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For as long as players have been aching for intricate battles of resources, Mono-Red has been there to sweep up the unprepared. While as much a defining characteristic of Magic’s history as any other archetype, the disdain for Mono Red has long outweighed the positive format benefits. Forcing players to undergo a cycle of metagame dominance creates formats more diverse than they otherwise would be, making competitive Magic an engaging and skill testing experience. In our current, planeswalker heavy metagame,  Mono Red aggressive decks showcase a wide variety of threats and removal and are in a unique position to capitalize on decks regularly gearing up for planeswalker battles. While we’ve covered Mono Red in our metagame analysis here, this is our first exclusive deck tech for Standard’s hottest aggressive deck. I’ll be briefly discussing the merits of each card, before delving into the sideboard and general sideboard theory. Much of this knowledge is built off of a host of Kingslayer Games players piloting the deck on Arena, as well as a unique sideboard approach that contributed to our player Jose Santana’s success in the mirror.


The Creatures

Fanatical Firebrand | Haste is a powerful trait in Red decks, and Fanatical Firebrand is the best option for attacking on Turn 1. Its utility in mid-game trades warrant a four-of status, and the additional reach gives Mono Red late game utility. Few decks can stabilize completely against Fanatical Firebrand draws.
Ghitu Lavarunner | Serving as the other one drop in Mono Red, Ghitu Lavarunner rounds out the Wizard suite for Wizard’s Lightning, while functioning as a two power attacker as early as Turn 2. Surviving Fanatical Firebrand or Goblin Chainwhirler is relevant in the Red mirrors, and being able to attack through Llanowar Elves triggers Light Up the Stage easier.
Runaway Steam-Kin | Contributing to a late game card advantage engine is rarely a feat aggressive two drops can boast, but Runaway Steam-Kin holds this trophy high. Threatening to, well, run away with the game, Steam-Kin gives Mono Red the ability to profitably progress its board while removing blockers. Additionally, the potential 4/4 status of Runaway Steam-Kin can break board stalls against other aggressive strategies, while contributing to powerful Experimental Frenzy turns.dom-129-goblin-chainwhirler (1)
Viashino Pyromancer | Pushing the Wizard count to eight enables Wizard’s Lightning at a premium cost, but the primary reason to run Viashino Pyromancer over other two drops is the additional reach it provides. Like Fanatical Firebrand, Viashino Pyromancer gives Mono Red the ability to effortlessly fight through stabilizing board states and can combine with Experimental Frenzy and Runaway Steam-Kin to create insurmountable points of direct damage.
Goblin Chainwhirler | The final creature in the list, Goblin Chainwhirler is no stranger to the spotlight. Earning its slot as a four of in many red decks since its printing in Dominaria, Goblin Chainwhirler dominates most creature matchups, as a 3/3 first strike is difficult to overcome with creatures. Most Standard decks slant towards efficient creatures with powerful abilities, leaving most decks unable to deploy three drops that can match Chainwhirler. Additionally, the reach and board sweeping potential punishes both tokens and utility creatures that would otherwise decimate Mono Red’s game plan.

The Burn

Shock | One of the iconic Burn spells across Magic’s History, Shock exchanges mana for damage at a decent rate, and can serve as an effective answer against most two drops in the format. Shock primarily serves as an additional one mana play, but additional reach is important in a deck with Steam-Kin and Frenzy.
Lightning Strike | Serving as the primary three damage burn spell in the last few years, Lightning Strike gives Mono Red both an efficient piece of removal and additional reach. Closing out games often involve one or more copies of this iconic spell, while efficiently preventing cards like Wildgrowth Walker from snowballing out of control.
Wizard’s Lightning | While not quite the consistent piece of burn that Lightning Strike is, Wizard’s Lightning still earns its spot in most Mono Red lists. With eight wizards in the archetype, Wizard’s Lightning will often cost a single mana, and with most games won off of the back of a couple burn spells, having enough redundant pieces to pressure life totals is critical to Mono Red’s success.
Skewer the Critics | Lacking a presence in most lists with the legality of War of the Spark, Skewer the Critics is a powerful burn spell that, like Wizard’s Lightning, can conditionally cost one mana. While damaging the opponent is an easier condition to meet, the sorcery speed nature of Skewer the Critics makes it ineffective at combating opposing threats. As such, a single copy makes this list. When compared to most lists, a Mountain often replaces the Skewer the Critics, but the density of burn spells swings the mirror a little bit in our favor.

