Nothing’s better than a topdeck, whether it’s the Lightning Helix that gets the last three or that Rakdos, the Showstopper once the game has gone long. In a world that functions off anxiety and precarity, there’s little more comforting than a surplus of options. So how can we maximize that feeling? How can we achieve in Standard not the most cards drawn—that’s just profligate and show-offy—but the most cards drawn in single increments off the top? How many distinct piles can we have set off in neat little stacks? How many microdecks can we produce?

We’re already a step ahead of where we’d be at any point in the past. There are unprecedented numbers of playable “exile the top X cards of your library” effects right now. Since Wizards decided back in Fate Reforged (Outpost Siege) and Magic 2015 (Act on Impulse) that Red can draw cards, so long as there’s a time window to restrain it; they’ve gotten complacent, and started adding it whenever possible. So let’s take advantage of that with a completely absurd and joyfully random deck. Here, then, is what I’m working with currently:

Topdeck Dot Deck

Creatures (19)
Kitesail Freebooter
Dusk Legion Zealot
Thief of Sanity
Rhona, Disciple of Gix
Hostage Taker
Etalli, Primal Storm

Spells (18)
Vance's Blasting Cannons
Light up the Stage
Theater of Horrors
Experimental Frenzy
Precognition Field
Chromatic Lantern
Karn, Scion of Urza
Lands (23)
Blood Crypt
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Dragonskull Summit
Sulfur Falls

Sideboard (15)
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Angrath, Minotaur Pirate
Karn, Scion of Urza
Discovery // Dispersal
Mnemonic Betrayal
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Thief of Sanity is actually a relevant card in Standard right now, and it’s one of the most fun things you can be doing against a removal-light deck. I’d run twenty if I could. Dusk Legion Zealot is a speed bump and, like Chromatic Lantern, necessary smooth out the variance of the deck. For more of that in the sideboard, Discovery // Dispersal is a bit of a pet card that comes in versus control decks that seek to stick a Niv-Mizzet or Teferi, while providing some necessary fixing via surveil in the early game.

Experimental Frenzy is the real engine: you can’t play cards from your hand, but you can certainly play them from the escalating piles of exiled cards. It, along with Light Up the Stage, is the most respectable source of card advantage in the deck. The evasive creatures turn on your Theaters of Horrors. Vance’s Blasting Cannon, while never likely to flip, offers another path to victory.

I think more than anything, this deck proves that there’s a high-velocity Red-based control deck. For one of the few times I can recall, non-Blue decks have a wealth of options for card advantage. Even if (when) this deck doesn’t pan out there’s so much available, between Experimental Frenzy, Theater of Horrors, and Light Up the Stage, that it seems possible to narrow this down to Rakdos’ Greatest Hits. I anticipate picking up something similar once War of the Spark comes out with more tools.

I’m aching for a R/B Planeswalker under five mana, and hopefully we’ll see something to bolster the current core cards. Speaking of Red-Black planeswalkers, we have a transformational sideboard with one of my favorite Standard sleepers: Angrath, Minotaur Pirate. Against Izzet Drakes, the combo with Dire Fleet Daredevil is great, and you can rebuy your Hostage Takers.

Unfortunately, I had to make some difficult cuts. Apex of Power was tempting, but again, we’re going for repeatable, incremental exile rather than a glut of cards. That said, I’ve hit ten mana in this deck shockingly quickly simply skimming lands off the top (plus Chromatic Lanterns); so if you hate winning, give it a spin.

Playing this deck feels like when you won solitaire on Windows 97 and a cascade of cards would fountain across the screen in glorious 32-bit splendor. Except really, you end up drowning in that cascade of cards before you can effectively destroy your opponent; so it’s like solitaire in another sense. I’d say that this deck is ideal for Arena, as the sideboard is weak and it’s suited for one game rather than three, but it’s incredibly frustrating to try to adapt to Arena—too many triggers, not enough action.

If the most joyful part of a metagame is watching your opponent frantically try to figure out what you’re running, this is the deck for you. Sometimes the best victory is in losing creatively. I learned that when trying to make Lich’s Mastery work, I learned that when trying to make recursive Fulminator Mages work, and I look forward to learning again with whatever War of the Spark brings.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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