Then There was Two

Traditionally, the best thing to play after a set rotation or a new set comes out is an aggressive strategy. While everyone is messing around with new cards, you have this sleek engine that has proven itself in the past. The two decks that basically lose nothing with rotation are Temur Energy and Mono-Red Aggro. Temur Energy has been around for as long as Aether Hub and energy were in Standard. The deck has been tuned repeatedly, so of course it’s going to be the deck to play, if not the best deck to play. So, today I’m going to give what I envision the best Temur Energy deck to be and the best Ramunap Red deck to be. We will then go over what the deck(s) weaknesses are and how you can combat them if you’d rather play to beat them instead of playing them. So, either way you win. If you want a strong Temur/Red deck, I got you; and, if you want to play to beat it, I’m here for you too.

First up let’s go ahead and look at what clearly is the default deck going into post Ixalan’s release.

The Scarab God
Splashing Black gives you an edge in the Temur mirror since they won’t be able to outgrind you anymore. Instead they’ll be forced to try and be as aggressive as possible and close the game out before The Scarab God can take over. The only problem is they are trying to do this with basically the same exact cards you have in your deck. If you’re already ahead, outside of a Confiscation Coup, they will have a tough time overcoming you. The Scarab God is also great against other decks that need creatures in their graveyard like God-Pharaoh’s Gift or Liliana, Death’s Majesty oriented decks.

The only other substantial change here is Spell Pierce and it’s a huge one. Spell Pierce allows you to resolve your threats much easier against countermagic and once they are resolved it helps protect them from removal for a very cheap cost of a single Blue mana. It’s also fantastic at stopping big non-creature spells like Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh, Approach of the Second Sun, Confiscation Coup, Fumigate, and Hour of Promise. By adding Spell Pierces to the main deck, I believe you’ll shore up a lot of your bad matchups. Of course, there’s also drawbacks to playing Spell Pierce in this type of deck and that’s drawing too many Spell Pierce. If you’re just countering spells with Spell Pierce but don’t have any pressure, you’re treading water. You really want to have some sort of clock on the battlefield while Spell Piercing your opponent’s spells. Therefore, I didn’t include any vehicles like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. This way it’s less likely to get flooded with spells that don’t do much to the battlefield.

The Sideboard to this deck is basically the same with a few exceptions.

Cartouche of Ambition
Cartouche of Ambition is great against the aggressive decks. It will usually kill one of their threats or at the very least shrinks one down while giving your biggest creature +1/+1 and more importantly lifelink. If they don’t have an answer for your enchanted creature then the game just ends, especially if that creature is a big one like Bristling Hydra or even Glorybringer since Glorybringer will gain you life when you exert it if it has Cartouche of Ambition attached to it. Cartouche hype!

Carange Tyrant is a new one, but it’s a welcome addition to the deck to help combat control decks. It does cost a good amount, but against control decks the games go long enough where you can play this dinosaur easily. Six mana for a 7/6 hexproof and can’t be countered is a nightmare for control decks. Having 6 toughness means it can bash through a Torrential Gearhulk. While having seven power means even if you haven’t dealt any damage to your opponent, they’ll still be on a three-turn clock. Don’t leave your home without having this Rexproof Tyrant in your sideboard.

Vraska, Relic Seeker is another new one. She may not make the cut as the format goes on, but for the first couple of weeks of Ixalan I like having access to her. Not because she’s the end all be all or anything, but more because she’s great against opposing midrange strategies and a solid catch all against enchantments and artifacts. You’re sure to see people trying new things out early on and Vraska is solid against all those new things.

All right, so we have what I think is the go to deck when Ixalan is legal, now what?


Temur struggles against decks that are doing more than just playing creatures. Something like Approach of the Second Sun tends to be a good strategy when trying to beat Temur. Sticky permanents like Planeswalkers are another solid way to overcome them, especially if you can back up your Planeswalkers with something like Fumigate. Going slightly bigger than them with things like Woodland Wanderer, The Scarab God, or even Carnage Tyrant has been proven useful.

