Red decks have been conspicuously absent from Standard in recent months, lacking the power to contend against the rest of the format after losing staples like Monastery Swiftspear. During my initial testing of Shadows over Innistrad, I played with several red-based decks, and the most promising was a R/G Aggro deck that used Pia and Kiran Nalaar and various planeswalkers to create a wide battlefield.
Roger Selvage had the same idea, but he took a more aggressive route by including Dragon Fodder and Atarka’s Command to help close out games quickly. However, this is not truly a descendant of the old Atarka Red deck, since you have plenty of cards that help you play a longer game. Tireless Tracker is an excellent addition that can punish players for treating you like a swarming aggro deck, but it also ensures that you can set up a big Atarka’s Command late in games or after a sweeper.
With all the Anthems in the deck, you need a critical mass of creatures on the battlefield to leverage them properly, but you don’t necessarily have to accomplish that by spewing one-mana creatures right away. You can take your time, play some defense with a Hangarback Walker and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and then, over the course of one or two turns, turn your battlefield of 0/1s, 1/1s, and 2/2s into a formidable army.
Two cards that are surprising omissions are Thopter Engineer and Outnumber. Thopter Engineer plays nicely with your other Thopter cards while also presenting two bodies for your Anthems, but I imagine the power level increase of Tireless Tracker is large enough that you want to make the swap. Tireless Tracker, as I mentioned earlier, gives the deck a much-needed second angle of attack that cannot be underestimated.
Outnumber, on the other hand, is an all-star in this deck. Roast and Exquisite Firecraft don’t match up well against Archangel Avacyn, which this deck can struggle with, but it’s not difficult to have four creatures on the battlefield, and answering a five-mana creature for one mana is a huge tempo swing. This deck cannot take the time off to cast Exquisite Firecraft on an early creature, since you need to focus on development in the early-game, so Outnumber is also ideal for this deck by letting you clear out an early blocker to apply pressure without devoting an entire turn to do so.
Ultimately, this deck is going to play out a lot like G/W Tokens, which is good company to keep in Standard right now. But as G/W pilots move in a more controlling direction, this deck bucks the trend and tries to go underneath its foes. Thopters are great for this, since the fliers help break through on a stalled battlefield, a fact which does not seem lost on Roger, since he added two Thunderbreak Regents to the deck.
It may be difficult to overcome G/W Tokens in a longer game, since they have sweepers and Declaration in Stone for your fliers, but that’s why Atarka’s Command is so important. When combined with Exquisite Firecraft and Pia and Kiran Nalaar’s ability, this deck has plenty of reach, which we haven’t seen for a while in Standard. You can definitely take advantage of unaware opponents playing fast and loose with their life total and surprise them by closing the game out from seven or more.
These cocky Collected Company and G/W players could use a nice Bolt to the face, if only to keep them honest. That’s Magic the way Richard Garfield intended.