Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Standard Deviations #9.5 - Finding Jamie Wakfield Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  For those of you just joining us last article we looked at a brand new Standard deck I had just started testing; Scarlet Force (scroll down for list).  In that article I promised to come back to review the deck once I'd played enough games to know what I'm talking about.  Well folks, since publishing that list I have done almost nothing but eat, sleep and playtest Scarlet Force in Standard.  To be completely honestly I've even spent a couple of hours watching someone ELSE test Scarlet Force online in MTGO practice rooms; if that isn't proof that I'm a deplorable Magic junkie I'm not sure what is!  Now that I've tested the deck a little more (51 games) lets go back and fill in the blanks from our previous article.  First let's take a look at the list as it stands right now, I've made some minor changes and added a sideboard:

"Scarlet Force" - G/R Stampede Aggro

Creatures - 25

4x Birds of Paradise
4x Joraga Treespeaker
4x Lotus Cobra
3x Beastbreaker of Bala Ged
4x Leatherback Baloth
3x Wolfbriar Elemental
3x Inferno Titan

Spells - 11

4x Lightning Bolt
2x Tumble Magnet
2x Garruk Wildspeaker
3x Overwhelming Stampede

Lands - 24

6x Forest
4x Verdant Catacombs
2x Misty Rainforest
4x Copperline Gorge
4x Raging Ravine
4x Rootbound Crag


4x Arc Trail
3x Acidic Slime
1x Tumble Magnet
1x Garruk Wildspeaker
4x River Boa
2x Wurmcoil Engine

Changes:  The only change I've made so far is to switch out 4x Llanowar Elves for 4x Birds of Paradise which may well have have been an obvious design oversight.  Originally when I chose to run the Elves I wanted to poke control opponents for extra damage with my mana creatures when I was cold drawing off the top of my deck.  Additionally I felt that 12 dual lands and 4 Lotus Cobras were more than enough sources of Red to fuel the 11 cards we'd need R for even in the face of 4x Tectonic Edge.  Unfortunately I hadn't properly accounted for the changes in my local metagame that World's would bring on; suddenly I found myself playing against decks running 4 Tec Edges *and* 4 Spreading Seas main deck.  While they couldn't cut me completely out of Red mana I lost a couple of games with an Inferno Titan in hand and decided it was time to get more serious about my mana base.  So far I haven't missed the 1-3 damage your average Elf deals in the control match-up and I'm definitely winning more games against Spreading Seas/Tec Edge decks.  I did test the deck with 3x Tumble Magnets but found that they were clogging my hand a little bit; something that Beastbreaker of Bala Ged will basically never do.  I also found the Beastbreaker to be so strong against Blue based control decks that I didn't want to run less than 3; even if it meant sometimes not having the Tumble Magnet until mid-game. 

What the Sideboard does:  In my opinion building effective sideboards is one of the hardest parts of creating a new deck.  It's easy enough to theorize about what a given deck will need "extra help" against in tournament situations but until you flop cards on the table for a significant number of games it's hard to know all the right answers.  I also tend to think of building Sideboards as a fluid/ongoing exercise; I change the sideboards to my Standard decks about 3-4 times as often as I change the cards in the main deck.  Environments change and it's important for your deck and particularly it's SB to change with them.  I mention this because even though I feel this is the best 15 card SB for this deck at the moment previous experience tells me that I *will* eventually change the list up quite a bit.
  • 4x Arc Trail are included to both help you blow out weenie aggro decks and close up a "soft spot" against other ramp decks that run Cobras/Elves or Myr.  While hardly a losing match-up I found that sometimes my opponent would draw enough removal to burn out all my mana creatures and then either rush me with weenies or play his own mana accelerants (Iron Myr, Chalice, Koth).  Typically Tumble Magnet would be too clunky/expensive for this match-up as well and ultimately vulnerable to random Shatter-effects that Red decks sometimes run.  (-1x Joraga Treespeaker, -1x Beastbreaker, -2x Tumble Magnet vs Aggro/Creature Ramp)   
  • 4x River Boa allows you to harass Jace based control decks in the early game while building up your mana base to power through Mana Leak/Spell Pierce.  Typically you'll want to force out 2-3 "must answer" threats in the early game (Beastbreaker/Leatherback) and force your opponent to either tap out to answer them (letting you play an Inferno Titan/Wolfbriar) or eat piles of damage while you play lands and mess around with Garruk/Raging Ravines.  (-3x Overwhelming Stampede -1x Lightning Bolt)
  • 3x Acidic Slime are included as a catch all answer against Lands, Artifacts or Enchantments that might otherwise create problems for this deck.  Good examples include Valakut the Molten Pinnacle, Eldrazi Temple, Eye of Ugin, Spreading Seas, Eldrazi Monument, enemy Tumble Magnets/Brittle Effigys or Volition Reins.  In fact this card is so versatile I've considered dropping a River Boa to move up to 4 copies; especially as more and more artifact based strategies from Scars of Mirrodin filter into the Standard environment.  Obviously the cards you yank to make room for Slimes change depending on the match-up/why you boarded them in in the first place.  (-1x Bird, -1x Beastbreaker, -1x Bolt vs Ramp or Eldrazi Monument for example) 
  • 2x Wurmcoil Engine make the sideboard because it's effective in two key situations; when racing for life against other aggro decks and when trying to out-grind a deck with lots of point and click removal or board swipe effects like Day of Judgement.  (-2x Tumble Magnet vs Aggro, -2x Stampede vs Control)
  • 1x Garruk Wildspeaker borders on utterly dominant in the match-up against most Control decks; in fact during my recent testing against U/B Control I found that sticking a Garruk was the SINGLE most important factor in determining if I won or lost a given game.  While you never want to have 2 copies of this card in your hand against other Aggro builds it's really not a big deal against a control deck; having one in play will win you the game and having 3 in your deck makes it easier to play them through enemy counterspells.  (-1x Overwhelming Stampede unless you removed them for River Boas already in which case -1x Bolt.)
  • 1x Tumble Magnet is probably the most questionable card in the sideboard.  Mostly I run this card to deal with enemy Titans; it's cheaper than Brittle Effigy and less card intensive than something like Mark of Mutiny/Fling.  Regardless you need *some* answer for cards you can't burn out (Titans) and for now this is mine; don't be shocked if all 3 of these become Effigys at some point.  (-1x Beastbreaker of Bala Ged, Treespeaker, Bird or Bolt depending on which is least effective against the given Titan package you are metaing)

