Peebles Primers – Mono-Red in Shadowmoor / Eventide Draft

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Tuesday, September 9th – With Nick Eisel constantly forcing the archetype over in Drafting With Nick, it seems the Red spells are pretty popular right now. Nick himself brought us a Mono-Red primer pre-Eventide, and now BPM brings his take on the strategy with Eventide in the mix. [Editor’s Note – Ben Bleiweiss, currently in Italy, will be appearing later in the week!]

While I spend the vast majority of my articles talking about Constructed Magic, when I’m at CMU for the school year I find myself playing a great deal of Limited. Given that Nick has moved over to the “Drafting With” series of articles, I’m hoping that means I’ll be able to mix in a Limited article now and again. Also given that I don’t have a new Constructed deck to share, this seems like a perfect week to dip my toes in the water.

Starting with U.S. Nationals, the cat tried to get out of the bag regarding Red in SSE draft. When the Eventide Beta went up for Magic Online, I was informed that the best strategy was to simply pick a Red card every time, no matter how bad it seemed. Despite the fact that it seems to be common knowledge that Mono-Red is a top-tier archetype in the current Limited format, I’ve never seen an actual overview of the topic. Yes, Nick put one together a few months ago, but Eventide hadn’t been released at the time.

With all that in mind, I’ll be talking about my take on the Mono-Red archetype.

I like the idea of a pick order when it comes to drafting, but the fact of the matter is that there are many pieces of the puzzle that aren’t covered by a pick order. Among them are strategic roles that need to be filled (even if it means taking a “worse” card over a “better” one), curve considerations, and any number of other ways of trying to name the feeling of “I need this card for my deck.” So, I’ll still list the first-picks above the mid-picks, and the average cards above the unplayables, but the fact that Card A is ranked above Card B does not mean that taking Card B is a mistake.

In general, I have different goals for Shadowmoor and Eventide. Both have solid removal spells, but the creatures that you can expect to pick up serve fairly different purposes. Shadowmoor has Intimidator Initiate and Mudbrawler Cohort for the cheap part of your curve, but it’s the place where you’ll wind up picking most of the big guys in your curve. While you’re looking to put fast pressure on, you don’t want to be left with embarrassing two-drops on the fifth turn, so picking up some hefty men for the mid game is quite important.

Eventide will give you all the curve-starters you’ll ever want. The Hybrid one-drops are more frequent, the Mimics are everywhere, and you even get nice three-drops like Noggle Bandit and Cinder Pyromancer. While you don’t want to be completely reliant on the third pack to save your deck from its own heavy curve, you shouldn’t stress too much about only having a pair of two-drops when you head into the third pack.

Overall, you just want to avoid falling into the trap where none of your cards do anything after the fifth turn.


Burn Trail – Better than tons of Uncommons and Rares. Everyone knows that this card is nuts, but it’s at its best when you’re nearly certain to be able to Conspire it and when your opponent will often stabilize at a very low life total.

Power of Fire – On a Pili-Pala or other Q character, you’ve got yourself a must-answer threat. On a simple Rustrazor Butcher, though, you find yourself with an amazing backup powerhouse for your 2/1s and 3/3s. Plus you can always go to the dome on a clogged board.

Puncture Bolt – Cheap removal is always good. The counter is obviously nice to stop Persist, but it’s even nicer when you can use this as a combat trick to push your idiot through their actual creature.

Tattermunge Duo – A lot of the guys that you’ll fill your deck with are extremely fragile on a card-for-card basis. When you string together one-drops and Mimics, the results can be great, but it’s just awesome to have a guy that can actually get things done on his own. If you’re just triggering the Red half, you’ve still essentially got a 3/4 for three mana, and you can get even better when you mix in Flame Jab.

Scuzzback Marauders – Another guy that happens to be able to actually do things on his own, Marauders again finds himself at his best when backed by the other pieces of this deck. His front end is quite formidable, which is why I consider him such a high pick, but his back end loves the path-clearing of Intimidator Initiate.

Cultbrand Cinder – A theme you might notice emerging in my evaluation of Shadowmoor cards is that you want to pick up cards that are good on their own early. This is good for two reasons. First, you’ll find that your 1/1s and 2/1s get outclassed by the fifth and sixth turns of the game, and you want to be able to keep putting the pressure on without simply packing it up to something like Crabapple Cohort. Second, you don’t always know that you’ll wind up in the hyper-aggressive version of the Mono-Red deck, and it’s nice to know that you won’t be leaving your early picks on the sidelines because you just can’t support your second-pick Mudbrawler Cohort. Duo, Marauders, and Cultbrand will all go in any Red deck, and they’ll all be good there.

Intimidator Initiate – However, if you find yourself in the hyper-aggressive version of the Mono-Red deck, there’s not much that you’ll want more than an Intimidator Initiate. I’ve certainly picked him above the three preceding cards when I saw him in the second pack and knew that he would make my deck hum. Like Tattermunge Duo, he’s best friends with Flame Jab.

Mudbrawler Cohort – The Cohort is another card that powers up massively along with the aggressiveness level of your deck. If you’ve ever opened with a Tattermunge Maniac and a Cohort, you’ll know what I mean when I say that he’s the best possible second-turn play for the aggro decks. However, you need to make sure that you’ve got the one-drops to support him; you’ll live if you have to attack for one and then play a three-drop to power him up, but you’ll be much happier if you’re attacking for three or more on the second turn.

Ember Gale – When Shadowmoor was first released, I almost certainly underrated this card. It may be that I’ve swung around to the other side of that coin, but I find myself falling in love with this card these days. The Falter effect solves the problems that face you when your opponent manages to survive to the sixth turn of the game, but the Tremor effect is what really makes this card stand out in my mind. Not only will it get your guys through this turn, it’ll make sure that the Cenn’s Enlistment that clogged up the board isn’t going to keep giving you headaches.

Runes of the Deus – The two creatures I pick highest in this pack are Red/Green, and this card is pretty disgusting on even the lowliest of Hybrid creatures. It finds itself this high, though, because of how good it is on just a random Red guy. Slap it on Noggle Bandit to triple your clock. Toss it onto Cultbrand Cinder or Rustrazor Butcher and go to town. There will be times that you’ll see this card and decide that you just don’t have the deck to support it, or don’t want to spend the turn casting it that you would need to, but there will also be times when it comes down and instantly wins the game.

Mudbrawler Raiders – Random Hill Giants are always fine, and random Hill Giants that wear Runes of the Deus are even better.

Sootwalkers – The ability on this card is actually better than the ability on Raiders, so in the absence of God Auras, you’d probably rather swing past the defensive White creatures. Either way, you’re just picking up a solid midgame guy that might grab a weapon and go to town.

Scar – For a lot of problems, Scar is easily replaced, and actually outclassed, by Flame Jab. However, Scarring a creature during an attack is a very attractive option to have, and it will make sure that the Kithkin Zealot your opponent sideboarded in doesn’t completely shut down your Mimics and Cohorts.

Sootstoke Kindler – On his own, Sootstoke Kindler is just a slightly less embarrassing Raging Goblin. Awkwardly, I feel like his value goes down in the very aggressive builds because you don’t really have too many heavy-hitters to boost into the red zone, but if your deck has its fair share of Scuzzback Marauders then he’ll easily earn his keep.

Scuzzback Scrapper – This is the card that I take the most flak for in our play group. I love to have a Scrapper or two in my decks to make sure that I have a supersized second-turn Mudbrawler Cohort and to carry around various Auras. Putting a Runes of the Deus on even this random dork is quite the stern beating, as is dropping Power of Fire on him. Besides all that, at least when he becomes outclassed, he leaves a present behind for your opponent’s blocker.

