Festival Crasher caused a small stir in Pauper when it was released in Midnight Hunt, as it signaled that a dormant archetype, Izzet/Mono-Red Blitz, might make a comeback. While it has shown up from time to time since Gush was banned, Izzet Blitz has long been on the outs. The deck used Gush and cheap spells to power up both Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops to win the game in one turn with Temur Battle Rage.
While Festival Crasher was no Gush, it did provide some much needed redundancy to the deck. Izzet Blitz did not make a huge comeback in the wake of our first visit to Innistrad this year, but Crimson Vow gave the macro-strategy – Kiln Fiend and Temur Battle Rage – two powerful options in Ancestral Anger and Reckless Impulse. The pair provided red card which begged the question – is running blue necessary? The answer turned out to be no.
Pauper Mono-Red Blitz by epikfrog
I first played this Festival Crasher deck before Crimson Vow but when the set hit Magic Online, I quickly updated the build. Ancestral Anger and Reckless Impulse give the deck significantly more velocity and access to a cheap reload mechanism – something sorely lacking since Gush got banned. After a few league runs and consulting with friends, I settled on this list:
Pauper Mono-Red Blitz by Alex Ullman
Despite being focused on its primary plan of attacking with a large creature, the deck actually has a few paths to victory. The first is the traditional Temur Battle Rage kill of getting to a high enough power and doing the double strike and trample dance. The second is plausible in part because of Ancestral Anger. While Crash Through can also give creatures trample and draw a card, Anger has the advantage of granting you additional points of power. The result is that it becomes much easier to build up past 20 points of power and just attack without the benefit of Temur Battle Rage. There is another avenue to victory that relies on yet another Crimson Vow card in Kessig Flamebreather. In these games, you try to plink in for enough damage early that cycling through spells with Flamebreather can deal the final few points.
Due to the relative speed of Pauper these days, thanks in part to Affinity, it’s important to get on the board as quickly as possible. While the original deck ran Rite of Flame, I found Lotus Petal to be a better option as it lacks a mana investment up front. This can be important with Reckless Impulse as you do not need mana available to resolve the Petal. Being able to stick a Festival Crasher or Kiln Fiend on turn one is incredibly potent as it can lead to a turn two kill.
The early game with this deck is all about establishing and protecting a threat. Unless you know for a fact your opponent is running Galvanic Blast, you want to lead with Kiln Fiend as it can survive most turn one-toughness based removal spells with Mutagenic Growth. If you believe your opponent does have access to Galvanic Blast, lead on Festival Crasher or wait to resolve a threat until you can leave up Apostle’s Blessing as well. Once a threat is established, the entire game becomes about casting enough spells to win the game.
With Kiln Fiend and Temur Battle Rage, your magic number is three: you need to cast three total spells, including Battle Rage, to have a lethal threat. Festival Crasher asks quite a bit more – five total spells to be lethal on its own. A Crasher with four spells, however, is enough to deal 18 on its own, so not out of the realm of possibility. You want to look for ways to shrink this spell count – Mutagenic Growth does a solid job of reducing the load and every Lava Dart or Gut Shot pointed at your opponent’s life total makes your job that much easier.
If you’re able to get two threats out, everything changes. Your spell count goes down but you have to figure out where to spread the damage. With a Crasher and a Fiend on the board, I will often target Crasher with power buffs to have two more sizable threats. Ancestral Anger is key in these scenarios as you want to make sure that your trample threat can do enough. Temur Battle Rage is a fairy godmother in this scenario, making everything okay.
In almost every instance you want to cast spells on your turn to get the maximum value out of your attacks. Lava Dart presents the most exemptions to this rule as you will sometimes fire it off on your opponent’s end step just to conserve your mana on your combo turn. Mana is often a pinch point with the deck. Since you only need two or three mana to win it runs the bare minimum, so every mana saved on your turn counts.
Blitz is also quite good at sculpting its hand. Faithless Looting shows off its power in this deck, allowing you to keep risky hands with the payoff coming down the line. Reckless Impulse is at its best on turn three where you can hit a land drop or exile two of your two drops to set up a potential turn five kill. Ancestral Anger and Manamorphose also help you churn through your deck and can help to set up a natural 20 kill with Fists of Flame.
Due to the way this deck is constructed, it rarely takes any role other than the beatdown. It wants to mulligan any hand that does not have a high probability of sticking a threat on the second turn of the game. Since Blitz is redundant and has a number of ways to filter through its deck, it can go to six or even five cards with relative ease. Openers with clean kills are ideal, but the best starting hands are those that have a threat and a way to protect it – there are enough cheap spells in the deck to win with ease, but you need to keep your creatures alive to have a shot.
It should come as no surprise that black-based removal is your nemesis. Mutagenic Growth does a great job at stopping Lightning Bolt and can help against other toughness-based removal. Cast Down, Chainer’s Edict and Snuff Out, however, are a rough time. Dimir Faeries is a nightmare matchup as it not only packs these kill spells but also cheap countermagic and Blue Elemental Blast/Hydroblast in the sideboard. Against just about anything else the meta can throw at you, you will have a chance.