Taking Down a Gameday with Mono Red


Taking Down a Gameday with Mono Red

Won the Standard Format Gameday yesterday, went 3-0, ID’d into top 8, then won my next 3 rounds to take it down. 16-2 overall this week with Red Deck in tournament play and 31 packs won.

Mono Red by John Galli 5/25/2013

4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Stonewright
4 Ash Zealot
3 Rakdos Shredfreak
4 Pyreheart Wolf
4 Hellrider
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

3 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear
4 Pillar of Flame

22 Mountain

4 Boros Reckoner
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Electrickery
2 Skullcrack
2 Traitorous Blood


Round 1 vs Jack with Junk Rites (Won; 2-1)

Game 1 I have a slow opener with Stonewright, burn, no two drop, Pyreheart and Hellrider. He has a strong reanimator open using Grisly Salvage to enable a turn 4 or 5 Unburial Rites into Angel of Serenity. He adds some more guys to the fray and has a Vault of the Archangel out. It looks all but over and I’m almost ready to scoop but he’s at five life so I stay patient. He swings in with too many guys, doesn’t activate Vault instead electing to play another creature, and forgets about the Pyreheart trigger. I swing back for lethal. Game 2 he loads up the board quickly with Voice of Resurgence, Thragtusk and Restoration angel against my otherwise aggressive start. I bonehead misplay and cast burn during his turn triggering Voice to give him a free 5/5. Scoop from there. Game 3 I’m on the play and I kill him on turn 4 before he can get anything online.

Round 2 vs JR with Mono White Aggro (Win; 2-0)

Both games I burn out all his guys and overrun him with Zealots and Hellriders. He also gets stuck on two lands game 1 which doesn’t help an already backwards battle.

Round 3 vs Pat with Omniscience Rites Woo Brew (Win; 2-0)

Unfortunately Pat is a good friend of mine and we have to play, I can’t remember the details too well. I think game 1 he was able to get an Omniscience into play but was hoping for something better like Angel of Serenity. Both games went by quickly, I think Pat had some good cards in the yard in game 2 but was stuck on lands or something. We played a few more after and I won most of them but there was one fun game where Pat got triple Angel of Serenity in play and a Dinova Horror to bounce my land keeping me off Thundermaw AND gave them all haste. Yep I died in that one.

Round 4 vs Michael with Azorious Aggro (ID)

We ID’d, both of us have played each other a lot and there was no point in risking it with what can be a fairly close matchup (mostly due to Geist of Saint Traft).

Top 8:

Quarter Finals vs Chris with Jund (Win; 2-0)

Game 1 I’m stuck on 2 lands but I play 2-3 one drops and 2 two drops to apply immense beats. He has maybe one removal spell and finally a Garruk Primal Hunter. He fails to draw a Thragtusk off of it though and three Searing Spears put the nail in the coffin. Game 2 I curve out and he gets stuck on lands with I believe only a Huntmaster to serve as a temporary roadblock.

Semi Finals vs Michael with Azorious Aggro (Win; 2-0)

I can’t remember much of this match, I had plenty of burn for his guys both games and applied a lot of pressure. Won it pretty handily. He did have a Silverblade Paladin bond with a Geist Angel Token which was a scary moment, but I had the win in hand on my turn.

Finals vs Jeff with RG Aggro (Win; 2-1)

Game 1 I curve out and burn off his guys, and have a Pyreheart Wolf followed by a Hellrider to ensure there will be no coming back.

Game 2 was interesting. I played removal on his first 3 creatures, and had guys attacking. He plays a fourth creature (I think his third Flinthoof Boar). I have a Reckoner, a Hellrider, and a Searing Spear in hand. I was at 10 life and he has 2 cards in hand. I elect to play Hellrider and hit him for 10, putting him at 6 thinking that there’s almost no way he has lethal unless he has the straight nuts (given what he’d already played) and would have to use any removal spells on Hellrider. I probably should have speared his Boar, as he punishes me with double Ghor Clan for the win. Game 3 I curve out into Hellrider with Thundermaw in hand and have burn for all his blockers.


