Showdown number three, I was revisiting the deck that I took along to my first duel. Mono-Red plays out in a fairly simple manner. The nuisance of playing aggro is about knowing when to strike, rather than just throwing everything down. There’s still a lot of slinging spells, but if your creatures get hit by a wrath effect (something that destroys everything) then it’s likely your opponent will stabilize and have a huge tempo advantage. Although knowing I had to play my hand out fast to get ahead on the board, my main goal of this Showdown was to try and take down a control player. It’s been the bane of my time in Magic so far. Control decks are not fun to play against and I’ve struggled to find any success against the archetype so far. Control does take a long time to get going and hit their win conditions, so I felt that playing a snappy aggro deck would be my best chance.
My deck this time had main boarded in a card called Experimental Frenzy. This card lets you play off cards from the top of your deck, with the drawback of not being able to play cards from your hand. It’s a fantastic card when you get it to work, allowing the deck to run no card draw. With a bit of luck, you can play six or seven cards off the top. This is an incredible amount of value in terms of board progression or tempo.
My first matchup wasn’t against a control deck, but it was a deck I’d attempted to pilot the week before. The Izzet Phoenix deck plays out just as fast as Mono-Red but it’s finishers are much larger. The big drakes that have a base stat of */4 can be tough to get through. I knew if I wanted to be in for a chance stepping on the gas was my best option. The first game started off with a bang. I had my creatures swinging in whilst my opponent was digging for answers, rather than playing big drakes. My small one drop creatures were able to keep getting in for damage. Using cheap spells to remove the threats of a small Goblin Electromancer in their way. My opponent was sitting on around five life. Experimental Frenzy was on the board and the board was clear. I was starting to play off the top of my deck. Most of the burn spells (that can deal direct damage to my opponent) were still in the deck somewhere; but since I had two mountains in a row, I had to pass the turn(since you can only play one land per turn). Luckily, my next turn had a lot more punch to it. After getting down a large creature the turn before I just needed one spell to end it. The card on top was a land so that went to my hand, then off the top, a shock was sitting there. We shuffled up and delved straight into game two.
My opponent seemed like a seasoned veteran, so I thought he’d have a plan to deal with the aggro matchup after sideboarding in some answers. The second game was a lot more back and forth. We were trading minions blow for blow and my one answer to his drakes (Lava Coil) was nowhere to be seen. I was sitting on a comfortable eighteen life and thought I would have the clean 2-0 in the bag. My wizards were a great way to make burn spells cheaper, but I knew I couldn’t rely on them forever. They would have to fight at some point. My opponent wasn’t falling for any of my bluffs. I was trying to bait a block in to get rid of the drakes but he would let the two damage through, rather than lose his big threat. He was down to three health but had two 7/4 drakes and all his mana open. In my hand was two burn spells and enough mana to cast both. I played the shock and dealt two damage to his face. This was it I thought, I played the wizard lightning and asked “Any responses?” He paused for a second and then said: “yep, Spell Pierce”. My heart sank a little, and I had to reluctantly pass the turn. The next thirty seconds seemed to take forever. My opponent was thinking, which is never a good sign. After a minute or so he was ready to go, the puzzled look turned to a relaxed one and the words “Oh wait, that’s lethal” were mentioned. A shock from the hand pumped his drakes to 8/4s which would deal the sixteen damage needed to finish me. We laughed it off and he mentioned that if I didn’t play cautiously that I would have won, as I could have paid the cost for the Spell Pierce.
The third game was pretty much the golden hand for me. My opponent went down to six cards and I had a hand loaded with one cost or two cost creatures with a few spells. I decided to just play it out as fast as possible, throwing the spells and creatures down with no answers. My opponent was frantically digging for them, using his cheap spells to trawl through the deck but with no results. No drakes coming down was a godsend and even the fact he discarded the phoenixes, he couldn’t risk playing out the mana from his lands to resurrect them. After getting him down to five again, I was able to find the last two burn spells to finish him off. Even though we were both playing the aggro decks our games were probably the longest. We laughed that this was the second time this had happened and he gave me some pointers about playing with Experimental Frenzy and I shifted seats to face my second match.
This match was against an opponent that had crushed me the week before. Esper Control was a deck I wasn’t prepared for the week before, I had high hopes that this time I could do better. I knew he had his big threat Chromium, The Mutable. I was hoping to get his life down to zero before he would appear. My opening hand was really risky with a one drop, two drop and three Experimental Frenzies, I decided to keep it for some reason. This would later come to bite me. I eventually drew my third land but at that point, Esper was on ten lands and there wasn’t much I could do. He played out all his removal and by the time Frenzy hit the board, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was down and was too much for me. I scooped up my cards on sixteen health as I didn’t want the game to play out forever and run out of time. I should have mulliganed and was foolish not too. We laughed when I showed my hand and his previous mentions of fear for the deck seemed to have dissipated. In theory, I thought keeping the Frenzies out of the deck would have allowed me to cascade through without hitting any speed bumps. I should have tossed them back in and played out the deck as it was intended, rather than banking on one card.
