Table of Contents
Hello everyone! Today I’ll be going over Historic Mono-Red Underworld Breach Storm. This deck is an absolute beast in best-of-one, but also an incredibly hard deck to play and master. A true storm deck, this deck can kill as early as turn three, and with more cantrips than lands, this deck also has unparalleled consistency.
Before we get into the article, I would like to give a shoutout to The Gitrog Monster cEDH Discord for coming up with this sweet deck, and especially to Noobzaurs for helping me learn how to pilot it.
This deck is made up of three parts, and the first of these are the creatures. Runaway Steam-Kin and Birgi, God of Storytelling are where this deck gets its mana for casting tens of spells in a single turn. While the deck can theoretically win without one of these on the board, 99% of the time having one of these down is a necessity for comboing, and the way this deck is built the chances of winning when untapping with one or more Steam-Kins or Birgis are very high. The third creature in this deck serves a somewhat different purpose. Dragon's Rage Channeler (DRC) filters draws and fills this deck’s graveyard for Underworld Breach. While not strictly necessary for comboing, having a DRC down makes going off much more consistent.
The second part of this deck is cheap spells. Ancestral Anger, Crash Through ,
The third part of this deck is Underworld Breach, the card this whole deck is built around. Underworld Breach has a big upside over similar effects which is that escaping a card doesn’t exile it from your graveyard, so you can re-escape the same spell over and over again. The goal of this deck is to land a Underworld Breach with a Steam-Kin or Birgi in play, then repeatedly cast spells from the graveyard, while staying even or even gaining cards in graveyard and mana, and finally cast Wish and fetch Grapeshot for the kill. Underworld Breach is what gives this deck its deterministic, consistent kills, and while this deck can combo without Underworld Breach, either with a Horn of Harnfell, or a couple of DRCs and some luck, having a Underworld Breach makes comboing much more easily. Finally, even if you don’t have access to a Underworld Breach when you start comboing, finding one before you fizzle out is the goal.
Grapeshot: The primary kill condition for this deck.
Tendrils of Agony: Castable with treasures, Tendrils deals twice as much damage than Grapeshot, which can come up if the storm count is low, or your opponent has gained life. Furthermore, Tendrils of Agony doesn’t kill you if it auto-targets at your own face, which is what happens to storm cards that haven’t been targeted yet if your timer runs out while you’re targeting. The biggest upside to having Tendrils in the board is in certain situations it can save time, which is useful because this deck often runs the risk of timing out while comboing.
Reckless Impulse: A way to gain a little card advantage if you’ve got extra mana but are short on cards.
I recommend taking a look at the video either before or after reading this section to help you visualize and understand how storming off works with this deck better.
The basic combo of this deck is Underworld Breach with Birgi or Steam-Kin, a DRC, and a Faithless Looting in hand or graveyard. With the Underworld Breach, you can cast Looting, which is mana neutral because of your mana creature. Surveilling to the graveyard with DRC combined with the two discarded cards off of Faithless Looting means you’re net neutral on cards in graveyard as well.
Now, this alone isn’t enough of course, but from here there are plenty of ways to ensure you start gaining resources. If you have a hand, you can use Looting to sculpt it, and cast cantrips from hand to increase cards in graveyard, at no mana cost because of your mana creature. Once you’re going positive on cards in graveyard, you’re also going positive on mana, because once you find a Strike It Rich, you can use your excess cards in graveyard to cast it over and over again, netting a mana each time.
Once you’ve reached enough mana and storm count, you will eventually find Wish, even if it’s the bottom card of your deck, and at that point, you can kill them with Grapeshot, Tendrils of Agony if you’re low on storm count, or time, or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries if something is stopping you from killing your opponent with damage.
Even if you don’t have cards in hand, with multiple DRCs you can go net positive on cards in graveyard, as long as you surveil to the graveyard each time. If you have enough mana and an extra card in your graveyard that you don’t need to exile when you cast Looting, you can loop through your whole deck only gaining storm count, and still kill with Grapeshot. However, if you need to empty your graveyard every time you cast Looting you might hit Wish when the storm count isn’t high enough, and if you exile Wish to cast Looting you won’t be able to win.
If you have no cards in hand and you have the combo going, but you’re not going positive on cards in graveyard, you can always escape a cantrip instead of Faithless Looting and hope to hit enough cantrips in a row to keep going. However, this is a desperation move and should only be a last resort when you can’t combo otherwise.
If you have cards in hand and a Faithless Looting, you can combo even without a DRC because you can supplement the missing surveils by casting cantrips from hand to make sure you still have enough cards in graveyard.
HOW TO PLAY THE DECK
If you have mana, cast your cantrips, don’t save them for your combo turns. Even if you have everything you need to combo, you still should cycle as much as possible. This deck has as many cantrips as lands, and having more cards in your graveyard is very useful for the combo turn.
If you’re worried about removal, save your DRC or mana creature for the combo turn, even a single mana extra mana is enough to combo with Birgi, provided you eventually turn it into two mana with a Strike It Rich to cast Underworld Breach.
If you’ve got a mana creature in play and see a cantrip on top of your library while surveilling off of a cantrip, surveil it to the top instead of milling. Casting the next cantrip costs you no mana, but it’s an extra card you get to see, an extra card in your graveyard, and an extra spell for storm. The only times you shouldn’t follow this heuristic is if you’re short on mana and don’t have a mana creature, or you’re comboing and short on time, and you just need to find your Wish ASAP before you time out.
Very rarely should you stop comboing before you literally cannot continue anymore, it’s almost always better to risk it and keep going than trying to ensure you win next turn.
Try to avoid playing a land or casting Strike it Rich on the combo turn unless absolutely neccesary, as every extra card in your hand is useful for discarding to Faithless Looting or Horn of Harnfell.
Horn of Harnfell is a legitimately castable card and can act as a backup card advantage engine if you don’t have access to Underworld Breach.
If you need to chain cantrips, you should usually try to surveil a cantrip to the top with any spells that don’t draw cards before casting your cantrip, to decrease the chances of whiffing.
Your goal should almost always be to combo as fast as possible. Jamming creatures and daring your opponents to kill them is often the way to go, because of how often untapping with a mana creature leads to a win.
You can combo with surprisingly little. With a DRC, you can chain a couple of cantrips through a significant part of your deck due to this deck’s high density of cantrips, and Looting to cycle through lands. Starting to combo while missing an Underworld Underworld Breach is often pretty safe as long as you have a couple of cantrips, and with this deck, it’s often wise to try to combo as soon as you can.
Whenever possible, threaten the win and make your opponent have it. The longer the game goes on, the more likely they are to have it. This means making plays like casting Strike It Rich into a turn-two Birgi, even if that means getting set back by a removal spell because if they don’t have the removal, or underestimate this deck’s capacity to combo early and opt for something else, you’re very likely to win.
Do not mulligan aggressively. With Strike It Rich and Faithless Looting already making you lose card advantage, and this deck’s ability to churn through a lot of cards to find missing pieces, keep most hands that have one or more combo pieces, those pieces being DRC, mana creatures, and Underworld Underworld Breach. You should even be keeping some one-landers, which luckily aren’t too common even with only 19 lands due to best-of-one hand smoothing. Finally, you should almost never mulligan to five, to the point where you should be keeping actively bad six-card hands because losing so much card advantage is crippling for this deck.
HOW TO PLAY THE DECK, ARENA IS BAD EDITION
One of the biggest difficulties when it comes to playing this deck is the fact that the Arena client simply is not conducive to playing this style of combo deck. The rope is an ever-present worry, and this issue is exacerbated by the fact that this deck goes off in the early turns of the game before there’s a chance to build up timeouts. Fear not, however, because using a couple of strategies, and with some practice, the clock will become more than manageable.
Every time you cast a spell you get a little bit of extra time for your turn, if your rope is burning down you can even see it lengthen a little every time. So the most important part of clock management is making sure each spell you cast you don’t lose too much time. You can get to a point where you gain time each loop, which can be very useful if you’re preparing to cast a grapeshot, which takes a decent chunk of rope to get through. Let me just tell you, casting a grapeshot when you’re about to run out of time is a bad idea.
To make sure you’re ahead of the clock, have a plan for what you will and won’t surveil to the top, as you’ll run out of time if you make individual decisions. Additionally, if you’re short on time but aren’t in danger of fizzling, just surveil everything into the yard to find Wish faster. Use space bar instead of clicking done, which saves a second or two, and keep in mind that surveilling into the graveyard takes more time than keeping the card on top because when you keep it on top you can just hit space to resolve each DRC trigger. Also, when the clock is burning down, don’t spend too much time deciding what to exile from your graveyard, or what to discard to Looting. If you’ve got the mana, you can move to your second main phase to get a little bit of extra time as well. Birgi mana stays for the whole turn, and Steam-Kin can store three mana in the form of counters, so this is usually possible. Finally, at some point Arena just stops giving you extra time each play, it only happens after a while so in most games it won’t be a problem, but if you for example need to kill with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and have to go through your whole deck, that’s another thing to consider.
In general, playing on autopilot will save you crucial time while playing this deck, but that can lead to you making small mistakes if you rush through every decision. Practice will help with this, and so will budgeting your time, and only thinking about decisions that matter. I highly recommend goldfishing against Sparky to practice the technical part of going off, because in practice many of your opponents won’t scoop for the exact reason that you might mess up along the way, so you need to know how to go through all the motions. Additionally, even if you can’t think through decisions while storming, a good way to improve with the deck is to record yourself and watch back to look for mistakes now that time is on your side.
BACKUP PLANS AND PLAYING AGAINST DISRUPTION
Sometimes, things will go wrong. Your opponent will cast a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, or counter your Underworld Underworld Breach, or your only Wish gets exiled. Here are some of the most common scenarios, and the backup plan for them:
- No access to Wish: Wish is this deck’s win-condition, and this deck only runs one copy because it’s a bad draw when storm count isn’t at twenty. If Wish gets exiled by a lucky Robber of the Rich, or an Ashiok, Dream Render, all of a sudden it’s time to look for plan b. The best backup plan this deck has is making a creature massive with Ancestral Anger. This does require a creature that can attack that turn, which is why it’s usually worse than the main Wish plan, but it is another way to get your opponent from 20 to 0. Ancestral Anger can also come in handy if Wish is in the bottom cards of your library, as it’s another way to kill your opponent before your clock runs out. Apart from beating down with 3/3s and 4/4s, Spikefield Hazard is the only other win-condition, and it’s very far from ideal. There are simply not enough cards in this deck to escape Spikefield Hazard 20 times, however, if you only need to deal 5-10 damage, or kill a Serra’s Emissary, Spikefield Hazard is perfectly serviceable, as long as you haven’t played it as a land.
- Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: If you run into a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and don’t have the one-of Spikefield Hazard, having multiple mana creatures is your out. Thalia does slow this deck down, but it’s certainly not a death sentence alone.
- Removal on your creatures: If you’re worried about removal, especially sorcery speed removal, you can always sandbag your creatures. This is one of the only scenarios where holding a cantrip can be correct, to guarantee getting to three counters on a Runaway Steam-Kin the turn it comes down.
- Graveyard Hate: Against graveyard hate, especially Grafdigger’s Cage because it doesn’t shut off delirium, beating down with a couple of 3/3s and 4/4s can certainly work. Otherwise, Harnfell, Horn of Bounty can act as a backup card advantage engine, especially if you’ve got a DRC or two to filter draws. This is also a scenario where Tendrils of Agony can come in handy if you can’t get the storm count up high enough.
The answer to almost any version of “why didn’t you include x?” is that it simply is a bad draw during the combo turn, and drawing a clunky card when you’re trying to chain one-mana cantrips can lead to a fizzle. The two cards closest to inclusion are Reckless Impulse, which is pretty close to a two-mana draw two in this deck but is still too clunky, and a more dedicated Wish package with 2-3 main-deck Wishes and a Underworld Breach in the sideboard, however, a five-mana Underworld Breach is often too much. Shatterskull Smashing also almost snuck its way into the deck, however, I rarely cast it, and paying three life was is quite painful against aggro.
As for the Wish-board, Spikefield Hazard, Grapeshot, Reckless Impulse, and Galvanic Relay are must-haves, and while everything else can be replaced for a more specific hate-piece, having alternate win-conditions is pretty useful, and in general, you want your Wish targets to be proactive. The only reason Tormod's Crypt, a reactive hate piece is in the sideboard is that it buys so much time against graveyard combo decks like all-in Dragonstorm that it effectively wins the game in those matchups. One card that didn’t make it into the Wishboard is Mox Amber, which produces mana with a Birgi out, without counting as a land drop.
In general, this deck is favored against uninteractive decks. Its worst matchup is Rakdos Arcanist because the sheer amount of interaction that deck packs is often too much to overcome.
Lastly, Mono-Red is another bad matchup because of Red’s combination of removal and pressure, with Goblin Chainwhirler being an especially brutal answer to Steam-Kin and DRC.
This deck’s best matchups are Elves and Dragonstorm Combo because this deck is about half a turn to a turn faster, and both opposing decks run very little interaction.
My best advice for porting this deck over to best-of-three is don’t. This deck benefits a lot from hand-smoothing, with its low land count. This deck also struggles a lot against interaction, especially graveyard hate, which is very common post-board.
However, if this still hasn’t deterred you, I would recommend a transformational sideboard plan with planeswalkers, or some other value engine, and I would recommend some number of Chaos Warp in the sideboard, as it is red’s only answer to Rest In Peace.
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Mono Red Underworld Breach is a very hard, but also very fun deck to play, and is a strong contender in the best-of-one meta.
You can find me on twitter and on the MTG Arena ladder. Thank you so much for reading, good luck in your games, and may your turn-three kills be plentiful.
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