Sideboarding is always a little bit based on what I see, but mostly it was like this-

RG Aggro/Mirror
-4 Pyreheart, -3 Shredfreak, -1 Cackler
+4 Boros Reckoner, +4 Mortars
(Not enough little guys here to justify Electrickery especially post board and although Pyreheart can be good I need to mind the curve and Reckoner is far superior. Post board having 15 removal spells really helps me control the tempo until I can get to Hellrider and Thundermaw)

Junk Rites
Usually – 1 Mountain and Brimstones and/or Shredfreaks
+3 Electrickery, +2 Traitorous Blood
(Minimal boarding here. The key is killing Mana Dorks/Lingering Souls, speed, Pyreheart Wolf to push damage past Thragtusk, and options for if you get Angel of Serenity’d. Tormod’s Crypt was a consideration to fight off the turn 4 Unburial Rites but if you draw it after they cast Rites it’s useless as opposed to Traitorous Blood which is always live)

Usually -some Shredfreaks and Stonewrights for Traitorous Blood and Reckoner
(Tragic slip and Pillar are annoying here, but the plan is similar to what it is against Junk Rites with the exception that they don’t have Mana Dorks)

Very dependent on their build, not a lot of good board options. Skullcrack (for sphinx’s rev) and Traitorous Blood (for Reckoner/Aurelia) is usually the plan, but I’m still trying to figure this out. Boros Charm out of the board with the white lands might be an option as friends have mentioned that card is very influential in this matchup.  Stonewright is very good in this matchup if he isn’t killed, often allowing you to save up burn spells and hasty guys or force them to redirect their attention)

-3 Brimstone Volley, -3 Shredfreak
+2 Traitorous Blood, +4 Mizzium Mortars
(Similar plan again to both Rites and Jund, and again will be dependent on their build.  Since they typically don’t have Lingering Souls along with their Mana Dorks here, Pillar generally suffices as enough to pick them off.  If they have Voice in their deck you may want to bring in some number of Electrickerys.  You need the Mortars against Smiters and any advanced board states where you still have an outside chance if you overload it)

Skullcracks are also for the random Turbo fog matchups and Electrickery helps with Tokens, Bant Auras, and Naya Blitz.  Electrickery honestly has been the strongest sideboard card all week for me, the fact that it doesn’t target when you overload it and its low mana cost has made it invaluable in comparison to Flames of the Firebrand.  There are some decks where you may want access to both, but it’s surprising how many matchups Electrickery is just better.  Over the course of the week there were multiple occasions where the card became a 5-for-1 and a 7-for-1 in games that I would have otherwise lost.


Some might ask why I’m not running Volcanic Strength or Burning-Tree Emissary.  In my experience, Volcanic Strength has been better in the aggro decks that have Burning-Tree as well, as they tend to explode with more guys on the table earlier to either catch up to a losing board state or create a winning one.  Strength is much better on the play then it is on the draw, and it also requires you to play it carefully enough that you don’t get blown out by a removal spell which is an option that doesn’t always present itself in a lot of games vs. the mirror.  In testing and tournament play, playing more removal has always been the better route, allowing you to control the board state, so maxing out on Mortars has just been easier to both deal with a pre-strengthed creature or anything in your way, not to mention the benefit of having x4 in the board against Loxodon Smiter.  Burning-Tree can enable some explosive draws, but he also sets you up for a pretty bad supreme verdict in some matches, even if you try to play around it.  At the end of the day he’s a vanilla grizzly bear, and while he is pretty nuts when you have the explosive draws, he doesn’t do enough in my opinion on a consistent basis to warrant his inclusion at this time.  I played this deck with 20-land and 21-land Burning-Tree style for a long time and the consistency of the deck was not enough for me.  One of the big reasons Mono Red is a good archetype in my opinion is the power and reliability of its draws, and the misnomer that people say it is just a mindless deck with no decisions to make is just not true if it’s built right and piloted correctly.

Another card you might notice that’s a little different in the list is Rakdos Shred-Freak.  I ran him over Lightning Mauler because the times when you get Mauler + a 3 Drop that you’re bonding with aren’t that often (more-so you usually bond him with a 2 drop to  maximize the amount of early damage) and the times where your creatures get removed in response to you playing Mauler or he is the only creature you draw in a sequence can mean you’re missing out on critical damage.  Most of your creatures have haste anyway, so the loss of being able to haste-up a three drop is negligible.  Shred-Freak was definitely an improvement in this tournament for me at the current time, and that particular area of the two-drop slot is probably the weakest area of the deck to beginwith so you could run either card and most of the time he’s one of the first things you board out.

Going forward, I like the list where it’s at but there are a few changes I want to make or consider.  I would have liked to have a third Traitorous Blood for the matchups where you’re bringing it in, and Skullcrack is just seeming less and less necessary.  There are the control decks that run x4 Sphinx’s Revelation that you want it against, but it’s not a card that I’m bringing in against Thragtusk.  You don’t beat him by hoping to draw a crack and play it in sequence on the correct turn not to mention leaving mana up for it.  It’s not that I’ve never won that way with it, but it’s again not consistent enough to rely on.  It’s easier just to push damage around the lifegain.  The games where your opponent has Trostani into Tusk, or some ridiculous stuff like that you’re probably already in deep trouble anyway.  You lose out on furthering your board state when you save mana up to play crack, it’s a fairly awful topdeck, and its inability to remove a creature is a relatively big drawback.  Really, the only reason it’s almost a must play is for the fog decks, which you can race a good portion of the time and then just burn out, but it can be a troublesome match without Skullcrack.  That said, a 2-of in the board isn’t very reliable here either with respect to that.  Archwing Dragon is a better card in the Jund and Bant matchups, as both decks have few ways to interact with him.  He might also be relevant in the UWR matchups, although typically what I want against them is just speed.  These matchups are all ones that require a lot of testing, which I’ve done with dozens and dozens of cards.  There’s a lot of routes you can take and I would say just go with whichever route you are most comfortable with and make sure you have a gameplan.  Be willing to accept a little variance over the course of many games and if you don’t get discouraged by that then you’re usually going to get the percentages which at the end of the day is what matters.

– Red Deck Winning

4 thoughts on “Taking Down a Gameday with Mono Red

  1. I like your build. I ran a more traditional style red deck wins at a big tourney this last weekend. I agree on burning-tree. I was 3-1 out of the gate. Barely lost to an Aristocrats. Then 2-0 against two Junk Rites and an Esperanto control. In most of those matches I had burning-tree pairs. Then i started to struggle. Few burning tree pairings and went 0-3 to gruul aggro, another red deck playing vexing devil and rites. The wins were based on speed with burning tree something in turn 2 without it I didn’t have a lot of meat. And if you give a big selesneya or rites deck room to shake loose your cant win. Had a pro who went 6-1 down to 3 life in game 3, I had 20. He came back to win and went on to top 8 and win the tourney. Two questions. 1. I hate Cackler. In turn 4 or 5 he is worthless. A lot of people love him but I don’t know why. I have a lot more success with legion loyalist who can come in round 5 and give first strike and trample. Thoughts on this? 2 since the original red deck wins that curves out is designed for a win by turn 4 do you find that same success in this build? It seems like it can play more defensive if need be. Also what are you looking for in mulligans? Thanks. Hope you keep this blog alive. Viva la Red Deck

    • Hey Shawn,

      I appreciate the comments, thanks for visiting the site and congrats on your tourney run as well! The website is still mostly in beta, I’m in the process of trying to add more content to it (I’ve got a few articles in the drafting process), but I will for sure keep working on it. There’s not enough good red deck websites (if any devoted ones) out there and I’ve played this deck for a very long time so I’d love to get things going here with it. I’m planning on buying the full domain reddeckwinning.com soon, so expect more content and feedback on the way.

