Standard is in an odd place.
On the one hand, aside from the prevalence of G/W Tokens, the format is reasonably varied. There are a good number of decks and a good number of variations on each deck. There are certainly cards that are fairly ubiquitous across multiple decks, but no more so than any other format.
On the other hand, most of the format's decks fall in the same midrange category. Your deck is likely playing a good number of three- to five-mana creatures and planeswalkers with a smattering of removal spells. Aside from Mono-White Humans variants, almost no deck in the format is truly aggressive or controlling. Even the two most controlling decks in the format, W/B Control and U/R Eldrazi Control, are very threat-dense with either a bunch of planeswalkers or huge Eldrazi.
Most interesting of all is that an aggressive red deck is completely absent from the format. Every Standard format for the last few years has had a reasonable red aggro deck, which has ranged from either a metagame deck to the deck to beat. No matter what rotation would change, throwing together some red one-drops with burn spells was always a reasonable plan for success.
Not so in this Standard format, where the only real aggressive deck is Humans.
One of the major reasons for this is lack of good burn in the format. There are reasonable removal spells like Roast and Fiery Impulse, but because they can't go to the face, they have more in common with creature removal like Spatial Contortion or Dead Weight. This makes them difficult to maindeck in large numbers because there are matchups where they will be very ineffective. Without a solid base of burn spells, the red decks of this format simply don't have the reach to finish off games where their opponents stabilize.
So we have a very midrange format with not enough burn spells. How do we make an aggressive red deck work in this format?
I've had a vision.
Fevered Visions is really a fantastic Magic card, but it hasn't been used to its full potential at all yet. It has mostly seen play as a sideboard card against control decks, but it really is capable of so much more.
An interesting conglomeration of Sulfuric Vortex and Howling Mine, in many ways Fevered Visions is better than both cards. Unlike Sulfuric Vortex, Fevered Visions does no damage to you, and unlike Howling Mine, you get the card first, so it's not card disadvantage.
The issue of course is if your opponent is able to play enough spells fast enough to get past the damage clause, but because the current Standard format is so absurdly midrange, this shouldn't be an issue at all. The only deck likely to be able to empty their hand fast enough is Mono-White Humans, but against them you at least have a bunch of cheap spot removal.
The issue is the lack of solid burn in the format. This is going to require us to get a bit creative:
We have quite a brew here.
Naturally we have some of the usual suspects that have been floating around red aggro decks for the last year or so. These cards don't require much explanation.
The rest of the deck does, however.
We've borrowed the light madness package from Todd Anderson's U/R Goggles deck but also added a new element. Insolent Neonate has seen some Modern play but hasn't really caught on in Standard yet. While not the most singularly powerful threat, for one mana you are getting an evasive creature that can sneak a few points in and then activate to fire up a madness card or get a relevant card type into the graveyard. Insolent Neonate is not a card your opponents want to use a removal spell on, and it's good for a solid few points of damage early.
Lightning Axe is oddly one of the better red removal spells in the format, as it can actually kill many of the format's larger threats. It is perhaps one of the best answers to Archangel Avacyn in the format. Three damage for three mana at instant speed is playable but unexciting, but every time Fiery Temper does a reasonable Lightning Bolt impression via madness, you are going to be very happy.
I like Skin Invasion a lot. When paired with one of the deck's many removal spells, it ends up being a one-mana 3/4, which is a fantastic rate and a well-sized creature in this format. Also very nice is its synergy with Insolent Neonate, which can turn it into a 3/4 as early as turn 2 while getting even more value. Also very nice is that it is an enchantment in the graveyard, which leads us to Scourge Wolf.
While not the most exciting card without delirium, Scourge Wolf is still a reasonable 2/2 first striker for two mana. Getting delirium in this deck is actually quite easy, however, with a good mix of creatures, instants, sorceries, and enchantments. It's not hard to turn it on at instant speed as well with a quick Lightning Axe or Insolent Neonate discard.
