Deck Tech: Red-Black Aggro with Felix Leong

Posted in GRAND PRIX KUALA LUMPUR 2016 on October 23, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Felix Leong is one of the most experienced veterans in Singapore and has played Magic for over 15 years. He is also the only Singaporean player to have won two World Magic Cup Qualifiers and the fact that he did it back to back makes it even more impressive. Clinching the 3rd WMCQ last season and the 1st WMCQ this season, that makes his upcoming trip to Rotterdam his second appearance at the World Magic Cup. His last high profile performance was at Pro Tour Los Angeles in 2005, where he missed out on the Top 8 on tiebreakers, finishing 9th with a Mono Red aggro deck.

"It is a bittersweet story to this day. I was paired against eventual Champion Antoine Ruel in Round 15. The winner would be able to draw into the Top 8 in Round 16. I lost, and then won Round 16, to finish up in 9th while Ruel won the Pro Tour."

Despite the close call, Leong wasn't too upset by his performance and since then, he's mostly known for piloting aggro decks and having a keen sense on what makes one tick. Naturally, he has his unique take on Black-Red Aggro in the brand new Standard format.

Felix Leong, showing off his favorite cards in his Red-Black Aggro deck.

"I had expected the most dominant decks to be White-Blue Flash and Vehicles. Judging from the metagame breakdown, more than half the field are on these two decks."

In general, Bomat Courier is boarded out against any deck with Thraben Inspector. However, Leong reminds us that it is not there as a 1/1 creature.

"Yesterday, I was able to accumulate 7 cards underneath Bomat Courier. My opponent couldn't find a way to kill it and of course I ended up drawing 7 cards and winning the match. But, it is also a card that helps me go all-in during the crucial turns."

He describes a process where he sculpts his hand, carefully withholding cards with madness. On the crucial turn, he would sacrifice Bomat Courier just so that he can discard his entire hand to cast Fiery Temper and Bloodhall Priest. And since you no longer have anymore cards in your hand, Bloodhall Priest would trigger when it entered the battlefield and if you cast the next card that you draw the next turn and attack with Bloodhall Priest, it will trigger again. That's synergy! Who would have thought that some iteration of One with Nothing would actually be good.

The story of how Bloodhall Priest was discovered is an interesting one. Originally, that slot was meant for Weaver of Lightning, which is a commonly sideboarded card to beat decks with Smuggler's Copter and a bunch of critters. However, for it to shine, you really want to have many noncreature spells in your deck and Leong wasn't happy with Incendiary Flow.

"Originally, I was playtesting with Incendiary Flow on Magic Online but I felt that it being a sorcery was a liability. I swapped them out for 2 Lupine Prototype and 2 Key to the City. Coincidentally, these two cards interact very well. You can discard cards to Key to the City and make Lupine Prototype unblockable and then gain back the card later on."

Once that change was made, there was no way for Leong to support Weaver of Lightning anymore and he had to find another card to replace it. Bloodhall Priest was the best choice because it has great synergy with his deck and also serves as a surprise factor. Not many people even know what that card does and they almost always never play around new tech. It's also a much bigger beatstick than Weaver of Lightning and it has definitely claimed a fair of lives.

At the core, Leong's deck is a mono red deck with a splash for eight black cards, simply because he felt that Unlicensed Disintegration was too good not to play.

"I'm a beatdown player at heart. Cards like Unlicensed Disintegration make me very excited. It is probably my favorite card from Kaladesh. The black splash is also for Scrapheap Scrounger, which not only provides me a high artifact count but also a constant creature to help me crew my vehicles."

Aside from Smuggler's Copter, Leong had been whizzing around with the full playset of Fleetwheel Cruiser. It is one of the best "game one" cards against an unknown deck. Leong shared that winning the die roll is very important, because Fleetwheel Cruiser in much poorer on the draw than on the play.

"I usually swap out Fleetwheel Cruiser for Bloodhall Priest against creature-based decks. The ability to ping creatures is relevant. On the other hand, Fleetwheel Cruiser is much better against decks with very few creatures, such as the slower midrange and control decks. It is also where Reckless Bushwhacker shines, because they offer little to no blockers."

However, Leong mentions that Black-Green Delirium is quite a bad matchup and players should be wary if they want to pick up his unique brew.

"It is very difficult to beat Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet because my removal spells do not exile. They can recur Kalitas with Grapple with the Past or Liliana, the Last Hope. Also, I cannot ever beat Ishkanah, Grafwidow. I have never beat that card and I don't think I can find a way to beat it. The best way is to sideboard in Transgress the Mind and hope to get rid of it once and for all. However, I'm going pretty well against White-Blue Flash and Vehicles, which is what I really came here prepared for."

The final tip from Leong before releasing him back into the waters, is that you should always "hug" one copy of Unlicensed Disintegration against any deck with Archangel Avacyn. "Hug" is a colloquial Magic slang among Singaporeans meaning "to hold on to for as long as possible".

"It doesn't matter how bad the situation looks but nothing can be as bad as the 'Archangel Avacyn blowout'. You can be super ahead but when she comes down and you don't have a removal for her, you're dead."

Tread with care guys! And if you get the chance, do give Lupine Prototype and Bloodhall Priest a try! You might just love it as much as Felix Leong does!

Felix Leong's Red-Black Aggro

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