New Friends and New Enemies

Goblin Rally

New Friends and New Enemies

Let’s be clear about one thing, Standard is changing.  The full Theros spoiler is out and if you’re like me and playtest decks on Cockatrice, you’ve probably been playing with most of it for weeks.  I don’t think in the years I’ve played magic off and on since Revised do I remember a base set that came in and had such an immediate impact on a Standard format.  There’s sets that have come in and had some powerful cards that were used right away, but the vast majority of this set seems immediately playable and I’ve seen some wild brews online along with great updates on traditional contenders.

I’ve tested a variety of brews, and have been tweaking those over the course of time.  I don’t think any single one of them is ready for prime time, but a few of them are close.  A lot of folks in my area and elsewhere have been talking up Mono Red, thinking that it’s going to dominate this format.  Personally, I think red has its work cut out for it; there is a lot of resistance in  Theros, and some of the new cards might seem cool but really require some work to build around.  I’m going to take you on a tour of some of the decklists I’ve been working with along with the cards that they feature.  At the end, I’ll cover some of the format’s obstacles, and please feel free to comment on what you think would be a good way to defeat them.

Mono Red Sligh

4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Firedrinker Satyr
3 Legion Loyalist
4 Ash Zealot
4 Young Pyromancer
3 Chandra’s Phoenix
2 Stormbreath Dragon

3 Chandra, Pyromaster

2 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
4 Flames of the Firebrand

19 Mountain
4 Mutavault

Sideboard
4 Boros Reckoner
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Burning Earth
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Electrickery
1 Act of Treason
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Mountain

There’s not really a feature card for this deck, it’s your traditional balanced Mono Red Aggro deck.  While a lot of people online and in tournament play immediately go for the Burning-Tree Blitz route, I’ve always felt that it was largely unnecessary.  You’ll overwhelm a handful of opponents with that type of deck, but at the competitive level you give yourself no advantages play-wise aside from some nut draws.  This deck looks to give you the power of flexibility in attacking from multiple angles (Phoenix, Chandra, Stormbreath, Loyalist, Burn, Mutavault) while still being very aggressive.  Its tested better than most of the lists I’ve been running, and the only change I’m currently considering is to put Boros Reckoner in the maindeck.  He seems very strong in this format out of the gate and he’s easily better in the Mirror than some of the other cards.  It will depend on the metagame, and if what I’ve played online is any indicator there will be some variety.  You also still have access to x4 Flames of the Firebrand which is great against the mirror.  This list doesn’t embrace the new cards, but the ones it does use are arguably what I’d say are the most powerful for this shell.  Purphoros is still in the heavy testing phase for me and is largely a build around card, so in this list he’s just an extra pressure point for the control matchups out of the board.

Big Red

4 Frostburn Weird
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
4 Stormbreath Dragon

4 Spark Jolt
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
1 Portent of Betrayal

3 Chandra, Pyromaster

21 Mountain
4 Mutavault

Sideboard
4 Skullcrack
3 Ratchet Bomb
2 Burning Earth
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Mizzium Mortars
2 Shock

Arguably, this has been the most successful Mono Red list I’ve piloted thus far.  It’s pretty much a direct port of the old Big Red that I was using, except we’ve upgraded some power levels.  For starters, Stormbreath Dragon is often a better Thundermaw Hellkite.  In the matchups where Mizzium Mortars or Doom Blade is not present, he usually goes unchecked; either killing them outright or letting you activate Monstrosity to ensure they’re finished off.  Purphoros actually is a creature most of the time in this deck, as the supplementary early drops that you play tend to stick around.  Initially I was using Ash Zealot like in my old list, but Frostburn Weird has been nuts for me.  I saw him in some articles and decks online for UW and Mono Blue, and remembered that he was occasionally a good anti-aggro sideboard card.  Well he still serves the latter role, but he’s also great at punishing slower opponents who are using the new scry lands and/or guildgates.

Purphoros has been a creature in this list more often than not, because Frostburn Weird plus any of your three drops will activate the needed devotion when he comes into play.  Having a 6/5 Indestructible in red has usually been far too much for my opponents, and even if they remove him or you can’t get enough early critters down, Chandra typically functions as a great later play to trigger Purphoros anyway and remove any would-be blockers.

Spark Jolt is very much on the test bench still for this deck, and with Scavenging Ooze and other annoying creatures running around it might have to get cut.  I saw a lot of Mono Red Aggro decks online using it, so I decided to try it here alongside Magma Jet, Chandra, and Portent of Betrayal to give this deck a solid cycling engine.  While it’s not true draw power, the old version of Big Red had the occasional issue of just not being able to keep in a game with some decks because it had no way to filter through its cards, and so far having access to this much scry has really aided that issue.

Anger of the Gods is one of the most impressive cards to me in the new set, but in this list it hits a lot of your own guys which typically makes it not the card you want.  You can play carefully if it’s in your hand, but I don’t think it’s a four-of here.  Still, there will be those insane blitz decks that you may just want something that hits their entire board.

Mono Red Tokens

4 Young Pyromancer
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Purphoros, God of the Forge

4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
4 Shock
3 Flames of the Firebrand
4 Goblin Rally

21 Mountain
4 Mutavault

Sideboard
3 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Ratchet Bomb
2 Skullcrack
2 Burning Earth
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Portent of Betrayal

This deck is mostly a brew, but I heard some stirrings about Goblin Rally with Purphoros and Young Pyromancer and naturally the Timmy in me had to try it out.  People floated around other ideas too, like Legion’s Initiative and Assemble the Legion, but for us die hard Mono Red players, other colors just won’t do.  This deck has had some hilarious games online, I’ve had multiple times where I’ve just cast Purphoros on turn four, Goblin Rally on turn five to do 8 damage, and then played a land on my sixth turn followed by a swing for the remaining 12 life points (double-pumps with Purphoros).  You have a lot of burn to clear blockers, and if they aren’t able to get rid of Young Pyromancer before he puts in some work, you’ll usually have some creatures on the board to supplement your late-game army.  My biggest problem with this list though is that it’s fairly one-dimensional and the mana curve is somewhat clunky although it’s not too far off from traditional Big Red.  I think there’s a lot more you can do here though, because the combo alone is worth playing a deck for it.

Mono Red Heroic

4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Firedrinker Saytr
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Ash Zealot
4 Rubblebelt Maaka

4 Madcap Skills
4 Ordeal of Purphoros
1 Shock

19 Mountain

Sideboard
4 Skullcrack
3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Electrickery
2 Toil // Trouble
2 Mugging
1 Act of Treason

It might be a little too early to go full-blown on a Heroic deck, but I’ve seen a lot of people try online in a lot of different colors.  Here you’re only running Akroan Crusader for the effect, but Ordeal of Purphoros and Madcap Skills are fairly good on their own if you play them around your opponent’s removal.  You certainly take some gambles on both the land count and the control matchup, but the explosiveness of the creatures and the difficulty you create to block them can compensate a bit for this.  It’s a fun list, and worth playing around with if you prefer the faster red decks.  It may need some tweaking on the non-creature side of things, but I think with the burn in the sideboard you can adjust for some of the more difficult matchups.

Mono Red Blitz

4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Firedrinker Saytr
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Rubblebelt Maaka

1 Act of Treason
4 Dynacharge

19 Mountain

Sideboard
4 Skullcrack
3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Mugging
2 Act of Treason
2 Electrickery
1 Toil // Trouble

This Mono Red Blitz deck is almost a straight port of what’s currently successful in MTGO’s RTR tournaments.  You gain Firedrinker Saytr which can give you some greater reach, and Legion Loyalist is probably better than Akroan Crusader once you ditch the Heroic theme.  This is the kind of deck that should be more powerful in the early stages of the format, but I would be very wary of Anger of the Gods.  I’ve seen a lot of this card online, and being one turn faster than a Supreme Verdict is a huge deal.  It’s one of the big reasons I don’t like the Blitzy route, especially now.

New and Old Enemies of the Format

Obzedat Ghost CouncilDesecration DemonWhip of ErebosScavenging OozeMaster of WavesVoice of Resurgence

Red has had to deal with these guys before, and unfortunately they’ve only become better.  G/B and Junk both still have access to most of the good removal they had before outside of Tragic Slip, and now in addition to that they have a Hexproof 0/3 wall that ramps in Sylvan Caryatid.  Firefist Striker, Burn, and Threaten effects can help, but at the end of the day the cards above are pretty challenging to beat on a regular basis.  I’ve seen a lot of new Reanimator decks that use Whip of Erebos as both a reanimation tool and as a way to make Obzedat just absurd.  My Big Red deck has no real answer for this at the moment, and a fourteen point life swing per turn is almost always a sure death.  I’ve even seen people recur the Whip with Pharika’s Mender, or add to the threat level with Reaper of the Wilds.  You could run artifact hate in the sideboard for the Whip, but it would be at the cost of threat density which is usually a big no-no for Mono Red.

Master of Waves is often paired with a blue devotion deck.  Most of the builds I’ve seen online have closely resembled the one talked about in this article by Ryan Hipp.  Good luck beating this without putting in some Ratchet Bombs and/or Electrickery somewhere in your seventy-five.  In one game I played, I had eight creatures on the board and was threatening lethal, when two Master of Waves and Thassa just completely destroyed me.  Master of Waves seems like the new Lingering Souls, and the fact that he’s pro red is just icing on the cake against us.  I expect this style of blue to be public enemy number one in the first stages of the format.

There’s a lot of other stuff out there that has been interesting, from the new Planeswalkers to Mono Black Aggro to Mono White Heroic to updated Naya Midrange lists, so it will take some time to figure out a complete seventy-five and I’m guessing it’s going to be heavy adjustments from week to week.  I look forward to any feedback on Mono Red, and while the road ahead looks difficult, I still expect a competitive list to surface in the very first weekend of major tournaments.  Fanatic of Mogis, Purphoros, God of the Forge, and Stormbreath Dragon will not be denied their seat at the table. . .

– Red Deck Winning 

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “New Friends and New Enemies

  1. My Big Red list is almost identical – 20 Mountain, 4 Mutavault, Zealot, Reckoner, Phoenix, Purphoros, Dragon, Magma Jet/Shock, Strike 3 x Anger/Mortars, 3 x Chandra, 2 x FOT Firebrand/Anihalting Fire – S/B will likely have Earth, Crack, Mutiny as a starting point. I do like the idea of the Frostburn in the 2cc slot, I’ll give him a try :o)

  2. I noticed that none of your decks are using Hammer of Purphoros anywhere in the 75. Too slow? I tested a Sligh variant and each time the Hammer resolved, the deck was far smoother. Making every draw a threat and that really pushed my opponent hard.

    • It’s a possibility, I tested it as a miser card in a few builds but probably didn’t give it a fair shake. I’m hoping to write another article this week if I get time and followup with more thoughts. The one worry is that most of your creatures already have haste and sacrificing a land is a very real cost, but otherwise the card is a reasonable threat and works well in certain builds

      • I think it’s definitely worth testing out, 3 seems a nice number for it. I know that each time I was playing and it didn’t show up, I was wishing it did. Maybe it’s just my tendency to draw lands far far too often then is normal!

  3. Here is my current list for a mono red sligh deck in Theros standard:

    Creatures (24)
    4-Rakdos Cackler
    4-Firedrinker Satyr
    4-Legion Loyalist
    4-Ash Zealot
    4-Firefist Striker
    4-Chandra’s Phoenix

    Planeswalkers (2)
    2-Chandra, Pyromaster

    Instants & Sorceries (12)
    4-Lightning Strike
    4-Shock
    4-Magma Jet

    Lands (22)
    18-Mountain
    4-Mutavault

    Sideboard (15)
    4-Skullcrack
    3-Mizzium Mortars
    3-Burning Earth
    2-Act of Treason
    2-Electrickery
    1-Hammer of Purphoros

    Im writing this very first sentence after I have written this whole comment, so I apologize for its length. I just get on a shpiel, and sometimes, it’s hard for me to stop…Keeping it as consistent of a red deck as possible, I have 12 one drops, 8 two drops, 4 three drops, 2 four drops, 12 removal, and 22 lands. Rakdos Cackler and Firedrinker Satyr are pretty much one mana auto includes since they have 2 power. Legion Loyalist was almost Foundry-Street Denizen, but I feel like he would be better in a deck with cards like Burning-Tree Emissary and Young Pyromancer. Instead I have Ash Zealot and Firefist Striker at the 2cmc slot. Firefist Striker is a pretty good way to deal with cards like Obzedat, Ghost Council, Desecration Demon, Voice of Resurgence, and other annoying blockers. It’s also good with Mutavault, but I’m sure most people know this already. The reason I like Ash Zealot more than I like Burning-Tree Emissary into “insert red 2 drop beatdown creature here” is because usually, you’re rawdogging a lot of power from your hand onto the board. And sometimes, that will come back to bite you. In the past, that strategy has fallen victim to cards like Terminus and Bonfire of the Damned. And now, Anger of the Gods is around to try to keep the leash on us. I feel like a 2 drop haste creature with first strike is very good in more situations. It still applies pressure like 2 non hasty dudes would. It’s good against hyper aggressive mirrors that aren’t running first strike creatures, so we can just block with Ash Zealot w/o losing her. In playing the mirror, I’d much rather my opponent go turn 2 burning-tree into dude, and my turn 2, I play zealot. Ash Zealot keeps us from overextending into something we can’t come back from.

    Four Chandra’s Phoenixes (pronounced “pheen-uh-seas” for those that have always been curious) at the the 3cmc slot in a deck with 22 mana (4 of them being Mutavault) is great for this style of deck. She’s great with 12 removal spells that can potentially go to the nugget if in need of getting her back, and having Chandra, Pyromaster at the 4 slot makes her great too. I prefer her over Boros Reckoner because of the 4 mutavaults in the mana base, it doesn’t say haste, and reckoner getting removed the turn after you play it is a lot worse than your phoenix getting removed the turn after you play it.

    Two Chandra, Pyromaster at the 4 slot for the longest time was Purphoros, God of the Forge. Through some testing, Chandra just may be better in a beatdown strategy. Purphoros seems like one of those cards that might fit better in a shell with Burning-Tree Emissary, Young Pyromancer, and maybe even Boros Reckoner for the extra point of Devotion. Purphoros’ devotion is only kind of relevant, and that’s when your suite of knuckleheads don’t get blown out by spot removal or a sweeper. Chandra, Pyromaster derps blockers, colds x/1s, avoids sweepers, and can generate decent card advantage in concert with Magma Jet, especially.

    For the removal package, we got Searing Spear back, Magma Jet is Bananas (as explained above), and Shock gives you more reach in mirrors/ goes to the face when needed. Pretty straightforward.

    Building a sideboard is still something I feel I am a bit weak at doing. But the cards I’ve included are very important to our strategy in games 2 & 3 against other decks that will inevitably exist in the format. Four Skullcracks hates on Sphinx’ Revelation decks, mono white or W/x aggressive decks, and any other sort of deck that would include a powerful lifegain strategy. Mortars is just solid removal for Loxodon Smiter, Archangl of Thune, and other decks that try to clog the board with multiple x/4’s. Burning Earth is nuts. People have seen the power of it in Innistrad standard. Act of Treason isn’t Mark of Mutiny or Traitorous Blood, but it still steals big guys for 3cmc, and makes opponents pay. Eleckrickery is another tool for us against mirror and mirror-like matches. And the 1 Hammer of Purphoros isn’t the greatest thing, and may well need to be something else, but it’s not bad against a control matchup mid-to-late game.

    • Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make some good observations, I especially liked your point about Anger of the Gods making cards like Burning-Tree and other non-hasties less relevant. Granted, not everyone will have Anger or Supreme Verdict, but so far I don’t see a reason why both wouldn’t be fairly popular.

      A few of my concerns with the list lie mainly in the creature suite. First there’s only 24 creatures, so I could see trouble in activating battalion at times although x4 Mutavault goes a long way. x4 Vault might also be a bit greedy with 22 lands but it certainly pays dividends if you can handle a bit of increased variance when it comes to Mulligan hands. And having x4 Vault is a superb way to combat the sweepers mentioned.

