Robber of the Rich Art Throne of Eldraine

A Complete Guide for Small-Red Aggro in Standard

This weekend, I played Mono-Red Aggro in Standard to a Top 4 finish in the SCG Philadelphia Team Constructed Open with teammates Daryl Ayers and Russell Lee. Big shoutout to Brandon Burton aka sandydogmtg for designing the deck, streaming it a ton, and giving me the green light to distill what I learned for sharing. After watching a six-hour long replay of him streaming at Arena Mythic #1, I realized that I still had no idea how to sideboard on the play in most matchups. By my notes, in those six hours, he lost a total of six individual games and one total match. I knew I had found my deck for the weekend.

Small Mono-Red Deck List

Standard

17 Mountain
3 Castle Embereth
4 Scorch Spitter
4 Fervent Champion
4 Tin Street Dodger
4 Runaway Steam-Kin
3 Robber of the Rich
2 Phoenix of Ash
4 Anax, Hardened in the Forge
4 Shock
4 Infuriate
3 Light Up the Stage
4 Embercleave

Arena Export

4 Anax, Hardened in the Forge (THB) 125
3 Castle Embereth (ELD) 239
4 Embercleave (ELD) 120
4 Fervent Champion (ELD) 124
4 Infuriate (THB) 141
3 Light Up the Stage (RNA) 107
17 Mountain (WAR) 259
2 Phoenix of Ash (THB) 148
3 Robber of the Rich (ELD) 138
4 Runaway Steam-Kin (GRN) 115
4 Scorch Spitter (M20) 159
4 Shock (M19) 156
4 Tin Street Dodger (RNA) 120
3 Claim the Firstborn (ELD) 118
1 Experimental Frenzy (GRN) 99
2 Phoenix of Ash (THB) 148
3 Redcap Melee (ELD) 135
2 Scorching Dragonfire (ELD) 139
4 Unchained Berserker (M20) 164

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The top three decks in Standard are U/W Control, Temur Reclamation, and Mono-Red. The core decision of this build is to go extra low curve, allowing it to effectively get under Temur Reclamation and U/W Control. The cost here is that the larger Mono-Red mirror is worse, since it plays out like being the smaller deck in a midrange fight: an unenviable position.

Tradeoffs Versus Bigger Mono-Red

A more traditional Mono-Red list might run Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or Bonecrusher Giant. These are powerful cards, but they’re outclassed or answered at a mana disadvantage by the time they come down against the other two leading decks, especially post-board.

In their place, this deck runs more cheap cards like Infuriate, Tin Street Dodger, and Robber of the Rich. There are several benefits for doing this.

  1. Embercleave is easier to cast.
  2. Runaway Steam-Kins can often enable a turn-3 of triple 1-drop plus 3 more mana.
  3. Robber of the Rich can more reliably be turned on, even on the draw.
  4. When the first London mulligan yields a four-spell three-land hand, you can fearlessly bottom the third land.
  5. You get to infuriate those who don’t mainphase damage-based removal with Infuriate!

Tips and Tricks

If you have instant-speed spells that you want to cast during combat against an opposing Teferi, perhaps an Embercleave, you can try to take it down before the “normal” combat damage step with Scorch Spitter or the first-striking Fervent Champion.

The cards exiled with Robber of the Rich can be cast on any future turn of the game, if you attacked with a Rogue that turn. Tin Street Dodger is a Rogue, which is fun. Additionally, depending on how fancy you get with Robber of the Rich or Claim the Firstborn, you’ll discover that Brazen Borrower and Rankle, Master of Pranks are both also Rogues.

If you exile an opponent’s Adventure card with Robber of the Rich, you can cast either half while ignoring color requirements. Furthermore, if you cast the Adventure side, YOU are the one who gets permission to cast the creature from exile, not your opponent. Note that, the second time around, color requirements are NOT ignored. You’ll need to steal a red Adventure card to get a glorious tale worth retelling.

Robber of the Rich can disrupt an opposing scry. Stealing an early card kept on top with a scryland, or the second card kept on top with an Omen of the Sea, can really mess with your opponent’s game plan.

Beyond using Claim the Firstborn to give your own creatures haste, don’t forget to look out for situations where you might want to use it to untap them after attacking, building your own vigilance.

Try to play your Castle Embereths as your last lands when possible. Specific scenarios can punish you for this, but largely you want to conceal the information that you have access to it.

Playing a second copy Anax, Hardened in the Forge with a first one already on the battlefield results in making four Satyr tokens.

