Mono red aggro is one of the best decks you can draft in cube. This is a sentiment that has been repeated a decent amount, but it’s for a reason. In unpowered cubes, a good mono red aggro deck will stand up against the “best” version of any other deck. The other decks in the format aren’t fast enough to deal with 10+ damage by the end of turn 3, with the burn in hand to close them out if the board is wiped. If I were to cube for money in an unpowered decks, I go mono red the first chance I get.
With powered cubes, it’s not as easy to consistently beat the best decks with your “good” mono red deck. Sure, your deck is fast, but what does a Goblin Guide do to a turn 1 Elspeth? Can mono red aggro afford to let your opponent take two turns in a row for 1U? What happens if all the gas in your hand is Mind Twisted out? It’s a lot tougher to consistently be ahead of your opponents when they have moxen, lotuses, and other silly cards that can blow you out before you get more than 2 permanents on the board.
The deck below was built with a powered cube, and in a 4-man draft it faced some very good decks with power in them. At the end Kirk even remarked “that’s pretty good for a deck with no power.” While not mono red, playing 6 plains for 8-should-have-been-6 white sources (I’ll get to that soon), the deck was extremely fast and consistent. It could’ve used a couple more 1 drops, like a lightning bolt or a Student of Warfare or something, but with an ample amount of 2 drops and barely anything beyond 2 on the curve, I wasn’t worried about holding a lot of fat.
1x Steppe Lynx
1x Spikeshot Elder
1x Swords to Plowshares
1x Stromkirk Noble
1x Land Tax
1x Black Vise
1x Goblin Guide
1x Arc Trail
1x Soltari Trooper
1x Porcelain Legionnaire
1x Stormblood Berserker
1x Searing Spear
1x Plated Geopede
1x Cloistered Youth
1x Keldon Marauders
1x Hellspark Elemental
1x Brimstone Volley
1x Zo-Zu the Punisher
1x Arc Lightning
1x Sword of War and Peace
1x Sulfuric Vortex
1x Hero of Oxid Ridge
1x Hero of Bladehold
1x Bloodstained Mire
1x Mishra’s Factory
Hero of Bladehold: Playing this card was assuredly a mistake. This isn’t me saying Hero is bad—the Hero is, in fact, extremely nuts. The biggest issue with her is that she was the only WW card. While it’s on the “top end” of my curve, there were a couple games where she sat in my hand because I wasn’t able to cast her. If I had to go back and do it again, I would’ve played either Keldon Champion if I wanted to stick with a 4 drop or Act of Aggression, not because I think it’s the right choice but that I really don’t know what to think of it; before I cast judgement I’d like to see it played, but so far no one has had any interest at least main decking a colorless, instant-speed Act of Treason, so take that as you will.
The reason I did justify Hero is that once I would attack with her, the game should be over. By herself she swings for 7 (not technically by herself, as I’m including her two soldier buddies) which is kind of nuts; dealing 13 damage by the 5th turn was never an issue. The Battle Cry on the other Hero was gravy, and Bladehold is a card for some reason I don’t play with a lot—or see get played, for that matter—so I forced the matter and probably stretched my mana out at the expense of playing her.
Black Vise: This is the card I sided out the most, but it was also a killer. Any game I was on the play and I had Black Vise out, I could pretty much depend on dealing 5+ damage with it, which is insane for 1 colorless mana. There was one game where I dealt about 12 with it because of a bad draw for my opponent. On the lay, Black Vise is pretty nice.
But on the draw, the card is seriously awful. Unless I’m playing against a deck that will always keep its hand full/above 4 cards—which is not that common—it’s a terrible card that might deal 2-3 damage whereas another creature could deal way more than that. Even if I had it in my opening hand, it’s not doing much: opponent plays land to go down to 6, I drop black vise, they take 2 on their upkeep and play a land and probably a 2 drop, next turn they take one, and then it probably turns off. I’d much rather have a threat that can attack or a burn spell that isn’t a dead draw when my opponent has 4 or less cards.
