Equip and Swing!

Posted in Building on a Budget on February 17, 2010

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

Last week, I discussed an aggressive Esper deck featuring one of my favorite cards from Worldwake, Lodestone Golem. This week I would like to work on a deck that features a number of incredible cards from Worldwake.

Kor Firewalker seems like one of the better creatures in Standard. This card was the subject of a lot of hype when it was first spoiled; somehow, though, the excitement has ebbed over the past few weeks. This card is an incredible metagame tool. It crushes decks like Jund, Cruel Control, Boros Bushwacker, and especially Mono-Red. This card deserved its original hype, and it deserves a home.

Kor Firewalker
Stoneforge Mystic

Stoneforge Mystic is another card that seems criminally undervalued at this point in time. Playing a Stoneforge Mystic never leaves you behind. A two-mana automatic two-for-one is a welcomed addition to any white deck's repertoire. In Extended, this lovely engineer can fetch up powerhouse cards like Umezawa's Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice. In Standard, we can find efficient spells like Trusty Machete, Basilisk Collar, and Behemoth Sledge.

After examining Gatherer for a bit of time I noticed that both creatures were Kor. The cogs in my head started spinning, and I recalled cards like Armament Master, Kor Duelist, and Kitesail Apprentice. A further examination of Gatherer revealed that Conqueror's Pledge actually puts Kor Soldiers into play. I decided that an aggressive Kor deck deserved to be built. Here's the first list I put together.

Hard Kor Aggro

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I played about fifteen games with the deck and was both impressed and disappointed.

The Good

The one drops seemed very powerful. Kor Duelist was especially strong. (Double strike ends games quickly.) Stoneforge Mystic was very powerful; the ability to find Equipment and get a body to equip it to is blatantly absurd. Kor Firewalker seemed like it would be an automatic four-of in any white-based deck; the applications of this card are really unbelievable. Sejiri Steppe was also very strong; I had a number of games where it allowed me to attack an otherwise unstoppable planeswalker or just kill my opponent outright.

The Bad

The deck had a lot of trouble with opponents that drew more than one removal spell. I wanted to include cards like Brave the Elements or Harm's Way to minimize the effect of spot removal like Lightning Bolt. Brave the Elements seemed like a better choice, because it could also be used as a finisher that made my creatures unblockable. Unfortunately, Armament Master was a liability. Every time I dumped mana into equipping it and swung with my team, I would be met with a removal spell that made me lose the game on the spot. Removing the Armament Master causes a chain reaction in the deck's development. Conqueror's Pledge loses a lot of value when I take out the Armament Master, so that will likely be cut as well. Marshal's Anthem loses a lot of value when I cut the Conqueror's Pledge. The Anthem was always an incredible card, but cutting the Conqueror's Pledge lets me lower the land count, and I can't justify playing Marshal's Anthem in a deck with twenty-two lands.

Kor Duelist
Behemoth Sledge

Something about the deck still felt lackluster to me. I went back to Gatherer and began my search again. The creature type of my creatures, was no longer relevant so a whole new slew of efficient creatures became available. The one card that I wanted more than anything else was a copy of Behemoth Sledge. I imagined the insanity that might ensue if I was ever given the opportunity to equip it onto a Kor Duelist. Splashing green seemed easy enough to me. I could play four Sunpetal Grove (a card that has gotten much easier to trade for since the release of Stirring Wildwood). I wouldn't have to play more than four lands that made green mana, because Stoneforge Mystic's ability will allow me to put the Behemoth Sledge into play without using green mana.

Having creatures with protection from red or from black seemed like a very strong metagame call. Creatures with protection from key colors are prime targets for our Equipment. Vampires will be hard-pressed to beat a White Knight carrying a Behemoth Sledge, and Jund and Grixis will have fits dealing with a variety of creatures that dodge key removal spells. I decided to include a playset of White Knight and at least a few copies of Devout Lightcaster.

