I played Mono-Red at Pro Tour Ixalan. I wasn’t planning to, because Temur didn’t seem like a great matchup, and playing the mirror isn’t great either. But the more people started realizing that this was going to be the Temur PT, the more they started tuning their decks to be good against each other and skimming on other matchups.

That meant adding cards like Glint-Sleeve SiphonerEssence Scatter, and Gonti instead of Bristling Hydra; and Vraska as an expensive late-game trump. Some versions even cut Longtusk Cubs! All of a sudden, red seemed like a good place to be again. I tried other aggressive decks as well, mostly going wide with tokens and the white Trial, but only Mono-Red ran well for me.

I basically couldn’t lose on Magic Online, which never happens to me. It seemed that people forgot Mono-Red existed.

Now, I’m not saying this deck crushes Temur—nothing really does. But it’s a fine matchup. I went 5-3 against it at the PT and all of the matches were very good. There are people who will tell you they beat Mono-Red with Temur. I think it’s possible for Temur to beat Red but also for Red to beat Temur. All that really matters is how each player sideboards and who has a better plan for the post-board games.

Mono-Red

The deck is pretty straightforward. Play your creatures on curve, kill their blockers, and finish them with Hazoret. Don’t be afraid to mulligan with this deck as having fewer cards in your hand often means being able to attack with Hazoret a turn earlier, which easily makes up for the loss of a card. The Mono-Red players half-jokingly refer to it as taking a “strategic mulligan.”

Most of the non-Temur decks are usually focused on beating Temur with counterspells or cards like Fumigate or Settle the Wreckage. Against those decks, all you need to do is to not walk right into the sweeper or resolve Chandra and that’s usually game over. Rampaging Ferocidon gives you some game against Tokens and Whirler Virtuoso.

One thing I would like to stress is: Do not play Harsh Mentor. If this is your plan against Whirler Virtuoso or opposite Aethersphere Harvesters, then you are doing it wrong. While the ability might seem relevant in some games, the 2/2 body does absolutely nothing and it’s a horrible topdeck without any immediate impact on the game. While Rampaging Ferocidon also isn’t the most exciting topdeck, menace means that it’s almost unblockable and a 3/3 body and 3 casting cost means that it doesn’t just trade down on mana against Magma Spray or Fatal Push.

I like the 25th land in the sideboard for the matchups where it’s important to hit your land drops. Tokens or Approach decks will be able to answer your creatures with Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate, but they will usually have a hard time beating Chandra on turn 4.

Some people played Invigorated Rampage at the PT, and while I’m sure it caught many people off-guard, I have to say that it doesn’t seem that great to me, especially now that people know about it. There will be situations where your Hazoret is getting chumped by a Thopter token every turn and it will be the best card for the moment, but if you are behind or if you don’t have Hazoret in play then it won’t do much. I guess you can run your smaller guys into a Bristling Hydra and 2-for-1 yourself to kill it if they don’t have any open mana, but I don’t think that’s a winning strategy in an attrition-based matchup post-board.

Sideboard Guide

Temur Variants on the Play

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Temur Variants on the Draw

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Whoever wins the die roll usually wins game 1. Their interaction costs 2 or more mana and they have expensive cards like Chandra and Vraska that are very bad when they are behind ,so it’s hard for them to catch up. Likewise, if they are on the play with Attune into Longtusk Cub into Whirler, you have to spend your first few turns killing their creatures instead of pressuring them and that gives them the time to actually put the expensive cards to some use.

The key to winning the matchup post-board isn’t by trying to beat them fast but by bringing in your expensive cards. They used to play 3 Chandra’s Defeat in the sideboard but with the increasing popularity of other aggro decks like Vehicles and R/B Aggro, they usually have some number of Magma Sprays in those slots now. Spray is still great against you because it lets them double spell easily, so it’s almost impossible to stay ahead on board by just playing small creatures (that also get stopped by Virtuoso) but it doesn’t do anything against Hazoret, Chandra, and Glorybringer. Magma Spray is also the main reason why Ahn-Crop Crasher is absolutely terrible against them—you just can’t afford to trade 3 mana for their 1.

