Welcome back to Premade to Awesome! Two weeks ago we opened up the Mardu Raiders deck and found out that it includes tons of single copies of a variety of cards. Due to this, we tentatively concluded that the deck probably wouldn’t behave consistently. Since its strategy is basically to bring creatures to the table and club the opponent to death, there is still a chance that it might work out though. As a reminder here is the current decklist:
Mardu Raiders by Wizards
As usual we will play three matches and then swap five cards. I currently have no idea how the deck behaves and can’t predict which cards will have to go first. That’s why we have to see the deck in practice. So let’s go!
First round of matches
The first match was against another W/R/B deck, which was more sophisticated that the pile of cards I had. I had zero lands on my first hand and then mulliganned to this:
On Turn 4 I attacked but couldn’t follow with a castable creature. She played Hordeling Outburst to get four goblins. I finally found Bloodfell Caves and could play Valley Dasher. In the meantime she played another Hordeling Outburst and increased her goblin amount to eight. Not good. I attacked to activate raid for War-Name Aspirant. She killed the dasher with two of her tokens and then played Goblin Rabblemaster. With an infinite amount of goblins and a creature that could kill me with one hit the game was basically over. I tried to stabilize the board for a bit with Mardu Roughrider but it got killed by Mardu Charm. Then I was overrun by tokens.
In Game 2 my first hand got three swamps and only red and white spells. My next hand got every color of mana but four and five mana spells. Talk about a shaky mana base.
I played the Mardu Hordechief. She played Thoughtseize and chose the Mardu Skullhunter. Then she played Act of Treason on the chief and brought me down to 6. On my turn I attacked to activate raid for the second Mardu Hordechief. Then I eliminated the Generator Servant with Crippling Blight. On 6 life I couldn’t really attack. She only needed two attacks to kill me. In case she had a Lightning Strike on her hand only one attack was needed. So I decided to stall the game to see what my deck had to offer. The plan failed when she played two copies of Chained to the Rocks to exile both of my hordechiefs.
She attacked and I decided not to block. This way I would have the token to activate raid in case I got anything useful on the draw. I got Necrogen Scudder. I was on 3 life and decided to play it.
Results Match 1: 0-2 LOSE
In the next game I decided to keep this starting hand.
I could play War-Name Aspirant and Goblin Roughrider. I would have 4 turns to find a source of white mana and then I could play Timely Hordemate with raid to bring back the Aspirant if she already died.
Well, my opponent played Despise on Turn 1 and made me discard the Aspirant. So much for unfailing plans. On Turn 3 I was in this spot and grossly misplayed it:
What I should have done was to play the Mountain followed by the Goblin Roughrider. Then I could either draw a Plains on the next turn or play Scoured Barrens and Crippling Blight. Either way I could have attacked for 3 points of damage. Instead I played the blight and the barrens this turn and the roughrider on the next. Stupid me.
So I killed the Welkin Tern and she played Triton Shorestalker and Shipwreck Singer. I attacked with the Goblin Roughrider who got blocked by the Siren whose -1/-1 ability was activated. So we traded cards but I could play Timely Hordemate who brought back War-Name Aspirant with a +1/+1 counter.
So I could use Lightning Strike on the rats and then attack for 6 damage. But then the Triton Shorestalker would become an impassable blockade since it could simply regenerate. So I decided to attack and traded the Typhoid Rats with Timely Hordemate and then played Lightning Strike onto the merfolk. That way I got three cards for two which is better than one card for one.
That’s something to remember. Especially newer players tend to empty their hand for no reason. The Mountain wouldn’t do me any good on the board. But a card in my hand could be everything and your opponent has to play differently than if you have no cards in hand. So keep lands in hand when they are useless on the board. In this case Despise couldn’t let me discard a card but it let her play Illusory Angel.
Since a 4/4 could tear through my creatures I decided to only attack with the Mardu Hateblade who could gain deathtouch until I come up with a removal spell. This plan got much more difficult when she played Molting Snakeskin on the angel. Hmmmm. I calculated if I could bring her life down to zero if I just kept attacking, but came to the conclusion that I would run out of creatures beforehand. So we just stared at each other until she played Military Intelligence and [/card]Welkin Tern[/card]. She decided to attack and then used up all her mana to play Triton Shorewalker and Siren of the Silent Song. That was a mistake since I now could play Flesh to Dust on the angel. A short while later she conceded the whole match.
Results Match 2: 1-0 WIN
In Match 3 I first had this starting hand:
But my opponent mulliganned to zero and conceded the game. Get your mana base fixed my friend!