Stromkirk Noble: This guy is a lot worse than he seems. Most of the time I’d rather have a creature that has two power that I don’t have to earn. By the end of turn 4, Stromkirk Noble does as much damage as any other creature with 2 power if the path is cleared, and games with this deck didn’t last much longer than 4 or 5 turns anyways. (If they do, then something went wrong.) If you can’t get past their board, then what does a 1/1 for R actually do? At least a 2/1 would trade with a larger majority of creatures and deal more damage by the end of turn 3. While he does get past humans, there are enough little elves and other lower drops that aren’t humans in cube that it is only relevant occasionally. Stromkirk was necessary in this deck because he’s a one drop, but overall I’m unimpressed.
Also, someone needs to alter this card so it’s Leonardo DiCaprio doing that silly walk.
Swords to Plowshares: While I have no interest in giving my opponent any extra life, Swords to Plowshares is too sick to not include. More often than not this deck is tapping out, and being able to leave up 1 mana instead of 2 is such a huge difference. The fact that Swords deals with pretty much everything naturally is awesome as well; other than some random pro white creatures, which I don’t believe are in the cube, Sword of Ware and peace, and the assorted Hexproof/Shroud creatures, there isn’t anything that won’t mind taking up a scythe and get into the fields. As an added bonus, Swords with a Sulfuric Vortex is a free exile in that the opponent gains no life, which is nice.
Zo-Zu the Punisher: In a land that mostly did not care about its lands after #3 or #4, he was quite nice. Ankh of Mishra is a card this deck would’ve liked, so putting it on a 2/2 body is the next best thing. It’s not like Zo-Zu is anything special or wild either, but when you’re running Armageddon and don’t care about mana #5+, he acts as a pseudo curve topper that punishes your opponents for trying to cast their own bombs. He’s not the absolute best and I can understand if you don’t run him, but if you’re looking for a 3 drop that helps out aggro decks—and there are players interested in drafting him—then give him a try.
Mishra’s Factory: Cheap manlands are super important to aggressive strategies. There is too much spot removal and sorcery speed wraths that having a land you can hold back until your opponent taps out or runs out of cards is huge. I could make bad attacks if I needed to, trading off on the board, and come out ahead because I cleared a path for my Mishra’s Factory. He’s probably the best manland in my opinion; the other guys all do more, but they cost colors to activate, and more than one. Keeping just 2 lands up for your on-again-off-again 2/2 is pretty great, as it allows you to play your own spells or get your beats on for turn 2 if your hand is awful other than the Mishra’s.
Torch Fiend: And, more so, the complete lack of artifact destruction. We play with a lot of artifacts; in a 180 card draft pool, we add 25 into there, which isn’t including the possibility of Vedalken shackles. I could’ve maindecked Torch Fiend, but what would I want to destroy? Would killing their sword really be better than dealing two damage? Most of the time, the answer was “no” or my opponent would be dead before I would’ve had a chance to answer that question. If I picked up a Manic or Keldon Vandal I would’ve definitely played them, but unfortunately I didn’t see any in the draft pool/they got snatched up before I had an opportunity to take them.
Land Tax: This was the first pick of the draft for me, which I’ll normally never do. It’s not that I think Land Tax is bad, but I have little interest playing with it unless I’m playing a super fast deck that can operate on 2 or less mana, or I have a bunch of artifact mana to push myself ahead while my opponent stays behind on their own mana in fear of me drawing all my lands. These are OK reasons to go into it, but I’d rather stay more open with my first pack unless the card is a sick build around like Upheaval or Recurring Nightmare.
The thing about the pack, though, was that it was awful. The other card I was considering was Polluted Delta which, while a fine card, is not exactly something I’m excited to pick first. I spent a while thinking about it, and I came to the conclusion that I’d be fine playing Land Tax in a non-aggressive deck if the opportunity never arose to go in the aggressive direction. Thankfully I got passed a Sulfuric Vortex two picks later, so worrying about that was never an issue.
This deck was a lot of fun; a lot of people say drafting aggro is boring, but I haven’t done it in probably a couple months, so it was a nice change of pace. I like dicking around with the ol’ do-nothing decks, but ultimately winning is the most fun, and red aggressive decks win a lot.