The Impact Of Khans

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The Impact Of Khans

When we last left off, I was discussing the upcoming Standard format and what may be in store for the future.  The last few weeks as usual have been a whirlwind, in which I won the second proxy tournament at our LGS, was able to go to the StarCityGames Open in Indianapolis at the last minute to break in the new season, won a gameday, and then attended the Open in Minneapolis this previous weekend.  The life of a Magic grinder is certainly never dull.  I’d like now to talk a little bit about each of the formats:

Standard

In the second proxy tournament just before Khans was released, I was able to 4-0 the tournament with Mardu Midrange.  It was an update on the build I had been tweaking with 4 maindeck Anger of the Gods into the usual suspects of Goblin Rabblemaster, Butcher of the Horde, and Sarkhan.  Here is that list that I played at SCG Indianapolis that following weekend:

Mardu Midrange – John Galli, 70th place of 546 StarCityGames Indianapolis Open

Maindeck

3 Master of the Feast
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Butcher of the Horde

4 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

4 Crackling Doom
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Anger of the Gods
3 Lightning Strike
3 Magma Jet
2 Mardu Charm

2 Battlefield Forge
2 Caves of Koilos
2 Swamp
2 Mountain
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Temple of Malice
4 Temple of Silence

Sideboard
4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
2 Suspension Field
2 Reprisal
4 Thoughtseize
1 Despise
1 Utter End
1 Banishing Light

The list was designed to attack the biggest deck of the format in playtesting which seemed to be Mono Green Devotion, and then be able to put pressure on the rest.  As an aside, the Aggro matchup was extremely favorable due to the Mardu Charms and the Angers.  The plan actually was correct, as SCG Indy in particular was flooded with Green Devotion decks, but unfortunately I lost round 1 to land troubles in game 3 and was then unable to get paired against it for the rest of the tournament (since they were all winning).  I was happy to still finish 7-3, although just missed the cash on tiebreakers.  My losses were to BUG Control, Temur Monsters, and the Mardu Mirror.  The BUG Control deck was from the first round and it almost assuredly would have gone the other way had the lands been better.  Temur was a bad matchup, I knew that going in and over the course of the next few weeks it would continue to beat just about anything I put together.  The combination of Elvish Mystic into their threats was very difficult to handle from a tempo perspective, so it’d often come down to me winning the games where they didn’t have it or where I got to cast the first spell, or losing the ones where it was the opposite.  The Mardu Mirror is extremely grindy and my opponent had a lot of favorable cards for that particular matchup, such as Read the Bones and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

After the tournament I continued heavy playtesting and started noticing that the creatures in Mardu were very easily 1-for-1’d and that I probably needed to just take them out.  Master of the Feast was already the worst card from my Indy list, with again the theory being that he’s good against Green Devotion, Mono Red, and Stormbreath Dragon (which he is), but he’s also terrible against anything with Black removal.  This is too much of a liability in this format, especially with Abzan and Mardu now being very popular decks.  I could still see him as a sideboard option since he has the element of surprise, but it does also still suck to give your opponent cards.  The theory there too was that the cards they draw have to be kill spells for him, which some decks just don’t have.

Rabblemaster and Butcher, which have made appearances in the recent Nelson list, were suffering the same fate, and especially so in my relatively light creature build since they were some of the only targets that would be on the board.  So after noticing all this, I gravitated towards what was working and that was the planeswalkers.  I eventually settled on Mardu Control, and then saw a guy take down our TCG State Championship with a similar build.  That pretty much confirmed for me that it was correct at the time, so I took it to our LGS and lost in the finals of a win-a-box tournament against (surprise) Temur.  Here is that list:

Mardu Control – John Galli, 3-1 win-a-box Mox Mania

Maindeck

3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor

4 Anger of the Gods
4 Crackling Doom
2 End Hostilities
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
1 Utter End
2 Mardu Charm

3 Battlefield Forge
3 Caves of Koilos
2 Swamp
2 Mountain
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Temple of Malice
4 Temple of Silence

