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One of the undeniable truths of Magic is Mono Red is always there. Strangely, in the last months, Mono Red wasn’t really something. A few players reached Mythic with the archetype on Historic for example, but in what Standard matters, not many thought that Mono Red was even playable.
Alchemy came to change that paradigm. Just a few cards were needed to make people realize that one of the classic and oldest archetypes in Magic history is great again.
One of the old pillars of the past Standard Mono Red was Robber of the Rich. Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat is better, in almost every way, than the old Robber. Even if she doesn’t have haste, we get three upsides in return. First strike makes Rahilda attack consistently even if we are facing blockers, we exile a nonland card from our opponents library, Rahilda’s ability doesn’t fizzle like when Robber of the Rich gets a land from the top, and finally, the backside of Rahilda has double strike, that means that if we hit with her, we are going to get two cards. Sounds great, right?
Even if Rahilda is a great card, the best creature Alchemy gives us is probably Town-razer Tyrant. This big guy is in a lot of decks, it now even got some slots in Gruul Werewolves decks because of how oppressive it can be to our opponents. A 4/4 with flying for four mana is already a good deal, but having some kind of Stone Rain integrated in it is amazing. Yeah, our opponents don’t have to sacrifice the land immediately, but if they don’t… that means 4 damage two turns later, just as if the dragon would have entered the battlefield with haste and hit; and if they sacrifice the land as soon as possible, they get set super far back! Playing a full set of this dragon is almost mandatory now if you play red in Alchemy, that’s how strong I think it is.
Electrostatic Blast is amazing! As a red mage we always thank the existence of cards like Light Up the Stage or Reckless Impulse. Having a Shock fusioned with this kind of effect makes this card another staple when playing red in your deck in Alchemy. Just imagine paying 1 for 2 damage and 1 to make your next instant or sorcery let you play one of your top 3 cards as a plus. That’s a deal we cannot miss.
Brittle Blast has an amazing ability, creatures and planeswalkers your opponents control perpetually gain “if this permanent would die, exile it instead.” Nowadays this is extremely relevant. Clerics for example, one of the strongest creature based archetypes in Alchemy.
Conductive Current on the other hand is incredible while stopping swarms of creatures from attacking us. It’s a board wipe that can only be used properly in Mono Red so why shouldn’t we take that opportunity? It not only deals 3 damage to all the creatures on board, it also give a +2 damage to any of our spells, making Spikefield Hazard a Lightning Bolt, Play with Fire a 4 dmg instant for one mana, Brittle Blast going for 7 o even our next Conductive Current go for 5 damage.
The last new card we have to talk about before going to our deck lists is Tibalt, Wicked Tormentor. It’s a little bit expensive for playing it in our mainboard without worries against the fastest strategies, but during attrition matches it does wonders! +1 = a new card / -X = create creatures. A resolved Tibalt against Azorius, Izzet, or similar matches could put us in a incredible position.
So, how do these new cards assemble together with Standard ones to make an amazing Mono Red Alchemy List?
(Note: Most deckbuilder sites don’t recognize rebalanced Faceless Haven, the regular one is on the list just because of that, but the list plays one rebalanced Faceless Haven that will import correctly).
Winning a 61 player tournament with the list is something we have to take in consideration. Without a doubt, this gives us a clear guideline of how powerful the archetype can be. Winning in the top 8 against other tier 1 archetypes of the format like Dragons, Werewolves, Mono Black or even Control have to make us think that this archetype can compete against anyone.
Vincent’s list is really good, even for Bo1. But I made some adjustments based on my experience.
Let me explain the reasoning behind the changes. First, after playing Faceless Haven for a while, the 3/3 version is not bad… having 5 creaturelands (Creatureland: A land that can transform into a creature) is good, for aggressive purposes, but all AFR creaturelands are now some kind of format deciders. Almost every control deck plays Hall of Storm Giants, many Gruul decks go for Lair of the Hydra… and Den of the Bugbear, Hive of the Eye Tyrant and Cave of the Frost Dragon see play too. In many games, having the possibility of interacting with these lands and more options to fight against them are always good. That’s why we add a pair of Field of Ruin instead of 1 Faceless Haven and 1 Mountain.
Our other changes are on the sideboard. We take out 1 Tibalt, Wicked Tormenter because 3 tend to be good and the single Reckless Impulse and we use those spots for a pair of Burning Hands that come handy against Mono Green and Gruul matchups.
