Amonkhet brings a healthy infusion of aggressive cards in red. Specifically, it brings a new mechanic that’s perfectly capable of standing on its own, but also becomes very exciting when you pair it with Innistrad’s madness theme. This is the “one or fewer cards in hand” mechanic, which you might hear called “hellbent” after a similar mechanic from a decade ago.
Hazoret the Fervent and Bloodrage Brawler are two exciting Amonkhet cards that aggro players are eager to put to work. In both cases, the stats are way above par for their spot on the mana curve, and they’re natural fits for aggressive decks looking to dump their hands and unload damage as quickly as possible.
Before I dive into my own R/B Hellbent concoction, let me direct you to an R/G version offered by legendary deckbuilder Zvi Mowshowitz.
The card that caught my eye, even more than the obvious Hazoret and Bloodrage Brawler, is Neheb, the Worthy. A 4-power first strike creature on turn 3 is virtually impossible to tussle with in combat. Curving Brawler into Neheb will ruin any plans the opponent had for trading creatures, and will also result in an outrageous amount of damage when things go according to plan. Being a legend is a trivial concern, since Neheb is a must-kill-on-sight-type of creature. Plus, hellbent decks will have built-in ways to discard redundant copies if need be.
B/R Hellbent Aggro
The B/R Aggro decks of Amonkhet Standard can take the best from Innistrad’s madness and Vampires, from Kaladesh’s artifact synergies, and from Amonkhet’s hellbent and Minotaurs.
Even a few minutes of sketching makes it clear that there’s tremendous value in building in at least a small artifact subtheme. It’s no secret that Unlicensed Disintegration is one of the most punishing cards in Standard, and Bomat Courier and Inventor’s Apprentice are a cut above the 1-drops available outside of Kaladesh. Bomat Courier in particular is a perfect fit since the goal is to empty your hand quickly, and a turn-1 Courier will offer a second wind of resources at the perfect moment. You can also use it to simply discard your hand if you’re desperate to turn on Neheb and Hazoret at a crucial moment.
One sleeper card from Innistrad that will shine in this style of deck is Asylum Visitor. Every aspect of this card screams to be paired with the empty-my-hand strategy. You can madness it off of Lightning Axe or any of several other discard outlets, and you can begin triggering it once or twice per turn cycle quite early in the game. 3 power also makes it a perfect fit for crewing Heart of Kiran.
Past Neheb, the Worthy and Bloodrage Brawler, Standard’s most appealing Minotaur is Ahn-Crop Crasher, which is a powerful card that pairs perfectly with Neheb. But competition is stiff at the 3-mana slot, and having an unwieldy mana curve would be an absolute disaster for a deck so focused on emptying its hand quickly.
One final card to mention is Insult // Injury, which holds a lot of appeal to me. It stands out among the aftermath cards due to the fact that Injury actually offers a good, mana-efficient rate. While it might come up infrequently that this deck would set up a big turn with Insult plus another spell, Insult // Injury earns its spot because it’s the best card to discard to Bloodrage Brawler on turn 2. You can dump it, let it sit in your graveyard, and then have a punishing burn spell for later once you’re playing empty-handed.
Empty-your-hand aggro strikes me as the starting place for red aggressive decks in Standard. But finding the perfect balance between power, mana efficiency, discard outlets, and madness cards poses quite a challenge. I’m excited to see if the Minotaur tribe can shine in Standard, and just how much decks like this might be able to attack for on the fourth turn of the game!