Eldritch Moon Set Review: Red!

They say aggro decks are the way to go on the first Standard weekend, and that means lots of red! Can The Innovator find the #SCGCOL aggro deck that will rule the weekend?

There’s a lot to cover today, so let’s just jump straight into using the red cards of Eldritch Moon in the new Standard format. As always, our focus is on figuring out how to put the cards to use at this stage. Once we have a fuller picture of the direction the metagame might be heading, we can narrow our search. For now, though, we want to have all the tools available for our toolbox.

If we’re talking red, we might as well start with Red Deck Wins.

Now, this is a Ball Lightning I can get behind!

Ball Lightning was a great Magic card. Impetuous Devils costs a mana more, but we also get to hunt down one of their creatures. That’s a big upside. Obviously, if they have a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy that isn’t summoning sick, they can just tap it and avoid the conflict. However, most of the time, you can do stuff like have their Sylvan Advocate block your Impetuous Devils, clearing a path for Zurgo Bellstriker and Falkenrath Gorger to get through. Plus, the Devils are going to trample over for three extra damage!

Impetuous Devils, Elder Deep-Fiend, Spell Queller… instant-speed removal is looking like its stock has risen…

Between Impetuous Devils and Collective Defiance, we’re starting to talk about a lot of ways to remove three- and four-toughness creatures while still getting extra face damage in. The return of face damage, by the way, is a big deal.

Collective Defiance is more than just another Exquisite Firecraft. That it only does three to your opponent is usually not as big of a deal as the fact that you can choose multiple modes. Being able to kill three- or four-toughness creatures, while also doing three to the face, is huge. That’s to say nothing of killing a creature and planeswalker at the same time.

Collective Defiance also has a third mode that this list doesn’t take much advantage of. Still, there will be times where you want to discard an extra land, Zurgo, or Fiery Impulse. While you won’t usually target your opponent, it’s worth keeping in mind that you have the option. If you were playing black discard spells that let you see their hand, it’s possible you’d want to make them discard Chandra, Flamecaller after they play a tapped land as their sixth land.

Incendiary Flow is a humble role-player that isn’t doing the postgame interview very often, but it is a major advancement for the color. That it exiles is a nice bonus, sure, but the main thing is more burn that can hit creatures and players.

Savage Alliance is a little more expensive than some other options for sweeping opposing tokens, but it’s extremely versatile. Instant speed is nice, for starters, particularly in response to a team pump spell. Being able to deal two damage is obviously nice for when they don’t actually have tokens, but it also stacks with the hit-everything mode to kill three-toughness creatures like Sylvan Advocate. The trample mode isn’t going to come up in this deck often. Abbot of Keral Keep still appreciates the bonus, though!

I don’t see Prying Questions being enough to support an R/B Burn deck the way Bump in the Night did. Still, there’s something to denying your opponent any hope (and a draw step) that has a certain appeal to it. This one has a better rate than “make them skip their draw step” cards usually do, but the two abilities are just not the most natural fit for each other.

Rather than splinter off into oddball burn decks, let’s try just making the red aggro deck a little bigger.

Hanweir Garrison and Hanweir Battlements make for an interesting question. After all, they are both good cards and are on-theme, but to even do the “combo” takes six land (five plus Hanweir Battlements). That’s a nice backup plan, but I wouldn’t count on it in a fast aggro deck. Some kind of midrange token deck would be a lot more likely to trigger the meld.

Here’s a very different way to use Hanweir Garrison and Hanweir Battlements:

Both of these cards are respectable enough that they could be used on their own, so seeing Hanweir Battlements without the Garrison in the main is fine. Besides, Hanweir Battlements is a mondo combo with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Dragonlord Atarka!

Eldrazi Ramp decks often want to sideboard some smaller threats, and Hanweir Garrison is right up their alley. If you get the combo, sweet. If not, no problem. Traverse the Ulvenwald can help us set it up quite a bit better, as could stuff like Ulvenwald Hydra, if we were so inclined.

Jumping back to red aggro, let’s try a mono-red madness build, but one that stays true to the Red Deck Wins strategy:

The addition of Furyblade Vampire to go alongside Ravenous Bloodseeker and Insolent Neonate means we can now madness Incorrigible Youths on turn 3 very reliably.