My usual readers know that in our previous columns we offer Bo1 lists that are specially designed for that competitive environment. In this case, like a few others, the deck is very straightforward in what it tries to accomplish in game 1, so the same list without the sideboard could work but in this particular case we have to take in consideration that this build plays 4 Igneous Inspiration, something that lets us have access to Environmental Sciences, Start from Scratch and Mascot Exhibition. Now, thanks to the fact that we can dispose the rest of the 7 sideboard slots for Bo1 for more lessons, some tweaks are needed for our Bo1 list:
For this sideboard guide I’m going to cover our latest top 8 in our DotGG Tournament Series, the Preliminary Set Championship Qualifier that had a prize pool of $1,000 usd. Really good players and 6 rounds + top 8, so, surely a metagame definer tournament there.
|+2 Thundering Rebuke||-2 Bloodthirsty Adversary|
|+1 Brittle Blast||-2 Igneous Inspiration|
|+3 Conductive Current||-1 Volatile Arsonist|
Clerics is just a creature spam deck. With 36 creatures and 2 artifacts we have to shift our plans a little bit and go from Mono Red Aggro to old Big Red. With the 6 removals we add to our deck we can answer almost every single creature our opponent tries to pressure us with. And when we have a safe board, our bigger creatures like Reckless Stormseeker, Town-razer Tyrant and Volatile Arsonist should do the trick.
We can add 2 Burning Hands, but in this particular case I think it’s over sideboarding. We also play many spot removal in our maindeck. Bloodthirsty Adversary is something we don’t usually want to play as a 2/2 hasty creature in this matchup, but it’s incredibly good in mid and late game for rebuying a removal, so that why we keep a pair. We don’t necessarily need our lessons in this matchup, and playing Conductive Current on turn 3 sounds better, so we try to keep our curve there.
|+2 Burning Hands||-2 Bloodthirsty Adversary|
|+2 Thundering Rebuke||-2 Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat|
|+3 Conductive Current||-2 Igneous Inspiration|
|-1 Volatile Arsonist|
Similar to our match against clerics. Gruul plays 30+ creatures, so it’s clear who is the beatdown. Most of the time it’s not easy to hit with a turn 2 Adversary or Rahilda, and topdecking them is not always wanted, so that’s why we cut a pair of each. Here we don’t add the fourth Brittle Blast because creatures in the graveyard don’t matter like against clerics and we pack a pair of Burning Hands, enough for getting out big threats like Lupine Harbingers.
Just as any other creature based aggro deck, we transform into a Big Red (Big Red: An old archetype that focuses on having efficient removal and solid drops for mid and late game). Understanding this is essential to win this matchups.
Mono White Aggro
|+2 Thundering Rebuke||-2 Bloodthirsty Adversary|
|+3 Conductive Current||-1 Brittle Blast|
|-2 Igneous Inspiration|
Same song, different tune. The trick here is that Rahilda stops early aggression effectively. In contrast to our last matchups, Mono White creatures tend to be smaller, and a 2/2 with first strike (or double strike during night) played on turn 2 most of the time gives us 1 or 2 turns of no attacks. We use the same reasoning behind keeping our three Volatile Arsonist. The ping we do while attacking tends to not be too much against Clerics or Werewolves, but against Mono White is extremely relevant because they play 21+ 1 toughness creatures.
We take out Brittle Blast because no graveyard tricks are expected and even our cheaper removals can deal with almost every other creature Mono White could present. Just save Thundering Rebuke and the remaining Brittle Blast for Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. (Remember that Conductive Current adds damage to any spell, so almost any of our removal can deal with any creature Mono White presents).
Be careful if they have 3 open mana, Guardian of Faith could be there, just waiting for Conductive Current. And if you go for Igneous Inspiration early, if you don’t need lands, Start from Scratch is really good. They are almost always going to side in Maul of the Skyclaves (and/or Portable Hole).
They’re many viable control archetypes in Alchemy, but Azorius and Izzet are the predominant ones. In both cases our sideboard plan is the same. Play with Fire is going to the face 95% of the time, they don’t have creatures that could be traded with it so we take out the full set (and in case they side in Malevolent Hermit we still have many good cards like Spikefield Hazard or Electrostatic Blast to go for it).
