Star City Games Richmond Team Constructed Open was one of my favorite tournaments up to date. I decided to take Mono-Red Prowess for this particular tournament as I felt it was well positioned in the current meta. Our team finished in Top 16 with a 9-5 record and I finished with a personal record of 10-2-2DNF.

Mono-Red Prowess thoroughly impressed me this past weekend and I feel it is in a great position moving forward. Prowess has the ability to kill your opponent by turn 3 and consistently asks the question “can you stop me?” It has a strong matchup against strategies that have low-medium interaction in the early game or decks that rely heavily on mana acceleration in the form of Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch.

Mono-Red Prowess

Creatures (15)
Bedlam Reveler
Monastery Swiftspear
Runaway Steam-Kin
Soul-Scar Mage

Lands (18)
13 Mountain
Fiery Islet
Ramunap Ruins
Sunbaked Canyon

Spells (27)
Burst Lightning
Lava Dart
Lightning Bolt
Manamorphose
Crash Through
Lava Spike
Light Up the Stage
Sideboard (15)
Dragon’s Claw
Shrine of Burning Rage
Blood Moon
Leyline of the Void
Abrade
Kozilek’s Return

Runaway Steam-kin over Kiln Fiend:

I chose to register Runaway Steam-Kin as opposed to Kiln Fiend because the ceiling is much higher when playing Steam-kin. Kiln Fiend is more of an “all-in” strategy, where you rely on untapping with your Kiln Fiend and either killing your opponent that turn or apply so much damage that they are at risk of dying to any burn spell off the top. I would much rather have the upside of playing a Runaway Steam-Kin and chaining multiple spells to dig deeper into the deck in 1-2 turns.

Matches over the full 14 rounds and sideboarding for each individual match:

Round 1 Yawgmoth Combo – 1-2

In: 4 Leyline of the Void
2 Abrade
Out: 2 Runaway Steam-Kin
4 Lava Spike

Honestly had never played a game against this matchup, but was familiar with the deck’s game plan. I still played this match poorly and wish I had played tighter, but at the very least it was a learning experience. Wall of Roots was a problem as it eats up so much damage, need to evaluate proper boarding for this matchup for the future.

Round 2 Heliod/Vizier Combo – 2-0

In: 2 Abrade
1 Kozilek’s Return
2 Blood Moon
Out: 4 Lava Spike
1 Runaway Steam-Kin

Having access to a surplus of burn spells that can act as removal makes this matchup very winnable. Spikefeeder is a problem, but doesn’t hit the board until turn 3 at the minimum. Early threats and maximizing Lava Dart and Burst Lightning are the keys to winning this matchup. Kozilek’s Return can act as a sweeper in the Post-Board games to clear up blockers for your prowess creatures.

Round 3 Titanshift – 2-1

In: 3 Blood Moon
Out: 1 Runaway Steam-Kin
2 Burst Lightning

Game 1 almost feels unwinnable vs Titanshift on the draw. Unless your hand is a turn 3 kill, it’s going to be difficult to win Game 1. Post-board is much better thanks to Blood Moon. Found out that thanks to layering, if Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is in play and then Blood Moon enters play, lands are all Mountains and can only be tapped for red mana. Titanshift usually brings in Anger of the Gods, so it is important to play around it to some degree, but Blood Moon is such a problem card for them that loose hands can typically be leaned on the back of Bood Moon.

Round 4 Naya Zoo – 1-2

In: 1 Kozilek’s Return
2 Abrade
2 Dragon’s Claw
Out: 3 Runaway Steam-Kin
2 Lava Spike

This was a close match despite flooding in every game. Lightning Helix is their best weapon against Prowess, but Zoo is basically a slightly slower version of Burn which can be used to Prowess’ advantage. I had my opponent down to less than three life every game, just didn’t find the last couple points of damage before they were able to stabilize. Dragon’s Claw out of the board was interesting, it allowed me to be a lot more aggressive and pressure his life total without fear of the crackback.

Round 5 Urza – 2-1

In: 4 Leyline of the Void
2 Abrade
1 Kozilek’s Return
Out: 4 Lava Spike
2 Runaway Steam-Kin
1 Lava Dart

Game 1 this matchup feels favorable thanks to no more Oko, Thief of Crowns. Thopter Foundry is their best card against Prowess, so Abrade is just an auto-include. The tricky part about this matchup is Leyline of the Void coming in for the Post-Board games. The deck doesn’t need the graveyard to win and Leyline can be just awful, as it was in Game 2. However, in Game 3 I was able to keep Leyline in play and had Abrade at the ready.

Round 6 Mono-Red Prowess – 2-0

In: 2 Abrade
3 Dragon’s Claw
Out: 4 Lava Spike
1 Runaway Steam-Kin

The mirror can be difficult to navigate, Play vs. Draw means you are playing two Prowess in two completely different ways. On the play, it is important to have a turn 1 prowess creature as applying the pressure first is the key to winning. On the draw, having removal for the turn 1 prowess creature is a must. If any early game creatures are able to stay on the board, it is almost impossible to stabilize for any point in the game moving forward. In Post-Board, this matchup is all about Dragon’s Claw. In a sense, it typically plays out that whoever has the more Dragon’s Claws, wins the match. This isn’t always true of course, but more often than not, gaining as many life as your opponent casts spells creates an uphill battle they aren’t going to win. On the play, I am more inclined to keep a hand with Abrade while keeping a Dragon’s Claw on the draw.

