Eternal Warrior #14: The Avalanche

A couple of months back, I explored the so-called “stompy” decks of Legacy. One of the decks I discussed but did not feature was the Dragon Stompy deck. Dragon Stompy uses the “Sol lands”, Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, to power out Turn 1 Chalice of the Void and early Blood Moon effects, ultimately winning with a 4-5 mana finisher such as Rakdos Pit Dragon.

In the early days of Modern, there were many attempts to port Legacy decks into Modern. For the most part, these attempts proved futile — the only top deck in Modern with any close Legacy analogue was Jund, and in that case it was Legacy players adopting tech first developed for Modern. One of the failed ports was a mono-red list known as “All-in Red” (or AIR for short). AIR was an attempt to bring Dragon Stompy to Modern. With the Modern card pool lacking both the “Sol lands” and Chrome Mox, the deck used one-shot mana accelerators such as Rite of Flame and Simian Spirit Guide to power out the Chalices and Blood Moons. Players were correct to identify that Blood Moon was among the most powerful effects legal in Modern, but AIR never managed to gain a foothold in the Modern metagame. Following the banning of Rite of Flame, the deck’s development came to a grinding halt.

Two weeks ago, the deck popped back on my RADAR when Channel Fireball‘s Legacy/Modern writer, Caleb Durward, featured a “Skred Red” deck submitted by one of his readers. The featured list, which is credited to Will de la Guardia, eschews early mana accelerants, playing more like a “Big Red” control deck. Mind Stone, the maindeck playset of Relic of Progenitus, and the Scrying Sheets draw engine help churn through the deck. There are seven Blood Moon effects, but the deck can’t play them before Turn 3. The deck is extremely hostile to opposing creature decks. This list includes a whopping five maindeck Pyroclasm effects — and another six in the sideboard! Lightning Bolt and Skred also check in, handling spot-removal duty. Skred is a mana-efficient removal spell, but can’t go the face… unless of course it’s paired with Boros Reckoner, turning it into an amazing finisher. Aside from that combo, the deck also includes more conventional Big Red finishers such as Koth of the Hammer, and of course some dragons. The deck’s creator opted for Stormbreath Dragon maindeck, a clever choice if one recognizes the ubiquity of Path to Exile in the format.

In theory, I really liked this deck. Caleb wrote that the deck had done well in some early testing against a variety of archetypes, and suggested the deck had a lot of promise. Caleb’s article also claimed that other Big Red decks had been successful in occasional Daily Events, though I could find none that ran Skred. I decided I would have to test it out for myself. One problem I noted when assembling the deck is that, like Tron, it had plenty of creature control but little to help against Burn. Since the deck could not hope to race Burn, something had to be done about that matchup. Burn is a budget deck, and therefore you are likely to face it online more often than you would expect. Being mono-red, my options were limited. I opted for Dragon’s Claw in the sideboard, a choice that some Tron players have used as well. After that slight adjustment, here is the list I tested:

I was really excited to test this deck, I very much wanted to see it succeed, and if it performed well, I had intended to build it in paper for local tournaments. Despite how much I liked the deck in theory, the experience of testing it was nothing short of disastrous.

I started out by trying it in the Tournament Practice Room, just to get a feel for playing it. Things got off to a bad start, as it lost to a series of budget mono-color builds that mostly ignored the Blood Moon effects. The nadir of my experience came when Skred Red lost to a Standard Mono-Black Devotion deck that somebody had mistakenly loaded up in a Modern match…. awkward.

I can’t say this was entirely unexpected. This type of deck performs best against a fully developed field. But if it performed that poorly against the budget decks in the TP room, I could see that it would not be suitable for weekly Modern tournaments at the LGS either. That said, it did perform well in early matches against Tron and UWR, and thus I decided to take it into the 2-man queues, where hopefully Blood Moon would wreak havoc against the top-tier decks and their notoriously greedy mana bases.

Alas, once more the results were disappointing. I’ve included five match replays so that you can get a good feel for how the deck plays. The replays are bookended by two matches against RUG Scapeshift, a deck that Blood Moon effects should be good against. The results did not bear that out. Actually resolving a Blood Moon was the first hurdle. The spell was Remanded more often than a Stephen Reinhardt opinion for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. When the deck does manage to stick a Moon on the battlefield, it can’t close out a game quickly enough to capitalize on the time it just bought. When I played Blood Moon out of the sideboard in the Domri Naya deck from Eternal Warrior #12, I could play the spell on Turn 2 to get it under countermagic and had the right amount of aggression to follow it up. Blood Moon is simply a much worse spell in this deck than in Naya.

Overall, the deck just seems fatally flawed. By the end, I was buried under an avalanche of frustration. Despite my initial hopes, I cannot recommend this deck. It’s possible that the deck is just not my style, and would perform better in somebody else’s hands. It’s also possible that variance and a small sample size are making it look worse than it is. But I can tell you that subjectively it felt underpowered and awkward to play this deck. I know what it feels like to pilot this deck, and I just don’t believe it has what it takes. If you’re a current Standard player, you may already own the most expensive pieces of this deck, so you can give it a whirl yourself. If not, I wouldn’t recommend trying to assemble it.

You can find me on Twitter @cjwynes.

  1. Just FYI, in M1G2, the reason he searched for an extra land first is that Valakut only triggers if you have at least 5 /other/ mountains in play. So if he’d only gotten 5, then it wouldn’t have done any damage at all.

  2. M5G1 – Lightning Bolt can actually target faces, you didn’t need to point it at the Reckoner. (So hit him to 7, Skred the Reckoner for 4, Bolt his face.)
    You could also have played Reckoner and Thundermaw off of Koth earlier instead Reckoner + Mountain attack, I think.

    M5 G2 and 3 seemed simply very unlucky.

  3. I stopped watching after you couldn’t recognize Scapeshift in Game 1. I mean, seriously? I haven’t seen Tron play Search for Tomorrow in a million years. If you’re going to record videos for Modern, you should at least know the format well enough to recognize a Tier 1.5 deck.

  4. I primarily play Legacy, and started this column with the intent of writing about Legacy and a bit of Classic until Vintage came online, at which time Legacy and Vintage would be the focus. In the meantime, I have added in some Modern content to vary things up a bit, and because I thought people might enjoy that content. I have said before that I’m coming back to the format after a very long hiatus. In my defense, through all the playtesting and recording I’ve done for my three Modern articles up to this point, this was the very first RUG Scapeshift deck I had seen anybody play since getting back into the format, so I was not on alert to spot that deck’s turn 1 play. It hadn’t placed well in the Modern dailies during the latter part of 2013, and just wasn’t on my radar. I realized by the time he dropped an additional colored land that it was probably Scapeshift combo, and I don’t think the misidentification changed the line of play from what I can recall. Once I did recognize it, I had a fairly good idea what cards he would be playing and what his line of play said about his hand. That being said, if I write about Modern again at some point, I will be sure to check more recent DE results to see what resurgent decks might be reappearing in the queues. I feel very strongly about progressively improving the quality of my video content.

  5. I tried a virtually exact deck 2-3 months ago and also got slaughtered. The only good matchup was Jund, they caved as soon as Blood Moon entered.. but most other decks smoked me!!

    So I sold up and moved on…