Monday, December 6, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 8 - "R/B Furnace Celebration"

Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch; a blog about playing "competitive Magic with a casual attitude".  As regular readers will already know for the past week or so this blog has been looking at deck archetypes in Scars of Mirrodin Booster draft with a multi-part series called "Gotta Catch Em All".  Today we're going to continue that series by looking at another "combo" type deck in the format; R/B Furnace Celebration.  While I'm aware that a number of "Pro" Magic players have written about this archetype, after playing the deck a few times in draft I disagree with a number of the theories I've read about it.  In fact the deck's very title may well be a misnomer; I've played and played against several excellent R/B Celebration decks that never managed to draft a single copy of Furnace Celebration!  Without further delay then lets jump right into the deep water and take a look at another one of the coolest "combo" type decks in SoM Limited:

Description:  At it's core R/B Furnace Celebration is basically an aggro deck built around some of the best removal cards in the format.  In the early game this deck seeks to rush out a bunch of cheap creatures and clear out enemy blockers with cheap spells/damage effects.  Where it differs from say non-Metalcraft R/W Aggro however is that it has a "back door" or late game strategy built around sacrificing it's own permanents for positive effects.  Typically this will involve a copy of Furnace Celebration or two but I've also seen versions built around cards like Culling Dias, Perilous Myr, Barrage Ogre, Necrotic Ooze, Ferravore and even Myr Reservoir.  Aggro rush decks with a game winning combo have long been a staple deck-type for creative drafters the world over and in my humble opinion R/B Furnace Celebration is simply the next contender in the line.

Key Cards:  The general key to drafting this deck archetype is to properly identify which cards you're actually competing for and which cards nobody but you will want.  Generally sacrificing your own permanents isn't something people want to do; players will usually quickly pass these cards without a further glance.  While in many cases these "fringe" cards will be the *best* choice for your strategy, taking them early will make it hard for you to build the *best* deck possible.  As usual the best strategy is probably to focus on removal and game finishers early and then draft your "combo" cards later in the pack.  This base strategy unfortunately makes this a difficult deck to share with others; if you're winning with B/R Celebration it probably means nobody else in your draft was forcing the deck. 

Virtually any discussion about the top commons in this archetype pretty much has to start with the removal; Grasp of Darkness, Galvanic Blast, Shatter and Turn to Slag are all worthwhile early picks in virtually any R/B deck.  I would also be tempted to value Perilous Myr quite highly here; there's probably no better artifact in the entire format to sacrifice on purpose for this deck.  Tumble Magnet is also a pretty strong pick in this archetype; helping you clear out early blockers until it runs out of counters and then turning on a sacrifice trigger in the mid-late game.  Even Fumespitter and Instill Infection can be very good in this deck; although it's probably unwise to take either card before about pick 5 unless you suspect you're at a table with more than 1 other Black drafter.  Both on-color mana Myr are somewhat invaluable here; not only does this deck have a lot of action at 4 or 5 mana but they also make ideal pain free sacrifice targets in the late game.  While both on-color Replicas are pretty strong in this build I'd take the Vulshok over the Moriok by several picks simply because it's in higher demand in my experience.  Finally I also like to draft a few high utility artifacts like Sylvok Lifestaff and Wall of Tanglecord; assuming I get enough of them the Bleak Coven Vampires are actually pretty solid in this build as well.

While it would be tempting to assume that the most valuable uncommon in a deck called R/B Furnace Celebration would be the one named "Furnace Celebration" this is only partially correct.  The simple truth is that while you might be able to pick a Furnace Celebration between picks 5-9 your *only* chance to draft powerful on-color removal spells like Arc Trail, Skinrender or Oxidda Scrapmelter will be with your first couple of picks in a given pack.  Assuming you have enough artifacts to consistently trigger him (11+) Embersmith is also incredibly powerful and will have to be chosen early.  Once these 4 cards are gone however I would consider it completely reasonable to grab a Furnace Celebration if I felt I could support the archetype.  Other powerful options include "control" based artifacts like Rust Tick, Contagion Clasp, Necropede and Trigon of Corruption.  Barrage Ogre, Culling Dias and Flesh Allergy all deserve special mention as well; by turning the drawback of sacrificing something into an outlet for additional damage these cards consistently outperform their pick ranking in this build.  Both Painsmith and Necrogen Scudder can work well in this archetype; it's hard to find an aggro deck that wouldn't benefit from extra damage or a 3/3 flyer for 3 mana.  Depending on how "aggro" your early game is it's probably worth it to grab power boosting artifacts like Darksteel Axe, Trigon of Rage and Barbed Battlegear.  Finally generically good artifact creatures like Golem Artisan, Palladium Myr and Darsteel Sentinel are as useful here as they are in the rest of the format; very.

As far as rares go this deck isn't particularly picky; most of the good Red, Black or artifact rares in this set work just as well here as they do in any other R/B deck.  Carnafex Demon, Strata Scythe, Contagion Engine, Kuldotha Phoenix, Mimic Vat, Geth, Molten-Tail Masticore, Myr Battlsphere, Livewire Lash, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Chimeric Mass, Nim Deathmantle, Precursor Golem, Koth, Steel Hellkite, Sword of Body and Mind Skithiryx, Spikeshot Elder and Wurmcoil Engine are all pretty much auto includes in this archetype for example.  Even high risk/reward rares like Argentum Armor, Necrotic Ooze and Cerebral Erruption can work well in this build provided you have the mana/early defenses to be able to play them.  Probably the only "interesting" rare in the format that works exceptionally well here is Kuldotha Forgemaster; one part 5 toughness wall, one part Tinker effect and one part giant sacrifice outlet this card can be absolutely devastating in just the right situation.  As for rares I would avoid the usual suspects are out in force; Myr Propagator, Lux Cannon, Painful Quandry, Hand of the Praetors, Tunnel Ignus, Grindclock, Molten Psyche, Memoricide, Mindslaver, Semblance Anvil, Platinum Emperion, Venser's Journal and Tower of Calamities really have no place in this archetype.

