In theory, Alchemy is a great idea, although it hasn’t been handled well thus far. There’s an Alchemy Open on MTG Arena this weekend, so you have a chance to win some money and get your cards nerfed for zero refund. Pay some gems, win some money? Sounds easy enough, right?
Well, I suppose you need a decklist first.
- 3 Bloodthirsty Adversary
- 4 Reckless Stormseeker
- 2 Voltaic Visionary
- 4 Town-Razer Tyrant
- 4 Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat
Mono-Red Aggro is better than I expected. Although it’s arguably stronger in Best-of-Three than Best-of-One, I’d be happy playing it in either queue. The deck has a solid early-game mana curve with creatures that manage to scale reasonably into the late-game. Even though you have to place an emphasis on removal that kills some of the larger threats in the format, the removal is quite good.
Unlike red decks of years past, this one doesn’t have a ton of burn potential. Killing an opponent from five or so life isn’t difficult, but if they stabilize at a higher life total, getting the job done can be tough. You’re more focused on presenting individual, solid threats while removing blockers and maintaining traction. There are pros and cons to that approach, but realistically we don’t have another option.
Having a deck with free wins is incredible and the best one available in Alchemy is Town-razer Tyrant. If your opponent stumbles on mana in the slightest, a quick Tyrant is game over. Even if they don’t stumble, they might lose anyway. A 4/4 is hard to kill and the chip damage adds up quickly. It’s one of the best cards in the format and that’s always where I’d want to start with my deck selection.
Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat is another Alchemy card that brawls well and can solo games with the help of some removal. It’s rare to get a Dark Confidant that also blocks and scales well. It’s even better in creature matchups because they have cards you’re actually happy to cast.
Some of the decklists I’ve seen were lighter on threats than I would have liked. After looking around, I found a few I wanted to try. Maybe Flame Channeler is stronger than Voltaic Visionary. I’ve been trying both and am unsure, but Visionary seems like the stronger card in a vacuum. It’s the common tension of long-term reward or a small, instant burst. In this case, I’ve enjoyed the quick extra card.
With no shortage of options, I haven’t tried everything yet. Both Moonveil Regent and Volatile Arsonist have potential, especially with Reckless Stormseeker. It mostly depends on what your expect to play against and trying to get the mix of removal, card advantage, and threats is tough.
Figuring out which threats to play is fun, but I love trying to configure a removal suite. If you want more Shocks, look to Frost Bite and Flame-Blessed Bolt. When the one-mana removal spells are good, Chandra, Dressed to Kill becomes even better. Light Up the Night is potentially powerful, especially with all the planeswalkers in the sideboard. A one-of could be solid.
Although some amount of one-mana Shocks are worth playing, what about a two-mana Shock?
You won’t always draw a card with Electrostatic Blast, but when you do, it will feel incredible. When to sequence with Electrostatic Blast is both fun and interesting. Once you’ve established your mana, you’ll typically take the first chance to get the Electrostatic Blast trigger. In the early-game, things are more difficult. Combining a Play with Fire or Spikefield Hazard with Blast to kill a larger threat isn’t uncommon, so which do you cast first?
If your hand is full of lands and you’re tapping low for two burn spells, you probably don’t need to cash in the trigger immediately. In those instances, I’d probably wait, even if it means hoping to draw a burn spell sometime in the future.
The main difference between my list and some of the others I’ve seen is maindeck Thundering Rebuke. Most people have been playing Brittle Blast, and while I think you want some copies on top of Rebuke, I’d rather have the cheaper option first. When your opponent sticks a big threat, there isn’t much recourse, so you need to have answers.
Burning Hands is reasonable as a sideboard option, except that Righteous Valkyrie and the like exist, so Burning Hands isn’t enough. Dragon’s Fire is another possibility, but we’d need more Dragons.
Conductive Current does double duty. It can stop decks from going wide while also ensuring your next removal spell can kill something big. The Faceless Haven nerf makes me less enthusiastic about playing it, but getting access to Conductive Current is another good reason to stay away.
With Spikefield Hazard and Shatterskull Smashing as part of the manabase, we can sideboard into a larger threat seamlessly. Other Dragons are viable options, but Tibalt, Wicked Tormentor is the sturdiest. It’s a weird card though. You can’t often use the drafting +1 and find a cheap card to cast. The second +1 ability is rarely worth using, except in specific scenarios. The typical play pattern is usually to -2, hope it doesn’t die, and then draft until your opponent loses. Against control and midrange, you want to use Tibalt as a card advantage engine.
The random Key to the Archive in the sideboard is good enough to keep. If anything, I’d add a second copy before I’d consider removing it. Having mana acceleration will allow you to double threat against control, which can get around their countermagic. It can also help you trade in a mediocre burn spell for something relevant.
VS Esper Clerics
Trying to keep up with Inquisitor Captain decks can be difficult. Their exact contents vary, but they have a good curve, high toughness, and the ability to go wide quickly. It’s a tricky deck to beat, but the popularity of these decks is the reason to play Mono-Red Aggro. You have the removal, card advantage, and threats to win the matchup, even if some of their cards are tough to beat on paper.
VS Azorius Control
The control decks are tough because they vary. Thankfully, they’re often loaded up with card advantage and lack interaction, which means you can get under them. It also means that if they do stabilize, it will be difficult to win a war of attrition against them. Having an extra two-drop helps, but maybe there should be more.
VS Mono-Red Dragons
This is the exact matchup where you need Thundering Rebuke. They rely on their Dragons to carry them rather than having true sources of card advantage. As long as they don’t get any traction, they’ll eventually fold.
VS Mono-Black Sacrifice
Mono-Black Sacrifice is one of the matchups I feel is lacking. We have a solid sideboard plan, except that Tibalt, Wicked Tormentor isn’t particularly great against them. You need something to get through their lifegain and removal. Even though Tibalt grinds well, it’s not very threatening against them.
Overall, Mono-Red Aggro has two main weaknesses. The first is when your removal doesn’t line up well against your opponent’s threats. That can happen if your opponent draws a bunch of three-toughness and four-toughness creatures against smaller removal spells or doesn’t have targets for your removal in general. If you have dead cards, it’s easy to fall behind, which leads to the second problem. Once you fall behind, there’s not really a catch-up mechanism. You can’t solve every problem, but it’s important to note what they are.
Alchemy is a wide-open format with plenty of powerful, exciting strategies. Mono-Red Aggro is one of many viable options, but it’s the one that’s most versatile and has free wins. There’s not much else you can ask for.