In Game 2 I decided to keep this hand. I couldn’t cast anything but at least I had a source of every mana.
So I played lands and the banner and she played two Battlewise Hoplites. I found a Valley Dasher and attacked. It got blocked by both hoplites and I played Bring Low on one of them. She then played Banishing Light on my creature.
She continued to play Ordeal of Thalassa on the remaining hoplite who then attacked me for four. I played Smite the Monstrous on my turn. I didn’t want to give her a chance to draw a counterspell. Instead she casted [card]Glimpse the Sun God[card] on her creature and conceded. Well . . . . ok?
Results Match 3: 2-0 WIN
Analysis and first round of changes
Okay, so the deck went 2-1. In general that is good for a Wizards deck but the opponents in Matches 2 and 3 were very weak. Thus I didn’t get much information about the deck and what works and what doesn’t. So I think that in this first round of changes I want to strengthen the creature base by removing some oddlings and including some solid choices. I do not want to touch our mana base yet, since we do not know what our final color distribution in the deck will look like.
When you look at recent tournament results you will find some Mardu decks who regularly go 4-0 or 3-1. Sadly they sport a ton of fetchlands, planeswalker and Goblin Rabblemaster. Since we cannot afford those cards, we have to look for a way to utilize the strengths of the Mardu clan in another, cheaper way. While searching through the available cards I found three cards that might give us a hint where to go from here: Chief of the Edge, Raiders’ Spoils and Rush of Battle. What do you think? If we focus on creatures with the warrior subtype and include those three cards, can we make a viable consistently aggressive deck? After all the Mardu khan Zurgo Helmsmasher is a warrior, too, and I definitely want to include him.
Let’s give it a try, shall we? First we have to get rid of those single copy creatures that do not fit into our plan.
While flyers are generally useful in an aggressive deck, this is the Mardu Horde! We do not fly, we run or go by horse and just stomp everything in our path. Flyers, pfff.
(IV) Firehoof Cavalry -1
Its activated ability is not very good. So it is basically just a 1/1 for 1 mana and not even a warrior. Out you go!
(V) Mardu Banner -1
While this is not a creature I drew this artifact way too often and it never did anything. It is very satisfying to know that I am not going to see it again in my hand. Ever.
(VI) Chief of the Edge +4
I am willing to go all in on this idea. Either it works or it fails miserably but I want four copies of this. It might be a problem to get WB on Turn 2 but this creature is still good when played on Turn 3 or even 4.
(VII) Raiders’ Spoils +1
Of the three aforementioned cards this is the one I am least convinced of. I think including one copy to see how it works is the best course of action here.
Okay, great! Let’s what our deck looks like now:
Mardu Raiders by Gurkengelee
We got rid of 4 different creatures and it still looks like a zoo. A long way to go for the Mardu Horde. Let’s head back to the tables.
Second round of matches
First up I was against a mono-white deck.
I mulliganned to six and got this starting hand.
I decided to keep it, since it had every kind of mana. I played War-Name Aspirant on Turn 2. She played Soulmender and Raise the Alarm. While her 1/1 creatures couldn’t block my aspirant, she still decided to not attack. I played another War-Name Aspirant who became 3/2 and she answered with Sungrace Pegasus. She played Divine Favor on it, and we started to exchange blows with my aspirants and her flying pony.
My demise began when she drew a third land and played Archetype of Courage. Ok I found the weak spot of the deck. My creatures do not have sufficient toughness to survive the first strike combat phase. Therefore I couldn’t trade with her creatures. I could also not race her, since the pegasus would just refill her life. I found a Heat Ray which would have been good, since I could remove the archetype. But she played a second one plus a Paragon of the New Dawn and the deal was sealed.
I played the War-Name Aspirant, she played Ainok Bond-Kin. More first strike. Uh-oh. I attacked and played the Goblin Roughrider, she used outlast and played a Sungrace Pegasus. I hit her a bit more and played Mardu Skullhunter.
She then played Phalanx Leader. I drew Heat Ray and could choose between killing the leader or the ainok. Killing the Ainok would be good if she didn’t have Archetype of Courage since she then wouldn’t get first strike. Otherwise killing the leader would be better since she then wouldn’t have access to a ton of +1/+1 tokens. I decided to take a gamble and kill the Ainok Bond-Kin. She then played Marked by Honor on the leader who became 4/4 preventing me from attacking her. I drew Bloodfell Caves so I could finally play the cards from my hand. Since one of them was Crackling Doom I could kill the leader. So I wasn’t very worried at this point.
But then she played Archetype of Courage. That itself was a problem but then I grossly misplayed my cards. Instead of using Crackling Doom on my turn to make her sacrifice the leader I waited until it was her turn. She played Feat of Resistance and I answered with the doom. But the heroic ability of the Phalanx Leader activates when a spell is cast. It doesn’t need to resolve. So while the leader had to be sacrificed all her other creatures got beefed. Stupid me.
An Abzan Falconeer provided flying to all her creatures. I could have beefed my creatures to insane power levels with three copies of Chief of the Edge and they would still have died to her first strike creatures. So the Mardu Horde dies to the measly Abzans. But vengeance will be mine!
Results Match 1: 0-2
In the next match I was up against an impostor! She played Mardu, too. In game one I was pretty mana screwed and could only play War-Name Aspirant. But obviously she even had less mana and therefore forfeited on Turn 3.
Tsk, tsk. Get your mana base in order friend!
In Game 2 we both got enough mana to play something. I had Chief of the Edge, she had Monastery Swiftspear. I attacked and supplemented my troops with Raise the Alarm. Those tokens are sadly no warriors. I then drew Raiders’ Spoils and was very excited to try it out.
So I attacked and she played Mardu Charm to summon two 1/1 warrior tokens with first strike. They butchered my chief but I still did 4 points of damage. On her turn she played Butcher of the Horde and attacked me for 3. I had Crackling Doom on hand. This card turned out to be quite a killer. I summoned Mardu Hateblade and shoved the tokens to the redline. She decided not to block.
I could now attack and play Trumpet Blast for the win if she doesn’t block. But she decided to trade her paragon for my Hateblade and I held back my instant. Instead I played Mardu Hordechief[card] and [card]Borderland Marauder. She then played Ponyback Brigade and suddenly had seven creatures that she held back to block.
I drew Chief of the Edge and played it. Even with trumpet blast there was no way to kill her now since she could simply block every creature of mine. But since our deck doesn’t include any mass removal I decided to attack nevertheless to clean up the board a bit. And lo and behold she blocked everything but the single warrior token. The token was 3/1 due to Raiders’ Spoils and Chief of the Edge. She was on five life points. I had Trumpet Blast.
Results Match 2: 2-0 WIN
The last match was very exciting and showed the strengths and weaknesses of our deck. I started out with a hand that could play something and had every color of mana.
I played the Mardu Hateblade followed by a Borderland Marauder and started to whack at her health. She played a couple of life gain lands that diminished the effect a bit. I also played a Mardu Warshrieker whose raid effect did essentially nothing.
She played Courser of Kruphix and revealed Whelming Wave. I wasn’t worried about the centaur since I had Crackling Doom in hand. But the wave seemed nasty. I drew Chief of the Edge so I played her instead of the doom and attacked. She decided to trade the courser for the marauder and then played Whelming Wave on her turn. In my mind I had a great plan to first play Mardu Warshrieker and then use the mana it generates to play my other two creatures. Turns out you have to attack with something first before raid activates. Well … fail.
Well she played another Whelming Wave and I played my creatures again next turn. She then played Courser of Kruphix who died to Flesh to Dust. She then played Kiora, the Crashing Wave and used her +1 on the warshrieker. Well I could play Chief of the Edge and Valley Dasher and attacked her with the warrior and Kiora with the berserker. Sadly the Valley Dasher died to Murderous Cut.
On the next turn I played Borderland Marauder and attacked her with everything. I marched right into a trap when she played AEtherspouts. I decided to put everything but the Mardu Warshrieker on top of my library and proceeded to play the creatures again. The Borderland Marauder died to a Sultai Charm. But please look closely at the situation.
She is on six life and with Crackling Doom and [/card]Lightning Strike[/card] we could do five points of damage. If she would only lose 1 more life …
Well she won the game for me when she tapped everything to play Villainous Wealth. Everything included Mana Confluence. While she now had a pretty impressive army I casted the two spells and won Game 1.
My starting hand in Game 2 was ok. I think I do not like the Mardu Skullhunter that much. It’s raid effect isn’t the best and it comes into play tapped which means he has no impact on the board when he is played.
Nevertheless I played the first one and decided to have him beaten up by a Courser of Kruphix and played the second for the discard effect. She played a couple of lands and Kiora, the Crashing Wave. I had to wait for 5 mana to play Ankle Shanker before I could do anything. Kiora died by herself when my opponent used her -1 ability two times. She drew even more cards with Sultai Charm. I finally could play Ankle Shanker and attacked.
