It looks like I'm going to take you on a walk down the path of the red mage today.
Hellspark Elemental deals 3 damage for two mana. Why is this card good? No one talks about Lava Spike being awesome, and it does the same thing more often for one less mana. The thing is, the unearth ability on Hellspark Elemental is like drawing a second copy. One of the biggest problems with traditional red decks is the lack of manipulation of card quality. If someone playing red draws a few lands in a row, it probably means he or she will lose the game. Hellspark Elemental solves this problem brilliantly.
Volcanic Fallout solves a very big problem in the current Standard metagame. It's obviously a very strong anti-Faeries tool, but it also serves as a very strong tool against Kithkin, Red-White Reveillark, and White-Black Token decks. The ability to ace someone's team in response to an Ajani Goldmane activation is very important.
I want to be very clear on how strong this is against Faeries. Imagine your wildest fantasies realized. You still play against Faeries all the time, but now you beat it. Instead of you playing your key spell and them thinking for a few seconds before nonchalantly placing a Spellstutter Sprite on the table, now they have no choice but to shrug and place every Sower of Temptation, Spellstutter Sprite, Scion of Oona, Vendilion Clique, and Bitterblossom token on the board in their graveyard.
Now it's time to see what else fits in our new red burn deck. I've been really impressed as I've watched the Blightning archetype change from tournament to tournament these past few months. The deck is certainly one of the best choices as we're heading toward Pro Tour–Kyoto. Blightning is one of my favorite cards. It provides red decks with card advantage, an extra burn spell, and a means of disruption. I think it will be worth it to play black for cards like Blightning and the new hit from Conflux, Shambling Remains.
I'll start by making a basic build that includes all the cards I perceive as obvious. Shambling Remains and Ashenmoor Gouger seem like the best choices in the creature department. They live through your Volcanic Fallout and get in for pretty large amounts of damage. Siege-Gang Commander seems very well placed in the new metagame. Demigod of Revenge's value in this type of strategy will definitely be hindered a bit by new cards like Path to Exile and Celestial Purge. Siege-Gang tokens may die to Volcanic Fallout, but it's a situation easily played around. I can play my "comes into play tapped" land on turn four, and on their end step I can play my Volcanic Fallout. The next turn I play Siege-Gang Commander and put them in a really awkward place. Siege-Gang Commanders are also very affordable—they'll be the only rares in the deck and they shouldn't run you more than a couple tix a piece on Magic Online.
Let's break down what cards we're playing and why.
Hellspark Elemental: Six damage for one card is a pretty good deal. I'll take four please.
Shambling Remains: Shambling Remains is one of the best aggressive creatures around. It only costs three mana and it comes with four power. Having Unearth attached really pushes it over the edge. Think about the deal I'm getting here. I pay three mana for a four power creature in a red deck. After my four power creature dies I can randomly pay two mana to deal another four damage to my opponent. This seems pretty exciting to me.
Ashenmoor Gouger: Ashenmoor Gouger serves as Shambling Remains five through eight. In some matchups it's even better than its shambling counterpart. Ashenmoor Gouger lives through Firespout and Incinerate, and wins the fight against Kitchen Finks and Treefolk Harbingers hanging with Doran, the Siege Tower. (Doran decks will probably rise in popularity with the printing of Noble Hierarch.)
Siege-Gang Commander: One of the most potent threats for its cost ever printed. I've lost many "unloseable" games to the Commander. It puts 5 points of power on the board that can't be dealt with via spot removal and if a red player ever untaps with a Siege-Gang on the table it's probably going to be the end of the game.
Blightning: Three damage and two of your opponent's cards is obviously a good deal for three mana. Make sure to sideboard this card out against decks that are packing Wilt-Leaf Liege. Getting wammied by Wilt-Leaf that turns your opponent's Doran or Rhox War Monk into Chuck Norris isn't the most fun thing in the world.
Shock, Flame Javelin, and Incinerate: Three of the most efficient burn spells Standard has to offer. If you can afford to put some Banefires into the deck I'd strongly recommend it. Banefire is one of the best cards in the new set, and if I could I would definitely find room for a playset of the most powerful burn spell in Conflux.
Volcanic Fallout: A powerful weapon against almost every deck in the format. The card is really only weak against Five-Color Control variants.
Ghitu Encampment: It's important to have reusable sources of damage. Ghitu Encampment is one of the best lands ever printed. It's very important that you have a play set of these in your aggressive red decks.
Nyxathid: Nyxathid is a powerful new sideboard tool from Conflux. Against decks that empty their hand quickly it can be extremely large. When playing against opposing red decks you should try to wait until Nyxathid is a 5/5 before you play it. Most red decks will have to two-for-one themselves to deal with a 5/5 black creature. This card has a lot of synergy with our Blightnings.
Spiteful Visions: If you're playing a good amount of burn this card is very powerful. You want to side it in against decks that can't unload their hand quickly (like Five-Color Control). They can really only play one powerful spell per turn as you'll be playing multiple burn spells every turn.
Terror: I think Rhox War Monk is going to be popular in a huge way with Noble Hierarch running around. It's important for a deck like this to be able to kill the Monk before it starts getting out of hand. Terror is a fine answer and should find a home in your sideboard.
I decided to get a feel for the deck and played two matches with my friend Chris "The Doctor" Lachmann.
