Black and Red - these two colors haunt Standard players in their sleep.
When Invasion was first released, "Machine Head" decks soon followed. What wasn't to love? You had red's burn, black's removal, tons of creatures, and oh the bombs. Pyre Zombie, Urza's Rage, Blazing Specter, and of course... Void. What's not to love? Void is the center of the deck of course. It's huge! It's a Powder Keg and hefty discard rolled into one card! This is sure to roll over any decks we play. All was good in the land of black and red.
Then came Fires. Fires of Yavimaya is a clock for the format. Allow me to explain how I define a clock for the format (I am not referencing the metagame clock). In every format, there is a deck that is faster than the other decks. All of the other decks must be able to do one of the following to perform in the field:
1) Slow down the deck until you can take control of the game.
2) Neutralize the deck's threats while you play your own.
3) Take early damage until you can play a game-altering spell (i.e., Wrath of God), and then be prepared to control the game after that.
4) Win the game with some sort of combo before you die.
5) Try to outrace the deck.
If your deck cannot do one of these five things, you will lose to the "clock deck." In Extended, the clock deck is Sligh. All decks have to be able to beat the speed of Sligh. All decks have to be prepared to play Sligh, and if they can't beat it, then they will lose. Some decks will use more than one of the above manners of stopping a deck. Fires is the clock deck in Standard.
The problem is, many decks can't deal with the speed of Fires, and Machine Head is one of those decks. It is too slow to deal with Fires, and simply doesn't have the access to the power cards that other colors use when playing against Fires.
When I realized this, I decided to look at other options for Black and Red. My first idea was a Ponza deck, built around these cards:
4x Tectonic Break
4x Rain of Tears
4x Stone Rain
I did some testing, and quickly realized that this was not going to work. It could beat mana-intensive decks, but still couldn't deal with Fires. So I then went back and tried to speed up Machine Head to where it could deal with fires. This also didn't work. I then took both decks and put them together, and ended up with 120 cards. I put these 120 cards in a box and forgot about them for a few weeks. Then one day while I was looking at some old articles, I stumbled across Seth Burn's "The Elephant Method Revealed" article. One line struck me: "To sculpt a clay elephant start with a clay block and remove anything that isn't part of the elephant." So I took out the 120 cards of madness and took away everything that I didn't feel was needed.
First I took out half the lands, then all the land destruction, then the four Blazing Specters, and the four Voids. I then cut almost all the creatures and added a few cards, finally ending up with this:
Raging Turtles version 1.1 (version 1.0 had Scutas, but they have been removed)
4x Plague Spitter
4x Chimeric Idol
2x Pyre Zombie
4x Breath of Darigaaz
4x Dark Ritual
3x Urza's Rage
4x Ghitu Fire
1x Keldon Necropolis
2x Sulfurous Springs
3x Tsabo's Web
1x Tsabo's Decree
It hasn't been tested very much, although preliminary tests seem to show the deck as being very strong against most of the field. Plague Spitter can demolish many decks, as it kills mana-critters and absolutely demolishes Skies. The entire point of the deck is to keep the board clear using cards like Breath of Darigaaz and Earthquake as Wrath of Gods. Simply put, you sacrifice great deals of life to keep the board clear. You can then swing in for the win with Chimeric Idols, or simply burn them out. Other options I'm looking at are Avatar of Woe and Obliterate.
I sent out the first version of this deck on the Meridian mailing list and got a reply from someone testing a similar deck. So without further ado, here is Nigel's B/R deck (which has been tested more than mine):
4x Plague Spitters
4x Dark Rituals
2x Phyrexian Scuta
1x Maniacal Rage
4x Blazing Specters
1x Keldon Firebombers
3x Trench Wurms
1x Tectonic Break
2x Bend or Break
4x Ghitu Fire
1x Yagwgmoths Agenda
4x Fire Diamonds
2x Urborg Volcano
Nigel has kept in the land destruction element of the deck, and also is still playing with the Specters. I'm still doubting them, but time will tell. Right now I think B/R is a good choice for the metagame, as most people have given up on it as an archetype. With Regionals coming up, either of these decks could do well. If you have any thoughts or comments on the deck, be sure to email me with them.