Owen’s a Win – Drafting Red/Black in Innistrad

Lately I have been jamming tons of Innistrad drafts on Magic Online and trying all sorts of color combinations, synergies, and strategies. The one I have been winning and drafting the most is black-red aggro. I like this deck a lot because many of the cards you want the most are common and hard for other decks to utilize. Also red is pretty clearly the worst color in the format so you can get a lot of certain cards later that you wouldn’t otherwise get. I’m going to start off with a pick order of the uncommons.

Uncommon Rankings

1 [card]Galvanic Juggernaut[/card] 2 [card]Diregraf Ghoul[/card] 3 [card]Reckless Waif[/card] 4 [card]Morkrut Banshee[/card] 5 [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card] 6 [card]Into the Maw of Hell[/card] 7 [card]Moan of the Unhallowed[/card] 8 [card]Screeching Bat[/card] 9 [card]Skirsdag Cultist[/card] 10 [card]Geistcatcher’s Rig[/card] 11 [card]Abattoir Ghoul[/card] 12 [card]Tribute to Hunger[/card] 13 [card]Rakish Heir[/card] 14 [card]Rage Thrower[/card] 15 [card]Demonmail Hauberk[/card] 16 [card]Disciple of Gristlebrand[/card] 17 [card]Silver-Inlaid Dagger[/card] 18 [card]Hanweir Watchkeep[/card] 19 [card]Scourge of Geier Reach[/card]

The rest of the uncommons are pretty mediocre and I do not place a high value on them basically at all. I’ll actively avoid them unless I have a strong motivation otherwise. Now before you get angry and tell me how stupid I am, listen: these pick orders are not set in stone. They are constantly fluctuating and each card changes value based on what you already have picked.

When I draft BR aggro I have basically two decks in mind: one has multiple [card]Traitorous Blood[/card] and sacrifice outlets such as [card]Demonmail Hauberk[/card], [card]Disciple of Gristlebrand[/card], [card]Altar’s Reap[/card], and [card]Skirksdag Cultist[/card]. In this deck I clearly rate the previous cards much higher along with stuff like [card]Ghoulraiser[/card], which can be really nice with all the sacrifice effects, and [card]Rage Thrower[/card], which combined with [card]Demonmail Hauberk[/card] can create an [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card] + [card]Disciple of the Vault[/card]-type effect where you can just drop Rage Thrower and win immediately.

As I was saying, in this type of BR deck you need to place a premium on [card]Traitorous Blood[/card] since there are many sacrifice outlets in this format, but luckily very few decks actually want it so it usually isn’t difficult to pick up a couple. [card]Morkrut Banshee[/card] is another card that gets much better when you are going out of your way to pick certain sacrifice-cards. It turns from a five mana 4/4 with marginal upside to straight up [card]Shriekmaw[/card]. Normally Morkrut Banshee is not amazing since morbid is so hard to trigger and I would prefer one of the cheaper cards but here she shines.

To give some examples of how these orders can change, in pack 3 if I have a good curve and 0 removal I will certainly take [card]Into the Maw of Hell[/card] over [card]Galvanic Juggernaut[/card], but under no circumstances would I take [card]Tribute to Hunger[/card] over [card]Reckless Waif[/card]; it’s just not enough better to justify the loss in power level . With these types of picks you will always need to be using your own judgment since it would be impossible for me to detail in an article what picks I would make different with a certain set of picks already made. This isn’t a list I will consult before I make any pick it’s just a helpful guide that you can look at and potentially see cards that maybe you don’t rate as high or even some cards you like a lot that potentially I underrate.

I have [card]Reckless Waif[/card] and [card]Diregraf Ghoul[/card] oddly very high on the list; this is because in my experience drafting BR the difference between an opening hand with a one-drop and a hand without is enormous. One drop, two drop, removal is an incredibly strong start and I have won enough games with it to drastically change how I am drafting. The only cards that can really interact well against your best starts are [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], [card]Dead Weight[/card], and [card]Geistflame[/card]. Personally I rate Geistflame and Dead Weight pretty high so with me in the draft taking most of those that I see it slightly reduces the chances of having them played against me. As for [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], that card is just a huge pain to play against and some hands can just avoid it by having x/2 fighters but some of the time he just gets you good. [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card] over [card]Moan of the Unhallowed[/card] may also seem to be an odd choice but if he isn’t killed quickly he can really change how games play, and can have a similar effect as Rage Thrower if you are in the Traitorous Blood + Sac archetype, plus on his own he is not the worst creature in the world.

[card]Silver-Inlaid Dagger[/card] is also pretty low on the list. This is because my decks usually have about 14-16 creatures and they all usually have two toughness so when an opponent puts up any amount of resistance it usually is a blank and when they have nothing just about any other card would be just as nice. Still, it is not unplayable and some decks want it.

