My God is the Forge: Purphoros in Standard

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

As Theros spoilers slowly trickled through the works, everyone was excited to see how the gods would look. Now that we have access to all of them and how they work, I believe there is one that is a clear favorite for standard: Purphoros, God of the Forge. Now don’t get me wrong, the gods are awesome. Thassa in particular seems really powerful; Purphoros however, gives red access to an indestructible permanent with powerful effects that also hits like an actual mountain. Let’s look at the forge god’s abilities to see how to maximize his effects.

Purphoros sits right at the top of the curve for an aggressive deck at four. As far as his abilities go, indestructible is big game for a red card. Being able to rely on this card to be in play (most of the time) goes a long way. His second ability makes each of your creatures better. Compare this to the effect something like Ogre Battledriver has. Battledriver offers haste which is great, but the guaranteed shock of Purphoros ensures that your creature is doing something before it dies. Next, we have a three mana fire breathing for your whole team. To make this effect as efficient as fire breathing you will need at least three attacking creatures, and we are definitely in the right color for this. Lastly, when our devotion to red is high enough, Purphoros becomes a monstrous 6/5 beater. Red has never had access to such a powerful creature at this cost, and I want to make good use of it!

Alright so we know Purphoros’s abilities. Where does this lead us in deck-building? We know our deck needs to have a ton of creatures. We also know we want to activate devotion consistently. With that in mind, let’s look at a list.

Alright here we have a first look at a functioning list with Purphoros. I say functioning because it definitely isn’t optimum. We will have some debatable options in standard at the moment, and it is hard to say going into week one what the best list will be. Let’s look at our slots and discuss options.

Creatures:
At the low end of the curve we have the stalwart Rakdos Cackler. At one mana, it is exactly what we want. Additionally we have four copies of the brand new Firedrinker Satyr. This is essentially a Jackal Pup with upside, but I am honestly not sure how good this is in standard. Firedrinker is dangerous in a format full of powerful two and three-drops. In mirror matches, the Satyr will look terrible when our opponents land a Boros Reckoner. I don’t think we can turn down a second two power one-drop, but be aware that this card is far from amazing right now. We need one-drops, and I am not interested in playing Raging Goblin (Legion Loyalist) right now as a 1/1 looks terrible next to almost every creature in the format. However, Loyalist may be better in mirrors if that becomes the norm at the start of the format, because first strike will key in combat. I would consider them if mono-red becomes a big player in the format, especially if their focus is on using Young Pyromancer where first strike and faltering tokens gets even better.

Next on our curve we have a plethora of two-drops in Ash Zealot, Gore-House Chainwalker, and Firefist Striker. Ash Zealot, while having a mostly useless secondary ability with Innistrad rotating, is still a hasty beater. It’s double red mana cost is also great for turning on devotion, and first strike helps it trade up to bigger creatures when backed with a Lightning Strike. I have included four copies of Firefist Striker as our go to way to dodge things like Boros Reckoner. Striker will be awkward when our opponent is on Sylvan Caryatid, but the effect is necessary. Lastly we have Gore-House Chainwalker as a two-drop sporting 3 power. It is efficient and hits hard, so it makes the cut despite being a bit underwhelming.

Once we go above two we limit ourselves to Boros Reckoner and the powerhouse Purphoros. Boros Reckoner is still one of standard’s best creatures with the added bonus that fewer decks can cast it this time around. I personally think that will be the most relevant change here. Before we had Naya decks casting this casually on turn two and destroying our tempo, but now many decks will struggle to cast it, let alone cast it on time. Reckoner is a great finisher that conveniently offers three red for devotion to turn on Purphoros. Speaking of which, we also have three copies of the big guy himself. Purphoros is truly an amazing Magic card as stated above. Purphoros gives us unconditional damage when we have puttered out, He hits like a, wait for it, hammer, and he pumps the team. I am not adding all four because he is legendary and costs four, so we still don’t want multiples clogging opening hands, despite his power level.

Overall we have a good suite of creatures. We still have some options to play around with on all portions of the curve. It may be right to include Burning-Tree Emissary. It may also be right to play more spells and utilize Young Pyromancer and Chandra’s Phoenix right now (see below). I am offering what I think is a strong base that should be tuned and played around with. Honestly, it has been a long time since this color has felt strong enough to present multiple effective strategies, and I am excited!

Spells:
I don’t think my choice of spells is going to shatter any perceptions, but it’s important to note them. We have the obligatory four copies of Incin…Searin….Lightning Strike as our base removal/damage spell. I have opted to go with all four copies of Magma Jet here as well. Magma Jet certainly isn’t as effective at killing creatures, but having played with it back in Mirrodin block, I can attest to the effectiveness of Scry 2 in red. The ability to stack draws at the end of the game is very powerful, and Magma Jet will constantly feel much better than a Shock. Lastly I have two copies of Mizzium Mortars for when three damage just won’t cut it. Loxodon Smiters, Blood Baron of Viskopa, and other fun threats still exist. We can’t just hope to not see them, and there should definitely be at least the third if not the fourth in the sideboard.

Lands:
I know that this list seems to have one glaring omission: Mutavault. Just like I said before, this is a base list to start from in red. I think Boros Reckoner is still too powerful to not be played, and we can’t play both in my opinion. When you have a Reckoner, or even Reckoners, hand and one or more Mutavaults in play it is going to feel bad. If you decided to shift to a build using Phoenixes or only two-drops then maybe you can add Mutavaults, but even Ash Zealot is going to be tough to cast on time. Mutavault is a very powerful card, but it is going to create a lot of awkward hands and mulligans. Be sure to truly test the effect of adding this card.

I could also see an argument for adding a few Scry lands as a way to filter more draws. This is definitely doable, but the tempo loss can be devastating. Much like Mutavault, you should test thoroughly before jamming a number of them in, because the cost of using them is very real.

Thoughts about this List:

I will once again stress that this list can’t be considered optimum. You will need to test what feels powerful and what works. As I mentioned, playing cards like Legion Loyalist might be correct depending on the tournament. Pay attention to the lists that exist when the format begins properly.

Remember that Anger of the Gods is a very real thing. Pay attention to your opponent’s mana before you dump your entire hand and get blown out.

The manabase can be played with. We obviously want to be able to cast all of our spells on time without flooding out. This is the key to any deck, but it is more important in an aggressive deck where flooding can lead to an opponent stabilizing. I suggest working on your curve to see if 23 is the correct number.

Sideboarding will be interesting the first few weeks. I would definitely suggest playing more Mizzium Mortars, some number of Chandra, Pyromaster, and the full four Burning Earth. Many players are going to push tri-color manabases early on, and we can punish them to the fullest for it. Beyond this, we have room to work with, but cards like Mindsparker may be appealing if Blue and White control lists breakout early.

Now that was fun, but can we go further?

Going Further

While I think aggressive red decks will be important early on, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss another way to abuse Purphoros. I have been eyeing Boros since the beginning of spoilers, specifically the ridiculous interaction between Assemble the Legion and Purphoros. This may seem like a win more proposition, but a good control opponent can race an Assemble (or have their Jace laugh at it). I don’t want to give them the chance. I want to see how effectively we can push Purphoros to the forefront of a midrange strategy. Other writers have looked at exploiting similar strategies, but here is the list I have been working on for a few weeks.

The creatures here are different than what we were using before. Instead of going the hyper aggressive route, we look for resiliency. Young Pyromancer is here to synergize with Purphoros by making tokens. In addition, we are utilizing the full four Chandra’s Phoenixes as another form of reoccurring damage. Chandra and her Phoenix really team up well to tackle control decks, especially with a Purphoros on the field. We also stick with Boros Reckoner because he is still just the best at what he does.

Overall this list really tries to take advantage of Purphoros’s enter the battlefield trigger. The creature suite helps force through extra damage before we combo them out. The deck has awesome removal, though it probably needs Mizzium Mortars somewhere so we can kill opposing Blood Barons. I really enjoy the idea of taking our aggressive strategy and just going bigger.

Thoughts about this List:

Chandra, Pyromaster is pretty powerful in this build, but testing has shown that she is actually just amazing with Scry. It feels pretty good to be able to set up lands with Magma Jets so that you don’t have as many dead draws.

Chained to the Rocks really makes things like Angel of Serenity feel bad. Red notoriously has had a tough time with big creatures, and this card makes me feel a lot safer about running a deck like this.

Assemble the Legions is still a very powerful card that can win by itself, but there will be a lot of hate running around week one (I’m looking at you Glare of Heresy). Be careful about leaning too hard on it during sideboarded games.

So there we have two lists focusing on Purphoros, God of the Forge. It is hard to tell right now exactly how good the gods will be in standard, but this one at least seems poised to make a big splash. There are so many ways to build around him, and I am excited to see what the rest of the block adds.

-Mike Keknee

Twitter: @Big_Tears
Podcast: @AtYourEndStep

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