Deck Spotlight: Reanimating The Looting Decks

Last week was rough for the community to say the least but we have discussed that. It is time to dust ourselves off. In last week’s article we said “find a new way to enjoy the format”. Well that is not quite fair when you consider that more than half of the Grand Prix Las Vegas Top 32 finalists were playing Looting decks. People invested a significant amount of time and money into these strategies. If they are not ready to move on, that is their right. Today we will be lending a hand via a bit of a Brewed Up lightning round. We will take a look at two of the four Looting decks we listed as “losers” last week and updating them for a new lease on life.

Vengevine
This was the deck that was responsible for the B&R update. Hogaak was an utterly broken card but we do not need to rehash that. Vengevine was a Tier 3 archetype when it had Looting and Bridge. Then the addition of Hogaak and Carrion Feeder launched it to Tier 0; where it remained after they banned Bridge. Now it has lost Hogaak and Looting. So relative to the Tier 3 deck of old, it is a straight trade of Looting and Bridge for Carrion Feeder; a bad deal if you ask me. To push forward, the deck needs to adopt alternative discard outlets and new threats to supplement Vengevine. Our first stab at the deck saw us going for Hedron Crab and dropping red entirely but it struggled to discard Vengevines early and consistently. Prized Amalgam was good but does not lend itself to the hyper-aggressive Vengevine plan. The deck is not as resilient as Dredge but suffers from grave hate all the same so it must be able to close games by Turn 4 consistently; the Sultai build just cannot. So we went back to the drawing board and developed this:

Decklist
Land (19)

4x Blackcleave Cliffs
2x Blood Crypt
4x Bloodstained Mire
1x Mountain
2x Nurturing Peatland
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Stomping Ground
1x Swamp
3x Verdant Catacombs
Creature (37)
4x Bloodghast
4x Carrion Feeder
4x Gravecrawler
2x Greater Gargadon
2x Gurmag Angler
4x Hangarback Walker
4x Insolent Neonate
2x Lotleth Troll
4x Satyr Wayfinder
1x Scourge Devil
4x Stitcher’s Supplier
4x Vengevine
Spells (2)
2x Collective Brutality
60 Cards Total

A split of Gurmag Angler and Greater Gargodon are our Hogaak substitutes. They have been more worthy than we expected; though they are obviously a downgrade. The split works well, as drawing one of each works great but drawing two copies of either is an issue. Insolent Neonate has subbed in for Looting and has the upside of triggering Vengevine. Troll and Brutality are a touch slow but are our other best options for pitching drawn Vengevines. Hangarback Walker has been surprisingly impressive. Sometimes you just dump it as a 0/0 to trigger Vengevine and race out Gurmag. Other times you make a big one, sacrifice it, and then sacrifice all of the tokens for a big Carrion or Gargadon swing. Overall, the deck is more effective than we expected post-ban. You have the fast degenerate hands and some capacity to grind but it a far cry from the pre-ban build. I am sorry to say but this is back to being a Tier 3 deck. If you already own it and enjoy it, transition to this build. Otherwise, I do not recommend building it.

Izzet Phoenix
A former format titan but one that was already struggling when the hammer fell. Izzet Phoenix players were hoping to get back to normalcy with a Hogaak ban but the loss of Looting hurts. That being said, I do not think it is a tremendous pain. Sure it was their only way to pitch a Phoenix but Thing in the Ice has always been the strategy’s true heavy lifter. There are really two paths forward for Izzet Phoenix players. One option is to just swap to Blue Moon. It managed to Top 8 a Grand Prix during Phoenix’s zenith after all. In fact, that build was running the playset of mainboard Thing in the Ice; no combos necessary. It was a well-regarded deck in the past and right now the format is looking quite similar to those days. If you cannot bring yourself to forego the thunder chicken though, we recommend this:

Decklist

Land (17)

2x Flooded Strand
3x Island
2x Mountain
4x Scalding Tarn
4x Spirebluff Canal
2x Steam Vents
Creature (8)
4x Arclight Phoenix
4x Thing in the Ice
Spells (35)
4x Izzet Charm
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Manamorphose
3x Noxious Revival
4x Opt
4x Serum Visions
4x Sleight of Hand
4x Thought Scour
4x Pyromancer Ascension
60 Cards Total

If you want to continue to play the deck, it really is not a big deal. Where you once played Faithless Looting, you can play Izzet Charm. Yes it is worse but the power gap is less significant than you would think. For an additional blue mana, your Faithless Looting is now an instant but can also be a Spell Pierce or creature-only Shock. That is some serious versatility. Do not feel beholden to the build above but it is what we currently recommend. Folks are building their sideboards as if graveyard decks are dead so the Pyromancer’s Ascension combo build should be well-positioned again. If you are not a fan of this setup, you will be totally fine taking your current list and swapping in Izzet Charms. Just note that your nut draw is now a turn slower so lend some extra consideration to the racing matchups. The deck will not be as good overall and that is a bummer but the power level reduction is far less dramatic than you would think.

Wrap-Up
Do not worry Dredge and Mono-Red Prowess players. We are devoting an entire article to Dredge tomorrow and we are hard at work on a Prowess build for the future. That being said, what do you think of today’s lists? Did the optimal Vengevine build slip by us? Is Izzet Phoenix still worth exploring or is Blue Moon the way to go? Please share your ideas with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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