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By: TheWolf, Shane Garvey
Aug 08 2017 11:00am
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Confession time. Normally at this time of the week I'd be sitting down and firing up a draft, then writing my Limited Edition article for it. But due to a combination of things, I haven't been able to draft as much as normal, and feel like I am way behind on the format at this point. On top of this, there is a new and powerful mono-red aggro deck in Standard - and I am a sucker for mono-red aggro.

About a week and a half before the Pro Tour, I started to notice a mono-red aggro deck doing well on Magic Online. It had all the classic features of one of my favourite decks of all time: the original Sligh deck. The mana curve, the game plan and the overall feel of the deck all felt like the Sligh and Deadguy Red decks of the 1990s. I picked the deck up and started playing with it - and fell in love.

It did well at the Star City Games event the weekend before the Pro Tour, though the focus there was on the Eldrazi package it ran. And then, of course, it showed up in force at the Pro Tour, where it was being dubbed "Ramunap Red". There were basically three different versions of the same deck, though: the low to the ground, all in aggro version running 21 land and cards like Cartouche of Zeal; the 23-24 land version that played more of an aggro-control role and could go bigger out of the sideboard; and the Eldrazi version. 

Ramunap Red
1st Place Pro Tour Kyoto, by PVDDR
Creatures
4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
3 (Hazoret the Fervent)
3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 (Village Messenger)
4 (Bomat Courier)
4 (Falkenrath Gorger)
4 Earthshaker Khenra
26 cards

Other Spells
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Abrade
4 Shock
10 cards
Lands
14 Mountain
2 Scavenger Grounds
4 Ramunap Ruins
4 Sunscorched Desert
24 cards

 

 

This was the deck that won the Pro Tour. As you can see, it's the version that can go big after sideboard, bringing in cards such as Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Glorybringer and Sand Strangler. It also had some great sideboard tech for the mirror in Aetherspher Harvester. It's general game plan was to keep the board clear of blockers, using the burn spells as removal. 

Ramunap Red
4th Place Pro Tour Kyoto, by Sam Black
Creatures
3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 Village Messenger
3 (Hazoret the Fervent)
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Earthshaker Khenra
4 (Bomat Courier)
4 (Ahn-Crop Crasher)
  26 cards

Other Spells
2 Collective Defiance
4 Incendiary Flow
4 Shock
3 Cartouche of Zeal
13 cards

Lands
14 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
3 Sunscorched Desert
21 cards

Sideboard 
1 Sunscorched Desert
4 Abrade
2 (Glorybringer)
2 (Hanweir Garrison)
3 (Chandra, Torch of Defiance)
2 Chandra's Defeat
1 (Hanweir Battlements)

 

 

As you can see, this version is more all-in on the aggro plan, using Cartouche of Zeal to push through damage and then, when the ground attack stalls, using the burn package to finish off the opponent. It's very similar to the first deck, but the game plan varies slightly even though most of the cards are the same.

The Eldrazi version didn't do overly well, but it plays more lands again (usually around 25) and includes cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher.

After the Pro Tour

The version I had been playing online was similar to Sam Black's. The deck was explosive, but didn't do very well in the mirror; and a lot of people had started playing mono red. 

After a lot of tinkering, this is the list I have settled on, though I do still tweak 1-2 cards every so often: 

Ramunap Red
by The Wolf
Creatures
4 Bomat Courier
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Village Messenger
4 Earthshaker Khenra
3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 (Ahn-Crop Crasher)
3 (Hazoret the Fervent)
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Incendiary Flow
4 Shock
4 Abrade
12 cards
Lands
14 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
4 Sunscorched Desert
22 cards

 

 

Since moving to this exact list, I have gone 4-1 three times and 3-2 once across four leagues, for a total record of 15-5. I also won my local Game Day event with this list. You'll notice that this a bit different to both lists from above. It's kind of in between the two - it can play both the aggro-control role, and can also go to the face with burn if needed. Essentially, the game plan in game 1 is to hit hard and fast, using the removal if needed to clear a path, then resorting to throwing burn at the opponent's face once they are at a low enough life total. From game two onwards, what you do depends on who you are playing on if you are on the play or draw; against the majority of decks, you want to go a bit bigger, bringing in Chandra and Glorybringer for a bit of staying power; against control, you stay aggressive and try to beat them quickly.

The Card Choices

I want to break down the card selections I have included in the deck and the reasons for them. After this section, I will also break down some other choices that can be included and the pros and cons of each.

This is the best one drop in the deck. When played on turn 1, you can start to dump your hand on to the board and then sacrifice the Courier when you need to reload. It's not uncommon to draw four or five cards off of this thing, which provides red decks with something they usually lack - card advantage. Drawing this many cards usually leads to me winning the game.

It's also worth noting something that can be done with two Bomat Couriers, and it's something most people don't realise can happen. If you sacrifice one and hold priority, you can then sacrifice the other and draw all of the cards beneath them without discarding any more than your first hand. To break it down further:

  • Sacrifice the first Bomat Courier, discarding your hand as part of the cost, and hold priority.
  • With the ability on the stack (so, before you have drawn the cards from it), sacrifice the second Bomat Courier, discarding your now empty hand as part of the cost.
  • Let the abilities resolve, and draw the cards from both Bomat Couriers.

