Act of Treason ∙ Evan Erwin ∙ Petr Brodzek ∙ Baneslayer Angel (and lack thereof) ∙ Beating Jund Decks ∙
… and Act of Treason
I’M SO GREAT.
In fact, “I’m the Best!” [-Toad]
Okay, that’s out of our system.
Let’s move on, shall we?
I was planning to play Naya Lightsaber at next week’s New York State Championship, but now that the cat’s out of the bag… Yadda, yadda, yadda. Naya Lightsaber was for sure the best deck to play at the World Championships (just read the coverage… I told Andre I was “100% sure” this was the case), but I am not likely to be sleeving it up next weekend.
Okay: Full disclosure: Like you, I might have problems picking up four copies of Baneslayer Angel in time. So… Time for an alternate way to win.
I immediately switched, mentally, from Naya to Red Deck Wins when I realized a paucity of Baneslayer Angels was going to be a possibility. Right after setting foot back on American soil, Evan Erwin called me, and when I said I was switching gears to Goblin Guides, he steered me in the direction of Petr Brodzek’s deck, which was a 5-1 perfomer on the first day of Worlds:
2 Chandra Ablaze
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Quenchable Fire
2 Volcanic Fallout
4 Path to Exile
The first thing that you probably notice about this deck list is its insane mana base. Four Terramorphic Expanses, four Naya Panoramas, not a Teetering Peaks in sight.
Having played this deck about 30-40 matches at this point, I can say that I am quite happy with Petr’s mana base; the deck shell is quite excellent. My main point of customization was / is the inclusion of Act of Treason to the main. You can read why I feel like this is the right thing to do, and a tasty way to do it, here.
1 Ajani Vengeant
1 Act of Treason
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Volcanic Fallout
4 Path to Exile
Here are the incentives and so on as I see them.
This deck always beats Jund.
This deck always beats Fog.
This deck has action against most of the reasonable decks in the metagame.
I have been batting pretty well with Barely Boros [BDM came up with the name, in case you hadn’t already guessed]. My original theory was that it would be a decent, if not fantastic, choice against Naya Lighsaber (smash them for a ten-point swing when they tap for Baneslayer Angel)… But even when you pull that off you don’t necessarily win. So far, Naya Lightsaber seems like it might be the worst matchup for this deck.
On the other hand, Jund is super easy. If people persist in playing Jund in “one-third of the metagame” numbers, that actually paves quite an easy road for the deck. BDM was kind enough to humor me in some Barely Boros testing earlier this week, which you can check out over at Top 8 Magic here (plus, all the surrounding Podcasts).
Every session I do with the deck has been pretty encouraging; though none have been flawless (one of the defining characteristics of Naya Lightsaber early on was its long streak of “never losing”)… The down side of this deck is that when I have one black mark on a session, it is often the result of Naya Lightsaber, itself.
Anyway, here are the stats from the last go-round:
Game the First:
He opens up on Lacerator; I play Goblin Guide and elect not to attack. My attacking can just be a profitable exchange for him, but if he doesn’t attack and I don’t attack, I am “winning” thanks to the Lacerator’s Carnophage-ness. He figures this out and attacks (obviously I trade with the +1). He follows up with Lacerator; I follow up with Guide. Same dance.
There is a little stumbling on my part, after which I play a Plated Geopede. Annoyingly he has a Gatekeeper of Malakir. I was actually sandbagging him, so this is super annoying. He follows up with a Bloodghast, but I Earthquake the pair before there is any attack.
So… Zektar Shrine Expedition.
I pull the trigger, fully expecting I will have to Lightning Bolt it to avoid some kind of embarassing life swing. But somehow Somehow SOMEHOW… It connects. Really? How the heck does that happen?
You can’t really lose if you connect with one of those.
Game the Second:
I have a burn heavy hand that keeps him off guys and kills him as a kind of dirty combo deck.
It’s all Volcanic Fallouts and Lightning Bolts, you know. Dan Paskins would be proud (plenty of overload). Not a lot of interactions this game.
I stall on two but have a pair of Goblin Guides (and no Lightning Bolts). All my Guides give him lands. Did I mention I was stuck on two? Dead dead dead.
Just demolished him on tempo. I chose to go first.
El… Whatever three would be:
He drew three Hell’s Thunders. Hell’s Thunder is like the third best card in the mirror. I have Blightning as #1 because I never beat it Red-on-Red, and Ajani Vengeant has to be the second best (due to the life swing, especially when you can snare a guy and steal an attack). But Hell’s Thunder is probably the third best. Obviously if you can stick a Zektar Shrine or Elemental Appeal, that has a high hand-in-hand with the dubya, but that isn’t really very easy to do with all the Lightning Bolts, Burst Lightnings, and Volcanic Fallouts that the opponent is sandbagging until the end of turn. Hell’s Thunder on the other hand is a somewhat smaller packet of damage that is very hard to stop. Like I said, he had three of them. Man down.
Archive Trap Trap Deck
He set off two Archive Traps on a second turn Path to Exile… Which just set up a bunch of Hellspark Elementals (very embarassing); the Path not only gave me the “card advantage” but the mana to realize it. I won with about seven cards in library.
He sided in Deft Duelist, which was super awkward because I didn’t go all out with the Volcanic Fallouts. I actually always forget to do that! Why!?! It is good against Blue, right? Anyway I gunned one of the two Earthquakes I left in so I looked like a genius &c. (which is really what we’re going for here). The game was closer than it probably seemed from his side of the table. Deft Duelist!