Other cards I've considered for the SB include Brittle Effigy, Eldrazi Mounment and Manic Vandal; for the moment however I can't find the room and consider the above 15 cards more "relevant".  As previously mentioned further testing could and in fact probably will change the contents of this SB.
Test Results:  Below is a brief summary of my notes on the 51 games I've tested Scarlet Force in so far.  For brevity's sake I've grouped the decks together by type and noted when I was facing different versions/pilots.  Unfortunately I wasn't taking notes *while* I was playing these matches so I only have a basic "results" table to share with you at this time:

9W-6L vs U/B Control - 3 Different decks/players. Match-up has improved significantly since I replaced the Elves with Birds but it's still far and away our most difficult opponent. 

2W-1L vs U/G Stampede w/Counters - Weird deck built around Nest Invader/Kozilek's Predator, a billion mana creatures, Overwhelming Stamped/Monument, Shared Discovery and 8 Counters (Leak + Unified Will).  Wins were pretty standard, the loss however was primarily caused by hard countermagic (Unified Will) and me giving my opponent *way* too long to draw a Stampede.  2CC "hard" counters seem to be an issue.

5W-0L vs Mono G Elves - 2 decks/3 different players.  2 Games were against straight "Elves", 3 were against "Elf Vine/Fauna Shaman" variants.  Match-up seems ridiculously easy in testing because Mono G has almost no legitimate answer to turn 3-4 Inferno Titan.  Bolt cleans up Ezuri very easily which in turn makes the Titan even stronger.  Match becomes almost a joke once you bring in 4x Arc Trail.

3W-1L vs Mono R "Koth" - 2 different decks/players.  The game I lost my opponent burned out all my creatures, rammed down a turn 3 Koth and dropped an Inferno Titan on turn 5 after winning the roll.

4W-1L vs U/W "Kaw-Go" Control - 2 different decks/players.  My second opponent was playing an exact net-decked copy of the Kibler world championships deck and seemed quite surprised when 3-0'd him.  Any deck based around Spell Pierce and Mana Leak is going to struggle against Scarlet Force in my opinion; the only game I lost was post SB and my opponent simply rammed 5 "hard" counterspells down my throat on a somewhat soft draw.  It should be noted that much like U/B Control you're average U/W Jace deck has significant problems against Garruk; the difference being that the W player can't even Duress the little jerkstore out of your hand! 

4W-0L vs B/R Vampires - 2 different decks/players.  1 match against standard "Aggro" Vamps (Pulse Tracker, Arc Trail, Dark Tutelage) and 1 match vs my own "combo" version (Bloodthrone Vampire, Blade of the Bloodchief, Mark of Mutiny).  The games were much closer vs the combo version but the combination of of Bolt/Inferno Titan and never-ending waves of Wolfbriar/Garruk Tokens was too much for either deck to handle credibly.

2W-0L vs U/W Proliferate -  Two different weird decks piloted by two separate players.  The first deck seemed to be about Levelers and Grand Architect.  Honestly I managed to ram down a turn 3 Inferno Titan and my opponent had to go immediately afterward so I didn't see that much of his deck.  The second game was a complete blowout against a U/W Allies Proliferate deck I've been working on; turn 3 Wolfbriar with 3 kickers into turn 4 Stampede on the play was just too fast for the Allies deck to handle.  Predictably my opponent asked to switch decks before we played the next match.

1W-0L vs G/r Valakut Ramp - Probably due to the sudden influx of Valakut meta in the format brought on by worlds I've actually been having trouble getting games against this deck-type.  The one game I have managed to scrounge up was with a less experienced player running my own G/r Valakut Ramp against me.  Unfortunately for him I won the draw and managed to Stampede him for 40 on turn 5 while I was at 9 life; my opponent had played a Primeval on turn 4 but I'd tapped it out with the Tumble Magnet to keep him off multiple Valakuts.  After the game he showed me the 2nd Prime Titan so I probably would have lost if it had gone another turn.       

2W-0L vs U/R Destructive Force - This was another match against a U deck who's primary counter package was Mana Leak/Spell Pierce; cards that frankly just aren't very effective against Scarlet Force.  I won the first game by leveling up a couple of Beastbreakers and eventually going Ultimate with Garruk.  I won the 2nd game by playing a turn 3 Wolfbriar with 3 kickers and dropping the Inferno Titan on turn 4.  My opponent played 1 Frost Titan and 0 Destructive Forces in both games total despite drawing them in his opening hand each time.  In my honest opinion this was not a particularly close match-up.

3W-0L vs Mono Black Control - All 3 of these games were against the same player running a Mimic Vat, Skin Render, Grave Titan build.  The 1st and 3rd game were over incredibly quickly as I played a couple of large monsters and then dropped a Stampede before he could get his Vat going.  The 2nd game I actually should have lost but my opponent chose to put a Skin Render under his Mimic Vat instead of my Inferno Titan that was dying at the same time.  I drew cold off the top of my deck the next turn and ultimately took 3 entire turns to kill my opponent from there.  I was at 8 life; 3 activations of the Mimic Vat later and I would have been dead.

2W-1L vs Mono R Kuldotha Goblins - The game I lost went something like: Opponent wins the roll and goes Turn 1 0CC Artifact, Rebirth for 3 Gobling Tokens, Turn 2 Goblin Bushwacker with kicker, Turn 3 Goblin Chieftain, Turn 4 some burn spells to the face.  I think I managed to play a couple of Tap lands, a Lotus Cobra and a Lightning Bolt but really there was no stopping that draw.   Both games I won featured Wolfbriar on turn 3 for 5 and 6 respectively leading into Inferno Titan on 4.  I also drew some Leatherbacks which are basically impossible for Goblins to actually kill.
1W-0L vs R/W Boros Aggro - My opponent conceded this game on turn 4 when I played my 2nd Leatherback Baloth and already had a level 1 Beastbreaker and a "live" Garruk in play.  Simply put 2x Journey to Nowhere wasn't going to be enough answers.  Match-up probably deserves more testing since many Boros decks run 4 main deck Arc Trails and can go fast enough to outrun our Titan on their best draws.  Still pretty sure it's advantage G/R Stampede in the long-run however.

2W-0L vs Mono Green Eldrazi - Opponent was maindecking 3x All is Dust but in both games I managed to stick an Inferno Titan too fast for it to matter (turn 4, turn 3).  Also played Wolfbriar with 5 kickers in the 1st game on turn 5 causing opponent to rage-quit.  Might be a tough match vs All is Dust on a slow draw but otherwise laughably easy.

Summary: So far this thing cuts through most decks I've testing it against like a hot knife through butter.  The number of times your opponent is scooping on turns 3, 4 and 5 is simply astronomical which leads me to believe that this is obviously a *very* strong deck going forward.  At this point our major issues revolve around "hard" counter-magic, opponents who both ramp and kill all of our "mana" creatures and decks that run both Tec Edge and Spreading Seas. U/B Control in particular can be a very difficult match-up; I found myself losing pretty badly until I learned how to play around what the U/B player is doing.  The deck also clearly needs more testing against Valakut; I'll try to make someone play me 7-10 games later on this week.

Well folks there you have it; a quick update on the evolution of my favorite new deck in Standard.  I'm not 100% sure Scarlet Force is a tier 1 build in Standard yet but at this point I'm willing to say I'm 95% sure and I certainly don't throw numbers like that around lightly.  Until next time folks remember that a lone Beastbreaker *can* go the distance and to always keep it weird!

1 comment:

  1. Managed to play another 5 games tonight:

    2-1 vs G/W Eldrazi Ramp - Was REALLY surprised to win this match. Games are close but I always feel like I'm behind the 8 ball against this deck and running out of time. Managed to win through a double Day of Judgement in game 3. As much luck as "good" I think.

    2-0 vs Shards era Esper - Played casual opponent for fun. Game 1 was 30 damage from a Wolfbriar/4 Tokens and a Bird on turn 5 w/ Garruk. Game 2 was turn 1 Bird, Turn 2 Lotus Cobra X2, Turn 3 Inferno Titan, turn 4 Inferno Titan. Too much gas to be fair.