Red Aggro And Werewolves

Red aggro decks win the first event of new Standard quite often. Will history repeat itself at #SCGBALT in a few weeks? Patrick Chapin wants to ensure you’re prepared to win!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!



It’s a love story battle that’s been raging since the Shadows over Innistrad have left the plane dark, save the twilight…

A lot of Vampires are red in Innistrad. That’s just how they get down. I blame Olivia Voldaren.

Falkenrath Gorger is going to see a lot of play over the next eighteen months, if only because it is a red two-power one-drop. What’s interesting about it, however, is that it is the first one in the history of Magic to not have a drawback(!).

This isn’t to suggest that it’s the best one ever, of course. Goblin Guide is pretty great. It’s just that every two-power one-drop has had attack restrictions, or damaged you, or cost extra mana eventually, or been a legend, or something, until now.

Is the right approach to Falkenrath Gorger to push the Vampire theme?

I think this build tries to do too much. There are so many Vampire sub-themes, we just can’t fit them all. Let’s take a look at them and see if we can distill down the most promising ones.

Here, we have Indulgent Aristocrat with Hangarback Walker (which is sweet), but without Call the Bloodline, it might not be worth playing the Aristocrat with so few creatures ideal for sacrificing. That said, the lifelink is kind of nice, and sometimes threatening to sacrifice a creature and pump our team is a big deal on its own.

Drana plays into the Indulgent Aristocrat theme, whereas Exquisite Firecraft and Fiery Impulse are kind of the opposite direction. We probably want to move towards either Drana or Exquisite Firecraft, anyway The mana is stretched a little too thin at the moment, and adding tapped lands is not appealing with so many one-drops.

Now this is an appealing Magic card!

Asylum Visitor has a good power-to-cost ratio, helps give us extra power going long, and even has madness (which we don’t make great use of here, but is a combo with Olivia).

It’s important to remember that our opponents gain an option when we have an Asylum Visitor on the battlefield. If they empty their hand, they can force us to draw a card and lose a life. That’s usually good for us, so they are often going to hold their last card begrudgingly, but we do have to be careful if our life total gets low, as they may try to “burn” us out.

Even if we don’t have much in the way of madness outlets, it is nice that Indulgent Aristocrat gains us extra life and can sacrifice the Visitor if things get hairy. It is a little annoying that some of our removal could get stuck in our hand. That makes me wonder if we want to consider moving away from stuff like Fiery Impulse and Ultimate Price.

One of the big “payoffs” for playing a dedicated Vampire theme is access to so much haste. Olivia’s Bloodsworn is an excellent card that is fairly respectable on its own (a 2/1 flying creature for two is not horrible, and the option to be a 3-mana 2/1 flying, haste creature is already a thing). In a heavy Vampire deck, it’s good value, particularly when targeting Drana, Liberator of Malakir.

Olivia, Mobilized for War is a fine card but really does need a lot more madness to make us want to play more. We already have lots of three-drops anyway.

Stensia Masquerade is probably not good enough in this list, but I could totally imagine a more madness-centric build putting it to great use, perhaps alongside Senseless Rage. While the +1/+1 counter-granting ability stacks, we do get diminishing returns from Stensia Masquerade, since only the first instance of first strike matters.

Without a bunch of madness outlets, we’re mostly getting a glorified Twin Bolt, though it is a mondo-combo with Olivia. More likely, however, we really should just be playing more madness outlets. What about…

Now we’re talking!

By playing a largely Red Deck Wins gameplan but still pushing the madness theme hard, this list looks reasonably fast and powerful. I still have some concerns about the mana, but it’s certainly not embarrassing.

Insolent Neonate is a little bit of a goofball, but it is some early damage that we can cash in for a card very efficiently. It may seem like it’s dropping a card in the equation, but because of madness, this is actually upside and acceleration. It’s probably actually fairly foolish to cut an Insolent Neonate at all, but you gotta cut somewhere.

