A Brave New Red Deck for a Brave New World

Burning Earth

A Brave New Deck for a Brave New World

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I want to get back to my readers here on how testing and tournament play has been going.  Since my last article I’ve joined a local Magic team that has formed to try and get someone qualified for a Pro Tour or in the top 8 of a large cash event.  I’ve also had some pretty interesting revelations about the new format that are absolutely worth talking about.

For starters, I came to a significant realization.  Standard has changed.  Red Deck must change.

The red deck of the past that relied on blitzing your opponent into the ground just isn’t going to get you into 1st place.  It’s still potent, it still can capitalize on an opponent that stumbles, but the couple of lists that made big splashes at the SCG have a very strong game 1 against you.  Luckily, M14 brought a lot to the table and some of the new cards (along with some old ones that were on the shelf) are having a high impact so far in testing for me.  My list isn’t finalized, but here is where I’m at right now:

Mono Red – 7/24/2013 by Red Deck Winning

Creatures (28)

4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Stonewright
4 Ash Zealot
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Hellrider
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

Lands (22)

19 Mountain
3 Mutavault

Spells (10)

2 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear
4 Pillar of Flame

Sideboard
4 Burning Earth
4 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Traitorous Blood
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
1 Electrickery
1 Mountain
1 Mutavault

Now lets take a look at some of the enemies and how to go about stopping them-

New Enemies

W/B Humans by AJ Sacher – 1st Place, SCG Open Richmond 7/21/2013

Creatures (21)

4 Blood Artist
1 Bloodthrone Vampire
4 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Xathrid Necromancer

Planeswalkers (3)

3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Lands (23)

7 Plains
5 Swamp
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Mutavault
1 Orzhov Guildgate

Spells (13)

1 Orzhov Charm
4 Tragic Slip
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Lingering Souls

Sideboard
1 Pithing Needle
2 Lifebane Zombie
2 Sin Collector
2 Intangible Virtue
1 Brave the Elements
2 Doom Blade
2 Profit
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Appetite for Brains

I did some heavy testing against this list last night and saw elements of it in tournament play at our local win-a-box.  It’s incredibly resilient, taking many of the great lines of play from Junk Aristocrats that were so tough to beat, but adding Xathrid Necromancer to the fold which is just a straight beating if left unchecked.  This list I think is even stronger than Junk Aristocrats because it plays the full playset of Lingering Souls and Gather the Townsfolk which allow the deck to create a large army quickly.  This helps them with both blocking, Blood Artist triggers, and simply getting your life total down faster.  The miser Orzhov Charm is something that is actually pretty strong, not only does it up their removal count but it gives them outs to stuff like Hellrider so that his triggers can’t push through for those last lethal points.  What I think is probably the weakest point of the deck is the lands, which seem to be inconsistent, and the fact that the sideboard isn’t really geared towards beating aggro (they just expect to beat aggro and thus only have a few cards to bring in like Doom Blade, Profit // Loss, and Brave the Elements).

The plan right now is probably going to change, but right now it’s been-

-4 Lightning Mauler, -4 Rakdos Cackler, -1 Stonewright
+4 Bonfire of the Damned, +2 Thundermaw Hellkite, +1 Electrickery, +1 Mountain, +1 Mutavault

While I’m not wild about taking away some of the speed, all of the Blood Artist decks struggle when you have heavy removal for their creatures backed up by cards that go over the top of them.  Sweepers in particular are great, which is why Jund has had so much success everytime they cast a Bonfire.  Well upping the land count to accommodate for more Thundermaws and the Bonfires allow this to be a possibility for red, and it takes the deck in the direction of simply playing control.  The game plan is to kill as many of their creatures as you can, and then let Chandra’s Phoenix, Hellrider, and Thundermaw finish the job.  My only issue is that I may even need a smidge more in the way of Electrickery, Rolling Temblor, etc, and I’d still like to improve my game 1 which will probably require some maindeck changes.  One benefit of this sideboard plan other than the cards you bring in is that you blank a lot of their removal and lines of play since they’re expecting you to have dozens of little creatures yet most of them are taken out.  Tragic Slip becomes far less powerful, often forcing them to use multiple cards to take out a single one of your guys.

Jund by Owen Turtenwald – 13th Place at SCG Richmond 7/21/2013

Creatures (16)

2 Arbor Elf
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Thragtusk
3 Olivia Voldaren

Planeswalkers (2)

2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

Lands (25)

2 Forest
1 Swamp
4 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Rootbound Crag
4 Stomping Ground
4 Woodland Cemetery

Spells (17)

1 Abrupt Decay
1 Doom Blade
2 Putrefy
2 Tragic Slip
4 Bonfire of the Damned
1 Dreadbore
4 Farseek
2 Rakdos’s Return

Sideboard
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Underworld Connections
2 Tragic Slip
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Barter In Blood
2 Duress
1 Rakdos’s Return

