With rotation looming on the horizon, Mono Red Aggro is all the rage. The deck loses very little from rotation, gains a few pieces from Theros, is cheap to build, and is relatively easy to pilot.  If the deck is as prevalent as I imagine it will be, Red Deck Wins will set the pace for the new format. Control decks need cheap ways to interact with the early idiots (Rakdos Cackler, Firedrinker Satyr, Ash Zealot, et al.) in order to stay out of burn range. Also, control decks need to respect the deck’s resiliency thanks to Chandra’s Phoenix and Mutavault, tapping out for a wrath doesn’t seem as awesome when they can recur their hasty beater or turn their lands into walking shocks. Other aggro decks need to withstand the early game in order to progress to the point where they are the beatdown, not just the unwitting victim of RDW’s early aggression. Right now, Mono Red is a real deck and I hate it.

I don’t hate Red Deck Wins because I’ve stumbled against it playing control decks and lost, though I certainly have. I don’t even hate it because the deck exists as the fun police in multiple formats, preventing mages like me from doing what we do best—durdle. No, I hate Mono Red because of a failed FNM experiment I brewed up eight years ago. Allow me a Mike Flores moment to talk about an inconsequential deck from a no longer relevant format.

The year was 2006. Champions of Kamigawa block, Ravnica block, and 9th edition comprised the Standard format. I was in my freshman year of college, living in a dorm but coming home on the weekends, making a one hour drive to play FNM at a now defunct store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. I was evidently going through a weird point in my life and instead of playing a sweet three-color control deck with Firemane Angel, I wanted to play Mono Red. It didn’t matter to me that the mana fixing was awesome or that everyone was playing stuff like Lightning Helix, Faith’s Fetters, and Loxodon Hierach, I wanted to play a deck that had basic mountains and stuff like Frostling and Frenzied Goblin. I think the deck looked something like this:

Red Deck Loses

Lands (20)
20 Mountain

Creatures (24)
Gruul Guildmage
Scorched Rusalka
Frenzied Goblin
Hearth Kami
Giant Solifuge

Spells (16)
Seal of Fire
Lava Spike
Volcanic Hammer

I feel like Rakdos Pit Dragon was in here too…maybe I played it over Giant Solifuge, because Cap’n Tickles doesn’t quite fit the sub-theme of all the cards in the deck being terrible. In any case, the deck performed horribly, but I stubbornly refused to give up on it. It was only after a solid month of 0-4’s and perhaps a lucky 1-3, that I was forced to admit that the deck was terrible and that this was not the right meta for a mono-red sligh deck, especially when the mana was good enough to play Zoo. I resigned myself to playing Enduring Ideal until Kamigawa rotated out of Standard.

Flashing forward to the present, the mono-red deck I played this week was certainly better than my ill-fated attempt to bring back a dead archetype in a hostile environment in 2006. I found the list, from MODO user broers, while culling through the 4-0 Dailies and liked that it didn’t play the soon to be rotating Hellrider in favor of the only good Chandra to ever exist. Here is the list:

Red Deck Wins

Creatures (24)
Ash Zealot
Chandra’s Phoenix
Firefist Striker
Rakdos Cackler
Stromkirk Noble
Young Pyromancer

Spells (16)
Chandra, Pyromaster
Flames of the Firebrand
Mizzium Mortars
Pillar of Flame
Searing Spear
Lands (20)
18 Mountain

Sideboard: (15)
Burning Earth
Mark of Mutiny

Noticeably absent here is Burning Tree Emissary, a card I was happy to see omitted. While the Emissary is certainly a force to be reckoned with in decks that play Flinthoof Boar and Lightning Mauler, I find it kind of awkward in a deck that wants to cast Ash Zealot on turn two and doesn’t have very much use for the green mana. While Emissary into Firefist Striker or Young Pyromancer is certainly a strong play, there are plenty of times it plays like an overcosted 2/2 that encourages you to play a free Searing Spear when it isn’t actually prudent to do so.

