“Do you think you’re one of the top 8 Caw-Blade players in the room?”
Hi I’m Stuart Sellers and I’m a mediocre PTQ grinder. My notable past finishes include a couple of GPT wins and Top 16 at last years Nationals with some rather long barren periods in between. Last weekend I was lucky enough to make Top 8 at the Chesham PTQ playing Red. I know most people just skip to the deck list so here it is:
4x Goblin Guide
4x Ember Hauler
4x Arc Trail
I chose this deck after having a miserable Nationals Qualifier season playing Caw-Blade, I lost a lot of mirrors and was reminded why I’m usually the guy beating down, rather than the guy playing counter magic. I had a quick look through the Top 8 deck lists from the recent SCG Opens and was amazed at how little red deck hate there was. 2 sideboarded Flashfreezes or maybe a Celestial Purge or 2 and lot of people looking to ride either Batterskull or Sword of War and Peace both of which are essentially 5 drops seemed like a really friendly environment for a decent Red deck.
After I suggested playing the deck I nearly audibled back to Caw-Blade and was then asked “Do you think you’re one of the top 8 Caw-Blade players in the room?”. I observed that I doubted I was in the top 50 Caw-Blade players in the room and I was sleeving up Lightning Bolts and Goblin Guides.
I boarded like this:
This boarding is pretty loose but it has Combust to answer his combo plan and Mark of Mutiny to answer the Titan plan at the cost of 4 of my worst burn spells and 2 of my slowest burn spells.
Game 2 I played some guys and played some burn, while he got stuck on a single green mana with 2 Obstinate Baloths in hand and died pretty rapidly.
Game 3 I kept a mediocre hand of some early burn and a Koth, while he played RG duals on turns 1-3 and looked sad when I slammed the Koth and killed him through his lack of castable counter magic.
I killed his early Mystic and he got stuck on 4 mana. My board was 4 land and an Ember Hauler, and I attacked knocking him to 10. At the end of his turn he tapped out for 2 Squadron Hawks. My hand was Dismember and Koth, so during his end step I killed both Hawks using the Dismember and the Ember Hauler.
I played Koth and knocked him to 6, but he untapped and played Baneslayer. I drew the 2nd Dismember after he’d killed the Koth but was far too far behind and lost. The correct play is obviously to just play the Koth and attack for 6, if he doesn’t block he’s at 4 and in real trouble and if he does then he has an empty board facing down a potentially ultimate Koth and I have a removal spell in hand.
I believe I sideboarded:
I wanted the Dismember in case he had Firewalkers in his board although frankly I’m not sure why I bothered, no one had them all day.
R3 – BR Vampires.
Game 1 went pretty much according to plan, I killed all his guys, while my little men beat down, although he did surpise me a bit both maindeck Vampire Nighthawk and a Vampire Hexmage to kill my Koth.
+4 Arc Trail
Basically the postboard plan was to just 2 for 1 him over and over with Arc Trails and Staggershocks while the dudes beat down and that’s basically exactly how game 2 went.
R4 – Boros.
My opponent for this round sat down and informed me this was his first PTQ, which is always a nice way to start the round. Both games were fairly uneventful, he played Turn 1 Steppe Lynx both games, which died before he could untap both games and then missed his 3rd land drop.
During sideboarding I quizzed him on the number of Kor Firewalkers he had, he claimed to have none, but I bought the Dismembers in anyway.
Arc Trail is a massive beating vs Boros as well, as it can be a 2 for 1 vs pretty much all their guys if timed correctly.
Game 1 I just killed him with guys and burn before he could really get anything going (a recurring theme), despite having to 2 for 1 myself to kill a Deceiver Exarch.
Game 2 I got lucky, he was at 1 with a Spellskite in play, facing down my Spikeshot Elder. I had 6 mana available, but less than 3 untapped. He had 8-9 mana available, he tapped for Jace and then Brainstormed following it up with a Scalding Tarn. He then looked at the 2 Islands he’d left untapped and promptly died to my end of turn burn spell into double Spikeshot activation, unable to save himself with his fetch land or Phyrexian mana.