Match 1 vs. Faeries
Game 1: I won the play and kept Ghitu Encampment, Terramorphic Expanse, Mountain, Swamp, Shambling Remains, Blightning, and Blightning. I played my Ghitu Encampment and passed. Chris played a Faerie Conclave and passed back. I drew Hellspark Elemental, played it, attacked, and passed. Chris played a land and passed. I drew a Siege-Gang Commander and attempted to play Shambling Remains, but Chris had the Remove Soul. I passed the turn back to Chris, who drew, played a land, and passed. I drew a Mountain, played my Terramorphic Expanse, and played Blightning. Chris took 3 and discarded a pair of Mistbind Cliques. (It's interesting; I had no instant-speed burn in my hand, but Chris was so afraid of being two-for-oned by his own champion ability that he decided to pitch one of his most powerful cards.) At the end of my turn Chris played a Scion of Oona. I drew a Flame Javelin, unearthed both my creatures and attacked Chris down to 7. Chris played a second Scion at the end of my turn. On Chris’s turn he played Jace Beleren and drew a card. He then attacked me for 4 and passed.
I drew for my turn: Hellspark Elemental. I knew Chris probably had main-deck Peppersmokes because we talked about how useful having a copy or two in the main deck can be. He had one black open and I decided I could pick a better spot to use my new Elemental. I played Blightning and brought Chris to 4. Almost out of cards, Chris drew a card for his turn and another card off Jace. He played a land and passed. I also drew a land. I played my land and attempted to play my Hellspark Elemental, Chris had a Spellstutter Sprite. I responded with my Flame Javelin and Chris conceded.
Game 2: I mulliganed and kept Ghitu Encampment, Mountain, Swamp, Shambling Remains, Flame Javelin, and Blightning. Chris played an Island and passed. I drew another Ghitu Encampment, played it and passed. Chris played Bitterblossom. I drew Hellspark Elemental, played it, attacked and passed. Chris went to 16 and got a token. He played a third land and passed. I attempted to play Shambling Remains but Chris had Spellstutter Sprite. Chris drew a card, attacked for two and passed. On my turn I drew another Mountain, unearthed both of the guys in my graveyard, and attacked. Chris chump-blocked the Shambling Remains and went to 12. At the end of my turn he played Scion of Oona. Chris drew, attacked for five and passed. I drew Volcanic Fallout. I played Blightning it resolved. I got a Jace Beleren and a Mistbind Clique. On Chris's turn he played a land and attacked for 7. During my upkeep Chris attempted a Mistbind Clique, but I played Volcanic Fallout. Chris went to 5 and put his team in the yard. I drew a Mountain and played my Flame Javelin, and Chris died to his Bitterblossom during his next upkeep.
Match 2 vs. Kithkin
Game 1: I kept Terramorphic Expanse, Mountain, Mountain, Hellspark Elemental, Blightning, Ashenmoor Gouger, Shock on the draw. Chris led things off with a Windbrisk Heights. I played my Terramorphic Expanse and passed. Chris played a turn two Knight of Meadowgrain. I drew another Blightning, Shocked his Knight and passed. Chris played Spectral Procession. I drew Volcanic Fallout, played a land, and passed. Chris thought for a moment and played Ajani Goldmane, then thought for another moment and gained 2 life before attacking with his tokens. I decided to burn through my Volcanic Fallout. I redirected the 2 damage to his Ajani so I could kill it the next turn with my Blightning. The next turn I drew a Ghitu Encampment, played it, and used Blightning. Chris discarded a Wizened Cenn and a Goldmeadow Stalwart. On Chris's next turn he played Ranger of Eos and got a pair of Burrenton Forge-Tender. He played a Rustic Clachan untapped and played one. On my turn I used the other Blightning and to get the other out of his hand. Chris drew and played another Ajani Goldmane and added counters to his team before attacking with his team. On my turn I drew another land and had no choice but to play Ashenmoor Gouger and pass. Chris drew and played Cloudgoat Ranger and used Ajani again. With no string of cards that could win me the game, I conceded.
Game 2: I kept Mountain, Mountain, Ghitu Encampment, Magma Spray, Volcanic Fallout, Volcanic Fallout, and Ashenmoor Gouger on the play. I played my Ghitu Encampment on turn one. Chris played a turn one Burrenton Forge-Tender. I drew a Swamp, played it, and passed. Chris played Wizened Cenn and attacked. I Magma Sprayed the Wizened Cenn, and he let it resolve. I drew a land and played my Ashenmoor Gouger. Chris played Spectral Procession. I played Volcanic Fallout and Chris used his Burrenton Forge-Tender to prevent the damage. I attacked with my Gouger. Chris took 4. Chris played Ranger of Eos getting two Burrenton Forge-Tender. He attacked me down to 16. I drew a Magma Spray, played my second Volcanic Fallout and attacked Chris down to 10. Chris played two Burrenton Forge-Tenders and passed. I drew a Flame Javelin and passed. Chris played Ajani Goldmane and pumped both his Forge-Tenders and attacked me down to 10. I played Flame Javelin targeting him at the end of his turn. On my turn I drew another Flame Javelin. I passed. Chris pumped his Forge-Tenders and passed. I attempted the Flame Javelin and it resolved, putting Chris at 3. I drew an Incinerate, but Chris used a Forge-Tender to prevent the damage. I died to his attack the next turn.
Keep the favorite card submissions coming, and next week I'll look at more of the new budget offerings we can find in Conflux.