I’m starting to get excited about my upcoming Magic trip. I fly out for Grand Prix Phoenix this weekend, and from there will be headed to Albuquerque for the Pro Tour. Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing my attention on both Standard and Limited!
Formats are complicated. Whatever the format, there is a lot to know and learn. Standard is no different.
Today, I’d like to focus on the most important matchup in Standard: Temur Energy vs. Ramunap Red.
Complicated though formats may be, sometimes we can take something complicated and nuanced, and break off pieces that are easier to digest.
In this case, I don’t feel it’s controversial to say that Ramunap Red and Temur Energy are the inherently “best decks” leading up to the Pro Tour. The Pro Tour results may break down this long-standing trend and usher in a new metagame, but right now Energy and Red are the default best decks to play.
The World Championship reflected this metagame. The Nationals metagame reflected a similar one.
It is worth noting that Ramunap Red performed worse at Nationals than at Worlds in terms of Top 8 conversions. But I also believe that Ramunap Red is far from buried and it’s only a matter of time before it rears its fiery head again.
Here is the Temur Energy list I’ve been tuning for the past week. These archetypes are pretty well established, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. In a lot of cases, being as “stock” as possible has a lot of value because it means you are gravitating toward the strongest 75.
Significant changes? I think it’s crazy not to play the fourth Bristling Hydra:
The Hydra helps keep you one step a-head.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on the Ramunap matchup and I’m convinced that the Hydra is Temur’s best card. It’s also pretty good across a wide array of matchups, but Hydra holds the fort while Red decks bring their onslaught of beatdown.
The creatures are pretty fixed. But there are some places to play around with the spells.
I’ve always been a fan of Coup. Control Magic is pretty strong. I also like that it is a clean answer to The Scarab God that doesn’t require you to mess up your own mana to splash it.
I’m also playing a split among these utility spells. Owen played Essence Scatter at Worlds, which feels like a fine choice for that tournament where he could anticipate a lot of Energy mirrors. I’d rather hedge on a different axis with my picks.
Let me start by saying that I am ice cold on Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
The card is almost always a main deck 2x and sideboard 1x. I’m not sure if I am just missing something or what, but I’ve been unimpressed by the card in the current metagame.
Most of the decks have tons of creatures that can easily attack it. The decks that don’t have creatures have great answers like Vraska’s Contempt or Hour of Devastation. I don’t feel comfortable playing my hand in a way that tries to get value out of Chandra because it always seems to backfire in my face. A Glorybringer takes her out. Thopter tokens make her ineffective.
I’ve slowly but surely cutting her because it seemed as though she didn’t work out more often than she did over a large sample of various matchups.
I’ve been super happy with maxing out on Harsh Mentor here. The card is a “must kill” against Temur because the most important cards all have repeatable activated abilities:
In order to use these cards the opponent will have to take some damage, which really adds up. In addition, I was able to cut expensive Chandras from the deck and significantly lower my curve, which is what I really wanted all along.
What Is Important in the Matchup Pre-Sideboard?
I feel uncomfortable with win percentage because it is so variant over a small sample size (given that there are millions of games that get played and I’m obviously not capable of creating such a sample myself). But people love these kinds of “made up” stats as a way to gain a precursory understanding of how things work and so here it goes:
Pre-sideboard is extremely play or draw dependent (shocking).
If the Red deck is on the play, I believe they are heavily favored. One of the consistent things I’ve learned about the matchup is that it is very difficult for Temur to break serve before sideboard.
On the other side of the coin, Temur appears to be slightly favored on the play. Red broke serve much more often than Temur did, which makes me believe that overall Red has an advantage in the first game.
A 1-drop is important from the Ramunap side since Temur doesn’t have many ways to interact on the first turn. It is also worth noting that each player hitting land drops is critical. If you stumble on either side, the matchup is unforgiving and quickly passes you by.
The Red deck has to pressure the Energy deck early. There isn’t much hope of winning with a hand where Red doesn’t have creature pressure and tries to interact with the Energy player’s creatures via removal.
Temur’s creatures are much better than Red’s, but they cost a lot more mana. The Red deck is the beatdown (always) and doesn’t play well from behind. Keep that in mind when you are making mulligan decisions with Ramunap.
The Red deck side of the equation is pretty easy. Deploy threats and attack. Use removal to continue to force through damage and hope to have energy in a position where you can burn them out once they finally gain control of the board.
