Burning Through the Standard Metagame

Brandon Ayers

Brandon Ayers

Introduction

With Standard interest being at an all-time high everyone is looking to practice and finalize their decklists for upcoming events in the form of MagicFests, Star City events and MCQs. I want to talk about one of the best-positioned decks in Standard, Mono Red Aggro.

Goblin ChainwhirlerHero of Precinct OneSarkhan the Masterless
Teferi, Time RavelerCommand the Dreadhorde

The Standard format appears to be diverse and rapidly evolving. In the first few weeks of post War of the Spark Standard, we have seen both Mono Red Aggro and Esper strategies dominate the metagame. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen the metagame shift in favor of strong midrange strategies in the form of Jeskai Planeswalkers and Esper Planeswalkers, 4C 《Command the Dreadhorde》 decks.

Basilica Bell-HauntThorn LieutenantGruul SpellbreakerRekindling Phoenix

This week many of the top performing decks played cards that are strong against Mono Red Aggro. Ben Friedman won MagicFest Kansas City with a deck featuring four 《Basilica Bell-Haunt》. Gruul Midrange finished second place which is somewhat expected in a Mono Red Aggro heavy metagame. The cards like 《Thorn Lieutenant》, 《Gruul Spellbreaker》, and 《Rekindling Phoenix》 can be very strong against Mono Red Aggro preboard.

Due to midrange decks prepared for Mono Red Aggro dominating MagicFest Kansas City and MCQs, I expect the metagame to slowly shift towards more controlling Esper and Jeskai Planeswalker variants. If this occurs, I think Mono Red Aggro will be the best-positioned deck in Standard for the following weeks.

Mono Red Aggro

Now that I’ve briefly discussed the state of Standard, and why I feel Mono Red Aggro is the best deck to play in the upcoming weeks, let’s get to the best part, the decklist, and sideboard guide.

This list is very Standard. The only noticeable change is the 4th 《Experimental Frenzy》. 《Experimental Frenzy》 is the strongest card in the mirror match. Given reds popularity, I think the last 《Experimental Frenzy》 barely edges out the second 《Chandra, Fire Artisan》 in the main deck.

Sideboarding Guide

Mono Red Aggro

Ghitu LavarunnerGoblin ChainwhirlerExperimental Frenzy

vs. Mono Red Aggro “On the Play”

Out

Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand
Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer
Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning

In

Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil
Legion Warboss Legion Warboss Legion Warboss Chandra, Fire Artisan
Dire Fleet Daredevil Dire Fleet Daredevil

vs. Mono Red Aggro “On the Draw”

Out

Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer
Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand
Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning
Chandra, Fire Artisan

In

Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil
Legion Warboss Legion Warboss Legion Warboss
Dire Fleet Daredevil Dire Fleet Daredevil
Rekindling Phoenix Rekindling Phoenix

My sideboard plan on the play is very conventional. This match often involves trading off resources until someone plays 《Experimental Frenzy》. There are games that can end quickly with multiple 《Ghitu Lavarunner》 followed by a well-timed 《Legion Warboss》 or 《Goblin Chainwhirler》, but this rarely occurs.

Fanatical FirebrandRekindling Phoenix

The biggest difference in my boarding strategy is when we are on the draw. I keep one 《Fanatical Firebrand》 just to answer a turn two 《Runaway Steam-Kin》, I also prefer 《Rekindling Phoenix》 over 《Chandra, Fire Artisan》.

《Rekindling Phoenix》 is often unexpected, so players tend to use 《Lava Coil》 aggressively. 《Rekindling Phoenix》 is better than 《Chandra, Fire Artisan》 as a response to 《Experimental Frenzy》 because the 《Rekindling Phoenix》 is harder to answer when 《Lava Coil》/《Dire Fleet Daredevil》 must come off the top of the deck.

Jeskai Super Friends

Teferi, Time RavelerNarset, Parter of VeilsSarkhan the Masterless

vs. Jeskai Super Friends “On the Play”

Out

Shock Shock Shock Shock

In

Legion Warboss Legion Warboss Legion Warboss
Chandra, Fire Artisan

vs. Jeskai Super Friends “On the Draw”

Out

Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning
Shock Shock
Fanatical Firebrand

In

Legion Warboss Legion Warboss Legion Warboss
Lava Coil Lava Coil
Chandra, Fire Artisan
Interplanar BeaconDeafening Clarion

From my experiences, Mono Red Aggro is a slight favorite in this matchup. The results can vary drastically depending on the number of 《Interplanar Beacon》 drawn from Jeskai. The incremental life gain makes it hard for this deck to pressure Jeskai’s life total post 《Deafening Clarion》.

Lava Coil

On the draw, my sideboarding strategy features x2 《Lava Coil》. It’s easy to fall behind to 《Sarkhan the Masterless》 when Mono Red Aggro is on the draw. 《Lava Coil》 can also team up with 《Shock》, 《Goblin Chainwhirler》, 《Lightning Strike》, and 《Fanatical Firebrand》 to take down 《Lyra Dawnbringer》.

Esper Control

Thought ErasureKaya's WrathTeferi, Hero of Dominaria

vs. Esper Control

Out

Shock Shock Shock Shock
Lightning Strike Lightning Strike Lightning Strike
Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning
Goblin Chainwhirler

In

Rekindling Phoenix Rekindling Phoenix Dire Fleet Daredevil Dire Fleet Daredevil
Legion Warboss Legion Warboss Legion Warboss
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Chandra, Fire Artisan

This is one of the few matchups where your sideboarding options don’t vary much from having the play or draw. I think Esper Control is favored preboard. Once we get to trade out our abysmal burn spells, for efficient threats, the Esper Control matchup improves drastically.

Lyra DawnbringerThief of SanityHostage Taker

I’m more inclined to keep 3-4 《Lightning Strike》 if we expect 《Lyra Dawnbringer》, 《Thief of Sanity》, and/or 《Hostage Taker》.

Esper Midrange

Hero of Precinct OneBasilica Bell-HauntTeferi, Time Raveler

vs. Esper Midrange

Out

Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand
Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning Wizard's Lightning
Lightning Strike Lightning Strike
Shock

In

Rekindling Phoenix Rekindling Phoenix Dire Fleet Daredevil Dire Fleet Daredevil
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Lava Coil Lava Coil
Chandra, Fire Artisan

I really like 《Lava Coil》 in this matchup. 《Basilica Bell-Haunt》 has seen a sudden increase in popularity. 《Lava Coil》 also answers 《Seraph of the Scales》 and even 《Lyra Dawnbringer》 when combined with any other damage spells.

Esper Midrange is one of my least favorite decks to play against because there is a huge card pool to build from. If Esper Midrange wants a good matchup against Mono Red Aggro, they can easily achieve that.

4C 《Command the Dreadhorde》

Wildgrowth WalkerTamiyo, Collector of TalesCommand the Dreadhorde

vs. 4C 《Command the Dreadhorde》

Out

Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand
Shock Shock Shock Shock
Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer

In

Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Tibalt, Rakish Instigator Chandra, Fire Artisan
Rekindling Phoenix Rekindling Phoenix

This is one of the few matchups where I would like 4 《Tibalt, Rakish Instigator》. It’s important to always answer 《Wildgrowth Walker》 while also exerting pressure on the 《Command the Dreadhorde》 player’s life total. This is currently one of the hallmark matchups in Standard.

Both Mono Red Aggro and 4C 《Command the Dreadhorde》 are being played very frequently. It’s worth noting that the other two 《Viashino Pyromancer》 can be cut when you’re on the play for 《Legion Warboss》. Overall, I like this matchup and I don’t mind playing against 《Command the Dreadhorde》 strategies.

Gruul Midrange

Llanowar ElvesGruul SpellbreakerSkarrgan Hellkite

vs. Gruul Midrange

Out

Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand Fanatical Firebrand
Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer
Wizard's Lightning

In

Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil
Rekindling Phoenix Rekindling Phoenix Dire Fleet Daredevil Dire Fleet Daredevil
Chandra, Fire Artisan

Gruul Midrange has been making quite the comeback as of late. It’s known to be weak vs Esper Control and Simic Nexus. Due to these decks dying in popularity, and Gruul being favored against Mono Red Aggro, its resurgence comes as no surprise. This matchup is tough because Gruul has so many creatures with the magical toughness of four.

Thrashing Brontodon

《Thrashing Brontodon》 out of the sideboard causes a problem in combat while representing an answer to 《Experimental Frenzy》. Once we have access to 4 《Lava Coil》 after sideboard and 《Dire Fleet Daredevil》 for their 《Lava Coil》’s I think this matchup becomes 50/50.

Conclusion

Due to the results at MagicFest Kansas City, it’s apparent the metagame was very hostile towards aggressive strategies like Mono Red Aggro. Don’t worry, this isn’t too big of a concern because Standard has shown to be diverse and quick to adapt. It’s likely that we will see strategies like Nexus and Esper Control resurface to combat midrange strategies like Gruul and Esper Hero.

In conclusion, I think Mono Red Aggro is going to be a strong choice for quite some time. The sideboard is extremely flexible, it allows you to have a game against aggro, control, and midrange strategies which isn’t something often seen by Mono Red Aggro. Mono Red Aggro has been in the top 8 of every major Standard event thus far and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Brandon Ayers (Twitter)

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Brandon Ayers

Brandon Ayers Brandon Ayres is a pro player from United States. He is a skillful player so he has multiple GP Top8s and is maintaining the Gold Level. In the 2017-2018 season, With a stable and steady run in the 2017-2018 season with good finishes in both Pro Tour Dominaria and Pro Tour Magic 25th Anniversary, he was able to lock up Gold level status again for another year. With John Rolf who is the teammate and best friend in the same town, he joined Hareruya Pros in the 2018-2019 season. Read more articles by Brandon Ayers