Last updated on February 23, 2021
Goldspan Dragon | Illustration by Andrew Mar
With Kaldheim finally here, it’s time to dig in like a dwarf searching for precious gems to find the best decks the rejuvenated format has to offer. Sadly, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is still here to ruin any strategy that revolve around colored permanents. Still, I’ve been pretty vocal about this card, so I won’t waste time on it again. In short: If Ugin appears, you get a loss.
Luckily, this card doesn’t have much of a footing in Traditional Standard anymore. Phew! Besides, just because it’s a hard counter to our strategy doesn’t mean we can’t rush them to the finish line. The deck we’re covering today is especially excellent at doing just that. We might not have too much innovation in this list, but Mono Red has gotten even better! There’s a few really cool cards that push Mono Red Aggro into an even higher win rate territory. Especially in BO1, this deck wrecks!
Many new decks have risen. Selesnya enchantments is now a thing, Boros equipment as well, so keep an eye out for future guides where I’ll cover those. With all that said, though, let’s get started with red deck wins!
Faceless Haven | Illustration art by Titus Lunter
Akoum Hellhound x4
Fervent Champion x4
Anax, Hardened in the Forge x4
Robber of the Rich x4
Dragonkin Berserker x4
Bonecrusher Giant x4
Birgi, God of Storytelling x3
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell x3
Goldspan Dragon x2
The Mono Red strategy is the same as it’s been ever since Throne of Eldraine: play your creatures on curve and Embercleave on turn 3 of 4. Most of the deck has remained unchanged since the new set’s release, but the new cards give the deck a completely different feel.
We have two distinct 1-drops. Both are arguably the strongest in Standard right now.
First, we have Fervent Champion, a 1/1 with haste and first strike that can give other knights +1 power when attacking. The haste and first strike alone make this card very good but having two of these coming down simultaneously turns them into hasty 2/2s.
Akoum Hellhound is excellent. It gets +2 power each turn thanks to its landfall effect. Of course, that also means it’s a 0-power creature any time you do not have a land. Luckily for us, we plan to close out the game by the time we are done dropping down lands, so this is rarely an issue. If you prefer a different 1-drop, Fireblade Charger is a perfect alternative to take this slot instead.
The main thing that changed in this slot is Dragonkin Berserker. This card offers us an alternate win con against control-heavy decks because it can create a neat 5/5 dragon with its boast effect. You’ll rarely activate it, but it feels incredible when you do. Also, the card kind of forces the opponent to deal with it before you attack, so this tends to let you sneak in an Embercleave sometimes.
Robber of the Rich is still a great value card and will likely remain in here until rotation. It’s a 2/2, it has haste, and is just all-around a great card. Being able to steal cards off your opponents’ decks rarely matters until that one time that it does. Sometimes you can find the most amazing things in your opponent’s deck.
I love this slot. All the cool Mono Red cards are in here, and I’m so happy that Birgi, God of Storytelling is one of them. This card is fantastic. It gives you free mana when you cast spells, it can let Dragonkin Berserker boast twice, it even has a super cool backside that costs 5 mana to cast an artifact that functions like a pseudo-Chandra, letting you fetch stuff off the top of your deck. The cool thing about Birgi is that if you have it on the field already and you cast, for example, a Fervent Champion, you get an extra mana, which makes activating Embercleave even easier.
Anax, Hardened in the Forge is here yet again. The synergy between this card and red devotion is impressive. Having it on the field and an Embercleave landing on it pretty much gives it an instant +3 power and double strike. Anax plus Embercleave is almost always lethal, especially if you’ve gotten a few hits in with your 1- and 2-drops.
Bonecrusher Giant is another value card that gives you a 2-mana Stomp or can come down as a massive 4-power body to receive an Embercleave. Does the cleave grow in size when held by a giant? Nobody knows. What we do know is that this card can deal ten damage per turn when holding the black.
We have a few cool end-of-the-curve cards. As always, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Embercleave are here as our finishers. One giving +2 damage to red damage sources you control and the other offering +1/+1 and double strike to a creature.
We have a new card added to the list, though: Goldspan Dragon. A hasty 5-drop, which reminds me a lot of Glorybringer, except this one creates Treasures instead of dealing damage. It’s a solid game-ender, especially since Mono Red tends to push your opponent into the one to four life territory by the time Goldspan takes over the game. Having this semi-unblockable creature come in is great.
Shatterskull Smashing is in here again, giving us a means of dealing with difficult board states or just coming down as a land. As is Castle Embereth, a great land to buff your creatures if you couldn’t find Torbran or Embercleave.
A new piece of tech in the deck are all the Snow basics that function nicely in combination with two of our sideboard additions: Tundra Fumarole and Frost Bite. We also run a copy of Faceless Haven, a land that can turn into a 4/3 with vigilance when you spend three snow mana on it (which won’t be hard given our mana base).
This deck is one of the easiest to mulligan for:
- Make sure you have three lands, of which at least two are red sources;
- Have two playable creatures in the first three turns;
- Have either an Embercleave or Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
Your game plan will consist of rushing creatures on the field and ending the game with a turn 4 win condition. While you can keep hands without Embercleave or Torbran if your opponent is a control player, you likely won’t have the means to close the game early enough. Once a control player takes over the game, it’s hard to catch up since the only reach we have are Stomp and Goldspan Dragon to deal some damage to the face. It’s less of an issue against other decks.
Each of our sideboard cards has a distinct function in the deck.
Gruul Aggro and Mono Green Matchups
You generally want to take out all copies of Dragonkin Berserker and one copy of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. If they run The Great Henge, also bring in two Embereth Shieldbreakers. You can swap two copies of Akoum Hellhound.
Dimir Rogues and Control Matchups
Dimir Rogues will continuously destroy and counter your spells, making our high-end stuff less useful. To gear up against them, you want to turn their milling mechanic against them. Bring in all copies of Phoenix of Ash, Ox of Agonas, and Frost Bite to deal with the 1- and 2-drops.
Take out two copies of Embercleave, two copies of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, two copies of Dragonkin Berserker, and two copies of Akoum Hellhound. This should give you most of your generic Mono Red flexibility and have enough stuff in your deck to escape onto the battlefield when needed.
Esper Doom Foretold Matchups
Bring your copies of Ox of Agonas and take out an Embercleave and a Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. Be very mindful of Doom Foretold against this matchup and don’t keep jamming creatures down. While it’s unlikely to make a comeback once this enchantment lands, waiting it out and having one big power turn can sometimes help close out the game. Keep that in mind at all times. This is going to be one of your tougher matchups.
Bring in your copies of Phoenix of Ash, Ox of Agonas, and The Akroan War. All of these are great to negotiate Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger‘s affects into either working in your favor, simply stealing the creature, or taking their Egon, God of Death, a massive 6/6 that can deal 14 damage with an Embercleave on it.
As for cards to take out, Dragonkin Berserker is dangerous to bring out against them thanks to Claim the Firstborn, so replace all four copies of this card. Also trim down two Torbrans, a Birgi, God of Storytelling, and Akoum Hellhound.
Since our starting hand is so important for our win condition, you’ll end up in situations where your opponent forces you to discard stuff you’d rather keep. You can start by discarding a land or two if you drew too many, but always make sure you keep at least three. You can always skip your 2-drop and go for a 1-mana drop into a 3-mana drop and ending with Embercleave.
It depends. Most of the time, you look at which of the above decks is the most similar.
For example, follow the Gruul/mono green guide if you’re against a creature-heavy mono white list, but leave out the artifact destruction unless they play a janky build that incorporates artifacts.
For control matchups, go with the Doom Foretold line-up. As I mentioned earlier, most Ugin matchups are non-games, but they’re strangely getting rarer and rarer in Standard. Maybe people are tired of the deck? Who knows. It works in Mono Red’s favor no matter the reason.
Birgi, God of Storytelling | Illustration art by Eric Deschamps
This deck is so much fun to play. It’s fast paced, which is a huge help when trying to grind your way to Mythic or farming events for gold. In BO1, you could pre-emptively side in some of those Frost Bites since BO1 ranked is an even bigger creature-heavy format.
The best times to play Mono Red are the days you’re done with work, want to get some Magic in, and don’t want to spend too much time thinking about what to do. This deck almost plays itself. Just slam stuff down, no need for strategy. Swarm your opponent to victory.
Either way, I hope you have a ton of fun playing this deck. Be sure to leave a comment down below if you’ve got a deck you want me to cover next! And feel free to link some awesome screenshots over on our Discord showing off your rank! With games that last only five minutes each, you should grind your way to Mythic in a couple of days.
And if you’re not tracking your matches using our MTGA deck tracker Arena Tutor, you definitely should be.
With all that said, have a nice day and I’ll see you soon with Boros equipment!
Akoum Hellhound | Illustration art by Jason Kang