Silvestri Says – Red Deck Mostly Wins

While we wait for more Theros spoilers before we can really take a look at the new format, there’s still another month of old Standard left to be played. While I’ve taken my yearly pilgrimage to the bots to sell off the majority of my Standard cards already, I did leave behind the cards to play UW and an old favorite…

[deck]Main Deck
18 Mountain
2 Mutavault
4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Firefist Striker
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
2 Hellrider
4 Shock
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Searing Spear
2 Brimstone Volley
1 Zealous Conscripts
4 Curse of the Pierced Heart
2 Mizzium Mortars
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Boros Reckoner
2 Mountain[/deck]

If you play MTGO, you probably recognize this type of red deck from various Daily Events, I just copied a _megafone_ list and went from there. I tweaked it a little bit and adopted it to the online metagame. This is why the sideboard looks a bit weird and how [card]Burning Earth[/card] ended up getting cut from the deck (more on that later) while [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] enjoys a full ride. On the other hand [card]Burning Earth[/card] got ditched when I realized I was only boarding them in every eight to ten matches. Later, once I got the data, I realized it was only good against one of the top seven most played archetypes, which says volumes about how much MTGO has warped against red and RG. [card]Curse of the Pierced Heart[/card] is better against slow grindy decks and has the benefit of being better in multiples since they only cost 1R.

Sideboarding Mountains over [card]Mutavault[/card] was an easy choice once I realized just how often I wanted to board in [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], and I may go back to maining them at some point. For right now though, they do great as sideboard help against red and RG.

I got a huge kick out of playing such a simple Red Deck Wins archetype, because by removing all the major distractions you can optimize your play toward one goal. Putting the opponent to 0 before you get there. Hurr durr thanks for the obvious Josh, be less dumb kthx. What I really mean when I say this is that this kind of deck lets you really focus on getting the finer details right and finding the optimal line every single turn. There’s nowhere else to waste mental energy, and unorthodox plays that normally don’t come to mind are suddenly clear. When playing more complicated aggro decks like old Goblins, Affinity, and others, it’s easier to lose sight of your goal, and instead you settle for only looking for a good play and not the best one.

You see it a lot in control decks and it’s why the masters of the craft are as well known, aggro has very few equivalent players because people don’t tend to master one archetype. Patrick Sullivan is the most notable of these players and he’s mastered playing an archetype that will always be good at one point or another in the future. Magic’s metagames continually cycle, so classic archetypes have their day in the sun again unless their key mechanics are simply written out of the game. Sorry for the low blow people who loved games ending while locked under [card]Sphere of Resistance[/card] or [card]Armageddon[/card] facing down 8 damage on turn four.

[draft]rakdos cackler[/draft]

A lot has been said about maximizing damage with red and yet very little gets written about how to shape a race or goad people to over or under-extend their own forces. [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] stands out as an illustration of this, thanks to the unleash ability. I’m in constant amazement at what players online infer when they see a [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] leashed. People read it as desperation or an effort to win a race by chump blocking, very few ever see it as a lure. They aren’t looking for the reasoning why in the moment, rather they look back on what players have typically done and go from there. I understand this sounds a little silly, but more than one player has decided on abysmal attacks in large part because my board seemed unthreatening and I played Cackler in a way that feigned weakness.

[draft]chandra’s phoenix[/draft]

[card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] can serve a similar role at times, other than being a solid evasive attacker it can serve on defense for little loss if you have a burn spell in hand and don’t mind reinvesting the mana. Sometimes you just need to chump multiple times in a row to save enough life to win a race. Against deck with larger creatures where you can die in 2-3 attacks, so just waiting for the last one is not a strong play. Cards like [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card], [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card], and [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] make waiting a rather poor plan unless you have another card to play to ensure your survival.

Part of winning these races and keeping people from killing you is managing your life total in much the same way as a control player does. In the control player’s case they want to trade life for cards and in your case while you can do that, you primarily are going to trade life for life. Every extra attack step you get is worth a certain amount and it’s up to you to properly evaluate that against your cards. Value them just as much as you do the burn spells in your hand. Everyone seemed to learn that lesson early on, but this is a combat dominated world currently and being good at combat and race math is just as important.

Standard on Magic Online

Once again, Rolle has provided an interesting birds-eye look at the metagame by giving me data on over 34k matches over three weeks. I love seeing this kind of data, simply because we rarely get a look at so many matches.

Total Games

Avg Turns

Avg Lands Played

Avg Win Land

Avg Lose Land

Win % on Play

Win % on Draw

Here’s the deck win %’s for everything that sees play of at least 2% or more of the field.

Notably, GR and the various RWB Aristocrat decks have the highest win percentage and Kibler’s deck continues to be the most played deck on Magic Online. It blows me away how close all the decks are in win percentage, though we can clearly see some front-runners in the field. A week ago I told Todd Anderson that Jund wasn’t doing all that great online and it pulled together quite nicely in the past week. The GR deck was clearly the breakout we wanted to see before the end of Standard, but Jund is still piling up wins for itself. Bant Hexproof does fine online despite players absolutely despising the concept and it show that the GP win wasn’t a fluke.

What interests me is that RBW Aristocrats deck keeps chugging along. Rolle told me that he noticed the deck was doing well and would follow the progress of it and so far it seems to be the best deck for the online metagame for the past few weeks, and by a clear margin. Which makes some sense, Sam Pardee has been playing the deck for quite some time and tells me it has a solid red match and doesn’t outright lose any of the midrange mirrors. Considering the online metagame breakdown of decks played, that’s probably the best you can really do.

By next week ,I’m hoping we have enough cards out that we can start making reasonable predictions about #PoRo Standard. Until then, [card]Aetherling[/card] and [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] are good, [card]Thragtusk[/card] and checklands are leaving, and removal gets worse. There, I saved you some time.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: [email protected]


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