Sideboard
1 End Hostilities
4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
2 Reprisal
2 Suspension Field
1 Banishing Light
1 Empty the Pits
3 Thoughtseize
1 Read the Bones

At this point it was drilled into me that this archetype had some game to it, and that I just needed to fix matchups.  The following weekend Worlds happened, and we were able to see the first steps into solidifying a new format.  The pros had tweaked much of the expected builds, including Mardu Control which Levy’s team put together.  Their focus was more on Chandra, Pyromaster, but I still felt and feel to this day that Sorin is a much better planeswalker in the current metagame.  Chandra is fantastic, and I think she has a place, probably even in this style of list, but ignoring Sorin is a mistake.  That card is continually being valued too low, as anything that makes the opponent have to have two removal spells or a combination of attacks and removal is where you want to be.  Ultimately down the road I increased the Sorin count to 3 in the maindeck, and also added Chandra, but it all ended up being a moot point as this wasn’t the deck I stayed with.  There may be room for this archetype, as it can overpower many decks, but it has a very rough game against Control and against Temur Monsters.  I lost again to Temur at SCG States, and that was the final dagger in me playing it.  If you decide to go this route, I’d prepare your cards better for that matchup, or at least have a practiced sideboard plan that is better than my approach.

Another focus of mine had been on Mono Red.  Tom’s Boss Sligh was at it again and has had some absolutely phenomenal success in the last two weeks.  The problem for me was that I couldn’t figure out how he was winning, as his stock 75 was not doing well against my playtesting group.  I had my own list which was doing mostly well, but in general I felt the archetype was easily punished and got into too many games where you were just a few life points short of killing them.  I mean, that’s the essence of playing Mono Red, but the effect felt especially emphasized with Boss Sligh.  If you’ve read my articles, you know I prefer more of a Red Aggro deck with some “game” to it, but I couldn’t get that working for the life of me so I think Boss Sligh is just better positioned due to its speed against a relatively clunky metagame.  One thing I agreed with Tom on was no Rabblemaster in the maindeck.  The card is actually just the slowest card in Boss Sligh and easily brickwalled or killed, so Hordeling Outburst ends up being the much more efficient better choice.  You basically just want to max out on one drops in this deck, and have everything help your goal of pushing through.  That doesn’t mean you need to play reckless and flood the board only to walk into an Anger of the Gods, but it’s still style of cards that you want to have.  Here is my Mono Red list:

Mono Red Aggro – John Galli, Test Block

4 Akroan Crusader
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Monastery Swiftspear
3 Frenzied Goblin

1 Hall of Triumph

4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Titan’s Strength
4 Hammerhand
4 Dragon Mantle
4 Stoke the Flames
1 Lightning Strike

19 Mountain

Sideboard
2 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
3 Searing Blood
1 Magma Spray
1  Coordinated Assault
1 Scouring Sands
1 Harness by Force
2 Magma Jet

I like Hordeling Outburst as a card.  I believe it’s one of the best cards in Standard right now, and very closely resembles the power level that Spectral Procession had when it was in Standard.  Being able to play it on an empty board does a number of things; it forces your opponent into considering sweepers when you’ve only cast one spell, it pressures other opponents who may have a big ground fattie into trying to get a mass removal spell or dump their hand, and it combos with a large number of cards in your deck.  From Hall of Triumph, to Stoke the Flames, to Foundry Street Denizen, to Monastery Swiftspear, to Goblin Rabblemaster, Hordeling proves its weight in gold.  While Tom may be correct that you only want two, I was happy to see this card everytime I cast it in any of my decks, but especially so in Mono Red where many times it just puts a dagger in the unprepared opponent.  There’s many decks like Jeskai Aggro which just hate to see this card because they can’t effectively race it.

I’ve included a few Rabblemasters in the sideboard, and this is there to punish decks which are vulnerable to him.  Ignoring him completely as a card when you’re in Red is usually wrong, as he’s absolutely insane in a vacuum and there’s many decks that give you that window.  If your opponent is light on removal or presents a deck in which you can control their defense, he shines greater than any other card choice you could make.  Just an aside, in round 1 at SCG Indy, I mulled to 5 on three one-landers, ended up drawing only a few lands and Rabblemasters, and won the game.  That is how powerful he is, you just play him, get your popcorn out, and watch the movie unfold.

