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Breaking Through – Rogue For a Rogue

 

As anyone who has tested for a large event like a Grand Prix or Pro Tour is sure to know, quite a few crazy ideas come up. Now try to imagine what I consider a crazy idea and you’re about 5 levels past “normal” crazy. Of course many of these ideas are just plain bad, others have some merit, and others still lead you down a path that begets an even better idea down the line. Currently, Standard is going through some growing pains, as the format tries to determine just what its top decks are, and just what is viable.

We seem to have a stable top 6, but plenty of other strategies are viable and have even made some PTQ top 8s. Everything from traditional powerhouse Blue/White Control to Jund to Open the Vaults is enjoying some success in this young and fresh environment. Today I would like to share some ideas that came up during some brewing that haven’t really been proven, even to me, but they harness a ton of potential and offer some even newer looks at the Standard that can be. Whether they are PTQ ready or even can be with a lot of work, I am not sure, but ideas not shared are ideas not spent, so here ya go.

The big kick that got me onto both of these decks was the synergy that the word “sacrifice” has going for it right now. Clearly with Eldrazi spawn tokens and specialty cards like Mortician Beetle, we have some cool tools to work with towards an ideal sacrifice deck or decks, but piecing them together is a bit tougher. The first list I wanted to try stemmed from the interaction between Eldrazi Spawn tokens and Warp World that everybody and their brother have tried, but this one has a few cool things going for it.

Warp World

Yes, that is Dragon Appeasement, and yes, I will give you a second to read it. Alright, good? No, you’re right, it isn’t good. Not normally, at least. So the concept here is pretty simple, as the deck tries to do what most Warp World decks try to do, and that is cast Warp World. Unlike other versions of the deck from the past though, there are plenty of other game-breaking spells along the way.

Dragon Appeasement is the most outlandish of them, but it is quite good in here. Sometimes you will just use the card as an engine to dig for something like Eldrazi Monument for a win of course, but plenty of other times it will act as your Warp Worlds 5 and 6. In fact, if you flip into an Appeasement off of your Warp World, there is a pretty good chance you will be casting a second Warp World in the same turn due to the sheer draw power it provides, netting you a second Warp World. Of course the card only draws you cards, so you need other powerful spells, but between Warp World, Spawnsire of Ulamog, and Eldrazi Temple, you have plenty of gas, not to mention a full boat of Siege-Gang Commanders waiting in the wings.

Spawnsire of Ulamog is interesting as it serves a hidden role for the deck while being a perfectly acceptable fatty on his own. He is basically Emrakul, if Emrakul gave you an extra turn off of Warp World that is. He is able to fuel Eldrazi Monuments if no Awakening Zone is found, while also reading 2: Draw two cards when Dragon Appeasement is in play. While he is not needed per se, he does serve as a solid finisher that has a ton of synergy here. Other options include things like Vicious Shadows (yes, go read that one too), Emrakul himself, or even just shaving one Spawnsire in favor of a 4th Monument. 20 mana is surprising easy to reach once you have Warp Worlded, or occasionally before, so Emrakul has seen plenty of castings during his day. Not to mention he is a pretty good threat in general out of the board against counterspells or Turbofog. This slot for Spawnsire could be encroaching on the “danger of cool things” a little bit, but he has been pretty good in testing, so perhaps he is the right alien for the job. A slot worth considering though for sure.

Eldrazi Monument is probably the king of the finishers of course, as it also protects your squad from being the target of a hungry Wrath effect of some sort. While you are nearly immune to spot removal, losing the squad in one foul blow does suck. Awakening Zone is a strong recovery tool here, as is smart game play, but Monument is still the best, as it serves multiple functions. Because of this, I have heavily been considering the removal of one Spawnsire of Ulamog in favor of the 4th Eldrazi Monument, but haven’t actually tested it yet. Of course I would advocate doing so, as well as any of the other changes we have discussed. Note that with a Monument and a Dragon Appeasement out, you essentially draw as normal every turn as well.

Beyond your big finishers, the rest of the deck sort of just falls into place once you realize what you are trying to achieve. The most controversial piece of the puzzle is likely Growth Spasm, as it has no synergy with Warp World on the back end, but eight sorceries is still not very much. The power and speed boost it supplies early is likely worth the dissynergy later. I tried cards like Skittering Invasion, but once you begin to dilute the deck with too many spells and not enough permanents you end up with a legitimate problem. 8 is probably about the maximum number you should sit at. If you want to look towards other options for this slot, Joraga Treespeaker is an option, as are things like Trace of Abundance or even Lotus Cobra (although I would advocate a serious mana base change for the latter as more fetch lands are needed.)

