Tweaking B/R Vehicles for Pro Tour Dominaria

by Lee Shi Tian on 12 June 2018, Tuesday

Lee Shi Tian


Tweaking B/R Vehicles for Pro Tour Dominaria

So, to summarize, Goblin Chainwhirler dominated Pro Tour Dominaria.

With the Pro Tour one month away from Dominaria's release date, the metagame had time to stabilize. There were a couple of new decks in the format, but nothing was close to being as consistent as B/R Vehicles based on our playtesting. Today, I'd like to share how we adjusted our B/R Vehicles to better position ourselves against the rest of the field.



Control, Out Of The Window

We knew that Black-Red variants would be the target at the Pro Tour. Simon Nielsen won Grand Prix Birmingham, and then Corey Baumeister went 8-0 at the MOCS. After playtesting, control decks beat up B/R Vehicles pretty well in Game 1. However, that doesn't hold true after sideboarding.

For example, U/W Teferi is great against B/R Vehicles, but it is easily beatable with Duress as well as a diverse range of threats which forces the control player to have precise answers.

Aside from creatures, B/R Vehicles also has planeswalkers (Chandra, Torch of Defiance), artifacts (Heart of Kiran, and enchantments (Arguel's Blood Fast). This makes it very difficult to answer everything at the correct moment.

Mono-Green Stompy also boards in artifacts (Lifecrafter's Bestiary and planeswalkers (Nissa, Vital Force) in a bid to diversify their threats, rather than just having a bunch of big monsters.


Duress Lifecrafter's Bestiary Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Because of this phenomenon, we decided that control decks were not going to be our choice at the Pro Tour. Instead, we decided on B/R Vehicles, primarily because the removal and discard suite allowed us to switch gears depending on the matchup. Most of the big teams came to a similar conclusion, and B/R variants took 40% of the metagame.

In our quest to metagame against the field a little, we decided to tweak Simon Nielson's Grand Prix Birmingham winning decklist. This was the decklist which took Simon to his title, and it was also the cornerstone of our version.


Mana Base


Spire of Industry Aether Hub

It didn't take us long to figure out that we hated Spire of Industry and Aether Hub. We expected Abrade to be very popular in Standard and Spire of Industry was less reliable. Aether Hub is even worse as we may run into problems casting Goblin Chainwhirler. I believe it is quite a bad land unless you have Aethersphere Harvester in the sideboard.

We revamped the mana base based on the great Frank Karsten's "simulations". We wanted at least 22 red sources for Goblin Chainwhirler and 12 black sources to cast Unlicensed Disintegration.

The deck also needs to hit the fourth land drop consistently, and we would like to increase the land count up to 26! Non-red lands (oh gosh, we did not like Swamps) are terrible since it meddles with our ability to cast Goblin Chainwhirler. However, since we are increasing our land count, we decided to go with Ifnir Deadlands. Not only did it bring us up to 26 lands, but we also added some additional utility and removal.


Swamp Ifnir Deadlands

We increased the number of black sources to accommodate Duress and Cut // Ribbons. At one point, I even wanted Vraska's Contempt in my sideboard, but the prohibitive mana cost is kind of scary, so I, decided to drop the thought.

In the end, I played the following mana base:



Cutting Out The Bad Cards

I'll be straightforward.

Soul-Scar Mage sucks.

So does Walking Ballista.


Soul-Scar Mage Walking Ballista

Soul-Scar Mage is good against creature decks without much interaction because you can "combo off" with Goblin Chainwhirler. One such deck which this combo is good against is the Mono-Green Stompy deck, because they don't have much removal to deal with Soul-Scar Mage. However, green decks were so bad against control decks and red decks we predicted they would not be significant in the metagame.

A conventional approach to handle the B/R Vehicles mirror is to play bigger threats. We found that sticking a planeswalker on the board was crucial. A typical sequence is to spend your first few turns trading or killing creatures and then landing your planeswalker against an empty board.

Low-impact cards like Soul-Scar Mage is a terrible card to have in such a matchup because the big cards matter more. While Walking Ballista is randomly good in the late game - especially when you are land-flooded - it's inferior in the early game. It's just not good enough!


Enter Ruin Raider.


Ruin Raider


It might sound crazy to be playing Dark Confidant in a metagame which we predicted to be "red-heavy". However, we wanted a card which was good against the control matchup while being "not bad" in the mirror. Originally in the sideboard, we found that Ruin Raider was decent in the main deck.

However, after more playtesting, we discovered that Mono-Green was not as good a matchup as we thought. Once we cut the Soul-Scar Mage, we needed extra removal against Mono-Green. We already had nine removal spells in the main deck, and we did not want any more than that because they are blank cards against control decks.

Rather than play more removal spells, Ruin Raider can provide us ways to draw a card, and it forces the control player to answer it immediately, much like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. It is also a three-drop which can crew Heart of Kiran, making it significantly better than say, another Unlicensed Disintegration or Vraska's Contempt.

There were multiple times during the Pro Tour weekend where I took between 5 to 8 damage but won because I had more gas. It's a card that is good enough against most matchups, and it becomes even better if you're on the play.




The third Glorybringer was added because we wanted to win the "planeswalker war." Pia Nalaar is very important for pressuring planeswalkers and we wanted another Dragon to further supplement the Thopter. Glorybringer bad against Chandra's Defeat, but it's super in the main deck.

Consolidating everything, this was the decklist which Andrea Mengucci and I played at Pro Tour Dominaria.


I went 7-3 in the Constructed portion, and I felt that I could have done a little better if I had played a little tighter. Regardless, I crashed out at the Draft portion with a 2-4 record. Moving forward, I think red decks will continue to dominate Standard. It's possible to play more removal in the main deck and to move the anti-control cards to the sideboard. 


Chandra's Defeat Abrade

Chandra's Defeat is a crucial sideboard and it gets only better when players are playing Chandra, Torch of Defiance instead of Karn, Scion of Urza. Also, red players are playing Shock and Lightning Strike (because those cards can go to the dome) over Magma Spray and Abrade. With less Abrade, Aether Harvester can help you steal games more often.

On the topic of bannings, I understand why players are discussing whether Goblin Chainwhirler should go or not. I think it sort of fills the same role as Rampaging Ferocidon, by keeping other cards in check. I brewed up a few Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle decks and token decks but they were all unplayable due to the existence of Goblin Chainwhirler. Also, judging from recent trends, I would not be surprised if Goblin Chainwhirler does get banned.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a better understanding of B/R Vehicles, one of the most dominant decks in Standard at the moment. May you be better prepared at your next Standard tournament! Cheers!

@leearson on Twitter

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