Tapping Mountains In Modern


Tapping Mountains In Modern

Welcome back.  Usually on my website I’m talking about Standard, but today I’d like to focus on Modern.  I originally wasn’t planning on playing in this PTQ season, or if so it would most likely have been with a non-Red archetype, but some developments caught my attention.  A few days ago I decided to take the plunge and purchased most of the remaining cards I needed for the decks I’ve looked at, and have begun testing.

My experience prior with Modern was during the last Pro Tour Qualifying season where it was a format.  At that time I was playing Jund, and I competed in three PTQs with it.  I used to be a big Jund player before and around when I played Red Deck Wins, and at the time I felt Red was just a tough color to be competitive with in the format.  Modern and Legacy both have quicker clocks that you need to apply to either kill your opponent or deal with whatever unfair things they are doing, and additionally some decks are doing things that you simply can’t overcome or deal with based on the available card pool.  That’s not to say you can’t win games, even against these tough matchups, but the ability to go through a long tournament unscathed and come out on top is pretty low.  And with respect to Red in Modern, the one successful deck I had seen was R/W/B Burn, a port of a Legacy deck that exemplified those troubles.  At least in its case, the addition of other colors was a sign that people were starting to understand that you need more firepower.  You didn’t have to change up the deck’s design dynamically, you simply needed access to a few more cards to raise the overall power level as well as some off-color sideboard options that let your red deck “cheat”.  Specifically, cards like these-


Bump in the Night lets you add another Lightning Bolt to the deck and as a result your clock improves (there’s also the occasional games where it flashes back).  Deathrite Shaman (now banned) adds another Grim Lavamancer to the deck who also has the ability to eat your opponents cards, tame Tarmogoyf, and if you’re running a small green splash; win races.  Lightning Helix is another great card in a race, along with giving the deck yet another efficient removal spell.  Rakdos Charm adds an otherwise inaccessible ability to fight Twin and Kiki-Pod (even though there are occasions to play around it), doubles as affinity hate, and wipes yards against the decks that the first ability is relevant against.  Lastly, Stony Silence gives you a great flexible card against the format, with Pod, Tron, and Affinity specifically in mind.

It’s not just these cards though, there were many variations of Burn out there that employed these basic principals.  I personally like a deck that has a little more “game” to it (in the sense of creatures and enchantments), but I will admit that multi-colored Burn looked far more appealing than straight-red which seemed basically unplayable.

Still, it wasn’t enough for me.  For those of you who like this kind of strategy, a local friend of mine did rather well with the deck at the Pro Tour.  After talking with him recently, he said he’d most likely add Eidolons as well as some other small changes (Anger of the Gods?), but here was his list from PT:

R/B/W Burn
A Modern Magic deck, by Jasper Johnson-Epstein
45th place at the Pro Tour in Valencia, Spain on 2014-02-23


4 Goblin Guide
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Vexing Devil

4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
2 Searing Blaze
1 Shard Volley
3 Skullcrack

4 Bump in the Night
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt

Basic Snow Lands
3 Snow-Covered Mountain

4 Arid Mesa
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
1 Marsh Flats
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn

1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Spellskite
1 Stony Silence
2 Combust
2 Rakdos Charm
2 Searing Blaze
1 Skullcrack
1 Sudden Shock
2 Volcanic Fallout
2 Flamebreak

Jasper went 7-2 in the constructed portion of the PT, so his list is a force to be reckoned with, that much is for sure.  He’s played variants of it before and consistently done well, so if this style is your flavor then by all means have at it.  For those of you with more beatdown roots in mind, I think you’ll find the next two lists a bit more interesting.

