Finding Restraint on the Outskirts of Standard

There are different levels of madness. We all have our moments. For example, I once played a deck that contained two copies of Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs at Pro Tour Paris. For those that don’t remember, that’s the same Pro Tour that was won by Ben Stark, my teammate, playing Caw-Blade. Most would say that is a little more mad than showing up with Grave Titans instead of Inferno Titans, but would never consider either move in the first place.

I realize that brewing is not for everyone. Some people look at weird or wacky ideas and they want nothing more than to be the Guinea Pig piloting it, but others aren’t comfortable with that. Some people want known quantities so that they can focus on the things that matter to them (in-game play, mental state, etc). If you hand these people Jund, or Faeries, they feel no shame in it. They are comfortable playing tier 1 decks just as I am comfortable getting under the hood to know what’s going on.

Today, I wanted to talk about a few of those decks between these two extremes. Some players are comfortable doing something a little different than everyone else, but they still want to reign in their madness. These are the people playing Puresteel Paladin or Mono-Green Eldrazi. They don’t necessarily expect their deck to be called the best in the room, but they know that it has a lot going on for it and when played correctly, these fringe decks can completely dismantle a tournament.

With Fate Reforged still new to the environment, you see some promoting the best new decks, and others promoting crazy brews (myself included), but the middle ground gets overlooked until everyone has gotten to explore the extremes. Fringe decks can be a great investment of your time—mastering one can pay huge dividends if that deck creeps into the higher constructed tiers.

Let’s take a look at a few of these “middle-ground” fringe archetypes available right now:

Mono-Red Devotion

This archetype got huge boosts with Fate Reforged but is still flying under the radar. Part of the issue here is that people remember when Mono-Red would explode out of the gates and monstrous a Stormbreath Dragon on turn four or something. While the deck does not have that kind of power any longer, the relative power level of the rest of the metagame has also gone down. We no longer have four-mana Wrath of God or Sphinx’s Revelation waiting around to crush our hopes and dreams.

I think the key to building a successful Mono-Red Devotion list is to embrace the places where it can excel. I believe that with the tools we have available, Mono-Red should be a more aggressive deck with reach. It has access to a ton of evasive and direct damage, especially with the newly-printed Flamewake Phoenix and its synergy with Ashcloud Phoenix.

In fact, there are a ton of two- and three-card synergies in this list that allow for nonexplosive draws to still put a ton of pressure on the opponent.

Purphoros + Goblin Rabblemaster: Here we get an extra 2 damage from Purphoros triggers every turn and the global pump from Purphoros turns those tokens into something a little scarier.

Mardu Scout + Purphoros: Now our 2-drop turns into a reliable source of direct damage in the late game. Pay your 2 mana, attack (or don’t) and then pick up the Scout at the end of the turn. Rinse and repeat to finish off a wounded opponent. This is also a way to devote your God while not leaving it vulnerable to exile effects on the opponent’s turn.

Ferocious: Your Flamewake Phoenix and Crater’s Claws both have quite a few creatures to turn on ferocious. Ashcloud Phoenix in particular is quite difficult to deal with.

Remember that Mardu Scout is a Goblin, which can be both beneficial and an annoyance in combination with Goblin Rabblemaster, so pay attention!

Mono-Black Aggro

Many people overlook mono-black when examining aggressive decks, but the reality is that it has many tools to beat the cards that aggro decks struggle against. Thoughtseize is perhaps the best example here as it can beat just about anything, but having some knowledge of an impending sweeper can be absolutely invaluable when your deck contains a bunch of permanent damage sources.

One of the previous draws to Mono-Black Aggro was the ability to play a Mogis’s Marauder as a Falter effect that also gives haste. Anyone that had played the deck realized just how important Gnarled Scarhide was in these situations as you could play it and Marauder at the same time for a bunch of unexpected damage. Tormented Hero did not work very well because it came into play tapped. Now, you have a full 12 one-drops that effectively have 2 power, allowing the 4-mana play of one-drop plus Marauder to be much more consistent and effective.

Spiteful Returned and Mardu Shadowspear even give you a little bit of additional reach, allowing this deck to attack an opposing life total without actually connecting. Those cards also fight well against the likes of Sylvan Caryatid, which is a nice bonus.

Mardu Strike Leader and Tasigur are both new guys at the top of our curve where previously we’d find Herald of Torment. I appreciate the fact that Tasigur can pull off the same Mogis’s Marauder tricks that all of your traditional one-drops can, even if it can never activate. Having a 4/5 Tarmogoyf for one mana is still excellent. Strike Leader is more suspect and I’m looking to the dash ability to recover from a sweeper but there are plenty of 3-drop options for this slot including Master of the Feast and Nighthowler.

Black/White Warriors

If you are looking to spice up your Mono-Black Aggro deck a bit, adding white will give you access to some pretty strong Warrior synergies. Both Chiefs are already strong incentives to follow a tribal path and there are some other nice synergies too. Mardu Woe-Reaper in particular is a strong disruptive element against the various Sidisi and reanimator decks and a source of life gain in aggressive mirrors. If you really want to go over the top with synergies, Obelisk of Urd is still a card.

Wrap Up

I am freshly over having the flu so while there has been a lack of video content from me the past week or so, I have a lot of brews to catch up on, so expect to see them coming at you fast and loose over the next few days! And if you happen to like Humble Defector, have I got some good news for you!  Thanks for reading!

Conley Woods


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