We’re not usually in the business of playing powerful cards, but the Arena Boys will make exceptions in the case of distinguished sweetness. This week’s deck is one such exception—we decided to play Standard all-stars Jadelight Ranger, Wildgrowth Walker, and Experimental Frenzy in our ongoing quest to play the spiciest and finest Standard brews around.
Combining Experimental Frenzy with Wayward Swordtooth mitigates some of the built-in drawbacks of both cards. Swordtooth makes it easier to brute force your way through clumps of lands, while Frenzy helps to spew cards onto the battlefield to get the city’s blessing. They go together like peanut butter and, er… toast? I’ve never actually had a PBJ, so I don’t want to potentially perjure myself by talking about how good they are.
Anyway. The rest of the deck is built to support the combination of Frenzy and Swordtooth, with almost every nonland card able to manipulate the top of the library to ensure the party doesn’t stop once you get a Frenzy online. This deck packs a real punch, and has a beastly late game that goes toe-to-toe with the biggest decks in the format.
4 Mountain 10 Forest 3 Evolving Wilds 4 Rootbound Crag 4 Stomping Ground 4 Wayward Swordtooth 4 Jadelight Ranger 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Wildgrowth Walker 4 Merfolk Branchwalker 4 Experimental Frenzy 2 Path of Discovery 2 Gaea's Blessing 1 Banefire 4 Treasure Map/Treasure Cove 2 Enter the Unknown
The biggest support for the core engine of Frenzy plus Swordtooth is the huge explore package. Not only do we have the industry-standard Branchwalker, Ranger, and Wildgrowth Walker, we’re also playing Enter the Unknown and another engine card in Path of Discovery. Explore triggers are crucial in manipulating the top of your library after deploying an Experimental Frenzy, fighting against the bad RNG Frenzy sometimes brings about.
Wildgrowth Walker is the deck’s real payoff card. As evidenced in the video, they grow big, they grow quick, and do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to actually winning the game. They single-handedly beat aggro decks, and are outstanding against midrange as a huge threat that also buys enormous amounts of time.
One of the most important cards in the deck, however, is Gaea’s Blessing. It’s possible to burn through your deck extremely quickly, and the risk of decking is all-too-real in many matchups. Two copies of Gaea’s Blessing means you shouldn’t ever deck—be sure to keep this card in mind and plan accordingly when the game is going to go long.
A lot of cards ended up on the cutting room floor. Ixalli’s Diviner is another 2-mana explore creature, while Dryad Greenseeker is another way to manipulate the top of the library. Both these cards, however, failed to impress and are a little too low-impact. Finally, the near-total lack of interaction is almost certainly the wrong approach to take. Leaving out Shocks and the like makes the deck more streamlined, but much less resilient.
There’s a lot of play to this deck once things get going. In a perfect world, you want to set up with a turn-2 Swordtooth and dump your hand into play, which ideally finishes with an Experimental Frenzy. From there you play off the top of your library, using explore triggers and scrying with Treasure Map to maximize your mana use each turn.
Plan A is to grow Wildgrowth Walkers out of control (along with your life total) and pressure the opponent with these giant monsters. Plan B is… Banefire? Look, I never said the deck wasn’t one-dimensional. Ultimately, you probably have a better late game than most decks so when in doubt, play for the long game.
There are a lot of things to keep track of as the game goes longer, however. One is how many land drops you’ve got—Wayward Swordtooth and Enter the Unknown both let you play extra lands, which is important when burning through your deck post-Frenzy. Keep careful track of how many lands you’ve played and how many you can still play.
When “finishing” a turn, remember to leave a card on top that you don’t want to play, as you’ll draw it and lock it up in your hand behind Experimental Frenzy. Alternatively, scry a good card to the bottom with Treasure Map to perhaps shuffle it with Evolving Wilds or Gaea’s Blessing.
Gaea’s Blessing should always target the other copy of Gaea’s Blessing if possible—this loop allows you to avoid decking altogether. Additionally, if you explore a Gaea’s Blessing into your graveyard, you’ll shuffle your entire graveyard back into your library (which is useful if you’ve explored aggressively already and still need to build out a board). Sometimes you’ll draw the Blessing with a Frenzy out, and will need to destroy your Frenzy to play it.
The final game we played in the video actually highlighted many of the somewhat complex interactions you’ll need to manage, most importantly looping Banefire when you can’t contest the board anymore. If it comes down to it, just start casting Gaea’s Blessing, targeting Gaea’s Blessing and Banefire, and burn ’em out.
The deck needs interaction. We made a deliberate choice not to play a proper removal suite to go all-in on the explore synergies, but at the end of the day if you want to improve your win percentage (at the cost, tragically, of your sweet-play percentage), then playing proper red removal is an absolute must.
6 Mountain 9 Forest 2 Evolving Wilds 4 Stomping Ground 4 Rootbound Crag 4 Wayward Swordtooth 4 Jadelight Ranger 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Merfolk Branchwalker 4 Wildgrowth Walker 4 Experimental Frenzy 2 Gaea's Blessing 1 Banefire 3 Treasure Map/Treasure Cove 3 Lightning Strike 2 Shock
In come a bunch of burn spells—Lightning Strike and Shock are better than Lava Coil and Shivan Fire because they can go to the dome, which is important when “going off” with Frenzy. What if your opponent doesn’t have creatures? We have to tinker with the lands to account for these new red spells, which includes cutting an Evolving Wilds. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this card and really like how it can reset the top card of your library, but it might actually be unnecessary altogether.
Speaking of unnecessary, Gaea’s Blessing might also not be absolutely critical to the deck. I found it useful against all of the format’s slower decks, but as the video attested there are a lot of aggro decks around—especially in best-of-one—and as a result it might be better off just being more removal spells. Specifically, I’m interested in finding room for Fight with Fire, as this deck will often be able to point 10 straight at the scone.
Cutting some of the explore cards wasn’t a tough call to make. Path of Discovery and Enter the Unknown are sweet, for sure, but they don’t really do anything new and definitely feel like more icing on top of an already icing-laden cake. Ultimately, however, running the original 60 we played to begin with is perfectly defensible—just play linear, non-interactive Magic and clobber your opponents to death with 15-power Wildgrowth Walkers. Easy game!