Sullivan Library: Standard Stompy on Fire

If you're at all like me, you've been avidly glued to developments in Standard since the Pro Tour. And, if you're like me, you may have noticed something interesting in the Grand Prix directly after the Pro Tour, Grand Prix Copenhagen:


Fight with Fire
Astute observers may note that the main deck played by Tobias Maurer is a 60-card match to the main deck played by Wyatt Darby, Pro Tour Dominaria champion (and that third place finisher Tim Kernke also had the exact same 60). The sideboard is only barely different, substituting two Pia Nalaar for the third Fight with Fire and the Treasure Map employed by Darby.

This is an incredibly significant development, because this means, despite the target on its head, despite the certain knowledge numerous players had about the composition of a powerful Red deck, it came back to win again. Frankly, I can't recall this ever happening; perhaps there is a moment in Pro Tour history where the Grand Prix was won by a 60-card maindeck copy of a Pro Tour winner the weekend after the Pro Tour, but you'll have to educate me if there is.

If you've played with this deck at all, you know how potent it is. If you haven't, I recommend you take it for a spin just so you can understand how it wins and how it loses.

Now, I'm lucky — I actually love to play Red decks. But, perhaps you don't, or perhaps you are preparing for Team Standard, and you need to have another deck in the mix that isn't Red Aggro.

Llanowar Elves, despite their weakness to Goblin Chainwhirler, open up another avenue that is worthy of consideration. If you know the classic Dan Paskins game "kill the elf", it is the necessity of a Red deck to kill a Llanowar Elves lest scary things happen. These days, typically, those scary things are Steel Leaf Champion or other four toughness creatures on turn two.

Take this deck as an example:


There are some exciting things going on here, even despite this deck not being yet aware of Wyatt Darby's Pro Tour deck, which lay shortly in the future.

To me the first one is Hour of Glory. As a reliable removal spell, it takes care of the nightmare that is Hazoret the Fervent, while also being a hard removal for any creature, all at a single Black. This is significant for a deck that is splashing the Black.

The next is Vicious Offering, which again is splashable and can kill Hazoret, but is also worthwhile in killing that early creature. One of the worst things that this deck can face is an unanswered Soul-Scar Mage, which left unchecked can easily chop down all of the big creatures.

Finally, Cartouche of Strength is incredibly intriguing in this deck. It acts like the more commonly used 'sucker punch', Nature’s Way, but keeps the trample going and going. Again, this is wildly valuable for killing a Soul-Scar Mage, but, it also reminds us of another card that is in use by a deck highlighted yesterday by the inimitable Kyle Boggemes:


Is that Cartouche of Ambition I see?

Obviously, this deck, running Winding Constrictor, is better able to make use of Cartouche of Ambition than the Steel Leaf Stompy deck that splashes Black. However, the "greener" deck gets a much higher payoff. In the race situation, lifelink is more than busted. Especially when you're talking about a Ghalta, Primal Hunger deck, in the case of the Stompy deck, a little more time to even get out a Ghalta is huge news.

But what is absolutely missing from this Constrictor deck?

Scrapheap Scrounger.

Despite the deck having Jadelight Ranger, a ton of creatures, and easy access to Black mana, Austin Collins doesn't run Scrapheap Scrounger anywhere in the mix of the 75 cards that they registered. As Kyle notes, "Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger also offer little in the way of blocking".

To me, this is a key.

I think that if you're running Scrapheap Scrounger, you're on the wrong side of history.

If you're a Red Aggro or even {B}{R} Aggro deck, and you have that access to Scrounger as a card because of Black-producing lands, I think that right now you are getting into a trap. You don't ever want to be the one on the back foot, but also, you want to be able to pivot to plays that help you slow your opponent down, especially on the draw. If you're a Green Aggro deck, you want to be able to either attack and then lay a creature so big that the opponent has to spend their whole turn getting rid of it, or they have to make a choice between Abyss-ing themselves in an attack or not attacking at all. If you're not yet attacking, you want to be able to make plays that start to turn the tide to where you aren't just attacking, you're making their attacks unappealing.

With that in mind, here's a version of Steel Leaf Stompy splashing Black that doesn't make this mistake (or, "choice", if you prefer):


The play you know that is coming after board from a Red deck involves Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Chandra, generally speaking, will somewhat act like a sort of Flametongue Kavu/Ravenous Chupacabra — killing something when it comes into play, but then dying. Glorybringer is more serious, but Hour of Glory and Vicious Offering are both helpful in this regards.

Note, Hour of Glory is obviously great when it comes to knocking out a Hazoret, but it also is an important card against Rekindling Phoenix and it easily takes out a Glorybringer. There is a way in which it might make sense to cut the second Vicious Offering in the board for a third Hour of Glory, but I still want to have a sizable amount of cards that can knock out a Soul-Scar Mage before it gets to gang up on my team with Goblin Chainwhirler.

Versatility in your creature deck is one thing that I think is wildly important in a world that is being dominated by the powerful Red Aggro deck that was given a spotlight by Wyatt Darby's Pro Tour win. You cannot simply be an aggressive deck that is imagining a {U}{W} Control deck as the opponent. Singular cards like Scrapheap Scrounger are too much of a liability, and even cards as good as Heart of Kiran need to be carefully thought about before they are put in an aggressive deck that would otherwise be happy to use them.

One of my favorite decks doing this right now is a {R}{G} Stompy:


This deck is absolutely fiercely capable of taking an aggressive stance, but it also has the tools, especially after sideboard, to pivot into a more midrange-aggro deck, still wanting to attack, but able to blunt the attack of an opponent. A Regisaur Alpha can briefly blunt an aggressive opponent that is getting out of control and then follow it up with a hasty Ghalta, Primal Hunger, which, in this crazy world we live in, might be forced to block for a turn!

In this Hazoret world, you're going to need decks that are capable of doing both. One of the reasons that the {B}{W} Knight decks are reasonable in this world is that History of Benalia and a slew of first striking Knights can function well on offense or defense. Make sure that your aggressive decks can do the same.

—Adrian Sullivan
@AdrianLSullivan


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