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Spoiler Spotlight – Ragemonger

Go Minotaurs!

I don’t know about you, but after watching that clip, I’m all beefed-up for some bull-headed goodness, ready to let my opponents taste the beast! And by the red eye of Mogis does Born of the Gods have a tasty new Minotaur in store for us:

[draft]ragemonger[/draft]

Holy cow! This upgrade to the iconic [card]Hurloon Minotaur[/card] has Minotaur enthusiasts from all around the world dusting off their [card]Didgeridoo[/card]s, and a solid addition to the Minotaur tribe it is. Reducing mana cost is a powerful, often underestimated ability, as cards like [card]Goblin Warchief[/card] and [card]Goblin Electromancer[/card] have shown us in the past. It enables explosive draws, allows you to run less lands in your deck, and gets better in multiples.

Indeed, [card]Ragemonger[/card] can facilitate a huge bull rush on turn four. Consider this draw, for example:

Turn 1: Blood Crypt.
Turn 2: Mountain, [card]Deathbellow Raider[/card].
Turn 3: Mountain, Ragemonger.
Turn 4: Ragemonger, Ragemonger, [card]Rageblood Shaman[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], Boros Reckoner, Boros Reckoner.
Turn 5: Cast [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] for 16 damage. Then, if the opponent hasn’t packed up his cards yet, smash in for 22.

This draw clearly shows how well Ragemonger plays with itself. The second Ragemonger only costs a single colorless mana, and the third Ragemonger turns [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] into a free spell. If you thought a free [card]Frogmite[/card] or [card]Myr Enforcer[/card] was good, then you’ve never tasted a free Boros Reckoner in a deck with [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card]. It really hits the bull’s-eye.

While the above draw is awesome against decks without creature removal, it may be less than ideal against [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. Then again, anyone who challenges a Minotaur will only enjoy the taste of their own blood, so let’s kill U/W players before they get a chance to cast their sweeper:

Turn 1: [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card].
Turn 2: Mountain, Deathbellow Raider.
Turn 3: Mountain, Ragemonger.
Turn 4: Ragemonger, [card]Kragma Warcaller[/card]. Attack with four 4-power hasty Minotaurs for the win.

With Ragemonger in play, [card]Kragma Warcaller[/card] becomes a 4/3 haste that beefs up your entire team and enables turn-4 kills for only 3 mana. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

So, Ragemonger’s ability is potentially very powerful. However, the ability is only as good as the Minotaur spells that go with it. Of those Minotaurs, the ones with BR in their mana cost are the crucial ones to pay attention to, as those are the cards that Ragemonger gives full benefits to. Unfortunately, Standard (or, in fact, the entire card pool from the double-decade history of Magic) only has two such cards: Kragma Warcaller and Ragemonger himself.

So the support is not completely there yet. Accordingly, I doubt that Ragemonger is going to shake up Standard.

But I don’t want to be like a bull in a china shop here, trampling over a sacred cow without regard for the feelings of Minotaur fans. There may still be hope, as it is conceivable that Journey into Nyx or M15 will contain the perfect cards. Maybe changelings will return. (Since Ragemonger says “Minotaur spells,” cards like [card]Nameless Inversion[/card] would be reduced in cost.) Or a 3/3 vanilla Minotaur for BR might be introduced. A Minotaur lord for BBRR, or any 1-drop Minotaur, would also be nice. Given the potential of Ragemonger, I will certainly be scouring new sets for cards with “Minotaur” in their type line.

But for now, let’s take the bull by the horns and brew up a Standard-legal Minotaur tribal deck with the tools available. This shouldn’t be impossible. Golikova Ekaterina won a StarCityGames.com IQ tournament with a Minotaur tribal deck in October last year, and he didn’t even have access to Ragemonger.

Here’s what I came up with:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Thoughtseize
2 Rakdos Cackler
3 Dreadbore
4 Deathbellow Raider
2 Felhide Brawler
4 Ragemonger
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Rageblood Shaman
4 Fanatic of Mogis
1 Mogis, God of Slaughter
4 Kragma Warcaller
4 Mutavault
4 Temple of Malice
4 Blood Crypt
3 Rakdos Guildgate
2 Godless Shrine
7 Mountain
Sideboard
3 Minotaur Skullcleaver
3 Drown in Sorrow
2 Duress
2 Doom Blade
1 Rakdos Guildgate
1 Dark Betrayal
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Chandra, Pyromaster[/deck]

I considered a more devotion-centric route with [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card], and more copies of [card]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/card], but I don’t think that this deck wants more 4-drops, and I doubt that [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] or [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] will fit in the deck’s game plan or mana base. I also considered a more burn-heavy build with [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and [card]Shock[/card], but I don’t think that this deck will have trouble dealing the last few points or damage when it can smash in for ridiculous amounts with Rageblood Shaman and Kragma Warcaller in a single turn. Instead, I prefer to have a few sorceries to disrupt the opponent’s game plan—importantly, Thoughtseize protects Rageblood Shaman and Kragma Warcaller by snagging a removal spell from the opponent’s hand.

