The Future Of Red

Rabble Red has been the breakout deck of the past few months, but can it survive the rotation? What is the future of Sligh? Back-to-back Invitational Champion Tom Ross looks at the good (and bad) ammo KTK Standard will have for red mages everywhere.

Khans of Tarkir is on the horizon which means there are a bunch of sweet new toys for everyone to deckbuild with. While fresh new goodies are great, the
bigger impact on Standard are what cards are leaving. The entire Return to Ravnica Block is leaving, and with it goes upwards of half the played cards in
existing decks.

Some existing decks will scramble to find suitable replacements for their rotating cards in both Theros and M15 and in whatever Khans of Tarkir offers.
Other new archetypes will spring forth from the mechanics that Khans offers, like delve. Decks will change and adjust, new ones will come and old ones will
go. However, one thing that stays constant throughout Magic’s timeline is that there will always be a red deck to punish decks that stumble or are just too
slow to keep up.

There have been a few red decks during the last year of Standard:

Each of these viable red decks will lose cards in the rotation.

What cards are leaving?

Rakdos Cackler Legion Loyalist Ash Zealot Firefist Striker Burning-Tree Emissary Young Pyromancer Madcap Skills Boros Reckoner Chandra's Phoenix Rubblebelt Maaka Shock Skullcrack Mutavault Frostburn Weird Boros Charm Warleader's Helix Mizzium Mortars

Each red archetype loses a considerable chunk of its deck in rotation. Many cards have been close to making the maindeck but were narrowly edged out by a
slightly better card or something oppressive was pushing it outside of playability.

Let’s look at the red cards that are close to being Constructed playable but haven’t made the jump for one reason or another:

This card seemed like a natural fit alongside Akroan Crusader in the Boss Sligh shell. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite strong enough on its own compared
to Madcap Skills, and it fell off the radar. In the aggressive red decks, there was only room for so many pump spells that only the best few made the cut.
Now that there’s a slot open, I can see Hammerhand doing great things. Giving Goblin Rabblemaster an extra +1/+1 + haste and disabling a troublesome
blocker seems like an awesome turn 4 play.

An inherently powerful card, Prophetic Flamespeaker never made its way into Standard even though it saw some play in Modern Jund. I believe that the
current Standard red decks have to be “low to the ground” to get underneath the removal of Mono-Black Devotion and to get in enough damage before a Supreme
Verdict hits. Also, it plays poorly into the +1 of Jace, Architect of Thought. It doesn’t do anything when it comes into play, which is why Goblin
Rabblemaster gets the nod over it at the moment.

Again, a one-drop that was historically great in the past but seemed to be underwhelming upon its M15 reprinting. This latest Standard format has had
plenty of red one-drops to choose from and plays well on a curve where you often can’t afford to spare an extra red mana in the early turns. With the
format becoming a bit slower, I can see the little Goblin making a comeback into red decks. Courser of Kruphix numbers will likely go up and that’s the #1
offending blocker than this guy has in mind.

First thought to have reasonable impact because of its versatility, Mogis’s Warhound ended up not doing enough of either. The dream corner-case scenario of
forcing an opposing creature to attack for value never really occurred and once people realized that that story was just a pipedream, this card faded away
from the constructed tables. Right now Goblin Rabblemaster needs a new good way to get through after Legion Loyalist and Ghor-Clan Rampager rotate. If it’s
not by making opposing creatures not block, it’s surely to increase Mr. Rabble’s toughness high enough to live through combat.

This card got a fair bit of hype as nearly a strict upgrade to the already playable Gore-House Chainwalker. I think the card is fine and has always been
fine, but it’s that its initial stats are so low as to not attract much attention. Also, Gore-House Chainwalker as well as other 3/2s, became much worse
after the printing of Courser of Kruphix. However, this will be great if the new format is full of 1/3 blocking creatures.

