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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Dec 20 2011 2:47am
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ROGUE PLAY
From Casual Room to FNM
Part V
by Nafiz Erman

Hello everybody and welcome back to Rogue Play. If you're following my articles then you'd know that I always like decks that play the control role in a game (decks with Islands are preferred but not a must). And you would also know that I most of the time try to stay away from tapping Mountains. Because those Mountains are full with rage and anger, and the result is almost always Aggro decks.

And I just don't like them.

But recently I spent a good amount of time thinking about Red as a whole, and saw that I was completely wrong about that color. Red isn't always Aggro. Surely it is very good at that and we can even say that it's the best (it's also a key color in Combo decks), but if you look a bit deeper into that color, you will see that there are many other ways of enjoying it. And recently I just discovered two such ways, and this week I'm going to share them with you.

So, shall we start... burning things?!

WARNING: This week's content is highly flammable. Read at your own risk.

 

DECK #1 & DECK#2 & DECK #3
Casual Red Control

Back when Scars of Mirrodin was the newest product, Mr. Patrick Chapin (a well known pro if you don't know him) came up with a very nice deck he called "Machine Red". That deck created a good amount of hype back then but sadly later results showed that it wasn't as good as people thought it was. And then we never heard of that deck again.

Well, at least not until today! Because the first deck I'm going to build this week is Machine Red.

Lux Cannon

First of all here's a quick explanation of Machine Red: This is a mono Red deck that actually uses almost only artifacts. Red mana and Red spells serve only for protection (burn spells). And the centerpiece of the deck is the card you see on the left; it is Lux Cannon.

Of course repeatable Vindicate is nice but Lux Cannon looks very slow; at least at first sight. And maybe that was the reason why Mr. Chapin's version never "took off" so to speak. But when Mr. Chapin built his deck, neither Mirrodin Besieged nor New Phyrexia were out. And luckily for us, those two sets added a good amount of cards to the card pool which we will now use in our Machine Red deck.

So what we're going to do dear readers, is to proliferate like crazy. We will use every playable card we can to pump our artifacts (mainly Lux Cannon) that have counters on them. But before we start thinking how we will proliferate, we will first concentrate on what to proliferate.

The first artifact we will use is Shrine of Burning Rage. We all know how fast that card can get out of control, and in this deck we will use it as one of our main win conditions.

Our second win condition will be another artifact which you probably never ever used or saw being used. It is surprisingly the card you see on the right; Titan Forge.

At this point I must say something: Please dear readers do not make the most common mistake all Magic players do. Which is judging cards in a vacuum. Of course as it is, Titan Forge looks terrible. It's slow, clunky and basically unplayable. But that's how it looks like in a vacuum! In the right deck this card will work like a charm and we're just happen to have that mysterious "right deck" dear readers. And in this deck we're going to make it a shining superstar.

How will that happen if I may ask?

Of course you may ask that my inner-me, because I'm sure many other readers are asking the same question. So what if I tell you that we're going to make 9/9 tokens off of it almost every turn? I said every turn! And that will happen thanks to our proliferate cards. We're going to play the basic Tezzeret's Gambit / Volt Charge duo of course but most importantly we're going to play Surge Node.

Titan Forge

Surge Node? What is that? I don't remember seeing that one.

I thought so too my inner-me. So here's Surge Node in all it's glory(!):

Surge Node

And that's how we're going to turn Titan Forge into a superstar.

I think now you're ready to see the deck dear readers. Here it is, in all its awesomeness(!), my casual Machine Red deck:

Casual Machine Red
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
0 cards

Other Spells
4 Shrine of Burning Rage
4 Slagstorm
4 Volt Charge
4 Ichor Wellspring
3 Mycosynth Wellspring
3 Surge Node
3 Galvanic Blast
3 Titan Forge
3 Tumble Magnet
3 Lux Cannon
3 Tezzeret's Gambit
37 cards
 
Lands
3 Phyrexia's Core
2 Buried Ruin
18 Mountain
23 cards

 
Lux Cannon

 

Oh no, your eyes don't deceive you; I have zero creatures in the deck. During early testing I had one Kuldotha Phoenix in it but later cut it for consistency's sake.