Giantbaiting – During the initial work I put into this ordering, I got into a pretty long conversation with my roommate about Giantbaiting. It started when I mentioned that I don’t like to pick it unless I think I have a good shot at Conspiring it on the third turn. My roommate countered that it was very powerful on the turn when you stopped having profitable attacks as a sort of double-Edict. What this all boils down to, though, is that you want Giantbaiting in decks that come out of the gates quickly and like to have a big effect or two to really seal the game up. Tossing it out there on turn three to put your opponent to nine life is great, and using it to knock off two respectable blockers is great, but both of those things will only happen if you’re putting very fast pressure on, as opposed to playing a later-game version of Mono-Red.

Fists of the Demigod – Again, Fists is a pretty okay addition to any Red creature, but it really shines on a Hybrid target. I’ve won more than a few matches just by casting it on Manaforge Cinder and attacking for three on the second turn, and it certainly gets better than that. Again, the real value of this card comes from the fact that you can play it on something like Pyre Charger or Scuzzback Marauders and still get a very powerful effect from it.

Rustrazor Butcher – My problems with Rustrazor Butcher are that he’s not Red/Green and that he costs two mana. If he were Red/Green, he’d be a much better target for Runes, and if he either cost one or had swapped power and toughness, he’d be an all-star. However, at two he’s just a guy that will swing for a few points and then hold off attackers that are better than he is. This is not to say that he’s bad, just that I’m not excited when my deck has more than one of him.

Rattleblaze Scarecrow – Five mana is fine for guys as good as Scuzzback Marauders and Cultbrand Cinder, but six is really pushing it. However, Rattleblaze’s impact on the game is immediate and powerful, so if you’re really hurting for curve-toppers, you could do much worse.

(This is about the point at which I start being annoyed that I have to include these cards in my deck.)

Manaforge Cinder – So I like to have one-drops in my deck, but this is pretty much the bottom of the barrel. Still, I think that they’re important to have, so I’m not too embarrassed to take him and think about playing him. Plus, every now and again, you’ll be able to kick up your Torrent of Souls without having to worry about playing an annoying Swamp.

Boggart Arsonists – Plainswalk is nice, I guess, and the ability to kill a Scarecrow certainly isn’t a drawback, but I find myself comparing the Arsonists to Cinder Pyromancer and always determining that the Pyromancer is the superior card.

Blazethorn Scarecrow – Same deal as with Rattleblaze, only his impact on the game is usually much smaller. Still, piling Haste guys onto the board isn’t the worst way to win games, especially if they tend to come with a second ability.

Morselhoarder – Man, six mana is a lot of mana. Not only that, but you have to have something to do with the mana or else you wind up with a Giant Cockroach. The problem is that you should have cast all of the rest of your spells by the time you get to this point, so the usual option is burning for two just to get your Wurm online.

Manamorphose – Pretty bad, but the best way to power up Hotheaded Giant and a decent way to activate something like Tattermunge Witch.

Emberstrike Duo – Unlike Tattermunge Duo, the Red half of this guy is completely unexciting, and his two-drop status compared to Manaforge Cinder really kills him in my eyes.

Smash to Smithereens – Not the worst card I’ve ever had in my maindeck, but usually just something that I like to have in my board to punish people for playing Scarecrows or Trip Nooses.

Blistering Dieflyn – Assuming you actually manage to untap and swing with this guy, you’ll probably be pretty happy with him. The problem is that you’ve got to pay four mana upfront for your 0/1, and he’s never really long for this world. Getting him killed after you pump him up to 5/1 is even worse.

Poison the Well – Sometimes the best way to make sure your opponent can’t stabilize with a Crabapple Cohort is by making sure they just don’t get to cast them. Plus there’s the built-in Shock, I guess.

Traitor’s Roar – Another board card that can be nice to have lying around, this card is quite good when you don’t have any Ember Gales and your opponent has beefy men to hold the ground later on.

Crimson Wisps – It cycles, it turns off God Auras, and it powers out Hotheaded Giant. I don’t want to ever have it in my deck, though.

Loamdragger Giant – Seven mana. Flame Jab.

Bloodshed Fever – Does nothing.

Inescapable Brute – Creatures with Escape cannot Escape.

Notable Uncommons

Jaws of Stone – It’s a Fireball that doesn’t cost as much as Fireball and can be divided among a bunch of targets. Windmill slam it.

Boggart Ram-Gang and Ashenmoor Gouger – Both of these guys are unbelievable if you play them on the third turn, with the nod going to the Ram-Gang. I don’t think I’d be able to pick them over Burn Trail, but that’s the kind of decision I’d like to be faced with more often.

Bloodmark Mentor – I am head-over-heels for Bloodmark Mentor. He’s quite fragile, yes, but if he stays in play it’ll be nearly impossible for your opponent to attack you, and certain creatures (like Pyre Charger) will become unstoppable.

Firespout – Usually a bomby little Wrath, I tend to ship Firespout along if I open it up when I’m solidly in the aggressive deck. I’ll take it and play it if there’s nothing else for me, but I won’t often expect any of my guys to live through it. It is quite nice with Tattermunge Duo, though.

Murderous Redcap – Yet another windmill slam. I take Burn Trail over this guy, but I’m sure that you’ll find people who disagree with that evaluation, so I wouldn’t be ashamed to take it over any Red common.

There are plenty of other Uncommons that are quite good, but I don’t really need to spend a lot of time talking about how Flame Javelin is insane when it costs three. That does not mean that just because I didn’t mention Kulrath Knight you should pass it for a Sootwalkers, though.


I often find myself really wanting to pick up one-, two-, and three-drops when I move into Eventide, and picking up the right mix of Mimics, Pyromancers, and Hoppers can really make or break your Mono-Red deck. Plus every now and again you manage to grab a couple more top-notch removal spells.

Puncture Blast – Like Burn Trail, you already know that this is the best of the best. Like Burn Trail, it’s even better when going to the face is often quite relevant.

Noggle Bandit – There are, I believe, three creatures in the format that can block Noggle Bandit, and only one is a common. Of course, you’ll probably find a way to deal with Oona’s Gatewarden, and then you’ll have a Phantom Warrior with the distinct upside of being Hybrid colored.

Flame Jab – I mentioned this spell a couple of times in my Shadowmoor section, and that’s because it has simply amazing synergy with many of the cards in this archetype. The single point of damage is quite powerful, so it’s strong on its own for the same reasons that Power of Fire is good, but like Power of Fire it truly shines when part of a bigger machine. Using it to kill a guy, trigger your Intimidator, untap your Pyromancer, and pump your Duo every couple of turns will tend to win you the game. Oh, and have I mentioned that direct damage is good in this deck?

Riverfall Mimic – In my opinion, this is the best Mimic out of the cycle, and it’s perfect for this deck. Noggle Bandit is already a high pick that triggers it, but you’ll often have things like Stream Hopper and Noggle Bridgebreaker in your deck too, so you’re getting a fast creature that is a sizeable threat in the late game for just two mana.

Heartlash Cinder – Obviously not as good as Mudbrawler Cohort on turn 2, this guy will usually come out on turn 4 to force a trade with a card that is much “better” than it, or just trigger your Initiate and hit them for six. Like Giantbaiting, this card tends to either Searing Flesh them or force them to trade off a guy that could have been an issue.

Battlegate Mimic – This Mimic sort of wants to be triggered after they’ve committed to blocking it, and really only Fire at Will will be in your deck to do that for you. There will be some sick turns that play out like that, and every once in a while you’ll hit someone for eight with Double Cleave, but usually you’re just picking and playing this guy because he’s got two power for two mana.

Cinder Pyromancer – In the absence of anything else, the Pyromancer is comparable to a 1/1 unblockable creature. He’s better than that because he can chump-block and deal damage on the same turn, but really he’s better than that because you’ll be playing spells, so you’ll usually be getting two damage out of him each turn. Of course, cards like Flame Jab mean that there will be times you get four or five damage out of him in one turn.

Stream Hopper – I’ve made it clear that I like one-drops due to the boost they give the rest of my deck, but this one is especially nice because he triggers Riverfall Mimic and can hop over for a point even in the later turns.

