Lessons in Fire

Posted in Top Decks on September 12, 2013

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

Welcome back to Perilous Research. Today, I'll be taking a look at another preview card from Theros. Theros is already shaping up to be one of the most exciting sets in years. Don't miss your opportunity to be among the first to battle with Theros at your local Prerelease. Locations and event times can be found here! The Theros Prerelease will be an excellent chance to meet new players and get involved in sanctioned play, and it will be your only chance to get your hands on one of five exclusive promotional Prerelease premiums. You can hang out and battle all day, or just play a single Sealed Deck event. This Prerelease is sure to be one for the ages!

I started playing Magic a long time ago—I was nine or ten years old when I first started getting involved in the game. I played casually among friends for the most part, but I was hurled into the fiery chaos of competitive Magic when my brothers and I first started scouring the Internet for high-level deck concepts. Through the years, I've learned many lessons from specific cards. Cruel Ultimatum taught me patience; Cabal Therapy taught me to read my opponents; Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero taught me about card advantage; and Mirari's Wake taught me how to transition between attacking and blocking roles within a particular game.

Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Mirari's Wake

Everyone has cards that taught them interesting lessons over the years. Perhaps the most obvious lessons are those in card evaluation. There are often powerful cards that seem less than stellar when a newer player first reads them. These cards help us adjust our focus on what is good and what is bad, they teach us how certain decks are trying to win, they allow us to break the chains of defining single cards as good or bad in a vacuum, and they help us understand that each deck we build will require a fresh analysis of cards that we might have deemed "bad" when we previously looked at them.

For me, no card better taught me this lesson than Jackal Pup. I had just celebrated my twelfth birthday, and my mom bought me a Tempest Starter Deck and a few boosters to reward me for keeping my cool after getting ten injections at the allergist. I sifted through the cards and pulled three to the front. Two copies of Jackal Pup and a Cursed Scroll. At first glance, Jackal Pup seemed awful to me; sure, it was like a Savannah Lions, a card I knew was very good, but dealing myself damage did not seem like something I wanted to be doing. What if I played against another red deck? Still, 2 power on the front end of a one-mana creature was something special and I knew it. Within a few days I had mustered up the courage to try my Jackal Pups. I found myself crushing people in games where I was on the play with a turn-one Pup. Blockers got Incinerated and I even won a few games as early as the fifth turn, which was pretty unbelievable to me at the time.

Jackal Pup

That day, I learned that Jackal Pup's drawback is only a disadvantage when I was playing defensively. I almost never won games with a red deck when I was being defensive. Excluding red mirrors, I wanted to draw Jackal Pup in my opening hand more than any other card in my deck. I learned that a card might be less than stellar in most decks, but the perfect fit in a deck with a specific goal. Cards like Glen Elendra Archmage and Pyromancer Ascension may have remained overlooked pieces of history in Magic if I had never opened those Jackal Pups.

Today's preview card will have the opportunity to teach that same lesson to a whole new generation of Magic players. Red strategies will be happy to play an aggressively costed and super-aggressive one-mana creature even if it means a detriment to their life totals. Creatures are a lot better than they were back in the Tempest days, and Firedrinker Satyr doesn't disappoint. Let's take a look at the latest one-drop for red decks.

Yes, it's a Jackal Pup you can pump. It's a one-mana creature that attacks for 2 with no help and has the chance to attack for much more if you're running out of things to do with your mana. This will become a staple in aggressive decks and I expect it to be followed up by Burning-Tree Emissary to make a lot of scary boards very early in the game.

Mono-Red decks are the most obvious home for Firedrinker Satyr. These strategies want to get the opponent from 20 to 0 life as quickly as possible. Let's take a look at what's available in the new Standard for Mono-Red.

Firedrinker Satyr and Rakdos Cackler are the best one-drops. I want to play at least twelve one-mana creatures, though. Foundry Street Denizen and Legion Loyalist are the two options I have remaining. Foundry Street Denizen does more damage, but Legion Loyalist combos nicely with Firedrinker Satyr and Rubblebelt Maaka. I'd like to give Legion Loyalist a try to see how it does in the deck. However, I'm definitely open to changing it to Foundry Street Denizen if testing dictates it.

Legion Loyalist
Foundry Street Denizen

Burning-Tree Emissary is incredible here. Sometimes you chain a few Burning-Tree Emissarys and have no other two-drop to follow them up with. Firedrinker Satyr provides a mana sink where you can grab an extra point of damage with that excess mana.

Burning-Tree Emissary
Gore-House Chainwalker

Gore-House Chainwalker and Firefist Striker are the obvious two-mana creatures for a Mono-Red Burning-Tree Emissary deck.

Rubblebelt Maaka is a fine uncounterable Giant Growth that has the potential to make a board presence if it comes to that.

Hammer of Purphoros is a great card for any aggressive red strategy. You probably don't want to play more than two; the second copy usually has no value unless your opponent destroys the first copy. One copy is a great addition here, though.

Red decks always want at least a little bit of reach. Firefist Striker fills this role nicely, but Lightning Strike and Dynacharge should be enough to punch through for some nice damage.

Jacob Van Lunen's Mono-Red with

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We could also try Firedrinker Satyr in an aggressive Gruul deck. We get to upgrade Legion Loyalist into Experiment One, and we get to play Skarrg Guildmage off our Burning-Tree Emissary. Skarrg Guildmage is an experiment. I would like to see how well it combos with Xenagos, the Reveler. This deck has more power to be sure, but the more consistent Mono-Red deck will punish players more often for loose hands.

Skarrg Guildmage

Jacob Van Lunen's Gruul with

Download Arena Decklist

We can be sure that Firedrinker Satyr will be an important card in the new Standard. Mono-Red players were worried that the loss of Stromkirk Noble might push their deck into obscurity. Instead, Firedrinker Satyr came to save the day. (Or ruin it, depending on your affinity for fiery wrath.)

Theros is shaping up quickly and aggressive decks are well-poised to make big waves at Pro Tour Theros in Dublin. Be sure to hit the forums to talk about what you believe the big decks will be at Pro Tour Theros. Remember to sign up early for your local Theros Prerelease; many stores have limited room (but many take preregistrations) and this event is sure to be very popular.

Next weekend, we venture to Theros, a plane where heroes, monsters, and gods are an everyday fact of life. Hydras, gorgons, satyrs, and other creatures of myth inhabit this wild, mystical place. We must challenge ourselves in the untamed lands beyond the city walls, set sail on the tempestuous seas, and learn our destiny from the oracles. It's going to be a difficult task to master this new plane, but I will certainly try my best, and I expect nothing less from you!

Knowledge is power!

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