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David Price - Price of Progress
The End of Beatdown?

As some of you may know, I've had quite a bit of success with mono-red decks in the past. I grew to love them during the qualifiers for Pro Tour Paris, in which I played a control-oriented mono-red deck referred to by some as "Sligh." I was first introduced to the deck at Pro Tour - Dallas, where Pat Chapin repeatedly beat my blue/white counterpost deck with his version. So, I built a similar deck and came in top 4 and top 2 at two PTQs, earning me a trip to Paris. Here is what it looked like:

4 Goblin Balloon Brigade
2 Orcish Captain
1 Black Vise
4 Ironclaw Orc
2 Dwarven Soldiers
4 Orcish Artillery
1 Brothers of Fire
4 Dragon Whelp
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Incinerate
4 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Pillage
1 Strip Mine
4 Mishra's Factory
17 Mountain

It looks pretty weak by today's standards, but it worked beautifully. It had creatures with low power-to-casting cost ratio, and few broken artifacts (like Cursed Scroll). It did, however, have the ever-popular Black Vise. Still, it had Pillage, an excellent utility spell, as well as great control creatures like Orcish Artillery. It beat Necro decks and Prison decks all day long, finally losing in both PTQs to sluggish red decks with fatties and Earthquakes.

After Lightning Bolt was removed from the basic set and Fireblast was added to Type II, I decided that my mono-red deck had to make a fundamental shift from control to beatdown. In came the Ball Lightnings to replace Orcish Artillery and Brothers of Fire and for 1997 Nationals, at least, Lava Hounds replaced Dragon Whelps. The deck allowed me to place first in the Standard portion of that tournament and my love for the deck was reaffirmed. Over the years, it has gradually changed, gaining Cursed Scroll and amazing one casting cost creatures like Jackal Pup and Mogg Fanatic.

Recently, however, the deck has been struggling. The loss of the Mirage block meant no more Fireblast. The deck managed to adapt and survive, largely with the help of Goblin Lackey from Urza's Saga. Now with 6th Edition being legal, we have to bid farewell to our friend, Ball Lightning.

So, is the deck still viable? Its still very early, but I suspect that mono-red will continue to be viable. Throughout all the changes in the Standard environment, it has always been a viable deck type. Whether or not it will be a tier one deck is questionable; that will largely depend on what other decks are popular in the Standard environment.

What effect will 6th and Urza's Destiny have on the deck? First off, 6th Edition rules will make Mogg Fanatic the best one-casting cost creature in the environment. Since you can sacrifice Mogg Fanatic after it assigns combat damage (but before combat damage resolves), it can kill two toughness creatures or possibly get you a two for one. Aside from the rules aspect, 6th Edition will force us to reexamine the deck and what it is trying to do. I originally converted my mono-red control deck into a beatdown deck because of the presence of Fireblast and Ball Lightning and the absence of one-casting cost removal in the environment. Now, we are presented with an environment in which we have no Fireblast or Ball Lightning, but have regained efficient one casting cost removal (Shock, Mogg Fanatic). Not only that but classic red utility and control spells, Pillage and Hammer of Bogardan, have been returned to us. It appears that a more control-oriented deck might be the best option. Urza's Destiny, on the other hand, will have little effect on mono-red. Goblin Masons make a fine two casting cost creature, but the fact that they have one toughness may make them worse than Goblin Raiders or Mogg Flunkies. I'm still undecided on that, but whichever two casting cost creature you use, it won't drastically change your mono-red deck. The other card in Destiny that might appear in mono-red decks is Reckless Abandon. This card is very similar to Goblin Grenade, except it only does 4 damage and you can sacrifice any creature, not just a goblin. If there is a pure beatdown version of mono-red that is viable, you will likely see Reckless Abandon in it to provide that extra bit of damage.

Here's a version of mono-red that I've worked up; I'm going to be giving it a try over the next few weeks and I encourage you to do the same:

4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Jackal Pup
4 Goblin Patrol
4 Fireslinger
4 Goblin Masons
2 Lightning Dragon
4 Shock
4 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Cursed Scroll
4 Pillage
4 Wasteland
18 Mountain

All in all, I'm excited about this version of the deck. Pillage is an amazing card and I'm glad to see it back. It gives the deck a way to deal with other aggressive deck's Cursed Scrolls, which is very important, and it deals with other annoying artifacts like Phyrexian Colossus. In addition, the fact that the deck now has eight land destruction spells gives it a good chance of killing creatures with Echo or mana-screwing the opponent, which is especially important versus Living Death. I expect the matchup vs. Living Death to be all about using direct damage to kill Birds of Paradise and Hermit Druids while destroying the Death player's lands with Wasteland and Pillage to keep him/her from getting to that crucial five mana point. In addition to Pillage, having a flying beatdown machine like Lightning Dragon should be especially helpful in this particular matchup.

Notice the lack of Goblin Lackey and Mogg Flunky in the deck. Without Fireblast and Ball Lightning, I think trying to make the deck explosively fast at the price of consistency is no longer a good plan. Instead of Mogg Flunky, the deck has Fireslinger, which reminds me of the Orcish Artillery of old. An excellent two casting cost creature, it kills mana producing creatures and weenies and can still do damage if the opponent creates a creature stalemate with blockers like Wall of Blossoms or creatures like Spike Weaver. It's been a while since I've played with this delightful creature and I'm looking forward to it.

As for the sideboard, I can't say for sure what will go in it until I understand the metagame more. Bottle Gnomes will almost certainly be there, but there is still a lot of room, especially since 6th Edition has left us with no Pyroblast or Red Elemental Blasts.

To those of you who try out the deck, good luck and enjoy. I'll be testing it myself; feel free to send me email with your questions, suggestions, or tournament experiences with the deck. Until next time,

David Price
King of Beatdown

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