So you’ve already read about my dive into Standard in this article, right? Well if not, you should go do that first. It’s cool, we’ll wait. No really, go ahead. It’s a pretty good read. I’m playing Mike’s Big Red deck. Perhaps you’ve heard us talk about it on the show?
Pretty cool, huh? I ended up doing pretty well, especially since I hadn’t played in any Constructed tournaments in 3 or 4 years. But surely it was just a fluke. I got lucky. I had good matchups. I was just running good. People weren’t expecting the deck. Pick your excuse, I’m sure you’re all thinking them. I wasn’t though, as I knew it was a combination of the excellent deck and my ability to play it properly that got me there. Oh yeah, I’m awesome. That’s mostly because I’ve been able to watch Mike play the deck well so many times, but don’t tell him that. It’ll just go to his head.
So I decided to go back to Lucky’s again for another Standard tournament. Because he was running $8 drafts all day, we didn’t have 51 people in this one like we did for FNM, and it ended up being only 5 rounds. Before we get started, let’s refresh your memory with the decklist:
Round 1: Amber (B Infect)
Game 1: Did you know Phyrexian Crusader has protection from red? Of course you did, why wouldn’t you? Did you know that when you use Koth’s first ability to make a mountain into a dude, it makes him a red dude? That one I didn’t know. I was one mana short of being able to use Volt Charge to proliferate Koth to five loyalty and get his Limit Break emblem, allowing me to shoot the Crusader with my three mountains. Why three mountains? Because she slapped a Dark Favor on him. She showed me the Undying Evil in her hand, but I would have been able to kill it with my mountains again the next turn, so I wasn’t too worried about that. But I couldn’t do all that anyway, so…next game.
Game 2: She was stuck on one land for a few turns, and I couldn’t figure out why she did it. When I killed her second Plague Stinger, I decided to run out a Surgical Extraction on it to get a peek at her hand. She had the other two Stingers sitting there. She kept a one land hand because she would have been able to play out all four of those guys with just one more land. She managed to get a third land and drop a Crusader, but Karn showed up to do his Death Star impression and got rid of it.
Game 3: This time, Amber got hung on two mana. When she finally managed to get a third one, my Shrine of Burning Rage was there to pick off her Crusader. And it’s a good thing too! She was holding a Dark Favor and a Lashwrithe and was going to kill me quickly. Lucky for me, she wasn’t able to do much else and I took it home.
Round 2: Chris (UB Heartless Summoning)
Game 1: I had no idea what Chris was playing. I kept a two-land hand that had a Shrine and a burn spell or two expecting to draw another land. I didn’t. He played turn 4 Heartless Summoning, then turn 5 Frost Titan, then Metamorph for his Titan. Then he played another one a minute later. There was quite literally nothing I could, as my Shrine and my lands were just tapped down.
Game 2: My early Shrine got really big, but I wasn’t keeping track of what turn it was because I wasn’t hitting my land drops. He did nothing but counter a Koth. On my sixth turn I drew a second Shrine and played it, leaving me with two open mana. He took advantage of my stupidity by casting a Frost Titan and locking down my Shrine. Then he played a Metamorph and locked down my second one. Wrack with Madness out of the board only killed one of them, and he kept my big Shrine turned sideways until he killed me.
Admittedly, I have no idea what I could have done against Frosty other than burn it out with my Shrine, and I tapped out like a moron. Oh well, live and learn and all that.
Round 3: Marcus (RB Aggro)
Game 1: Marcus dropped some early zombies, then some vampires. I was a little confused until I realized he was probably playing on a budget, since he was pretty young. My opener had some sweepers, but that was about it. He would play guys, I would sweep them off the board, rinse repeat. Then we both hit massive land clumps in our deck and spent several turns playing draw-go. It was terrible. I finally drew an Inferno Titan and bolted him. He calmly played a Metamorph, then hit my Titan with Go for the Throat. I almost cried. I was holding two Slagstorms though, thank goodness. More draw-go. He played a Falkenrath Aristocrat, which made me a little sad. Then he tried to play a Metamorph so he could copy it! I freaked out and popped my Shrine to kill the original, and he ended up making a copy of my Sphere of the Suns. Eventually I stuck a Solemn Simulacrum and used Kessig Wolf Run to finish him off.
Game 2: His Mortarpod was a moderate pain in the last game, so I sided in some Ancient Grudges. And thank goodness I did, because he played one on turn 3 after I wiped away a pair of Diregraf Ghouls. I blew it up with my Grudge, and he played a second one since I had no green mana. Stupid off-color flashback costs. Eventually I managed to find some green to blow up the second one. He played a Skirsdag High Priest in the meantime, which I didn’t mind. It was when he tried to play another Aristocrat that I pooped a little and spat fire of some sort at the Priest to keep from having to face down an indestructible 5/2. Eventually, I found a Titan and managed to ride it to victory.
Round 3: Mike (Big Green?)
