It’s relatively deep into this Standard season and barely a peep has been heard from the mono-red aggro decks—what gives? Is red just on a hiatus?
While there is a lot to like about the white aggressive decks right now, especially with Thalia’s Lieutenant pulling double duty as an early- and late-game bomb in the deck, red has some great strengths too, and provides far more reach.
To kick things off, there are still plenty of great early creatures. Losing Monastery Swiftspear is a monster hit to any aggressive deck, but Falkenrath Gorger is that rare 2-power 1-mana red creature with absolutely no drawback. Zurgo Bellstriker has close to no drawback in a deck like this since you don’t want to block anyway, although the legendary status hurts. Lightning Berserker is a great curve filler and can act as a Fireball with buyback.
Abbot of Keral Keep is good enough that players are now splashing it in their virtually-mono-white Humans deck off of 8 red sources, 4 of which enter the battlefield tapped. A 2/1 prowess for 2 is a reasonable rate, but getting to potentially draw a free extra card is amazing for decks that need some staying power.
Mono-red also gets to play Reckless Bushwhacker reliably, another card good enough for white decks to consider splashing. With no concerns about mana, you can play 4 copies of each knowing that color requirements won’t be a problem.
Dragon Fodder is one of the best spells in conjunction with the Bushwhacker. Each additional body represents even more damage when you can pump your team, and while Hordeling Outburst would be nice, this is what you have.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh wins the game unchecked, and you only get a turn. With all of the aggressive creatures in this deck, removal spells get taxed quickly. It’s not easy for an opponent to keep a Dromoka’s Command or Declaration in Stone in their hand waiting for Chandra to arrive when you have multiple creatures in play by turn 2. If you get to untap with Chandra, you’re looking at multiple pings and what should be a relatively easy flip—and a planeswalker that will burn out opponents quickly.
At the top of the curve, you have the finisher. Goldnight Castigator has a downside that can definitely lose you a game, but it’s mitigated nicely by the upside. The Castigator will come down and connect for 4 almost every time. It will also dodge many of the removal spells in the format with 9 toughness going around cards like Grasp of Darkness, Languish, and many Dromoka’s Commands. Being able to connect for 4 damage before your opponent gets a swing in is nice, but taking double damage can cost you. Luckily, Goldnight Castigators have no interest in prolonging games and will make sure to end them quickly, one way or another.
Titan’s Strength and Exquisite Firecraft both act as burn spells. Titan’s Strength offers 3 damage and a scry for a single mana, which is a fantastic rate. Firecraft gives you reach, but can also deal with some problematic creatures, such as a Lambholt Pacifist trying to block, or an Archangel Avacyn trying to beat you down.
Mono-red hasn’t put up numbers in Standard, but it also hasn’t been a popular deck to play. It still has tons of power, so if this is how you prefer to win games, this may be the deck for you to try!