Leveling Up in Standard - GB Ramp, GB Pummeler, and BW Control


8 min read

It seems like at least once a year Mono-Red comes out of seemingly nowhere to absolutely dominate the Pro Tour. With this, comes a revolving metagame that can be leveraged, and it creates one of the best experiences in competitive Magic – predicting a metagame.

Level 1 – The Recruit

[d title=”Ramunap Red by PVDDR – 1st, Pro Tour HOU”]
Creatures
4 Bomat Courier
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Village Messenger
4 Earthshaker Khenra
3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
3 Hazoret the Fervent

Planeswalkers
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Spells
4 Shock
4 Abrade

Lands
14 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
2 Scavenger Grounds
4 Sunscorched Desert

Sideboard
2 Chandra’s Defeat
1 Oath of Chandra
2 Aethersphere Harvester
2 Pia Nalaar
2 Savage Alliance
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Sand Strangler
2 Glorybringer
[/d]

The nice thing about this yearly occurrence is that Mono-Red is typically very beatable, and some of the best Standard formats have followed from what comes out of the woodwork to adapt to the Mono-Red Menace. The “Level 2” deck that beats the red deck is typically a bigger aggro/midrange deck like an old school Abzan Aggro list with [mtg_card]Siege Rhino[/mtg_card]. The important part of these decks need are big bodies, cheap removal, and some amount of lifegain. In this particular case, the best candidate is GB Snake. I’d start with Sam Pardee’s list from the Pro Tour.

Level 2 – The Apprentice

[d title=”GB Constrictor by Sam Pardee, Pro Tour HOU”]
Lands
4 Blooming Marsh
3 Evolving Wilds
5 Forest
1 Hashep Oasis
4 Hissing Quagmire
6 Swamp

Creatures
4 Grim Flayer
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
3 Tireless Tracker
2 Verdurous Gearhulk
4 Walking Ballista
4 Winding Constrictor

Spells
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
4 Fatal Push
2 Grasp of Darkness
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald

Planeswalkers
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

Sideboard
3 Dispossess
1 Doomfall
2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Grasp of Darkness
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Never / Return
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
1 Tireless Tracker
3 Transgress the Mind
[/d]

This most certainly fits the bill as as a larger aggro deck backed up with cheap removal. The big draw to this deck is the full set of [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card], which does some serious work against Mono Red. Part of the problem with Mono Red is that blocking is really hard. Walking Ballista can, instead of blocking, can simply trade a +1/+1 counter for 1-toughness creature instead.

 

A similar draw for me is [mtg_card]Liliana, the Last Hope[/mtg_card]. Mono Red’s creatures are just awful. Not only are they awful, but many of them are one toughness, and thus get gobbled up by Liliana. Then you have 4 [mtg_card]Grasp of Darkness[/mtg_card] to cleanly deal with Hazoret. With quality interaction backed up by some big bodies GB decks seems poised to dominate the Grand Prix circuit post-Pro Tour.

The other list I wanted to mention in this “Macro-Archetype” of “Big Aggro” is a sweet Mono Black Eldrazi list from the Magic Online PTQ that I forgot to play in. (I had a similar Mono Black Control list ready to go)
[d title=”Mono Black Eldrazi by AKMiD, Magic Online PTQ (7-1)”]
Creatures
4 Gifted Aetherborn
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer

Instants
4 Fatal Push
4 Grasp of Darkness

Land
4 Aether Hub
2 Desert of the Glorified
4 Ifnir Deadlands
3 Scavenger Grounds
2 Sea Gate Wreckage
10 Swamp

Artifact
1 Aethersphere Harvester

Planeswalker
4 Liliana, the Last Hope

Sideboard
1 Collective Brutality
1 Dispossess
1 Dreamstealer
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Liliana’s Defeat
1 Never//Return
2 Ob Nixilis Reignited
2 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Transgress the Mind
1 Yahenni’s Expertise
[/d]

The big draw to this list is the fantastic mana base. I tested this list out and fell in love quickly. I won so many games off the back of [mtg_card]Ifnir Deadlands[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Scavenger Grounds[/mtg_card], and [mtg_card]Sea Gate Wreckage[/mtg_card]. Not to mention the dream curve of Aether Hub upgrading Glint-Sleeve Siphoner into a better [mtg_card]Dark Confidant[/mtg_card] on turn two.

fatal push mtg card

On top of the great mana base is the unholy trifecta of interaction that absolutely destroys mono red (Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness, and Liliana, the Last Hope). Thought-Knot Seer is basically impossible to kill, and can snag a Hazoret before it comes down. The Eldrazi in general are great at grinding and closing out games.

This has my pick for Big Aggro deck and is would’ve been on my short list of decks to play last weekend. A couple of cards I’d want to test are [mtg_card]Harsh Scrutiny[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Subtle Strike[/mtg_card], and Dreamstealer. All three fit what the deck is trying to do.

[mtg_card]Dreamstealer[/mtg_card] in particular is likely great against decks that are trying to one up the metagame Ramp. Subtle Strike is great with a lot of our creatures, and it can keep a Thought-Knot Seer alive against a [mtg_card]Grasp of Darkness[/mtg_card]. It does something like a [mtg_card]Dromoka’s Command[/mtg_card] impression, especially if the format resolves around one-toughness creatures. (Yes, Nick just said that Subtle Strike = Dromoka’s Command, ladies and gentleman you heard it here first…)

grind mtg card artwork

So here’s how I see this weekend playing out. You’ll have some number of people who are on the Mono Red hype train. Then there will be the people who play the decks that they think beat up on Mono Red (GB Snake and Bigger Eldrazi decks). Knowing this, we want to build a deck that has a reasonable mono red matchup and absolutely crushes GB snake decks. This usually means finding the big mana deck of the format, or going slightly bigger (think Abzan Control with [mtg_card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/mtg_card] vs Abzan Aggro with [mtg_card]Fleecemane Lion[/mtg_card]).

