With the Banning of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, it's Mono-Red Aggro's time to shine. Uro's life gain has long been a thorn in the side of aggressive decks, but it is time to believe in the Cleave!
The State of Standard
Before we take a look at Mono-Red, let's take a look at the current format. Standard holds a new boogie man, Omnath, Locus of Creation. Omnath comes from the same mold of Uro, a combination of card advantage, ramp, and life gain. As we have seen before, this mix is powerful enough to warp the format around a single card. Unlike most, I like when there is a clear villain in standard, because it is the best time to metagame for a tournament. Looking at the differences in Omnath and Uro, the mana cost is the easiest difference to spot, and I believe this is the weakness that Mono-Red can attack. While I would like to believe that Omnath's 4-colored mana cost is restrictive, the truth is it is not hard to cast. What we would like to attack is the converted mana cost. Uro allowed the opposing player to gain four life on the third turn, while ramping their mana. Omnath costs four mana, but it also asks for another land to enter the battlefield in order to trigger the life gain.
With this being taken into account, Embercleave should be able to reduce the opponent's life total before the Omnath player can set up. If you have played any standard over the last year, you know the classic curve of playing creatures on turns 1, 2, and 3 into Embercleave. This is the curve we need to use to beat Omnath, Locus of Creation. In order to set-up Omnath, players use cards like Cultivate, Beanstalk Giant, and Lotus Cobra. All these cards are great, but they are used merely to lead to the eventual casting of Omnath, and they fail to interact with creatures that are on board. This gives Mono-Red the perfect opportunity to go under the Omnath Ramp deck. Our curve will eventually force Omnath Ramp to play more interaction, which may be enough to beat us. In the meantime, let's attack, and try to beat the boogie man!
Infuriate, Heartfire Immolator, and Slaying Fire are cards we haven't really seen in Mono-Red this standard season, but these cards all fit roles that I believe the deck needed. First, Infuriate is your typical one mana pump spell that we have seen in many Mono-Red builds in standard past. This deck looks to use Infuriate as a protection spell and a source of burst damage. Two of the most popular removal spells are Bonecrusher Giant and Spikefield Hazard. Both of these removal spells are damage based, giving an opportunity to pump a creature's toughness in order to blank the spell. The other side of Infuriate is its ability to produce extra damage in combat. There are times playing Mono-Red that you will need to trade with a Lovestruck Beast, and this gives you the damage to make that happen. Then there is my favorite part of the card, it's always damage to face if you have an unblocked attacker.
Heartfire Immolator is also a consideration to the widely played Spikefield Hazard. Rimrock Knight and Kargan Intimidator have been the go-to two mana creatures, but it is drastically important to consider the potential removal when picking your threats. Next, Heartfire Immolator is a decent removal spell for larger creatures. Lovestruck Beast has been a great blocker against red creatures since Eldraine was released. It doesn't take much effort to grow a Heartfire Immolator big enough to destroy a Lovestruck Beast. For example, Heartfire Immolator and Infuriate make quick-work of a Lovestruck Beast.
The goal of this deck is to win before Omnath is able to hit the board, but there will be times where that is not possible. Slaying Fire is our insurance plan; Slaying Fire gives us the ability to destroy an Omnath if things have started to slip away. Thundering Rebuke has been a popular spell to destroy Omnath. The reason to play Slaying Fire over Thundering Rebuke is its ability to go to the face. Face damage is always important in an aggressive, and cards that fit two roles are always at a premium.
Next, I would like to give a quick overview of the sideboard. The two most important cards in our sideboard are Thundering Rebuke and Embereth Shieldbreaker. Embereth Shieldbreaker is the best artifact removal in Red, and it acts as a creature when needed or as an added bonus. Artifact removal is important in standard due to emergence of Omanth Clover. The combo of Lucky Clover and Bonecrusher Giant can put Mono-Red very behind, so it is important to have early interaction with artifacts. Thundering Rebuke is simply addition spells to deal with Omnath, but it destroys many other creatures too, think of it as the new Lava Coil.
The rest of the sideboard is not nearly as important those two cards, but each individual cards play a certain role. Tectonic Giant is used as a way to gain card advantage in the mirror, and against other aggressive opponents. Redcap Melee is another card that can kill Omnath; it is also useful against Gruul and the mirror. Lastly, Phoenix of Ash is a sticky threat that can be used against opponents that don't fight in the air.
This week I focus on finding a plan to beat the newest best deck in the format. I believe these unusual card choices give us the best chance at making that happen. Cards I would want to add as the format develops are Roil Eruption, Kargan Intimidator, and Rimrock Knight. Roil Eruption becomes more important as creatures with 3 toughness become more important. Rimrock Knight and Kargan Intimidator should return to the deck if Spikefield Hazard begins to be cut from other decks.
Looking forward, I would at least give Mono-Red a look before deciding what to play on ladder or in your next tournament. Mono-Red gives you a great shot at going under the current metagame. If Dimir Rogues keeps rising in popularity, I would consider putting some number of Roil Eruption in my deck due to Nighthawk Scavenger. Nighthawk Scavenger has been a card I have struggle against a bit, but I believe our Thundering Rebukes, in the sideboard, are enough as long as it remains a small part of the format.
As far as tournaments go, Tin-Street has an upcoming tournament this weekend over on MTGMelee. We would love to have you compete, and if you have any questions on what deck you should play feel free to DM me on Twitter. For information on our tournament, look to @TinStreetNews twitter page for any and all updates. Thanks for reading, and for more of my content follow me @stormcrowts on Twitter and Instagram.