Common Rankings

1 [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] 2 [card]Dead Weight[/card] 3 [card]Victim of Night[/card] 4 [card]Vampire Interloper[/card] 5 [card]Geistflame[/card] 6 [card]Walking Corpse[/card] 7 [card]Ashmouth Hound[/card] 8 [card]Markov Patrician[/card] 9 [card]Pitchburn Devils[/card] 10 [card]Harvest Pyre[/card] 11 [card]Blazing Torch[/card] 12 [card]Traitorous Blood[/card] 13 [card]Village Ironsmith[/card] 14 [card]Kessig Wolf[/card] 15 [card]Ghoulraiser[/card] 16 [card]Crossway Vampire[/card] 17 [card]Night Revelers[/card] 18 [card]Altar’s Reap[/card] 19 [card]Tormented Pariah[/card] 20 [card]Rotting Fensnake[/card] 21 [card]Ghoulcaller’s Chant[/card] 22 [card]Typhoid Rats[/card] 23 [card]Bump in the Night[/card] 24 [card]Riot Devils[/card] 25 [card]Nightbird’s Clutches[/card]

Brimstone Volley is clearly the best and probably not even worth mentioning; you take it over everything and rarely if ever will you want a different card based on what you have already picked. Next is [card]Dead Weight[/card]. I prefer it to [card]Victim of Night[/card] because it’s cheaper and can kill some troublesome creatures that Victim cannot. Also, being double black makes it harder to utilize. One of the better cards against the deck is [card]Villagers of Estwald[/card] since 2/3 just about shuts down every creature you have, and Dead Weight interacts favorably against it whereas Victim of Night is useless.

Again, you’ll see I have the cheap monsters ranked much higher than they would be normally, since you need to put a high priority on 2-drops if you want to stay aggressive. [card]Walking Corpse[/card] and [card]Ashmouth Hound[/card] are the best; Ashmouth Hound especially can ignore Doomed Traveler and attack past Villagers of Estwald which is nice. I did not rank [card]Blood-crazed Neonate[/card] because it has continually disappointed me. It’s easily one of the worst cards in this kind of strategy and has an enormous downside with little upside. I want it to be good, I really do, since this type of card is right up my alley. It looks cheap, fast, and can steal games in a way that most cards cannot…except that it doesn’t. The drawback is very real, and time and time again leads to horribly unfavorable trades. I can’t count the number of times I’ve slammed this down turn two with the hopes of it being a 5/4 and just ranching, and had to sit by and watch it attack into the previously mentioned [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], [card]Villagers of Estwald[/card], [card]Village Bell-Ringer[/card], [card]Armored Skaab[/card], [card]Village Ironsmith[/card], [card]Voiceless Spirit[/card] and so on. It disappointed me one too many times and I’ve sworn it off for life. I suggest you do the same.

[card]Harvest Pyre[/card] is a very good card but it can be tough to maximize its power in a non-blue deck. In this strategy I usually will take something I know I want (basically anything in the top 12) over it unless I’m low on removal, and the 2nd Harvest Pyre should be rated much much lower than the first, though having one is never a bad thing.

[card]Ghoulraiser[/card] is a card I liked a lot until I got to have more experience with it. To make him best you usually want to have a couple [card]Ghoulcaller’s Chant[/card]/[card]Rotting Fensnake[/card] and this will overall lower the power level of your deck. He works best in the [card]Traitorous Blood[/card] version because you can nullify the drawback on stuff like [card]Altar’s Reap[/card] and [card]Demonmail Hauberk[/card], hopefully sacrificing a Ghoulraiser and returning another. The thing about Ghoulraiser is so few decks actually want him so it isn’t hard to get anywhere from 2 to 4 of them because for him to be a card you need to be main black and have 8-9 swamps, as well as 4+ zombies, and sometimes he even sucks in UB Mill Yourself because you want to be removing the creatures in your graveyard with stuff like [card]Makeshift Mauler[/card], [card]Corpse Lunge[/card], and [card]Stitched Drake[/card].

[card]Bump in the Night[/card] and [card]Nightbird’s Clutches[/card] are pretty interesting, but in my experience I haven’t needed to run these because I usually get enough playables and don’t immediately have cards I want to cut. It really wouldn’t surprise me to see myself playing one of each of these in a deck with a high creature count and not much burn. Basically, the lower your curve is and the more creatures you have the better these cards get because they lend themselves to a more suicidal aggressive strategy.

I wouldn’t advise forcing this strategy but if you get 1-2 pieces in your first couple picks I would be strongly inclined to try and move in. Many of the cards that you would typically start off a draft with like [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] and [card]Dead Weight[/card] are perfect starts and it’s not like you have to be lucky to get stuff like [card]Diregraf Ghoul[/card] and [card]Ashmouth Hound[/card] later. I would go ahead and rank all the rares but the odds of seeing any individual rare is so low and most of them are pretty intuitive; you don’t need me to tell you that [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card], and [card]Devil’s Play[/card] are insane rares and should be picked high and always make your deck. I will briefly mention that [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] is very good and I rate him higher than any uncommon and higher than any common except [card]Brimstone Volley[/card]. [card]Sever the Bloodline[/card] and [card]Bloodgift Demon[/card] should be obvious but they are also cards I love to have in my deck.

I don’t think that an average BR deck is better than a good UB Mill Yourself deck or a good GW deck so I don’t think that I have totally skewed my drafting towards it but when it’s there the cost is pretty minimal and the reward can be pretty big.

As I mentioned, take these lists with a grain of salt since draft pick orders are never set in stone and will always fluctuate based on what you have picked, what deck you want to draft, and possibly what you may know about other drafters at the table. You don’t have to rate [card]Reckless Waif[/card] as the 3rd best uncommon if people around you won’t take it ever. I do think it can be very helpful to see how other people besides yourself value certain cards/colors and it wouldn’t surprise me if most people reading this underrated Traitorous Blood and the one drops. As always, I appreciate any feedback .

Owen Turtenwald
OwenTweetenwald on twitter
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