Hitting for four is sweet when we were already willing to settle for three with the Bloodseeker. I’m not sure this is enough to get us into this strategy, though. I just feel like there are going to be too many cheap removal spells or decks with creatures that win the head-to-head. What is the deck you are hoping to face when you play a madness deck, anyway?

Stromkirk Occultist has some appealing elements, but I can’t help but feel like its mix of stats and abilities would be a better fit in some kind of R/B midrange madness deck alongside other card advantage elements like Asylum Visitor and Bloodhall Priest.

Maybe something like:

I think this one is probably too “madness-y” still, but there is something to the amount of card advantage it can generate for a Rakdos Aggro deck. Bloodhall Priest in particular looks very appealing to me.

A 4/4 for four isn’t exactly the lowest floor. The 1RB madness cost on top of the relevant creature type is already enough to have my interest, but turning into a mini-Inferno Titan is just filthy. I don’t think you have to be trying very hard to madness to make Bloodhall Priest actively great. Maybe…

Geier Reach Sanitarium is obviously great if games drag out. It’s a fine card in its own right, but getting to trigger so many free madness cards is potentially game-winning.

This build is a little more reluctant to play a second copy because of wanting to avoid adding more Cinder Barrens, but it is an especially reasonable legendary land to play multiples of compared to most. You can even pitch the second one to the first!

I would love to get into this, but the rate is so modest. It’s just too brutal that the card is a sorcery, so you can only use it as a pump spell when you have a madness outlet. Senseless Rage is usually going to be better at this, if you are even in the market for it. I guess the trample is nice on Furyblade Vampire, so that’s something.

It’s so weird, the thought of turning our cheap Vampire into a looter. That said, it’s very mana efficient and has haste. I’m actually not sure this isn’t a viable path. I could also imagine Prophetic Ravings being part of the key to making R/U madness work, or as part of a graveyard recursion strategy.

If this hit creatures, we’d probably be getting somewhere. As it stands, I would guess it’s too narrow. It’s not like we’re even ending up with a ton of Vampires in some kind of a swarm or anything.

It’s cute that Nahiri’s Wrath can serve as a madness enabler, but I’d guess a madness deck isn’t the natural home. We might need more action against planeswalkers, though, particularly if we were talking about a R/U madness deck. For a base red aggro build, Collective Defiance might do the trick better.

To describe Bedlam Reveler as a madness enabler is generous. It’s possible, and a very minor part of its story, I guess. I just think Bedlam Reveler is more likely to be about a deck full of cheap spells. For instance:

Lightning Axe, Tormenting Voice, and Collective Defiance help fill the graveyard a little extra, which helps get us to the state where our Bedlam Revelers are two-mana draw-threes with a beefy body attached. Combining Treasure Cruise and Tasigur, the Golden Fang is sweet, but it is important to keep in mind just how cheap are the cards we must play to consistently be okay with discarding our hand (which we hopefully don’t have to do until Bedlam Reveler is our last card).

Bedlam Reveler might be an even better fit in some kind of a U/R prowess deck. Blue cards would help fill the graveyard fast, but that does put us at greater risk of being stuck having to discard cards when we Reveler.

All this looting makes Galvanic Bombardment and Take Inventory extra valuable.

You could loot away the first copy like any other card, but now all the other copies are super-charged without having to cast the below-rate one.

An alternative direction could be to move back towards Fevered Visions instead of Bedlam Reveler.

Fevered Visions is a perfect combo with Nahiri’s Wrath, and this style of deck needed the help against planeswalkers. The average converted mana cost of this deck might be a little low for the Wrath, however. I’m also a little concerned about whether Thing in the Ice is still good, since there are so many more Horrors than there used to be.

Shreds of Sanity is quite the oddball as far as “madness enablers” go. If there’s a spot for this one, it’s probably in small numbers, as the card is not really a “three-drop.” Caveats aside, this is basically a Relearn that lets you turn another card in your hand into a zero-mana Relearn. It even works with Pyromancer’s Goggles…

I don’t think Thermo-Alchemist has a good enough rate to justify how inflexible it is. Weaver of Lightning, on the other hand, might not be out of the question. We’d have to be playing it in some kind of a cantrip-heavy midrange deck with more than a couple of “spells matters” creatures. What about:

A lot of one-ofs? Yeah, we’ve got selection, and there are a lot of new cards to try! Of course, I’m just excited about Epiphany at the Drownyard with Galvanic Bombardment and Take Inventory.