Now we’re getting to the heart of things. Ravenous Bloodseeker and Heir of Falkenrath combine to give us a lot of reliable madness outlets for turn 3 Incorrigible Youths. They also give us enough outlets to ensure Fiery Temper is great.

I do miss Olivia, Mobilized for War in the list above, but I kind of feel like she’s more for a Drana version, than an Exquisite Firecraft one. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is also an option (and a Vampire that loves to gain haste), but this version can’t support double black reliably enough.

Lightning Axe is going to be stronger this time around. There are a lot of cheap and efficient madness cards (unlike in Time Spiral), and the five damage is much appreciated this time around (whereas in Time Spiral a lot of creature battles didn’t need that much damage).

Okay, let’s get it together. I’m not really advocating a madness deck without Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, am I?

While we lose most of the “Vampire” love, we do gain Jace, and Jace is completely absurd with madness, like just totally nuts.

As discussed last week, Just the Wind asks us to pay a mana more than Unsummon, but in return gives us a one-mana Repulse when we’re discarding it to Jace. Between Just the Wind and Lightning Axe, U/R actually has a surprisingly strong anti-big-creature plan (unlike most U/R decks, historically).

Geistblast is an interesting sort of “madness” card, since we don’t actually have to pay the cost right now. We can just discard it whenever we want and then later flash it back to copy one of our spells. I think both it and Avacyn’s Judgment look good, but if we stack up too much removal specifically for two-toughness creatures and below, we could be in a world of hurt when our opponents start dropping Reflector Mages

Of course, that list has so little blue, one can’t help but wonder if we even need to splash in our red madness decks. For instance:

Now, we’re basically all the way into Red Deck Wins territory with next-to-no tribal synergies. We do, however, still have a fair bit of madness, even if our outlets aren’t the most reliable in the world.

I was hesitant to play too many Incorrigible Youths, since we’re not necessarily going to be able to play it on turn 3 as often as we’d like. Bloodmad Vampire, however, is a reliable three-drop that can surprise people early on. For instance, imagine you cast an Insolent Neonate on turn 1, attack for one, and pass the turn. They could easily drop a random two-drop, thinking the coast is clear; but then you cast Bloodmad Vampire on the end step. While you lose the Neonate, you do get four damage and a +1/+1 counter on your “three-drop.”

Is it crazy not to play this creature? Of course, once we start down that path, why not just play a traditional Red Deck Wins?

Golly, that sure is a lot of spells that don’t go upstairs…

Desperate times call for desperate measures? It would be surprising to see a Disintegrate variant show up in Constructed, but stranger things have happened.

Goldnight Castigator is like a Stormbreath Dragon that costs a mana less and is functionally a 4/5 instead of a 4/4. Yes, it’s risky, but as long as we stay on the offensive, it’s kind of a freeroll…

Player A: Turn 4 Goldnight Casigator, attack for four.

Player B: Turn 4 Goldnight Castigator, attack for eight.

Player A: Turn 5 Goldnight Castigator, attack for sixteen.

Moral of the story: Win the die roll!

It’s kind of interesting that Goldnight Castigator can’t be killed by Grasp of Darkness and Languish combined. I also wonder about combining it with Assault Formation for serious mondo-combos.

Without any other Werewolves, it’s just too hard to justify Geier Reach Bandit instead of Scab-Clan Berserker. It is a fine card, though. It’s just asking to be a massive waste of tempo if used poorly, however.

With so little burn going upstairs, should we be adding Atarka’s Command?

What about Arlinn Kord?

Fair point, though I do gotta warn you, she’s gonna underperform a little. She is a good card, no question, but I think people are asking her to live up to Garruk Relentless and Huntmaster of the Fells. She’s not the general, all-purpose awesome they were, but if you’re playing a token theme, she puts in work. For instance:

I think the key to making her work is caring about the pump abilities. If you drop her and make a Wolf, the only ability she has that won’t lose loyalty is the +1/+1 and trample ability; however, if you are playing a token deck, that’s the ability you want to be using anyway.

