Last updated on October 11, 2021
Blazing Rootwalla | Illustrated by Jokubas Uogintas
There’s always a mono red or “burn” deck that manages to make a place for itself in every format’s meta. The strategy is usually to throw lots of “deal damage to any target” effects at your opponent’s face and win. Another route is to play a bunch of creatures with haste and outrace your opponent by applying tons of pressure as we saw in more recent Standard decks. Other variations are just a mix of both.
That being said, remember that Magic is a beautiful game that has room for all kinds of strategies. Today I’ll be going over one unorthodox way of playing red that involves graveyard synergies and discarding from your hand.
If you’re intrigued by this, let’s unravel the secrets of Mono Red Madness in Historic!
Let’s get started.
Bonecrusher Giant | Illustrated by Victor Adame Minguez
This list was inspired by a brew from one of the greatest minds in MTG History, Andrew Cuneo.
This deck aims to apply pressure very early with Blazing Rootwalla and Dragon’s Rage Channeler which can become very scary very quickly. You use your graveyard synergies for the mid and long game to cheat stuff into play while refilling your hand so you don’t lose tempo or value.
You play this deck like a regular red deck wins build, meaning you should mulligan hands that don’t pressure your opponent early and always aim the damage you get from instant spells like Fiery Temper to their face. But if there’s a more significant threat on the board that needs to be dealt with or stops your creatures from attacking, get rid of it.
The cheaper creatures this deck runs are Blazing Rootwalla and Dragon’s Rage Channeler. They combine very well with your looting package, especially the red lizard. The dream is to play a turn 1 Faithless Looting and discard two of them so both can be played for zero mana. But it’s still great value even if you only manage to discard one. The same can be done with Faithless Salvaging at instant speed. It’s kind of evident that the Channeler’s looting effects are essential to make it a 3/3 flying monster as early as turn 2 with the right combination of cards.
Moving to the deck’s short-mid game plan, Seasoned Pyromancer attempts to refill your hand while getting value from your other madness spells. It also makes 1/1 for doing that. Once it’s on the graveyard you can activate its ability at instant speed on your opponent’s turn to either ambush some creatures or after a board wipe cleaned the field.
Next on the list is Arclight Phoenix. This card is great in Izzet Phoenix decks and it plays a very similar role here. Arclight threatens to end games in a blink of an eye when you start chaining your spells together. It can be pretty easy to trigger its graveyard ability just for three mana since you can use a combination of Faithless Looting, Fiery Temper for its madness cost, and Crash Through to bring back every Phoenix in your graveyard.
Hollow One’s primary role is to enter the battlefield for little to no value once you start chaining all of your loot effects together. It’s worth noting that this cost reduction applies to each golem in your hand. Discard three cards on your turn and you can slap down every Hollow One in your hand, free of charge.
The last couple creatures in the deck are single copies of Bonecrusher Giant and Ox of Agonas. These are replaceable but Ox is here to refill your hand once you run out of gas and the Giant is an extra body with a burn spell attached.
Faithless Looting and Faithless Salvaging are the core of this deck. They enable madness and discard effects to fill your graveyard. Prioritize tossing your madness spells and Arclight Phoenixes with them to get maximum value. And pay attention to the card types in your graveyard since Dragon’s Rage Channeler greatly benefits from it.
Last but not least, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is very good at providing extra value and great against control decks. It’s very versatile and almost an auto-include in every mono red deck around.
Ruins helps close games since it’s uncounterable damage to your opponent’s face. The Castle works surprisingly well in this build; spare elementals from Seasoned Pyromancer benefit from it a lot.
Dragon’s Rage Channeler | Illustrated by Martina Fackova
This deck can be tricky to maneuver at first. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with the most common interactions you may face:
- Mulligan hands without any looting package or early interaction like Dragon’s Rage Channeler or Blazing Rootwalla.
- Don’t rush into discarding your hand for no value. Wait until you can make explosive combinations.
- Dragon’s Rage Channeler benefits from the cards in your graveyard so pay attention to the type of cards you’re discarding. You have ways to pull cards out, particularly with flashback or Arclight Phoenix, so be careful not to accidentally turn off your Channeler.
- Remember that you can cast madness spells at instant speed with Faithless Salvaging. This comes in handy in control matchups and its rebound effect helps your next turn.
- Don’t be afraid to hard-cast Arclight Phoenix since it threatens a lot of damage and you can always get it back if it’s killed.
- Seasoned Pyromancer’s ability can be activated at any time.
Other Cards to Try
This deck can improve a lot so there are other cards you may want to try and swap from the original list. Here are the ones that caught my attention the most.
Bomat Courier is another 1-drop option that threatens very aggressive starts and helps trigger madness and refills your hand with its ability.
Managorger Phoenix is surprisingly good. It can come back from the graveyard bigger thanks to perpetual even if it can’t block.
Similar to the Channeler, Unholy Heat also benefits from the card types in your graveyard and it’s excellent if you feel like you need a second set of removal.
Shatterskull Smashing / Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass
You can cut a couple of Mountains for Shatterskull Smashing since it provides some reach against aggro strategies for little to no drawback.
Roiling Vortex | Illustrated by Campbell White
The main deck plan is straightforward and you should easily outvalue your opponent as long as you stick to the common interactions guide.
Faithless Looting along with a couple of madness cards becomes a 1-mana “draw two cards” spell that lets you play your cards for cheap. But one of the trickiest parts comes when it’s time to sideboard against other decks. You might find it hard battling against graveyard hate.
Don’t worry, I got you. I’ll go over how you need to sideboard against the most common archetypes, but don’t forget that sideboarding should be done according to what you see between games. These are just general guidelines to help you better consider your options.
The key against other aggro decks like Gruul or mono black is going wider while answering your opponent’s potential threats. It becomes a racing game for who finishes the match quicker, so try to avoid slow hands and prioritize ones that let you simultaneously play multiple threats thanks to your discard package.
Bonecrusher Giant helps keep aggro at bay while providing an extra body on the field to trade and stop attacks. But the real key player here is Hollow One since most aggressive decks can’t deal with a 4/4 on turn 2.
Post sideboard, you up your chances by adding extra copies of Bonecrusher Giant and Lightning Axe. Both serve as removal spells for problematic creatures and the latter works particularly well with your discard subtheme.
You need to be careful about Klothys, God of Destiny and other hate cards that make your graveyard use worse against Gruul. Remove your “graveyard package” post sideboard because of this. Consider swapping Chandra, Torch of Defiance for both copies of Rampaging Ferocidon against goblins, elves, and decks that rely on putting lots of creatures on the battlefield all at once.
It’s mostly a long and grindy against control decks, especially Jeskai. The key is to pressure your opponent on early turns. This deck isn’t afraid of board wipes since you can rebuild from scratch in no time.
Post sideboard can be very tricky since Rest in Peace shuts down your best card against them, Arclight Phoenix. You might find yourself hard casting it more than bringing it back from the graveyard because of that.
Reanimator and combo strategies are pretty common in the current meta, so you need to be ready to go up against them. Your best card in these matchups is Roiling Vortex. Soul-Guide Lantern can also see some play depending on whether your opponent uses the graveyard. Ideally you’d cut Ox of Agonas or Bonecrusher Giant when you’re up against these decks.
Crash Through | Illustrated by Izzy
Mono Red Madness is solid but needs a lot of playtesting to get the most of it. It’s a very different take on mono red that pressures your opponent, and it doesn’t bend over against graveyard hate like other decks that rely on it.
Hopefully you enjoy this build if you give it a try in Historic. Let me know if the comments down there or tweet at us if you want to share how this deck worked out for you. Oh, and make sure you’ve got Arena Tutor by your side when you try it out! It’s free, it tracks your matches, and it’s got Draftsim’s signature AI built right in. What’s not to like?
As always, take care and have a good one!