Unlikely Midrange Red

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#Unlikely Midrange Red
#####by Zaldinfox

Unlikely Hero decks are a sign of a second spring this patch-cycle, thanks in part to the revelation given to Hunterfaeria one fine day while battling Sharra. Since that time, the would be Hero (which now procs the bonus +3/+3 and Charge 3 when it attacks a God or Structures) is popping up in many Rush decks as an experimental cornerstone. Indeed even some Midrange and Control ideas come to mind, if given the proper twist. Are these decks superior to the top tier offerings at the moment? It is rather unlikely. But, it must be said that each new deck offering has piqued interest and tested fairly well. This latest offering is (much like the Blue version) an experiment along a couple of lines - not merely with the Hero. A mixture of movement tricks, removal, and protection buffs compliment the high-value creature choices featured within. This guide will break down the card selection into appropriate groups, and suggest some notable interactions that will help you succeed with this deck.

##3 Kits: Value, Removal, Tricks

###Value Kit
Including the iconic Hero, the following 13 creatures (43% of the deck) represent the core ground-force (receiving aerial support from Garudan of course). Each of these cards has a documented history of solid value or is looking to fill the spot as Hero-of-the-Year (cough, looking at you Unlikely):

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Part of what makes this deck compelling is that the core creatures are useful up the field and down. A Brigand collecting at your own well is great; if it eats removal, fine. But better still that it can exert economic pressure on the other end or be part of midrange fights and still give back value. Similarly, the Hero and the Axe Grinder, which are efficient enough to play as collectors, but really excel once in your opponent’s grill. Groundshaker rounds this off as a staple meaty creature with that long-range ping hated by Blue and Yellow players everywhere. Seifer, of course, is too good to pass up.

###Removal Kit
This includes 10 cards primarily utilized for their direct damage(30% of deck), which are very common to all Red decks because they are so good at what they do. Notable cross-overs include Groundshakers and Royal Judge. Derelict Tower has experienced something of a renaissance due to the buffs in this patch, and has become an extremely powerful tool in red’s removal kit:

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There are few surprises here since these events are the strongest offerings in Red and are seen in nearly every iteration that includes a crimson plan. It truly cannot be overstated how powerful Derelict Tower is, especially because it now offers an immediate ping and allows Red to linger slightly longer before pressing the “draw” button. Part of this removal doubles as direct burn, allowing you - as in other Red lists - to play a more flexible mid/end game, knowing you can potentially close a match out within one or two turns.

###Support Kit

These 7 cards (23% of deck) provide the movement tricks desperately needed by Red (so desperate we look to blue!), alongside tricks which guarantee very efficient trades:

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This subset of cards is perhaps most open to debate, though it has been shown that Horsemaster gives Red exactly what it is looking for - a chance to close the gap. Safeguard in both event and creature form offer something of a ladder advantage, which means that it will be an edge mainly because it is unexpected. To suggest that this array of support cards is the best for a tournament setting is likely pushing the argument too far. When players expect Safeguard, it is one of the more difficult events to use effectively (either you use it too early and get punished, or too late and get no value). Unlike Green, it will not help you win the race with a couple extra points of damage (sans Banquet). However, given its minor role, I believe this is the best starting place for support tools designed to help cards like Seifer, Hero, Shaker, Grinder, and Brigand close the distance with righteous fury. Judge also acts as a minor hedge against neutral cards which appear from time to time (especially King’s/Queen’s Guards).

While this deck is unlikely to struggle in matchups where the traditional pieces of red-midrange or red-control dominate, there are some unique challenges and susceptibilities: first, Protection as a support strategy is somewhat harder to deploy than straight buffs. It is easily pinged away if used pre-emptively (and there are a lot of Derelict Towers being constructed on the ladder); it gives much more value to Yellow hard removal and Blue transform effects; it is not always there when you need it. To pack too many Safeguard options in the current meta would be folly, thus we have chosen to limit this potential weakness by including 1 hard-copy, and given some flexibility by chosing a hybrid creature in the form of Royal Judge.

Another potential weakness is the lack of tricks built into the creatures: none have Charge, Jump, or Flying built in. Likewise, Combat is a slow mechanic, requiring setup and often the use of tricks like Horsemaster or Banquet to get good value. We have eschewed the natural response of Red deck-builders to this plight, which is to turn slightly inwards and force an opponent to play into their territory, following up with Bomb Slingers or Grim Guards. This deck takes some risks in setting aside such outs.

Finally, we might note that we are not running Taunt (as in Grim Guard), but I find that card, and the other options available to Red, to be subpar, requiring other kits to be built around them (like Gift of Steel). One generally reliable option is the King’s/Queen’s Guard offering from Neutral, but I think, given the flexibility of the creature base and the usual removal, dropping a taunt creature will rarely be the out one is looking for. It is, however, worth mentioning.

In general, it is always important to assess your opponent before deciding a mulligan. This deck is designed to compete on one side of the board and gain advantage due to efficient, sticky minions. There is opportunity to open agressively due to the economic pressure exerted by Underground Brigand (which can also proc on structures or face), the workhorse Axe Grinder, and the snowball threat of an early Seifer.

Good: Seifer, Horsemaster, Brigand, Hero, Axe Grinder, Wrath.

Average: Shaker, Tower, Flame burst.

Poor: Banquet, Safeguard, Judge, Garudan.

The deck is surprisingly flexible because the range of tricks (movement, damage, protection) give more meat and more options to the generally straightforward approach of Red removal. The Hero shines as an efficient collector and a front-line soldier in a list which churns out a steady stream of suppressive fire!

Enjoy ~Zfox