After States had passed I awaited more results before deciding what to do next.  Sure enough, the Pros came through again with fresh ideas to wet the appetite.  As I watched the Grand Prix Los Angeles stream, I saw Brad Nelson tearing it up with a new build of Mardu Midrange.  He was playing my above mentioned favorite card, and he was also playing the creatures which I had abandoned but desperately wanted to find a shell for.  The deck looked incredible on camera and I knew right away that I wanted to build it.  I would have gone that day to Gameday, but I was overdue for spending quality time with my wife and we were able to see some great views in LaCrosse, WI instead.  I mean, sometimes you just gotta put the cards down so you can see stuff like this:

vistaview

Granddad Bluffs, Lacrosse, WI

Sunday morning I looked over the written coverage and scoured the internet for information on Nelson’s list, but sadly none of my usual sources had the full 75.  I pieced together 90% of it from what I saw on stream and coverage, and went to the second Gameday event at my LGS.  We had 20 people, five rounds and a cut to top 8.  This list had its clunky moments but otherwise shined bright and carried me to a victory.  I didn’t lose a single match, going 3-0 in the swiss, double drawing into top 8, then winning all three rounds in top 8.  On the day I beat Jeskai Aggro, RW Tokens, Mardu Mirror, Abzan Midrange, Abzan Midrange, and GR Monsters.  Here is Brad Nelson’s list for those who’ve been living under a “roc”:

Mardu Midrange – Brad Nelson, Top 8 Grand Prix Los Angeles

Maindeck

4 Seeker of the Way
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Butcher of the Horde
3 Wingmate Roc

3 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Lightning Strike
4 Crackling Doom
1 Murderous Cut
3 Chained to the Rocks

3 Battlefield Forge
6 Mountain
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Swamp
4 Nomad Outpost
4 Temple of Triumph
2 Caves of Koilos
1 Temple of Silence

Sideboard (15)
2 Magma Spray
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Glare of Heresy
2 End Hostilities
2 Read the Bones
2 Banishing Light

I was planning to play it again for SCG Minneapolis which my friends had convinced me on since it was my birthday weekend and since it wasn’t too hard to convince a Magic-addict like me.  I did hold out the reservation to play something else though, since we had a big crew of guys going and had just about every deck at our disposal.  The plan was to get to Minneapolis early in the day on Friday and test most of the afternoon to figure out what we liked in the format.  I was also shaky on Mardu after going 0-2 drop during the week leading up to the SCG in which I lost both rounds to Jeskai Aggro.  They seemed to be the more efficient burn deck much of the time, and despite all the lifegain in Nelson’s list I wasn’t too sure how to address that issue.

We arrived at our hotel in Minneapolis around 4:30/5:00pm, and began to test for what would ultimately be 7 hours with a dinner break.  This gave us some very good sample sets, where we recorded match results both pre and post board and threw everything in Standard at each other until we had a good idea of what we liked.  Nelson’s list was just doing average or below average, and both the Jeskai and Sultai lists in our room were overperforming.  I had proxied up a RW Midrange build that I had been working on the last few weeks, but it too was losing, except when sideboarded.  We took our dinner break, getting some delicious Benihanas Hibachi:

benihana

After scarfing down eyes-shutting-it’s-so-good Filet Mignon and Fried Rice, we got back to the testing.  Since my RW deck had been doing well post-board, I decided to just change the maindeck to reflect what I was doing with my sideboard.  The deck had similarities to the RW deck of Adrian Sullivan’s that I had played last season, as well as Brad Nelson’s list from the Pro Tour and David Fulk’s list from SCG Edison.  Sullivan’s list had an Aggro approach game 1, with a transformational sideboard into Control, whereas Fulk’s list was the opposite.  I felt like you needed to be somewhere inbetween, and I also just wanted to jam the Red cards I felt were the most fun and powerful in the meta.  I ultimately settled on this list after it was tearing through our playtesting gauntlet:

RW Midrange – John Galli, SCG Minneapolis

Maindeck

3 Seeker of the Way
4 Ashcloud Phoenix

3 Hordeling Outburst
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

1 Arc Lightning
4 Lightning Strike
2 Searing Blood
2 Magma Jet
4 Stoke the Flames
2 Fated Conflagration
4 Chained to the Rocks
1 Banishing Light

4 Temple of Triumph
2 Wind-Scarred Crag
4 Battlefield Forge
3 Plains
11 Mountain

Sideboard
4 Hushwing Gryff
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 End Hostilities
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Magma Spray
1 Arc Lightning
1 Banishing Light
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Temple of Silence

The list was sweet, I had already partially fell in love with Ashcloud Phoenix from prior testing but it came into its own with this build.  You punished peoples early plays since this format is all about tempo, and then you were able to cast cards which were very difficult to get rid of on a 1-for-1 basis.  People might balk at cards like Fated Conflagration, but this card answers some of the big pillars in the format such as Siege Rhino, Polukranos, Ashiok, Elspeth, Stormbreath, and Mantis Rider.  Having the extra scry is almost always an option, and it enables you to get to a point where you can play two spells a turn which is another key to this format.

I wanted to play Seeker because the card is instrumental in helping you buy time in a race.  If he isn’t killed, you often end up gaining an obscene amount of life with him, with several games clocking in at 12-20 life points gained.  The deck has a great deal of synergy to allow you to play him on turn 2 and then followup with a prowess bonus.  It’s possible you want 4, but he’s one of the worst cards to draw late so I mised and just ran enough that I’d see him often but not all the time.

One of the minor points in the maindeck is the 1-of Arc Lightning.  I didn’t want an overcosted burn spell, but I kept noticing that I really wanted Lightning Strike since there are quite a few troublesome three toughness creatures in Standard.  Thus, I cut my fourth Outburst and jammed the Arc Lightning which proved itself time and time again as being a great 5th Strike.

I started out 1-0 in the tournament, but ultimately dropped at 2-3.  There were a few issues with the list, but it was mostly compacted by absolutely terrible mulligans, poor draws, and great openers by my opponents.  I don’t like blaming losses on mulligans, as there is always more to it, but variance was not in my favor on Saturday.  My third round Abzan opponent drew three Siege Rhinos in game 1 that I had to contend with, and I almost did, except I was stuck on two Red sources for Fated Conflagration which otherwise would have turned around the game.  Bottom line, the results from testing were largely thrown to the wind as I just couldn’t piece together what I needed.

The problems with the list were mainly the following, some of which lead to the mulligans:  The deck needs the 25th land maindeck.  I had too many draws where I couldn’t get enough land, and in testing I had been waffling back and forth on the count; I should have gone with the latter.  Aside from that, the list needs a plan for the control decks, as I played UB Control in my last round and got absolutely demolished.  I originally had Firedrinkers in the sideboard and some more ideas against it, but I expected to see 0-1 Control opponents over the course of the tournament so I didn’t want to devote much to stopping them.  In the future, I’d probably add Firedrinker back in, or find a different line against them.  My playtesting partners were telling me to play Soldier of the Pantheon, as a hedge against both Control and all the multi-color decks, and it’s possible this is correct.  The problem with Soldier is that he requires a much greedier manabase, but I need to change it anyway.  I definitely should have ran at least 1 or 2 Mana Confluence in place of the plains and/or a mountain.

I never felt the extra control elements in the board were helpful.  The original plan was to sideboard into a more aggressive deck against many opponents, and to sideboard into more control options than I already had in the maindeck against others.  I also included a “tokens package” with Purphoros, Elspeth, and Goblin Rabblemaster because I found in testing that cards like Purphoros were very difficult to get rid of for many decks and already synergized with cards in my maindeck like Hordeling Outburst.  That plan doesn’t come in against the majority of the field, so it’s probably something that can be discarded (or reinforced).  One option I had considered but didn’t put in place was to pitch the control cards in the board and instead play more hasty threats like Stormbreath Dragon.  He’s already well positioned by being protection from a color that is in multiple top decks in the format, and he’s another threat to play after your removal spells.

