Sullivan Red at #SCGRICH by Andrew Frank

A guest feature article by follower Andrew Frank who recently went 6-3 to make Day 2 at the Starcitygames SCG Richmond Open and was featured in a deck tech.  Andrew and John brewed up the ideas for the deck and tested prior to the event, this is Andrew’s post-tournament report.

Sullivan Red at #SCGRICH by Andrew Frank

Here is a brief tournament report from my run at the Richmond Open, as well as some thoughts about the deck.

Andrew’s Deck Tech and Decklist

Day 1

R1 – GB Aggro – (win; 2-0)

This went the way most of the GB matchups did, I killed all the creatures they played and played my own menace creatures, chipped in a lot of damage and burned them out when they stabilized.  In game 2 they were unable to block enough menace creatures to avoid lethal.


R2 – GB Aggro – (win; 2-0)

A fast start out of the gates and once again killing their creatures as I could made for a relatively easy victory.


R3 – GB Aggro – (win; 2-1)

In game 1 I swung in with the team, losing almost all of them to put my opponent to 2.  I had just enough life to survive the crackback.  I knew that at that point I just needed to draw any one of a million outs; either a 2 power creature or a burn spell, and sure enough, Shock came to the party to save the day.  Game 2 he made massive creatures with Gearhulk and I couldn’t get them off the board.  Game 3 was a fast start that chipped in enough damage to get him in burn range.


R4 – 4-color Saheeli (loss; 0-2 vs Caleb Scherer)

Caleb Shearer dismantled me with ease, though the saddest part was melding a Writhing Township only to have it be tapped down by an Elder Deep-Fiend.  It didn’t help that I horribly mis-sideboarded.  After this round John and I discussed better ways to sideboard against the combo; staying aggressive while bringing in Devour in Flames to try and end the game as soon as possible and immediately kill any combo piece.


R5 – GB Aggro – (win; 2-0)

Ah yes, another GB deck.  I came out aggressively game 1 and eventually melded a Writhing Township to seal victory.  Game 2 I  was able to stick a Chandra and kill all his creatures.  Later Chandra went ultimate, which allowed me to cast both a hasty Skyship Stalker and a Release the Gremlins for 0 to deal 10 damage and finish the match.


R6 – Jeskai Saheeli – (win; 2-1)

My opponent killed me on turn 4 in game 1 with the combo and only saw Sin Prodder.  Game 2 I used the sideboard advice from John and was able to be aggressive and burn him out with a Flame Lash.  Game 3 I disrupted the combo with instant speed removal and was able to stay the aggressor yet again.


R7 – Temur Eldrazi – (loss; 0-2)

This deck took me by surprise and his combination of big creatures, removal and Drowner of Hope/Elder Deep-Fiend felt really hard to beat.  I pushed him to a single digit life total in the second game but couldn’t close it out.


R8 – GB Aggro – (loss; 1-2)

I swiftly took game 1, but lost game 2 as he was able to dump a pile of Gearhulks, Demons and Ballistas on the table.  Game 3 I attacked with a pumped Stalker for exactly lethal as I knew I was going to die the next turn and he had to have removal to win.  Last card in his hand was. . .

Grasp of Darkness.  Better luck next time.


R9 – UR Dynaovlt – (win; 2-1)

Pressure cooker time.  I knew I had to win this round to make Day 2.  I mulled to 5 in game 1 and my opponent countered everything I was doing and killed me with multiple Gearhulks.  Game 2 I managed to stay ahead of a Dynavolt Tower and killed him with creatures.  Game 3 I used Release the Gremlins to kill his early Tower and he was way behind from then on out.

6-3, Advance!

Day 2

While Day 2 was an unfortunate turnaround from Day 1, it was mostly on my end.  My game simply wasn’t as sharp and had I played better it was very likely we’d have a few more “Ws” on the finishing stat line.

R10 – 4 Color Saheeli (loss; 0-2)

I played poorly and my opponent navigated the round well to exhaust me of my removal before playing the combo in both games.


R11 – Jeskai Saheeli (loss; 0-2)

This felt similar to the previous round, opponent played well while I did not and was able to combo off on me.


R12 – GB Aggro (loss; 1-2)

I lost game 1, won game 2, but in game 3 with my opponent at 2 life my deck failed to deliver.


R13 – Jeskai Saheeli (loss; 0-2)

I kept slow hands with not enough interaction and was combo’d out.  This was a matchup I was hoping to have more time to test prior to the tournament and it showed, something to definitely work on for the future.


R14 – GB Aggro (win; 2-1)

I was able to use the combination of menace and burn to chip in damage and win despite him getting out Ishkanah with delirium every game.  Devour in Flames and Sin Prodder were especially important, helping me overcome insurmountable odds.


R15 – 4-color Colossus (loss; 1-2)

Played against my friend Brandon (the other deck tech from Day 1).  I got him to 4 in game 1 by being as aggressive as possible but he was able to get a lethal Colossus out the turn before I could kill him.  Game 2 featured a blazing fast opener and I was able to win through two Fumigates.  Game 3 I kept too slow of a hand and he was able to answer everything before killing me yet again with Colossus.



Looking back, the deck felt great.  I think there are different directions to take the list and I plan on putting in heavy man hours to get it to where it needs to be.  I think the area that could use the most improvement is the sideboard.  More instant speed removal would help, as well as ways to deal with bigger creatures.  The one-drops can be trimmed down possibly as they are miserable late draws most of the time.

Splashing Black for Glint Sleeve Siphoner and Unlicensed Disintegration could give the deck a bit more gas as well as unconditional removal.  White could be used for Thalia and Authority of the Consuls to combat Saheeli.  Colorless for Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer would open up some aggressive angles.  My concern is the mana may become much worse, taking away from the deck’s advantage of a fluid engine.  Like I said, the cards are on MTGO now so I plan on testing all these configurations.


This is an overall snapshot of how I was sideboarding, but it will be subject to change as the list evolves.

GB Aggro:

I normally would cut Shocks and Falkenrath Gorgers for the Devour in Flames, Harnessed Lightning and Flame Lash.  Depending on their build I might also find ways in for Destructive Tampering (Ishkanah or Gearhulk), 1 Release the Gremlins (Gearhulk and Ballista) and/or Lightning Axe (lots of high toughness creatures like Mindwrack Demon and Ishkanah).  The plan is to slow down a little and focus more on killing everything they play while you develop your board.  They generally only play one creature at a time for the beginning and middle of the game so you should be able to keep their board clear or at parity so your menace creatures are unblockable.  I normally play creatures in increasing order of importance since if you assume they always have a removal spell for your guys, you want to save the best for last.  Generally this means I play Sin Prodders before Garrisons but that can be build specific.  Killing Winding Constrictor on first sight is of the utmost importance; he’s their number one card to run away with a game if left unchecked.  As the game progresses focus less on burning their creatures and more on burning them, or holding back burn for a final push.

Saheeli Combo:

This is where the deck could use the most help.  On paper it feels like this should be a good matchup, and it is very possible I played the matchup incorrectly, as I always struggled with the Twin matchup in Modern.  In general the plan is to hold back instant speed removal and use sorcery speed removal on your turn to dodge the combo.  You also want to go faster than them to put them on the defensive if possible.  There is the normal combo deck tension of wanting to hold up an answer but also develop your board.  My rule is generally if you are playing to not lose you will not win.

I cut the Harnessed Lightning and Goblin Dark-Dwellers for Devour in Flames, Lightning Axe, and Flame Lash.  Since some of the decks run Shock I often considered cutting some number of Sin Prodders for Collective Defiance and/or Release the Gremlins (for their Gearhulks).  One thought I’ve been toying with for this matchup is to create a madness package post-board with Fiery Temper and Lightning Axe (upping numbers on the latter).  This would give the deck a little bit more instant-speed interaction and reach, while also being able to deal with both halves of the combo and synergizing with Insolent Neonate.  Implement of Combustion could be another option since it is an early play, can be held up easily and is uncounterable damage to break up the combo (unless they have Disallow).  Still messing with this matchup and I feel if this can be improved then the deck will be strongly positioned in the meta.


Similar gameplan to Saheeli combo, you want to go faster and bring in all the burn.  You transform more into a burn deck and try to get under them before they can start countering your spells and removing your creatures.

Mardu Vehicles:

I haven’t played against vehicles yet, but on paper we have a lot of control elements to meddle with their tempo and can be transformational post-board.  I would probably cut the Gorgers, Neonates and maybe Dark-Dwellers for Destructive Tampering, Release the Gremlins, Flame Lash, Harnessed Lightning, Lightning Axe and possibly Collective Defiance.

Thanks for reading!

– Andrew Frank

7 thoughts on “Sullivan Red at #SCGRICH by Andrew Frank

  1. I’ve always been wary of the straight-up Mono-Red Aggro options right now because they can get dismantled by control if your draws aren’t perfect. My usual list is BR Burn, which has a good average against control (it won Kaladesh Game Day). Every time I played a creature-based red deck in Kaladesh I auto-lost to control. My list was very similar to this one.

    As for the new Saheeli combo, I can’t really comment on that because I’ve played against it once (2-0 against Jeskai Saheeli with BR Burn). I think a big advantage I have currently is a playset of Unlicensed Disintegration, due to Vehicles being such a challenge for the abundance of Sorceries in red right now.

    I’m loving these articles. They’re giving me a lot to think about. Thanks for writing this!

  2. I listened to the podcast covering the deck and read the article. Thank you for the deck tech and the information in this article!

    Regarding the Saheeli Combo matchup, I don’t know about going with a madness package. It feels (to me) too much like Magical Christmas Land to have madness at the ready whenever you need to deal with the combo.

    Also, siding in Implement of Combustion feels like we’re not really building on what the deck wants to do. I know it could break up the combo, but early in the game it means that we take a turn off to cast it. Also, one thing I’ve read from pro players about deck building is that you never build a sideboard to beat a single card. In this case, adding Implement of Combustion seems like we would be doing exactly that (a card in our sideboard to kill Saheeli).

    I’ve proxied the deck and played against my son a little bit, so not a lot of reps. The only changes so far are to take out the Gorgers from the sideboard and add another Lightning Axe and one Tears of Valakut (Heart of Kiran, Aethersphere Harvester, Archangel Avacyn, Mindwrack Demon, Herald of Anguish, and so on). For a more controlling aspect against tokens and Mardu Vehicles, we have toyed with a couple of Kozilek’s Return in the sideboard, but we’re not sure what to take out if we go in that direction.

    Adding a color doesn’t seem great. The deck gets clunkier, but we can gain some better removal or planeswalker control.

    Just some thoughts. Thanks, again!

  3. I’ve ran a version of this running 4 shock, 4 Axe, 4 Temper, 2 Hungry Flames. I get wrecked by Combo, Vehicles, and Jund Aggro. GB isnt that hard though. Even with the instant speed answers, turn 3- 4 you are on the back foot a lot. What changes have you made for the current meta? With fatal push and unlicensed d in the meta I think the old go wide mono red is better. I’ll post my version of the deck along with sideboard later tonight.

    • I think the deck still has some legs against them but we have been doing MTGO testing this week to try a few things. Will update soon 🙂

  4. I wonder how can red player handle enchanment in std right now. I faced “pia revolution” deck on fnm, it has very good synergy using pia revolution, ravenous intruder, reckless fireweaver, embral gear smasher, etc.
    My question is:
    1. What do you think about pia revolution deck?
    2. What is sullivan red strategy when facing pia revo deck?
    3. How can mono red player handle enchanment in std?
    4. i tested this deck few times and get floded sometime, do you think 24 land can still run the deck?
    Thanks very much

  5. I read the article and heard yalls pod cast and loved it! The menace red build is Awsome and ive come up with one of my own. I just call it red/black energy/menace!
    Creatures 20
    4x insolent neonate
    4x glint sleeve siphoner
    4x walking ballista
    4x sin prodder
    2 x kalitas traitor of ghet
    2x goblin dark dwellers

    Artifacts 2
    2x aethersphere harvester

    Instant’s 11
    4x unlicensed disintegration
    4x harnessed lightning
    3x fatal push

    Sorcerys 2
    2x live fast

    Chandra torch of defiance/ Lilly/ ob nix. Not sure what i want here or maybe just another fatal push

    Lands 25
    4x smoldering marsh
    4x forebonding ruins
    4x aether hub
    1x blitted fen
    6x swamp
    6x mountain

    I love to hear yalls feed back on this. Im also working on that eldrazi build yall were talking about

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