One thing I've found interesting about this Standard format is that so many different two-color combinations seem work. More specifically, in a format where three-color wedges are the norm (Mardu, Jeskai, etc.), removing one of the three colors will often still yield a successful result. For example Remove the blue from Jeskai and red/white is still a powerful deck. Remove the red from Jeskai and you can still battle with a Blue/White Heroic or Blue/White Control deck. Remove the green from Sultai and you can still win with Blue/Black Control.
This is mainly so interesting to me because so many of the two-color combinations are viable right now, from green/white, to red/green, to even the Black/Green Warrior list I played last week. This seems especially unusual when you consider that we're in a three-color block!
Today's deck follows this trend, eschewing the white from Mardu for a Black/Red Aggro strategy. Take a look.
Magic Online user _LSN_ played the list to a Top 4 finish in a recent Magic Online PTQ. He didn't clench the blue envelope (do they still give those away now with the new system?) but he came pretty close. Close enough to pique my interest.
While I named the deck aggro for its seven(!) one-drops, the deck definitely tries to play the midrange role as well with four four-drop dragons and five five-drop dragons (I'm noticing a pattern here). This kind of puts the deck in between aggro and midrange, but it definitely isn't a strictly midrange deck.
Let's take a look and see what it's trying to do before we try and classify the list.
The first thing I found myself asking was whether or not the absence of white for things like Soulfire Grand Master, Seeker of the Way, and Crackling Doom was better than the addition of it. I'm not entirely sure, but I could definitely see the advantage of playing white.
After the first two rounds I was feeling pretty good about the deck; specifically the aggro matchups where we were able to gain four or more life from Foul-Tongue Invocation. But then the wheels seemed to come off.
I actually get really discouraged when I have to show you guys a deck that doesn't perform well. Every time I end up with a record that's less than 3-1, I have a lot of apprehension about showing the deck; sometimes I scrap it and find a new deck altogether which ends up being very time consuming and frustrating, as you can imagine. The main reason I can think is that I'm trying to give you guys options to play for your own events, and when I can't do that or when I can't advocate a deck, I feel like I'm not giving you anything to take away from the article. Melissa keeps trying to tell me, though, that even a deck with a less than stellar record can still teach something. Why specifically the deck doesn't work, for example, or what we could change about it. I think that's very true, but I still feel a slight reluctance. I'm working on that.
Nevertheless, here we are, and in my opinion, while this deck managed to successfully Top 4 a Magic Online PTQ, it seems like it's trying to do too many different things at once. We have seven one-drops, allowing us to be an aggressive deck, but then we have nine creatures that cost four or more mana. This means that we're going to draw lands as if we're a midrange deck (and the deck has some 25 lands), but we're going to draw cards that would lead us to believe we're an aggro deck (such as Bloodsoaked Champion and Blood-Chin Rager). These are not great cards to draw when we've just played our sixth land, which happens quite a bit with 25 in the deck. There's a reason that monored decks only play about 20 lands: they rarely want to draw too many and their cards don't require that much mana.
I think the best thing I discovered from the deck was how good Scouring Sands could be against the red decks. I would even be compelled to add a third to the sideboard. Ultimately sideboarding was somewhat difficult though, as I didn't want to Remove the aggressive one-drops, as it felt like that would ruin a large portion of our plan, but I also didn't want to Remove many of our high drops because those are some of our most powerful cards. Ultimately I would end up removing some of the excess Zurgo Bellstrikers, a Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury, and the one-of Tymaret, the Murder King; the first and last mostly because they're legendary.
The deck could definitely have explosive starts, but it seemed prone to running out of gas or flooding with numerous one-drop creatures. Our only removal was Draconic Roar and Foul-Tongue Invocation and, while great, these are not the best against decks that go wide with their creatures. Ultimately I like the idea of the deck a lot, but I would definitely feel more comfortable with it if it were skewed more toward the RB Control/Midrange decks that were showing up a couple months back.
As usual, I'll be back on Monday with a sweet Modern brew, but in the meantime feel free to catch my stream on TwitchTV or my brand new podcast with Ali Aintrazi, Freshly Brewed (which you can find on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or the link below). Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!Frank Lepore