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Going Deep on Red in Wilds of Eldraine Standard


Parable of the Red Deck

Once upon a time there was a Red Deck player; excited at his opening hand. "I have Kumano Faces Kakkazan" he realized at a first glance, rocking back and forth in his chair, initially giddy.

"Oh dear," said Our Hero (audibly this time, if to himself). "I haven't got a follow-up on turn two."

Red mages since the printing of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty have had a variety of follow-ups on turn two. Sometimes they have played a different 1-drop. In some formats, it's debatable whether they are supposed to start on Monastery Swiftspear (or Soul-Scar Mage) or Kumano Faces Kakkazan // Etching of Kumano. For, depending on 1-drop configuration, a Prowess trigger can make for better beats than a permanent +1/+1 counter. That's all about greed and optimization and sometimes redundancy.

In more recent months, second turns featuring Feldon, Ronom Excavator or even an un-kicked Bloodthirsty Adversary can produce a hasty attacker that starts off out of Cut Down range.

But this time Our Hero had neither. No different 1-drop. No backbreaking two.

He thought to himself "I have a good 3-drop! Maybe I should delay Kumano Faces Kakkazan, and play it on turn two instead of turn one."

He tanked.

He went deep into the tank.

Eventually he decided to just drop the Saga. "I'll be angry with myself if I win the lottery (like any Red Deck player always tries to do). If I actually draw the 2-drop, who knows when I'll even be able to deploy what should have been my best opener?"

But no.

He didn't win the lottery.

A Lighting Strike was a pretty good pull (and he could play it if the right circumstances came up). But it's not like Our Hero was going to slam that valuable instant on the table immediately, and in the abstract.

But do you remember that he had a good 3-drop?

Well, it was a very good 3-drop.

No! Not Furnace Punisher (though his was also a 3/3).

No! Not Squee, Dubious Monarch (though his was a Legend as well).

Instead, he followed up with what is perhaps the defining card of the present Mono-Red list:

Goddric, Cloaked Reveler

So come turn three, Our Hero flipped up an Etchings of Kumano. When his Goddric, Cloaked Reveler entered the battlefield, that was good enough for Celebration.

"I might have missed a +1/+1 counter," said our pyrotechnical protagonist. "But how about you eat some 4/4 Dragon?"

The opponent would never, ever come back. At least not this game.

The Red Deck was one of the most popular decks at the World Championships... Though it did not earn a single Top 8 berth. Does that mean that Red Deck isn't good?

I sure hope that is not the case!

For my money the Goddric-based version of Mono-Red is actually one of the best decks in Standard. It has Weaknesses, of course (as do all decks). But the sum of the Red Deck's incentives out-weigh them, I hope.

Here's a deck to work from:

I've been playing mostly this deck since Wilds of Eldraine has been legal in Standard; and to excellent effect! My reason for starting it was simple: I was told it had a great matchup against the Invasion of Alara // Awaken the Maelstrom deck. I played against Invasion of Alara // Awaken the Maelstrom a lot prior to the World Championships, and yeah: Wasn't losing to a lot of Bramble Familiars.

At this time, I think I can give a pretty good SWOT analysis of the Red Deck in Standard, or at least this style, which prominently features new cards Charming Scoundrel and the aforementioned Goddric.


  • Strengths - Positive or Desirable traits that are Internal
  • Weaknesses - Negative or Undesirable traits that are Internal
  • Opportunities - Positive or Desirable traits that are External
  • Threats - Negative or Undesirable traits that are External


The Red Deck's Strengths are numerous, and largely intuitive. First of all, it is dripping with haste. That's great! On the creatures front, you pretty much know if you topdeck one it can basically enter the battlefield tapped.

The deck is fast in the abstract, allowing you to put pressure on the opponent from the first turn; and because of your haste, you can overcommit into sweepers (but still trust in the fact that you can keep the pressure on the next turn with whatever creature you have next).

Haste and evasion make for a powerful offensive combination, so Goddric and Phoenix Chick have particular, strategic, context here. A big question every Red Deck has had to ask itself is whether to burn creatures or the opponent's face. Sometimes you kill creatures to suppress the opponent's strategy, like if you are in a race, or the creature is specifically mana acceleration, like Bramble Familiar. Less intuitively, sometimes you kill creatures in service to damage, like just getting a blocker out of the way. If the end game offense you're putting together revolves around getting the last few points in with Phoenix Chick and Goddric, that creates a little "rudder" to guide the boat that is your Red Deck offense.

It goes without saying that this deck has the unique Red Deck superpower of reach; that is, the ability to win games outside of attacking. It's pretty good at that; and in particular I've found the solo Stoke the Flames to be "enough" again and again. It just comes up at an opportune time!

The new cards are themselves Strengths. We've already talked a little about Goddric, but the other's main play patterns probably are worth a discussion.

I was asked recently how I tend to play Charming Scoundrel. In this deck Charming Scoundrel is somewhat fungible with Bloodthirsty Adversary and Feldon. They're all hasty 2/2 creatures for two mana right?

Well Charming Scoundrel isn't, exactly. A 2/2 that is. In fact, if I'm playing on-curve, my most common mode to choose is Treasure-maker.

My next most common mode is to play Charming Scoundrel as my last card, which can turn the rummage effect into a cantrip.

This implies that I will make the Wicked Role least often. I'll still make it, but I might not be happy about it. For instance last night I was stuck on two mana but had a bunch of Scoundrels. I didn't want to make Treasures because I could cast all the spells in my hand. They just all cost two so it was annoying. So, I made a few 2/2s and still was able to rummage up for card advantage. I just wasn't two-spelling at all.

I suppose that is another compelling Strength of this deck: It's optionality. You don't have to play your spells in a specific order as with the Ramp decks; you can more mold the order in which you play them to the circumstances at hand and the plan you're trying to advance.

On the optionality front, it is worth mentioning that this deck in particular excels at switching gears. By that I mean specifically that it can go from a haste-offense deck to a controlling midrange deck after sideboarding, and that it is very good at both roles. I side in Koth quite a bit (i.e. any time that I feel like my opponent might be playing Sheoldred). I side in Jaya less often, but Jaya at least has monster synergy with Goddric. I don't know when I have had occasion to side in Thundering Raiju, but tripling down on offense is a kind of optionality, too; I can imagine overloading the opponent's creature removal to be highly strategic (as well as something nice to have waiting in the bag).

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On an internal basis, this deck's worst trait is how clunky its curve can be.

The somewhat large number of three casting cost threats can make double-spelling impossible in tight early games. Shivan Devastator is devastating some of the time... But this is a deck that's can't regulate its ratio of mana versus spells at all. So, if you don't have an overabundance of mana, the Dragon Hydra can just look like a bad Phoenix Chick.

And calling a spade a spade, the cards in the Red Deck are just not that powerful. It wins games because it can spit a bunch of them out (again, clunky curve accommodating) and because it can back up a hasty offense with more haste or fire to the face. However this deck's Plan A can be easily brick walled by a single significant blocker.


On the subject of "a single significant blocker" I have decided the worst card for this deck is Adeline.

Why am I talking about Adeline in the "Opportunities" section? Because very few people play Adeline. Thank you Player of the Year Simon Nielsen!

The archetype White Weenie deck is actually an Azorius Flash deck thanks to Simon's deep World Championships run, so you simply don't play against a lot of randomly unbeatable three mana / 4 toughness creatures in Standard right now. The incentives are there on raw power... And they happen to line up perfectly agaisnt this deck.


There are actually a ton of cards that are poisonous for this deck; and unlike Adeline, they see a lot of play.

The first one is Virtue of Persistence. On the one hand that is the best card in Wilds of Eldraine. On the other hand everyone knows that it is, so it is widely played in a variety of strategies. A single Virtue of Persistence can deflate this deck's bubble; and more specifically, it can do so in games where you're already going second. Nice haste, am I right?

Virtue of Persistence is bad because of its two mana side; but worse because its two mana side can imply that the opponent will get to its seven mana side. This makes playing for Gear Two extremely difficult, even if all you're trying to do is remove blockers. You haven't lost until you've lost to the same Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton multiple times in a single game. Maybe I lied. Maybe Graveyard Trespasser is actually the worst card for this deck. Either way, they're both bad; and taxing.

Okay I guess talking about cards like Adeline or Graveyard Trespasser is a little disingenuous considering the fact that Sheoldred, The Apocalypse simply exists. But at least this deck plays main deck Nahiri's Warcrafting; and that you can kill Sheoldred without a loss of card advantage.

(The "other" style of Standard Red Deck plays Witchstalker Frenzy, which can also kill Sheoldred, and surprisingly nicely.)

The external non-niceties for Red Deck really culminate in the fact that this deck has a hard time catching up in games where is loses the initiative. Everything is great if you're putting pressure on early and the opponent is scrambling to keep up; but once an actual 7-drop Virtue of Persistence is in play, you're almost certain to lose. Archangel of Wrath is a card; and somehow always seems to appear in multiples. While a burn angle can be powerful to have, uniquely, in your kit, that strategy's presence makes Archangel of Wrath even nastier than usual.

First of all you have to kill it the first time, which will often require multiple cards. You can't let it sit there and block! It's literally big enough to take down almost all your creatures and force another card. It probably already generated card advantage, which is a disaster given how it generated that card advantage. The ability to both halt your momentum with "removal" (that is lifelink) and leave a pretty large lifelink blocker... Is just one of many potential death knells in Standard for the Red Deck Plan A... Which is why we're so grateful we can become a kind of midrange deck after sideboarding.

I hope you found this SWOT useful for the Red Deck. I was hoping initially to write about it in context of the World Championship Top 8... But then despite being popular it didn't make Top 8. I also tried the lower curve style, a la:

The "opportunistic" instants in this deck - Monstrous Rage and Witchstalker Frenzy - were both really good when they were good. But I was surprised at just how bad Embereth Veteran was most of the time.

Because the deck has a low land count I found myself unable to make the Young Hero token against Virtue of Persistence's Adventure for two... And that's kind of enough to damn the card. It doesn't have haste, so you actually have to plan how to sequence it in the context of stuff like Kumano Faces Kakkazan and Monastery Swiftspear (they're all competing for r, even in the mid game); I found I would have rather paid the deck-building tax to just have Godric access more often.

I hope you enjoy burning your opponents! (And hope this made the process a little easier.)



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