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Budget Magic: $27 (2 tix) Two-Tix Red (Standard)


ሰላም።, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! When it comes to competitive budget decks in Standard, one archetype has traditionally stuck out above the rest: mono-red aggro. Unfortunately, it's been a few seasons since we've had a really strong mono-red deck, but this might be changing. The trick to building a successful mono-red deck is being as fast as possible and hopefully killing the opponent before they get a chance to take over the game with their more expensive and powerful cards. After playing against a mono-red deck last week with our Mono-U Bounce'n'Mill deck, my goal for this week was to build the best (and cheapest) mono-red deck possible in Amonkhet Standard, 

While it took a couple of different builds to get things right, in the end we succeeded, and the deck is awesome! Not only is it amazingly cheap at $27 in the paper world and only two (or now three) tix on Magic Online, but it's also super competitive and fast enough to get in under many of the tier one decks in the format! I could ramble on about how much I love this deck, but let's get to the videos, and then we can break down the deck!

First, a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all of the latest and greatest.

Two-Tix Red Deck Tech

Two-Tix Red vs. GR Energy (Match 1)

Two-Tix Red vs. Temur Marvel (Match 2)

Two-Tix Red vs. UR Control (Match 3)

Two-Tix Red vs. Jund Energy (Match 4)

Two-Tix Red vs. Esper Control (Match 5)

The Deck

As I mentioned in the intro, the build of Two-Tix Red in the video is actually the third iteration of the deck. The earlier builds of the deck were a bit more expensive, looking to play things like Insult // Injury and more expensive burn spells. This plan simply wasn't fast enough to get in under Turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which are two of the premier plays in Amonkhet Standard. So, over time, I kept cutting expensive cards for more and more aggressive options until we ended up with the current build of the deck, which is as fast and as low to the ground as it can possibly be. From a meta perspective, the main goal of the deck is to be as fast and aggressive as possible, and probably the easiest way to break down the deck is to just work our way up the curve. 

One-Drops

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Generally speaking, our one-drops are fairly interchangeable. While they each have slight benefits and downsides (which we'll talk about in a minute), the important thing is that we have as many of these cards in our opening hand as possible. Our deck really needs to have one of these cards on Turn 1, and our best draws start with a one-drop on Turn 1 and two more one-drops on Turn 2. 

As for the cards themselves, Falkenrath Gorger is probably the worst of the bunch, but it's also our only two-power one-drop, which is nice for getting in early damage. The problem is that it dies to cards like Liliana, the Last Hope. Meanwhile, while we aren't overloaded on spells, the prowess on Soul-Scar Mage is an upside. Even when we don't have a spell to trigger it, much like with Monastery Swiftspear in the past, opponents sometimes choose not to block out of fear of getting blown out. Finally, Bomat Courier is the best of our one-drops, not so much because it deals a ton of damage (it actually deals the least of the bunch) but because it usually ends up drawing us three or four cards for just one mana on Turn 4 or 5, and this boost of card advantage often helps us push across the last few points of damage to kill our opponent before they stabilize. 

Two-Drops

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The two-drop slot is all about raw power, with the goal being to play the biggest creatures possible. While discarding a card to Bloodrage Brawler is a downside, it isn't as much of a downside as you might think because our deck is going to lose if the game goes long anyway, so card advantage isn't as important to Two-Tix Red as it is to other decks. The upside is we get the biggest two-drop in Standard to start eating away our opponent's life total. Meanwhile, Borderland Marauder is sort of a mini-Bloodrage Brawler that doesn't force us to discard a card. It's essentially the same stats as Standard staple Scrapheap Scrounger with the ability of being able to chump block when everything goes wrong. 

There really isn't much else to say about either of these cards, other than that they are big, which means we can attack through pretty much any blockers our opponent can put up on Turn 2 or 3, and while they will eventually be outclassed by our opponent's more expensive plays, ideally our opponent will be dead before they get to start playing things like Torrential Gearhulk, Verdurous Gearhulk, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow

Three-Drops

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Reckless Bushwhacker started off as a four-of in the earlier builds of the deck but ended up a two-of because, as weird as it sounds, it's sometimes too slow in our deck. Ideally, we want to play all of our one-drops on Turns 1 and 2, so holding back to surge a Reckless Bushwhacker is awkward. It's also super cumbersome in multiples because it's extremely underpowered when we can't surge it, and it's really hard to keep enough cards in hand to surge more than one. The good news is that Reckless Bushwhacker is still really powerful in some situations, getting in a ton of damage by pumping our entire team, so it's still worthy of a slot in our deck as a two-of. 

The Secret Sauce

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As strange as it sounds, the "ah-ha" moment for Two-Tix Red was when we went back to the drawing board yet again in an effort to make the deck faster and added Cartouche of Zeal to the deck. While I probably sound like a raving lunatic, I'm pretty sure that Cartouche of Zeal is the most important card (and maybe even the best card) in our entire deck. Our deck is really good at getting in early damage, and most of the time, our opponent's plan is to try to stabilize by playing creatures to block, which usually happens on Turns 2 or 3. The combination of Cartouche of Zeal and Ahn-Crop Crasher makes it so this plan doesn't work. This, in turn, allows us to get in one more big hit with our team, which is often the difference between winning the game on Turn 4 or 5 and falling just a few damage short. 

Speaking of Ahn-Crop Crasher, it's very good. If the board is empty, it gets in for three haste damage, and we can save the exert trigger for the next turn, and if our opponent manages to put up a defense, we can exert right away to keep our opponent from blocking. Our most devastating draws usually have at least two of these "can't block" cards—one for Turn 3 and another for Turn 4. While this doesn't quite win us the game on the spot, it puts our opponent to a low enough life total that even if they do something powerful on their following turn (like Aetherworks Marvel for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger), they are usually close enough to dead that we can finish them off on Turn 5 regardless. 

The other big benefit of Cartouche of Zeal is that it lets us get in damage out of nowhere. Picture a draw where we play Falkenrath Gorger on Turn 1, Bloodrage Brawler on Turn 2, and then on Turn 3, we play a Borderland Marauder, enchant it with Cartouche of Zeal to give it haste, and make our opponent's Grim Flayer or Servant of the Conduit unable to block. This attack all by itself represents 11 damage, which combined with the two from Falkenrath Gorger is 13. This means we likely have our opponent dead on board on Turn 4, even without another Cartouche of Zeal or Ahn-Crop Crasher, and almost certainly dead if we do have another "target creature can't block" effect. 

Reach

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The last part of the deck is some burn spells to give us reach when we can't quite get our opponent to zero with our creatures alone. For this, we turn to Shock and Incendiary Flow. There isn't too much to explain here. Both spells can get an annoying blocker out of the way when the situation calls for it, and both can also go to our opponent's face to eat away their last points of life. While it's almost always correct to play Magma Spray over Shock in our current Standard format thanks to recursive threats like Scrapheap Scrounger and Relentless Dead, Two-Tix Red is one of the rare exceptions. Being able to do two damage to the opponent is extremely important, and we don't especially care about things like Scrapheap Scrounger (since it can't block) anyway. 

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Finally, we have Built to Smash, which is essentially another burn spell. One of the challenges of building mono-red in Standard is that, outside of Shock and Incendiary Flow, there isn't much good, cheap burn in the format. While cards like Collective Defiance and Insult // Injury are powerful, they are a bit too expensive for what we are trying to do, so to fill in this gap, we resort to Built to Smash

Probably the easiest way to think of Built to Smash is as the world's worst Lava Spike. When everything goes according to plan, it ends up being three damage to our opponent's face for one mana, which is a Modern-playable rate for burn. The problem is we can get blown out by a removal spell like Fatal Push, and it can even be fizzled by blockers, but thanks to the dearth of good burn spells in Standard, even the world's worst Lava Spike is not just playable but good. 

Mana

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First off, the lands in Two-Tix Red themselves are simple: 19 Mountains. While this might make it seem like there's nothing to talk about here, I did want to take a minute to discuss the number of lands in the deck. Two-Tix Red wants a very specific number of lands—two in our opening hand and a third by turn three. The easiest way for our deck to  lose is by either getting stuck on one land or by drawing five or more lands. Because of this, I spent a lot of time running different numbers of lands through a Hypergeometric Calculator to try to figure out the right number for the deck. 

With 19 lands, we'll have zero- / one-land opening hands 28% of the time, two- or three-land opening hands about 59% of the time, and four or more lands in our opening hand about 13% of the time. Then, on Turn 3 (after drawing 10 cards), three lands will by the most common outcome at 29%, with nearly 70% of our draws giving us between two and four lands, and only 16% giving us the nightmare scenario of having five or more lands by Turn 3. With 18 lands, we'd have too many zero- and one-land opening hands (about one in every three games), which is pretty bad for our deck, since we really need two mana on Turn 2. Meanwhile, with 20 lands, we'd end up having four or more lands on Turn 3 almost half of the time (44%). Anyway, all this is to say, I'm pretty sure that 19 lands is the right amount for what our deck is trying to do.

Wrap Up

So all in all, we ended up 4-1 in our video matches and 5-2 overall (losing in a rematch to Jund Energy and beating another Mono-Red Aggro deck that looked less than optimal). The deck felt very strong and fast enough to get in underneath most of the tier-one decks in the format, including Temur Marvel, which was one of the biggest concerns, since Marvel decks currently make up more than 30% of the Standard metagame. 

Probably the biggest upside of Two-Tix Red is that it's incredibly good at punishing even the slightest misstep from the opponent. Missing a land drop or even having one too many lands come into play tapped is usually game over, since we can get in so much damage so quickly. 

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Meanwhile, the biggest problem card for our deck is Heart of Kiran, which is annoyingly good because it's not a creature, which means we can't target it with our "target creature can't block" effects, so our opponent can simply let us attack and—even if we make it so their other creatures can't block—crew up the Heart of Kiran and eat one of our creatures. The good news is that Heart of Kiran is on the downswing, only showing up in about 13% of decks. Of course, pretty much any five-mana (or more) play is going to be really bad for our deck, but that makes sense because the entire idea of our deck is to kill our opponent before they get a chance to start making these types of plays. 

All in all, I'm really happy with the main deck. For a mono-red deck to succeed in Standard, it needs to be as fast as possible, and I think that Two-Tix Red does a good job of meeting this criterion. On the other hand, the sideboard is rough and can definitely be improved. While I like some of the cards in the sideboard, it's really hard to bring in many copies Destructive Tampering and Savage Alliance without slowing down our deck, so this is probably the biggest area for potential improvement moving forward, although I'm not really sure what to add except for a fourth Lightning Axe, which is probably our best way of answering Heart of Kiran

Ultra-Budget / Non-Budget Two Tix Red

There's no need for an ultra-budget build this week because Two-Tix Red is already as cheap as humanly possible, both in paper and on Magic Online. Strangely, I don't have a non-budget list this week either because I feel like this is one of those rare cases where the optimal build of an archetype just happens to be the cheapest. While it's worth considering some more expensive cards for the sideboard (perhaps a go-big plan of some more lands, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Glorybringer could be worth testing), there really isn't anything else to add to the main deck. The build from the videos plays the best possible cards at each point on the curve, and it just so happens that all of these cards are super cheap. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. I actually feel like Two-Tix Red could end up being legitimate in Standard. While I'm not sure it will be tier one, it really feels like it has the tools to compete with a lot of the big decks in the format. Give it a shot; it's as cheap as it gets and quite powerful! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com. 


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