The SCG Tour® stop in Dallas last weekend showed us that Ramunap Red, U/W Approach, and Energy-based decks are still the decks to beat. Personally, I'm not one to choose among the Tier 1 decks to bring to any given tournament. Instead I like looking between the cracks to find something solid that isn't on everyone's radar.
I love to play aggro when people aren't expecting it. Ramunap Red is far too popular to play for my tastes, which has me looking into other colors for something similar, yet fresh.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Night Market Lookout
- 4 Vicious Conquistador
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 3 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
We've seen iterations of Ramunap Red with a slight black splash before, sometimes for Ammit Eternal, and sometimes for Scrapheap Scrounger, Unlicensed Disintegration, or both. What we haven't seen is a base-black deck splashing for a few red cards.
Dragonskull Summit is secretly a big addition to the manabase of a deck like B/R Aggro. Foreboding Ruins and Smoldering Marsh were extremely bad for me when I played Ramunap Red splashing black for Scrapheap Scrounger back in the Team Constructed Open in Atlanta. Entering the battlefield tapped is horrific. Dragonskull Summit lets you lead on your basic land and only need one of them to be untapped.
Truth is, the red one-drops aren't very good anymore. Falkenrath Gorger was more important than it looked and even Village Messenger has been missed too. The problem now is red doesn't have two-power creatures on Turn 1 anymore. Soul-Scar Mage has been justifiably bumped up to a four-of, but still needs work to be two power. There isn't too much room in Ramunap Red for noncreature spells for prowess. Bomat Courier is fine, but it doesn't beat down as potently as I want.
Rigging Runner is unreliable in the same way that Goblin Glory Chaser was. It needs a certain situation to become a fully powered 2/2, and if the requirement is never met, then you're left with a very poor piece of cardboard. Rigging Runner is basically never a card I want to cast on Turn 1. Even if I followed up on Turn 2 with two more Rigging Runners, I wouldn't be ecstatic about my battlefield position.
Black is the color with the highest density of "two-power" creatures for one mana. Vicious Conquistador and Night Market Lookout can finish off the opponent with their attack triggers if they're low enough. The resiliency of Dread Wanderer is the main appeal for playing a black-based aggro deck. The ping effects are sweet to actually finish off games. Still, more reach is nice to have.
Lightning Strike and Hazoret the Fervent are possibly the best two spells in the Ramunap Red deck. Neither requires you to have red mana in the early turns, either. By this I mean casting Lightning Strike isn't a necessity, as you are likely to want to progress your battlefield. Hazoret is best after you've dumped your hand, which of course is later in the game too.
You're a little soft to Glorybringer now that Grasp of Darkness is gone. I don't quite like Walk the Plank and think Lightning Strike is a better choice for that slot. I wouldn't mess with Abrade and would rather focus on killing opponents rather than artifacts.
Your two-drops have card advantage elements that complement the aggressive nature of your one-drops. Aether Hub and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner make a mini-combo on their own that can get you up a card very early. Scrapheap Scrounger hasn't been showing up much since the decline of Mardu Vehicles, but when the time is right, I think Scrapheap Scrounger is going to make a comeback in a big way. B/R Aggro is one of the best shells for it right now.
Yahenni, Undying Partisan hasn't gotten much press but is a fit here because of your removal density and the likelihood that the opponent must trade off creatures given any opportunity. Yahenni is insurance against Fumigate or Sweltering Suns. In a pinch you can convert an on-battlefield creature like a Vicious Conquistador into that Scrapheap Scrounger in the graveyard.
You need some amount of haste for your aggro decks to function I think. Yahenni and Hazoret look to be enough, since you don't have Earthshaker Khenra or Ahn-Crop Crasher in the B/R Aggro build.
Gifted Aetherborn is pound-for-pound one of the best creatures you can have against other creature decks. Sure, everyone has their own Fatal Pushes, Lightning Strikes, or Abrades. "Dies to removal" isn't an argument to not play a creature. If they don't have it, the Gifted Aetherborn will be a highly impactful piece to winning a game against ground creatures of all sizes.