      Boros Reckoner is one or the best cards in the mirror, but you do balance this a bit by having a lot of burn, which is also another tactic that I have often employed to win that matchup. I think overall your list makes a lot of sense and is definitely the style that I like to play. I’m a little worried about running 12 one drops with anger and big creatures running around, but I suppose it’s not a lot different than running burning tree and a bunch of do-nothing two drops.

      In the sideboard the only cards I think I’d ponder over are Burning Earth and Electrickery. I think because there are going to be less greedy manabases, Burning Earth’s value has gone down a lot. I’d rather run more hammers, chandra’s, or purphoros. Electrickery was stellar when aristocrats and lingering souls decks existed, but I think it’s probably a little narrow now, being basically useable against white Weenie. Most aggro players in my experience side out one drops depending on play/draw, so it becomes even less relevant post board. Here I’d rather have a fourth mortars for some of the really annoying cards and potentially the mirror, or flames of the firebrand, or ratchet bomb for selesnya, or some anti mirror tech (I’ve been semi impressed with peak eruption so far and that surprised me although I’m not wild about it yet).

      Thanks again, I think I will take your list for a spin next time I do testing. Definitely a lot of fun things going on and looks better than Adam Yurchick’s list which I went woefully 8-6 with tonight on stream

  4. Thanks for the feedback on the deck. I have had more time to test it some myself, and am still very pleased with what the maindeck has done. Your suggestion of the 4th Mizzium Mortars in the sb is very good. I bring it in in the correct matchups, and I have found it every time I wanted it. I did go down to 3 skullcracks from 4 since the abundance of lifegain decks sort of went away with ‘tusk and resto leaving the format. I am still liking 2 Hammer of Purphoros. Used ’em against a U/W player yesterday and they did some work (and so did Chandra). I’m currently running 2 smelt because I found some of the gods’ weapons to be troublesome (ie. Spear of Heliod), and a 1 mana instant seems like a good way to combat that. I considered splashing R/G shocklands and maybe 2 scry lands for Destructive Revelry, but I’m not sold on that. I squeezed in 2 Ratchet Bomb and also 2 Flames of the Firebrand. So my current sb looks like this:

    4 Mizzium Mortars
    3 Skullcrack
    2 Hammer of Purphoros
    2 Ratchet Bomb
    2 Smelt
    2 Flames of the Firebrand

    A friend suggested making room for a 3rd Chandra in the sb, and I kind of agree. Just gives me another tool against decks running Supreme Verdict. A flames would probably come out.

  5. Thanks for taking the deck for a spin. Watched it go after I got home from work. Legion Loyalist can make me sad sometimes too :/ I had considered just running Foundry Street Denizen just to be swinging for 2 consistently, and then just siding loyalist in for matchups that it’s better in.

  6. I like your Big red list but i am a little bit on a budget and decided to make some change to reduce the cost a little. I already have 4 Boros Reckoner, 2 Stormbreath Dragon, 3 Chandra pyro and 4 mutavault. I can not really buy any more expensive creature to complete it (for now). I would like to have an opinion on this:

    4 Frostburn Weird
    4 Boros Reckoner
    4 Chandra’s Phoenix
    3 Fanatic of Mogis (or Ember Swallower?)
    2 Stormbreath Dragon
    2 Wrecking Ogre (or Scourge of Valkas?)

    4 Shock
    4 Lightning Strike
    4 Magma Jet
    1 Portent of Betrayal

    3 Chandra, Pyromaster

    21 Mountain
    4 Mutavault

    Sideboard
    4 Skullcrack
    3 Ratchet Bomb
    2 Burning Earth
    2 Anger of the Gods
    2 Mizzium Mortars
    2 Pithing Needle

    Basically i need to replace 3 gods and 2 dragons by something cheaper for now but not sure what to use… The Wrecking ogre would probably be used bloodrushed as a finisher most of the time. So it would be Ogre+Fanatic for more spike dmg but weaker to Anger. Or Ember+Scourge for less spike but more resilience. Think this could work? If not, any suggestion?

    I added Pithing Needle to the SB, seemed like a good idea…?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s