The dominance of Gruul Aggro and the existence of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath have kept Mono Red Aggro from being popular in Historic recently, but the addition of Kaladesh Remastered means Mono Red is a deck to be feared again. The inclusion of Bomat Courier and Chandra, Torch of Defiance now means that a burn-style deck is even more viable than the traditional Embercleave version. The new build can grind out and beat lifegain, successfully fight through the midgame without folding to a pair of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath triggers.
This deck is fast and aggressive. It seeks to go under the opponent and kill them quickly with the tempo advantage gained by having a very low curve of creatures, combined with burn spells for reach. Towards the midgame, this deck utilizes its powerful four-drops in combination with card advantage from Bomat Courier to continuously apply pressure and keep the opponent on the back foot.
If you want to see me play a couple matches with this deck, you can check out my video on this deck below.
Soul-Scar Mage: Soul-Scar Mage is incredibly good, and even as a one-drop, is one of the big reasons to run spells over creatures. At only one mana, Soul-Scar Mage hits for two or three damage more often than it hits for one due to Prowess. It also can shake off damage based removal like Bonecrusher Giant’s Stomp. If that’s not enough, the second ability is also very good, as turning damage into -1/-1 counters can make combat much easier, and is amazing with Goblin Chainwhirler.
Bomat Courier: The second one-drop for this deck, Bomat Courier is one of the new cards from Kaladesh Remastered, and is somehow even better than Soul-Scar Mage. A turn-one Bomat Courier, especially on the play, means that by turn four or five you can draw a whole new hand of cards – which could represent lethal burn damage or an easy way to rebuild after a board wipe. If you have two Bomat Couriers you can sacrifice the first, then immediately the second one while the first one’s draw trigger is on the stack – this way you’ll get to draw all the cards from under both. Prioritize getting cards turn after turn with this card, and don’t hesitate to play it on turn one over Soul-Scar Mage, even if it represents less immediate damage.
Robber of the Rich: At face value, even a 2/2 haste for two is a decent body in an aggressive deck, which is Robber of the Rich’s floor. This deck also does a really good job enabling Robber of the Rich’s triggered ability, because with such a low curve you’ll have fewer cards in hand than your opponent most of the time. Even a single card drawn makes Robber of the Rich great, and it only snowballs from there.
Burning-Tree Emissary: The second two-drop of the deck, Burning-Tree Emissary can lead to some really fast wins with as much as seven power on the board on turn two. Not making double red with its enters-the-battlefield trigger is somewhat awkward, but this deck often plays Burning-Tree Emissary into Robber of the Rich or Stomp. So it only tends to hold us back when casting Goblin Chainwhirler or multiple Soul-Scar Mages in a single turn. The addition of Burning-Tree Emissary is a major upgrade for this deck because it makes it faster and it’s a big reason why this deck is so good.
Bonecrusher Giant: Bonecrusher Giant is particularly good against decks that have good targets for Stomp, like the mirror and Gruul Aggro. But even against slower decks with few to no targets Stomp still amounts to two points of face damage and a way to trigger Prowess or Spectacle. Also, even if you’re not casting Stomp, a 4/3 body for three isn’t bad. One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make when playing with Bonecrusher Giant is being inflexible about casting Stomp no-matter-what before they play Bonecrusher Giant out as a creature. While it can often be correct to do so against decks where Stomp is likely to trade for a full card, it’s much more often correct to just ignore the lost value. The loss in tempo from holding up Stomp will often outweigh the value gained from casting Stomp. When deciding what to do with Bonecrusher Giant, also consider how it fits in your curve, and the extra damage you will get from potentially an extra combat step with Bonecrusher Giant on the battlefield.
Goblin Chainwhirler: One of the more polarizing cards in the deck, Goblin Chainwhirler can sometimes lead to ridiculous blowouts, but can also be pretty vanilla on the wrong board. Setting up Goblin Chainwhirler once you have it in hand to maximize the value is very important, so consider your attacks and blocks carefully to set up for the best enters-the-battlefield trigger possible. Even against creature-light decks, a 3/3 that pings your opponent and any planeswalkers they may have is still solid, but similar to Bonecrusher Giant, it’s slightly subpar.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance: The second new addition to this deck, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is one of the best cards in Kaladesh Remastered, just in terms of raw power. Her two ‘+1’ abilities mean you can either generate two mana to double-spell the turn she comes down or immediately draw a card. The floor is two damage to your opponent if it’s a land or an expensive card – or sometimes you simply just value two damage upstairs over whatever you hit. Chandra, Torch of Defiance’s ‘-3’ will kill most relevant creatures, as four damage is a lot, and means that Chandra, Torch of Defiance can protect herself very well. And finally, while you won’t get to the ‘-7’ very often, it’s nigh-unbeatable for your opponent if you’ve just got a spell or two. Only requiring three +1’s means that you’ll threaten the ultimate more often than you might think.
