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Christian Calcano

Christian Calcano

We’re a little over 1 week removed from Pro Tour Dominaria, which was won by Wyatt Darby and his Mono-Red Aggro deck.

Goblin Chainwhirler

《Goblin Chainwhirler》 absolutely dominated the PT with 7 out of the 8 players in top 8 all playing 4 copies in their main deck. It was clear what public enemy #1 in Standard was going to be going forward, but there are multiple different versions of 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 decks to choose from Mono-Red Aggro, BR Aggro, or BR Midrange.

Christian Calcano

I personally played BR Midrange at the PT, and while I didn’t do too great with it there, after seeing some of the results from the PT, MTGO leagues, and Grand Prix Copenhagen 2018, I think it’s the best 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 deck in the format at the moment. So today I’ll be discussing why I feel that way right now, my testing process after the PT that helped me arrive at my current version, and some advice and some key things to keep in mind while playing the deck. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

How Did I Find BR

After getting back home from the PT, I was determined to try and figure out what the best Red deck to play in Standard would be. The thing I felt that was most important was not having any creatures in my deck that died to 《Goblin Chainwhirler》. So I didn’t want to play any 《Bomat Courier》 or 《Earthshaker Khenra》 in my deck.

Another thing I took away from all my recent testing is just how important turn 4 is in Standard right now. I feel that it’s the turn where a lot of games are decided as the power level of the 4 mana cards is so high (《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》, 《Karn, Scion of Urza》, 《Rekindling Phoenix》, 《Hazoret the Fervent》, 《Settle the Wreckage》, 《Glimmer of Genius》, etc).

Chandra, Torch of DefianceKarn, Scion of UrzaSettle the WreckageGlimmer of Genius

For this reason, I felt that playing 26 lands was necessary to gain a few % points on hitting your first 4 land drops of the game. Having 4 《Canyon Slough》 helps mitigate flooding a bit, and you also have plenty of 4+ casting cost spells as well as cards like 《Pia Nalaar》, and 《Scrapheap Scrounger》 to use your mana on.

While I originally started on Mono Red to see how the deck played out, I quickly gravitated back towards BR for 2 major reasons.

Scrapheap Scrounger

The first was that I get to play 《Scrapheap Scrounger》 which not only enables me to also have some aggressive draws, but it also makes my 《Karn, Scion of Urza》 slightly better, and gives me another powerful threat for the Control decks to have to deal with.

Unlicensed Disintegration

The second was 《Unlicensed Disintegration》. While Mono-Green and BG Constrictor decks appear to be on the decline (none top 16d GP Copenhagen, and only 2 Mono-Green decks went 8-2 or better at the PT), the Green decks have a favorable matchup vs. Mono-Red for the simple reason that all their 4 toughness creatures (《Thrashing Brontodon》 and 《Steel Leaf Champion》) and especially 《Ghalta, Primal Hunger》, are incredibly difficult to deal with without having to use multiple burn spells to deal with them.

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

In 《Ghalta》‘s case, it’s basically game over when it comes down as the deck has 0 answers to it. That’s why I feel that 《Unlicensed Disintegration》 is just too important because there are some threats that you just need a clear removal spell in order to answer them.

So once I had established that I wanted to play BR Midrange, I looked at the different lists and the one that I liked the most was the one piloted by Kazuyuki Takimura to his 2nd PT top 8.

Playing multiple planeswalkers is exactly where I want to be in this format because of how powerful they are, so that was the first thing that I really liked here. Spending turns 2 & 3 removing whatever threat they play and then slamming down a 《Chandra》 or 《Karn》 on an empty board is often enough to close out games against any deck in the format.

Hazoret the Fervent

The other inclusion that I really liked was playing main deck 《Hazoret the Fervent》. A resolved 《Hazoret》 is very difficult to deal with if you’re not playing 《Vraska's Contempt》 in your deck, which is mostly only played by BG Constrictor, UB Midrange, and Esper Control at the moment. Playing it in a non-aggro deck certainly makes it a less consistent attacker/blocker, but it serves as another form of inevitibality, and can really close games out quickly if you manage to have a draw that allows you to attack with it on turn 4.

Soul-Scar Mage

The major issue that I had with this list was the lack of 《Soul-Scar Mage》. I mistakenly played 0 copies at the PT myself and in hindsight see this as a big mistake. Our team felt that Mono-Red was simply inferior to BR, so I didnt spend that much time playing it leading up to the PT. As a result, there were a lot more 《Hazoret》 running around than I had anticipated, and 《Soul-Scar Mage》 is exactly how you beat 《Hazoret》 as a Mono-Red/BR deck. In addition, the card doesn’t die to 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 which is certainly a plus, it blocks 《Bomat Courier》 well, and it makes 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 an even more devastating card than it already is.

With all that said, here is my current version of BR Midrange:

As you can see, the main differences are the 4 《Soul-Scar Mage》, the 4th 《Chandra》, the extra land, and a few different sideboard cards. I’ve been playing a lot of leagues, and finally feel comfortable with this configuration. The big surprise for me was how underwhelming 《Rekindling Phoenix》 has been lately. I did have it only in my sideboard at one point, but the card is still pretty powerful especially against 《Heart of Kiran》 and 《Glorybringer》, as well as the Green decks, so I think you definitely still want access to it. But it’s not good at all vs. UW, and in the Red mirrors, any removal spell into a 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 is the easiest way to deal with it.

Cinder Barrens

I opted for a 4th 《Cinder Barrens》 as the 26th land just to have as many ways to cast 《Chainwhirler》 on 3 as possible. I learned quickly that having multiple non-Red lands in the first 3 turns is not where you want to be.

Moving on to the sideboard, I wanted some extra copies of some main deck cards that I could bring in on the play/draw depending on the matchup which is why I have the extra 《Phoenix》, 《Hazoret》, 《Pia Nalaar》, and 《Magma Spray》.

Magma Spray

The 2nd 《Spray》 is much better on the draw against mostly the mirror, the Mono-Red deck, and just about any deck that plays 《Scrapheap Scrounger》, as even the BG Constrictor decks have 《Llanowar Elves》 as an additional target.

Rekindling Phoenix

The extra 《Rekindling Phoenix》 is for the non-UW matchups, the 《Pia》 is mostly for Mono-Red, but is also nice to have as an extra threat vs. Control. The 2nd 《Hazoret》 is much better on the play and specifically in the Red mirrors and Green matchups.

Ruin Raider

As for the rest of the sideboard, the addition that stands out the most is 《Ruin Raider》. I didn’t play it at the PT, but a couple of my teammates did and they had quite a bit of success with it. It’s a 3 drop so it fits nicely on the curve, it doesn’t die to 《Chainwhirler》, and it Crews 《Heart of Kiran》. On top of all that, you also get a 《Dark Confidant》 trigger on your end step if you attacked with anything that turn. It’s nice to finally see this card see play in Standard, and while I don’t think I’d main deck it because of decks like Mono-Red, I still think it’s incredible against Control, and it’s certainly decent in the mirror on the play.

Aethersphere Harvester

The 《Aethersphere Harvester》 has been okay for me, but not spectacular. I figured it’d be a lot better since it blocks 《Glorybringer》, 《Rekindling Phoenix》, and 《Heart of Kiran》 pretty well. But the majority of all Red decks will have 4 《Abrade》 in their 75, and attacking into it with one of the 4 power fliers to induce a block and then finish it off with a 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 is certainly not a difficult scenario to set up. But it’s still a 12 point life swing if you manage to get 2 attacks off, which can sometimes be enough to take over a game in the Red mirrors.

Cut // Ribbons

The 《Cut // Ribbons》 serves as an extra answer to 《Glorybringer》 as well as another late game mana sink which can especially be nice on the draw. 《Arguel's Blood Fast》 is one I haven’t gotten to try out in this specific deck too much, but the power level of this card has certainly been put on display in recent tournaments. Definitely one of the best cards to have vs. Control decks as it’s 2 mana card that can just take over the game.

Angrath, the Flame-Chained

《Angrath, the Flame-Chained》 is mostly there to serve as an additional planeswalker threat. It’s solid vs the BR mirror on the play, but is also another strong threat against UW as you its +1 ability quickly tears apart their hand.

Doomfall

The 《Doomfall》 may be the most interesting card in the sideboard as both modes just seem so good in multiple different matchups. It’s a clean answer to 《Hazoret》, 《Phoenix》, and 《The Scarab God》, or it can be used as a way to deal with those powerful planeswalkers a turn before your opponent can cast them. It’s probably better on the draw, but definitely solid on the play as well.

Duress

The 《Duress》 are there exclusively for the Control matchup, I’ve heard of some people bringing them in the BR mirror, but with such I high density of threats, I don’t think its that great in the mirror. I could see it being ok on the draw though to further combat the planeswalkers as the deck can’t really support running 《Vraska's Contempt》.

チャンドラの敗北

Last but not least, can’t leave home without them, and that’s 2 copies of 《Chandra's Defeat》. I’ve tried as many as 4, and you certainly have plenty of desireable targets. But I found that running more than 2 often made sideboarding a bit awkward for me as I would clearly want all of them vs all the Red decks primarily as an answer to 《Glorybringer》 and 《Chandra》, but you already okay so much removal that’s already great in the mirror that I think 2 is exactly where I want to be.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I’ve really enjoyed playing this deck and think that it could be a great choice going forward, especially with the resurgance of 《Bomat Courier》. A few other cards that you could try out that I’ve messed around a bit with are 《The First Eruption》, and 《Hour of Glory》 in the sideboard.

The First EruptionHour of Glory

《Hour》 is clearly there as an answer to 《Phoenix》, 《Hazoret》, and 《The Scarab God》 that you can actually cast since it’s single black as oppossed to 《Contempt》. 《The First Eruption》 is kind of like the 5th 《Chainwhirler》 effect, but it also ramps you for a turn which can lead to casting multiple 4 drops on turn 4 (《Chandra》, + for mana, 《Karn》/《Hazoret》/《Phoenix》 etc). But I unfortunately didn’t get to try it as much as I’d like to be comfortable with it just yet.

Well I hope you enjoyed this article and that my insight on this deck will help you in whichever Standard tournaments you may have coming up.

Good luck, have fun, and see you next time!

Thanks for Reading!

Christian Calcano