Pro Tour Hour of Devastation was the hotness; the hot, humid, sweaty, dehydrating hotness... Not only did Red Deck Wins burn up the competition at the PT, but the temperature in Kyoto was approximately a million degrees, with a billion percent humidity the entire week I was there. I may also have added a couple of degrees to the continent with how hotly I flamed out, crashed and burned, lit my hopes and dreams of glory on fire, etc. "Hotness" was the theme of all things MTG in Japan last weekend and nothing was hotter than Red Deck Wins.
Today I'd like to discuss my thoughts on some potential value gainers now that Standard has begun to have a defined metagame. I believe it is safe to say the format now has a "best deck to beat" in RDW. The deck torched the competition in Kyoto, with six copies in the Top 8 and PVDDR taking home the trophy playing the deck.
Now that we have a deck-to-beat, the rest of the metagame should fall quickly into place. If a card, deck, or strategy is inherently good against the Mono-Red Deck, now is its time to shine! We can also think about building our metagame via "addition by subtraction," in the sense that if a deck or strategy is weak to red it likely needs to be shelved for the foreseeable future.
If you bought in on Red Deck Wins staples while they were low, congrats—you hit the Standard jackpot. I'm always skeptical about buying in on Standard red cards because they can almost never hold a high price tag for very long. Now is the time to sell on those Hazorets and Earthshaker Khenras. Not only do red cards have a historically bad track record of retaining high price points, but the red deck will likely never be as well positioned as it was at the Pro Tour ever again.
Think about it. Literally everybody is going to be gunning to beat the red deck this weekend. How can it get better? If anything, this entire week will be an exercise in everybody else catching up to where the red deck already is with regard to understanding how to beat it. Ramunap Red may still be one of the best decks in the format once the dust settles—but its position in the meta and the demand for the cards will never be higher than right now.
The best case scenario: the deck stays the same (dominant) and people have already bought their cards this week. Most likely, the deck is great but the metagame adjusts to be hostile toward it because it is so good. Sell! Sell! Sell!
Okay, so let's talk about some cards that could potentially see big gains in a Red Deck Wins metagame. Right off the bat, cheap cards and life gain cards come to mind. Feels pretty obvious, right?
Now this is my kind of little pony. Its friendship is Magic. Okay, okay, I'll stop horsing around with the terrible puns... These are too easy, I could spit out these puns until my voice got hoarse.
Crested Sunmare seems like a pretty awesome card for a white deck that has lifegain options built in. I could certainly see a lot of people gravitating toward a card like this. The needle has already moved a little bit on the card but I think the upside could actually be considerably higher. It is the kind of card that could really spike hard at the Grand Prix if a bunch of players show up looking for it.
I also like that, unlike a lot of the other anti-red cards like small creatures or cheap removal, this card goes really big. That makes it a problem for non-red decks like BG or Zombies—decks that would traditionally be great against lifegain decks that beat red. It gives the life decks some stability against non-red.
I had multiple pros tell me at the PT that Authority of the Consuls is the absolute best card against the red deck. It gains incidental life which is awesome, but the fact that it also takes away haste is absurd against Red Deck Wins. Nearly every creature in the deck has haste and so playing a turn-one Consul will often be a gain of 15-20 life!
It's also cute that it is a combo with Crested Sunmare. If you control the horse and Authority of the Consuls, it will trigger on the opponent's turn if they play a creature since it will cause you to gain a life!
I don't know if this is the kind of card we can realistically maindeck, but it seems like one heck of a sideboard card against a deck with a bunch of cheap haste creatures. Even if they go a little bigger this card will still be good because it will cause Glorybringer and Hazoret to ETB tapped, which is great value over the course of a long game.
Another card that has really impressed me both in and against red is Pia Nalaar. Two bodies for three mana is a pretty big game. The fact that Pia has other abilities is just gravy. It is exactly the kind of card that works well and provides options against red decks in Standard.
The card is basically a bulk rare. But if it becomes a sideboard staple for potentially every deck playing red cards, it could easily double, triple, or more, because the starting price is so close to zero.
I love these kinds of investments because you can buy in on many copies of the card for very little and it's easy to make a high percentage return by flipping in trades.
It's probably the last hurrah for Declaration in Stone but the time seems ripe for it to make some gains. On the surface, one would think this isn't a great card against Mono Red because they don't have a ton of spicy targets (outside of Hazoret) and their creatures are so cheap. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they sideboard against the Red Deck's game-one strategy.
After sideboard, the red deck is prepared to beat a bunch of Shocks. They bring in bigger, more robust threats: Glorybringer, more Chandra, Akoum Firebird, etc., and prepare to grind a long game. Declaration in Stone is amazing against many of these big threats and can also halt the red deck's progress by getting two creatures off the board for just two mana in a pinch.
The various White Weenie and Azorius Aggro decks seem like another great angle for attacking the red decks. Glory-Bound Initiate seems like a pretty insane place to start against red. It hits hard and gains life. What more could you want? Vigilance...? Well, those decks also pack Always Watching—so, you'll get your wish!
Glory-Bound is just a good card by all metrics. It was one of the cards I equated to the most free wins in draft and sealed, which is often a strong indicator of a card with a lot of secret Standard upside. The card is cheap and could become a big player in the coming weeks. Strike while the iron is hot and the card is cheap.
Another interesting two-drop with some potential:
Here is quite the "stick it to red" card. It is big enough that it trumps most of their creatures in combat and the lifelink is a big problem for them for obvious reasons. I cashed a GP last year with a version of GB Constrictor that started four Gifted Aetherborn, and I think the card would be better in that type of deck now than it was then (and it was pretty darn good them too!).
Uncommons are kind of risky because they are not scarce, which means the demand has to be really high to spike the card. However, hype can also create the illusion of scarcity and demand. If a bunch of people write about Gifted Aetherborn in Zombies, GB, and UB Reanimator this week, we could see dealers just up the price to $2-$3 bucks because, "Why not? People are going to buy us out no matter what and why not make maximum value..."
Once again, low-risk card to trade for since you'll almost certainly find people to trade them off you in the next week or so for a profit.
I'm looking forward to continuing to explore the new Standard format. Red Deck Wins may have won the first battle but the war for the plane of Amonkhet is far from over. Red is a great deck to be "the deck to beat" because it tends to be beatable (unlike midrange combo decks with a win-the-game combo that are fine against everything).
As a strategy I'd recommend getting out of red cards and making a quick move on some of the anti-red cards, with the intent of flipping them quickly when they potentially move in value.
Don't get burned! Invest in anti-red cards!