Hazoret the Fervent: The second big, scary four-drop, Hazoret the Fervent really brings the beats. A 5/4 haste indestructible is quite scary, and having one or fewer cards in hand is not a tall order for a deck with such a low curve. This is made even easier by Hazoret the Fervent’s activated ability, which lets you discard excess lands or low-impact cards for an extra bit of reach. Be mindful that you have to go down to one card BEFORE you move to combat, it’s a very easy mistake to make, I’ve done it myself more times than I’d like to admit, and it can really cost you.
Shock, Lightning Strike: Shock and Lightning Strike fill the same role of being cheap burn. They can go straight after the opponent’s life total to end the game, be used to trigger Spectacle or to remove creatures – all the while synergizing with Soul-Scar Mage. Don’t be overzealous about going upstairs with these, as removing creatures to keep a Chandra, Torch of Defiance alive, or clearing the way for an attack with Bomat Courier can often be much more important. This deck isn’t all in on just using burn spells, it’s got plenty of creatures that can also pressure the opponent, so it’s fine to spend them managing the board.
Light Up the Stage: This is one of the hardest cards to use correctly in this deck. While Light Up the Stage has a lot of raw power, providing card advantage so cheaply, it does also have significant drawbacks. Sequencing and playing in a way that lets you cast Light Up the Stage as easily as possible is something to keep in mind, as well as minimizing awkward scenarios with exiled cards. Exiling something like a 1-drop and a land, and then having to decide between giving up your one-drop or wasting two mana is not the spot you want to be in. So, to avoid that you may want to hold off on casting Light Up the Stage until you know you’ll be able to get all the value from it. Occasionally losing on value is an inevitable feature of a card like Light up the Stage, but try to minimize how awkward it needs to be. As a general rule, Light Up the Stage gets better the later in the game it is, so don’t feel obligated to cast it early, even if you have a mana to spend on it. Finally, be mindful of playing lands when casting Light Up the Stage, as if you hit two lands you’ll only be able to play both if you have a land drop left the turn you cast it.
Shatterskull Smashing: This is a pretty free inclusion as paying three life occasionally isn’t a huge downside. In matchups where your life total isn’t very relevant, don’t be afraid of holding it even if it’s unlikely that you’ll get to cast it. Two things to keep in mind with this card are: 1) you can only cast this as a spell with Light up the Stage; 2) you can cast it with two mana for X=0, just to get it out of your hand for Hazoret the Fervent or to trigger Prowess.
Ramunap Ruins: Make sure to get it in play before you have to discard your hand, but before then hold it for as long as possible, as playing it out early is just giving free information to your opponent.
Redcap Melee: Redcap Melee acts as a cheap, efficient way to kill – most often – red creatures. It can still be brought in against decks where removal is very needed, and/or when dealing specifically four damage is very good (against something like Prime Speaker Vannifar Combo).
Abrade: Abrade fills the role of both being additional removal against other aggressive decks, and also being a great answer to artifacts like Paradox Engine, Aetherworks Marvel, or whatever else your opponent has. Abrade is slightly worse than a dedicated answer in both situations but makes up for it in flexibility.
Grafdigger’s Cage: One of the most potent sideboard cards in all of the Historic format, Grafdigger’s Cage hits Cat-Oven decks, Neoform combo decks, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and other escape creatures, Aetherworks Marvel, and even Mystic Forge, as well as a plethora of other cards while only costing one mana. A big upside of Grafdigger’s Cage in this deck is that it doesn’t affect ourselves at all – unlike with some other decks that have it in the board. Bring in Grafdigger’s Cage aggressively, especially against Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, as that card is incredibly good against our deck.
Grim Lavamancer: Grim Lavamancer is a card that I haven’t seen many people playing lately. It is somewhat surprising, though it is admittedly somewhat worse in a format without fetchlands. A turn-two Grim Lavamancer is almost impossible to beat for Aura decks, which have surged in popularity because of Sram, Senior Edificer. Grim Lavamancer can also do some work in other matchups, but its main usage is being a silver bullet against any and all Kor Spiritdancer decks.
Roiling Vortex: Roiling Vortex does three things, which are all good in different situations. It’s a way to repeatedly deal damage – and even one damage a turn does add up. It also prevents lifegain, which is very good against cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Woodweavers Puzzleknot. Additionally Vortex deals five damage to your opponent whenever they cast a spell that no mana was spent to cast, which hits Aetherworks Marvel, and can come in useful against other, more fringe decks like Kethis Combo. Roiling Vortex is even good against decks that are slower, like Azorious or Dimir Control, where even though all Roiling Vortex does is pinging for one damage on upkeep, it still represents a significant clock.
