Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Red

After getting rocked a few weeks ago at Lakeland's Standard FNM I decided to regroup. I found an interesting list by Frank Lepore on and decided to build the deck with tons of my own personal modifications.

The reason for wanting to build the deck was the use of Kuldotha Phoenix. The Phoenix has always been my favorite card from Scars of Mirrodin. Historically Phoenix's have been my favorite type of creatures because of the insane recursion and card advantage they provide. I built a deck revolving around Worldheart Phoenix, which was basically a 5C Control deck but abused the Domain mechanic along with Etched Oracle's Sunburst mechanic. All my creatures kept coming back after Wraths or Damnations would blow up the world. I also built a Mono-Red Boom & Bust deck featuring a playset of Magma Phoenix. The deck worked because of multiple sacrifice outlets I put in the deck to abuse the Phoenix's ability. In conjunction with re-occurring lifegain, the deck was difficult to stop.

Kuldotha Phoenix is trickier in Standard because it forces you to play tons of artifacts to get the Metalcraft going. I initially built a few decks that feature Kuldotha Phoenix, neither of which I had any success with. First was an aggressive build that used cheap artifact creatures to get Metalcraft online. The problem was these creatures were fairly fragile and couldn't compete with the better aggro dudes. The other deck I tried was a Destructive Force deck with tons of ramp and artifacts like Ratchet Bomb, Brittle Effigy, etc. to achieve Metalcraft. This deck didn't work because I'd have awesome ramp in Destructive Force but no relevant threats to close it out.

Fast forward a few months and I built this deck:

Kuldotha Phoenix x 4
Inferno Titan x 3
Koth of the Hammer x 4
Lightning Bolt x 4
Arc Trail x 4
Comet Storm x 2
Ratchet Bomb x 4
Contagion Clasp x 4
Tumble Magnet x 4
Everflowing Chalice x 4
Valakut the Molten Pinnacle x 4
Tectonic Edge x 3
Mountains x 16

Goblin Ruinblaster x 4
Pyroclasm x 4
Shatter x 3
Etched Champion x 4

The Sideboard came late but the deck is basically what I played at the last tournament. I tested a version with 24 land and no Inferno Titans and packed 2 Chandra Nalaar and Triskelion. After testing with Mike we realized that Chandra wasn't enough. I always thought she was good in a few respects: 1) She can trade with Titans on her own and ping Planeswalkers, 2) worked well with the minor Proliferate theme. In testing I was never in a position were I needed a Chandra to win so she was dropped. Triskelion was also dropped although it tested very well. It can come in and start machinegunning dudes on your turn and your opponents turn. He also worked very well with Proliferate. With the rules change that prevents damage stacking during combat, Trisk has lost plenty of swagger. Back in the day you could block as a 4/4, stack damage to kill the attacker, then stack his machine gun ability to deal 3 at other attacking creatures or at a player's dome. Trisk was a one-man army. Not not so much. We decided for the same casting cost, Inferno Titan, a 6/6 that acts as a recurring Arc Lighting was way better. And it was.

The deck is a Mono-Red Midrange deck that can play the aggressive deck when need be or the control if called upon. During testing with Mike I ended up playing something like 20+ games with the deck, no sideboard though. I tested the deck against a solid gamut of decks: Kuldotha Red 2-1, Elves 2-1, UW Control 1-0, UB Control 2-0, White Proliferate 2-0, Quest 2-0, Liquid Metal 0-1, and won most of the games I played. It seems the deck is geared to beat aggro decks because it packs plenty of creature hate in spot removal, 8 2-for-1s and 4 Tumble Magnets. Control matchups you need to grind out wins in a few ways: either play the beatdown and get an early Koth online and early Phoenix, grind out recursion Phoenix wins, or dome them with Valakut in the long game.

While testing the deck it seemed that it always had all the answers it needed to relevant threats and I always had cards in my hand when my opponent had none. Every thing I drew was a card advantage machine and could get ahead in every game. Every game I played Koth I won. Dropping Koth was an immediate threat. If his Emblem got online in was a matter of inevitability. You have to scoop to lose that game. Once it was online your opponent would still need to spend time and resources to get him off the field. Phoenix is a renewable threat as long as you have Metalcraft up, which isn't difficult considering the deck runs 16 artifacts. Doomblade my Phoenix? Sure, I'll swing for 4. Mana Leak? Sure, I'll swing for 4. Most decks don't run Condemn or too many Journey to Nowhere so Phoenix is pretty sick. Ratchet Bomb and Arc Trail are amazing in aggro matchups. Against a Quest deck you can clear their all there guys and blow up their Equipment. If they do manage to get Argentum Armor up you have Tumble Magnet to shut them down. Tumble Magnet I'd usually deem a throw away common. But in reality it is an important control element to the deck. Being able to continually shut down threats is very important. Versus Titans they can't even get there attack triggered ability online with Tumble Magnet out. The deck is surprisingly very effective and extremely resilient.