The last addition I made to the deck was a few copies of Oblivion Ring. The four Path to Exile were incredible, but I wanted a little more removal. Oblivion Ring deals with problem artifacts or enchantments as well as creatures, and it really shines against Howling Mine / Font of Mythos decks.

I ended up with the following list:

Standard Haterator

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The deck works beautifully. I played a few matches with the deck that I would like to share with you.

Jund is, without any doubt, the deck to beat. When constructing new decks, I find myself aiming to beat Jund more than anything else. My original list had trouble with draws that included an early Putrid Leech followed by a Maelstrom Pulse. The new list should do better, with the inclusion of protection from black creatures and Behemoth Sledge.

I lost the roll and mulliganed down to six cards. I kept Kor Duelist, Stoneforge Mystic, Devout Lightcaster, Plains, Plains, and Sunpetal Grove. My opponent played a Savage Lands and passed the turn, and I drew a Trusty Machete, played my land, cast Kor Duelist, and passed. My opponent played a Raging Ravine and passed the turn back. I drew Brave the Elements, played my land, attacked for 1, and cast Stoneforge Mystic, searching my library for a Behemoth Sledge. My opponent decided to use a Lightning Bolt on the Kor Duelist right away. My opponent untapped, played a basic land, and cast Sprouting Thrinax. I drew a Sejeri Steppe, played my Sunpetal Grove, cast Devout Lightcaster exiling the Thrinax, attacked for 1, and passed the turn. My opponent played another basic land, cast Garruk Wildspeaker, made a 3/3 Beast token, and passed the turn. I drew a White Knight, played Sejiri Steppe giving my Devout Lightcaster protection from green, attacked Garruk with Devout Lightcaster, cast the Trusty Machete, and passed the turn.

My opponent cast a Bloodbraid Elf and flipped into a Maelstrom Pulse that targeted my Stoneforge Mystic, so I used the Mystic's ability and put Behemoth Sledge onto the battlefield. My opponent attacked for 6 and passed the turn. I drew a Plains, played it, and equipped Devout Lightcaster with both pieces of equipment. I attacked for 6 and went back to 20. My opponent untapped and played another Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into a Lightning Bolt that put me at 17. He attacked for 9, and I went to 8. I drew another Plains, played it, attacked with my Devout Lightcaster, putting my opponent at 7 and bringing me back to 14. I played my White Knight, equipped my Behemoth Sledge to it, and passed the turn. My opponent drew his card and passed the turn. I drew for my turn, cast Brave the Elements naming green, and attacked for lethal damage.

Sideboarding: -1 Trusty Machete, -2 Oblivion Ring, -2 Kitesail Apprentice, +2 Celestial Purge, +2 Devout Lightcaster, +1 Harm's Way

I kept White Knight, Kor Firewalker, Devout Lightcaster, Basilisk Collar, and three Plains on the draw. My opponent played a Lavaclaw Reaches and passed the turn, and I drew a Celestial Purge, played my land, cast Basilisk Collar, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Putrid Leech and passed the turn. I drew Sunpetal Grove, played it, cast Kor Firewalker, and passed. My opponent attacked with his Putrid Leech, put me at 16 and himself at 18, played a land, and cast a second Putrid Leech. I drew Brave the Elements, played my land, cast Devout Lightcaster removing the untapped Putrid Leech, and attacked with my Kor Firewalker. My opponent played a Bloodbraid Elf and revealed a Sprouting Thrinax. I gained 2 and went to 18, then he attacked with the Bloodbraid Elf and sent me down to 15. I drew Stoneforge Mystic, cast White Knight, attacked with Devout Lightcaster, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Maelstrom Pulse targeting Kor Firewalker, but I had the Brave the Elements waiting, and my opponent was forced to pass the turn. I drew a Plains, cast Stoneforge Mystic, searched up Behemoth Sledge, cast Basilisk Collar, attacked with White Knight, and passed the turn. My opponent cast another Sprouting Thrinax and passed the turn. I decided to use my Celestial Purge on one of the Lizards.

