It wasn’t until I got into the car after Regionals that it dawned on me…
“Woah. I’m going to the freaking National Championship!”
The deck I’m going to talk about is the deck that placed me third at Northwest (Seattle) Regionals: URg Urzatron-Wildfire, which, before Flores calls it something silly that sticks like “Flores SkyTron”, I have dubbed Sizzetron.
To start talking about how the deck came to be, we have to go back to May 6th. I was working on a modified version of the G/W Chord deck that splashed Blue for a few nice cards. The deck was doing well, but that day I cut Kodama of the North Tree, because all he ever did was die to Ghost Council of Orzhova, and added Simic Sky Swallower to the deck. Then I played a few games and every time I Chorded him into play I won the game handily. Simic Sky Swallower was basically Kodama of the North Tree 2.0; he flew, had two more points of toughness, and didn’t get blocked by stupid elephants (Loxodon Hierarch, for those of you not in on the lingo) and Ghost Councils all day.
That night, my teammate and friend from Michigan, Paul Nicolo, got onto AIM. While I tried to tell him about how good Simic Sky Swallower was, he kept telling me about he had decimated FNM with this U/R Wildfire Tron deck I had dismissed earlier as being fluke. Then it hit me like a topdecked Lightning Helix: What if we added Simic Sky Swallower to the Urzatron deck? Suddenly we started talking about the possibilities. The next day, he posted his first draft of the decklist on my teams forums, and it looked like this:
I tested it and the deck was absolutely crazy. It needed some improvements, but the core of the deck was beating everything. Simic Sky Swallower continued to be crazy in every game I cast it. In the course of two days, I essentially tossed aside the Chord deck I had been testing for Regionals and picked up this beast of a deck. In the course of those two days I made some changes and turned the maindeck into this:
The deck still didn’t feel complete, though. It went through a period of massive changes every day where it was constantly different. Then a whole new set of problems came on. It suddenly seemed like the deck couldn’t win at all in playtesting. Matchups which were usually blowouts for the ‘Tron deck became seemingly unwinnable. With just a few days left until Regionals, many of the people I knew abandoned playing the deck, opting for something else, chalking its earlier success up to a fluke. I managed to fix some of the problem when I realized I was losing a lost of post-board games because I was boarding in too much and diluting what the deck did best, but I still kept having trouble.
Let me tell you something about doing an audible and changing your deck close to an event. Don’t do it! How many times have you heard somebody tell you about how they changed the deck that they were going to play the night before the event and then went 0-3 drop? I’ve heard it a lot of times. Never change your deck so close to a big event! At that point you are better off playing your maybe slightly weaker deck that you know how to play well and have playtested with, then changing to a deck you heard two pros discussing and have never played before in your life. I cannot stress enough the importance of playing a deck you know, have playtested a lot, and are familiar with.
Anyway, I felt like my deck was in a downward spiral and it was some cruel joke that had been played on me. I continued to press on and presented this decklist at Regionals, where I honestly didn’t expect to do any better than 5-3.
I know that some of the card selections may raise some eyebrows so let me explain them.
I don’t have a lot to say here, other then it appears to be perfect. If you want to run this deck, don’t muddle with the mana base until you’ve tested it. Oh, and about the one Island? It was basically Ghost Quarter protection. We feared that some random players would be playing it (The card is horrible in Standard, contrary to what some may think) and we didn’t want to lose because Ghost Quarter actually worked against us. Thus, the one Island. Once the format is more settled, and nobody is playing Ghost Quarter, you could cut it for a Shivan Reef or Tendo Ice Bridge.
Facing turn 2 or 3 with counter mana up is crucial. Whenever you cast a Signet, you are so much further ahead than it seems you should be. Thus, the seven Signets instead of six.
This card is a necessary evil. I hate it maindeck against aggro, because its a five-mana spell you can’t afford to cast until long after you’ve stabilized after a Wildfire… but against control, a resolved Tidings swings the matchup greatly towards you.
