Find #10-7 here.
6. RB – Removal/Token Sacrifice
The nice thing about RB decks in Limited is that historically they have the best removal. I think WB might have a better overall removal suite this time around, but RB comes close. This means that you can start off a draft with a good chain of removal spells in red and black, and then decide how deep you’re able to go on synergy as the draft develops. Blood Artist is absolutely incredible in this deck, but a lot of your other cards like Carrion Feeder look pretty anemic without it or other enablers. For this reason, RB has the flexibility to range anywhere from all-in aggro-combo to a fully-loaded removal deck looking to take over the late game and win via 6-drops. When the latter plan comes together, Prowling Pangolin and Twisted Abomination can serve as legitimate finishers while red offers some repeatable utility into the late game with all-stars Young Pyromancer and Honden of Infinite Rage—a particularly well-positioned card in the format.
The deck can feel a bit like UG at times when you have some removal spells that don’t line up well versus your opponent or have a bunch of useless 1/1s sitting on board that aren’t doing enough without other synergy pieces in play. It’s important to ensure you don’t end up with half of a focused deck since then you’ll just have a bunch of draws that don’t make any sense. Include Carrion Feeder in your deck for a reason.
Strengths: Great removal, and the possibility for strong synergy based around Blood Artist.
Weaknesses: The deck has many different roles and it’s easy to end up with an unfocused end product. Small burn might not line up well depending on the opponent.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Be sure to draft with matchups and sideboarding in mind. Have a focused game plan, and try to have ways to board to beat smaller things by drafting sideboard cards like Nausea and be ready to cut small creatures that don’t line up well versus better opposing midrange decks.
5. UR – Flashback/Tempo
This color combination is similar to RB in that it can range from full aggro to full control, but the cards that lead to those different paths point in a clear direction, and while drafting you want to choose a path and push hard in that direction. Burning Vengeance is clearly the marquee card for the color combination, but if you’re going to go the flashback route full of value you either need a Burning Vengeance or 2, or a lot of Wee Dragonauts. Without these uncommon build-arounds, you end up spinning your wheels to the point where you deck yourself, or simply don’t do enough to stabilize the board before you die.
Flame Jab is the absolute best card to pair with Burning Vengeance since you suddenly start throwing around Arc Trails left and right, and can even just deal 3 to any one target. This damage flexibility will clear the board quickly, and then you can just start throwing Lightning Bolts at your opponent. One interesting thing I’ve discovered about UR is that because you have all these retrace cards, extra lands are of real value to your game plan. Hitting land drops every turn is also very important because you are going to spend several early turns just drawing cards trying to set up your late game engine. I played a 42-card deck recently where I just added 2 lands to my normal 40. I had so much card draw that the extra 2 cards helped keep me from decking a couple games, and had some extra lands to retrace with. I don’t recommend this for every UR deck, but I think it’s a valid strategy for good UR decks where all the card draw and retrace spells come together.
Unlike WG where you pretty much are all-in on the Aura plan, UR has a tempo deck available if Burning Vengeances and Wee Dragonauts aren’t opened. Borderland Marauder hits fast and hard, and if you can land it turn 2 then back it up with burn and bounce spells to clear the way, you’ll have a very fast clock not to mention any follow-up creatures to keep the pressure on. Luckily, these early drops aren’t being picked up that much by other drafters because there are usually better options in other red color pairings.
Strengths: Flexibility while drafting; strong tempo plans and ability to control the board with burn spells.
Weaknesses: Large creatures, Coalition Honor Guard, not drawing your key spells fast enough in game, and self-decking.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Prioritize bounce spells to buy time against large threats, and consider running extra lands for extra retrace and enough time to win before decking.
4. RG – Zoo
RG is the typical Zoo-style deck that looks to go big as fast as possible. You’re not going to run over your opponents by having 10 creatures in play but rather 4 very large ones. Kird Ape gets this game plan running quickly, and is even very large for the format as a whole. Creatures aren’t able to profitably interact with a 2/3 until turns 3 or 4 at the earliest, so it’ll get in for 4-6 damage and then trade off with a better creature. Not bad! Bloodbraid Elf is really the reason to go into the deck though. It’s just so efficient and can bring back memories of Jund from old Standard, which will make you either very happy or sad depending on whether you’re the one casting the Bloodbraid. A pair of these really can push RG over the top. To round out your 4-drops, I’ve found this archetype to be the best home for Emperor Crocodile. Your other creatures will actually be large enough to survive the early game so its downside is mitigated here, and the deck cares a whole lot more about power and toughness than any huge synergies. It can sometimes just get chumped, but that can’t happen for too long, and RG has ways to give it trample for huge damage potential.
For similar reasons to the Croc, Sentinel Spider finds a nice home here. One of the deck’s weaknesses is to blue flyer decks that can stall the ground with annoying blockers like Glacial Wall while slowly dealing damage in the air. The Spider can give you time to stabilize and find a way to pump up your large creatures or go wide enough to attack through the walls. Essentially, if the power and toughness on a creature are efficient enough, then that creature is good enough for your RG deck. No frills, but there’s something pleasant about curving out with huge monsters and casting Chain Lightning at your opponent when they’re at 3 life.
Strengths: Bigger monsters than everyone else.
Weaknesses: Lack of synergy, little card advantage, and only one real angle of attack.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Draft with curve in mind. You’re unlikely to win a long game unless you can interact with your opponent meaningfully. Mulligan hands aggressively if your curve is super low and you aren’t going to start impacting the board until turn 3+.