Chandra will sometimes die to Chandra’s Defeat, but the ceiling on her is “win the game” if they don’t have it as opposed to a 3/2 haste with Crasher. I like having the extra land on the play to improve my odds of having four lands on turn 4 to be able to cast my 4-drop. It’s surprising to me that most Temur players cut Glorybringers from their decks after sideboard, which only really leaves them with Scarab Gods and Bristling Hydras as win conditions, and those aren’t very good follow-up plays to your Chandra. Keep in mind that they usually have 1-2 Confiscation Coup for your Hazoret. You should always kill Virtuoso with the energy trigger on the stack and it’s usually correct to sandbag your Sunscorched Desert to be able to kill their Chandra “for free” in case they play her and use the -3 ability.

Sultai on the Play

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Sultai on the Draw

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This matchup seems similar, but it’s even more important to kill their creatures as Winding Constrictor can get out of hand pretty quickly. The don’t have Bristling Hydra, which is great news, but they can blow you out with Blossoming Defense, so try to play around it if you can. Ahn-Crop Crasher is bad against Temur because of Magma Spray and Chandra’s Defeat, but Sultai has Fatal Push in that slot so they can’t actually kill it cheaply.

Again, Chandra is one of your best cards but try to maneuver the game into a spot where you can use the +1 ability to make mana and kill something with Lightning Strike/Abrade, as leaving her at 1 loyalty means it can just get picked off by Walking Ballista. Hostage Taker isn’t a big deal early, but it’s usually wise to keep up removal once they have 5-6 lands in play. Keep in mind that when Winding Constrictor and Soul-Scar Mage are in play at the same time, their creatures get an extra -1/-1 counter from your burn spells.

Mono-Red

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Pia Nalaar is amazing because it trades for two of their cards and can sometimes get you out of the “Hazoret lock” when you have to chump it every turn without being able to attack. I don’t have Chandra’s Defeat in my sideboard because I feel like the times where you can’t kill a Bomat Courier with it or use it against Aethersphere Harvester happen way more frequently than having Soul-Scar Mage in play and killing a Hazoret with it.

I’m also not a big fan of Glorybringer after sideboard. Every time I bring it in, the game is over before I can play it or it dies to Chandra’s Defeat. I also don’t like to bring in Chandra because it’s usually just an overcosted removal spell as there are way too many haste creatures and Sunscorched Desert to kill it for free. Use Lightning Strike to kill creatures before using Abrade because of Aethersphere Harvester.

Black Aggro

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If you are going to kill their guy, do it on your turn as waiting will enable them to play a discounted Bone Picker. If you are on the draw, take out 1 Hazoret and keep the 4th Lightning Strike and try to kill all their guys before trying to race them. A hand without removal spells or sideboard cards should usually be a mulligan. At the PT, in the deciding game against Mono-Black Aggro, I kept three lands, Bomat Courier, Kari Zev, Hazoret, Hazoret on the draw, and still regret it.

U/W Approach

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It’s important to hit your land drops. It doesn’t matter how many creatures you get on board because they can just get rid of everything with Settle the Wreckage or Fumigate, so it’s a good idea not to overextend, and to choose your attackers wisely. If you are sending your creatures into Settle, make sure that it’s the turn when you can play Chandra in your second main phase. You can also play Chandra precombat and force them to counter it, and that way you can safely attack with everything. It may sound like an exaggeration, but my experience from playing the matchup from the other side is that white control decks literally cannot beat a turn-1 Bomat Courier. Keeping in some number of Lightning Strikes is fine because of Regal Caracal.

Abzan Tokens

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Sideboarding and your general strategy here is basically the same as against Approach. Be patient and ride your Chandra to victory. Aethersphere Harvester is a good way to avoid overextending into Fumigate while flying over their army of 1/1s. They have 4 Cast Out but you have many, many cards that they absolutely need to get rid of. If Rampaging Ferocidon stays in play, they basically cannot win.

Gift Decks

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Don’t use Abrade on their guys unless you absolutely have to. You don’t need to be super aggressive. All you need to do is keep them from having a God-Pharaoh’s Gift on the table. Magma Spray does a good job of getting rid of Minister of Inquiries and Champion of Wits while keeping them from having six creatures in the graveyard.

That’s all I have for today. Good luck if you are playing a GP this weekend!