We all have to break promises now and again, right? Things change, and unfortunately not every promise can be upheld. Last week, I promised you all that I would play a cool version of U/R Delver at my next FNM. Due to an unfortunate series of events, I was unable to get the deck from my friend until after FNM started. Instead, I decided to roll with a sweet R/W Storm brew that I was going to do an article on at some point anyway. Hopefully, you can all one day forgive me for this unspeakable crime that I committed. If nothing else, at least read the rest of this article.
Moving on, I want to give a little bit of a background on the deck before I get into the meat and potatoes of the article. Many of you probably know that I love the storm mechanic. In general, I just love playing Ritual-based combo decks. Ritual-based combo decks are combo decks that rely on generating a large amount of mana through cards like Seething Song and Rite of Flame.
What these Rituals are used on can change from deck to deck, though. Sometimes you cast a Dragonstorm, sometimes you cast an Ad Nauseam, and sometimes you just cast a big creature. Every time a new set is released, I try to see if there is any way to make a Ritual-based combo deck work in Standard. Wizards gave me a glimmer of hope when they printed Past in Flames, but nothing really came of it. Then they printed Wheel of Fortune (see: Reforge the Soul), and it almost seemed possible to do something crazy.
The problem I was having was finding any good Rituals to use. I trashed the idea, but my friend Sam wouldn't give up and started working on his own version of the deck with a bunch of big creatures and Chancellor of the Forge. I still didn't pay too much attention to the deck, as he was doing pretty poorly with it.
Fast-forward to about a week later, and my friend Tinac posted a screenshot of Magic Online where he Devil's Played someone for 104 on turn 4 with a board of 20-something Goblin tokens. Many people, including myself, immediately became interested and wanted his list. It started off as a mono-red deck that used Kuldotha Rebirth and Battle Hymn to generate a good amount of mana. Past in Flames and Reforge the Soul would keep the cards coming until you had enough resources to either Burn at the Stake or Devil's Play for lethal (the former being much more consistent but much less fun than the latter).
I tried the deck on Magic Online for a bit, but it had one major flaw that made it very inconsistent. If Kuldotha Rebirth was countered or you didn't draw one, it was impossible to win. You had Memnite, but that card does not win games ever on his own. Once again, I kind of gave up on the deck.
The very next day, Tinac posted a R/W version of the deck that eschewed all the bad cards like Memnite (though this deck is mostly full of bad cards...Battle Hymn, seriously?) and played more token producers, most notably Gather the Townsfolk. Gather solved almost all of the problems I was having with the deck. Unfortunately, the deck now wins its games with Burn at the Stake almost all of the time, but sometimes you can still have a little bit of fun.
Now that you have a good understanding of how the deck evolved among my friends and I, here is the list that I ended up playing in FNM last week:
Now, I do have another small problem for you guys. My notes for this event were actually just terrible. I'll just run through how the tournament went very quickly and then lay out the different matchups this deck will commonly have to face in the current metagame. I'm taking suggestions if anyone has good ideas for how I should take notes/how I should lay out these articles. Any ideas would be helpful, but for now it is what it is.
Round 1 - Opponent no-showed (how boring is that?)
Round 2 - Zach with Self-Mill - Win 2-0
Round 3 - Jesse with Wolf Run Ramp - Loss 1-2
Round 4 - Josh with Solar Flare - Win 2-1
Round 5 - Mike with Solar Flare - Win 2-1
Top 4 - Robert with Solar Flare - Loss 0-2
Quite the variety of decks, isn't it? Solar Flare is already not that fun to play against, and having to play against it three times in a row made it that much worse. You may note from the decklist that the deck is cold to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, which Solar Flare apparently plays (who knew?). Once that card resolves, it is tough to win. I tried bringing in Intangible Virtue on Magic Online, but it does not work like you want it to. That card is only there for the aggro and Delver matchups.
Now let's move on to the different matchups this deck will commonly face along with some sideboard recommendations.
