Pulse Trackers in Standard

So, after a long time without writing anything more than a tweet or two, I’ve decided to write a few quick thoughts on the B/R Aggro deck I put on the map of Standard last week. The fact is, I couldn’t let the opportunity to talk about a deck with 8 Pulse Trackers pass by. Eight! That’s a lot of Pulse Trackers, and I’ve always loved the card.

For starters, the list. A disclaimer: I built it in 5 minutes last Friday night on a whim, so it’s as rough as it gets. Someone else did get a second trophy with a netdeck version a few days ago, though!

B/R Aggro

There are three reasons for this black-based build of “Mono-Red,” which I’ll elaborate below.

First is access to discard. Duress is insane. Standard, at its core right now, revolves around resolving some idiotic bomb that either generates massive traction/pressure by itself (be it Scarab God, Hazoret or just a Virtuoso for five tokens), or some insane spell that can invalidate that traction from your opponent (sweepers, basically, but things like Virtuoso, God, or Hostage Taker could also apply here, which is why they’re all so great). Duress will either take whatever your opponent has to answer your bomb, or the big spell, so even if it whiffs, you don’t usually care that much—it means that they don’t have anything and will just die to your bomb.

Second is Bontu’s Last Reckoning. Most good decks in this format are hard to stop once they’re firing on all cylinders. Bontu’s Last Reckoning gives you an angle that is not only good, but necessary, since I don’t know if there’s anything that Mono-Red can run that allows them to turn around a losing board position. Virtuoso and Hostage Taker can do it, but aren’t cards you can run, and even when you’re on the play there are a lot of boards that are simply overwhelming (Virtuoso, again, is the main offender, and Red players will learn to get frustrated at Taker soon enough).

The last and probably biggest reason is that I just don’t think the Mono-Red deck is fully functional right now without the 12 damage-dealing 1-drops. What made Red so good last season was that everything had a lot of underlying synergy: The very low aggro curve with the 8 Falter effects, the ease of unloading cards to turn Hazoret on, and the incidental damage from all sources added up to put people within Desert range, one by one (and three, and five). Taking the 1-drops out, you have a higher density of hands that either can’t unload for Hazoret, or don’t deal enough damage, which added together make your deck too weak.

Of course, given a decent representation of the archetype in the field, somebody is bound to draw their Bomats every round and will do very well (and that will skew the narrative toward “Red is still good” when I think it shouldn’t), but I don’t think the percentages favor you. There is a chance that there’s a build that finds enough enablers for Inventor’s Apprentice without turning to terrible cards, but I just don’t have the time or patience to try it out.

Specific card and matchup notes—not fully organized. I built the deck in 5 minutes, so there is a lot of tuning that could and should be done. I don’t have a sideboard guide fully hammered out because I simply haven’t played the deck that much, but hopefully the thoughts below will give you a general idea of how I want the deck to look post-board against the field:

  • There almost definitely should be 4 Hazorets. I’m dumb.
  • Wrath synergy is the biggest reason for Yahenni. Being good against Red, a mediocre matchup (despite me not liking the deck right now) is also a very nice bonus. Ammit Eternal could be a solid option, but Ruin Raider seems quite bad.
  • The actual reason you run Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Harvester is to fix mana. They’re solid cards, sure, but having functional Hubs is much better. There could be a build that runs 4 Bomat Couriers and turns on Spire of Industry, or maybe you can just throw some Mountains in there. The deck supports at least one extra Mountain. Khenra would be a dream, but I’m pretty sure the mana doesn’t support them.
  • On the subject of Bomats, I tried one at the PTQ and it was good. As much as I love Trackers, 8 is actually a lot, and you could cut a few (Conquistador is the worse of the two) for more Bomats, which at the very least diversify your threats a little bit. Haste is good—even small-ball haste. With some Bomats, Disintegration main becomes an option. Disintegration is a great card (duh), especially against the rising U/B/x decks, and I will want the full 4 eventually. Be aware that Disintegration is not very good against Temur, though, as it is very inefficient against both of their problem cards, Virtuoso and Hydra.
  • Cut // Ribbons is sort of a trap. Big aftermaths don’t come up often since most decks in this format are pretty good at putting games away (and you won’t have them in your deck against Approach, obviously), and it doesn’t kill a God. I ran 2 at the PTQ and would run at most 1 in the sideboard for when you want to overload on removal, but probably 0.
  • Doomfall is great. It lets you overload on discard against a bunch of decks that will bring in random creatures against you, like Sunscourge Champion, random Gods out of control, or whatever. You could run 3, depending on how the metagame shakes up.
  • Gifted Aetherborn is terrible. You are actually the aggressor against Mono-Red as you have a better curve and incidental life gain for racing, so what you want is staying power to offset Khenras and their superior removal. What I’ll probably try out next time are a few Pias and a Scorpion God.
  • Don’t take out all of your 1-drops just because you’re bringing in wraths, no matter how stupid you feel for it. Not only do you need a lot of guys to feed Yahenni, you also want your opponent to overcommit to deal with your board. Reckoning’s drawback is very real and the plan is to kill them with the indestructible creature ASAP. A slow-paced game where both players hold back doesn’t favor you—don’t let it happen. Your deck isn’t built for that.
  • On the Reckoning + indestructible note: It’s probably correct to side in Duress vs. Temur to not get stomped by Confiscation Coup after you sweep the board. They usually have more removal post-board anyway so you won’t be whiffing that much.
  • I never drew Vance’s Blasting Cannons and I have no idea how good it is. Gerry Thompson said it isn’t good, so I’ll trust the guy and take it out of my sideboard until proven otherwise.

As for Standard in general, I firmly believe that the Hostage Taker + The Scarab God combo is stupidly good, and the deck that best leverages both cards will turn out to be the best deck in Standard, with Duress as the best supporting card. I have no idea how to build that kind of thing, but still. I also kind of like the Tezzeret/improvise builds’ potential as long as people realize they should be running Hostage Taker in those too. Straight Temur and Approach (please run a lot of Search for Azcanta in that deck, regardless of how your build looks elsewhere) are also solid choices, in my humble opinion.

I do believe that my deck, with a lot of tuning, could turn into at least a very solid, consistently performing tier 2 deck. But frankly, it doesn’t have Taker or God, so I’m not sure if it’ll ever be #1. But at least it beats down!

To wrap up, an untested updated deck list, with some of the changes I’ve outlined in the article:

B/R Aggro

Good luck on future tournaments, and follow me on Twitter for free raging and nonsense (and very sporadic strategy content!): @_megafone_


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