So what can I tell you about the deck that I didn't tell you above? Well, I can say that this deck is perfect for stalling the game out for starters. Tumble Magnet, a full playset of Slagstorm and other solid burn spells make it almost impossible for my opponent to get damage through. Then I bring in my Surge Node and my other artifacts that like to have counters on them, and start pumping them!

Most of the time the win comes with Titan Forge but sometimes I also win with my Shrine of Burning Rages. Making them reach to ten counters is a child's play with this deck and then it's basically the end of the road for my opponent no matter how scary creatures he has on table.

Grimoire of the Dead

One final thing about the deck: As you may see, I have zero Innistrad cards in the deck which I think is a pity. During early testing I had one Devil's Play but later cut it. At some point I also tried Manor Gargoyle instead of Kuldotha Phoenix. And I even tested Grimoire of the Dead for some time but sadly that artifact isn't using charge counters. It uses some absurd(!) study counters. Meaning Surge Node isn't working on it. Ah well, at least I tried!

And this is how things look like most of the time, when playing this deck.

Okay that Machine Red deck was the first casual deck I'm going to show you this week. I have two more and they both belong to the same "family" which is called as Big Red.

First of all, let me explain what Big Red is. Big Red is a red deck that is big Big Red is a deck that plays my favorite casual way of mana ramping; meaning Mycosynth Wellspring together with Phyrexia's Core. The deck also has Sphere of the Suns and that "Big" part of the name comes from those mana ramping cards. So this deck's whole aim is to get to at least five mana as quickly as possible to get its big finishers out.

This week I am going to show you two such casual Big Red decks. The first one, which you will see in a moment, is a true Big Red deck. The second one, however, is a bit different. But let's start with the first one and talk about it a bit. Here it is:

Casual Big Red
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
3 Kuldotha Phoenix
2 Steel Hellkite
5 cards

Other Spells
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Mycosynth Wellspring
4 Sphere of the Suns
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Slagstorm
4 Devil's Play
3 Kuldotha Rebirth
3 Artillerize
1 Heretic's Punishment
1 Spine of Ish Sah
32 cards
 
Lands
4 Glimmerpost
3 Phyrexia's Core
16 Mountain
23 cards

 
Kuldotha Phoenix

 

It's as you see a pretty simple and straightforward deck and yet it is very consistent in what it's doing. When playing this deck, I spend my early turns with mana ramping mainly. Aggro is problematic of course but that's why this deck has four Slagstorms along with many other burn spells. I also have Glimmerpost which helps against those decks.

There is one thing I like about this deck and it is the fact that it has two game plans build into it. One plan is to mana ramp into Kuldotha Phoenix or Steel Hellkite and win with either of them. And the other plan is to lower the opponent's life with Kuldotha Rebirth tokens as quickly as possible, and then seal the deal with Devil's Play, Artillerize or sometimes even with Heretic's Punishment. By the way, surprisingly the latter happens more frequently than the former.

Alright, that was one way of playing Big Red. I told you above that the second deck I'm going to show you is a bit different. I said that because this time I'm using a card which you most definitely aren't expecting. It's this one:

Treasure Mage

So yes, the second Big Red deck I'm going to show you is actually a deck. And the idea of adding Blue and thus Treasure Mage came when I was playtesting a different version of Big Red. I was constantly reaching to ridiculous amounts of mana with that deck (Geosurge was involved) but the problem was consistency. By the time I had that mana in front of me, all I had in my hand was burn spells. So I needed a constant way of getting my fatties to my hand. And so, I came up with the idea of using Treasure Mage.

And after playtesting several options, cards and possibilities, here's the deck I ended up with:

 

I will not be humble dear readers: This deck is by far my personal favorite casual deck these days. Because it's incredibly good. It's actually a perfect partnership of two colors that fill their gasps perfectly. Blue always lacked removal and now it has Slagstorm and Galvanic Blast. And Red always lacked tutors and card filtering, and now it has Forbidden Alchemy and Treasure Mage. Simply perfect.

You really must try this deck dear readers. It's one of the best casual decks I built so far and you will really love it once you see it in action. Oh and I also have to say that that lone Cackling Counterpart is so much fun! Check this out:

And just when the opponent was thinking "I'm doing just fine"... (in case it isn't clear, he died that turn!)

So yes, there's a reason why I'm using Myr Battlesphere and Cackling Counterpart in the same deck!

 

DECK #4 & DECK#5 & DECK #6
Semi Competitive Red Control

Alright the first part of the article is over and now we're going to upgrade those decks you saw above. As always, my budget in this section only allows me to add two powerful cards to my decks. We will truly get wild after this section but let's go step by step. Let's build some semi competitive -meaning FNM worthy- Red Control decks. And let's start with the Machine Red deck.

What do you think of these two?

Chandra, the Firebrand Inkmoth Nexus

Uh-oh, are you going to play Infect?

Uhm, yes and no. I'm already proliferating like crazy with that deck and put counters on things, so why not also put counters on my opponent as well? And besides, Infect will be a sub-theme in the deck. I will still mainly win with my Titan Forge and my Shrine of Burning Rage, but having an alternate third win condition can't be bad, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

And here's the deck after we add those two cards to it:

Chandra's Machine Army
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
0 cards

Other Spells
4 Chandra, the Firebrand
4 Slagstorm
4 Volt Charge
3 Tezzeret's Gambit
3 Lux Cannon
3 Titan Forge
3 Surge Node
3 Galvanic Blast
3 Shrine of Burning Rage
3 Sphere of the Suns
3 Tumble Magnet
2 Contagion Clasp
38 cards
 
Lands
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Buried Ruin
17 Mountain
23 cards

Chandra, the Firebrand

 

Well yes, I know. That's sixty one cards. But I just couldn't cut the final card and so far this deck machine never "malfunctioned" due to mana problems. 

So I have some new cards here which I didn't use in the first casual version, and the first one is Contagion Clasp. Now that I'm playing a "light" Infect theme, I added two copies and I'm very happy so far. I also took out my Wellsprings and brought in Sphere of the Suns. Sadly my Mycosynth Wellspring wasn't helping me getting out a third turn Chandra, so this change was inevitable.

Dragon's Claw

And a few words about that surprising cards you see in the sideboard: Dragon's Claw is actually a great card in Red vs Red fights. During testing I saw that Slagstorm wasn't the ultimate answer to those Red decks because they were still dealing me damage with their burn spells after they lose their creatures. Vulshok Refugee came in and went out very fast because it wasn't my answer to them. Dragon's Claw on the other hand, proved itself worthy during testing.

There is one other thing I must mention and that is Kuldotha Phoenix. After my opponent sees that I playing no creatures in the first game, he takes his removal spells out and brings in all his artifact hate for game two and three. And that's exactly the reason why I side in my Kuldotha Phoenix. Sometimes I took out Tumble Magnet and sometimes Titan Forge. But it's so much fun to attack with the Phoenix when my opponent is holding all his artifact removal spells in hand!

And in case you wonder how this works, here are a few screenshots that may help you understand it:

Who said that Slagstorm can't kill a titan?!
This is how things look like most of the time: A "clean" table and tons of stuff to proliferate (including the opponent himself).

And one final thing: While testing this deck, I discovered that people hate the following three things:

1- Repeatable actions: One Vindicate is okay, but a Vindicate every two turns is unacceptable! You're not even playing a card for that!!
2- Dead cards in hand: What is this deck? And what the heck am I going to do with this Day of Judgment now?!
3- Losing to Titan Forge: So I bought all these titans and swords and whatnot, only to lose to what... to Titan Forge?!!

Okay that was semi competitive Machine Red. And now I'll show you the mono Red version of Big Red. I will not explain this deck in long paragraphs because that is the most simple and straightforward deck in this article. Here's the list:

Semi Competitive Big Red
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
3 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Kuldotha Phoenix
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Koth of the Hammer
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Mycosynth Wellspring
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Slagstorm
4 Devil's Play
3 Kuldotha Rebirth
3 Artillerize
1 Spine of Ish Sah
31 cards
 
Lands
3 Phyrexia's Core
20 Mountain
23 cards

Koth of the Hammer

 

This version of Big Red is the deck I played a lot back in the Scars of Mirrodin Block days, and I'm sure you are familiar with it too. But now it's much better with Solemn Simulacrum from M12 and Devil's Play from Innistrad. Oh and by the way the two expensive cards I added to the list are Koth of the Hammer and Solemn Simulacrum.

