In my last article, I told you about the Mardu deck most of the frenchies from team Revolution along with Melissa and Roberto, played at PT Honolulu. I also mentioned the deck I was very close from playing and that's what we're going to talk about here. Without further introduction, here is the list:
The story behind the deck is quite simple. Most of the team wanted a deck with Hordeling Outburst. Brad came up with something that was kinda close to this, and we both worked on it.
The deck changed a lot since the first version, the creatures were not always what they were, and the deck didn't always include Titan's Strength. The biggest issue was to find the best two-drop. For a while, the deck included either Eidolon of the Great Revel or Satyr Firedancer. I was never really satisfied with either of them. Eidolon would hit you very hard when you were a little behind, and Firedancer would either do nothing against creature light decks, or you would play a different game to set up a big turn, only to be blown out by instant speed removal when you burnt your opponent's face.
The biggest problem of the deck was big creatures. Well, big and fast creatures, mostly stuff like Polukranos, World Eater. To solve that problem, Brad insisted on adding white to the deck, therefore introducing Chained to the Rocks and Seeker of the Way to fill the two-drop curve. I didn't like where he was going, his mana base was becoming worse, with enters the battlefield tapped lands along with one-drops, and Chained to the Rocks that could arrive too late anyway. His deck evolved into an aggro game one/control game two deck and I wanted to stick to the monored for stability issues.
It looks a little bit like Boss Red that broke through in GPLA (two in the Top 4). I do have a hard time understanding how decks like this manage to have such results with only 17-18 lands. I do understand the concept, I've been around for long enough, but 17-18 lands is just so low to expect winning enough games without losing to yourself at least three rounds in a tournament. I played 19 in my Monored deck in San Diego for PT Dragon's Maze and I was praying every time I was checking my opening hand to see two lands...The Creatures
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Valley Dasher
4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
The idea behind the creature choice was to make sure every card was able to Deal Damage before dying. The deck works as a burn deck, using cheap creatures to deal the first damage. The eight one-drops will usually at least hit for between three and six damage.
Denise (Foundry Street Denizen) works very well with Goblin Rabblemaster (we knew that already), but also with Hordeling Outburst. In a format where removals cost two mana or more, this little guy will attack for a bunch of damage before it gets killed.
Monastery Swiftspear will net the first damage for sure if you're on the play, benefits from the fact that Hordeling Outburst is a non-creature spell, and will just be a card that will be hard to play against when you have open mana.
While Foundry Street Denizen and Monastery Swiftspear seem like obvious choice to fill their slot, Valley Dasher was taken as a joke by some of my teammates in the first place. It was by far the best two-drop available in the format. The deck needs creatures with haste and you want to put as much pressure early as possible and be able to attack for damage right after a board sweeper. Along with Denise, they will attack for four on turn two. The fact that it has to attack every turn is a drawback, but that's also a good reason to pack Titan's Strength.
In my testing, I found Valley Dasher surprisingly good, 90% of the time better than either Satyr Firedancer or Eidolon of the Great Revel, and probably just better than a Seeker of the Way. I understand the lifelink bonus may be important in the deck, but overall, the haste ability is more relevant, not counting that you're only playing Mountains (for stability sake).
The question you may ask is "why not play more one-drops and leave the Dasher at the stables?" There's one available one-drop that would be acceptable and that's Firedrinker Satyr. Firedrinker Satyr doesn't really solve the "sweeper problem." Unlike with the previous Rabble Red, you have a lot of reach with this deck. You don't need many more than eight one-drops, and haste really is something you're looking for. Firedrinker is just not very good against Jeskai and against decks that run creatures in general. When you attack to sneak the last few damage you need to deal to be able to burn your opponent out, you leave a window open for your opponent to block the Satyr with his whole team and deal you a whole lot of damage without even having to attack.
If you want to play a lot of one-drops, you can turn to Boss Red. Here is the list Tomoharu Saito played at the PT :
Goblin Rabblemaster can be a winning card on its own. We went over this fella last time, and it's even better in this deck. Unlike the old Rabble Red version, this deck has a lot more ways to Remove blockers. An unblocked Rabblemaster will usually be lethal, and we're not even mentioning that Hordeling Outburst makes Goblins...
Talking about Hordeling Outburst, this is the card we wanted to build decks around. In a format where mass removal wasn't exactly a thing, and most removal was one-for-one (except for Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow), making three 1/1s was something interesting. When your opponent is open with his Hero's Downfall, waiting for your Rabblemaster to come down, it will be a huge step back for him as you just probably just timewalked him.
We've mentioned that it was great along with Denise, Swiftspear and Rabblemaster. Oh, and how awesome is it to tap three mountains, make three goblins, tap three goblins and another creature/mountain and cast Stoke the Flames?
This is a card that will be played in the future and this deck so far, is my favourite shell for it.The Spells
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
2 Searing Blood
4 Stoke the Flames
4 Titan's Strength
This is a classic suite of red spells. Lightning Strikes, Magma Jets and Stoke the Flames provide the reach you need. The Scry ability of Magma Jet helps filter your draws, look for your third land or send the extra lands to the bottom.
