It all started with a list:
Modern Jund, by osmanozguney
The first time I saw this idea was in PV’s Spoiler Spotlight, where he called Flamespeaker “one of the strongest cards I’ve seen in recent memory on an objective power level.”
Of course, osmanozguney added some innovations of his own, tweaking the numbers and sculpting a sideboard. This isn’t his first romp with Jund. In fact, it’s not even his first romp with Flamespeaker Jund.
The split between Sword of Feast and Famine and Liliana developed recently, and an earlier list ran the full set of Lilianas. I’m guessing the combination of equipment + double strike was too good to pass up, especially considering that protection from green grants evasion against Tarmogoyf and Pod‘s creatures.
Before Flamespeaker, osmanozguney was running the much more typical Courser of Kruphix. Courser, usually combined with some number of Chandra, Pyromaster, is a fine backup engine for accruing value over a long game. As an added bonus, it lives through Lightning Bolt, has some passive life gain, combines with fetchlands to provide some minor filtering, and blocks Wild Nacatl like a champ.
Too bad no one’s casting Nacatl anymore. People saw Valencia as Zoo’s testing ground. When it didn’t perform against a sea of Anger the Gods, the community collectively swept it under the rug.
In a field of Zoo, Courser might be your best card and Dark Confidant your worst, but we don’t have that field. Instead, we have round after round of hybrid combo decks like Twin and Pod, so Confidant is consistently amazing. We don’t have time to maybe play a land off the top of our library for value, we need cards NOW! Cards that kill things, or discard things, or end the game faster.
Flamespeaker is more of a Dark Confidant in that the body isn’t impressive but once it starts flipping it’s going to run away with the game. Sometimes it’ll even out-perform Confidant, plowing through land gluts two cards at a time.
I love Jund Charm in this list. With one mode, we can clear away a pile of X/2 blockers. With another, we can pump Flamespeaker to abuse trample and double strike. On top of all that, we get another bit of maindeck graveyard hate to complement Scavenging Ooze.
If I’d only found one Flamespeaker list, one Jund master diddling around with a new card on Modo, I wouldn’t be nearly this excited.
It turned up in Legacy, too:
Dragon Stompy, by nescient
Any old threat can win with a Blood Moon in play. The trick isn’t winning when the opponent is locked out of the game, the trick is having threats that work with the deck but can also win on their own. The stompy shell is so high-variance that you can’t afford to mulligan acceleration + gas, so your lone threat had better have some chance of winning the game by itself. In this case, it does.
Prophetic Flamespeaker fits this deck like an article of tight-fitting winter clothing. Fast mana powers it out slightly earlier than it could normally be cast. The lock pieces serve as both protection and desirable flips. Jitte is there to abuse double strike. First strike damage happens, triggering Jitte and growing counters that you can immediately harvest, pumping before normal damage resolves, trampling over and triggering Flamespeaker.
The danger of the stompy shell is mulling to oblivion or flooding out. In mono-red Sneak Attack, I resorted to Crystal Ball to fix my draws. Flamespeaker churns through land gluts while assembling multiple lock pieces. While Crystal Ball would set up my next turn, Flamespeaker flips over cards immediately.
I swore off the mono-red Chalice decks, but this list, this succubus of hot Flamespeaker technology, tempts me back. Maybe I’m crazy? I am getting tech from someone named “nescient,” after all.
Yeah, I’m probably crazy.
If Prophetic Flamespeaker can make it in Eternal formats full of 1-mana spot removal, it should be doubly good in Standard and Block. Yet, it mostly just kicks around in mono-red.
Take this list from the recent block Pro Tour:
Block MR Aggro, by Victor Bitter
Bitter and a few other red mages cracked the top decks list. While they disagreed on the specifics, they all featured a critical mass of pump spells for Flamespeaker.
The mono red approach has some appeal. Because our early drops are applying pressure, the opponent can’t sandbag removal, and Flamespeaker has a higher chance of living.
Because Flamespeaker is at the top of the curve, we can always cast what it draws.
In Standard, we have some new problems. The removal gets more cost-efficient, and a lot of the underpowered mono-red cards (Arena Athlete) are no longer viable options for forcing through Flamespeaker.
Standard is full of large bodies to gum up the ground. Heck, sometimes Brimaz can’t get in on turn four, and that guy is the pinnacle of efficiency.
Fortunately, Ghor-Clan Rampager is a card.
RG Aggro, by Stephen Pierce
Whoa, step beck everyone, we’ve got a wild one on our hands!
Stephen’s mana base looks pretty spot-on. Normally, quad-Mana Confluence is too many, but here it gives us our best chance at turn one Elvish Mystic into turn two Flamespeaker, which is only possible off of a dual land into second red source.
After that, he has ways of protecting Flamespeaker and punching it through. To make sure all the pump doesn’t go to waste, Stephen added Savageborn Hydra to increase redundancy.
Anger of the Gods seems like a nombo with Flamespeaker and Elvish Mystic, and it is, but once you pump your main guy it’s a cute way of clearing out multiple blockers.
In the sideboard, Wasteland Viper stands out as a brilliant combo with Flamespeaker’s trample and double strike. Deathtouch means you only have to assign 1 damage per blocker, double strike means you’re killing off their blocker(s) before normal damage, and trample means you can assign the extra damage to the defending player and start flipping cards.
The deck has a few ideas that are too cute. Pyrewild Shaman looks busted with double strikers, but if you ever have that much mana + time and you’re connecting with a double striker + pump spell they should be dead already. Usually, Shaman is a crappy Rubblebelt Maaka, and no one wants to register a crappy Rubblebelt Maaka.
Similarly, I like the idea behind Savageborn Hydra but I worry about the card’s power level. And despite my explanation behind the maindeck Anger of the Gods, it still makes me cringe.
Here’s another version:
RG Big Aggro
This build is a little bigger, a little less cutesy, a little more powerful. It uses the Jund approach of playing as many good spells as possible. That way, if Flamespeaker dies we still have a good deck.
One problem with this list is that it’s not very impressive without an Elvish Mystic. If you don’t have one, you can no longer skip the two-drop, which leaves you hoping to kill something with Lightning Strike or running out Scavenging Ooze. I added Sylvan Caryatids just because it’s the king of the green two-drops, but the card doesn’t really fit the deck’s strategy. Sure it’s a creature for Domri and we don’t hate the mana when we need to monstrous something or cast extra cards off of Flamespeaker, but in the end we’re a Boon Satyr/Ghor-Clan Rampager deck and having a two-drop with defender doesn’t feel right.
Between Courser, Domri, and Flamespeaker, we have too many power three-drops trying to occupy the same space.
Also, with a curve this high there’s no guarantee we’re going to be able to take advantage of Flamespeaker when he hits, especially if we have to use Ghor-Clan Rampager to punch through.
Perhaps a more aggressive approach:
RG Aggro #3
I think we’re starting to see the light.
Burning-Tree works well here because it gives us free spells to hit with Flamespeaker. Remember that the draws are time sensitive, so castability is a factor. It also lets us go turn one Forest into Elvish Mystic, turn two Burning-Tree, Mountain, Flamespeaker.
My buddy Eason asked my advice on a similar list a few weeks ago. At the time, we were low on good creatures and I defaulted to the king of green two-drops, but it didn’t really fit. We needed Mogis’s Warhound, the missing link. It keeps the curve low without diluting the deck’s midgame power, it pumps Flamespeaker, and it gives Burning-Tree another creature to curve into. Against other green decks, the Hound gives our low-powered guys a way to attack through 2/4s and 0/3s.
Long live the hound. F*** the king.
Bonus Deck: Strength from the Fallen
When it comes together, Strength from the Fallen is one of those Limited cards that does something so powerful and crushes someone so badly that you say to yourself, “huh, I bet this is Constructed playable.”
And it is!
During the coverage for PT Journey into Nyx, someone mentioned how there was a Strength of the Fallen deck out there somewhere but no one had gotten a list polished enough, and it struck a chord with me. Somewhere, I’d seen a deck like that.
Gb Constellation, by max09
Now, I’m not claiming this is some masterpiece, but holy crap this is a masterpiece! The deck is tight, taking advantage of a few different constellation engines with some filtering and redundant parts to keep things consistent. The only card that doesn’t seem necessary is Polukranos, but it can still take over a game and I don’t hate it.
For the most part, using Strength from the Fallen to pump random dorks is going to be good enough, especially if you can string some triggers together. However, the danger is that the opponent has some extra dorks they don’t mind trading off for your valuable pump triggers. Without an Eidolon of Blossoms going, the juice might be limited, and in those games a form of evasion like flying or trample might make the difference. That’s where the green God comes in.
When taken by itself, Nylea is a neat card. The trample and pump abilities have some synergy, even if they are clunky. In this dedicated constellation deck, we have more efficient forms of pump and simply casting Nylea could draw a card. On top of all that, Strength from the Fallen is a wrath-proof enchantment that sticks around to provide devotion, which is something green has been lacking.
The BG God, while normally pretty hot in these graveyard/enchantment strategies, is kind of a nombo with Strength of the Fallen so I can see why he left it out. Still, a miser could be fine if only to trigger constellation, provide another large body, and make 1/1s when all other lights go out.