Mono Red Aggro Deck Guide – Theros Beyond Death Standard – January 2020
Mono Red Aggro (or also known as Red Deck Wins abbreviated to RDW) has one goal: To reduce the opponent’s life total to 0 as quickly as possible. This deck archetype is always around in Standard in one form or another, and is well positioned in the metagame when there are an abundance of slower and greedier decks to keep them in check. This is especially true at the beginning of a new set, when everybody is trying out new cards and unrefined decks. If you wish to take advantage of this for climbing the ladder, give Mono Red Aggro a shot!
The weakness in this deck’s archetype has traditionally been due to the lack of card advantage and running out of steam. Should your opponent have the opportunity to disrupt our game plan, you would run out of spells to play quickly. The introduction of Light Up the Stage and Experimental Frenzy, allows the deck to compete have more reach for mid to late game. This traditional version has a combination of creatures and burn spells, but in the current Standard environment, we are leaning more heavily on creatures and spells that rely on your creatures being on the battlefield.
Here are two early Theros Beyond Death Standard decklists for Mono Red Aggro from the experts, themselves. The first version focuses on getting damage in more quickly, whereas the second version is primed for longer games and can grind out opponents better. The black is splashed for the fringe case of the Spectacle ability of Rix Maadi Reveler.
The core strategy of the deck is simple – to defeat your opponent as quickly as possible using creatures and spells with lower mana costs than most decks. The deck however, is not as one dimensional as it seems. You need to make decisions each turn on whether to go directly to your opponent, or balance dealing damage to their planeswalkers and creatures.
Mono Red is all about using your resources as best as you can, and the best players play around the hostile environment that may be met such as lifegain, boardwipe and big beefy creatures that get your way. The main thing is to not to put yourself in a huge card disadvantage, though you have access to cards like Light Up the Stage and Experimental Frenzy, they may not be enough to help you come back from opponents that have stabilized already.
The current Standard card pool has a lack of good efficient burn spells which the deck typically relies on, other than the faithful Shock. Lightning Strike was lost in the recent Standard rotation, and cards like Skewer the Critics and Slaying Fire have proven to be average. The current version of Mono Red Aggro has leaned towards being a more creature-based deck for this reason, leveraging the power of cards such as Embercleave and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
Theros Beyond Death Additions
Let’s find out what Theros Beyond Death brings to the table for the traditional Mono Red builds!
- Phoenix of Ash: This card is one of the pieces that was missing for Mono Red; it can guarantee damage off the bat, and being resilient to removal spells via Escape makes the card extremely appealing. When you are running out of fuel towards the end of the game, you will find that you can rely on the phoenix to deal the last bit of damage using its pump ability.
- Anax, Hardened in the Forge: The new demigod for red is an interesting addition to try out. It is on the top of the curve, but has potential to carry Embercleave really well and its other ability also ensures that you are well insured against board wipes.
- The Akroan War: This is a potential sideboard card against opposing creature decks to help you get through blockers.
- Robber of the Rich: This card gives you the occasional card advantage that the deck may need, especially that less copies of Experimental Frenzy is being played. It works with Tin Street Dodger, and even if the robber is removed, you can still use the exiled card later down the track (given a rogue is attacking).
- Embercleave: This card has become almost an essential to aggro decks since its introduction, but its power is less pronounced here because of your smaller creature size. You can still reliably get it out earlier than most decks though, and remember you can equip it to Fervent Champion for free.
- Bonecrusher Giant: This is more of a midrange option, and may be included if you anticipate grindier games and require more interaction.
- Torbran, Thane of Red Fell: This card has fallen in the way side lately, because of the abundance of removal spells making it unable to unleash its full potential. Still, it is a useful card depending on the meta and will always be there if you need a specific curve topper in Mono Red.
Budget Card Substitutions
Typically speaking, Mono Red should be one of the cheaper decks to craft consisting mostly of key commons and uncommons. Our current Standard card pool unfortunately consists of many rares and mythics that may deter some players, and since this is not a tier one deck, you may get marginal benefits by upgrading the cards. Our budget version is a good starting point that has no rares and uncommons. Some notes about potential upgrades:
- Fervent Champion: This card is one the weaker cards in the deck, but can still be used in the popular Knight based decks such as Rakdos Knights and Boros Knights. There is a wealth of mediocre one drops such as Gingerbrute and Grim Initiate if you wish to save crafting this card for later.
- Embercleave: This card has proven to be a powerhouse in creature based decks, and is no exception here. This card can be used other decks, such as Gruul Aggro or Rakdos Knights and would be a safe craft if you enjoy these strategies.
- Robber of the Rich: The card is a bit expensive to be a mythic, so use Rimrock Knight or Careless Celebrant instead.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
We will use sandydogmtg’s version above as the basis for the below information and will keep it general until a metagame has been formed.
Position in the Metagame
Mono Red can be a decent option at the beginning of a new set and metagame, where players are likely to face unrefined decks trying out the new cards for the first time. It is a streamlined and consistent deck for players on a budget and wishing to try a new aggressive deck. As it stands, the deck is likely not going to be a top tier deck due to the higher strength of the overall card pool.
Versus Aggro / Midrange
Generally against other aggro match ups it comes down to who starts first; if you are on the play, you want to curve out as best as you can so consider a mulligan if you do not have one or two drops in your opening hand. On the draw, you will be on the back foot and will want to see an one drop in your opening hand.
Having your creatures stick to the board is key and it may boil down to trading and burning each other’s creatures until someone gets more card advantage. For example against Rakdos Knights or Sacrifice decks, your 1/1 creatures will not be as good against Gilded Goose or Knights of the Ebon Legion. Sideboard in Claim the Firstborn and Redcap Melee as required.
Your aim is end the game as quick as possible, but there are certain cards that will not help in the matchup. Unchained Berserker for example is an excellent card against white based control decks as it cannot be killed via Deafening Clarion, cannot be blocked by Tithe Taker and bounced by Teferi, Time Raveler. You already have the strength of Phoenix of Ash in this matchup, but you cannot go wrong with the classic Experimental Frenzy or the recurring threat of Chandra.
Azorius Control / Jeskai Fires
- January 19, 2020: Updated for the new Theros Beyond Death Standard.
- October 2, 2019: Deck guide overhauled for Throne of Eldraine Standard Season 1.
- June 14, 2019: Deck updated for War of the Spark Season 2.
- May 19, 2019: Deck guide added.