Contrary to what Mike Flores may have posted in the StarCityGames.com forums, this card is amazing in this deck. Its like a Obliterate against aggro, but don’t be afraid to be aggressive and just run one out on turn 5 or 6, as long as you have some Signets in play and a land you can play next turn. Chances are you can recover from it much quicker than your opponent. Why only three? Because drawing too many can be an issue.
“Only one maindeck?” you might be asking. Yes, only one. You have so much card drawing, so you can draw it if you need to in an average game. I had two in originally, but sometimes they would be stuck in my hand, especially after a Wildfire. It’s a nice random way to win out of nowhere, and the second one in the sideboard is for control. The uncounterability just can win any kind of control mirror.
I didn’t have this in my build for the longest time. My teammate practically had to force me to test with this card. After I tried it once, I was sold on it, as it was amazing. All I could ever think of, when this card was suggested before, is the part on one of the Top8magic.com podcasts where Mike Flores has a two-minute rant on how terrible Repeal is. The funny part is I actually agree with him.
In the normal non-Wildfire Izzetron decks its not that great. However, in the Wildfire builds, it’s crucial. You can bounce annoying creatures that survive Wildfire – like Kamigawa Dragons or a Paladin En-Vec – at end of turn, then untap and Wildfire so they can’t recast them. Its good against aggro because it draws you a card and stops some damage from getting to you, and against most aggro-control decks like G/W Chord it lets you hit the critical mass stage where you know they have a big threat that can beat you and that its time to Wildfire, without actually letting that threat sit there eating at your life total. I couldn’t see playing the deck without these, and at one point I actually considered playing a fourth, but there just isn’t room.
This card was out of the deck for over a week before I put it back in. Originally, I believed that every card in this deck either needed to produce mana, be a win condition, be a ridiculous card like Wildfire, or draw you cards. Pyroclasm didn’t fit into any of these categories, and it didn’t help that much against Gruul or Zoo because it didn’t kill the problematic creatures like Kird Ape, Watchwolf, or Scab-Clan Mauler. It was good against B/W, but in testing I already trounced B/W. Two days before Regionals it found its way back into the deck. Because I knew I was better than most of the field and I could outplay most of my opponents, I didn’t want to randomly lose, and Pyroclasm is a good way to help you not randomly lose to the newer aggro decks like Rakdos or U/W Fish-Skies.
The Heartbeat matchup can be kind of rough game 1. The fact that it helps out against some other decks is just a bonus.
Just like back in Mirrodin-Fifth Dawn Standard, where Annex was great in the Mono Blue Tron mirror match, it’s great here against other control decks. You can play the Eminent Domain game after sideboarding and go with a turn 2 Signet, turn 3 Annex. This card is crucial against any control or combo deck.
“Okay, I believed you about the manabase working. I believed you about the one Demonfire. But Imaginary Pet? You must surely be joking!” Is what you’re probably thinking right now. In actuality though, Imaginary Pet is a great card. If you play a turn 2 Imaginary Pet against Zoo they probably have to Char it, in which case your Imaginary Pet has been a Mana Leak. If they don’t kill it, then they can’t attack into it unless they want to make a bad trade. It takes down all kind of creatures. Try it and you’ll be surprised.
So, by now you’re probably looking for a tournament report. Well, to be honest, I didn’t keep any notes because I didn’t expect to qualify. I have a good memory though, so I’ll give a summary of each round.
Round 1: Travis Clark with G/B Aggro-Control
To be honest, my opponent even admitted he was new to big events. The deck was G/B with cards like Silhana Ledgewalker, Dryad Sophisticate, Moldervine Cloak, Iwamori of the Open Fist, Umezawa’s Jitte, and Putrefy, but it also had some seemingly out of place cards like Infernal Tutor (which clearly didn’t belong). Regardless, I dropped game 1 to a double Moldervine Cloaked, Jitte Wearing Iwamori of the Open Fist. Games 2 and 3 I draw my Pyroclasms and Repeals to keep the board under control. I Wildfire a few times, and swing in with a Simic Sky Swallower to win the second and Demonfire him out in the third.