So as you can see, there are many ideas you can carry on for this deck, and I implore you to tinker with it if the archetype looks at all interesting.  I really liked it in playtesting and am hoping I can try and improve it rather than abandon the idea all together.  One last thing, make sure to board out Chained to the Rocks against decks that you think will bring hate in for it.  They will indeed, and you can usually supplement the loss with other removal out of the board that isn’t vulnerable to the same removal spells.

Modern and Legacy

I played in the Modern IQ at SCG Indy, running the RWB burn deck that I had been on last season.  Ultimately I dropped the Vexing Devil’s after the tournament for Monastery Swiftspear, but I think after further testing that I like Devil better.  It was a good time, and the deck started out 3-1, but I had some land trouble again in round 5 and lost a close one to UWR.  Following that tournament, I intended to play in the Modern IQ at SCG Minneapolis, but the format has now warped around a card that I think needs to see immediate ban:

treasurecruise

Just look at the SCG results from the past two weekends alone, ignoring the craziness on MTGO, and the picture is pretty clear.  Splashing U is easy, and this card is Ancestral Recall.  I messed around with it in my Burn list, but ultimately didn’t put a lot of time into the process and was mostly uninterested in playing in a semi-broken format.  I’m also not wild about Jeskai combo being a thing, even if it’s not too popular in paper Magic.

People might have differing opinions, but I expect that Treasure Cruise will get banned in both Modern and Legacy with the next release from Wizards.  Until then, I’m on a semi-hiatus from Modern and Legacy set aside a few events I want to attend.  In the meantime, if you want to play Burn, I’d probably lean towards one of the lists that top 8’d this weekend in Minneapolis.

Or you could play Ryan Hipp’s deck, since he’s a savage and took down the Modern IQ at both SCG Opens I was at.  It has blue in it, so you know my feelings, but heck he knows how to build a winner:

Blue Moon – Ryan Hipp, 1st Place at BOTH StarCityGames Open Indianapolis and Minneapolis

Maindeck

4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique

1 Batterskull
2 Vedalken Shackles
3 Blood Moon
4 Cryptic Command
1 Dig Through Time
2 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mana Leak
3 Remand
3 Spell Snare
3 Vapor Snag
4 Serum Visions

8 Island
1 Mountain
2 Flooded Strand
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Steam Vents

Sideboard
1 Batterskull
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Spellskite
1 Blood Moon
1 Counterflux
1 Magma Spray
2 Negate
1 Keranos, God of Storms
3 Anger of the Gods
2 Vandalblast

I’m not sure how well positioned this deck is with so many Red decks and UR Delver decks making up the current Modern field, but he managed to get through all of that along with punishing fair decks with Blood Moon.  I think it’s the numbers game here in terms of how many of each spell he runs and the efficiency of the choices he makes.  Certainly worth a look and I’ve always considered Blue Moon to be one of the better decks in the field.

Legacy is in much the same state as Modern, with Treasure Cruise enabling Delver decks to outlast many opponents and find the key counterspells they need in many situations.  My good friend and once an author for this website Darrel Feltner was sadly at the losing end of this effect on Sunday, as he lost in the finals of the SCG Open with his Miracles deck.  I’m proud of him and it’s great to see the finish because he is one of the best players in Madison I know and he knows his deck in and out like no one else set aside a few others in the country.  He lost to UWR Delver, and while he drew poorly and his opponent drew well, it was obvious in the coverage how powerful Treasure Cruise was.  It wasn’t the key to the match, but it was unbalanced and you could clearly tell.

