Running Up with Red at MD States

Posted on Thursday, October 21st, 2010 by llarack
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Posted in mtg, serious business, strategy

The week before States, there was a large tournament in New York City which would pretty much dictate the decks to beat for States. After looking at the top 16 decks, 1st and 2nd were both Ramp decks (1st was Valakut and 2nd was Eldrazi). 3rd and 4th were Elves and UR Control (Destructive Force variety), 5th-8th were Eldrazi Ramp, Valakut Ramp, UW Control, and Eldrazi Ramp. 9th-16th had 2 UW Control, 2 Valakut Ramp, 1 UGr Shaman, 1 Bant Shaman, 1 WW-Relic, and 1 Eldrazi Ramp.

All of this led me to believe that MonoRed would be a very good choice for States, since it had a pretty good matchup vs Ramp-based decks (especially boarding Mark of Mutiny/Threaten effects) and it had a reasonable matchup vs other aggro decks (which are always popular). UW control, depending on the build, could be a 50/50 matchup or nigh-unwinnable.

Don’t dragons like eating goblins?

So the list I decided to run (after basing it on Cedric Phillip’s list) was:

You’re probably scratching your head by this point, and for good reason. It should be 4 Mark of Mutiny in the board for sure, and Tunnel Ignus turned out to be terrible for a lot of reasons. (I will discuss what changes I would make for future lists at the end of this, however.)

A few interesting things to note though: 25 lands might seem like a lot until you consider that Spikeshot Elder, Plated Geopede, Molten-Tail Masticore, Koth of the Hammer and Kargan Dragonlord are all fine cards with more lands in play. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hit 6 mana and just have Elder be a significant threat by itself (this is important especially vs Day of Judgment). Teetering Peaks is also essentially a Shock to the face (or forces them to trade with something they didn’t really want to). Flame Slash (which also probably should have been a 4-of) is very good at killing Wall of Omens, Overgrown Battlement, Joraga Treespeaker, etc.

I almost didn’t run this deck because I couldn’t find 4 Koth of the Hammer until the very last second, and I would probably have run 4 Molten-Tail Masticore if my buddy had come through on the other 2 Masticores I needed :/

Onto the tournament itself, they announced 126 players, which was right below the cutoff for another round. This implied that not all 5-1-1s would make it, but 6-1 and 5-0-2 were definite locks.

Koth is secretly a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Round 1, paired vs UW Allies, John Gatza

Game 1, I mulligan to 6 on the play, and he has Kabira Evangel into Talus Paladin, and I don’t have Flame Slash for either. He also had Mana Leak and Spell Pierce for Lightning Bolt and Searing Blaze on Evangel, so I lose in pretty short order.

Sideboarding: -4 Koth of the Hammer, -3 Plated Geopede, +4 Cunning Sparkmage, +3 Basilisk Collar (The reasoning behind this is that Koth is a relatively slow card which isn’t great in a race, and Geopede is not a great blocker, but I would rather leave in 1 Geopede than 1 Koth.)

Game 2, I have a relatively strong 7 containing Spikeshot Elder and Cunning Sparkmage. I lead with Elder into Sparkmage (he leaks it), then shows me he is stuck on 2 lands. So I just start bashing him with Elder and playing around more Mana Leaks, and eventually play a Dragonlord that goes 8/8 while I burn the small guys he manages to play.

Game 3, he mulligans to 6, and I have Elder, Sparkmage, Sparkmage to mow down all of his guys, as well as having a few burn spells to clean up the ones that slip through.

Round 2, paired vs Eldrazi Ramp (splashing Black), James Peyton

I knew what this guy was playing since we had been talking before the tournament started.

Game 1: I won the dieroll (always helpful, even more so vs ramp), and I have Goblin Guide into Spikeshot Elder + Flame Slash on his battlement, into Dragonlord which basically kills him on about turn 5 or 6.

Sideboarding: -4 Koth of the Hammer (this card is unreal slow, and doesn’t do that much vs them), -4 Searing Blaze, +2 Act of Treason, +2 Mark of Mutiny, +4 Tunnel Ignus

I also knew he was boarding black removal spells such as Smother and Doom Blade, since I saw Verdant Catacombs in game 1. It’s very important to notice small things like this so you have more information (to avoid leveling Dragonlord into a removal spell, etc).