I just about packed on turn one when he played a Soul Warden and I had no Lightning Bolt. Then he ran it into my Plated Geopede. I have never done that, but I have certainly run guys into Vampire Hexmage. Gotta read the Firstest Strikesies, paps!
This match didn’t really count because… Well, among other things, he left in Luminarch Ascension. As you may have guessed, it hit the battlefield on turn the second… and failed to ever accrue a counter. I really didn’t know what was up so I waited to kill him in response to Angel’s Mercy.
It would have been mad… um… irony-ic if I had packed to that Soul Warden.
The first was a kind of a nice fencing match. I juked him with a super fast 7/1; he tapped his Crumbling Necropolis to respond, and I stuck Ajani Vengeant.
We went back and forth for a while, but he peeled back-to-back Blightnings to empty my grip (the second one actually stole a Lightning Bolt and a Burst Lightning when I had 5-6 mana in play), plus the Ajani!
However I had a sufficient life lead to eke out the last two points of damage. Probably from an unchecked topdeck.
I actually got off ultimate on Ajani this game!
I kind of wasn’t paying attention, though. He floated in response and had Magma Spray, which ate my Unearthed Hellspark Elemental. I was watching Notorious out of the corner of my eyes, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have fallen for it.
I couldn’t really lose after blowing up six lands, though… 🙂
So anyway, that was the last five. And no Jund this time around (though like I said, Jund couldn’t be easier); okay, the G/W deck probably doesn’t count.
Good deck, though.
And 100% Baneslayer Angel free (if not Baneslayer Angel resistant).
One of the first things I tried to test was Black instead of White in this strategy. I mean if Act of Treason is good, Slave of Bolas has to be super good, right? Blightning, as well, seemed like a huge upgrade to the spell palette. The problem was… White does quite well across the board, whereas Black never wins (ever). I lost multiple fights in a row to the Fog deck (unlikely at best)… But multiple in a row? You can’t necessarily argue with that action. As BDM pointed out in the Podcasts, the Barely Boros deck is quite servicable against Fog, if for no other reason, the ability to consistenly blow up all their lands.
Nissa Revane ∙ Dependencies ∙ Andre Coimbra ∙
Top 8 Magic Destiny ∙ … and Nissa Revane
I know I have hinted at this notion of bending Nissa Revane a couple of times… From Top Decks to here on the blog. The joke is that you can’t really break Nissa (she isn’t that good)… But you can certainly try to break her, and get halfway to your goal; hence, the bend.
Most of what I have to say about Nissa pre-dates her spectacular finishes at the recent Star City $5,000 tournament by the Andersons et al, so you can actually make the argument that Nissa is breakable. My original position, though, was that even if she is good, she has some undeniable problems. Consider Blightning.
Start scratching your head.
Think about Blightning, or Lightning Bolt, or… whatever. Nissa can be a profitable 2/3 machine (kind of like “make a 2/3, force the opponent to discard a very good card”) but her super normal vulnerability makes it very difficult to keep her on the table. Ergo, difficult to really “break” her.
If you are dead set on playing a Nissa deck, you would probably consider Kali Anderson’s deck before the one I advocate later in this post, but there are still some interesting things to talk about (especially the history surrounding this deck in time, and the domino effect it created for me and eventually Andre Coimbra).
For Reference: Eldrazi Green – Kali Anderson
3 Eldrazi Monument
3 Ant Queen
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Great Sable Stag
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Master of the Wild Hunt
4 Nissa Revane
4 Nissa’s Chosen
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
4 Acidic Slime
4 Great Sable Stag
3 Path to Exile
This Nissa Revane deck might be a little outdated based on two different implementations of separate strategies that have come since (the Eldrazi Green deck as an alternate Nissa Revane deck, and Naya Lightsaber as a better Naya deck), but the reason I figure it is interesting to talk about (still) is the notion of dependencies.
I think that for the past 16 years we have been approaching the idea of deck design — all of us, or most, anyway — from a fundamentally flawed perspective. I have been developing an alternate theory for how all decks are built (which sheds light on what should be the best decks, I think), but that is a topic for another time; I just want to focus on one principle of deck design for now, that of dependencies.
Dependencies are the tax that get tacked onto decks for the privilege of playing certain cards. For example the cards Flooded Strand, Arid Mesa, Ranger of Eos, and Nissa Revane are all compelling cards, and all have certain dependencies attached to them. The first two cards do almost nothing without a Plains to find, and the latter two don’t do quite nothing, but they are certainly below the power curve if they don’t have some kind of Mogg Fanatics and Nissa’s Chosen to work with.
Dependencies are why Marsh Flats and Verdant Catacombs are so much worse in Standard where you have to play actual Plains, Swamps, and Forests, relative to Extended, where you can actually get a Mountain of sorts with either card; just look at the mana base of a Domain Zoo deck: It might have fewer than ten mana producing lands, total… But will rarely, if ever, get caught with its pants down on the mana dependencies. Each non-mana producing land can get a variety of different lands in the deck, with tremendous overlap; even if there is only one Blood Crypt, say, a variety of differnt lands would be able to find it. In Standard, we have a much more difficult time tuning mana bases built around these lands because if we have four Arid Mesas, we probably have to play a bare minimum of four to five Mountains and Plains to justify… and even then, we will often get caught napping on mana. The games in Standard simply take longer, so we are more likely to draw deeper, and therefore, see more of our decks, et cetera.
