Saturday, 15 October 2011

Controlling Red inn Standard - One Game

By Wagz

Hi all, the new Standard is shaping up and I believe the format is fairly under-explored. When a ramp deck with Primeval Titan can take the format by surprise it's indicative that people aren't really thinking about it, since that style of deck was extremely constraining for the entirety of the last season. Although I'm happy to just play whatever the best deck is (or at least the best deck I have available to me, as with my Zoo forays in Legacy), regardless of deck archetype, I am often at my happiest playing Control. Mostly Aggro-Control, but pure Control is good too.

When building a control deck in an uncontrolled format, you have to account for all the possible avenues of attack. One of the fore-runners in aggressive decks is the Red Deck. An emergent deck in any format, since some people are just that way inclined, this plays aggressively-costed damage-dealing permanents and cheap, efficient burn spells. There is still some discussion on the optimal builds of current Red decks, but the important cards appear to be Stromkirk Noble, Stormblood Berserker, Shrine of Burning Rage, Brimstone Volley, and Koth of the Hammer. After that people are filling out their curves with an array of cards from Furnace Scamp to Volt Charge. Personally I think they're all fairly interchangeable so long as you have a good aggressive curve and match your own personal play style.

I have been playing on Cockatrice with Manaleak store owner Tu Nguyen a lot, mostly in control mirrors, but I occasionally throw other decks at him for the lols. This time around I played the role of the Red deck versus his Grixis control list. So here begins our one game:

My opening hand had no one drop, but it had two copies of the dreaded Shrine. Also, I was on the play so I could sneak one under a Mana Leak and then see what happened later on to resolve the second one. While this hand may not look really powerful, it has a plan and Tu doesn't know if my plan is Stromkirk Noble into Stormblood Berserker, or Goblin Arsonist into Shrine. This sort of dilemma is exactly why it's hard to build a control deck right now - if you want to be a deck with the right answers then you have to defend against creatures of all sizes and speeds, Artifacts, Planeswalkers, really all sorts.

I made my Shrine on turn 2 and had drawn a Koth and then a Grim Lavamancer. Although slightly fearful of a counter, I manned up and cast my second Shrine, which resolved alongside my Lavamancer to charge up the Shrines. At this point my plan was to merely cast my spells and get damage in where I could, but at some point I would be able to simply deal enough damage with the Shrines.

On my previous turn I had attacked for one, then got an Arc Trail Dissipated and landed a Spikeshot Elder. This turn I had drawn a third Shrine, but I didn't really need this one. I held up the mana to shoot Tu for one damage with my Elder because my Shrines were getting me to the point that a single damage really was giving Tu one less turn to draw out of things.

My Spikeshot got killed at the end of Tu's turn, but without drawing another Mountain I was content to attack with Lavamancer and pass the turn to keep mana open for my Shrines. This game really was all about them, and as we see:

Tu luckily draws the Geistflame in the last possible turn to kill both my Shrines and I'm forced to concede. I mentioned earlier the great draw of turn 1 Noble into turn 2 Berserker, and if we look at the cards Tu's drawn then he would have handily handled that curve (though I still have all these in my hand). Control decks really need to be able to answer a lot of different things right now if they want to stay reactive, which is why a lot of the decks that appear controlling (e.g. Solar Flare) are really quite proactive in what they're trying to achieve. It remains to be seen how people choose to make a true control deck in this format (if it is achievable and/or good) but my thoughts are heavily in favour of a draw-go style deck with a lot of Flashback going on since Snapcaster Mage really is the best creature in Standard (all the best creatures ever cost 2 it seems).


  1. It seems to me that most of the stuff people are playing right now is controlling, although wolf run is looking tough to beat. Grixis should have a reasonable matchup against red if it slagstorms early and ancient grudge in the sb should be able to deal with the shrine. I agree that draw go is shaping up to be very strong in the format, and will only get better after the next set.

  2. Well, UB has come to the fore in the GP but apart from that I don't think there are really any controlling decks. I see Wolf Run and Solar Flare as pretty similar decks although I appreciate that Solar Flare can be built as a control deck as well.