Game 2: He does not have an accelerant on turn 1 or turn 2, which leads me to believe he has Smother/Doom Blade in hand, so I do not level my dragonlord after playing t1 Spikeshot, t2 Dragonlord and attacking him on turn 3. He shows me the smother, then untaps and plays spasm on turn 4. I attack him again, play another guy (I think it was a Geopede), and he plays Wurmcoil Engine on his t5. I only have him at 13 or so, but I have a Mark of Mutiny in my hand. So I Mark his Engine, play a non-fetchland, non-peaks land, and bash him pretty low. He attacks with the Engine to go back to a relatively safe life total of 10, and passes with 6 up. I have another Mark in hand, and decide that if he traps into another guy here (which I’m pretty sure he has), I’m ok as long as it’s not another Engine, but it is, and he manages to stabilize with the help of 13 lifelink damage every turn :/

Game 3: I run him over since he keeps a hand with no removal but has Battlement (gets Flame Slashed), Growth Spasm (I ate the token with Spikeshot Elder to slow him down by 1 turn) and I have other early guys to boot.

Round 3, paired vs something, Jeff Warwick (I want to say it’s UW, but I can’t actually remember)

I honestly do not remember this match at all. Sorry.

Round 4, paired vs Valakut Ramp (with Genesis Wave), Darryl Donaldson

Game 1, I keep a somewhat slow hand and get run over by Primeval Titan on turn 4 into Genesis Wave for lethal on turn 5 (flipped Expeditions, etc).

Sideboarding: +2 Act of Treason, +2 Mark of Mutiny, +4 Tunnel Ignus, -4 Koth of the Hammer, -2 Molten-Tail Masticore, -2 Burst Lightning

Game 2, I keep a 2 lander with Guide, Geopede and Mark, so if I draw land #3 on t3 or 4, he is probably dead from Titan grabbing 2 Peaks out of my deck. Instead I brick on land for all 4 turns, and Titans do me in.

Round 5, paired vs UW Control, Kola Olagunju

Game 1, I keep a slow hand, play turn 4 Geopede, he does nothing until a turn 6 Baneslayer with no mana up. Luckily I have saved up 4 Fetchlands, so I crack all 4, triple searing blaze his Baneslayer, then Bolt him for 21 points of damage.

Sideboarding: +4 Cunning Sparkmage, -4 Searing Blaze (You want to board out Slash if they have no Walls, but this guy did)

Game 2, he mulligans to 4 (!!!), but still makes a game of it with Preordain into Wall of Omens, into him missing land drop #5 for Baneslayer, but still Days away 2 of my guys. Luckily the 3 card disadvantage does prove to be too much for him and I take it by playing enough lands to play around Leaks from him.

Round 6, paired vs UW Control, Tom Fulks

Game 1, I think I have a hand with a lot of Goblin Guides and like 3 Mountains and proceed to draw into burn for his face when he’s at like 8 or so.
Sideboarding: +4 Cunning Sparkmage, -4 Searing Blaze (Saw Wall of Omens again)

Game 2, I have a hand with 3 lands and a ton of gas, so I run 3 guys out into a Day (while getting him to about 10 or so), then he plays a Firewalker. This is awkward, because I need to somehow draw enough burn and guys to get around his Firewalker. This doesn’t happen before he draws a Baneslayer and I lose pretty quickly.

Game 3, I have another very good hand with 3 lands and a bunch of guys. My first draw is Koth, and his first play of the game is Firewalker on turn 2. Hmm, this is awkward. Luckily he starts missing land drops after playing the Firewalker, so I manage to start playing spells around his Mana Leaks, and eventually a Koth forces his Firewalker to get aggressive, so I can swing back and kill him.

Before this round, I looked at my breakers, and they weren’t good enough to try drawing in. Plus there was a metric ton of people at 5-1, so I had to fight anyway.

Round 7, paired vs UW Control, Zachary Molloie

Game 1, I get around his Wall of Omens by Flame Slashing it on turn 2, after playing turn 1 Spikeshot and turn 2 Guide (as well). I get in enough early damage that the 2nd Spikeshot manages to kill him almost by itself.

Sideboard: +4 Cunning Sparkmage, -4 Searing Blaze

Game 2, I have early guys again (Spikeshot into Geopede into Dragonlord), and he just has a bunch of Condemns/Purges/Flashfreezes into a Baneslayer. I don’t really have that much going besides that, so Baneslayer goes the distance for him.

Game 3, I keep an opening hand of Mountain, Guide, Guide, Guide, Koth, Slash, Bolt. You might think this is not a very good hand, but Goblin Guide is one of your best weapons vs any sort of control deck. So I come up swinging pretty fast (after missing 2 land drops), and slashing 1 of his 2 wall of omens, I manage to get him to 2 before he stabilizes the board. Now the board state is his 6 lands (including 2 colonnades) vs my 6 lands with Koth in hand. I decide to sit there a to draw burn since he can’t really tap out for a guy very soon without risking losing. This plan goes very well, since I proceed to draw 4 burn spells in a row, then he eventually taps down to 4 mana (which means he can only have 2 counters since I was pretty sure he wasn’t boarding Pierces), so I show him all 4 burn spells and he concedes.

