Temur Energy has been the most popular way to build around the powerful Kaladesh mechanic. Harnessed Lightning will always be a fantastic removal spell in any deck that can utilize energy (and still useful in decks that don’t), but perhaps you don’t need the red? With so many energy decks already looking to splash black, you can lean into it and utilize some of the best cards in Standard.
When you look at a metagame of Mono-Red, Temur Energy, U/B Control, and U/W Approach, there doesn’t appear to be much room for one of Standard’s strongest cards. Winding Constrictor is already a reasonably sized Elvish Warrior as a 2/3 for just 2 mana. It multiplies your energy count and the +1/+1 counters you add to your creatures. Utilizing both abilities in the same deck can generate a crazy advantage.
There aren’t many energy cards in this deck. Aether Hub makes sure that you have access to 3 colors of mana, and Attune with Aether is probably the best card in Standard right now. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner was held back by the popularity of Walking Ballista. While Ballista still sees play, the number of them has dropped dramatically. This makes the Siphoner a card that demands a quick removal spell, or it will take over the game.
The only other card in the deck with the energy mechanic also bridges the gap between both energy and counters. Longtusk Cub can win a game single-handedly. That’s a lot of power for a 2-drop creature. The Cub provides a bank of energy and is a great way to use any energy you’ve stockpiled over the course of a game. With a single Constrictor in play, each Cub hit nets you 3 energy and you can use 2 of them to put a pair of +1/+1 counters on the Cub. With a single Attune or even Aether Hub, you’re looking at a 6/6 Cub or bigger on turn 3!
Just because Walking Ballista isn’t as heavily played anymore doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable. There aren’t as many 1-toughness creatures in Mono-Red, but this is still a great mana sink and threat. Combined with Constrictor (or possibly multiple Constrictors), it becomes a powerhouse in a hurry.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade packs a punch. Its floor is a 3/3 mana creature for 3 that lets all of your creatures with counters tap for mana. Combined with a turn-2 Constrictor, you have a pair of 4-power creatures in play on turn 3. Pumping your Ballistas is also strong, and then you wind up having much more mana in play thanks to Rishkar making your team into mana creatures.
Ripjaw Raptor doesn’t have any synergies. It doesn’t use energy, gets no counters, and there is no benefit in this deck for playing a Dinosaur. That said, this is a 4/5 creature for 4 mana that threatens to provide a ton of card advantage. It’s a brick wall for most of Standard, is big enough to survive Lightning Strike or Glorybringer, and it needs to be dealt with or it takes over the game. Turning Ballista counters into extra cards is a huge bonus.
At the top end of the curve are two finishers you are well accustomed to by now. The Scarab God is the only blue card in the deck, but it’s so dominant that it’s worth the extra effort. Verdurous Gearhulk combos well with Constrictors and Ballistas, and oh, it can also just be an 8/8 trample for 5 if you have no other creatures. Not too shabby.
Going heavy black gives you access to some exceptional spells. Fatal Push one of the best removal spells in the history of Magic. Vraska’s Contempt gives you a removal spell that can handle just about anything and gives you a clean answer to Hazoret. You can also play Vraska, Relic Seeker to deal with problematic permanents, create menace threats, and send the opponent straight to 1 life.
The G/B color combination has been effective since the printing of Constrictor, and using the Snake with The Scarab God could be just the way to win in Standard!