So, recently I decided to start playing Magic: the Gathering again. The urge started not too long ago when I received an invite to beta test Blizzard’s online trading card game, Hearthstone. I think that Hearthstone is a pretty great game, but it’s also fairly simple — at least compared to Magic. The simplicity of Hearthstone is definitely part of its appeal, as it makes the game very accessible. It’s also a fast-paced game, which adds to its addictiveness early on. However, after playing it for a while, I eventually longed for some deeper gameplay. Thus, I fired up some Magic: the Gathering Online (MTGO).
Now, one hazard with playing any trading card game is that, if you aren’t careful, you can spend a fairly ridiculous amount of money buying up cards in a seriously short amount of time. With that in mind, one of my goals for playing Magic again was to spend as little money on the game as possible. For those of you who are unfamiliar with trying to play MTGO on a budget, I’ll quickly explain the basic idea. It goes something like this:
- Make an initial investment by buying a “tier 1.5” standard deck (more on tiers later)
- Enter constructed queues and daily events to win booster packs
- Trade those boosters for event tickets
- Use those event tickets to enter more queues and dailies
Good players will be able to win enough boosters so that they can trade for excess event tickets which can then be traded for additional cards and decks. By doing so, they are able to keep up with the rotation as new card sets enter the format and old card sets leave. For more info on this strategy, Google “how to go infinite in Magic Online.”
So, in order to begin playing on a budget, I needed to select a tier 1.5 Theros standard deck and acquire the cards. Tier 1.5 decks are a slight step down in power from the most competitive, or tier 1, decks in the format. The upside is that they can often be cheaper to build than tier 1 decks. After reading some articles on strategy web sites like StarCityGames.com, I decided to go for a Mono-Red Aggro deck. Mono-Red Aggro, or Red Deck Wins, is a good archetype for Magic Online because it employs a fast and straightforward strategy. That means that matches are short, which allows you to play more games and therefore win more boosters.
The first deck I tried was a build proposed by the famous red mage Patrick Sullivan and was written about here. The deck list was as follows:
"Mono-Red Aggro by Patrick Sullivan"
What I like about this deck is that it’s pretty incredibly fast. Mutavault gives you mana, a body, and avoids sweepers like Anger of the Gods and Supreme Verdict. Burning-Tree Emissary is practically free, allowing you to play an extra creature on turn 2 (perhaps another Burning-Tree Emissary). Chandra’s Phoenix is hasted, evasive, and difficult to get rid of. With no single card in the deck costing more than 3 mana, you can drop a gang of little guys and put a great deal of pressure on your opponent early. Those kinds of quick starts can be difficult for many decks to overcome, especially with Mono-Red Aggro’s burn spells clearing the path for your attacks and finishing off your opponent’s life total.
After building the deck online and doing some play-testing, I was mostly happy with how it performed. There were just a few tweaks I felt I could make. For one thing, I didn’t think Rubblebelt Maaka was a very good card here. The pump effect could be useful at times, but overall the card seemed a little too situational. I would have preferred to have some extra burn instead. In fact, it seemed to me that the deck could use a little extra burn in general. Also, I wasn’t super excited about two copies of Act of Treason in the sideboard. That was another situational card that often didn’t provide me with a winning solution to my opponent’s board state.
So, I decided instead to try a slightly different list which was based on Reid Duke’s article at StarCityGames.com over here. The updated version of my deck looked like the following:
"Mono-Red Aggro by Brian Mitzel"
Happy with how the new list played online, I also built a paper version of the deck and took it to my next local Friday Night Magic tournament. I felt that the deck performed pretty well for itself in its first tournament go. Unfortunately, though, I was very rusty and made several play mistakes. Despite that, however, I lost a very close first round match 1-2 to a Mono-Black Devotion deck which was piloted by the tournament’s eventual winner. If not for mana screw in the 2nd game, I definitely think I could’ve won that match 2-0. Those are the breaks, though! After a bye in the 2nd round, I finished the tournament with a 2-1 win over Orzhov Control to take 3rd place.
I’m looking forward to playing the deck more, and I plan to bring it to FNM again tonight. I’m considering making some tweaks to the deck, though. My first thought is that I could use an extra guy. So, I may take out a Lightning Strike in order to add another Gore-House Chainwalker. Another option would be to remove the Mutavaults to upgrade to creatures with more red in their casting costs. That would allow me to run 4 copies of Ash Zealot, Boros Reckoner, and Fanatic of Mogis, which are all extremely powerful men in this deck. It’s a tough call, though, because of the way that Mutavault can avoid some of the popular removal in the format and keep up the pressure on my opponents.
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun playing this deck so far. My plan is to get some more practice under my belt online before taking it into the 8-man queues and daily events on MTGO. In the meantime, I’ll also be playing it at Friday Night Magic. There’s also a local Pro Tour Qualifier coming up next week. So, I’m hoping to have a solid deck list finalized for that event and try my luck there.
I’ll keep you posted on how the deck continues to perform and on any new changes I decide to make.