The Scoop: Top-8 Debate – No Dino Love 1

I will admit, if it is not already clear, I do not follow Standard tournament standings religiously. It’s for primarily two reasons; I can’t afford to keep up with Top-8 decks, and secondly, even if I could, I tend to not like the play styles of successful decks. For example, I, for whatever reason, take little enjoyment out of the Energy mechanic. Personal opinion. And it just so happens that Kaladesh and Energy is still dominating many Top-8’s in tournaments. In fact, other than the occasional Glorybringer, Hazoret, Hostage Taker or Scarab God, Kaladesh has full control over the meta. So, from a progression or balancing perspective, have the Amonkhet and Ixalan (so far) blocks been failures? Let’s take a look at a Red Deck Wins by John Rolf that went 3-4 in Pro Tour Ixalan.

My child-like love for dinos isn’t enough to get them into Standard. Of all the Top-8 decks, only Ferocidon has made the cut in one.

Deck List

  • Creatures
    • Ahn-Crop Crasher x3
    • Bomat Courier x4
    • Earthshaker Khenra x4
    • Harsh Mentor x2
    • Hazoret, the Fervent x4
    • Kari Zev, Skyship Raider x3
    • Rampaging Ferocidon x2
    • Soul-Scar Mage x4
  • Instants and Sorceries
    • Abrade x2
    • Lightning Strike x4
    • Shock x4
  • Lands
    • Ramunap Ruins x4
    • Scavenger Grounds x2
    • Sunscorched Desert x4
    • Mountain x14
  • Sideboard
    • Abrade x2
    • Aethersphere Harvester x2
    • Chandra’s Defeat x2
    • Chandra, Torch of Defiance x2
    • Glorybringer x2
    • Pia Nalaar x2
    • Rampaging Ferocidon x2

Red Deck Wins is one of the oldest and easiest styles of successful Standard play. It’s all about aggression in the form of quick-hitting creatures and burning/pinging with instants and sorceries. It gets its advantage from the speed at which it operates and from being a mono-color deck.

The lands of this deck are a great place to start at just what this deck does. Ramunap Ruins and Sunscorched Desert offer a few pings on the opponent without sacrificing spells to do so. Scavenger Grounds offers the graveyard hate that is common in most Top-8 decks, but, again, without having to use spells. The mono-color Red is what allows the colorless lands to not be a nuisance in the early going of a match.

The instants and sorceries are incredibly simple. It’s all about cheap pinging damage. Lightning Strike and Shock can target creatures or players, while the popular Abrade can remove a pesky artifact if necessary.

This RDW is more about aggro than burning. Only the ever-popular Hazoret breaches the 3cmc bar. The deck is running a whopping 8 1cmc creatures and 10 2cmc. That’s a lot of aggression in the first 2 to 3 turns. Soul-Scar Mage’s nasty ability helps keep the damage on any beefy creatures, while Ahn-Crop Crasher, Kari Zev and Earthshaker offer varying degrees of blocking/combat control. Bomat Courier and Hazoret work swimmingly together as well, should the need arise.

Make no mistake, I was looking for anything running a dino in the Top-8…and the only thing I found was this RDW running Ferocidons. I was actually surprised. Despite the nice 3/3 with Menace for 3, the Ferocidon is a mixed bag for a deck heavy on cheap creatures. But I would imagine the “gain” of negating lifegain outweighs the “pain” of 1 damage per creature ETB. That balancing act is probably why the deck only runs 2. It can slow down a few of the lifegain-heavy decks, but not overwhelm the RDW’s own structure.

The sideboard isn’t crazy-fancy. It reinforces already-present mechanics or tops off 4-ofs. I am certainly willing to admit that a Top-8 player knows FAR more about Magic than I do; in general, but especially in Standard play. But…I would say that, while I was relieved to find somebody playing a dino, I’m surprised that Pia Nalaar isn’t in the main deck and that the Ferocidons aren’t sideboarded based on opponent. It would seem her combat control benefits would outweigh the contingency of opponent lifegain. But…there must be enough lifegain going around that keeping Ferocidon at the ready is more important.

Here’s to hoping that Rivals of Ixalan provides enough tribal assistance to its creatures to give Energy a run for its money!


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One thought on “The Scoop: Top-8 Debate – No Dino Love

  • Megan Smith

    I enjoyed your article about the lack of diversity of sets in the popular decks. I agree that the power levels have shifted and the Kaladesh set seems to have the lead on synergy and power in the current meta – “energy.dec” has taken over the format quite extensively but still hasn’t completely dominated RDW or other decks that are vying for the top spot. I think as the next few sets enter the format, we will start seeing a shift away from the energy shells and more towards the tribal synergies that WotC is resurrecting with the release of Ixalan.

    As for the argument for Ferocidon over Pia in the main board, I would say that you argued it yourself with the free damage that the deck utilizes in its landbase. Fercoidon is a terrifying card for decks that are running creatures, especially one specifically – Whirler Virtuoso. Paying a life for chump blockers for Hazoret and friends could very well cost you the game. Needing two creatures just to block the 3/3 dino is also a reason it sees play. Much like Kari Zev, controlling combat is how the dino adds value to the RDW strategy. The speed at which the deck can wrap up the game makes the 1 damage to yourself almost negligible.

    I look forward to your next article!