Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Making Magic in the Arena - Red Deck Wins

Giving the sheer number of decks that I have piloted in Magic the Gathering: Arena, it was only a matter of time that I would eventually give a version of this deck a shot at some point. No matter the Standard, this archetype always exists.

That's right, we're playing Mono-Red/Red Deck Wins. Our goal is to play a bunch of cards and turn them sideways.

The decklist can be found here.

Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious when I say that all we do is "play a bunch of cards and turn them sideways". The truth is that there is quite a bit of decision making that needs to be done on the fly with a deck like this.

Our goal is to finish off our opponent as fast as we possibly can. The longer a match goes on, the slimmer our chances become as our resources begin to run dry and the opponent, assuming they aren't as aggressive as we are, starts to pick up steam through card advantage. If the opening hand doesn't have enough of a strong start, we are more than willing to go down to five in the mulligan because we just don't have time to dawdle.

That's why we run the best aggressive, low-cost cards we can to get damage in early and often. To that end, Fervent Champion is one of the best cards we can field. For 1-mana, there's not much more we could hope for in a card. And if we have multiple copies on the board, they can start to boost each other's power for more powerful, safer swings (since first strike makes blocking difficult). Scorch Spitter may not be as strong, but it's equally as useful as a way to get a bit of extra guaranteed damage out of each swing.

Runaway Steam-Kin serves multiple purposes. The first one being that it's ability to pump itself allows us to accelerate our damage output, and increase the effectiveness of our instant speed spells in the middle of combat. And if we're willing a let go of that power boost, we can use that mana to make as much out of the few turns we have as we possibly can, since we can't afford to give our opponent a chance to get online.

And in the name of getting as much value out of our cards as we can, we include the two most effective red creatures from Eldraine with the Adventure mechanic: Rimrock Knight and Bonecrusher Giant. Both of them, but particularly the giant, are great creatures with high power that can again help to make the most of our early turns. Additionally, both of their Adventures are instant speed spells that make blocking our attacks as uncomfortable as possible while also punishing those who don't block with even more damage. Shock serves a similar function in this case since it can be used an instant speed to turn the tides or just finish off an opponent.

Light Up The Stage has been one of the best cards to grace mono-red in a long time, because it manages to provide just a few valuable plays that we otherwise wouldn't have access to. It's low cost and flexibility has kept it in the deck type even when other similar cards are no longer in vogue.

Anax, Hardened in the Forge give us something that mono-red rarely ever managed: Protection from board clears. Even if an opponent manages to destroy all of our creatures, Anax can replace them with tokens we can hopefully use to swing in for that final bit of damage to win the game. Even though it is Legendary, running four copies isn't the worst because we can still get tokens out of the one we sacrifice. Our other 3-drop, Phoenix of Ash, is another fast creature that we can resurrect when it dies.

Shadowspear is great for breaking the symmetry of a mirror matchup by giving us just a bit of extra life to survive our opponent. It's additional stats combined with trample also give it the power we need to justify putting a copy in the main deck.

And as for cards to finish off a match, we have both Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Embercleave. Either by giving all red sources extra damage, or by overcoming a bad block with instant speed double strike and trample, we can take an opponent by surprise and lock down a game when they thought they still had a turn to stop us. We need to already have the board in place to use either one of these, but if that doesn't exist by the time we can use these pieces, we have already lost.

There's a reason Mono-Red is always a popular deck in Arena. Win or lose, players can jam many more games quickly than they can with other deck types. It's powerful, but it needs to be played effectively or risk fizzling out before they can take the win.

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