This weekend promises a lot of magic action in the form of Grand Prix Lille. The GP’s format is going to be Standard and today I’ll be talking about what we can expect from it and go over some of my thought processes leading up to the event.
Looking to the last few standard events, we get a good idea of the format. Largely defined by Wolf Run Ramp and UW aggro, the format had a few other decks floating around, but this last weekend saw a big surge in UB control decks that were piloted by the Channel Fireball team. As we all know, any deck played by Channel Fireball tends to be pretty well and will be heavily played in upcoming events.
So, how does UB control affect the format?
It makes the peripheral Frites (5 colour Reanimator) deck look a lot worse in the face of all the removal and graveyard hate the UB players will be packing. A lot of people tipped Frites to be a big deck for this French GP, but the evolving meta makes this seem like a very bad idea. In addition, RG aggro seems like a better choice over the RG ramp decks whilst UW decks seem similarly positioned as they were before.
UB does have another weakness that is easily exploited though, and that’s aggressive red decks. Burn decks with cards like Shrine of Burning Rage pose a real problem for the deck, as do the instant speed damage spells to the face. These aggressive red decks also tend to do pretty well against some of the UW aggro decks, and can snatch games from Wolf Run pretty well; however sideboard cards are often the downfall of RDW. Seeing a few Timely Reinforcements in the opponent’s 75 cards is always an unwelcome sight for these red decks.
RDW gets to put away of lot of games simply by punishing mediocre draws on the other side of the table and the deck is often misunderstood as an easy deck to play, where in fact the decision trees can be very complex. The deck is not always going to be a good choice, it’s very Meta dependent, but a lot of the bad rep the deck gets is down to people picking it up thinking it’s an easy deck to play and making mistakes.
Whilst I like the edge RDW has in these matches, I feel the deck is too fragile, it’s prone to bad draws that make it fall behind and is very easy to hate out with sideboards. This got me to thinking of how to improve these issues, whilst still maintaining an aggressive core that utilizes cards like Shrine of Burning Rage. How best to address this though?
Faithless Looting provides a very strong card filter, whilst it does cost you a card, you can easily make up that disadvantage by playing things like Grim Lavamancer and Chandra’s Phoenix. The benefits of Looting are very high in this deck, but in a very different way to the combo decks like Frites, instead of looking to put things in your bin, you use it to avoid those bad draws that all too often ruin the RDW player’s day or find just the right card you need. This does mean that it comes at a very high price in terms of potential misplays, using the card in this fashion makes it more difficult to use than pretty much any cantrip dig card of the past, whether it be Brainstorm or Preordain.
To further improve the deck, we can easily dip into other colours, mana fixing for allied colours at the moment is easy, thanks to lands like Blackcleave Cliffs and Copperline Gorge which don’t even cost you tempo early on. And these colours bring with them useful tools like Huntmaster of the Fells who is excellent when it comes to recovering from a sweeper, or the token destroying machine that is Olivia Voldaren. Both of these also fuel the Shrine and can be Looted away if not required, or found more easily if needed, they also give you single cards that can happily win you the game, which is something that RDW has often lacked.
A RDW list with a lot of the situational cards cut from it, and replaced by game-winning dudes and filter, no longer classifiable as RDW, the deck has become Jund. However unlike the Jund deck of old, this build is incredibly play-skill orientated, varying in success largely due to the piloting. But with more sideboard options thanks to splashing, it’s the sort of deck I’m looking for, the more opportunities you give yourself to outplay your opponent, the more benefits you can reap if you play correctly.
Hopefully you’ll be able to see more of the list on the coverage this weekend if all goes to plan, and I’ll write a report once I return and go into the deck in detail.