Any Nissa deck has a fundamental set of dependencies on Nissa’s Chosen. Even if you don’t play all four copies of Nissa Revane, you probably play all four Nissa’s Chosen, because otherwise, Nissa is even less bendy than ususal.
In this deck I elected to try to go for a very explosive Ultimate on Nissa, and crammed my deck full of Elves that I thought might help do the job.
Playing Red was important to me because of the potential to his all my Elvish Archdruids and all my Bloodbraid Elves in a single turn. The possibility for that combination is arguably the strongest of all the reasonably costed Planeswalkers: 20+ damage coming in from a single effect. That was what had me geeked on Nissa… So I invested in Elves well beyond Nissa Revane’s fundamental dependencies.
The result was a playable but far from optimal Naya deck.
I originally tried straight G/R until I realized that I was just going to get blown out by Baneslayer Angels if I didn’t have them myself. However at the same time, I realized I could play arguably the strongest of the Planeswalkers, Ajani Vengeant, in my Nissa Revane deck (go figure). While the Nissa deck itself was not ready for prime time, it certainly set the stage.
I was quite excited about this deck and ran a several hours long playtest session with Brian David-Marshall at Top 8 Magic. You can listen to much of it. These sections have specifically to do with the Naya Nissa deck:
Later in this same session we played the Conqueror’s Pledge deck that Evan Erwin was advocating at the time. I loved Evan’s concept but disliked the implementation, and somehow decided that I was going to go from a creature-based Conqueror’s Pledge deck to a nearly creatureless Planeswalker-Tokens deck. Here is another look at Nissa Revane:
3 Ajani Goldmane
4 Baneslayer Angel
2 Conqueror’s Pledge
4 Day of Judgment
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Martial Coup
1 Oblivion Ring
4 Graypelt Refuge
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
3 Path to Exile
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Celestial Purge
4 Luminarch Ascension
2 Martial Coup
1 Path to Exile
I wanted very much for this deck to be any good.
I played it and played it… But it wasn’t.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything. Between the two decks we actually learned quite a bit… Which resulted in the now-wildly successful Naya Lightsaber.
From the Naya Nissa deck, we got the double-up land destruction package (still BDM’s favorite bit), which eventually helped Andre Coimbra win the World Championship.
The second deck actually taught me to be less fancy. The G/W Nissa deck is so motherloving fancy. By the time I pared down to what became Naya Lightsaber, all the frills were gone. The G/W version showed me what a dead end a Nissa deck with no exciting Ultimate could be; this, in a sense, transformed into Ranger of Eos, which has its own dependencies, but especially in the case of Wild Nacatl, bore dependencies with very low costs indeed. Ultimately I just pared down to the best cards, trying to deploy them in the fastest, most consistent, way possible. The end result: The best deck and a World Champion in my friend Andre Coimbra.
If you dial back to the podcast referenced above, hit up Part Seven (I told you the session was some hours long). BDM and I finish playing with Mono-Cascade (Black Baneslayer) and BDM of course loves it (what’s not to love)… But the last thing we talk about is Andre calling me up for a deck for Worlds. At that point, I hadn’t yet designed Naya Lightsaber… and I don’t know that I would have if not for hanging out with Brian that night. It was really a combination of things… Mostly testing out ideas that weren’t good enough — but were in compatible colors, doing less broken if somewhat more consistent things with Bloodbraid Elf — that got the ball rolling.
I hope you’ll join me in congratulating our 2009 World Champion!
Punishing Fire ∙ Grove of the Burnwillows ∙ Brian Kibler ∙
Cursed Scroll ∙ Ben Rubin ∙ … And Punishing Fire
I am really supposed to be working on this week’s Top Decks right now, which includes some Extended analysis as we approach the 2009 World Championships… But that led me to some personal Extended exploration that I thought I would share with my faithful blog readers.
Of course, like any fan of the game, I went bananas over the Ben Rubin / Brian Kibler Punishing Fire “Zoo” deck that won Pro Tour Austin. Just a great deck, and the bazillionth implementation of the collaboration of that wing of the Underground that has produced, well, the Sickest Ever deck of all time, among others. Their Naya-based Punishing Fire Zoo deck was of course reminiscent of Tomoharu Saito’s exciting finish to last year’s Extended Grand Prix tournaments, but involving bigger thinking.
I often write about how the best deck designers are so successful by killing their darlings… You know, how Dan Paskins went Shrapnel Blast in his straight Red Goblin deck, or how the patron saint of Red Decks, Tsuyoshi Fujita, cut Goblin Piledriver for Goblin Goon… Really not-obvious stuff that distinguishes the designer, differentiates him from the mean, and proves how much more effective his design is than the default.
For Reference: Rubin Zoo
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Lightning Helix
3 Qasali Pridemage
3 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Punishing Fire
3 Baneslayer Angel
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Path to Exile
4 Arid Mesa
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
2 Treetop Village
In this case the big thinking looks to be the interaction between Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows.
Grove of the Burnwillows
This two card combination is strong on its face; it is essentially a one damage net for three mana, and inexorable over a long game. You can give the opponent a life per turn but wipe away his ways to win (for example, your opponent is playing Faeries and has nothing bigger than a 3/1)… You can’t really be stopped over a long game without graveyard removal
Go back and read what I wrote. Not “is” but “looks to be” … Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows is among the most powerful effects in the Rubin Zoo deck, but I feel like the really big innovation was the inclusion of Baneslayer Angel in the strategy. It might not seem brave… But playing a five drop in a Zoo deck is anything but obvious for Extended. After all, this is a format where some players went Steppe Lynx and many thought Woolly Thoctar too expensive to play!