I got a lot of questions about the viability of this one after making great use of Akroan Crusader and Dragon Mantle. The deal-breaker between them was how
differently they functioned against Mono-Black Devotion. Devour Flesh and Desecration Demon as well as one-for-one removal in general allowed for a swarm
strategy to become a real tournament contender. As for now, I still feel as though Satyr Hoplite is too underwhelming, especially when we see little to no
play out of its cousin Favored Hoplite.

If this cost only R to cast or gave +2 to toughness as well, it would be a powerhouse. As it stands, it’s only been a good card in Limited and has been far
outside of Constructed playable. Madcap Skills was always a better option and Thunderous Might is a similar option that suffers from being unpredictable
and low impact.

The biggest hole left in the red archetypes is the two-drop slot. Burning-Tree Emissary enabled some of the most feared draws possible, and there’s nothing
that can match how solid Ash Zealot is. Fortunately, Khans of Tarkir has a few creatures that cost 1R to choose from, and they all have relevant upsides.

Similar to Stormblood Berserker, this girl is a little better when you don’t trigger her and a little worse when you do. The upside that she can’t be
blocked by creatures with power one or less comes up most often with Sylvan Caryatid and the soldiers from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. If the post-Khans of
Tarkir Standard world is as full of Sylvan Caryatid + Courser of Kruphix decks as predicted, this gal fights well against the former, but poorly versus the
latter. I do like how well Firedrinker Satyr and this work to get through Sylvan Caryatid, so I hope Stoke the Flames is enough to deal with the 2/4

This guy is a rare, and I expect for good reason. I could see a split between this and Horde Ambusher as morphs to keep you opponent guessing which is
which. Adding colorless creatures to your deck helps slightly against Master of Waves as well. The con is that it costs three mana upfront and then another
three, and is thus, very slow. Still I think I’d rather run this before any spell like Harness by Force.

A blend of a Grizzly Bear and an expensive Goblin Shortcutter. I don’t expect the downside of taking a damage whenever you block with it to be too
relevant. I imagine the only Constructed place for this card will be in a mono-red deck as there will be better two-drop options in other colors. Therefore
the morph cost should be easy to make happen regularly.

All-in-all each of these two-drop options are all positive split cards in their own way. I remember when the mono-red decks ran Firebrand Ranger with no
way to activate it and were happy to have any two-drop with two power.

Outside of the two-drops, let’s look at a couple other mono-red cards from Khans of Tarkir.

A pretty poor replacement to Young Pyromancer, I expect Goblinslide to make no impact at all. Just compare the card to Goblin Rabblemaster! However, I do
love the flavor of goblins quickly sliding down a slope at the price of a mana each.

As far as four-drops go, I can get behind this one. Its effect is similar to persist with quite a nice upside when (and if) you reach six mana. You’re not
so much paying for the two damage to each player as you are for its ability to turn back into an egg so you can rehatch it again. I like Ashcloud Phoenix a
good bit more than Flamewreath Phoenix as you have all the options as opposed to your opponent getting to choose.

Given the current tools, I haven’t been overly impressed with the cards Khans of Tarkir has to offer for a mono-red mage like myself. Of course, this is a
set designed for those who like playing three-plus colors, not jamming small red creatures. Most of Khans of Tarkir has yet to be spoiled, and while I’m
hopeful for a busted mono-red gem, I do have my doubts.

Goblin Rabblemaster is still the three-drop of choice, followed by Prophetic Flamespeaker. Both are so strong that it’s hard to play any morph, regardless
of how much versatility they offer. Without Chandra’s Phoenix, I don’t see any competition thus far.

This is what I’d play post-rotation with the information I have currently.

Note that I don’t like the idea of playing fetchlands for the sole reason of thinning your deck. In fact, now that scrying is commonplace, shuffling your
library may thicken your land density if you’ve scryed two or more lands to the bottom. Of course, with the loss of life not being free, I don’t recommend
jamming fetchlands into your mono-color decks for the heck of it. Outside of them printing a red delve card, I don’t see red having any use for Wooded
Foothills or Bloodstained Mire.

This weekend I’m battling for the people in the Magic Online Community Cup, so be sure to tune in! Best of luck red mages!