Card Advantage

Chandra, Fire Artisan | The newest take on Red card advantage in War of the Spark, Chandra is a uniquely powerful addition to the already star-studded cast of Mono Red. While planeswalkers typically can fall short of exciting in the current Red lists, Chandra’s defensive nature makes her nearly immune to most creatures. This aspect of her static ability, alongside a quick to activate ultimate, make her an easy inclusion in a red heavy metagame.
Experimental Frenzy | One of the defining threats in Red decks since its printing in Guilds of Ravnica, Experimental Frenzy gives Mono Red a ridiculous amount of card advantage stapled onto perhaps the most difficult to remove card type in Standard. Most lists play a minimum of two copies, but we’ve opted for a third due to its backbreaking inevitability in most matchups.
Light Up the Stage | Red rarely gets efficient card advantage spells, but Ravnica Allegiance brought with it this innovative take on card draw. While Light Up the Stage ordinarily costs three mana, an aggressive deck like this defaults it to a single red. Not to be understated is the importance of Light Up the Stage on the mana base — with four copies of Runaway Steam-Kin and Light Up the Stage, Mono Red can play as few as nineteen lands with little fear of getting flooded. This aspect increases the win percentage drastically, as many of Red’s losses are due to a lack of spells.


The Sideboard

Lava Coil | Killing Rekindling Phoenix and Wildgrowth Walker is important, and Lava Coil serves as an efficient answer against cards like Arclight Phoenix as well.
Legion Warboss | Reemerging as a premier threat against the planeswalker heavy metagame of Standard, Legion Warboss is the most effective way to pressure multiple planeswalkers at once.
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator | One of the newest additions to Mono Red, Tibalt’s printing in War of the Spark ushered in a new era of Mono Red. With the ability to directly fight incidental life gain, Tibalt forces games to revolve around board states, rather than specific sideboard cards. This gives Mono Red a substantial boost, as the archetype is the most effective at managing the board. At least two copies are necessary, but this list plays three.rix-99-dire-fleet-daredevil (1)
Rekindling Phoenix | A former Standard icon, Rekindling Phoenix merits inclusion due primarily to being a resilient flyer, but with the introduction of Teferi, Time Raveler and an increase in Lava Coil, Rekindling Phoenix is in one of its weaker Standard moments. Still, a few copies grace the sideboard of most lists.
Dire Fleet Daredevil | An ever-increasing portion of sideboards, Dire Fleet Daredevil dominates many Mono Red mirror matches and the 2-for-1 nature of this pirate warrants inclusion into every Red sideboard. Most lists play two copies, but I’ve opted for a third due to the impact in the mirror match.

Sideboarding Theory

While much has been written elsewhere about Mono Red sideboarding, the general theory is that of a transformation board plan. Most decks will board into efficient removal and cheap life gain to offset aggressive starts, leaving them vulnerable to a grindy Big Red style of sideboarding. Additionally, most sideboard guides, including that of MPL player Martin Juza, direct players to leave in Runaway Steam-Kin on the draw against other Red decks, due to the high ceiling. I prefer to trim a couple copies of Runaway Steam-Kin in addition to the regular one-toughness creatures that are cut to feature additional late game cards. This innovative sideboard technique preys on the fundamental nature of Mono Red mirrors — the player with more removal spells often wins. Many of the games are about posturing to avoid giving the opponent free 2-for-1s and grinding them out with Experimental Frenzy or Chandra. In these cases, Runaway Steam-Kin can falter on the draw, as Goblin Chainwhirler and other burn spells can profitably trade. This is not the case for Tibalt or Dire Fleet Daredevil. The extra copy of Dire Fleet Daredevil comes in, and while Rekindling Phoenix is not good in the mirror, the 2-for-1 nature of Tibalt can compensate for being behind on resources. Fanatical Firebrand, Viashino Pyromancer, and Shock can usually be trimmed or cut in most matchups, and Goblin Chainwhirler swaps for Legion Warboss and Tibalt in many of the grindier matchups.


Thanks for checking out our Mono Red Deck Tech, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments below. For more Competitive Standard content, as well as chronicles of playtesting, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.

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