This post is really about Punishing Fire, though, not the Baneslayer Angel end of the Rubin Zoo deck.
I was watching The Magic Show, and Brian said something that really hooked me. The Punishing Fire combination is compelling on its face, sure, but the DragonMaster created an analogy to Cursed Scroll that got the wheels turning.
Cursed Scroll is a card that I have won many tournaments with (though primarily in Black)… I was a huge proponent of Red Decks for Extended a few years back… So this opportunity seemed like a decent window to revisit the strategy.
To be fair Red never really went away. We have just exchanged it for The Lightning Bolt Deck in recent years. The mighty Saito himself played a version of the Lightning Bolt deck, albeit featuring Goblin Guide over Spark Elemental. I am suspicious of a Goblin Guide in general, but it seems particularly out of place in an Extended Red deck. The advantage of the Lightning Bolt Deck over Naya Burn, Naya Zoo, or Rubin Zoo (if the Lightning Bolt Deck can be said to have one) is its ability to ignore creature removal. All of the creatures come with an expriration date (Spark Elemental, Keldon Marauders), or can evaporate at will (Mogg Fanatic); this really makes Threads of Disloyalty or in particular Path to Exile much less attractive to play. So in short, I like Goblin Guide even less than usual in the Extended Lightning Bolt Deck.
My initial design came much more closely to an update to the traditional Red Deck Wins model, while still owing allegiance to the Lightning Bolt Deck:
2 Arid Mesa
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Great Furnace
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Stomping Ground
1 Pithing Needle
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Ravenous Trap
4 Ancient Grudge
2 Lash Out
Somewhat surprisingly, this deck has more than held its own in Extended practice. I’ve actually had more problems with Standard-legal cards like Bloodbraid Elf (card advantage) and Knight of the Reliquary (sheer size) than the fast and powerful Extended strategies.
I haven’t lost to any Dredge-oriented decks yet (though one embarassing match I got my opponent to 1 in Game One right before being locked out by the Shield of Emeria); I won Game Three with a well-placed Threaten on a Dark Depths token (apparently he was hybridizing or sideboarding Vampire Hexmage… I smoked him with my sideboard graveyard removal in Game Two).
The most rewarding matchup was against a Cascade-Restore Balance deck. I won 2-1, stealing the first and winning the third outright. In the first I was dead in two to a Phyrexian Totem (he had played two if not three copies of Restore Balance in the first)… then I topdecked Pithing Needle to buy me the three turns I needed to play Rift Bolt and Shrapnel Blast (thanks for all the help, Pithing Needle!). In the third I just played to empty my hand, which made Restore Balance much less fun for him. Burn seems very good against that strategy.
Elemental Appeal was of course my Firecat, but it is a bit awkward with Blinkmoth Nexus… I decided my sacrifice lands weren’t doing enough as I wasn’t playing with Plated Geopede, and I could either run Ancient Grudge just off of Grove of the Burnwillows or not at all. Threaten was looking more and more attractive main deck, anyway.
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Great Furnace
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
12 Snow-covered Mountain
1 Pithing Needle
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Ravenous Trap
4 Ancient Grudge *
4 Lash Out
* Provisional… Could be a Shattering Spree or some other awesome card, like Isochron Scepter.
I was very surprised at how effecrive these decks have proved so far.
The question, really, is whether they are worth exploring since we know we can just play Rubin Zoo, which has not just the most powerful combination in this deck, but also a top end that includes Baneslayer Angel (and a bottom of the curve that includes Tarmogoyf). I talked to Ben the week after the Pro Tour, and he pointed out that unlike many other Extended formats, in the current one, his Zoo deck is actually composed of many of the most powerful cards! … That is a hard argument for a knowledgeable Magician to argue away.
That said, the combo-like double Shrapnel Blast draw might be enough to make this a viable option. We’ll just have to wait and see… and draw burn spells.
Goblin Guide ∙ Act of Treason ∙ The Genius of Gabriel Nassif ∙ Dodging Baneslayer Angels with Red Decks ∙
Why People Play White Weenie Decks ∙ … And Goblin Guide
It’s not that my love affair with Cascade is over or anything, but I guess I am past the point that I was in just-pre-Zendikar when I just wanted to play the one deck all the time. This week I have played a variety of decks, obviously the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks (primarily the R/W version), and now Red Deck Wins.
If you are a medium-long (not even genuinely “longtime”) reader, you know that I have for some years loved a Red Deck and like theorizing about and tweaking Red Decks. Red Decks have a kind of music that other decks — not even Blue — have, and their own kind of card economy. In a Red Deck you can win with Rage Weavers (with not a Black or Green creature in sight, mind you), and infuriate your betters with a well- (or even poorly-) placed Mogg Flunkies.
So the same Top Decks article that set me on the Goblin Assault version I wrote about a day or two ago set me on some Red Deck builds that were played around the country’s Zendikar Game Day[s].
If you read that Top Decks you know that I felt — especially in the versions with Arid Mesa and Scalding Tarn — that these decks should run Plated Geopede. Plated Geopede is just so powerful; and when the opponent is a little slow on the draw, or is forced to play a second turn Rupture Spire, you can just whack them for 25% of their starting life total. Or, if you are a miser, you can push it to close to (or even over) 50% … on turn three!
That is what makes Red Decks special. They have a kind of different card advantage we today call The Philosophy of Fire, where we can translate cards to damage to units of the opponent’s life total (typically two points to a card), rather than translating cards to more cards, as we do in the usual course of card economy. Check out the third match, below, for a hot window. Literally hot.
