Lemme Mantel You Somethin’

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I must admit that I’ve recently been feeling the fire.

Yes, that mystical feeling that is spoken of with reverence in our beloved community. I haven’t felt it to this degree before. I have felt a drive to play and to win, but this is different. I feel like I have something behind me pushing me forward, and I have to keep moving forward lest it runs me over.

I am thirty years old. How does Magic the Gathering, something so trivial, make me feel this way? I wish I knew so that I could apply it to other areas of my life. My only option (or at least the only one I will accept at the moment) is to plunge into the depths and see if I can satisfy this urge or at least figure it out.

I never jumped into Modern. I thought about it several times but never had a real desire to play. No Modern deck jumped out and made me happy to pick it up. I am a known Storm Junkie (I wonder how many readers I lost with this admission), and Storm, which was never great, felt like it had a huge nail driven into its coffin after the bannings. I can only shudder at the rest of the format.

That being said, Standard season is upon us and I plan on grinding as much as I can.

In my, admittedly inexpert, opinion Standard is in a state where there isn’t a “best” deck. Or at least, not yet. This means that a powerful new strategy can emerge and take something by storm. Of course, people have been looking for these things already, and if it were easy then everyone would have solved it by now. I do have the brewer’s disease so I have turned my hand at producing some decks.

Several people before me have gone over the benefits of going rogue. I need to get an edge somewhere and my play skill does not provide it. Simple as that.

These decks all seem to be “not quite there”. Maybe you can see what I missed and make one of them into something awesome. I crave feedback. Tell me what you like and what you don’t like. I am asking you to help me. Right now these are my decks. I want them to become our decks.

Savage BUGs

All right, I’ll dive in. This deck is my baby. I have been working on it the most, and of the lists in this article it is the most refined and the one that I would be most likely to take into a tournament.

I read a recent Brian Kibler article that stated any brew should be able to answer a basic question before anything else: “What is the goal?”

This deck confounded me a great deal. It felt decent, but I couldn’t point out a definite plan. I made the deck; I should be able to answer so basic a question.

Right?

I eventually came to the conclusion that this deck is trying to use high impact cards to gather an advantage and ride that to a win. Some of the cards are not high impact, but they serve to enable other cards’ impact.

Obviously the Simic Charms protect your creatures. They also bring other utility which is why they got the nod over other forms of protection.

Deathrite Shaman was a hard nut to crack. It required the most enablers to make it really work in the maindeck. Thought Scour, Forbidden Alchemy, and Dimir Charm all work to make the Shaman better. This package helps me not miss land drops and has some other uses too.

The Dimir Charm also combos well with another odd card: Duskmantle Seer. He is a brutal sword. He has cut me as well as my opponents, but just look at it! The first time I heard the DuskMANTEL jokes, I knew I had to build a deck with him in it. The D-Charms, along with their other modes, can set up your opponent to take a big hit from him.

The sideboard was recently changed to the above list, but I don’t really care for it right now. I tried putting in more creatures to have the option to be more aggressive, but in the matchups that I thought I would want them, against control and UWr Flash, they didn’t work out how I hoped. My thought was that I would could hit them and keep up pressure, but things don’t play out that way. After boarding into this, the deck loses focus and struggles to have a coherent game plan.

This sideboard very much felt like a toolbox that only held a hammer. One of the strengths of the deck was that it played very fluidly. I want to bring this out more with the Sideboard. This means the Sideboard will change depending on what I expect to see. Right now, I expect to see Blitz, Reanimator, and Esper. I’ll focus on these as I work on the deck.

One of the first things I hear about this deck is questions about Increasing Savagery. This deck does not have a big push other than this card. Sure, I could grind out games trying to kill people with two damage at a time with Deathrite or try to get in attacks, but Increasing Savagery pushes and pushes hard. Aggro decks struggle to deal with a huge flyer, and one giant hit makes the Deathrite Shaman pings scary. Being able to flash it back also makes the mill win condition decks weep. In the long matches, it makes any guy into a threat. It is this deck’s Runechanter’s Pike. Am I thinking about this wrong? Please tell me if I am.

I have one problem with this deck after having played it: it might just be a bad version of Jund. It feels like it plays out much the same. You play cards and position yourself to get small advantages until you win the game. It takes some different approaches, but I am not sure if it is different enough to warrant the switch.

Not Really Elves

Next up is an updated version of what I was playing right before Gatecrash.

This list is fragile as all get out. A few spot removal spells and it falls apart rather quickly. The goal is to power out a Soul of the Harvest and Hellraiser Goblin (previously Akroma’s Memorial).

