With a new format becoming available for the first time Friday, it’s time to take a quick look at what’s available. For the most part, these will be aggro or combo decks, since control decks need to be built towards the metagame. As it stands, Caw-Blade is the premiere control deck in the format, and it can be played as-is with the mere addition of Batterskull.
With an unknown metagame, any sideboard I would give here is purely speculative, so I’m just throwing out a bunch of 60-card lists.
Here are both of the new combo decks, stuffed together into one brutally awkward shell:
16 Dead Cards
With no tutors, this deck either does nothing or wins instantly. If Bloodchief Ascension were able to “go off” without the need to dome them for 2 twice, it’d be worth considering, but as it stands I can’t recommend this deck. The Exarch-Twin combo may exist as a standalone deck, however.
Note that Llanowar Elves and a Nest Invader token can also cast the 5/6, and Kozilek’s Predator can readily set up a Myr Superion as well. The question is whether this is any better than the red/green Beastmaster Ascension deck that’s popped up intermittently in the past. I don’t think it is, and I’d rather go big than put a bunch of effort into casting small dudes.
Chancellor of the Tangle is nuts, and easily pushes the deck over the top. I’d expect to see some variant on this pop up in Orlando or Louisville. The big advantage to playing Chancellor over a more flexible accelerant (such as Joraga Treespeaker) is that Chancellor is at least a decent fatty, and that’s a lot better to flip off a Summoning Trap.
We’re in a more open metagame for the time being, so it may be useful to examine a proactive “control” deck. Much like red Caw-Blade (Angry Birds), this deck packs the Sparkmage-Collar package, and the new Hex Parasite is an useful tool for Trinket Mage to get in a planeswalker fight.
This is probably too greedy by half, but it’s really only lost Mana Leaks and a removal spell from conventional Caw-Blade.
White presents us with a few options for decks. The first is to replace Vector Asp with Hex Parasite in the return of Steve Sadin’s Pro Tour: Paris deck.
Porcelain Legionnaire is an absurdly potent beatstick in this deck, since Tempered Steel turns it into a 5/3 with First Strike. The 1-ofs at the end of the decklist are just alternative options I’d like to highlight as cards which play well: Remember the Fallen is a potentially playable re-buy, much like Morbid Plunder, since it gets back 2 creatures after a Wrath. Shrine of Loyal Legions is far more likely to be played, since it makes 3/3 tokens if Tempered Steel is on the table.
The other absurd white card in New Phyrexia is Puresteel Paladin, which could see play in a return of Monowhite Quest.
Quest for Puresteel
Porcelain Legionnaire’s status as an artifact helps Puresteel Paladin hit Metalcraft – a Mox or a Memnite in addition will be enough to enable him to freely equip an Argentum Armor played by a Stoneforge Mystic. The deck becomes less reliant on Quest as a result.
For those who just plain don’t like unreliable cards, it can be played as a straight White Weenie deck, reminiscent of the ones we played in Mirrodin-era Standard.
This list finished third in a Magic-League tournament, but the creator was probably on to something: Flayer Husk is a very good card to run in a Puresteel Paladin deck. It’s a cheap creature that draws cards and bumps the Metalcraft count up. The deck on the whole seems highly vulnerable to the Splinter Twin deck, and I’m not sure it’s fast enough to outrace Valakut and G/x Eldrazi, so those are probably issues.
There’s been a lot of talk about Gitaxian Probe and the potential return of Pyromancer Ascension. Kelly Reid has been championing the green splash, thanks to the power of Lotus Cobra, Explore, and the newly-printed Noxious Revival to go alongside the Probe. I haven’t had the chance to see this beast in action yet, but if it can set off the Ascension reliably, the added land acceleration should put it well ahead of the conventional lists, and Noxious Revival is a great deal faster than Call to Mind.
Moving on to the burnt metal part of the color pie, we see that Kuldotha Red has gained a new toy in Slag Fiend, which gives it the ability to recover from sweepers or from dumping its board in the yard. It’s possible that the deck could be built to abuse it more readily, but this is a more conventional build which dismisses that in favor of a straightforward kill plan.
Slag Fiend isn’t even the red card I like the most. My favorite red card from New Phyrexia is actually Volt Charge, which is going to take some time for people to figure out the optimum decklist for. The list of cards which benefit from the Charge is a long one:
Shrine of Burning Rage, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Koth of the Hammer, Everflowing Chalice, Tumble Magnet, Quest for Pure Flame, Pyromancer Ascension, Kargan Dragonlord, Chimeric Mass, and possibly some cards which haven’t even seen play yet.
If we were to build a deck to maximize Volt Charge itself, it might look something like this:
This deck is in a somewhat awkward position- if it doesn’t draw Volt Charge it’s simultaneously just plain worse than both conventional RDW and the Big Red deck with Everflowing Chalice and Kuldotha Phoenix. If it draws Volt Charge, it can turn that 3-mana burn spell into a lot more than 3 damage. The ability to Ultimate a Koth on the turn after he enters play has been written about, but using Charge midcombat to bump up a Chimeric Mass or a Kargan Dragonlord is a play which can just as readily end games, not to mention the fact that it puts 2 counters on Shrine of Burning Rage.
Speaking of putting 2 counters on something…
Pick An Enchantment
Both Pyromancer’s Ascension and Quest for Pure Flame are basically under-priced conditional Furnace of Raths in this deck, and with 8 in the deck you’re pretty likely to get one or the other in your opening hand. At that point, you just keep the board clear and eventually win with doubled-up burn.
The purists will complain that the Enchantments are poor draws lategame, but the critical mass of burn and good red cards makes it possible for us to just dome people out from 20 the hard way. With Pyromancer Ascension gone, there’s no reason not to play Goblin Guide as well, which brings us to our next deck:
Stupid Red Burn
This, of course, suffers from a lack of repeated damage. While Shrine of Burning Rage offers a form of inevitability, the inability to steadily tick the opponent’s life total down from 20 to 10 before killing in a flurry of burn forces us to dismiss it.
If we move to a more combo-control mindset, we can do something like this instead:
Maxing out the Quest is usually game over here, with either Shrine of Burning Rage or Koth’s ultimate representing the killing blow. However, this deck is hideously inconsistent and should just be axed, as it can’t do much of anything without the Quest.
That brings us to the question: Why focus so much on abusing Volt Charge? Why not just play it as a 3 mana 3 damage spell and just reap the ancillary benefits of proliferate? In short, why not just slot it into modern RDW?
Red Deck Wins
With 16 creatures, this deck can rack up damage over time, use the burn to clear the board, and use Koth or Shrine as a killing blow. The question is whether a deck like this benefits more from the proliferation on Volt Charge or the extra point of damage offered by Staggershock. It’s critical to note that Shrine gets ticked up twice by Staggershock because Rebound casts the spell, so the only advantage Volt Charge has is the Koth interaction.
We could, of course, play both…
Smart Red Burn
Plated Geopede gets the axe because he’s just a face-beater, and he has a way of constantly getting chumped.
Somewhere in or between this pile of red decks is the right one to play.
Moving on from the flames, there’s one last thing I want to discuss this week. Sheoldred is 7 mana, and Debtors’ Knell once saw play. In a format where people will have only a single Titan in play, it’s entirely possible that Sheoldred is a viable top-end to a BUG deck, looking something like this:
It’s a new format. Get brewing!