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Hello and welcome to a small Standard piece about Mono Red before the upcoming Pro Tour Tabletop Mythic Championship in Cleveland.

There has been a lot of talk about grinding ladder and Best of One formats running around, but when it all comes down to business, the real prize is obtained through the Pro Tour aka Mythic Championship. The next one is in Cleveland and the format is our beloved Best of Three, thankfully.

Secret Tech or Trusted Deck?

Mono Red is a proven path to victory

Mono Red Lightning Strike by Adam Paquette

Lightning Strike by Adam Paquette

Like most other Pro Players (MythicPlayers?) I am part of a testing team, and we try out as much as possible to keep our cards as close to our chest as possible. So of course, I’m not gonna give away our secret tech from testing. Instead I will talk us through a deck that we saw have some success at the Star City Games tournaments. I’ll also let you know about some of the flaws or at least pitfalls when you address the Standard metagame.

Mono Red decks are traditionally centered around some cheap creatures and a mix of spells that either generate damage and value or deal 3 damage or more. When you look at the current formats card pool, you will realize that not only are there a lot of options, but they are also better than they used to be.

Mono Red by Caleb Scherer

Creatures (16)
Fanatical Firebrand
Ghitu Lavarunner
Viashino Pyromancer
Goblin Chainwhirler

Spells (24)
Lava Coil
Light Up the Stage
Lightning Strike
Risk Factor
Shock
Skewer the Critics
Wizard’s Lightning
Lands (20)
20 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Act of Treason
Direct Current
Electrostatic Field
Experimental Frenzy
Fiery Cannonade
Lava Coil
Risk Factor

This was Caleb Scherers list, from one of the first tournaments with the new set, where he was able to get to 10th place.

The Core of the Red

What makes the Red Deck win

Light up the Stage by Dmitry Burmak

Light up the Stage by Dmitry Burmak

First off, Caleb plays what I will say is the core of the deck.

The Mono Red Core

Creatures (12)
Fanatical Firebrand
Ghitu Lavarunner
Viashino Pyromancer

Spells (8)
Light Up the Stage
Lightning Strike

I would say that these 20 cards are a must play, and then the rest of the deck is somewhat interchangeable.
To get the right build, let’s look at the flex cards.

Goblin Chainwhirler

Whirly Girly Token Burny

Goblin Chainwhirler

This card is as good against aggro as it is bad against control. What the card has going for itself, is that it makes some non-games against Mono Blue and Mono White, where they need to deploy 1 toughness creatures to keep up – and then they will get wrecked. It is however quite bad against control. Not only is it a 3 drop that only deals 1 damage upon resolution. You also play it the turn they have 2 mana up for a removal spell like Cast DownCast Down or 3 mana for an AbsorbAbsorb, which you usually want to play around. Conclusion: If the meta is dominated by aggro decks (and Sultai with Llanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves and the Explore package) you should include this card and it will be broken.

Risk Factor

The Control Destroyer

Risk Factor

Like Chainwhirler, this card has good and bad matchups, and the funny thing is, that they are polar opposites. Risk FactorRisk Factor becomes bad, when you don’t have pressure, and the opponent can choose to just take the damage. It is however a spell that singlehandedly deals 8 damage, which is extremely relevant when you get it to resolve. This card shines especially against Esper Control in the current metagame but can be the sole reason that we loose against the Mirror or Mono Blue.
Without the flexibility to shoot a creature is a deciding factor against the aggro decks right now. So playing 3 of these cards would not be my first choice if the meta was a lot of creatures. Conclusion: Play this card if control is at its highest. You will however always face control in a major tournament, so we could have it for the sideboard.

Shock and Wizard’s Lightning

Your most flexible instant speed spells

Wizard’s Lightning
Shock

These are not really flex slots, but they are flex slots in the regard, that if there were no creatures, we should not play ShockShock, and if we didn’t play the 8 wizards, I would probably find something other than Wizard’s LightningWizard’s Lightning.
The Meta is however filled with a lot of different decks, and the tempo of a 1 mana removal to have our creatures accumulate the damage they deal is what can be a path to victory. Wizard’s LightningWizard’s Lightning fits into the same category. It’s insane when you play it for 1 mana, and a necessary evil when it costs 3. But it does fit the category of 3 damage spells, so it can’t be that bad. Conclusion: You need cards that can play in all sorts of games, and both fit that role in the deck. If I didn’t want to target a specific meta game that was locked, I would play this card.

Lava Coil

Good Bye Wildgrowth Walker

Lava Coil
Lava CoilLava Coil is the best red removal spell there is right now. The reason to include this in the deck, is to not have to play 2 spells to be able to kill cards like an explored Wildgrowth WalkerWildgrowth Walker, one of the 2 drakes or some card with afterlife. Conclusion: “Miser” cards against specific matchups that are not completely worthless against the field besides control can be a winning strategy. But it can also be a liability. It can be pretty good to make the main deck focused and linear and then put these cards in the sideboard. When the meta is mostly creatures, I see no reason not to include at least 1 copy of these in the main deck, to free up a slot in the sideboard.

