Commander Legends available now!
   Sign In
Create Account

Burninating the Color Challenge


The Color Challenge is my attempt to make good Standard, Historic, and Brawl decks for best-of-one MTG Arena in every combination of colors. This week's Color Challenge is Mono-Red.

MTG Arena entered public beta in the Spring of 2018, and there was always a very strong and very popular Mono-Red deck. It started with Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Bomat Courier. It ended with Goblin Chainwhirler's rotation and the introduction of Oko, Thief of Crowns.

Oko, Thief of Crowns

[+2]: Gain three life per turn? For three mana? With six loyalty the turn it enters the battlefield? What is a Red mage to do? It seems fitting that I must complete the Mono-Red Color Challenge at a time when the Red deck is at a low point in its MTG Arena existence. I have never been much of a Red mage. I am more of the Counterspell type. Regardless, the show must go on!

Deck #1

This deck does a great job of melting your face. Stomp, Shock, Slaying Fire, and Skewer the Critics all start with the letter S, and they all can be pointed at any target. In a different world, where Food tokens weren't sitting on every battlefield, this deck may have been a serious contender. If your opponent dares play a color that is not Green, you are probably favored instantaneously.

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is amazing. Flame of Keld was a legitimate burn deck card, and someone at Wizards of the Coast took chapter three of the saga and stapled it on a 2/4 legendary body. This dwarf noble helps the deck burn through the leftover Food, and he is crucial to the strategy. If you can play him in such a way as to avoid a Wicked Wolf or other removal spell, do it. Be very wary of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell getting hit by Aether Gust or Petty Theft with your burn spell on the stack or your creatures committed to combat. It is a savage blowout if you were counting on that damage boost.

Experimental Frenzy

Spoiler alert; none of my decks have Experimental Frenzy. It feels weird because this card won so many games before Throne of Eldraine was released. Back then, Red was the fastest color so the opponent was always on the back foot. Once you had them on the run, Experimental Frenzy kept them on the run while burying them in card advantage. Now Green is on top and the format is all about tempo. If a Red deck spends four mana but doesn't win the game that turn or the next turn, it will almost certainly die. There is no long game in Standard right now unless it involves Oko, Thief of Crowns, Hydroid Krasis, and a lot of Elks and Food. Experimental Frenzy doesn't shine in that environment.

Mono-Red Burn is completely playable, and it is actually pretty fun. It won't be favored against Green decks in this Standard format, but I feel like the deck is favored against everything else.

Deck #2

Cavalcade of Calamity decks have been popping up here and there since the card was printed in Ravnica Allegiance. At first I considered the deck a bad meme, and treated it as such. Core Set 2020 brought Chandra, Acolyte of Flame and Chandra's Spitfire, and the deck got more interesting. Combining these cards made for massive amounts of damage. With the printing of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, the massive amounts of damage have reached ludicrous levels.

Chandra's Spitfire
Chandra, Acolyte of Flame

Cavalcade of Calamity decks have a lot of options currently. Chandra's Spitfire is one of the less resilient ones. I often find I would rather cast more one power creatures for one and two mana than cast a three mana creature and have it get bounced by Teferi, Time Raveler or Elk'd by Oko, Thief of Crowns. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame doesn't have that vulnerability. As a planeswalker she can sit on the battlefield turn after turn and crank out Elemental tokens that trigger Cavalcade of Calamity. Legion Warboss and Tibalt, Rakish Instigator occupy the same spot in the curve. Each card has a situation where it could be better than the others, so I keep them in the singleton camp.

Cavalcade of Calamity

Cavalcade's biggest conundrum is that it is a combo deck without card selection. Light Up the Stage is nice, but if you have zero copies of Cavalcade of Calamity in your top fifteen cards the deck has to fall back on a very mediocre beatdown plan featuring a lot of 1 mana 1/1's. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Castle Embereth do their best to help out, and you can steal some games on the play, but you can't beat a decent deck on a decent draw without Cavalcade of Calamity. When you draw a copy or two of the enchantment, the deck can put out so much damage that Food tokens won't save the opponent. The massive upside of Cavalcade of Calamity makes it the most explosive deck in the format, but your stomach has to be able to handle the inconsistency.

Deck #3

Another spoiler alert: I went 7-0 with this Chandra Tribal list. The best-of-one Standard Event on MTG Arena is a weird pocket of the metagame where people play all kinds of decks and many different skill levels collide. I really enjoy it because weird builds can be successful. This Chandra Tribal list is a perfect example of this. I tested the deck a lot on ladder, and got very mixed results, but I learned a lot about what to play and what not to play.

Chandra's Embercat
Chandra's Regulator

Chandra's Embercat and Chandra's Regulator are your best cards. There, I said it! In a deck full of planeswalkers the artifact and the cat are what is important. You need mana to play and defend your Chandras and Chandra's Embercat does the job. You also need to close the game. Chandra's Regulator isn't an important card because of the rummage ability. What makes the legendary artifact indispensable is the ability to copy a Chandra planeswalker's loyalty ability. When you have a Chandra's Regulator, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, and Chandra, Novice Pyromancer you can attack for twenty with haste! Make two elementals, copy it, give Elementals +2/+0, copy it. Swing for twenty. It is as fun as it sounds.

Sarkhan the Masterless

Once you embrace the fact that the cat and the artifact are the key cards in the deck, you can start to cut the cards that aren't good with them. Sarkhan the Masterless is awesome with a bunch of planeswalkers, but in this deck you should be winning anyway if you have a lot of planeswalkers on the battlefield. Sarkhan the Masterless can't be cast with Chandra's Embercat and his abilities cannot be copied with Chandra's Regulator. Sure, his [+1] is awesome and it might win you some games, but he also adds inconsistency to the deck.

Interplanar Beacon
Mobilized District

I get asked about Interplanar Beacon a lot. Free life gain, how could you pass on that? I believe the deck has room for four colorless lands, and Mobilized District is the best colorless land. Even in multiples, this card shines with all the legendary planeswalkers in the deck. Chandra Tribal usually plays like a big red control deck, but it can also play like a combo deck and a beatdown deck, and there are a lot of matchups where you need to close the game. Apart from a Chandra, Fire Artisan that sticks on the board, Chandra Tribal doesn't have many sources of card advantage. Mobilized District and keep pressure on the opponent and defend your planeswalkers when you are flooding. I'll take a 3/3 vigilant creature over a few points of life in a majority of situations.

Lava Coil
Chandra's Triumph

You have to protect your Chandras. Chandra's Triumph is a no-brainer, and a common play pattern that flips the board is playing Chandra, Novice Pyromancer and using the [-1] ability to cast Chandra's Triumph to kill a large threat or opposing planeswalker. Lava Coil is required because of Questing Beast. That card will single-handedly wreck your gameplan, and you should play around it if you can. Stomp and Shock keep the little critters away.

Here is how I would rank the Red decks after the Color Challenge, but honestly I would change the order of this list a lot based on the expected meta and personal playstyle:

  1. Cavalcade of Calamity - In the current format, Red has to go big or go home, and this suedo-combo aggro deck goes the biggest. Be ready to derank if you don't draw the namesake card.
  2. Chandra Tribal - The deck is underrated, and it has more to it than people realize. Try the list out.
  3. Burn - It is the wrong time for this deck, but check out the Nov. 18th ban announcement before you delete the deck.

Next week we dive into friendly color pairs with Dimir (Blue/Black). I predict a few thoughts will be erased in the making of this series.

Limited time 35% buy trade in bonus buylist