U/G/R: Good or No Good?

I’ll be very, very surprised if someone doesn’t find some way to abuse Obliterate at Denver. Maybe that deck will be U/G/R.

In my last article, detailing three different flavors of U/G decks, I declared that”There were no good U/G/R decks.”

Several people emailed me regarding the apparent wrongness of that statement, saying that U/G/R is indeed a viable archetype.

For a while, Jay Schneider and I were bouncing back ideas for a U/G deck and he came up with this version, and offshoot of the”Unnatural Act” deck I was trying to make:

4 Gaea’s Skyfolk

4 Nomadic Elf

4 Elvish Champion

4 Coastal Drake

4 Kavu Titan

4 Jungle Barrier

4 Mystic Snake

2 Unnatural Selection

4 Prophetic Bolt

12 Forest

4 Yavimaya Coast

2 Shivan Reef

2 Island

1 Mountain

4 Lay of the Land

2 Harrow

This, sadly, didn’t work too well. Eventually, it morphed into a version that tried to abuse Guided Passage:

4 Kavu Titan

4 Blurred Mongoose

4 Gaea’s Skyfolk

4 Mystic Snake

2 Suffocating Blast

3 Guided Passage

4 Repulse

2 Prophetic Bolt

3 Scorching Lava

2 Urza’s Rage

4 Fire/Ice

4 Shivan Reef

4 Shivan Oasis

4 Yavimaya Coast

7 Forest

3 Island

2 Mountain

The idea is to drop a few bears, either burn out or bounce the blockers, then ride your forces to victory or burn out your opponent with Rage and Prophetic Bolt. I thought it had potential. I added Scorching Lava as an anti-Spectral Lynx card, and I still think Suffocating Blast is a great card, even though it’s a little limited and dependent upon the right circumstances to use.

But the deck just didn’t work.

The trouble was, I discovered, that you have a sort of munging of elements of tempo decks (Gaea’s Skyfolk, Repulse), aggro (Blurred Mongoose) and control. Sometimes you throw a melange of ingredients in the pot, you get something tasty. Sometimes you get, well, crap. This concoction sadly goes into the latter pile.

You can’t burn the catfish and get away with calling it”blackened.”

Upon further review, part of the problem is the way allied and opposing colors work in the post-Apocalypse environment. U/G decks, as we’ve seen so far, are tempo-based decks. R/G decks tend to fall in the aggro category. U/R decks — we haven’t seen many, if any, of those in IBC as yet. Why not?

We know that counter-burn decks can work; we’ve seen U/R before, like Counter-Phoenix and Counter-Hammer. But in IBC, the straight blue counter base is fairly weak — Evasive Action is probably the strongest of the lot, with Prohibit and Confound being marginally playable. The only straight counters in IBC depend upon opposite colors. No – in IBC, blue is the color of bounce. And while there’s a good base of red burn in this environment, bounce-burn doesn’t work as well as counter-burn.

There’s also the matter of the tri-color rare in these three colors. Compared to Fervent Charge and Lightning Angel, Guided Passage comes up a little short. It’s not a bad card, mind you, but a deck packing the Passage needs to be very focused to keep an opponent from just loading up your hand with crap.

There, good readers, lies the crux of the problem. You cannot make U/G/R work by trying to fit it into existing archetypes. So you need something else. Perhaps something more combo-esque.

This segues into another pass at U/G/R. Perhaps the most interesting U/G/R deck I’ve seen was another janky creation of Aaron”The Captain” Fitzgerald, a man so in love with Obliterate he’d probably marry it if he could get away with it (maybe in Mississippi, perhaps). He threw together this deck that not only managed to abuse Penumbra creatures but also”broke” Guided Passage:

4 Guided Passage

4 Obliterate

4 Penumbra Bobcat

4 Penumbra Kavu

2 Penumbra Wurm

4 Utopia Tree

4 Quirion Elves

4 Urza’s Rage

4 Prophetic Bolt

4 Shivan Oasis

4 Shivan Reef

4 Yavimaya Coast

7 Mountain

7 Forest

The beauty of Guided Passage in this deck is that is that it is guaranteed to fish an Obliterate out of your deck when you need one (either that or another Guided Passage — so you’re gonna get that Obliterate eventually).

The deck is supposed to utilize the synergy between Penumbra creatures and Obliterate. Cast Obliterate with a few Bobcats and Kavus on the board, and you’ve got a potent beatdown force of black 2/1s and 3/3s with nothing else on the board.

Utopia Tree and Quirion Elves are there to accelerate mana, and Urza’s Rage and Prophetic Bolt give the deck a nice amount of potent burn.

The deck is very, very raw at this point — for example, Penumbra Wurm is probably too expensive for the deck, and not necessary. Not to mention the deck has serious trouble with Spectral Lynx – playing against him with a U/W/B deck I’d built, two Lynxes and a Voice of All held off his ground force of Penumbra critters long enough to win.

I’d say a card like Fire/Ice would be a natural addition to the deck, replacing the Penumbra Wurm and perhaps two Prophetic Bolts. Maybe even some bounce, either Repulse or Rushing River, to be able to bounce an annoying creature prior to an Obliterate.

One possible addition to the deck might be Overabundance to really accelerate things. I’ve seen a variant of this deck that does away with the blue and just goes straight aggro, with hasty creatures like Raging Kavu and Kavu Runner joining the Penumbra creatures, using them for early beatdown, then blowing up the world and making an opponent kill themselves under Overabundance.

And, there again, we’ve lost the U/G/R deck in favor of a new flavor of fast beats.

For now, I’m going to stick with my assessment that U/G/R just ain’t gonna work in IBC.

But the metagame as I see it seems to be very much centered around control and tempo decks, with aggro seemingly coming in third in this triumvirate. Obliterate is a card that absolutely punishes control and can give tempo decks, like U/G, absolute fits. I’ll be very, very surprised if someone doesn’t find some way to abuse it at Denver. Maybe that deck will be U/G/R.

Hey, stranger things have happened.

Dave Meddish

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