Building A New Archetype

temurbattleragewallpaper

Building A New Archetype

One of the hardest things to do in competitive magic is to brew a new deck from the ground up.  Some of the most famous brewers in Magic history; Adrian Sullivan, Conley Woods, Sam Black, Brian Kowal, Patrick Chapin, etc, have all had to go through a lot of trial and error before finding something that sticks.  Often, one might be hellbent on getting an idea to work and put a huge amount of time and patience in only to have it turn into a scrap pile.

I myself have rarely had a brew that worked in tournament play.  Friday Night Magic is one thing, but once you’re playing against Tier 1 decks you need to not only have a deck that can play against the expected metagame, but one that is consistent.  Well, as hard as that is, and as often as I have piles upon piles of decklists that never go anywhere, there’s one recently that I really want to give a go at.

I’ve heard the chorus uttered time and time again, “This is the age of the internet, whatever you’re trying has not only been tried already, but the pros have already done it better and ruled it out”.  That’s a statement I want to take aim at, because while there’s some truth to it, it’s also quite flawed.  For starters, not everything has been tried just because of the internet.  Sometimes the best ideas only come out because someone actually takes the time to keep drilling and drilling away at a deck until the right piece just clicks, and you won’t get that by pouring over endless decklists or “jamming a few games”.  Furthermore, Magic players are lazy these days.  The internet provides so much information that it’s easy to copy a successful list, tweak a card or two, and be comfortable with it.  If you’re winning, why waste your time with potentially awful brews?

Because creativity is not only fun, sometimes it can be the key to breaking a format.

Being someone that’s played since the early days of Magic, I remember when all you could do is brew.  I went to Regionals, PTQs, and other high level tournaments where someone would have an incredible breakout deck and tear through opponents all day because they had predictable strategies and didn’t have the sideboard cards or awareness needed to stop this new menace.  One such tournament in particular was quite memorable.  It was the 2009 Regionals in Chicago (a feeder tournament into U.S. Nationals at the time).  A breakout deck called “Seismic Swans” took 3rd place and just about took down the whole thing.  It would later become a staple of the format.  It centered around this combination of cards which later would extend into older formats as well:

seismicassaultswansofbrynargoll

For those not familiar, you could continually pitch lands for damage to your Swans and draw cards.  With a high land count, you could pretty much guarantee drawing more lands to continue the chain, while at the same time gaining cards to kill your opponent (either more lands to throw at them or other enablers).  The deck was efficient, reliable, and could go off on turn 4 or 5 consistently.

That was one example of a successful brew that required finding the right combinations and ideas, but another actually came out of that same tournament by a close childhood friend of mine.  My friend, Pat Kenealy, played his home-brewed Elementals list to a 25th place finish.  Elementals had been used in Lorwyn to some mild success, but not so far at all in that Standard season.  His deck caught the attention of a national writer, and then subsequently caught the attention of a local pro Matt Severa who performed well with it at U.S. Nationals and other high level tournaments.  While still an outlier archetype, it became a mainstay of the format and another proving point that brews CAN be figured out and work at the competitive level with enough patience.

Immense Rage

The deck I’ve been working on for the past few weeks may not obtain any lofty goals.  In fact, my only goal with it is to try and make it reasonably competitive on the tournament level, but if it doesn’t win any tournaments that’s fine by me.  This is one of those articles I’d love to get feedback on, similar ideas, suggestions on direction, etc.  Basically it’s a pile of pet cards on my part, mixtures of ideas I’ve seen, and intuitions from me.  I’m going to go over cards that have been in consideration or should be considered, some early lists, and potential new shifts the archetype could take.

The central focus is around three cards that have a soft spot in this Red Mage’s heart:

propheticflamespeakerbecomeimmensetemurbattlerage

Note, these three cards aren’t meant to all be played together obviously, they are just the build-around cards.  Prophetic Flamespeaker is a sweet Magic card, and one that almost anyone you talk to who likes playing Red really wants to play.  Sadly, there’s always just “something” wrong with it that makes it sit on the bench.  It shows up here and there, but ultimately the stats, the lack of haste, or something intangible holds it back.  I think that still could remain true, but today we’re here to try.