That night, Mike and I discussed sideboard options because Mike wanted to build the deck for a tournament he was planning on playing at by his hometown. Mike went 5-0 at that tournament but I can't remember what decks he played. I do know he played some Tier 1 archetypes though. Not sure.

I decided to sleeve up my 75 and went to Armada Games in Tampa. I've casually played at Armada before and know that a few guys there are judges and almost everyone in the room is a Spike and rock Tier 1 decks. After doing tons of trading (where I moved about $70 worth of cards) and picking up Inferno Titans and some other stuff I surveyed the room. I mostly noticed a ton of Elves decks, BR Vampires, White Weenie Quest, RUG and Eldrazi Green.

Round 1: Shawn playing UW Control
Game 1: I win the die roll and keep my 7. I open with Valakut and Shawn lets out a long disparaging sigh. He plays Colonade and passes. I play a mountain and kick Chalice for 1. Shawn plays a land and Wall of Omens and passes. Wall of Omens is a clear sign of UW Control so I play a mountain and Koth while he is tapped out and swing for 4. He plays an Island and passes. I don't draw another land for a few turns. I play a Contagion Clasp, swing for 4, he blocks and pass. Shawn draws, plays Jace and Brainstorms. My go I'm holding a Phoenix, Inferno Titan, Comet Storm and some Arc Lightnings that I can't use because I only have one of the two mandatory targets. I make the emblem and play another Contagion Clasp and pass. He plays land, Preordains, and Fateseals me. On my go I draw another Inferno Titan and discard Phoenix hoping to resurrect it. He slams down Frost Titan and Fateseals me. Because of Frosty's first ability it is difficult to get enough mana to kill it. A few turns of taking a beating and I'm done. Sideboard out Arc Lightnings and put in Goblin Ruinblasters.

Game 2: On my go I keep my 7 and open with Valakut. He keeps his opening 7 and immediately slams down a Leyline of Sanctity. FML. I decide to play it out and hope for a Ratchet Bomb. He goes and Preordains. I go and play a Contagion Clasp. He goes and plays a Wall of Omen. I go and play a Tumble Magnet. He goes and Plays a Wall of Omens. All said and done I have 3 Tumble Magnets and a Contagion Clasp that I'm Proliferating. I get to Ruinblast a Colonnade but it is too late since he has Gideon and Jace the Mindsculptor out. I'm holding tons of Lightning Bolts, 2 Inferno Titans and a Comet Storm which are all dead cards. I also stick a Phoenix which he decides to NOT counterspell or Unsummon with JMS and Celestial Purges it instead. I stick a Koth that is exiled by another Purge. I play an Inferno Titan that gets Flashfrozen. UW has all the answers and I have none save 4 Ratchet Bombs that I see none of. I kill a Sun Titan and a Wurmcoil engine but get ultimated out by Jace. Terrible loss and my worst game of the night. I really wish Red had some hate cards for White.

Round 2: Vincent playing BG Infect
Vincent and his brother are a pair of nice kids in college. They've played Magic for a while, casually, and only recently have been exploring competitive Magic in the last 5-6 months. Nice guys.
Game 1: Vincent has to mull while I keep my 7. He opens with an Infect dude on turns 1 and 2 that I two for one with Arc Trail. He plays another Infect dude that I Clasp. He plays the Infect lord that I Bolt EOT. I play Koth and beat face. He sticks another Infect guy that I kill with Inferno Titan. He scoops.

Game 2: Vincent doesn't really sideboard. I put in Pyroclasms for Ratchet Bombs. He mulls again and I keep my 7. SEE GAME ONE.

I ask him what pump spells he's playing. He says he has everything but Vines of the Vastwood and asks what the card even is. I know he and his brother are n00bs so I try to drop some knowledge and tell them that their Tier 2.5 decks are not enough for a room filled with Spikes. Every deck in the room, other then mine and the two brother's decks, are Tier 1. I suggest going Mono-Green Infect and tell him Jacob van Lunen posted a budget decklist a month or so ago which has a fast clock.

Vincent and I play some casual games but he urges me to play Big Red. He comes at me with some Jank Myr deck that I roll two games in a row. I'm no Kai Budde or Jon Finkel, but he is just outclassed.

His brother asks to play me. I switch up to my horrible RG Metalcraft deck and get my ass handed to my by Primeval Titan and Garruk Wildspeaker. I did stick a foil Lodestone Golem and a Spike commented, "Whoa! You never see that in Standard." I reply, "I'm just playing some Jank deck for fun." He adds, "Yeah, but that's some Jank with serious sass." I switch up and play Mass Polymorph. We play two games that go something like this: we both ramp, we both counter some spells, I go to Mass Polymorph and we have a counter-war. I stick Emrakul, Iona for Blue and Stormtide Leviathan. This happened two games in a row. Smily face.

