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Cooling Off the Red Menace


The Pro Tour has come and gone and it seems to have been dominated by the new Mono-Red, Ramunap Red. Mono-Black zombies was a close second to Ramunap Red. Basically aggressive decks took Pro Tour Hour of Devastation by storm and put six Mono-Red decks into the top eight. The other two being bg Constrictor and Mono-Black Zombies. It’s not unusual for aggressive decks to do well early on in any new format, but having eight out of eight decks in the Top 8 all be aggressive was a bit disheartening for me. Hyper aggressive decks tend to stifle new non-aggressive decks from emerging in the beginning of a new metagame. However, Mono-Red is very linear and can easily be attacked if you build your deck accordingly. Today I am going to go over variety of decks that have popped up since Mono-Red. All of them have done well and have put up reliable results against the aggressive strategies. It’s time to tell Mono-Red to . . . 


The first two lists I want to talk about are decks that went 5-0 in a MTGO Competitive League. I don’t know if you’ve played in one recently or not but they are currently filled with Mono-Red decks. These are the decks that stood out. First:

Bounty of the Luxa
This deck is sweet! The Green splash is just for Bounty of the Luxa so that you can keep refueling and wiping the battlefield clear of creatures and other threats. Supreme Will, Censor, two Disallows, and a single Essence Scatter are the counterspells Seth decided to run, thus making this deck essentially a tap out control deck. Supreme Will can just be used as an Impulse so you can dig and find whatever you’re looking for. Everything else is either a removal spell, a board wipe, or ways to refill your hand. In fact, you are going to be winning most of your games via Approach of the Second Sun. Outside of Approach, you have just a few creatures that can do damage and close out games, most notably Lumbering Falls.

The Sideboard is full of creatures that gain life for the aggressive matchups insuring you win the life total race. Angel of Sanctions will do tons of work after the first game since your opponents should be boarding out a lot of their removal, especially since they only see Thraben Inspector Game 1. Against the control matchups, there isn’t a better way to resolve your Approach of the Second Sun than Sphinx of the Final Word.

I really like this deck, especially since it can transform into a lifegain control deck after Game 1 if it needs to. If you like to durdle, gain life, and/or win through Approach of the Second Sun then this deck is for you.

The next deck I want to talk about is another one that went 5-0 in a competitive MTGO League. You guys remember the card Ever After? Well, OmgRicco does!

Ever After
Fill up your graveyard with creatures via Strategic Planning, Champion of Wits, Oath of Jace, or even Liliana, Death's Majesty just to re-buy them with Liliana, Ever After, or The Scarab God. My dream is to wipe the battlefield clean with Yahenni's Expertise and then cast an Oath of Jace off Yahenni's Expertise. That’s my happy place. The deck has a creature for almost every situation. Need to kill one big creature? Noxious Gearhulk and Angel of Deliverance are here for you. What about a lot of small creatures? Then you got Demon of Dark Schemes. Need to refuel? You can Eternalize Champion of Wits, bring back Greenwarden of Murasa, or reanimate all the things with The Scarab God.

Razaketh, the Foulblooded is an interesting inclusion but seems sweet with Ishkanah, Grafwidow allowing you to Demonic Tutor for whatever your heart desires! It’s also a great answer to Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh since Nicol Bolas can’t kill it with his seven-damage ability. Heck, you can even kill your own Razaketh with Noxious Gearhulk if you need to regain some of that life you’ve lost by Demonic Tutoring.

The Sideboard was fourteen cards. Either Ricco was in a hurry or maybe Magic Online had a tough time registering a split card. Either way, that shouldn’t matter too much, especially since the main deck is such a beauty! Want to Reanimate fatties? This is your jam!

The last couple of decks I want to talk about are all from the Magic Online PTQ. We got some great deck lists from that event. Also keep in mind a Top 32 finish is still something like 6-2 in the tournament so all these lists have potential and are great starting places if nothing else.

First up, let’s look at the highest finishing ramp list piloted by Todd Anderson.

Todd had the highest finish of any Ramp decks in the PTQ. Some of his numbers were odd but the entirety of the deck and its foundation were solid. The biggest thing Todd did was not run any deserts. This meant that his Hour of Promise could never make zombie tokens but it also meant that he would never take damage from his lands. This must be a nod to aggressive decks and wanting to preserve his life total. Thanks to Hour of Promise and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Hedron Archive is now not needed. It doesn’t help with the land count for Shrine of the Forsaken Gods and is just a liability when you have Abrade running around in every Red deck. Instead Todd ran the full playset of Natural Connection and Beneath the Sands. Never did I expect we’d see the day where 3-mana Rampant Growth was not only playable in Standard, but we played eight copies of it.