The real question when building the deck was what was the right ratio of Searing Blood / Titan's Strength ?
Searing Blood is amazing in a format where small creatures are around. The problem with this card is usually its casting cost, but we have no problem casting it here. Overall, I found Titan's Strength being more important. With this deck, you always want to be attacking, holding back when your opponent plays a big blocked such as Courser of Kruphix, is definitely a way to lose the game. With Dasher that has to attack, your opponent might not even think you're running Titan's Strength (with the popularity of Boss Red, people will have it in mind now) and might just block every attack you make (you'll trade your one-mana spell for his courser). That's also a good way to get rid of a Sylvan Caryatid. Most of your opponents will block your attacks with it, because they often can't afford to take too much damage in the early game.
I honestly loved that deck and I was heartbroken when I had to give it up. It's extremely fast and stable and probably has the best game one against the field.
So, why did I have to give it up?
Well, the problem is post-board. The sideboard I worked on looked a bit like this:
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
2 Searing Blood
3 Harness by Force
2 Arc Lightning
I don't remember the last few cards, but I'm pretty sure they were irrelevant.
This deck can't beat Green Devotion after game one. The first game is manageable but game two and three are just unwinnable. Nylea's Disciple is such a beating and Hornet Nests are just overkill. Polukranos was already a problem, but along with these sideboard cards, this matchup becomes a nightmare.
If only this matchup was the only bad matchup after board, it would be fine. I'd be fine playing a deck that has one very bad matchup and only good matchups. However, that's not the case. This deck is only good if their sideboards don't pack a million cards against you.
The fact that you're monored limits greatly your options. I tried to go bigger, adding lands and planeswalkers (Chandra and Sarkhan), and while it helps against decks running a lot of mass removal, it doesn't do anything against your worst matchup. Brad decided to go with his RW Control deck, and it worked out for him, I just wasn't as confident.
Here's the list Brad went with :
So three days before the tournament, we started testing post-board, and it got super hard. Every time I was to play a matchup, they had at least seven or eight cards against me. All Jeskai decks had Nyx-Fleece Rams and at least a pair of Anger of the Gods. In our Green default sideboards, we had Nylea's Disciples and Hornet Nest.
The more sideboard cards against you, the harder the games got. The feeling I had was that if I didn't win game one, the match would be super hard to win.
And that's where you have to take a step back and ask yourself, "is our testing representative enough? Is it what the field will look like, will the sideboards look like that at the tournament?"
It is indeed extremely frustrating to see your deck being crushed by random cards that you've seen in some sideboards online. But in testing, you have to leave all emotions behind. I was heartbroken because I had finally arrived where I wanted to be after hours and hours of testing. The days before the Pro Tours are always emotional rollercoasters. One day you're like, "Ok, we're done here, let's draft a lot because we have the best constructed deck," and the next day you're like, "OMG OMG, what do we do? Our deck doesn't beat anything!!!" It happens about every time.
So I took that step back, went back to my room and checked all the standard decklists posted online. Rams, Nests, Disciples, Anger of the Gods, Drown in Sorrow. They were everywhere, at least five or six cards in each sideboard, and each one improving their matchup greatly against you.
I took a deep breath and gave it up. I chose to play the team's deck (Mardu Control), and I don't regret my choice. You have to leave any kind of attachment to a deck aside when it comes to deck selection. It's totally fine to choose a deck because it's more adapted to your play style (Monored is more adapted to my playstyle than Mardu Control), but emotions can't cloud your judgement. Even though it didn't really make sense for these decks to pack so much hate against you, it was undeniable that every match was going to be a battle. With less at stake than a Pro Tour, I would probably have given it a shot.
I do still love this deck, and I'll try to stream with it shortly (http://www.twitch.tv/raphaellevy on Twitch, add me, I'll start streaming again soon!). With the format shifting every weekend, I wouldn't be surprised if a window for this deck opens. It also feels like decks aren't packing as much hate as before the Pro Tour. I haven't seen any Nyx-Fleece Rams anywhere, and Hornet Nest isn't there either. It also feels that the black/green decks aren't looking that bad after all (with less sideboard cards). I'm positive it is good against Jeskai, the deck that won GP Stockholm in the hands of Matej Zatlkaj as he wasn't running all the cards I was actually scared about.
At the time I played, I didn't really try Hammerhand in the sideboard to battle Green. It might be a good option and I'll be looking into it in the next few days. I'm not posting a detailed sideboard guide now, because the field is changing every day and I'd need some more testing to see if the deck is still adapted to the format and if a new sideboard works.
Before I wrap things up, if you believe adding white is the way to go because you want to play Hordeling Outburst, here's a deck fellow TCG writer Craig Wescoe posted online:
I'll be streaming some games with Monored soon. In the meantime, try to give it a try!
Next up for me: Coverage of GP Madrid.