50 Shades Of Red

We went a while without red, but wow…has that changed! The Boss gives you the infinite ways to build red for SCG Atlanta and explains which is his current favorite!

Sometimes Burn, sometimes Goblins. In nearly every Magic format throughout history, there’s a Mono-Red deck. It’s typically cheap, fast, consistent, and punishing. Even when Mono-Red isn’t the winningest deck, it still tends to retain popularity.

While we haven’t seen Mono-Red proper lately, we’ve seen its principles with Mono-White Humans and Mono-Black Zombies. Hour of Devastation brings two huge cards that bring Mono-Red back to life.

Ramunap Ruins finishes off games and makes colorless mana easily accessible. Once Ramunap Ruins is in the deck, Sunscorched Desert becomes better. With eight colorless sources, the pushed Eldrazi like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher become easy to splash.

Earthshaker Khenra is a great two-drop that’s reasonable in the mid-game. The eternalize makes use of excess mana in the late-game.

One of Mono-Red’s biggest weaknesses was being prone to flooding out, even with a low land count. Ramunap Ruins and Earthshaker Khenra let Mono-Red continue playing after the opponent has “turned the corner.”

Not only have Ramunap Ruins and Earthshaker Khenra reinvigorated Red, but there’s plenty of room for customization. Today I’ll be going over the many shapes and sizes of Red that have had success over the past couple of weeks.

Let’s start with the red decks that performed well at #SCGCIN last weekend.

Job Red

Jonathan Job was the first to break the Top 8 barrier with a Mono-Red deck. Job’s build is hybridized from Mono-Red Eldrazi and lower-curve Mono-Red Aggro decks that have been doing well on Magic Online.

It can go big with Glorybringer, Reality Smasher, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Soul-Scar Mage works well with Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance as well as the burn spells to shrink bigger things, like a huge Longtusk Cub or even an Ormendahl, Profane Prince. Because you aren’t quite as aggressive as other builds, I don’t mind having Soul-Scar Mage, even though it doesn’t beat down as well on average.

Mono-Red Eldrazi

Brent Clawson finished 19th in Cincinnati with an updated version of Mono-Red Eldrazi; a deck that Todd Stevens streamed and talked about last month. Mono-Red Eldrazi is a huge beneficiary of the Ranumap Ruins printing since the archetype was short on “dual” lands since Battlefield Forge and Shivan Reef rotated out. The sometimes awkward Crumbling Vestige used to have to fill that role.

Mono-Red Eldrazi goes the biggest with 26 lands and seven to nine five-drops, depending on how you count Eldrazi Obligator. It forgoes cheap creatures in favor of cheap removal and also banks on their bigger creatures to dominate combat.

R/B Eldrazi

R/B Eldrazi makes use of the black-producing lands Aether Hub and Canyon Slough (a land you wanted before Desert of the Fervent was printed) to lightly splash the aftermath of Cut // Ribbons and the return of Scrapheap Scrounger. Ifnir Deadlands makes the splash even smoother. Of course, having only ten sources of black isn’t too reliable, especially when Ribbon costs double black, but the R/B Eldrazi deck never really needs black mana; it’s simply there for extra value sometimes.

R/B Aggro

Jackson Hicks is taking to black to complement his beatdown plan with Dread Wanderer, Ammit Eternal, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Unlicensed Disintegration. Cut // Ribbons is huge too as his means of closing out games, as opposed to Ranumap Ruins.

R/B Aggro is closer in playstyle to Mardu Vehicles than traditional red decks. It’s packed with cards that are strong in their own and doesn’t rely too strongly on needed artifacts on the battlefield or having a perfect mix of lands.

Now, on to the red decks that have been performing well on Magic Online.

Built to Smash

I can really appreciate pump spells alongside aggressive creatures. The downfall of a creature rush is an opposing blocker that you can’t trade with, and worse, one blocker that holds off multiple creatures. Built to Smash lets you keep attacking into blockers and really makes the opponent second-guess their blocks.

Scrapheap Scrounger is already close to playable on rate for a Mono-Red deck. Splashing black off Foreboding Ruins is certainly a noticeable cost where sometimes you have to play it tapped.

Aether Hub could be a possible replacement for Foreboding Ruins to avoid it entering the battlefield tapped. If I went that direction, I might look into other energy sources too like Harnessed Lightning or Aethersphere Harvester to get multiple black if needed or to recharge the Hub if you have to tap it for red early.

