Since the rise of Discover combo decks in Pioneer, there has been a lot of pressure for players to adapt their gameplans to have a better shot at beating them. For some decks, this just means adjusting your sideboard and flex slots to maximize your ability to interact with the combo. For instance, many aggressive Boros decks like Convoke and Heroic have begun making use of cards like Silence in the sideboard. Silence isn’t a long-term answer but given how much early pressure these decks can put on the opponent, casting it as a pseudo Time Walk can be effective, nonetheless.
The reality is, players have been forced to either play lots of specific interaction or lower their curves immensely to try to race the Discover combo decks. For fans of slower, non-blue decks, this makes things very difficult. As a result, we are seeing more hyperaggressive strategies than ever. Of the 11 decks that posted a 3-1 or 4-0 record in Wednesday’s Magic Online Pioneer Preliminary event, seven of them were aggressive Boros or mono-red decks.
While most of these decks aren’t too out of the ordinary when it comes to aggressive strategies, one of the mono-red decks absolutely is. Rather than focusing on playing a mix of cheap, Hasty Creatures and pairing them with a handful of burn spells for additional reach, this deck is focused on maximizing a wide range of pump spells to help cross the finish line. The entire main deck is made up of Lands and one-drops, and the whole deck is worth under $50!
Interesting Creature Choices
Right off the bat, it’s easy to tell this isn’t a typical red aggressive deck just based on the choices of Creatures this deck utilizes. Yes, this deck does make use of Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear that are common in traditional red aggro builds in Pioneer. This is because these two Creatures in particular are excellent regardless of what type of non-Creature spells you plan to cast. Whether you are utilizing cheap burn spells or cheap pump spells, both these Creatures threaten to grow large and deal lots of damage.
Where things start to look different is with the inclusion of Cacophony Scamp and and [tooltips]Fireblade Charger. In typical red aggressive decks, these cards are nothing special. Both cards are quite similar, allowing you to deal damage equal to their power to any target when they die. If these cards consistently stay at one power, they aren’t too impressive. However, when combined with both ways to increase their power as well as ways to sacrifice them to deal lots of damage, they can be very threatening. Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what this deck is trying to do.
Pump Spells and Thud
Every pump spell in this deck can be cast at Instant speed, making it very tricky for the opponent to try to block profitably. The best of these pump spells by far is Monstrous Rage for a few reasons. At minimum, the Creature you target will get a +3/+1 bonus and gain Trample until the end of the turn. In a deck with lots of other ways to buff your Creatures, giving Trample is a huge deal as your opponent can’t simply try to chump block to keep their life total high.
Decks like Boros Convoke can create a very wide battlefield thanks to Gleeful Demolition and the simple threat of Monstrous Rage’s ability to give a Creature Trample makes choosing blocks a nightmare for your opponent. Furthermore, the Creature will maintain a +1/+1 boost and Trample for future turns. Now, your copy of Fireblade Charger or Cacophony Scampy can deal extra damage if it dies and if it doesn’t, you can potentially threaten a bunch of damage the next combat.
From there, Infuriate, Built to Smash and Titan’s Strength provide redundant ways to give a three-power boost to your Creatures. All of these cards clearly can help you get quick bursts of damage in, which is important in a format so heavily dedicated to combo decks. To make your huge Creatures even more threatening, though, this deck uses a playset of Thud.
Thud can be cast in your post-combat main phase to sacrifice a Creature you pumped a bunch to deal a ton of damage to the opponent. This is where Cacophony Scamp and Fireblade Charger become extra scary. On turn three, if you attack with Charger or Scamp and the Creature goes unblocked, you can use two pump spells to get it up to seven power, so your opponent takes seven damage. After combat, you can sacrifice it to Thud and deal 14 more damage to the opponent to kill them out of nowhere!
Likely the most intriguing part of the deck, though, comes from the fact that there are two Companions included in the sideboard. This is extremely strange, given that each Companion has a different requirement to meet in order to be utilized. The two Companions in this deck are Obosh, the Preypiercer and Jegantha, the Wellspring.
Now, it is true that you can only reveal one Companion at a time. Given that the entire main deck is made up of one-drops, the ideal Companion to reveal in game one is certainly Obosh. After all, Jegantha is mostly utilized as a vanilla 5/5 by decks that meet the necessary restrictions. However, Obosh immediately makes the rest of your one-drops on board significantly more threatening it hits the board.
The question is, then, what is the use for having two Companions? Well, the idea is that, if you sideboard in cards with even mana costs for games two or three, you can no longer reveal Obosh as a Companion. This deck makes use of four copies of Roiling Vortex in the sideboard to help combat the Discover combo matchup. The Discover combo deck relies on casting spells for free and with Roiling Vortex in play, each free spell your opponent casts will cost them five life. Now, you just simply start the game revealing Jegantha instead of Obosh.
Strengths and Weaknesses
This deck is extremely cheap, which can be a huge perk. While it certainly has some weaknesses compared to traditional red aggro decks, it isn’t an unreasonable metagame call. Many of the best performing decks in Pioneer, such as Discover combo and Boros Convoke, don’t play a ton of removal. In these types of matchups, pump spells are significantly more reliable and playing extremely efficient cards helps in racing situations.
Where this deck struggles is against decks that can easily remove your initial threats from the table. Traditional mono-red decks in Pioneer play cards like Bonecrusher Giant, which isn’t the most efficient card, but is extremely versatile and individually impactful. On top of that, burn spells provide red decks with extra reach. Even if the opponent stabilizes the board, if they are at a relatively low life total when they do, they are rather unsafe.
Yes, Thud can be used like a burn spell, but it requires sacrificing one of your Creatures to do so. Meanwhile, pump spells are only effective if your Creatures live. Pump spells can sometimes help protect your Creatures against damage-based removal, such as Fiery Impulse out of Izzet Phoenix but do nothing against most removal in other colors. As a result, if your opponent is playing Fatal Push, you’re in for a tough time. They may even be able to blow you out in combat in response to you casting some pump spells.
If you can dodge Fatal Push and Temporary Lockdown from the opponent, though, this deck can put the pressure on very quickly. You may be hard-pressed to win game one on the draw against Discover combo if they can win turn three, but you can sometimes win turn three yourself on the play. After sideboarding, you get access to Roiling Vortex, which helps a lot. This deck is unlikely to be the next big thing, but if you are looking for a budget-friendly option in this hostile environment, consider giving this deck a whirl. Just be prepared for some polarizing matchups and play experiences along the way.