Red has what it takes to stay on top in Standard, but the decks are going to look far different than what you're used to seeing. In fact, many of them look very different, and rather than looking to pair with black we are seeing red working well in the Boros guild. I want to highlight some of the decks we see as early frontrunners going into this weekend. If you want to be aggressive, red is still the color for you.
Let's start with a tribal red deck, and of course there is only one tribe in red that would fit the bill here – Goblins! No, this is not a joke, Goblins are the real deal. There have been multiple Goblin lists that have gone undefeated on Magic Online within the past few days.
The mana base is no frills – 24 basic Mountains – and for those who want to play only one color this is a great way to do it. I will state the obvious; Goblin Chainwhirler is in fact a Goblin, so you are safe there. Goblin Chainwhirler could very well still be the strongest individual card in the format. Let's get into what the benefits are of putting lots of Goblins in a deck, as there are some important synergies to be aware of.
Many players are aware of Skirk Prospector, a card that gets a bad reputation sometimes for being too underpowered. It is true that sacrificing a creature is a big cost to pay for a single mana, but at the same time having access to a form of acceleration that is also a creature is a big deal. Many of the creatures in this deck are expendable, so that you come out of the gates and get the most important threats into play as quickly as possible. Skirk Prospector is an important way to enable this.
Goblin Instigator is another important way to create more expendable Goblins. This deck wants to go wide, and putting two bodies on the battlefield has a lot of value. Siege-Gang Commander is a very similar card and gives you something to do with the tokens. The goal is to put as many tokens into play as possible.
An extremely important addition to the deck from Guilds of Ravnica is Legion Warboss. This is another way of spewing Goblins onto the battlefield, and is a must-answer threat in the same way that Goblin Rabblemaster was during its time in Standard. This card snowballs quite quickly, and the fact it also has mentor means it is also going to be boosting up the Goblins it creates.
Runaway Steam-Kin is here even though it isn't a Goblin. This is a card that every mono-red aggressive deck has universally adopted, because of just how powerful it is. The card becomes a four-power, two-mana threat very easily. The deck wants a critical amount of two-mana plays, and so it is even willing to play some Goblin Cratermakers to keep the consistency of the deck up, and it can be used as removal in a pinch.
Volley Veteran is really the card that justifies having this many Goblins. It's a Flametongue Kavu, which in this format is quite good. Control decks don't seem to be as popular at the moment, so cards like Volley Veteran that can get value from killing an opposing creature is very valuable. There are actually enough lands to be able to reliably play four-mana spells.
Experimental Frenzy is what the deck relies on if the game happens to stall out a bit. Experimental Frenzy in many ways can fill the role that Chandra, Torch of Defiance played in decks like this previously. It provides an absurd amount of card advantage when you can start playing a bunch of spells off the top of your deck. This is the type of card that gives control decks fits, and we should expect to see plenty of it in either the main deck or sideboard. It isn't at its best in straight-up race situations, so I like not playing more than two copies main deck.
As far as the sideboard is concerned, it doesn't need to be anything crazy – you are simply trying to continue the same plan of swarming the board for sideboarded games. Fight with Fire is the main deck removal spell of choice because it answers Lyra Dawnbringer, the best card in the format against red aggro decks. However, Fight with Fire is also a card that should be sideboarded out a lot to upgrade to cards like Lava Coil against creature decks.
Goblin Trashmaster is a little expensive for a lord, and while some might be surprised it isn't in the main deck, you have to pick and choose what four-mana cards to play. Both Goblin Trashmaster and Rekindling Phoenix are in the sideboard because the deck prioritizes Volley Veteran for game one, but in matchups where there aren't a lot of creatures you want to kill, it certainly comes out.
For those sick of seeing only red cards or red with a little bit of a splash, let's transition here. There are several good Boros cards that just got printed and are looking to find a home, so the question becomes what that home is. Let's take a look at one possible answer.
We have a bit of everything in this deck. Swiftblade Vindicator is going to be great in any deck that can increase its power. Cheap double strike creatures have a very high upside. Mentor creatures are a perfect way to make Swiftblade Vindicator into a high-impact threat, and this deck takes advantage of the new mechanic. The idea is to play the strongest creatures possible, and Sunhome Stalwart fits the bill of a two-power creature with mentor attached to it.
Perhaps the signature mentor creature is Tajic, Legion's Edge. This one is very difficult to prepare for because it has haste and can immediately provide that key bonus to a creature already in play and ready to attack. The deck really plays out like a fantastic draft deck, and that is good enough.
Fanatical Firebrand and Rigging Runner are two cards I was expecting and waiting to see more of after rotation, and here they are. Having one-power creatures are important for a mentor deck. This deck shows that red aggro decks don't in fact need to be based around Goblin Chainwhirler to succeed.
History of Benalia is a card we will be seeing in almost any white deck at this point – it is that good. This deck wants to get a bunch of creatures in play to swarm the opponent, and this card works well with another hit in the deck in Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants. This is a planeswalker you don't want to sleep on. The idea of playing cheap creatures and then turning them into sizable threats has already proven to be effective time and time again.
The other powerful four-mana play is none other than Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. She works incredibly well with exactly the theme of this deck – it is as if she was designed to be good alongside other mentor creatures! Integrity // Intervention is yet another pump effect, so yes there is plenty of redundancy there. I'm interested to see if Integrity // Intervention catches on as it is certainly more expensive than Lightning Strike for three damage, but the flexibility is definitely important.
Does the mana base actually work? This deck needs the right colors on the first few turns or it simply won't be able to do its thing, Sacred Foundry and Clifftop Retreat are incredibly important and the deck really wants to have one of them in its opening hand. Path of Mettle can turn into a land, but really is it is here to be this deck's version of Goblin Chainwhirler, a high-power card all on its own.
We see that the sideboard is built to be as high-power as possible. Lyra Dawnbringer is a format-warping card that any white deck can potentially bring in at a moment's notice. Justice Strike is a nice two-mana spot removal spell, and of course Experimental Frenzy is present for control decks. There are multiple different directions Boros can go in, as we see all the new toys from Guilds of Ravnica.
The last deck I am going to mention might be the most popular one of the bunch at the moment, as players can easily see its raw power. I want to only highlight some specific aspects of this list because players are quite familiar with the deck at this point. It wouldn't be fair to talk about red decks, though, without good old Mono-Red Aggro.
This list has actually evolved beyond some of the earlier lists, and is fairly streamlined. These are likely the five best creatures the deck can play, but beyond the creature spells the burn is at an all-time high. There are a full four copies of The Flame of Keld because the card is that good. I don't believe that three is still the right number because it is so important that it is worth the risk of drawing multiples.
Most of the burn spells are ones you would expect to see – except one, which might be the most important. That would be Risk Factor, of course. I will admit it I am among those who overlooked this card at first glance in Standard. Four damage is a lot when your deck is built around burn, but most of the time the opponent takes the damage because drawing more cards is worse. If they let you draw cards, you are likely to just draw more burn.
The most important part about Risk Factor is that it has jump-start. This means you are getting essentially two burn spells in one. One of the biggest weaknesses of this deck has traditionally been flooding out. There are so many cheap spells and not a ton to do later in the game, at least before the presence of Risk Factor. Having tried the card out myself, it is something that is underrated until you actually start casting it, and it can be very impressive in the right deck.
Thanks for reading,