Become Immense caught my eye after seeing it in a few Temur and RG Aggro lists as a one-of, often for huge surprise value and some free win potential.  Following that, I started seeing the same from Temur Battle Rage, including getting mauled by it at a PTQ in my hometown from an area pro.  We talked briefly after the match, he was running it as a 3-of in his Temur list and it made his Savage Knuckleblade quite silly.

Tom Ross and The Pantheon played Become Immense as a staple in their infect deck, and while it was particularly helped out by a faster format with a greater card pool and more specifically Wild Defiance, there’s still potential for crossover in Standard.

Lastly on this point, some of you probably remember this card, which was absolutely insane in combination with Ghor-Clan Rampager:

armed_dangerous

Starting with Prophetic Flamespeaker, there’s some obvious angles to approach.  I wanted to include some pump spells, as making him big is the name of the game.  Become Immense is one such spell, but it’s not particularly cheap all the time, and it needs some support to get you to 20 damage.  Here’s some of the Standard considerables that I’ve glossed over:

titansstrengthgathercouragetitanicgrowthmortalsresolverangersguileSetessanTacticsmogis'swarhoundhammerhandinfernofistdragongripdragonmantle

There are others besides these, but this is a slightly narrowed down list due to their various purposes.  Being one mana is important, and those that aren’t are providing a utility or power level that is unparalleled by their counterparts.  Ranger’s Guile, while relatively weak on paper, could be something to mise or include solely because it helps to prevent the blowouts which are likely to occur when you can’t “play around” what your opponent is doing.  People have a lot of removal at their disposal in Standard, and this deck will require more than patience if it is to be successful.  It’s going to have some games where you just can’t force things through, wait for opportunities, or play as intended.  This is just part of the ball game with a psuedo-combo deck such as this one.

Besides Flamespeaker, we need some additional creatures for these pump spells to hit, or ones that we can turn into potential Flamespeakers with Temur Battle Rage.  The logical path is to find creatures that are cheap in cost, have evasion or trample, and are already aggressive.  There’s a pretty big list of ones that fit those categories, so again I’ll narrow it down to choices that catch my eye more than others:

archetypeofaggressionfanaticofxenagosflamewake phoenixmonasteryswiftspeartwo-headedcerberusyasovadragonclaw

Fanatic of Xenagos is probably the best of these, mostly because it’s a big body for its cost and it has the all important Trample that makes your pump spells go from cute to deadly.  It can be haste at times, allowing for the unprepared opponent to just be dead on the spot in game 1.  Flamewake Phoenix is much in the same vein, albeit with a smaller body.  Sadly, the majority of these creatures cost three mana, clogging up an already occupied spot with Flamespeaker.  Swiftspear is partially included on the list for this reason, and also due to the fact that she’s just a solid aggro card especially in a deck that can enable prowess often.

While playing some of the initial lists I had, one problem that came up often was making Become Immense cheap enough that I could threaten playing it alongside of other pump or protection spells.  Delve is an extremely powerful mechanic, so I turned to other lists which abused it well.  In those lists, I found the following cards which I believe will ultimately be a part of any final lists that come about:

satyrwayfindertormentingvoice

Satyr Wayfinder, while not a particularly aggressive card, is a fantastic delve enabler and a body nonetheless for when you don’t have anything else to do or just need something to make huge.  Tormenting Voice helps to keep you on track for combo-ing out, fight through resistance and removal, and fuels delve.  I think there’s other cards out there as well that would serve similar purposes, but again this is still a work in progress so I’d love to hear more opinions on it.  Cards like Commune with the Gods could take the deck on a more enchantment heavy route, potentially even going so far as to splash a third color like Black for Whip of Erebos and Murderous Cut.  But that would require even more work to figure out a decent build, so for right now I’m sticking with straight RG.

After adding some delve enablers, I thought that I’d look at some other potential delve cards in RG that could be useful.  There’s actually only one other card, and while some might raise the skeptical eyebrow, it synergizes fairly well with the rest of the deck.  It’s a card I’ve seen tried out in some Modern lists, but rarely ever in Standard:

hootingmandrills

My first few cracks with this guy were impressive.  Getting both him and Become Immense to be 1 to 2 mana cards is not hard at all with this archetype.  Sure, like most of the cards here he gets outclassed by Siege Rhino and other big creatures in Standard, but all we need is a turn or two where we can make them pay.  His trample and big body go a long way in getting there, and the other spells are what we hope can do the rest.

The big key overall though with this deck will be consistency and being able to beat the other known archetypes out there.  Let’s look at some of the bigger players and think about how to approach beating them.

RW Aggro

Definitely one of the most popular archetypes around, and a particularly powerful one.  To be successful, we’ll need to be able to have our creatures survive through burn spells, go for broke on the turns when they’re tapped out, and keep a very watchful eye on our life total.  Cards like Searing Blood and Wild Slash make sense to me here, as they allow us to keep pace with the tempo and catch up in damage races.  They also are cheap enough to help fuel delve, and to keep our curve low.  Arc Lightning is another contender out of the sideboard to make sure the tokens don’t overrun us before we overrun them.  Chandra and Barrage of Boulders could be good to force our Voltron’d guy through while at the same time keeping those tokens down in combination with the previous mentions.

Abzan

While the various flavors require specific addressing, assuming a mostly midrange list our biggest worries are Siege Rhino, Thoughtseize, plentiful removal, and the ability to block.  Cards like Hammerhand and Ranger’s Guile increase in value here, with Hunt the Hunter being a potential powerhouse out of the board.  We may also need to increase the amount of fliers available, since trampling over might not always be realistic.  Lightning Strike could be something required for Fleecemane Lion builds, but again we don’t want too many cards that stray from our core strategy.  The more reactive we get, the less consistent the deck’s ability becomes.  Abzan will likely require a lot of practice and thought to truly iron out, as it’s one of the best decks in the format at breaking apart ideas since it plays the bread and butter of Magic; good creatures and removal.

Control (Sultai, UB)

By nature, Control decks have a great ability to stop combo decks since they have mostly counterspells and removal, in addition to these ones having Thoughtseize.  Tormenting Voice and playing aggressive cards help, but we’ll definitely need to get more aggressive post-board regardless of what the maindeck looks like.  That could mean removing pump spells and combo pieces while at the same time transitioning into a more straight-forward RG deck which Control decks usually have trouble with.  It could just mean lowering our curve; bringing in additional cheap threats like Firedrinker Saytr.  Or it could mean to vary our threats by having cards like Ashcloud Phoenix, Shaman of the Great Hunt, and/or Stormbreath Dragon.  One of the nice things here at least is that Control decks are often punished when they have to tap out, mostly for wraths or draw spells.  So if we can take advantage of that fact and force them into situations where we get a turn to punish them, that will be a key focus.

GR Monsters

Monsters is likely to be one of the easier matches, because they have very few ways to interact with our combos.  Outside of Crater’s Claws and the occasional Strike or Slash, we can basically just assemble voltron and force it through their creatures.  Game 1’s will also be easier when they are likely to take an aggressive posture and open themselves for a gigantic counter-attack.  Post board they’ll bring in more removal, and the gameplan should be largely similar to what it is against Abzan or RW.

 Tying It All Together

These are a few of my very early rough sketches, builds that I’ve been playing with over the last few weeks or just recently developing.  They are truly rough, so please don’t just jam these 75s and think they’re ready for showtime.  This is again very much a work in progress and a jumping off point for ideas, wherever those may lead.  They all have flaws, and hopefully this article and future work by readers and myself can bring polish.

