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Red Deck (didn’t) Win (this time)

July 26, 2010

During the weekend I made the trip to Oslo, Norway to make a last effort into trying to get myself qualified for Amsterdam together with some friends from Västerås. After waking up at 4 o’-clock in the morning on Saturday we took the 4 and ½ hour drive from Västerås to Oslo getting there in with tons of time to spare. So we took a little stroll around the City centre. Oslo is a quite beautiful city although is fairly small and isn’t really setup as most cities. Cities like London or Stockholm have a “dense” city centre and then the rest of the city is build around the centre. Oslo on the other hand is more spread out around the bay which the city is built around.

Anyhow, back to Magic. I opted to play RDW for the PTQ which was a metagame read. With M11 released and with results from PTQ around the world in the books I thought that Mana Ramp is different forms (Turbo Land, RG Valakut, Destructive Force decks) was going to be popular along with different forms of Fauna Shaman decks along with RDW. The matchup versus the Mana Ramp decks range from good to hard to loose depending on what version and how much they devote sideboard space for RDW. I think the deck is solid versus against the various forms of Fauna Shaman decks and I think I could get an advantage in the mirror with some clever play and proper sideboarding.

At the site I was asked by some of the Swedish players why I didn’t play Jund like I did at Nationals. Well the thing which bugs me the most with Jund right now is how awkward Blightning is right now. Blightning is still fairly good in the maindeck but just because of the threat of Obstinate Baloth you can’t have Blightning in your deck after sideboarding versus any green deck. Since there is a lot of green decks in the format right now, you probably would just be better off not playing Blightning in the first place and play more creatures. But I personal experience with the more creature heavy Jund list isn’t the best so that why I avoided playing the ghost of christmas past this weekend.

The 75 I registered for the event was these:

Blazing Saddles
// Lands
    4 Smoldering Spires
    4 Teetering Peaks
    4 Arid Mesa
    2 Scalding Tarn
    10 Mountain

// Creatures
    4 Goblin Guide
    4 Hellspark Elemental
    4 Ball Lightning
    4 Hell’s Thunder
    2 Kargan Dragonlord

// Spells
    4 Lightning Bolt
    4 Burst Lightning
    4 Searing Blaze
    3 Staggershock
    3 Earthquake

// Sideboard
SB: 4 Dragon’s Claw
SB: 3 Manabarbs
SB: 3 Obsidian Fireheart
SB: 3 Combust
SB: 2 Quenchable Fire

The list turned out to be almost a carbon copy of the Top8 list from French Nationals except for the lands. The thing that stands out the most I guess are the Smoldering Spires. I didn’t think the CIP tapped part was too big of a hassle and I wanted more out of every card in the deck. You see, this deck doesn’t handle flooded draws very well. Except against the mirror (which is very strange, I will come to that) I haven’t won a game where I drawn more than 6 lands. It turns out that drawing 7 lands means direct loss, funny enough. Playing 4 Smoldering Spires was my was of trying to smooth over the recently stated fact. God, I wish there was something like Keldon Megalith in Standard…

As the headline suggest the tournament didn’t go very well for me. First round I played against Jund. I won the first game with ease since my draw feature a lot of burn spells which he couldn’t “kill” with the removal heavy draw he had. Second game I went down to 5 but the game was fairly close anyways. He had a double Blightning draw but fortunley for me I only had a single card to pitch both times anyways. I got him down to 4 but he then resolved an Obstinate Baloth which put him up to 8 and he got me before I could get him. Next game wasn’t pretty, he had a turn 3 Sprouting Thrinax and followed up that with 2 consecutive Obstinate Baloths which put him in a firm driver position.  My fairly weak draw didn’t stand a chance.

Next round I was up versus UW (arguably the most difficult matchup for RDW if they are proper setuped). Game 1 I had double Goblin Guide on the play which got him handily. The following game I kept a little greedy draw, it had double Obsidian Fireheart and a Manabarbs but only 2 lands. I kept because of the raw power of that hand I did miss a landdrop too much so when I started to unload the goodies my opponent was too far ahead. And the last game was a one-way ticked to frown-town for me. After drawing 10 lands I got myself Iona-locked and just like that I was out of the tournament.

Even thought things didn’t turn out so well for me I still think RDW is a deck you need at least look out for. The local metagame didn’t really turn out to be like I thought it would as Jund and UW was a wee bit more popular than I anticipated. Off course when I stayed away from Jund this weekend, a Jund-list had to win it all. So much for dissmissing Jund, heh… Anyhow, with Mana Ramp being the shiny new thing in Standard as it looks like, RDW certainly has its place in the metagame. I know the PTQ season is almost over and there is just a couple of Nationals events left before Scars of Mirrodin will enter the scene in September, but I thought I share some intel about this archetype.

First off with the actual list, I think I would cut at least 2 Smoldering Spires from the list I played at the PTQ. They were in the end not really as good as I initially thought. It might be just right to just cut all of them, not sure of that yet. The sideboard is little more of an enigma. I like the Obsidian Firehearts but I’m not sure of how many you want. Manabarbs is a must though. That card is just insane against certain matchups. Don’t leave home with out this card in the board! Dragon’s Claw is off course really good if plan to run into the mirror but doesn’t do anything otherwise.

In gameplay overall the two card that are hardest to play correctly are Ball Lightning and Searing Blaze. Both cards are kind of situational and requires planning  to make sure they do the most harm when you decide to play them. With Searing Blaze I have found that it’s kind of dangerous of trying sandbagging them too long. Most of the time it’s just best to fire of them asap. With Ball Lightning you need to pick your spots carefully. Often you can’t think of mana curves and stuff when it comes to choosing your window to play Ball Lightning. Often you need to use the windows that your opponent gives you. Then things I see people do with Earthquake is that they time to time try to sandbag them as long as possible. Often it’s better to just fire it off on 1 early so you can kill that Lotus Cobra on turn 2. It can be a bit tricky from time to time, so you need to evaluate your hand during the early turns and imagine how the next few turns are going to play out in order you use your Earthquakes, Searing Blazes and Staggershock in the most efficient way.

Finally I want to talk about the matchup that is probably the hardest one to play correctly, the mirror. Game 1 is relatively straight forward, kill your opponent before they do, don’t get hit by Ball Lightning if you can avoid it, Hell’s Thunder is amazing etc. After boards is when you need to really pay attention. After sideboarding there a couple of version the matchup plays out. Scenario 1 where none has Dragon’s Claw is the simplest, as it’s pretty much like game 1 plays out. Then Scenario 2 where you have Dragon’s Claw and they don’t, which is the scenario you want to be in. In this situation it’s pretty hard to lose unless you mess up, like on the level where you refuse to play your spells. If you think your opponent have Dragon’s Claw in his deck, try to finish the game off asap before they can get their Dragon’s Claw active.  Scenario 3 is when the tables are turned, which is an uphill battle. It’s possible to win with Obsidian Fireheart in this position but other from that you just want to try to stall the game as long as possible in order to draw your own Dragon’s Claw.

 And at last we have scenario 4 where both players have Dragon’s Claw. Once again, grinding them out with Obisdian Fireheart is an option but most often the games often comes down to decking, how absurd that may sound. Therefore you need to make some odd plays, like don’t crack your fetchlands and kill Goblin Guides before they get to attack since you don’t want to draw additional cards. If you know that your opponent have Dragon’s Claw you need even to consider when you are on the draw to take a mulligan even if your 7 is perfectly fine so you don’t deck yourself before your opponent does.

Whew, that was a mouthful. Hope it was educational and don’t be afraid to sling some burn spell when the time is right. Until next time…

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