Khans Limited

So instead of playing Modern and Legacy this past Sunday, I decided to jam a bunch of drafts as well as a two-headed giant tournament.  I played in two drafts on Saturday, one on Sunday, and the 2HG Sealed.  I won one of the drafts, and almost made it to the finals of another.  The format is great, a ton of fun and so many different directions you can go.  My best advice is my usual advice for draft, but even stronger with this set, draft what seems naturally good as you’re going through the packs.  Don’t try to force an archetype or wedge, unless you have a specific strategy that you know the absolute ins and outs of.  I tried to go 5-color in my first draft, after reading Ari Lax’s articles on draft, but it was a disaster.  I know I didn’t execute it well, but its just a complicated ordeal and you may or may not get the payoff cards you need.  I think given 15-20 drafts that I could figure out the strategy, but it seemed easier just to draft a good deck in what was available.  My next draft was the one I won, on a Mardu plan splashing for a fourth color, followed by my almost-finals deck in Abzan.  All the clans feel well balanced, but there are certain cards I’d emphasize.

First, play as many of the outlast guys as you can.  Most of them are great, and you should have time to outlast them almost every turn if you play correctly.  The 2/3’s in this format are of premium value, specifically the following:

mer-eknightbladeabzanfalconeralabasterkirin

Evasion is big in Khans, along with the ability to successfully block a Morph creature and not lose your guy.  The above cards have those characteristics in some form, and the first one helps with the big Green decks floating around.

Draft removal.  This set has a ton of it, and we’re coming off multiple blocks where there was almost no removal in limited.  People forget that it’s great when it’s available, so capitalize on this fact.  Cards like these are incredible:

murderouscutburnawaysavagepunchkillshotforceaway

Draft a lot of morphs, as most of them are useable in both modes and combine well with other build around cards like Ghostfire Blade and Secret Plans.  Try to ignore the more vanilla ones, as you usually want to maximize on the two drops available.  I don’t like cards like Valley Dasher, but otherwise anything that costs two mana and has some basic utility is usually a must play.  You come down a turn earlier then the morphs and can trade with them, and mid game you can play two to three spells a turn which is a great way to gain tempo advantage.

Sultai is an interesting anomaly from the rest of the wedges.  It’s very strong, but utilizes all the delve cards instead, so you’re basically hard drafting any of those support pieces you can once you know you’re going in those colors.  Cards like this are very difficult to beat:

necropolisfiend

If you’re in Temur, you’re also game planning slightly different.  Here, the big Green fatties become hyper-relevant, where all of a sudden the generic morphs become your way to turn the game around and invalidate your opponent’s small critters.  I think the biggest card that I usually see in Temur is this one:

sultaiflayer

That 4 life adds up, and the fact that it includes itself is the difference between being a simple support card vs a build around card.

There’s more that I could go on ad nauseum about when it comes to Khans Limited, but alas this article is already getting lengthy.  I hope this gives you some perspective of how I’m approaching the game at the moment.

Thank you as always readers for your support and patience.  I appreciate all the feedback and hopefully I can keep the fire going!

Until next time,

Keep Tapping Those Mountains,

– Red Deck Winning

Taking 9th Place at the StarCityGames Edison Open: Feature Article by Ben Schoenbrun

monasteryswiftspearwallpaper

I recently had the pleasure of playing some test games against Ben Schoenbrun, the 9th place finisher at the SCG Edison open from this past weekend.  He wrote a report but had not had it published yet and I thought that this site fit the bill quite well.  He played Mono Red Aggro, and would like to tell you all about how to light a good fire.

Taking 9th Place at the StarCityGames Edison Open by Ben Schoenbrun

benschoenbrun

Hello All!  My name is Ben Schoenbrun and I got my background in strategy games by playing competitive Scrabble, and am regularly ranked within the top 100 Scrabble players in North America. I started playing Magic seriously during college in 2012, partially for social reasons and partially to solidify strategic elements that would help me with Scrabble.  I have since been trying to balance competitive Scrabble and Magic, as well as graduate school and hunt for jobs. I gained a reputation as a red mage after I drafted red-white heroic one too many times.

Since my first StarCityGames Open went so well, I thought it might be fun to write a tournament report.

In the weeks coming up to the tournament, I knew that I wanted to play a red aggro deck. I felt it would be a very safe choice, it fits my playstyle, and it would not be terribly difficult to build or to find the cards for quickly after rotation. I also suck at building manabases so 20 mountains seemed like something that I couldn’t screw up. I did most of my testing on Cockatrice, with a bit of testing at my local game store Clarkson’s Corner just to make sure my deck measured up when testing against people I know the general skill level of. I started with the mono red list found in this article:

http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/owens-a-win-khans-standard/

That deck did not win very many games. It kept getting stonewalled by Caryatid/Courser, and as I feared, War-Name Aspirant was incredibly awkward with Foundry Street Denizen. I knew that I would have to take the deck in a different direction if I wanted to stand a chance against Courser decks. I decided that a Sligh approach would work a lot better. After all, why play 8 one-drops when you could be playing 27? 😀 I found that this approach helped me get past Courser/Caryatid better while also having a lot of game against other aggro decks. I also made it a point to make sure I understood how to play post sideboard games and properly play around Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods. I decided early on that I wouldn’t play around these cards game 1 unless it is incredibly obvious that they have them, and if they blow me out, so be it.

Here is the list that I eventually settled on:

Mono Red Aggro
Ben Schoenbrun
9th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 9/27/2014

Maindeck
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Monastery Swiftspear
2 Mogis’s Warhound

4 Dragon Mantle
3 Hammerhand
2 Searing Blood
4 Stoke the Flames
4 Titan’s Strength
1 Hall of Triumph

20 Mountain

Sideboard
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
2 Coordinated Assault
2 Magma Spray
2 Searing Blood
1 Hall of Triumph
2 Hammer of Purphoros
2 Arc Lightning

I decided on Searing Bloods over Lightning Strikes because they are better against the aggressive decks while not being that much worse against the Courser decks. Moving forward, I would play 3-4 Lightning Strikes maindeck since it appears that Mantis Rider is in fact a thing, and my deck felt a bit light on reach. Otherwise, I was pretty happy with most of my card choices and felt that I predicted the meta fairly well. Anyways, on to the matches!

Round 1: Mark Webb with RW Aggro:

I lost the die roll. Game 1 His 3 lands were Mana Confluence and 2 Battlefield Forges, and that ended up making the difference. Game 2 I took a mulligan, got stuck on 2 lands, and he played a well-timed Rabblemaster when I ran out of burn. Game 3 I was on the play, and I was the one able to land an unopposed Rabblemaster.

1-0.

Round 2: Taylor Rowe with Naya Monsters:

I lost the die roll. I don’t remember too many of the details in this game, but I know I won games 1 and 3, and game 2 he was able to monstrous Polukranos in time to stabilize the board.

2-0.

Round 3: Daniel Antony with Mono Green Devotion:

Daniel is from the Jersey area and works at TOGIT (The Only Game in Town.) We chatted a bit about our local stores, our testing, and our experiences playing magic before and inbetween games. I lost the die roll. Game one he managed to monstrous Polukranos for a lot before I was able to take over the game. Game 2 I was able to take over after some fortunate draws. Game 3 I was able to burn him out with a double Searing Blood on a Courser of Kruphix. This was a matchup I was hoping to avoid, and I was quite fortunate to be able to get it, especially since he maindecked 3 Nylea’s Disciples and sided another, none of which he saw in our 3 games.

3-0.

Round 4: Ross Merriam with G/B Devotion:

I’m a big fan of Ross’s articles on StarCityGames, and I genuinely feel they helped me improve as a player. So I was happy to play against him; albeit nervous. It probably didn’t help that we were called to the feature match area! I won the die roll and he took a mulligan. I kept a fairly good hand and drew quite well, but I miscounted and thought I had him dead when I actually put him to a virtual 1 life (I held a Titan’s Strength instead of playing it). Oh well, I’ll get him next turn. Genesis Hydra for 5 into Doomwake Giant you say? Well, crap. Game 2 I kept a mediocre hand and got demolished by Doomwake Giant again. Turns out that card is good against a deck full of 1/1’s and 2/2’s. We chatted for a bit after the game and I also talked with the table judge, who was very nice.

3-1.

