As I grow more hungry for competitive level Magic, my appetite for playing Magic the Gathering Online has grown with it. Magic Online is a very convenient way to get in good, competitive level games of Magic without having to wait for a weekend tournament or travel half the town away. In a town as big as Sacramento, you will always be able to find an LGS that is running a tournament on any given day of the week. I live on the far south end of the metro; all of the larger stores that run tournaments on Monday-Thursday are in the north and north-east suburbs. This can mean upwards of an hour drive during rush hour just to get there. Even after the traffic has died down at 9pm or later I would still be faced with a solid 30-minute drive home. That’s a pretty demanding ask for a week night, considering my kids need help with their homework, sports practices, and music lessons, and my wife needs help with our kids :joy: However, I have found myself with the 30-45 minutes necessary to fire up the MtGO client and get in a match here and there while in the comfort of my own home.
Because I love my home so much, a few weeks ago I decided that I would invite the public in for a peek. I started my own stream where I could play a viable Standard deck in a 5-round Competitive League. The idea is that I will play one league per week, stream all 5 matches (regardless of record) and write up a “state of standard” style article based on my experience. I hope you enjoy this series as I build my skills both as a Magic player as well as a content producer. Please feel free to stop by and check out the stream at twitch.tv/edubious and leave me some feedback. Let me know what you like, what you don’t like, and if you have any tips for making my stream better.
Without further ado, I give you the edubious Standard League Streaming Adventure, Volume 1!
Week 1: Mono-Red Hazoret (aka Standard on Rails)
I decided to start the stream off with a deck and play style that is near and dear to my heart as an aggro Magic player. I chose the Hazoret Red deck archetype as the deck with which I would be most familiar and comfortable to start my streaming career. You can find my article about my experience playing this deck in a paper PPTQ about a month ago (although a few tweaks were made to the list since) here at StrictlyAverageMTG.com
Match 1: vs Sultai Energy (2-0)
This match was over quite quickly. My opponent was apparently having a bit of a rough night with his deck not functioning or performing for him. After a strong curve out and the opponent conceding on turn 5 in game 1, game 2 was apparently over before it even started. My opponent mulled to 5 and after dropping a tapped Fetid Pools snap conceded, but not before leaving me this gem:
The tilt is strong with this one.
Match 2: vs Black Red Aggro (2-1)
After a slow start and a couple of misplays, I ended up losing game 1 to a flurry of cheap quick threats out of my Black-Red Aggro opponent. This is what I’m supposed to be doing, not my opponents!
Sideboarding against “the mirror” is pretty straightforward. Bring in the extra Aethersphere Harvester for lifegain, bring in the two copies of Glorybringer to go over the top of the smaller creatures that an aggro deck typically runs, bring in the two copies of Chandra’s Defeat to take care of opposing Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Glorybringer threats, in comes the 4th copy of Abrade to take care of Bomat Courier or potential Scrapheap Scroungers coming out of the black-splash version of the deck, bringing in the Vance’s Blasting Cannons to give myself another way to gain resource advantage in case it becomes a war of attrition, and after a bit of debating as to whether the 3rd copy of Kari Zev, Skyship Raider or the singleton Ahn-Crop Crasher was the correct play, I decided that Kari Zev was going to be a removal target that probably wouldn’t get any damage through due to the lack of haste and the Crasher would give me a slight advantage in disrupting potential blockers.
Game 2 started out as would be expected from this matchup. Both sides dropped early, quick threats but my hand and draws gave me better removal to get out to a faster start with stronger pressure on my opponent’s life total. Going into game 3, I chose not to make any changes. After mulling to 6 and having my only red source be a tapped Desert of the Fervent, I was afraid I would end up being too slow. My opponent started with Bomat Courier into Bomat Courier, which is one of the stronger openers for any red aggro deck. I decided to Abrade the first Courier (with more cards under it) on the opponents draw step; that way there was an extra card in hand to make the decision a bit more painful. I followed that up with more removal on turn 3 to get rid of the 2nd Courier. My opponent ended up getting stuck on 2 lands until turn 5. Over the course of the next few turns, I was able to land an Aethersphere Harvester, remove his important threats (Hazoret the Fervent tends to look a little silly when you are short on mana and have 4 cards in hand), and deploy a few threats of my own to take what felt like commanding control of the game. A few well timed removal spells later and a pesky Rekindling Phoenix that just won’t stay dead, and my opponent was gaining traction and getting right back in it. Thanks to a well timed top-deck 6th land I was able to Eternalize two consecutive Earthshaker Khenras to prevent the Phoenix from blocking and wore my opponent down to 1 life. Now all I need is a for my deck to give me one of it’s signature burn spells. After drawing a 2ndAbrade, I was able to take care of Rekindling Phoenix AND it’s pesky token. But my opponent had another Phoenix waiting in the wings (you see what I did there) and was able to fend me off. Finally after 3 more draw steps plus seeing an extra card from a futile Bomat Courier attack, I was able to draw into the Lightning Strike I needed to pull out a very close win.
Match 3: vs RG Monsters (2-1)
Game 1 started pretty strong for me with a solid curve out of creatures into removal into a Chandra, Torch of Defiance. My opponent also stumbled on mana and I was able to efficiently overwhelm him.
Sideboarding against Monsters means you need to get bigger while also having more removal options. I brought in 2 extra copies of Glorybringer, the extra Aethersphere Harvester, an Ahn-Crop Crasher and the 2 copies of Chandra’s Defeat. I took out Repeating Barrage because 3 mana for 3 damage is not a great rate when the opponents creatures are so big. Plus, their creatures are typically large enough to put up a wall that cannot be attacked through quite quickly, so the Raid ability often proves useless. Also out comes a copy of Shock as that spell gets quickly outclassed by the sheer size of the Monsters this deck presents. I also took out the full 4 copies of Firebrand Archer as it is often too slow of a clock to be effective.