Okay, here’s the part you probably care most about: The Deck List…
1 Act of Treason
3 Dragon’s Claw
4 Goblin Assault
3 Punishing Fire
I’ve played this deck a couple of nights (on and off); tonight’s session was pretty good [for the Red Deck]:
Act of Treason
I typically dislike three-of. However there are some cards that I play — or have historically played — as three-of across the board. Those include Cranial Extraction and most recently Ajani Vengeant; but Act of Treason (which we used to call Threaten) seems like a very good three-of. I took my inspiration for the inclusion of this card from Gabriel Nassif’s Goblins tribal deck from Pro Tour Venice. Act of Treason is a really good card in this kind of deck in this kind of a format. There are certain boundaries that hold together any format. One of the boundaries of this format is Baneslayer Angel; most decks that don’t play Baneslayer Angel will probably have a hard time with this kind of a Red Deck; those that do will whew as they hit their fifth land drop and tap out for the Angel. What can he do about this? He’s a Red Deck… I mean maybe he can spend a Bolt AND a Burst on it, but even then… ACT OF TREASON WHAT THE!?! And then… d/c.
It’s like a three mana Elemental Appeal! Pretty good in this deck; you may have noticed that there is a Haste sub-theme to this version… Ball Lightning is one of the classic, fundamental, Haste creatures. I wanted to add his modern inheritor, Bloodbraid Elf (the two projected to get along quite famously, maybe)… but I couldn’t get the mana to work. So straight Red we stayed, and Ball Lightning has to be “just” the Ball Lightning. In this kind of a deck it is roughly a Concentrate 🙂
I honestly didn’t realize that this card was strictly better than Shock. I just thought it was a good card. I was perfectly willing to play Seal of Fire and Tarfire in Extended; what an upgrade! It’s like the Shattering Pulse of, um, you know, Shocks. Burst Lightning represents the clean one-for-one, and on big kicks, it’s like an, I dunno… five mana Divination.
This is the last card I added to the deck, even after I ran the Act of Treason / Punishing Fire 3/1 split. I wasn’t 100% sure it was worth it, but after a few dozen games, I have come to realize it’s basically a Blistering Firecat… Which is interesting because I never played Blistering Firecat in my Red Decks, even when everybody else did. Which is why I always won the mirror 🙂
I hate attacking with Goblin Guide. I stone can’t stand it. I cringe as I wait for the opponent’s Revealed Cards window to appear. But you know what? It isn’t that bad. Usually. Sometimes it’s atrocious. But it’s not Constructed Unplayable, which was my original assessment. I actually side out the Guide quite often, but it is a fine main deck card, particularly on the play. In case you were wondering.
This is probably the card I side out the most. It is just not that good in a lot of matchups. However, being Haste-y, and being Red, it is a perfect fit! Also it is a dream killer, particularly against foes packing a Rupture Spire or some similar.
I have always loved this card. It’s actually better than Ball Lightning against other Red Decks (doesn’t die to an un-kicked Burst Lightning, or even a full-on Bolt). Being un-coutner-able on the blowback would make this super duper against Blue decks, if, you know, they existed.
This card was basically the inspiration for this deck. As I said back in my original podcast pre-Zendikar previews, I see this card as very Wild Mongrel-ish. It lacks the Savage Bastard’s Black Lotus-like Cheatyface-ness, but offensively? They are quite similar. Just so-so by its lonesome, Plated Geopede can inflict massive, in a single strike. An Arid Mesa makes it a match, at least briefly, for Baneslayer Angel herself!
This card’s inclusion (and three-of sideboard compliment) was originally designed as a freebie measure agaisnt the Refuges (and Baneslayers)… But to be honest, I think I’ve re-bought one maybe once.
Goblin Assault is very good, but the others have been uncastable. I brought Manabarbs in in one of my matches tonight… but not well.
The games went pretty much the same way; his first play was ye olde Lotus Cobra; I burned it with a Burst Lightning; he followed up with some kind of a Hydra. I had to read that jazz a couple of times before burning it (afraid it was going to wreck me &c.). Then I beat him up and burned him out.
In the second, I won by Threatening the said Hydra. And by “Threatening” I mean the new one. Act of Treason. You know!
I won the first game, somehow (don’t remember). I guess that’s why we have Five With Flores videos 🙂
The second game I sided in Manabarbs; which was awkward as he operated with three Borderposts for most of the game. I scooped stuck on three lands when he hit a kicked Sphinx of Lost Truths.
The third game was a good showcase of what makes Goblin Guide good, particularly on the play. I had my Guide in the Red Zone on the first turn. These are the cards he revealed before eventually killing my Guide: Path to Exile, Esper Charm, and Sharuum.
Even if the opponent draws lands, Goblin Guide can be a potent first turn attacker; for instance, do-nothing decks may be forced to discard.
The first game I went to six and he went to five. He stalled and I won with just THREE cards: Hell’s Thunder, Elemental Appeal, Elemental Appeal.
I lost the second to a mis-play. He exposed a turn two Kazandu Blademaster, which I could have killed with Punishing Fire… But I elected to get in Threaten-style. I guess I blanked on the fact that he was just going to destroy me with Harm’s Way. It was actually Brave the Elements.
So I never got rid of his Blademaster and it put a real crimp in my plan. I got ground out from there 😐
The third was also decided by an un-killed Blademaster. He opened on a mulligan, but my Goblin Guide sadly un-mulled him. The follow up was the aforementioned poisonous Blademaster.
