R/G Pummeler Deck Analysis

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
10/14/2016 11:01:00 AM
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If Electrostatic Pummeler is not on your radar, it should be. So far this week a half dozen people have gone 5-0 in Constructed leagues on Magic Online with Red-Green Energy decks built around that card and I fully expect this trend to continue at Pro Tour Kaladesh this weekend. Today I'm going to talk about the two different versions of the deck that are having success, explaining their card choices and why the deck is doing as well as it is, concluding with the list I would recommend. If you miss the Temur Battle Rage + Become Immense combo, you'll love this deck!

The vehicle/gearhulk version was played by rizer and slowbro1:

And the more all-in version was played by laplazapedro, vorg7, ValueCity, and Nichoras:

First let's look at the core of the deck and then at the points of divergence. Here are the cards both lists share:

4 Electrostatic Pummeler
4 Servant of the Conduit
4 Voltaic Brawler
4 Attune with Aether
4 Blossoming Defense
4 Built to Smash
2 Uncaged Fury

At heart, the deck is an aggressive creature deck that wins by playing pump spells on its creatures. It just so happens to have a “combo” finish by being able to attack for lethal in one swing with a pumped-up giant monster. This can be accomplished by pumping Electrostatic Pummeler and then using energy to double its power, or it can be accomplished by pumping a creature and then casting Uncaged Fury on that creature. Sometimes it feels like a Stompy deck, while other times it feels like Infect.

Mid
Low
 Electrostatic Pummeler
$0.49
$0.05
Store QTY Price  
CavernCards 1 $0.05
MTG Rares 10 $0.06
MTG Rares 10 $0.09
Mindarch 1 $0.09
Cyber Lord Games 1 $0.10
Tier Zero Gaming 1 $0.10
Mindsight Gaming 2 $0.10
Storm Brew Games 2 $0.13
Classic CardMart 1 $0.13
Collector's Cache 2 $0.14
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Electrostatic Pummeler Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Since Electrostatic Pummeler can use as much energy as can be generated, the deck wants to generate as much incidental energy as possible. This makes a card like Attune with Aether a perfect fit since it replaces itself with a land and leaves behind two energy for just one mana. Servant of the Conduit and Voltaic Brawler are similar in that they are creatures that can “overproduce” energy. In other words, they will each likely use one of the two units of energy they produce but will not need to use the other unit produced. The controller can then use that energy for other things like the Pummeler.

Another nice part about these creatures is that you get the energy upon entering the battlefield, which means it sticks around even if the creature dies right away. This will leave both units of energy behind to spend on other things, making them useful whether they stick around to do their thing or not.

As a complement to the core creature package, the core spell package is composed of pump spells. Ideally you want to target Electrostatic Pummeler with all your pump spells in a single turn so you can connect for lethal with it in one swing. This is the “combo finish.” Using them at other times or on other threats is often also fine as long as the aggressive plan is working.

Built to Smash is great on offense but virtually useless on defense since it can only pump an attacking creature. It can save a creature from a removal spell only when attacking, which will usually not be the time the opponent will go after your creatures with a damage spell, precisely because they don't want to get blown out by a pump spell in response. The deck in general does not play defense well though anyway, so if you're not winning the race, you're probably losing regardless of which pump spell is in your hand. Still it is the cheapest, most efficient damage output pump spell in the format, so it earns a spot in the deck.

Unlike Built to Smash, Blossoming Defense is as good on defense as it is on offense. You'll want to conserve this pump spell as long as possible since it is the most versatile one. It can protect your creature from any targeted removal spell, not just the damage-based ones. If this deck is Infect, then Blossoming Defense plays the role of Vines of Vastwood.

Uncaged Fury is the new Temur Battle Rage and fits right into this deck. The double strike works great on Electrostatic Pummeler or it can allow us to turn any one of our other creatures into a lethal threat that basically resembles what the Pummeler is trying to accomplish. The “all-in” list runs all four copies while the list that hedges a bit more only plays two copies.

Exploring the Differences

Speaking of differences, let's consider the points of divergence between the two lists.

