Last weekend, I participated in the MOCS Playoff event to try to qualify for the Championship. I started my testing with U/B Control and really enjoyed the deck. My concern was that a tournament full of the best MTGO players in the world might have an even mix of aggro decks and control decks, so being forced to play a bunch of cheap removal spells in the main would leave you weak to control (or cut them and have no shot against aggro). Brennan DeCandio was having a lot of success with his version of R/G Aggro, so after playing a bit with it and making very few cosmetic changes, that’s what I decided to virtually sleeve up.
R/G Aggro is such a powerful strategy thanks to real and virtual card advantage. The card advantage starts with the explore mechanic. Merfolk Branchwalker is a card I always want to see early, and it’s serviceable late. A 2-mana 3/2 that can give you the option to scry into the graveyard is a good place to be, but this deck has plenty of mana sinks, meaning that a 2/1 that draws a land is often preferable. Jadelight Ranger is just a broken version of Branchwalker. This is a pushed card, and getting a pair of explores on your already well-priced 3-drop is amazing. Getting to filter your draw, get some extra lands, and potentially have 3/2s for 2 and 4/3s for 3 is a great place to start a deck.
It’s common for your explores to hit spells and send them to the graveyard. You have a lot of powerful draws in more Jadelight Rangers and your expensive creatures, so if you hit additional early drops, you may not want them in your hand. It just so happens that sending your other 2-drops into the bin is exactly where you want them for extra value. Earthshaker Khenra provides a haste threat that knocks out blockers and Resilient Khenra gives you an early creature that can pump up your team. Both of these creatures provide tremendous value out of the graveyard as huge 6-mana threats that can change a game when you have lots of lands.
Your big threats are big. Rekindling Phoenix is far from easy to deal with. A threat-dense deck like this taxes your opponent’s removal, and using your exile effects on the Phoenix just means that other creatures with eternalize are going to be coming back for more. A 4-power, 4-mana flying creature is already a great rate, and if a red deck or other opponent needs to spend multiple removal spells just to deal with it, it’s fantastic value.
Glorybringer is still the king. The haste Dragon may not be quite on the same power level of a card like Hazoret or The Scarab God in their respective decks, but it is fantastic across the board and requires no setup. If you’re at all on the defensive, Glorybringer is going to take down your creature and knock you upside the head. If you’re a creatureless strategy, you’re still getting a 4-power haste creature that can’t be hit by Fatal Push. When you’re curving explore creatures and eternalize creatures into Phoenix into Glorybringer into actually eternalizing, opponents don’t get a moment to breathe.
Rhonas the Indomitable barely sees any play in Standard, but this could definitely be the deck to change that. An indestructible blocker is great against decks like Red, and having a “wall” that can hold off Hazoret is valuable. Rhonas is great against opposing sweepers as it’s easy to reload and starts getting back in for 5. An indestructible creature to pair with eternalize creatures and Phoenix means that your opponent will need to have a lot of exile effects to contend.
The removal suite features 4 Abrades as a way to deal with the early creatures and cards like God-Pharaoh’s Gift and Heart of Kiran. Magma Spray doesn’t have utility against every deck in Standard and it can be embarrassing against control strategies, but it’s your best card against the hyper aggro decks that are popular in Standard. Struggle // Survive gives you an answer to bigger creatures and namely The Scarab God as a way to kill the big creature and shuffle it away. The added utility against opposing eternalize, Phoenix, aftermath, Torrential Gearhulk, and Search for Azcanta makes Survive a powerful effect.
R/G Aggro has excellent threats in the early and late game, and should be a force in Standard!