This past weekend was the Kaldheim Magic Pro League Weekend, and I posted a 6-3 record playing Mono-Red Aggro. Given the abysmal record of the archetype overall in the event, I felt fortunate to get this result. My reasoning for playing red was that it’s consistent, and I also felt that it was strong against Sultai. I thought a decent amount of Sultai would be played to beat the Gruul/Adventure decks that showed up to take advantage of the aggro decks.
Unfortunately, not much Sultai actually showed up, with most players submitting 《Lovestruck Beast》 – making for a poor weekend for Red. Most of the trouble Red had was in fact due to Gruul and Naya. I went 2-2 vs. Adventure matchups myself. I don’t think these matchups are unwinnable, but they certainly aren’t good and winning the die roll is crucial.
My rounds in order were:
|Round 5||Temur Adventure||Win|
|Round 6||Naya Adventure||Lose|
Here is the list I played:
Now, onto a couple of the common questions I’ve been getting:
Do I Recommend Red Going Forward?
No. Not unless Gruul and Naya stop seeing as much play. If we see a big increase in Sultai to combat these midrange strategies, then I think Red could be an OK choice. I’d also be interested in playing it if Rogues sees a big jump in popularity, which might make sense since it had an excellent League Weekend. My advice is to make sure to test vs. a good Rogues pilot though because Rogues is incredibly challenging to play correctly and battling vs. an experienced Rogues player will be a different experience than battling vs. a poor one.
Overall, I think Red is a solid deck, despite the League Weekend results, just not in a world full of 《Lovestruck Beast》 – which is sadly where we are at in Standard right now. And unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to me that this is going to change much as 《Lovestruck Beast》 and 《Bonecrusher Giant》 are just broken cards that I expect to continue seeing a ton of play until they rotate out of Standard. As my last article noted – this is what happens when powerful cards are printed that are inherent 2 for 1s and efficiently-costed.
What Are the Best and Worst Cards in the Deck?
The best cards in the deck are 《Frost Bite》, 《Faceless Haven》, 《Bonecrusher Giant》, 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》, 《Torbran, Thane of Red Fell》, and 《Embercleave》. I don’t recommend playing less than 4 of any of these in your deck. Remember, Red was not playable at all before Kaldheim. 《Frost Bite》 and 《Faceless Haven》 are what made it viable – so make sure to play 4 of each of these, as I’ve seen people deviate from this.
The worst cards in the deck are 《Fireblade Charger》, 《Fervent Champion》, and 《Rimrock Knight》. 《Fireblade Charger》 is especially bad, and I really wish we had something better to play, as it’s barely constructed playable. It is just low impact. 《Robber of the Rich》 is also medium in a world full of 《Bonecrusher Giant》 and big creatures, but fairly good compared to the rest of the early drops, as it can get a hit in early revealing something nice and still has relevancy late in the game combining nicely with 《Faceless Haven》 (since that is a rogue too).
Why No 《Goldspan Dragon》?
There are a couple of reasons: 1) I think it’s simply too slow. Red is a viable deck in Standard because it’s fast. Getting out some quick creatures and an 《Embercleave》 is the reason to play this deck, and it’s why I’m willing to put 1/1s for 1 in my deck. 2) I think playing 25 lands is bad, and 3) There are a lot of 《Redcap Melee》’s being played right now, and I’d rather not invest 5 mana into it, just to have it killed for a single R mana.
What Would I Change From the List?
I wouldn’t change the main-deck except maybe the 《Phoenix of Ash》 (it can be moved to the sideboard if you’d like). The sideboard, however, is flexible. 3 《The Akroan War》 and 2 《Soul Sear》 is pretty clunky in the list I played, but it’s because 《The Akroan War》 is the card you want most on the play against 《Lovestruck Beast》, and 《Soul Sear》 is what you want most on the draw.
I decided to play some of both to give me flexibility depending on whether I’d be going first or second. 《Soul Sear》 is always going to be good, so it’s possible you just want more of that than 《The Akroan War》 as other people played – but I wanted the option of having the full 3 War on the play, so I went with this configuration.
That being said, I don’t mind cutting an 《The Akroan War》 from the list. This is especially true if people start playing a lot of 《Wilt》 from now on, which is a card I think is incredible vs. Red, as it hits not only 《The Akroan War》, but also 《Embercleave》, and 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》 while also cycling. The Red sideboard tools are very lacking right now. I went through the set multiple times and couldn’t find much that was even playable.
I would add a 《Blazing Volley》 into the SB for Cycling and Mono-White Aggro. It’s strong against all x/1s in Cycling and can combo with the x3 《Torbran, Thane of Red Fell》 in the deck to deal 3 damage to all of Mono-White Aggro creatures.
I ended up cutting it an hour before deadline submission for a 《Shredded Sails》. I wouldn’t mind finding room for another 《Shredded Sails》 as well, since it’s a great answer to 《The Great Henge》 and 《Goldspan Dragon》. My plan is to try and keep Gruul/Naya off 《The Great Henge》 with 《Soul Sear》 and 《The Akroan War》. My logic is that if they resolve 《The Great Henge》, play something, and you kill it, they likely still have a 5/5 or a couple of creatures that are still going to be difficult to beat. I’d rather try to kill or steal these creatures and strand 《The Great Henge》 in the opponent’s hand. I’ve had more success this way. That said, having 1-2 《Shredded Sails》 in your deck as a fail-safe just in case seems OK to me, as it can be cycled as well.
Do You Have a Sideboard Guide?
Boarding should always depend on your opponent’s list, but here is what I generally do:
(note: on the play I’m much more inclined to take an aggressive approach and on the draw become slower)
That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m excited to see how Standard continues to evolve. The format seems healthy so far and the meta has been changing quickly. As always, thanks for reading and good luck in your battles.
John Rolf (Twitter)