Red, White and Brew!

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

They say “haste makes waste.” I agree. In this case, though, I am taking “waste” as “the charred remains of my opponent.”

It might only be ten percent as cool as Heather’s 20 Tweets, but join me on a quick twexpedition.

 

Back on April 11, when Vexing Devil (covered in length by Joshua Justice) was previewed, I thought it needed haste. After complaining about a lack of good haste-makers since Pauper Superstar Goblin Bushwhacker rotated out of Standard, and having seen the new ‘Soulbond’ ability (which I apparently thought was “SoulboUnd”), I pleaded with the gods/developers of Magic, Notable Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes and Fire Pele, and my 150 Twitter followers for a Soulbond Raging Goblin. Flash forward a week and I got my wish. Well, almost.

I GUESS I’ll have to settle.

First off, Lightning Mauler is awesome. He might not be quite as good as the aforementioned shrub-slashing Goblin, but his single red cost makes him more versatile. While trying to classify this guy, I realized that there is no “grey ogre” of red 2/1s for two with haste. Not only is there not a good example, there just aren’t any at all, which is very strange, given the existence of Goblin Guide. This guy will have to be our Soulbond Viashino Sandscout. Finally, this guy has a sledgehammer. Of Lightning. If I can’t toy with Reveillark or Kiki-Jiki, that’s a good representation of how I like to play Magic. I’d nickname him Thor, but that would insult Lightning Mauler since he at least has the decency to use two hands.

So what’s with haste? It doesn’t show up too often, but when keeping my opponent behind is the name of the game, haste is the best ability mana can buy. Some of the best haste creatures in recent memory, Hellrider and Bloodbraid Elf, are often either the nail in the coffin, or a hell of a way (pun very much intended) to recover from a sweeper effect. But those creatures were meant to have haste. What happens when creatures that weren’t blessed with haste are given that gift?

History has showed us those cards with a cheap, up-front cost that grants haste to other creatures are pretty good. Goblin Bushwhacker and Fires of Yavimaya are good examples. More expensive cards or cards that have a continuous cost are less good, like Urabrask the Hidden and Crimson Mage. Lightning Mauler fits into that first category in a very interesting way. There are multiple lines of play with this guy. Do I play Lightning Mauler on turn two to Soulbond with a one-drop and attack for two? If I do, does that make my opponent more likely to kill one of my creatures over the other? Or do I save it for later? Do I play Lightning Mauler first, not Soulbond with anything, and play the haster-to-be the following turn, or try for both on the same turn? Soulbond is a neat ability. This kind of decision-making is a great thing for an aggressive deck.

Of course, haste enthusiasts like me weren’t just given Lightning Mauler this week. Check out Slayers’ Stronghold, the future meeting site for Hasters Anonymous. Hasters Anonymous, where the first step is attacking, and the second step is admitting that you have a problem.

What a land! This is a far cry from the Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion that I used to play in my Angelfire deck. You can keep the vigilance, let’s talk about the haste. While repeatable haste effects might not be the best on a creature, slapping one on a land gives more value than winning an event deck at FNM. If haste and vigilance wasn’t enough, your creature gets +2/+0. That makes this land relevant even in the turns after you play your creature. It’s a Bull Rush, for three mana, every turn. Talk about a combat trick. I’ve certainly played some Teetering Peaks in my day, but Slayers’ Stronghold piques my interest more than the Zendikar land ever did.

Of course, this ain’t free. This will tack on three mana to any creature you want to give haste, so the Stronghold won’t be fully functional until you have five or more lands. Not exactly what an aggressive deck wants to be doing, but I think it’s fully worthwhile to play twenty-five-or-so lands for the Stronghold. It’s practically a spell.

Between Hammer Time and the Stronghold, there are some nice ways to give creatures haste in a red-white deck. What creatures do I want to give haste? Besides “all of them,” Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Mirran Crusader, Mikaeus, the Lunarch, and especially Hero of Bladehold would look much better with the H-word on them. Since Clifftop Retreat is our only true dual-land for those colors, the red-white deck would have to commit more to one side. Because white’s creatures are better and more durable than red’s right now and Slayer’s Stronghold and Lightning Mauler are easy splashes, base-white looks like a good direction for this deck. Before I do anything as absurd as present a decklist for a format which has 100 cards yet to be revealed, let’s talk about another creature with haste who isn’t getting enough press.

