Thursday 27 June 2013

RG Survival Beats

VengevineRed-green beats is one of my favourite archetypes, it is simple, elegant, direct and pure. It seems as if it is always close to viable in every format but in cube it is a healthy tier one deck. It is far easier to draft than Zoo archetypes, which are the most similar to it in cube, and it is more consistent as well. Zoo many have slightly more potential synergy and higher card power level but with the abundance of superb monsters about the power level difference is ever declining. This particular build was an attempt to see if I could retain the immense tempo and consistency found in the red green beats archetype while including some late game effects and utility into the list. Much of the core of the deck is the same as any other red green beats deck I do, you want the best tempo dorks on curve with a smattering of ramp and burn.

Faithless Looting23 Spells

Llanowar Elves
Orcish Lumberjack
Kird Ape
Faithless Looting

Lightning Bolt
Basking Rootwalla
Birds of Paradise

Fauna Shaman
Lotus Cobra
Kavu Predator
Tin-Street Hooligan

Burning-Tree EmissarySurvival of the Fittest
Punishing Fire
Flinthoof Boar
Burning-Tree Emissary

Chandra's Phoenix
Squee, Goblin Nabob
Pyrewild Shaman

Bloodbraid Elf
Ghor-Clan Rampager

Thundermaw Hellkite

17 Lands
Chandra's Phoenix
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Mountain Valley

Grove of the Burnwillows
Rootbound Crag
Karplusan Forest
Raging Ravine

Kessig Wolfrun
Treetop Village
4 Mountains
3 Forests

Ghor-Clan RampagerOften I play Rancor in these kinds of deck however Vengevine is one of the most important cards in the deck meaning every non creature card you can trim is a huge perk to a key part of your plan. Bloodbraid also works poorly with Rancor and makes it less likely to recur a Vengevine solo. Red green is usually fairly removal light as it relies on having better dorks in play and this list is light even by red green standards. While this makes the Survival style cards better it can cause you issues. The bloodthirst creatures have been a huge help in resolving the problem as they are often as good or better than removal when you have a tempo lead yet still provide synergy with the engine cards. They are also fair better than removal or a combat trick when you are a little flooded or threat light (which is basically the same thing in red green beats) as you can get something on the go. Sadly Pyrewild Shaman is just not good enough for the cube, his bloodthirst is nice but not even close to Rampager. His body is a pretty pathetic threat and the recursion is just too expensive, by the time you have the spare mana to do it you will still be losing despite the card advantage it can offer. I would definitely replace it future versions of this build. In creature heavy formats a Flametongue Kavu would be another way of increasing your removal output and not diminishing your creature count, it would also be fairly easy to dispose of if not appropriate in the game with all the discard in the deck however it is very slow and not wildly impressive on the board. Scavenging Ooze, Boggart Ram-Gang and Tarmogoyf are all very powerful common red green beats contenders and work nicely off the back of a Burning Tree Emissary however I found myself almost exclusively wanting either Legion Loyalist or Strangleroot Geist when drawing or searching. Lightning Mauler is also a very interesting card for both this build and the archetype in general although I didn't consider it at the time of playing.

Orcish Lumberjack
Low burn counts also make Chanrda's Phoenix worse and with no way of tutoring up any part of the Punishing Fire Burnwillows combo and a high chance you will need to aim burn at dorks not faces it is far from at its best in the deck although still worth playing unlike the Pyrewild. With Vengevine being my most abusive monster to quickly recur this seems like one of the best decks for Burning-Tree Emissary as it allows some of the most convenient and fast free Vengevine off a turn one Faithless Looting. Emissary is one of those cards that when optimal is really quite effective yet when picked up late in the game is highly disappointing much like Steppe Lynx. I am much happier playing it in this deck than I would be in decks without the discard options this has as I can easily get shot of it when it is a weak bear. Orcish Lumberjacks is a card I always ram into red green beats decks and sometimes even into Zoo decks even when the mana base is not optimally suited for it. Despite only really having seven things to sacrifice I am happy running the Lumberjack for much the same reasons as the Emissary, in fact it is so abusive when you get a good draw for it that it is worth it any way. It means more I can make the most suitable mana base and not worry about making my Lumberjack unplayable.

Kessig Wolf Run
With this deck potentially going a bit later into the game due to Survival of the Fittest gimmickery I decided to risk the Kessig Wolfrun, a card I often lose to but can never seem to get working well for me. Normally I favour early game consistency that late game reach and value in decks where I plan to win most of my games with early game tempo. I was however worried that the slight reduction in threats and tempo to accommodate the Survival would mean I needed that little bit more to force through wins. Many of my red green builds have two or three five drops that really help end games like Overrun, Wolfir Silverheart and Thragtusk and this list simply didn't have the room for them making Wolfrun more appealing, certainly far more worthwhile than Pyrewild Shaman!

Overall the deck worked very well, I easily found my Vengevine, put it in the bin and recurred it by turn four, usually along with another beefy four drop haste dork. Although you do lose a small bit of tempo the turn you spend mana making Survival or tutoring for guys however you seems to regain it the following turn with even more power than other builds usually output. When you don't draw the engine bits the deck is simply a very consistent and powerful beatdown deck. Squee is perhaps the most cuttable card after Pyrewild as it really does very little without some of your engine cards. After the Vengevine (complete with Freewalla for half teh trigger) you don't really need to abuse the Survival effects that much.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Tempered Steel

Tempered SteelThis is the other popular variant of affinity although it far more resembles the robots style modern deck. It makes lots of fast and annoying dorks with a few high powered synergic finishers to round it out. It has less mana issues than the other affinity cube deck I posted. It is also less prone to not drawing enough dorks however it relies fairly heavily on a couple of cards to win games and can misfire easily enough through not seeing one of those in much the same way. Being only really white you miss out on some of the juicy coloured cards available to the archetype. Also you have more non-artifact cards than most other affinity decks which can present some issues as well. Beyond these somewhat minor differences the deck is essentially the same as any other affinity deck, it makes over powered and undercosted dorks on mass and then finishes you off with combat trickery or evasion if the initial tempo surge wasn't enough to outright kill you.

OrnithopterThis list hails from a time before I banned Mana Crypt which does hurt the deck a fair amount but isn't enough to stop it being tier one at all. I would be fairly happy to exchange it for a variety of cards including Chrome Mox, Aether Vial, Terrarion, perhaps even a  Mox Diamond or just another dork..

Overall it is one of the more robust builds of affinity as it has some removal, some disruption, some card advantage while being less vulnerable to things like Pernicious Deed. You also typically have more evasive monsters in the heavier white builds due to the Glint Hawk however after playing the deck it was the most cuttable card by far and would likely have been better as the Idol instead.

Stoneforge Mystic is a real boost to the build giving you the ability to get your choice of incredibly high powered equipment. Despite having slightly few artifacts than alternate versions the Cranial Plating is just as good in this build due to the extra evasion and so having two chances to draw one rather than one is excellent. Inkmoth Nexus is also at the best it gets in this deck as it has multiple copies of the Plating to abuse and becomes a terrifying 3/3 if Tempered Steel is down.

Court Homunculus26 Spells

Mox Opal
Mana Crypt

Hex Parasite
Arcbound Worker
Court Homunculus
Glint Hawk

Springleaf Drum
Chromatic Star
Stoneforge Mystic
Cursed Scroll
Signal Pest

Arcbound Ravager
Ethersworn Canonist
Phyrexian Revoker
Stoneforge Mystic

Cranial Plating
Myr Retriever
Steel Overseer

Porcelain Legionnaire
Tempered Steel
Inkmoth NexusTanglewire


14 Lands

Blinkmoth Nexus
Inkmoth Nexus
Mishra's Factory
Darksteel Citadel

Ancient Den
Vault of Whispers
City of Traitors
Ancient Tomb

5 Plains

Other Possiblities

Vault Skirge
Blade Splicer

The Myrsmith is a bit of a luxury card as it is slow, awkward and vulnerable however it does work very well will a wide number of the cards in the deck while being more useful and proactive than a Thopter Foundry (not to mention easier to play) and less risky than a Genesis Chamber. Steel Overseer is much the same sort of slow optimistic card however you really want a high dork count of a cheap artifacty nature of which there are slim pickings. It actually doesn't matter all that much, you could play a fairly wide selection of cheap junky dorks that did nothing much at all beyond getting pumped by Tempered Steel and you would still win most games in which you drew it. I was going to use Golden Myr as an example of a junky card that would work but as I thought about it I realised it would probably be better than a lot of the cards I actually did play....

I don't recall having ever given specific matchup advise for a deck in this sort of post but I feel compelled to do so with this one, more so because it is unique to the deck and therefore perhaps less intuitive. When playing this against red deck wins or a cheap heavy burn based deck the best strategy is to hold back making dorks in the early turns. If you play them out they just get burned away and you run out of steam having done very little. Ideally you get to make a turn three Tempered Steel and then follow it with the mighty Ornithopter that turn and a couple more random artifacts on the following one. Playing like this means they cannot efficiently burn away your threats nor can theirs compete with the size of yours. You will be a few life points down but will have the board and resources to comfortably win. If you don't have the Tempered Steel it is pretty bad for you in that matchup to the point of it being worth trying to stall while retaining some dorks just to try and draw it.
With mid-range decks all the rage at present this sort of deck is a perfect meta choice as it crushes them in a hilarious manner. Often they have cast one or perhaps two very low impact spells that you basically ignore while you cruise to victory on the back of an absurd tempo lead. Not only is this deck fantastic against mid-range decks of all flavours it is also potent against anything you care to throw at it. It is fast enough to keep up with combo decks and powerful enough to overwhelm control decks. It also seems to cheat compared to other agro decks and leaves many of them wanting as well. It is good fun to play and nicely different, even compared to other affinity decks which are seeing little play as it is in my cube with the components no longer residing in the A cube.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Miracle Charms

