Standard, Reforged in Flames

Posted in Perilous Research on February 12, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. For the last few weeks, we've been focusing on Modern in preparation for Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Today, I'd like to take a look at Standard now that Fate Reforged is a part of the metagame. The current Standard metagame is super diverse and there's still a ton of room for improvement in all the decks. Today, I'd like to discuss the rise of red strategies in the current Standard format.

Flamerush Rider | Art by Min Yum

Before the release of Fate Reforged, Standard was beginning to feel like the Abzan decks were taking over. Sure, some other strategies were experiencing some degree of success, but the most successful players were all piloting Abzan decks. Since the release of Fate Reforged we've seen an entirely new wave of exciting new strategies emerge as tier-1 contenders. In fact, this may be the most diverse Standard metagame in recent memory. Red strategies in particular seem to be extremely popular. Today, I'd like to take a look at the red decks that currently define our Standard format.

I've gathered a sampling of decks that went undefeated in Magic Online Daily Events earlier this week. Let's jump right in!

Rabblemaster Remains

The first deck I'd like to discuss is the purest form of Red. Goblin Rabblemaster is, once again, king of the three-drops in Standard. Valorous Stance has caught on, and most players have recognized it to be one of the best and most versatile removal options in the current Standard. Fun fact about Goblin Rabblemaster: Valorous Stance doesn't touch him, and it's easy to shoot a potential blocker in response to a player using the indestructible mode. The strength of Valorous Stance actually puts red in an awesome spot, and it shouldn't be surprising to see the deck doing some serious work in Magic Online daily events.

Outpost Siege offers up a tremendous end game for the strategy and the hyper aggressive nature of the deck means we can beat anyone who happens to stumble. The one problem with the red deck is that it struggles to beat Abzan, which still seems like the most popular deck even though it hasn't been performing particularly well this last week.


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Midrange Red (and White)

The next deck we'll be looking at is Red-White Midrange. This deck plays much more powerful spells and stands up more effectively against Siege Rhinos. Red-white is quickly becoming recognized as a tier-1 entity, and this deck should definitely be in any serious Standard testing gauntlet. Again, we see four copies of Goblin Rabblemaster, which I believe to be the best three-mana card in Standard.

theeast0821—Red-White Midrange

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Jeskai Tempo

Jeskai Tempo may be the most powerful deck for the current Standard environment. I wouldn't be surprised if we started seeing more decks that play four copies of Monastery Mentor and Goblin Rabblemaster; both cards seem insanely well positioned for the current metagame and they both combo beautifully with cards like Gods Willing and Valorous Stance.

Mantis Rider is also in a great place right now and it's definitely reasonable to play a few copies of Treasure Cruise on the top end to win the card war against nearly all opponents. Getting to play Treasure Cruise over Outpost Siege is a nice advantage, as is access to Mantis Rider.

The major question is whether or not that makes it worthwhile to play the additional color. The extra pain we'll be taking from our lands is extremely relevant with all the other red strategies that are popping up. That being said, Gods Willing and Seeker of the Way or Soulfire Grand Master alone can often put in enough work to swing the other red matchups into this deck's favor.

PigNorton—Jeskai Tempo

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Blood-Red Mardu

There are a few different versions of Mardu that have been performing well recently. Some versions take advantage of Brutal Hordechief, while others favor Butcher of the Horde. Personally, I think Brutal Hordechief is a more powerful effect, but when we look at the decks that have been winning, Butcher of the Horde still seems to be the four-drop of choice. This may change as players have more access to the mythic rares from the new set. Brutal Hordechief gives the deck a card that can win the game on its own when it goes unanswered. Sure, it dies to Lightning Strike, but it lives through Valorous Stance and catching the opponent without a removal spell seems pretty strong when you're playing cards like Hordeling Outburst.


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Red-Green-White is a new player on the scene. The deck is essentially a hyper-aggressive red-green deck that plays white for Fleecemane Lion and Chained to the Rocks. This configuration encourages the deck to play a full eight fetch lands, which makes Become Immense a really impressive card.

Yasova Dragonclaw and Shaman of the Great Hunt both dodge Valorous Stance nicely, and Gather Courage is the perfect card in a format that's being redefined by red burn spells. It's very easy to pay no mana to counter a Lightning Strike with Gather Courage and I'm beginning to think that it's one of the best positioned cards that isn't seeing much play.

There might be a more all-in version of this deck that plays more copies of Become Immense and some number of Temur Battle Rage, but that might be a bit ambitious considering how much removal is in the format. This seems like it's positioned well for the coming week's Standard events.

Valorous Stance plays nicely here as an excellent removal spell that can be used to protect powerhouse creatures. The sideboard includes the fourth copy of Gather Courage for red matchups. Outpost Siege and Xenagos, the Reveler come in against control decks. Wild Slash helps the deck keep up against the most aggressive opponents.


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Temur Tempo

Temur has transformed into a tempo control deck. The deck is extremely well-positioned against all varieties of control, but it can struggle to keep up in the aggressive matchups, especially when it doesn't draw Sylvan Caryatid. Post-sideboarding, the aggro matchups improve significantly when the deck brings in Anger of the Gods. Anger of the Gods may seem counterintuitive for a deck playing Sylvan Caryatid and Rattleclaw Mystic, but the natural configuration of this deck is weak enough against the format's aggressive strategies that it becomes necessary to step on our own feet a bit.


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Red strategies are Standard's newest craze. Goblin Rabblemaster has become a lot better and, as a result, Wild Slash has become one of the most desirable removal options. In the coming weeks, we'll continue to see the new Standard develop. Stay tuned to Perilous Research to keep your finger on the pulse of the Magic Online Standard metagame.

Knowledge is power!

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