I don’t remember these games at all, I believe I mulliganed to 5 in game 2 but pulled it out in game 3, thanks to a Crush on a Batterskull. I sideboarded the same as Round 2.
I checked the standings and despite having the worst breakers of anyone on 15 points I was fine to ID and didn’t get paired down, so I made my first PTQ Top 8!
Game 2 He got stuck on 3 mana with UUR, I could have held up 2 mana every turn so I could double bolt his Exarch in response if he drew his 4th mana but at the expense of any pressure, so I decided to just go for it. Fortunately for me he whiffed on the 2 key turns and a Staggershock into Shrine of Burning Rage for 11 made short of work him.
Burst Lightning may kill Exarch but it’s horribly expensive to do so and opens you up to all of their counter magic, while they basically can’t win through Combust. Dismember is playing Combust number 4 here, because I forgot to swap the Mark of Mutinys for Act of Aggressions.
The original Flores UR list also has 4 Leyline of Sanctity in the board fortunately for me Tom had decided to drop them, otherwise it really is very difficult to win.
These Caw Blade matches run into each other a bit, basically they all go the same way, you stick an early guy, Searing Blaze/Staggershock/Arc Trail their turn 2 Mystic or Hawk and then try and dodge their countermagic as best you can to stick a Shrine or Koth to take over the late game, while holding up a Crush or enough burn to kill the inevitable Batterskull.
By now I’d stopped worrying about Firewalker and boarded like this:
On the Draw:
+2 Arc Trail
On the Play:
Forcing Shrine or Staggershock through Spell Pierce on the Draw is a real pain so they came out, I also knew my opponent had Mental Mistep post board and getting a kicked Burst Lightning Mistepped seems just the worst…
Game 2 I mulliganned a do nothing 7, to the most tempting 6 I’ve seen in a while with triple Goblin Guide and Spikeshot Elder, but zero land. I mulliganned again not to be tempted (I did check though, the land was on top). My 5 was pretty average and was no match for his decent draw.
Game 3 I quickly knocked him to 5 facing down his Spellskite with Goblin Guide and Spikeshot Elder in play. I had double Searing Blaze and Staggershock in hand but never drew the third land and scooped when he played his second Batterskull after attacking with the first.
A frustrating way to lose after getting so close, but I don’t feel I could have done much different.
Top 8 Video
Playing the Deck:
The deck plays out pretty much as you would expect, basically you’re looking for any hand with a guy in it to apply some pressure and a some decent burn. Against Caw-Blade the principal is the same, make sure to kill any Stoneforge Mystic you see, then as soon as they tap out for Batterskull empty your hand and kill them.
If I was going to play this deck again next week there isn’t a great I’d change in the main deck. I feel like the 12 guys are all pretty important in their own way, and you want some consistent sources of damage to keep going at your opponent even if they’ve gained a little bit of life. Burst Lightning is a pain vs Caw Blade as their counterspells basically make it a Shock, but 4 damage can be massive in the late game against other decks, so I think it earns it’s spot, it’s certainly a better main deck card than the very clunky Arc Trail. Shrine of Burning Rage is a horrid top deck, but if it comes down on turn 2 it has to be answered of the game will be over in very short order.
The Mark of Mutinys in the sideboard should almost certainly be Act of Aggressions, the life loss or the +1/+1 are rarely relevant and the ability to wreck the Twin decks mid combo and then instawin really seems too good to pass up.
The Crushs were decent and certainly killed their share of Batterskulls, however I’m not convinced they shouldn’t be either Shatters so you can kill Spellskite (it’s hard to win through an active Spellskite anyway) and dodge Mental Mistep, or Flame Slash which kills all of the above, while not being quite as narrow.
While clunky I felt that Arc Trail did it’s job in the UK meta, giving the aggro decks fits and providing an extra answer on the draw to Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawks.
As long as the meta stays as hate free as it is at the moment I’d definately recommend this deck if you don’t fancy Caw Blade mirrors all day. You get plenty of time between rounds as well!
Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing,
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