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Everything I Know About Mono-Red Aggro❄ In Kaldheim Standard

Bobby Fontanely took Mono-Red Aggro❄ to a $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier Top 8. Get tips, tricks, and a Kaldheim Standard sideboarding guide.

Embercleave, illustrated by Joe Slucher

Two weeks ago, I played Mono-Red Aggro❄ in Kaldheim Standard to a Top 8 finish in the second SCG Tour Online $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier. Brandon Burton (AKA sandydogmtg) can be credited with both this specific list I had success with and popularizing the archetype in Kaldheim Standard in general. I learned a bunch from watching his stream, and my opponents did too, as I faced the 75-card mirror in both Round 9 and the quarterfinals of the event. 

In terms of positioning, Mono-Red Aggro❄ is best suited for a field of Sultai Ramp (Yorion), Jeskai Cycling, and Dimir Rogues. However, if Mono-White Aggro❄ is popular, Mono-Red Aggro❄ should stay home. I’ve found the current builds of Lovestruck Beast decks to be completely reasonable matchups, but that could change if Mono-Red Aggro❄ is the center of attention on a particular weekend.


Tips and Tricks

  • Stomp has an often-forgotten line that stops damage prevention effects. This includes the “prevent 1 damage” of Reidane’s back half: Valkmira, Protector’s Shield. Stomp can always kill a 2/2 under the Shield’s protection. Furthermore, you can also use Stomp to surprise your opponent after blocks, when you “chump attack” with some otherwise useless 1/1 creatures.
  • If you steal a creature with The Akroan War and have an Anax, Hardened in the Forge on the battlefield, set a stop during your own first main phase going into Chapter III. That way, if you draw a removal spell, you have the option to kill the stolen creature and get Satyr tokens for your trouble.

  • If you’re on the play versus a Turn 1 Selfless Savior, remember that it can only be sacrificed if your opponent controls another creature. This means that you can freely Stomp it before another creature comes down, without your opponent being able to sacrifice it to fizzle Bonecrusher Giant going on an adventure.
  • Against Sultai Ramp (Yorion), you’ll sometimes find yourself with all your creatures tapped down to Chapter II of Kiora Bests the Sea God. When that happens, you can sometimes push through the last few points by increasing your Fireblade Charger’s power with Boulder Rush or Embercleave, and then pointing a removal spell at it.

  • Your opponents will often be scared to block your Fervent Champions in the early-game. Feel free to bluff attack if it makes sense. If you can’t remember the last time your bluff attack got called, you’re not bluff attacking enough.
  • Cast Rimrock Knight on Turn 2 more frequently than you currently are. While Robber of the Rich is the most preferred play, a common decision point on Turn 2 is whether to deploy a Rimrock Knight or a one-drop creature plus Boulder Rush. I messed this up plenty when I was new to the deck, and this one adjustment noticeably helped my win rate. Turn 2 Rimrock Knight sets up the ability to push much more damage on future turns.

  • Speaking of Rimrock Knight, sometimes you might want to fire off an end-of-turn Boulder Rush on your opponent’s creature to enable your Robber of the Rich. This will most frequently happen when you’re on the play versus an opponent who has mulliganed and cast a one-drop (if your hand didn’t also contain a one-drop creature).

Sideboarding

VS Sultai Ramp (Yorion)

Out:

Frost Bite Frost Bite Frost Bite Frost Bite Bonecrusher Giant

In:

Roiling Vortex Roiling Vortex Phoenix of Ash Phoenix of Ash The Akroan War

This matchup is about jamming your threats before they are invalidated by Emergent Ultimatum. Sultai Ramp is just clunky enough that they’ll usually give you the chance to get past the finish line. Most of your creatures have an odd mana value, so try to keep at least one even-costed creature on the battlefield for Extinction Event. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell does double duty by being even and dodging Shadows’ Verdict.

After sideboard, a typical Sultai Ramp will have at least three copies combined of a good brick wall creature like Polukranos, Unchained or Elder Gargaroth, which is why The Akroan War comes in. Just one hit from either of these wearing an Embercleave can finish them off in an otherwise stabilized game. Be aware of Stomp getting rid of Polukranos’s damage prevention effect, causing it to both lose the +1/+1 counters and still take damage. 

Be willing to mulligan very aggressively in this matchup. A seven-card hand without a one- or two-drop creature is not aggressive enough, even if it contains Roiling Vortex. Speaking of Roiling Vortex, try to deploy it just before the Ultimatum turn, so as to not make it an easy target for Binding the Old Gods.

VS Mono-Red Aggro❄

Out:

Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Embercleave Embercleave

In: 

The Akroan War The Akroan War Phoenix of Ash Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire Redcap Melee Redcap Melee Ox of Agonas

Sideboard games are about long-term planning. Everything will usually die, so try to be the player with the last threat left standing. Don’t deploy Anax until you’ve given your opponent ample opportunity to use Scorching Dragonfire. Try to resolve Stomp when your opponent is tapped out, lest their Stomp fizzle your own and leave you down a Bonecrusher Giant. Bringing in one Ox of Agonas plays to this plan, but sideboarding in multiples means you can just lose to an aggressive opening. 