Sideboard Guide

Azorius Control

Post-board games here get rougher when your opponents usually gain six copies of 2-mana interaction between Devout Decree and Aether Gust. Since your first couple of creatures will be immediately bounced or exiled by one-for-one removal, I try to lead with haste creatures, and leave most non-haste creatures for after a wrath. The exception is Unchained Berserker, which is the best 2-drop to slam on turn 2.

Bringing in a single Redcap Melee may look strange, but I do it in the dark as an answer to Archon of Sun’s Grace. That card is a blowout. The fail case is using it to get an 0/4 Wall out of the way, or finishing off a planeswalker.

In:

+4 Unchained Berserker
+2 Phoenix of Ash
+1 Experimental Frenzy
+1 Redcap Melee

Out:

-4 Shock
-1 Embercleave
-3 Infuriate

Mono-Red Aggro Mirror

In most games, both of you will have the tools to stop the other from running away with the game, which leads to a protracted game of draw-go. Consider not killing any creature that can be effectively blanked by a blocker, even if it means taking 2 to 4 damage from it. If your opponent is on the play with a turn-2 Runaway Steam-Kin, your turn 2 should involve killing it, even if that means being mana inefficient. Try to mainphase removal spells in the smaller mirror when appropriate, to not get wrecked by Infuriate.

Always board in these 7 cards:

+3 Redcap Melee
+2 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Experimental Frenzy
+1 Claim the Firstborn

Versus small Mono-Red

Out on the play:

-2 Robber of the Rich
-1 Scorch Spitter
-1 Phoenix of Ash
-2 Light Up the Stage
-1 Infuriate

Out on the draw:

-2 Robber of the Rich
-2 Scorch Spitter
-2 Phoenix of Ash
-1 Light Up the Stage

Versus larger Mono-Red

Out on the play:

-1 Robber of the Rich
-3 Scorch Spitter
-2 Phoenix of Ash
-1 Infuriate

Out on the play:

-2 Robber of the Rich
-2 Scorch Spitter
-2 Phoenix of Ash
-1 Infuriate

Temur Reclamation

This is the matchup where you gain the most points for being so small. Post-board, Claiming your opponents first Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Hydroid Krasis will usually kill them immediately, doubly so if it’s holding an Embercleave.

In: 
+2 Claim the Firstborn
+2 Phoenix of Ash

Out:

-4 Shock

If you see any number of Hydroid Krasis:

In:

+3 Claim the Firstborn
+1 Phoenix of Ash

Out:

-4 Shock

Rakdos Aristocrats

In:

+3 Redcap Melee
+2 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Experimental Frenzy

Out:

-4 Scorch Spitter
-1 Infuriate
-1 Light Up the Stage

Simic/Sultai Ramp

In:

+2 Claim the Firstborn
+1 Phoenix of Ash
+1 Experimental Frenzy

Out:

-4 Shock

Jeskai Fires

In:

+4 Unchained Berserker
+2 Phoenix of Ash

Out:

-4 Shock
-1 Light Up the Stage
-1 Infuriate

Mono-White Lifegain

In:

+4 Unchained Berserker
+2 Scorching Dragonfire

Out:

-4 Scorch Spitter
-1 Light Up the Stage
-1 Phoenix of Ash

Jund Food

In:

+2 Redcap Melee
+2 Scorching Dragonfire

Out:

-3 Scorch Spitter
-1 Robber of the Rich

Mono-Black Devotion

In:

+2 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Experimental Frenzy
+1 Phoenix of Ash

Out:

-1 Infuriate
-1 Scorch Spitter
-1 Robber of the Rich
-1 Light Up the Stage

Gruul Adventures

In:

+3 Claim the Firstborn
+3 Redcap Melee

Out:

-2 Scorch Spitter
-1 Robber of the Rich
-1 Light Up the Stage
-2 Phoenix of Ash

Simic Flash

In:

+1 Claim the Firstborn
+1 Redcap Melee

Out:

-2 Shock

Moving Forward

Patrick Sullivan, master red mage that he is, exactly identified the problems I’d have with my deck over the course of the weekend. When I picked up this deck, I considered its biggest draws to be Anax and Embercleave. They provided insurance against wraths and a way to push huge chunks of damage. In the tournament itself, however, it didn’t play out like that. I made a grand total of two Satyr tokens the whole weekend, and multiple Embercleave draws were as bad as they sound. While I haven’t yet figured out what the details would look like, I echo Patrick’s recommendation: try to build a Mono-Red deck with neither Anax nor Embercleave.

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