Speaking of Electrostatic Blast, we keep the card because it’s a way of keeping the gas up in this kind of attrition matches. Finally, keeping Play with Fire is something irrelevant and having the fourth Brittle Blast could be good for responding against a Lier, Disciple of the Drowned or a Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset. Same as against Mono White, Start from Scratch is relevant, so that’s why we keep it here more than against any other match because almost every control deck plays Key to the Archive, and slowing them is mandatory.
|+2 Thundering Rebuke||-4 Igneous Inspiration|
|+1 Brittle Blast||-1 Volatile Arsonist|
|+3 Conductive Current||-1 Electrostatic Blast|
Dragons is without a doubt one of the best decks. Thanks to Fearsome Whelp many big threats can come to the battlefield sooner than expected… Gladly for us we have a lot of cheap spot removal that can deal with it asap. We side in our 3 Conductive Current. Giving +2 dmg to any of our spells makes almost every one of them able to trade 1 for 1 against any opposite dragon. Conductive Current targets Whelp and Adult Gold Dragon (and Nadaar, Selfless Paladin in case they play it, making our plan better), so it could be a good play but has to be very well timed.
Beside that, we side in three 4+ dmg spells that help us fight bigger threats. Having access to lessons could be good, but against this matchup 3 damage at sorcery speed is something we don’t like. Start from Scratch can target Orb of Dragonkind but it can be sacrificed in response, and we are probably not going to have time for Mascot Exhibition. That’s why we take out our 4 Igneous Inspiration.
Tips and Tricks
- Bloodthirsty Adversary on turn 5 means a 2/2 haste + removal, so, in almost every match we prefer to play Rahilda on turn 2 if we got both options.
- Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat has double strike at night, that means that it give us two cards if it hits.
- Remember, Reckless Stormseeker‘s backside gives trample, something that is extremely relevant in certain matchups.
- Force your opponent to receive damage or sacrifice a land the turn after Town-razer Tyrant comes into play. Do this by targeting the more important land on the other side of the battlefield. Example: Against a Mono White player with two Snow-Covered Plains and a Faceless Haven, I’ll go for one of the plains. They need two white sources for most of their good creatures and Faceless Haven is not going to attack very often.
- Volatile Arsonist also deals damage to planeswalkers. Playing it at night means a lot of damage. Always have this in consideration.
- Remember that learning with Igneous Inspiration can mean rummage Rummage: Discard a card to draw a card instead of taking a lesson from the sideboard.
- Spikefield Hazard makes the target get exiled if it dies this turn. Extremely relevant against Clerics.
- Electrostatic Blast is gas. Try to play it only if you have unused mana for casting something from the top.
- Brittle Blast makes every creature and planeswalker on our opponent side gain: “if this permanent would die, exile it instead”. Not only the Brittle Blast target get exiled so, when well timed could be game changer against Cleric or Mono Black.
- Five of the cards in Tibalt, Wicked Tormenter cost two mana, so going for it without having more mana depends on the situation. Sometimes it’s better to go -1 or -2 and then go for the +1.
Notable Exclusions / Potential Inclusions
- Reckless Impulse: Could be a great card, but with 4 Electrostatic Bolt in our mainboard we have the gas we need. This kind of card is best suited for Burn.
- Chandra, Dressed to Kill: It’s a good option, but like other bigger red decks like Dragons, we don’t have the urge of ramping to five mana.
- Abrade: One of the best removals in the format. I wouldn’t doubt too much to play 2-4 of these if more artifacts start becoming relevant in the format. (We have Pyre of Heroes, Key to the Archive and Orb of Dragonkind on tier one and Esika's Chariot, Maul of the Skyclaves, The Celestus and
Book of Exalted Deedsas tier twos.)
- Flame-Blessed Bolt: Could be a good inclusion if we want to cut down some Brittle Blast (or if more decks start being graveyard relevant).
- Heated Debate: If another 4+ dmg spell could be desirable, this is our best option.
After many months Mono Red Aggro is viable again. this deck feels like Burn from time to time and like Big Red in other matchups. It’s amazing how many red cards there are now and how adaptable this archetype can be.
This archetrype is getting more top 8’s with the passing of the weeks and surely is going to be considered as a tier 1 soon. Don’t lose your chance and get aboard the Mono Red train! It’s going to take you to Mythic or a top 8 without a problem! (And in a extremely fun and relaxed way.)
I hope everyone had an amazing holiday season with your loved ones and that this coming year be the best for all. ♥ Don’t forget to smile.