Long story short, I haven't played MtG for a long time (Instarid/Return to Ravnica Standard). I miss the game a little, as it was fun to fiddle with Deck builds. I'm looking into getting into Magic again, but as far as I can tell, all the local places nearby favor Standard rather than Legacy (where my old decks can still be played/competitive based on my read of changes there).
Sligh has always been my go-to deck archetype (hence the Display Name), so I'm looking to start from there.
For those unfamiliar with the "Sligh Formula":
1-Drop Creatures: 10-14
2-Drop Creatures: 8-10
3-Drop Creatures: 4-6
4-Drop Creatures: 2-3
Lands: 18 to 22
I've spent some time browsing through what's in Standard for mono-Red, and here's the complete list of what I've found that at least caught my eye:
Bear in mind, I have 0-idea how good many of these cards are, and I have no idea what to think of this "new-fangled" card type 'Battle'. Here's something I just kind to threw together on paper as a starting point:
I would love any feedback on how to tune this to make it run better. I'm not even thinking of the Sideboard right now until I can get a decent-looking main deck and figure out what else is in the format that I need to watch out for.
The random 1-of Chandra is mainly because she'd be an excellent include, but is mostly just a "nice to have". She can generate some potential card advantage, can act as a mana source if I am a little light and have multiple spells I need to cast between my turn and my next untap, and the Emblem can turn all of my spells into pings to my opponent's face.
I am on the fence about using Battles. I opted to try out Invasion of Kaldheim because if I do get it down as Pyre of the World Tree, it turns any potential dead draws into burn and can act as a kind of card draw since my curve tops out at 4.
I am thinking of running with a bit of a +1/+1 counter "theme" to use Thundering Raiju over Rampaging Raptor. But Raptor looks to play better with Battles, and Trample is nice to avoid chump blocks, and in top deck mode, at least it gives me an option for pumping it.
One of the top decks in the meta currently. Check out all the iterations. Netdeckers love it as it is cheap.
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Playing since 1994: Currently MAGS (HomeBrew),Standard & Pauper (Pioneer and Modern are degenerate trash formats)
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One of the top decks in the meta currently. Check out all the iterations. Netdeckers love it as it is cheap.
That's not too surprising. Red Decks are usually always cheaper, as they were initially considered a pile of bad cards that somehow won games. I was hoping for some insights on my specific choices so I could try to refine the deck before I go building it in Paper form.
You may want to limit any lands that enter the battlefield tapped.
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alpha mox emerald
beta time walk
4 goyfs received
3 liliana of the veil
4 karn liberated
3 force of will
4 grove of the burnwillows
3 horizon canopy
2 full art damnation
Looking at your decklist blindly, it's not bad. All your choices are reasonable. However, you could do more for the same price tag; you're missing some power, and the meta is cruel to a few of your choices.
A number of your cards don't do anything without significant support, Vindictive Flamestoker and Flame Channeler in particular. You can play those on turns 1 and 2 and never threaten to activate their abilities.
You have little reach, and few ways to take advantage of openings. If your opponent Sunfalls, you want to play a haste creature, attack with Mishra's Foundry, or burn them out. You want to force them to leave up excess blockers, use their removal at inopportune times, and generally play off-balance. Your opponent will Cut Down or Go for the Throat your turn 2 Electrostatic Infantry if you let them, so don't. They'll answer your Perforator with a Spirited Companion. Counters like those are disadvantageous and will too often be unavoidable.
Kumano Faces Kakkazan is both incredibly strong and maneuvers well against early removal. If you go first, you can put a Monastery Swiftspear or Feldon, Ronom Excavator out of Cut Down range, and if you go second, you can put the counter on a one-mana creature, forcing Go for the Throat to trade down on mana. If they have a slow start, you get to rip them to shreds.
