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Escape! from Dimir

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Scientists have found stone tips - presumably arrowheads - dating back some sixty-four thousand years. While their wooden shafts have long since unfurled from this mortal coil, traces of animal blood remain.

The bow and arrow reached Europe some 10,000 years ago; and the Americas more than 5,000 years ago. Bows improved in disparate ways, with advances in material and technology; physical strength bolstered the English longbow, while the deadly accuracy of ponyback riders conquered most of Asia.

Maces and chariots rose among the ancient empires; then the Classical world adopted the fishing spear as a weapon of war. Certain superheroes (and former Dothraki Khals) feature heavily on movie posters brandishing such tridents.

Swords and spears. Catapults and cavalry. Gunpowder. Gunpowder. And Gunpowder.

By the Twentieth Century weapons of war ruled the vastness of the sea, the skies above us, and the tiny atom all.

By late 2020, weapons got so dangerous, so fast, so positively precarious, they didn't even need to do damage any more to kill. The most dangerous of all turning out to be...

Ruin Crab

Born of bannings hither and thither, Ruin Crab proved surprisingly warping to an otherwise unsuspecting Standard format. Yorion is good and all... But some folks started playing 80 cards for self-preservation purposes.

And so, the first week or so of Standard-after-Omnath started looking like a duel of two Companions:

Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Yorion, Sky Nomad

But, whether by principle or acute metagaming, a very different set of decks have started to emerge... Largely in response to Ruin Crab's influence.

Let's talk about three:

  • Rakdos Whatever
  • Mono-Red Beatdown
  • Jeskai Tokens

Rakdos Whatever


I thought it would be more interesting to talk about the second place deck from the most recent Standard Challenge first.

POKERSWIZARD played a heavily biased Rakdos deck to an excellent, but not most excellent, finish. A couple of weeks ago, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and I made an early prediction that Rakdos would come out on top early. The primary reason being the availability of Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Bonecrusher Giant.

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is a card you would just naturally play in a Rakdos deck. It's a card you can play out of your hand Blightning-lite, but has natural synergy with Liliana, Waker of the Dead; Mire Triton; and Tymaret Calls the Dead. Of course, it has the added benefit of being freebie card draw when the opponent is playing with a Ruin Crab and other Milling-type offense.

The reason I thought Rakdos was an interesting second place deck was mostly because of what beat it: Mono-Red Aggro.

In the past, I think I would have picked Mono-Red Aggro in the dark heads up (mostly on mana and life point chip shots), but Rakdos as so many incidental tools... Stuff like Spikefield Hazard to slow the Red Deck down, life seems utterly impossible for them given the presence of the 6/6.

It's Kroxa itself that tips the scales in my experience. Not only is this card a gigantic 6/6 that is almost impossible to get through, it is a persistent source of both card advantage and damage... Even through chump blockers.

How Can We Take Rakdos Whatever to the Next Level?

I actually think Rakdos is already at the Next Level. It has the widest availability of Escape cards for fighting Dimir; the best [remaining] Escape card (sorry, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath); and the most copies of Bonecrusher Giant. You see, Bonecrusher Giant has got to be the best individual card in Standard, despite an embarrassing inability to nix the Dimir deck's 1-drop on the way down... And Rakdos gets to play extra Bonecrusher Giants.

Murderous Rider

I love how not only does Rakdos have all those contextual advantages and potential freebies... Its "extra" Bonecrusher Giants have lifelink. You know, for fighting Mono-Red.

So, what about Mono-Red?

Mono-Red Beatdown

So... If Ruin Crab is so good, then why did Rakdos finish second? And not only that, Mono-Red finished first above it? That doesn't make any sense, does it?


So, in that same Standard Challenge, Mono-Red finished first.

And there is no better example of how warped this format currently is than how it finished first!

Ox of Agonas

As you can see, O_DANIELAKOS played a copy of Ox of Agonas in the main!

Phoenix of Ash I get. People have played Phoenix of Ash. It's a decent package on its face. 2/2 haste for three has been good enough multiple times... And Phoenix of Ash has flying!

