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By: MindlessMarty, Filipe Rodrigues
Aug 04 2017 11:00am
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It’s time for Hour of Devastation. Nicol Bolas is back in the form of Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh and when people saw the planeswalker card, alongside Hour of Devastation everyone thought “Grixis Control is going to be sweet”.

Indeed, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh and Hour of Devastation are amazing cards, however, the deck just wasn’t showing up online. Maybe, just like in the lore, the control guys were hiding Nicol Bolas for the Pro Tour. Well, the Pro Tour happened this weekend and guess what? Mono Red won! Even the control master Shaheen Soorani and the innovation mastermind Sam Black were playing the deck. If these 2 players are going the mono-red route then you know it’s good. 

Just like many other Pro Tours, the meta was in the open and aggressive decks always shine in those situations. Ramunap Red was the deck of this Pro Tour. Yet, this fire won’t burn for long. In this article, I will write about what I think are really the best decks in the meta and how you can beat mono red.

Let it burn!

Ramunap Red is a solid deck. The land base is very good, only one color with deserts makes it hard to mana flood in the sense you can always use some more lands to Ramunap Ruins your opponent or sometimes Scavenger Grounds your opponent’s graveyard. It is curious how Sunscorched Desert and Scavenger Grounds seemed like such weak cards but when added up they are very useful.

Also, the creature base is absurd. With lots of 1 drops and lots of haste this deck sure is fast. Not only that, creatures like Earthshaker Khenra and Ahn-Crop Crasher have a come in to the battlefield effect which "Falters" a creature, making your opponent’s blocks harder to profit and if these cards are not evasive enough you can always Shock, Incendiary Flow or Collective Defiance your opponent’s board to clear the way or even burn your opponent’s life total, providing the deck some more reach and some wins along the way. 

The deck is pretty straightforward like any burn or mono red aggro deck but the cherry on top of the cake is that this is a versatile deck. The difficulty on beating this deck is not only due to its speed and aggression but also its sideboard. If you are playing mono red and keep having trouble in the mirror or more aggressive matchups, board in Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer alongside some more removal to have a more control style of deck. This not only helps make your game plan more unpredictable as it makes it harder to have the tools to deal with everything the deck has.

Its main threat, Hazoret the Fervent is not only is an Hour of Devastation flavor win (sidenote: this Pro Tour was awesome in that sense, since Hazoret was the only god who survived Nicol Bolas and all his evilness, and this God reigned this Pro Tour), but is also an indestructible creature which makes it hard to deal with. Very versatile too, since you can discard cards to deal some more damage to your opponent. If you watched the Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa match up against Seth Manfield (and I recommend you do), then you know this is some very important part of this card. 

Aethersphere Harvester is an artifact with 5 toughness, which is a lot and can gain you some life. This is a troublesome card in the mirror matchup and makes it much harder to play. You might want to save some (Abrade)s for later, or else you won’t be able to deal with the vehicle that easy. Be disciplined because with versatility comes responsibility...or something along those lines...of fire...got it?

The fire will extinguish

OK. Time to calm down. Fire isn’t funny. Mono red is a good aggressive deck but just like any other deck, it sure isn’t unbeatable. First of all, you don’t want to go slow. Losing the die is something out of your control and the last thing you want besides that is having a 3-colour deck and just get mana screwed and burned out. If you look at the Pro Tour top 8, for instance, you will notice no one is running a 3-coloured deck. Therefore, be very careful because this isn’t Khans of Tarkir Standard anymore and since you don’t have access to fetchlands, running 3 colors may be too slow for this meta.

Just like any other burn deck, a good way to stop the fire plan is to gain some life. Aethersphere Harvester or Filigree Familiar might be the most versatile choices, as they run on any color but have the disadvantage of being Abrade targets. There are also some viable options such as Life Goes On,  Oketra's Last Mercy, Fumigate, Pulse of Murasa, Collective Brutality or Crypt of the Eternals

Luckily there are many options but one of the best cards is definitely Authority of the Consuls as it gains you life plus slows down your opponent's haste creatures. By the way, does red has enchantment hate? The color pie says no!

We got a lot of hate for the burn and speed but what about the sideboard? This is where it gets trickier but every problem has a solution. Post sideboard, the threat cards are definitely Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer and there are cards to deal with both. For example, Chandra's Defeat or the previously mentioned Hour of Devastation. Nonetheless, you can treat these cards separately and for example use Grasp of Darkness for Glorybringer and Never/Return for Chandra.

Mono red is a good, easy to play and cheap deck, a formula that has many followers and fans so I expect this deck to continue being popular. Chandra’s Defeat is going to probably show up more often and Eldrazi Obligator or Kari Zev's Expertise seem amazing answers to Hazoret the Fervent if you are playing mono red. However, there was also other decks that performed very well at the Pro Tour and might just be what you are looking for in order to extinguish the fire.

The answer

Despite losing, the second place GB Constrictor deck list has all the tools you need to beat a mono-red player: Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness, Aethersphere Harvester and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. These are all good tools as we mentioned to beat the mono red aggressive plan. Plus, you also have access to good cards in the sideboard such as Liliana, the Last Hope, Never/Return and you could even slide in some Life Goes On if you are really scared of Ramunap red in your meta.

But what about a deck that is fast, has life gain, slows your opponent down and has the ability to become big and dodge some burn? Is all this even possible in one deck? Yes, and the answer is White-Black Zombies.

“But mono-black was on the pro tour and didn’t have great results” you may be thinking. Please take some time to listen to the word of this zombie evangelist. Zombies are ok against mono red, they even made it to the top8. They are almost as fast (zombies drag themselves) but they are resilient and “never” die (rip George Romero).

OK, romanticism and funny jokes aside, Mono-black has access to Grasp of Darkness and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet but having white gives you access to Authority of the Consuls, which has no answers in red (go look it up). This is the main reason why I think mono red players will splash for another color. Authority of the Consuls seems to shut down the deck completely. Not only that, you have access to it on turn 1! That’s as quick an answer gets. But what if you don’t have that card in your opening hand? Well, white also gives you access to Wayward Servant which gains you life while you deploy some more zombies (something the deck does really well).

Also, Blessed Alliance and Chaplain's Blessing may save you some games making it quicker to handle to mono red fire than the mono black version. You still have the good things such as Fatal Push which handles all the one and two drops, and Grasp of Darkness to deal with that Glorybringer post sideboard or an Hazoret the Fervent  but you also have Anguished Unmaking that deals with anything at a cost and of course, don't forget Shambling Vent for some more life gain and another good reason to play white.

Conclusion 

With all that being said, the Standard format is definitely exciting and open. There are lots of decks to choose from: UW Monument, Temur Energy, UR Colossus, RG Pummeler or even GB Artisto-Rites and UW Spirits, the spiritual successor to Merfolk in Standard (at least, according to Nikachu, if you want to see more, check his pro-tour vlog which was entertaining to watch).

I can’t wait to hear people complain about how they were burnt with “mono-red” but you gotta be prepared! I hope this article helped you in that sense, and that you may have a fun hour of devastation moving forward. Let’s just hope Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh isn’t lurking Puremtgo and comes back again to do some evil.

See you in other planes,

MindlessMarty

2 Comments

we both seemed to write about by neckfire at Fri, 08/04/2017 - 11:34
neckfire's picture

we both seemed to write about the same thing today

You had list, and this had by JXClaytor at Sat, 08/05/2017 - 00:34
JXClaytor's picture

You had list, and this had more of a theory feel