Mono Red Obosh Aggro Deck Guide

Mono Red Obosh Aggro Deck Guide

Who am I?

My name is Mark Gabriele, and I am an SCG Tour Grinder and avid Arena player. My absolute favorite decks in Standard are all flavors of Mono-Colored aggro decks, and I recently ground all the way through Diamond and into Mythic with Mono Red Obosh, without losing a match. If you have any questions about the deck, feel free to email me at markgabriele1@gmail.com or message me on Twitter at @gabriele_mark!

What is Standard Mono Red Obosh Aggro?

Mono Red Obosh is an aggressive deck built around the same principles as classic Mono Red, with a twist. The entire deck has to fulfill the restrictions of Obosh, the Preypiercer, to take advantage of it as a top-end threat. This means no Runaway Steam-Kin, no Torbran, Thane of Redfell, no Embercleave, no Rimrock Knight, no Robber of the Rich, and no Experimental Frenzy! This means the deck overloads on one drops, and supplements them with a few high-powered three-drop creatures and Heraldic Banner. Wanting to hit five mana sources every game forces the deck to play more mana sources than normal (Obosh lists usually play 26), and as a result we get to fully take advantage of mana sinks like Phoenix of Ash and Castle Embereth. Obosh Red first saw success with Oh JooHyun (@oh_joohyun on Twitter) posting that they reached #2 on the Mythic Ladder with it. Two people then reached the Top 8 of the Magicfest Season Finals with Obosh Red, including Simon Goertzen, who used Oh’s list. Oh recently posted an updated list and sideboard guide for the list on Twitter, which is what we will be using in this article.

Why play Mono Red Obosh over regular Mono Red?

Let’s be clear: Obosh completely changes how Mono Red decks are constructed. Not having cards like Runaway Steam-Kin, Robber of the Rich and Torbran is a significant cost, but by far the most significant loss is that of Embercleave. Punching through blockers becomes significantly more difficult without it, and as a result higher-power cards like Anax and Bonecrusher Giant lose a good amount of value. So why cut these cards? Obosh is expensive, adding about as much to the board as a Torbran for one more mana. Is the tradeoff really worth it? I believe it is. 

The problem with Embercleave and Torbran is that they’re both legendary; if three Embercleaves happen to be in your top twelve cards, you’re in rough shape. Obosh is a powerful top end that makes all your cards threats, and you can only draw one of them, and you’ll draw that one every game, in addition to your normal hand! It’s the same amount of card advantage as starting every game by casting Light up the Stage. The advantage of aggro decks is that their low curve means that you should be casting all your cards just about every game, and because of this, card advantage is at a premium. All this in tandem makes Obosh exactly what you want as a top-end threat and I’ll be playing it as a companion in mono red as long as Wizards of the Coast lets me. With all that being said, if you still believe Embercleave is where you want to be, feel free to check out my article on normal Mono Red here. Now, on to the list!

Decklist

Card-By-Card Analysis

Companion

1 Obosh, the PreypiercerI already went over why this card is nuts, so I’ll just go over some interactions that I didn’t think about the first time I played it.

  • Tokens are NOT doubled 
  • Shock IS doubled
  • Stomp is NOT doubled
  • Scorch Spitter Pings ARE doubled
  • Blazing Volley IS doubled
  • Redcap Melee IS doubled
  • When assigning combat damage, the game does not recognize the doubling until the moment when damage actually occurs. For example, if Obosh is being blocked by a 3/3 and a 2/2, there is no way to order blockers to kill both creatures. You can either order the 2/2 first, in which case Obosh deals 2 damage to it (doubled to four) and one damage to the 3/3 (doubled to 2), or you can order the 3/3 first and Obosh deals all of it’s damage to the 3/3, and no damage to the 2/2.

Main Deck

4 Fervent ChampionAt this point, Champion has firmly established itself as an archetype staple. Its floor in power level is similar to the rest of the one drops, and its ceiling is randomly winning games by itself when you draw multiples.

4 Grim InitiateI completely expected this card to be awful, but it’s been a very pleasant surprise. Between having first strike and making a token when it dies, it’s very annoying to deal with through combat, and provides some awesome sweeper protection. A lot of games come down to finishing the game with mediocre token beats after a sweeper, and Grim Initiate is really helpful when that happens. Because it’s good against aggro and control, it doesn’t get boarded out that much. Keep in mind that Initiate tokens don’t benefit from Heraldic Banner or Obosh.

4 Scorch SpitterThe closest we have to a true two-power one drop, Scorch Spitter puts in good work against decks with few blockers. Unfortunately, a lot of decks have early blockers, and it’s a pretty easy card to cut postboard against those decks. In the current meta, Spitter runs straight into Omen of the Sun and Raise the Alarm tokens a lot, so try to play with those in mind.

4 Tin Street DodgerThis will be no surprise to those of you who have played SandyDog mono red lists in the past, but this card is very good. With the increased number of mana sources this list plays, you can often find an extra mana lying around, and the chip damage Dodger gets in is actually super useful. The worst part about this card right now is that it can be blocked by the wall token made by The Birth of Meletis after being activated (but NOT by Arboreal Grazer, weirdly enough).

4 Anax, Hardened in the ForgeThis was one of the first cards I was looking to cut when switching over to an Obosh build, because without Embercleave to punch through blockers, it seemed a lot less impressive. Boy, was I wrong. The meta currently is saturated with Shatter the Sky and, postboard, Deafening Clarion, and Anax is easily your best hope of fighting through those cards. Even with Anax out, you should be wary of trading away creatures against decks with sweepers, as this deck can usually survive the first sweeper, so you want as many nontoken creatures out as possible when it happens.

4 Bonecrusher GiantPlaying Giant feels a little like sneaking a two drop into your deck when your parents aren’t looking. This card is simply too powerful to not include, and gives the deck some much-needed removal. If you’re worried about a Shatter the Sky and don’t have an Anax, I would advise prioritizing playing Giant over a couple one drops, as it’s one of the few cards in the deck that lets you draw a card off Shatter.

bonecrusher-giant-art

2 Phoenix of AshThis card got left by the wayside a bit as Mono Red decks last season raised their curve enough that you rarely had spare mana lying around, and often didn’t have enough cards in your graveyard to return the Phoenix. That’s not an issue with Obosh Red; your graveyard is often stocked, and having another thing to pump extra mana into is great. In addition, you often get into a board stall where there’s very little progress to be made on the ground, but a Phoenix supplemented by Obosh is a light-speed clock.

4 ShockDespite Shock being pretty mediocre against Fires decks, I still like it as a four-of here. First of all, aggro decks, especially the mirror, are seeing a bit of a resurgence right now. Second, having as low a curve as possible is a real asset to a deck trying to get out of the gates as fast as possible. Third, something this deck is short on is reach, in the form of burn. Having access to 8 burn spells between Shock and Bonecrusher will win you a lot of games you would otherwise be out of. Fourth, Shock’s damage is doubled by Obosh so it scales into the late game much better than usual.

4 Light Up the StageAs the curve of the deck increased last season, I became a bigger and bigger fan of cutting Light up the Stage. With the Obosh list, I love it. You play a ton of one drops and lands, which are what you usually want to hit off of a Light Up, and you don’t have any awkward cards like Embercleave to hit and screw up your curve. If you have a turn already lined up that you’re happy with, save your Light Up for later. When deciding whether or not to keep a one lander with Light Up, I usually check for these two things:

  1. Is this hand REALLY good if it hits a land?
  2. Are the odds good that my turn one creature connects on turn two?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then I advise mulliganing.

4 Heraldic BannerThis may be the best card in the maindeck. It ramps you into Obosh, makes all of your cards into threats, and because you play so many one drops you can often go Banner -> creature on turn 3. It’s often correct to play Anax before playing Banner but, against Teferi decks, I like to lead on Banner to deal guaranteed damage before it gets bounced.

