The Mono-Red deck has gone through some striking development. There was two-week old red, week-old red, 3-day-old red, and now current-day red. The deck PVDDR used to take down the Pro Tour should become industry standard going forward, so let’s break it down.
This deck is very much a “rush” deck looking to get in as much damage as possible with creatures in the early game. You’d be thrilled to play more than twelve 1-drops—if anything else remotely playable. Bomat Courier is the best of the bunch as it has haste, can be cast off colorless lands, and can rebuild your hand in the middle and late stages of the game. Falkenrath Gorger as just an Elite Vanguard is perfect. Village Messenger is quite strong, especially on the play, where you have a higher likelihood of flipping it. You aren’t cutting any of these important creatures, but cards like Soul-Scar Mage are just too bad to put into your deck.
Earthshaker Khenra is a game-changer. You already have a powerful 2-drop in Kari Zev, Skyship Raider that stays out of Shock range and attacks with evasion for 3 damage. Unfortunately, Kari Zev is a legend, so you can’t even realistically play 4 of them in your deck. Khenra gives you another aggressive 2-drop that lets you get your creatures past their defenders. In the late game, the Khenra is a game-winning spell out of your graveyard that you incidentally get for free. A 4/4 haste creature that turns off any blocker for a turn is a massive tempo swing.
If you’ve played any Limited with Amonkhet, you know how insane the Ahn-Crop Crasher can be at 3 mana. A 3-power haste creature is already above the curve, but the ability to exert to turn off a blocker puts it way over the top. With a deck that can curve out to already have 2-3 creatures on the battlefield on turn 3, Crasher threatens to take down half your opponent’s life total on the 3rd turn. The game doesn’t last too much longer after that.
Hazoret the Fervent is the best card in the deck and the reason mono-red is so strong. The reason we were so high on mono-red is because of how incredibly powerful it was to have 4 in your deck, and yet we only ended up playing 3, so why is that?
Hazoret is easily your best card against mono-red and in a few other matchups, but it’s only mediocre against decks like B/G, and a card you board out against Zombies. These decks both have Grasp of Darkness, and Zombies also has Dark Salvation.
In both of these matchups, however, Chandra, Torch of Defiance shines. There are very few games where it’s going to be better to draw 2 Hazorets than it is to draw 1 Hazoret and 1 Chandra, and since the planeswalker is better against black decks and also insanely good against control, we decided on a 3/2 split. This also frees up multiple sideboard slots as you absolutely want access to 4 Chandras in a number of matchups where it’s far and away your best card.
With the addition on Chandras to the main deck, cheap removal goes up in value. We had 3 Shocks throughout all of testing, but the 4th was the last addition to the deck to help protect the planeswalker. This also meant we could ditch Magma Spray in the sideboard, freeing up yet another slot, for a card that’s only a small upgrade in a few matchups.
Omitting Incendiary Flow and Collective Defiance is simply great. These cards are slow and clunky at sorcery speed. Collective Defiance can be really nice at dealing with something like Winding Constrictor when you’re on the play, but it’s still overpriced. Once you start adding kickers, it’s just an inferior Chandra. Incendiary Flow would be good if you were a burn deck, but you aren’t.
Abrade, on the other hand, is an instant, and being able to kill an artifact makes it playable against Torrential Gearhulk and great against Mardu Vehicles. This is an awesome card against Constrictor decks, able to kill their 2s as well as their Verdurous Gearhulk. In red mirrors, not playing instants opens you up to Cartouches and Consuming Fervors. Abrade also allows you to pass and flip Village Messenger early in the game to get in some additional damage down the road. Freeing up yet more sideboard slots allowed us to have all the cards we really wanted access to, and ended up putting PV in the winner’s circle!
Mono-Red is the best deck in Standard, and this is the list you should be starting with.