Hello, fellow Flamecallers!
We had a week off for some #GPDC action where Mike Hron, Matt Severa, and Justin Cohen proved that they are Eldrazi among the rest of us, but now it's time to gear up for #SCGINDY and some more awesome Standard action.
A few weeks ago, Michael Majors did a VS video against Ross Merriam with a really sweet Mono-Red Eldrazi deck, and while watching the video did give me a bit of ache missing my time in the studio, I couldn't help but be inspired by his deck.
In my eyes, Chandra, Flamecaller is the best card in Standard. It's the thing that we should be doing with our mana and makes such a huge impact in every game where it's cast that not doing so seems a bit silly. As such, I want to play a deck that can play a full four copies.
“Club Bee's” unofficial spokesperson Michael Majors seems to feel the same way, and while I don't quite agree with his undying love for the Applebee's (although the Honey BBQ Chicken Tenders and Mac-N-Cheese are pretty good), I do approve of his quad Chandra mentality.
See, she is just so good that you want to be able to cast another one if they kill yours. You want to be able to kill theirs with yours. You can even discard extra copies to her 0 ability and draw some cards. She basically does it all.
In addition to Chandra a-plenty, we've also got Reality Smasher, which I've claimed feels too much like Stormbreath Dragon to not be seeing play. I tried previously with B/R and Mardu versions of this kind of deck, and while getting rid of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet was rough, once I started playing games with the deck, it all just felt perfect. Here is where I am currently after playing with the deck over the last week.
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 3 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thopter Engineer
- 2 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Vile Aggregate
- 3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
I haven't changed too much from Michael's original build, but I have been happy with the little changes I've made and I have some ideas and other configurations that I plan on playing some games with this week on Magic Online.
I made a few small changes in the manabase, primarily going to four Shivan Reef and two Battlefield Forge instead of a two-two split. This is primarily because I want to at least bluff that I have access to blue spells post-sideboard, but that is also a configuration that I want to try out. With Swiftwater Cliffs giving us eight blue sources while keeping our red sources the same, I want to see if it slows us down enough to be a hindrance. If not, then having access to Dispel out of the sideboard would be a huge win and give us more game against Collected Company and Rally the Ancestors.
The other change to the mana that I made was to up the count on Ruins of Oran-Rief and cut Sea Gate Wreckage. Basically, I never activated Wreckage at all, and every time I had Ruins, it was amazing. Making Vile Aggregate a 2/6 was huge against any deck trying to use Roast to kill it. Making all of my other colorless creatures formidable threats is also great. Hangarback Walker benefits from extra counters, Thopters from becoming 2/2s, and Reality Smasher getting to smash even more realities. Having a second land that enters the battlefield tapped was a bit of a concern, but with so many powerful three-drops, drawing it in the mid-game hasn't really been an issue.
I also made a few changes to the sideboard. In his video, Michael mentions wanting a fourth Eldrazi Obligator, and I am definitely onboard with that change. It's actually insane against G/R Eldrazi Ramp, turning an unfavorable matchup into a favorable one all by itself, and it's also great at pressuring planeswalkers. In fact, I've even considered running it in the main over Vile Aggregate. I find that I'm cutting Vile Aggregate for Eldrazi Obligator in most matchups where I'm not planning on blocking with the Aggregate, which is turning out to be quite a few. Having Game 1 tTreaten effects can actually be pretty good and can easily swing a game against a Siege Rhino or Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
Haste on the Obligator is what secretly makes it powerful. With the amount of chip damage that we can get in with Thopters, combining the haste from Thopter Engineer with Eldrazi Obligator, Reality Smasher, and Chandra, Flamecaller, we end up with the potential for a lot of damage out of nowhere.
Speaking of Thopter Engineer, holy smokes, is that card insane in this deck. Giving artifact creatures haste is just so subtly powerful, it allows me to take a lot of very aggressive lines and take my opponents by surprise.
Cashing in my Foundry of the Consuls for two flyers is pretty sweet, but when they have haste, that's two damage that my opponent has to keep in mind while trying to race. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is already a powerful Magic card, but what about when the Thopters have haste? Curving Thopter Engineer into Pia and Kiran Nalaar presents a very impressive battlefield presence and a lot of pressure, and that's all before we even start dropping Reality Smasher and Chandra, Flamecaller.
There have been a lot of games won over the last week by leveling my Hangarback Walker up one and throwing it at either my opponent's face or one of their creatures with Pia and Kiran Nalaar before attacking with some hasty Thopters from the Hangarback Walker. This play also has synergy with Vile Aggregate (as does Foundry of the Consuls) and can put a lot of pressure on an unsuspecting opponent.
I removed Crumble to Dust from the sideboard, since our post-sideboard plan of Eldrazi Obligator against G/R Eldrazi Ramp is sufficient and I don't even like trying to attack their lands. With Nissa's Pilgrimage and Explosive Vegetation, they are going to get there eventually, so I would rather just be pressuring them and setting up a big Obligator turn than taking a turn off to Stone Rain them for four mana.
Majors originally wanted to try to cut Four-Color Rally off their white mana, but it just didn't really pan out that way for me, and I found that trying to be aggressive with Thopters and bringing in another flyer in Ashcloud Phoenix has been working all right. I think that Rally is likely our worst matchup, which is one reason I am looking to gain access to blue. The other option is to dip into some Cranial Archive action, which wouldn't be all that bad since we are pressuring them with Thopters and such, so that's another thing to keep in mind.
Tears of Valakut ended up being too narrow, and the main creature I want to take out is Mantis Rider, so I decided to go with a copy of Rending Volley. This also hits Jace, Vryn's Prodigy; Monastery Mentor; Soulfire Grand Master; Seeker of the Way; and the rest of the rotating cast of friends that are in such decks. I did like that Tears of Valakut can take care of Dragonlord Silumgar, Thunderbreak Regent, and Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury, but I think those cards can just be raced, chumped, or played around.
I wanted to have access to a resilient card advantage card in the sideboard, and so I've decided to go with Outpost Siege. I am a little wary of having it alongside four copies of Chandra, Flamecaller, but so far it's been great. Giving me extra chances to hit my land drops and play out threats while keeping more gas in reserve, Outpost Siege has really hit the spot against the control decks. Likewise, Oblivion Sower has been pretty sweet too. With so many mana sinks in the deck, having a way to jump out ahead on mana against the control and midrange decks has been really sweet. It's not a lock, though, so feel free to be flexible with the slot.
A pretty common question when seeing the list for the first time is, “Why the two Thought-Knot Seer in the sideboard? Why not just have them in the maindeck?”
Majors touches on it in the VS video, but alongside Crackling Doom, I've found that Standard, for the most part, is just jam-packed with so many powerful cards that basically do the same thing that it's hard to punch a hole in someone's gameplan. Against decks like G/R Eldrazi Ramp, Esper Dragons, and other controlling decks, gaining the information of what to play around and cutting off one of their lines is usually very good, but most of the time I am just happy with only two copies of it. Thought-Knot Seer is obviously powerful and can be put to good use even against hyper-aggressive decks by taking one of their spells and presenting a large body, but two has felt perfect so far.
I actually brewed something similar to this deck back before #SCGATL on the release weekend of Oath of the Gatewatch, but I was missing Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Reality Smasher. I was pretty high on Matter Reshaper and vastly undervalued Vile Aggregate. My deck from before didn't pan out, but I'm really glad that Michael Majors picked up on the Chandra vibe that I was putting out there and started work on this one!
If you're looking for a new Standard deck for FNM, #SCGINDY, or any local Standard IQs or PPTQs, I highly recommend this deck. I posted about it on my social media Friday night after very easily going 4-0 at FNM here in Seattle, and got quite a few messages from people who played it in their PPTQ that weekend, quite a few of whom made it into the Top 8 and a few even winning!
The deck isn't terribly difficult to pilot, either. Most of the time we are just smashing and trying to get as much as we can out of our mana every single turn. Sometimes this means playing off-curve to use Hangarback Walker or one of our utility lands. Sometimes this means just jamming our threats as the come and finishing off the game with Chandra, Flamecaller. Whatever the method to your madness, I'm sure this deck will be a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of madness, oh boy do we have Shadows over Innistrad spoilers starting to come in. I'm going to wait until we have some more cards to go over before I start speculating and brewing with the rotation happening, but I can see so far that Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is going to get even better than he is now (which is pretty hard to believe), and I think that Sinister Concoction is going to be a very important card. It's cheap removal that we have been sorely missing that is also a delirium enabler.
I loved the original Innistrad and I think I'm going to love the new take on the plane even better!