I have flipped back and forwards between including this and Soul-Scar Mage in the deck, but I seem to have more success with Village Messenger. On the play on turn one, it will usually flip, and then can get in for 3-5 damage in most cases. On the draw, I often sideboard it out; and I almost always sideboard it out in the mirror as it rarely flips in that match up.

This is simply an average one drop to get us to critical mass. It's 2 points of power means it puts your opponent on a decent clock if they don't deal with it and you can keep their blockers clear. It can also be used with Hazoret; if you discard a Falkenrath Gorger to Hazoret's ability with another Gorger in play, you can madness it onto the battlefield. This is rare, but it can happen.

One of the best cards in the deck besides Hazoret, Earthshaker Khenra is one of the reasons this deck can exist. Played in the first few turns, it allows you to get in for early damage and, even if it gets removed, it just comes back harder later in the game. This is a key part of the deck; unlike most mono-red aggro decks, this deck has some serious late game. I even won one game by casting Shock on my own Khenra, then using Eternalize on the next turn to get past the opponent's blocker.

Another good two drop. The lack of haste hurts Kari Zev, and she is a magnet for removal spells (and rightly so). If she stays in play she is a great beater, and is also good if you are playing defence; she blocks and kills just about everything in the mirror. She also dodges Shock and Magma Spray.

If you have two of these in play at one time, you are going to win the game. This sometimes gets cut when sideboarding, but this minotaur has won me many matches.

And now we come to the best card in the deck. The Pro Tour decks only ran three copies of Hazoret, and although there was a lot of talk following that event that four should be the norm, I think three is still correct. I have tested with four, and things get quite awkward when you draw two of them before you can cast one; an ideal plan with Hazoret is to dump your hand as quickly as possible, and that's tough to do with two four drops. 

You know this card, you'll play this card, and be happy. It is mainly designed to remove early blockers and finish off planeswalkers.

A lot of lists don't run Incendiary Flow, but I've found it to be incredibly good, even if it is a sorcery. The ability to go to the face pushes it over the line (meaning it can also help kill planeswalkers), and the exile clause is fantastic against opposing Earthshaker Khenras, Champion of Wits and the God-Pharoah's Gift decks.

Instant-speed removal which can also deal with Gearhulks and God-Pharoah's Gift, Abrade is a versatile spell. Originally I only ran two main deck and two in the sideboard, but with people starting to bring in Aethersphere Harvester and, in some cases, even main decking it, four in the main deck is right.

The mana base of this deck can deal 20 damage all by itself, and that is partly what makes this deck so good. In most games, I'll try and play my lands in the following order: Mountain, Ramunap Ruins, Sunscorched Desert (the ping from this card being able to hit planeswalkers is secretly very good). I do change this order if I have a Bomat Courier I might want to activate, in which case I'll play the deserts early.

The Sideboard

A lot of Ramunap Red decks run Chandra main deck, but this throws the curve of the deck off in my opinion and I think you need to run 23-24 land to run both Hazoret and Chandra main. That being said, she is incredibly powerful in a lot of match ups. I usually bring her in against control and midrange match ups, and leave her out against other aggro decks, where she is quite vulnerable.

Great against Earthshaker Khenra, Champion of Wits and Dread Wanderer, and I will always bring it in against them.

Obviously this is a card for the mirror, or any deck running Chandra. Super efficient.

One of the tricks to this deck is working out the match up you are currently in. As the old adage goes, aggro beats control, control beats midrange and midrange beats aggro. So when faced with another aggro deck, or when faced with a midrange deck, one of the best things you can do is move into a midrange deck yourself. That's where Glorybringer comes in, as well as...

Against any deck with creatures, this thing is great. I always bring it in versus other red decks, and sometimes (depending on the match up) other creature decks as well (zombies being a prime example). 

This is not a card that I see many of these red decks play, but I think it is very important. It kills Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and a delirium-enabled Grim Flayer, as well as opposing Glorybringers. I recommend it highly.

This is probably a slightly unusual choice, but it has actually won me many games. I bring it in in the mirror matches, where it kills all of the one drops and Earthshaker Khenra in one blow. I also bring it in versus the Hidden Stockpile decks I seem to face a lot of on Magic Online. 

Finally we have Scavenger Grounds. This comes in against any graveyard-based deck, as well as if I transition to of a more midrange deck. 

Other Card Choices

There are a couple of other card choices that I want to talk about and why I didn't include them.

I have tested this, and found that I had more success with Village Messenger instead. However, the card was not bad, and does have a lot of upside. It allows you to shrink and kill opposing Hazorets, and is one of the only ways the deck has to remove Ishkanah from the board. 

At some point I want to test this in place of Falkenrath Gorger, and have it and Village Messenger in the deck.

A sideboard card for the mirror, I have found that, with a lot of decks running Abrade, this just isn't worth it. It's too slow; if it does manage to stick around it is great, but it doesn't get to do that much anymore.

Moving Forward

Ramunap Red, whilst good, is certainly beatable. Mono black zombies and GB Delirium both give this a hard time. Having said that, the deck is resilient and can beat those two decks with decent draws. There is also a mono white Crested Sunmare deck doing the rounds which is bad against most things but gives Ramunap Red fits. 

Would I recommend playing this deck? Absolutely, especially if you are a red mage like myself. It'll still give you good results, even if people are trying to hate it out, but just be prepared for that to happen.