Round 3: Dave (I don't remember his name but I'll call him Dave) playing BR Vampires
I've played Dave before, the one time I stopped by Armada months ago. Back then he was playing Valakut but pre-Scars. He is a very good player that plays tight and is very polite. He makes sure we both have accurate life totals, kindly tells me to untap stuff when I forget, etc. He also informed me then that he is a DCI Judge and judges all the big events in Central Florida and PTQs. Very nice guy.

Game 1: I'm on the play and have to mull. He keeps and asks if my six is better. I reply, "I'm good." He plays Swamp and Vampire Lacerator. He's obviously playing Vampires. I go Valakut. He winces. He plays Bloodghast and swings for 2. I play Ratchet Bomb and tick it to 1 at the end of his turn. He plays Lavaclaw and comes in for 4. I play Contagion Clasp on his Bloodghast. He sticks Kalastria Highborn comes in for 2. I tick up Ratchet Bomb to two. I pop it on my turn. He domes me with Bolt. I stick Koth and come in for 4. He plays two little Vampires and gets Bloodghast back. I stick an Inferno Titan and clear some of his guys. He draws, beat, no Doomblade. I swing in, dome him for 3 and pump for 10 for a total of 13 damage. By this time he is on one card, draws for the turn and scoops. Inferno Titan is freaking AMAZING.

Game 2: I side out Ratchet Bombs because all his dudes would force me to kill my own Clasps. Pyroclasms are much much better. This game he mulls but gets the best curved hand and I get stuck on 4 lands and a Chalice for 1. This is actually an epic battle but once he got a Highborn online and a second one after I killed the first, it's pretty much over. I made some pretty critical errors with Arc Trail. He played the Vamp that can sac for +2/+2 and I kept targeting it and another creature which he'd sac to save the sac dude. This happened three times. At the end of the game I exclaimed, "All my 2-for-1s weren't 2-for-1s!!!" I should have been hitting the sac Vamp for 1 and doming him for 2 to either lose the sac Vamp or another vampire. Bad play in a game that I think I would have lost anyways to Kalastria Highborn and some slowrolled Bloodghast triggers.

Game 3: This game is epic. I keep and he mulls. It is a tight game that almost goes to time and comes down to the last draw to win the game. I think he made errors not killing Koth early. But it didn't matter since I had 3 Valakuts and 1 moutain. He Doombladed one of my attacking 4/4 moutains. There was a lot of back and forth between his dudes getting in licks and my 4/4 mountains coming in. It was basically a race. By this time there is a small crowd gathering (pun intended) around our match. One guy, a nice guy named Corey who I've played before, is really excited about this game and even exclaims, "Sorry to crowd you guys but this is the BEST game I've seen all night!!!" I did have a blowout play when he attacked me with a pumped Lavaclaw Reaches and Landfell Bloodghast hasted. He activates and swings in. I have enough to multi-kick Comet Storm to kill his dude, his land and dome him for 2. The crowd erupts! He eventually gets more guys out that rape Koth. But not before I can use Koth's ghetto Garruk move to turn 1 of my mountains into 2 mana to stick a Phoenix. When I do he quickly flashes a Doomblade then pulls it back. I tell him, "I'm not swinging. I'm getting mana." He laughs. He now decides to kill the Mountain instead of Phoenix to keep me off mana which is a good idea since I now only have 3 Valakuts out. The crowd wince in horror as I lose my critical mountain. On his go if he draws a land I'm dead because there are two Bloodghasts in the bin and he has a small team out. I'm holding an Inferno Titan with only 3 Valakuts and a double kicked Chalice. He's at 7 life. I tell him I should have plenty of outs but could really use a mountain. If I don't draw a mountain or a Lightning Bolt I'm done. I untap and draw. I calmly play a another Phoenix and swing in for 8. Got him. The crowd erupts one last time, "OOH!!! DAMN!!!" What a great match. Dave and I discuss the last game. He wanted me to hit that mountain because he thought I was going for a Koth 4/4 attack, which he tells me I couldn't attack with right away because of summoning sickness. The crowd correct him, "He was holding Inferno Titan in his hand." It would have been nice to bullseye him with Titan but I'll take a double Phoenix alpha strike any day of the week.

I'm 2-1 and its rolling around 10:00pm. I have work the next day and I wanted to see my family. I decide to drop. All in all I was not happy about the first set because I got face raped by UW Control and Red typically doesn't have color hate answers like a Celestial Purge, Deathmark, or Flashfreeze. What I wouldn't do for Flashfires or Anarchy. But we have to test against the Tier 1 control deck for the future. The good thing is Etched Oracle my be an answer but not sure yet. Also, UB Control decks just Top 4'd the Top 8 at Worlds so UW will take a backseat meaning Leyline of Douchebaggery may not be a problem in the future.

Extended PTQs are around the corner and I have plenty of cards for Double Standard so I'll build and test and see if a PTQ is in my future.

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