Meet Zealous Conscripts. This chick has:

  1. A cool hat.
  2. A sword so big it didn’t fit in the card frame.
  3. Another short sword/dagger.
  4. As many instances of the word haste on the card as she is holding weapons.
  5. What appears to be dust rising from her feet because she is running in such a hasty manner.

This card is very aggressively costed. I think we’ve all paid three mana for a Threaten before. Some of us have paid five for Word of Seizing. None of us have casted Word of Seizing with a 3/3 haste creature attached to it. It almost reminds me of Bloodbraid Elf in that it can get a blocker out of the way and just pour on the damage.

While stealing a Titan is never bad, perhaps most importantly, Zealous Conscripts has three toughness, which means that she can yoink an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, survive, and then BASH FOR NINE.

Oh, Zealous Conscripts steals permanents! Not just creatures. I can steal a land to cast something else or a tapped Ghost Quarter if I’m lucky. I can steal a Sword or an Honor of the Pure. And woe on my opponent if they have a planeswalker. Gideon? ALSO BASH FOR NINE. Sorin? Thanks for the emblem, idiot.

Zealous Conscripts is no Bloodbraid Elf, but it is no bulk rare either.

So, having expressed my love for some new Avacyn Reborn roleplayers, and having mentioned some of the creatures of the past who might benefit from all this haste, what then, my necessarily biased reader, do all these creatures have in common? That’s right, they’re humans! Move over, Moorland Haunt and Mana Leak. I got some red cards that need a-playin’.

White-Red Humans has been a contender in block format. Formerly, it contained all the staples like current-best-one-drop Champion of the Parish, Fiend Hunter, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Since then, it’s morphed into a sort of Hellrider-Geist-Honored Monk type deck. Both versions used Brimstone Volley and Devil’s Play for removal and dome-burning. While the Monk and Devil’s Play are probably too slow for a standard packed with Delvers and Mana Leaks, these block results show that the archetype can have some merit. White-Blue Humans has been between tiers one and two in the past Standard rotation, showing that the combination of those white creatures is very powerful indeed. The question remains: is playing red better than playing blue? When I ponder that question, one card instantly jumps to my mind.

Much has been said about Thunderous Wrath. I think it’s the best card with Miracle so far, and I can’t wait to play it. I’ve always been a fan of instant-speed Lava Axes, and this card is all that and a bag of chips. It’s another reason I want to pair up white with red. While slightly expensive on the “fair half,” six mana is a perfect price for an aggressive deck to win the game outright. And since I was planning on playing Slayers’ Stronghold with an extra land or two anyways, Thunderous Wrath is the perfect card to have if I draw my non-Strongholds. Take five.

That only leaves one more Avacyn Restored card. Since we’ve decided to be a humans deck, we get to play Cavern of Souls. This contentious card is this week’s Temporal Mastery. If forum posts about this card were counters, I would have won twenty games with Helix Pinnacle. In a nutshell: I think the card is pretty good, but not “batten down the hatches and jam four in every deck” good. I think I would play two in this deck. In a deck that is playing Slayers’ Stronghold and has to have Clifftop Retreats or Mountains to cast its burn spells, there isn’t much room for the sometimes-colorless Cave of Souls. Imagine trying to cast and subsequently grant Mirran Crusader haste on turn six with Slayers’ Stronghold. That costs 1WWWR. Off of six lands, I can’t have more than one other Cave or Stronghold in play. It’s good for fixing and a bit of value, but Cave’s ability is only good against blue decks- Stronghold is good against every deck.

That’s all the new stuff. So where does that leave us? Somewhere around here. This list is more speculative than Medina’s price-guide-dice.

There you have it; a proven core of creatures which cuts its blue ties with Moorland Haunt and Geist of Saint Traft to make fast new friends in Lightning Mauler, Zealous Conscripts, Thunderous Wrath, and Slayers’ Stronghold. Will it be any good? Let’s hurry up and find out.

“Make haste! The tide of Fortune soon ebbs.”

Damn straight, Silius Italicus.

Peter Johnson

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