This puts me to 6-1 which definitely makes the cut for top 8.

This is an entirely new species of goblin.

Quarterfinals, paired vs UW Control, Thomas Buck (with maindeck Ascensions, Contagion Clasps, and no Walls)

Game 1, he actually manages to get Ascension online after getting 1 turn of no damage, then clasping it up to 4 while my hand is virtually all burn spells. I die pretty quickly to a swarm of 4/4 Angels.

Game 2, I don’t remember this game very well, but I do remember Sparkmage and Spikeshot manage to finish him off after he days a bunch of my guys.

Game 3, he starts off slow, and apparently has no countermagic for my early guys. Guide flips a condemn on like turn 2, so I decide to swing with it intentionally and then play a dragonlord which eventually ends up killing him.

Semifinals, paired Valakut, Joey Martens

(this is actually the list I built for him and a friend which emphasized speed in the mirror and cut Bolts and Cultivates from the maindeck in favor of Growth Spasm and Treespeaker)

Using this knowledge means I can just play all of my guys and never fear a lightning bolt in games.

Game 1, I barely kill him through a Primeval Titan he casts on turn 4 with the help of guide into geopede into dragonlord.

Game 2, He casts a baloth then traps into a Wurmcoil Engine which is sad times for me. I don’t think I’m ever really in this one.

Game 3, I have Spikeshot on t1, guide on t2, slash his battlement on t3, play a geopede, attack him, kill his baloth on t5 with bolt + activate spikeshot and he concedes since he is basically dead.

Finals, vs UW Control (same list as the one in Quarters), Kurt Spiess

Kurt and I have a relatively long history of battling matches. The first time I encountered him, he was playing the KarstenBabyKiller vs my B/W control deck. I obviously get smashed, since stone rains tend to be pretty good vs Basilicas, and Cryoclasm made me cry ;__;. He’s gotten a lot better since then and probably has more constructed ptq top 8s than I do by this point, since I don’t get out to that many anymore. He would probably be an even scarier opponent if he actually played limited more once a month.

Game 1, I grind him out with Spikeshots and Guides very slowly, and manage to eat a Gideon along the way for the win.

Optimal sideboarding: -2 Flame Slash (no wall of omens in his list, but I think I pull all 4 blaze for game 2 instead of slashes), -2 Searing Blaze, +4 Cunning Sparkmage (game 3, I go back and sideboard like this)

Game 2, I misplay this game pretty badly on like turn 9, and I also kept a sketchy hand of 5 Mountains, Guide, Spikeshot on the draw. Spikeshot is really good vs control decks, since they basically have to deal with it by itself. Anyway, at some point in this game, he activates Gideon with 3 counters on it. I am supposed to respond by shooting him twice and redirecting to Gideon. Instead I let Gideon’s ability resolve, and realize what I’ve done. When Gideon is a 6/6, the loyalty doesn’t come off him when he is dealt damage. So instead I have to ping him for 2 end of turn, and kill Gideon on my turn, which enables him to play a Baneslayer next turn without fear. Frost Titan arrives after this, then I lose.

Game 3, I keep another hand of 5 Mountains, Guide, Spikeshot. After swinging on turn 1 with guide, I see purge, then on t2, I see condemn, so I stop swinging with my team of guys. In the mean time, he is not doing much, but eventually draws into a Baneslayer. Koth arrives to ritual me from 6 to 7 mana, so I can activate spikeshot twice targeting Baneslayer and Bolt it as well. Gideon and Frost Titan arrive soon afterwards, and I lose.

In retrospect, I think I was running pretty hot to beat UW 5 times, since I don’t feel the matchup is that great.

Changes I Would Make

Play 4 Flame Slash for sure. Phillips had Devastating Summons in his sideboard, which is basically only for the mirror. If you don’t expect the mirror at all, you don’t really need to board these (and I wouldn’t, at the moment). Searing Blaze is a great card vs cobra/birds/other aggro decks, but there’s honestly not too many of those at the moment. However, it is worth having access to, especially in postboard games.

New list:

As a bonus, here’s a list I have been battling with in MTGO standard queues (pretty similar to Peebles’ list, probably only like 5-6 cards apart) and doing pretty well with:

I would appreciate any comments in the forums, and hope people got something out of this report.