Last week I covered five rogue yet competitive decks, and I asked you which ones you’d like me to test and tune. The votes favored Grixis Dragons, Rally the Ancestors, and Mono-Red Devotion/Dragons. I’ll start with the Mono-Red deck today.

Before that, however, I want to highlight one of the best brews I’ve seen in a while: Yohan Dudognon’s 4-Color Company. Dudognon finished in the Top 16 of Grand Prix Paris last weekend, and his deck looked good. I wrote a deck tech while doing text coverage, so if you like Collected Company, then be sure to check that out. I doubt I could find improvements to his deck if I tried.

Now, on to today’s brew.

Thiago Bonfim Moreira’s Mono-Red Devotion/Dragons

11-4 at Grand Prix São Paulo

The ideal curve for this deck is Wild Slash on turn one, Dragon Whisperer on turn two, Flamewake Phoenix on turn three, Thunderbreak Regent on turn four, and Stormbreath Dragon on turn five. Once all that is set up, you have Dragons in play and a substantial devotion to red. You can take advantage of them with Draconic Roar and Fanatic of Mogis, respectively.

I tested several games with Bonfirm’s deck, and I played a few games with two related decks as well:

It certainly looked like Thiago Bonfirm wasn’t the only player trying to find the right home for Flamewake Phoenix and Thunderbreak Regent, so I tried all three versions. I went 8-2 in matches in total. While playing, I made some notes on card choices.

Cards or aspects I liked

  • The fliers. As I detailed in my “7 ways to beat Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector” piece, one of the best ways to combat the megamorphs is to fly over. Stormbreath Dragon, Thunderbreak Regent, Flamewake Phoenix, and even Dragon Whisperer were all excellent. Ashcloud Phoenix from Levy’s build was fine as well.
  • Draconic Roar. Sometimes it’s dead and sometimes you don’t have a Dragon, but usually it’s 6 damage for 2 mana, and that’s an incredible rate. Fleecemane Lion is one of the most-played creatures overall in Standard right now, and there’s no better answer than Draconic Roar.
  • Wild Slash. I had tried a red devotion deck while testing for Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, but my build had as many permanents as possible and no removal spells maindeck. As a result, the deck played poorly from behind and didn’t have a way to break serve against Elvish Mystic, Seeker of the Way, or Goblin Rabblemaster. Although Wild Slash doesn’t aid the devotion count, its effect is valuable.
  • Ire Shaman. This card from Levy’s deck was surprisingly good on turn two thanks to the evasion. It’s also good late—one mana to unmorph is very cheap. This card is just as impressive as Den Protector.
  • Early aggression. You don’t want creatures like Zurgo Bellstriker or Goblin Rabblemaster in every matchup, but having access to them against slow control decks allows you to run them over.

Cards or aspects I didn’t like

  • Fanatic of Mogis. The deck doesn’t have that many red mana symbols, so it rarely dealt more than 5 damage, and there are a few planeswalkers out there that you’d like to assassinate. Moreover, the 4/2 body was embarrassing against Den Protector, Siege Rhino, and Wild Slash.
  • Sideboard cards like Rending Volley, Torch Fiend, and Circle of Flame. They are very situational, and I never brought them in in the matches I played. They’re not even all that good against the decks you would bring them in against.
  • Only 24 lands. The deck is mana-hungry and has flood protection with Dragon Whisperer and Haven of the Spirit Dragon. I really wanted a 25th land.
  • Eidolon of the Great Revel and Hammer of Purphoros. Dromoka’s Command is very popular right now, so having stray enchantments in your deck is a liability.
  • The black splash in Levy’s deck. It requires too many tap-lands, and Bloodstained Mire is not a reliable black source because with so many double-red cards I sometimes had to go for a Mountain instead.
  • Roast and Lightning Strike. I view Roast as a sideboard card, and Lightning Strike is worse than Wild Slash or Draconic Roar.

Taking into account all of these observations, this is how I would play it right now:

Big Red – Frank Karsten

My sideboard has 8 cheap threats that can replace the burn spells against Esper Dragons in an effort to go under them. Against Mono-Red Aggro, you board out Flamewake Phoenix, add Anger of the Gods, and take the control role. Against Abzan Aggro and megamorph decks, you add Roast and can then choose your role depending on their card choices and depending on who plays first—you could add early drops on the play, or take them out and add Anger of the Gods on the draw.

The reason to choose Big Red over Mono-Red Aggro is that you can fly over the green decks. The reason to choose it over, say, Mardu Dragons is that you have more consistent mana and can beat Esper Dragons by going under with 1-drops and 2-drops before they cast Dig Through Time. Finally, opponents won’t know how to sideboard against you. Some boarded Drown in Sorrow or Hornet Nest against me and lost to Dragons. Others boarded Disdainful Stroke and lost to early drops. They can easily guess wrong, and you get a huge edge that way. As long as the surprise value is still there, I like what my updated build is doing.