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Is That Deck for Real?

Theater of Horrors

Theater of Horrors was the most exciting card from Ravnica Allegiance; at least initially. I mean there are better cards. I'm hesitant to think there will be another cross-format performer as Light Up the Stage. And people are already committing Death Pools a Benjamin at a time for Wilderness Reclamation... But Theater of Horrors. Gorgeous, isn't it?

I felt like it was a Phyrexian Arena that I wouldn't hate; that I could just play in a Red Deck.

The midrange Red Deck from the previous Standard tried cards like Karn and Arch of Orazca. This card seemed both faster and more consistent to me.

This is the first deck I tried, basically the day Ravnica Allegiance appeared on Magic Online:

I was all excited to play with new cards Theater of Horrors and Electrodominance; I mean talk about a cross-format banger-wanger! Electrodominance is going to be even better in Modern than it is in Standard; and it's awful in Standard. Awful as in inspiring of awe, of course.

So first match out and I'm up against one of these newfangled Gates decks. Annihilated.

"Is that deck for real?" I asked myself. Of course not.

Gates again.

Annihilated again.

"Oh well," I concluded. I guess this deck just isn't good. That stunk because I had already obtained such Magic: The Gathering cards as Electrodominance and Theater of Horrors in paper.

The Gates deck is of course hell on the typical midrange deck. You're spending all this mental energy angling for a little progressive card advantage via Theater of Horrors or Treasure Map and they're exploding with Circuitous Route and that pesky Blue enchantment. They can blow up all your guys and have giant 8/8s that are nearly impossible to kill permanently. Like Rekindling Phoenix but arguably even more resilient (and always twice the size).

Gates? Really?

You'll have to forgive me; this was the first night any of these cards were legal on MTGO and I just had no idea this was going to be a thing, instead of just a gimmick. More on this in a bit.

One thing I did notice was that Light Up the Stage was inconsistent in this deck. It's not like Modern where everything costs one. If you play correctly you will rarely ever strand a land and only if you flip Rift Bolt or Eidolon of the Great Revel will you generally strand spells. But in this deck? There are so many fours and reactive cards... I was stranding stuff left and right.

But that didn't mean that there wasn't some other Light Up the Stage deck to, you know, light up my Magical life.

... Same As the Old Boss

This deck is a slight tweak on last format's perfect sixty. I just added 4 Light Up the Stage in exchange for the Rekindling Phoenixes, one Experimental Frenzy, and one Mountain. The theory is that Light Up the Stage does some of the Experimental Frenzy work, and helps the deck flow.

What really sold me on this deck versus the "Hive Mind" Red Deck is that Light Up the Stage and Experimental Frenzy work surprisingly well together.

Imagine you have Experimental Frenzy in play and you cast Light Up the Stage. You can keep priority with Light Up the Stage on the stack, and maybe get a free card.

Imagine your top four cards are:

  1. Shock
  2. Mountain
  3. Mountain
  4. Mountain

Knowing this play pattern, you can launch the Shock before the Light Up the Stage resolves, setting both Mountains aside. Now you get a free look at the fourth card down. You can play the Mountain and keep going.

If you didn't know the "hold priority" play pattern, you would in all likelihood get stuck on consecutive Mountains. As it is you might end up stranding one of the Mountains with Light Up the Stage, but you'll probably get a freebie the next turn anyway, so no big deal.

There are lots of examples as to how going a card deeper might be useful; I just used this one because it's so blatant.

I played this version at FNM last week, going an unremarkable 2-1; finishing fifth... And not even earning a promo.

Kind of hard to weave that finish into an exciting CoolStuffInc article in and of itself! But in my defense, the deck I lost to played three Lyra Dawnbringers against me, including Seraph of the Scales-into-Lyra in Game 1. Ouch.

The other two were ho hum matches against predictable metagame foes Bant Reclamation and ur Phoenix.

I heard about a take on the Hive Mind Red with eight Green lands, splashing for Cindervines and Collision after sideboard.

Armed with this piece of tech, I made this little monster:

What a difference a color makes!

This version ended up a great grinding deck, including against Wilderness Reclamation and Gates. Status // Statue can destroy opposing enchantments; and the eight-pack of Status // Statue and Cindervines actually rains hell on spell decks.

You can transform into a progressive midrange deck fueled by Theater of Horrors into Duress; winning "eventually" with Rekindling Phoenix against slower opponents.

What really makes the deck is Electrodominance. Electrodominance was already competing for the Banefire slot main deck, but it really shines here as a mana fixer. The land base is pretty solid; with more sources of Red than the average Hive Mind deck with its 18-22 Mountains... But you sometimes don't draw a color. There are only eight Black and eight Green lands total, so you sometimes need to borrow a Treasure or something. Unless of course you can cheat with Electrodominance to play one of your key Red or Green spells.

But let's dwell on that Red mana for a second.

There is really only one - count it, one - reason to play this kind of a deck instead of a legitimate midrange deck with more flexible card advantage or more pure power.

Goblin Chainwhirler

You have to be in for Chainwhirler to want to play this kind of a deck.


The bonus you get for playing Black and Green is Status // Statue. If you give your Goblin Chainwhirler deathtouch with Status, you can sweep the opponent's entire team, like a one-sided Wrath of God... That also nugs for one.

So far I've found this deck to be great against powerhouse Standard decks like Esper Tap-Out, Bant Reclamation, and Gates. You lose Game 1 a little more than half the time, but build tremendous advantages in the sideboarded games. You have so much relevant disruption and removal + consistent card draw all over the place... Theater of Horrors shines in a low pressure matchup; Treasure Map is even better (digging you into early lands); and Arch mops it all up.

I've found these decks tend to have really effective ways of dealing with small and medium creatures, but Rekindling Phoenix remains a nice tool. Most of these games go super long and end with an Electrodominance or Banefire to the face when neither player has many cards in hand. Which is okay because your card advantage is all hiding under Theater of Horrors or lives in Treasure tokens , stockpiling for a rainy day.

Where the deck seems to struggle so far is Mono-Red!

I was always skeptical of the Midrange Mono-Red matchup versus either the Busson deck [that I liked] or the more rush deck that the Hive Mind decks are taking after (which might have The Flame of Keld). On one hand, the deck is somewhat pre-sideboarded with Dire Fleet Daredevil; but with sixteen non-basic Mountains, your mana base can be just awkward enough, or just painful enough, to cost you a close one.

Regardless, I've always been skeptical of the matchup... It never made sense to me that the Midrange guys thought they had the advantage. Sure they had some card advantage, but this always seemed like a life total matchup to me. That's just worse here, with the Jund deck packing more awkward or expensive spells like Status // Statue; or general do-nothings like Theater of Horrors while the real Red Deck gets faster with Light Up the Stage and possibly Skewer the Critics and The Flame of Keld.

I chose to sideboard Deathgorge Scavenger. It seemed like the best overlap of life gain + some way to interact with Risk Factor, potentially at a profit. Deathgorge Scavenger has been full-on okay; but okay enough that I wouldn't devolve into Moment of Craving just yet.

I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't need Collision at all. I would have liked the option of its better half, but Status // Statue (and the odd borrowed Mortify) have been all the Lyra Dawnbringer defense I've needed with this deck. Standard Jund is still a work in progress. But an exciting one so far!