Our last interesting creature is the underplayed Stormchaser Mage, which gives this deck a fast evasive threat. Flying is great in this format, and Stormchaser Mage does a good job at dodging many of the format's removal spells. With 23 non-creature spells in the deck and a steady flow of cards from Fevered Visions, Stormchaser Mage does some work.
The deck's sideboard is a work in progress but contains the usual tools, like counterspells for control matchups, extra removal for creature matchups, and then a package of four Falkenrath Gorger and two extra Abbot of Keral Keep for when you need to sideboard out a large portion of your removal against control or ramp decks.
While the deck does contain a ton of maindeck removal that is not always going to be great against the more controlling decks in the format, the payoff is that Fevered Visions is good enough against those decks to win almost singlehandedly. This gives you a nice edge against both creature decks and non-creature decks.
There are certainly questions as to how to build this deck, so let's take a look at two other options.
This version of the deck is much more aggressive and has a more Boss Sligh feel to it than the previous deck. With a full eleven one-drops and a much lower curve, Abbot of Keral Keep is much better in this deck than the last.
While still featuring some of the synergy elements from the last deck, they are scaled back here in favor of more aggression. Fevered Visions is again your end-game, both to steal the last few points from your opponents and to fuel you with the gas you need to win the game. With such a low curve, it should be easy to quickly deploy all of the cards you are drawing.
The downside to this deck is that the overall power level of our cards is fairly weak, but that's an issue most mono-red decks have to overcome.
Let's try one more.
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 3 Incorrigible Youths
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 2 Ravenous Bloodseeker
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Our last version of the deck takes things in another direction, this time trying to focus on the madness theme of the deck.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, once the scourge of Standard, has been almost completely absent from the format lately. Everyone had thought that madness returning would make him even better, but the lack of fetchlands has proven to be too strong a hurdle.
This deck makes perhaps the best use of Jace yet, however, as looting away madness cards is amazingly powerful. Every time you loot a madness card, you are essentially just drawing a card, and this deck goes beyond Fiery Temper to include both Just the Wind and the underplayed Incorrigible Youths. The deck has some additional madness synergy with Falkenrath Gorger, turning your extra Vampires into madness spells as well.
The creature base to this deck is obviously modified, and Ravenous Bloodseeker provides us with a reasonable but unexciting extra madness outlet. This deck also uses Oath of Chandra as one of its removal spells, which gives us extra value when Jace flips and some protection against Dromoka's Command.
It's hard to know how effective Fevered Visions can be in a world of G/W Tokens and Dromoka's Command, but make no mistake: Fevered Visions is a powerful Magic card in a midrange format. Despite the dominance of G/W Tokens, I think this format is far from solved, and in order to solve it we must find the cards that aren't getting their proper due.
The SCG Tour® visits Orlando in a few days, a city that saw much tragedy last weekend. In the wake of the horrific and senseless shooting that left 49 people dead, more injured, and a nation grieving, something like playing a few games of Magic almost feels trivial. Someone on my stream yesterday mentioned that it was unfortunate timing for the SCG Tour® to be going to Orlando, but I said I thought it was the opposite.
Magic events have always been about a gathering of people coming together to enjoy a common hobby, but more than that, to enjoy all our community has built together. We can't go back and change what happened last weekend, but at least we can be together with the ones we care about in a place that needs it the most.
We had some discussion at Team MGG, and we have decided that we will be donating $10 for every match win each team member has in the Open this weekend to the GoFundMe page to support the victims. It's a small gesture, but we hope it will inspire others to follow suit if they are able.
If you are not going to be at the event and would still like to donate, you can do so here. GoFundMe.com has waived all fees for this fundraiser, which means that 100% of all of this money will be going towards helping the victims and their families.
Challenge Thursday last week was a tough one. @samuraisenpai1's challenge, “(Modern) Fifteen cards in Modern say 'You win the game;' pick one,” won in a landslide victory and presented a very difficult task.
This week, however, I will be taking a week off, as I have to both set up my new computer (hype) and get ready for my Friday morning flight to Orlando.
However, this gives you extra time to submit challenges to me on Twitter!