Maybach Mountain (An Inside Look at GG’s PPTQ) *Top 8*

If you told me when I first picked up Magic The Gathering cards two years ago that I would be playing a Mono-Red deck competitively, I would have laughed at you.

My early days with the game consisted of non-standard play (mostly Draft and Sealed). I learned the game in the wrong formats for learning, but ultimately it left me yearning to defeat my opponent in the most ridiculous ways that required the most thought. Milling out opponents or playing some sort of control deck was so appealing to me, even if those decks weren’t normally favored to win. The Return to Ravnica block was full of aggressive decks and although my friends were on Boros, Gruul, or Mono-Red aggro no matter the format (especially Standard), I thought it just wasn’t for me.

I was so, so wrong.

Flash forward to today and I can’t seem to put my Mono-Red deck down, and even through the “I hate your deck” and “your deck is too easy” comments, I know there hasn’t been a better time to play the deck, and it’s a much better deck that requires much more thought than people give credit for, especially if you run my list. It’s good, it can be diverse, it’s fast, and most T1 decks aren’t the latter. Lets be honest with ourselves: Mono-Red has been, and always will be part of a standard meta. If you come across it and aren’t prepared, it can be punishing. I can tell you first hand and I have the evidence to prove it.

Before we get into my deck, I need to make a statement that there is one card that I believe can make this deck worth playing, let alone in the discussion of being a T1 deck. The card I am speaking of is Outpost Siege, specifically on the Khans ability.

outpostFor the longest time, Mono-Red’s weakness has been late game and the ability to draw cards. You run out of cards. Your board gets wiped. Your opponent gains too much life. Your opponent has card advantage. All of the above, sometimes. You feel helpless. By now you think I’m going to try to sell you a product that will change your life, but honestly that’s how good this card is. I recently had a match at FNM against another player from Team GG, Adam Lorincz, that went to time. Outpost Siege kept me alive so much longer than I expected that I thought I was going to lose by decking myself. I was playing more cards than him every turn thus playing more creatures and ultimately never taking damage from his attacks while keeping his life total from ridiculous amounts with burn. I was essentially controlling how a experienced Abzan Midrange player played his deck with a deck that curves out on turn four.

Let’s take a look at the deck as I played it at the PPTQ:

The mainboard is self-explanatory. Play your dudes fast and either burn them or burn their dudes or both. This deck is supposed to win game one. The key is not over-commiting to decks that have access to board wipes or early removal in case they play them main board. For example, playing a second Goblin Rabblemaster or Mardu Scout or Horderling Outburst only to have your opponent two for one your cards with Bile Blight.

What I believe makes my build of the deck work is the diversity in the side board.

Here is my example “transformation” from game one to game two, specifically against Abzan Midrange:

Out:

Wild Slash
Wild Slash
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr

In:
Mountain
Hammer of Purphoros
Outpost Siege
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Stormbreath Dragon

Firedrinker Satyr is worse than Foundry Street Denizen in almost every matchup because of the risk of damaging yourself from burn and the lack of being a blocker. For this matchup the last thing you want to do is block one of their larger creatures with it or attack into them unless you have burn tricks ready. Since Foundry Street Denizen will have its ability trigger multiple times a turn from Goblin Rabblemaster and Horderling Outburst, it has the potential to do more damage.

Wild Slash doesn’t hit anything in this matchup effectively. Searing Blood and Lighting Strike cast together take down a Siege Rhino or Tasigur, while Wild Slash and Searing Blood do not.

Hammer of Purphoros in combination with Outpost Siege is living the dream. You don’t need all the mana you are drawing, so turn them into value. The tokens help trigger Foundry Street Denizen to make it a threat again during mid-game, trigger Purphoros’ ability for two damage, and considering it can be done instant speed, can even give you a last minute blocker. Oh and Mardu Scout? You don’t need to dash it now, although you probably should in most cases to continue the abilities it triggers on your other cards.

The extra Outpost Siege allows you to increase your odds of seeing them, and unless your opponent saw one game one, their only answer to it is Utter End or Thoughtsieze. I bet they took it out after seeing all of those one drops!

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker and Stormbreath Dragon give you the ability to fly over late game for additional damage sources. Many lists call for two Sarkhan, but I prefer to play one of each because pulling a second Sarkhan is not good for you, and it has happened enough times for me in play testing to warrant a Stormbreath Dragon over a second.

Moving forward, I must admit that my match-ups were quite good at the PPTQ. As I play tested the night prior I expected to run into a lot of RW Aggro and Abzan Aggro, which is why I played one Chandra, Pyromaster over a second Outpost Siege in the mainboard. That was not the case as you will see. Here is how my matches went with how I sideboarded:

 Round 1: Dimir Control, 2-0

Out:
Searing Blood
Searing Blood
Searing Blood
Wild Slash
Wild Slash
Wild Slash
Chandra, Pyromaster

In:
Eidolon of Great Revel
Eidolon of Great Revel
Eidolon of Great Revel
Eidolon of Great Revel
Outpost Siege
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Hammer of Purphoros

In game two Purphoros was a blowout. He sideboard out his Perilous Vaults, leaving no answer for a resolved Purphoros. I won with the damage from his ability alone.

Round 2: Azorius Heroic, 2-0

Out:
Outpost Siege
Chandra, Pyromaster
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr

In:
Stormbreath Dragon
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Wild Slash
Searing Blood
Mountain

Normally, I wouldn’t sideboard like this. Game one went so fast my opponent only hit two lands and was dead on his turn four. I decided to go for a bigger curve to throw him off in case game two went long, and Sarkhan proved to be my workhorse. In this matchup I would only take out the Outpost Siege and Chandra and bring in the fourth Wild Slash and Searing Blood.