I built that list of Temur with all this in mind. I feel like Spell Pierce solves many of your weaknesess and so does playing The Scarab God. By playing Spell Pierce your aren’t a dog to Fumigate and Approach of the Second Sun and by playing The Scarab God it will be difficult for other midrange decks to go over you unless they go way over you. Maybe we’ll have a dinosaur deck that ramps and casts Wakening Sun’s Avatar or Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Those threats can’t be Spell Pierced or Negated and do powerful things once on the battlefield. Those decks take time to make perfect and it will be hard to have it compete with Temur since Temur is already so established.

All right so it appears that Temur is what everyone has on their minds coming into Ixalan but another deck that lost a couple 1-drops but also gained Lightning Strike is Ramunap Red. Let’s look at a list where Ixalan is legal.

Ramunap Red

Lightning Strike
Overall, I believe Ramunap Red does get weaker from the loss of Falkenrath Gorger and Village Messenger. Lightning Strike, Soul-Scar Mage, and Rigging Runner pick up the slack a bit, but it loses more power than it gains. All that being said, I still fully expect to see Ramunap Red in plenty of numbers early on with Ixalan’s release because it was a great deck before Ixalan and it’s a solid one to pick up early on in the format.

Lightning Strike is a big pick up for Ramunap Red. Having the option to deal three damage to the face was all it was missing before Ixalan. The deck already had plenty of reach with Ramunap Ruins, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Hazoret the Fervent but it will always take more. This was a nice addition to the deck.

Rigging Runner is another addition, but not one we really want. Typically, you want to play your 1-drops on . . .  turn one. Rigging Runner doesn’t gain its full potential from that. You can play it turn one but it would much rather come down turn two or three so it can gain be a 2/2 first strike creature. A 1/1 First Strike is fine in the mirror match but not elsewhere. Still, it’s the best the deck has got as far as good 1-drops go.

Outside of Rigging Runner and Lightning Strike, Ramunap Red gained Rampaging Ferocidon and Vance’s Blasting Cannon. The Red dinosaur is great against token strategies and/or decks that gain a lot of life. Things like Legion’s Landing, Queen’s Commission, and Call of the Feast are all very playable, most likely in a deck together. Red decks tend not to like it when the opponent is making a bunch of 1/1s or gaining life, and those cards do both. Luckily, Ferocidon stops all that nonsense.

The other card is Vance’s Blasting Cannon. The card competes with Hazoret and Chandra, not a place you want to be. However, it’s just as hard to deal with if not harder than Hazoret and provides you with card advantage and spells when it does it. Then when it flips you get so much reach in Spitfire Bastion. Continuously Lightning Bolting you opponent’s face will in fact kill them. Lands are also harder to deal with than even enchantments!


Now, what is Ramunap Red weak to? Unlike Temur Engery, Ramunap Red has been favored against Approach of the Second Sun decks. However, it has struggled against {B}{G} Constrictor, {W}{B}Tokens (think Anointer Priest, tokens, Anointed Procession, and Hidden Stockpile), and Crested Sunmare lifegain decks. What solves a lot of these problems? Rampaging Ferocidon.

If people want to beat Ramunap Red, they usually can, you just sacrifice match percentages elsewhere. You must find that right balance.

So, the two big decks to aim for are Temur Energy and Ramunap Red. I think a good deck that can be tuned to beat both is the {B}{R} Control in my last article. You don’t even need to play Primal Amulet and can just play Vance’s Blasting Cannons and cut the Glorybringers for Hour of Devastation. The main deck would look something like this.

I think this is a solid starting point if you’re looking to try and beat both those decks. You can tune it to beat one more than the other by playing with numbers or other cards. Black and Red have a ton of removal between them, with the help of Vraska’s Contempt we can control Planeswalkers too.

The biggest problem I imagine are just very big creatures that we can’t deal with, like maybe dinosaurs. So that’s why we have Star of Extinction in the sideboard to clear the board entirely and kill any powerful land that has flipped from the many ways you can do that with Ixalan.

Hopefully I’ve helped you in some way. Either in playing Temur/Ramunap Red or if you’re looking to beat them. Make sure to tune in next week as I break this set down for Standard playability with my Set Review of Ixalan.

As always, thanks for reading.
Much love,
Ali Aintrazi
@AliEldrazi on Twitter

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