Noggle Bridgebreaker – It’s rare that I’d play this over a Sootwalkers or a Mudbrawler Raider, but if you’re not planning on casting much that costs more than four, the drawback is not so severe that you should dismiss him out of hand. He’s a perfectly respectable curve-topper, just so long as he’s actually at the top and not just a step along the way.

Fire at WillFire at Will is really just a much more defensive card than you want for this deck. Using it like a Vanquish is not too exciting, but using it as a double-Vanquish, either on its own or with Battlegate Mimic, will probably keep the bad guy off-balance long enough for you to finish the job.

(Again, this is approximately the cutoff point for cards I’d rather leave in the board.)

Duergar Assailant – Like Fire at Will, the Assailant is really just a defensive guy. I would love him if he were Frostling, or even some bastardized form of Frostling that could only activate if he’d attacked or blocked that turn, but a lot of the time you won’t be able to turn him into a two-for-one on offense, and so you’d rather have Flying or Wither on your one-drop.

Hotheaded Giant – Extremely powerful as a 4/4, and not the worst ever as a 2/2. Powering him up without building your deck around him will usually require a Scar, Flame Jab, or Stream Hopper, but those are all cards that you’ll play and slowrolling him for a turn isn’t really so awful.

Double Cleave – In one sense, this is like the sleeker version of Fire at Will. However, it’s much less powerful on defense and is easier to trump. The real problem is that targets bigger than 2/1 or 3/3 are few and far between, but if you manage to cast this on Scuzzback Marauders you’ll be giggling all the way to the W.

Inside Out – Usually used as a Healing Salve to save your guy, every once in a while you’ll find yourself knocking off Devoted Druids or Barrenton Medics. Last Friday I managed to cast this on a Thunderblust that had already died once, and I don’t think it will ever get better than that.

Clout of the Dominus – I’ve been told that I should give this card more credit than I do, and it’s possible that I should. The problem is that you really want to be putting it on a Blue evasion guy to make sure that it can’t be answered, and usually the only thing in my deck that fits that criterion is Noggle Bandit. Putting it on a Bandit has to be pretty sweet, but I generally find myself with a better overall option for my deck.

Hobgoblin Dragoon – Pretty much the only time I’d play this is if I was loaded up on Battlegate Mimics and I also managed to pick up a Scourge.

Scourge of the Nobilis – Speaking of which, the problem with the Scourge is that the only thing stopping your opponent from simply blocking you out of the game is the +2/+2 bonus it provides. Because the best possible target is also something I take at the last possible moment, this card usually ends up warming the bench, if I have one at all.

Notable Uncommons

Hatchet Bully – You’re immediately getting a Hill Giant, but you’re also getting at least three free shocks if he stays on the board, and that kind of fun tends to end games. Plus you can often load up some random guy like Cultbrand Cinder instead of taking the Bully itself out with the activation cost.

Hatchlings – If you aren’t desperately looking for three-drops, both of these guys are better than Noggle Bandit. Your high concentration of relatively cheap spells means that you’ve got a better than average chance of attacking for four or five the turn after you drop it, and both of the Red Hatchlings are pretty awkward to block. It would be a strange day that saw me take these over Puncture Blast, though.

Crag Puca and Hearthfire Hobgoblin – Like the Shadowmoor HHH creatures, these guys are wrecking balls on the third turn. Sometimes the Hobgoblin needs a little bit of backup, but either of these creatures will put the opponent in a deep hole very quickly.

Outrage Shaman – Not quite Flametongue Kavu, but still one of the best possible ways to answer an opposing fatty. His high cost and small body put him below Noggle Bandit in my eyes, but it’s pretty close and I could see changing my mind if I was low on removal spells.

Chaotic Backlash – This card should pretty much never make the maindeck cut, but it’s nice to have available because sometimes you’ll run into the White deck, and often that deck will be a nightmare for you. If they plan on clogging up the ground, you can plan on doming them for twelve with one card.