Immense Rage Build 1

Maindeck (60 Cards)

4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Fanatic of Xenagos
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
4 Hooting Mandrills
(20 Creatures)

4 Wild Slash or Hammerhand
4 Gather Courage
4 Temur Battle Rage
4 Become Immense
3 Tormenting Voice
(19 Spells)

4 Temple of Abandon
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Mana Confluence
5 Forest
6 Mountain
(21 Lands)

Sideboard (15 Cards)
1 Arc Lightning
1 Searing Blood
2 Lightning Strike
1 Ashcloud Phoenix
2 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Ranger’s Guile
3 Hunt the Hunter
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Forest

This first build is basically ground zero and the one I’ve put the most games in with.  It has the synergistic pieces that I’d like to build around, and a reasonable shell to work with.  There’s lots of work needed, but it’s a playable start.

The next build is what we get if we try to build around the existing shell of another successful deck.  In this case, I was building off recent SCG LA Open winner Chad White’s list.  That’s not going to lead to a workable list right away, but it provides a foundation to build from that is a little more proven:

Immense Rage Build 2

Maindeck (60 Cards)

4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
4 Fanatic of Xenagos
3 Hooting Mandrills
4 Stormbreath Dragon
(19 Creatures)

4 Become Immense
3 Lightning Strike
2 Temur Battle Rage
4 Titan’s Strength
2 Titanic Growth
2 Tormenting Voice
(17 Spells)

4 Temple of Abandon
2 Rugged Highlands
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Mana Confluence
4 Forest
9 Mountain
(24 Lands)

Sideboard (15 Sideboard Cards)
3 Ashcloud Phoenix
2 Destructive Revelry
2 Wild Slash
3 Fated Conflagration
2 Arc Lightning
1 Chandra, Pyromaster

Up next we have one based off of a more similar deck, UW Heroic from Grand Prix Seville:

Immense Rage Build 3

Maindeck (60 Cards)

2 Satyr Hoplite
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Satyr Wayfinder
2 Arena Athlete
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
(16 Creatures)

4 Gather Courage
4 Dragon Mantle
3 Titan’s Strength
1 Titanic Growth
1 Ranger’s Guile
3 Hammerhand
4 Become Immense
4 Temur Battle Rage
(24 Spells)

3 Forest
6 Mountain
3 Mana Confluence
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Temple of Abandon
(20 Lands)

Sideboard (15 Cards)
2 Tormenting Voice
3 Ranger’s Guile
1 Destructive Revelry
3 Mortal’s Resolve
3 Harness by Force
3 Wild Slash

Lastly here is one based off of the Modern Twin Exarch deck:

Immense Rage Build 4

Maindeck (60 Cards)

2 Fanatic of Xenagos
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
2 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Hooting Mandrills
(13 Creatures)

2 Temur Battle Rage
4 Become Immense
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Dragon Mantle
2 Arc Lightning
4 Wild Slash
3 Titanic Growth
2 Ranger’s Guile
1 Tormenting Voice
(24 Spells)

4 Wooded Foothills
4 Temple of Abandon
2 Rugged Highlands
2 Mana Confluence
4 Mountain
5 Forest
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Windswept Heath
(23 Lands)

Sideboard
1 Ranger’s Guile
1 Harness by Force
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
2 Destructive Revelry
2 Mortal’s Resolve
2 Fated Conflagration
1 Magma Spray
1 Arc Lightning
2 Hammerhand
2 Outpost Siege

Conclusion

Hopefully this article doesn’t turn people off, I thought it’d be a nice change of pace from the usual tournament reports and metagame discussion.  It’s a rogue idea, but we all love Red cards here and big things, so I’m guessing Immense Rage will be up some of your alleys.  These lists are in the super early stages, so they require much of the hard work needed by master magicians, but the idea is the key.