- Turn One
The only real choices you’re going to face on turn one are whether to play Soul-Scar Mage or Bomat Courier. It is correct the overwhelming majority of the time to play Bomat Courier out first, as extra cards are going to be more useful than only a single point or two of damage, though you should still consider going both ways.
- Turn Two
Despite having a lot of two-drops, there aren’t many decisions on turn two. Burning-Tree Emissary is free, so the real decision you have is whether you want to cast Stomp, Robber of the Rich, or Lightning Strike, or if you want to play two more one-drops. The decision between playing a single two-drop, like Robber of the Rich, or two one drops depends on how you can make sure to spend as much mana each turn, then how much damage you’ll deal over the next couple of turns with both lines. When deciding between Stomp and something like Robber of the Rich, knowing you’ll play Bonecrusher Giant next turn makes it better to Stomp, but if your opponent doesn’t have a good target to Stomp it’ll most often mean it’s best to play your creatures, as they’ll keep dealing damage even after you finish spending mana on them.
- Turn Three and Onwards
Spending mana efficiently is still very important, and you should also be considering your route to victory. Are you going to sacrifice your Bomat Courier on turn four and bury your opponent in card advantage, or throw caution to the wind and deal as much damage as possible to your opponent so that you can finish them off later with a burn spell or two? Are you trying to win combat with midrangey creatures, take over the game with a four-drop, or simply enter a board stall and hold burn till you can kill your opponent out of nowhere? It’s very important to know what you’re trying to do, as it’ll let you plan out your plays better, and help you put yourself in a more advantageous spot. The earlier you know what you’re working towards, the better chance you’ll have to achieve it. All that being said, constantly reevaluate what you need to do, and don’t be afraid to switch plans.
One common trap many magic players fall into when playing this deck is thinking that they can’t or shouldn’t transition to doing something else just because they’ve already invested so much in their current line of play or game plan. This is called ‘the sunk cost fallacy’. What you should be thinking about instead is – given the current boardstate and information you have – which route gives you the best chance to win? You can ignore what has already happened earlier as long that does not affect the game currently.
Seeing as the format is currently in turmoil, and lists very a lot, this guide should only be a starting point to work off of. Pay attention to what your opponent is playing, and adjust based on that. Additionally, consider play/draw when sideboarding, as some cards, like Bomat Courier, are much better on the play than on the draw, and being on the play makes being proactive and aggressive a slightly better plan in general.
- Sultai/Four-Color Midrange
|4 Roiling Vortex||2 Goblin Chainwhirler|
|3 Grafdigger’s Cage||4 Shock|
|1 Lightning Strike|
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is their best card, and they find it with relative consistency due to how many cards they draw, so Grafdigger’s Cage comes in to deal with it. Past that, Roiling Vortex also hates on their lifegain, and can be very threatening if they don’t have a fast clock. Do your best to play around Extinction Event, as that along with Languish are the sweepers they tend to have.
- Gruul Aggro/Mono Red Aggro
|2 Redcap Melee||2 Bomat Courier (on the play)|
|4 Abrade||4 Burning-Tree Emissary (on the play)|
|4 Bomat Courier (on the draw)|
|2 Burning-Tree Emissary (on the draw)|
Games two and three become somewhat of a grind-fest, depending on how well set up their sideboard is for the matchup. Depending on how your draw shapes up, you may be playing either the aggro or control side of the matchup.
- Jund Sacrifice
|3 Grafdigger’s Cage||2 Hazoret the Fervent|
|4 Abrade||4 Bomat Courier|
This matchup is bad, but not unwinnable. Grafdigger’s Cage is very important in games two and three, but Cat-Oven, as well as a lot of life-gain and removal in the form of Mayhem Devil, can be quite hard to overcome.
|4 Abrade||2 Hazoret the Fervent|
|2 Grim Lavamancer||4 Burning-Tree Emissary|
|1 Redcap Melee||1 Goblin Chainwhirler|
This matchup is good, as the Aura’s Decks tend to fold to removal. The biggest danger is flooding out in this matchup and running out of burn. Try not to lose to a big Kor Spiritdancer made on a turn where you tapped out.
Thank you all so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it! Mono Red has proved itself to be one of the frontrunners in the Historic metagame in the days post-Kaladesh and is a deck to respect no matter what you play. You can find me on Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch playing and talking about mostly Magic. Finally, have a great rest of your day, and good luck in your matches.