This would also the time for combo decks to shine, though we are certainly low on those these days.  I’ll call this the “Level 3″ of the format. Let’s start with the Ramp deck. I’m really drawn to a list that Conley Woods posted on Twitter:

[d title=”Green Black Desert Ramp by Conley Woods”]
Creatures
4 Catacomb Sifter
4 Jaddi Offshoot
2 World Breaker
1 The Gitrog Monster
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Planeswalkers
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty

Lands
3 Forest
2 Swamp
1 Blighted Fen
4 Blooming Marsh
3 Hashep Oasis
4 Hissing Quagmire
4 Ifnir Deadlands
1 Scavenger Grounds
3 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

Spells
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
2 Fatal Push
2 Grasp of Darkness
1 Warping Wail
3 Beneath the Sands
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
3 Collective Brutality
2 Flaying Tendrils
4 Hour of Promise
1 Never

Sideboard
2 Gifted Aetherborn
1 Ramunap Excavator
3 Thought-Knot Seer
1 World Breaker
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
2 Warping Wail
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
1 Collective Brutality
1 Flaying Tendrils
1 Never
[/d]

Not only is this a competent ramp strategy, but it’s also a grindy rock deck that turns Hour of Promise in to an unbelievable toolbox. You can fetch utility deserts OR the [mtg_card]Shrine of the Forsaken Gods[/mtg_card] that will let you cast a turn 5 [mtg_card]Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger[/mtg_card]. Against control you get a pair of bodies and two Hissing Quagmires.  You have maindeck removal and sweepers for Mono Red (along with four [mtg_card]Jaddi Offshoot[/mtg_card]!) and if you wanted to, you could fix the matchup even more. I would want to make room some number of Sylvan Advocates. Here’s my build of the GB Ramp deck:

[d title=”GB Desert Ramp by Nick Peternell”]
Land
4 Blooming Marsh
1 Desert of the Glorified
2 Desert of the Indomitable
2 Forest
3 Hashep Oasis
4 Hissing Quagmire
3 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Scavenger Grounds
2 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
2 Swamp

Creature
3 Catacomb Sifter
4 Jaddi Offshoot
4 Sylvan Advocate
2 The Gitrog Monster
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
3 World Breaker

Sorcery
4 Beneath the Sands
1 Flaying Tendrils
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
4 Hour of Promise

Instant
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
3 Fatal Push

Sideboard
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
1 Yahenni’s Expertise
3 Dispossess
3 Dreamstealer
1 Fatal Push
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Lost Legacy
2 Collective Brutality
[/d]

The biggest differences between our lists is that mine grinds a little harder and is expecting a GB-centric metagame. This archetype hasn’t really been explored as much as it needs to be, and I’m excited to see what other come up with in the “Deserts Matter” cluster.

I don’t think a big midrange/control deck exists right now that can beat up GB Snake. If I were to try though, it would be BW Midrange.

[d title=”BW Control by Nick Peternell”]
Land
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Forsaken Sanctuary
4 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Plains
1 Scavenger Grounds
4 Shambling Vent
2 Shefet Dunes
5 Swamp

Planeswalker
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited

Creature
3 Archangel Avacyn
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Linvala, the Preserver
1 Noxious Gearhulk
2 Sunscourge Champion
4 Thraben Inspector

Instant
2 Anguished Unmaking
2 Blessed Alliance
3 Fatal Push
3 Grasp of Darkness

Sorcery
2 Fumigate

Sideboard
2 Collective Brutality
1 Dispossess
2 Dreamstealer
2 Forsake the Worldly
2 Fragmentize
2 Gideon’s Defeat
1 Liliana’s Defeat
3 Transgress the Mind [/d]

The deck has quite a few powerful cards and a removal suite well-suited to the metagame. Gideon is still king and the curve of removal into Liliana, into Gideon should put away most games. (if you come at the king, you best not miss) I also think Archangel Avacyn isn’t seeing enough play right now. She gets around the red creatures that make it so you can’t block and does a fantastic job of protecting planeswalkers.

The last deck I’ll leave you with is the closest I could come to a “Combo” deck:
[d title=”GB Pummeler by Nick Peternell”]
Creature
4 Bristling Hydra
4 Dreamstealer
4 Electrostatic Pummeler
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
4 Longtusk Cub
4 Servant of the Conduit

Instant
4 Blossoming Defense
2 Fatal Push
1 Highspire Infusion

Land
4 Aether Hub
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Forest
4 Hashep Oasis
3 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Swamp

Sorcery
4 Attune with Aether
4 Larger Than Life

Sideboard
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
3 Dispossess
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
2 Fatal Push
2 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
2 Scavenger Grounds
2 Tireless Tracker
[/d]

This twist on the classic Pummeler deck is a bit more grindy and gets to play 8 effective beaters with Dreamstealer now. Dreamstealer plus a pump effect effectively ends the game on the spot, ridding our opponents of their troublesome “hand”. This is another deck that gets a huge upgrade from the Desert package – Hashep Oasis acting as a pump spell is important in the same way the Inkmoth Nexus is huge for Modern Infect.

Dreamstealer’s Eternalize ability gives this deck gas after a deck has killed your creatures. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is low-key insane in this deck as well, granting card advantage, energy, and an evasive body. This is the other deck on my short list of decks to play this weekend and has been fantastic in testing. It struggle a bit with red but on its own it’s an insanely powerful strategy.

Hope you liked these innovative lists and good luck leveling up at your next tournament.

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