Rogue Report – San Diego Stumbles


It feels good to be back home.

At least that’s what I imagine myself saying if I was indeed back home. Instead, like last week, I’ve got an article brought to you straight from a hotel room late at night. We leave in two hours for the airport, but because I love you all so much I’ve decided to tell you what I did this weekend.

As most of you probably know I was at Pro Tour: San Diego. It was my second Pro Tour, and I didn’t want it to be my last. I was hoping to play on every Pro Tour this year, and I had GP Oakland and PT San Diego to make that happen. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there. I was out of the running in Oakland at 5-1-2, and I didn’t make day two of the Pro Tour with my 4-4 record. I could go into why I think this happened to me, but I’ve been dwelling on that too much the best day or two. Instead, I’m just going to tell you about the deck I registered this time around and why.

I feel like the Pro Tours I’ve qualified for have come at the worst times. This time around I was slammed with midterms just before I left for the Pro Tour, and combined with Oakland the weekend before I didn’t have a lot of time to test. So, the week between Oakland and San Diego I find myself talking with Zac Hill about the format. Initially I asked him why they didn’t play Jund in Hawaii, and he said it was because they just had the best deck. He said there shouldn’t be anything stopping me from playing Jund this weekend, but that he wanted to be more aggressive in the format. I had been thinking about RG aggro, so I made up a list and he said he liked what he saw. That was all the encouragement I needed to register the following:

RG Aggro


The night before the PT I’m working on my deck, and who of all people starts talking with me about my deck but Saito! He wanders over and starts commenting about my red cards. I think at one point I had Brian Kowal, Saito, Mat Marr, Michael Jacobs, and Brian Kibler helping me with my deck. Exciting!

The biggest change between the time Zac and I talked about the deck and when I settled on my final list was the lack of Goblin Ruinblaster. Originally that guy was a premier four-of in the deck, but eventually he lost out to Ball Lightning in order to make the deck faster against Jund and Vampires. I was enjoying Goblin Ruinblaster, but I felt like slowing my opponent down wasn’t what I needed to do to win. What I needed to do was hit them for 6, and fast.

People kept suggesting cards like Plated Geopede, but they were missing out on the gimmick of the deck. Everything has haste! Either that, or it’s a burn spell. That means that Bloodbraid Elf will always cascade into immediate damage. At least that’s true if you set up your turns correctly. The only awkward cards you can hit are Searing Blaze (which began as a four-of but I was worried about control and moved one to the SB) and Colossal Might (which can still work if you have a creature on the board to begin with). I was really happy with my reliable Bloodbraid Elves and am glad I played Rip-Clan Crasher over Geopede.

Raging Ravine is also a very good land. The deck ran 25 lands, which seemed like a lot for a red burn deck, but with unearth and Raging Ravine you always had a place to stick your mana. The deck is actually very mana hungry, and it’s hard to win when you’re only doing one thing a turn.

Colossal Might was my response to Calcite Snapper. I thought the control decks would be switching to the turtle over Wall of Denial, and the Might was a pretty neat way to push through. It also worked out very well against creatures, making your 2/2 a lot scarier to block. I was very happy with Colossal Might that day, especially in the match where I got to use it on my attacking 2/2 in response to a Lightning Bolt.

Kor Firewalker was my biggest fear, and that’s why Master of the Wild Hunt made it into the sideboard as a 4-of. I was rolling the dice a bit with my mana, but they are Pathing you anyway, which should help a little getting to 2GG. The other option was Unstable Footing, but it sounded too situational and I pretty much had to two-for-one myself there anyway. Master of the Wild Hunt was good in testing so I stuck with it.

Punishing Fire was another card that was good against Kor Firewalker, essentially shutting off their lifegain. It was also great against Vampires, making cards like Vampire Nighthawk much less threatening.

Chandra Nalaar was mostly in response to Baneslayer Angel, but it also can kill Vampire Nocturnus, which is the most important card in the Vampires matchup. I also found that killing Knight of the Reliquary was very important, and while Chandra is sometimes late to that party, sometimes she gets the job done.

Unfortunately, while I had created a sideboard to answer the cards I was worried about, it was still an uphill battle. I had two wins with the deck, one against Grixis control, and one against Jund with Ancient Ziggurat and Sedraxis Specter. I also lost against the Ziggurat Jund deck once (amazingly I played against the deck round 1 and 2) but I’m pretty sure it should be one of my good matchups. Otherwise why would I play the red deck?

My other two losses, however, were against white decks. One played Knight of the Reliquary and Baneslayer Angel, and it’s very hard for me to deal with either of those cards. I can have a plan that involves Chandra and Master of the Wild Hunt, but usually they can find a way around that. The other match was against White Weenie, and you can imagine how that goes. Almost every single card they play shuts you down, not to mention Kor Firewalker. All it takes is a Knight of the White Orchid, and suddenly all of your ground creatures are stopped in their tracks. A sideboarded Baneslayer Angel hits the table, and I’m done.

So after a disappointing 2-3 in constructed I had to 3-0 the Limited portion to make day 2. I opened Kazuul Warlord and decided to force allies, thinking that the nuts ally deck could be my ticket to 3-0. I only managed to pick up 6 other allies from that pick forward, which meant that I had a really terrible five color deck with only marginal ally synergies. Luckily I had something like seven Refuges and an Expedition Map, so my mana wasn’t actually that bad. I was also probably 60% red 25% white, so I was only splashing a few allies of other colors. I managed to beat David Williams and his UW deck in the first round, but fell in the next round to green creatures when my mana got the best of me. I couldn’t find my second red mana to kick Torch Slinger and kill his Timbermaw Larva in time.

So I didn’t make day two. My attempt to qualify for San Juan in the PTQ the next day started off well at 3-0, but then my next three rounds went draw, loss, loss. I drew in the Zoo mirror, which was very depressing. I was playing Brian Kowal’s version of Zoo that was running Punishing Fire. I lost game one when I drew a lot of lands, but managed to get Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows going into game two. Unfortunately while there’s very little chance you will lose that game, it takes a while to actually win. We had ten minutes going into game three, and I knew from the start of the game there was no way I was going to lose. Unfortunately I drew very few threats, and while I had him completely locked out with Punishing Fire, I couldn’t kill him in time. He topdecked a Path to Exile for my Baneslayer Angel to get the draw. It was my fault anyway; I should have played faster which is hard when you have never played the deck before.

From there I was pretty tilted and completely threw away a match against Dark Depths. In game three I had the game pretty well locked up, but I made three bad choices in the row and he nabbed me with a 20/20.

Next round a UB Tezzeret deck demolished my by assembling the combo early in game one. I had my sideboard hate in game two, but never drew a sacland, which meant I never found black mana to cast Extirpate or Thought Hemorrhage. Eh, maybe I should have mulliganed the hand.

I even managed to throw away games in any drafts I did that weekend, and overall the last two weeks have been a very disappointing series of events. There’s a PTQ next weekend in Portland I will probably attend, and I might end up playing Zoo again. It’s depressing to have to go back to the PTQ grind again, just like before, but that’s where I am. Hopefully I can brew something up in time that breaks the format and everything will be easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being at the Pro Tour. It was every bit as exciting as my first one, and I desperately want to return again. I just don’t like being back right where I started.

We’re leaving for the airport in 1.5 hours, so I should try to sleep at least a little bit. I can’t wait to be back in my own bed.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on twitter
Zygonn on Magic Online

26 thoughts on “Rogue Report – San Diego Stumbles”

  1. Have you considered trying to fit Jund Hackblade into the deck instead of ripclan? It may be just me, but I always try to fit four firewild borderposts and the Hackblade in all my fast g/r decks.

  2. Firewild borderposts make for awkward cascades….

    And what about violent outburst? Seems nooby, I know, but think of it as paying one more mana and no cards to give your creatures +1/+0.

    I just realized how much that sounds like Goblin Bushwhacker.

  3. Don’t get too discouraged, I would hardly say that you’re back where you started with all the experience you got from 2 Pro Tours. Good luck in Portland if you decide to go!

  4. Your comments regarding searing blaze seem to indicate that you are unclear that it doesn’t need a creature to target in order to be castable. It’s not like it’s totally dead against control. In the absence of a creature, It still hits jace or face because of how it’s targets are ordered. incinerate was still acceptable last I checked.

  5. @Killer Bee: Your comments regarding seraing blaze seem to indicate that it is YOU who is unclear on it’s targeting rules. Searing blaze has the words target on it twice, meaning it is not a legal spell to cast unless both targets are valid (and, because of the wording, you can’t even target our opponent and your own guy). if your opponent has no creatures OR he himself is not targetable, you can not cast searing blaze. (if their only creature is true believer, you can not cast searing blaze)

  6. Brian Coghlan (KaGGo)

    Mr. Loucks, you sound like you need a week away from magic.

    Just do it, you will feel much better about the game in a week and be focused.

