressive take on the old Junk Aristocrats decks, using a nice Human subtheme backed up by the powerful Xathrid Necromancer.

For the uninitiated, Junk Aristocrats was a deck based around the synergy of an aggressive creature base that worked very well with creature sacrifice effects. The deck was not really concerned with its creatures dying because half the time it wanted them to die! The old list featured a strong token theme as well with Lingering Souls; Doomed Traveler; and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. While all those cards have rotated, Rob’s got plenty of rookies ready to get in the game.

The deck begins with its sacrifice effect creatures, and we’ve still got both of them from the old deck rearing and ready to go. Cartel Aristocrat is an unassuming 2/2 for two mana, but once you’ve played with it, you begin to understand how annoying it can be; it can play excellent defense or get in for unblockable unkillable damage. Varolz, the Scar-Striped is an excellent all-around threat that is fantastic versus the control decks of the format. His regeneration makes him very hard to kill, and in any long game he is going to allow you to scavenge many of your dead creatures giving them extra use. He also works very well with Cartel Aristocrat because if you scavenge onto the Aristocrat and make it big you can then give it protection and attack for a bunch of unblockable damage.

Now, one of the big things about the "sacrifice a creature" cost is that it is just that: a significant cost. If all you are doing is playing a creature and then sacrificing it to give your Cartel Aristocrat protection from blue for a turn, it is likely not worth the card. However, this is where the synergy of the deck comes in. This is a deck that wants to see its creatures die.

The deck has a nice Human subtheme with sixteen Humans in the list, and Xathrid Necromancer does a fantastic job at replacing the Humans with Zombies when they die. If your Tormented Hero turns into a 2/2 Zombie, that’s almost an upgrade! We all know how good Voice of Resurgence is by now, and turning it from a 2/2 into a very large Elemental token is also a solid upgrade. Lastly, Reaper of the Wilds can do an amazing job of stacking your deck as creatures bite the dust and ensure you are drawing gas for the rest of the game.

Aside from the more synergistic elements of the deck, it also simply contains a solid beatdown core with eight two-power one-drops—including the very powerful Soldier of the Pantheon—and the powerful black removal suite of Doom Blade, Hero’s Downfall, and Thoughtseize. This gives the deck an aggressive curve and solid answers to many of the formats problems.

Rob comes back into the game with another solid and fun entry!


Why Are We Building This Deck?

Now, the biggest question you need ask yourself when you are building new brew is—yep, you guessed it—"why?" Why are we making this deck? What is our goal? Are we trying to make a new busted combo deck? Are we trying to make the fastest aggressive deck possible? Are we trying to utilize a certain powerful card? Are we trying to exploit a hole in the metagame?

When it comes to deck building, context is EVERYTHING.

You may build a fast aggressive deck full of creatures and burn, but does it have advantages over Mono-Red Aggro or Mono-Blue Devotion?

You may build a grindy Grixis Control deck, but can it compete with the control decks that have access to Sphinx’s Revelation?

And of course there is the context of the format itself as well. A deck can be very good in the abstract, but it may not be able to survive if the format is unusually hostile towards it. For example, when Affinity was the major deck in Standard, almost every non-Affinity deck was playing main deck Oxidizes and loads of other artifact removal in their sideboards. Even though the Krark-Clan Ironworks combo decks were a completely different strategy than Affinity and might have even been overpowered in other formats, they were not as good as Affinity and could not complete with Affinity’s success.

So back to Rob’s brew.

Right now Standard is awash with various types of devotion decks, blue and white control decks, and aggressive red and green decks that sometimes also feature devotion themes. So the question is . . .

(Crown hushes in anticipation.)

Why play Junk Aristocrats?

The baseline non-red aggressive deck in this format is most definitely the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that made waves at Pro Tour Dublin, and like Rob’s deck it is a creature beatdown deck that is high on synergy. It plays objectively non-powerful cards like Judge’s Familiar to power up its heavy hitters Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea.

Rob’s deck is similar, although it has a number of bonuses; the mono-blue deck is very limited in the types of removal it can play, and previous articles have shown how good the black removal package of Thoughtseize, Doom Blade, and Hero’s Downfall is versus all of the various devotion decks. Rob’s deck gets to play with both a synergistic creature curve and the powerful black removal package instead of one or the other like you would have to choose with Mono-Blue Devotion or Mono-Black Devotion. This is definitely a plus.

The deck also seems like it would do a good job versus any sort of U/W-based control deck. It is very resistant to Supreme Verdict, as Voice of Resurgence; Xathrid Necromancer; and Varolz, the Scar-Striped all shrug off the sweeper effect, and it also has Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall to back up its quick aggression. Awesome!


However, it does seem like this deck will struggle versus aggressive red or R/G decks. Large powerful creatures like Boros Reckoner; Stormbreath Dragon; Polukranos, World Eater; and Kalonian Tusker backed up with powerful pump effects like Boon Satyr and Ghor-Clan Rampager will likely overload the decks army of small creatures and limited removal.


Aside from the matchups, there are also a few other issues with the deck. While similar to the deck it is based off of—the Junk Aristocrats deck from pre-Theros Standard format—it is lacking one very important thing.

(The crowd moves to the edges of their seats.)

While you don’t really care if your Voice of Resurgence or Xathrid Necromancer dies, we aren’t getting nearly the same bonuses that the old Junk Aristocrats deck was. Morbid is a powerful and difficult to obtain ability, and the payoff of making a 5/5 Demon every turn or having Swords to Plowshares in your deck was well worth the work. Blood Artist also gave the deck a combo kill, and the sacrifice creatures basically meant that at any time if you had more creatures than they had life they were dead. Rob’s deck is somewhat lacking in these sorts of extra bonuses. It also lacks the token subtheme of Lingering Souls; Sorin, Lord of Innistrad; and Gavony Township. While it makes up for these with more versatile removal and Thoughtseizes, these are serious losses.


The mana base also is a bit too skewed towards Forests, and I question the inclusion of Doom Blade over Abrupt Decay. Abrupt Decay is fantastic right now, as it hits a bunch of creatures—including Nightveil Specter—as well as Detention Sphere, Chained to the Rocks, Underworld Connections, and so on.

Competitive or Fun?

The final question we need to ask about this deck is "what are we making this deck for?" Are we having fun at FNM? Or are we trying to take this deck to the next level and take down a PTQ or SCG Open with it? FNM is supposed to be fun, and your beloved host has played some really wacky decks himself at various FNMs in years past. One was a Heartbeat of Spring / Myojin of the Seeing Winds combo deck that would take infinite turns with Beacon of Tomorrows that was always a crowd pleaser.

(Murmurs from the crowd about this crazy concoction.)

This deck definitely has some issues; it really seems like it is a card or two short of being truly competitive, as there aren’t really any amazing replacements for the powerful morbid effects of Innistrad block. However, the deck still seems really awesome and fun to play and seems perfectly competitive in an FNM environment. It’s also a deck to keep an eye on when Born of the Gods comes out; hopefully it will get some new tools!

Until then you can have a sweet time making an army of Zombies and Elementals, so let’s give the champ a big hand for his new brew!


(Rowdy applause!)

We are going to take a quick commercial break, so stay tuned for our challenger Brian Schlactus’ brew, coming up right after these messages from our sponsor!


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All right, we are back, and Brian Schlactus has brought a deck to battle that is ready to please the God of the Forge!

Brian’s Brew

Mono-Red Aggro decks have been around since the dawn of time, but Brian is not interested in your typical Sligh-style deck. He is much more interested in winning with style!

Brian’s deck looks to make the most of the triggered abilities of Ogre Battledriver and Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] to allow his deck to win from out of nowhere. While each card is solid by itself, Brian is not really that interested in using devotion to turn Purphoros into a creature—though it is of course a realistic possibility. Rather, he wants to use and abuse Purphoros’s triggered ability, which offers a Shock for each creature that enters play. Ogre Battledriver has a similar effect in that each creature gets the power bonus and haste, which can make for huge turns.

So how are we planning on triggering these effects over and over again? I’m glad you asked! Young Pyromancer has already made his mark on Legacy but has yet to really do so in Standard. Brian is looking to change that, and in this deck Young Pyromancer is quite the working man. The deck contains seventeen instants and sorceries to help trigger him, which is a good number, but more important than that is the fact that Brian’s deck is built to make excellent use of the tokens.

Speaking of tokens, the deck also makes fantastic use of Molten Birth, a fun card from M14. While three mana for two tokens is not really a great deal by itself, when you have a Young Pyromancer and an Ogre Battledriver out, it represents nine damage! Winning the flip to get it back to your hand is just gravy for all you lucky folks out there.

The deck’s last token maker is "I-Wish-I-Was-Siege-Gang-Commander" . . . I mean Goblin Rally.

(The crowd chuckles.)

While not very impressive when placed side by side with Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Rally represents a massive eight-to-twelve damage when paired with either a Purphoros or an Ogre Battledriver. The deck also contains the underappreciated Massive Raid, which can deal a large amount of damage from all the tokens you might have in play.

Aside from the token-based elements, the deck also just contains a very solid mono-red core. Ash Zealot and Boros Reckoner are some of the most powerful creatures at their mana cost in the format and play excellent offense and defense. You’ve got the standard removal suite of Shock, Magma Jet, and Lightning Strike, and a Chandra, Pyromaster thrown in for good measure.

Brian has cooked up quite the fun take on an archetype that is usually considered very everyman, and this deck looks like a blast to play!


Why Are We Building This Deck?

As we said before, when it comes to deckbuilding . . .

(Whole crowd chants in unison.)


The most important question we need to ask ourselves is "why are we playing this over the more standard Mono-Red Devotion decks?" Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages.

This deck creates some serious tension. Typically token-based decks are very good against decks that rely on one-for-one removal spells and very poor against decks that have access to good mass removal spells. This deck is in some ways the opposite.

Against a deck like Mono-Black Control, we are going to have a hard time keeping our Young Pyromancer or Ogre Battledriver alive. This is going to greatly hurt our token plan, as without these synergies our army of 1/1 creature tokens might not have the tools needed to get the job done. This makes our Boros Reckoners and Ash Zealots better because they can draw the fire for the removal and also makes Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] extremely important because it is so hard to kill.

Yet against a deck like U/W Control or Esper Control, their Supreme Verdicts are not going to be as amazing versus us. Ogre Battledriver’s haste ability requires that it be answered before we play our major token makers, which severely limits Supreme Verdict’s effectiveness. Purphoros has a similar effect and doesn’t care about Supreme Verdict at all. Even though Detention Sphere is usually good versus tokens, it faces the same issues of being sorcery speed. These slower control decks are going to give you more time to set up and sequence your spells as well.

While typical Mono-Red Aggro decks are already good against Mono-Black Control, this extra element gives Brian’s deck an advantage versus blue control decks as well.

Against the other devotion decks that don’t really have much removal, cards like Ogre Battledriver and Young Pyromancer are going to shine because they won’t be under fire. The massive damage output potential and direct damage aspect of Purphoros are also critical in allowing Brian’s deck to come back from cluttered board states that a normal mono-red deck might not be able to break through.

However, it’s not all flowers and sunshine; the deck certainly has issues.


One of the risks of making a deck based on synergies is how deep you have to go to make these synergies worth it.

As we said before, Goblin Rally is no Siege-Gang Commander and is going to have a very hard time holding its weight by itself. If your opponent is able to deal with your enablers like Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] or Ogre Battledriver, you are going to be left with a few tokens and little else. While Goblin Rally might still be worth it, Massive Raid is even riskier, as it literally has the chance to be three mana for only one or two damage—or if things are going really bad, none.

I also question the inclusion of Chandra, Pyromaster. While Chandra is an excellent card, we are not really interested in killing one toughness creatures or grinding out card advantage. Most disturbing of all is how it is the eighth four-mana spell in our deck and it is not the fourth Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]!

(A rather boisterous heavy set man in the front row with a neckbeard and a shirt that says "I’d Tap That" on it shouts, "You tell ’em Jim!")

Uh . . . yes, thank you sir.

Anyway, despite the fact that it is legendary and difficult to kill, our deck almost needs a Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] in play to work properly, and playing less than four is simply too risky.


The last difficulty comes in the mana base. While Mutavault is fantastic in more beatdown-oriented decks, I think this is a deck that really wants to cast its double- and triple-red spells as soon as possible. I also think the deck could stand to add another land, perhaps moving to a 22 Mountain / 2 Mutavault mana base.

Competitive or Fun?

Regardless of issues, this deck seems like quite the blast to play, and the amount of damage you can create with an Ogre Battledriver and Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] in play is truly awesome. This is a deck that can satisfy your Johnny-esque cravings while still allowing you to burn and beat down. Let’s hear it for Brian!


(Enthusiastic applause!)

The Moment of Truth


Well, folks, we are down to it. The moment you’ve all been waiting for; the moment you decide the winner of this episode of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW!

(Crowd goes wild with applause!)

Will current champ Rob Caporino begin a new dynasty?

(Crowd chants "Rob-bie! Rob-bie!")

Or will newcomer Brian Schlactus shellac the champ?

(Crowd briefly pauses to ponder the meaning of the world " shellac " but then brings up the chant of "Bri-an! Bri-an!")

Here’s how the voting works. Take your time and pick the brewer and deck that you like the most! Remember, this is subjective—you can think the deck is more competitive, more fun, more something you’d like to play, or just plain like it better for any reason you can think of!

In the comments of the article, I will post one comment with each of our contestant’s names. Simply "like" the one you want to vote for! It’s that simple! And don’t be bashful . . . let us know why you like the deck you picked! And why you hate the deck you didn’t!


The winner will be back to defend his title in the next episode. The loser? The loser will be laughed into obscurity by the rabble, never to brew on the public stage again!


So cast your votes, and we will see you next time on the show where we ask everyday Magic players . . .


(Applause and theme music!)

Executive Producer: Jim Davis

Executive Editor: Cedric Phillips

Executive Copy Editor: Kaitlin Lindburg

Assistant to the Producer: Nicole Callahan

Director of Audiography: Joseph Ricigliano

Storyboard Artist: Trevor Humphries

Best Boy: Andrew Jessup

Filmed live on stage at Brother’s Grim Games in Selden, New York.

So You Think You Can Brew is a StarCityGames.com production.