Red Deck Wins

Nicholas Heal was the first to fully break the mold in Modern for this archetype that we all love, and I think it’s best to start out by showing you his deck tech and list which he illustrates beautifully-

Red Deck Wins
A Modern Magic deck, by Nicholas Heal
98th place at a tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States on 2014-05-10


2 Shrine of Burning Rage

4 Goblin Guide
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Vexing Devil

Enchantment Creatures
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Searing Blaze

2 Forked Bolt
4 Molten Rain
4 Rift Bolt

Basic Lands
11 Mountain

4 Arid Mesa
1 Keldon Megaliths
4 Scalding Tarn

2 Dragon’s Claw
4 Pyrite Spellbomb
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Blood Moon
2 Dismember
2 Smash to Smithereens
1 Shattering Spree

In the short amount of time I’ve had playtesting his list, the results have been very promising.  As he discusses in his deck tech, every card was very well thought out.  This deck has all the elements of a great aggro deck, and it specifically punishes the current Modern format.  He went 8-1 on day 1 of the Grand Prix, and there’s not a lot here so far that I would change.  I’m not 100% sold on Mogg Fanatic or the sideboard, but as I get more of a chance to test I should be able to get another article up with the direction I think it should go.  For now, if there was a big Modern tournament tomorrow and I had all the cards for this, I would dive in without looking back.

But like I said, “If I had the cards for this”.

Let’s be real, Modern is very expensive.  While I used to own all of these cards in the past, I’ve had to sell my collection many times to pay for real life responsibilities.  I bought the core pieces, but then looking at TCG Player to assess how much of a hit the fetchlands would be, I was presented with a very real conundrum.  4 Arid Mesas and 4 Scalding Tarn are:


Thankfully Madison has a large and friendly Magic community, so I can usually borrow if I need to, but for me part of my love for the game is owning the cards that I thrash my opponent with.  This reality is becoming less realistic as time goes on, but especially for a Red player, it’s a matter of pride that isn’t easily discarded.  I like it when I beat your $2,000 deck with my pile of commons.  There’s a real satisfaction there.  Especially when it’s done with “skill”, something which many non-Red players disregard.

So I liked his list, and I probably will somehow find a way to get the cards, but until then there is also another option.  Everyone’s current Red Mage Hero, Tom “The Boss” Ross posted an article on Starcitygames HERE.  This is the decklist he shared which he top 8’d a Modern tournament with-

Boss Sligh
Featured by Tom Ross on 0000-00-00 (Modern)


4 Ash Zealot
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Goblin Guide
1 Grim Lavamancer
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Vexing Devil

Enchantment Creatures
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

4 Brute Force
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Titan’s Strength

1 Forked Bolt

Basic Lands
18 Mountain

1 Grafdigger’s Cage
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Blood Moon
1 Dismember
1 Gut Shot
2 Skullcrack
2 Smash to Smithereens
1 Forked Bolt
2 Shattering Spree

This has many of the elements that Nicholas’s list has, except there is a reduced land count to account for the lack of fetch-land filtering, and the sideboard isn’t quite as robust.  It’s still a very powerful list if you simply want to sit down at a Modern tournament and play and have an OK chance of success.  I also haven’t fully tested this, like Nicholas’s list, but in early testing one of the big things that stuck out to me was that Brute Force probably needs to be replaced.  It doesn’t protect your creatures from many of the removal spells in the format, and it’s creature dependent, so at this point it should probably just be Rift Bolt or something similar.  I’m also not sure I’m wild about the creature suite, but it has more of an aggro feel which is always nice.  The problem is that the format can deal with aggro easier than it can deal with Burn, so a mix towards the latter end is probably a necessity.  Blood Moon most likely needs an increase in the sideboard despite being an expensive card, as it’s just a beating to many decks, especially combo decks which are aggro’s main weakness in Modern.  Nicholas also runs Molten Rain which was a format all-star for me when I ran Jund and is one of the best ways to bring some pain to UWR which is an otherwise difficult matchup.  Being able to mess with their lands is something traditional Red Deck Wins was based on, and killing manlands like Celestial Collonade is important to keeping them from advancing their late game.  On a final note, many Burn spells are more efficient than creatures, so you need to keep that in mind when making adjustments because you still want to be able to race the fastest decks in the format.  Modern and Legacy are so much more a battle of “regularly competing for the average turn kill” than Standard, and I feel like this point is often lost when people begin the brewing process.  If you can’t kill them fast enough, you need to be able to disrupt, so both these elements are the hyper-critical areas of focus for RDW.

