The New Face Of Red Aggro

Red has enjoyed the last bit of Standard quite a lot, but things are about to shift! Patrick Chapin provides you with a ton of new red aggro decks to get you started in the winning direction!

In retrospect, I suspect the last six months of Standard probably would
have been better if


block wasn’t changed to be legal six months longer than it was
originally supposed to be…

Guilds of Ravnica
potentially represents the biggest upheaval to Standard in years, thanks to Kaladesh block and friends finally rotating. With the rotation
comes a manabase possibility table flip. For instance, consider the case of
red aggro decks.

Steam Vents and Sacred Foundry are absolutely enormous incentives to splash
blue or white in our red aggro decks, assuming we splash anything at all.
Besides, the primary draws to black are rotating, anyway.

In evaluating the relative value of a blue or white splash, we need a
mono-red deck to provide a baseline.

While it might be easy to assume we’re supposed to try to replicate The
Flame of Keld style of red decks, I’m not so sure that’s the place to

I mean, maybe it is, but I am interested in seeing where other paths go.
For instance, as much as Demanding Dragon requires testing, isn’t
Charging Monstrosaur kind of interesting in a world dominated by Teferi,
Hero of Dominaria?

I think Fanatical Firebrand is probably the default first one-drop in most
red aggro decks, but how much work are we supposed to do to enable Ghitu

Ghitu Lavarunner is traditionally powered up by Wizard’s Lightning, but I’m
not the biggest fan of trying to Wizard’s Lightning with just the
Lavarunner and Viashino Pyromancer for Wizards.

I’m not saying it’s out of the question, but it’s just not that attractive
out the gate. I’m wondering if we might be able to achieve the two
sorcery/instant threshold with the help of Warlord’s Fury.

Warlord’s Fury is an underrated one-cost cantrip with an important
distinction compared to many of these types of cards. Since it doesn’t
target, you can cycle it, even when there are no creatures on the table
(like turn 1, when you don’t have a one-drop).

As for the effect it actually generates, giving your whole team first
strike for the turn could actually be really sweet. It’s not just how much
better it makes front-heavy cards like Lightning Mare.

Just playing Warlord’s Fury in a deck with Shocks and Lightning Strikes can
actually make blocking much, much harder for people. Besides, even
just having an untapped Fanatical Firebrand is a nightmare when you’re
attacking with three first striking creatures.

While Rekindling Phoenix is just such a powerful card, it would be
surprising to want to play Skizzik instead, there is at least something to
consider thanks to the increased incentive to play Path of Mettle.

Path of Mettle requires an awful lot of haste, first strike, double strike,
and vigilance; and while Rekindling Phoenix occasionally has haste, Skizzik
always comes packing. I’m guessing it’d be better, even in such a deck, to
play Rekindling Phoenix, since Skizzik kicking for five overlaps with
Charging Monstrosaur. Maybe we just don’t need either one?

While Legion Warboss doesn’t have any of the necessary abilities to trigger
Path of Mettle, its token does, at least on the turn created.

Legion Warboss is an obvious homage to Goblin Rabblemaster that may not hit
quite as hard, but does have a lot of play to it, giving you ways to set up
lines to get little edges with careful attacks. It’s kind of a thinking
man’s Goblin Rabblemaster, if you will.

Dire Fleet Daredevil’s first strike is obviously nice here, but I also kind
of just imagine there being enough Shocks, Lightning Strikes, Opts,
Adventurous Impulses, and jump-start cards to warrant trying the card in a
lot of places, taking advantage of just how powered down the format is.

Path of Mettle isn’t the only white enchantment worth considering in red
aggro. Gerry Thompson spoke
about the use of these two cards in Goblins, but I think I like a little
different mix of Goblins might be called for.

Maybe I’m off base, but I’m just not feeling Goblin Trashmonger at the
moment. Goblin Warchief isn’t exactly the greatest ever either, though
maybe it gets better because of how much card flow Dark-Dweller Oracle

One card I’m sure I like is Volley Veteran. Between Volley Veteran and
Conclave Tribunal, we’ve actually got a very different style of removal
than most red decks, a suite much better suited to combating green and
white fatties.

This card looks incredible. For just one mana more than Oblivion Ring, you
get outrageous flexibility, including the option to easily make two or
three big plays in one key turn. The ability to tap your creatures to
convoke the turn that you play them is actually even more reason not to
invest heavily in Goblin Warchief. You’re getting virtual “haste” out of
the convoke, but paying for haste and then wasting it is pretty

I’m really not the biggest fan of Skirk Prospector right now, but I think
we probably do need another one-drop. Rigging Runner is just not gonna
contribute to our overall gameplan either, so hopefully there’s a powerful
one-drop Goblin in Guilds of Ravnica, as that might be all that’s
missing to make this strategy a tier 1 contender. For more on R/W Goblins,
check out Jim Davis’s extensive breakdown

It’s probably crazy talk, but I can’t help but fantasize about a one-cost
2/1 Goblin with mentor. That’s probably an inefficient distribution of
power for Goblins, though, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something
dope for us to consider.

Besides, depending on what the Boros split card is, we could easily need to
find room for some copies of it. For reference, here’s the only card in
this cycle we know, as of the time of this writing.

Status//Stature is a really interesting card, with either half potentially
being so compelling of a card as to warrant exploration, with the other
half just a bonus.

To begin with, Stature is kind of a poor man’s Vraska’s Contempt, but
instead of hitting Planeswalkers, it can hit artifacts or enchantments.
Yeah, it doesn’t exile, nor gain two life, but it does require just a
single black, and besides, the Status option is extremely attractive.

