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Studying Standard 103: Mono Red

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Good evening class, I hope everyone had a good weekend. This week we’re going to give into our inner passion and examine the deck that embodies the philosophy of fire, Mono Red. There is a common belief that Mono Red is a mindless aggressive deck and anyone can play it and win with it. This simply just isn’t the case. As someone who has spent a lot of time playing decks that are closer to the control end of the spectrum, I can tell you that the aggressive decks have just as many difficulties when you pilot them; if not more, than a control deck.



“The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle is over, that even a god-king can bleed.” - King Leonidas, 300

The deck that we have here is stock for the most part. I have made a few changes that I believe will benefit anyone who feels the fire to pick up this deck. Tibalt, Rakish Instigator is the probably the addition I made that is the largest departure from conventional wisdom. The devilish planeswalker has weaved in and out of sideboards throughout his time in standard and I believe now is the time that he breaks into the maindeck. To facilitate this new addition, I chose to cut back on the number of Bonecrusher Giant that I am currently playing. Anyone who knows me or has followed my writing knows how much I love Bonecrusher in my red decks, at the moment I believe that this change is necessary. If only there was a Skullcrack-type card, then we would be in business.


So how does this version of Mono Red differ from any of the versions that have come before it? In truth, it doesn’t really. While I will admit that each version of this archetype that inevitably appears in each standard format does not really play out or seem that different from any other. The important thing that arises when it comes to Mono Red, and aggressive decks in general, is where it slots into the existing metagame. The current state of the standard metagame is one that is full of decks that tend to go long and have very robust late games, so you want to be able to get under what they’re doing.


Currently Mono Red occupies a place in standard, that is full of three-color midrange style decks, that is a check in a way. If a player stumbles in the early turns, you better hope it isn’t against a mono red deck. The effect that a stumble has on a game against this deck is that the Mono Red player is then immediately ahead in the game and in a lot of cases the opposition cannot come back from that.


Madnees? This Is Sparta!

Some of the things that the other decks of the format have against this version of the archetype is Lovestruck Beast and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Both of those cards are very difficult to beat, the maindeck copies of Tibalt in my list are one of the few ways I am attempting to combat these widely played creatures. Another way that I am attempting to combat these big green beasties is by implementing Magic’s Robin Hood himself, Robber of

the Rich. The fact that Robber is another early haste creature aside, it is also a way for us to gain some potential early card advantage against those decks because they typically play out slower than we do.


Of course, as you can see, we’re also bringing some of the power and usual suspects to fight with. If you have played any standard in recent months, then you know how powerful Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and the mighty Embercleave truly are. I have said in the past that both of these cards have a sense of “win more” to them. While that is the scenario in a lot of instances, there are also a fair amount of board states that require one if not both of the aforementioned cards in order to achieve victory.



Kneeling Will Be Hard For Me

The final card that has been an irreplaceable addition to mono red strategies is the Nyx-power imbued Anax, Hardened in the Forge. Throughout the history of the classic match-up of aggro versus control, wraths and spot removal has been the way for control and late game decks to stay in the game. Anax negates a lot of what those cards are expected to do, you can sweep the board and Anax allows the board to instantly be replenished with any number of 1/1 satyr tokens. Sure the satyrs are unable to block; but if you’re playing this deck, you’re not interested in blocking.






Sideboard Guide:


Mono Red / Rakdos

Out: 3 Embercleave

2 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator

In: 3 Madcap Melee

2 Scorching Dragonfire


Azorius / Esper Control

Out: 3 Fervant Champion

2 Embercleave

1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

In: 3 Unchained Berserker

3 Scorching Dragonfire


Temur Clover

Out: 2 Embercleave

2 Robber of the Rich

In: 3 Embereath Shieldbreaker

1 Scorching Dragonfire


Wilderness Reclamation

Out: 2 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator

1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

In: 3 Unchained Berserker


Bant / Sultai Ramp

Out: 1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

2 Embercleave

In: 3 Unchained Berserker (for Bant)

3 Scorching Dragonfire (for Sultai)


Come Home With Your Shield Or On It

Regardless of the side that you choose to be on, you must be prepared for this deck. Again, I want to try and hammer home that this is not a mindless or easily piloted deck. There are a lot of decisions of all sorts that you must think through in a given game regardless of format. Attacking with creatures and navigating combat math and accounting for possible interaction can be and is very fun and rewarding.


During this time of uncertainty in the world, why not attempt to widen your range in Magic the Gathering. If you are primarily the aggro player, it’s time to try out control and vice versa. Maybe you’re a commander player, then you should try out Standard or Modern. We all have a lot more time on our hands than we did before so let’s take advantage of it. MTG Arena has multiple limited formats, Brawl and various other rotating formats to enjoy.


Lastly, I would like to send out a very big thank you to the medical staff around the world who are working tirelessly to treat and protect those of us who need it. My thanks also goes out to those individuals whose occupation is integral to our society and lives continuing to function. You are all the true heroes and never let anyone tell you otherwise.


Good luck everyone and stay safe.


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