Obviously, more than that, Phoenix of Ash has Escape. Historically, that has mostly meant that it got in for two a couple of times, but could be an additional weapon later in the game, grinding past the opponent's removal to haste in for two three damage some turns later.

The Phoenix - and all Escape cards, like the Kroxa we talked about already - have additional context in a world ruled by Ruin Crab.

Phoenix of Ash and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger are regular old very good cards. You see them in "decks" ... Maybe not all the time, but no one is surprised to see them. Ox of Agonas, though, is a super specialist. It only appears in particular kinds of decks. The Rakdos Whatever, above, played Ox of Agonas... But, again, it has multiple ways to get it into the graveyard (or even discard it if it's drawn).

But Mono-Red?

This is a deck that can't discard the Ox. It's also a deck that doesn't so often get to 5 mana... In games that it wins. This is a deck that is leaning hard on the metagame.

My friend, onetime Pro Tour Teammate, and former Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Tim McKenna recently cracked Top 10 Mythic... With Mono-Red. He attributed much of his success to sideboarding Ox of Agonas.

"It isn't an exaggeration to say it is a 5/3 draw 3 cards for rr."

-Tim McKenna

The deck played by O_DANIELAKOS, with its main deck Ox, is even more biased.

In addition to playing both Phoenix of Ash and Ox of Agonas in the main... It has even more Phoenix of Ash and Ox of Agonas Escape action in the sideboard.

I'm a big fan of Scorching Dragonfire access (though this version only plays one extra copy) because of its ability to not only kill a Ruin Crab (something neither main deck Shock nor main deck Bonecrusher Giant can accomplish) but will keep it gone despite the Dimir deck's mana tools [most importantly Lurrus of the Dream-Den].

How Can We Take Mono-Red Beatdown to the Next Level?

Shatterskull Smashing

I think this card needs to get the axe. Mono-Red decks are already leaning on four copies of Castle Embereth, and Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass interferes with the ubiquitous Castle's ability to enter the battlefield untapped.

Secondly, if the format starts moving towards these potentially aggressive decks, the liability of taking three damage to take advantage of the Modal Double-Faced card seems like a potentially steep liability.

Finally... It's just not that great in this deck. Unlike a deck like Jeskai Control, that is apt to play lots and lots of lands in games that it wins, Mono-Red... Isn't. It doesn't play an overabundance, and so can't even do that much damage with Shatterskull Smashing. If it's up to me, I'd play a couple more Mountains, and trade Spikefield Hazard in to round out the Shocks.

Jeskai Tokens


I wasn't 100% sure what to call this version... But I liked emphasizing the Tokens element afforded by Omen of the Sun, The Birth of Meletis, and other cards.

The trick of course is that this is a creature-poor, not creature-less deck, so any of those tokens can threaten to become Dream Trawler with the help of Transmogrify.

Jeskai Tokens tips a light hat to Dimir and Ruin Crab, but tips it still. Sometimes the opponent will Mill your Narset of the Ancient Way or Dream Trawler; so you can line up Elspeth Conquers Death for the big payoff. And of course, Dream Trawler is a nicely expensive card to discard to Narset for extra damage pre-Elspeth Conquers Death.

As am 80-card deck, this one has a little extra resistance to Mill-based offense, and its graveyard recursion via Elspeth Conquers Death - while not as self-contained as resisting with Escape - is still a plan.

How Do We Take Jeskai Tokens to The Next Level?

Speaking of Escape...

Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis

If it's me? I slot White's signature Escape card into this seventy-five. It functions in much the same way as Ox of Agonas in the various Red decks (let alone Red Decks!)... And also furthers the Tokens theme. You can discard Elspeth to Narset, pay Elspeth off with other discards, and steadily produce 1/1 Tokens that grow up to be Dream Trawlers.

Have you ever Blinked a Mazemind Tome with Yorion, Sky Nomad?

I mean not everyone is beating down with Ruin Crabs! This looks to an absolute banger of a deck for grinding out value.

LOVE

MIKE

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