Many people are fans of playing Atarka Red. But many, many people are not fans of playing Atarka Red. This article is for the latter
Your terrible deck that you shouldn’t have played last weekend
has won two Pro Tours and the Open Series in Indianapolis. Like I said, if you could retroactively go back in time–and this is directed at you
specifically Brian DeMars–you should have played something else.
Literally anything else. Brian, if you showed up with one of your Vintage decks, were paired round one against an eleven-year-old child, and Time
Vault/Voltaic Key locked them out of the game on turn 1 in both games without them knowing that your cards were illegal for the format you were playing in,
people would actually hate you less. There would be a stupid Reddit thread where a bunch of pitchfork-wielding drama hounds would post about how evil you
are and why you should be banned, but I assure you the masses of the Magic community would be cooler with that than you winning the first week of Battle for Zendikar Standard with the most despised deck out there in their collective minds.
For those of you new to this, Mono-Red Aggro or derivatives of it, like Atarka Red, are looked down upon by the Magical aristocracy of wizards who like to
bitch and moan about “losing before they get to play Magic.”
The Magic equivalence of this…
…is going to be the most vocal member of social media, your local SCG Game Night, FNM, PPTQ, or whatever when it comes to expressing their discontent about
getting blown out by a person kicking their teeth in with Become Immense. I think that’s the best way to go out.
I’ll play a land.
Excellent. Attack with my Swiftspear.
*Checks life pad* I’ll take it.
What…what are you doing?
Do I take one or…?
WILD SLASH BECOME IMMENSE FOR A GREEN TEMUR BATTLE RAGE YOU’RE DEEEEEEEAAAAAD
I would respond, but I was blown to pieces by your fury.
Sure sounds like we both had a great time, doesn’t it?
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 2 Lightning Berserker
- 4 Zurgo Bellstriker
- 2 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
- 4 Abbot of Keral Keep
- 1 Makindi Sliderunner
Considering only one other copy of Atarka Red was able to crack the Top 32, I wouldn’t start calling this the second coming of U/W Delver, but players tend
to follow trends and just leave it to Brad Nelson to innovate every week, so this is what you’re stuck with until Bard starts churning out red-based VS
Videos. Or that velvet-voiced devil Tom Ross. You know he saw these finals and a part of him just couldn’t even.
A lot of this deck ported from the previous Theros Standard, so it was on just about everyone’s radar going into this weekend, but a lot of the
best players in the world were touting how gimped it was due to losing Goblin Rabblemaster, Stoke the Flames, and Lightning Strike.
Real talk: if you cut off two of Kali’s arms, does she still have a whole bunch of arms wielding swords? Let’s check the footage.
It sure looks like she can still swing a hammer! Great analysis, everyone!
And therein lies the humor of Atarka Red. Players always operate under the same assumption about it: If we know about it, we can plan for it, and nothing
can go wrong. That’s infallible, right? Basically that means tossing two Arashin Clerics in your sideboard and claiming you “couldn’t lose” anymore.
What happens when you don’t draw one of those two Clerics?
You know what else this format is doing a lot of already?
“Crack my fetch. I take one.”
Gerry Thompson’s funhouse of a deck, the Five-Color Bring Me To Light deck (please click that
link) is sporting a ridiculous fourteen fetchlands. In order to unlock the maximum potential his deck has, players battling with this awesome amalgamation
of spells and creatures are going to take a lot of chip damage and may have a lot of lands entering the battlefield tapped. This means the massive amount
of redundancy is going to shine and the slowness these midrange and control decks suffer from is going to give them plenty of time to push through a
removal spell or two.
But none of that matters! This weekend at #SCGATL players are going to gun for Atarka Red, and like the Titanic, that deck is going to sail right into a
bunch of icebergs. Hell. Maybe even three Arashin Clerics!
