The new red menace

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The world is constantly changing. People grow old, governments change, buying coffee at Tim Hortons becomes a huge mistake — all seemingly overnight. Standard might be the same, and many of the strategies considered to be overwhelmingly powerful one week might be left out to dry the very next.

There are, however, two constants amid this torrent of change: I will always try to register an unplayable control deck at every single event and there will always be a red aggressive deck. It’s not like anyone forgot about Hazoret, but with all the hype surrounding Llanowar Elves and History of Benalia, it’s easy to ignore the noble Bomat Courier as a relic of formats past, clinging to ancient glory. Then your opponent wraths you with a Goblin Chainwhirler and remind you in chat to never again disrespect the basic Mountain.

Red might not be the flashiest deck in the format, but it still has all the tools it needs to remain powerful. As Jeff Cunningham showed us with his dominance of the trophy leaderboard pre-Dominaria, all that red needs to do to win is continuously adapt to the metagame with which it is presented.

This week, I’ll break down how we should be building Red for the current metagame, rife with History of Benalia, Karn, Llanowar Elves, and Teferi. Since you all seem to love it, you can even have a dreaded sideboard guide.

Mono-Red Aggro – Daniel Fournier

Most of these cards are pretty stock at this point, but I have a few major points of contention with a lot of the red lists that have been popular as of late.

First off, everyone’s playing piles of Lightning Strikes with very few Abrades to be found. Given that the most popular card in the format seems to be Heart of Kiran, and almost every matchup has juicy removal targets, why are we making this decision? For the pre-board games against control? No thanks, I’d rather beat every Aethersphere Harvester than play a card that’s a marginal upgrade at best in rare circumstances where you’re looking to burn people out. Never mind the fact that your Gift matchup turns from un-winnable to un-losable when you have Abrade in your aggressive deck.

I’m also seeing a bunch of 23-land maindecks lately. This is seems very loose to me, as Hazoret and Khenra are secretly very effective mana sinks, and one of the easiest ways to lose with this deck is to not be able to cast each of your spells on curve, especially as you mulligan aggressively. You want to be able to board into Glorybringer, and the extra land slots in the deck can be a utility land anyways, so you might as well capitalize on this.

There are a few unique things going on here. Fight with Fire has become mainstream as the best answer to Lyra Dawnbringer, but it also does double duty killing the various x/4s coming in out of Mono-Green. A cool fact is that many Lyra decks are going to have Settle the Wreckage against you, and Fight with Fire’s kicker punishes someone letting you have too many lands.

Fiery Cannonade was Jeff Cunningham’s innovation to fight against the popular Sram’s Expertise decks pre-Dominaria. We don’t have much of that card going around anymore, but it’s still the most effective answer we have to History of Benalia, and the tempo swing it provides in those matchups is not to be underrated. Dire Fleet Daredevil is part of this package, either a play on curve that survives your eventual Cannonade, or a Shriekmaw in certain situations. Remember that if your U/W opponent plays a bunch of cards like Commit//Memory or Blink of an Eye, the Daredevil can be an answer to Lyra.

There’s not much else to say about this deck at this point, so let’s hop into some sideboarding strategies.

Vs Mono-Red or R/B Aggro
+3 Dire Fleet Daredevil
+2 Glorybringer
+2 Aethersphere Harvester
-4 Bomat Courier
-3 Ahn-Crop Crasher

Vs U/W Control
+3 Fight with Fire
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
-4 Shock
-4 Abrade

Vs U/W Flash
+3 Fight with Fire
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
-4 Shock
-2 Goblin Chainwhirler

Vs WB Vehicles
On the play:
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+3 Fight with Fire
-3 Shock
-3 Ahn-Crop Crasher

On the draw:
+3 Fight with Fire
+3 Fiery Cannonade
+3 Dire Fleet Daredevil
+2 Glorybringer
-4 Bomat Courier
-3 Ahn-Crop Crasher
-4 Earthshaker Khenra

This plan is predicting which side of their deck they’ll be presenting post-board on the play and on the draw. If you think Toolcraft and Scrapheap Scrounger won’t be making much of an appearance, then you probably don’t want Fiery Cannonade in. Use your discretion here — our plan as well as theirs are both works in progress. If they’re a Knights version of the deck with Dauntless Bodyguard, then always use the Fiery Cannonade plan.

Vs Red or U/R Gift
+2 Glorybringer
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+2 Aethersphere Harvester
-2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
-3 Ahn-Crop Crasher

Vs B/G Constrictor
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+3 Fight with Fire
-4 Bomat Courier
-2 Ahn-Crop Crasher

Vs Mono-Green
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+3 Fight with Fire
+1 Aethersphere Harvester
-4 Bomat Courier
-3 Ahn-Crop Crasher

Vs Bant Midrange
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+3 Fight with Fire
-4 Bomat Courier
-2 Ahn-Crop Crasher

Vs U/W Gift
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+1 Scavenger Grounds
-4 Shock

Vs U/B/x Midrange
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+3 Dire Fleet Daredevil
-4 Shock
-3 Soul-Scar Mage

Vs U/B/x Control
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+3 Dire Fleet Daredevil
+1 Fight with Fire
-4 Shock
-4 Abrade

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