Rock, Paper, Scissors: M15 style
Ever since Return to Ravnica, I’ve took it upon myself to build one deck of each Magic archetype during each standard season: Midrange, Aggro, and Control. I do this because it’s a good exercise in deck building, but also lets you get some experience at how each player thinks. When building each I try to put myself in that player’s shoes. Even though people might think that one deck is dominating all events right now (black devotion I’m guessing), believe me when I tell you that it’s all rock, paper, scissors. After the hey days of Caw Blade and Delver back during ZEN-SOM & SOM-ISD standard, Magic has changed. It went from a somewhat linear metagame where you were either playing the dominant deck or not (and usually losing), to a game of rock paper scissors. The Return to Ravnica block did a great deal to balance the archetypes (in my opinion), and since then the metagame has continued to be a game of rock, paper, scissors. The problem is, you have to choose the correct kind of rock, paper, or scissors on any given week to do well. Reading the metagame in your area, as well as on the national stage is important in order to do well at any given time. If the metagame changes and you’re not ready for it, you’re going to lose, lose, and lose again. Rock will never beat Paper.
With that being said, I’d like to introduce 2 new decks I’ve put together to look at both the aggro and control types a little bit differently. I’ve already shown you my idea for a midrange deck, “Hail Hydra, but I have two more ideas that might work well in the current metagame. At the very least, they should be a lot of fun to play at your next FNM. Please lay back and feast your eyes on Murder Kings and Mega Mill.
|By Ryan Schwenk
|1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Temple of Malice
4 Blood Crypt
2 Chandra’s Phoenix
|2 Chandra, Pyromaster
13 other spells
15 sideboard cards
Ok, so it’s basically a Goblin deck with some black splashed in there for removal, but don’t dismiss it without giving it a chance. Goblins is a strong archetype and I don’t think people will be expecting it. One of Saito Tomoharu’s many decks from M15 was a red aggro build that shared quite a few of these cards. He stopped short of making it a full on Goblin deck, but I think he should have kept going down that path. The deck has amazing synergy and is all about throwing Goblins at your opponent no matter what the outcome.
We start off with our 3 one drops: Foundry Street Denizen, Legion Loyalist, and Frenzied Goblin. All of them have their roles and play it well. Frenzied Goblin helps you to reduce the number of blockers your opponent can use, Foundry Street Denizen gets pumped whenever a red creature ENTERS the battlefield, and Legion Loyalist gives all of your attacking creatures first strike and trample when 2 or more attack with him. That makes it rather hard for your opponent to block, especially if all they have is 1/1 soldier tokens from an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.
The two drop spot gives this deck even more power. Spike Jester has haste and hits for 3 damage, Magma Jet burns for 2 and lets you set up your next two turns with scry, and Lightning Strike gives you a solid burst of 3 damage. The last addition, Tymaret ,the Murder King, is the namesake of the deck. When the deck is all about suicidal charges, what better way to get a benefit out of them other than sacrificing them to deal 2 damage or to return him to the battlefield? He’s incredibly resilient, and ensures that your creatures to damage no matter what. You also have Ultimate Price to clear out pesky creatures like Polukranos, World Eater that can really ruin your day when they go monstrous.
In the 3 drop, we have one of my favorite creatures from M15, Goblin Rabblemaster. Sure all your goblins must attack if he’s on the battlefield, but he adds a creature to your army each turn. He also gets a nice +1/+0 attack bonus for every goblin attacking with him on any given turn. This means your Foundry Street Denizen will always get be at least a 2/1 when attacking, and if you have a Legion Loyalist, suddenly your Rabblemaster can become a 4/2 first striker with trample since the three creatures activate the Loyalist’s battalion ability. While more of an afterthought than anything else, I added in Chandra’s Phoenix to the mix as well. The deck has quite a few ways to get it back if you want to sacrifice it to Tymaret after attacking, but more importantly it has haste and flying.
