From Premade to Awesome #9: More Mardu

In this episode Benjamin fleshes out the Mardu Raiders deck and fights with his own mana as much as with the enemy.

Welcome back to From Premade to Awesome!

Two weeks ago we decided to turn Mardu Raiders into a warrior deck based on Chief of the Edge, Raiders’ Spoils and Rush of Battle. In this episode we will see if this direction generally works out and what we can do with our last two rounds of changes to make this deck truly awesome. As a reminder, this is our current decklist:

I really hope that our deck is fast and consistent enough now to get some wins out of the next matches. Let’s head straight to the tables!

Third round of matches

In the first match I started with a hand with a lot of castable creatures.


I even drew a Valley Dasher on Turn 2 to attack with. She played Bassara Tower Archer and buffed it with Living Totem. When I attacked with the Valley Dasher and the Mardu Skullhunter she blocked with the Totem and I decided to play Trumpet Blast. This way the Totem would die and the Skullhunter could do two more points of damage.


On my next turn she played Hunter’s Ambush to prevent the damage of my Skullhunter. Unfortunately it doesn’t prevent raid and thus I got a 3/2 War-Name Aspirant. She on the other hand had a 1/4 Karametra’s Acolyte.


While I had three Chief of the Edge on hand I had no mana to play them. So basically attacking was fruitless. Nevertheless I send the Aspirant in. My opponent knew that I have Trumpet Blast in the deck so she might be afraid to block with the Acolyte and she probably did not want to trade the Archer. I guessed right and inflicted 3 points of damage. This shows that reading your opponent is as important in Magic as it is, for example, in poker. It’s not only the cards that count but also what you think your opponent is going to do if you play in a certain way. If you master this, you will see that your level of play increases considerably.

She played Nylea’s Disciple and attacked with the archers. I gladly threw my skullhunter in the way. On my turn I indeed drew a Trumpet Blast so I attacked with everything and killed the Disciple.


This is also important. If you play an aggressive deck you want to be attacking whenever possible. Every point of damage counts and if you can trade your creatures for theirs do not be afraid to do so. Nothing much happened afterwards until I beat her down to zero. She conceded the whole match.

Results match 1: 1-0 WIN

In Match 2 I faced the Mardu Horde. It was very interesting, since she included some cards that I haven’t considered for our deck and it was fun to see how it played out. The game started with a Tormented Hero on her side and a War-Name Aspirant on mine. She attacked and played an Aspirant herself.


I attacked but couldn’t play something. She on the other hand could play Mardu Ascendancy. I decided to shoot her aspirant with Heat Ray in order to remove the threat and provide her with less goblins. She attacked with the hero, I in turn attacked with the aspirant and played a Mardu Skullhunter. She answered with Butcher of the Horde which is a very good card indeed. I thought about including it in our deck at first. But since we are going down the warrior path, the demon has no place here.


She sacrificed the goblin to provide the demon with haste and brought me down to 6. On my turn I attacked, played a Mardu Warshrieker and used the generated mana to kill the demon with Mardu Charm. But she found a Chief of the Edge on her turn and attacked. I had to block the Tormented Hero with the orc and went down to three while she was on 14.

I didn’t find anything useful and lost Game 1.

In Game 2 I started with this hand.


She could play Bloodsoaked Champion on Turn 1. This is a pretty good card and I think I want to include it in our deck too. She started whacking at me while I played Chief of the Edge and Goblin Roughrider. It died to Crackling Doom. Of course.


Well I expanded my board with Mardu Warshrieker followed by Mardu Skullhunter the former of which died to Mardu Charm and was replaced by Mardu Roughrider. How often can you say Mardu in one sentence? It died to another Crackling Doom but then I found a Trumpet Blast and I could finish the game.


In Game 3 I started with Borderland Marauder and Goblin Roughrider while she played Bloodsoaked Champion and Mardu Ascendancy.


Sadly I didn’t find another mana source for my Chief of the Edge so I was a bit hampered. My opponent on the other hand played Chief of the Scale who is the defensive counterpart. I don’t really like it because one more defense usually doesn’t cut it, especially if you want to be the aggressor. She also played War-Name Aspirant and on top of all else Butcher of the Horde.