Round 2: John Prather with Patrick Chapin Critical Snakes
This match I’m the most hazy on, because it was right before lunch break and I was ready to fuel the furnace. I remember that game 1 was very close, but I managed to resolve a Wildfire and got the Tron active to cast a threat. He had a Tatsumasa token, but I had Repeal. I don’t actually remember if this match went to three games or not, but the one that I won (Game 2 or game 3, if there was a game 3) he Arashi’d my Simic Sky Swallower and Keiga, both separately. I eventually Repealed his Godo and cast Wildfire, then got lucky and drew the third Tron piece to cast Simic Sky Swallower the next turn.
Round 3: Keegan Joiner with Owl
Uh oh, this can’t be good. My entire plan to beat Owl was to win the first round, but clearly somehow he’s 2-0. However, magically, I take game 1 by countering his critical card draw spells, and he runs out of gas. He manages to resolve some of his card drawing stuff after a Wildfire though, but I play a Simic Sky Swallower and end up one hit away from dying to his active Ebony-Owl Netsuke. Game 2, however, he just smashes me.
Game 3 I get lucky. He mulligans down to six on the draw, but gets stuck on two lands. To make matters worse for him, I have turn 3 and turn 4 Annex. Even with a Howling Mine, he struggles the whole game for lands and I win.
Round 4: Kristopher Scudder with G/W Chord
Game 1 he gets a very quick start and drops me to a dangerous life total. I manage to pseudo-stabilize with a well timed Pyroclasm and Electrolyze, but he’s still beating down. I play double Keiga and steal his Viridian Shaman and Loxodon Hierarch, and trade with some of his creatures, and then play a Simic Sky Swallower next turn. In the end I go for the lethal Demonfire, but if he has Shining Shoal I lose. Luckily, he doesn’t, and we go to game 2.
Game 2 is just a massacre. He gets stuck on two lands, a Selesnya Guildmage and a Llanowar Elf. I stopped his Wood Elf plan with Electrolyze, and by the time he had found his third land I had a Keiga in play with counter and Wildfire backup.
Round 5: Chris Pauly with Enduring Ideal
Game 1 I knew he was playing Enduring Ideal, but I didn’t realize he was running the Seething Song version. I tapped out for Compulsive Research on my turn and he went off with Ideal, by getting Dovescape, Night of Souls’ Betrayal and then Form of the Dragon. Game 2 I have the Mana Leak and Remands to counter his any early plays he had. He got Boseiju, but I Wildfired, drew some cards and played some lands, then cast a Keiga and Wildfired again. Game 3 I had a few counters I was able to use, and managed to start beating down with a Keiga. I Wildfired, and left him with two cards and four mana sources in play. He draws and his three cards are land, Seething Song, Enduring Ideal. I actually could have won this game, but I didn’t realize that Demonfire would get around Dovescape.
At 4-1, I needed to win out and then maybe get a draw to make it into Top 8. Is this where the spiral down would start?
Round 6: Logan Haney with U/R Wildfire ‘Tron
Game 1 I thought I had lost for sure. I mulliganed into a four-card hand. However, somehow I managed to resolve a Tidings, which suddenly unmulliganed me. I killed his Ryusei with Demonfire, and then something surprising happened: he cast Wildfire. I was overjoyed, because I was hoping I could resolve a Wildfire. His Wildfire left me with two Urzatron Pieces in play, and then I played the third one I had in my hand and cast Simic Sky Swallower. Next turn I masterfully played a Izzet Signet along with the Shivan Reef I just drew, and cast Wildfire, eliminating Logan’s chances of winning the game.
Game 2, he got stuck on three Urza lands, which made the Urzatron, for a few turns, while I could tell he was desperately searching for Blue mana. I drew some cards with Compulsive Research leaving Remand mana up, and then he finally found an Island and Compulsive Researched. However, this left his Blue mana tapped, so I stole the Urza piece I was missing with Annex, completing my Urzatron and disassembling his. He was short on mana the rest of the game, while I was able to cast a threat then Wildfire.