They can put a lot of pressure on you quickly, but they don't really interact with you outside of Bonfire of the Damned (did I forget to mention that Wrath effects are your worst nightmare?). Don't be afraid to chump block with your tokens to give yourself some extra turns. This is one of the matchups where you can actually combo your opponent out with Devil's Play.
Postboard you want Timely Reinforcements, Crush, Gut Shot, and Intangible Virtue. Bad cards include Noxious Revival, Gitaxian Probe, Origin Spellbomb, and Infernal Plunge. You want to be quick, whether through comboing them out or just using some tokens to kill them. You still want Crush in case you have a slower hand and they have a turn 2 Sword of War and Peace though. In general, I would sideboard like this:
A lot of times when looking to take a bunch of cards out, you will end up shaving one-ofs from many slots. Personally, I think Infernal Plunge is the worst card in the deck, but it gives you that necessary jump to start going off.
This matchup is near impossible to win if your opponent is competent. You cannot beat a deck that plays 6-8 sweeper effects and has a decent clock. If you want to try and win, save your tokens producers until the turn you want to kill them. Remember that creatures can tap to Burn at the Stake the turn they come into play. Kuldotha Rebirth only costs you one mana on the turn you're going off, so it isn't the end of the world.
After board, there is not much that you really want. Just bring in Crush to try and catch their Sphere of the Suns off-guard. Something cool to keep in mind is that Intangible Virtue gives your creatures vigilance, so you can still attack the turn you want to Burn at the Stake. This means that you will need fewer creatures to kill them, so it is an option to play around sweepers. Origin Spellbomb is one of your best friends because it makes tokens end of turn. Increasing Devotion is also an army in a can after a sweeper effect.
Here is how I would sideboard:
-1 Timely Reinforcements
-1 Infernal Plunge
Game 1 is 50/50. Mana Leak can sometimes be a dagger, and they can put on a fast clock. You are basically a combo deck, and combo decks are sometimes troubled by aggro-control decks. Postboard the matchup becomes absurdly good for you. Timely Reinforcements + Intangible Virtue is an amazing package against them, and Gut Shot helps slow them down.
Sideboard as follows:
Increasing Devotion is cool with Intangible Virtue, but it just gets Mana Leaked. You take a lot of the combo elements out since they have Vapor Snag and Mana Leak to screw with it, but you can still cast a couple of Battle Hymns to Devil's Play or Burn at the Stake for lethal.
This matchup is not as bad as Wolf Run Ramp, but Ratchet Bomb is a beating. Generally, I just use Gitaxian Probe aggressively and try to kill them as fast as possible. After sideboarding, wait on making too many tokens until you can kill the Ratchet Bomb. Elesh Norn and Sun Titan will still get you, though, so be fast.
Generally I sideboard as follows, but you can bring in Intangible Virtue if you want:
In one of my games in FNM, I won by attacking with some tokens until my opponent stabilized. I made all my land drops until turn 8, where I just killed my opponent with a Devil's Play plus flashback. Increasing Devotion is abysmal. You make five tokens, then they untap and cast Sun Titan for Ratchet Bomb to kill them all.
Overall, the deck is a boatload of fun to play. It is a bit inconsistent, but when it works it works well. I rarely fizzled while comboing off. Either I was able to combo off or I wasn't in most situations. With a functional Dragon Fodder reprint in M13, this deck will get some new tools and possibly the ability to go back to mono-red. The sideboard needs some work, and I'm pretty sure I want another Plains over a Mountain. I never needed more red, but I occasionally needed some white. I also might cut the mainboard Timely Reinforcements for a third Past in Flames. It is usually the card that I need to draw to combo people out.
Tonight I will be playing U/R Miracle Delver for sure. I started testing, and it is a lot of fun (something you will hear about most of the decks in this column). Join me next week to read all about that. Also of note, I am taking guest submissions for decks to play in future weeks. If I can get the cards in time and you don't mind me making some preferential tweaks, I will play most decks that are submitted. You can send them to my email or post them in the comments section. I'm also taking suggestions for how to better take notes and how to improve the column (I might start video recording my matches!).
Thanks for reading, and good luck at FNM!