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Much Abrew: Oops, All Basics Virtue Fireball Ramp (Standard)


Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Much Abrew About Nothing! Next week, we'll get back to normal with some best-of-three action. But today, we have our final early-access video (thanks again to Wizards for the free account), with a deck built around a card that looks a bit janky at first glance but can actually be super powerful in the right deck: Virtue of Strength. When I first saw the green Virtue, I wrote it off because its mana-tripling ability only applies to basic lands. But the more I thought about how the card's math works, the more I became convinced that it might actually be strong enough to make it worth playing a deck with only basic lands just to support it. The idea is pretty simple: Virtue of Strength costs seven mana, which means if we cast it in a deck that is 100% basic lands, we know that we'll have at least 21 mana the next turn. This means we can kill our opponent on the spot with an X-spell like Light Up the Night or Shivan Devastator, which I guess makes our deck more or less the 2023 version of the infamous Channel Fireball combo from three decades ago! Can the plan work? Is Virtue of Strength actually good? Let's get to the video and find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

Much Abrew: Oops, All Basic Virtue Fireball Ramp

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The Deck

  • Record-wise, I don't really put any weight into early-access performance since the meta is so different. But overall, I played 18 games with the deck and ended up going 11-7, which is pretty solid. The hardest matchups for the deck are super-aggro decks, which can take advantage of our slow, ramp-focused starts and kill us before our powerful late game comes online. On the other hand, our plan worked super well against slower, grindier midrange decks. If we get enough time to ramp a bit and get things set up, the plan of killing the opponent with one massive X-spell with the help of triple mana from Virtue of Strength was actually pretty easy to pull off!
  • As I mentioned in the intro, the deck's plan is pretty simple: ramp into Virtue of Courage to triple our mana, which means we'll have enough mana the following turn to cast a Shivan Devastator or Light Up the Night with x = 20 to kill our opponent on the spot, Channel Fireball style!
  • Of course, this plan has a cost: we need to play an all-basic mana base for Virtue of Courage to work. But this wasn't really a problem at all in practice. The Streets of New Capenna fetch lands are perfect for the deck since they fix our mana by adding a basic of our choice to the battlefield, as is Field of Ruin, which finds a basic while answering a creatureland (and was a Strip Mine a shockingly high percentage of the time in our games—apparently, Standard players don't believe in basics...). Plus, we have a bunch of cards that ramp basics onto the battlefield, like Topiary Stomper, Invasion of Zendikar, and Return from the Wilds. So even though our mana looks janky because we're playing so many basics, we almost never have issues finding our colors.
  • Needing to get to seven mana to cast Virtue of Courage and then wait a turn to win might sound too slow for Standard. But thanks to all of our ramp, we can actually do this super quickly. Our most explosive ramp start is The Irencrag on Turn 2 into Invasion of Zendikar on Turn 3, which lets us cast Virtue of Strength on Turn 4. Even without The Irencrag, we're pretty likely to be casting our namesake enchantment by Turn 5 thanks to the amount of ramp in our deck. 
  • The adventure mode of Virtue of Strength is actually very important to our plan but probably not for the reason you think. Being able to return a land or creature from our graveyard to our hand for a single mana is fine—most often, we're getting back one of our fetch lands to make an extra land drop. But the real power of Virtue of Strength's spell side is that it helps us find the enchantment side. This happens in two ways. First, we can kill something with Nahiri's Warcrafting, find Virtue of Strength and cast the adventure side for one mana just to save it in exile for later when we have enough mana to find the enchantment side. Second, being a sorcery allows Chandra, Hope's Beacon to dig for Virtue of Strength, which greatly increases our deck's consistency.
  • Speaking of Chandra, Hope's Beacon, along with offering removal and helping us find our combo pieces, it's also our backup plan. Thanks to Chandra's ability to copy the first instant or sorcery we cast each turn, we can sometimes just ramp into Chandra, tick it up for mana, and cast a Light Up the Night for enough mana that two copies kill our opponent naturally, even without the double mana from Virtue of Strength!
  • One last card of note: Return from the Wilds is a lot better than I expected. I figured it would be another filler-level three-mana ramp spell, but making a 1/1 chump blocker is actually a pretty big deal. We are more or less guaranteed to win if we can live long enough to get Virtue of Strength online, and the token soaking up the damage from one big attack goes a long way toward keeping us alive!
  • So, should you play Oops, All Basics Virtue Fireball Ramp in Wilds of Eldraine Standard? Honestly, it's hard to say. The deck performed well, and we combo-killed with it a seemingly endless number of times, but this was during early access. Will it have as much success in full Standard? I'm not sure. We'll have to wait and see. Regardless, the deck is hilarious, and Virtue of Strength was stronger than I expected it to be. Yes, there's a cost to playing all basics, but the reward might actually be worth it, at least for some decks. Being able to Channel Fireball kill in 2023 feels great, even if our plan is a bit slower than it was back in the early '90s. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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