Players new and old tend to approach the concept of Magic finance as “how can I make my hobby cheaper or free?”, only to realize that most of the conversation in that sphere is between vendors. In honor of Game Day Weekend (and a month of [NEW SET] singles pouring into the market), I’m going to tell you which Standard deck I recommend for the upcoming format. This is for the people who want to play in FNM, PPTQ, and 5k level events but don’t have the time, energy, or resources to learn and buy-in to the entire format. These are not going to be “budget” decks, but a key component in my selecting them is that they are cheap enough to give you a good shot at breaking even. I’m also going to mention at the end what cards from the newest set belong in previous iterations of this series that are still Standard legal.
Standard is in a pretty strange place at the moment. Despite the fact that Saheeli combo didn’t have the dominant showing at the Pro Tour that it had at previous events, it still feels like the deck only has a few weeks left to live. Mardu Vehicles, which comprised 75% of the PT Top 8, is a powerful deck, but one that is still within the bounds of reality. Some previous archetypes (Eldrazi, Aetherworks) feel like they just haven’t been “figured out” yet, while BG has morphed into a series of varietals. Missing from the environment so far is one of competitive Magic’s proudest mainstays- Red Deck Wins. In truth, Mardu Vehicles is perhaps a more sophisticated take on this strategy, although it leans heavily on the eponymous new mechanic.
Red Deck Wins has a proud history of tournament success, stretching back to the earliest days of competitive Magic- although it has won multiple recent Pro Tours as well. The original recipe of 20 Land, 20 Creatures, and 20 Spells is somewhat present, although formats tend to skew more towards creatures or spells depending on the relative strength of the card pool available. Currently we are in a format where the creatures are better than most of the spells, so those even thirds get rearranged by necessity. Additionally, some of the better creatures and spells on curve for red pull towards black.
This is definitely a rough draft, although the beauty of RDW (and aggro, to a large degree) is that you get to highly value consistency rather than individual impact. I think a finalized list probably doesn’t have as many 4x, but it’s also possible that you just shave a few lands to add a card or two you like. While there isn’t a 15 card sideboard, Kari Zev’s Expertise is a must, as well as Transgress the Mind and Tears of Valakut. It’s also possible to cut something like the Bloodhalls to make room for a small Energy package, including the Lathnu Hellion, Harnessed Lightning, some Aether Hubs, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.
The point of a deck like this is to get in 20 damage as quickly as possible, which means limiting the number of dead cards in hand. Typically playing Terminate effects in these decks is a trap, but Unlicensed does 3 most of the time as well, so that makes it infinitely more viable. Additionally, the deck as is can be built VERY cheaply (because we aren’t playing Heart of Kiran!), so this is a perfect way to ease into MODO or get a quick Game Day win. We’ll talk about MODO next time. Until then, good luck at Game Day!
LOOKING BACK: I still REALLY like the RG Energy deck– I think it presents a very real threat in a way that a lot of budget-friendly decks don’t typically have access to. Obviously I like today’s new deck, but I still heartily endorse Electrostatic Pummeler. I don’t have a finalized list that I like (I’ve started to splash blue, although that raises the price tag when Spirebluff Canals get involved), but the only MUST HAVE playset from Aether Revolt so far is Invigorated Rampage. Some decks seem to prioritize Rampage over Larger than Life, both of which are basically tied for second place behind Blossoming Defense (which isn’t actually better, but protects your combo). Try some different iterations and see what you think! RG Energy might be the perfect FNM deck, especially if we see some seismic action with the second B&R announcement.