Mono-Red Aggro will be the most played deck at SCG Indianapolis.
It's the deck that you absolutely must prepare for and will likely play the most matches against this weekend. It's probably going to put the most copies into Top 8 because linear aggression, historically, does very well week one of a new format.
This will be the most played 75-card decklist at SCG Indianapolis or at your local card shop tournament:
- 22 Mountain
This is the only 5-0 Mono-Red Aggro decklist released on Monday, January 21, 2019, piloted by SCG Invitational Champion Max McVety. This is enough time for people to digest the list, build it, and practice with it if they haven't already.
There's only a single list because of the way Wizards of the Coast curates content; each decklist they publish must be twenty cards different than each other. There's way more Mono-Red running around than what one decklist represents.
"We're changing what we mean by 'distinct' decklists. Currently, distinct is defined as having at least ten cards different between lists, and we list five different distinct decklists per day. We have found that ten-card differences often didn't create enough archetype differentiation. Initial testing at 20 seems to be leading to better diversity, showing a wider spread of the metagame, so we're moving the definition of distinct to 20-card differentiation."
This is the first piece of real data that Wizards of the Coast has released, as they don't release lists from Magic Arena. Believe me though, it's everyone on the Magic Arena ladder. My last five ranked games were against various flavors of Mono-Red Aggro.
- Mono-Red Aggro doesn't need much from Ravnica Allegiance. Mono-Red Aggro was already a fairly cheap deck to build. At the time of writing, you can buy this entire Mono-Red Aggro deck here on StarCityGames.com® for $120, with your 5% Premium discount. The four Light Up the Stage and two Skewer the Critics accounts for a whopping $10 of the deck's total cost.
- Magic Arena has incentivized players to jam Mono-Red Aggro for at least some portion of their hopeful climb to Mythic. The deck doesn't break the bank on rare and mythic Wildcards, is simple to pick up and play, and the games go quickly so it gets in a large quantity of them. I expect Mono-Red Aggro in some form to be on the majority of players' Magic Arena accounts if they've ever dabbled in Constructed. If it's true that Magic Arena is onboarding new players to the game of Magic, Mono-Red Aggro seems like the first choice for someone new to tabletop Magic.
- Mono-Red Aggro has a reputation of tearing through new formats or when people start to outthink themselves. There's a reason it's won so many recent Pro Tours. The combination of consistency and power is a formula to taking down 10-15 rounds of Standard.
- 4 Abbot of Keral Keep
- 3 Firedrinker Satyr
- 4 Lightning Berserker
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 3 Zurgo Bellstriker
- 21 Mountain
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 4 Village Messenger
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 3 Bomat Courier
- 2 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 3 Rekindling Phoenix
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 24 Mountain
Despite "hate" cards and people wholeheartedly confident that their deck beats Mono-Red Aggro, it still finds its way to the top of the heap year after year. Will Ravnica Allegiance bring a different era where red decks finally get squished? Unlikely.
Enemy Number One To Mono-Red Aggro
Golgari Midrange, the previous biggest threat to Mono-Red Aggro, will likely be shelved as players experiment with other midrange strategies. Sure, some of them will contain Wildgrowth Walker and explore creatures, but none will be as tuned as Golgari. Mono-Red Aggro needed to
If you're on the draw without a way to connect, Skewer the Critics can be a touch too slow, which may require you aiming a Shock or Fanatical Firebrand at the opponent to turn on spectacle. Overall, it's still better than falling miles behind to Wildgrowth Walker triggers.
A case could be made for Rekindling Phoenix making a comeback at SCG Indianapolis. Lava Coil is seemingly on the decline, or at least relegated to the sideboard. The pinpoint removal like Skewer the Critics, Bedevil, and Mortify line up poorly against Rekindling Phoenix.
Speaking of Mortify, the presence of Wilderness Reclamation putting pressure on players to get enchantment removal into their decks makes cards like Seal Away, Ixalan's Binding, and Conclave Tribunal worse, which were always great answers to Rekindling Phoenix. Black has more options, but I haven't seen more than a single copy of Vraska's Contempt in people's lists.
Yep, looks like it could be a good time to be a fiery bird.
Splash Black Or No?
One of the great things about Mono-Red Aggro are the different ways to build it. You can splash for extra power if you need. You could play Risk Factor if you want to just burn people out.
With Blood Crypt and Dragonskull Summit, it's not tough to splash a few high-impact black cards into Mono-Red. We've seen Mono-White Aggro splashing for Heroic Reinforcements and sideboard Experimental Frenzy. Rix Maadi Reveler is the easiest to slip into the Mono-Red shell since it's still castable without having the black for spectacle. What's holding it back is the low-impact 2/2 body and other good card advantage options in Light Up the Stage and Experimental Frenzy. It could be fine to play just one or two Rix Maadi Reveler instead of the full four, but at that point, is it worth playing eight black dual lands just to support it?