While this list features just a single Docent of Perfection as an alternate finisher, an in-depth breakdown and some dedicated Docent of Perfection lists can be found here. I’ll also be back Friday with a full look at blue.

Weaver of Lightning and Niblis of Frost increase the power of every sorcery and instant we play by fixed amounts, which means they work disproportionately well with cheap spells and cantrips.

I’m a lot more excited about Niblis of Frost than Weaver of Lightning, but depending on how fancy we’re willing to get, it’s not actually inconceivable to imagine a deck that can give the Weaver deathtouch to turn it into a Visara the Dreadful.

If we can find a second creature we want to give deathtouch to…

Retreat to Hagra is pretty weak, compared to something like Basilisk Collar (which isn’t legal), but it does let us do stuff like sacrifice an Evolving Wilds in response to the enters-the-battlefield trigger to kill both creatures. Once we flip it, the deathtouch is big game every attack.

Another possible home for Smoldering Werewolf is an actual Wolf deck:

I’d guess we don’t have enough removal yet, but the pickin’s are slim. We’re particularly vulnerable to Elder Deep-Fiend, both in combat and in tempo.

You don’t even need to be doing Wolf-related activities. This is just a great card for a fast aggro deck, and in a color that doesn’t usually get things like this.

Spirit of the Hunt looks excellent and might actually be enough of a reason to try a partial or heavy Wolf theme. It’s not like these Wolves are bad; we just probably need better interaction. I’m not sold on the four- and five-cost Wolves, so maybe that’s where to get the room from.

Speaking of speculative brews…

Having access to both Mirrorwing Dragon and Zada, Hedron Grinder means we’ve got a lot more consistency when setting up Slip Through Space and Expedite combos. For instance:

Early, there’s nothing wrong with cycling Slips and Expedites. Eventually, however, we’re looking to target either Zada or the Dragon and draw a card for every one of our creatures. It’s a little weird to play a token deck without any pumps, but drawing a million cards will let us pretty easily chain Elder Deep-Fiends or attack with a hasty, unblockable army.

We’ll be discussing Elder Deep-Fiend at greater length Friday. The short version is that this is a messed-up Magic card. It’s going to change the way people play Standard, and it can go in a lot more decks than people are giving credit to at the moment. It’s not the most perfect fit with Hangarback Walker (though it can be a sweet move, going long). However, it is a natural and effective follow-up to Eldrazi Skyspawner, Thopter Engineer, or Pia and Kiran Nalaar.

Ride Down, we didn’t even get a chance to miss you!

This is a totally fine niche option, likely in the sideboard of a W/R Humans deck or some R/W Aggro deck looking to take down big creatures. It’s particularly effective against stuff like Elder Deep-Fiend, though it does have a weakness to Archangel Avacyn.

One of the most talked-about oddball cards in Eldritch Moon is, without a doubt, Harmless Offering. While the combo of Harmless Offering plus Demonic Pact is obviously interesting, I think most people are making a mistake by playing too many “bad” cards in their combo decks. Spoiler: Harmless Offering is a bad card to draw most of the time.

This one might be too extreme, but even a single copy of Harmless Offering is a tremendous new dimension to a Demonic Pact deck with Dark Petitions in it, and that’s to say nothing of Read the Bones and such.

I’m not saying you can’t play more copies of Harmless Offering. I’m just saying you don’t necessarily need to, or at least not always start with four. If we did play more, I’d want more Tormenting Voices, I think, to get rid of them. Goblin Dark-Dwellers can still flash one back!

I actually think there might be hope for Harmless Offering plus Demonic Pact in high-level Constructed, though I would guess it’s more likely to feature either white for Nahiri, the Harbinger and Anguished Unmaking or some other enchantment removal, or blue for bounce, like Silumgar’s Command or Compelling Deterrence.

Okay, I’m out for today. See you back here Friday, when we go hard on the remaining colors!

Bonus Modern Decklist: Reckoner Combo!

Storage lands?


Basilisk Collar plus Ephemeral Shields?!