I drew a Plains, used Stoneforge Mystic's Ability to put Behemoth Sledge onto the battlefield, equipped the Sledge to Devout Lightcaster, and attacked for 4. I went back to 20, and my opponent ended up at nine thanks to a fetch land. My opponent drew and cast Broodmate Dragon. I drew Brave the Elements, equipped Basilisk Collar onto White Knight, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked for 8 in the air and brought me down to 13. He cast a second Broodmate Dragon and made a comment about the top of his deck being kind.

The top of my deck turned out to be kinder, though, as I drew a Path to Exile for his Putrid Leech, which allowed me to cast Brave the Elements naming red for exactly lethal damage.

I won the roll and kept Basilisk Collar, Kor Duelist, Stoneforge Mystic, Sejiri Steppe, and three Plains. I cast Kor Duelist on turn one, and my opponent played a fetch land and passed. I drew Brave the Elements, attacked for 1, cast Stoneforge Mystic finding a Trusty Machete, and passed the turn. My opponent played another fetch land, popped both (going to 17), and played Kalastria Highborn. I drew another Trusty Machete, played a Plains, and cast Trusty Machete, then equipped the Machete to Kor Duelist and attacked for 6, putting my opponent at 11. My opponent played a third fetchland, cracked it (going to 10), and cast a kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir. I sacrificed Stoneforge Mystic. On my turn I cast my second Trusty Machete, equipped it to the Duelist, played Sejiri Steppe giving my Duelist protection from black, and attacked for lethal damage. Turn-four kills are pretty nice.

Sideboarding: -4 Kor Firewalker, +2 Devout Lightcaster, +2 Celestial Purge

I kept White Knight, Devout Lightcaster, Kitesail Apprentice, Celestial Purge, Sunpetal Grove, Sejiri Steppe, and Plains. My opponent played a Swamp and passed the turn, and I drew another Plains, cast Kitesail Apprentice, and passed back. My opponent cracked a fetch land and cast a Bloodghast. I drew Devout Lightcaster, attacked for 1, cast White Knight, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir, and I sacrificed the Kitesail Apprentice. I drew a Behemoth Sledge, attacked for 2 with White Knight, played my land, cast Behemoth Sledge, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Vampire Nocturnus and luckily didn't have a black card on top of his library, so he attacked for 4 and passed the turn. I drew a Plains, played my Sejiri Steppe, attacked for 2, cast Devout Lightcaster exiling Vampire Nocturnus, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Kalastria Highborn and attacked with Gatekeeper of Malakir and Bloodghast. I blocked the Gatekeeper and took 2, and my opponent drained me for another 2 with Kalastria Highborn when the Gatekeeper died. I drew Brave the Elements, played a Plains, equipped Devout Lightcaster with Behemoth Sledge, and attacked for 4, putting my opponent at 15 and me at 20. My opponent cast Vampire Nocturnus and had a Tendrils of Corruption on the top of his library. He attacked for 8 flying damage, but I had Celestial Purge for the Nocturnus. I blocked the now-earthbound Kalastria Highborn and went to 18. On my turn I drew a Path to Exile and attacked with both my creatures, bringing my opponent to 9 and me to 22. My opponent simply drew, attacked, and passed the turn. I drew a Trusty Machete, cast it, equipped it onto the Devout Lightcaster, and attacked with both my creature,s bringing my opponent to 1 and me to 26. My opponent drew his card, conceded, and showed me a hand of Deathmarks and Tendrils of Corruption.

It may seem odd that I tested the deck against two decks with an inherit weakness to protection from red and black, but most decks in the format fall into this category. Vampires and Jund are probably the most played decks right now. Standard Haterator has a very strong match-up here with its powerful hate cards. The equipment theme is strong and very fun. I'm happy to say that this deck is incredibly budget-friendly, very powerful, and exceptionally original. If your local Friday Night Magic is overrun with decks like Grixis, Jund, and Vampires—as many are right now—then this could be a very strong metagame choice.

Now go smash some face with Kor Duelist.

Happy brewing!

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