Strangle is a fair replacement for Play with Fire on a budget, less so if you lean into burn. You really want the reach, but Play with Fire is ridiculously priced. Lightning Strike is dirt cheap, while Volcanic Spite will ideally have nothing to cycle; your cards all want to do the same basic thing. I've never played with Invasion of Kaldheim, so I can't say anything about it as a long-game replacement for Bloodthirsty Adversary. From a baseline tournament list, I would use Flying and burn for reach, replacing Adversary with a Phoenix Chick, a Bloodfeather Phoenix, and 2 Stoke the Flames. Look out for Charming Scoundrel if it ends up cheap.
If card availability is an issue, go with burn. Lightning Strike, Invasion of Regatha, and Stoke the Flames can win out of nowhere. You can build a deck that fairly consistently threatens 20 damage by turn 4.
For the sideboard, there are a couple of keys in addition to the generally helpful Furnace Punishers and Lithomantic Barrages. First, you want an extra way to deal with big creatures. The meta list uses Bloody Betrayal. Steal your opponent's Atraxa, Grand Unifier and kill them before it can ever touch you. The second is a way to win a long, drawn out game. The meta list uses planeswalkers, but if availability is an issue, Urabrask's Forge works pretty well, too.
I'll first kind of explain my old-school style of thinking. The plan is to win off the backs of my creatures; as such, I want all my spells that aren't creatures to be able to damage an animal to remove a would-be blocker. So, this means maintaining pressure without overextending into a potential face-plant board wipe.
I'll lump Prowess Creatures with Channeler/Flamestoker/Infantry/Sawblade/Cacophony.
I will be burning away blockers eventually, so Channeler should flip turn 3 if I played it turn 2. That makes it a 3/3 for 2, or even a 3/3 for 3 if I play it later than turn 2 and kill a blocker that same turn. The ability on it is just a nice bonus where I might be able to get some card advantage out of doing what I already want to turn and remove blockers. Once it's a 3/3 it stays a 3/3 without needing more spells to apply pressure with it.
Flamstoker, in the same vein, is a pretty sub-par 1-drop, so I am looking into replacing it with something, but I like the fact I should be able to cut the cost of the ability down to be able to "Wheel" my hand into getting more gas in the late game. I just need to play 4 non-creature spells, and I can get some fresh cards for a reasonable cost on my opponent's EoT or in response to a removal spell (which, if they are targeting him, it's probably a good sign anyway).
I debated for a long time about Infantry VS Prowess creatures like Swiftspear. I decided I'd rather have a slower creature that could grow rather than a widely fluctuating attacker. Infantry's Trample is also VERY appealing to avoid chump blockers on it. And hopefully, it would be a 2/3 Trample for 2 when I untap with it once I remove a would-be blocker. I'm going to ignore the whole "dies to removal" argument.
The Scamps (Sawblade/Cacophony) I'll address at the same time. Cacophony is a 1/1 for 1, and if the opponent is on 2, it is lethal on a swing. And if it dies, it can ping. A version of Mogg Fanatic, one of my favorite 1-drops. Sawblade is a Raging Goblin who should pick up a few counters throughout a game so he doesn't need to run to his death to get in for 1 damage. It's a terrible late-game draw, but I can get a decent bank of counters if I get one early. I do wish I could ping a creature off of it, though.
Feldon, I do like it, and I don't mind being "forced" to hold back a 2/2 haster in hand because I already have one in play, potentially giving my CA already. It probably should go in over Perforator, My only holdout was Feldon can get blocked, but when the opponent is low on life, Perforator deals 1 damage to the opponent just by attacking, making it slightly more of a threat. Sure, it'll trade with a x/2 or x/1 creature that can deal damage, but at least it got some damage through. If an opponent is on low life, that 1 triggered damage might be all I need, and 1 free damage adds up turn after turn, on top of when it gets in for 2 with me spot-removing blockers.
Kumano, I like it, but I worry about it a bit. it is a kind of unblockable haste attack for 1 for 1, and when it flips, is a 2/2 that can let me prevent recurring creatures. It's that 2nd turn of it being in play I worry about. If I don't drop it early, it was a ping for 1 that might sit around doing nothing for a turn if I don't have a follow-up creature. This makes it a really bad late-game draw, and I want to make each draw count as much as I can.