Late Edit:  As I prepared the finishing touches on this article last night, I found a great companion piece from Pro Tour player Seth Manfield on TCG Player.  His list has Flamewake Phoenix and more burn, potentially another great route to investigate further.  Definitely worth checking out if you liked the subject here.

As Always,

Keep Tapping Those Mountains,

– Red Deck Winning

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18 thoughts on “Building A New Archetype

  1. Great article. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about brewing and the process. I think another important part of brewing, which applies to in greater degrees to eternal formats, but does hold true in Standard to as well, is that sometimes, you just need to acknowledge that a piece of the puzzle is missing. When that happens, you shouldn’t dismiss the deck altogether, but keep it in mind for the future, should that missing piece happen to see print. I’ve been tinkering with a U/B Grand Architect list for Modern for months now. I’ve finally sidelined it, because it’s missing something, but I’m anxiously awaiting that piece. The counterpart to this point is that you need to be able to determine what the “missing piece” is, or rather, what role that piece plays. For my Modern deck, I had a lack of a reasonable turn 1 play and constraints put on my card choices because I was playing Lodestone Golem. That leaves me a narrow space to operate in going forward, but when that new “piece” sees print, I should be able to identify it.

    Keep up the good work, and keep brewing.

    • Thanks Blake, and I agree with that. It’s easy to force things when brewing and not get results because of it. Sometimes patience is the key. I remember trying to get Nightveil Specter to work unsuccessfully, then Mono Black and Blue devotion came along. That was just a card, but similar concept

  2. Hi John. I am a big fan and long time lurker of your blog. I saw your decklist and tried building it too. I would like to make some recommendations:

    – 4 Prophetic flamespeaker
    + 4 Flamewake Pheonix

    WIth Hooting mandrils, fanatic of xenagos, and other pump spells we have no problem of turning the ferocious on plus you can safely mill them away for value.

  3. Pingback: Rogue Brews: Become Imense | The Poor Magic Player

  4. My first thought is have you tried Akroan Line Breaker? Zach Jesse played Him in his r/w heroic list that he took top 16 in scg dc with. After watching him destroy my friend, the card was easily the best in the deck, and meets some of the criteria you talked about (cheap, aggressive, evasive) while triggering ferocious on his own. Him alone with battle rage = 8 damage and intimidate on top of it. Something as simple as titan’s strength plus battle rage gets you to 18 damage

  5. Isn’t Shaman of the Great Hunt great with double strike?
    Craters Claws look so much better than Wild Slash in these decks.

    BTW, great article!

    • Yeah the most recent build I’ve been moving towards has more of a straight RG aggro approach splashing for the combo. Will likely post it soon

  6. the brew juices have been flowing since i read this article. i have come up with a gr constellation deck that use strength of the fallen and satyr wayfinder and commune with the gods, alongside the enchantment creatures/ bestow creatures, ive had pretty good results so far testing it on mtgo. heres where im at if anyone is interested:
    4 wooded foothills
    4 temple of abandon
    2 mana confluence
    6 mountain
    4 forest
    4 satyr wayfinder
    4 flamewake phoenix
    3 prophetic flamespeaker
    4 boon satyr
    3 hooting mandrills
    4 nyxborn rollicker
    4 mogis’s warhound
    3 become immense
    3 temur battle rage
    4 strength of the fallen
    4 commune with the gods

    i had tried it out using dragon mantle, akroan line breaker and break through the line but i really like the inclusion of boon satyr. the rollickers look silly on paper, but they are a cheap way to trigger constellation, synergize with flamespeaker and were awesome when i had line breaker. going forward i think i should play courser, although i do not own them on mtgo but i do in real life, so when i have some time ill test this on paper. the sideboard is a work in progress, moved the break through the line (works with Akroan Line Breaker lol) have 4 rangers guile and some arc lightnings amd magma spray. im open to suggestions, ive thought about everflame eidolon when i was still using dragon mantle, but truth be told ive never used the firebreathing, it just triggered heroic and or constellation. let me know what u guys think and ill try it out!

