The following is a mid-range Combat Red deck which utilizes the slightly more flexible nature of Combat effects (i.e. they work against Gods now). Filled with the usual goodies: low level removal/burn, Garudan as a large sweep/tempo swing; solid Groundshakers. The core, however is in the efficiency of the combat minions. Let’s take a look at the list, and then discuss its merits:
How do we define Mid-range?
Sometimes our terminology in card games is a little opaque. For the purposes of this deck guide, I consider mid-range to be a deck archetype which applies pressure to your opponent (forcing them to alter their own gameplan to deal with your minions) by turn 4 or 5. To me, midrange also suggests that you are able to maintain this pressure for the next 5 to 6 turns. In this case, what makes this deck midrange is the relative cost-strength ratio of the cards; with an average cost of 3.6 faeria, you can count on playing nearly every draw. Put another way, your turn inertia is 1 card/turn.
Other decks have more or less inertia, meaning they can churn out 3 or 4 cards with no additional faeria cost/gathering requirements. They do this by sacrificing tempo or card quality. If you sacrifice tempo, your presence on the board will be weaker (perhaps you use Failed Experiment to draw cards with a Lore Thief for free), but you will find more combo pieces and the higher power cards in your deck faster and more reliably. If you sacrifice quality, you require more Card inertia per turn to be as effective as the next deck. It might take 2 cards to establish the board where it would take another deck 1.
What does this mean for Midrange Red?
In practice, this means that, all things considered, this deck will play 1 or 2 cards a turn. 1 per turn if you have no other gathering or faeria-gain options. And 2 if you do have access to some wells or faeria return through combat effects. Where it accelerates past other decks and other approaches is in efficiency. It maintains the ability to play good quality cards at a steady pace, but when it can trade efficiently, there is a big swing in tempo.
Consider the core 12 cards in the deck (with combat effects): Tax Collector, Underground Brigand, Underground Boss, and Grim Guard all make better use of the updated Gift of Steel:
Tax Collector: 4/7
With the change to Gift of Steel, it becomes a slightly better quality Ruunin’s Command (+3/+3) while losing the flexibility of the heal. It, of course, can be used with Garudan, or Groundshakers, but as a buff card, it gives red that little bit extra surprise damage, while also shoring up the classic downfall of combat creatures: they shine after the second or third combat event.
The weaknesses of this deck (mobility) are provided for in part by Syland Horesmasters. Again, as with Gift of Steel, your best-case scenario is the surprise swing in tempo offered by combing an efficient trade with faeria gain. Syland allows us to close the gap, turn from defense to offense, and control enemy movement.
Playstyle and Mulligans
The main playstyle is to outvalue your opponent’s cards by getting good trades and keeping up pressure on face. Wells are give or take depending on matchup. Tax Collectors, Brigands, and Bosses offer a good deal of resources from the combination of low-cost efficient cards, and their combat effects. You should be working to get to the opponent early to apply pressure, not as an all in strategy, but because forcing inefficient trades on his part will give you advantage for late game.
I recommend two approaches:
Go up one side of the board (toward the side your opponent is pursuing) and attempt to get a mountain at your opponent’s well (the one inside the backline is the best case scenario for Axe Grinder).
Go up the middle versus rush decks (generally the Green or Yellow variations at the moment).
Remember in both cases that your deck is designed to make contact; don’t be afraid of Green! Perhaps the worst case scenario will be the transform effect from an early Aurora Mythmaker (which is very hard to deal with for ANY deck); everything else you will be well equipped to deal with, and the theme of this deck will allow you to get return even if they transform a Triton Diver.
Against an unknown opponent
I suggest keeping Underground Brigand as highest priority, with Tax Collector as a second. If you already have one of these, throw away additional ones. Ideal hands would include an early minion, a Groundshaker, and a piece of removal; this keeps you flexible as you establish the board.
Against known opponents:
Green, Yellow: look for Brigands, Underground boss and keep a Syland if at all possible. The reach will be very important for getting to their face to change their gameplan. Spend more of your early turns developing land to block their rush attempts.
Blue, non-rush: If you get a Syland in opening, keep it to apply pressure up the middle. Otherwise dig for Underground and Tax Collector and work one side.
A final note on playstyle: I see a lot of players not going toward their opponent’s face to apply pressure; even if you are a control deck, you need to try and set the tone by offering threats (Library itself is enough pressure to change one’s gameplan), and pushing lands aggressively into your opponent’s territory. Unless you are playing a Meteor deck, every land closer is a potential turn closer to victory later, when both sides lay exhausted and you are playing 1 card a turn, starved for resources. The same goes for this midrange deck; take an aggressive line, leaning more toward dominance through trades and board clear - which simultaneously grant efficiency. But if the face is open…
I hope you enjoy the deck; if you have any questions or comments, please leave a note or contact me on Discord. Enjoy!