After working on Mono-Red Aggro since Theros Beyond Death come out, I have finally found a version of the deck that I like and does well against most of the top anticipated decks in standard. Theros does not bring much to the main deck, but adds key sideboard cards that help against these anticipated decks. Here is my version:

Mono-Red Aggro, Scott Trepanier

CREATURES (28)
Anax, Hardened in the Forge
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
Bonecrusher Giant
Fervent Champion
Scorch Spitter
Rimrock Knight
Runaway Steam-Kin

INSTANTS (4)
Shock

SORCERIES (4)
Light Up the Stage

ARTIFACTS (4)
Embercleave

LANDS (20)
Castle Embereth
16 Mountain

SIDEBOARD (15)
Embereth Shieldbreaker
Unchained Berserker
Lava Coil
Redcap Malee
Purphoros's Intervention
Soul-Guide Lantern

Theros Beyond Death offers several new creatures that deserved consideration for Mono-Red: Anax, Hardened in the Forge, Phoenix of Ash, Ox of Agonas, and Tectonic Giant. Each one offers good stats and abilities, but Anax was the only one that provided enough to make the deck.

One of the most difficult things for Mono-Red to work around are board-wipes and decks that have a lot of spot removal. The solution to the problem is Anax. He is red’s anti-board wipe and anti-removal creature. When a creature dies and Anax is in play, a satyr token is created. Two satyr tokens are created, if the creature that dies has power 4 or greater.

Most of the time, when Anax is targeted for removal he replaces himself with two tokens and because the deck has Runaway Steam-Kin and Bone Crusher Giant I typically will get five to seven satyr tokens when a board wipe happens. Then I can finish off my opponent on the next turn with the tokens.

In addition, Anax is a great attacker in the format. You may have heard the phrase “believe in the cleave.” When you can successful cast Embercleave and attach it to Anax, you are likely to do lethal damage on that turn, because he can deliver at least ten damage with Embercleave attached to him. Typically, I deal over 15 damage on the turn that I attach Embercleave to Anax. This makes him a lethal threat as early as turn four when you can cast him on turn three and Embercleave on turn four.

After testing with Ox of Agonas, Phoenix of Ash, and Tectonic Giant, I found that each had a problem that slowed down the decks plan.

Phoenix of Ash does give the deck evasion, but when you are short on land (this will happen regularly) you cannot play him which holds up your game plan. Ox of Agonas has a similar problem. While it offers a great ability to draw cards and it can escape, I found that most of the time I was not able to cast it on turn five because the deck runs only twenty lands. If a good Mid-range Mono-Red deck emerges, Ox will have a better chance of finding a home. Finally, Tectonic Giant suffers from the same difficulty that Ox of Agonas does. It simply costs too much to cast on turn and I would rather cast multiple spells on turn four over casting Tectonic Giant. Overall, I think Tectonic Giant is a great card with powerful abilities, but it does not work in a deck that wants to go very fast to beat your opponent. Of the three, Phoenix of Ash is the most playable, but you would have to increase your land count to ensure that you can cast it on turn three and it is competing with Bone Crusher Giant and Anax to be played on turn three.

Normally, I do not talk a lot about the sideboard for Mono-Red Aggro, because the options tend to be straight forward and the main deck tends to be optimized to the point that you do not make many changes when you sideboard. With the increasing diversity of decks with Theros, this is not the case.

For most of Eldraine season, Embereth Shieldbreaker and Lava Coil were mainstays in red sideboard, because they could deal with two of the big problems that red decks faced: Witches Oven and Questing Beast. While I expect to see a little less of each card, they will still be popular in the format.]

What is new are Purphoros’s Intervention, Redcap Melee, Soul Guide Lantern, and Unchained Berserker. Red has needed a way to remove large creatures from the board for a long time. Purphoros’s Intervention does this efficiently. These are the cards abilities:

Choose one —
• Create an X/1 red Elemental creature token with trample and haste. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.
• Purphoros’s Intervention deals twice X damage to target creature or planeswalker.

You can ignore the first one. I have never chosen this option. What is powerful is the second. You get to deal damage equal to twice the X mana you invest in the spell. This will allow you to remove a planeswalker with a high loyalty total or a creature with high toughness from the game without using multiple spells or sacrificing one or more of your creatures. I have even considered moving two copies into the main deck because of how useful it has been so far.

At least on Arena, Mono-Red has reemerged as a playable deck, so I have included Redcap Melee to deal with troublesome red threats for the cost of a shock.

With all of the decks that are successfully using their graveyards as part of their strategy, Soul Guide lantern is the perfect low cost sideboard option to take away your opponents graveyard. For only one mana, you can remove your opponent’s graveyard by sacrificing Soul Guide Lantern. This has been very useful against Uro and other decks that the graveyard plays a key role in their game plan, usually, disrupting it enough to win the game.

Finally, Unchained Berserker is an answer against white decks. With most of the board wipe affects in white and the increasing number of Mono-White decks Berserker is a nice piece to go around their strategy.

Overall, Mono-Red looks to have a place in the new standard. Several versions of the deck have seen success with the arrival of Theros Beyond Death. I think what will ultimately determine if the deck has Tier 1 status is whether other are able to deal with the speed of the deck.

Until next time, good luck finding your win condition!