W/B Tokens was a pre-rotation deck that never quite made it to the big scene despite the excellent work of Sam Black. It lost Thraben Inspector, Westvale Abbey, Shambling Vent, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Those losses struck a high blow to the inevitability of W/B Tokens. The biggest blow might've even been Thraben Inspector. Clues were doubled with Anointed Procession creating a huge amount of traction.
It only took a little reimagining of the archetype to fill the roles of all the lost pieces of W/B Token decks.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar filled every role in the W/B Token deck. Immediately getting an emblem happened nearly as often as making the 2/2 Knight Ally. You now need to make better use out of your pile of 1/1 Servos from Hidden Stockpile. Shefet Dunes does a good job pumping your team now that you're shorter on Anthem effects.
Vraska, Relic Seeker fills the gaps now. She makes a 2/2 just the same as Gideon. Now you have a late-game planeswalker that can deal with problematic permanents like The Scarab God or God-Pharaoh's Gift, reducing the need for a card like Cast Out. W/B Tokens sometimes even ran Anguished Unmaking for the three-mana Disenchant. Vraska comes with an exiling Disenchant tacked on seemingly for free.
Legion's Landing is another one of those cards that fills in all of the gaps left by the rotation. You really want another one-drop alongside Fatal Push. It's a token to double with Anointed Procession and is more life to buffer you until you assemble your engine pieces. Flipping into Adanto, the Last Fort now creates the mana sink that Westvale Abbey was. It's also fairly common to accelerate into a Turn 5 Vraska, Relic Seeker with the extra land.
Renegade Map is an awesome find and a great addition to W/B Tokens that wasn't present before. The deck already wanted four Evolving Wilds as a revolt enabler for Hidden Stockpile. Renegade Map is a revolt enabler that you can cast on Turn 1, leading into a Turn 2 Hidden Stockpile as well as making a Servo. While W/B Tokens does have an explosive end-game that trumps most other strategies, the early turns are very scrappy and every small edge is very important.
The mana fixing element of Renegade Map is nice too, allowing you to play only a single Forest and no other sources of green (outside of Vraska's Treasure tokens). There are now enough land-searching elements where deck thinning starts to become real. Extra mana sources are decent for Adanto, the Last Fort; Hidden Stockpile scrying; and embalming/eternalizing your dead creatures. Overall, though, you want to be drawing spells on Turn 5 and beyond.
Liliana, Death's Majesty and Bontu's Last Reckoning are flex slots mostly to fill out the curve of the deck. I like the Liliana a bit more after sideboarding when Angel of Sanctions can come in as a target in the graveyard to reanimate. Bontu's Last Reckoning can be the reset button you need when a Fumigate is too slow. With a reasonable number of one-drops to follow it up with, the drawback isn't so bad. Even an Evolving Wilds on the fourth turn when you have Hidden Stockpile will often be enough to keep you afloat.
Angel of Sanctions and Sunscorge Champion out of the sideboard are additional creatures that come in when the opponent shifts from their targeted removal to bring in anything that can target your enchantments. Both are okay to run into a counterspell and have applications other than a transformational plan. Sunscourge Champion coming in with Authority of the Consuls is a good plan against the Ramunap Red decks.
Duress is a really important gain from Ixalan. Before, I was liking Lay Bare the Heart, basically just to get whatever counterspell my opponent was holding up for my enchantments. With U/W Approach (an all noncreature spell deck) being a big player in Standard, Duress would be good anyway to deal with their plan. Duress does double duty to ensure you don't die while forcing through your engine pieces. Lost Legacy isn't a card I love, but it's nice to strip the Approach of the Second Suns. Their Plan B of Regal Caracal pales in comparison to your token-making.
The results of the World Championship will ultimately determine the direction the Standard metagame will take. If I had a tournament this weekend, I'd be vigilantly tuning one of the above lists. Both B/R Aggro and Abzan Tokens are in the sweet spot of being proactive, relatively unknown quantities, and reasonably well developed already where it's possible to find an optimal build in a couple days.