Monday, October 15, 2012

Red Decks and You: Snappy McCastertons Edition.

Alright, alright. That last list was bad. Let's move past it, shall we?

This time I'm running a deck into which I've actually put a lot of thought. Ever since I started playing in FNM's and got "competitive", I've had a soft spot for mono-red. It's cheap to play, it pisses people off, and when it does--as it claims to--win, it wins hard. I've been tuning this guy for about a week and half, and it feels pretty damn strong. I'm very sad that I had to cut the Goblin Electromancers (it sucks, apparently), because I had an awesome name for it that I may try to stick with anyway:

Goblin Electroburn:

Creatures (25):
4 Ash Zealot
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
3 Guttersnipe
2 Hellrider
4 Rakdos Cackler
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Stonewright
4 Stromkirk Noble

Instant (8):
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear

Sorcery (6)
2 Nightbird's Clutches
4 Pillar of Flame

Land (21):
2 Desolate Lighthouse
11 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Archwing Dragon
3 Forge Devil
2 Reckless Waif
4 Essence Scatter
3 Flames of the Firebrand

This looked a lot different last week (Goblin Electromancers, Nivmagus Elemental (!), Blistercoil Weird...); then THIS happened. The deck hit 10th place, which is very good for a mono-red list these days. Variance is a thing, so is player skill. It definitely could've top-8'd, and maybe even won. But I really just don't think there's any reason to be playing a mono-colored deck in this format. We have freakin' shock lands!

Anyway, you already know why cards like Rakdos Cackler, Ash Zealot, and Gore-House Chainwalker are in here. They're cheap and they do damage. Sold. But let's talk about some of the less-obvious choices.

Guttersnipe: Anders only played one-, two-, and four-drop creatures in his deck. So I've smoothed out the curve a bit by adding this house. He pushes a LOT of damage through when you can keep him out: to the point where he becomes a must-kill. This guy gets smacked down right-fast in the decks that can deal with him, which is fine by me. When I play a turn 3 Guttersnipe and it gets answered with an Ultimate Price, they better hope they have another one for my Hellrider on the next turn. If they don't kill the Guttersnipe, well... I hear Brimstone Volley for 7 is pretty good.

Snapcaster Mage: I often find myself dropping him EoT turn 2, or even flashing him in for a trade. Snapcaster is--and always has been--good not only for his effect, but his body. He has very positive synergy with Guttersnipe, and both provide valuable reach to eke out those last 5ish life points to end the game. I understand how counter-intuitive it is to play him in the same list as Ash Zealot. But I really just need you to take my word on this one and give it a shot. Snapcaster Mage is VERY good in this deck. And if you still have your turn 2 Ash Zealot by the time you're flashing back Searing Spear with Snapcaster, you're already winning the game. You can spare the 3 life.

Nightbird's Clutches: Now, this isn't my tech. So I can sort of let results speak for themselves and point to Anders on this one. But I wanted to say one thing about it: Holy bajeezers! I truly believe that aggressive strategies would absolutely dominate the format if it weren't for Thragtusk. The incidental life gain is very good, but it's the two blockers that really kill you. So the simple answer is 'Clutch away! We'll get to the less-simple one when we hit the sideboard.

Desolate Lighthouse: There's a term that I learned about in Economics called "opportunity cost". It's something Patrick Chapin talks about a lot, and for good reason. Every card has a mana cost. Maybe it has additional costs or a Kicker or Buyback. But the super-secret extra cost that doctors don't want you to know about is the card's opportunity cost: what could you have instead? Taking the day off to go Skiing costs the price of a lift ticket, gas, food, etc. But there's also an opportunity cost associated with such an endeavor: You could be working and making money. The amount of money you could've made that day is an opportunity cost that makes that half-off lift ticket look a lot less half-off. When you play a utility land, you pay the opportunity cost of making colored mana. The low opportunity cost of having a man-land come into play tapped wasn't too much for people to play the hell out of the Worldwake Manlands. So even though once in a while you won't be able to hit your turn two Ash Zealot, the power of the Loothouse later in the game is definitely worth it. Playing something like Faithless Looting isn't an option: the opportunity cost is an entire card that could be a dude or something to get our dudes through. But Desolate Lighthouse does a very good job of getting through a chunk of lands when you're running out of gas.

Onto the sideboard!

Essence Scatter: Spicy, no? We're very, very scared of Thragtusk. Centaur Healer too, sure, but he dies to Searing Spear. But if somebody resolves a Thragtusk, my life gets a whole lot worse. But who says it has to resolve? Essence Scatter is a good tempo card to stop big blockers like Thragtusk and Olivia. Dare we dream of the day we Essence Scatter a hard-casted Angel of Serenity? We probably durst. But that sure as hell would win you a game. This is still very much a theoretical choice. I haven't gotten to test against too many Selesnya decks, which is a shame because that's decidedly the Bad Matchup. But we'll see!

Archwing Dragon: Yeah, really! You know what this format doesn't have? Good instant-speed removal for big creatures! With all the Dreadbores, Sever the Bloodlineses, and Abrupt Decays  scampering about, life sure looks good for Archie. When you're late in the game against a tap-out control deck that's got you beat, nothing's better than burning them for four every turn.

Forge Devil: Arbor Elf!

I think this deck has a solid plan, and it has an extraordinarily good matchup against zombies. So let me know what you guys think!

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