I’ve been mostly testing against Owen’s list since him and Reid Duke have basically been the kings of Jund in Standard these days.  There’s a lot of information in articles online for his build and how to play it, so it’s typically the one I see the most when I’m at tournaments.  The deck is pretty straight forward Jund, and that means it’s a tough battle for Red Deck as always.  Game 1 you are just trying to beat them with speed, and if they land a Thragtusk and start getting out of range you hope to get a Thundermaw and for them not to have a removal spell.  Game 2 the plan goes something like this-

-4 Lightning Mauler, -2 Brimstone Volley, -2 Stonewright, -2 Hellrider OR -2 Rakdos Cackler

+4 Burning Earth, +2 Thundermaw Hellkite, +2 Traitorous Blood, +1 Mountain, +1 Mutavault

Basically you’re again taking out the Tragic Slip and Pillar of Flame targets and replacing them with bigger hitters.  Burning Earth on turn 4 is almost always game over if they didn’t sideboard in removal for it.  Jund just simply can’t play through this spell.  I was playing against Bant last night at the tournament and it was the same story.  Thragtusk gets almost completely invalidated, and they’re almost always low enough in life that casting any spell either kills them or puts them into the lethal column for your creatures and burn.  That all said, the plan might want to stay towards keeping the deck fast and just bringing in Burning Earth.  While Thundermaw can be a complete house against Jund, if they have removal it’s a big sink of mana and sometimes they just get overrun by your opening draws if you keep the deck streamlined.  Mutavault is really great in this matchup, as most of their removal is sorcery speed or conditionally can’t hit him, so he tends to slip under the radar and get in a few of those needed points of damage.  I’ve been incredibly impressed with Mutavault thus far, he was great back in his day in aggro decks, and he seems to have a perfect home here.  He gives the deck a lot more reach, not just from wrath effects, but also in the way that he gives you additional attackers to punch in the last few points of damage and avoid flooding out.  Another card I’ve been trying out again is Skullcrack, I was playing them last night in my list but I’m not sure it’s the effect I want.  I’ve never been impressed with the card, it always looked plausible on paper and a lot of builds have it, but the biggest problem is that it’s a terrible draw after they’ve already landed something like a Thragtusk.  A card like Traitorous Blood is always live, and always liable to deal about as much damage back to them as they gained not to mention the ability to swing combat math.  It also randomly gets you out of games where you have a higher losing percentage, such as against decks like G/B Rock.  That was my only loss of our local win-a-box weekly tournament last night, and it was pretty much because I had no answer to Desecration Demon.

GW Aggro by Ryan Archer – 7th Place at SCG Richmond 7/21/13

Creatures (23)

2 Dryad Militant
4 Experiment One
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Scavenging Ooze
3 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
1 Strangleroot Geist
4 Voice of Resurgence
2 Wolfir Avenger

Planeswalkers (2)

2 Garruk Relentless

Lands (24)

9 Forest
5 Plains
1 Gavony Township
1 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

Spells (11)

1 Oblivion Ring
3 Rancor
4 Advent of the Wurm
3 Selesnya Charm

Sideboard
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Rest in Peace
4 Triumph of Ferocity
4 Unflinching Courage
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

I’ve played against this deck online and it’s a pretty tough matchup, although the versions with Imposing Sovereign and Fiendslayer Paladin are significantly more uphill battles than the one you see above.  Your plan is much the same as it was against opposing aggro decks prior to M14, and that is to burn everything in site and then let your guys do the mop-up work.  This is a matchup, along with Gruul and Red mirrors, that might demand having Mizzium Mortars back in the sideboard.  I haven’t tested it with my recent build, and that might be something I need to revisit.  Currently, 10 burn spells is still a good number, and Bonfire is absolutely a card I want out of the board, but the gameplan here is yet undetermined until my list is more streamlined.

Bant Hexproof by Joe Maguire – 10th Place at  SCG Richmond 7/21/2013

Creatures (14)
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
3 Fencing Ace
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Invisible Stalker

Enchantments (19)
4 Curiosity
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Rancor
3 Spectral Flight
4 Unflinching Courage

Instants (2)
2 Simic Charm

Legendary Creatures (4)
4 Geist of Saint Traft

Basic Lands (1)
1 Forest

Lands (20)
4 Breeding Pool
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Hinterland Harbor
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

Sideboard:
2 Loxodon Smiter
3 Nearheath Pilgrim
2 Rest in Peace
3 Fog
2 Mending Touch
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
2 Cavern of Souls

I’m not sure if this deck really improved or not.  It certainly placed well at the SCG, although it failed to crack top 8 which means that the top players with Jund and Aggro were prepared for it.  I’ve played against versions very close to this online post-M14, and Mono Red is still faster then them most of the time.  The addition of Chandra’s Phoenix also lets you fly over the top or chump block Spectral Flight, which can be huge.  Curiosity also does nothing against you for the most part other than slow them down by wasting a card.  Unflinching Courage is still the nasty bearer of bad news, and if they stick one you’re typically in a lot of trouble.