      To answer some of your questions-

      @Burning-Tree Emissary: He’s a great card, adding a dimension to the deck that allows it to steal wins away from opponents, but I personally have a problem with him in the deck because he takes up so many slots and has such a dependent effect that he forces you to make your red deck into a balls-to-the-wall build. As a result, I think it gives you less opportunities to outplay your opponent, causing many of the situations like you mentioned where you get your opponent down to lethal range but then don’t have any finishers to get the rest of the job done. In my build for instance, you have Thundermaw Hellkite which can get you out of tricky situations where the ground has been stalled or instances where your opponent has used up a lot of removal on your early guys. He can win the game out of nowhere, and I think he’s especially good in the current meta where Junk Aristocrats has become a big deck (since you can just fly over all their guys and ping off all their spirit tokens). He’s a big threat to UWR as well, a deck that can give RDW a tough time if built and piloted correctly. Speaking of reach, stonewright is an amazing one drop in some of those matches, and it’s a card that often gets the axe when burning-tree is in your decklist. Stonewright against any control deck is just plain nuts, because often you can put down him and any other guy (Stromkirk, Ash Zealot) and then proceed to pump the two of them for the next few turns until your opponent can deal with them, and by that time they’re down in life and you’ve got a mitt full of burn cards and haste creatures. He creates pseudo card advantage in those otherwise close matchups. This ability to make the Mono Red Deck into one that has some flexibility is one of the big reasons my build moves away from the typical R/G Aggro and Mono Red decks that you see out there today. I’ve played those builds a TON, so I’m not dismissing them without trying them, I just know what I’m going for. Another advantage in respect to that is that your game against the mirror is much better unless they get the nut draw. I play more burn (Brimstone, Pillar, Spear) which allows me to make sure a path is clear for my guys and that I can control the tempo (not to mention Brimstone for five kills a lot of people).

      @Cackler – Rakdos Cackler is a necessary evil. You need a minimum of eight one drops, and in my opinion you need 10 if you want to see them consistently enough (although burning-tree builds can get away a little bit with maxing out on 2cc). The problem with Legion Loyalist is that it really isn’t a 1 drop and there are many situations where he’s just awful. For starters, he’s a 1/1 with no ability to get bigger, so a lot of the times your opponent will just have something to throw in the way. The curve of his damage over the first few turns is less than that of cackler, and cackler also dodges tragic slip, electrickery, and other removal spells that can cause you a whole turn of tempo loss. The true way, as you somewhat alluded to, is to play loyalist on turn 3, 4, or 5 to enable a big battalion attack, but the problem is that’s so situational compared to cackler just being good in most of the early turns. To be fair, when I move to sideboard cackler is often cut in many matchups, but against a deck like Rites or UWR, you need someone like him to apply pressure. Loyalist is an OK board option against heavy tokens decks, but I’ve actually crafted a new plan for some of these matchups which I’ll talk about in an upcoming article for the site. I’m going to try and breakdown my sideboarding plan against the current field, and also some of the good sideboarding options I’ve personally played with and tested with.

      @Mulligans – Typically this vary’s by your build, but I can give you some general guidelines I follow. For starters, I never keep a one lander with less than two playable one-drops, and often those two have to be creatures (not stromkirk + pillar). There are exceptions to that, such as if I also have 2-3 two drops in hand, then I will consider a keep. The other must mulligan is the 5 land or more hands, because this deck mulligans well and there’s just no reason to keep suboptimal hands unless you’ve already mulled into oblivion.

      In general I think that patient play is the key to playing red deck well. Like many articles over the years have pointed out, you have to know when you’re the beatdown and need to apply pressure and when to play the control role. My build is definitely flexible along this axis, and I’ve added some elements in my recent list that have just been fantastic.

      I’ll leave you on that note with my current list, although I will be posting an article soon with it along with strategy, etc, etc-

      Mono Red – 6/10/2013

      4 Stromkirk Noble
      4 Rakdos Cackler
      2 Stonewright
      4 Ash Zealot
      3 Rakdos Shred-Freak
      4 Pyreheart Wolf
      4 Hellrider
      2 Thundermaw Hellkite

      4 Pillar of Flame
      4 Searing Spear
      3 Brimstone Volley

      22 Mountain

      4 Mizzium Mortars
      4 Boros Reckoner
      3 Blasphemous Act
      2 Traitorous Blood
      2 Electrickery

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  3. Pingback: Quelling the Conversation – Mono Red with Eldritch Moon | Red Deck Winning

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