The deck ports over relatively easily to new standard by cutting the Stromkirk Nobles for Firedrinker Satyr, Searing Spear for Lightning Strike, and Pillar of Flame for Magma Jet or Madcap Skills (in a build with more creatures and less burn). The sideboard is a bit trickier but Mark of Mutiny is easily swapped for Act of Treason and Thunderbolt could become some amount of Mindsparkers or Peak Eruptions (depending on the meta).

Before delving into my weekly tournament report, I want to specifically address Firedrinker Satyr because despite most of the competitive community embracing Jackal Pup 2.0, I see a lot of naysayers saying the card is bad. Just from poking around the Facebook group for Boston Area Standard Players, I found these blasphemous comments about the Nicholas Cage lookalike, “Card is bad”, “ Baaaaad. Even a firebreathing Jackal Pup can’t deal with the power creep”, and even, “That card is not bad, it is awful. I think it might be playable if it didn’t have its first ability”. While I do agree that the game has certainly changed since the heyday of Jackal Pup, we are not at the point where a two power creature for one red mana is bad. Mono Red requires a density of early threats, Firedrinker fits perfectly into this plan and slots right next to Rackdos Cackler in the one drop spot. In terms of the drawback attached to Firedrinker Satyr, I think it’s negligible in any deck that wants to run this card in the first place. If you are playing Mono Red, you are the beatdown, the deck that tries to go under the rest of the decks in the format and finish out the game with burn. If you take some damage off of Satyr, getting blocked or burned, that’s ok because you should be ahead of the race anyway. If you aren’t ahead of the race, well you are probably losing regardless of the life loss associated with Satyr. There are plenty of cards that blank Firedrinker Satyr, but most of these cards also blank Rakdos Cackler, Legion Loyalist, Foundry Street Denizen, or even the non-standard-legal aggro all-star Goblin Guide.

Round 1—Steve with Kalonian Hydra Jund (1-2)


Steve stomped me a few weeks ago with his deck built around maximizing Kalonian Hydra by giving it haste with Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch and Ogre Battledriver. Game one, I sought to stunt Steve’s mana development by Pillar of Flame-ing an Arbor Elf and Shocking an Elvish Mystic. Despite the double Stone Rain, Steve shrugged, cast back to back Farseeks and then cast two Thundermaw Hellkites. Despite my proactive start, I was stuck on mana and couldn’t finish the job before the Hellkites finished me:



+3 Mark of Mutiny

-1 Mizzium Mortars

-2 Flames of the Firebrand

Mark of Mutiny taking a Thundermaw Hellkite or Kalonian Hydra should just be game so they come in for Flames of the Firebrand which is a bit slow at killing mana dorks and doesn’t kill Hydra, Exava, or Hellkite.

Game two, I don’t remember very well at all. The only thing I have written in my notes is that I missed a Young Pyromancer trigger but still managed to squeak out the game at 2 life. Game three, I stole a Thundermaw Hellkite but wasn’t able to get Steve low enough to burn him out thanks to a Scavenging Ooze snacking on everything in both of our graveyards. I lost on the swing back.

Round 2—Galen with Nivix Blitz (2-0)


Game one, Galen kept a one-lander on the draw and didn’t see another one for a few turns after. He played Faithless Looting, Thought Scour, and Izzet Charm to dig for a threat but wasn’t able to deal with my curve of Stromkirk Noble into Ash Zealot into Chandra’s Phoenix into another Chandra’s Phoenix.


-2 Chandra, Pyromaster

+2 Burning Earth

I traded one four-drop for another; Chandra seems a little slow in this match-up and Burning Earth triggers off of every land in Galen’s deck.

Game two, Galen killed every threat I played out until landing a Ral Zarek, which in turn quickly met a fiery fate. I played Burning Earth soon after which ended up dealing 12 damage over the course of the game. Galen never played a Nivix Cyclops or a Geist of Saint Traft and I won after tossing some burn spells at his head.

