#1 and 2 Decks to beat: Wolf Run Red and Wolf Run Green
Both of these versions are solid, resilient decks. With no Spell Pierce to keep Green Sun's Zenith in check, the Primeval Titan decks are quite the force to be reckoned with. They are consistent, disruptive, and have the best end game of any deck in the format. Sure grabbing Kessig Wolf Run and an Inkmoth Nexus with Primeval Titan isn't as good as Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but it's only one step away.
Contrary to what I posted last week, I actually ended up throwing this deck together for FNM. The main reason I wanted to play it was just to see what it was all about. Is it as good as the hype makes it out to be? How is it in the metagame? In addition, I knew no one was playing it at my store yet so I thought I could show some players what it was all about. This theory was completely wrong and Wolf Run Red was by far the most popular deck this past Friday with five out of the twenty or so players that attended this week.
It seems that actual tournament play has much more impact than testing, in my experience. So, make sure to test out your decks locally before heading off to the big show somewhere. This tournament was no exception and I learned some valuable information about this deck and playing against it from the tournament.
Notes on the deck:
Kessig Wolf Run is a powerful card and probably should be moved to four copies main deck. You do not need Inkmoth Nexus to win, nor do you need Primeval Titan. What you actually need is the land. It enables so many options to win the game. If you are going to play this deck one of the most important matches to test is the mirror. It is miserable. It might be the worst mirror I have ever had to play and it was my only loss on Friday. Be prepared for the mirror. I don't have some secret but I think Genesis Wave might be a place to start, thought it may be too expensive. One important thing is making sure to not miss a land drop. I definitely lost a mirror because I failed to move from five to six mana so I could play my titan. This makes me think twenty seven lands might be necessary. That would allow for more Kessig Wolf Run action as well.
Garruk is amazing. I don't need to specify which one because they both are awesome. I ran four Garruk Relentless and two Garruk, Primal Hunter and I was pretty happy with that. Garruk Relentless on turn three is where it's at. I definitely agree with Todd Anderson on that point. In the mirror, being able to set up Overrun with Garruk Relentless should win you the game when that plan is an option.
Does this deck have bad matchups? Most players think the deck does not really have bad matchups. The mirror, or pseudo mirror in the Green version, is by far the hardest part about playing this deck. There is one other matchup that is not getting the attention it deserves and that is Mono Red. Some players just beat Mono Red all the time with this deck but be careful because it is actually a bad matchup. I tested these two decks this week for a couple hours and once the Mono Red player figures out what's going on, they can win almost any game. The key is a solid Mono Red list you are comfortable with and playing the match correctly. Usually that means not tapping out later in the game when you have one or more active Shrine of Burning Rages. They are clutch to winning the match.
Modified Todd Anderson Wolf Run Red
Basically I took Todd Anderson's list and made some adjustments based on my play style. I felt Todd's list was the best I had seen so far. The deck could probably be more tuned than it was but I liked this list quite a bit. Garruk Relentless being able to tutor for Primeval Titan is amazing so don't forget that is an option.
Since I am such a big fan of Todd Anderson's work right now, I thought I would use his mono green list from this week as well. If I were going to play a mono green list, it would look remarkably similar to his build. Take a look.
What's the difference between the mono green and red green builds? The picture logo basically says it all. Do you want to play Dungrove Elder or Slagstorm? Dungrove Elder is the more proactive choice for sure, but I would much rather play a more interactive card like Slagstorm that is a three mana Wrath of God sometimes and other times a planeswalker killer or even a burn spell. Also, on the play, Slagstorm kills Dungrove Elder so in some instances it acts as a trump.
With all the Green White Tokens decks, Mono Red, Most of the creatures in the poison deck, and other aggressive strategies running around, I would much rather be on team Slagstorm than team Dungrove Elder. It mostly comes down to personal preference though as both are viable and good options.
