The Black Perspective: 2004 States Deck Challenge – Red Deck

Fresh off a twelfth place finish at Grand Prix: Austin, Osyp takes time out of his busy schedule and turns his thoughts back towards Standard for a day to take a look at what Red has to offer players who are participating in Champs. Is Red good enough to compete in a metagame ruled by Affinity and Tooth and Nail? See what Joe Black has to say before you make up your own mind.

“Are you going to see that new Hilary Duff movie this weekend?”- Ken Krouner

This time on, The Black Perspective . . .

Week Two of the 2004 States Deck Challenge, otherwise known as “more decks you can test against before you ultimately decide to play Affinity.”

Today’s Black Perspective is brought to you by the color Red. Champions didn’t really give Red the boost it would’ve liked, but the fact that it was so strong in the last format still makes it a contender. So without much new Red to work with, I took the least creative path and simply added some new cards to the most popular existing Red deck out there, Big Red.

Now, next to Affinity, I would have to say that Red benefited the most from the Mirrodin block. It won the block Pro Tour and continued to make its presence felt throughout the season. I actually don’t think I’ve even seen a really good list of Big Red, but it still continued to do well on the strength of the cards. Arc-Slogger and Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] were two of the best cards in the format, and it contained enough removal to keep pace with Affinity. Before Aether Vial was the standard in Affinity decks, Red decks generally had an excellent matchup against them, and managed to dominate the standings.

Although Champions doesn’t really offer much in power to Red compared with the last set, I still feel Red is on of the better options you have available to you.

Some of the Red lists I’ve seen here seem pretty awkward. Flores posted a three-color list that seems okay, but I don’t see why you would want three colors when you can beat Affinity without the Green cards. And I don’t think you can be as aggressive as Dan Paskin’s deck would have you believe because I don’t think red has enough aggressive creatures. Slith Firewalker is pretty awful in my opinion, and I don’t see why Volcanic Hammer would be in that deck at all. I firmly believe that Red’s current strengths lie in its ability to control the board, not be aggressive. Like I said in a previous article, Affinity is the beatdown deck in the format, so don’t bother trying to compete with them in terms of aggressiveness. Your best option is to simply try and take control of the board, and Red has all the tools to do so.

Here’s my list, let me go over some of the details:

Big Red for States

4 Electrostatic Bolt

4 Magma Jet

4 Talisman of Indulgence

3 Pyroclasm

3 Shrapnel Blast

4 Damping Matrix

4 Molten Rain

4 Arc-Slogger

4 Solemn Simulacrum

2 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

4 Great Furnace

2 Swamps

14 Mountains


4 Stone Rain

4 Cranial Extraction

4 Shatter

3 Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

The list is fairly straightforward, as most Red decks are. When building a Red deck, the main difference between lists will be whether or not it contains Furnace Dragon. I like Furnace Dragon, but I think Damping Matrix is a much better card versus the Aether Vial lists. The fact that it shuts down Atog is a very important factor because it’s one of the main ways Affinity can beat you. After board, both Damping Matrix and Furnace Dragon are weak to the Green Affinity sideboard, so it’s irrelevant as to which is superior there. However, if they only have the Relic Barrier and Electrostatic Bolt plan, you’re in very good shape.

Pyroclasm is an excellent addition to the block list, which was desperately in need for a board sweeping effect. Some people tried Flamebreak, but it was simply too slow versus Affinity.

Another difference between this list and most block lists is the absence of Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] in the main deck. I really love Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], however, I wanted to make sure the deck could beat Affinity, so Pulse just could make the cut main deck.

The New Cards

Like I said, other than Glacial Ray, there weren’t too many good red cards out of Champions that really interested me. Hearth Kami is interesting, but not really right in this deck considering the last thing a control deck needs is a 2/1. Kumano, the Samurai with the mostest did seem like it could make the cut. Comparable to Arc-Slogger, Kumano seemed to fit the theme of the deck, as well as gave you extra win conditions in case someone Cranial Extracted you naming Arc-Sloggers, in which case it could be hard to win without a big gun.

The only other new card I added to the deck was Cranial Extraction, which resides in the sideboard. I think the Extraction is an excellent card in many control matchups and certainly worth splashing. I think the main problem though would be getting your hands on four Cranial Extractions. Considering how expensive they are right now, you can consider swapping the four in the sideboard with 3 Rend Flesh and a 4th Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]. However, that’s only if you can’t get your hands on them – if you can, game on.

The Matchups

Versus Affinity:

Destroy whatever they play, Damping Matrix slows them down a little and finish them off with Arc-Slogger or Kumano. Not too difficult on paper, harder in practice. Aether Vial and Atog are two of the best cards in this matchup against you.


+4 Shatter

-4 Molten Rain

Shrapnel Blast isn’t great in this matchup, but it does serve a role. For one, it can be used to get rid of your own Damping Matrix, because although it is useful, there are times where you would prefer to activate your Arc-Slogger. The Matrix is useful in taking control of the early game, but it’s not needed as much in the late game if you get your heavy hitters out. The Blast is also useful at killing a Moriok Rigger early on before it gets out of control.

This matchup is close to 50%, and you won’t find a deck that can claim a higher percentage, regardless of who you talk to.

Versus Tooth and Nail:

Game one is difficult, because you can’t take out their Urzatron with only four Molten Rain. Tooth and Nail will eventually be able to cast a Tooth and Nail or Mindslaver and win the game.


+4 Stone Rain

+4 Cranial Extraction

+3 Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

-4 Damping Matrix

-4 Electrostatic Bolt

-3 Pyroclasm

After board your matchup improves a lot. With more land destruction, you can now control their Urzatron slightly more in the early game, so they won’t be able to devastate quickly enough. Then you have Cranial Extraction to take out their key spells like Tooth and Nail and Mindslaver. All in all, there’s nothing they can do to combat that spell, and even one resolving will in all likelihood seal the deal.

I would say this matchup is less than 50%, only because of how bad game one is. Although I must state again that Tooth and Nail seems like a terrible choice and I can’t imagine it would make a big showing at States this year. Ignoring the fact that it has a bad matchup against Affinity, it also has to contend with Cranial Extraction, which will surely be popular considering how hyped it is right now.

The main reason I would consider playing Red is that it traditionally matches up very well against Black, which seems to be more popular the more people I speak with. Whether you’re talking about Black beatdown or Death Cloud, Black decks will be popular at States, which means Red will be a good choice. I also think that this deck matches up pretty well with Affinity without giving up too much against your other matchups. I mean, we all know that Affinity is the best deck in the format, but the fact is that this is States, so you can’t expect people to make their deck selection choices based on what’s best over what’s the most fun to play. I think Burn and Land Destruction are solid options in a field where you can expect Affinity as well as an assortment of random decks.

Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz