Welcome to the Present-Present League! In this new semimonthly article series I'll explore new decks and new twists on known decks for the current Standard environment. The column title, "Present-Present League" is a nod to Wizards of the Coast R&D's Future-Future League in which I participated quite avidly for a couple of years. This week I'm easing into things with a twist on a known deck. I've added Red to Eldrazi Green to see if I can improve the deck's chances against the faster decks in the format, without sacrificing anything against the Control matchups.
I played an Eldrazi based deck in US Nationals earlier this year, and modified the pure Green version to include Red. I played Lightning Bolts and Earthquakes to great effect. They allowed me to keep Aggro decks from under-running me, and gave me removal effects for Planeswalkers that the mono-Green version can't really handle before it gets to All Is Dust mana.
Current standard is quite a bit different, but Eldrazi Green is still around. Here's the Red-including version that I'll be looking at today:
The maindeck Lightning Bolts are excellent against all the fast decks, and they're pretty effective at killing off Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The sideboard is loaded with Pyroclasms and the obvious Obstinate Baloth.
I hadn't tried this deck yet, so I wasn't sure at first what would happen. Turns out it's strangely inconsistent for a fast deck. It would sometimes deal 8 damage on turns 2 and 3, and sometimes it would plink away pitifully until I cast a fatty to dominate it with. Kuldotha Rebirth is the most dangerous card they have, as you rarely have more than a couple of guys to block with, and they have two ways to make them all 2-power attackers. I tended to win the games they didn't cast Rebirth, especially if I had a Bolt to take out at least one of their guys. Khalni Garden is excellent against them as well - never use the token to block just one damage, their minimum burn spell is 2, so you should always save at least 2 damage. (Spikeshot Elder not withstanding. He's weak in this matchup, and it is a card I would side out if I were playing the Kuldotha deck).
I know, you're playing Eldrazi because you like the fatties, but Kuldotha Red is very fast and has little reach in longer games. Comparatively, you are still playing much bigger guys than they are. They'll bring in Mark of Mutiny against you, which you can sometimes play around. When you play a big guy, see if you can account for having it borrowed for a turn. Sometimes you will have to risk it, but sometimes you can hold back just enough to not die if they have it. Pyroclasm demolishes the draws that really scare you, and combined with the Obstinate Baloths and other burn, it should keep you high enough in life that a single Mark won't kill you. Pelakka Wurm is a real hero, and if you can cast one you should be fine. Note that it gains almost as much life as it can Mutiny for.
This is a really cute Aggro-Combo hybrid deck. Game 1 you can die from a pile of 1/1 fliers, the Fauna Shaman + Vengevine combo, or an early quested-out Argentum Armor. The Armor is actually the least scary, because the maindeck Acidic Slimes handle it quite well. The fliers are a big problem because you don't have anything that can block them, and there always seem to be a full squadron coming at you. Sometimes you'll have a choice between bolting a Fauna Shaman or accelerating mana. Always Bolt the Shaman! That gal is extremely dangerous and one of the reasons Bolts in the main are so good. In games 2 and 3 I wouldn't hesitate to spend a Pyroclasm on a single Fauna Shaman, which brings us to...
You can sideboard the same as against Kuldotha Red, or if you want to keep in the biggest guys you can try it this way:
The important thing is to get those Pyroclasms into your deck. Obstinate Baloths can help here, but they "trade" with Vengevine (who will just come back anyway) and are poor finishers against this deck. This deck doesn't seem to have any sideboard cards against you other than Sword of Body and Mind. It's a good card, to be sure, because it can push a Vengevine past your chump blockers, but their mana is usually best spent elsewhere. You also still have the Acidic Slimes to take it out. I didn't lose with either of the above sideboarding plans, but my sample size was only 6 games. If they hold back against a Pyroclasm you ramp up and get too far ahead. If they play out their guys, you Pyroclasm. I recommend you draw at least one each game, haha!
This matchup seemed pretty luck dependent. Ideally, you'll have a bunch of mana dudes and Summoning Traps. You can safely cast all the Joraga Treespeakers and Overgrown Battlements you want and hope they counter them so you can Trap out a real creature on turn 2. Most likely, they will have learned that lesson already, and won't counter your little guys, which is fine with you. If you then find a big guy and they try to counter that, you just Trap them anyway. Watch out for Red mana, because it means a Lightning Bolt could be headed for your Elf del Sol Ring as you level it up. Casting a Battlement might be a better idea that turn. Avenger of Zendikar is their best win condition against you. Start calculating carefully if one hits the board, you might feel okay but often you have only one out from that position and need to play to it. That out is often top-decking Emrakul to hard-cast it, or more likely, finding All Is Dust (in games 2 and 3) before you run out of life. Eye of Ugin is really nice here, because they can't destroy it (unlike other control decks, RUG doesn't play Tectonic Edges).
It's true that the Jace, the Mind Sculptor / Oracle of Mul Daya engine is strong, but it's also extremely fragile. Lightning Bolt is so very good in this matchup. The hard part comes when you need to decide to Bolt an early Lotus Cobra or save it for one of their combo pieces. I don't claim to know the answer, as Lotus Cobra is very dangerous. They can't realistically play a 6-drop on turn 3, but they could chain out a series of Explores and Oracles that put them way ahead on mana. Unless they played two fetchlands already to cast the snake, I'll usually Bolt it, and certainly if it doesn't cost me acceleration of my own. Don't beat yourself up too much if you made this choice one way and it seems like you were wrong when they destroy you later on, it can be difficult to tell what they will do next turn.
