Atarka Red (Deck of the Month)

March 14, 2018

Hello, I’m Riley and welcome to the first installment of the new repeating frontier segment: deck of the month. For the first foray into the individual decks of the format, it’s only appropriate that we use one of the key players in the format as our entry point. With that in mind, the deck here is Atarka Red.

 

Main

2 Abbot of Keral Keep

4 Atarka's Command

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Cinder Glade

4 Dragon Fodder

1 Forest

3 Hordeling Outburst

4 Lightning Strike

4 Monastery Swiftspear

7 Mountain

2 Ramunap Ruins

3 Reckless Bushwhacker

4 Smuggler's Copter

4 Soul-Scar Mage

2 Stoke the Flames

4 Wild Slash

4 Wooded Foothills

2 Zurgo Bellstriker

 

Sideboard

2 Blazing Volley

2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

2 Exquisite Firecraft

2 Roast

2 Kari Zev's Expertise

2 Hazoret the Fervent

1 Ramunap Ruins

2 Smash to Smithereens

The namesake card of this deck, Atarka’s Command, is one of the most savage beatings in the entire format. At a base level, this just looks like an efficient burn spell that can also pump your creatures a bit. That mode is definitely applicable, but when you consider that you have around 8 prowess creatures, a ton of tokens, and a dirt cheap creature curve, this card can become truly insane. Even when you can’t kill on the spot or put your opponent so far behind that even fumigate won’t save them, the 2 for 1 potential of this card in combination with combat and prowess is a consideration for anyone trying to block the odd Swiftspear or Abbot of Keral Keep.

 Speaking of Monastery Swiftspear and Abbot of Keral Keep, those two cards, in combination with Soul-Scar Mage, provide a high density of creatures that can deal anything from 1 to 5 damage when attacking, and your opponent just doesn’t quite know until it’s too late. Prowess in combination with the wide array of instant speed burn spells the deck runs leaves the opponent in a constant guessing game of whether or not they will lose their blocker to a small creature, which needless to say is incredibly potent. The non-prowess creatures aren’t exactly leaving much to be desired either. Zurgo Bellstriker is simply one of the best one drops in the format, and Reckless Bushwhacker sets up for some of the most deadly turn sequences the deck can produce.

These turn sequences are put over the top by the presence of highly effective token generators in Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst. They don’t look like much on the surface, they just make a couple of goblins for cheap, but these cards are great. While great on their own as threats, these cards are some of the most efficient ways to create chump blockers in the entire format. Combine that with the synergy between tokens and Smuggler’s Copter, as well as the nut draw factor of playing these cards next to universal pump effects like Atarka’s Command and Reckless Bushwhacker and you have an excellent addition to the deck.

 

Finally, the thing that puts red aggressive decks like Atarka Red ahead of the many other aggro decks available in Frontier is the burn spells. The suite of burn spells that this deck runs includes wild slashes, lightning strike, and a couple copies of stoke the flames as one of the options in the flex slots. Unlike most decks running burn however, the burn in this deck allows us to be more versatile instead of just being an efficient way to win a game through a clogged board. Sometimes it will close the distance between a close loss and a win, or sometimes it will control a boardstate just enough to let our creatures do the job. With the density of prowess creatures, our burn can also be used as a pump effect for most of our board.

Let’s talk about matchups: A brutally fast curve leaves the deck in a position to outpace and punish the combo decks of the format, which tend to have their combo turn set between 4 and 6. The deck has enough reach to fight through the sweepers of Control. Even the worst case scenario of midrange matchups like Abzan are playable with the help of Smuggler’s Copter flying over, Atarka’s Command dealing a vast amount of explosive damage, and sideboard cards like Roast and Kari Zev’s Expertise giving the deck ways to deal with the larger creatures these decks might throw your way. Jund Delirium is the only mainstream matchup that I would consider truly awful, although a deck comprised of a massive amount of spot removal, two for ones, chump blockers, and sweepers is bound to be trouble for any deck trying to be aggressive.

In the end, Atarka Red can claim a rightful position in the upper echelons in the format. It’s main gameplan is strong enough that a good draw has the capability of taking a game in any matchup out there, and an average draw will almost always at least have a fighting chance. But this series isn’t just about Atarka! Come back next month for what many consider to be the best deck in the format, UB control.

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