Hello everyone and welcome! I played in my first legitimate PTQ for the first time in about six years this weekend, but unfortunately I do not have any good news to report. I started out 4-0-1 with a fairly basic Melira Pod list that I just made a few tweaks too. A tough couple rounds in a row though and I was driving home. Pod seems like a very solid choice right now if you are still unsure of what to be playing. I personally prefer the Archangel of Thune / Spikefeeder combo in my lists, but plenty of variations are viable. Instead then, let's talk Standard!
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Generator Jund in Standard. The idea was to use Generator Servant to power out five-drops on turn three, preferably with haste. The deck ultimately became Jund when I wanted to have as many ways to power out a five-drop on turn three and Satyr Hedonist was the only other option available. Courser of Kruphix was also in the list which was a nice incentive to be Jund.
The big five-drop that I was looking to abuse was Master of Cruelties as it would come down on turn three with haste and usually win the game or put the opponent into a very tough spot. Here is that list:
I tested that deck a bit throughout the week but kept struggling with the consistency. Some games I would be missing important combo pieces while other games my mana would come out all awkward and the potential turn three win I would like would be delayed a few turns while I found the right colors.
On Friday night I decided to boot up my stream and began working on the deck. Very quickly I came to question how important green was in the deck. Courser is obviously a good card and Hedonist is nice for extra consistency, but the mana had been working against that consistency as it was. Beyond those two cards, we had some random sideboard options and maybe a Destructive Revelry or two, but nothing crucial to the framework.
I started to look at what options were available to me should I be willing to get rid of the green altogether. It would mean I probably gain access to some nice utility lands, such as Mutavault or even Radiant Fountain. Those are cards that I would love to be able to play but my mana base simply does not allow it.
Cutting green would theoretically lead to an overall more consistent deck. Anger of the Gods could become a card we lean on as opposed to one we tutor up with Liliana when we need it. The format seemed to be moving to a place where the sweeper would be good anyway. Aggressive decks like GW Aggro and Rabble Red have been getting more popular.
That isn't to say that we wouldn't miss the color. Satyr Hedonist is pretty important to helping make your "combo" draws show up more consistently. With only four copies of Generator Servant as opposed to the functional eight, we just open up less hands with one of it in there. Satyr Hedonist is literally the only other card in the format that goes from three to five mana. That said, we could cheat a little and sub in a three-drop accelerant that adds one mana to have additional ways to race to five. It wouldn't be as sexy, but it would probably be good enough.
The other big thing I seemed to be missing was a more viable back up plan. Basically, if your combo did not come down, you were left playing the role of a grindy Jund deck. You would one-for-one as much as possible and attack important cards. But at the end of the day, you still need to sneak a Master of Cruelties through or chain some major Rakdos's Returns in order to burn someone out. Sometimes that would be fine, but much of the time it was too clunky. If I was removing green, I would also be in the market for back up plans.
All of that criteria led to me turning the deck into straight Rakdos with the following list being where I am currently:
As frustrating as it is to admit, we all know Pack Rat is the best self-contained win condition in Standard. No other card generates more free wins and ignores what is coming off the top of your deck more than Pack Rat. This does mean that some of your games are going to come down to just discarding turn after turn and not getting to do anything sweet, but we also want to have a deck that can win here. In my testing thus far, it is amazing how many matches are won by winning a single game with your explosive combo and then winning another game off of Pack Rat.
Rakdos Keyrune is the accelerant I decided to try out and the card is actually pretty solid. If you remember back to when Ravnica was relatively new, Rakdos Keyrune was the one real keyrune to see constructed play, as a 3/1 first strike body is just so efficient. Here it gets to play that role just fine, holding off small attackers, but it also puts out Master or Liliana on turn four and it also can kill the opponent once Master has successfully worked its magic.
We get to have a few more dedicated removal spells in this list because we are not running things like Courser but that also means that we could use a little more card advantage. In an ideal world, Rakdos's Return and Anger of the Gods are going to provide us with a good bit of card advantage, but it is not the most reliable as your opponent actually has to have cards for any of it to matter. This obviously has weaknesses against aggressive strategies as a result.
To supplement that card advantage, I am trying out a pair of Sign in Blood and a Chandra still. That is definitely not the most card advantage in the world, so there is a reasonable chance that we just want more than that. It is worth noting that we are running Sign in Blood for its ability to kill our opponent after Master has connected. Read the Bones is almost certainly better. It is possible that we want Toil // Trouble in this slot for its ease of cast, but in a solid two-color deck, I am not as worried about that.Sideboard Options
When it comes to a deck like this, you want your sideboard to resemble that of a rock deck more so than a combo deck. That is to say we are not looking to pack our sideboard full of ways to protect or combo so much as we are looking to beat specific cards and strategies. Some of this will overlap, like Duress or Slaughter Games against control, but if something like Vines of the Vastwood were legal, we should be looking that direction.
Sire of Insanity is a card I definitely want another copy of in the board as the pressure that it puts on opponents when found alongside Rakdos's Return and Liliana in the same deck is very big. If we have the room, Whip of Erebos allows us to set up an uncounterable Sire of Insanity from the graveyard even which is a huge weapon to have available.
I certainly want access to the fourth copy of Anger of the Gods for all of the reasons I stated above and I could even see adding a Drown in Sorrow just to make sure you can beat up on the aggressive creature decks.
Beyond that, we have quite a bit of wiggle room. I really like Duress to help force through Pack Rats as well as our combo on occasion. Plucking a key card from a control player knowing that you are going to snag the rest with a Return or Sire shortly thereafter is a great feeling. Slaughter Games performed well for me due to the number of times I could peak at my opponent's hand so Duress and it sort of go hand in hand.
I had four copies of Lifebane Zombie in the sideboard but I am not so sure that the card is needed. The idea was that it was an easy way to sneak in damage after Master hit while being relevant against Jund and Mono Green. When I ran into monogreen online though and could not bring myself to board in any copies of the 3/1, I had to begin questioning why it is there. We have discard as it is and Zombie doesn't really offer anything we don't already have. That makes for at least four open slots that I am experimenting with though.
Here is what I have been running thus far:
4 Lifebane Zombie2 Duress3 Slaughter Games1 Ultimate Price1 Anger of the Gods1 Hero's Downfall1 Silence the Believers1 Sire of Insanity1 Whip of ErebosWrap Up
There is a lot of overlap here with monoblack devotion, so one might ask what the benefits of exploring red are. I think that the sweeper aspect of Anger of the Gods is the real reward for being red but the Generator Servant interaction actually leads to quite a few free wins, which is a nice feature to have in a deck
This midrange red/black strategy is pretty strong all around though so even if Generator Servant proves not to be the right way to go, I would want to explore this deck further regardless. And thus far, the interaction between Servant and Master has just been insane. With only a little while before rotation, this is a deck you should definitely check out if you are into brewing. Until next time, thanks for reading!