    • I played it at my win-a-box on Tuesday. Streamlined the list a bit more into GR Aggro so that it wasn’t so fragile with all the cute cards. This week I’ve been testing a shell that has a lot of one drop red heroic guys because I think the best route might be to throw a bunch of things out early so that your opponent kills them leaving your three drop unmolested so that you can become immense it. Here are the basic shells I’ve been moving forward on, both still need work:

      GR Aggro version from win-a-box:

      4 Elvish Mystic
      4 Heir of the Wilds
      4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
      4 Fanatic of Xenagos
      3 Yasova, Dragonclaw
      4 Shaman of the Great Hunt
      Valley

      4 Titan’s Strength
      4 Temur Battle Rage
      4 Become Immense
      2 Titanic Growth

      4 Mana Confluence
      2 Bloodstained More
      2 Windswept Heath
      4 Wooded Foothills
      4 Temple of Abandon
      3 Mountain
      4 Forest

      This list has too many painful lands, but the idea was maximizing the chance to play a turn 3 Flamespeaker. I actually got some turn 3/4 kills on Tuesday with it, but against aggro it’s easy to get behind on life total where they can burn you out before you untap and kill them.

      What is impressive is that the threat of even just a pump spell with most of these guys is downright scary. And it helped me learn that 8-9 fetchlands seems to be the sweet spot for become immense.

      This is the early heroic build:

      4 Satyr Hoplite
      4 Monastery Swiftspear
      4 Akroan Crusader
      4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
      4 Fanatic of Xenagos

      4 Titan’s Strength
      1 Titanic Growth
      4 Temur Battle Rage
      4 Become Immense
      4 Dragon Mantle
      2 Hammerhand

      2 Bloodstained More
      2 Windswept Heath
      4 Bloodstained Mire
      4 Temple of Abandon
      2 Forest
      6 Mountain
      1 Mana Confluence

    • Meant to say a turn 2 Flamespeaker in the list above, and the valley below shaman was an auto correct fail from my phone

      • Thanks a mil 🙂 I’m really eyeing Naya right now for Seeker and Chained to the Rocks. Ojutai’s Examplars could be great I think but 4 mana without Shaman of the Great Hunt’s Haste might be a lot. Atarka’s Command is definitely something I want to include though so maybe it’s possible! Will definitely be considering the above lists and let us know if you come to any more conclusions. Loving the deck and love the blog as always.

      • Appreciate the feedback Dan. Yes the new set will bring some great opportunities for brewing with it. Stay tuned to my social media outlets, I’ve got a big announcement coming in the next week or two

  7. hey guys im kinda new to magic but have been doing some research and brewing and found something I like that could be a burn deck but not sure where to go from here. the deck list best I can remember is basically a modified gleeful flames. but with added 4x dragon fodder 4x hordeling outburst 2x hellrider 4x lightning bolt 1x goblin assault 18xmountain 2x curse of stalked prey. ive kept all the 5 hitter cards and taken out nonbasic lands. the games ive played this deck can be overwhelming but im sure it needs a bit more tweaking. any advice?

    • Hey Eric, not sure if you’ve seen it but Davis’s Scumbag Atarka Red that I mention in my latest article is pretty similar in nature to what you’re brewing. I like the idea of Hellrider with the tokens package, the one issue would be the speed of the format. Modern has some pretty quick killers, with Twin, Tron, Bloom and the likes trying to dead you quick. I think you probably need some kind of Blood Moon effect or other way to disrupt them if you’re going to slow the deck down, that’d be my advice if you pursue that route. Also Simian Spirit Guide consideration.

      • thanks a bunch! I will look into those asap. I picked up a few furnace of wrath for some extra burn today. being able to spend 2 mana for 20 damage via goblin grenade makes me giggle. thanks again!

  8. Pingback: How do you Modern Mardu? | TCGUnity

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