I really like main deck, Jaddi Offshoot is great right now. The full playset of Chandra's Defeat for Ramunap Red in the Sideboard I approve of as well. The online PTQ was full of aggressive decks, and this ramp deck climbed to the top.

Another list I want to look at is wb Tokens.

Hyphon Barely missed Top 8 getting a salty sad finish of ninth. It’s a shame because his deck looks awesome! Anointer Priest, Fumigate, Vampiric Rites, and Sunscourge Champion do a fantastic job at gaining you incremental life while sticking to the game plan of making an army of tokens to bury your opponent. If you ever get to flip a Westvale Abbey, it’s lights out. Vampiric Rites is a new one but the first copy is always fine to amazing. I really like a singleton copy of the card. Start // Finish, Westvale, and Vampiric Rites are great cards to abuse your army of 1/1 tokens. I’m not typically a fan of the token strategy but I really like this one because it just grinds so well. If Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger isn’t too popular, this is another deck that seems like a solid choice.

We’ve all seen ur Control at the top tables, but what about ub Control? Well, Huanchengjin has got a sweet list for the ub lovers out there. Feast your eyes on this.

The Scarab God
The deck has the traditional Torrential Gearhulk package, just like ur control. Some countermagic, some removal, and of course, Glimmer of Genius. However, unlike ur Control, you can’t really run this deck out of threats. Against ur Control if you can answer all their Torrential Gearhulks you’ll grind them out of threats. Well, try grinding out The Scarab God. Not only is The Scarab God extremely difficult to remove from the battlefield but it will also generate a ton of value for you, even if it’s just recurring your own Torrential Gearhulks. Stealing your opponent’s Earthshaker Khenra or Champion of Wits before they can Eternalize them themselves is not only a sweet play, but also a game changing one. Ulamog is pretty tough for Ramp decks to beat, but with this list you can counter the Ulamog and then Eternalize it later with The Scarab God and exile your opponent’s library in just a couple of attacks.

I really like the full playset of Gifted Aetherborn in the Sideboard alongside Fathom Feeder. Fathom Feeder is an underplayed card in general and I’m glad it’s seeing some love, even if it’s just a singleton in the Sideboard. If you like control and want to try something different than ur, what are you waiting for? The Scarab God is calling chittering.

All right. The last deck I want to talk about is Yamakillers Mono-White deck. This deck was built by someone that was sick and tired of losing to Mono-Red. Let’s have a gander!

Crested Sunmare
Almost every single creature in this deck has Lifelink. The ones that don’t generate value in tokens or by making horses. Crested Sunmare is a card that is harder to turn on than Wingmate Roc but the payoff is huge here, especially if you can keep gaining life turn after turn. Crested Sunmare putting out 10 power and toughness on turn five is disgusting and can very easily end the game. While Crested Sunmare is powerful in this deck, the deck is not relying on it at all to win. Glory-Bound Initiate into Always Watching is not only great against Mono-Red but any deck. A ten-point life swing on turn three? Sign me up!

Lone Rider is one I haven’t seen before. Two mana for a 1/1 is bad but you can flip Lone Rider easily. You not only have a bunch of lifelink creatures but a single crew and attack of Aethersphere Harvester will transform this human knight into It That Rides as One. A 4/4 First Strike, Trample, and Lifelink for two mana? Now that I can get behind. Also, how sweet is that name? It That Rides as One. We haven’t had a name that cool since It that Betrays. I wonder if they’re long lost cousins . . . 

If you’ve been playing wu Oketra's Monument, you should give this deck a whirl. It might not have the same resilience as Oketra's Monument but with Abrade floating around everywhere right now, Oketra's Monument isn’t the place you want to be. That could change if the metagame shapes out differently.

All these lists should show you that we can easily adapt to Mono-Red if it is the best deck. It’s much easier to tune your deck against a linear strategy then a robust one, and Mono-Red is super linear. The Pro Tour wasn’t that long ago and we are already seeing new decks pop up and old decks just changing their main deck to adapt to Mono-Red.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see how this Standard format shapes up. I hope you’ve found at least one deck you like in this article. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with some more sweet deck lists.

As always.

Thanks for reading,

Ali Aintrazi

@AliEldrazi on Twitter

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