Siege-Gang Commander can win games on his own of course and therefore does not need much in the way of introductions. Instead, I will shift slightly from the goblin camp to something with a little bigger teeth.

Sacrifice Time

 

Again, this is a list with more four-ofs than not. While it is a topic for another time, I find that starting ideas should best be explored with a majority hold on 4-ofs as you need to feel how cards interact and play out. Once you begin to understand that, shaving cards and numbers is the next logical step. Eventually you end up in a place where you are trying out 1-ofs as test cards. I will probably write something on this in the future, but for now, back to the deck.

This deck is clearly more aggressive than the former deck, but it has a lot of combo elements to it as well. At its best this can be just as fast as Mono-Red, while holding different strengths and weakness in other areas. Spot removal is a bigger deal here for example, although we have seen a shift in spot removal recently, moving more towards sorcery speed but versatile answers, like Oblivion Ring or Maelstrom Pulse. Damage-based removal can be played around usually at least.

Another deck just bursting at the seams with synergy though. Obviously the Mortician Beetle fits nicely in a home with eight Nantuko Husks/Phyrexian Ghouls/How many times can they reprint this card with a different names/Vampire Aristocrats alongside the master of sacrifice himself in Sarkhan the Mad. Don’t forget that the bonus applies when your opponent ditches a dude, either on his own accord, or with a little assistance from your Gatekeeper of Malakir.

Next to him though, Pawn of Ulamog does a nice job of fueling a deck that is desperately seeking an engine. This effectively doubles the bonus to any Aristocrat or the like that you have in play, or produces some extra mana if you are trying to ramp into a Sarkhan early. The most filthy scenario involves Bloodghast and some fetchlands of course, allow a single attack from a Bloodthrone Vampire to likely be lethal.

Kalastria Highborn serves a similar function, although at the cost of mana as opposed to gaining of it. Still, some life gain can prove much needed in aggro battles when you are packing a full 24 Vampires. Even Pawn of Ulamog was gracious enough to be bitten in the process. With a sacrifice outlet, a Bloodghast can be just as degenerate with a Highborn out, as I have seen similar game states wreck people in Block Constructed this year.

Mark of Mutiny and Act of Treason are just some spot removal that has extra synergy with the deck and speeds up your clock double time. Tuktuk is just a guy that I felt worthy enough to try out. If he is good enough I can see pushing up his numbers to a 2 of, as he is obviously an insane sacrifice outlet. Don’t forget that his token is legendary though, so playing one on top of another does not net you the Keiga blowout that you would like.

The sideboard is unfinished but I can assure you that 4 copies of Fleshbag Marauder would be found there. I couldn’t fit too much spot removal, (or any, depending on how you look at Threaten) in the main, so you really need to get a lot of sacrifice effects going post board to keep aggro decks off of your life total.

Overall I am not positive that this is worth playing over Mono-Red, but it does offer a much more solid late game and is just infinitely better in race situations as you have blockers and ways to make your life total go up. Things like Kor Firewalker are only mildly annoying rather than game breaking and a Rhox War Monk will often get you excited more than sad. Baneslayer Angel is in the ditto category as well. Even Wall of Omens is not a big deal here, which is a pretty strong point in favor for any aggro deck in this environment that can make that claim. Sarkhan the Mad offers a ton of late game versatility as well, and truly shines in a deck like this.

That said, the manabase is clearly worse here which will inevitably cost you a game or two at some point as you struggle to hit your third black or first red. I tried to iron it out for the best, but until Badlands gets reprinted and you are allowed to run 22 of them, there will always be a few issues.

The bottom line is that while Standard has some cool new brews showing up, like Polymorph or Mythic Conscription, the door is definitely not closed on new ideas that are at least somewhat viable. Remember not to get too attached to an idea that it becomes inbred and takes up all of your time that could be spent working on a winning list, but don’t be afraid to explore that quirky idea you had that woke you up at 3am either. Finding that balance may be tough, but conquering it might just lead to some more wins, which is always the goal. Thanks for reading.

Conley Woods

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