A Study in Red: Red Based Aggro Analysis


Magic the Gathering: Arena was updated with Kaladesh and Aether Revolt on June the 7th.

One of my main decks is RDW, and with full standard coming soon there will be many changes coming to our deck including banned cards! So I’ve decided to do an analysis on different situations to help see a path to our end game goal.

Table of content:

What’s changed?
So firstly what does a new player get from June 7th if they logged in for the very first time?

  • - 1 Mythic,1 Rare, 2 Uncommon and 4 Common Wildcard
  • - 3 of each booster of Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan and Dominaria. These add up to 15 boosters or 49.5 - 50% vault progress
  • - 10 boosters guarantee 1 rare wild card.
  • - 10 starter decks and the 5 welcome decks
  • - Upon login we also get 3 quests and the weekly for an additional minimum of 3 boosters and 1500 gold. Doing 15 quests gets us an additional 750 gold

Minimal total: 1 Mythic, 2 Rare and at least 2 Uncommon and 4 Common Wildcards || 60% Vault progress

RDW for New Players

I took the most common Red Deck Wins list and we’ll look at it without the sideboard for now.

Lands (23)
23 Mountain

Creatures (25)
4 Bomat Courier
3 Ahn-Crop Crasher
4 Earthshaker Khenra
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Hazoret the Fervent
2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

Spells (11)
3 Abrade
4 Lightning Strike
4 Shock

Planeswalkers (1)
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

What do we have and what are we missing?

4 Bomat Courier - All 4 free in update
3 Ahn-Crop Crasher - 1 in the 10 starter decks, missing 2
4 Earthshaker Khenra - 0
4 Goblin Chainwhirler - 0
4 Soul-Scar Mage - 0
4 Hazoret the Fervent - 0
2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider - 1 free in update

3 Abrade - 1 in the 10 starter decks, missing 2
4 Lightning Strike - 1 in the 10 starter decks, missing 3
4 Shock - 2 free in update, missing 2

To recap:
- We’re missing 4 Mythics, 13 Rares, 7 Uncommons and 2 Commons.
- We’re guaranteed 1 Mythic, 2 Rares, 2 Uncommons and 4 Commons.

That leaves us with 3 Mythics, 11 Rares, 5 Uncommons missing from the mainboard alone. Assuming we'll find the uncommons we need in the 12-15 free boosters, that still leaves us 3 mythics and 11 rares short.

Potential replacements
Soul-Scar Mage + Goblin Chainwhirler combo: we can run Fanatical Firebrand and Pia Nalaar as replacements. Pia Nalaar is legendary so I would try to avoid running more than 3 if we can’t find anything else and maybe stick to a full set of Crashers as our 7 copies of 3 drop creatures.

Earthshaker Khenra - A little harder because important 2 drops are hard to replace, but here I would recommend a mix of Heart of Kiran and Walking Ballista. We can also play Scrapheap Scrounger if we are willing to accommodate our manabase a bit to pay for the black cost of Scroungers revival.

This list is entirely free as of June 7th and can be progressed into RDW, RB aggro or RB midrange depending on how aggressive we want to be. A key card I would first craft or try to obtain would be 4x Goblin Chainwhirler, as both lists play it and it is a very important core card. Keep in mind that going into black requires the 2x4 dual lands that support this deck.
Lands (23)
18 Mountain
2 Cinder Barrens
3 Spire of Industry

Creatures (18)
4 Bomat Courier
3 Ahn-Crop Crasher
1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
3 Pia Nalaar
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
3 Fanatical Firebrand

Spells (16)
3 Abrade
4 Lightning Strike
4 Shock
3 Heart of Kiran

Planeswalkers (3)
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

RB for New Players

Keep in mind there are many different builds for RB aggro but this one is a great to start with.

Lands (25)
11 Mountain
1 Swamp
4 Canyon Slough
2 Cinder Barrens
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Spire of Industry

Creatures (22)
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
2 Hazoret the Fervent
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Walking Ballista
2 Glorybringer
4 Rekindling Phoenix
2 Pia Nalaar

Spells (11)
4 Abrade
4 Unlicensed Disintegration
3 Heart of Kiran
Planeswalkers (2)
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Looking across at the lists we are very likely to be to be missing the 8 dual lands - Canyon Sloughs and Dragonskull Summits.

Once again, like the Red Deck Wins, we are missing the Soul-Scar Mage + Goblin Chainwhirler combo. Most decks don't run any, and even rarer a full playset of the Soul-Scar Mage but Goblin Chainwhirler is a 4 of staple in RB aggro.

