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Standard Red Revisions


This past week, I've played quite a bit of Red, in large part thanks to my favorite card in Throne of Eldraine:

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

When I did The Red Review for this set, I pegged the card as my pick for "The Card to Watch", and the more I play it, the more I just love how impressive it is. There are so many moments where I've cast it, and my opponent immediately died.

It's been exciting.

Head back to last week, and I took the version I've been playing most recently for a spin in the "Win Every Card in Standard" event that was on Arena, where twelve wins would award the player, well, every card in Standard. I came up just short, with eleven wins, running this deck in the Best of One event:

Calamity Red | Eldraine Standard | Adrian Sullivan, 11-2 Win Every Card

This list was a slight evolution from the version I'd published the previous week, but it was basically in the entirety of the same philosophy - a lot of cheap haste, a lot of generation of small creatures, backed up by Torbran and Cavalcade of Calamity. This build shifted ever so slightly from the build prior to it by cutting one of the most revered cards in the deck - Chandra's Spitfire - in favor of an eleventh 1-drop.

After the near miss at winning all the Standard cards, I was streaming with the deck, getting record numbers for me - special thanks to Caleb Durward and Wyatt Darby for my stream hitting 1,600 people thanks to the folks you sent my way - and just discovering, again and again, that the positive of Chandra's Spitfire were being outweighed by the negatives.

Basically, as Golos has been the centerpiece of Standard, Chandra's Spitfire has just been languishing for me. Between Arboreal Grazer and Hydroid Krasis, it was almost never actually successfully pulling off an attack, without even considering the way it poorly lined up against Teferi, Time Raveler, and always seemingly died to Realm-Cloaked Giant. Nearly every time I drew it, I either was clearly better off with another card, or I had to make a decision to take a big risk and hope that the Spitfire worked out.

On top of that, I had already felt quite glutted at my 3-drop spot, so after the stream ended with a few level-ups, I passed my viewers into the capable hands of Luis Salvatto and thought long and hard about whether or not I could make Chandra's Spitfire work out.

I cut it entirely.

This is the current updated version of my Calamity Red deck; the singleton Slaying Fire might be the newest card in the main deck, and while I know I might ultimately stick with it, I'm also considering several other cards for that slot. The most conservative would be a fourth Legion Warboss - a card that I already like, and a card that neatly fits the philosophy of what this deck might want to do. More wild choices exist, from creature pump to cheap creatures that might have a marginal ability, but none have captured my imagination. I've also thought about a third Scampering Scorcher, but I'm already hesitant to increase the curve very high, and that might just be too much, despite the high land count of twenty-two.

Those twenty-two land do mean we get to be a little extravagant with them. I'd felt completely great with that count, and the fourth Castle Embereth seemed almost "free" of a sort, while also very occasionally pulling out a bit more damage than one would expect. Eventually, however, I came to the conclusion that despite really wanting the extra land, both for the more expensive sideboard plans and for a deck with a fair amount of more expensive cards, I was still flooding. The Mobilized District felt like a really great solution to this. I'm still contemplating turning another land into a second Mobilized District, but there is a shocking amount of times you really do make use of rrr or even rrrr in a turn.

I went into some of the main deck a bit last week, so I'll focus more on the sideboard for now.

There are a fairly large number of cards in the sideboard that directly deal damage. This is in large part due to the increase in decks that are actually quite good at putting forth a scary threatening creature. The most important of these is probably the Questing Beast. This card, all by itself, causes the deck an utter nightmare, putting forth a sizable clock and simultaneously playing great defense. The Questing Beast decks, in their many varieties, typically have a great many very large targets, so shifting over into a much more controlling deck is actually quite reasonable in some number of games.

Lava Coil has long proved its use, but Slaying Fire is also worth a slot, filling a double roll of being great at taking out creatures, or a decent sideboard card for when you're trying to accomplish some reach. Chandra's Outrage hasn't had nearly as much respect as it deserves; I've used the card in the past to great effect, and was so impressed by the card I had it in a sideboard of an Extended deck, just before that format rotated out many years ago. I've thought about Searing Barrage to accomplish similar goals of advancing a game toward and end point while removing a creature, but that fifth mana can be quite prohibitive, and I'm not looking for a card like this against Golos.

Claim the Firstborn has been very effective, both against all of the racing scenarios with small creatures, and also against the many 'X' creatures, which typically seem to be far, far more large than would at all be reasonable to deal with. This can be a particularly powerful play against Hydroid Krasis as a way to just potentially end the game in a single swing; it is even more so the case against Voracious Hydra if it has doubled its counters.

I've never wanted to draw Cosmotronic Wave more than once, and with that kind of diminishing returns, I'm quite content with just a single copy. At times, the bonus damage can end up being really relevant, like when you take out opposing Elementals or the like, but basically you are just playing this card as an expensive Falter. Tectonic Rift is another possible option for this slot, though if you go that route, I think it might actually become reasonable to run more copies.

This deck has been treating me incredibly well, and I'm planning on putting a bit more work into it as the metagame further expands. One of the things I really love about the deck is that in Game 1, it often feels like you are a large favorite against anything slow that isn't immediately considering the fastest decks. If your metagame is more full on with creature decks, I'd probably shift over to another Red deck I saw the other day that was a bit more traditional.

This deck goes for the straightforward Red Aggro plan that we're generally accustomed to, but backs it up with a lot of Burn instead. Torbran is similarly good in this deck, but gains a lot from the ability to simply just go to the head. If I were to do anything with Poyo_del_Mal's list, it would probably be pretty simple small shifts, like changing out Fervent Champion to Tin Street Dodger, which seems better to me in such a burn-heavy list, and perhaps playing with the sideboard.

The future looks bright for Red. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is a fantastic card. Even if you choose to go another direction without Torbran, there is a quite strong selection of Red cards that I think can very easily be tuned to attack any particular local Standard metagame. I hope you'll join me in my aggressive return to Red, and flame on!

- Adrian Sullivan

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