Risk Factor has lost stock in my book. It was always the "worst burn spell" in the deck and was just waiting to be replaced. Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage are better cards that bump Risk Factor out. Still, you can jam them all together, cut some creatures, and call it a day. There's a world where creature combat isn't appealing for Mono-Red Aggro or that even having creatures on the battlefield isn't great either.
Cry of the Carnarium, Kaya's Wrath, and Settle the Wreckage are examples of cards that really want to see a bunch of small creatures on the battlefield rather than burn spells. Regardless of which Mono-Red Aggro deck you choose to pilot, you should have a mix of creatures, burn spells like Banefire, and a card that operates on another axis, like Treasure Map. That way you can shift away from whatever angle your opponent is trying to overcompensate.
Standard is still wide open as far as particular decks and card choices are concerns, but we can still prepare for the macrostrategies.
VS Mono-Red Aggro
My default is to limit my vulnerability to Goblin Chainwhiler and take a control route, eventually racing to Experimental Frenzy with Treasure Map and burying them in card advantage. Alternatively, you can sideboard in Fiery Canonnade if you believe your opponent doesn't have Fanatical Firebrand or has another small creature, like Rix Maadi Reveler. This is quite the gambit as Fiery Canonnade has the potential to be slow or dead and, of course, doesn't deal with Fanatical Firebrand. If you get them with a good Fiery Canonnade game 2, I suggest taking them out for game 3.
VS Bant Nexus
Here you take out your worst burn spell for Fight with Fire to answer Lyra Dawnbringer and Banefire as simply a better burn spell. They can go pretty big if Experimental Frenzy gets going or you get hit by a midsized Settle the Wreckage.
Goblin Chainwhiler looks slow on paper, but it does finish off Teferi if it must minus and Knight of Autumn if they gain four life or hit Experimental Frenzy. If you see them showing up with Negate and/or Carnage Tyrant, you can be pretty sure they've taken out their entire engine to shift to a midrange deck. In that case, matching back with this route is reasonable: I like sideboarding out some burn spells, likely two copies of Skewer the Critics and a copy of Lightning Strike, for those Treasure Maps. Their Knight of Autumns are overloaded with good abilities, and I'm not worried about giving their already great card a different mode.
VS Temur Reclamation
Your best bet is having their deck hit their fail rate of not finding Wilderness Reclamation in time or to have too many "air" cards like Radical Idea, Opt, and Chemister's Insight and to run them over while they spin their wheels.
This is a matchup where you wish you had Fanatical Firebrand to not overcommit to Fiery Cannonade and Risk Factor instead of Experimental Frenzy when they're leaving up clear Negate mana. If they come with Niv-Mizzet, you want Fight with Fire over Skewer the Critics too.
VS Golgari/Sultai Midrange
The name of the game is to not have their Wildgrowth Walker grow out of control. After that box is checked off, move onto removing their blockers and pushing through as much damage as you can before they get the mana for a Finality or an enormous Hydroid Krasis. Without Experimental Frenzy in the deck, I'm comfortable siding out a Mountain when the curve is lower. Also, without Experimental Frenzy, their Vivien Reids get worse.
VS Esper Control
Runaway Steam-Kin draws tend to get you to overcommit onto the battlefield, which can be bad against a bunch of Kaya's Wrath and Cry of the Carnarium. The weaker burn spells come out and we ask them if they're well-positioned to beat a Treasure Map or can finish the game before a lethal Banefire comes off.
I predict a lot of lethal Banefires to get Absorbed at SCG Indianapolis simply for the three life (which will likely be enough). If you can help it, don't fire off your Banefire if you think they have the Absorb and you can afford to wait.
VS Boros Aggro
I like sideboarding into a full-blown control deck. Fiery Canonnade is the best card against them, and after sideboard we're setting up to minimize losses on our side. Shocking their creatures and otherwise killing them is much better than attempting to block when they have convoke cards like Venerated Loxodon and Conclave Tribunal and when they're trying to attack with three creatures for Legion's Landing. They can outsize you on a stalled battlefield with Benalish Marshal or Pride of the Conquerors, so the plan becomes to kill everything on sight and get ahead a few cards.
Wizard's Lightning becomes Open Fire without any Wizards in your deck, so that's an easy cut. I like Fight with Fire in case they show up with something like Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice or Lyra Dawnbringer. It takes care of bigger things in case they got off a Venerated Loxodon or have a Benalish Marshall out.
Lighting Up The SCG Indianapolis Stage
Ravnica Allegiance has everyone's wheels turning trying to break the format for week one at SCG Indianapolis. Will Wilderness Reclamation take the format by storm, perhaps to the brink of banning the outrageous mana accelerant? Will a control deck with Kaya's Wrath and Absorb solve all the problems the tournament has to offer?
I must wait two weeks after the Prerelease to let everyone else catch up to a format since I worked on Ravnica Allegiance at Wizards of the Coast, so I'll be watching SCG Indianapolis on Twitch rather than attending myself. My choice would be the proactive and tried-and-true Mono-Red Aggro for this weekend, and I expect more people to agree with the choice than any other, so you better be ready to beat it if you aren't casting the red spells yourself.