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Four Levels of Mono-Red: 1000 Dollars


I learned something this week, as I built this deck. I learned it is really, really hard to build a Mono-Red deck for $1000! You could choose to run really expensive cards just for the heck of it, but then you'll just have a pile of really expensive artifacts (mostly) that won't really work together. That didn't seem worth it.

I did get past the $500 mark, so that's something. With 144 cards in the deck (before it was trimmed to size), it was $750 or so, but a good thing to remember is: if you want to build a deck on the (relative) cheap, Mono-Red is your friend!

I feel like you can't do a whole series on Mono-Red without building a Dragon deck. They're Red's iconic tribe, they are big and naturally have evasion, plus they have all sorts of wonderful enters-the-battlefield effects. Red does a pretty good job of getting mana, too, so it shouldn't be too hard to have the mana we need to cast those flying monsters. As I looked through the options of Red-only Dragons which could lead such a deck, one specifically jumped out at me.

Lathliss, Dragon Queen

Why? Sheer power. 5/5 Flying tokens are great. Being able to pump them is better. And when we add in all the ways we can make our Dragons even more effective, we end up with a pretty powerful deck. At the very least, it should be fun to play.

We are mana-hungry here, so we definitely want our full 40 lands. One of the nice things about the new double-faced lands is we can run a spell which we assume will be a land much of the time but sometimes will be a spell. We get Valakut Awakening and Shatterskull Smashing as B-sides to a couple of lands that tap for Red.

We also run a combination of mana cost reduction and artifact mana acceleration. Dragonspeaker Shaman and Dragonlord's Servant are both excellent if they stick around, but in a battle where Dragons are normal soldiers, little guys like that are unlikely to be very long for this world. So, we also get Urza's Incubator and Herald's Horn to help us out. We also have the traditional Sol Ring and Arcane Signet, as well as Dragon's Hoard and Cursed Mirror, both of which are wonderful for us. Caged Sun tops us off as a mana doubler; if that can stick for a turn or two, it can end a game.

To keep Dragons flowing into our hand, we have a few of the "discard a card and draw two"-type spells. Those are fine, and can be an excellent use of excess lands later in the game. Knollspine Dragon allows us to have our own little Wheel of Fortune, discarding our hand and drawing equal to the amount of damage done to an opponent this turn. We should be able to turn that into a bunch of cards. Vanquisher's Banner draws us one every time we cast a Dragon, too.

We win with a bunch of Dragons. They all do different things. We ramp to five or six mana and start casting the big guys, then swinging for the fences with them and the tokens that come along for the ride. While we're at it, we throw some damage around (Drakuseth, Maw of Flames), make more Dragons (Utvara Hellkite), and occasionally get to take an extra combat step (Scourge of the Throne).

We're running Blasphemous Act and Hour of Devastation as well as Magmaquake to keep the board clear; often, those spells will wipe the board of everything but our Dragons, so that's good. Spit Flame is repeatable so it sticks around. Warstorm Surge, of course, is great in any deck planning on dropping a bunch of big creatures. Dragon Tempest kills stuff, too, plus it gives our Dragons Haste, while Sarkhan's Unsealing is most often a kill spell but occasionally a mini-wrath effect. We're also running Bolt Bend as a way to surprise an opponent.

Crucible of Fire is where most Dragon decks start, and with good reason. Add to that all our other anthem effects, like Ferocity of the Wilds, Door of Destinies, and Icon of Ancestry and we wind up with some pretty powerful Dragons. We're running Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle because we've got enough Mountains to do so. We've got Sword of Feast and Famine to go with Hellkite Charger, so if we get lucky and have both of those on the battlefield we can go infinite with our combat phases. Panharmonicon is always worth having when there are a bunch of ETB effects; it works great with Lathliss (two Dragons!) but also works wonders with Scourge of Valkas.

Mono-Red Dragons | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

We came in at $591.12, well below our $1000 budget. There's just no reason at all to spend $1000 on a Dragon deck, at least not in Mono-Red. On the other hand, many of the key cards (Crucible of Fire) aren't overly expensive, and Dragons are often the kind of thing you wind up with a bunch of following some drafting, so it's possible many of the pieces are already kicking around your collection. If so, something like this can be a fun, kitchen-table-style deck for a casual game.

How would you build Dragons? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

It's worth pointing out a lot of great Dragons didn't make it in to the final deck. We went for a balance of ramp, card draw, removal, and power here, so some of the fun Dragons had to go. However, this is a great example of a "run-what-you-have" style deck; if you've got a different pile of Dragons, it shouldn't make too much difference. Just make sure you have some ways to deal with opposing problems and don't cut any mana sources. The last thing you want is to get stuck on mana with a grip full of tasty flying monsters.

Thanks for reading.

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