Strong Opinions – M12 and the New Red Deck (No) Wins

In spite of ascending to the top dog of the meta we all thought it would be, Red Deck Wins still fails to deliver in M12 Standard. Leonard is not amused but far from his wit’s ends.

I had literally two articles on Mono-Red in the pipeline that were praising the crimson color as the new god of hell power. But I had to swiftly back-paddle because, as it turned out, Grim Lavamancer was not the same dude he had been back then.

Frankly, the new M12 core set brought little in terms of playables to the table for Mono-Red.

Cards have become much, much better in the meantime, and now he feels just like a super-splashable one-drop more suited for play in other colors than in its supposed home. The grimy wizard is actually and factually a really bad performer in Mono-Red. Not only is he one of the worst early drops I can imagine and requires you to constantly refill your graveyard to be effective. No! Grimy must also be tapped in order to ping for two damage and can, thus, not carry a Teetering Peaks for extra value. There is no way this guy is better in a Mono-Red deck with 24 lands than good old Spiky (Spikeshot Elder) who doesn’t wear a huge kill-me mark on his brow; who can be used right away when he comes into play; and who is able to attack AND ping. I could go on harping on this particular issue, but let us better turn to the big picture here.

Returning to a pre-M12 state of brewing is actually not the worst you could do, but you still need good draws just to beat their average ones.

Frankly, the new M12 core set brought little in terms of playables to the table for Mono-Red. I had been a heavy defender for Red Deck Wins since the heydays of Cawblade, but, now, if you are not playing hardcore Goblins, you won’t be able to overpower the other viable decks. Despite observing the meta closely, keeping track of the RDW builds that did win here and there, and hand-picking and play-testing only the best brews, none of the over 20 different builds that I tried were even close to convincing me. Whether you play Koth or not, Chandra, her phoenix, or some other stuff: it makes little difference because the hate you are going to face eventually in the form of sideboard options available to your opponent are still outrageously gross. And while your mainboard choices and overall power level basically stayed the same, their mainboard choices and overall power level has increased drastically. No kidding.

That is not to say that there is nothing you can do. As I said earlier playing hardcore Goblins is (still) a viable out as the results from various paper and online tournaments have shown. It is, however, not the most enticing deck to play. Returning to a pre-M12 state of brewing is actually not the worst you could do (something that reads like 4 Koth, 4 Guide, 4 Spiky, 4 Hauler, 4 Searing, 4 Shrine, 4 Bolt, etc., and the usual 24 lands), but you still need good draws just to beat their average ones. Mainboarding three Tolstoy swords (by which I mean Sword of War and Peace) in place of Shrine has actually netted me the best results during my play-testing, but that may actually be very meta-dependent.

I wish my closing words were not as pessimistic but unfortunately they are: until September Mono-Red will by and large remain unplayable in large tournaments (excepting Goblins of course). The former king of aggro is dead. And who do you think has picked up his crown? Yes, Lady Tempered Steel. And then there is Boros – but that part of the story I will reserve for next time. Until then.

Thanks for reading.
—Leonard

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