All Flavors Red

Chain Lightning

All Flavors Red

In this article I’m going to cover a variety of angles on Red Deck Wins.  Recently I’ve been devoting a lot of my attention to Big Red in Standard, and mostly that’s because it’s my format of choice and I think that Big Red has the best chance of success at the moment.  That said, I’ve received emails and comments from various readers asking for more input on older formats, budget builds, and Mono Red Aggro, so I’d like to dive into that a bit with my current evaluations.  I will warn you readers, these lists are all still in testing and are by no means what I would take to a tournament tomorrow.  I didn’t have a chance to get in heavy playtesting last week, but I expect that to ramp up in the weeks leading to the Minneapolis 5K on September 7th that my team will be attending.  Even so, these lists should give you a gauge on some of the ideas I’m testing.

Standard:

Big Red by John Galli (Updated 8/11/2013):

4 Ash Zealot
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Hellrider
4 Thundermaw Hellkite

3 Chandra, Pyromaster

4 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Searing Spear
4 Brimstone Volley

19 Mountain
4 Mutvault
2 Cavern of Souls

Sideboard
4 Ratchet Bomb
2 Rolling Temblor
4 Mizzium Mortars
2 Traitorous Blood
3 Boros Reckoner

First, this is my updated Big Red list.  You’ll notice a distinct lack of Burning Earth.  I’m most likely going to include it in the final list that I play going forward, but for now I’m testing without it because of a few issues.  For starters, the cat is out of the bag, and people know that it’s coming.  Kibler’s R/G deck which has become immensely popular is not hurt by the card and often is ahead of you on board due to its elf mana acceleration.  Jund players are actively boarding against the card, and other decks that are susceptible to it are making adjustments.  That’s not to say that Burning Earth isn’t completely back breaking in many situations against three color midrange decks, but it’s a card that like many others have stated requires you to be mostly ahead on board position and / or life totals.  Chandra is very powerful in using her +1 ability to force Jund’s big men to not be able to block your hasty threats, she picks off smaller threats or upgrades your burn suite, and she returns your Phoenixes.  She’s also just a personal howling mine on an unchecked board.  For these reasons, I’m trying her back in the main to see if she’s just a more pro-active Burning Earth in all reality.

There’s also other cards I’m testing, but some of the lists (which you may have seen when I’m streaming) are pretty janky so they’re not quite worth showing yet.

Mono Red Aggro by John Galli (Updated 8/11/2013):

4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Legion Loyalist
3 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Lightning Mauler
3 Hellrider

4 Volcanic Strength
4 Searing Spear
4 Pillar of Flame

20 Mountain

Sideboard
4 Skullcrack
3 Burning Earth
3 Electrickery
3 Traitorous Blood
1 Archwing Dragon
1 Mutavault

This Mono Red list is fairly blitzy, and I’ve hedged a few bets in certain areas.  I’ve put in Legion Loyalist over Stonewright, mostly because tokens is still a real deck despite it falling off a bit, and because he makes it easier to turn on battalion.  Firefist Striker is very important to any of these 19, 20, 21 land builds at getting past a key blocker in the first few turns to threaten an early lethal situation.  This build also maindecks Volcanic Strength, as I think it is probably a good route to go with the given metagame.  Both Jund and UWR can get 2-for-1s with some of their removal spells, but both of those decks have cut down on the kind of removal that can kill a suited up creature since they are essentially metagaming for each other.  Often, a Volcanic Strength at various points in the game against Jund can simply take over, easily helping you usher in the last few points of damage needed.  The more important point though is that Volcanic Strength can be devastating against Kibler’s G/R, as most builds only pack x3 Mizzium Mortars for removal.  If they can’t draw that Mortars on time, or you can draw it out of their hand, or your creature gets too big for Mortars, they are in some serious trouble.  They have to basically pray for an early Thundermaw Hellkite to race you, and your deck should have the speed advantage most of the time.

This build, like every other Mono Red Aggro build at the moment, is very susceptible to Bonfire of the Damned.  There’s just no way to slice it that looks pretty, it’s a tough card to beat when every Jund deck is packing the full playset.  Volcanic Strength can help get at least one of your guys out of range, but you’re going to have to look to your sideboard here in order to help you get some bigger plays like Burning Earth and Archwing Dragon to push through damage.  You’ll have to avoid overboarding, but Traitorous Blood and Skullcrack are options should you want to dip into them.  Traitorous Blood is moreso to address the occasional G/B Rock and Junk Rites matches, both of which still exist.  Skullcrack is an easy swap for the Volcanic Strength’s against UWR should you want to have less 2-for-1 potential.  Lastly, Electrickery and Skullcrack both help the Bant Hexproof match, although you are quite fast against them and most of the time they are behind if they don’t nut draw you.

Like I said before, this is a rough list.  I’ve played some games with it, and I’m familiar with its style, but you could go a lot of directions.  I’ve been trying out Young Pyromancer a lot, and he’s pretty insane when playing a bevy of smaller burn spells and Hellrider, but he also slows the deck down a bit.  The three drop slot is currently empty, any mixture of Chandra’s Phoenix, Pyreheart Wolf, or Boros Reckoner is probably acceptable.  I didn’t include them in this build because I wanted to focus on raw aggression and tailor it to suit Burning-Tree Emissary a bit more.  Every ounce of speed you lose when playing Mono Red Aggro means that your opponent just got more time for Bonfire of the Damned, Supreme Verdict, and Unflinching Courage.  One other note; this list should be well under $100, so if you’re looking for something on the cheap to win packs locally, it should fit the bill.

Mono Red Pyromancer by John Galli (Updated 8/11/2013):

4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Legion Loyalist
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Young Pyromancer
3 Lightning Mauler
4 Firefist Striker
3 Hellrider

2 Shock
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Searing Spear
1 Mizzium Mortars

19 Mountain
2 Mutvault

Sideboard
3 Burning Earth
3 Electrickery
3 Skullcrack
2 Mizzium Mortars
2 Traitorous Blood
1 Mutavault

This list centralizes around both Burning-Tree and Young Pyromancer, allowing for explosive draws regardless of which two-drop shows up.  It’s going to be a hair slower in some situations, but in others it has a more powerful nut-draw.  Just another look worth exploring for those who want to do some independent testing.

Modern:

Burn by Greg Ocreenc from Grand Prix Kansas City 8th – 7/08/2013):

3 Deathrite Shaman
4 Goblin Guide
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Vexing Devil

4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Searing Blaze
1 Shard Volley
3 Skullcrack

4 Bump in the Night
4 Lava Spike
1 Pillar of Flame
4 Rift Bolt

4 Arid Mesa
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
1 Marsh Flats
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Stomping Ground

Sideboard
1 Spellskite
3 Rakdos Charm
2 Searing Blaze
1 Skullcrack
2 Volcanic Fallout
1 Wear // Tear
2 Hide / Seak
1 Flamebreak
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Torpor Orb

I’ve mentioned this list in my comments section, but I honestly think if you’re considering Burn for Modern that this list is a fantastic starting point.  Modern is a brutal format at the moment that is saturated with Combo decks that are all mostly faster than the fair decks.  This is unfortunate, as when I played in the previous Pro Tour Qualifying season, there seemed to be a bit more viability for variety, but this seems to be a thing of the past now.  I imagine once the season starts again that people will innovate and more fair decks will break through, but the bottom line for now is that you have to be consistent, you have to be fast, and you have to have an excellently tuned sideboard.  Ogreenc accomplishes that here by dipping ever so slightly into the other colors to gain some additional lightning bolt effects and cards that hose a lot of the popular strategies.

Having easy access to Lightning Bolt, Rift Bolt, Lava Spike, Bump in the Night, Shard Volley, AND Boros Charm is very strong.  Backing it up with the unpredictable Vexing Devil is not a bad move in my opinion here either; this change helped local pro Jasper Johnson-Epstein finish 14th at GP Toronto last season.  The deck just has so much pressure and the ability to dump lethal on your opponent in a heart beat, that you force them to combo on time or lose, and often put them in situations where they can’t combo because they are too low in life.  Unlike Legacy where you have decks loaded with counterspells and Force of Will, Modern decks typically try to do their own business and have little interaction to try and stop you from burning them to the ground.  It’s one of the reasons I would consider Burn here but often shy away from it in Legacy.  I simply don’t like playing out “my combo” only to have the last piece countered.  Granted, UWR Control is still a deck, and I don’t know exactly how that matchup is, but on paper Burn seems to still have a lot of threats they can’t deal with let alone a speed advantage.

Out of the board, the first few cards give you some play against a lot of decks with an extra special focus on Pod and Twin (I used both cards when playing Jund last season),  followed by some anti-aggro, anti-control, anti-affinity/boggle, anti-tron, and then a round-robin-catch-all of hate in the last few cards.  This board truly makes me smile, as it has something for everything but like many decks in Modern the cards can serve double-purpose at being your 5th and 6th of another card in a certain matchup.  And if I learned anything from playing Jund last season in Modern it was to respect your difficult matchups and respect Burn.  I started off undefeated in two PTQs, only to have multiple losses to RG Tron despite my 5-6 sideboard cards against them.  The good decks are good, and they play out fairly consistently.  If you don’t play just the right amount of requisite cards and also play incredibly tight, it will cost you a match.  The good news is, most players that I played with or talked to last season had nowhere near enough cards against a good Burn deck, so you immediately have an advantage out of the gates, especially if your opponent plays loose in game 1.

If I were to change anything in his list going forward, it would be to include a smidge more hate against Boggle (Auras), and I would try out a few of the new M14 cards, but most of them would probably miss the cut.  This list is tuned and ready to beat the field.