Openings are Everything
I’ve already stated that Red needs an aggressive opening hand to seize the initiative, but what about Temur?
Temur needs a hand that can impact the board early. Obviously, Attune with Aether is amazing since it is the only 1-mana play the deck can realistically muster.
Another thing to consider is that Red can shock away most of Temur’s 2-drops.
Mana is so important in this matchup and this is one of the better ways to seize the initiative. Attune into Longtusk Cub dodges Shock and Earthshaker Khenra beatdown, and is likely the best starting sequence Temur has to offer.
Outside of trying to gain momentum in the first few turns, I’ve found that Bristling Hydra is the most important card in the matchup. A turn-3 or turn-4 Hydra can stymie most of Ramunap Red’s best draws because there is no good way (other than Hazoret) to break through a Hydra that is blocking the ground.
The Temur player will want to hide behind their Hydra until they can assemble a large enough force to start attacking in the air with Glorybringer or Thopter tokens.
In my experience, the narrative of the matchup follows a couple of predictable storyline outside of games where somebody stumbles on lands or plays and gets run over.
- Ramunap Red seizes the initiative with an aggressive draw and never lets up off the gas.
- Temur has a strong sequence in the first three turns that can take command and leave Ramunap without profitable attacks.
- Temur can deploy a Hydra with enough hit points to gum up the ground.
In all of these scenarios, Ramunap also has the option to try and burn out the Temur player (assuming they can find enough damage somewhere). It is possible for a Hydra to gum up the ground but not buy enough time for Hazoret, Ramunap Ruins, and Lightning Strike to find a way to end the game.
Sideboard Plans for Each Side
Let’s take a look at how the sideboard impacts the matchup. Here’s how I’ve been sideboarding for the Temur side.
The biggest problem isn’t that you can’t have more cards to sideboard in if you wanted them, but what you are going to sideboard out.
I’m kind of sideboarding out clunky expensive cards for cheap interaction, which is really the issue in the matchup. If Red is going to win it will almost always be because they had faster, more efficient plays. Energy’s cards are much better but can’t be deployed as efficiently.
It seems strange to me to say this but Red Deck actually has more and better options out of the sideboard.
One problem is that Red has so many options it is actually possible to go too far during sideboard and build an ineffective deck.
I don’t see a whole lot changing after sideboard. Red needs to get ahead and win the game or the window will close and Red will lose.
Basically, I’m looking to upgrade some of my weaker cards with higher impact selections:
I go a little bigger than my normal curve. which is why I also bring in the sideboard Scavenger Ground to raise the mana count.
I’m not trying to become a slower deck and control the game. But I do recognize that this particular opponent is very good at clogging the ground and defending the ground during attacks. As a result, I’m comfortable sideboarding out the lowest impact 1-drop (Soul-Scar Mage) and bringing in a few more threats and mana that are high impact in case the board stalls.
I always assume that Temur will wisely bring in cheap interaction to try to break up my fast starts. which means that I can’t bank on that route to victory. For this reason I think cards with a higher mana cost and better power level are necessary.
Red does not transform into a control deck. It is still beatdown. But your opponents will become better at interacting on your axis, which means that you will need some more powerful spells to break through and keep up the pressure.
I think that having access to some high impact, low mana ways to interact overall is a bigger upgrade for Temur than the cards that Red brings in, which gives Temur an overall advantage post-sideboard.
All things considered, the matchup feels close. I know that public perception is that Temur (midrange) beats Ramunap Red (aggro), but after having extensively played the matchup, I’ve found it fairly even overall.
Last season there was an established Rock-Paper-Scissors where it was believed that B/G Constrictor was favored against Mardu Vehicles which ultimately proved not to be true. The matchup was actually a coin flip, despite a large percentage of the community believing it was not.
If Temur is favored, it is only by a small margin that is likely completely offset by whomever is on the play.
There you have it. All the basics you’ll need to play the Red versus Energy matchup like you are a master.
There are really only so many things that “can” or “can’t” happen. As long as you are aware of how the opening is going and follow the basic rules with regard to role and sideboarding, you’ll be in good shape no matter which side you choose.
I don’t think you can go wrong choosing one of these decks. They are both powerful. In fact, I’ll likely be playing some variation of one or the other at the PT. Good decks are good as long as you learn them well, and understanding the Temur versus Ramunap matchup goes a long way to having success in this Standard format.