I am REALLY on the fence about using Battles in general, which is why I wanted to have a fair amount of my removal be able to hit them because I don't want to waste creature attacks on them. Kaldheim though, is an expensive Wheel-like effect, that still lets me play my old hand on the next turn. That's digging for cards and not having to "lose" my old hand because I can probably play out a full hand with 4 mana on the board. AND Pyre of the World Tree just looks TOO good to miss out on for my control-ish style of aggro. Turn a "dead" land draw into Burn? Yes please. Turn a "dead" land draw into a 2nd's chance at a better draw? Yes again. Do BOTH without having to tap any mana for the effect? sounds fantastic.
As for Bloodthirsty Adversary, I don't think it would be right for the deck, even if it was in budget. My build is very lean on lands, and I hope to not need more than 4 in play. So even getting a 3/3 haste for 5 and a free card just seems like a bad deal to me, and a struggle to have happen.
100% agree on Scoundrel, a 2/2 haste for 2, that deals 1 damage when it dies seems really good, and it potentially gets around attempts to exile the creature, because the enchantment then goes to the graveyard anyway, which is where that damage really is coming from.
Mishra's Foundry is a strong card, but it's a "3 land" investment to attack with a 2/2 and a "4 land" investment to attack with a 4/4. And it's vulnerable to "in response" removal which not only loses me a creature, but also drops me down a rare land. It also competes with Field of Ruin (a "3 land" investment to remove either enemy Mishra's or try to cause multicolored decks to stumble for color fixing, that also replaces itself, and that land comes in untapped, meaning it only was a "2 land" investment after all). Given the choice, while Mihra's is great post-board wipe, I'd rather have a control element in my lands than an aggro one.
Bloodfeather would want a more burn-focused list, which I'm on the fence on. A lot of reach and swingy Prowess creatures does look powerful, but not quite the "Sligh" playbook I enjoy.
I looked at Forge but ultimately determined I didn't have a good time where I wanted to play it. The longer it takes to hit the board, the less of an impact it makes, and a 1/1 trample, haste, sac at EoT for 3 is pretty weak on that turn, it's not the immediate pressure I want for 3 mana, which I might not see until turn 4 or 5 anyway. Once the Forge has been in play 3+ turns, it does have great value.
I am looking at a Threaten effect in the Sideboard, and I think I like Twisted Fealty for that. Steal their creature, make it bigger then swing. When their creature returns to them, yes it's a bit bigger, but I still own that enchantment, so when I kill it with all my removal in the deck, it deals 1 damage to them. That seems more useful than a single loot from a Blood Token.
The Sligh-style is an interesting take. It is designed to be able to switch between being an Aggro Deck and a Control Deck midgame as needed. Lots of creature removal to take the wind out of an Aggro Deck's sails and enough quick hits to put the Control Deck on the backfoot quickly before they can get a hold of the game and stabilize. It's a really old style, but served me well when I used to play competitively on a college kid's budget.
All that being said, I still am getting a feel for what the larger meta might look like and since I own 0 Standard-legal cards, and am thinking of getting back into the game after such a long break (slightly a lie, I still have all my basic lands and a playset of Lightning Strikes). I can't be sure if the Sligh playbook is right, or even works, for the current wider meta, let alone a smaller local meta. That's why I posted to begin with. If I do get into the T2 game again after being out so long, I want to get in as reasonably well as I can, for as cheap as I can. I'll do some more research, and hopefully get more feedback/discussion from people more familiar with the current state of T2 than I am so I can find the fight build, and it I don't think I'd enjoy playing that build, even if it checks all the boxes competitively, I guess that just means I'm not going to enjoy getting back into the game right now.