The butcher gobbled up the champion and attacked with haste. I drew another Chief of the Edge which wasn’t exactly helpful. She played another Butcher of the Horde on her turn and finished the game.

Results Match 2: 2-1 LOSE

Match 3 went against a black-white deck. I started with Chief of the Edge and she with Asphodel Wanderer, a card that you really shouldn’t play. She then played Godsend, which is a nice equipment.


Luckily I had Heat Ray and Mardu Charm on hand, so I could shoot the wanderer if she tried to equip it. Which is exactly what happened. She conceded the match. Okay. Normally I would play another match now, but I am currently a bit time-constrained, so I count it as a win.

Results Match 3: 1-0 WIN

Analysis and third round of changes

We won two matches against very weak decks and lost one to a deck of similar strength as ours. I think our deck is not fast enough yet. We have a lot of cards that are on the high end of the curve and we still have cards that are not very powerful. Also we are still fighting with a lot of 1-ofs and 2-ofs which makes our deck kind of erratic. So in order to win more games we need to lower our mana curve while in the same time improve our power level. So let’s see what we can change.

(I) Mardu Warshrieker -2

The Warshrieker costs 4 mana, which is way too high. It also is no warrior and therefore doesn’t fit into our strategy. Its raid ability is also a hit or miss. Sometimes you can play two cards a turn, sometimes it doesn’t do anything. So I want to throw them out.

(II) Hordeling Outburst -1

It is not a bad card but I don’t think it fits in our deck. For once it costs double red when our mana base is already shaky at best. Additionally it is a sorcery so you cannot make shenanigans as you could with Raise the Alarm. And thirdly the goblins are not even warriors.

(III) Bloodsoaked Champion +3

Instead I want this guy. He is just roundabout awesome. Firstly he is a 2-power creature for 1 mana. Remember the times when the only creature in this category was Savannah Lions and you had to pay a fortune to get them? Good times. His raid ability is also pretty neat, since he can keep coming back. He can activate the ability on his own so you can always send him in for a trade.

(IV) Ankle Shanker -1
(V) Mardu Roughrider -1

Both cards are on 5 mana, which is the top end of our curve. When the game comes to a point where I can and have to play 5 mana creatures I want them to be able to finish the game. Alone. While roughrider is better in this regard as Ankle Shanker I still find both underwhelming.

(VI) Zurgo Helmsmasher +2

I thought about leaving the 5 mana slot empty. But then I couldn’t resist including this guy. He is the leader of the Mardu horde after all so he has to be included. I do not know how many games he will win, or if he will be a dead card most of the time. But I really want him, if just for flavor.

Okay, great– so this is what our deck looks like now.

If we can consistently draw an early swamp and Bloodsoaked Champion or Chief of the Edge I see our deck in a pretty good position now. It is still mainly random cards that have to be put to a good use whenever they come up. But hey, the plan is still to just beat your opponent with whatever you got. Can’t be too hard, can it? The champions stand around one ticket each, Zurgo is at half a ticket per copy. So all in all, the price of our deck increased by 6 tickets and is now somewhere around 8. Still within the budget.

Let’s head back to the tables!

Fourth round of matches

In Match 1 Game 1 I started with this promising hand.


I played both War-Name Aspirants, while she played Flame-Wreathed Phoenix. I decided to pay tribute since I had Bring Low on hand which could kill the fiery bird for good. Just 1 more mana…


It took me two turns to find a land and I didn’t attack meanwhile. I see no sense in sacrificing my creatures for a measly 2 points of damage. After I killed the phoenix she played Ember Swallower. I attacked with everything and she blocked the 3/2 War-Name Aspirant. Do you see the correct play here?


Well, I didn’t. Instead I let combat play out and then used Heat Ray to kill the elemental. What would have been correct? Playing Trumpet Blast of course. In this case her creature would also have died but I would have done 4 points of damage more. Didn’t matter too much since I killed her on the next turn anyway.

In Game 2 I started on a pretty stable mana base.