Your Best Cards:
Abzan-based decks were certainly the winners of #SCGINDY, putting up monstrous numbers in the Top 32, but only converting two spots in the Top 8. This is
due in part to the clunkiness of early versions of these decks but also a lot to do with this happy chappie:
Red Snapcaster Mage or whatever the heck the trolls are calling him nowadays is absolutely busted in Atarka Red, and whenever your opponent casts it on
turn 3, they will 100% of the time hit a land and put it onto the battlefield; and when it’s cast on turn 5 or more it’ll always hit the spell they need to
win the game on the spot. I hate Abbot because he’s so good. I hate this deck because it’s so consistent. I hate this deck because it’s so easily hated
out. In other words, I’m a complaining Magic player.
The one-two punch of Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage is the single best way to disrespect your opponents all day and christen them with a bad-beat
story that they’ll no doubt tell a crowd of people after you sack them out of the game. The fact that it’s a known quantity matters in the sense that
people will see it coming, but much like the Top 8 where Brian DeMars was playing against extremely well-informed opponents, it absolutely doesn’t matter.
This is a tapout format with powerful creatures and sorceries, so the deck jamming the “lol 24 damage” combo of instants can’t be adequately prepared for.
If they leave up mana for Abzan Charm or Murderous Cut, just attack them. If they try to kill a creature, target the other one and then smack their deck
over. While they’re pickup up their cards write “0” on their pad with a stick figure of a person laughing at them.
Rounding out the best cards is Atarka’s Command. To steal the name away from Gruul the card has to be pretty strong, and this one is a doozy. Remember when
people laughed at the “put a land onto the battlefield” mode? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Makindi Sliderunner remembers. Now all the modes on this command
are playable. Aside from being a Skullcrack, the +1/+1 to all your creatures is just stupid. Good thing we have all those red prowess minions out there
ending games on turn 4. This singlehandedly makes your Dragon Fodders and Hordeling Outbursts way better than they should be. In short, this is the
component to your opponent’s misery, and therefore it should be the most celebrated.
What’s New That Sucks:
Absolutely nothing! If you look at Brian’s list it plays an interchangeable 2/1 and a few Cinder Glades. I guess you could say Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
being in the maindeck is a wild innovation, but truth be told, this deck is plucked almost straight from the previous season. The criticism that it lost a
lot of great tools, as people seemingly became amnesiac about, is that the road goes both ways. All those sweet cards that just rotated like Courser of
Kruphix, Temples, Sylvan Caryatid, Hero’s Downfall, and a bunch of other dope cards have all went bye-bye.
If the point is that Atarka Red has gotten weaker, then the other side of the coin should be that other decks also had their jimmies rustled pretty badly,
and they haven’t found that balance yet between “awful” and “playable.” In short, Brian brought the only deck of the weekend that gave the least craps
What Has Always Sucked:
As it has been pointed out time and time again, when people actually start gunning for Atarka Red it can be easily hated out. But that means putting just
more than a couple Clerics in your sideboard and hoping for the best. Patrick Sullivan thought Michael Majors had a fairly large edge in the finals match
with DeMars, but he was dealt with rather swiftly and brutally. More pinpointed answers will be required, so I’d expect something like Brad Carpenter’s
Abzan Control list to spring up next week given its three maindeck Languishes, four sideboarded Clerics, Duress, and other tools.
Aside from the usual problems, the other thing that sucks about Atarka Red are the attitudes players have when it comes to it. Yes, I understand the
overwhelming irony of writing about why it sucks, but the truth is the deck is great and it gets the least amount of respect. We’re talking majoring in
philosophy levels of disrespect. Everybody wants to “play Magic” without realizing that there are people out there who want to play it differently than you
do. If that means housing you for irresponsible amounts of damage before you get to play your Siege Rhino…well…sucks to be you.
What Might Not Suck:
For the first few weeks people will be trying new strategies, new cards, and new decks. That means Atarka Red gets to prey on all sorts of schlubs who are
just out there trying to have a good time. It has incredible redundancy and powerful draws, and in a vacuum the nut draw for this deck is unbeatable.
Regardless of how you prepare for it, if you don’t draw those sideboarded cards you’re going to be subjected to one of those really quick rounds. But look
on the bright side! While your friends are playing Magic the food line is shorter, there aren’t as many people in the bathroom, and you have a chance to
meditate or do whatever it takes to calm you down! In essence, you should be thanking your opponent for taking you to the woodshed.
Now let’s hear it from our Atarka Red fans in the comments below!