Beating Up Five-Color

Posted in Building on a Budget on July 29, 2009

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Building on a Budget. I just got home from U.S. Nationals, where I took ninth place. If any of you were following the tournament you probably noticed that the Top 8 decks had almost eighty Vivid lands between all the lists. This probably means that you folks need a deck specifically designed to beat up on these types of decks.

I think it's pretty clear that Anathemancer may be the best card in the current Standard metagame.

I don't want to build a deck that puts all of its eggs in one basket, though. Modern Five-Color Control decks are packing Runed Halos and lots of walls. We need to maximize the number of cards that punish Five-Color for its inherent weaknesses.

Chandra Nalaar hasn't seen play in Standard since it dominated the 2007 State Championships in the hands of Bill Stark and Brandon Scheel. It looks to me like Chandra may be ready for her comeback. She definitely fits our budget requirements these days, and the power level of this card is just absurd.

Chandra Nalaar
Goblin Assault

Goblin Assault is another solid choice. I always liked having Bitterblossom in black-red decks and I think Goblin Assault is probably just a better choice at present.

With all these things in mind I came up with the following decklist.

Blightning Burn

Download Arena Decklist

I'll start by explaining each of the card's roles in the deck.

Hellspark Elemental: Nearly a third of your opponent's life total for a single card is a great deal. I like Hellspark Elemental a lot more than Ball Lightning. Letting an opponent turn a spot removal spell into a Healing Salve is fine, but letting them turn a single Doom Blade into Renewed Faith seems like a disaster for this sort of deck.

Lightning Bolt: I played four of this in my Naya Solution deck at Nationals. I can't even begin to explain how strong this card is. It's always the best offensive and defensive card. It deals with some of the strongest decks in the format, it finishes off almost-dead opponents, and, perhaps most importantly, its existence makes your opponent play the game very differently. You'd be hard pressed to find a Five-Color player that lets their life total get below 7 these days.

Flame Javelin: Speaking of going to 7: End of turn Flame Javelin you. Untap Lightning Bolt you. Flame Javelin is one of the best burn spells we've ever seen. I want four.

Earthquake: My best friend, Chris Lachmann, played a burn deck last weekend that featured four of this classic. After the tournament he explained that he would have played seven of it had he been allowed. It's an excellent anti-Elves tool that can be used as a pseudo-Banefire against decks like Faeries and Five-Color.

Chandra Nalaar: I think Chandra is very well placed in the current metagame. A deck like this is the perfect place to take her for a test drive.

Anathemancer: I want four of this card in just about anything I play in the next few weeks.

Blightning: Two cards and 3 damage is a fine deal for three mana. I think cards like this are important because they put pressure on our opponents. Drawing Blightning is multiples is always better, so I think four is the right number.

Goblin Assault: Another excellent card against the five-color decks. Goblin Assault may seem like it doesn't work with the Volcanic Fallout and Earthquake, but the extra 1 point of damage on their 3- toughness dude can usually give you an opening to let the Assault start going nuts.

Volcanic Fallout: A concession to the fact that Faeries and Elves still exist.

Tarfire: Shock isn't very impressive these days, but we need a thirty-fifth card and Tarfire seems to be the best candidate.

I threw together a sideboard:

4 Magma Spray
4 Fireball
4 Infest
3 Doom Blade

I tested the deck against Chris to see how it did against the best decks in the format.

Chris wins the roll. I keep Crumbling Necropolis, Mountain, Mountain, Lightning Bolt, Anathemancer, Goblin Assault, and Volcanic Fallout. Chris plays a Secluded Glen showing me Bitterblossom and casts Thoughtseize. He bins my Volcanic Fallout. I draw another Lightning Bolt, play my Crumbling Necropolis, and pass. Chris plays a Sunken Ruins and casts Bitterblossom. I draw a Flame Javelin, play my Mountain, aim both Lightning Bolts at Chris' face, and pass the turn back to Chris. Chris goes to 13 during his upkeep, plays a Drowned Catacomb, and passes the turn. I draw a Mountain, and decide to run out the Goblin Assault. Chris thinks for a moment and decides not to counter the spell. On his upkeep he goes to 12. He attacks for 1, plays a land, and passes. I draw a Volcanic Fallout, play the Mountain, attack with my Goblin (Chris blocks), and pass the turn. Chris casts a Scion of Oona on my end step, then does some math and decides he needs to just hope I didn't draw another Fallout, he plays a second Scion of Oona and I play the Fallout when he tries to attack. He goes to 9 and I go to 17. I draw a Tarfire, attack for 1 with a Goblin, and try my Anathemancer. Chris casts Cryptic Command, countering and drawing a card. I use my Tarfire and bring Chris to 6. During his upkeep he goes to 5. During my upkeep he casts a Mistbind Clique, championing his Bitterblossom to keep his life total up. Both my Goblins get blocked, and Chris gets the turn. On my next turn I draw Flame Javelin and pass. Chris passes again and tries another Mistbind Clique during my upkeep. I aim the Javelin at his face, and he's forced to champion his Mistbind Clique and die to his newly returned Bitterblossom the next turn.

Sideboarding: -4 Goblin Assault, -2 Chandra Nalaar, +3 Fireball, +3 Doom Blade.

