Here is a tuned up version of the build that I won Game Day with and that I have placed in the top 4 each time I’ve played it at FNM:
20 x Mountain
4 x Rakdos Cackler
4 x Stromkirk Noble
4 x Vexing Devil
4 x Ash Zealot
4 x Rakdos Shred-Freak
2 x Pyreheart Wolf
2 x Hellrider
3 x Furor of the Bitten
4 x Pillar of Flame
2 x Thunderous Wrath
4 x Searing Spear
3 x Traitorous Blood
4 x Nivmagus Elemental
4 x Thunderbolt
2 x Annihilating Fire
3 x Flames of the Firebrand
2 x Hellrider
For RDW to really win in the current meta you need to follow some basic rules when designing the deck. Your creatures need to be cheap (a 4-drop is not cheap) as well as fast (Haste is better than Unleash for the most part) and your burn needs to be able to effect the player as well as creatures. This build is all about the first four turns of play – your first 9 to 10 mana taps. The 4-ofs in this deck are all cards you would want in your opening hand with the 3-ofs being cards you want 1 of at least once during the game and 2 of them would not be too bad and the 2-ofs you want to see once during the game.
The curve on this build is really low and that alone allows you to run 20 land. Bring the curve up at all and you have to put in more land. That being said, you mulligan any hand with more than 3 land in it. This build has 19 1-drops and 2 miracles backed up by 12 2-drops, you do not need a lot of land to make it work and if you get too much you stand the chance of stalling and allowing your opponent to stabilize. Best opening hand would have 2 land in it.
The best first turn play is either the Stromkirk Noble or Rakdos Cackler , depending on the other cards in your hand. Vexing Devil is your worst possible first turn play – but when that is 4 points of burn to your opponent’s face, worst possible still isn’t all that bad. If you have a Furor of the Bitten in your hand at the start then the cackler is the way to go – with only other creatures or burn, then the noble is the way to go in turn 1.
Turn 2 is the best turn for Furor of the Bitten , cast during First Main Phase on the creature you played turn 1. Then you swing, then you cast Vexing Devil . I have seen a lot of games start is way, usually leaving your opponent at 12 life after 2 turns. For those that have a strong dislike for Furor – think of it as another Pillar of Flame – keeps the curve of the deck low and can protect your creatures from the opponent’s pillar. If cast it on a Stromkirk Noble they can be a 3/3 before they even swing and who is not going to be attacking every turn? Furor is an outstanding card in the current meta because of the low number of instant speed removal spells that exist for less than 3CMC. You can usually get two swings out of your Furor before the opponent finds a solution and if your opponent does not have a solution by then they are dead.
Pyreheart Wolf is pretty much a wincon if he comes down Turn 3 as your opponent will most likely not be able to block your creatures for the next two turns. But at the same time you do not want a hand full of these guys.
Hellrider is a wincon, but only if you get him at the right time. Having him in your hand from the start can be troublesome. Making him a 2-of in the deck cuts down on landing him on the draw.
Thunderous Wrath as a 2-of means that you have a smaller chance of getting it in your opening hand while still having the strong possibility of topdecking one – and I have had more divine damnation wished upon a miracle Thunderous Wrath than just about any other card that I’ve played. “Oh wow! Five to your face!” is what I say and that is usually followed by my opponent saying “G*# D@#^ IT!”
Traitorous Blood is in the main deck because so many of the decks in the current meta have juicy 4 or 5-drops that are a big part of their strategy and only one of those juicy bombs has Haste. Right when the 1 and 2 drops of this deck are starting to run out of steam – say Turn 4 or Turn 5 – the other player drops their bomb and smiles. Maybe they gain 5 life with their Thragtusk – maybe they swing big with their Falkenrath Aristocrat but either way, on your next turn, Traitorous Blood means you are swinging it back at them and now it has Trample. T-Blood has the possibility of being both burn and removal at the same time. I like T-Blood over Mark of Mutiny and Traitorous Instinct because it is cheaper and has Trample, which means a chump doesn’t do much. When it comes to Thragtusk you want to hold on to some burn as well. Then after you T-Blood the tusk and swing you use the burn to kill the tusk while you still have control of it, that way you get the beast token.
Nivmagus Elemental sides in vs control – remove the cacklers
Thunderbolt sides in vs Restoration Angel so that you can fry the angel when she flickers her target and get 2 for 1.- Remove the furor and a T-Blood
Flames of the Firebrand sides in vs tokens – Remove the furor
Annihilating Fire sides in vs zombies – remove 2 furor
Hellrider sides in vs JUND – remove 2 furor
Cards I don’t like because I’ve tested them and found them wanting:
Brimstone Volley – conditional for best effect/too much mana for 3 damage
Hellion Crucible – can screw up your mana on Turn 2 and lose you the game.
Gore-House Chainwalker – Haste is better than Unleash – direct comparison with the Shread-Freak sees the freak getting in for damage faster and more often than an Unleashed Chainwalker. Remember that most low cost removal is sorcery speed currently.
Guttersnipe – I really like the snipe (had him on Game Day) but I’ve found that the Pyreheart Wolf , when held in direct comparison, fulfills more of what I want out of a 3-drop and with so little space for 3-drops in this build the snipe just had to go.
Stonewright – I really do not like him at all. Using his ability robs you have valuable mana that could be used to cast spells that either make creatures or burn spells. If your hand is full of cards that you cannot cast and you want to use your mana to firebreath so it won’t be “wasted” – your curve is too high and Firebreathing creatures are not going to help that situation one bit.
Mogg Flunkies – they can cause problems in mirror matches when you opponent removes the other creature needed to make the flunkies work.
Lightning Mauler – compare directly with Rakdos Shred-Freak and tell me why the mauler is better. I don’t see it. Soulbond Haste vs Haste, give me Haste without conditions please.
Volcanic Strength – the evasion that this aura can provide is not worth the additional mana cost, Turn 2 Furor is infinitely better than a Turn 3 Volcanic. Also increases the chances and mana costs if you happen to get 2-for-1’d by instant speed removal.
Cryptborn Horror – compare directly with Pyreheart Wolf , the horror can be bigger on Turn 3 but not all that bigger and has the condition that you are able to get through on Turn 3 with combat damage without using any mana to cast burn spells – this does not happen much on Turn 3. When testing the horror at FNM it cost me the finals match because I was not able to cast it Turn 3 when I had 3 mana available – if it would have been a Pyreheart Wolf I would have won the match – yes, the horror showed up in both of my game losses.
Reverberate or Increasing Vengeance – has the strong possibility of being a dead draw in your hand that you cannot afford and does not fit well with the archtype.
If you want to waste your money you can try to fit either Bonfire of the Damned or Thundermaw Hellkite into this deck. But all that exercise is going to teach you is that just because a card is good and it is also red that does not mean it belongs in a Red Deck Wins build.
I like to point out to opponents playing American or Grixis Control and Zombie decks that my deck, which just schooled them 2-0, cost less than one playset of their shocklands. Then I laugh and shake their hand – Good Match!