If you’ve played any Magic Online Competitive Standard Leagues then you know just how challenging it is to put up a 5-0 record and grab a trophy. At Grand Prix Seattle this weekend, Gan Yan did what nobody has done before, putting up an 18-0 record and snagging the big trophy.
Gan didn’t reinvent the wheel for his Red Aggro deck. He simply played a streamlined version, focusing on the best cards. Bomat Courier is the best 1-drop by leaps and bounds. It gets in for haste damage immediately and demands an answer before turn 4-5, when its card advantage will become too much to overcome. This list foregoes Soul-Scar Mage entirely, opting instead for a playset of Fanatical Firebrands. This provides a little bit more reach in a haste creature and 1-point burn spell, but it’s also a useful tool against opposing Bomat Couriers and Glint-Sleeve Siphoners, which is excellent to have access to.
The 2-drop keep up the aggression with the full playset of Earthshaker Khenras. This provides yet another haste threat, a way to force through your Bomats and other creatures, and an important late-game mana sink as a 6-mana 4/4 haste creature that turns off a blocker. You only have two copies of Kari Zev in this list, as you want to make sure you’re playing your threats every turn and not getting hit by the legend rule. With Fatal Push being heavily played, as well as plenty of removal spells capable of dealing 3 damage for 2 mana, you don’t want more copies of a creature that isn’t resilient against removal and doesn’t have haste.
Ahn-Crop Crasher provides yet another haste threat and a punishing one to any opponent who taps out. Crasher is the threat that will often put the game out of reach, as that 6-point attack on turn 3 they can’t block puts an opponent firmly on the back foot. A single copy of Pia Nalaar provides some additional bodies and yet another tool to turn off blockers for a turn.
Hazoret the Fervent is what makes Red Aggro as good as it is. If they don’t have an immediate answer, Hazoret will just end the game. It’s a late-game mana sink and indestructible makes it resilient to lots of removal spells. While Standard has options to take care of Hazoret, the removal spells by and large all cost 4 mana, so you’re not even getting a bad exchange there, and if you’re able to swing in for 5 and then make them tap out to answer the God, the game is usually over anyway.
Four copies of Hazoret just isn’t enough these days. Overloading their exile removal is what makes Red so strong. Rekindling Phoenix is a 4-power flyer for 4 mana, meaning that it ends the game quickly and isn’t easy to block. The fact that it also gets around non-exiling removal spells or forces the opponent to have multiple answers in a turn makes the Phoenix one of the best threats in Standard.
Lightning Strike is the best removal spell you have as it can go to the face or kill creatures at instant speed for just 2 mana, so you play four copies of that. Next on the list is Shock as a nice tempo play. Abrade gives you a main-deck answer to God-Pharoah’s Gift, powerful Vehicles, or to kill medium-sized creatures.
The lands Gan Yan plays are quite interesting. With Ramunap Ruins banned, mana bases have definitely adjusted, but this one is still different from most. 18 Mountains gives you access to plenty of red sources, but you have room for colorless utility lands. There are no copies of Sunscorched Desert here, however. Instead, he has three copies of Scavenger Grounds to fight Gift and The Scarab God. You also have three copies of Grasping Dunes as an additional removal spell that can kill small creatures or finish off the Elemental created by an opposing Rekindling Phoenix headed to the graveyard.
You also see a lot of diversity in the sideboard without overloading on cards like Chandra or Glorybringer, so expect to see a wide variety of options in games 2 and 3. After the 18-0 record in Seattle, you can be confident that this is the way Mono-Red Aggro players will be building their decks, so you’d best be prepared!