Boros ReckonerThis is a rare example of the hybrid archetype of combo control. In the way that midrange decks are a halfway house between agro and control decks this is part combo deck and part control (there is also agro combo in things like Foodchain Goblins, elves or even some affinity builds). It is fairly rare for these archetypes to work but when they do they are one of my favourite kinds of deck. You get to dictate the flow of the game but always are able to threaten the win out of nowhere. This particular list was inspired by the deck "Lucky Charms" which was featured in one of the deck techs from the PT before last (PT Gatecrash I assume). It was a fairly standard three colour control build however it went heavily overboard on the Charms to give it a reasonable chance of hitting a four card infinite life combo. While any four card combo is pretty bad as a pure combo, when all the cards are excellent in their own right within the deck you can get away with it, especially when it is not your main plan. The idea is to get a Boros Reckoner out, give it lifelink and make it indestructible with Boros and Azorius Charms then shoot it and continually redirect the damage to itself until you have infinite life. With only one copy of each card and it being a shaky combo to being with I needed more ways to win and things to be doing. A more standard control deck wouldn't really benefit a huge amount from the various effects on the Charms and so I decided to pair it with a heavy miracle theme as there is good overlap in the card quality effects and Entreat the Angels gives you lots of dorks to be lifelinking to great effect. Already being in UWR and having an abundance of card quality and two or less costing instants I couldn't resist the Isochron Scepter as well giving me plenty of stuff to be getting on with. Here is the final list I ended up running:

Mystical Tutor
24 Spells

Chrome Mox

Swords to Plowshares
Mystical Tutor
Sensei's Divining Top

Boros Charm
Azorius Charm
Izzet Charm
Fire / Ice

Lightning Helix
Azorius CharmSnapcaster Mage
Isochron Scepter

Lat-Nam's Legacy
Arcane Denial

Boros Reckoner
Trinket Mage
Detention Sphere

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Time Spiral

Temporal Mastery
SpellskiteEntreat the Angels
Bonfire of the Damned

16 Lands

Celestial Colonnade
Sacred Foundry
Boros Garrison
Ancient Den

Hallowed Fountain
Steam Vents
Arid Mesa
Scalding Tarn

Flooded Strand
Volcanic Island

Mystic Gate
Cascade Bluffs

Entreat the Angels
While fairly atypical as control decks go it performed better than expected. The vast degree of card quality in there to support the combo and miracle aspects more than makes up for the thin filling of control cards. Usually a control list will have around four counterspells and about two fat top end dorks which this deck rather lacks in. As I previously mentioned though, this is a combo control deck, the midrange equivalent between combo and control. You sacrifice some of you control meat for the combo fluff, things like Mystical Tutor become worth the card disadvantage while cards like Fact or Fiction are a little to unwieldy.

After my first attempt at a miracle theme deck I learned that the top end power spells were really good and that the cheaper more disruption style cards were not worth the effort. I didn't even include Entreat the Angels in my first go as I thought it was over the top and clunky. After seeing how good Bonfire of the Damned was I concluded Entreat was likely very good as well but had not got around to getting one and testing it until now. Suffice it to say it was the best card in the list acting as the main win condition and also working very nicely with the Charms. You can win out of nowhere much earlier than normal control decks, setting up an end of their turn Entreat for just three angels and then attacking them is generally game over in two turns and is hard to race if you lifelink them up.  In a deck as dedicated to card quality and miracle support as this Entreat is an incredibly reliable win mechanism and is hard to stop, with cards like Divining Top making it very easy to play at the end of an opponents turn.

Boros Charm
Any deck with a Fire / Ice and a Lightning Helix begs for an Isochron Scepter, more so with an wealth of card quality and other saucy 2 or less costed instants. It transpires that Boros Charm is rather rude on a Scepter with it being able to make itself indestructible and throwing four damage at someones face or their walkers every turn brings the game to a fairly short close thus acting as another solid win condition. Even Azorius Charm which is pretty underwhelming in cube sits very nicely on a Scepter giving you continual advantage and decent control over the game. Oddly the Swords to Plowshares is one of the most cuttable cards from this list as the charms and ease of using miracles gives you lots of control over creatures. Swords is not that exciting on a Scepter nor does it have any real synergy in the deck beyond just being cheap and powerful.

The deck easily holds out against agro or control strategies in the early and mid portions of the game as it has highly flexible and very cheap disruption. It is the later portion of the game against any matchup where things can start to slip away from you if you have not managed to do something powerful such as imprinting something good on a Scepter or summoning a flock of angels. As such you have to perfectly time your moment to erupt out of being a control deck and change gears to a combo deck and just race for the finish pouring your resources away like it was going out of fashion. This is usually the moment you don't have an efficient answer card in hand, if you are losing card advantage or tempo in your answers you need to be doing something else, seems obvious really.

Decks like this are surprisingly powerful and do consistently well in all cube meta games. They are also tremendous fun to play, the only downside is that they are rarely intuitive to play and never even close to easy.