Chris goes to five cards this game, and I get to keep Mountain, Swamp, Veinfire Borderpost, Flame Javelin, Doom Blade, Tarfire, and Anathemancer. Chris plays a land and passes. I draw a Lightning Bolt, play my Borderpost, and pass. Chris casts a Bitterblossom and passes. I draw another Anathemancer, play my second Mountain, and pass. Chris goes to 19 and passes, missing his third land drop. I send Lightning Bolt to the dome, then draw a Mountain and cast Anathemancer for 2. It connects, and Chris gets the turn. He misses his land drop again and passes. I draw Savage Lands, then attack, and Chris trades with both his tokens. I cast another Anathemancer. Chris goes to 10 during his upkeep and finally plays a third land. He passes. I draw Fireball and attack. Chris blocks with his token and casts Scion of Oona. I Tarfire the lord, then use this opportunity to Flame Javelin my buddy. He makes his fourth land drop and tries a Mistbind Clique during my upkeep. I cast Doom Blade to kill it, then attack with Anathemancer. Chris draws his card and passes. I draw a land, play it, and pass the turn back. Chris takes another point from his Bitterblossom and passes. I draw another land and Unearth my Anathemancer. Chris concedes.

I win the roll and keep Crumbling Necropolis, 3 Mountains, Anathemancer, Goblin Assault, and Lightning Bolt. I play my Crumbling Necropolis and pass. Chris plays a Vivid land and passes back. I draw a Mountain, play a Mountain, Lightning Bolt Chris in the face, and pass. Chris plays another Vivid land and, and I cast Goblin Assault and pass. Chris plays a Mystic Gate. I draw Flame Javelin and attack with my Goblin. Chris casts a Plumeveil, which I Flame Javelin, so my Goblin hits him for 1 and I pass. Chris plays another Vivid land and passes. I draw another Anathemancer, play my fifth land, attack with my two tokens, and cast my first Anathemancer with enough mana to pay for Broken Ambitions. Chris takes 4, and I pass. Chris taps out for a Mulldrifter on his turn. I draw Chandra Nalaar, cast it, shoot down the Mulldrifter, and I attack for 3 with my tokens. Chris untaps and passes, missing his sixth land drop. I draw Flame Javelin. I aim 1 point of damage at Chris's head with Chandra and attack for 4. I try another Anathemancer, and Chris plays Cryptic Command to counter it and draw a card. He makes his sixth land drop and casts Broodmate Dragon. On my turn I attack, shoot him for 1, and cast Anathemancer to end the game.

Sideboarding: -4 Volcanic Fallout, +4 Fireball

Chris and I both go to six cards. I keep Mountain, Mountain, Swamp, and 3 Anathemancers. (This is quite the nice draw in this match.) Chris plays a Vivid land and passes. I draw a Veinfire Borderpost, play my land, and pass. Chris plays another non-basic and passes. I draw a Swamp, play it, and pass. Chris plays yet another land and passes. I draw another land, attempt an Anathemancer (it gets Essence Scattered) and pass. This series of events goes back and forth. I resolve one of the Anathemancers for 6 damage, and Chris casts a Cruel Ultimatum with me having six lands and a Borderpost in play. He goes to 14 after the Cruel. (I had cast a few burn spells.) I unearth Anathemancers on two consecutive turns and the game ends in short order. Chris explains that he didn't draw a Runed Halo and that a game like that can often be a blowout in his favor. I agree that Runed Halo blanks our hand, but I don't think a deck like this can afford to mulligan to five. I think you have to just pray your opponent doesn't have the Halo at that point.

Chris wins the roll and mullgans to six cards. I keep Savage Lands, Crumbling Necropolis, Mountain, Swamp, Lightning Bolt, and 2 Volcanic Fallout. Chris casts a Nettle Sentinel and passes. I draw Hellspark Elemental, play a Mountain, and pass. Chris attacks for 2, casts Llanowar Elves, and passes. I cast Lightning Bolt on the Elves during Chris's end step. I draw another Hellspark Elemental, play my Crumbling Necropolis, and pass. Chris plays a second land, attacks for 2, plays two Heritage Druids, taps everything for three mana, and casts an Elvish Archdruid before passing. I draw Chandra Nalaar, play my Swamp, and cast Volcanic Fallout, wiping the board. Chris casts another Llanowar Elves and passes. I draw a Mountain and cast both Hellspark Elementals to attack for 6. Chris taps both his lands and his Elf to cast another Elvish Archdruid. I draw an Earthquake, play Savage Lands, and cast Earthquake for 3. Chris plays a third land and casts a third Elvish Archdruid. I untap, cast Chandra Nalaar, and kill the Archdruid. Chris plays a fourth land and cast a Ranger of Eos finding a Nettle Sentinel and a Burrenton Forge-Tender. I use Chandra to kill the Ranger and I unearth both Hellsparks and attack for 6. Chris casts both one-drops and passes. I draw another Earthquake, use Chandra to deal Chris 1 damage, and attempt Volcanic Fallout. Chris uses his Forge-Tender, but dies to Earthquake the next turn.

Sideboarding: -4 Goblin Assault, +4 Infest

I keep, Veinfire Borderpost, Swamp, Mountain, Infest, Volcanic Fallout, Earthquake, Chandra Nalaar. Chris plays a Mosswort Bridge and passes. I draw a Mountain, play my Borderpost and pass back. Chris plays a Devoted Druid and passes. I draw an Earthquake, play my land, and pass back. Chris plays a Ranger of Eos, finding two Burrenton Forge-Tenders, and passes. I draw another land, play it, and pass. Chris thinks for a moment and plays both Forge-Tenders, he attacks for three and plays a Nettle Sentinel after combat. I draw another land and cast my Infest. Chris untaps and casts an Elvish Archdruid. I cast Chandra Nalaar and kill the Archdruid. Chris doesn't have much action after this and I end up using Chandra's ultimate and Earthquake to finish him off.

Five-Color control doesn't have to be the dominant deck in the format. If you're looking to go a non-budget route I'd suggest playing a Jund deck that can support Maelstrom Pulse to deal with their Runed Halos. If you have a tight budget, though, be sure to try out this little number. It has what it takes to beat the big three decks in the format, and that's a big plus for any deck to have.

Happy brewing!

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