Drafting R/B Aggro In Modern Masters 2017

Rare-drafting is tempting in Modern Masters 2017…and plenty dangerous! But what if you could indulge in it while still building a 3-0 deck? Tom “The Boss” Ross offers a possible path toward having your cake and eating it too!

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!

Modern Masters 2017 feels like its own standalone multicolor set, like Return to Ravnica or Shards of Alara. It probably feels that way because there are numerous cards from both blocks in the set.

I’m not gonna lie; Modern Masters 2017 has juicy cards that are highly tempting for you to rare draft. If you’re playing in a Magic Online Draft League, then you should be aware of the steep difference between a 2-1 record and a 3-0 record, which give two and eight packs, respectively. It’s the difference between maybe not breaking even or almost tripling your investment.

The solution? Draft something quick and easy with a bunch of underdrafted commons that are often interchangeable with each other.

Draft R/B Aggro.

R/B isn’t as powerful as the other archetypes in Modern Masters 2017. These are the ways to win:

  • Run them over with quick creatures backed up by removal.
  • Get through a little damage and then drain them out with Falkenrath Noble and sacrifice outlets.
  • Kill all of their win conditions and deck them.

After eight drafts of forcing R/B these are the card evaulations I’ve come to.

The Sacrifice Outlets

Scorched Rusalka is one of the few one-drops in the format. No other deck wants it, so picking it up is basically free.

It does damage to the opponent at a cheaper rate than Gnawing Zombie.

The best creature to have as your sacrifice outlet. Sets up nicely with a turn 4 Traitorous Instinct. Vampire Aristocrat is a good threat in combat that typically must be blocked. One of the only creatures in R/B Aggro that you’ll ever be able to pump the power of with Auger Spree.

Gnawing Zombie has been surprisingly decent for me. The drain effect is a little slow, but the lifegain side and the three toughness lead to beneficial racing situations.

Skirsdag Cultist is good when it’s being activated for value. The concerns are having to tap to activate, meaning it’s slow and can’t attack, and costing four mana.

Probably the only sacrifice outlet that the rest of the draft table is interested in. R/B Aggro utilizes Bone Splinters the best with its combination of token makers, “dies” triggers like Mudbutton Torchrunner, and unearthed creatures that were getting exiled anyway. Of course, it’s nice with Traitorous Instinct too.

A Pack 1, Pick 1 Falkenrath Aristocrat is the top reason to go into the R/B sacrifice deck. It’s a fast clock and hard to kill. You won’t really have any Humans to gain +1/+1 counters, as you don’t want to be sacrificing the only two options of Vithian Stinger and Skirsdag Cultist.


Traitorous Instinct is what makes the R/B Aggro deck really tick. Between this and Mudbutton Torchrunner, you end up with a ton of removal that the rest of the table has no interest in.

A source of evasion, inevitability, and lifegain. Completely outrageous in multiples. Great with token makes and turns chump blocking into a viable win condition. Falkenrath Noble isn’t particularly good in other archetypes, so you can load up on them if the table is right.

Once a mighty rare, Mortician Beetle has been downgraded to common for Modern Masters 2017. Mortician Beetle looks like a solid payoff for having so many sacrifice effects going on; however, it doesn’t do anything on its own and gets rocked pretty hard by another that bounces it. Getting Mortician Beetle hit by a Grasp of Phantoms is worse than it outright dying. I like to start one Mortician Beetle and then have another one or two in my sideboard for the right matchups, which are typically G/W decks and other R/B decks. Note that Mortician Beetle triggers for either player sacrificing a creature, so it looks for their Kathari Bomber or whatever.

You won’t get this one often, but I wanted to list it because it’s the best card for the R/B token-sacrifice plan. Extractor Demon is great on its own and will work with nearly every card in your deck.


Chandra’s Outrage is a great removal spell that hits the opponent for two. This is important, as oftentimes the gameplan is to win through chip damage. The double red in the casting cost may even be a blessing rather than a burden, since other drafters with three- or four-color decks will sometimes pass on Chandra’s Outrage due to its slightly restrictive cost.

As much as I like Chandra’s Outrage, I’m not a big fan of Grisly Spectacle. In a format with unearth and Flashback, the milling aspect of Grisly Spectacle is more of a downside. It’s also easy to get your curve clumped at the four-slot with Falkenrath Noble, Traitorous Instinct, and Chandra’s Outrage competing.

Auger Spree is totally fine. It won’t make or break the archetype. For most intents and purposes, Auger Spree is a Terminate that costs one more mana.

Magma Jet is awesome. You don’t have sources of card advantage, so card selection is at a premium. I’ve used Magma Jet quite a lot after Gnawing Zombie bounces off a Sea Gate Oracle or Augur of Bolas.

Multiple Creatures

I consider Dregscape Zombie and Dragon Fodder to be very close in functionality and are interchangeable. You want multiple bodies for your sacrifice effects so as to not fall behind on cards.