Okay, as I said I will not explain that deck in long paragraphs because that is not needed. But we'll talk a lot more in detail about this deck in the competitive section. There we will see how we can make that deck something really powerful.

Alright let's talk a bit about the version of this deck which now looks like this: 

 

Two things: First, I have those Black mana producing lands in the deck so that I can pay for Forbidden Alchemy's flashback cost. And two, the two expensive cards I added to the deck are Wurmcoil Engine and Solemn Simulacrum. And with their help, this Big Red / UR Control hybrid deck became something really powerful.

This above dear readers, is a deck that you can really take to your local FNM. It has all the elements of Control and my testing showed me that it is very well capable of putting up a good fight against the big boys. There are still a few ways to make it a better deck (such as adding a few Spellskites to the sideboard) but even as it is, the deck is very powerful. If playing a deck that likes to cast really big threats while controlling the game is your style, then I strongly suggest you this one.

 

DECK #7 & DECK #8
Competitive Red Control

Alright now where at the part where there are no limits. Here the only limit is the sky and here we're going to make those decks we discussed above much better. And let's start with the Machine Red one.

So just above in the semi competitive section, we added Chandra, the Firebrand and Inkmoth Nexus to the deck and proliferated like crazy. Now we're going to do the same but with even better cards. And I have actually these in mind:

Fellowship of the... Forge!
Koth of the Hammer Karn Liberated Chandra, the Firebrand

As you can guess, now we are changing our main win condition from Titan Forge to Koth of the Hammer. Titan Forge served us very well so far, but if we want to be really competitive -and in this section of the article we do-, then we must look for better and more powerful options. Koth is such an option. 

We will still not play any creatures and we will still proliferate like crazy. Koth of the Hammer is our prime win condition now but we need a Plan B. And Inkmoth Nexus is still our Plan B.

Okay, let me show you the deck now and then we'll talk a bit more about it:

 

I played this deck for a very long time and tweaked until I reached to this version you see above. And the one thing all those testing games showed me is that... well, they showed me that this deck is incredibly competitive. I mean, it's even more competitive than I would have hoped for.

Wolf Run can't handle my planeswalkers.

The first change I made after playing the deck for a while, was to lower my Chandra, the Firebrand count to two. Chandra is incredible but against decks like Wolf Run or other even faster decks, her performance was below my expectations. It's still perfect to have her around and that's why I have one more copy in the sideboard. If allowed to survive, she has the power to singlehandedly destroy midrange and Control, and therefore she's important.

Illusions is one match-up in which Chandra shines the most.

Lux Cannon is still in the deck and it's still very absurd with all the proliferate cards I have in the deck. Not many decks can survive Vindicate every two turns and this deck can do that very consistently.

I also still keep my Dragon's Claws in the sideboard. As I explained you in the semi competitive section, that card is incredibly useful in the Red vs Red match-up.

Dragon's Claw works like a charm against RDW.

And the final thing I'm going to say is that I moved my Shrine of Burning Rages to my sideboard. That was a necessity rather than a choice. I had to make room for my four Koth of the Hammers, for my fourth copy of Tezzeret's Gambit and my Karn Liberated, and that meant that some cards had to go. Titan Forge left the deck completely but I kept my shrines and moved them to my sideboard. They come in against Control (obviously) and in those games they once again become one of my win conditions.

Now I'm moving from competitive Machine Red to Big Red. I didn't talk much about the mono Red version above in the semi competitive section, but now it's time. First let's take a look at the list and see how big our Red deck can get:

Competitive Big Red
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Inferno Titan
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
12 cards

Other Spells
4 Koth of the Hammer
4 Slagstorm
4 Volt Charge
4 Sphere of the Suns
3 Galvanic Blast
3 Tumble Magnet
1 Karn Liberated
23 cards
 
Lands
3 Ghost Quarter
2 Buried Ruin
20 Mountain
25 cards

Inferno Titan

 

I told you; it's big!

So basically this deck has everything I could have asked for from a Control deck. Spot removal? Check. Mass Removal? Check. Big flashy finishers? Check. Plans for early and mid game? Check. A turn three Koth? Oh you bet check! A turn four ultimate Koth?! Hell yes, check!

I tested this deck very intensely and to be honest this is still the deck I like to play in the Tournament Practice Room. You may wonder how it does against meta contenders and my answer is simple: Very well. It does very well but you need to practice the deck a bit first until you learn how to play it properly.

For example I lost a lot to Wolf Run first but then I learned how to play against it and started winning with the exact same seventy five. The key against them is mainly Koth of the Hammer. They simply cannot handle a third turn Koth. An ultimate Koth is also most of the time "gg". In that match-up, the key card is Tumble Magnet.

Against fast deck I most of the time bring in Ratchet Bomb. Fast decks such as Illusions or RDW pack lots of one drops and two drops, and against them Ratchet Bomb becomes simply a Wrath of God.

Control is another problem and to deal with it I bring in Shrine of Burning Rage from the sideboard. Koth is already a big weapon against them but I handle them much better when I also have my shrines on table.

Okay I think we talked enough about that mono Red deck. And now it's time to talk a bit about the  version. Let's take a look at the cards we can add to it to make it even more powerful. So yeah... uhm... I mean we can add... uhm... well, nothing!

Tumble Magnet

We will add nothing because that above deck I showed you in the semi competitive section is perfect as it is. I really thought hard and went over the options a couple of times, but saw that there was absolutely no card available to make it even better.

The deck already plays Wurmcoil Engine and get it out very fast. What else can we do?! Actually there is one direction we can take that deck, but that will completely change it. I mean adding this one:

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

The deck already has tons of artifacts. And its aim is to get out even bigger ones by tutoring them with Treasure Mage while its Red spells keep the table "clean". So the only logical option to go from there is to make it a Grixis deck and add Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas to it. But that will make the deck something completely different and just because my theme is mainly Red decks, I have no intention of showing you that Grixis deck now.

As I said above at the end of the semi competitive section, that  deck is perfect for all your FNM needs. If you have Spellskites, then you may also add them to your sideboard and you'll be perfectly fine. But if you liked that deck and also happen to own Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, then by all means turn it into a Grixis deck. Lower your Treasure Mage count to one, add a few more artifacts such as Mox Opal and rock and roll! Otherwise keep the deck as it is and have tons of fun.

 

WRAPPIN' UP PART V

Alright dear readers, one other Rogue Play is about to end. This week we talked in detail about Machine Red and Big Red; basically two Red decks that allow you to play Control while still tapping Mountains. I had huge fun while preparing this week's article and I can only hope that you will have the same amount of fun when you try the decks.

And trust me; beating the opponent with Titan Forge is incredibly fun!

 

NEXT WEEK ON ROGUE PLAY
From Casual Room to FNM, Part VI

I think we all know that card advantage is one of the key factors for success in Magic. Whoever has the card advantage, most of the time wins. And next week I will prove you how correct that fact is. Next week I will draw tons of cards and finish my opponents with cards advantage... literally!

And thanks for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

10 Comments

I'm a rogue at heart. by laughinman at Tue, 12/20/2011 - 04:34
laughinman's picture
5

So, i have to love your articles. Well written, well thought out, and obviously, you have a lot of time for playtesting. I wish i had.

As usual when you tackle a by Paul Leicht at Tue, 12/20/2011 - 04:43
Paul Leicht's picture
5

As usual when you tackle a subject you really hit it in depth. I've built variations on some of these decks (one of which was very useful in the Saturday Night Melee a few months ago.) Proliferation is such an odd and useful ability in red. You wouldn't think so since it has a slow concept but a couple turns of filling up things (and people) with counters changes your perspective. In particular turbo planeswalkers and turbo Lux Cannon are just insane vs an unprepared opponent. Even if they are prepared these kinds of decks usually have some threat density to provide backup plans.