Mono Red Aggro (Budget) by John Galli (Updated 8/11/2013)

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goblin Guide
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Keldon Mauraders
4 Vexing Devil

3 Molten Rain
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rift Bolt
4 Lava Spike
1 Shard Volley
3 Skullcrack
1 Pillar of Flame

20 Mountain

Sideboard
4 Blood Moon
3 Combust
3 Lash Out
2 Volcanic Fallout
2 Spellskite
1 Shatterstorm

This list is really rough, and I don’t know if it’s competitive, but I basically wanted to provide something to readers of my site who don’t have access to fetchlands for Modern.  My main recommendation would be to try and work towards them because it probably is the difference between viability and just completely losing, but this deck can turn the pressure on people at smaller tournaments.  Once the season for Modern starts, or just prior, I’ll be able to give more tuned builds, but at the moment this is the best I’ve got.  There’s a lot of room for deckbuilding in Modern, so don’t feel afraid to go outside of Red if money is a big limitation.  Despite the fact that I love playing Red whenever I can, I know how it can be tough to acquire the cards (I often borrow mine for the Modern and Legacy seasons), so you have to do what you can if you want to play and feel like you have a shot to win.

I’d also recommend checking out this article when you get time if budget is a big concern-
Becoming a Modern Man – Modern on a Budget

Legacy:

Burn by John Galli (Updated 8/11/2013)

4 Goblin Guide
4 Grim Lavamancer

3 Sulfuric Vortex
4 Fireblast
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Price of Progress
4 Chain Lightning
4 Flame Rift
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
1 Shard Volley

8 Mountain
12 Red Fetch Lands

Sideboard
3 Ensnaring Bridge
4 Vexing Shusher
4 Mindbreak Trap
4 Searing Blaze

This is a streamlined list, very close to what Patrick Sullivan has played in the past.  It plays a competitive burn game, requiring tight play and heavy practice to do well with.  It has inherent weaknesses such as a poor game 1 against Combo and RUG Delver, but it balances that by being more consistent than just about every deck in the field.  The sideboard can be adjusted, I like Surgical Extraction and possibly a fourth Sulfuric Vortex.  It really depends on what meta you expect to see or what decks you hate losing to.  Young Pyromancer also *might* be a card this deck wants, but it would require a lot of testing to figure out.  I’ve personally played with this list in Legacy tournaments before, and I felt it was fine if you know what you’re doing and don’t get upset by just auto-losing some matchups.  But in reality, that’s Legacy in a nutshell for you; you just simply can’t prepare for everything.  At the last SCG Open I took this to, I was missing two of the Vexing Shushers in the sideboard (a key card against RUG Delver), and sure enough, I play RUG Delver in rounds 1 and 2.  It pretty much left my opponents hanging at 2 life in every game since they could just counter my last threat and then kill me a few turns later.  So bottom line, make sure you have all the cards, and make sure you practice ad nauseum (no pun intended).

The Figure of Destiny Builds aren’t terrible, they’re just a bit weaker against certain matchups.  But if you don’t have fetches, it’s still a realistic option that’s solid in Legacy and saves you some cash.  While this list probably wants Sulfuric Vortex, it’s an example of the shell you want to build around-

Burn by Austin Yost 1st Place at SCG Open 1/22/2012

3 Figure of Destiny
4 Goblin Guide
3 Hellspark Elemental
3 Keldon Marauders

4 Fireblast
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Price of Progress
4 Chain Lightning
4 Flame Rift
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt

17 Mountain
2 Barbarian Ring

Sideboard
4 Faerie Macabre
3 Pyrostatic Pillar
4 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
3 Smash to Smithereens

A few quick things I would do besides Sulfuric Vortex would be to update the sideboard.  You really want Mindbreak Trap against combo, otherwise you’ll just get killed on turn 0 or turn 1 a lot of the time.  Faerie Macabre was likely in the list to combat Dredge, which just isn’t that popular as of right now.  And lastly Ensnaring Bridge is almost a must for Show and Tell which seems to pop up in heavy numbers at every big event these days.

I want to close this article by giving a shout out to a local Madison player who games at my shop, Kenny Dungar.  He defeated Ad Nauseum-Tendrils to take Goblins to a 1st place finish at the SCG Minneapolis Open last weekend despite a field full of hate.  Thanks for giving all of us Mono Red players hope Kenny.  Despite the color Blue existing, sometimes you still get there.

Goblins by Kenny Dungar 1st at SCG Open Minneapolis 8/4/2013

3 Gempalm Incinerator
2 Goblin Chieftain
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Matron
3 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Ringleader
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
3 Goblin Warchief
3 Mogg War Marshall
1 Stingscourger
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

2 Tarfire

4 AEther Vial

4 Mountain
1 Arid Mesa
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Cavern of Souls
2 Plateau
4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
2 Wooded Foothills

Sideboard
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Mindbreak Trap
3 Pyrokinesis
3 Wear // Tear
2 Pithing Needle
4 Rest in Peace

– Red Deck Winning

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