VS Gruul Adventures

Out:

Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Embercleave Fireblade Charger Phoenix of Ash

In:

Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire Soul Sear Soul Sear Redcap Melee Redcap Melee The Akroan War The Akroan War

The next three matchups are the Lovestruck Beast decks. Let’s focus on that card first. While it’s easiest to win when your opponent doesn’t draw the card, it’s important to establish a plan for how you’re going to beat it. Almost all of your cards contribute to some plan. In order of preference, you can:

  • Steal it with The Akroan War, and then win by equipping it with an Embercleave
  • Use a small removal spell in conjunction with Torbran
  • Kill it with Soul Sear
  • Set up a favorable trade using Embercleave
  • Trade using a five-plus-power Anax
  • Remove the 1/1, enabling you to build a wider battlefield while not under pressure
  • Two-for-one yourself by trading a creature and a removal spell

Now that you have a plan for Lovestruck Beast, the matchup plan is to be flexible based on your draw. Usually you’re the beatdown, but sometimes you’re the control. The lists from the February Kaldheim League Weekend were particularly targeted at Mono-Red with lots of removal in the sideboard, but such builds are now a thing of the past. 

VS Naya Adventures (with Toski/Clarion Spirit)

Out (on the play): 

Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Robber of the Rich Phoenix of Ash Embercleave

In (on the play):

Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire Soul Sear Soul Sear The Akroan War The Akroan War

Out (on the draw):

Rimrock Knight Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Phoenix of Ash Embercleave

In (on the draw):

Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire Soul Sear Soul Sear The Akroan War The Akroan War

Most of the information about Gruul Adventures still holds, but now you have better opportunities for aggressive openings due to them tapping out for Showdown of the Skalds or having mana stumbles. Furthermore, their smaller creatures trade nicely for your cheap removal, and they have fewer removal spells themselves.

Try to avoid presenting a favorable window for Chop Down, a removal spell which Torbran nicely dodges, on Anax if you can. This is a matchup where you should be looking to cast a second copy of Anax on a battlefield that already has one to get the four Satyr tokens, which play nicely with Torbran and can go around Lovestruck Beast.

VS Temur Adventures (Obosh)

Out:

Fireblade Charger Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Robber of the Rich Phoenix of Ash Embercleave

In:

Redcap Melee Redcap Melee Soul Sear Soul Sear The Akroan War The Akroan War Shredded Sails

Temur Adventures is the best-positioned Lovestruck Beast deck against you. Beyond the normal Gruul-colored Adventures package, they have Petty Theft to mess with both Anax and Embercleave, and an end-game that finishes you off quickly. The two things you have going for you is that Robber of the Rich can steal cards reliably in Game 1, and that Frost Bite embarrasses Kazandu Mammoth. Don’t be afraid to mulligan aggressively, since their end-game escalates quickly with Goldspan Dragon into Alrund’s Epiphany.

VS Jeskai Cycling (without Irencrag Pyromancer)

Out (on the play):

Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Phoenix of Ash Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

In (on the play):

Redcap Melee Redcap Melee Roiling Vortex Roiling Vortex

Out (on the draw):

Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Phoenix of Ash Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

In (on the draw):

Redcap Melee Redcap Melee Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire The Akroan War

Your deck checks all the boxes against Jeskai Cycling. There are early answers for Flourishing Fox, Embercleave to push through 1/1s, and a fast enough clock that forces Zenith Flare to be pointed at your creatures rather than your face. 

Robber of the Rich really shines here, as your opponent can’t decrease their hand size very quickly, and the spells that you steal are mostly helpful at closing out the game. The easiest route to losing a game is getting punked out by Flourishing Fox on the draw, but you’ll usually get a window to do five or six damage to it on Turn 3 with two burn spells. 

Jeskai Cycling (with Irencrag Pyromancer)

Out:

Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Fireblade Charger Fireblade Charger Fireblade Charger

In:

Redcap Melee Redcap Melee Soul Sear Soul Sear Phoenix of Ash Phoenix of Ash

Irencrag Pyromancer completely warps this matchup. You can expect your opponent to regularly find two copies of it. Furthermore, you can expect your opponent to almost never block your 1/1s with it, so removal which deals three damage isn’t going to help take it down.

Torbran is one of your best threats after sideboard, since it dodges all interaction except Redcap Melee. As long as you answer Irencrag Pyromancer (and a potential early Flourishing Fox), one of your creatures wearing an Embercleave will eventually finish off your opponent.

VS Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)

Out:

Fireblade Charger Fireblade Charger Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Embercleave Embercleave

In:

Ox of Agonas Ox of Agonas Phoenix of Ash Phoenix of Ash Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire Shredded Sails

Your opponent is forced to take the control role in the matchup and your deck is aggressive enough to tax their ability to fulfill this role. Try to hold your last removal effect for Lurrus while also keeping in mind that your opponent will have access to Agadeem’s Awakening in the late-game to produce up to four blockers, so don’t throw away too much material for damage if you can help it. 

The sideboard games will revolve around the escape creatures, so don’t be afraid to mulligan land-light hands. You will rarely run out of spells to cast with all your mana, so the easiest way to lose is being stuck on two or three lands. If your opponent is getting close to decking you, favor bringing back a Phoenix over Ox so as to deal yourself less deck damage.

VS Mono-White Aggro❄

Out:

Anax, Hardened in the Forge Anax, Hardened in the Forge Embercleave Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Rimrock Knight Phoenix of Ash Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich

In:

The Akroan War The Akroan War Scorching Dragonfire Scorching Dragonfire Soul Sear Soul Sear Redcap Melee Redcap Melee Shredded Sails

Cedric will be happy to hear about how overwhelmingly favored Mono-White is against Mono-Red. If you’re playing Mono-Red and an opponent leads on Snow-Covered Plains, the honest truth is that you’re gonna have a bad time and nothing I say will materially change that.

Games that you win will involve punking them out with Anax wearing Embercleave or an awkward draw from them. Reidane is highly damaging to your gameplan, so hold removal for it wherever possible. I’ve found that building a gameplan around The Akroan War ruining opposing combat plans to be most correlated with winning sideboard games. Aggro mirrors are hard, so be prepared for plenty of thinking.