The Wurmcoil doesn't exactly shine here, though there might be another card you'd rather take out. Ulamog is just so much better most of the time, and Terastodon is often a triple Ulamog against them. If you take away all of their sources of a single color, especially Blue, it can be crippling. All Is Dust is amazing against them, and one of the few cards that can turn the game around in a single turn, saving you from plant tokens (they are green) or releasing you from a Jace or Frost Titan lockdown. RUG is doing very well right now, because too few decks have ways to kill of their small guys. Despite all the draw-smoothing effects I find the deck to be very draw dependent. If you think carefully about what they have played so far, and what they could have played, if they had it, you can often guess what they've got in their hand. If you like All Is Dust you can certainly use this matchup as an excuse to find room for one maindeck or even 4 sideboard slots for it. It's a little show as a Wrath against the weenie decks, but it could still save you in game 1.
Oh look, you found it! I built a variety of Vampire decks for the FFL, most of which did not make a real appearance in Standard. For example, I never saw a splash for Maelstrom Pulse back when that and Vampire Nocturnus were legal. Nowadays, the Viscera Seer / Kalastria Highborn combo has not gone unnoticed and we are seeing a fast and deadly Lightning Bolt-including deck that's very similar to one R&D found in development.
Hmm, what have we here? I've changed a card! I took out one Burst Lightning for a copy of Sarkhan the Mad. This Planeswalker does everything the Vampire decks could want it to do. It can draw cards for free (and since everything else is so cheap it can draw many cards over time), it can give the deck surprising reach (Pulse Tracker makes for an excellent 5/5 Flyer), and it serves as a sacrifice outlet for Mark of Mutiny and Kalastria Highborn. Plus it can finish off an opponent the next turn if they leave both it and your new pet Dragon alone. The only drawback to the card is the 5-mana casting cost, so while one of them almost has to be an upgrade to this deck, I'm not sure about more. Finally, while I wouldn't expect it to happen, in a pinch it can also turn a Trapped-out Eldrazi into a 5/5 Flier.
Game 1 is difficult for the Eldrazi side. You simply have to send back hands that don't have a Lightning Bolt or an Overgrown Battlement, as there's not much you can do without them if their draw is decent. Vampires was by far the most consistent of the aggressive decks I tested against, and I did not fare well before sideboarding. When you have the choice, always bolt Kalastria Highborn (if that wasn't obvious). If they untap with one, you are already dead.
Almost the same as for Kuldotha Red. I left out the Staggershocks here because they're slower than the other burn, and you really need some guys on the table to survive. Keeping two Traps gives you a little bit more chance of finding a Pelakka or Baloth when you're desperate for life. That, and I felt a little lame giving the same sideboard plan for so many match-ups. In games 2 and 3 they can bring in Doom Blades, but there's not much to take out as everything else is pretty effective. In my small sample size (small number of games actually played) this was the most difficult opponent.
I choose a Mimic Vat build because you have a lot of guys worth imprinting. This turned out to be quite telling, as the Vat was a serious problem. This matchup is what led me to including Acidic Slime maindeck, and I later found it was quite good against other decks as well. If you feel the metagame is more Aggro than Control, or if you feel you don't need the Slimes against Control, these two slots can be Obstinate Baloth in game one. But I've digressed.
As I said, Mimic Vat can be an enormous problem if you don't have an Acidic Slime. Naturally Ulamog can do the job too. He's excellent here, as bouncing him with Jace often does very little. The other big problem UB has for you is Abyssal Persecutor. It kills you very fast, and it's a race for you to kill them first. I added Plummets to the sideboard, for both Abyssal and UW's Baneslayer Angel.
Not much to change here. The matchup is pretty good, though by no means a blowout in your favor. The biggest problem is that they can bring in Memoricide from the sideboard, and there's not much you can do about it. I considered attempting threat diversity by pulling out a Primeval Titan, but it's silly to take them all out. Might be hilarious for game 3 though, if you want to experiment. I wish there was a Cloudthresher type of guy to bring in instead of Plummet, but at least the Instant is cheap to cast.
They only have one real threat: Baneslayer Angel. UW seems weaker than UB control these days, and certainly less popular. Use Acidic Slime to take out lands, especially Celestial Colonnade when you can. Spell Pierce and Ratchet Bomb can stunt your early mana development pretty badly. Also keep Spell Pierce in mind when you think it's safe to cast a trap. Don't give up too soon against any Control deck. The long games are yours to win and a small mistake by them can give you the room you need.
Similar to sideboarding against UB, though All Is Dust is less useful here. You could take out Acidic Slime for All Is Dust, but I find the land destruction capability to be quite useful at times. The other great thing about Acidic Slime against Control is the way it draws the tapping from Frost Titan, leaving your mana free to cast the next threat. Their sideboard seems unexciting against Eldrazi, despite their weakness to it. They can bring in a pile of counterspells, but all that does is make the game take longer and make it more certain to end in your most favorite way - with a hard-cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
I have not yet tested against the Luminarch Ascension version of the deck. Again, I expect Acidic Slime to be excellent, but the Angel-spewing enchantment has been underestimated as a choice for Standard for far too long.
That's all the testing I was able to get in for this article. I certainly found that Pyroclasm makes the Aggro matchups much more winnable, some shifting entirely in your favor (Kuldotha Red). The Bolts are fine against the Control decks, and Raging Ravine is great to have in many matchups. I took out all the Cultivate type effects to fit in the Red cards, because I feel there is too much of that sort of card in the deck. You need to draw a balance of acceleration and threats or answers no matter what, and having an overload of mana sources doesn't do you as much good as it does for Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks.
Join me in two weeks, when I try to create an entirely new deck for standard. Thank you for reading!