Attacking Standard with Black-Red Aggro

by Justin Robb on 27 November 2017, Monday

Justin Robb


Attacking Standard with Black-Red Aggro


Incendiary Flow Falkenrath Gorger

Welcome back! Before the last rotation, I was an advocate of Ramunap Red in Standard and while it remains a great deck, it has taken some hits. Lightning Stike has proven a suitable replacement for Incendiary Flow but the rotation of Falkenrath Gorger put a dampener on the fastest draws of the deck. Without the cheap creatures, Hazoret becomes harder to turn on and the deck faces the possibility of opponents stabilising at much higher and safer life totals.

But not all is lost, and red isn't the only color with aggressive options in Standard. Black offers us Fatal Push for those annoying Longtusk Cubs, Duress for Approach of the Second Sun, and an amount of card draw and recursion that you don't normally find in an aggro deck.

Today's deck is one that combines the efficient black disruption with a great late game and an abundance of decision points.



Pedro Carvalho's Version


Pedro "_megafone_" Carvalho was the originator of this deck with the above list coming from a Standard PTQ some weeks ago. In the past, I have often found success with similar decks to Pedro such as Thermo-Alchemist or Affinity so I was keen to give it a shot.

In my first 3 Competitive Leagues, I went 3-2, 4-1 then 5-0 with 2 of those losses due to Magic Online bugs. The deck was the real deal. 


Doomfall Vraska's Contempt

After that performance, I went to the source and messaged Pedro directly. His sideboard was already very well-tuned for the metagame but I thought it could be improved. Doomfall is versatile against control decks that could be playing The Scarab God or Torrential Gearhulk but those matchups were already so good it was just overkill. Unlicensed Disintegration wasn't necessary either whereas more Vraska's Contempts were effective in the Ramunap Red matchup.



Lars Dam's Version

I shared the list with Lars "Malavi" Dam as part of our MOCS Standard preparation. Lars immediately took a different approach to the deck, changing some of the aggressive cards and focussing on the deck's ability to grind - and was still 5-0ing leagues. In our preparation for the MOCS, we had an over 85% win rate in competitive leagues.



Cut // Ribbons Vance's Blasting Cannons


My in-game approach with this deck was to pile on the pressure early then use the card draw and recurring creatures to eventually go over the top of the opponent. Lars instead opted for cards such as Cut // Ribbons and Vance's Blasting Cannonss while eschewing some of the early pressure. Both strategies having success was a big indicator that the archetype was powerful and resilient.

In the MOCS itself, Lars put up a 7-1 result while I dropped early. Even with an absurd win rate, it's possible to get mana screwed twice in a match and have that be it. This reflected the competitive leagues where the deck would only really lose games to screw or if you were paired against the unwinnable matchup of Esper God-Pharaoh's Gift.

At this point, I had to switch formats to limited in preparation for Grand Prix Hong Kong and shelve the deck for the moment. Luckily even with the Pro Tour, the metagame hasn't changed much in the past month so Black-Red Aggro is still very well positioned. I have seen multiple versions of Black Red running around on Magic Online running everything from Vicious Conquistador to Heart of Kiran.



My Version

Anyway, after some testing and research, this is the list I am currently on.

Black-Red Aggro (XLN) (Standard (XLN) - Others)

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Standard by

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Abrade Deadeye Tracker


Abrade replaces Lightning Strike to fight the increased numbers of God Pharaohs Gifts and Aethersphere Harvesters that we have seen lately.

The original deck was called Pulse Trackers as a reference to Night Market Lookout actually being played in a constructed deck and while it performed better than it looks on paper it still did next to nothing in most matchups. Deadeye Tracker is further tech against the God-Pharaoh's Gift matchup while still offering the cheap body for Yaheeni and Hazoret that Night Market Lookout did.


Raiders' Wake

Looking further at the sideboard, you'll see the third Yaheeni has been moved to the main deck as it was being sideboarded in basically every matchup. Raiders' Wake is a late addition that is effective against God-Pharaoh's Gift while still being a great card against the control decks. 

