Sunday 15 April 2018

Big Ritual (Skred) Red

SkredThe other day a friend and I did some constructed cubing and he came up with this gem. It started out life as a Skred Red deck as found in modern however he adapted it in a unique way that really seemed to work wonders. Essentially he filled out the low end with ritual and looting cards giving him great burst and consistency. Rather than a Skred control deck he had the bottom end of a red storm deck. His top end was all just the premium red stuff. Rather than ritualing out an Empty the Warrens he would just flop a Chandra, Titan or Dragon and it turns out that would usually win. The threat and tempo of the red top end is very high, if played at all before curve it can be pretty devastating. I lost a number of games to this deck to him making six drops on turn three. This list is not exactly what he ran, he had a couple more generic burn spells and one less Commander as well as one rather more embarrassing Skred missing. Turns out I didn't have the namesake card for his deck so he just ran the vastly superior Lightning Bolt!

24 Spells

Pyretic RitualFaithless Looting
Rite of Flame

Desperate Ritual
Pyretic Ritual
Ruby Medallion
Cathartic Reunion

Tormented Voice
Coldsteel Heart

Simian Spirit Guide
Sweltering Suns
Seething Song
Wheel of Fortune
Tormenting Voice
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Koth of the Hammer
Past in Flames
Fiery Confluence

Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Siege Gang Commander

Chandra, Flamecaller
Inferno Titan

16 Lands

14 Snow -Covered Mountains
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors

Chandra, FlamecallerThere were lots of things I really liked about this deck. The innovative freshness of it primarily but also how different it felt to play. It was quick, it was option dense, it got to use big red top end that many red builds in cube can't make work. It was a deck full of some stark contrasts. Intuitively I don't think to burn resources in rituals to ramp to something interactive that then takes time to return that lost value but in this kind of deck it is a great strategy. It has a lot to do with the general way the red top end threats function. You can typically get a decent amount of initial value in the form of damage to stuff in play from them and so even if they are dealt with you are not behind in tempo. The scaling with ramp is also very impressive. By turn six 3 or 4 damage won't kill a bunch of the things people are making but on turns 3 and 4 that will provide very apt control. And once you have control you can then very easily move on to win, and quickly with a lot of them!

The combination of lots of looting, rituals, Past in Flames and Wheel of Fortune pretty much make up for any card advantage you lose through ramp effects. The abundance of the first two kinds of card really empower the Past in Flames and Wheel of Fortune. Even when the ramped out top end gets answered this deck still has a lot of legs and can recover some pretty big swings. Past in Flames was the thing that tied it all together and made it a brilliant work of art rather than a mess. The deck was a nicely tuned whole rather than a show of individuals. That being said, the Ruby Medallion was more than impressive. I got to fear it on the other side of the table, any sort of turn two, or perish the thought, turn one Medallion just felt like it spelt my doom.

Past in FlamesThis deck is unusually good against the increasingly popular go wide strategies with an abundance of cheap mass removal effects. Again, the many looting and rummage effects in the deck, as well as some nice modular cards, ensure that the deck remains consistent and doesn't suffer dead cards in hand as control red decks in the past have done.

This list uses a very unintuitive blend of  effects. Most of them cause a new problem while solving a different one. Ramp solves speed issues but causes savage card disadvantage etc. All together all the problems are covered, both those inherent to red control decks and those newly caused by the other solution tools. Amazingly this quirky deck is rather lacking in weaknesses. It is a bit too specific to be a thing you would want to support in a drafting cube. While it almost certainly isn't a tier one cube deck by any measure it is absolutely a strong and competitive deck. It might be a good rotisserie option with few contested cards, broad and high power level and hard to read (and thus counter) general direction. I suspect most people would assume something different to this almost regardless of the order you drafted it in! It lets you play red in a really satisfying and involved way while putting loads of hard to use, yet also very fun, red cards to work.


  1. cool stuff! really liked your Dominaria review(s) as well!

    I noticed in this article you used the term "constructed cubing" - I have encountered this a few times in your posts and I realize that I do not know fully what it means. I would love to hear more about how you cube & what cube (sub-)formats you play and those you would like to try. I think the last post you made that covered these topics specifically is maybe a few years old (correct me if I am wrong), so I would also be curious if any of your preferences and/or choices have changed over time.

    Anyway - this is just something that I am curious about because I have not quite "settled" on any particular way to cube. Keep up the good blog!

  2. Is this the article to which you refer?

    If not then check it out, I think it conclusively answers your questions. If so, then no, my preferences on this haven't changed much since then, it is probably one of the few articles I have done that hasn't aged at all in terms of accuracy.

    Constructed cube relates to Isca, "just build some decks" and rotisserie formats, I use all the cards for those. I use my drafting cube for the rest.

    1. oops - missed that post. Thanks for pointing me to it!