I've never understood the desire for hot sauce.
I don't mean hot sauce in general. I like spicy food, and as I age (as science suggests) my taste buds are either more tolerant of or deadened to spicy flavors, so I can use the hotter stuff. And I understand wanting the newest or most niche flavors since I'm a beer snob and can discuss various IPAs and such with the best of them. But I've never needed to be a hot sauce snob. I know people who carry bottles of their favorite blend with them, and when they pull their special George's Nuclear Inferno #27 (WARNING NOT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION CUZ IT'S EXTRY BOLD) out of their bag I feel... uncomfortable? Confused? Either way, I think it's weird.
But sometimes you just gotta. You gotta switch things up. You gotta mess around with something that might be on the edge of reasonable or sane, just to get the blood flowing and prove to yourself that you're alive. And since the new Standard meta hasn't quite panned out yet apart from a couple of decks that we were pretty sure were good even before Oko got Elked, you can get away with playing a lot of wild stuff. So, since we still have access to one of the more entertaining have-some-free-mana cards in
Fires of Invention, I've been messing with a couple of spicier versions of the Jeskai standby to surprise our opponent with the big stuff rather than the usual finishers. The real question is: how much spicy can you stand?
The Habenero: Elemental Fires
4 Arboreal Grazer 4 Growth Spiral 3 Hydroid Krasis 4 Risen Reef 3 Omnath, Locus of the Roil 4 Fires of Invention 4 Cavalier of Flame 3 Cavalier of Thorns 1 Shared Summons 1 Escape to the Wilds 2 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames 1 Castle Vantress 3 Fabled Passage 3 Steam Vents 4 Breeding Pool 4 Stomping Ground 3 Temple of Epiphany 3 Temple of Mystery 1 Island 2 Mountain 3 Forest 3 Chandra, Awakened Inferno 4 Flame Sweep 4 Shifting Ceratops 4 Bonecrusher Giant
Elemental Tribal was a very good deck back in the M20 days before anything that you played was just going to get Elked, and I haven't seen any reason why it couldn't be again. So while I was wandering around on Reddit I stumbled across the same idea but with Fires, and I had to try it. It's a little different from the normal builds insofar as it isn't playing any elemental-based ramp. This deck isn't playing for huge quantities of bodies, but instead it's an aggro deck with big bodies. The deck is trying to get a
Fires of Invention on the board as soon as possible along with more lands than one-per-turn so that we can play our finishers and get them attacking. It's nice if
Risen Reef draws us a couple of cards, but the important thing is to get an extra land or two in order to draw our Cavaliers or
Drakuseth, Maw of Flames. If that happens, we have this great opportunity to play Drakuseth with Fires, and then use the lands to give everything haste and nuke our opponent's board before they can react to it.
My main concern about the deck at this point is matches against Cat Oven. It's early but the deck is miserable enough to play against that I don't trust the "we're just going to be faster than it" plan especially when it's putting up the percentages that it is in early competition results. I don't think you can play a deck right now that doesn't have any sort of artifact or graveyard hate. I've experimented with
Return to Nature and
Sorcerous Spyglass as early favorites, but
Grafdigger's Cage is also an option.
The Ghost Pepper: Niv-Mizzet Fires
The most recent Twitch Rivals tournament was the first chance anyone really had to try Standard after the triumvirate of bans, and teh Intarweb was alive with everyone testing and sharing their ideas on what they wanted to play. But Pascal Maynard tweeted the following in the midst of testing, and I instantly had to try it.
1 Carnival // Carnage 1 Flower // Flourish 2 Hero of Precinct One 2 Thought Erasure 1 Angrath's Rampage 2 Hydroid Krasis 1 Knight of Autumn 2 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Mortify 1 Deafening Clarion 4 Chromatic Lantern 4 Fires of Invention 2 Ral's Outburst 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Solar Blaze 4 Niv-Mizzet Reborn 1 Escape to the Wilds 1 Ravager Wurm 1 Ethereal Absolution 1 Garruk, Cursed Huntsman 1 Temple of Silence 1 Watery Grave 1 Steam Vents 1 Temple of Epiphany 1 Blood Crypt 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Temple of Malady 2 Hallowed Fountain 2 Godless Shrine 1 Stomping Ground 2 Sacred Foundry 2 Temple Garden 4 Fabled Passage 1 Breeding Pool 1 Plains 1 Island 1 Swamp 1 Mountain 1 Forest 2 Hero of Precinct One 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Assassin's Trophy 2 Cindervines 1 Justice Strike 2 Deputy of Detention 1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper 1 Thief of Sanity 1 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves 1 Casualties of War 2 Leyline of the Void
This deck is bat-crap insane. It is, in essence, a five-color deck centered around playing
Niv-Mizzet Reborn with
Fires of Invention and then jamming every overcosted multicolor spell that you draw with the ETB effect. Before Fires/Niv, you're not doing much more than trying to manage your mana base and "tiptoe between the raindrops" as you cobble together some assortment of the lands in the colors you need to keep the board cleared with
Chromatic Lantern to keep everything together. Afterwards, the world is your oyster.
Draw a billion cards, all gas? Sure. Play big honking planeswalkers like
Garruk, Cursed Huntsman? Gotcha. Just cast an
Ethereal Absolution and stand back and shrug? Uh huh. There's even better stuff for post-sideboard games like
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper and
Casualties of War. Sadly, with the rise of Cat Oven I again needed to find some graveyard hate which necessitated cutting way-fun cards like
Outlaws' Merriment, but of course anything goes according to your meta (although the Merriment along with
Ethereal Absolution is nutso).
Playing these two decks has been a lot of fun, but has also illustrated what I think is the most important part of playing Standard 3.0, and that's sideboarding. The needs for sideboarding are so diverse right now that it's challenging to allocate slots where you need them. There are multiple enchantment-based decks that need removal, but there are also graveyard decks (Cat Oven and Reanimator variations) that need the graveyard either eaten or blown up. These two lists demonstrate the far ends of the spectrum, as Elemental Fires tries to keep a sleek sideboard that misses some of the margins, while the Niv Fires deck tries to go very wide and hit every possibility, yet might go too wide and be unable to effectively cover the most-played decks in the format. As time passes, we'll make better decisions about what is and isn't needed and go from there. But until then, try not to eat too many leftovers, and as always... drive friendly!