Game 2 was a bit of a different story as my opponent had his own suite of early removal to take care of the early threats I was deploying. I stumbled on mana myself, not finding a second source of red mana until turn 7, which was just too late. I was overwhelmed by an onslaught of Rekindling Phoenix followed by Glorybringer followed by Carnage Tyrant, then a Chandra, Torch of Defiance of his own.
Game 3 was a bit better with my opponent having some good early interaction and threats of his own. I started off with a flurry of Bomat Courier into Kari Zev, Skyship Raider (who always seems to eat instant removal :thinking: ) then another Bomat Courier. As I mentioned in the Match 2 recap, the games where red aggro decks start off with double Bomat starts feel nearly un-losable. The sheer card advantage those little guys generate means that an aggro deck that would normally be out of resources by turn 5 or 6 gets to refill their hand and keep the beats rolling. My opponent used a Sweltering Suns to try to slow down my Bomat advantage, so I cracked one, ditched the one card left in my hand for the 4 “mystery cards” sitting under the turn 1 Bomat, and was able to continue rolling. After deploying a few threats and getting them insta-removed, I was finally able to draw into a Chandra, Torch of Defiance and burn my opponent out.
Match 4: vs Naya Approach (0-2)
This match highlights my inexperience with the format. There were a couple decision points that I completely whiffed on and a game winning play at the end of Game 2 that, had I realized an Approach player wouldn’t tap out to cast Approach of the Second Sun unless they held another copy in hand to win the next turn, I would have gone into the tank a little longer and found the victory to force a game 3.
What I can say about this deck is that the lifegain is REAL (annoying). Game 1 My opponent was able to gain 16 life by turn 7 off the back of 3 Gift of Paradise and his first copy of Approach of the Second Sun.
Sideboarding for this match was something I had to come up with off the hip as I hadn’t played or studied this matchup yet. I brought in the 2 copies of Glorybringer, another Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Pia Nalaar from the board, choosing to take out the Aethersphere Harvester and 3 copies of Firebrand Archer. When I watched the playback, I kept hovering and right-clicking on Ahn-Crop Crasher. I probably should have brought it in, taking out the 4th Archer.
Game 2 was more of the same. Another 6 lifegain off Gift of Paradise means that my attacking the opponent down to 6 life by turn 5 could have spelled victory. But their deck is built to handle that kind of aggression; I have to overcome that through stronger play decisions. An Approach of the Second Sun on turn 6 meant my opponent has now gained 13 total life this game and was sitting at 13. I was representing 12 damage on board and had been holding a Glorybringer the whole time, just waiting for a 5th land to be able to deploy it. Turn 6 draw gives me a Sweltering Suns; the 5th land didn’t come. Had I been thinking about anything but that Glorybringer, I would have realized that casting the Sweltering Suns would have given me lethal, but instead I chose to +1 my on-board Chandra, Torch of Defiance for the 2 mana to cast Glorybringer but was still only be able to swing for 12 damage. There was even another line I could have taken had the Sweltering Suns been some other spell that didn’t deal immediate damage. I had a Bomat Courier with 5 cards sitting under him. If I had just swung for the 8 damage on board, I could have cracked the Bomat on 2nd main and had the chance to have drawn into the damage spells necessary to close it out. Chalk this one up to a lessons-learned moment: always be aware of the unintuitive plays, and don’t get hyper focused on one line.
Match 5: UB Control (2-0)
After mulling to 6, I was stuck on 1 mana until turn 5, but somehow my opponent still let me get 7 cards under my turn 1 Bomat Courier. Thanks to that little card advantage engine that could, I was able to get in chip damage, and eventually deploy a couple threats, then refill my hand to keep the gas on and eventually overwhelm my opponent’s 2 Torrential Gearhulks.
Sideboarding against control is a matter of getting bigger and planning for the long game. I brought in the extra 2 copies of Glorybringer, the 3rdKari Zev, Skyship Raider, my control tech Vance’s Blasting Cannons, as well as the 4th copy of Abrade to deal with those pesky Gearhulks.
With an opening hand that felt just too slow, I mulled to 6 again. This set of cards gave me enough early pressure to feel comfortable while hoping to draw into my late game action. I got started with the typical red plays: a few small 1 and 2-drop creatures. My opponent started things off with back to back Contraband Kingpins. Not only are those things a wall for my guys, the lifelink pretty much negated any attacks that I could make. I was able to draw into a Hazoret the Fervent, Glorybringer, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance to pair with my smaller chip damage. Together those proved too much, and ran my opponent out of answers.
Standard seems to be quite healthy. I was paired against 5 different archetypes in my 5 matches. Mono-Red Hazoret still stands up as one of the tier 1 decks of the format, but the Approach decks attack on an axis that I’m not sure many decks in the field are equipped to deal with. Another thing I noticed is that more exile effects might need to be a mainboard requirement to handle Rekindling Phoenix and the other Eternalize/graveyard recursive creatures I played against.
Going 4-1 in my first Competitive Standard League with Mono-Red aggro is a very nice start to my streaming and leagues career. I have a strong excitement for continuing the series, making adjustments to my deck, picking up new archetypes, and hopefully providing entertainment as you follow along on my journey.
Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart, but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time. He plays mostly casually with his 8-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.