Red-green is my weakest draft archetype across formats over time. I’ve struggled drafting those decks on day two of grand prix, and in general I find they run out of resources too often. Then again, I’ve lost a lot of very close games playing such decks, and I know I should have been able to find that final point of damage more often than I have. So I try to practice my weaknesses whenever I can, and that means heavy repetition on red-green draft decks.

Last weekend I managed to win a Dominaria draft trophy online with what I considered a mediocre red-green deck. I started the draft picking Jaya Ballard, which I know isn’t very good, but there wasn’t much else in the pack. Besides, planeswalkers are always fun to play in Limited and I take the opportunity whenever I can. Here’s what I had to work with:

Red-Green Hodge-Podge

Creatures (13)
Ghitu Lavarunner
Bloodstone Goblin
Keldon Warcaller
Corrosive Ooze
Untamed Kavu
Hallar, the Firefletcher
Goblin Warchief
Yavimaya Sapherd
Firefist Adept
Keldon Overseer

Spells (10)
Jaya Ballard
The Flame of Keld
Ancient Animus
Shivan Fire
Fiery Intervention
Pierce the Sky
Warlord’s Fury
Fervent Strike
Frenzied Rage
Seismic Shift
Lands (17)
Memorial to Unity
Memorial to War

Sideboard (10)
Memorial to War
Verdant Force
Baloth Gorger
Pierce the Sky
Broken Bond
Run Amok
Darigaaz Reincarnated
Champion of the Flame
Gaea’s Blessing
Damping Sphere

That list doesn’t look impressive to me, but I am skeptical of my ability to evaluate such decks. My buddy Shawn Sloan drafted something similar in the first pod of Grand Prix Dallas last weekend, which he took to a 3-0 en route to finishing 26th in the event. He had three copies of Ghitu Chronicler, though. I guess Jaya Ballard fills that role in my deck. I did actually win a game where my opponent had to attack Jaya to knock her off ultimate when I had Seimsic Shift in the graveyard that would open my lethal attack, which opened him to a lethal attack anyway. She mostly serves as a looter, but that’s valuable in these kind of decks.

The Flame of Keld did similar work. The extra damage on stage three is not bad, but I got most value out of drawing two cards at stage two. It was easy to dump my hand, even if it sometimes meant firing off a pump spell early, and the saga would set up for a big turn coming up. I wouldn’t call it a great card, but I provides a boost of cards right when red-green decks lose steam. There’s not much worse than topdecking for many turns while your opponent playing other colors filters through their deck and starts dropping bombs.

I wasn’t sure about the Goblin Warchiefs, but it’s a powerful card and proved to be pretty good with two Bloodstone Goblins. Haste is always useful in aggressive decks, and the mana reduction helps to hold up tricks after dropping a precombat goblin to attack. You can’t bank to heavily on 2/2 creatures in this format, as Zach wisely analyzed earlier this week. But if you can overwhelm the board before opponents can set up a wall, they do just fine. A 1/3 blocker shuts down a 2/2, but it doesn’t do a lot against three 2/2s. I hate attack-only tricks like Run Amok, but it does a decent job helping things along. I managed to attack through a couple Cloudreader Sphinxes after bringing it in from the board. Incidentally, Pierce the Sky is great against a lot of decks.

When I built the deck, I waffled on being heavy red, which went with most of my creatures and spells, and helped make Jaya Ballard easier to cast. Verdant Force is a force, but I didn’t think I could do enough to get to eight mana, especially without a ton of green support cards. Against a grindy white deck in the finals, however, I sided out Jaya and tricks for Verdant Force, Baloth Gorger, and the extra green spells. My opponent was doing the work of extending the game for me, especially once I showed in game one that my main plan was to attack early and often. When Verdant Force came down on a stalled board in game three, I could feel my opponent’s heart sink across computer screens.

In the end, that’s been one of the keys I’ve learned from my practice at mastering red-green drafts. You need to have options in your sideboard, so you can change strategies between games and keep your opponent off balance. The general gameplan of these decks is transparent, which makes it easier for your opponents to make decisions. Dominaria Limited isn’t fast enough for red-green beatdown to be feared. But you should be able to mix and match your threats to work around the defenses you face. Tempo spells like Threaten or Falter effects play a key role, though not one you can lean on all the time. Know when to bring those cards in to win a race or seal an alpha strike.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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