The game started similar to the last one with me playing Borderland Marauder and War-Name Aspirant and playing Flame-Wreathed Phoenix.


Should I play tribute or not? I decided against it, since I could shut it down easily with Crippling Blight. I did so and played Chief of the Edge. She had an Fanatic of Mogis but that could only kill one of my creatures and I won the game.

Results Match 1: 2-0 WIN

In Match 2 I had two Bloodsoaked Champions on the starting hand and was pretty excited to see what it could do.


So I started to play the two champions and the Goblin Roughrider. She had two Elvish Mystics and used them to play Prophet of Kruphix.


On my turn I made a huge mistake by using Crippling Blight on the prophet. I could just have attacked and in case she blocked one of my champions I could have brought him back. I attacked and she played Fleetfeather Cockatrice to kill a champion. I played War-Name Aspirant but on her turn she brought Soul of Zendikar to the table. Ouch. Without Crackling Doom I lost the game in several turns.

In Game 2 I first had a hand with seven lands and then a hand without lands so I mulliganned to five to get this:


I played both creatures and she played Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. I had Bring Low on my hand but only 3 mana. Thus I couldn’t efficiently attack. I drew Chief of the Edge, Mardu Hateblade and Crackling Doom all of which I couldn’t play due to a lack of white mana. When I finally found a Plains she already had Prophet of Kruphix who activated Karametra, God of Harvests. This is where Crackling Doom shines. Indestructible god? No problem!


But despite her being on four life total I couldn’t breach her defenses and was slowly killed via the prophets untap ability. So I narrowly lost the game due to a lack of mana.


Results Match 2: 0-2 LOSE

Burned by a lack of mana in the last game, this match I tried a starting hand full of mana but without any early spells. Let’s see how that goes.


Not too well. My Goblin Roughrider was eliminated by a Lightning Strike while she brought Generator Servant and Temur Charger to the board.


I could play a measly Borderland Marauder while she played Savage Knuckleblade who quickly beat me down to zero.

In Game 2 I decided to take this hand and hope for a Swamp.


Luckily I found a Nomad Post on Turn 4 and could play Borderland Marauder and Goblin Roughrider in the meantime. The last one died to a Savage Knuckleblade and Temur Charm. The ogre then died to Crackling Doom. She followed with Dragon-Style Twins whom I played Crippling Blight on.


When she attacked with the monks I decided not to block. Better take 4 damage and keep the creatures. This was a mistake since she could play Titan’s Strength which made them a six power double striker. I lost the game.

Results Match 3: 0-2 LOSE

Analysis and last round of changes

Okay, we lost two matches where we faced serious opposition. I think we could have won both matches if we got better draws. Especially the mana base is giving me headaches. We probably need a lot of fetchlands and maybe a temple or two. But this is not going to happen in this format. So instead I want to see if we can smooth out the deck a bit more and then just hope that it works.

(VII) Goblin Roughrider -2

The roughrider is not a bad card, but I want to decrease the mana curve of this deck. If we are stuck on 2 mana, I do not want a mad goblin grinning at me from my hand.

(VIII) War-Name Aspirant +2

To this end I want to include these two. I really like the card and it can be a 3/2 just like the goblins but for 1 mana less. It also is a warrior and we finally get another card with four copies in the deck. This should add a bit of consistency.

(IX) Bring Low -1

Most often this card does only three points of damage. Lightning Strike does that too but only costs 2 mana instead of 4.

(X) Crackling Doom +1

I really came to like this card. It can kill everything, and on 3 mana it is pretty cheap. I could cast it most of the time when I needed it, so I want to draw more of it. In it goes.

(X) Raise the Alarm -1

This card shares a problem with Hordeling Outburst insofar that it does not create warriors. Oh, and I never drew it.

(XI) Mardu Charm +1

This may seem a bit counterintuitive since the charm is harder to cast than Raise the Alarm. But it is so good in that it can deal 4 damage or summon warrior tokens that I do not want to pass it up. It was pretty useful every time I had it on my hand, so I want to double the copies in my deck.