Round 7: Matt Ruhlen with U/R Control
His deck was interesting because it wasn’t Wafo-Tapa, but it also didn’t harness the power of the ‘Tron. We considering drawing and then playing our next round out, instead of trying to win this round and draw in, but decide against it.
Game 1 is a long, boring, normal control-on-control affair. At one point I try and get a Tidings through, but I have to burn two counters trying to get it to resolve, and then he has Spell Snare to counter my counters. I’m tapped out, and he casts Ryusei. I surprisingly only have one ‘Tron piece at that point, so instead of saving it to burn his face, I Demonfire his Ryusei and draw some cards with a Compulsive Research. He hasn’t cast much card drawing, so I manage to sneak through a Simic Sky Swallower and resolve a Wildfire, both with counter backup. Game two I try and Annex turn three off a Signet, which gets Remanded, and then he has his own Annex to set me back. After a few turns where we’ve each stolen some lands, he wins a counterwar to play a Keiga. On my turn I draw some cards and assemble ‘Tron, let Keiga hit me once, then Repeal it. He recasts Keiga on his next turn and I have Mana Leak, so I make him tap out to resolve it. On my turn, Demonfire him. He attacks me, and then on my turn I have the second Demonfire, which is uncounterable, and I take the match 2-0.
Round 8: Jeremy Lochridge, eventual champion of Regionals, playing B/W Aggro
I draw here. I fret for an hour, hoping that my tiebreakers don’t drop somehow, even though I was in second place in my point division. Standings are put up and it looks like I’m fifth! That means I get to play….. Uh oh. My only loss on the day, Enduring Ideal. Again!
Round 9, Top 8 match: Chris Pauly with Enduring Ideal
Game 1 he tries to go off early with Seething Song and Enduring Ideal, but I have Remand to send his Ideal back to his hand. He looks at some cards with Sleight of Hand and Compulsive Research, and eventually I resolve Wildfire. He starts rebuilding, and I have the second Wildfire. However, I’ve been drawing so many lands I’m still hitting my land drops. Luckily, I manage to get ‘Tron up and running and cast a Simic Sky Swallower, which swings twice, and a Demonfire burns to seal the deal.
Game 2 I’m really digging for lands. He builds up faster than me, but I draw into the ‘Tron and play out a Keiga and Compulsive Research – I don’t have any counters, and I need to find some. He has Enduring Ideal the next turn, and wins.
Game 3 I get some early Annexes on his already mana-light hand. I had exhausted most of my resources but I draw, in a row, my third Annex to steal his Boseiju that he probably wins with if he draws his seventh mana source or Seething Song; land; Keiga; Wildfire. That seals the game up, and in a flash, I’m qualified for Nationals!
If you want to try running this deck, here are a few cards that didn’t make the cut that you might want to know about so you can tweak this for your local metagame.
This card is actually very good. Pretty much every non-Heartbeat deck plays at least ten nonbasic lands, four dual lands, four painlands, and at least two Kamigawa legendary lands. When you add in Bouncelands or even more colors (Like Zoo), it easily becomes Destroy target creature for one mana. The night before Regionals I was debating Weight of Spires or Imaginary Pet for the sideboard. It was a very close call, but I played Imaginary Pet instead.
Disrupting Scepter hasn’t been tech since 1995, so why should a Disrupting Scepter that costs one more be any good in current Standard? Simply put, the second ability is much better than it looks. Against control, it lets you hit seemingly infinite land drops. Once you get rid of the lands they have in hand and start gnawing into the spells, you’ll start getting threats or counters that you not only make them lose, but you get to use. It was cut from my sideboard for space, but I know that some of my team members ran it.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Usually Defense Grid is sideboarded in against control decks! Against heavy control decks you can’t usually win on a counter-for-counter basis, because you don’t play any hard counters while they do. However, if you can consistently get your key spells to resolve (Like Wildfire or Simic Sky Swallower) against control, you should win the game. A turn 2 Defense Grid means that all of your spells resolve until they have at least five mana up. That gives you time to resolve key cards like Tidings, or even a Wildfire with some quick Signets. It also lets you use your counters offensively. If they try and counter your spell and you have a Mana Leak or Remand, they probably can’t recast the counter.