Game 1: I didn’t get to see much of his deck this game. He revealed a Chancellor of the Tangle on turn 1 to play a Strangeroot Geist. That was decidedly uncool. I managed to wipe out his early guys and get out a Titan and just smash his face.
Game 2: This game might have looked like a clash of the Titans, trading haymakers back and forth until someone dropped, but that’s not what happened at all. I wiped out his early dudes again only to face down a massive Primetime. Luckily, I had a Titan of my own to get in the way. Then he dropped a Chancellor, so my second Titan was able to trade with it after a brief bout of firebreathing. Then he dropped an Elvish Archdruid, then another, then another, then a Llanowar and an Emissary. Yeah, I didn’t make it after that. He did have a relatively early Rites of Flourishing, which did him a lot more good than it did me.
Game 3: He dropped an early Llanowar and Archdruid, so I hit them with a Slagstorm to stay alive. I merely delayed the inevitable though. Instead of a turn 3 Vorapede it was a turn 5 Titan. I just kept drawing land. Holy crap so much land. Land can’t kill Titans by themselves, so he got it.
Round 5: Kory (Esper Delver)
Game 1: This game was so bizarre. He played a Midnight Haunting and swung for two. I cast Whipflare. He played another Midnight Haunting and swung for two. I played another Whipflare. He cast Lingering Souls. I cast a third Whipflare. He was understandably distraught by this. He flashed back his Souls and played an Intangible Virtue. I played Karn, Death Star and knocked out his Virtue. The next turn he turned his guys sideways. I said “Okay, I’m at 12” and he nodded. Then he noticed that I hadn’t rolled down Karn’s loyalty counters. He said “Oh, I meant to attack Karn.” I told him that since he didn’t specify, it was understood that he attacked me. I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works, right? I even said my life total. But since it was a more casual event, I relented this time, pointing out that he really should be more careful in the future.
Then we both fell into draw-go. This was nuts. I couldn’t draw anything relevant. I kept using Karn’s ability until he got up to 20 loyalty. I could have restarted the game and started with two Dungeon Geists and a couple land, but I had two Shrines that had been building up steadily, and if I drew ANYTHING I would be able to win in short order, so I stuck with it. Eventually I drew Koth and was able to do some damage, but I couldn’t pop both Shrines. I used Karn to knock out his freshly played Moorland Haunt, and he responded by making a token. Now comes the stupidity on my part. I went ahead and popped the biggest shrine at his head at the end of my turn to take him to 2. He drew with gusto. It was a Ponder, which he then cast. He looked at the top three cards with gusto, and looked defeated when he saw them. He shuffled up, I cut the deck. He took a breath, drew…and conceded. I asked what that was all about, and he revealed his last hope. Had he drawn a Runechanter’s Pike, I would have been all kinds of dead. He had plenty of sorceries in the bin and a creature that could have attacked. My luck held out (even though it probably shouldn’t have), and I won.
Game 2: This doesn’t even count. Apparently he’s missing some dual lands in the deck, because he drew two plains and a Haunt, but no blue mana. Since he was obviously off to a slow and miserable start, I played a Solemn and Koth and started beating for 6 a turn. I made every land drop and played up the fact that I had nothing but land, even though I was holding a Slagstorm, a Whipflare, a Karn, and a Galvanic Blast. When I finally finished him off, he showed me his hand. He had two Vapor Snags, a Ponder, Drogskol Captain, and Dungeon Geists. His next draw was a Flashfreeze. I really hate losing to opponent’s mana screw, but not enough to offer to play another one, you know?
So there you have it again! Over two days I went 8-3 with Mike’s Big Red deck! For some reason, today kept throwing me curveballs. I had to mulligan because of hands that had only one colorless land at least 5 times. I had the worst mana screw ever against my round 2 opponent. I had the worst mana flood ever against my round 3 opponent. I laughed, I cried, I crapped my pants, I ate a sammich.
I can’t say this enough though: I really love the deck. I find it entirely too bad that the Shrine is going away when Scars rotates out, because it gives the deck a sense of inevitability that both bolsters my resolve and kicks my opponents’ morale right in the crotch. Karn does the same thing in a completely different way. With Karn, you poop yourself immediately. With the Shrine, you know that if you don’t do something soon, you’re going to poop yourself, sorta like the drive home from the buffalo wings joint across town.
When Mike is playing, I love to crack jokes about how the deck plays itself. You know how it works: board sweeper, board sweeper, burn spell, Solemn, Shrine for the win. But it’s really not that simple. It plays like any other control deck. There are serious decisions to be made almost every turn. It requires at least a little bit of finesse, and I’m really glad I’ve been able to watch Mike play it enough times to have a little of that finesse would rub off on me.
With that said, rest assured that I haven’t caught the Standard bug. You’re not gonna see me sitting in the corner with Chris Lansdell brewing up some deck for the next SCG Open. And I’m certainly not gonna start shelling out for chase rares. But with all that said, if Mike ever wants to let a brother bum a deck again, I’ll gladly take another crack at it. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed playing it!