The most fun I ever had in Standard was at my FLGS, back in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Standard where I played mono-Red and "abused" Heartlash Cinder by dropping 1 on turn 4, after having Boggart Ram-Gang come down on turn 3 and other 1/2-drops that only had Red Mana Symbols in their Casting Cost, and just burning away all blockers. So many times I got opponents frustrated, throwing their cards down in annoyance and exclaiming, "It's only good once, but that's all you need!" All because I had them at a point where they needed to block the Cinder to live the turn, but everything else in play was applying to great of pressure too fast for them when backed up with my 16+ removal spells, and since I hated Kitchen Finks SO MUCH I had as much exile and -1/-1 counter creature removal as I could. When Shards of Alara released Magma Spray I was quick to get my playset and into my Main Deck while everyone else was putting 3 in the Sideboard. And I played against people who legitimately made a significant portion of their living off playing Magic and getting invites to PTQs and Championship events. I had a terrible win rate VS them post-board, but I could punish them if they kept a questionable hand, but didn't want to risk a mulligan (back when you only got to see what you would be keeping, not getting 7 and shipping some of them to the bottom of your deck), and the times I won VS them felt SO good. Sorry for the trip down memory lane there.
I've been trying a variety of red decks since your post to try and offer true, budget feedback. Previously my experience was from playing red burn in Explorer and from playing against red in Standard.
Flame Channeler is not bad in a world of 3/3 blockers, like Standard is, or at least was a week ago. It's a fine replacement for Bloodthirsty Adversary, and can handle a fairly small amount of support. 3/3's are just good in general. In Explorer, blockers are 4/4, so I had underrated it.
Electrostatic Infantry needs way more than 10 spells to get going. At 3/4, it's very strong, which happens instantly with Monstrous Rage or Witch's Mark.
Volcanic Spite doesn't compare to Lightning Strike at all. Strategically and tactically, Strike is more fitting.
Kumano Faces Kakkazan is the reason to play the deck. The power level is so high that it's often still good when drawn very late.
I never got the Invasion > Raptor combo. Other than Raptor, there's no reason to attack Invasions except the expensive ($) Invasion of Tarkir, you play them if the front side is good enough.
This may not interest you, but I was looking for a way to get all the major expenses, including Play with Fire, out of the deck, and this core played quite well:
Kumano Faces Kakkazan, Lizard Blades, Voldaren Thrillseeker, Thundering Raiju
Backed by Kami's Flare and Monstrous Rage. Think of Rage as the Fireblast/Embercleave-type blowout card. Lizard Blades is strong with everything, and if it survives one turn, which is a feat that generally means playing it on turn 4+, it can be made to dodge all the common black removal spells and blockers. I also tried Embereth Veteran, Charming Scoundrel, and Upriser Renegade, as well as Roadside Reliquary, which were all so-so, Renegade the weakest as usually a plain 3/3. It lacks the staying power of typical red decks, but knocks the price down to about $15 and threatens fast and sudden kills. EDIT: Replaced Veteran with Cacophony Scamp and it's a lot better, any Role on it deals a million damage. Also replaced Renegade with Raging Battle Mouse, which has turned the glut at two mana into a boon. Witchstalker Frenzy is an even cheaper ($) replacement for Nahiri's Warcrafting. It's rare to pay more than one mana for it. Sideboard is pretty simple. Furnace Punisher for 3+ color, Urabrask's Forge for slow matches, a couple Twisted Fealty for Atraxa, any Witchstalker Frenzy you're not already playing for Sheoldred, Adeline, etc., Lithomantic Barrage, and if you have any slots left (I don't), End the Festivities, Torch the Tower, and Obliterating Bolt if you have specific roles in mind for them. My 75, plus a handful of alternates, currently costs $22 shipped. A more standard list with Swiftspear, Phoenix Chick, Feldon, Lightning Strike, and Goddric, Cloaked Reveler replacing the modified stuff costs $16 shipped. The standard version has speed but loses some ability to win a long game. The modified version is fast and can win out of nowhwere (A Scamp, Mouse, and 4 lands presents lethal from 20), but has combo draws that get hosed by removal.