Welcome to Magic in a Nutshell where we take popular competitive decks in Magic: The Gathering and tell you how to play them. If you’re tired of reading lengthy guides to decks (though we have those too!), then this is the right place for you. Today, we’re looking at Pioneer Mono-Red Aggro. It has put up great results since the format’s inception, and it’s possibly the most ban-proof deck in the format.
Should You Play Mono-Red Aggro in Pioneer?
You should play this Magic: The Gathering deck if:
- You like aggressive decks.
- Linear gameplay excites you.
- You’re a budget player.
You shouldn’t play this deck if:
- You want to play slow games with lots of decisions.
- Linear, aggressive decks make you yawn.
- Burning your opponent’s life to 0 on turn 4 doesn’t excite you.
Let’s run through the slots and game plan of the standard Mono-Red Aggro list.
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage: It’s a 1/2 for 1 that gets +1/+1 each time we cast an instant or sorcery, which is a lot of the time. It also helps you make your opponent’s creatures smaller.
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear: It’s Soul-Scar Mage with 1 less toughness and haste. It’s the best creature in the deck.
- 2 Zurgo Bellstriker: It’s a 2/2 for 1 that we can pay 2 to get with haste. We run 2 because it’s legendary.
- 4 Wild Slash: The best 1-cost burn spell in Pioneer, it turns on Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage. It can be replaced with a Shock without losing much if you’re a budget player.
- 3 Eidolon of the Great Revel: It hurts us, but it usually hurts our opponents more. This is sided out in matchups against decks that play few low-cost spells,or in the mirror if playing second.
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider: She’s practically 2 creatures in 1. She’s hard to block, and despite being legendary, she often gets removed, so we run 3.
- 4 Lightning Strike: Turns on Monastery and Soul-Scar, and a worse Lightning Bolt still deals 3 damage.
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant: The instant half turns on Monastery and Soul-Scar while being a slightly worse Wild Slash. The creature half is an aggressive body that burns our opponent if they try to remove it.
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster: It presents a quick clock, and even if it’s removed, it leaves behind a few goblins in most matchups.
- 2 Rampaging Ferocidon: Stops life gain, and it helps us get those last few points of damage in creature-heavy matchups.
- 3 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell: A 4-drop in an aggro deck is fairly rare, but adding 2 to all of our damage is just too good to pass up.
- 15 Mountain
- 2 Castle Embereth: Running more than 2, we would run the risk of these coming in tapped, which we can’t afford in an aggro deck. The ability can sometimes help us push in lethal when we’re lacking resources in hand.
- 4 Ramunap Ruins: This gives us some inevitability. You don’t want to activate its effect until late-game, but it will help you get the last few points of damage in.
- 2 Mutavault: Having a land that turns into a creature for 1 mana is great in an aggressive deck like this.
When keeping a hand, the most important thing you want to keep in mind is your curve. Unless the hand is astounding, you do not want to keep a hand without a play on turn 1. If you have Castle Embereth but no Mountains, that’s also a mulligan. While this is an aggro deck, don’t be afraid to use a burn spell on your opponent’s creatures here and there. Unlike in Modern, the main source of Mono-Red Aggro’s damage in Pioneer is its creatures. When playing Eidolon of the Great Revel, make sure it’s the last card you play that turn, as you don’t want it to hurt you.
The sideboard for Mono-Red Aggro is rather simple:
- 2 Fry: It hates on Planeswalkers and kills Teferi, Time Raveler. It also works against mono-white devotion.
- 3 Damping Sphere: It hates on Lotus-Breach combo and some rogue decks. Note that this can also hurt you, so always keep it for last.
- 2 Rending Volley: It’s removal for mono-white and spirits.
- 3 Abrade: It kills most aggro creatures, great in the mirror match.
- 2 Rampaging Ferocidon: It stops life gain from mono-white and helps with the Sultai matchup.
- 3 Ahn-Corp Crasher: It’s aggressive, and it helps us get damage in through Inverter or Uro.
When facing a control deck, it’s often the correct play to hold on to some of your haste-less creatures until after they’ve wiped the board. In the aggro matchup, keep your instant-speed burn spells open on their turn. If playing first sticking a Swiftspear and protecting it with removal is a perfectly valid win condition.
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