I think people who are just putting Arlinn Kord in any old deck are going to find she’s dies a lot. She’s just much less durable than Jace, Unraveler of Secrets; Sorin, Grim Nemesis; Chandra, Flamecaller; or Ob Nixilis Reignited. While she may not be the toughest to get off the table, she is among the most versatile.

● Tokens

● Creature Kill

● Direct Damage

● Single Creature Pump

● Mass Creature Pump

● Haste

● Vigilance

● Trample

● Lethal Ultimate

Arlinn Kord has an absurd amount of options hidden on her. It’s going to take some time getting the hang of playing with or against her. She just does so many things!

Oh, and she even helps support Wolf/Werewolf tribal!

Ok, so maybe she isn’t the key to pulling together R/G Werewolves, but it’s nice to know we’ve got the option!

Geier Reach Bandit is much stronger here. In the worst case, it’s a 3/2 haste for three, which isn’t bad. However, when it flips, everything gets absolutely crazy, particularly if you have a Duskwatch Recruiter

This card is sick. The play pattern of “drop it, they play a creature, then you pay three to draw an extra creature while also flipping your Recruiter” is so good, I expect this card to show up a fair bit regardless of any Werewolf theme. As if that wasn’t enough, we now have an accelerator. We might just want to play Pack Guardian with three lands, but we also might just dump out our hand turbo-speed. Yes, it does flip the Krallenhorde Howler back into a Recruiter, but that just means we get to draw extra cards again(!).

Howlpack Resurgence isn’t just an Anthem; it’s an instant-speed Anthem. That makes a big difference in combat, and when we want to avoid playing a spell on our turn to flip our Werewolves. I love all of the flash we can play alongside our Collected Companies, which lets us play a lot of Werewolves without wasting all our mana. Pack Guardian is particularly sweet, since it isn’t just six power, it’s across multiple bodies, so we get extra bonuses from Howlpack Resurgence and Neck Breaker.

I don’t think I’d normally be in for Breakneck Rider, particularly with this many other three-drops, except that Collected Company strongly encourages us to play more threes than normal.

Hermit of the Natterknolls is a little less splashy when it works but might be more dependable against opponents actually fighting back. It’s kind of interesting that, when you drop it, they can’t actually kill it on your turn without giving you an extra card. If they wait until their turn, however, they might be wasting a lot of mana.

I chose not to use Village Messenger, as there just isn’t enough incentive for the tribe for how low-impact the card is. That said, maybe the format just ends up so fast that we need more early action. Of course, if that’s the world we live in, we really don’t want a Raging Goblin.

Not everything needs to be a Werewolf, and Scourge Wolf gaining double strike is fun with all the anthems. That said, I think this list is just not going to get delirium enough to make it worth it. Instead, we could trim the Roasts and the Evolving Wilds and just suck it up and play Kessig Forgemaster instead…

…Or Deathcap Cultivator.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a glorified Leaf Gilder if you aren’t getting delirium. However, it does make black mana, which is sweet:

This one is probably too cute, but there’s no question it makes Howlpack Resurgence into an impressive card.

This is a pretty sweet way to fight through removal-heavy opponents. It’s interesting, just how much card advantage we have and can have access to. The only thing holding me back from Sage of Ancient Lore is Collected Company.

If we’re looking for removal, we don’t actually have to up the black mana if we don’t want to. We may still want some amount of Ultimate Price or Fleshbag Marauder, but we could also use Moonlight Hunt. I am skeptical, though, as I could imagine it failing when we need it most.

These Wolf decks seem fun, but they look like they are missing a couple of cards needed to give them the extra oomph to compete with the big kids. R/G Tokens (and Naya Tokens) seem highly competitive, however, and there are going to be a variety of madness decks seeing play over the next several months.

Besides, Red Aggro has won four out of the last five Week 1 major tournaments.

Surely, people won’t fall for it again…

…will they?!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!