Theros Beyond Death Standard Set Review Featuring Ali Aintrazi
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#2Pigs: Razing Hell with Ilharg, the Raze-Boar


This past weekend, I got home from FNM, busted open my prize packs, and ending up acquiring my fourth Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. I got pretty excited because it was a mythic rare that was immensely hyped up as War of the Spark was being spoiled. Heck, even now it's still one of the more expensive mythics in the set. But then it occurred to me that the card . . .  doesn't really have a home. At this point my rollercoaster of emotion took me to Sad Town, because this is a powerful card, and it really should. I'm not even expecting it to be Tier 1 by any means, although not for lack of power level, but the Raze-Boar himself should at least have a Standard shell to fit into.

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

So . . .  I tried creating one!

This past Sunday on stream, I brewed up a rg Ilharg list from scratch and it ended up doing pretty well. I think we went maybe 4-1, and the deck at the end felt a lot more refined than the deck at the beginning. I don't want to boar you with the initial configuration, so I'll just show you the final product that was performing well, and talk about some of the choices we made and still have.

First thing's first, and I think we've actually talked about this previously: the explore package is just too good not to include in your Green decks right now. I'm not speaking hyperbolically when I say it does it all. It smooths out your draws, it draws you cards (lands), it provides big bodies to attack and block with, and it gains you life. Wildgrowth Walker after one or two explore triggers is surprisingly hard to deal with. The more I toyed around with Green decks that didn't have the explore package in them, the more I kept steering toward it and missing what it provided. Heck, we even had Paradise Druid in here at first, because we wanted to make sure we hit our fatties as early as possible, but Paradise Druid would usually die whereas Merfolk Branchwalker would often find us a more permanent mana source.

That being said . . .  ta da! The explore package!

We wanted to have a good number of creatures that we could get value off of it we put them into play with Ilharg, so here was the preliminary list we looked at:

All of these creatures cost as much or more than Ilharg, meaning you'll be getting a good deal of mana value from them, and they all had some pretty powerful enters-the-battlefield abilities. The two best I felt were the six-drops that could kill creatures or planeswalkers on their way in. Demanding Dragon could also kill a creature, but maybe not sometimes, and if they have a 1/1 or something, well, it gets a lot worse. The thing I didn't like about Siege-Gang is that it forces you to attack with the Commander himself, which is only a 2/2. You get to do so with a ton of free mana, ideally shooting some things down, but I was really just looking for big idiots to slam into play and crash into the red zone with.

For this Burning Sun's Avatar and Ravager Wurm were just perfect. Both creatures could remove a blocker, making any sort of crack back from the opponent significantly worse for them. The dinosaur could even remove a planeswalker with some regularity. Both of these creatures ended up being perfect for the deck.

End-Raze Forerunners

End-Raze Forerunners was actually a later inclusion that someone suggested and it worked out incredibly, pumping our entire team and giving them trample to boot. This is the closest we're likely ever going to get to Craterhoof Behemoth, and I think it does a pretty good imitation. If you're simply attacking with both pigs, you're looking at 15 damage, which is just nuts for a 5 mana investment.

Conversely, I felt like Pelakka Wurm didn't really do enough. If we were looking for life gain, the explore package had us covered, and not getting it until turn six or seven would be a little too late against the more aggressive decks in the format. Additionally, because it just goes back to the hand, we're likely never drawing that card.

One thing we wanted to make sure happened was Ilharg, the Raze-Boar having haste. We don't want to give our opponent's a chance to kill our pig before we get to attack with it. This is where the four copies of Rhythm of the Wild come into play. Making our pig uncounterable is also a nice bonus. To this day, I still think Rhythm of the Wild is an unreasonably powerful uncommon, giving haste when you need it, a +1/+1 counter when you don't, and ensuring that all of your creatures are going to resolve.

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

Another way to give haste that we initially included was two copies of Domri, Chaos Bringer, and by "give haste" I mean "give riot," which is essentially the same thing. Unfortunately, one problem I had with Domri was that his +1 ability is kind of awkward. Almost 99% of the time you're going to use it then pass the turn. It's kind of strange for a +1 ability, because it's usually blank on the first turn you get to use it. Eventually I realized we wanted to have more creatures (especially for the next card we'll talk about), so we replaced him with two copies of Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion.

This is a card I didn't get to test out much, but as a 5/4 with trample and a relevant ability, I thought it was a decent fit. Theoretically we could play Rhythm of the Wild on turn three, Neheb with haste on turn four, and attack, discarding our irrelevant cards and adding mana. Maybe we discard five cards, draw an Ilharg and play it in the same turn! A guy can dream...

Neheb is also just another creature that has an ability we can use with Ilharg, letting us loot as many cards as we want to after each attack and allowing us to find bigger and better monsters. Neheb seems great in theory, so I hope he works out as well in practice.

Vivien's Arkbow

The last card I want to talk about did an insane amount of work. I can't even describe it adequately. Vivien's Arkbow is just a beast. When I had anywhere between five and 7 mana, I would just discard whatever I drew for the turn, assuming it cost less than five, and I would essentially search my deck for a creature. While you're not really searching your deck, you'll usually always hit something, so if you're pitching a Jadelight Ranger, and you only hit a Merfolk Branchwalker, it's a small price to pay for the potential to hit something like a Burning Sun's Avatar or a Ravager Wurm at the end of their turn.

One of the awesome parts about this card is that any time the opponent removes your Ilharg, you can get it back at instant speed, and uncounterable, by activating the Arkbow, because it will always be there. This was a pretty crazy interaction that felt ridiculously unbeatable. They Conclave Tribunal our pig, we tuck it, and at the end of their turn we get it right back and ready to attack again. As I said, once you hit six or 7 mana, every land or elf is usually something much, much stronger. This card is crazy.

As for God-Eternal Rhonas, I could take him or leave him. This is basically a wild card slot that I couldn't find the perfect fit for.

Guys, definitely try this deck out if you have the opportunity. It may not be the strongest deck in the format, but we put up some solid results and had a blast doing so. This deck was able to do some broken things, and they weren't terribly uncommon. The best part is that most of the cards in the deck are reasonably strong on their own, so you aren't making a lot of sacrifices for overly cute interactions.

As always, thanks so much for reading. You all are the best, and I love you to death! Be sure to hit up the comments and leave your thoughts, because I'm eager to hear them. I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore