For Mythic Championship Cleveland, and before I joined the team to test, I tried a lot of different decks. One that caught my attention was a deck that Kenji Tsumura posted in our Facebook group. It packed 《Arclight Phoenix》, 《Electrostatic Field》 and a bunch of one-mana red spells, very similar to a Mono Red Sniper deck that I tried when Guilds of Ravnica came out.
No one on the team was on board, and considering I didn’t spend enough time on the deck, I dropped it, only to pick it up again when I started to play Standard again after Cleveland.
Here’s the list I came up with after a lot of tweeking:
3 《Blood Crypt》
3 《Dragonskull Summit》
-Land (19)- 4 《Electrostatic Field》
4 《Runaway Steam-Kin》
3 《Rix Maadi Reveler》
4 《Arclight Phoenix》
3 《Crash Through》
3 《Warlord's Fury》
2 《Tormenting Voice》
4 《Light Up the Stage》
4 《Skewer the Critics》
3 《Risk Factor》
3 《Carnival // Carnage》
The deck attacks your opponent on different angles:
Plan A – 4 《Runaway Steam-Kin》 // 4 《Electrostatic Field》
These two-drops go hand-in-hand. One generates mana while the other shoots your opponent for every Instant or Sorcery you cast. If left unchecked, they can close games in a matter of one or two turns, and that’s how you’re going to win games against non-interactive matchups such as White Weenie and Simic (Blue-Green) Reclamation.
Each card is great on its own. The power of the 《Steam-Kin》 is no longer to be proven as it’s a powerhouse in the most common version of Mono Red Aggro in Standard.
《Electrostatic Field》 has seen a lot less play though. Its 4-toughness body will protect it from 《Lightning Strike》 and you from a lot of potential attackers. It will be up to you to know when to block or not and risk to lose your 0/4 to a 《Shock》 for example. It’s probably the most game-deciding decisions you’ll make in most aggro matchups: sometimes you block a 3/3 and it dies to a 《Goblin Chainwhirler》, sometimes you take 3 and lose the race or enable your opponent’s Spectacle spells. Blocking or not will depend on what you can do with your hand, if you can win without the 0/4 or not.
《Field》 deals a lot of damage; actually, most of the damage you’re going to deal in a game. Its most useful upside is to enable your Spectacle spells – 《Light Up the Stage》 and 《Skewer the Critics》 – for just one red mana, thanks to either 《Crash Through》 or 《Warlord's Fury》. It’s extremely relevant when it comes to bringing your 《Arclight Phoenix》 back from the graveyard.
《Risk Factor》 has an even bigger impact on the game with 《Electrostatic Field》 is on the battlefield. The choice becomes even harder for your opponent as they know they will take even more damage if they decide to let you draw. So, it usually ends up dealing 10 damage instead of 8.
Plan B – 4 《Arclight Phoenix》
《Arclight Phoenix》 is the other recurring way of dealing damage. It kinda disappeared from Standard in Blue Red builds, but I expect it to be back real soon. In this deck, it’s quite simple to dump it in your graveyard and to bring it back.
Discard Outlets and Other Cantrips
I had been playing 4 《Tormenting Voice》 for a while, and kinda overlooked 《Rix Maadi Reveler》. I thought I needed more Sorceries than I actually had. So I tried them out, and while I don’t want to have too many of them, it feels like 3 《Reveler》 and 2 《Tormenting Voice》 is the right mix. The upside of the creature is that you can draw a card if you’re empty-handed or draw three cards when you enabled Spectacle, which is very relevant in grindy games.
《Risk Factor》 is the other way to discard a 《Phoenix》. When you cast 《Risk Factor》 with Jump-start, you’re already a spell closer to bring it back. If you have a 《Steam-Kin》 out, it’s easy to do everything in one turn: hardcast 《Risk Factor》, Jump-start 《Risk Factor》 discarding a 《Phoenix》, cast any one-mana spell, attack with 《Phoenix》. That’s usually a winning combination.
Are there enough discard outlets to take advantage of the fiery bird? I’ve never had a problem with it being stuck in my hand. The fact that you can so easily cast if from your hand makes this a non-problem.
The other spells play the role of support cast. The six cantrips (3 《Warlord's Fury》 and 3 《Crash Through》) help smoother your land light draws while fueling both 1R creatures and help with the 《Phoenix》.
《Light Up the Stage》 is an auto-include as it fills the role of any other cheap spell (to trigger your creatures) and give you access to more spells to play.
Removal // Burn Spells
《Carnival // Carnage》 is one of the cards that wasn’t in Kenji’s original build and that makes a lot of difference. The deck needs more ways to deal with a turn-1 《Llanowar Elves》 / 《Pteramander》 / 《Siren Stormtamer》 (and all the pesky one-drops). The split card solves this problem. The deck also needs cheap ways to enable Spectacle. The 《Carnage》 side of the card comes up very handy to either close games or attack a Simic Reclamation player’s hand.
《Shock》 and 《Skewer the Critics》 are obvious inclusions as they are the most efficient spells for their cost in Red. They help clear the way for your creatures to attack while giving you enough burning power to close games quickly with 《Electrostatic Field》.
19 lands is the correct number for this deck. You want at least two lands to start chaining your spells, but you don’t want to be flooded either. 《Tormenting Voice》, 《Rix Maadi Reveler》 and 《Risk Factor》 get rid of your extra lands, and the cantrips help you find the lands you’re missing.
You don’t need too many black sources. 《Blood Crypt》 and 《Dragonskull Summit》 hurt in their own way. If you want you can switch one 《Crypt》 for the 4th 《Summit》, although a double-《Summit》 draw is a disaster. The two-life loss from a 《Blood Crypt》 can be critical in aggressive matchups where you need to manage your life total carefully.
I can say with confidence, that I don’t mind playing any matchup with this deck.
Before I found the right way to sideboard against Esper, this was my least favorable matchup. They can kill your early drops, exile your 《Phoenix》es with 《Vraska's Contempt》 and gain life with 《Absorb》. You are behind in game one. Game two changes when you board in hand disruption and 《Theater of Horrors》.
《Experimental Frenzy》 was in the list for a bit but it just doesn’t do what you want it to do. You don’t have as many cheap threats as Mono Red Aggro, 《Risk Factor》 becomes bad and so do your cantrips. 《Theater of Horrors》 though, does get you a card advantage engine in addition to being a source of direct damage.
In this matchup, you want another source of Black mana as well as a 20th land. 《Theater of Horrors》 requires a lot of mana to be efficient, and you don’t even mind drawing too many of them as you can sink your mana into the pinging machine. They can deal with the enchantment with counterspells and 《Mortify》, but that’s why you have four of them and 《Duress》 to back them up. You don’t need your black mana right away and games usually go very long so you’ll usually find it in time. You have the option to play more black sources in the main, but the downside of playing too many 《Blood Crypt》 / 《Dragonskull Summit》 outweighs the upside of having an extra source of black after board.
In matchups where your opponent is going to board a lot of creature removal (《Cast Down》, 《Moment of Craving》, 《Kaya's Wrath》, 《Cry of the Carnarium》…), you don’t want to give soft target. 《Runaway Steam-Kin》 rarely does anything and is better off in the board.
This matchup depends a lot on who’s playing first and if you have ways to deal with their first threats. They don’t have a way to deal with your 《Steam-Kin》s so you can go wild with them. You’ll often be able to outpower them.
Sultai plays a long game against you, giving you a lot of time to setup a direct damage kill. Their haymakers usually arrive too late.
On the play, 《Theater of Horrors》 is a good option to outdraw them as they only have 《Vivien Reid》 to destroy it, but unlike 《Experimental Frenzy》, it’s online a turn earlier (given that you draw your source of black mana). If you’ve seen a 《Thrashing Brontodon》 in Game 1, don’t board them in.
On the draw, Theater might be a little slow so you might want to stick to the 《Risk Factor》 plan.
Mono Red Aggro
Replace four pretty useless cards for much better cards.
White Weenie hates mass removal. Good thing that you have six of them in the board. Game one is also fine since you have a lot of cards they can’t really deal with. I found that the only way White Weenie beats you is with a high number of 《Baffling End》 and 《Conclave Tribunal》 for your early drops. Game two is mostly about you killing all their threats and the only card you really have to play around it 《Unbreakable Formation》.
Since you’re adding a lot of three-drops, the extra land is required to help you cast them, so you don’t die with 《Goblin Chainwhirler》s in hand.
Game one will be a race. The edge you have is that their 《Root Snare》 won’t stop your direct damage. The matchup improves after sideboard thanks to your hand disruption.
Sideboarding with this deck isn’t too complicated and with what I gave you, you should be able to adapt your strategy against pretty much anything. Just ask yourself which game you want to play, which spell is going to be relevant (《Risk Factor》 or 《Theater of Horrors》? 《Runaway Steam-Kin》 or 《Goblin Chainwhirler》?…), if you need a 20th land for your sideboard cards…
If I had to play the Pro Tour again, I’d definitely play that deck. Man, I even wished there was a Standard tournament I could play it in now… I’ve started streaming on Twitch again and have been running this deck in the last few days. By the time this article is Online I’ll probably have reached Platinum in Constructed. So if you want to watch this deck in action, I invite you to check the replays. Here’s the link to my channel:
- Raphael Levy: Twitch Channel
It’s mostly in French, but no need to speak the language of love to understand what’s going on. If English speakers are in majority in the chat, or if you have any question, I’ll switch to English, so don’t hesitate to follow me there and ask away whatever you want.
Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @raphlevymtg for updates on the deck and on my streams.
Thanks for reading,