Video Deck Tech - Big Red

Feature Article from Frank Lepore
Frank Lepore
8/1/2013 10:01:00 AM
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The name Big Red gives me memories of Koth of the Hammer, Karn Liberated, Wurmcoil Engine, Inferno Titan, and things like Everflowing Chalice to get them out a little faster. To be honest, when I look over that list I realize how much more ridiculous those cares actually were. Wurmcoil Engine? Geez. The Titans? Come on! While today's deck isn't too similar to the deck of old, it does share some similarities. Most notably it isn't a red deck packed with one and two drops. That's...kind of it. There are two kinds of red decks in my mind: big and small. And this one is of the bigger variety.

Big Red by Adam Laforest
Finished 5th - 8th Place at 2013 Grand Prix Calgary - 7/27
Main Deck
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Hellrider
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
Creatures [16]
4 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Brimstone Volley
4 Burning Earth
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Searing Spear
Spells [19]
21 Mountain (245)
4 Mutavault
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]

1 Blasphemous Act
3 Curse of the Pierced Heart
3 Mark of Mutiny
3 Skullcrack
3 Volcanic Strength
2 Wild Ricochet
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Adam Laforest took the deck to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Calgary, and there was a similar list in the Top 16 of the SCG Open in Somerset. So what makes it the big version? Well, quite simply our curve starts at three mana. We have 25 lands. We have eight four drops, and four five drops in the main deck. We have four Bonfire of the Damned. Need I go on? These are all cards that need an intensive amount of mana, and many red decks have a curve that stops at three mana, not starts.

Either way, what I really wanted to do was see how Burning Earth handled itself in the maindeck, considering this format is packed with nonbasic lands. Let's take a look.

Big Red vs. Rakdos Control

Big Red vs. Monogreen Beasts

Big Red vs. American Midrange

Big Red vs. BW Humans

Okay, sure, those first two decks don't seem real, but I don't fault people for trying them out. Basically, this is still a pretty new format, and there's nothing wrong with trying out new strategies. Heck, like I said, one of the reasons I wanted to try the deck was due to the inclusion of the maindeck Burning Earth.

So how did the deck do? Pretty well, if you ask me. The only trouble I had in my games was...well, Blood Artist. To be honest, you really need a Pillar of Flame for that guy. And you kind of need one for Xathrid Necromancer as well. And, well, we don't have that many Pillar of Flames. BW Humans was actually the other deck I was going to play this week, but the Siren's Call of Burning Earth was too great. Let me know if you want to see the deck in action next week, with Xathrid Necromancer's doing what they do best.

As for Big Red, the deck is very solid, both in build and in consistency. The deck is chock full of four-ofs and every card is pretty powerful on its own. Searing Spear and Pillar of Flame are the best red removal spells in the format. Brimstone Volley is capable of taking down huge threats or 25% of the opponent's life. Every creature in the deck is a four-of, and then we have Burning Earth and Bonfire of the Damned - both insanely powerful cards - and they are both four-ofs. That's it. Then we have 21 Mountains and four Mutavaults. No one-ofs, not even any two-ofs. Every card in the deck is deliberately chosen and each one is good enough that we want the full suite.

As you saw from the first two matches, sure, there are going to be times when Burning Earth doesn't do much. Mostly against the monocolored builds that are showing up, but even against two color builds it could be subpar. Where it really shines is against the most popular decks: American Midrange, Jund, Junk, Aristocrats, etc. I think because of this, those decks are going to begin to take a backseat to decks like Monowhite Humans, the Monogreen Midrange deck with Elves, Monored decks, even BW Humans uses very few nonbasic lands; around eight to be exact. But the fact of the matter is that Burning Earth is a real threat that can simply lose the game for a lot of decks on the spot if not dealt with, and there are a lot of red decks that are interested in maindecking it. This is scary.

 Burning Earth
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One of the only creatures in the deck that gave me pause, despite their noteworthy pedigree, was Hellrider. This guy is usually a force in decks that have a large number of creatures, but there are plenty of times where you're going to cast him on turn four, have one creature on the board, and get a mere two triggers out of him. Is this enough? Certainly! Just because we're used to more doesn't mean that the amount we have is insufficient. There are also times he's going to come down after a Thundermaw Hellkite, when you have three other creatures; or when you're able to activate two Mutavaults; or when you can have two in play at the same time. The deck tries to exploit some of the best haste creatures in the format, and it does a decent job at it when you consider the sole purpose of the deck is to pick away at your life total from every angle.

The sideboard for the deck was also surprisingly well built. There are a lot of three-ofs, but then you can often pair them with the single Blasphemous Act if a particular card in the main deck isn't suited for a matchup. Or you can take out two sets of four, then add two sets of three and two Wild Ricochet. Against control decks for example, I would take out the four Bonfire of the Damned and the four Pillar of Flame, for three Curse of the Pierced Heart, three Skullcrack, and two Wild Ricochet. It worked out surprisingly well. Curse was surprisingly potent as it just sits there and ticks away at the opponent, turn after turn. Also, while I didn't get to utilize it, Wild Ricochet seems like a really powerful addition against control, even if we're just copying a Sphinx's Revelation. Against something like a Warleader's Helix, it might just be a blow out.

The deck is very straightforward but also very powerful. I want to say I was surprised by this, but all of the cards are very obviously strong, so the surprise comes from how well they actually fit together to deal a lot of damage, turn after turn. The deck isn't even that expensive with a low price of under $200 here. If you like red decks and don't feel like casting another Stromkirk Noble or Rakdos Cackler, which can be terrible top decks, you should definitely give this one a try. Make sure to check out the promotion we're going to be running for International Crack-a-Pack Day here (along with that that is), and we hope you participate! I'll be back on Monday with some more videos, so I'll see you guys then. Thanks for reading and watching.

Frank Lepore
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