Sideboard wise, this is the plan:

-2 Thundermaw Hellkite, -2 Brimstone Volley, -1 Lightning Mauler
+4 Bonfire of the Damned, +1 Mountain (Potentially +4 Burning Earth)

You need to combat them with speed, but having Bonfire and some additional mana to play it can completely destroy them.  I’ve seen several people cut pillar in this matchup, but being able to kill fencing ace, pilgrim, and sideboarded smiters (with blocks), is extremely important to winning this matchup, not to mention just having a one-mana burn spell to give you additional reach.  I don’t think you need to go the full 24 lands for bonfire here, but it’s possible I’m wrong.  You certainly don’t want to flood too hard in this matchup and Mutavault doesn’t do a whole lot other than possibly get in the way of an unsuited-up Geist of Saint Traft.  Another worry from their side of the table is their ability to sideboard in Fog, so it’s possible that we again might need Skullcrack.  It’s good against their Unflinching Courages too.

Mono-Green Aggro by Richard Nguyen – at SCG Richmond 7/21/2013

Creatures (25)
4 Arbor Elf
2 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Predator Ooze
3 Strangleroot Geist
4 Wolfir Silverheart

Enchantments (4)
4 Rancor

Instants (3)
3 Ranger’s Guile

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Sorceries (4)
4 Revenge of the Hunted

Basic Lands (18)
18 Forest

Lands (4)
4 Mutavault

Sideboard:
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Thragtusk
3 Wolfir Avenger
2 Primeval Bounty
2 Naturalize
2 Garruk Relentless

I’ll be honest, this is probably the toughest matchup for Mono Red, or at least one of the ones that is almost unwinnable.  I played against the pre-M14 version a lot in person and I’ve played against the new version online, and their deck is chock-full of cards that just crush opposing aggro.  The elves they play can be burned, but once an Archdruid sticks, times are tough.  Predator Ooze is basically unkillable, so you’re only hope is to sideboard cards like Traitorous Blood and hope to steal one that has grown too large for it’s own good, or fly around it with Thundermaw Hellkite and Chandra’s Phoenix.  The new Garruk is absurd if he lands in time, and Thragtusk out of the board spells more trouble.  Revenge of the Hunted is game over against just about every deck if it’s miracled, and the list goes on and on.  Bottom line, this is one of those decks you hope doesn’t get popular or one that you hope to dodge.  The one saving grace is that you are faster than they are, so sometimes if you get a strong hand you can run them over before they get online, or if you get a suite of your fliers.

Sideboard Plan-

-4 Lightning Mauler, -4 Stromkirk Noble, -3 Hellrider

+2 Thundermaw Hellkite, +1 Mutavault, +1 Mountain, +4 Bonfire of the Damned, +2 Traitorous Blood, +1 Electrickery

You’re basically turning into a burn deck here, riding on the back of your removal and fliers.  It’s possible you still want Hellrider, but typically his damage isn’t going to be a nail in the coffin.

I’m still working on the UWR Flash and Gruul matchups, the board will probably adjust for the latter.  Mutavault and Chandra’s Phoenix add a lot of value to the UWR match.

– Red Deck Winning

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4 thoughts on “A Brave New Red Deck for a Brave New World

    • @Stranglerlewis – I’ve done some testing with Ratchet Bomb, but I don’t think at the moment it’s quite strong enough in this format. When it was previously legal in Standard there were decks that more heavily relied on tokens and didn’t have a variety of casting costs, and the format in general was slower. The current format is very aggressive and almost all of the aggro decks have too much of a range for it to be very useful. The troublesome cards like Fiendslayer Paladin take forever to get enough counters to kill, and often have taken their toll on you by the time you can use the bomb.

      If the meta changes, it could possibly warrant Ratchet Bomb, especially in more “Big Red” style builds. Or if token decks go heavier on the token theme. Ratchet Bomb is a nice answer to Advent of the Wurm, but even there they have so many threats besides that which all have different casting costs. I’d rather use the less conditional removal spells I have and just beat them on the ground over over the air rather than time walk myself for a card that might just kill a very small creature or two.

  1. I’ve noticed you’ve not used the new Chandra, do you not think she works well with the current mono-red meta game? A way to still be valid after turn 7?

    Love your blog man!

    • Thanks Malakim! I have tested Chandra a decent amount. I think she is a great card and fun to play with but she seems better suited against control and the red mirror. Against just about everything else I’ve wanted either Hellrider or Burning Earth as a more aggressive option.

      The problem with Chandra is that while she’s compared to Elspeth, Knight Errant, she really can’t defend herself as well and sometimes her abilities are not what you want. Her zero ability is fantastic, but you need to wait a full turn to use it effectively, and her +1 is often moot if they already have a Thragtusk or army of guys on the board and you’re not already threatening lethal. It can be nice making a creature not block, but you’re just not always in the situation where that is beneficial.

      I’ve seen a variety of builds with her besides what I’ve tested and supposedly Andrew Shrout is playing big red at the invitational, so we’ll see where things go.

      – Red Deck Winning

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