Kathari Bomber is a key card in the archetype that other drafters aren’t too interested in. At its best, it’s six creatures that you can sacrifice. You can sacrifice Kathari Bomber to a Scorched Rulsaka or Gnawing Zombie with its damage trigger on the stack and still get the 1/1 Goblin tokens. Even without that, it’s an instance of the word “sacrifice,” which triggers your Mortician Beetles.

The black Thragtusk. Grixis Slavedriver is a curve-topper, so you’ll want seventeen lands or sixteen and a Rakdos Signet. It’s one of the best targets for Corpse Connoisseur. With all that said, Grixis Slavedriver is the only real reason to dip into six-drop territory and could really mess up the curve of the deck if you end up having to play two of them.

Premium Uncommons

Goblin Assault is source of multiple creatures as well as a premium uncommon. Actual enchantments are extremely difficult to remove. Goblin Assault sits on the battlefield forever and becomes the focus of the game from then on out. With even just one Falkenrath Noble out, you’re gaining ground and making your opponent leave back blockers.

Goblin Assault makes all Goblins attack each turn, including your Mudbutton Torchrunners and Spike Jesters. This also includes your opponent’s Goblins. I won a game earlier this week where Goblin Electromancer was forced to attack, allowing my 1/1 tokens to get through unimpeded.

Terminate is obviously great. Terminate is replaceable, though. R/B Aggro is deep on removal and something like a Kathari Bomber could be overall better, depending on what’s been drafted thus far.

Seal of Doom is great at protecting you from being blown out in combat. You usually have to invest some amount of resources into having favorable combat situations, like sacrificing a token to Vampire Aristocrat. Seal of Doom ensures that pump spell or Agony Warp after blockers won’t completely crush you. Also, the floor of a sorcery-speed Dark Banishing isn’t bad either.

One the best Limited creatures ever, it will be one of the few creatures in your deck that stands alone on power level without needing synergy with your other cards. Having Vampire Nighthawk makes Recover a card you want access to.

Vithian Stinger one of the best cards for R/B Aggro and possibly the best uncommon. Having one increases the playability of your 2/1 creatures. Coiling Oracle, Sylvan Ranger, Augur of Bolas, Sea Gate Oracle … all creatures that opponents play because they’re early two-for-ones.

This is the five-drop you want. The body is typically fine and is a source of indirect card advantage when you have Kathari Bomber, Vithian Stinger, or Grixis Slavedriver. In multiples they can chain well.

Questionable Commons

Pit Keeper is hard to trigger, isn’t great if it does trigger, and has a poor body. Four is a huge number. Unless you have Vampire Nighthawk, your creatures will be of relatively low power level. Some of them will get unearthed and exiled as well.

You don’t really have time to be goofing off with discard on the third turn. Gotta get the hits in while they’re good.

Battle-Rattle Shaman looks like it could be decent to make attacks favorable. The problem is how heavily contested the four-drop slot is. It’s better to just cast a removal spell on four to enable attacks. Also extremely awkward with Goblin Assault on the battlefield.

Ogre Jailbreaker never attacks. R/B Aggro wants exactly one Rakdos Guildgate, if any. If your opponent has a swarm of Centaur or Golem tokens, then one out of the sideboard could be a consideration.

Spike Jester is fine if you can guarantee that it can get through at least once. Since that’s not the case, cards like Dragon Fodder and Dregscape Zombie tend to be better in many circumstances. Still pickable, just not a priority.

Modern Masters 2017 is just too heavily saturated with removal to be playing Auras. Even Unflinching Courage is a trap when it was once a slam-dunk first pick. If your opponent has all ground creatures and no removal, then Gift of Orzhova can be a sideboard option.

The problem with Mogg Flunkies is that many of your creatures aren’t that good in combat. It’s not like a 3/3 is all that impressive anyway.

For Thunderous Wrath to be good, you really want your deck to get up to six mana regularly. Often builds of R/B won’t get that far. For your late-game, you have activated abilities and unearth creatures to tie up your mana. You want removal spells to come down around turns 4 and 5 to enable attacks.

You don’t usually have time or good creatures worthy enough for Recover. Having a great creature like Vampire Nighthawk or Falkenrath Aristocrat changes this.

In eight-player drafts where you play the other drafters at your table, I recommend hate-drafting Cower in Fear when you can. As far as usability as a castable card, I tend to leave it in the sideboard and bring it in against the X/1 decks.

Even with tokens, it’s tough to get into a spot where Scourge Devil is good. It’s best with Corpse Connoisseur, but then you’re playing multiple possible five-drops in you aggro deck. At some point combat will get gummed up and you’ll have to go with the drain plan.

These are “get ya” cards that I tend to avoid for the deck. You need a saturation of synergy for your deck to function and Dynacharge and Madcap Skills aren’t really reliable. If your opponent is short on removal, then your deck should be good anyway. If they have early small blockers, then you want either removal or more creatures to plow through them.

The Optimal R/B Deck

I want my R/B decks to look nearly the same after each draft. Many of these categories intermix.