The Deck That Made Me Cry

Mark Nestico is a seasoned Magic veteran and grown man, but that doesn’t mean he’s never shed a tear. Read his heart-warming sob story about a new Standard deck that just *sniff* *sniff*–I just love Magic so much!

Do you remember the first time you cried during a movie?

It’s happened to me during a few films.

Big Fish
? I love my dad.

Toy Story 3
? My childhood is dead.

Finding Neverland
? I really love my dad.

But that first time…that’s the one that always sticks with you.

Most kids cried during something like All Dogs Go to Heaven or The Fox and the Hound. Not me. I can remember it as clear as day, and it
was all because of stupid Carl Weathers and even more stupid Dolph Lundgren.

I was a boy of eight watching a Rocky marathon, because, you know, that’s exactly what a child should be doing. I coasted through the first three films
with relative ease. I didn’t understand the nuances of the first one, but I knew that nice Italian man really loved that mousy Italian woman even though
her brother was always screaming. The second movie was nice because he finally won a belt after beating Apollo Creed. I watched wrestling so I knew that
was a big deal. The third one and racism were completely lost unto me, but that bad guy from the first movie was a good guy now. Mick dying was pretty
tough to watch, but I had just lost my grandfather and he was just as old as him, so it made sense to me.

Then the forth one happened.

I liked Apollo. He was always smiling and the way he came out to “Living in America” by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, was catchy, and as a child,
flashing lights and dancing women are always pretty dope. Everything was coming up Apollo! He was going to trounce that uppity Russian and his wife with
the weird haircut faster than you could say “U-S-of-A.”

The fight started out exactly like I knew it would: Apollo danced around the lumbering giant and peppered him with jabs and power punches. Hell yeah! This
was awesome! Why would they even call the movie Rocky 4? Should have called it Apollo 1, because this movie was all about him kicking

All of a sudden a creepy looking Russian trainer yelled something in a language I could not hope to understand and all hell broke loose.

Two, three- no- four punches erupted on Apollo by Drago. They sounded like gunshots being fired off, and Apollo was staggered. As he slumped into the
corner I knew the fight was over, but Apollo just breathed heavily through his mouthpiece while whispering “you ain’t stopping nothing.”

I could feel the tears coming.

Moments later Apollo had fallen, and as his wife cried and he sat cradled in Rocky’s arms Dragon merely looked down at him and emotionlessly said, “If he
dies, he dies.”

It was a waterfall, kiddies. A freaking waterfall. I immediately channeled my inner valley girl. I couldn’t even.

The reason I bring this story up is because my team has been testing a deck, provided by a friend named Travis Brown that makes me feel like I am the beast
that made me cry as a child:

Ivan Drago.

A playtesting session with my friend Paul begot some pretty scary things.

Paul was playing with Sultai Reanimator; a list pretty close to the one I posted last week and Todd Anderson’s from his VS video. I was
playing Mardu Aggro.

The first four games were blowouts where Paul was beating the living heck out of me and the games weren’t even remotely close. Mardu’s mana felt really
bad, I hadn’t drawn a single Butcher of the Horde (spoiler alert), and Paul just had all the answers all the time.

Then a Russian man yelled at me from my corner in a language I couldn’t hope to understand. The switch had been flipped.

Over the next series of games Mardu Aggro began to treat Paul like he was Apollo Creed. Sure, he had danced around me and hit me with a few shots in the
early rounds, but then years of cold, Siberian training kicked in and the deck I was piloting began crushing him with superior everything.

All of a sudden the exact “unbeatable” starts Paul had were completely invalidated by sheer aggression and consistency. Paul would be at twelve with
blockers and then he’d be dead the next turn. I’d go from having a couple creatures to a board full of them. I won too many games to count.

I casually glanced at the Sultai Reanimator deck and whispered “if it dies, it dies.”

So there’s a lot about this deck that can be confusing at first, but let me explain.

The first thing you might notice is Monastery Swiftspear and only thirteen spells to trigger her. I thought this was going to be a problem at first, but it
turns out Goblin Guide is just Goblin Guide most of the time. In the early turns when you’re casting Titan’s Strength and Mardu Ascendency, this card is
gold and it can deal a ton of damage. In conjunction with Ascendancy, it lets you generate a creature the turn it comes down, which because of the curve of
this deck, it isn’t uncommon to be able to attack for a damage on turn 1, trigger raid the second turn or power up your Denizen, and on turn 3, drop the
Ascendancy, attack with two creatures and pump out two attacking Goblin tokens, which also happen to pump your Foundry Street Denizen or Rabblemaster. In a
pinch the sacrificial effect on Mardu Ascendency lets you keep your whole team alive will dealing out massive amount of damage.

One card that performed way better than expected was Ride Down. I’m not sure how much play this card will see, but in a world full of Siege Rhinos and
Courser of Kruphix, Ride Down is king, and blocking becomes very unpleasant for your opponent. Stoke the Flames is an all-star with the amount of creatures
you can generate. Often it’ll break stalemates by killing a blocker and letting you swing in. Convoking it with all your tokens you can create is always an
option, making it a free Lightning Blast!

Goblin Rabblemaster is every bit as powerful as you’d expect him to be, and untapping with him in play almost ensures victory. Combining super well with
Mardu Ascendency and Foundry Street Denizen is just the beginning. His new best friend is Butcher of the Horde. Those two are bros.

Instead of feeding your token to a random creature that you know will eat it, Butcher of the Horde gives you something a lot more fun to do with it.
Sacrificing a token to your Butcher lets you pick your mode that will do the most damage, whether it be haste if you just played it or lifelink if you want
to keep swinging the race in your favor. A single Butcher of the Horde is almost entirely gamebreaking, and chaining them will almost always win you the

The hardest part to get over is, of course, the manabase. The first few games I played with it were horrid. I never had all my colors or enough lands to
cast spells and it was miserable. After a few shuffles though, I never had a problem. Perhaps it was bad luck on the part of not drawing the right
combination of lands or it was good luck drawing the perfect mana base for multiple games in a row, but I’m certain it’s somewhere in the middle. As is the
case with the Jeskai decks that are starting to spring up, you’re at the mercy of your mana, but that’s the name of the game! To do well in a tournament
you need to run well and that includes hitting the right lands, but the power level this deck was pushing out was off the charts when it was running well.
Devouring Courser of Kruphix decks would be an understatement.

Your sideboard is mostly to increase your potency against other aggro and midrange decks. Magma Spray is going to be seeing a lot of play in the coming
weeks due to its efficiency and the fact that it exiles creatures, which is relevant against various delve strategies.

Ride Down comes in against green decks. They almost never see it coming it it’s going to let you kill a creature larger than your token almost 100% of the
time. Eating a Polukranos is just about as sweet as it sounds.

Stormbreath Dragon is a beast of a Magic card, but it is probably the most replaceable card in the board. Sometimes it’s nice to be playing a huge monster
after your Butcher of the Horde puts the game away before your opponent can react, but it does cost five which may make it too much of a liability.

Sorin, Solemn Visitor is there to break parity with a power pump and lifelink. If you need creatures, churning out bat tokens is a very real thing and, of
course, his ultimate is a pretty big game against a lot of decks. His cheap cost and huge impact certainly are a welcome addition after boarding, where
boarding out your early drops and playing more like a Mardu Midrange deck is a great option.

Please feel free to share your input on this deck. I’m sure together we can build a better version of it.

One thing that has me feeling like we’re on the right track is when I checked out the results from the SCG Open in New Jersey. Check this out!

All three of these decks have different themes and focus on different facets of Mardu, but all of them finished in the Top 24 and each deck showcases
something well that Mardu can do for you.

Going forward, I feel like all versions of this deck are going to be chillin’ at the top tables, so you best be ready for the Dega menace.

Special thanks again to Travis for sharing such a sweet deck with me!

FNM Hero- What’s The Pick?

So far I’ve been sent, whether through comment sections or messages on Facebook, well over a hundred decks to choose from for FNM Hero.

The week after Grand Prix Orlando should be the first week the challenge goes live, so I’ve decided to narrow things down a little bit.

A large percentage of the decks are similar in that they only vary a couple cards between builds, which makes me feel kinda rough about picking a certain
deck from person A when person B recommended the same thing with only one or two cards different.

Time to put it to a vote!

Vote For FNM Hero!
Mono-Red Rabblemaster
Mono-Black Aggro
G/B Devotion
Jeskai Burn

free poll

These were the most voted for decks except for G/B Devotion.

That’s my input because Ross Merriam’s list from the Open in New Jersey is pretty awesome. I loooooove Doomwake Giant more than most people, and if you cut
something like a Nissa, Worldwaker from the deck, it becomes very budget friendly, and I think would give me a logical shot at winning enough to generate a

But maybe that’s not the point.

Maybe you should stick me with a cheap aggro deck and make me work for it and earn it.

Either way, my fate is in your hands!

Vote and make it count.

I’m off for now, kiddies. Time to practice Sealed for Grand Prix Orlando!

See you at the Dominaria Resort!