4 Castle EmberethVery low opportunity cost, and will randomly win you extended games. Every once in a while you have to mulligan a hand that’s all Castles, but for every one of those games there’s two that you win because of them.

Sideboard

2 Blazing VolleyA really solid blowout card for aggro mirrors, especially if you draw it with an Obosh in play. The best use for this card right now is clearing out Valiant Rescuer and his tokens, which can get really out of hand if it survives for a couple of turns. This is one of the highest leverage cards you can put in the sideboard for one mana. so even when it’s not positioned particularly well, it’s still usually worth a spot.

1 Claim the FirstbornClaim and Act of Treason are in the sideboard mainly because the removal spells available to the deck right now are really, really weak to anything with a toughness greater than two. Claim’s claim to fame (get it?) is stealing Uro and Kroxa, which have a CMC of three and two respectively, despite your opponents having to pay four to reanimate them. It’s also good at taking opposing Anaxes, Flourishing Foxes, and even Lurrus of the Dream Dens. As I said before, one mana is the real sweet spot for this deck, so this is a natural fit.

1 Grafdigger’s CageSacrifice decks are almost certainly the worst matchup for Obosh Red of the commonly played decks, and landing a Cage against them can do serious work. I don’t bring this card in to stop a single card or interaction, but rather when it shuts down a significant portion of the opponent’s deck. For example, I don’t bring this in to stop only Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, or Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but I will bring this in against Rakdos Sacrifice because it shuts down Kroxa, Cauldron Familiar, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and Woe Strider.

4 Redcap MeleeLike Blazing Volley, this is one of the highest-leverage sideboard cards you can play for one mana, and as a result is almost always worth having some copies of. Mono Red has seen a huge resurgence in the last week, so I wouldn’t leave home without four copies right now. Melee also teams up with a Blazing Volley to kill Obosh and all of your opponents one drops really cleanly (this has blown me out pretty bad a couple times).

2 Act of TreasonA more expensive, all-encompassing version of Claim the Firstborn, Act of Treason is better against cards like Yorion, Cavalier of Thorns, and Winota, Joiner of Forces.

3 Chandra, Acolyte of FlameA really great threat to get around spot removal/Shatter the Sky. If you’re ahead, this presses your advantage from a different axis, and puts your opponent in a really rough spot. If you’re behind or at parity, you can use this to flashback a Shock or a Light up the Stage to help catch up. Chandra is at her worst in matchups where you expect your opponents to be able to attack her down immediately but, if you board into enough removal spells, you should be able to effectively play a control game and keep her alive. 

1 Tibalt, Rakish InstigatorThis card is fine in a bunch of different matchups, but only really shines when your opponent is playing a bunch of small creatures that have a hard time getting through Tibalt tokens. Shutting down lifegain is a nice bonus, but you probably shouldn’t be bringing this in unless you’re excited about the tokens it makes in the matchup, or against something weird like Mono White Pridemates.

Sideboard Guide

This is the sideboard guide that Oh Joohyun posted along with their list, and it’s very similar to how I would board.

OpponentInOut
Rakdos Sacrifice
(Unfavorable)
+2 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+1 Grafdigger’s Cage
+1 Claim the Firstborn
+2 Blazing Volley
-4 Scorch Spitter
-2 Phoenix of Ash
-1 Tin Street Dodger
Jeskai Yorion
(Slightly Favorable)
+3 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+1 Redcap Melee
-4 Shock
-1 Bonecrusher Giant
Jeskai Winota
(Slightly Favorable)
+2 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+4 Redcap Melee
+1 Blazing Volley
-2 Grim Initiate
-2 Tin Street Dodger
-2 Phoenix of Ash
-1 Bonecrusher Giant
Bant Yorion Ramp
(Favorable)
+3 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+1 Claim the Firstborn
+1 Act of Treason 
-4 Shock
-2 Bonecrusher Giant
Temur Reclamation
(Slightly Favorable)
+3 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+1 Claim the Firstborn
+1 Act of Treason
-4 Shock
-2 Tin Street Dodger
Cycling Decks
(Slightly Favorable)
+2 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+1 Redcap Melee
+2 Blazing Volley
-2 Phoenix of Ash
-2 Tin Street Dodger
-1 Grim Initiate
-1 Heraldic Banner
Sultai Midrange
(Slightly Unfavorable)
+3 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+1 Claim the Firstborn
+1 Act of Treason
-4 Shock
-1 Phoenix of Ash
-1 Grim Initiate
Mirror+2 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
+1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
+2 Blazing Volley
+1 Claim the Firstborn
+4 Redcap Melee
-4 Scorch Spitter
-4 Tin Street Dodger
-2 Phoenix of Ash
markgabriele

