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Big Red Game Day

Game Day for Dark Ascension was February 25th, and I’d been itching to play in a Standard event for a while.  When it turned out I needed to go by my folks’ house in Hillsborough that weekend to pick up a package that was accidentally shipped there, I decided I would go to the event at The Toy Factory, a shop I used to frequent in high school and during the summers in college.  I’d been thinking about playing some sort of Red deck for weeks, owing to the good cards available and my general comfort with the buildable archetypes, but I didn’t start putting together a list until Friday afternoon, the day before the event.  The initial build was an Aggro deck with a heavy Goblin component, also running Hellrider and Hero of Oxid Ridge.  It looked good on paper, but it definitely didn’t turn out that way in practice.  What I eventually ended up with was completely different.

I didn’t have everything I needed for the deck, but thankfully Chewie had the rest, and he was willing to let me borrow it.  That night, I went to visit him to do some borrowing and last minute brainstorming, and to play a few friendly games with the deck just to see how it felt.  It felt awful.  Game after game, it was being mercilessly crushed by the casual decks Chewie was picking out of his boxes, without even trying to pick any that would be a tough fight.  It was well after midnight when we tore my deck down and started over, and eventually we realized my existing sideboard was essentially a method of transforming the maindeck into an anti-token/anti-swarm Big Red deck.  It was 2 in the morning before I was finally in the bed, but the extra effort was well worth it.  My first game with the new and revamped deck against another person was Round 1 of Game Day, and I ended up 2nd place among the 14 players in the event.


Scars-Innistrad-M12 Big Red
Land (24)
14x Mountain
4x Ghost Quarter
4x Rootbound Crag
2x Kessig Wolf Run

Creatures (7)
4x Solemn Simulacrum
3x Inferno Titan

Other (29)
4x Sphere of the Suns
4x Koth of the Hammer
4x Slagstorm
4x Whipflare
4x Shrine of Burning Rage
4x Incinerate
4x Galvanic Blast
1x Devil’s Play

Sideboard (15)
4x Manabarbs
4x Ancient Grudge
4x Surgical Extraction
3x Vulshok Refugee

Some notes on the sideboard:  Manabarbs is there against Control decks, and I also thought it would be good against Wolf Run Ramp (spoiler alert:  haha, no).  Ancient Grudge is good for cracking swords, and becomes absolutely necessary if I’m up against Tempered Steel and my Whipflares go blank.  Surgical Extraction is for fighting against Reanimator and Control strategies (responding to Snapcaster Mage would be the Magical Christmasland play).  Vulshok Refugee is in case anyone gets the same or similar idea I had to start with.


The Main Event
Round 1:  2-0 vs. W/U Spirits.  In Game 1, I get to pull off the awesome pro-style play of double Whipflare all the way across the sky to take out a pair of Drogskol CaptainsKoth of the Hammer does a fine job of softening the opponent up as I keep killing his creatures, and a charged up Shrine of Burning Rage from very early in the game ends it.  Koth continues to be awesome in Game 2, which ends with his mana boost helping to power a 12-point Devil’s Play.

Round 2:  0-2 vs. Wolf Run Ramp.  It’s just difficult in general for a Big Red deck to handle an opponent whose main game plan is “blah blah Titan“.  I’m never lucky enough to see a Ghost Quarter in Game 1, and for Game 2 my sideboarded Manabarbs don’t help as much as I thought they would.  I need to stop thinking that card is better than it actually is.  In other news, Huntmaster of the Fells is still crazy powerful, and once he flips he’s out of the range of anything but a Metalcrafted Galvanic Blast.

Round 3:  2-0 vs. Township Tokens.  In Game 1, this is my Turn 4:  Me – “How many cards do you have in your hand?”  Opponent – “I played them all.”  Me – “Slagstorm.”  It only gets better from there, and Koth is still awesome.  My Kessig Wolf Runs are also very helpful for pumping Mountain Elementals when I have a ton of mana available.

Round 4:  2-1 vs. W/B Tokens.  Game 1 is a nice and simple process of going back and forth between waiting, wrathing, and Kothing before finally ending with a 10-point Devil’s Play.  Game 2 sees his sideboarded Stony Silence blank my Sphere of the Suns and Shrine of Burning Rage, and I get flattened by Shrine of Loyal Legions.  With the help of 2 Metalcrafted Galvanic Blasts and 2 copies of Shrine of Burning Rage (played on Turns 2 and 3), Game 3 ends when I take my opponent from 17 to 0 in a sudden flurry of burn.


Cut to Top 4
Semifinal:  2-0 (2-1?) vs. W/B/G Tokens.  In Game 1 I mulligan to 5 and win.  That’s how good these matchups are for Big Red.  For some reason I can’t remember whether there were 2 or 3 games in this round.  The balance of power in the games shifted so frequently and hit such extremes that I don’t know whether some of the boardstates I’m thinking of are right before I lost or right before I turned them around again.  Regardless, in my 2nd win of the round, my sideboarded Ancient Grudges help take out a key Shrine of Loyal Legions, as well as a Mortarpod that would have become a massive pain in all my asses.  That game ends with 12 damage from Shrine of Burning Rage.

Final:  0-2 vs. Wolf Run Ramp.  This is the same guy from earlier.  He only lost one game all day (to a U/B Control player who I was quite afraid of being paired against).  Honestly, I’m not alarmed or disappointed by the result of this round, but it’s  frustrating that I can’t seem to draw my Ghost Quarters or Ancient Grudges in the right order, or at anything resembling an opportune time.


This deck feels good, and I have a lot of fun playing it, so I plan on keeping it together for a while and continuing to take it to sanctioned events whenever I’m able.  After doing some further thinking and considering some advice from others (most notably our recent guest, Bennie Smith), I edited the sideboard.  A good Threaten effect would be really nice against Wolf Run Ramp, to give me a damage boost and head towards the end of the game, and I like Act of Aggression for having the versatility of an instant.  Here’s what the sideboard looks like right now:

Sideboard (15)
4x Act of Aggression
3x Ancient Grudge
4x Surgical Extraction
4x Vulshok Refugee

As I was finishing the first draft of this article, I was about to head out to an FNM at Top Deck Games in Kernersville.  The post is long enough already, so I’ll save the massively non-spectacular results of that for a comment, below.  Speaking of comments, let me know what you think!  Was this a wise metagame choice?  Will the wisdom of that choice come crashing down around my ears if the metagame changes, even slightly?  What would you suggest for the deck or sideboard?  I look forward to seeing what you have to say about it.

Have fun, guys.

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  1. Dylan
    March 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Yea, definitely a good choice for the meta game. I think for the titan match ups, which are tough for this kind of deck, you could consider some Blasphemous Acts (SB or even mainboard). They also help you get rid of a lot of spirits in that matchup if they get too big from Drogskol Captains and become out of whipflare/slagstorm range. And of course, if they are playing tokens it’s just like one mana. Everything. Gone.

  2. Frelance
    March 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    wru Volt Charge?

    Also, you seem to have skipped some crucial bit of game action in the middle of this sentence:

    “Game 2 sees his sideboarded Stony Silence blank my Sphere of the Suns and Shrine of Burning Rage, and I get flattened by Shrine of Loyal Legions. ”

    Can you add something in the middle, perhaps between his artifact-disabling enchantment that you can’t possibly remove and his winning with an artifact?

    • March 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      I honestly don’t remember enough about the Round anymore to know if those things happened in a different order, happened in different games, or happened because we seriously misplayed the game they both happened in. It’s also possible that he showed me the card after the round as the only thing he could board in against me, and I realized what an awful impact it would have had on me if he’d actually drawn it.

      Regarding Volt Charge, I considered it initially, but didn’t play it because it costs 3 and I felt the proliferate would only be “good” instead of “great”. See my comment below for some quick thoughts on why it’s probably coming in the next time I update.

  3. March 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    My first two rounds at the FNM I mentioned were really tough. Round 1 was 0-2 vs. UB Zombies. It wasn’t the list that recently won the GP in Lille, but it was close. Essentially, it felt like my deck was having a lot of trouble against creatures that don’t really care about dying. Geralf’s Messenger was an especially huge problem, and I swear I heard it say “hey, dummy” every time I killed it. Surgical Extraction was the best thing I could board in, but it didn’t help enough. If my opponent was actually playing Phyrexian Obliterator like in the GP deck, I probably would have lost even harder.

    Round 2 was 0-2 vs. Bant Pod. In Game 1, the removal I was drawing couldn’t keep up with the rate my opponent was drawing creatures to power his Pod, and he eventually ground me out with advantage. In Game 2, he cast an Acidic Slime to hate me out of flashing-back an Ancient Grudge I had to spend on a Mimic Vat, and I was stuck on 3 for a long time as I kept drawing Titans, Koths, and only vaguely useful copies of Act of Aggression.

