Week 1 Standard: Red Deck Wins, Still

Week 1 is in the books and the metagame looks about as open as it does every week one. Not everyone necessarily has new cards yet, old shells are overrepresented because a lot of the groundwork has already been put into them, and people generally play looser because the format is unfamiliar. One of the big tournaments last weekend was also Team Constructed, so keep that in mind as well before overvaluing these results.

Now back to overvaluing these results. Clearly the DCI was too wishy-washy on the true threat* of mono-red, and left us the best card in the deck so that red players could complain on the forums for a week and then go back to dominating with minimal changes. Not only is the deck still very powerful, once people catch on it’s going to severely warp the format at first. It’s so good that people had been adding white mana and bad cards (Relentless Raptor), basically giving back 5% in win percentage by ruining their mana, and it still did reasonably well.

*This is mostly sarcasm.

Still, Hazoret the Fervent was the dominant card of week 1 with both Hazored and Mardu Vehicles taking top slots across the larger tournaments of the weekend. Out of these two decks, Hazored is a lot easier to prepare for since it has a hard time straying from the core strategy of playing small red creatures and turning them sideways. On the other hand, very few people look like they’ve done so when you look over the top decks from the weekend.

In fact, the other frontrunner, Mardu Vehicles, ranges from mediocre to outright bad against the red deck. Many of the popular Grixis Energy builds have no real early-game interaction besides 1-for-1 spot removal, and their Whirler Virtuosos are often incapable of producing more than a single token at a time. Unlike Temur decks of old, there’s not nearly as much energy sitting around ready to be converted into flying blockers. A lot of the most popular matchups feel clearly in Red’s favor.

Let’s look at two sample lists for Hazored: Fnoop’s 9-0 list from the Magic Online PTQ and Tristen Loob’s winning list from the SCG Classic.


Fnoop, 9-0 at the Magic Online Standard PTQ


Tristen Loob

I’m a big fan of Fnoop’s list and he even cut out Sunscorched Desert in his most recent streaming list, which makes the mana even more consistent. I think this is a very good base for the typical Hazored shell—you have ten 1-drops and plenty of solid cards at every other spot in the curve. 10 removal spells give you enough interaction against the rest of the field and Shock has enjoyed a nice resurgence with the uptick in relevant 1s and 2s to target.

Meanwhile, Tristen’s deck takes a heavier approach with main-deck Glorybringer and fitting actual pump spells(!) into the deck. Invigorated Rampage is a card that I could see as a 1-of. Running 4 is good for pushing damage, but at odds with running Glorybringer and excluding main-deck Pia Nalaar. With only 22 lands in the deck, my first change would be to move Glorybringer to the board and move in Pia Nalaar. Not only is she fine in the mirror, she provides utility and a flyer for Rampage.

Both decks have reasonable mirror plans with Pia Nalaar, Harvester, and extra removal spells. Dual Shot is going to see a lot more play if red picks up in popularity, as you simply can’t cut all of the X/1s. It also wipes half the creatures in Mardu Vehicles, though it’s looser there since the opponent can realistically cut their 1-drops and board into a bigger board control plan.

The only decks that sport a strong Red matchup seem to be Token and Gift builds, since they could simply go wide and then gain life in chunks to put the game away. Outside of the occasional Magma Spray or taking a turn off to Scavenger Grounds your graveyard, they can’t effectively deal with or ignore Anointer Priest. Hidden Stockpile also provides an endless stream of chump blockers that will hopefully also gain you some life. I’ve beaten Chandra emblems on occasion with sheer life gain, so the deck is capable of climbing out of a hole.

Gift decks are generally good at stalling early with blockers (especially black with Gifted Aetherborn) and have multiple sources of life gain. If you don’t have Abrade and they Refurbish an early Gift, there’s not much you can do except hope they never pitch(ed) an Angel of Invention. Hazoret is a great card but it isn’t going to race a vigilant Baneslayer Angel. Post-board I’ve seen all sorts of shenanigans ranging from Sacred Cat and Aethersphere Harvester to huge threats like Victory’s Herald. It’s possible that I just have a bad sideboard plan against them, but I feel pretty unfavored unless I curve and see an early Scavenger Grounds.

The deck is definitely getting extra win percentage due to the lack of refinement in other decks, but it has a strong core and does a good job of deemphasizing blocking. I’d be surprised if it didn’t stay in the top decks for at least the first month.

I’m going to do a more in-depth article on Mardu later this week, but right now I lump that deck in with Hazored. Both decks are good at punishing early stumbles and put a lot of pressure on early-game interaction. Both decks abuse the hell out of Hazoret being the best 4-drop in the format. The primary difference comes from having more resilience against removal in the form of Scrapheap Scrounger and Vehicles while also opening up the sideboard. In exchange, it has a mana base that will sometimes blue screen on you and a weak game 1 against red decks.

Right now I have a few builds I’m trying in Leagues online, but I like this build from yoman5.


I cut Fatal Push for a Magma Spray and a Cut // Ribbons simply because I didn’t have untapped black on turn 1 often enough. Lightning Strike has also felt unimpressive, but that’s probably just a case of preference on your removal spell. Cutting the 4th Hazoret hasn’t actually felt that bad since you don’t have her active on turn 4/5 nearly as often as Hazored.

Besides those complaints, I’m really liking Depala, Pilot Exemplar and the sideboard has felt cleaner than other builds. Flagship is a house against other midrange decks and dies less often than Glorybringer, though if Abrade picks up then that won’t be the case for long. Backing Duress up with Angrath, the Flame-Chained is a solid addition and you can get a lot of utility out of it. Sometimes you simply do the Chandra thing of dealing 2 a turn and drain them of resources, or you Hijack a Scarab God and win the game on the spot.

Despite my focus in this article, I do want to make it clear other decks exist, especially after some of the comments on my last article when I didn’t cover the entire format. Here’s the Top 32 breakdown for the MODO PTQ from this past weekend:

7 Grixis Energy
3 Esper Gift
3 Mardu Vehicles
3 Red Aggro
2 Mono-Black Aggro
2 R/W Path of Mettle
1 Grixis Midrange (no energy)
1 Grixis Control
1 R/B Aggro
1 Red Midrange
1 U/B Control
1 Esper Approach
1 U/W Cycling
1 Sultai Energy (no snake)
1 R/G Monsters
1 R/B Midrange
1 G/B Energy
1 U/B Gift

And the Top 21 from SCG Dallas Teams:

3 Mardu
3 U/G Merfolk
2 G/B Constrictor
2 Grixis Energy
2 G/R Monsters
2 R/B Aggro
1 U/B Gift
1 U/B Control
1 U/W Approach
1 R/W Mettle
1 Temur Monsters
1 Sultai Energy
1 R/B Midrange

And what the heck, the Top 16 of the Classic as well:

4 Mardu Vehicles
2 Hazored
2 Grixis Energy
2 G/R Monsters
1 G/B Energy
1 B/W Tokens
1 U/R Aggro
1 W/U Auras
1 Temur Monsters
1 Esper Gift

Without a Pro Tour to tighten the metagame up, it’ll be interesting to see how long this open field actually lasts!


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