Breaking down Mono-Red Aggro

Today I am going to look at the hot new kid on the Standard block: Mono-Red Aggro. I’ll go over Tom Ross’ winning version from last weekend’s Open and break it down card by card since he is widely known for his expertise with these hyper aggressive decks and demonstrated just that by taking down the finals in a mirror match. First up, here’s what we’re working with:

Alright, so, let’s break this thing down, piece by piece.

One of the stock one-drops of the deck that allows it to be aggressive out of the gate while also providing the deck with some nice refill mechanism later down the road when it is outclassed by bigger blockers and our hand is empty. On top of all that it even gains Trample from Built to Smash even though as a 1/1 it does not quite look like it was built to smash really.

The other go-to one drop for the archetype and the only two-power one-drop available to the archetype in the format is Falkenrath Gorger. The Madness aspect is usually irrelevant except for Hazoret sometimes or versions with Bloodrage Brawler.

This guy rounds out the one-drops and turns the deck’s damage spells into crippling combat tricks. It allows the deck to exceed 8 one-drops for more consistent curving.

This is the premier two-drop of the deck and continues the deck’s haste theme. Khenra helps with getting in early damage by impairing early blockers in addition to also attacking. The Eternalize ability sees use very rarely since six is simply just too much in an average game, especially since the deck looks to sacrifice its Ramunap Ruins. Still, in some grindy games it can come up and the EtB trigger synergizes really well with the increased size of the token.

The choice of Scrapheap Scrounger is fairly unique to Tom Ross’ version but helps the deck drastically with its grind potential, especially against control decks. Other lists often run Bloodrage Brawler or something similar in its place, but the trade off that aggression means means that those choices are worse at grinding.

Kari Zev simply rounds out the curve, adding increased consistency with more two-drops. You don’t want to draw duplicates early when they don’t get removed since they are legendary and only the 3rd best two drop in the deck usually.

The premium – and only – three-drop of the deck that, surprise, also has haste. Just like Earthshaker Khenra it has the potential to impair a blocker to help get more damage in. Granted Exert is a fairly hefty cost in a hyper aggressive deck like this but since it is optional it gives you the opportunity to push for critical damage rather than be stalled out when you need it.

There are usually one or two Hazoret topping out the curve as the last and heavy hitting haste threat that can also function as a way to finish off the opponent when you get stalled out.

Not every version runs this. Some prefer to run more burn like Shock or Incendiary Flow for example. Built to Smash though is very efficient in its cost-to-effect ratio and allows you to keep attacking with everything into a single blocker even if it has more health than two or three.

Since Tom Ross’ version is heavily focusing on board-based beatdown and not on burning people out, it needs Magma Spray over Shock to deal with stuff like Scrapheap Scrounger and such.

This is more flexible in dealing with problem cards like Heart of Kiran and other potential artifacts while also being an instant for Soul-Scar Mage unlike Incendiary Flow and the exile part of Flow is already being covered by Magma Spray.

Chandra is a four-drop curve topper that provides additional removal to keep pushing damage with our creatures that alternatively can help win in a stall thanks to her one plus ability. She just adds some additional flexibility and power to the deck.


23 lands is above average for the archetype but makes it more reliable at curving out all the way to four. He added as many lands that generate additional value to the deck as he could with 4 Ramunap Ruins and 4 Sunscorched Desert. I feel like the manabase could support another extra black source in the form of the 4th Foreboding Ruins maybe to make the recursion of Scrapheap Scrounger more reliable.

The Sideboard

This is mostly a random assortment of extras of cards filling out maindeck playsets. It’s also got a couple of utility cards to solve potential problems in small numbers plus 3 Blazing Volley as anti-mirror tech.

This list looks really efficient and clearly served Tom Ross well at the Open. I expect this to be close to what we will see for the archetype going forward. Make sure you are prepared for it and/or give it a try yourself.

This is, unfortunately, my last article here on MTGCardMarket. It’s been a lot of fun writing these pieces over the past 2 years or so, and I really appreciate everyone who took the time to read them. Hopefully I’ll find somewhere else to produce some content; feel free to follow me on Twitter to find out more!

Thanks for reading,


Emanuel Sutor

Emanuel Sutor

Emanuel Sutor is a long time competitive Magic player from Germany with a Grand Prix final and a Pro tour Top 16 under his belt. He is a constructed expert and co-founder of 'Team Luxurious Hair' now called 'Team TCGPlayer'. He loves brewing and tuning decks in various constructed formats and in his column he confides his findings to you.

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Emanuel Sutor




Published:July 27, 2017


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