Over-rated Options:  As mentioned in previous articles; it's kind of hard to have a lot of over-rated cards in an archetype that's all about playing and winning with the table scraps nobody else in a draft wanted.  This doesn't mean straight up awful cards like Ogre Geargrabber or Scoria Elemental are suddenly playable but part of this deck's charm is that it gets such amazing millage out of so many "bad" cards.  On thing I do try to avoid is playing with cards that only provide a sacrifice outlet while offering little tangible bonus for "whacking" my own permanents.  While I suppose in theory giving a Dross Hopper flying for the turn has *some* value it's really not worth main-decking a card as bad as Dross Hopper to accomplish.  Oxidda Daredevils is even worse; giving a itself haste only has value the turn you cast it and the little bugger doesn't even have an evasion ability!  While it's possible that you have *have* to build a deck with one of these two cards there's really no reason you'd specifically want to, unless you are desperate for ways to kill your own Perilous Myr(s) I'd avoid both of them.  Additionally it will likely be a cold day in "H-e-double hockey stick" before I actually put Corrupted Harvester in one of my decks regardless of his ability to sacrifice my own creatures.  Finally unless you have a significant number of cards that work with "counters" I'd probably avoid Throne of Geth; again the idea is to sacrifice your permanents for a positive effect and gain extra damage/benefits from doing so with combo cards.  Sacrificing just to sacrifice is simply poor play unless we have no other options.

How Does it Win?:  This deck tries to obtain the best of both worlds by combining cheap aggressive creatures with a mid-late game direct damage combo strategy.  Typically this means attacking early and often with creatures your opponent doesn't want to block/trade for while using spot removal to clear out problem defenders.  The basic idea is to force the opponent's life total to a low enough point that even when he finally stabilizes the board you can switch to a direct damage/combo strategy to finish him off.   

Back-Half All Stars:  Unless someone else is actively forcing this archetype in the same draft as you are the simple truth is that half of the cards we've already listed can qualify as "back-half all stars".  I have absolutely seen 9th pick Furnace Celebrations for example and on more than one occasion I've snatched up a Barrage Ogre with my 12th pick in later packs.  In terms of cards we haven't already talked about I'm particularly fond of Ferrovore in this archetype because it provides a cheap, repeatable sacrifice outlet while potentially doing *gobs* of extra damage.  Despite this it's hardly uncommon to find Ferrovores still in the pack between picks 10-13, long after far worse cards have been chosen.  I've also found that out of the 5 available Spellbombs both Panic and Nihil are the most likely to table and are decent options here.  Panic Spellbomb in particular can be amazing with the previously mentioned Ferrovore.  For somewhat obvious reasons one of my favorite artifacts to sacrifice in this deck is Clone Shell; a card you can grab between picks 7-10 from time to time.  Finally when it comes to rock bottom values Strider Harness, Kuldotha Rebirth and Blistergrub are all at least playable in this archetype and they can typically be had at the very end of most packs in my experience.

Overall Rating:  Probably the most interesting thing about this deck is the way it manages to combine two basic concepts (cheap aggro rush and mid-late game combo) into a greater whole.  By being both faster than other combo decks and more resilient than other weenie aggro rush decks it manages to consistently outperform either strategy.  While it's true that I've only drafted this deck 3-4 times and played against it another 3 I feel pretty comfortable calling it a solid 6 out of 10.  On a more important note in my opinion it's also riotously fun to play if all the pieces come together during the drafting process.

Well gang there you have it; our 8th primer on SoM deck archetypes is in the bag.  R/B Furnace Celebration may not be the most common deck in the format but it's certainly viable and it may well be the most fun.  Hopefully reading these primers is helping you learn more about building draft decks in triple Scars booster drafts, I know writing them has certainly helped *me* do so.  Being that tomorrow is Monday and we're going to be a little short-staffed at work it may be a couple days before I publish another archetype; don't worry I've still got at least 4 more decks I want to write about!  Until next time remember to keep it weird and always leave 2 extra mana open to trigger your Furnace Celebration.

1 comment:

  1. So I did some digging and found the following deck from an 8 man on Thursday Dec 2nd. I went 3-0 (6-0) but I think the best deck in the tournament got unlucky and lost before he met me in the finals. Still a win is a win. No Furnace Celebration but plenty of Myr to Sacrifice/Get "Perrished":

    1x Spikeshot Elder Pick 1 Pack 1
    1x Embersmith
    2x Leaden Myr
    3x Perilous Myr
    2x Moriok Replica
    1x Palladium Myr
    1x Snapsail Glider
    1x Oxidda Scrapmelter Pick 1 Pack 2
    1x Necrotic Ooze
    1x Skinrender Pick 1 Pack 3
    1x Barrage Ogre
    1x Bleak Coven Vampires

    1x Accorder's Shield
    2x Galvanic Blast
    1x Contagion Clasp
    1x Culling Dias
    1x Myr Reservoir
    1x Turn to Slag
    1x Argentum Armor

    1x Blackcleave Cliffs
    8x Mountain
    7x Swamp

    I ended up having to Spikeshot Elder my own Perilous Myr a couple of times, and sacrificing a Necrotic Ooze to draw 2 cards isn't exactly game breaking but all it all it was pretty strong. Unfortunately not once in 3 rounds did I get the Perilous Myr/Culling Dias/Myr Reservoir combo going. I got the Dias or the Reservoir and a couple of Myr each game but never the whole train together. Ah well..