Round 3—Tom with GW Beats (2-0)


Tom joked about starting off the match with a thumbs up pose in anticipation for me taking a picture. It is seriously awesome every time someone is familiar with the site or my articles and even more awesome when I don’t have to feel weird about asking to take a picture of my opponent. Thanks Tom!

Game one, Tom started off with a mulligan to five. I felt kind of bad when I cast Flames of the Firebrand and killed his only creatures—an Arbor Elf and a Scavenging Ooze. I played out some guys and he died pretty quickly.



I don’t love bringing in anything from the sideboard here. If I had seen a few more mana dorks, I might have brought in Electrickery.

Game two, I played a turn one Stromkirk Noble into turn two Young Pyromancer. For the rest of the game, I burned every creature he played–two Scavenging Ooze and an Archangel of Thune–netting me enough elementals to seal the deal within a few turns:


Round 4–Clark with UW Control (0-2)


Clark and I have played some epic control mirrors in the past and it was strange to be casting Ash Zealots instead of cycling Azorius Charms at the end of the turn. Regardless, the games were still very long with a lot of careful consideration. Game one, I did my best to play around Supreme Verdict but found myself playing into Restoration Angel instead. After a few Sphinx’s Revelation, a Runechanter’s Pike, and an active Moorland Haunt, I packed in my cards and reached for my sideboard.


-4 Pillar of Flame

+4 Skullcrack

Pillar is a bit embarassing against a deck with so few creatures. Shock at least has utility in killing a spirit token or Snapcaster Mage before blocks. The big mistake here was boarding in all the Skullcracks and not bringing in any Thunderbolts. Though it feels good to Skullcrack with a Revelation on the stack, it’s just better to be proactive here. If they are casting a giant Revelation and you are hanging back waiting to get them with a Skullcrack, you are probably doing it wrong. Had I brought in Thunderbolt, I could have attacked into an empty board without fear of Restoration Angel flashing in and ruining my day or had a burn spell ready that can often kill them when tapping out for a Sphinx’s Revelation anyway.

Game two, as foreshadowed by my questionable sideboarding, I lost.

I finished the night with a failing grade of 2-2. I wish I could say whether Chandra, Pyromaster was good in the deck or not, but I didn’t cast one the entire night. In terms of changing up the deck for next week, I don’t see much of a point as there will be a new standard format by the time the next article goes up. I don’t know about you guys but I’m looking forward to this new format, especially with all of the control shells popping up all over the place. At the very least I’m looking forward to no longer dying to Searing Spear, just a card that is functionally identical.

While it’s a little soon to see any movement on the cards in my spec box, I will include the individual prices of the cards as they stand and the total value of the box. The prices are based on the low value on TCGplayer as this is what the cards should sell for in the online market. The prices are a bit misleading as it does not take into account shipping costs; there are two copies of Luminate Primordial listed at five cents but with $2.50 in shipping. Keep in mind that I invested $60 initially after shipping costs and sales tax and I realize that I have started off in the negative because of these additional costs.

8 x Merciless Eviction (.25) = $2.00

8x Nightveil Specter (.25) = $2.00

8x Razorverge Thicket (1.48) = $11.84

8x Diabolic Revelation (.19) = $1.52

8x Breaking//Entering (.42) = $3.36

8x Mimic Vat (.99) = $7.92

8x Leonin Arbiter (.15) = $1.20

8x Obzedat’s Aid (.15) = $1.20

20x Phyrexian Ingester (.15) = $3.00

8x Luminate Primordial (.05) = $0.40

8x Diluvian Primordial (.10) = $0.80

8x Sepulchral Primordial (.15) =$1.20

8x Molten Primordial (.11) = $0.88

TOTAL Value = $37.32

There are no movers this week, here’s to hoping the SCG Open on the 29th has a few copies of Nightveil Specter at the top tables.

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