  7. I felt this article was very light on content. I’m sorry about your bad run, but you didn’t give us a lot of good lessons or information about your failings and pretty much no information in general other than TRAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIINWREEEEEEEEEECK

  8. Jon,
    You will be more okay with not being on the Pro Tour if you realize that ptqs are the same thing. They’re separate, they’re different, but they are no less worthy a challenge. Loving magic is loving competition, and being okay with playing ptqs doesn’t mean you won’t try your hardest to win. You’ll get back there eventually.
    As happy as I am to be qualified for San Juan, I’m looking forward to getting back to the ptq grind eventually. That has been my weekend escape for the past seven years, and every time that I’m qualified I miss it. Besides, my longest magic friends are all grinding in Seattle, and I don’t want to leave them behind.

  9. “People kept suggesting cards like Plated Geopede, but they were missing out on the gimmick of the deck. Everything has haste!”

    sounds more like “good (read: probably at the Pro Tour) players kept telling me to use this really good card but they were missing out on the fact that I wanted to be stubborn about playing a HasteBear that loses to kor firewalker, putrid leech, knight of the white orchid, convertable turtle, hexmage, white/black knight (and because instead of more fetch lands i played Smoldering Spires…).”

    …probably should have just been more burn. normally i feel for you when your deck choices don’t pan out, i am really hard-pressed to feel sympathetic here.

  10. @ Psymunn and Kevin

    No, you don’t have to target the creature. Watch the GP oakland coverage of LSV v. Petr Brozek, lsv tried to kill his own creature in response to the searing blaze, but the damage still hit him.

    The trick is the targeting order printed on the card. You only have to have a player, not a player and a creature.

  11. Hey man, I saw you there at the ptq, even though I didn’t get a chance to say hello. I have to say you did not look for happy, lol. Hope you get out of the rut a bit!

  12. This is awkward. Petr targeted both creature and player. LSV killed the creature. The legal target of LSV’s face was still there and that half of the card resolved. You need both to start but half will resolve if one target becomes illegal.

  13. @Eddie, no you need both targets to be legal to cast the spell (it’s the same as hex requiring you to have 6 legal targets before you can cast it). However if one of those targets is made illegal (killing the creature/player gains protection) the spell still resolves to the best of its ability and in this case deals damage to the other target, hence why lsv still took damage.

  14. WoW… amazing at this stage of internet coverage of MTG ppl can still not understand the basics of the game. Searing Blaze has two targets, a creature and a player. If there is no creature in play AT THE TIME YOU ANNOUNCE, PAY THE COSTS and CAST IT, you cannot even announce the spell.

    If, however, after you cast it legally, one of the targets becomes inelligible (no longer there, shroud, etc) THE SPELL STILL RESOLVES as much as it can.

    Presumably, LSV’s misplay was due to him thinking erroneously the card reads ‘target creature and it’s controller” in which case it wouldn’t target the player, and would be fizzled entirely by removing the creature.


    At J Loucks – Don’t just tell us you made mistakes, tell us what they are at least. The article was too light on content.

  15. @Eddie

    Wrong. You can’t cast the spell without having both legal targets. However, the spell doesn’t fizzle if the creature is removed in response because a spell only fizzles if all its targets become illegal or disappear.

  16. I think everyone knows a rogue player in their community and I think it takes someone with a bit of a hard shell to deal with the losses. That being said, I’m sure even with a tough exterior it can be difficult to deal with but perhaps you should have considered choosing a known quantity going into a pro tour instead of a lightly tested rogue build.

    Good luck next time though, it’s always nice to see people bringing fresh ideas to the table and trying hard to stave off stagnation.


  17. @ Eddie:

    My understanding is that you have to target both the player *and* the creature when announcing the spell… Then, if one target (usually the creature) goes away before resolution, the instant still resolves *if* the other target (usually the player) is still legal. Maybe a judge could chime in to confirm this?

  18. @Claudio: Yeah, someone previously said that. That’s how that card works.

    Anywayyyy, back on topic. I really like this deck, although yeah, Knight of the Reliquary (and of course, Baneslayer) seem pretty tough for this deck. Knight is being played in a ton of decks now, so this might not be the best time for a deck as such. Although with the UW deck on the rise, this seems like it would smash the crap out of it (granted, they do have Firewalkers and Baneslayers post-board . . . ). I also love Colossal Might a ton, so maybe that’s why I really like the deck.

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  20. Wow dude I seriously made this deck last week… the whole haste theme, bloodbraids, cascading into burn or pump. The only difference is rip-Clan Crasher. I ran Cunning Sparkmage instead. I found the deck was good and did what I wanted it to do but it just wasn’t fast enough. I find it to be a highly enjoyable deck to play though. Crazy you though of the exact same list lol. Good article!

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