Game two and we both went down to six cards. This isn’t too much of a worry for my deck but for control, If you don’t hit the right land curve you miss out on potential removal or counters. The small creatures were swinging in and my opponent couldn’t hit his white land drop. I knew that if I kept chipping away removal would eventually show up. Almost on cue, I had plenty of Chainwhirler ready to go down but knew I had to be patient. I was making my opponent cast his counters at the end of his turn so I could get a clean shot at him and put down my big threats. Experimental Frenzy came down and my opponent was on single digits. He finally hit his white source and decided to tap out (use all their mana) and play Vona, Butcher of Magan. I’d never seen this card before but I paid little attention to it. I knew that a couple of spells off the top would do the trick. I put the land on top into my hand and had a peek to find the Wizard’s lightning I needed. I’d finally beaten a control deck and knew if I could replicate the game again that I’d finally be able to lock in a win against this archetype.
Game Three and my opponent was down to five cards this time in the mulligan. I had the perfect curve of three lands, two one drops, a two drop and a spell. I decided that there was only one way to win and by pushing the card advantage, I’d maybe be able to beat him before he came online. I was able to draw spell after spell, with the Mono-Red being able to play off three lands I had a plethora of small creatures chipping in for five damage at a time. My opponent answered with a couple of removal spells but with only three lands as well he could only do this one at a time. Even when he had card advantage he was digging deep for answers and being able to pull two lightning strikes in a row was able to finish him. I felt bad that he really didn’t get a chance to do much. Then again control players know they want to play a long game, leaving them exposed to aggressive strategies. I had finally scored a win against control. I was really proud of getting ahead and finally securing two match wins in a session. This was my best record yet and I was feeling confident going into match three.
Match three I had heard rumors of the opponent’s new deck being pretty scary. It was based on Jeskai control and he mentioned that he was prepped against aggro and that I should be careful. Jokingly I mentioned that when there was a will, there was a way and we shuffled up to start game one. I had to go to six cards and then had a hand filled with spells and no creatures. I was able to grab a couple of creatures but Deafening Clarion made short work of most of them. My opponent then played his trump cards. Three planeswalkers came down back to back and this card called Oath of Teferi, letting him uptick his Hero cards twice in a turn. There was nothing I could do really, I played the game out for a little longer to see what else was in the deck but conceded once Huatli, Warrior Poet was in action as there was nothing I could do.
The second game I had another golden hand. My opponent didn’t have any removal or a blue source of land to counter any of my creatures. I started chipping away was trying to hit him at the end of his turn with all my spells landing with virtually no counter. I’d made the right choice to mulligan my first hand and was gifted with a perfect timing of Experimental Frenzy off the top of my deck. This is when I took off, playing creatures in tandem with spells to get him all the way down to one life. I waited for my turn to come around and was able to play the land off the top. My opponent was tapped out from his removal and looked frustrated that he couldn’t counter whatever was to come next. A chainwhirler off the top did the job and pushed the one damage I needed. We quickly shuffled up and got straight into game three.
This game was a mix between the first and second one. I had a decent opening hand and my opponent had more lands this time so it was a fairer match up. After getting down my early creatures, they were swinging in and being got him down to single digits again. My frenzy was down, my top decks were not going great and he had a chance to stabilize. Then it all went pear-shaped, with Lyra, Dawnbringer hitting the board I had one shot to burn him down from five life to zero. I drew my card for the turn and flipped over the top one, another Experimental Frenzy… This was the one card I didn’t want to see. It was unfortunately all over at that point. My deck can’t deal with Lyra in any capacity so I conceded again and congratulated my opponent on his crazy deck. He still claimed it shouldn’t have been so close against a cheap aggro deck. I was happy with my performance and that I nearly beat a deck that consisted of mostly mythic cards. Overall my final few draws were unlucky, I played around removal to the best of my ability and I guess I’ll learn the tells of control over time.
My record this week was a 5-3 game win, leading to a 2-1 match win finish. This is an incredible jump from all my weeks prior so I’ve taken a lot away from the matchups against control. I was happy that I’ve made noticeable and tangible improvements. Granted the deck wasn’t the most complicated and fairly linear but the addition of Experimental Frenzy really changed up the play patterns. Learning when to pull the trigger is really the key to any aggro deck. Too early, your opponent will wipe the board and take tempo; too late, you’ll be behind on tempo anyway and they’ll stabilize. Although sometimes you just have to play like they don’t have the answers, knowing when to be conservative seem to be the best way to beat the “Edimeta’s” control style.
My Showdown pack and boosters contained: