This past weekend at Grand Prix San Antonio Gareth Aye struck a powerful blow to Standard's status quo. A Standard environment that has already seen substantial ebb and more flow; a roller coaster of Green Devotion, midrange decks, Heroes, combos, combo-Heroes and more has given us yet another -- and once again very different -- style of deck.
In some ways this deck resembles a red beatdown deck. It has got Firedrinker Satyr and Monastery Swiftspear on one, but goes pretty mid-range. Despite the powerful eight-pack of token creation on three mana, Aye's deck goes heavy on the flexible removal, adding powerful and somewhat more expensive cards than you'd expect from a red beatdown deck, eventually topping up on Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker at the five.
What is interesting about the construction of this deck is how transactional it is. Hordeling Outburst is a card that lots of people are just willing to play but in this deck it is a card that approximates a creature (rather, three creatures) but also is a card that goes to the graveyard. The land base supports the same theme. One Polluted Delta to support only two Islands; ditto on five Bloodstained Mires and Wooded Foothills for only six Mountains. None of these fetch lands actually fixes the mana in Aye's deck; they are just painful Mountains and painful Islands ultimately there to help fill the graveyard.
While it's not unusual to play Magma Jet as part of a burn package, it is much more unusual to see Fated Conflagration, especially in an aggressive deck. Aye played all four copies of Fated Conflagration -- a card that not only costs four mana but can't do any damage to players -- as a two-way midrange addition. Like Polluted Delta or Wooded Foothills, Fated Conflagration is another card that goes to the graveyard when you play it (but has the added bonus of Scrying).
All of this effort (and a much hairier mana base than you might see in a straight red aggro deck) is of course there to support Treasure Cruise.
Treasure Cruise is still in its nascency in terms of how and where we see it being played (at least outside of Legacy), but Aye seems to be headed in the right direction. This deck takes a little more damage from its own lands than you might like in an aggressive mirror, but it also has a ton of catchup effects. After turns of trading your little spells or little guys with the opponent's short-term assets, Treasure Cruise can get the ball rolling in the right direction and Anger of the Gods -- yes, in a maindeck Firedrinker Satyr deck! -- mops up the overzealous opponent in sideboarded games.
You've probably guessed by now that this week's Make the Play Monday has to do with this cool new deck.
In the following scenarios we are fighting a hyper-aggressive Mardu Warriors deck. We took down game one handily through Seeker of the Way and multiple Crackling Dooms. We switched out our expensive five mana Planeswalkers for some cheaper Chandra, Pyromasters and Anger of the Gods to help blunt the impact of the resilient Bloodsoaked Champion.
In the first couple of turns we traded a Magma Jet for his first Chief of the Edge, and he sent a Lightning Strike at our Goblin Rabblemaster (but not before it made a 1/1 Goblin Token); an early Bloodsoaked Champion has been beating on us since the game started.
On the opponent's turn four he reloaded a second Chief of the Edge, putting Bloodsoaked Champion to 3/1 and, as noted, cleared out our poor Goblin Rabblemaster with a Lightning Strike.
Now we are about to embark on turn four.
We've got a Goblin Token and three lands on the battlefield.
Our hand consists of three varied lands, a second Goblin Rabblemaster, a sided-in Chandra, and the whole point of our deck: Treasure Cruise.
Facing off against the opponent' Chief of the Edge, how do you approach turn four?
A couple of turns later, things have really turned for the worse for the old Izzet team.
The opponent is rolling twenties. Crackling Doom took out our best man (the second Goblin Rabblemaster) plus a couple of our life points. Another Mardu wedge card, Butcher of the Horde, has us an inch from death. And he [still] has that Bloodsoaked Champion!
Our only saving grace may be that the opponent has no cards in hand. On the other hand...he has a Butcher of the Horde and we have five life.
We have two Goblin Tokens and four lands.
Our hand includes:
● Treasure Cruise● Swiftwater Cliffs● Bloodstained Mire● Monastery Swiftspear
Can we get through this turn? Can we play to win? We've just drawn the Monastery Swiftspear... How do you approach turn six?
Ultimately, Magic is a game of decisions. Basically, we stack decisions on decisions, and better decisions over time lead to more wins. Worse decisions, on the other hand, leak value and decrease your likelihood of winning.
How do we get better at making decisions? At least in-game Magic decisions?
Well... This is Make the Play Monday!
Every week I pose in-game situations to the TCGplayer.com community and invite you to submit your answers in the comments below. What do you think? How do we approach turn four and turn six of this game?
On Friday, I will be back with my take(s) on these plays, and will bring a Celebrity Guest along with his answers on the same.
One lucky reader who made the same plays I indicated will win a $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificate; ditto for one who agrees with the Celebrity Guest's take. Sound good? Great!
See you Friday!