RW Aggro was one of the best decks in pre-Fate Reforged Standard, and it has only gotten better.
What is the best way to incorporate Fate Reforged?
Chandra was great in RW, but Outpost Siege is a Chandra that goes harder on whichever mode you choose and is immune to Hero’s Downfall and damage. Before Fate Reforged, the only way to play such a resilient card advantage engine in RW was to splash blue for Jeskai Ascendancy and Treasure Cruise at the expense of Chained to the Rocks, but with Outpost Siege we get the best of both worlds!
Monastery Mentor was the card I was most excited about from Fate Reforged, but boy did it disappoint. It turns out that the difference between 2 and 3 is huge, so this falls quite a bit short of Young Pyromancer. If we had a lack of 3-drops Mentor might be good, but Rabblemaster is just the stones and Hordeling Outburst is particularly good right now against other red decks. Between Brimaz and Mentor, both make tokens, but Brimaz is better without support, more resilient to removal, and particularly important after board against Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods.
Soulfire Grand Master
The buyback ability doesn’t come up that often, so we are basically considering a 2/2 with super-lifelink. Rarely have 2/2s for two been worse in Standard. All 2-drops that want to attack must pass the Courser of Kruphix–Sylvan Caryatid test. Seeker of the Way, Fleecemane Lion, Rakshasa Deathdealer, Heir of the Wilds all pass, which is why they see play. Soulfire Grand Master does not, which is a huge strike against him. The best argument in his favor is the lack of 2-drops in RW. A 2/2 super-lifelink is good against other red decks, but I have been happy with only four Seekers of the Way.
Wild Slash and Valorous Stance
Wild Slash is narrower than Lightning Strike, but more efficient against Goblin Rabblemaster and Seeker of the Way. Valorous Stance is a great answer to Siege Rhino and Courser of Kruphix, but is mostly dead against other red decks, so I prefer it in the sideboard.
Mastery of the Unseen
Mastery of the Unseen is a great sideboard card against UB(g) control because it is easy to sneak through countermagic, wins the game on its own, and is difficult to remove.
After board, opponents have more sweepers and removal for small creatures, so it is difficult to win with an aggressive rush. The board is set up to prepare for this by boarding out small creatures for Sarkhan, Ashcloud Phoenix, and specialized removal spells.
Many play Arc Lightning over Anger of the Gods, but it’s usually easy to maneuver the game in such a way that Anger is devastating. Both players have so much removal that the board is often empty, so the apparent dis-synergy with Rabblemaster and Hordeling Outburst is less relevant than the potential to 2-for-1 the opponent.
One of the main reasons there are two Banishing Light in the sideboard is to have an answer to Outpost Siege in the mirror that isn’t dead if the opponent does not draw Siege. Seeker of the Way is worse on the draw because it it often preferable to leave up Lightning Strike or Wild Slash on turn two for the opponent’s Rabblemaster in order to slam your own unopposed. If you see Brimaz, Chained to the Rocks can be good, but its ineffectiveness against Stormbreath Dragon and tokens makes it otherwise mediocre in sideboard games.
This matchup is close. In game one we have a good shot of winning with a fast start, and after board we get more resilient threats that help play through sweepers. Some players board out Abzan Charm in this matchup, so Ashcloud Phoenix can be devastating after board. Hordeling Outburst plays into Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow, so they get cut.
Valorous Stance answers Tasigur and Jorubai Murk Lurker, as well as countering Hero’s Downfall and Murderous Cut. Banishing Light is mediocre, but can also come in depending on their configuration after board. Outpost Siege is the name of the game—UB is much easier than BUG because it has such a hard time answering Outpost Siege.
Board out Hordeling Outburst against any deck with green creatures—the tokens just get outclassed. Abzan Charms often get shaved after board, so Ashcloud Phoenix can be a house. Anafenza does rain on the Phoenix parade, but we have plenty of removal to keep her in check. If the opponent still has their Abzan Charms, you can trade out Phoenix for Banishing Light and Siege.
Outpost Siege seems like it would be too slow, but we have so much removal after board that it actually shines, although I think the fourth is unnecessary. Tons of cheap removal and a fast clock make this an excellent matchup.
Ashcloud Phoenix is hard to figure out in this matchup. It is difficult for them to answer on an empty board, and is great against Elspeth and End Hostilities. However, it is terrible against swarms of tokens, Arc Lightning, and Anger of the Gods, plus interacts poorly with our own Angers. On the draw it is more appealing because Seeker is worse and it is common to unload Anger on turn three against Rabblemaster or Hordeling Outburst instead of having to wait until turn four. If they have End Hostilities, Elspeth, and/or Stormbreath, Sarkhan is great, but it entirely depends on their sideboard plan.
Red Deck Wins
RW Aggro continues to be a great choice in Standard and I highly recommend giving it a try if you like winning.
Thanks for reading,
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