Answering questions last week in the comments, it was suggested to play Vault Skirge. Initially, my hatred for the card overwhelmed my ability to make a coherent decision about the card because I was blinded by how terrible I think the card is. I got to thinking about the card later in the day and remembered how critical it was in Tempered Steel decks. It is still horrible on its own, but its impact is not negligible and once you hit a Tempered Steel, it actually becomes a decent threat. Don't we do the same thing with the equipment in this deck? I could not stop thinking about this card and its implications. It lowers the curve of the deck a little to be more interactive in the early turns of the game which is something I am actively trying to do in Standard right now because I think it is essential in the environment. In addition, it makes achieving metal craft that much easier for Puresteel Paladin, Dispatch, and the recently included again Etched Champion.
The other main suggestion was for Painsmith, but that is just not what this deck wants to be doing. Too much black mana requirement to be able to hit it turn two and a very low impact if played late in the game. The Vault Skirge though? I think that step might allow this deck to evolve into its next level. Take a look at the new version. I have been very happy with this build in testing this week.
What makes this deck so good right now? Mortarpod is honestly a big part of that. That ability to ping for one damage repeatedly over the course of the game is remarkably good right now. Players are advocating Gut Shot, Mortarpod does that but many times! It is just so good against a variety of decks and is definitely one reason to play this deck. I think that Voltron has the best removal in the format honestly. Oblivion Ring deals with everything and Dispatch feels like cheating sometimes for how strong it is. We could sideboard Day of Judgment as well if we wanted. What else do you need? Blue Black Control gets Snapcaster Mage to flash back their removal but honestly a lot of their removal is pretty clunky. That's right, I just compared the removal of the best control deck in the format to the removal of a blue white aggro decks! Believe it!
Another big reason I feel this deck is so strong is because of the carefully constructed mana curve and built in card advantage engines. In many games you can be fairly controlling depending on the match so know when you need to be the beatdown and when to control the game.
The Doomed Travelers have continued to perform well for me but I cant help thinking that a 1/1 for one is just not powerful enough for competitive play. This deck is built on synergy rather than blunt power though and a threat that can cary a sword and replaces itself seems similar to the idea of Squadron Hawk in previous versions. The evasion and lifelink on Vault Skirge seem quite relevant but we will see how I feel about the card after FNM This Week.
Some sideboarding notes:
Against any other aggressive deck you want to bring in the Trinket Mage package that I moved to the sideboard. It was just not performing well against most of the decks in the metagame. These cards are very good against aggro though and you could side the Trinket Mages against a removal heavy blue black control deck as well. The second Batterskull comes in here as well. How you sideboard will depend on what aggro deck you are playing against but typically the two Mentor of the Meek for the Trinket Mages and one sword for the Sylvok Lifestaff.
Big Bad Wolf:
A while ago I used Corrupted Conscience to much success against some Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle builds. I think this might be a good way to beat them again. You could play Act of Aggression in this place as well but I think the enchantment is better. Fetching two Inkmoth Nexus seems pretty good also. The fourth Sword of Feast and Famine is there for this match and I think we want it even with Ancient Grudge because we should be able to play around it to get some activations off of the sword. I would probably take out the Etched Champion because it's not likely the metalcraft will be active very long. I would also remove the Batterskull for the extra land. The additional land being Inkmoth Nexus might be a little greedy. Maybe it should just be an Island, I am not sure yet. Games two and three should probably be more difficult but luckily your game one percentage is high.
Phantasmal Image is kind of a catch all at the moment. I would think about sideboarding it in against Wolf Run to copy a titan or Wurmcoil Engine and then remove their copy from the game. Even with Kessig Wolf Run I think that would be decent. It's possible that this spot and more should just be Flashfreeze though to try to not let their threats resolve. The Phantasmal Image does other things though like comes in against Solar Flare decks and Geist of Saint Taft decks so it just depends on what you have to play against. If your meta is thirty or more percent Wolf Run, Flashfreeze should probably be a priority.
Are you the Big Bad Wolf? Or are you fighting against it? It is the same question revisited once again with new cards. Team Slagstorm or Team Dungrove Elder? I choose neither. I'm a part of the Voltron Force!
Until next time,
May your opponents not draw their Ancient Grudges, and
Unleash that Voltron Force!