I thought I could get around it with two burn spells, but he had double Brave the Elements for my Burst Lightning and Lightning Bolt… Just never got past that wicked little 2/2. My Goblin Assault was effing terrible, as it locked my original and all future Goblin Guides into suicide runs against a first striker that was quickly paired with Honor of the Pure; that is, complete and utter humiliation.
… I remember thinking, so that’s why people play White Weenie! :: Crushes Red Decks; always has, probably always will!
Warp World Warp World is the kind of a deck is just too slow to contend with decks like Red Deck Wins. The match itself was pretty easy. In the first he was able to play Warp World, putting numerous hits threats all over. I had a rough decision the previous turn, playing an attacker instead of holding back from burn. I mostly got boned on the Warp World (he got Rampaging Baloths, Ob Nixilis, The L Word a basic cable package, about one million things happening on the stack), whereas I got only one Mountain; but it was the Mountain I needed for the last three from Lightning Bolt.
Game Two was a little sketchy because he got Grazing Gladeheart (sorry Birds of Paradise, and other Birds of Paradise), and me plum out of Lightning Bolts! Luckily, he didn’t have a huge amount of lands.
Cascade Once again I led with Goblin Guide. This time I got in revealing Maelstrom Pulse, Enlisted Wurm, and Lightning Bolt… but no lands. Like I said, I cringe every time I put the Guide into the Red Zone… But you can’t argue with its effectiveness, um, about 3/5 of the time.
The beats went Guide, Plated Geopede, and finally a turn three swing for seven thanks to Teetering Peaks! I played a fourth turn Goblin Ruinblaster to close, running around Sprouting Thrinax.
The second game was much tighter due to his hammering me with two Blightnings, but I had a nice combination of Plated Geopede, efficient lands, and burn spells; his blocks were un-possible, even with Thrinax.
So… 4-1 on the night. It’s no Naya Lightsaber, but still a fun and challenging deck to play.
So Benjamin Goodman had me on a high with Valaku, the Molten Pinnacle when I started to peruse decks from Zendikar Game Day. You may have read in Top Decks about my early affinity for the R/W Spanish Inquisition-type decks. I liked what I saw and decided to make my own.
The first Spanish Inquisition deck was a metagame neutron bomb coming out of the US Opens and catapulting Mark Hendrickson into the Top 8. His R/W deck posted absolutely absurd numbers over multiple tournaments, stunning opponents with an offensive array including Call the Skybreaker, Ajani Vengeant, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and of course, Goblin Assault.
Mark’s deck ran Ajani Vengeant as a four-of, and–though it is rare for me–I decided to play all four main as well; in addition, I upgraded Mark’s Elspeth count to three (from two) and replaced all his Hallowed Burials with the Maximum Number of Day of Judgment. These White cards might seem obvious until you look at the mana base of my deck…
Remember up top when I talked about being hooked on Valakut thanks to @RidiculousHat? I meant it! There are only two total Plains in the deck, so in order to play Elspeth or Day of Judgment, you’ve got to have them both.
Because of that I am thinking about replacing all four copies of Elspeth with Goblin Assault… Not sure about it yet. Elspeth is objectively the stronger card when already in play, but she costs functionally twice the mana of a Goblin Assault… and only rarely uses either of her non-Goblin Assault analogous abilities.
I decided to play more streamlined than some of the lists online… I cut all the Lavaball Traps, leaving my land destruction in the sideboard only. That said, for big spells I have all four copies of Chandra Nalaar in the main, as well as a single copy of Obelisk of Alara (Mark originally played zero and two of that expensive pair).
I have beaten a wide variety of decks (msostly creatures, but also Jund or whatever) and these are my conclusions…
I lost to a PT Junk colors deck, where he drew three Duress very early (maybe even his opener) and I dropped the third to double Duress (obviously got the first one in dramatic fashion); that might not seem so insurmountable but this deck is not very threat dense and the only card drawing gets you lands. I didn’t get blown out, but both were games where I needed a Pyroclasm that he took, for instance, and lost, not to a bunch of little guys, but more to the fact that they hit me once. I am fine with that kind of matchup, though; long run anyway. The only other deck I’ve lost to is the Hedron Crab “Dredge” deck. Without devoting signficant slots to Relic of Progenitus and Ravenoous Trap, I don’t see how you can beat that deck easily. Maybe it’s not a real deck? Very poor matchup.
First of all, every single card in the main and side has been producing. If anything my least favorite cards are Path to Exile and Elspeth, Knight-Errant… but you know the caliber of those cards. That said, my favorite cards to play so far have been Goblin Assault and Obelisk of Alara. No one has conceded to a Goblin Assault, but many players have sent Duress or Celestial Purge before the first Goblin came online. Also no one has conceded to Obelisk of Alara, but many have commented that they can’t beat it… three or four turns before actually losing.
I won a mirror last night (yay). We had very divergent strategies. I sided in Celestial Purge and he sided out all of his Ajanis and Chandras and so on 🙂 I won in three.
The second game I lost from a fair amount of life when I tapped down 6/7 mana for Obelisk of Alara and got hit by a kicked Elementa Appeal (WHAT?). The problems with his strategy were: 1) Ajani and Chandra were still really good for me, as was Goblin Assault, so the fact that he had Celestial Purge didn’t change the fact that he used 1.5-2 cards per Red permanent to stay even, and 2) he still had Red permanents for my Purges to hit.
Slightly less unbelievably, a deck not by YT at all.
Ben Goodman (aka @RidiculousHat) pinch hits with quite a hit of a deck, actually… Starring (you guessed it) Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle!
Ben Tweeted a greeting along the lines of…
Have you played with [V]alakut yet? Killing people with lands is awesome.
I actually really like the G/R Valakut decks for Extended [albeit packing Sakura-Tribe Elder, probably my favorite creature ever] (what is it with these Extended strategies largely playable in Standard? You know, like yesterday’s?) … So I tried out Ben’s deck for a few matches.
I won them all relatively easily.
They weren’t super duper easy as with Naya Lightsaber, but keep in mind I had never played his deck before. As he has been saying on Twitter, this Valakut attempt is very solid:
I only had the chance to play in three matches with the deck so far… Here are my experiences:
You know this deck… It is a combo deck featuring Hedron Crab, Crypt of Agadeem, and Extractor Demon. Their goal is to put a bunch of creatures into the graveyard, either with Hedron Crab or using Cycling + Unearth for eventual value.
The annoying part of the deck comes from their Rotting Rats (with double discard value), the big kill from Extractor Demon. There are a million Unearths in the deck, but Extractor Demon is a big one that can come out with a big swing for a single-turn kill from down low (presuming their graveyard is jazzed enough). Also Extractor Demon can serve as an alternate win condition, decking the opponent thanks to all their guys disappearing from the battlefield at the end of an Unearth turn.
Luckily, my match didn’t really go to those ends.
Game One I just tempo’d him out. Lightning Bolt for Hedron Crab, then some attacking with Bloodbraid Elf and Goblin Ruinblaster. The Goblin was particularly helpful, chomping a Crypt before it got out of hand.
I lost the second game to a series of Corpse Connoisseurs setting one another up (while I was mana shy).
The third game ended in dramatic fashion; I kept being forced to discard, and he attacked me relentlessly with Cycling creatures from the graveyard. However I had three copies of ye olde Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in play, and two Khlani Heart Expeditions on the map. I finally hit a land drop which allowed me to put counters on the Expeditions, play the Harrow I had been sandbagging to get the next two counters on each, and explode for roughly one trillion damage. Hi-yah!
I almost conceded Game One on turn three. I kept a one lander with Expedition Map and some Rampant Growths. I stalled on one but eventually hit the second land to go digging… Which put me in the path of Archive Trap + Twincast. Unbelievably, he hit nine of my Mountains. I didn’t really know how I could win… But I just played my cards, and one of them was Siege-Gang Commander. That Goblin circumvented his Wall of Denial, and I won a long one.
The second was another bunch of Valakuts on the board; he had to Counterspell every Harrow, everything. Which he didn’t.
Nissa Revane “Gruul”
This was an insane game! He had first turn Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. So everyone who came out came out with +1/+1 (no fun). He battered me but somehow I drew just enough lands (having kept I think a two lander) to chump with Siege-Gang Commander and set up Lavaball Trap! RAH!
The first trap took out Mountain, Rootbound Crag, and three 1/1s with +1/+1 counters on top.
The second one got his remaining Forests and a Llanowar Elves.
(He only had four).
I might have been stuck on one life, but I had plenty of time to win; I didn’t need it because he conceded to unopposed Bloodbraid Elf the next turn.
Finally, I got a tempo game with just some Pyroclasm action. It was a combination of tempo from Bloodbraid Elf and assorted beatdown, followed by Valakut control.
All in all, a fine trio of matches, and a nice introduction to this “Ridiculous” Red Deck 🙂
A card breakdown…
Usually I got Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle with this pap; once I got Forest to set up Bloodbraid Elf. You really need to play this card in this kind of deck to reinforce the number of Valakuts.
This is a really odd card in this deck. Half the time you are flipping over Rampant Growth. Sometimes you flip over Lightning Bolt like some kind of a miser; other times you flip Bolt and it didn’t do very much. This is like Blastoderm in Angry No-Hermit from back 2000 days (was Napster era really almost 10 years ago?). Just like Blastoderm in that deck, I wouldn’t consider cutting this strange, seemingly misplaced, four drop.
Khalni Heart Expedition
These cards are somewhat modular in this deck. You can play them early but you will often not explode them until you have Valakut online; they are a Ball Lightning each, remember, beyond being regular old mana acceleration.
This one you will not usually want to wait on; sets up turn three Bloodbraid Elf and all that.
This was a surprisingly valuable main deck card, despite the fact that I sideboarded it out against the deck with Oran-Rief (for Pyroclasm). Nice tempo; nice action on Crypt of Agadeem. I’m sure it would be fine against beloved Black Baneslayer and so on 🙂 (Or is it “:(“?)
I was pretty shocked when this saved me. The deck has a queer semi-Ponza vibe with the Ruinblasters and this main, and the somewhat transformational sideboard.
Not really strategic in this deck; I can see siding it out.
Another one that was somewhat hard to contextualize before I actually played… But I guess you need a way to win.
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
I played 12 of the 15 cards in Ben’s sideboard fairly happily (no Sylvan Bounties… at least not yet). Due to its cost I probably would have overlooked Volcanic Submersion, but it was useful against the Dredge deck.
Before I sign off for the night, a couple of notes…
In case you haven’t seen it yet, two Two TWO copies of Black Baneslayer made the Top 8 of the recent Star City Games $5,000 in Nashville; if you know them, give Chase Lamm and Derek Mong a punch in the arm (or the affectionate bum pat or whatever of your choice).
