Historic Mono Red Aggro Deck Guide Featuring the Deathwhirler Combo

goblin-chainwhirler-art

How’s it goin’ Zoners? Delmo’s here. Today I bring you a deck I brewed for the blessing that is the (finally) permanent Historic Ranked Queue.

With the announcement of the Mythic Invitational being Historic-based, a lot of pros have switched their attention to the Historic format, and that brought a lot of really good players to the queue these days; this meant I had to brew something really efficient and aggressive to climb quickly. Aside from the Gruul decks, control, combo, and superfriends decks are dominating the scene in Historic. As always, Simic Nexus is the big scary monster of the format, but Yorion made its appearance, and it seems like the Bird Serpent is here to stay.

My thoughts were that I needed a really fast and steady aggro deck to counter greedy combo and control lists, and I tried my old Mono Red list that brought me to #4 Mythic the last time the Historic Ranked Queue was available. The main problem I ran into I ran into, just like last time, was that Gruul and big creature decks were an insurmountable wall without drawing the nuts on the play. But then, I discovered THE COMBO!

The Combo: Goblin Chainwhirler + Call of the Death-Dweller

In Dominaria Standard and Historic, the Jundwhirler deck was wrecking creature decks out of existence by rocking the Status // Statue + Goblin Chainwhirler combo. That was sweet but, the problem was that too many times, you were drawing only one piece of the combo. It was awkward to play just one piece for tempo because you were scared of drawing the other one the next turn, which resolved in really greedy land-pass turns and other awkward situations.

But then, Ikora came out and gifted us Call of the Death-Dweller. With this, you can PROACTIVELY play the Chainwhirler, get your value, let him die to a trade or a removal spell, and then just wipe the board whenever you draw the Call, or use it immediately if you have one already in hand.

Plus, Call is not only godly with Chainwhirler, but it synergizes with the whole deck. Just reanimating two pieces from the yard, giving deathtouch to a Fanatical Firebrand for sudden hard removal, to a Fervent Champion to have a deathtouch-first strike untouchable lil’ bomb; all of this is great. Sometimes you can even get Anax back with deathtouch, and those who played Gruul know how nutty Questing Beast gets with Embercleave; Anax with trample from Embercleave and deathtouch from Call does a very good impression of that!

Call of the Death-Dweller solved Historic Mono Red’s biggest problems.We are no longer scared of Gruul because we have a huge swing against them, which has resulted in shifting the match-up actually in our favor now! They just cannot recover after a full one-sized board wipe on turn 4. Another problem of the deck was late-game value. Well, having 4 reanimation spells is a lot of value against a control deck, reanimating Anax from the yard after a sweep, or a couple of hasters to keep on beatin’.

“But Delmo, if we have nothing to reanimate Call is a dead card in hand.”

If we have nothing to reanimate, our creatures are alive. If our creatures are alive, we are winning the game. In 99% of situations when you feel Call as a dead card in hand, the game is basically over because it means nothing stopped our beating. If that’s not the case, another good card comes to help this card shine.

Rix Maadi Reveler is another really good card we can afford to play having black mana, instead of Light Up The Stage. If the opponent is already threatening us, you can turn 2 Rix Maadi discarding Chainwhirler, and then reanimate it on curve with Call, clearing early threats and having a 3/3 deathtouch menace first strike on the board for tempo; that’s some major value. In short, Rix Maadi is not only a value generator and late game refill, but also cycles reanimation targets to set up insane Calls.

“So, lots of pros, but where are the cons?”

The major con we are having with playing this splash instead of Mono Red is, of course, the slightly less reliable mana base. We play 9 black sources in total to not overfill the deck with tapped lands (only 1 temple), and sometimes even having 4 shocklands instead of 0 can make the difference against aggro, but risking a shock to the face while having a full clear card against aggro is a deal I’ll take every day.

Some fringe times, you will not have that 1 black mana for Call. It’s the risk of the deck. You are basically using a really high power deck with a very small chance to get top-10 anime betrayed by your manabase. Call is often a card you don’t want to play on curve, so you can afford to wait for that black land to cast the Call. Sometimes you just don’t draw it, but that happened to me ONCE in more than 30 bo3 games.

“Why are we not playing more black lands?”

Because Chainwhirler and Torbran are RRR cards. Black is only a splash for Call and one Theater of Horrors, neither of which are mandatory to play on curve, so we can afford to have “only” 9 black sources.

Decklist

As you can see, this is really similar to the Mono Red I played before.

Four copies of Fanatical Firebrand now makes way more sense, given the Calls, which transform it into a hard removal spell alongside bringing back a free 2 drop.

You can decide, if you want, to not play Runaway Steam-kins and instead play Robbers of the Rich maindeck, removing 1 Rix Maadi Reveler. As you will see, I remove Runaways against EVERY match-up in the sideboard guide, but I still think that it’s a really good card on the play in game 1 when people are packing less removal. Once the removal comes in, Runaway goes. It’s your choice if you want to go with Robber main deck, but I still think the card lines up really poorly against Gruul.

The 3 mana slot is pretty stacked, so I went for 23 lands even with 1 less Torbran that usual. We really need to hit the 3rd land consistently, and the 4th mana whenever to enable Rix Maadi spectacle.

Embercleave is still the reason I’m not thinking that a possible Obosh version of this deck can be better; you still win many games with the Cleave with only Teferi stopping it in the current Historic Meta.

How You Play the Deck

Even more aggressive than before. With this deck, you just DON’T play around sweepers. Never. Only if you are really 100% sure they have it because they revealed and, sometimes, you just go yolo face into it because we now have access to graveyard recursion and we can recover. We just need to do as much damage as possible as early as possible.

Against creature decks, you play the Chainwhirler as soon as you can, trading for value, and reanimate it with Call when you draw it. Never let Chainwhirler rot in your hand; it’s pointless.

Mulligan Guide

  • We NEVER keep a 1 lander, since we don’t have Light Up the Stage.
  • You can safely mull to 5 and still win games with the deck, so don’t be afraid to mulligan to find a good curve.
  • Against aggro, you basically keep every hand with the combo even if you have no turn 1 or 2 plays.
  • Against control, you want to be aggressive and attacking fast and hard, so don’t keep greedy hands with only 3-drops etc.
  • Turn 1 you prefer to drop Scorch Spitter against control, and Fervent Champion/Fanatical Firebrand against aggro.

Tips and Tricks in General

  • Always play Anax as your first 3 drop, if you have multiple options against decks that can sweep you, even if you are tempted to drop a Ferocidon to prevent some lifegain.
  • Keep Firebrand untapped if you feel that the opponent can enchant/equip a 1life target, instead of killing it instantly and making them just play and enchant a new one.
  • Don’t be greedy with the combo; use Call to reanimate 2 pieces when possible and use Whirler to clear and beat down. We have 4 and 4, we’ll draw another one.
  • Remember that you can’t play Embercleave at instant speed with Teferi down, but you can still get the second hit if you first strike down a 1 loyalty Teferi with Fervent Champion or Chainwhirler, and equip Embercleave after the first strike damage phase.
  • Don’t be greedy with Rix Maadi, use the spectacle only if it’s the last card in hand and you have deployed everything first. You use Rix Maadi just to cycle 1 card 90% of the time.

Matchup and Sideboard Guide

Simic Nexus

The deck is the best one in the format. Not even close to the second one (which is Gruul Aggro in my personal Tier List).

Luckily, Mono Red had always a good matchup against them. Just be aggressive, hit hard and kill them before they can stabilize and go infinite. Game 2 they usually side in Lovestruck Beasts, so Claim the Firstborn is really good against those and Uro.

Claim is still good against the creatureless version with Kaheera as a companion; it can steal Kaheera herself and big sharks.

Against them we can turn down the combo a little, to focus on the aggression:

InOut
+2 Claim the Firstborn
+4 Robber of The Rich
+4 Rampaging Ferocidon
-3 Runaway Steam-Kin
-1 Embercleave
-2 Call of the Death-Dweller
-2 Goblin Chainwhirler
-2 Fanatical Firebrand

Gruul Aggro

For me, the second best deck in the meta, both the regular and the Umori version.

Now this matchup is so much easier than before, and we can easily drop everything on the board, trade  Whirler, and win the game ON THE SPOT with Call. Post-board, both sides bring removal in, so we are still ahead thanks to the Combo.

InOut
+2 Claim the Firstborn
+4 Lava Coil
-3 Runaway Steam-Kin
-1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
-2 Scorch Spitter

Kethis Combo

Even if this is a combo deck, it’s still creature-centric. They can’t win without the right pieces on the board, so we need to treat it like an “aggro-ish” deck, packing in removal and keeping the combo in. Usually we discard the Chainwhirler to a Rix Maadi, because they’ll usually bounce rather than remove it.

InOut
+4 Lava Coil
+4 Rampaging Ferocidon
-3 Runaway Steam-Kin
-2 Embercleave
-2 Scorch Spitter
-1 Anax, Hardened in the Forge

Esper / Dimir / Grixis Control (Yorion or Yorionless)

There’s a lot of different decks that I just group together under the name of “Control Decks”. Historic has so much more variety in the Control department than Standard but, luckily for us, the strategy against them is always the same.

Hit fast, hit hard, don’t let them get much value off Yorion or Teferi.

InOut
+4 Robber of the Rich
+4 Rampaging Ferocidon
+1 Theater of Horrors
-3 Runaway Steam-Kin
-2 Embercleave
-2 Goblin Chainwhirler
-2 Fanatical Firebrand

Field of the Dead

We need to kill them before they can overrun us with zombies, but even if they manage to create an army, a good timed Callwhirler will just wreck them. Ferocidon is your best friend.

InOut
+ 4 Rampaging Ferocidon-3 Runaway Steam-Kin
-1 Embercleave

Other Aggro (Mirror, Mono White, Mardu Humans, Vampires, Merfolks, etc)

Like the Control department, our aggro colleagues have different approaches to Historic, but all their decks are different from Gruul, in that they go wide. That makes Rampaging Ferocidon a huge threat for them, resulting in them taking way more damage than us.

InOut
+2 Claim the Firstborn
+4 Lava Coil
+4 Rampaging Ferocidon
-3 Runaway Steam-Kin
-1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
-2 Scorch Spitter
-1 Anax, Hardened in the Forge
-1 Embercleave
-2 Rix Maadi Reveler

General Advice Against Other Decks

I covered the best archetypes in Historic right now, but the format is full of random decks and brews that you can encounter basically anything. So, against the rest of the field, remember that usually:

  • Claim is good against aggro and Uro decks.
  • Lava Coil is good against aggro.
  • Robber of the Rich comes in against control and any other greedy slow deck.
  • Ferocidon comes in against any lifegain and go-wide creature decks.
  • Theater only comes in against slow matchups, but not combo decks since you still need to kill them fast rather than trying to outvalue them.

Hope this guide proves useful and that you can enjoy this super-fun and actually really strong aggro list for the fledgling Historic meta!

Have fun, stay safe, good luck! Ciao!

Delmo

Delmo

Twitch / Twitter

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nocaps
nocaps
3 months ago

Great deck Delmo, what changes would you make for Bo1?

nocaps
nocaps
3 months ago
Reply to  nocaps

To follow this up, I tested swapping 1 Reveler and 3 Steamkins for 2 Ferocidons and 2 Lava Coils, went 10-3 through Diamond.

Mtgaman
Mtgaman
3 months ago

Nothing about the Naya winota and jeskai Lukka matchups? Those are definitely two of the top decks right now.

Royboss91
Royboss91
3 months ago

“We NEVER keep a 1 lander without Light Up the Stage”. There’s not Light Up the Stage in the list.

Drifter
Editor
3 months ago
Reply to  Royboss91

This has been fixed, I believe he meant because we don’t have Light Up the Stage. Thanks!

Machete Confiable
Machete Confiable
3 months ago

Obliterator, just saying

VALDO VEGA
VALDO VEGA
2 months ago

Thanks for all this very insightful, is the SB Guide for the black splash or the previous Mono Red version?