I was planning to write and record with the CFB Fire Boros Tokens deck from last week. But now, the metagame has shifted drastically. At the Pro Tour, we saw Mono-Red take over. The next weekend, Zombies was crushing in every way, but Red was still performing exceptionally well.
I took this as a sign that Boros Tokens would be great—it preys on these creature decks thanks to having a slimmer curve, and a strategy to do the same thing every game. You’re not really adapting to what your opponent is doing. You adjust how you’re going to flood the board, and maybe when to pounce, but the end strategy remains the same. But the MTGO metagame was out in full force!
Magic Online has a history of moving quickly from one step of the metagame to the next. It’s usually a safe bet that if you’re attending a PTQ/Grand Prix that you want to play the “best deck” on MTGO the day of your tournament, not the deck that will beat those decks. Why is that? Because the paper metagame usually lags behind by about 3-4 days, waiting to analyze all of this data, while the players on MTGO are the ones doing a large portion of the innovating. And I think that they innovated all the way to a place where the metagame is spread out, with variations of decks we’ve seen at or before the PT and many new decks we’re encountering for the first time!
Many of these decks include lots of cheap interaction that made it difficult for Boros Tokens to keep up. The deck needed more cards making two efficient creatures with one card—a Triplicate Spirits or Spectral Procession. You needed fewer Reckless Bushwhackers and more token making vein to keep up with so much removal and sweepers.
Thus, I moved back to a deck that should be solid in a more open field: R/G Pummeler. The Pummeler deck has been around since Kaladesh came out, and can do some absurdly powerful things, like kill on turn 4 with just a Pummeler. This really punishes players trying to play cards like God-Pharaoh’s Gift, Chandra Flamecaller, The Scarab God, and Approach of the Second Sun. As you dictate the pace of every game, your opponents live in real fear whenever Pummeler is on the battlefield. Here’s the list I’ve been playing with the past few days:
This is starting from a 5-0 list on MTGO about two weeks prior to the time I’m writing this. I’ll be sure to cover in full how I would change this deck to adapt to the current metagame, as just playing with it for a few Leagues has shown me a number of things I’d want to improve. But I’ll save those for the videos and highlight the key draws to this style of deck.
Proactive with a Powerful Finish
This was the same feature I loved about the deck that brought me my best PT finish, R/G Landfall. This deck had access to Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense, and frequently left players in fear that they could be dead at any moment. Pummeler itself has that power, but the deck is a bit more tame. The trade-off is that you get individually powerful threats like Longtusk Cub, that with this level of energy production is a great 2-drop, or a 2-mana creature on turn 5 that is a 5/5 or 6/6 a large percentage of the time. Bristling Hydra is the other key creature that we’re finally getting to see shine after the powerful combo cards and most efficient threats have been removed from the format.
These cards all pack a bigger punch than they lead on. Longtusk Cub can snowball a game out of control from a nonblack/nonwhite deck quickly as it’s difficult to outpace. Hydra is really difficult to interact with outside of edict effects like Doomfall. Then, when you do have your more powerful, but fragile threat in Electrostatic Pummeler, you have 1-mana spells that function both as additional damage and protection in the form of Blossoming Defenses.
A Plethora of Options
This is something I value highly in deck building and in decks I play. I like to try out cards here and there. I usually start by taking a deck for a spin exactly as I first see it, but how I adapt it will depend on the metagame I’m playing. Pummeler has many different options to explore because at the end of the day, it’s an energy deck that has 10 combat tricks in it. You can trim on the combat tricks (Blossoming Defenses, Invigorated Rampage, and I included Larger than Life) if you want to be less about combo’ing your opponent and more about playing a game with a powerful energy deck with a back-up combo, and can play 4 Defenses and 2 Rampage. In this world, you gain 4 more slots, maybe to play blue in the deck and get access to cards like Rogue Refiner or Whirler Virtuoso. Perhaps you go a different direction, and instead you add Lathnu Hellion to the deck and an additional copy of Rhonas.
R/G, and to a lesser extent Temur, has tons of deck building options and customization for different metagames. It allows you to adapt a deck like this to the environment you see. It’s what I think gives a deck like this the ability to not just be a deck for a metagame, but for a season.
Check back later on this week as I battle through a League on MTGO and as I mentioned, I’ll be talking all about the different builds I can recommend in that video!