I built this with the thought that the Soul acts like a horrible Glimpse of Nature. Even a horrible Glimpse seemed like it would be good. This thought process has gotten me into trouble before, but the idea invaded my mind and I had to get it out. If Soul and Hellraiser hit the table, then the game should end quickly as you can play tons of creatures, draw tons of cards, and swing for tons of damage.

The Signal the Clans is a card I am not sure about. It cuts into your creature count but in building this I wanted to have a combo feel. Signal helps you find the missing combo pieces.

The Gyre Sage is also a new addition, but it seems to be doing well. Previously in this spot was Scorned Villager, and the Sage is a nice upgrade. It has better synergy with the Archdruids and will evolve to at least one fairly often.

The Burning-Tree Emissary should probably go up to a four-of, but I couldn’t find spots for it. The Signals might be too cute and could go to the Emissary spots, but I did want the tutor effect. The Emissary helps you cast the Goblin, which only has Somberwald and four lands that can cast it otherwise.

The Strength of this deck comes from a surprise factor. People are not ready for you to spit out your whole deck and swing in one turn. This glass cannon nature has been used before to great success, but the environment has to be ripe. This is not a deck that one would use to grind with. This is very much a deck that would be used to spike a tournament and move on.

Let It Burn

The next one is very simple.

Not much to really say about this. The format is almost entirely creature based. I wanted to come from a different angle.

The clock is almost as fast as Naya Blitz. From playing with it, Skullcrack is pretty vital. Don’t use it until you have the win or until your opponent tries to gain life. As long as you can stop the life-gain; most draws can kill someone before they can cast more than one Thragtusk or Sphinx’s Revelation.

The Boros Reckoner + Blasphemous Act combo can, of course, just win the game when no one is expecting it. I don’t rely on this, though, and am not sure about the Acts taking up three slots in the mainboard. When the deck doesn’t have the Reckoner and the opponent isn’t putting many creatures on the board (control, UWr, and Esper) they feel awful.

Brimstone Volley is not my favorite, but I just ran out of two-mana burn spells. If I have to reach into the three mana realm, I wanted something that at least had the possibility to hit above its weight. I’ve been playing with the idea of some of the red card drawing, but none of it puts you up in cards. Although they can help to ditch dead cards for something that can actually be used. Here’s hoping that Dragon’s Maze gives us another sub-three burn spell. Even Shock would be amazing.

This plays out like other Burn variants and has the same weaknesses. Quick life gain or hand disruption can run you out of gas before you can end the game. The Boros Charm has very rarely gotten stuck in hand, but it does happen.

Addendum

I went to an SCG IQ as a last ditch effort to qualify for the Invitational in Atlanta, where I live. I was all set to play my BUG list. I was comfortable with the deck. I felt it had game against most of the format; built in lifegain and graveyard hate yet aggressive enough to hurt control all seemed to be in my favor.

Then I audibled…

I listened to all the people who were telling me not to take some unproven brew.

I audibled to this:

It isn’t the Junk list, but I was going for the game-one wins.

It didn’t work out. I went 3-3. I think I won a total of three game ones and won two of those matches. The combo felt unstable. There were games where I just needed one last piece and couldn’t find it for several turns, despite several dig spells and ability activations. It may have just not been my day. It happens sometimes.

I am sure I made mistakes and I know I kept some bad hands. These were the result of not being completely familiar with the list. This deck can’t keep just lands and some creatures. It really needs enablers. I know this now, and I should’ve known it then. I had not played with the deck enough to know what was acceptable and what was not.

On top of this, the competition was steep. I had hoped that the 1k in the same area would draw people away, and it did. The problem was that the people who showed up were the excellent players who valued the invite to the Invitational as much as I did. Roughly fifty people showed up. I would say that forty of them were ringers. (I don’t count myself among this number.)

The meta of the day was aggro-heavy, and having tested the BUG list against mainly aggro and Reanimator, I feel like I made a huge mistake by making the switch. The Reanimator list isn’t horrible against all but the fastest decks, but I would have felt much more comfortable with maindeck removal and life gain. This isn’t the first time I’ve made the audible mistake, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Results have started to become clear. Junk Reanimator is the deck to beat. This means that my statements about the Standard Magic the Gathering metagame are now outdated, if not plainly false. This still means that things are ripe for a new deck. In my mind, this deck needs to be able to be able to beat Reanimator and have a decent game against the hyper-fast decks. This makes me look back at the BUG list with hopeful eyes.

The Invitational will be here soon. I will only be playing in the Open running next to the Invitational, but the Fire is still burning. At this moment, I’m not sure if I’ll work on my brews or if I will work on getting more proficient with a Reanimator list. What would you take?

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