Welcome back to Anatomy of an Archetype where I combine data analysis and over twenty five years of professional level drafting experience to evaluate the different pieces of an archetype. There’s a ton of noise in the data so I’ve filtered that out and broken it down to give you all the relevant information you need to dominate the competition.
Today we are going to be talking about burning everything down with mono red artifacts. It’s a legitimate deck that comes together a lot more often than you would expect a mono-colored deck to be able to. It’s also a complete nightmare for anyone who thought they could get away with durdling around.
Look at the archetype’s objectives
Mono red has been doing it’s thing in constructed since the days of Mirage era Sligh decks, but its rare that you get a limited format where its consistently viable. The only reason I’m bringing up constructed is that you are on the exact same plan from 1996 of playing efficient creatures with a low land count and just enough spells to clear the way.
You should almost always assume you are the beatdown and play accordingly. It’s common to have just enough damage to get there so if you mess around too much you might fall short. It’s also rough if you have to mulligan because you could run out of gas before crossing the finish line.
This deck is wonderful in the Bo1 queues because it’s highly unlikely that your opponent is going to be prepped for such an aggressive deck without giving up a lot of game against the saga value piles.
Navigating the draft
What gets you into the archetype
I have no problem jumping right into this deck pack one pick one because it is either comically under or over drafted with no real in between. For example, I first picked Patchwork Automaton over Raiyuu, Storm's Edge the other day and had zero regrets.
As long as you’re in the know about this deck, it’s pretty obvious when you should be pivoting into it. When it’s pick four and you see some of the red burn spells, Patchwork Automaton , or Kumano Faces Kakkazan still in the pack, it’s a great time to hop into that lane.
Top 5 Commons
It’s important to not just look at the data for highest win rate for games in hand in that particular color combination, but to think through why they are performing well in that particular archetype.
Voltage Surge is completely fine just being a shock to help force through some damage. Where it really shines is when you pull off some shenanigans like sacrificing Iron Apprentice using the counter to win a combat while popping off a troublesome four toughness creature. I really have to stress how important it can be to have the ability to clear four toughness out of the way for only one mana.
Kami's Flare is frequently going to do the extra two damage because you have so many ways to have a modified creature. I can’t tell you the amount of games I’ve already won because of that free two damage on top of a solid removal spell I would play without the bonus.
Iron Apprentice is still criminally underrated as it is the one drop of choice for this deck. It enables so many things by coming pre-modified and makes your opponent think about a lot more permutations in combat.
Experimental Synthesizer is a lot of people’s choice for best red common, but it still ends up going late sometimes. It is a strange card to be both first pickable and considered unplayable by more casual players. The potential to lose a card off of this is less relevant when you have a low curve and proper timing with it. Trust me, ignore the naysayers and enjoy your wins.
Simian Sling seems really unassuming, but it gets the party started early while still having serious staying power. Later it helps provide a modified creature and slings those last couple damage at your opponent’s face. You will run into scenarios where your opponent is totally stabilized, but low on life so they just die to you attacking with this equipped on random creatures. I’d recommend being careful about trading this off when it looks like this scenario could pop up.
Top 3 Uncommons
Based off of the color pair specific data
Patchwork Automaton on turn two is such a sick beating as it scales up so quickly with the ward two making it really difficult for your opponent to deal with it. Sure, it’s rough if they are packing a Lucky Offering , but if they are relying on a Twisted Embrace they will probably be dead before they have a chance to use it.
Kumano Faces Kakkazan is the last card anyone wants to see on turn one when they kept a slow hand. Attacking on turn three with a 3/3 and a 2/2 immediately puts your opponent on the backfoot where they have to react to your game plan instead of deploying their own.
Twinshot Sniper is just a versatile value card that is either a two-mana shock or a mini Flametongue Kavu . Don’t discount how important the option to go face with this is because your opponent can often stabilize at a low life total.
While not in the top three win rates, I feel like I need to mention Sokenzan Smelter. It leads into some busted draws and allows you to gain some extra value while staying aggressive.
Top 3 Rares
We’re going to ignore Mythic Rares here because you’re less likely to get them. It’s also pretty obvious which ones are busted and should go in any deck that can make the mana work. I need to note here that it is based on win rate in this color pair and not ranked from my personal opinion.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is straight busted in any deck and since it’s easy to splash, you’re not going to get the “only person playing red” bonus to be able to pick it up later. That said, it’s actually the deck that you’re most likely to get to use Kiki-Jiki in because you put so much early pressure on them that they are less likely to be able to hold onto cheap removal.
Thundering Raiju is an amazing aggressive creature that modifies your other creatures to pump up the jams and slap your opponent in the face. This card was built for this exact type of deck so just take it and bash. I hope I don’t have to say more than that to talk you into this one.
Eater of Virtue glams up all your dorks into sexy little beaters. Those 1/1s you played for curve purposes mean a lot more when they are attacking for three. That’s not even getting into how sick it is if you manage to add haste or flying to this. Oh, did I forget to mention only costing one to equip which makes it perfect for a low curve aggro deck.
Is there a part of the curve with a glut of playables (i.e the four drop slot in blue in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt)?
Keep your curve as low as you can. I’ve had a lot of decks with nothing costing over three or with only a couple four drops. Having fifteen one and two drops is a totally reasonable thing to have in this deck.
Land counts are a tricky subject when you have a curve this low. If you are mono, I don’t mind going down to fourteen lands in Bo1. Thirteen is possible and I’ve seen plenty of trophies with it, but it is a bit too risky for my tastes. If you are splashing a second color, fifteen is the minimum I’d recommend.
Adjusting card grades
It’s important to think about what cards are going to perform differently in the archetype you’re drafting so you can take advantage of picking them up later. It’s also key to find cards that provide a lesser, but similar effect to other cards that you haven’t been able to pick up.
Ambitious Assault looks like unplayable hot garbage, but you usually go wide enough that this ends up trading up a creature and deal six extra damage to the face while you draw a card. That’s pretty nuts for three mana. Don’t play too many of them as it has diminishing returns, but definitely a real card in this deck.
Gift of Wrath is another card that gets laughed at, but as a one-off top end it can force through those last few damage with menace. It also replaces itself with a new menace creature when they deal with it so don’t be embarrassed to play one of these if it fits what you are trying to do. Plus, if you do want one, you’ll be able to pick it up late.
Towashi Songshaper looks like an unassuming two drop, but you’ll notice it in a hurry when it’s cracking in for four. I’ve happily played six of these and it felt amazing. Seeing these after pick six is another good sign that red is open.
Unstoppable Ogre is another “unplayable” that actually pulls its weight in this deck. Clearing the way for one attack and basically forcing a trade on the next is pretty solid for only three mana. Of course, Searchlight Companion clowns this card pretty hard.
Ecologist's Terrarium is a card I keep seeing people play in decks it just shouldn’t be in. In almost all the red artifact decks you are building up velocity early and taking turn two off to search up a land is a sure-fire way to fall behind. Even if you have Sokenzan Smelter , I hope you can find better things to do than play this.
Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars isn’t a terrible card to play, but someone on the shrine plan (and you know someone is trying to live that dream) is going to want this before you do. It’s just slow for a three drop and requires mana to ping when you are trying to be as efficient as possible.
March of Reckless Joy is hilariously bad compared to Experimental Synthesizer . It’s not even a good replacement card and is actually the worst performing card in mono red at 43.8%. Even if you think it’s somehow good in your deck, it’s really not.
Low on removal and lacking a way to finish the game? The Shattered States Era is an acceptable finisher if you just need a way to get across that finish line. This can apply to plenty of other cards like Ironhoof Boar .
What sources are available and how much do they matter to the archetype?
While you don’t really care about card advantage, Experimental Synthesizer is still the cat’s pajamas in this deck. It’s so cheap and synergistic that it feels like you’re cheating.
Roadside Reliquary has minimal cost in replacing a mountain and can usually be cashed in for at least one extra card if you flood.
Outside of those, if you are worried about card advantage you are looking at this archetype in the wrong light.
Combos and Synergies
Sokenzan Smelter and Experimental Synthesizer gives you a 3/1 haste instead of a 2/2 vigilance while making it more likely that you can play the card because of the reduced cost. In general, Smelter is going to do some pretty sweet things for you.
Is it supported in this archetype and how much should you look to do it?
If the draft says that being mono isn’t an option, you can usually still pull off a cheap artifact deck with any color combination. The main difference being that you give up great mana in exchange for maybe a little more versatility.
Deep vs shallow
How many drafters can a table support?
Red is actually a much deeper color than it appears on the surface because a bunch of “awful unplayables” that are great late pickups for you.
NEO Red Artifacts can typically support 2.0 drafters per table as long as at least one of them is playing a two-color version. If they are both forcing mono then it really depends on how lucky the pack openings are. Most other color combinations are avoiding red like the plague so it leaves some pretty spicy cards available later than they should be.
Biggest Trap Cards
These sounded like a good idea….
Dragonspark Reactor is “that card”. It sounds good on paper and every once in awhile will go off for a billion to win a game. The problem is you either miss out on gaining tempo by playing it early or don’t have enough artifacts to make it worthwhile later. The overall stats on this are awful and the people who keep trumpeting its virtues seem to be suffering from confirmation bias.
Scrapyard Steelbreaker looks like the top end finisher that this deck would want, but it is just too slow and clunky. Even something like the much maligned The Shattered States Era does a better job of ending a game than this. I won’t fault you if you have to play this, but don’t take it like it’s a key card.
Obviously ignore this in Bo1 land, but be on the lookout for these cards late in Bo3.
Explosive Entry is the mirror breaker for this matchup. Two mana removal plus add a +1+1 counter is pretty big game. You could always try to high roll with this in the main, but there are plenty of matchups where it’s an almost dead card.
A trophy deck that gives you a good idea of a build to aim for!
This was a deck that suffered from poor packs being opened, but still managed to get the trophy. It was always an adventure playing Experimental Synthesizer with three Ironhoof Boars in the deck. I’m mainly showing this one as an example of still being able to get there with this strategy even when things don’t line up.
This was one of draft lab member TaJoordan’s recent mono red decks. He was the person who was championing red early in the format so I thought it was appropriate to show one of his decks. As you can see everything was ridiculously cheap and just ran over the opponent before they could even set up.
Well that brings us to the end of the latest edition of Anatomy of an Archetype. Thanks for reading and I hope this will help you light up your opponents face!
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