Yesterday was a great day for Magic because I went up against 4 different decks in 4 rounds of standard, bagging 1st place. I battled Esper Historic, UG Merfolk, Mono Green Shalai, and a Mono Green Karn.
Before I write about the Mono Green Shalai list which I was quite interested with, piloted by Jesus Cepeda, let me just quickly show you my final iteration for my Red Black Midrange list.
The biggest difference is that I added Karn and removed Jaya. Unfortunately after much testing, Jaya is still a tad slower than Karn in this deck. I know Jaya was the first inspiration for the deck but if I wanted consistency over janky flavor, Karn was the right walker to fight alongside Chandra at the 4-drop slot.
Another key change I made was converting Magma Spray from 3 copies to a 2-2 split with Fatal Push. I am not going to trigger Revolt as effectively as I can but Magma Spray is just too weak in a meta that has a lot of Heart of Kirans flying around. Most of my tight games were caused by this vehicle alone requiring me to invest a Vraska’s Contempt on it. Raising the 1 mana removal spells from 3 copies to 4 meant I needed to take down 1 copy of Essence Extraction. Since I’ll be taking less damage, I can use a lot less lifegain.
On the side, I want to have more clean answers to threats my 1-2 mana removal spells can’t kill. A turn 2 Steel Leaf Champion is almost always game over if we don’t have a Fight with Fire or a Vraska’s Contempt in hand. I don’t like main boarding this because there is so much Legendary bombs in the meta right now that it can’t kill namely Ghalta, Lyra, Heart of Kiran, Kumena, among others. But in certain match ups that there are few legendary threats, this comes in replacing Essence Extraction to achieve a much lower curve.
Another tech I resorted to is Angrath. He is actually quite a versatile sideboard because he can come in against Control to negate their superior card advantage. He can also come in against creature decks which I was able to do against Mono Green Shalai. Stealing a Steel Leaf Champion and attacking with it is sweet but not killing it in the process is sweeter. It’s also a great surprise to steal an opposing Ghalta and just run away with it.
Here’s my sideboard guide in case you want to build this deck:
- vs. Control
- -2 Spray, -2 Push, -3 Craving, -2 Essence
- +4 Duress, +1 Gonti, +1 Vance’s, +1 Chandra, +2 Spyglass
- vs. Vehicle archetype (Mardu, BW)
- -2 Essence, -1 Dark Bargain, -1 Belzenlok, -1 Arguel
- +3 Abrade, +2 Cast Down
- vs. Aggro (Mono Red, Mono Green, BW Knights, Merfolk, Vampires)
- -1 Treasure Map, -1 Dark Bargain, -1 Belzenlok, -1 Arguel, -1 Chandra
- +3 Abrade, +2 Cast Down
Let’s not get into today’s Deck Tech: Mono Green Shalai
Mono green has been showing great successes and top finishes in the recent weeks. The explosiveness of their plays and punishing an opponent for keeping a loose or slow hand is what makes it really effective.
Turn 1 Llanowar Elf into Turn 2 Steel Leaf Champion is devastating if you’re not playing white for Seal Away. This deck also plays Rhonas, Heart of Kiran to power up a turn 4 Ghalta which again if you don’t have the right answers to it, you’ll be going to game 2 in under 7 minutes.
The main weakness of creature decks is if an opponent has sweepers, Settle the Wreckage in particular wrecks havoc if an aggressive player chooses to go with an alpha strike. This is why I think Jesus’ tech on including a playset of Shalai in the mainboard was key to his success bagging 2nd place in a decently sized tournament of 20 players.
If you read Shalai’s text carefully, she gives you hexproof and Settle the Wreckage is a spell that targets you and not your creature. Her mana cost is also very easy to splash in a deck that can run 6-8 dual lands in Scattered Groves and Sunpetal Grove. By effectively limiting your Blossoming Defense target to Shalai, you effectively protect your entire board from Cast Out, Seal Away, Contempt and Thopter Arrest among others. In case of board stalls, Shalai also pumps up your creatures and dorks to make them better in combat, trades up instead of down in attacks and blocks and just pressures the opponent to find bigger creatures while you keep adding counters every end step.
What about Fumigate and Phyrexian Scriptures that don’t target?
Give your stuff indestructible, no problem! Heroic Intervention is so good in this deck not just because it gives your guys indestructible but it can also give your dudes a Shalai effect for a turn and now get tricked in combat by a flashed in Cast Out or Seal Away.
You also need not worry about your creatures getting countered because Cepeda’s deck also has this angle covered. Prowling Serpopard comes in to stop your control opponent dead with Essence Scatters, Disallows and Syncopates stuck in hand. The Mono-Green Shalai player can go turn 2 or 3 Serpopard into Turn 3 or 4 Shalai and you have completely shut down removals and any form of interaction as long as you have Blossoming Defense or Heroic Intervention up. The synergy is so smooth that I am quite impressed with how simple the science was behind this awesome deck. I think I was just lucky that Shalai didn’t pop her face in any of our games when I fought against Cepeda.
The deck also comes prepared against more aggressive decks by bringing in Deathgorge Scavengers to gain him back some life and win the damage race. It’s also a built-in graveyard hate which is good against Azcanta and GPG based decks.
The deck is also prepared against opposing Heart of Kiran or Cast Outs and Seal Away. Thanks to Brontodon which is also great against Mono Red thanks to that 4 toughness, and together with Naturalize, the deck has most of its bases covered pretty tight.
Lastly we have Nissa, Vital Force which is another surprise in case your opponent brings in more creature hate. That tick up to make a 5/5 suddenly ambush your opponent and screwing their combat math thinking they will still get to untap and have another turn is clever. Plus, Nissa can also retrieve whatever you lose in combat. I also think this was Cepeda’s way to replicate Lifecrafter’s Bestiary with Nissa’s Emblem which is not hard to achieve.
Here’s what I remember from going through his deck quickly.
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Resilient Khenra
3 Merfolk Branchwalker
3 Rhonas the Indomitable
2 Jadelight Ranger
4 Steel Leaf Champion
1 Bristling Hydra
4 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
3 Heart of Kiran
1 Rhonas’s Last Stand
4 Adventurous Impulse
3 Blossoming Defense
2 Scattered Groves
4 Sunpetal Grove
3 Hashep Oasis
1 Blossoming Defense
1 Cast Out
3 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Heroic Intervention
2 Nissa, Vital Force
3 Prowling Serpopard
2 Thrashing Brontodon
That’s it for today, I hope you like this double feature. I hope next time when we face off across the table and I find your deck sweet, I can look through it and feature it here. This blog isn’t just about my ideas, it’s also about the community.
Remember, Magic is not just about the game. It’s about The Gathering.