She didn’t block and played another Kiora. Can’t have enough planeswalker I guess. I drew Raiders’ Spoils, played it and attacked. She decided to block both creatures and, thanks to the Ankle Shanker made it a two for zero exchange for me. Sadly she found Drown in Sorrow and removed my creatures. I played a Mardu Hateblade and the Mardu Warshrieker who were sent back by Whelming Wave. I got a slight déjà vu here. I played some more cards but then she found Villainous Wealth and played it with 12 mana. I conceded after my own army threatened to kill me next turn.
Game 3 started with slow. I couldn’t play anything until Turn 5, she got stuck on three lands for a while. When I finally could play Mardu Roughrider it was being neutralized by Kiora, the Crashing Wave.
I still attacked to trigger raid and played Mardu Warshrieker and then used its mana to also play Timely Hordemate. I then played Raiders’ Spoils and made a stupid mistake when attacking. I attacked Kiora with the hordemate instead of the warshrieker. Thus I could draw only one instead of two cards with Raiders’ Spoils. Anyway, on her turn she emptied the board with Whelming Wave.
I started to play them again and she decided to use AEtherspouts on my single Mardu Roughrider. I do not think this was the best use of the card. I played Mardu Warshrieker and used its mana, so I could play two Mardu Hordechief so I got a pretty impressive army. She played Drown in Sorrow which could only kill the two tokens.
She played Courser of Kruphix who died to Flesh to Dust. I then attacked, brought her down to two and drew two cards. She played Whelming Wave to buy some time but I drew Mardu Charm through Raiders’ Spoils. I played it on the end step to summon two 2/1 warrior tokens who then finished the game.
That was fun!
Results Match 3: 2-1 WIN
Conclusion and Analysis
Okay, so these matches actually taught me something about the deck. For one, that first strike is pretty much a killer against us. Second, that our mana base is a bit shaky. While the deck feels quite strong when it can play its cards, sometimes its just dead because it’s lacking a specific color of mana.
I do not think that we can solve the first problem within the limitations of this series. I do not want to include Archetype of Courage because it is a soldier and not a warrior. And I feel that our deck is strong enough to play against any deck that does not have a ton of first strike. But if you want to add a sideboard please go ahead and include three to four copies of Archetype of Courage and put them in, if your enemy plays Archetype of Courage too.
I think in this round of change I want to finish the strategy I outlined in the first analysis above. I also want to fix the mana base a bit, so we can actually play some cards. I think this is currently more important than to round out our mana curve or increase the power level of the cards. There is no sense in having the most powerful cards in your deck when they will be stuck in your hand in two of three games.
So let us make some room for the new cards first.
Both cards cost 5 mana. I really want to lower the mana curve of this deck and want a maximum of two cards at the 5-mana slot.
(X) Smite the Monstrous -1
At 4 mana this card is also on the high end of the curve. It is also very restricted in its use. Most creatures with 4 power can be killed by a combination of your creatures and a burn spell. If they do not die to that, the game is probably lost anyway. And if you draw this without the opponent having a suitable creature, like in the last match, it is just a dead card.
I want two copies of every of those cards. They both cost 4 mana so I do not want to include more. We do not want to draw them too early and also not too often. Together with Chief of the Edge we now have the core of our warrior Mardu deck completed. At this point I am pretty convinced of this idea, especially with the performance of Raiders’ Spoils that forces your opponent to make bad choices. We can now smooth out the deck in the next two round of changes. This will be hard enough, given all the single copies in this deck.
In order to fix our mana base without having a complete idea how our mana is distributed, I want to add two more copies of Nomad Outpost. They are good, no matter how our deck looks like in the end. Nevertheless we do not want too many lands that come into play tapped. We can play them on turn one and maybe on Turn 2 but after that our speed will be seriously hampered and we will not be able to get control of the game. Therefore I want to throw out two of the life gain lands. I decided to keep the WB one since it increases our chance to play Chief of the Edge on turn two.
(XII) [card]Nomad Outpost] +2
And this is what our deck looks like now:
Mardu Raiders by Gurkengelee
You can buy it for around 2 tickets at the Academy_Sellbots, and it already showed that it is capable of bringing down decks that cost 80 dollars upwards.
I think the deck slowly takes shape into something whole. If we hit our mana I am convinced that we can put out a good fight to every deck. Currently the deck is quite vulnerable to board sweepers like Anger of the Gods. Thus we will need some cards that can win the game, after our smaller creatures are erased from the board.
What do you think? Is the combination of Chief of the Edge, Raiders’ Spoils and Rush of Battle a good idea? Or is it completely daft and you would propose another way to build this deck? Please use the comment section and feel free to talk to me on MTGO under the screenname Gurkengelee.