Skewer the Critics

A critical review of a Bolt

Skewer the Critics

While this card is appealing and fits the category of 3 damage in 1 card, I think it is less flexible than it might seem. Getting your hand locked with spells that cost 3 or more can be a risk factor and a reason that we don’t win. It is however a sorcery, which is a big downside. It comes up quite often, that we try to play something in our opponents end step to make them deplete their mana, so that we can play a powerful spell on our turn. Minor situations like this add up, making this card worse than I first expected. Conclusion: Try this card out yourself, I do however not think that it is necessary or even good in the deck.

Some Superior Main Deck Cards

High impact and hard to come back from

There are three cards that I think can fight a bit better in the main deck overall.

Runaway Steam-Kin

Runaway Steam-Kin

This card can be a bad card, since it is weak on its own. But against the less aggressive decks, like the Nexus decks or Control, the mana acceleration that it generates on turn 4-5 can be the tipping point. I have activated it both in my main phase, to deploy a pre-combat Light Up the StageLight Up the Stage or haste creatures and I have used it to deal 4 damage in combat and then finish off with burn spells with a free ritual. I do however think, that if you include this in you deck, you should look the way of Experimental FrenzyExperimental Frenzy and try to include some copies of these, since they work extremely well with the Steam-Kin.

Experimental Frenzy

Experimental Frenzy

Just like Runaway Steam-KinRunaway Steam-Kin, the Frenzy is good against slower decks, rather than aggro decks. The full four might be a bit over the top, but you might want to give yourself access to the effect with 2 or 3 copies. Against a lot of the creature decks, our game plan is to trade 1 for 1, and deal continuous damage with our creatures. Given this plan, the enchantment fits right in. It still is a bit expensive, but when it gets to resolve, even against the aggro decks, they are in trouble.

Legion Warboss

Legion Warboss

Twice I wrote about the importance to accumulate continuous damage from you creatures. When you play against creature decks, this is the key to victory. Most creature matchups work if we squeeze as much damage out of your creatures as we can to lock our opponent into killing our creatures and losing momentum. Legion WarbossLegion Warboss is a must answer if we are in a race, but when removed it leaves a body that essentially is a threat. It may sound stupid to play this card, solely because it gives you a 1/1 and takes a removal. To that argument I want to say “Yes it does” but it is also how I’ve won many of my games! The card is at its best against the heavy control decks but is definitely a contender in a lot of matchups.

The Final List

Bonde’s Burn Special

Mono Red Goblin Chainwhirler by Svetlin Velinov

Goblin Chainwhirler by Svetlin Velinov

Mono Red by Michael Bonde

Creatures (16)
Ghitu Lavarunner
Goblin Chainwhirler
Runaway Steam-Kin
Viashino Pyromancer

Spells (22)
Experimental Frenzy
Light Up the Stage
Lightning Strike
Shock
Skewer the Critics
Wizard’s Lightning
Lands (22)
22 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Banefire
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Fiery Cannonade
Fight with Fire
Lava Coil
Rekindling Phoenix
Treasure Map

Going into the Mythic Championship I would look more into a list like this. It has fewer Skewer and it has an extreme late game.

Sideboarding with Mono Red

How to fight the decks of the metagame

Lava Coil by Wesley Burt

Lava Coil by Wesley Burt

Mono Red vs Drakes

Sideboarding Out (7)
Skewer the Critics
Experimental Frenzy
Mountain

Mono Red vs Mono Blue

Sideboarding In (6)
Lava Coil
Banefire
Fight with Fire
Sideboarding Out (6)
Experimental Frenzy
Mountain

Mono Red vs Mono Red

Sideboarding In (5)
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Rekindling Phoenix
Sideboarding Out (5)
Runaway Steam-Kin
Experimental Frenzy
Skewer the Critics

Mono Red vs Mono White

Sideboarding In (4)
Fiery Cannonade
Rekindling Phoenix
Sideboarding Out (4)
Experimental Frenzy

Mono Red vs Esper Control

Sideboarding In (9)
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Rekindling Phoenix
Banefire
Treasure Maps
Sideboarding Out (9)
Shock
Skewer the Critics
Goblin Chainwhirler

Mono Red vs Simic Nexus

Sideboarding In (4)
Banefire
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Sideboarding Out (4)
Shock

Mono Red vs Sultai

Sideboarding In (5)
Lava Coil
Fight with Fire
Sideboarding Out On the Draw (5)
Ghitu Lavarunner
Skewer the Critics

Sideboarding Out On the Play (6)
Shock
Skewer the Critics

These are a list and sideboard guide that I think will do well. If you want to play Mono Red for upcoming tournaments, I would suggest you build it around the meta that you expect. If you don’t know what to expect, give this deck a go. I played a deck very similar to this lately on Magic Online and MTG Arena and I did quite well with it.

This was it for now – hopefully I’ll see some of you crush the ladder, the leagues or FNM! I’ll get back to testing this wonderful Standard format and if I’m lucky it will pay off in Cleveland.

Michael

This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com