Against the popular Standard decks, I would generally board like this (taking into account that it’s often better to have 3-ofs than 4-ofs when playing against decks with [card]Detention Sphere[/card] or [card]Bile Blight[/card]):

vs. Mono-Black:

Add

[draft]1 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Dark Betrayal
2 Duress
1 Chandra, Pyromaster[/draft]

Remove

[draft]1 Fanatic of Mogis
1 Ragemonger
1 Boros Reckoner
2 Rakdos Cackler[/draft]

vs. Mono-Blue:

Add

[draft]2 Doom Blade
3 Drown in Sorrow
1 Rakdos Guildgate[/draft]

Remove

[draft]3 Dreadbore
2 Thoughtseize
1 Mountain[/draft]

vs. UW Control:

Add

[draft]3 Minotaur Skullcleaver
2 Duress
1 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Chandra, Pyromaster[/draft]

Remove

[draft]3 Boros Reckoner
1 Ragemonger
3 Dreadbore[/draft]

vs. Red Devotion:

Add

[draft]1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Doom Blade[/draft]

Remove

[draft]3 Deathbellow Raider[/draft]

vs. White Weenie:

Add

[draft]3 Drown in Sorrow
2 Doom Blade
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Rakdos Guildgate[/draft]

Remove

[draft]2 Rakdos Cackler
2 Felhide Brawler
4 Thoughtseize[/draft]

At first glance, this Minotaur deck might look like a big pile of bull. [card]Ragemonger[/card] doesn’t even reduce the cost of [card]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/card]. And although the beef of the creature base is formed by reasonable Minotaurs, [card]Rakdos Cakcler[/card] is of the wrong creature type and [card]Felhide Brawler[/card] is just absolutely horrendous. Unfortunately, there are no alternative 1- or 2-drop Minotaurs in Standard to replace them with—we’ll have to make do.

The deck has redeeming qualities, however. First, [card]Mutavault[/card] is a Minotaur, which means that Rageblood Shaman and Kragma Warcaller can beef it up. Second, almost all of the Minotaurs—Ragemonger included—have 3 toughness, which means that [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] will often be a one-sided [card]Wrath of God[/card] against decks with [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card], [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card], [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], or [card]Master of Waves[/card]. Third, the mana curve is rock-solid: there are 6 one-drops, 9 two-drops, 12 three-drops, and 9 four- or five-drops. Fourth, Deathbellow Raider can survive [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]—a key interaction against control decks. Finally, the new [card]Temple of Malice[/card] permits an acceptable mana base.

Speaking of mana bases, this may be a good time to navigate you through the labyrinth of mana base construction. To that end, let me give you a clue: For this deck, I originally wanted to have 25 lands, of which 13 black sources for Felhide Brawler, 19 red sources for Rageblood Shaman, and 21 red/white sources for Boros Reckoner. However, Ragemonger can be viewed as a pseudo-mana source, easing up these requirements—I felt that 24 lands, of which 13 black sources, 18 red sources for Rageblood Shaman, and 20 red/white sources for Boros Reckoner was also sufficient. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what the land base contains.

So what’s the verdict on this deck? I’d call it fringe playable. I imagine it is a fun, awesome deck to take to a Friday Night Magic, but I am not bullish on its prospects for being really competitive. Spending your third turn on a 2/3 creature that only saves you one or two mana on the next turn is not where you really want to be in Standard, so until we get a vanilla 3/3 minotaur for BR, a minotaur lord for BBRR, or a one-drop minotaur, this archetype won’t be tier 1.

You might feel dejected about this. But if you would put yourselves in the hooves of a Minotaur, then you would feel no dejection. On Theros, Minotaurs are raised amidst devastation and feast on the flesh of innocents. They focus on rage and bloodlust, cloaking themselves with the skins of their vanquished rivals. And they desire nothing more than a glorious battle in which they, stout of heart, wield a huge battle axe in the middle of a murderous inferno. Under the raging eyes of Mogis, our God of Slaughter, there will be no dejection. Only magnificent carnage.

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