We are given a lot of cards from Kaladesh such as full playsets of Bomat Courier, Scrapheap Scrounger, Walking Ballista, Pia Nalaar, Heart of Kiran, Aethersphere Harvester, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Unlicensed Disintegration, Spire of Industry and even Aether Hub if we wish to use that land. That’s a lot of cards!

Doing a quick total of missing cards, we can see we don’t have the 8 dual lands, the Soul-Scar Mage + Goblin Chainwhirler combo and 6-8 finishers in any combination of Hazoret the Fervent, Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer. Some lists also run 1-2 Karns as extra Planeswalkers as well. The only uncommon difference is the 4 Abrades which we are missing 1 of, but we get 2 wildcards for them and most certainly another 1 through opening boosters.

A conservative estimate would put the total missing at around 20 rares and 6 mythics. With our Wildcards that means we are missing 18 rares and 4 mythics.

A large number of these missing rares are once again the 2 dual lands at 4 each. If we took these away it’s only 10 rares and 4 mythics missing, so we see here where the difference in the rares missing is. Differences between RB aggro vs midrange in card progression.

After examining several lists, we have shown that most of the core cards are the same with a few exceptions being the key difference.

RB aggro resembled RDW closely, due to its curve with card choices such as Bomat Courier, Soul-Scar Mage, Earthshaker Khenra and Kari Zev. These cards are inclusions in the more aggro variants. However, Mid-Range version opted towards Walking Ballista and don’t play any threats that die to Goblin Chainwhirler. No RB deck plays Ahn-Crop Crasher, instead Pia Nalaar in its slot for additional 3 drop. Mid-range lists ran more top end creatures such as Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer. Most lists of RB run a large amount of Rekindling Phoenix vs RDW, which mostly seems to run none.


This section will cover a transition from the previous patch' Ramunap Red to the full standard RDW and RB aggro lists, what cards to prioritize and how not to end up with a half baked hot mess while we're waiting to acquire the wild cards we need.
Lands (24)
20 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins

Instants (8)
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Spray

Creatures (28)
4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
4 Earthshaker Khenra
4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
4 Hazoret the Fervent
2 Rampaging Ferocidon
4 Soul-Scar Mage

Ramunap Red to Standard RDW

  • - Very simple transition to new version. Fairly cheap.
  • - Fastest kill in competition with Mono-Green Stompy.
  • - Doesn’t have mana base issues
  • - Highest reach
We know that Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon are banned, so removing those is not optional. The land removal is easy because we’ll replace all lands with Mountains, and those of you still running Sunscorched Earth should remove them as well. I would recommend running 23-24 lands. There is room for 1 utility land if you find it neccessary but to make it simple I’ll run 23 mountains.

- 4 Ramunap Ruins
+ 3 Mountains
+ 1 utility land (optional - usually Scavenger Grounds, but can be any untapped land that has some sort of ability you like)

Rampaging Ferocidon is banned, so it also gets removed. Dire Fleet Daredevil has been great but now we have access to Kari-Zev, Skyship Raider to fill in as a more aggressive attacker. We get 1 for free, so this will require 1 rare wildcard.

- 2 Rampaging Ferocidon
- 2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
+ 2 Kari Zev

Current mono-red decklists haven't been running Fanatical Firebrand for a little while, probably due to Chainwhirler doing its effect on a larger scale without being sacrificed. We do however get a free replacement in form of Bomat Courier for free.

- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
+ 4 Bomat Courier

We’ll replace all Magma Sprays with Shocks as they can fly upstairs in addition to acting as removal. We get 2 for free and we’ll require 2 common wildcards for this.

- 4 Magma Spray
+ 4 Shock

Chandra and Abrades will fill the remaining 3 slots.

+ 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+ 2 Abrade
- 1 Ahn-Crop Crasher (optional)
+ 1 Abrade (only if you took out a Crasherr)

If you are still missing cards or want a few changes, we have access to full playsets of Pia Nalaar and Chandra, Torch of Defiance that we can use. You are also free to try Glorybringer or Rekindling Phoenix if you are using those in your lists.

The sideboard is where the games get interesting, we get to change our deck in a way that helps against other matchups. The card choices here are usually a metagame call in what we’ll predict we’ll face. One of the main weakness is our options are usually limited because we only play one colour. We do get to use a few artifacts for extra utility though.
Some powerfull options include:
  • - Fight with Fire, cheap effective way with dealing with Lyra Dawnbringer and also a way to use extra lands from Settle the Wreckage to deal a large amount of damage to our opponent. Usually sided in against white decks.
  • - Chandra, Torch of Defiance, extra copies to go larger against opponents and to diversify our threat utility. Sided in to diversify our threats to make it harder to stop our aggression.
  • - Glorybringer, a larger creature to bring in against creature decks that we want to kill. Sided in to deal with larger troublesome creatures and a way to go bigger than other creatures.
  • - Chandra’s Defeat, a cheap effective way of killing red creatures and opposing Chandra’s or Red Planeswalkers, usually sided in against the mirror.
  • - Aethersphere Harvester, a card that allows us to gain life in a colour that normally doesn't and performs well on the defence and offence.
There are many other options that can be used depending on what we might expect to show up and feel like we should be playing.