markgabriele

A lover of both paper and digital magic, Mark recently reached the rank of #1 Mythic on the standard ladder, and has several top 8 finishes on the SCG Tour. He is on twitter @gabriele_mark

16 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    Thanks for the article. Could the 2nd copy of Act of Treason be something better or are there matchups where you bring it in?

  2. Sergio Rovoletto says:

    Do you like that same main deck for bo1?

  3. Slow MtG says:

    Thanks for the guide. Love it.

    I’ve found Obosh works a little different from typical Mono Red. Not having a top deck of cleave or Torbran to win you games out of nowhere means that the deck functions differently. Heraldic banner seems like a poor play on T3 but it’s actually really good. I’ve found that hands with the banner are better. Given the density of hasty 1 drops, the banner can still come down T3, pump the team and you still have mana to drop another 1 drop or shock something. The banner also turns multiples Fervent Champions into large first strikers! It also helps you get into T4 Obosh.

    Another neat trick around Yorion (and their flash in Omen to make 1/1s) is Tin Street Dodger. Unless they use Birth of Melitis to make 0/4 defender, you can activate and just swing in and not worry about trading. You can also kill off a 3Feri by making it unblockable as they often -3 to bounce something, leaving it open to kill on your turn.

  4. Tony Hodge says:

    Just a heads up, as of just a couple days ago Chandra still isn’t working properly with Spectacle in Arena so you will always be paying 3 for Light of the Stage.

  5. GalloCedrone GalloCedrone says:

    I was not a RDW player, so I was missing a couple of those pesky Fervent champion. I tossed a couple of Blisterspit Gremlin in. Not on the same power level, but a great spectacle enable that works well in case of board stall. Ping from the gremlin, shock, another ping from the gremlin are 8 damage for 3 mana, with Obosh in play, more than enough to close a few games were things were getting weird.

  6. Tavo says:

    Hi, do you think cutting the Phoenix is better than cutting Anax against cycling? In my experience you only really lose to boros cycling if they swarm the board with endless tokens, as otherwise I think we are fast enough to race fox before it gets trample. In that scenario, Anax will never get through while Phoenix turn 3,4 and 5 with Obosh is a lot of damage.

    • markgabriele markgabriele says:

      The reason for keeping Anax in is that it’s really the only card that can keep up with a Flourishing Fox in terms of size. However, it’s entirely possible that you just need to be planning to kill the Fox ASAP and not trying to plan for games in which it gets huge, in which case I believe you’re correct that Phoenix would be better.

  7. Phil says:

    There’s 2 act of treason in the sideboard, but none of the sideboarding requires 2 to be boarded in. Is this because the sideboard had room to spare or, more likely, am I missing something?

  8. Petros Apotsos says:

    Have you taken Weaponize the Monsters into consideration either main or sb? I have found it to be surprisingly good and resilient

  9. Андрей Глушко says:

    I wonder if Slaying Fire could play in this deck as occasional finisher?)

  10. Ritter says:

    How viable is a transformational board here? Boarding into full-on Cavalcade for games on the play, especially vs Cycling could make that a much easier match-up and could throw off some control players as well.

  11. Daniel Lim says:

    thank you! i made Mythic with your list. my final boss was BR sac and the grafdigger sub was gold

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