As always nice work LE. I look forward to writing and getting the answers for our up coming (after the Holidays) interview.

Hey guys and thanks for the by Lord Erman at Tue, 12/20/2011 - 10:50
Lord Erman's picture

Hey guys and thanks for the comments. I'm glad you liked the article.

LE

Great Job! by GrandAdmiral at Tue, 12/20/2011 - 11:52
GrandAdmiral's picture
5

The blue/red decks (#3 and #6) look like a lot of fun and I'll definitely try them out. I have to say, I never thought I would get so much use out of Spine of Ish Sah. I went from thinking it was over costed removal to one of my favorite cards.

By the way, do you have a time machine or some other way to expand the number of hours in the day? These articles are so well done with so much content that it seems like they would take hours upon hours of work. I don't know how you do it, but I look forward to your articles every week. Thanks!

The truth is this: I spent 3 by Lord Erman at Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:34
Lord Erman's picture

The truth is this: I spent 3 to 4 hours during weekdays testing the decks. That's all the time I have after I get back to home from work. I try to finish all the testing during weekdays, so I do nothing but test them and test them and test them for at least 5 days.

Then to be honest I'm sacrificing all my Saturday and sometimes even my Sunday writing the articles. What you read within 15 mins the most takes my whole weekend. When people are out enjoying life, I stay at home, sit in front of my computer and write these articles.

Some time ago I decided to stop writing because all my spare time activity became writing Rogue Play. I said to my wife that I cannot write anymore because that process started consuming my whole spare time. But then she surprisingly said that I should continue because people seem to like what I write. So thanks to her and her support, I still continue sacrificing all my spare time for these articles.

And of course when I see people enjoying all my gibberish, I see that all the sacrifice I make has a meaning. But having said that, I really don't know how long I can keep up doing this. That we all will see.

Thanks for the comment and enjoy the decks!

LE

Yeah, I was wondering about by Leviathan at Tue, 12/20/2011 - 23:36
Leviathan's picture

Yeah, I was wondering about your time commitment as well. Gotta say that even though it's a lot of time it shows on the finished product. I can also understand the burn out. I needed a break around Thanksgiving, but was planning on coming back when I dumped a glass of water on my laptop. No playing or writing for a little bit, and I'm enjoying the break. It's tough to keep up, that's for sure. But we definitely appreciate the work you put in!

Wow by GrandAdmiral at Wed, 12/21/2011 - 16:35
GrandAdmiral's picture

Wow to both the time commitment for writing and the fact that you can create quality decks with 3 to 4 hours of play testing. Not sure I could do that with anything close to that speed.

I almost don't want to say anything, but at the risk of no article versus shorter articles, this could have easily been spread over two or three weeks with the amount of content packed into it. It really is great stuff.

Thanks!

PatrykG's picture
5

Dude, I envy you your ability to sacrifice for your writing. I too have a wifey that's very supportive of my writing addiction, but lately work has just been such a drain that I never have the energy to do much writing.

If you quit, I and many others will miss your articles tremendously. That being said, I also understand the desire to do more.

Either way, I wish you well. I check every day on Pure when I need a break, and it always brightens my day reading your articles.

Great articles. I loved by themonkey at Wed, 12/21/2011 - 18:27
themonkey's picture

Great articles. I loved Titan Forge from the moment I saw it. I tried to build a deck around it back when it first came out, but was never able to make it work. It was mainly built around Voltaic Key and Contagion Clasp/Engine. I did have luck with it in my Vorash Proliferate Commander deck (Titan Forge with a Doubling Season, Contagion Engine, and Voltaic Key really churns out the Titans!). I'll have to revisit the card using your decks as a template.

A great read as always. Thank you!

Greetings from spain! I have by jralcantara at Sat, 01/14/2012 - 11:41
jralcantara's picture

Greetings from spain! I have just created my account to say you thank you for your effort. I love your articles, they are funny to read, and your decks are REALLY funny to play, :-p

Sorry about my english! Is not as good as I wish!