Ramunap Red to Standard RB Aggro


  • - Access to strong black cards in the main and sideboard.
  • - Higher power level
  • - Bigger and stronger threats that don’t get outclassed easily
  • - Several angles of attack

  • - High transition cost from RDW
  • - Color lock possibilities detrimental to aggro strategies
  • - Less burn/lower reach
We’ll follow the RDW example and remove Rampaging Ferocidon and Ramunap Ruins because those are banned. We need to replace some Mountains as well to accommodate our new colour with Canyon Sloughs and Dragonskull Summits.

- 4 Ramunap Ruins
+ 4 Canyon Slough
+ 4 Dragonskull Summit
- 2 Rampaging Ferocidon

Fanatical Firebrand and Direfleet Dare Devil don’t see play in either of these lists so we’ll remove those too for Scrapheap Scrounger - a very resilient 2 drop that attacks for 3. We’ll also add 2 Pia Nalaar as a powerful 3 drop as well.

- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 2 Direfleet Dare Devil
+ 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
+ 2 Pia Nalaar

The RB version doesn’t rely on Shock or Lightning Strike to finish games, but rather uses the versatility of Abrade and Unlicensed Disintegration along with its powerful threats to push damage through.

- 4 Magma Spray
- 4 Lightning Strike
- 4 Abrade
- 4 Unlicensed Disintegration

From here it’s really a mix and match of what we want to play. The faster version doesn’t mind playing a few smaller threats for a faster kill, but it is vulnerable to Goblin Chainwhirler, while slower mid-range versions play more powerful threats to push over the top. One consistent change is the deck is a bit slower so it plays less Hazorets because it doesn’t empty its hand out as fast. We’ll also add in Chandra, Torch of Defiance to diversify our powerful threats

- 2 Hazoret, the Fervant
+ 2 Glorybringer/Rekindling Phoenix
+ 1 Chandra Torch of Defiance

This next part comes down to preferences and is much more flexible in choices. Faster versions will still want lots of aggressive drops like Bomat Courier, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Ahn-Crop Crasher while slower versions rely on the more powerful and bigger cards like Heart of Kiran, Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix. We are currently at 63 cards, so we need to find 3 cards to cut, but the different speeds of the decks will want to take away and add different cards.

RB Aggro
- 2 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 1 Soul-Scar Mage
+ 4 Bomat Courier

RB Mindrange wants bigger threats while not being vulnerable to Goblin Chainwhirler,it also wants to play individually powerful threats rather than a critical mass of threats.

- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
+ 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+ 1 Walking Ballista
+ 3 Heart of Kiran
+ 4 Glorybringer/Rekindling Phoenix (Total 6 from above)

Feel free to adjust the deck based how fast or powerful you want the deck to play. The main difference between the aggro and midrange version is in the latter playing threats that don’t die to Goblin Chainwhirler, while the aggro version ignores it, playing smaller threats to reduce the clock.

Other than that most of the cards should transfer well especially if we are playing an aggro version.

This is where the power of black really shows. While we do play Scrapheap Scrounger and Unlicensed Disintegration in the mainboard, the real payoff for running black is the ability to pack our sideboard full of powerful cards, tailoring our deck to deal with specific matchups.

Some powerfull options include:
  • - Duress, a powerful tool against control decks that threaten us with non-creature spells
  • - Doomfall, a slower but more versatile option that allows us to edict single creatures like Lyra Dawnbringer or The Scarab God in additon to targeted discard
  • - Arguel’s Blood Fast, a card that allows us to use our life as a resource to fight control decks. Since control decks scarcely attack, we can trade our life total to keep up with with them
  • - The Eldest Reborn, a black saga even more powerfull than Doomfall can deal away with creatures and planeswalkers alike, whilst providing card advantage.
There are many other powerful options that we can play now that we are in two colours. Feel free to experiment with cards you think you need to beat the other decks!


I hope this article helps newer RDW players with the transition to the new meta. Make sure to consider your options before spending any wild cards, especially if you're on a budget and if you need any further help, hit us up in our discord channel listed below.

TDA is a guest writer for Compleat and a Master Tier MTGA player. You can find him on Twitch and our Discord:

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