(XII) Mountain -1

Since we cannot improve the deck in a massive way with the last card, I want to try to stabilize our mana base a bit. We currently have eight mountains but we need plains or swamps on Turns 1 and 2. So I want to decrease the sources of red mana and instead…

(XIII) Scoured Barrens +1

I want another one of these. With six lands that come into play tapped I still think we are good. And we really need more sources of black and white mana and with our mana base it is probably better to draw something that can provide both.

So this is what our deck looks like now:

It still bothers me that we have so many different cards in low quantity in the deck. But I couldn’t help it. I still think the warrior path is good, but I somehow never drew Rush of Battle or Raiders’ Spoils. I hope with the changes we can get enough threats onto the board and clear a path with Mardu Charm and Crackling Doom. Then we might draw our end-game cards when they are needed to finish the game. I am positive that it can work out when our mana doesn’t decide to go on an extended vacation.

This week I didn’t have time to bring it to a standard event but I will do so until the next article and tell you how it went. Let’s hope the Mardu horde can achieve some victories.

Do you have any questions or comments? Should I have included Butcher of the Horde instead of Zurgo, Helmsmasher? Do you think it would have been worth to pimp the deck a bit with one or two fetchlands? Let me know here in the comment section or on MTGO under the screenname Gurkengelee.

  1. Zurgo and Butcher each have arguments in their favour, and I think it’s largely a matter of personal preference which you want. I do think, however, that you’re overstating the relevance of creature type. The +1/+0 from Chief of the Edge gets less relevant as the creatures get bigger, the Butcher can give himself lifelink so he doesn’t really need the Rush of Battle bonus, and Zurgo’s already presenting 7+ power that your opponent needs to worry about before they even consider what you might draw off of Raiders’ Spoils. The Butcher not being a Warrior isn’t really that big of a disadvantage all up.

    As I said, though, both of them can win the game if they hit the table so they’re fairly interchangeable.

  2. Butcher has my vote. It’s got much better abilities, and actually usually closes faster due to being cheaper and not being blocked as often. And he’s way better on defense. And has sweet interactions with Bloodsoaked Champion.

  3. I would want at least 12 sources for each color. I would also play Butcher and shave a land. You could do that with 4 Outpost, 4 Wind-Scarred Crag, 8 Swamp, 4 Plains, 4 Mountains. I think Chief of the Scale is better than Hateblade or Valley Dasher in this deck, so I would replace those. With the Chiefs, I think you want nearly all your mana to tap for either W or B, so minimizing mountains could help.

  4. Butcher is all over the place…it even showed up in the opponents’ decks for this article. Zurgo needs his moment in the sun, too.

  5. playing the deck, starting with the right mana and 2 spells you can cast seems the only to ensure a good start, and anything else leaves you open for hurts. Really need an answer for anger of the gods, and I got rid of hateblade, dasher, and one bloadsoaked for 3 chief of scale, to be able to power through the assortment of early 2 powers

  6. I think your mana is a big issue. Decks with this tight a budget constraint should be 1 or 2 colors IMHO, especially if your playing aggro. If you want to keep it 3 color I would keep the 4 nomad outpost and add 4 evolving wilds. The tempo loss is worth it to consistently cast spells. I really like the refuge duals but wilds helps you hit 3 colors. That being said, I would play as many as 12 ETB tapped lands if I had necessary to consistently hit my colors. As far as Zurgo goes I’m with you. I think him and butcher are closer then most people realize (butcher is a bit better don’t get me wrong). The flavor are aggressiveness push him over the top. Or maybe 1 of each?

  7. Hey Matt,

    one of each Zurgo and Butcher sounds appealing. You are probably right about the lands too, I should have included Evolving Wilds. I will try to make the next deck of Khans more consistent.

    You are right about the starting hand. If you get a bad start you can basically forfeit the game. Chief of Scale is a good addition but I would have dropped a Chief of the Edge instead of a Bloodsoaked Champion. I think you want the early power more than an additional BW creature.

    @everyone else
    Thanks for all the comments and sorry I couldn’t get around to answer them all in time. It looks like Butcher has the majory of votes, and it probably is the better creature. But you know .. Zurgo is the chief ;)