    Round 3 was 2-0 vs. Grixis Control. I was really glad this worked out well. In Game 1, a charged-up Shrine helped me fight back and win after a resolved Sorin’s Vengeance. In Game 2, a well-timed Surgical Extraction allowed me to see that the path was clear for a game-ending, Koth-boosted Devil’s Play.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t learn anything useful from Rounds 4 and 5. In Round 4, my actual Wolf Run opponent conceded before we started because he was pissed off about his record and had forgotten to drop at the end of Round 3, and Randy (the store owner) let the kid who got the Bye play against me for fun instead of sitting out for the round. He was a very new player (i.e., a few months), and had built his UB Zombie/Mill/etc. deck himself. Round 5 I played the kid’s dad, who was also very new and had also built his own Green Stompy deck. They were great people, and I could tell they were off to a comparatively good start, but winning those rounds didn’t teach me anything about my own deck or play-skills.

    A couple people suggested Urabrask, including the Bant Pod player who thought it could be good against his deck, and I like the idea. Problems with creatures that are hard to kill with damage (I didn’t talk about the Elesh Norn in Game 2 against the Pod player) as well as other annoying permanents have made me start thinking about Karn as well. If I do add another planeswalker, the facts that Shrine is used to end so many games, as well as the fact that I got into situations where I had to exhaust a Sphere when I didn’t want to, will probably encourage me to include Volt Charge as well.

  4. ChuChuJelly
    March 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I feel that stuff like this is really adding something valuable to the site. Bill’s article and this were fun reads, they give personal insight in how you guys build decks and experience stuff like FNM.
    Seeing how you are already planning on evolving the deck, this could be more than a stand alone article with comment-update, this could be a deck-evolution series! What do you think Mike?

    Also, regarding the actual deck, whap happened to the Chandra the Firebrand idea you mentioned on the podcast? She seems fun, but I have no idea how she plays, did you reach a conclusion on that?

    • March 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      She never made it past the thought-experiment stage. For the first turn she’s on the battlefield, there’s just too much “nothing happens” for my liking. For the problem I was trying to solve with her, she’s much more likely to get flattened by that problem than survive long enough to make an impact.

  5. March 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I think I mostly read these articles to see what cards are attached to various words. Not that these tournament reports aren’t interesting and well written.

  6. Austin
    March 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Instead of making many many comments that are drastically different, I’m just going to say that I WANT THIS DECK.
    Fits my playstyle great.
    Have you thought about a couple of Nilih Spellbombs in the side board for those annoying as heck zombies? Or does that not work as I think it does?

    • March 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      I’m not going to play any spellbomb if it’s nearly impossible for my deck to get the extra card out of it. Since I always get the full effect from Surgical Extraction, that’s why I’m using it instead.

  7. Eric
    March 8, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Hey dude, I saw this on Tappedout.net and I really like it. Red has always been my favorite color of deck but I had never found one that actually worked. Like you I first made a goblin deck but it doesnt work nearly as well as I want. I really like the control you have and Im well on my way to making this deck. Anyways, Just thought Id stop by and say thanks for making such an awesome deck

    • March 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Word! I’m glad you like it, and I hope it works out well for you.

  8. painer
    March 16, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink


    “Round 4
    Game 2 sees his sideboarded Stony Silence blank my Sphere of the Suns and Shrine of Burning Rage, and I get flattened by Shrine of Loyal Legions. ”

    Seems like a strange play, did he sacrifice his Stony silence to use his shrine?

    • painer
      March 16, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      saw it in the comments already!


      • March 16, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        Heh. But yeah, the more I think about it, I get the feeling he showed it to me after the round was over as the only thing he could think to board in against me. The thought of what that would have done to my deck was so terrifying that my brain accidentally lumped it in with the vicious beating I got in Game 2.

  9. Phenox
    March 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    So Mike, any updates to the deck? Decide for/against Urbrask, Karn, and Volt Charge? Just wondering. 🙂


    • March 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Volt Charge was definitely a go, and it is awesome. Karn did make it into the sideboard, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see how he works out. Unfortunately, Urabrask also made it into the sideboard. I started to board him in during one match at the last FNM I attended, until I realized he didn’t actually do anything useful. Chewie and I couldn’t remember the slightest thing about why we thought the one guy’s suggestion for him ever sounded like a good idea. After seeing some problems that cropped up with creatures I just couldn’t burn out otherwise (including Phyrexian Obliterator), I replaced Urabrask’s sideboard slots with Wrack with Madness. The up-to-date version of the deck can always be found here.

3 Trackbacks

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