In the current Standard, it's imperative to be able to kill a turn 2 Longtusk Cub and Black-Red gets to play the best answers we have. Fatal Push and Abrade consistently kill what you need to kill early while trading up in mana in the later turns. The effectiveness and scalability of this removal ensure your creatures can continue to push for damage turn after turn. 

What's more exciting than the removal is just how many cards this deck can draw! Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Bomat Courier and very powerful card draw engines providing you can keep attacking. Glint-Sleeve has the possibility to draw a card every turn of the game for only 1 life lost while menace combines with the cheap removal to keep getting in. These card draw engines allow Black-Red to outdraw any other aggro deck and keep pace with the card advantage of the midrange and control decks. 


Aether Hub Glint-Sleeve Siphoner Aethersphere Harvester

The mana in Standard is poor so Glint-Sleeve Siphoner powering Aether Hub, Aether Hub and Aethersphere Harvester are important interactions. Energy can be used for whichever of these outlets is called for at the time. When and how to use your energy with this deck varies in every game.

Scrapheap Scrounger and Dread Wanderer are our aggressive immortal threats of choice to complement our card draw engines. If these guys get in damage that's great and if not, they are likely trading just to come back later. Having mana sinks in our low curve aggro deck provides much utility and further card advantage not to mention the utility these creatures provide with Yahenni, Undying Partisan


Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Speaking of Yahenni, Undying Partisan, don't underestimate the vampire in a deck with so many cheap creatures and efficient removal spells. Yaheeni is likely the card that has impressed me the most in this deck, easily becoming as large and scary as Hazoret and comboing hilariously with Bontu's Last Reckoning.


Hazoret the Fervent Bontu's Last Reckoning

Against most creature decks such as Temur Energy or Tokens, we are able to lay on early pressure forcing them to overcommit to the board. Most often this is when the card draw, recursive creatures, and Aethersphere Harvester start to shine but sometimes you get to sacrifice a Scrapheap Scrounger to Yaheeni, play Bontu's Last Reckoning and one hit your opponent. Truly how magic was meant to be played.

Hazoret the Ferventis obviously still great. Like Yaheeni, it combos with the "wrath", provides a fast hard to deal with clock and works especially well with the very low curve we play. Many decks simply can't beat Hazoret, let alone one that attacks on turn 4.

Quick Sideboard Guide

When I watch other people play this deck I am surprised at how they approach the game differently to me. Here is a quick guide to how I like to approach the matchups you are likely to face in Standard at the moment.

Temur or Sultai Energy

Out: 3 Deadeye Tracker

In: 3 Bontu's Last Reckoning

Don't try and play Vraska's Contempts. Be the aggressor and use wraths to punish your opponent for overcommitting too hard. Confiscation Coup on an indestructible creature is their best play. Also, be wary of the power of turn 2 Longtusk Cub on the play if keeping a hand with no removal.

Ramunap Red

Out: 4 Scrapheap Scrounger

In: 2 Vraska's Contempt, 2 Chandra's Defeat

Its hard to be sure you will be on the offense, so I take out scrapheap. Vraskas is effective against almost their whole deck and especially of course against Hazoret. Chandra's Defeat trades up in mana to allow your card advantage to take over the late game.

God-Pharaoh's Gift

Out: 4 Bomat Courier, 4 Fatal Push
In: 4 Duress, 2 Dispossess, 2 Raiders' Wake

The addition of main deck hate helped this matchup a great deal. It's important to have an answer to the Gift but after that, you still need to beat their Champion of Wits and the all-star Sacred Cat.


Out: 3 Deadeye Tracker 4 Bomat Courier
In: 3 Bontu's Last Reckoning, 4 Duress

White-Blue Approach

Out: 4 Fatal Push, 4 Abrade

In: 2 Raiders' Wake, 4 Duress, 2 Vraska's Contempt

If I were to play a Standard tournament now I would definitely be playing Black Red. It is well-positioned against the energy decks, it is decision heavy and it also gets to ignore what cool tech cards people are playing for midrange mirrors. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. If you are a fan of beatdown, you'll enjoy the results.

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