The sideboard Insult // Injurys look awesome along with Built to Smash to sorta combo kill in matchups you really need to win quickly.

Cartouche and Trial of Zeal

I’ve played with Hammerhand in Constructed before, so I don’t need much convincing that Cartouche of Zeal belongs in a Mono-Red deck. Trial of Zeal kills creatures early then can be rebought with Cartouche of Zeal to end the game.

The curve here tops out at two Hazoret the Fervent. I prefer to play Hazoret when everything else in the deck is cheaper, since it’s more likely to be online by that time. If you fill the deck with other four-drops like Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Thought-Knot Seer, the likelihood of being “heckbent” is lessened.

With only 21 lands maindeck, I really like access to two more in the sideboard when you decide that going bigger is necessary. This happens often when you expect sweepers like Sweltering Suns or Radiant Flames.


From the lists I’ve seen, this packs the most burn, playing four each of Collective Defiance, Incendiary Flow, and Shock. The creature suite looks like the stock choices that the Magic Online collective have decided on.

I like the sideboard Sand Strangler along with two more Deserts in Scavenger Grounds. If there’s any takeaway here, it’s the Flametongue Kavu tech.

A Bit of Each

This list splits the difference by playing Cartouche of Zeal without the Trial. I don’t find that very appealing, since most things in your deck already have haste, so I have doubts if Cartouche of Zeal is fully worth it without Trial of Zeal bumping up the Cartouche’s power level.


This list brings a discard sub-theme that fits nicely with what Mono-Red wants to do.

Falkenrath Gorger grants further copies madness, an ability that rarely gets taken advantage of outside of Hazoret activations. With Collective Defiance to wheel and both Bloodrage Brawler and Key to the City to pinpoint discard, the madness becomes more realistic. Bomat Courier is another outlet, but it’s largely moot, since Falkenrath Gorger comes down so early and the Courier’s activation costs you the rest of your hand too.

I’m surprised at the lack of Fiery Temper here. It seems to me if you want to go hard on discard with Flameblade Adept, you’d want the madness burn spell too.

Speaking of Flameblade Adept, you can do massive damage with Collective Defiance or sometimes even Bomat Courier pitching your hand for damage. I’m sure that interaction comes up when you have multiple Flameblade Adepts.

Key to the City empties your hand for Hazoret the Fervent while providing an unblockable five damage. Even using the ability on Bloodrage Brawler tends to be worth it. Neither creature has natural evasion. Both are prone to being chump blocked.

Hostile Desert is great when you can expect to pitch excess lands. It takes the place of Sunscorched Desert, and rightfully so, as you can expect to get more damage on average out of it.

Spell- and Discard-Heavy

I like a lot of what this list has going on here.

Thermo-Alchemist is a nice payoff for running sixteen instants and sorceries. Once I’m going that high up, I wouldn’t mind a card like Soul-Scar Mage getting in there.

Hungry Flames is an overlooked weaker variant of Searing Blaze, but it does the trick. W/U Monument has plenty of three-toughness creatures you want to remove. Against a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, you only need a two-power creature (or a Thermo-Alchemist) to finish him off.

The sideboard has some spicy ones. I haven’t done a comprehensive search on everything Harsh Mentor affects in Standard, but I’m sure it’s plenty. Clues, Longtusk Cub, Walking Ballista, creature-lands, Evolving Wilds, and Vehicles are a few off the top of my head. So, pretty good against B/G Energy and Mardu Vehicles.

Chandra’s Pyrohelix is a rare opportunity to actually get up a card in a deck that rarely gets two-for-ones. I like Grind // Dust quite a lot in B/W decks and also like Blazing Volley alongside Soul-Scar Mage.

What I Would Play

Of the red decks, I think the Built to Smash version fits my playstyle the most. For a tournament like the Team Constructed Open in Atlanta this weekend, I doubt many people will be familiar with the list and thus not play around Built to Smash as much as they should.

I like how the deck can keep attacking where other builds can’t. It sacrifices a little bit of consistency for the black splash, but it’s so marginal that it ought to not affect too many game outcomes negatively.

The Aethersphere Harvester is another artifact for Built to Smash and can use the energy from Harnessed Lightning or Aether Hub interchangeably as needed. It also gives previously blanked small creatures a job to do by hopping into the space car.

What’s your favorite take on red in Standard right now?