Throughout Magic’s early years, decks were very fast and wins were very quick. With decks running multiple copies of over powered but severely under costed spells, dealing 20 damage was not so difficult to do.
Sol Malka, a veteran magic player back in the Urza’s block developed a deck archetype that still exists today – the Rock.
At the peak of its reincentions, Vampiric Tutor, Duress, and Pernicious Deed were the pillars of any good Rock deck. The name ‘Rock’ was coined by Malka, and it illustrates a very solid game plan of hand disruption, key removal, and hard-to-address creatures.
The deck was so good and so stable that it had more than 10 iterations across 4 blocks: Urza’s Sage, Apocalypse, Odyssey and Onslaught. But if there was a card that binded all of these iterations together, it was a creature that was difficult to remove, has relevant protection from color-based removal, and grows bigger naturally.
Spiritmonger. He could not be Terror’ed (Doom blade equivalent), he can get around color protection, he can regenerate, and can grow so big his regeneration becomes irrelevant. A creature like this was so strong that Rock decks played mana dorks and pull this guy out as early as turn 3, then cast Diabolic Edicts or Duress to take out your blockers or removal, while presenting a decent 3 turn clock. Prior to Spiritmonger, Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit were the game closers of the deck.
Unfortunately, Spiritmonger no longer roams the earth and has been overshadowed by many creatures that have stronger abilities outside combat. We also lost the 1-mana dorks that enable us to bring monsters like these very early in the game. But in today’s blog entry, I want to revisit this deck because for one, it’s my favorite build. Two, it’s my two-most favorite colors. I think we also have the cards to recreate this masterpiece that would make Sol Malka himself proud.
The reprinting of Duress did not impact the meta so much to merit it a mainboard slot according to experts, and most decks reserve them for the sideboard against the occasional Approach or GPG decks. I’m not an expert but I think Duress is worth including in the mainboard because it hits at least 1-2 things in most decks today. Attune with Aether, Lightning Strike, Search for Azcanta, Disallow, Settle the Wreckage, Chandra, and Approach. That’s at least 1 card for all the gauntlet decks. I won’t play all 4 copies but definitely more than 1. Harsh Scrutiny received all the raves when it was spoiled but never got the chance to shine. In our deck, it will play two roles – spot removal and pseudo-cantrip. It feels good to take out their 1 or 2 drops and wreck their curve, and fishing out a Glorybringer or Hazoret is one less problem to deal with later. Lay Bear finishes our discard sweep which hits everything else Duress and Scrutiny can’t.
Removal is key and non-conditional removal is the best. Fatal Push can deal with early threats and tokens, Walk the Plank for bigger creatures, and Trial of Ambition for Hexproofed threats.
Sweepers are always good in a creature-heavy meta so we’ll play the best ones in our color. Bontu’s Last Reckoning might slow us down but the ability to wipe the board later in the game for 3 mana is priceless. Yahenni’s Expertise is our value card which can cast all the spells I’ve just mentioned for free.
On to the ramp department we have Ranging Raptors. It provides us multiple ramp triggers and an early body to deal with aggro. I think it’s one of the best uncommon from Ixalan too because it blocks well and fetches you a land each time it enters the combat zone, all for 3 mana. If you’re able to fetch 2 lands from it, and blocked something before it died then you gained so much out of a 3-mana investment.
Shefet Monitor serves as ramp and cantrip if we draw it early. Take note that the land it fetches enters the battlefield untapped – this means you can cycle it on turn 4 and still have mana to cast Duress or Fatal Push.
Planeswalkers did not exist before but today they are a staple component of constructed deck building, and for our chosen colors we have one of the best. Remember the Shefet Monitor we cycled on turn 4 to get the 5th land? Guess what, Liliana can get it back for you. Vraska on the other hand is our replacement for Ob Nixilis. She’s great at cluttering the board together with Liliana – both generating 2/2 bodies for their plus abilities. While Liliana brings creatures back from the graveyard, Vraska’s great at putting them there. I’m writing this right now and I’m laughing at how similar and different they are at the same time.
And to cap it off, we won’t have a rock deck without our own Spiritmonger and our replacement couldn’t be any better.
Carnage Tyrant was coined as the ‘control deck killer’ but that didn’t seem true with only 1 dinosaur deck vs. 2 control decks in the top 64 of SCG Open Dallas Fort Worth. Settle the Wreckage did a great job keeping this beast at bay which is causing its price to drop gradually. If it doesn’t see much top 8s or don’t get played in the next protour, expect it to drop at the $10-15 range soon. Looking at how Carnage Tyrant is positioned in our deck, it seems to be a better home for this 7/6 uncounterable, trampling, hexproof creature. With support cards like Duress and Lay Bare the Heart to take out sweepers, Carnage Tyrant can attack freely without fear.
So here’s my take on BG Rock for standard!
4 Ranging Raptors
3 Shefet Monitor
3 Carnage Tyrant
2 Noxious Gearhulk
2 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
2 Vraska, Relic Seeker
1 Harsh Scrutiny
2 Lay Bare the Heart
4 Fatal Push
1 Walk the Plank
3 Trial of Ambition
1 Cartouche of Ambition
1 Cartouche of Strength
2 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
2 Yahenni’s Expertise
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Scavenger Ground
4 Gifted Aetherborn
3 Lost Legacy
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
1 Hour of Glory
1 Vraska’s Contempt
1 Nissa, Vital Force
Since we are running Trial of Ambition, why not maximize the value by playing some Cartouche as well and we have very relevant ones in our color. Cartouche of Strength gives us a way to trigger Enrage from Ranging Raptors, kill something small, and get a 3/4 body making it bigger and better at soaking damage. It’s also good when attached to Noxious Gearhulk, ensuring it will connect every single attack. Cartouche of Ambition is backbreaking as well if we get to attach it to a Shefet Monitor or Carnage Tyrant against an aggressive deck. Swinging an 8/7 or a 7/6 with Lifelink is brutal when the opponent is desperate to close the game in the next few turns.
Noxious Gearhulk gives us some great 2-for-1 plays by killing off an opposing Resisaur Alpha or Verdurous Gearhulk and gain back some life. It’s also a great target for Liliana to bring back to life.
We’re running some Ifnir Deadlands and a pair of Scavenger Grounds to gain access to graveyard hate without eating any sideboard slots.
The sideboard gives us excellent options against any deck. This is why BG is my favorite combination because there is no permanent it cannot take out, or spells it cannot remove.
If you have it, we can kill it. Lost Legacy comes in against Approach and combo decks, or even decks that rely on 1 or 2 cards to win games. Hour of Glory is for Hazoret and The Scarab God. Vraska’s Contempt as added creature / walker hate together with Never.
Gifted Aetherborn and Ranging Raptors are the tag-team buddies for the deck. Gifted Aetherborns come in against Ramunap Red or Big Dinos. Ranging Raptors for the slower non-hasty creature decks. We want to ramp and we want to gain some life – but never at the same time so these 2 cards give us versatility to prioritizes what’s important in a particular match-up.
A one-off, Nissa is not great in the main but against attrition decks she gives us additional ways to bring back cards from the graveyard. She would take the slot of 1 Vraska most of the time, which is fine because she can bring back both planeswalkers if needed. Who said women are weak? Plus points for gender diversity!
I truly loved how this deck came together and how it lives up to its ancestors. Definitely it won’t be as strong or as fast compared to its earlier iterations but definitely this deck packs a punch, gives so many answers, and offers awesome synergies for a very interactive game. Let me know if you like it by hitting me up with your comments down below!