Standard is a complex puzzle with multiple correct answers. There are some rules you must adhere to if you are to succeed though and first on that list is beating mono red. One reason that it is so difficult to beat mono red is because our tools are not as good as they were in the previous format. We lost key cards like Kor Firewalker and Obstinate Baloth. Timely Reinforcements is a great card but sometimes its not enough. The best way to beat the current red deck is to have some way to get rid of their creatures and probably gain some life as well. There are not very many decks that can do this which is why red is so successful right now. I think it speaks to the power of red that there are no two deck lists that are the same. Every red deck that does well, does it with a different array of spells. Red does a better job of interacting in the first three turns of the game than any other deck in the format, make sure you have a way to interact with them as well. This was the one downfall of my top 8 deck from philly, the inability to interact often in the first three turns of the game. Brian David Marshall summarized the tournament for Starcity Games and it was an interesting read.
Caw-Blade is alive and well but that is not the topic of this article. Another deck I have favored in the past Standard season, Voltron, is the focus for today. Initially I thought that because the deck lost very few cards that would make it tier one. I was wrong about that. The loss of Basilisk Collar was huge, as was the loss of the card advantage of Squadron Hawk. Still, I think that Puresteel Paladin is an amazing engine and one that can be successful in Standard. I have been working on a new list this week and I think I am much closer than I was with the initial list. I have seen other authors try some deck lists and I have thought them sub par. Nothing against anyone else, my first list was sub par as well, but there is room for almost every deck to grow in Standard.
The one card in particular that I have thought might be the wrong direction to include is Invisible Stalker. I, like many others, was running it in my list because equipping him up and attacking will close out many games. The reason I think that playing him might be wrong goes back to interacting in the first three turns of the game. Invisible Staker is not designed to block. That seems obvious, why would you block with him? He is designed to get damage in and not care about what your opponent is doing. Sure that's great and all but is that really what you want against other aggro decks? As much as I hate to admit it, Doomed Traveler really might deserve the spot more. It really might be a competitive card. He blocks well, becomes evasive once he dies, and your opponent will never want to attack into him or use a spell to kill him. He has play mistake written all over him. Doomed Traveler is a card that will cause opponents to play badly because they undervalue it and because if they spend two cards to kill your one cost creature, you should certainly win the game.
Take a look at the current version of Voltron I am working on.
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities like four Puresteel Paladins and the living weapons. There are some notable new inclusions as well. I already mentioned Doomed Traveler but Batterskull and Blazing Torch make an appearance as well. This may not seem very different but it really is. This version is much more of an aggro deck with a small amount of control and a true aggro control deck like its previous version. It probably still needs tweaked but I think this list is much closer to optimal.
One crazy idea I had was based on the creature type of Doomed Traveler, Puresteel Paladin, Trinket Mage, and Mentor of the Meek. All of these creatures are humans. Why is that important? Well, because Champion of the Parish was just printed. Look at the Voltron deck that plays off this human creature type theme.
What did I have to sacrifice to include this amazing early game creature? One of each Flayer Husk and Doomed Traveler as well as the Phyrexian Metamorph and Sword of Body and Mind. That does not seem like too much to remove for the possible aggressive draws that Champion of the Parish provides. This may not be the best deck to abuse Champion of the Parish, but he will almost always be Isamaru, Hound of Konda and sometimes a Wild Nacatl. That is a lot for a card that was added as a foot note. By definition, some of the time he will only be a 1/1 but you were only getting a 1/1 from Flayer Husk and Doomed Traveler anyway right? That being said, I am still not sure exactly the right distribution of cards for this deck but I will probably try out some humans for FNM and see what happens
I am not sure which of those versions or a different configuration is the best but I will be testing both and playing one on Friday at FNM. If you have thoughts about possible inclusions in the list , feel free to include them in the comments below.
I do not want to spend a lot of time on this next topic but I have been thinking a great deal about Heartless Summoning so I decided I would share my thoughts on the card. Heartless Summoning seems as powerful if not more so than Lotus Cobra, a staple in previous Standard and a card that is powerful enough to see play in Modern and Legacy in my opinion. Heartless Summoning being an enchantment makes it inherently more powerful because it is hard to remove. the fact that it gives your creatures Night of Souls Betrayal might seem like quite a large drawback but it is one that we can take advantage of similar to, though not as powerful as, Skullclamp.
We can undo the drawback by playing cards that take advantage of your creatures dying like Viridian Emissary and Perilous Myr. We don't care if either of these creatures die because we are getting a Rampant Growth or a Shock. Add in your combo with Glissa, the Traitor and you can kill any number of two or less toughness creatures in play and keep Perilous Myr in your hand to use again. Even if your opponent does not have any creatures that die to Shock, the ability to do an extra two damage any time a control deck kills one of your creatures will end the game quickly. It's nice that Heartless Summoning turns on Morbid for you as well. Take look at my current Heartless Pod list.
This is a rough list but I think it is doing a lot of things right. Many of my friends have said that the Birthing Pods might not be necessary, but I think you want to combine both Heartless Summoning and Birthing Pod to create a more consistent deck.
My main goal was to include the creature killing combo but keep a solid chain for Birthing Pod. With Heartless Summoning you want a bunch of cheap creatures that you can "go off" with when you untap with the enchantment or go straight to a five mana creature. I chose Acidic Slime because it chains well with Birthing Pod and also hitting it turn three is pretty good. The main way I thought to abuse Heartless Summoning was with Bloodgift Demon. You play him turn three and create such an advantage to hopefully overwhelm your opponent. I think the idea is solid and Heartlesss Summoning is an amazing card, it will just take some time to flesh out the list.
Two interesting new decks to consider for states. Good luck if you are attending and have a great time at one of the best tournaments of the year.
Until next time, Unleash the Voltron Force!