Sample Decklists

1 Scuzzback Scrapper
1 Duergar Assailant
1 Intimidator Initiate
1 Manaforge Cinder
2 Heartlash Cinder
1 Mudbrawler Cohort
1 Rustrazor Butcher
1 Boggart Ram-Gang
1 Tattermunge Duo
1 Cinder Pyromancer
2 Sootwalkers
1 Thunderblust
1 Cultbrand Cinder
1 Rattleblaze Scarecrow
1 Flame Jab
1 Double Cleave
1 Inside Out
1 Smash to Smithereens
1 Burn Trail
1 Runes of the Deus
1 Traitor’s Roar
17 Mountain

This was the deck that I alluded to when I mentioned Inside Out. It started off with a Burn Trail that I picked over Valleymaker, and I quickly added Intimidator Initiate and Tattermunge Duo. I opened the Ram-Gang in the second pack, and picked up the Sootwalkers pretty early there. I started off the third pack with a Flame Jab, and didn’t actually get the Thunderblust until the fourth pick.

There are a few cards in there that I wouldn’t usually want to have, but the nature of the 3v3 format is such that you often find yourself without the same number of mid-range picks that you would when your neighbors aren’t actively hate-drafting you. I would rather not run Inside Out, Smash to Smithereens, Traitor’s Roar, and Manaforge Cinder all in the same deck, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

My first opponent basically couldn’t beat Flame Jab. In the first game, I went to hit him with Intimidator, Rustrazor, Duo, and Heartlash Cinder, but he had Repel Intruders to stop the Cinder. I Jabbed away both of the tokens and hit him for seven, and he packed the turn after. In the second game he Aethertowed my Sootwalkers on turn four after I Smashed his Scuttlemutt, but then he took a Thunderblust to the face and died soon after.

My second opponent mulliganed both games, and started off with a Hexhunter in one and an Odious Trow in the other. However, he didn’t have more plays until the fourth turn, when he packed it in to my overwhelming board presence.

The last guy I played rolled over to Flame Jab in the first game after I unloaded three guys on the fourth turn. In game 2, though, we both began to flood out when it was his 0/2 Medic and Harvest Gwillion versus my Cinder Pyromancer and Runes’d Rustrazor Butcher. After filling my hand up with seven Mountains, I finally drew an Inside Out to use on my Butcher to take out the Gwyllion, at which point he scooped. I had been hoping to draw Flame Jab to deal 15 to the face with the Pyromancer, but I’ll take ’em how I get ’em.

1 Intimidator Initiate
2 Tattermunge Maniac
1 Stream Hopper
1 Battlegate Mimic
1 Riverfall Mimic
1 Heartlash Cinder
1 Bloodmark Mentor
1 Tatterkite
1 Crag Puca
1 Noggle Bandit
1 Tattermunge Duo
1 Hatchet Bully
1 Horde of Boggarts
1 Noggle Bridgebreaker
1 Shrewd Hatchling
1 Sootwalkers
1 Cultbrand Cinder
1 Outrage Shaman
1 Puncture Bolt
1 Giantbaiting
1 Ember Gale
1 Jaws of Stone
17 Mountain

This took place on MTGO, and I actually managed to get KO’d in the second round by a White drafter who had exactly the worst possible cards for me. I took down the first round in under ten minutes, largely thanks to my Maniacs and Ember Gale. However, the second round gave me a fast win followed by two games where my 2/1s ran into his Zealots, Cohorts, and Enlistment tokens while he set up a nice air squadron to kill me.

In my mind, the strength of these two decks is how they can come out blazingly fast, but they still have impressive things to do when the fifth turn rolls around. You certainly want to make sure that you’ve got plays for the first three turns, but what you really want is something that can put them on the back foot and then keep them there with the big guys. Simply sputtering out and dying when your 2/1s stop getting the job done is a dangerous trap you need to avoid.

Hopefully my look at Mono-Red has been helpful to you, or at least given you something to think about. It quickly became one of my favorite decks to draft, and that’s only tempered by the fact that it happens to be so many people’s favorite deck to draft.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM