The last two weekends I started out 3-0 in PTQs before the wheels fell off. I lost rounds four and five in Fargo but battled out six and seven for a 5-2 finish and a very generous three packs. In Minneapolis I left as soon as I lost in round six despite significantly better prize support due to the fact that I wasn't four hours and a dead car battery away from my bed. Obviously I was chasing a PTQ win, but a 9-4 record isn't anything to scoff at.
I was deflated when I lost to an opponent who Thoughtseized away one of two copies of Searing Blood in lieu of the Chained to the Rocks that ultimately felled his turn four Desecration Demon, but I had a number of games where I would never guess abstractly that this deck could win. I won a game where my opponent played Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel on the same turn to jump from 9 to 13. I won a game against a UW opponent who controlled an Elspeth, two Blind Obedience, seven untapped mana and six cards in hand. Clearly I wasn't invincible this weekend, but there were moments when I felt to be damn near it.
[cardimage cardname='Desecration Demon'][cardimage cardname='Blind Obedience']
In Fargo I played this list:
To these results:
R1: 2-1 Vs. Selesnya Aggro
R2: 2-0 Vs. Mono U Devotion (This guy Top 8'd)
R3: 2-0 Vs. Mono U Devotion
R4: 0-2 Vs. Gruul Monsters
R5: 0-2 Vs. Mono B Devotion
R6: 2-1 Vs. Rw Devotion
R7: 2-1 Vs. Mono G Devotion
Over the course of this tournament the non-triumphant scrylands felt very lackluster, and over the course of the week I slowly cut them all and never missed them. I found myself boarding in all of the Chained to the Rocks in every match in Fargo, and indeed they're only ever a bad draw against UWx control decks. I didn't have it in the main because of that matchup and because I just wanted to gear the deck more towards racing, but I made some changes after the event that were copacetic with maining Chains.
[cardimage cardname='Chained to the Rocks'][img n='Ash Zealot']
Chained to the Rocks is most impactful when it enables an attack, and I found myself wanting for another body with this build. The only creature that fit the bill, and the singular card that generally performed the best out of Red Devotion, was Ash Zealot. I got to messing around with the deck and came to this list for Minneapolis:
Which I piloted to these results:
R1: 2-0 Vs. Rw Devotion
R2: 2-0 Vs. Boros Aggro
R3: 2-0 Vs. Brad Nelson Naya Aggro
R4: 1-2 Vs. Azorius Control
R5: 2-0 Vs. Bw Devotion
R6: 0-2 Vs. Mono B Devotion
Overall, I was much happier with this build. Though the results were pretty similar, those 2-0s were a lot more convincing than Fargo's 2-1s. I'll readily admit that this build is going to concede more game ones to UWx decks than not, but everywhere else the list felt heavily favored. Even with a Chained to the Rocks in hand I was on like a 20-outer over three turns to win my game one in round 4, and my round six loss revolved around me doing some more bricking.
The Annihilating Fire feels pretty terrible, but at the same time it's the only 75th card that I want in all three games in every matchup, which is a rather vexing problem. Noting this issue I went back to battling the deck some more on MTGO and decided that it would look better on the sideboard. Considering that I'm happy with all of the other cards, the issue then became one of what sideboard card I wanted to maindeck.
[img n='Mizzium Mortars'][img n='Boros Charm']
Mizzium Mortars and Toil // Trouble are right out, as I want something that is going to be live and efficient everywhere. Boros Charm is the best sideboard card against the field, but it's less impactful against burn's most frustrating opposition:
The 60th maindeck card just has to be Skullcrack. I don't care for the card as a miser's copy though, as Unflinching Courage gains life more than once and beating multiple Sphinx's Revelations is often necessary to winning against UW. Warleader's Helix is another card that I want in against everyone post-board, but that kind of stinks on efficiency in terms of this deck's A plan. As of now, I'm experimenting with moving two of them to the sideboard in favor of having three maindeck Skullcracks. Enough to reliably mitigate lifegain, but not so many that I'm forced to interact on one-dimension.
That leaves us here:
Depending on how things go I could see switching one more Skullcrack/Warleader's Helix in either direction, but I'm very happy with this deck as of now. I fully intend to play this or something very close in Milwaukee next month.
The sideboard here is fairly straightforward in terms of what to bring in, but what to take out might be a little surprising. Basically you take out Ash Zealot everywhere except UWx and when you're on the play against Black Devotion. It's a strict downgrade from a burn spell when your opponent can block it and with two mana Black Devotion has a million ways to kill it. The Skullcracks generally end up on the same side of the board as the Zealots, which leaves us with this plan:
Out against UWx
The Pyromancers get the axe due to being completely miserable against Jace, Architect of Thought. Not to mention that not having haste just doesn't cut it against Detention Sphere and Supreme Verdict. He can randomly be very good, but I wouldn't advise keeping in more than one.
Out against Black Devotion on the play
Out on the draw
Shock is just too low impact against a Thoughtseize deck, and Ash Zealot was discussed above. Mizzium Mortars gets the nod over Annihilating Fire for the ability to double-up on a Desecration Demon with Searing Blood and to randomly kill multiple creatures. If your opponent is on Blood Baron of Vizkopa then you just switch the Mizzium Mortars and Boros Charm numbers on the draw, and you lose the Warleader's Helix for Mortars on the play.
Out against everything else with creatures
From this baseline you can pretty much figure out what you want against any flavor of deck. If anything major changes I'll be sure to write about it, but for now this deck is my pony for Standard. Here's hoping for Lightning Bolt in M15!
Thanks for reading.