A Big Red Primer

It is not often that cards for newer sets make their way into higher powered formats like Legacy. Today however I would like to share a Legacy decklist that has not one, not two, but three cards in it that are still Standard legal. This past weekend I made the Top 8 of the Legacy challenge on Magic Online with the following decklist:


For those who are unfamiliar this is a deck that is known as “Mono Red Sneak Attack” or “Big Red” for short. It aims to end the game (sometimes literally, other times effectively) on the first couple turns of the game. Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon are powerful “prison” style cards that can lock many of the decks in Legacy out of playing an actual game of Magic. This is because many decks in Legacy have a high volume of both 1-mana spells and non-basic lands. Thanks to our full eight double lands alongside Lotus Petal and Simian Spirit Guide, we can play out Chalice of the Void for one and Blood Moon on the first turn of the game.

In addition to locking our opponents out on the first turn of the game, Big Red’s most insane draws can literally end the game on the very first turn as well. A hand that wins on turn one looks something like this:

Ancient Tomb
Simian Spirit Guide
Seething Song
Sneak Attack
Griselbrand

Play your Tomb, use your Spirit Guide and Seething Song to play and activate Sneak Attack. Draw 14 cards with Griselbrand which hopefully contain either a Lotus Petal or Simian Spirit Guide alongside one of our 15 power creatures. Then activate Sneak Attack again and attack for 22.

While this sequence is not very likely to occur, it does happen on occasion. When you factor in this percentage along with the games that effectively end on the first turn thank to our lock pieces, we end up with a decent number of “free wins” when playing this deck.

In addition to our lock pieces, one of the draws to playing a deck like Big Red over something like traditional Sneak and Show is that some of our threats are simply castable when we do not draw Sneak Attack or Through the Breach:

Inferno Titan

Inferno Titan is very quickly lethal on its own, while also being able to remove some pesky hate cards with its trigger such as Containment Priest and Gaddock Teeg.

In addition to our midsize threat of Inferno Titan we play some of the usual suspects you see in decks that cheat things into play in Legacy:

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Worldspine Wurm

While many of you are likely no stranger to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Worldspine Wurm is something that sees far less play in Legacy. The reason for the 2-2 split between these powerful creatures is simply because there are a lot of board states where Emrakul can win, but Wurm cannot and vice versa.

Most notably is that when we are putting something into play with Sneak Attack on turn one or 2, Annihilating up to six of our opponent’s permanents does not have that big of an impact. If we do not have a follow up threat our opponent will still have 5 points of life and can rebuild and win the game. Worldspine Wurm on the first turn or two however leaves behind 15 power worth of creatures that can finish the job of killing our opponent on the following turn.

This just leaves us with a few newer cards to mention in our main deck:

Fiery Confluence
Sorcerous Spyglass
Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Fiery Confluence is kind of our “swiss army knife” card. It clears the board of pesky hatebears, it shatters Ensnaring Bridges, and often most importantly — it can dome our opponent for 6 points of damage. Sorcerous Spyglass not only provides us with valuable information about what disruption we want to sequence around, but occasionally it can provide free wins on the play. Remember that, like Pithing Needle, Spyglass can name lands — this means it can be used to snipe your opponent’s fetch lands if you are on the play and see you can get them.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a lot like Fiery Confluence in that she does a lot of things “kind of OK” while not being stellar at any single task. She can provide mana for us. She can help keep our opponent’s board in check. And ultimately she can provide a means of directly killing our opponent. Chandra is one of our best cards against decks like Miracles and Four Color Control that are looking to slow a given game down.

Matchups and Playing the Deck

The thing I often hear people complain about when playing with / against all in decks like Big Red is their lack of decisions. They often claim to have won or lost a game with zero control for the outcome. What many people fail to recognize in general about Magic is that the decisions you are making in every event you play start before you even take a turn. The cards you register, the hands you keep, and how you choose to sideboard are all things that are very much within your control.

Because decks like Big Red do not have card selection and aim to end a game quickly, the cards you are starting the game with are very important. This means that mulliganing hands that do not have action within the first few turns of the game is generally the correct play. For instance, the following hand is one that passes the “lands and spells” check but is awful to keep in the dark in a format as fast as Legacy:

Mountain
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Lotus Petal
Sneak Attack
Inferno Titan
Griselbrand

Sure, you can play out Sneak Attack on turn two, but you are unable to activate it till turn three. This means you are going to lose to decks that are faster than this hand. This hand is also fairly soft to disruption since it only has one “payoff” card in the form of Sneak Attack.

Unlike other combo decks in Legacy that tend to play discard or their own counter spells, Big Red has to simply beat disruption by playing through it. This means trying to play out our threats in a sometimes less than optimal order to try and get our opponents to counter a less impactful spell that they otherwise could.

VS Grixis Delver

This is one of the tougher matchups for Big Red. They have both a lot of disruption and a quick clock to pressure our life total. Whenever possible we want to play around Daze in this matchup, but there will also be plenty of times where we just have to make them have it.

In:

Out:

Post board we turn into a bit more of a control deck in this matchup. If we can keep our opponent’s threats off of the table it does not matter how much disruption they draw.

VS Miracles

This is a good matchup for Big Red. They tend to have a lot of disruption, but they also tend to have a terrible clock.

In:

Out:

Blood Moon tends to be fairly mediocre in this matchup since they often have a lot of basic lands. Our extra copy of Sorcerous Spyglass comes in to help keep Jace, the Mind Sculptor in check. Fiery Confluence is especially great in this matchup because not only can it kill Jace, but it can also clean up Monastery Mentor that likely comes in our of their sideboard. Trinisphere is a reasonable card in this matchup since it makes it difficult for our opponent to both apply pressure and holdup disruption at the same time.

VS Four Color Control

Another good matchup for Big Red for the same reasons as Miracles. Not only do they have a slow clock though, but they are also susceptible to getting Blood Moon’d out of the game.

In:

Out:

VS Storm

This matchup can be harder for Big Red because they kill slightly faster than we do on average, while also being fairly resistant to Blood Moon.

In:

Out:

Post board we can to swap out our less impactful cards for some more permanent based disruption.

VS Lands

This is a stellar matchup for Big Red. Not only does Blood Moon completely hose their deck, but they lack meaningful disruption when it comes to beating our fast fatty game plan as well.

In:

Out:

Sorcerous Spyglass can name Thespian’s Stage to help keep them from comboing us and Abrade can kill pesky cards like Sphere of Resistance as well as Mox Opal which can give them Green mana through a Blood Moon.

VS Death and Taxes

This matchup is a touch hard Game 1, while being fairly favorable post board. Their annoying little creatures are quite hateful, but they are often not nearly disruptive enough to keep us from taking them off the board once we broad in the right tools.

In:

Out:

Wrapping Up

I think this Big Red deck is actually in a fairly good position in the current Legacy Metagame. As of my writing this the four most popular Legacy decks according to MTG Goldfish are Grixis Delver, Four Color Control, Miracles, and Lands — of which I feel Big Red is a favorite against the latter three. If you are looking for a Legacy deck that is different from the grind of Deathrite Shaman mirrors, while still doing powerful things then this might just be the deck for you!

If you are looking to see some video of this Big Red deck in action, check out this stream archive on my YouTube channel here. Have a question about the deck that I did not cover above? Let me know in a comment below!


Unstable is available for Preorder!

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