All the lands in this deck need to produce Blue mana except ‘Tron pieces. As all the cool kids say, ’nuff said.
This card is very good. However, with 12 colorless producing lands, you are often playing ‘Tron pieces in the early game and can’t maximize the effectiveness of this card. If you just want to be able to win counter wars, there are better cards out there.
I will not disagree that Meloku is a good card. I’m usually the person who tells everyone that they need more Melokus in the deck. However, Meloku doesn’t work in this deck. He dies to Wildfire, and many times your game plan is to play a threat and cast Wildfire, leaving your threat to stick around while your opponent is in a struggling board position.
As I said earlier, this was originally the pseudo-24th land, but when Pyroclasm needed room two cards had to be cut, and those two cards were Telling Time and a Keiga (At that time the deck had three Keigas. Like I said, the deck was constantly shifting.)
This card was being looked at as a way to wrath Zoo and Gruul. The question was, is discarding two cards on average to Plague Wind good? The answer was yes. Why wasn’t it played? Because of the tricky RR in its mana cost that wasn’t always easy to get, especially when you needed it on turn 4.
Before I close out this article, this is how I would sideboard for many of the major matchups:
Zoo/Gruul/Rakdos/Boros (Heavy aggro decks): Preboard even (50/50), postboard slightly in your favor (60/40)
Against these decks, you just have to weather the early game and survive to cast Wildfire.
B/W Husk: Preboard and postboard highly in your favor (80/20)
B/W Aggro (No Husk): Preboard and postboard slightly in your favor (60/40)
Normal B/W with more disruption is harder then Husk. Watch out for Okiba-Gang Shinobi!
Heartbeat: Preboard in their favor (35/65) postboard in your favor (65/35)
G/W Chord: Preboard and postboard slightly in your favor (60/40)
This matchup isn’t terribly difficult. Be careful that they can’t Shining Shoal or Loxodon Hierarch your Wildfire, and you should be set. Also, remember that Demonfire removes from the game, so it deals with Yosei very well.
Blue control decks of all shapes and sizes: Preboard very slightly in your favor (55/45) post board in your favor (65/35)
Magnivore: Preboard and postboard all depends on the dice roll (??/??)
In this matchup, there’s not a lot to bring in. Annex is decent, but its more just about taking our your weakest cards. Also, winning the dice roll is good tech.
Enduring Ideal: Preboard slightly in their favor (40/60) postboard even (50/50)
Don’t take Demonfire out, like I did in the Top 8. It gets around Dovescape! Don’t waste your counters on the unimportant spells; keep them for Enduring Ideal. Try and keep Boseiju, Who Shelters All (More aptly named Boseiju, Who Makes Blue Cry) off the board as much as you can.
In closing, I’d just like to say that I knew that the field was going to be diverse (and it was; I faced 8 different decks in 9 rounds), so I brought this deck based on something Osyp said.
“In a format with so many different decks, you just want to make sure your deck does the same thing over and over, and is consistent.”
Well, that’s exactly what this deck did.
A big thanks to my team, Team Unknown Stars, for furthering the deck and helping me playtest, and especially to Paul Nicolo for introducing me to this deck and convincing me to play it. Also, a big thanks to the Top8magic.com podcasts. I don’t actually think they had any advice that helped me place so well at Regionals (although I’m sure they did somehow, subconsciously) but the podcasts are so good they snuck in my thanks list anyways.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, post them on the forum thread for this article or message me on Magic Online (My user name is Rabon.) Otherwise, I’m Lesurgo almost everywhere, and you can PM me.
See you at Nationals! (Or JSS Champs, if I do badly and drop)