Round 5: Micah Maben with Mono Black Aggro:

Micah is a kid from NYC . I lost the die roll. I was quite happy to see him lead with Swamp into Tormented Hero, since I was like 15-0 against this deck on Cockatrice. Game 1 I was able to excecute my baseline gameplan which is more powerful than the mono black aggro deck’s. Game 2 I took a mulligan and wasn’t able to stick a creature on the board. Game 3 I was just faster than him again, and I blew him out with a well timed Arc Lightning.

4-1.

Round 6: Joseph Vazquez with Junk Midrange:

I knew I had seen Joseph’s name somewhere, and it turns out he is the co-owner of Get There Games on Staten Island. I won the die roll. Unfortunately for Joseph, he flooded out horribly game 1 and got land screwed game 2. Sorry dude.

5-1.

Round 7: Charlie Rhinehart with BW Roc Midrange:

Another StarCityGames Open champion! I lost the die roll. Game 1 he had a turn 2 Nyx-Fleece Ram and was able to stall the game out long enough to land a Sorin, Solemn Visitor and a Wingmate Roc. On the car ride up, I was talking to my friend about whether Sorin’s +1 ability works on creatures that enter the battlefield after the ability activates. It turns out the judges also had some confusion. One of them ruled that it did work that way in an earlier round, and Charlie had been playing as such, but I asked a judge just to make sure, and it turns out that it doesn’t work that way. The head judge told Charlie that he understood that such a mistake was made. It didn’t really matter though, as I scooped up my cards shortly afterwards. Game 2 I topdecked a Rabblemaster right after he played Drown in Sorrow. Mise. Game 3 he played 2 Thoughtseizes, and he knew my hand was Monastery Swiftspear and Hammerhand. He left up open Bile Blight mana and I topdecked a Titan’s Strength to blow him out. I did, however, forget that my creature got -3-3 and I dealt Charlie 3 too many points of damage. If you’re reading this Charlie, sorry about that. I managed to win from there.

6-1.

Round 8: David Beaudrie with Junk Midrange:

I won the die roll. Game 1 I missed a Swiftspear trigger which may have made the difference in the game. I think I missed like 10 triggers this tournament. Game 2 he plays Drown in Sorrow forgetting that I have Hall of Triumph in play and I beat him to death with Eidolon of the Great Revel and Goblin Rabblemaster. Game 3 he mulls to 5 and keeps a 1 lander and I win on turn 4.

7-1.

Round 9: David Fulk with R/W Control:

I lost the die roll. David is from Virginia, and needed to get some testing in for the Pro Tour Honolulu. Uh oh… We start the game and he has a red white deck but isn’t playing creatures. Double uh oh… I try to play around Anger of the Gods and Elspeth as best I can, but he has 4 and 4 maindeck, and it turns out I have trouble beating those cards. If I could’ve designed my opponent’s deck to beat mine, this would be it. Game 2 doesn’t go much better. I also missed an Eidolon trigger that ended up not mattering. Did I mention I miss a lot of triggers?

7-2.

I’m probably dead for top 8 here, but I can draw into top 32, which is still good for $100 and 4 open points (which I will probably never use). My opponent wants to play it out since he thinks he can make it.

Round 10: David Gross with Naya Midrange:

I lost the die roll. Game 1 he was able to stabilize with Ajani and kill me with a Fleecemane Lion. Game 2 I keep a hand with Akroan Crusader, 1 land, and 2 Titan’s Strengths. I deal 9 damage to him on turn 2, and my friend watching says he could’ve sworn I was playing Legacy RDW. He Angers me on turn 3 and then I play Rabblemaster and he scoops. THIS DECK IS SWEET!!! Game 3 I keep a much fairer hand and manage to burn him out before he gets enough land to blow up my board with Polukranos.

8-2. 9th Place.

9th Place is a tad bit disappointing, but still very good for my first Open. I obviously had to run well to get that result. All of my opponents were very nice as well, and It was great catching up with some friends from Rochester. Congrats to Mario Martinez on the top 8 and Kevin Jones on winning the whole thing!

– Ben Schoenbrun

– Red Deck Winning