Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Monday Magic - Building a Standard Deck Part II

After last week's analysis of the first iteration of a cheap red deck wins setup, I made a couple small changes and took it to another Friday Night Magic event.  Here's what happened:

Deck Tweaks
The biggest problems that appeared in the first FNM experience were Boros ReckonerChained to the Rocks, and Fleecemane Lion, so the modifications should try to handle those types of threats a bit better.  That was the main focus of my first deck revisions.

On my end, one weakness I noticed was Gore-House Chainwalker- a 3-power creature for 2 mana is pretty sweet, but he's my only 2-drop permanent that doesn't do something on turn 2.  Ash Zealot swings on turn 2, Goblin Shortcutter nullifies a blocker, Burning-Tree Emissary enhances overall mana efficiency, and Madcap Skills allows for some pretty serious burst damage.  Chainwalker is a scary dude to be sure, but if I'm not securely in control by the end of turn 2, I have a hard road ahead, and I don't think Chainwalker makes that ordeal any easier.

As such, I replaced my Chainwalkers with Magma Jets.  The extra burn is a much more immediate benefit for my spent mana, but the Scry 2 effect is a big deal for smoothing out my play.  It lets me ship extra lands to the bottom of my deck if I can't use them, and it might allow me to plan the next couple draws.  I think this change makes the deck a bit more consistent, and it increases the potential damage on earlier turns.

This increased consistency may be able to avoid Reckoner altogether, as it increases the odds that I'd just be able to end the game before he can wipe my side of the board.  I think it will also help against the Lion, though he could hit the table a turn earlier.  To deal with the Chains, I think Peak Eruption is a solid choice as it frees the bound creature, deals some damage, and screws with my opponent's mana base (and it may be able to slow Reckoner by a turn sometimes, too).  Eruption fits pretty nicely in the sideboard, then.

For the rest of the sideboard, I still see some benefit to Electrickery (wipes Elspeth and Master tokens), Shock (burn is burn), Act of Treason (which might be my best answer to Reckoner), and Seismic Stomp (helps me end the game against a stalled boardstate), and Skullcrack is absolutely necessary, so I decided to include just two copies of Eruption in place of one Electrickery and one Shock.

With those small changes, here's the complete deck I took to last week's FNM:

Main Deck
Ash Zealot
Burning-Tree Emissary
Firedrinker Satyr
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Shortcutter
Legion Loyalist
Rakdos Cackler
Rubblebelt Maaka

Lightning Strike
Magma Jet
Titan's Strength

Madcap Skills

18 Mountain

Act of Treason
Peak Eruption
Seismic Stomp

Trial by Fire... Again
Last week's FNM was much smaller affair than my first, with only about 10 people playing standard.  I placed fifth overall with a record of only 2-2, but let's go through the individual matchups.

Round one put me against a black red minotaur deck, which I knocked down 2-0.  He was running a lot of cheap removal (Shocks and Pharika's Cure), which proved to be a problem, but he ended up falling to me in two games due to troublesome mana draws.  We played a couple games after the round result was officially reported, and when he wasn't starved for mana, his deck was actually pretty nasty.  The removal is obviously bad for me, but he could also play his creatures and hold them back as blockers until he was able to deal lethal damage in one blow.  I think my biggest problem in this matchup was deciding when to mulligan (which will be a common theme), because I need the power to rush through 12+ damage in the first few turns to be able to survive against that kind of deck.  It wasn't an issue in this tournament, but it's certainly something to think about.

The second round put me up against a more midranged red deck, which fell to me 2-0.  This deck seemed to revolve around burn spells and Chandra's Phoenix, though it didn't survive long enough to teach me anything important about our deck's matchups.

My deck really started having troubles in round three, where we lost to Esper control 1-2.  This matchup is one of the few that I tested with friends (though my friend was running a somewhat different version of this deck), and it seemed like the two decks are reasonably balanced.

The first two games were pretty lopsided - before sideboarding, one Sphinx's Revelation is the end for me, but after sideboard Skullcrack shuts the relevant part of Revelation down pretty hard.  Seeing that the Esper control win conditions are typically late-game players (AetherlingElspeth, Sun's Champion, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa in this particular deck), my strategy seems to get a little bit of leeway early on.  I think that's a dangerous assessment, though, because Supreme Verdict can rob me of all momentum.  Game one probably wouldn't have been such a devastating loss if I'd been more aggressive with mulligans, so super aggressive play from turn one is still essential in this matchup.

Game three, on the other hand, was incredibly close.  I ended up losing after sitting on a bunch of burn and Skullcrack for several turns - enough to end the game and prevent Revelation from saving him - I unfortunately didn't have the mana to burn and hold up Skullcrack support, so he was able to build up a ton of Elspeth tokens and overwhelm me.  I don't think there were any significant misplays or deck issues in that game; bad luck kept me from securing the win.

The fourth and final round stuck me up against what seemed to be a generic "good stuff" deck, which finished me off 1-2.  Desecration Demon made an appearance in this deck, as did the Blood Baron, but he didn't have quite the same early game control to make those creatures too troubling.  Boros Reckoner, on the other hand, ruined everything once again, and I lost each game where that minotaur wizard resolved.  I still think Act of Treason is a solid response, though I never drew it at a relevant time during the post-board games.  Peak Eruption definitely has some potential to slow the Reckoner down, though this opponent was casting the Reckoner off Plains; in this particular match, Eruption just delayed Anger of the Gods- relevant, but not nearly as important in the long run. In retrospect, I also think I probably should have mulliganed in game one (which I lost), though I'm not sure if it would have changed the outcome.

This Week's Lessons
The moral of the whole story sounds very similar to the last one: I need a better answer to Boros Reckoner, and I need to work on mulligans and sideboarding.  For the former, I'm running our of ideas; I actually haven't played Seismic Stomp, so that might be another solution, or maybe I should replace Stomp with a couple more Acts to make the stealing effect more likely.  For the latter, I may need to exchange Stomp, but I also think I should drop another Electrickery in favor of a fourth Shock.  Electrickery has a much more niche use, but extra Shocks might help seal the deal when I'm running out of steam.  And, of course, I need to figure out a way to practice mulligans specifically, as I figure I'll only get better at that by doing it.

Regardless, I have some more ideas for tweaks, and I hope to take it to another FNM this week.  Maybe I can come up with something rather consistent before the next set, Born of the Gods, is released at the beginning of February...

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