The Return of the Red Deck

Posted in PRO TOUR DRAGONS OF TARKIR on April 11, 2015

By Craig Jones

As I'm writing this, Martin Dang has just intentionally drawn to lock up a berth in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. It just warms my heart to see someone doing well by attacking with hordes of goblins and burning people's faces off.

While much has been made about the awesome Dragons in Dragons of Tarkir, red decks really got a power boost from some of the smaller mana cards. Zurgo Bellstriker, as a super-efficient one-mana 2/2, was the one that generated most excitement, but even lesser cards like Dragon Fodder can fill spots on the curve.

I spoke to members of the Cabin Crew team, Matej Zatlkaj and Frank Karsten, about how they came to be running the little red men and burn spells. As Zatlkaj explained, after they saw the decklists from the StarCityGames Invitational and Standard Open, they threw them together and wanted to play some games quickly to figure out how the decks worked. One of the stock decks was a standard red aggro deck. Then it bashed everything they put it up against.

(Of course. It's red deck.)

At this point, they decided to run it. The new additions from Dragons of Tarkir are the obvious ones like Zurgo Bellstriker and Dragon Fodder. Lightning Berserker might look small, but can be a hasty pseudo-Fireball coming off the top of the library in the late game with a lot of land in play. Roast is also a useful way of clearing the bigger critters out of the road.

The deck is good against control (Obviously. It's a red deck). Green monsters can be an issue, but there are cards like Goblin Heelcutter to bypass them and the dash ability gives it the versatility to dodge sorcery-speed sweepers and also attack a turn sooner.

An older card from Journey into Nyx, Hall of Triumph, also shines in this archetype and the Cabin Crew team went with slightly more creatures to get better use out of it.

Karsten mentioned the slightly tricky Crowd's Favor in the board. It having convoke gives them a nice Gotcha! against decks thinking they're safe to block Zurgo with Sylvan Caryatids.

Frank Karsten's Red Aggro

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Dang took a similar approach, but also added green for Atarka's Command. He described it as the best card of the deck and worth stretching the mana base to add green. In this deck it often does 7 damage (with the +1/+1 and 3 damage modes), but even the mode to prevent an opponent gaining life can be relevant on some occasions. The card is powerful enough that it's the most important card in the deck in his opinion.

He chose to run Become Immense over cards like Hall of Triumph. Hall of Triumph is good in some matches and not so good in other matches, whereas Become Immense is always useful.

The deck has done him well as he'll be returning to play in the Top 8 tomorrow.

Martin Dang's Red Aggro

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Overall, the red decks had a mixed tournament. Dang mentioned he knew it was really important to 3-0 his second draft, as that would put him up among the control decks. Those constantly fighting the Caryatid/Courser decks didn't have as much fun. As always, part of the art of deck selection is tailoring it to your local metagame. But for those of you that like to get rowdy with goblins and burn people's faces off, you might find a little inspiration here.