As promised in my PT Magic Origins tournament report, today I’m going to go over how to sideboard with the Mono-Red deck I piloted to a Top 8 finish. I’ll be using the slightly tweaked list that I played in some videos earlier this week.
So compared to my Pro Tour deck list, we have:
Outpost Siege is much better than Chandra in a straight-up mirror, and they are about the same against control. The main reason for the 1 Chandra in the original list was that we weren’t sure if people would be playing this exact version of red, and Chandra is nice against the versions with Hordeling Outburst. Similarly, Chandra is good against Jeskai Tokens. But, given that those decks weren’t high performers at the Pro Tour, I think you just want all Outpost Siege at this point.
The other change is to replace 1 Scouring Sands with a Smash to Smithereens. Much of my team only played 1 Scouring Sands at the PT anyway, favoring a singleton Molten Vortex. Vortex is good in the red mirror, so it might be worth playing at the moment. It is no Outpost Siege, but you can’t have too many 4-mana cards in a deck with only 20 lands. Vortex is also good against control as a way to get under counterspells.
Anyway, back to Smash: obviously this is for UR Thopters, though we almost played one in the first place in case control decks had Orbs of Warding. It is certainly reasonable to just play 2 copies of Smash if you expect a lot of UR Thopters. I do like still having access to 1 Scouring Sands, though. It is possible people react to the red decks that did well by going wide with Hordeling Outburst and Dragon Fodder, since the cards that are good against each version aren’t exactly the same. And besides, it is one of the most high impact sideboard cards you have access to. Even if you only side it in once during the day, it will do a lot.
Okay, let’s take a look at the matchups:
The mirror is not grindy in the traditional sense of you playing a long-drawn out game, the games are still fairly fast. But it does boil down to “whoever runs out of cards first, loses.” You trade burn spells for creatures until someone sticks something. That is why Outpost Siege is so good in the mirror: you can no longer run out of cards first. Magma Sprays are essentially additional Shocks that help ensure you get to Outpost Siege. The exile clause is totally irrelevant in this matchup, but does have applications against Hangarback Walker and Abzan Rally. I could imagine a metagame where Fiery Impulse is better, but this isn’t it.
You side out Heelcutter because it is bad against all of the cheap burn spells, and no one will have blockers anyway. Exquisite Firecraft is your worst burn spell at killing their creatures, since it is an expensive sorcery. I’m not actually sure if Goblin Glory Chaser is worse than the last Firecraft. He can be blanked by their 1-drops, but it is highly unlikely you will not have a removal spell to clear a path. I do like leaving in a Firecraft in case they are on the Stephen Neal Thunderbreak Regent plan, though.
Some of my teammates also like bringing in Scab-Clan Berserker here, but I’m not so sure about that. If they play the matchup poorly, it is good, and if they play well, it is bad. Basically if they play creatures into your open mana that you can kill and then drop Scab-Clan, it is a great card. But it dies to all of the Shocks, so if you expect them to leave mana up, it will do nothing.
One other note on the mirror: you should draw first. You are just trading spells back and forth, so being up a card is good, and it is very unlikely you don’t have a way to immediately kill their 1-drop creature. You also have a very low land count, so you’re more likely to hit Outpost Siege on time with an extra card.
If you are on the draw, I’d instead side out Goblin Glory Chaser over 1 Lightning Berserker. This sideboard plan is somewhat dependent on their exact deck: if I expect them to still have Languish after board, I like having Lightning Berserker in. If they don’t have a bunch of copies of Nissa and Den Protector (unlikely) then Searing Blood is bad.
Roast is of course great against all their roadblocks: Siege Rhino, Tasigur, Courser of Kruphix, Fleecemane Lion. Heelcutter also deals with those cards, since they rarely have more than one in play, or at least they don’t in games that you are likely to win. Pairing up Searing Blood and another burn spell to kill one of these creatures isn’t even that bad, since this will net you at least 5 damage if you have even one creature in play.
Outpost Siege might seem like a good card against Abzan, but you don’t have time for that. You are trying to kill them quickly, since when they turn the corner and go on the offensive, they kill you quickly between Siege Rhino and Elspeth. Be aware of Drown in Sorrow, and play around it where possible: Titan’s Strength can save a guy, any spell can save Monastery Swiftspear.
Out – On the Play
Out – On the Draw
This might be your worst matchup among popular decks. They gum up the ground well, and hit very hard once they stabilize. Nylea’s Disciple is also a huge pain. They don’t have a lot of things to Shock, but if you do hit an Elvish Mystic/Rattleclaw to slow them down, that is huge. That is why I like Wild Slash on the draw, but not the play: you have plenty of 2-mana options to kill a Mystic before they use it on the play, but just Wild Slash on the draw. It may also be correct to bring in Magma Spray on the draw just to maximize the chances of you screwing with their mana, but it does almost nothing if you draw it later in the game.
Eidolon is going to get them for at least 2 damage on the play, but on the draw they might’ve already played their mana guys and it just does nothing. Glory Chaser is very likely to hit them on the play, at which point he is great with all of the Roasts and Heelcutters. On the draw he might just be stonewalled by your second turn.
I didn’t actually play against this deck in the tournament. But given that it was the most novel deck in the Top 8, and I’d tested plenty against the others, this was what I was most worried about testing for the Top 8 (even though I couldn’t play against it until the finals). I played ~10 games before bed on Saturday, and my teammates were kind enough to spend more time figuring the matchup while I slept.
Here’s what BenS had to say:
“So I think you board in 4 Roast, 2 Spray and board out 4 Exquisite, 2 Stoke. Your little creatures and cheap burn are effective, but the 4-damage burn isn’t very good. I think I like 2 Stokes, and just leave it at 1 Heelcutter, but it’s possible that’s wrong. You want to be really aggressive, so you need to mull a little aggressively, not like against Abzan where you keep most one-landers. You just need to rush the artifact deck and use some burn.”
My impression of the matchup is that it is “scissors or bust.” If they have an early Ensoul Artifact, it is very hard for you to deal with that or race it. If they don’t, their deck is just slower than yours. The 4-damage spells line up really poorly, being not quite enough to kill an Ensouled creature, but overkill against everything else. Magma Spray is a nice answer to Hangarback Walker, though so few of your guys trade with 1/1 Thopters that Walker isn’t as scary as it might initially look.
Goblin Heelcutter as just a dash creature is better than Wild Slash the majority of the time, but you don’t want to make your curve too high when you already siding in five things that cost 3 or 4. It is a little awkward to bring in Smash to Smithereens for 1-2 copies of Orbs of Warding that they may not even have, but the card might lock you out of the game if it resolves, and the Wild Slash you’re replacing is very low impact anyway. Very niche situation, but keep in mind that Wild Slash can turn off the damage prevention of Orbs if you happen to prowess a creature to 4 power.
Anyway, this matchup is pretty straightforward: they don’t do much, and your deck applies a ton of pressure. The most important card is Outpost Siege, and it is very difficult to lose if you resolve it. Exquisite Firecraft being uncounterable is also quite nice, because if the game goes long they aren’t necessarily safe behind a wall of counters.
Heelcutter isn’t particularly good against Abzan Rally, but he is fine, and you can’t reasonably leave in 1-toughness creatures against a deck with Satyr Wayfinder and Arashin Cleric. The exile clause of Magma Spray is very relevant here, so certainly keep it in mind (e.g. I’ve Sprayed a Cleric that was dying anyway so my opponent couldn’t gain more life later).
Abzan Rally is just much slower to kill than you, and in a short game where they don’t have time to setup, their creatures are pretty bad. Pretty much all of them cost more than your burn spells, but still die to them. Things do get better for them after sideboard with Arashin Cleric, Drown in Sorrow, and Dromoka’s Command, but this brings the games to about even, so you are favored in the matchup.
Okay, that’s all I have for today. If you have questions about a popular matchup that I forgot, feel free to ask in the comments. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend Grand Prix San Diego this weekend, but good luck to all the red mages there!