Playing With Rampaging Ferocidon In Core Set 2020 Standard

With Rampaging Ferocidon back in Standard and one month to use it, is red primed for a late renaissance? PVDDR explores Mono-Red Aggro, Dinosaur decks, and more!

The original Rampaging Ferocidon ban was very puzzling to me. It was always a good card, and I understood that it could potentially oppress certain strategies, but then Wizards of the Coast immediately printed an effectively better version of it in Goblin Chainwhirler, which was perplexing to say the least. Now, about a month before it rotates out of Standard, it’s suddenly legal to play again.

So, what can we do with it?

The first thing to understand is why Rampaging Ferocidon is actually a good card, and the key here is that it’s just a more powerful aggressive card than it seems to be. We tend to think menace is sort of trinket text, but it really isn’t, and the card gets through a lot of the time that a regular creature wouldn’t. Against something like Basilica Bell-Haunt, for example, it’s a much better attacker than Goblin Chainwhirler. On top of that, the pinging ability does add up even if they aren’t playing a swarm-based deck.

The fact that it’s already a decent aggressive card on its own is what enables it to be so powerful, because it’s a hoser to two of the things that red decks have historically had trouble with – swarms and lifegain – that you can just afford to play in the maindeck. In this regard (and in many other regards, I guess), it’s similar to Goblin Chainwhirler; if they aren’t playing the targeted strategy, it’s just a good card, and if they are, you get to maindeck a strong sideboard option.

Other than being a generically powerful card, Rampaging Ferocidon seems to be well-positioned. Right now, the Core Set 2020 Standard metagame is pretty wide open, but if I had to guess what the two most popular decks were, I’d say Bant Scapeshift and Orzhov Vampires. Rampaging Ferocidon happens to be a good card against both.

Against Bant Scapeshift, it’s very strong against their namesake card, as well as their alternate plan of just making a bunch of Zombies across several turns with Field of the Dead. It also stops Hydroid Krasis from being a way for them to put the game out of reach and will damage them randomly for Elvish Rejuvenators and Arboreal Grazers.

Of course, there are ways around it. They can bounce the Rampaging Ferocidon with Teferi, Time Reveler or exile it with something like a Baffling End, but the red deck doesn’t give them much time and it’s an extra hoop they have to go through. Scapeshift preyed on Mono-Red and the addition of Rampaging Ferocidon could swing the matchup by itself.

Vampires is a swarm deck that has a lot of lifegain, and as such is vulnerable to both abilities on Rampaging Ferocidon. Legion’s Landing becomes a much worse card when you’re taking damage to create 1/1s without lifelink, and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord can no longer team up with Adanto Vanguard to close out the game. Sorin can still kill Rampaging Ferocidon, but since it’s damage-based, the opponent won’t gain any life.

So, what does a Mono-Red Aggro list with Ferocidon look like? This is what I’d play:

The one tricky thing about Rampaging Ferocidon in Mono-Red is that you already have Goblin Chainwhirler, and there’s a limit to how many three-drops you can play in the maindeck when you’re running four Experimental Frenzy and four Light Up the Stage. My inclination is that I’d be willing to go up to six three-drops without needing to add more lands, and I think that, for the most part, Goblin Chainwhirler is still better. It triggers Light Up the Stage, helps finish off creatures, and fights Teferi, Time Reveler. It’s possible that there’s a list playing the full eight three-drops, but then that’s probably a very different list without four Experimental Frenzy and I consider Experimental Frenzy sacrosanct in this deck.

I do think Rampaging Ferocidon is a very good sideboard addition, though, as it does double duty versus Scapeshift and the decks with lifegain like Esper Hero or Jeskai Planeswalkers, and it means you no longer need to play Tibalt, Rakish Instigator. Given that Bant Scapeshift and Esper decks were some of your harder matchups, I feel like the Rampaging Ferocidon unban has the potential to take Mono-Red to a new level, as long as you’re careful about not making your deck all three-drops when you can’t afford to. If you’re sideboarding in Rampaging Ferocidon and Blood Sun, for example, consider taking out some Goblin Chainwhirlers to keep your curve low.

Jund Dinosaurs

Jund Dinosaurs is currently not as popular as some of the other options we have, but it’s still very much a real deck, as its explosive draws are very powerful. When the deck has a Turn 2 Marauding Raptor or Otepec Huntmaster and they can’t kill it, Turns 3 and 4 look very silly, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger goes over the top of anyone that isn’t playing hard removal (and is surprisingly easy to cast because of Rotting Regisaur). The main problem I found with Jund Dinosaurs was that, if you didn’t have a two-drop or if they just killed it, that was often a Time Walk – there was little to bridge the gap between Turn 2 and 4 other than Rotting Regisaur, and then if your Turn 3 was just “go,” that wasn’t enough to beat anyone.

Rampaging Ferocidon is an incredible addition to Dinosaurs. It plays the same role as it does in Mono-Red, but the added synergies with Commune with Dinosaurs, Marauding Raptor, Regisaur Alpha and Otepec Huntmaster make it an all-star, and it plays in a slot that was sorely lacking, as opposed to a slot that was already crowded. It doesn’t really belong in your most busted draws, but it should help every draw where things don’t go perfectly for you (and if they go perfectly then it’s not going to be an issue anyway).

I think there are two different ways to approach Dinosaurs: Gruul or Jund. Here’s how I would build Jund:

This is a very streamlined aggressive list, without much interaction. The goal is to just kill them quickly with undercosted beaters. Now that you have Rampaging Ferocidon, you no longer need to splash for Rotting Regisaur to have a good three-drop, but it’s still good for enabling Ghalta, Primal Hunger and Collision // Colossus. On top of that, the black sideboard cards are pretty good, especially Noxious Grasp.

If you want to play Gruul Dinosaurs, though, this is what I would recommend:

This has a lot more interaction than the previous deck, since its copies of Collision // Colossus and Ghalta aren’t as good and you’re playing fewer creatures overall. If you feel like you need to kill opposing creatures (such as Deputy of Detention), a straight Gruul version could be better than Jund.

Gruul Aggro

Another thing Rampaging Ferocidon does is let you branch out your Mono-Red deck to other colors, since now you don’t need to pay triple red for your Goblin Chainwhirler. This means we can potentially see Rakdos or Gruul aggro decks make a comeback. For Gruul, I think you can have a smaller Dinosaur focus. The quality Dinosaurs are still good creatures that happen to work well together, but you don’t need to play all of them. Between Rampaging Ferocidon and Shifting Ceratops, it feels like you’re pre-sideboarded against about half the field, which is pretty nice.

Here’s how I would build Gruul Aggro:

I used to be a big fan of Growth-Chamber Guardian, but it’s lost a lot of its power now that Orzhov Vampires and Bant Scapeshift have both made Legion’s End a widespread card, so I’d rather look at other two-drops. I think Reckless Rage is still a good card even without Ripjaw Raptor, as it kills Feather, the Redeemed; Kethis, the Hidden Hand; and Sanctum Seeker, but if you expect more control decks full of planeswalkers, you can play Lightning Strike instead.

All in all, I’m excited for the Rampaging Ferocidon unban, and I look forward to seeing what players can do with it in this one month we have remaining, as it wouldn’t surprise me if it took all the red decks to a new level.