Round 7 Infect – 2-1

In: 2 Abrade
2 Blood Moon
Out: 4 Lava Spike

This matchup is very good for Prowess. Infect has a limited number of threats that all have a 1/1 base, so any spell that can deal direct damage to creature essentially becomes removal. Soul-Scar Mage is probably the best card in the matchup given the -1/-1 counters distributed. Out of the board, Blood Moon and Abrade are all you need as your main board is already well equipped. I basically won off the back of Blood Moon in Game 3, as I was able to cut my opponent off the two Inkmoth Nexus they had in play.

Round 8 Jund – 2-1

In: 2 Shrine of Burning Rage
Out: 2 Runaway Steam-Kin

Depending on the build, Jund can either be one of the easiest matchups you play in a tournament or one of the most difficult. My opponent had main board Kitchen Finks and Huntmaster of the Fells, both of which are very good against prowess. Not to mention, Tarmogoyf-a wall that rarely a creature is attacking through-and Fatal push-clean answers to your early threats-to add to the mix. I had a strong hand in Game 1 and was able to overcome the life gain. I debated bringing in Blood Moon out of the board as Jund’s mana base can be greedy, but decided against it and went with just the two Shrine of Burning Rage. SoBR is an ever building threat that Jund has to deal with and it ultimately ended up winning me the match in Game 3.

Round 9 Jund Shadow – 2-0

In: 2 Shrine of Burning Rage
Out: 2 Lava Spike

Death Shadow or Burn/Prowess, which has the advantage? The debate between Death’s Shadow archetypes vs Burn/Prowess archetypes having the advantage in this matchup is one I have heard for the entirety I have been playing competitive Magic. I believe Death’s Shadow has the advantage as it is easier to over extend from the Burn/Prowess side than it is on the Shadow side. Jund Shadow has the addition of Tarmogoyf so this particular version of Shadow is quite difficult to handle. Fortunately for me, in Game 1 my opponent over extended on turn 1 was at 13 life before I even drew my first card. Prowess can threaten kills in 1 turn so it’s easy to sit back to wait for an attack. The biggest part of this matchup is knowing when to go in for the kill and when to sit back as getting blown out by Temur Battle Rage is every Mono-Red players favorite pastime. SoBR was the only card out of the board I really felt like I needed for this match and played a big role in winning Game 2.

Round 10 Heliod/Vizier Combo – 2-1

In: 2 Abrade
1 Kozilek’s Return
2 Blood Moon
Out: 4 Lava Spike
1 Runaway Steam-Kin

For this particular match, I realized in Games 1 and 2 that my opponent wasn’t as reliant on mana dorks and leaned more into the power of Collected Company and Ranger Captain of Eos. I decided for Game 3 to bring 3 Lava Spikes back in (trimming 1 Burst Lightning, 1 Lava Dart and 1 Runaway Steam-Kin) that I previously sided out for Game 2. I was able to chain off multiple Lightning Bolts and Lava Spikes to sneak in a late game kill.

Round 11 Charge Tron – 2-0

In: 3 Blood moon
2 Abrade
Out: 1 Runaway Steam-Kin
2 Lava Spike
2 Burst Lighting

Tron, with the exception of Etron, is a favorable matchup for Prowess. Chalice of the Void, particularly in Game 1, is the card to avoid at all costs. Having a turn 1 Prowess creature is a must for any flavor of Tron. Tron doesn’t interact well during the first 2-3 turns of the game so pushing through as much damage as possible imperative. Charge Tron utilizes a lot of different artifacts, like Everflowing Chalice, so Blood Moon coming out of the board isn’t always great, but can still be useful in certain situations. I opted to side in them in and it really didn’t do much for Game 2, but did deter my opponent from assembling Tron and was able to take the match in 2.

Round 12 Mono-Red Prowess – 1-1 DNF

In: 2 Abrade
3 Dragon’s Claw
Out: 4 Lava Spike
1 Runaway Steam-Kin

All I will say on this match is that when our team lost while I was in the middle of Game 3, I was at 55 life with 3 Dragon’s Claws in play.

Round 13 Heliod/Vizier Combo – 2-1

In: 2 Abrade
1 Kozilek’s Return
2 Blood Moon
Out: 4 Lava Spike
1 Runaway Steam-Kin

Game 1 was the best showing of Runaway Steam-Kin in the whole tournament. On turn 3, I had two Steam-Kin in play and chained off three Bedlam Revelers, multiple burn spells and a whole lot of prowess triggers. My opponent was prepared for this matchup in Post-Board with having Burning Forge-Tender and two infinite life combos: Heliod+Kitchen Finks and Heliod+Spikefeeder. Game 3 I removed every mana-dork that landed on the board and resolved Blood Moon with two prowess creatures in play. Cutting my opponent off white mana closed out the game very quickly.

Round 14 UW Control 1-1 DNF

In: 2 Shrine of Burning Rage
2 Blood Moon
Out: 1 Lava Spike
2 Burst Lightning
1 Runaway Steam-Kin

UW Control at one point was a favorable matchup for Prowess. However, with the inclusion of Mystic Sanctuary in control decks, I feel that this has changed. In Game 1, my opponent cast Timely Reinforcements 3 times gaining a total of 18 life and producing 9 creatures, making it impossible to get their life total lower than 7. I quickly ran out of steam and conceded to a full board state of planeswalkers and 1/1s from my opponent. Blood Moon is an important card in the Post-Board matchups. Turning off their Mystic Sanctuarys and restricting their mana base is important, as they are less likely to have access to white mana due to how heavily control leans on Hallowed Fountain. After being blown out by a timely Spell Snare on my Shrine of Burning Rage, I resolved a Blood Moon and the game ended almost on the spot. Our team lost before game 3 was able to begin.