Not too long ago, R&D pushed mono-red aggro hard—the effects of which are still seen throughout Legacy and Modern. Monastery Swiftspear and Eidolon of the Great Revel were ridiculous creatures, and even though the Standard burn spells weren’t on the level of Lightning Bolt and Fireblast, they were still efficient enough to make red great again.
It’s been a while since that has been the case. We see red decks pop up, but color fixing has been too good and gold cards too powerful.
Luckily, red does have one “gimmick” working for it, and that’s madness. With enough cheap enablers, there are a number of threats that can be cast for value, a discounted price, and at instant speed.
Insolent Neonate is the one everybody knows about. It’s an enabler for Modern Dredge and a great way to get cards into the graveyard. It’s also a superb madness enabler thanks to its low mana cost and ability to trigger the discard for 0 mana at instant speed. Neonate can also get in for some damage while you look for a madness spell, as menace is tough to stop on a 1-drop creature.
Furyblade Vampire is susceptible to just about any removal spell in the format, and it limits when you can discard your card for madness, but it’s a big threat if it goes unanswered. You’re already looking to discard cards, so a 4/2 trampling creature with upside can help you pull ahead.
Bomat Courier isn’t the best enabler in the early game, but it’s still a fantastic early play. Bomat will ensure that you have gas in the middle stages of the game as it accumulates future card advantage for you. Getting to cash in on your madness spells as you Concentrate or Opportunity some time in the midgame is a tough swing for your opponent to overcome.
Bloodmad Vampire can be a sick turn-2 play following a Neonate. If your opponent doesn’t know it’s coming, this guy will take out a huge chunk of their life total and start to grow. Coupled with removal spells, it’s a potent threat. It also can’t be hit by a Fatal Push without revolt despite often only costing 2 mana.
Incorrigible Youths is one of your biggest payoffs, especially in the draws that allow Furyblade Vampire to trigger. An attack for 8 on turn 3, plus whatever 1-drops you may have had in play, will put the nail in the coffin of most games.
Stromkirk Occultist is a little on the clunky side, but there’s potential value there. It might take a bit of work, but that’s why you play removal spells.
Lightning Axe is your best removal option, as it’s another madness outlet and it takes care of virtually everything in the format. A single mana to kill a Heart of Kiran or Verdurous Gearhulk is already a nice tempo swing—doing that while madnessing out a Bloodmad Vampire is devastating.
Incendiary Flow is a sorcery and has no madness synergies, but it does exile some otherwise frustrating creatures and gets 3 damage in for 2 mana. This is perfectly serviceable when you’re trying to force Bloodmads and Stormkirks through.
Mono-Red Vampires may not be the single most powerful deck in the format, but it does hit hard and have consistent mana. Even when it’s not the king of the hill, red still packs some heat.