Where I’m At In Standard

I haven’t been ignoring Standard completely with my recent attention towards Modern.  In fact, I’ve been succeeding well on the local level.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous articles, there are win-a-box tournaments every week in my hometown and the competition tends to be very good.  Often times many of us joke that we’ll do exceptionally well at a big tournament only to return back to our shop and go 2-2.  Part of that is variance and metagame differences, but another large part of it is the level of play here in Madison.  A few months ago another shop in our town started doing their own win-a-boxes, so we now have two that occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Pay $10, bring your Standard deck, and battle for a chance at some sweet prize booty.

Well in the last two weeks, I’ve attended three of the win-a-boxes and split the box each time.  That hasn’t ever happened before for me (I’ve won the box maybe 4-5 times in the last year), and while some of it is good fortune or play mistakes here and there, there’s still something to be said for a solid list.  I also tend to see-saw with my 75, but for all three of these the list has remained the same.  Here is what I won with, and what I will most likely be playing again tonight:

Mono Red by John Galli (Red Deck Winning)
1st Place, Mox Mania and Misty Mountain Win-A-Boxes (11-0-1 in tournament play so far), 07-01-14


4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Fanatic of Mogis

4 Lightning Strike
3 Magma Jet

1 Mutavault
20 Mountain

4 Skullcrack
4 Mizzium Mortars
4 Searing Blood
2 Harness by Force
1 Toil // Trouble

This list is pretty similar to what I posted in my last article, with the notable change being Magma Jet taking over the remaining Burn slots.  I think that in Game 1 you just want to have no dead cards and something that filters you a bit better, so Jet seemed to be working out best with respect to this.  Postboard, Blood is obviously a lot better against Aggro and Mono Blue, as well as occasionally filling partial roles against other archetypes.  Here is the sideboard plan I’ve roughly been adhering to:


Vs Mono Black:

On the Play:  – 3 Magma Jet, -4 Boros Reckoner // +4 Searing Blood, +2 Harness by Force, +1 Mizzium Mortars (also feel free to split the Mortars and Blood more evenly, but you want to be aggressive on life totals.  Magma Jet can stay over a few Fanatics too if you prefer to have that kind of gas vs alpha swing, especially if they are heavy on removal of the right types)

On the Draw:  -1 Magma Jet, -4 Fanatic of Mogis, -4 Boros Reckoner, -1 Mountain // +4 Mizzium Mortars, +4 Searing Blood, +2 Harness by Force

Vs Monsters / Midrange:

-3 Magma Jet, -1 Chandra’s Phoenix, -4 Lightning Strike // +4 Searing Blood, +4 Mizzium Mortars

(Feel free to use Harness if you don’t expect a lot of small drops that could chump block.  These decks can sometimes bring in little creatures or just have some main depending on build, I prefer to capitalize on this with Searing Blood.  Mortars is so critical to getting in those first few turns, that really the main troublesome cards are sweepers and Polukranos that hopefully Firefist Striker is putting in some work on, or Blood in combination with another spell or creature) (against a deck like Junk with lots of top end 5cc lifegain creatures, bringing in Skullcrack for your higher end cards is fine with me too)

Vs Aggro Mirror

-3 Magma Jet, -4 Firedrinker Satyr // +4 Searing Blood, +3 Mizzium Mortars

Vs Mono Blue Devotion

– 4 Boros Reckoner, -1 Chandra’s Phoenix or Firefist Striker, -3 Magma Jet // +4 Mizzium Mortars, +4 Searing Blood

Vs UW Control

On the Play:  -4 Lightning Strike, -1 Boros Reckoner // +4 Skullcrack, +1 Toil / Trouble

On the Draw:  -4 Fanatic of Mogis, -1 Mountain // +4 Skullcrack, +1 Toil / Trouble

There are other choices for Red Aggro out there at the moment, but I feel this list balances the best against the format.  You have some longevity, and you have just enough speed to punish the decks that can’t keep up.  I’d easily recommend it going forward, and feel free to adjust a few numbers based on your Meta.

Thank you again for reading, and as always, keep tapping those Mountains,

– Red Deck Winning

5 thoughts on “Tapping Mountains In Modern

  1. Nice article RDW.

    Me and a couple of the DTR guys have tested Heal’s list and it’s phenomenal. The main deck is about perfect and the sideboards excellent as well. There’s maybe 6-8 cards you could fiddle with in the seventy-five being the rift bolts, foked bolt, and dragon’s claws but I’d honestly recommend playing it as is. The only cards that jump out to me as cards to add are pillar of flame if there’s a bunch of pod in your area, and maybe flame javelins if you want to up the power level and/or find yourself particularly wanting to kill 4 toughness creatures if your meta is restoration angel and/or deceiver exarch flooded.

    RE your standard list, I like it, though I think you’re boarding plans are a little loose.

    Vs. agressive decks, depending on how many 3 toughness creatures they may or may not be running, I tend to just cut all the 1-drops and bring in all the removal since killing everything is usually a good plan letting you outlast them with phoenix’s, and fully embracing the control role.

    Against mono-black, I’m not a particular fan of harness by force as it doesn’t really help you in the “hard” games which are the ones where they have infinite removal>Demon.

    I prefer keeping most of the creatures only cutting magma jet and some of the fanatics depending on the play or draw while bringing in seering bloods and maybe mortars depending on there build(spectors, white splash for brimaz/baron, etc.).

    Excellent piece overall though and I’m expectantly waiting an m15 review(me and soul of shandalar are probably going to be good friends).

  2. @Lauphiette – the sideboarding is not a de-facto rule for me, however for the most part what I’ve outlined has worked really well for I think a few important reasons, precisely relating to what you mentioned. Specifically-

    – Vs. Aggressive decks, both players (if smart) tend to board the way that you mentioned. What this often can cause is a dilution of your deck, both in speed and creature count. While you can still “be the control deck” by siding in a smidge more removal, I think sideboarding out Cackler is wrong. He’s very good at giving you an extra percentage of tempo advantage, and really if you’re packing 11 burn spells post board including x4 blood, that should be more than enough to play them almost exactly when you need them.

    I really don’t like going sans one drop all-together because it guarantees that you will come out of the gate a turn slow as well as relying on key sequences more. Cackler is even good on turn 2 or 3 off a burning-tree to again catch up or increase tempo. There’s even arguments for keeping in firedrinker against some aggro decks, just obviously not the mirror or ones where he’s heavily outclassed. I think the biggest thing with this exact particular build is that you need to be pushing tempo constantly, so that if you get behind (which can happen with this build at times) you can just fanatic them out. Obviously, in a straight mirror post-board fanatic for this purpose is less good, but against most aggro situations this piece is relevant IMO. Just my food for thought, but every red mage has their own ideas so I appreciate the discourse for sure.

    – Vs. Mono Black – I’ve played this matchup a lot, and the current board plan for me has worked better than what you mentioned. What you mentioned was actually what I was doing before, but the problem is you’re a slower version of Mono Red (with this build) and Mono Black really falls prey to a faster one. The worst thing they can do to you is exactly what you said, removal, removal, removal, demon, demon (or demon merchant).

    That scenario actually doesn’t happen that often. When it does happen, the battle is certainly uphill. However even if they just play a single removal spell, a critter, and a demon, that’s usually very beatable with the plan I play and is precisely what I’m preying upon. Most games with this plan against Black involve playing a one or two drop (hopefully an Eidolon in there), killing whatever creature they play since you have a few more removal spells (and that package will indeed depend on their list), and then following it up with another creature to match either their removal or whatever they play before demon. At that point Harness is an incredibly live spell, and usually in combination with even just Phoenix that’s 8 damage and typically that’s enough for this matchup.

    There are the absolute run-bad scenarios, but in looking over a large set of games, those are the exception rather than the norm. Boros Reckoner and Fanatic many many times actually don’t do anything during the critical sequences of the game, so what I’ve found is that guaranteeing that I can kill a Pack Rat, Nightveil, or Lifebane is the key to success a higher percentage of time. I like Fanatic on the play because getting him in in time for damage is much more realistic then, but otherwise on the draw he just doesn’t do anything, especially if they have two removal spells or you get bile blighted for value. You should be able to race most of their good hands outside of their ideal hand, and this is why I board the way I do.

    Granted, in the grand scheme of things, stuff like what Kevin won with the other week are much better against Mono Black % wise, but this build that I’ve been playing is really good against a lot of archetypes because of Reckoner and Fanatic. And the percentage points it does give up in “tougher” matchups I feel are winnable based on playskill and knowing the match in and out.

    Thank you for continuing to read the articles too, always very much appreciated. I still need to find time to get on the DTR forums with you guys more!

  3. What is your plan being face with a Naya Hexproof deck?
    I’ve been used a 4 Ratchet Bombs on side and worked a very well until now, but I’ve got to remove some burns, or Firedrinker Satyr.

    • I think personally, Naya Hexproof “Standard” is the hardest match up for the Red Blitz decks and the Devotion/burn decks as above. I think this match up comes down to luck. A glade cover scout, with madcap skills then a unflinching courage will do the game there usually. And witchstalker is a big body ready to be enchanted with some stuff red can’t deal with. And to boot… Naya Hexproof is pretty quick. So you can’t just blitz and win like you can with mono black for example. However, I think I got a little off topic. The luck factor is what will he cast, and how will you handle it. You’d rather see an experiment one turn one than a scout. You could do without a unflinching courage, or any hex proof creature at that haha. Honestly though if in this match up. Someone can give you advice on side boarding against Naya Hexproof. I’d be all eyes also! I’ve tried many things from burning earth to straight burn to the dome. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I get a scout with madcap skills, unflinching courage and every other red,white and green enchantment in standard.

  4. Hey Eduardo and Sean,

    Thank you both for writing. As for Naya Hexproof, it’s an extremely marginal percentage of the “Big Tournament” metagame (in fact other than the one SCG victory it’s largely non-existent) so my build is not really optimized to deal with it. I’ve lost to it occasionally online (but also beaten it) but it doesn’t really bother me too much because even in a big tournament I’d never see it more than once and likely not at all.

    That said, there is a gameplan, and that’s simply to race them + Skullcrack them. I typically take out some number of my existing burn spells for Skullcrack (since you can’t target their creatures anyway) and upgrade them to Skullcrack. You then proceed to race, because they cannot afford to sit back and stall the board when you’re playing Fanatic of Mogis. So when they begin to engage the race, they will usually get to a turn where an Unflinching Courage or something of the sort comes down, and that critical turn is where you Skullcrack and hope it’s enough to turn the tide since you’re typically faster than them. That plan obviously doesn’t work against some of their great hands, but that deck requires certain pieces to execute, so it will work a portion of the time if you play your cards correctly.

    If your local meta is infested with Hexproof (which it sounds like it is), then yes Ratchet Bomb is a good option. blowing up their 1 or 2 mana guy that’s loaded with enchantments is always a power play, especially when you’re still racing them with your guys. Playing tough defensive creatures like Boros Reckoner and Mindsparker (to build up incidental damage) along with cards that punish their early plays like Eidolon of the Great Revel will go a long way. But you can’t afford to play the waiting game too long as they will outclass your creatures, so in general Ratchet Bomb is a more solid answer. The biggest problem with these focused strategies is that you will definitely be watering down your sideboard against the “real” matches, so if it’s just one guy at your local shop playing Hexproof I wouldn’t go to town altering the deck. Adjust as needed for your meta, but don’t go “crazy”.

    Overloaded Electrickery is good if they run a lot of the one drops (mana dorks + Gladecover Scout), or simply playing Anger of the Gods and carefully playing your guys around it.

    If they’re still just ruining your day and you have to play it every week at your shop, I’d honestly break down and splash white so you have access to Banishing Light, Wear // Tear, Deicide, etc. Don’t beat yourself up if your local meta is hyper-sensitive to Red decks.

    Good luck gentlemen

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