An aggro deck’s biggest problem is running out of gas after the first few turns. Without good draws to power out more and more creatures, it can stall and let you fall behind. That’s why I thought Chandra, Pyromaster was a good addition. She works well alongside Frenzied Goblin to reduce the number of blockers your opponent has, returns a Chandra’s Phoenix from the graveyard, as well gets you card advantage with her -0 ability. Her ultimate ability might be alright sometimes too, letting you find a Lightning Strike and blast them for 9 damage.
As for the sideboard, I have Pharika’s Cure for aggro match ups to help with racing, Hammer of Purphoros for control, Lifebane Zombie for Green midrange decks (or other decks where 3/1 intimidate would be relevant), Dreadbore for control or midrange (cause Jace, Architect of Thought can be a pain in the ass), Duress for control and burn decks to remove their spells, and Purphoros, God of the Forge for control to help ping away at their life and redirect damage to Planeswalkers.
|By Ryan Schwenk|
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Watery Grave
|2 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Jace, Memory Adept
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Devour Flesh
3 Psychic Strike
3 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
3 Far // Away
4 Mind Sculpt
4 Breaking // Entering
29 other spells
15 sideboard cards
It’s true that we had Mind Sculpt back (mill 7 cards) in M13, at the same time as Breaking/Entering (mill 8 cards) in RTR, but this was before the Theros block came. Mega Mill pulls all of the mill-centric cards together rather well. I just want to point out that 4 Mind Sculpt and 4 Breaking/Entering will mill for 60 cards. People tend to forget how crippling mill effects can be against an opponent. You can mill their win condition (against control), mill their land to make them miss their land drops (against midrange), or mill out a large amount of their army (against aggro). You could definitely build around those two cards if you wanted to, but it’s much better to go all in with this effect.
This deck does only 2 things: Milling and Killing. To help speed up the milling, we have 3 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and 2 Jace, Memory Adept. Ashiok an hit the battlefield early and put your opponent in a bad position and can pretty much protect himself against anything they played on turn 2 or 3. Jace on the other hand needs some protection to win the game. You’ll usually want to play him a little bit later in the game to finish your opponent with one or two turns of milling. Another great mill card in this deck is Consuming Aberration. If your opponent has any type of removal, you want to make sure you can play a him with mana open so you can at least get one activation out of him before dying. He also works really well with Devour Flesh, letting you gain back life you might have lost against an aggro deck. I think it’s safe to say that you’d gain at least 10+ life if you did so due to this being a mill deck. I also thought that Nightveil Specter might be a good addition to this deck, but the deck lacks card draw and these 4 spots might be better served with Pilfered Plans to mill and draw you cards.
Okay, so we’ve established how we’re going to win, but not how do we survive until we mill them out? That’s where the rest of the cards come into play. We have a collection of counterspells and kill spells to ensure that we live long enough to see their library count reach zero. Hero’s Downfall is a great overall card that hits anything, Devour Flesh is great against hexproof creatures or Blood Baron of Vizkopa while also letting you gain life from an Aberration, Far//Away stalls the game and can get rid of their hard to kill creature, and Psychic Strike counters and mills at the same time. We also have Jace, Architect of Thought in the deck to help you draw cards and slow down an army of small creatures.
In the sideboard, I have Ætherspouts to give my opponent the decision of milling their creatures now or later, Cyclonic Rift to return everything to their hand if things get out of hand, Drown in Sorrow to remove a large amount of small attackers, Swan Song for control match ups to stop their spells as well as Detention Sphere, Ultimate Price for aggro and midrange decks that have big threats that Drown in Sorrow can’t hit, and Negate for both burn and control. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.
It’s been more than 2 years in the making, but my next post will mark my 350th article here on The Japan Hobbyist. I’m currently brainstorming ideas on how to celebrate it, so if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. I would never have made it this far without the continued support of my readers so I would like to thank all of you that have been with me from 2 years ago all the way up to 2 weeks ago. I look forward to bringing you Japan-centric Magic topics in the coming years, my continued struggle to reach the upper echelons of MTG competitive play, and of course helpful articles regarding the limited format. I hope that we can both get better together and continue to help each other! Thanks for reading and see you next time!