I recently read one of my favorite articles of all time as a multi-part ‘cast over at Top 8 Magic. Give a listen to “How to Win a PTQ” (inspired by Adam Levitt). (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5)
Apparently I had a glitch on the site so that no new people could register to make blog comments. Sorry about that one kids! It should be fixed now. So comment away. Please!
Baneslayer Angel: It has been called by our most recent Pro Tour Champion possible the best large creature in the history of Magic. Baneslayer Angel, a card that I just haven’t managed to put into any decks, ever. Baneslayer Angel–a mismatch in the quick Zoo archetype? Baneslayer Angel… Criss-cross applesauce. Baneslayer Angel!
Har har har.
The context of this post will be even more hilarious when I write about the Nissa Revane and re-vamped G/W decks based on Evan Erwin’s “Conqueror’s Sledge” that I worked on this week 🙂
It is based somewhat on Brian Kowal’s Naya Excalibur deck from around US Nationals 2009 and somewhat on Brian Kibler’s Pro Tour winning deck from Austin.
Incidentally I watched this movie with my daughter this weekend:
Gold star to the first person who notes in the comments why I pointed that out.
Anyway, the above Naya deck is super good. I borrowed most of the cards from Kibler’s deck; that is, Noble Hierarch up. The presence of Noble Hierarch makes Ranger of Eos particularly attractive. The question was what to play with the Ranger. In Kowal’s Naya Excalibur deck, he had an absolutely brilliant mana base around Rootbound Crag and Sunpetal Grove where Figure of Destiny was perfectly positioned alongside the Plains and Mountains for Wild Nacatl. This deck doesn’t have the luxury of the near-Tarmogoyf Figure of Destiny, but Noble Hierarch is very good (along with Wild Nacatl)… My preference for playing three copies of Ajani Vengeant left just enough room for one Scute Mob.
If there is anything my playtesting has taught me at this point, it is that I often want a second Scute Mob!
Scute Mob is absolutely rapturous. As a post attrition play, Ranger of Eos is an absolute game-shatterer; particularly because it can get the solo Scute Mob. Mother loving monster in this deck. However sometimes you draw it and are forced to trade with an Elite Vanguard early; then you want another Scute Mob to draw later… and you don’t got it.
I went with Woolly Thoctar, like Naya Excalibur, as the only three drop in the deck (Kowal played his Great Sable Stags in the main… I don’t see that as particularly attractive, even with the prevalence of Vampires in Standard). I would actually prefer to play Knight of the Reliquary (like Kibler did in Extended)… But there aren’t many natural advantages in this deck. I only play–and can only afford, really–the four Arid Mesas.
These kinds of lands carry with them particular dependencies. In Extended you can play a bazillion Verdant Catacombs, Marsh Flats, whatever, what have you, and get away with it with only a few mana producing lands in your entire deck. That is because your Arid Mesa can point at your Hallowed Fountain, and so can your Misty Rainforest, and you have to draw through some insane percentage of your deck (in a format that sometimes ends on the third turn) before it catches up with you. But in Standard, if you play with four Arid Mesas in any deck but Boros Bushwhacker (which itself is quite quick to the quick), you have to play with more than four Mountains-plus-Plains to reliably not get thrown off the Island math-wise, if you take my reality show meaning. So anyway, with only four Arid Mesas, Knight of the Reliquary will probably start off as only a 2/2 (maybe a 3/3), but will only rarely get serious in size ahead of time; yes, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood is an absolutely bonkers weapon and tool… But there is only the one in this sixty, and it is not strategic to Naya Lightsaber. It isn’t like in Extended where Ghost Quarter can swat off an entire Dark Depths deck.
So the reason we don’t have room for that other three (Knight of the Reliquary or not) is Baneslayer Angel… baneslayer angel, Baneslayer Angel, BANESLAYER ANGEL! News flash: This card is really good. You get it online with the Noble Hierarch, or just by peeling lands off the top. It is great in attack-on-attack; a very good trump card after a lot of trading. It is a must-deal-with card, and a card that can dig you out of a great many holes. By this point you should know I am up for Baneslayer Angels not just in beatdown, but in Cascade decks, along side Ob Nixilis, just about anywhere.
The main under-performer in this deck, if there is one (this is one of those decks where Ranger of Eos is the clear over-performer) is his fellow four, Bloodbraid Elf. Maybe I am just used to always hitting an awesome two-for-one Esper Charm or the incomparable Blightning… But in this deck, not so much. Half the time it’s just another Noble Hierarch (though to be fair, that makes for a 5-power hasty muffin in the Red Zone, and sometimes Oran-Rief is even online). But you can’t really complain about hitting a Lightning Bolt, I guess.
Path to Exile? Another story entirely.
But not a reason to cut either.
As for the sideboard, I like most of the cards but I don’t love the sideboard in its entirety. Burst Lightning is an excellent card but I would prefer a card that could deal three on its lonesome for Vampire Nighthawk, earlier in the game. Goblin Ruinblaster, on the other hand, is a blaster of all different kinds of ruins; for example, Emeria, the Sky Ruin.
Culmination of a lot of the tech I have been working on for Standard. No Sylvan Caryatids is a nod to Patrick Chapin. Nothing but two-for-ones. Wish I could have gotten this in the hands of a good pilot for the GP but just finished it.
I had a day off this weekend from shooting Supernatural, and I was walking around downtown Vancouver on Saturday, sampling all the artisan coffee I could get my throat around. At one point I saw a pair of guys walking towards me wearing gamer shirts. Black short-sleeved, one Halo and one Call of…