For starters, Goblin Chainwhirler getting deathtouch with its enters the
battlefield trigger on the stack is the epitome of a wombo-combo. The

With neither Stomping Ground, nor Blood Crypt legal, there haven’t exactly
been a surplus of decks out there capable of reliably generating Goblin
Chainwhirler’s triple red while also able to play either side of Status.

I might have found a loophole.

You see, once you’re looking at Goblin Chainwhirler as a four-drop or
five-drop, you can really start to imagine playing it consistently, despite
even playing crazy cards like basic Forest(!)

Despite just thirteen lands capable of generating red, this list actually
has a soft 25 potential sources, thanks to just how many
alternate forms of mana production it has access to. Yeah, pointing your
Evolving Wilds and Thunderherd Migrations at Mountain is likely to leave us
without black sometimes, but remember, Status is hybrid, so we don’t
actually need black mana unless we’re playing Stature as a removal spell.

Deathgorge Scavenger was already a staple that benefited from addition by
subtraction; however, the set mechanics of Guilds of Ravnica
really suggest the Scavenger’s graveyard disruption will be meaningfully
more relevant. Both jump-Start and undergrowth are directly weakened by
each Scavenger trigger.

While Regisaur Alpha would be kind of sweet, Charging Monstrosaur and
Carnage Tyrant kind of line up better against Teferi, and besides, the
first time you Status one of them and teach your opponent about how
deathtouch interacts with trample, your biggest problem will be finding a
mop to clean up their face after it has melted off.

Yeah, Burning Sun’s Avatar combos with Status, too, but building a
seven-drop 187 removal spell killing one creature isn’t really doing
anything. We’d do well to keep an eye on any potential second-coming of
Walking Ballistas that might be revealed in Guilds of Ravnica. Now that would be a killer combo.

Then again, maybe the closest thing to a Walking Ballista we’ve got is
Siege-Gang Commander? You know, depending on how freaky we wanted to get,
maybe there’s a build of Goblins that incorporates the Status//Stature +
Goblin Chainwhirler and Siege-Gang Commander combos?

Wily Goblin is an interesting additional option to consider for helping
make the Status splash possible. It’s not the most amazing body ever, but
it is one that’s perfect for sacrificing.

Even when we’re not comboing off hard, Fanatical Firebrand and Volley
Veteran give additional nice options for Status, to say nothing of just
casting it as a removal spell.

I tried building a R/U Goblins deck to take advantage of Steam Vents, but
quickly arrived at a place that suggested pivoting towards Pirates or
Wizards instead (or just returning to R/W).

There’s basically nothing we even want in blue, besides, I guess, Negate in
the sideboard or whatever. Even Sonic Assault, an underrated tempo play
I’ve really digging, isn’t at it’s best here.

Sonic Assault removing a blocker and sending two damage upstairs is much
more a Red Deck Wins kind of a card, rather than a Goblin card. The ability
to jump-start the card is where the real value comes in, though.

Sonic Assault’s rate isn’t the most pushed thing in the world or anything,
and I’m not saying it’s a defining card or anything. I just suspect it’ll
play out better than it might appear on the surface.

Obviously, I’d rather just play Chart a Course as a draw-two; however, the
ability to discard jump-start cards like Sonic Assault brings up some
really good questions. Could we actually be getting more mileage out of the
jump-start mechanic, potentially looking at cards like Radical Idea and
Unexplained Disappearance?

If you just play Radical Idea straight up, it’s mostly a bad Tormenting
Voice. It’s instant speed and more flexible, but having to pay the cost
twice is a big deal. However, when you are able to discard a jump-start
card to Ral, Izzet Viceroy, a looting effect, surveil, or just another
jump-start card, you can really get more than the sum of the parts.

As for Unexplained Disappearance, I’d refer you to the success Voyage’s End
had when it was in Standard. Surveil is generally slightly stronger than
scry, and a deck like this would make particularly good use of the
graveyard interactions.

Depending on how deep we go, we might even consider Dismissive Pyromancer,
but I worry that the one mana activation is just enough to make the card’s
ceiling not quite high enough to justify how often is dies on the cheap
without having an effect yet. If we don’t make heavy use of the synergies,
it seems like it’s just going to water down our red aggro deck and give us
a lukewarm jack of no trades kind of a vibe.

Naru Meha, Master Wizard is an exciting lord, but I’m not really thinking
we’re going to always have that many Wizards on the battlefield, and our
curve is low enough, it’s hard to actually copy spells, most of the time.
Still, it is a powerful and tricky card, so if we end up playing a little
more mid-range of a game with a bit more flash, maybe it’s worth

Despite Direct Current being the more obvious card to try, among jump-start
burn, I’m not really that into it. It’s kind of a Staggershock that you
actually have to pay for the second half on, both in mana and with a card.
It might be okay as part of a very serious jump-start strategy, but I’m not
seeing it yet.

If we can get away from Goblin Chainwhirler, Siren Stormtamer is another
Wizard that jumps out at me. Maybe we can use it with Chart a Course and
Merfolk Trickster and play a tempo game, but it just seems so underpowered,
at least from what I can see of it so far.

I also tried looking at if there’s a way to take advantage of it being a
Pirate, but it’s hard to play many of the Pirate “incentives.”

I mean, are we playing Unclaimed Territory or not? Once we are, it’s hard
to play many non-Pirate spells. I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around
the Pirates yet, though. When I sketch out lists, I keep getting sucked
into ridiculous extremes that are just not really going work out in this
world of Goblin Chainwhirlers and Settle the Wreckage.

No, I think I were looking to play red week one, I would be mainly focused
on R/W (Goblins or Red Deck Wins) or R/U (Wizards or Red Deck Wins), but
there’s an awful lot of Guilds of Ravnica to come.

Besides, we haven’t even touched on the real sleeper red aggro card…