Round 3: Green/Red Devotion, 2-1

(Game Two, on the draw)

Out:
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Lightning Strike
Lightning Strike
Chandra, Pyromaster

In:
Mountain
Wild Slash
Searing Blood
Outpost Siege
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Stormbreath Dragon

I died quite quickly game two as he ramped perfectly into a turn two Courser of Kruphix and a turn three Xenagos, the Reveler. This is one matchup where you can feel pretty helpless watching your opponent curve out faster than you even when you are on the play. I got an Outpost Siege off but it was too late for me to catch up. Game three required me to make these changes:

(On the play, post sideboard)

Out:
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Stormbreath Dragon
Mountain

In:
Chandra, Pyromaster
Lightning Strike
Lightning Strike

I took a risk taking out the extra Mountain but needed to get underneath his deck before it ramped. After I grew a large board presence, I got him to seven life, dropped a Outpost Siege, naming Dragons with seven creatures on board.

Round 4: Mardu Midrange, 2-0

Out:
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Foundry Street Denizen
Foundry Street Denizen
Foundry Street Denizen
Foundry Street Denizen
Lightning Strike
Lightning Strike

In:
Mountain
Wild Slash
Searing Blood
Arc Lightning
Hammer of Purphoros
Peak Eruption
Outpost Siege
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Stormbreath Dragon
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

angerIn the first round I sat next to this opponent and got to see how her deck worked. What I did not see was main deck Anger of the Gods, which I was fortunate enough to avoid in the first game. I knew it would be good for me to get a fast start, because it caused her to keep the Anger of the Gods in addition to bringing in Drown in Sorrow as I expected. I took nearly half of my creatures out to avoid those cards working well against me. I waited out much of her removal and landed an Outpost Siege to obtain card advantage and slowly but surely outnumbered her hand until it was safe to start playing multiple threats and burn spells per turn.

Round 5: Abzan Midrange, 2-0

Out:
Wild Slash
Wild Slash
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr

In:
Mountain
Hammer of Purphoros
Outpost Siege
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Stormbreath Dragon

I was the 4-0 that got the pair down out of the three undefeated players. My opponent Adam and I knew our decks inside out before we sat down for our match, as we have both been at a majority of the standard events at the store recently. I landed a turn four Purphoros with a Foundry Street Denizen and a Monastery Swiftspear in play. Turn five I dashed in a Mardu Scout, triggering both Purphoros and Foundry Street Denizen, and then played a Horderling Outburst, triggering Purphoros, Foundry Street Denizen, and Monastery Swiftspear, also activating Purphoros as a creature. I dealt eighteen damage that turn.

Sorry Adam!

Round 6 was a draw in for all of Top 8 so I obliged. I finished with a record of 5-0-1 as the first overall seed in the tournament. My goal was to Top 8 this event and while I knew it was a success in my head, I knew had to potential to win the tournament. Since I was guaranteed to be on the play for any remaining matches and have this hasty deck, the odds are in my favor, right?

Right…

My first opponent in the elimination rounds, and unfortunately my last, was James. He was playing Sultai Whip, by far my worst matchup, and a deck my sideboard doesn’t really have answers for. I went to six cards after seeing seven cards with five lands, and this is what I saw:

Mountain
Mountain
Mountain
Goblin Rabblemaster
Horderling Outburst
Horderling Outburst

Ouch. I needed to hit hard early and I couldn’t. I kept my six and once he played a turn three Tasigur, I knew I was done for. He curved out and played a Whip, and I scooped. I was torn on what to sideboard. He didn’t expect Mono-Red and oddly had no idea I was playing it up until we played. Here is what I did originally:

Out:
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Foundry Street Denizen
Foundry Street Denizen
Foundry Street Denizen
Foundry Street Denizen

In:
Mountain
Wild Slash
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Searing Blood
Hammer of Purphoros
Outpost Siege
Purphoros, God of the Forge

I predicted he would try to lower and match my curve a bit and still stick to the Whip, but he kept his deck quite the same. If I could sideboard with that information:

Out:
Goblin Rabblemaster
Goblin Rabblemaster
Horderling Outburst
Horderling Outburst

In:
Mountain
Wild Slash
Searing Blood
Outpost Siege

No matter how I sideboard against Whip, its ugly. Doomwake Giant is a nightmare to deal with. Take out the one drops and I don’t get damage in early. Take out Rabblemasters and Horderling Outbursts and I lose most of my turn three plays and potential triggers for Purphoros if I go big. I think the only hope in this matchup is focusing on utilizing burn and the fastest creatures to get enough damage through before they see a Whip or Doomwake Giant. Searing Blood in an opening hand is something you absolutely need. Your best play against this deck is winning on turn four, those turns have to look something like this:

Turn 1: Firedrinker Satyr
Turn 2: Swiftspear, Wild Slash before damage, deal six total
Turn 3: Swiftspear, Searing Blood a Satyr Wayfinder, dealing seven damage total
Turn 4: Lightning Strike and Searing Blood targeting Tasigur, dealing seven damage total, or Mardu Scout on Dash against a Courser of Kruphix, Searing Blood before damage, dealing seven or more damage total

Although the Top 8 didn’t go as I thought it could have, I learned a ton about my deck and I’m going to guess my opponents did as well. I obtained a lot of knowledge about the meta and have prepared a new version of my deck that I will probably keep sleeved until the next rotation. You can find it below. It’s simply too good to ignore and I hope my play and craft has inspired a few of you to give this new variant of Mono-Red a try or to create your own. If you play a deck with a good chunk of red and don’t play Outpost Siege, I recommend you play test it as soon as you can!

Your resident Mono-Red player of Team GG,

Jake