4 Pia Nalaar
3 Verdurous Gearhulk
4 Smuggler's Copter
3 Fleetwheel Cruiser
2 Uncaged Fury

Vs.

4 Bristling Hydra
2 Longtusk Cub
4 Larger Than Life
2 Harnessed Lightning
4 Uncaged Fury

The latter list is a bit more “all-in” on the combo, opting for additional pump spells (two Larger Than Life and two additional copies of Uncaged Fury) while the former has a more robust Plan B of attacking with vehicles and gearhulks.

Mid
Low
 Electrostatic Pummeler
$0.49
$0.05
Store QTY Price  
CavernCards 1 $0.05
MTG Rares 10 $0.06
MTG Rares 10 $0.09
Mindarch 1 $0.09
Cyber Lord Games 1 $0.10
Tier Zero Gaming 1 $0.10
Mindsight Gaming 2 $0.10
Storm Brew Games 2 $0.13
Classic CardMart 1 $0.13
Collector's Cache 2 $0.14
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Electrostatic Pummeler Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Smuggler's Copter is undoubtedly one of the most powerful cards in Standard, so finding a way to fit it into the deck certainly has its merits and is quite tempting. It provides an evasive and efficient body that can also smooth out the deck's clunkier and land-heavy draws. The deck only runs 20 lands, mostly because four Attune with Aether basically count as four more lands. You can cast the Attune with Aether, get the two energy, and then loot away the land with the Smuggler's Copter, basically giving you the best of both worlds off the Attune with Aether in times of flood.

You also get Fleetwheel Cruiser, which gets much better in a deck playing four Built to Smash since you can trample past a blocker to keep it around for later. It's also a self-driving car when you first cast it, so unlike Smuggler's Copter it doesn't require you to already have a creature on the battlefield to force through some damage.

Mid
Low
 Fleetwheel Cruiser
$0.35
$0.09
Store QTY Price  
Collector's Cache 4 $0.09
The Magic Arena 2 $0.10
Krazy Kidz Gaming 1 $0.10
Magic Base 4 $0.10
Die Hard Games 1 $0.10
Ness Games 1 $0.10
Mindsight Gaming 1 $0.10
MPYF Games 1 $0.10
The Battle Garden 1 $0.10
All About Games 2 $0.10
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Fleetwheel Cruiser Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Speaking of crewing vehicles, that's the main job of Pia Nalaar. Alone she can crew a Smuggler's Copter and a Fleetwheel Cruiser. It's like Batman and Robin except this time it's Pia Nalaar and her thopter. When it's time to ride, she says to her thopter sidekick in an Arnold Shwarzenegger voice, “Get in da choppa!” She can incidentally pump Electrostatic Pummeler as well, making her an overall strong inclusion in the vehicle version of the deck.

Verdurous Gearhulk is another one of the objectively strongest cards in Kaladesh and likely one of the best backup plans for any green creature deck in Standard. In the all-in version, Servant of the Conduit can ramp out a Bristling Hydra, but that's about it. In the not-all-in version it can also ramp out Fleetwheel Cruiser or Verdurous Gearhulk. This makes the servant much stronger in this deck than in the all-in version. If opponents board in extra spot removal — as they likely will — the gearhulk can match up well against that sideboard plan by distributing +1/+1 counters among all your creatures such that even your smaller threats require answers. Clearly the green hulk was Built to Smash, so full flavor props on getting both these cards into the same deck.

Without the vehicles Pia Nalaar doesn't do enough to merit inclusion in the deck, which is why the all-in version plays Bristling Hydra instead. Bristling Hydra is a great target to go all-in on because it has built-in hexproof, especially considering all the energy production this deck is capable of. Electrostatic Pummeler represents more damage, but it requires a Blossoming Defense or an opponent without removal. Bristling Hydra is able to play through removal very effectively, especially if you have three extra energy stored up. For instance, a first-turn Attune with Aether into a second-turn Servant of the Conduit into a third-turn Bristling Hydra leaves us with six energy. This energy can be used to protect the hydra from two removal spells. Even in the vehicles version, they run three copies of Bristling Hydra in the sideboard, likely because they know opponents will be bringing in removal against them and they will need to adapt.

Mid
Low
 Bristling Hydra
$0.75
$0.10
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Lotus Cobra Games 1 $0.15
Mindarch 2 $0.16
UrborgBazaar 1 $0.19
Tachyon Games 1 $0.19
HeyImmaWolf 2 $0.19
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Bristling Hydra Magic MTG Card
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Longtusk Cub is basically just a slight downgrade to Voltaic Brawler. Without Smuggler's Copter as the backup two-drop (I know it sounds crazy to say that), the all-in version needs something else to do on the second turn. The all-in version can't afford to run Smuggler's Copter because it doesn't run enough creatures to crew it, and if it tries to add creatures like Pia Nalaar then it is basically the same as the vehicles version of the deck minus Fleetwheel Cruiser.

Given that Bristling Hydra is a maindeck inclusion in the all-in version, it can afford to run all four copies of Uncaged Fury. The problem with Uncaged Fury in the vehicles version of the deck is that it's easy to get blown out by having your creature killed without having additional mana up to protect it. Bristling Hydra doesn't require mana to protect itself, so you can easily tap out with pump spells, including the three mana Uncaged Fury, and if you have enough energy saved up you can do so without running the risk of having everything collapse in the face of a removal spell.

Larger Than Life is the other big pump spell in the all-in version. Granting trample is big game in this deck, as is +4/+4 since that gets Electrostatic Pummeler conveniently to five power, which only requires two activations to represent 20 damage. Since it only costs two mana, having access to a third mana to cast Blossoming Defense to protect your Pummeler from a removal spell the turn you go for it is much more realistic than in the other deck where you often have to cast multiple pump spells or spend three mana on Uncaged Fury.

The last inclusion in the all-in version is Harnessed Lightning. Both decks run the full four copies in their 75, but without the vehicle package, the all-in version has space to run a couple copies in the maindeck. Harnessed Lightning is a lot better in this deck than in most other decks since we can produce lots of energy. It's not just an Incinerate in this deck — it can kill much bigger things if needed. It can also leave behind a surplus of energy if it's targeting a creature with less than three toughness.

Sideboarding

The following cards all saw play in at least one of the six sideboards:

Bristling Hydra
Radiant Flames
Appetite for the Unnatural
Harnessed Lightning
Dynavolt Tower
Arlinn Kord
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Lathnu Hellion
Galvanic Bombardment
Clip Wings
Natural State

Every deck ran at least three Bristling Hydra in the 75. Every deck ran the full four Harnessed Lightning in their 75. Five out of the six lists ran two Appetite for the Unnatural in the sideboard. Three of the four all-in versions ran two Clip Wings in the sideboard. Lastly, the all-in versions each ran four copies of Lathnu Hellion and four copies of Galvnic Bombardnment in the sideboard.

Lathnu Hellion is the most interesting card. It can pressure planeswalkers out of the all-in version just like Fleetwheel Cruiser can in the vehicle version. It can also stick around for a while, given the amount of energy the deck can produce. So opponents will have to kill it right away instead of just treating it as a Ball Lightning that will go away on its own. As it turns out, 4/4 hasters for three mana are a great deal; who knew?

All-In or Not?

So which is the better version?

That's a good question. I like aspects of both builds, but I'm more inclined toward the all-in version. I'm not a huge fan of running seven vehicles in a deck with so few creatures. There will be too many times where you have multiple vehicles on the battlefield, a hand full of pump spells, and no creature. The vehicles don't feel necessary in this deck and I'd rather cut out the middle man and just play pump spells and creatures. I do like the Verdurous Gearhulk backup plan since the gearhulk also serves as a pump spell.

Here is the list I would recommend:

It replaces Longtusk Cub with Verdurous Gearhulk, giving the deck a better long game. This makes the fourth Uncaged Fury less necessary, which makes room for a third copy of Harnessed Lightning in the main deck, which frees up a sideboard spot for a second copy of Natural State, giving us four Naturalize effects in the sideboard for matchups where those are especially important.

Long live Temur Battle Rage!

Craig Wescoe

@Nacatls4Life




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