The mono red deck is one of the most well known and mostly played decks in Magic: The Gathering. With it’s easy to play style and inexpensive card base, it is a good starter deck. It is a good choice when you don’t know the meta in a new area. When it comes to playing, the steps are simple; play mountains, cast creatures, turn creatures sideways, repeat. Following these steps and with a little luck you will be winning your FNMs in no time. OK, maybe it’s not that simple. Mono-red can be a simple deck to play with, but it still takes a certain skill to win. I would like to go over a few of those skills and tips. I am going to focus more on general game play over specific card strategies, as mono-red can drastically change based on the current sets available..
The first thing to remember when choosing to go mono-red is that the longer the game goes, the lower your chance of winning. The first game is in your favor. You need to take full advantage of this and plan on hitting your opponent’s life total as fast and hard as you can. Closing out game one as quickly as possible. Your burn spells in this match are best used to hit your opponent. With the occasional burn spell removing a blocker or two. Your creatures are your best resource here, but don’t be afraid to lose one or two in your quest to attack. Losing a creature to let two more through is one step closer to getting your opponent within range to finish them off with the burn spells in your hand.
With round one over, and hopefully a win, you move to where the mono-red skill test starts. At this point, your opponent has had the chance to sideboard against you. The next game (or two) are going to slow down. You will need to plan accordingly. When you go to your mono-red sideboard, you need to ask your self, “What is the most efficient way to get my creatures through combat?” Adding more burn spells or combat tricks to help clear the way against heavy creature/ mid range decks. Adding what card advantage red has against the more controlling/ slower decks. Removing your lower costed spells from your main deck to replace them with higher costed, better spell.
Now onto game play. Getting your opponent into burn range is still the plan of attack. Starting out fast is important, hitting you opponent for half their life by the end of turn three is a great goal. After turn three, however, you will also need to slow down. You just being one turn faster is how most of these games will go. I have won many games with my opponent saying, “If I had one more turn, I could have won”. Being on the offensive is still the roll you need to play. However, just turning your creatures sideways to attack every turn will no longer work. Your creatures are an expendable Asset. With each attach you want to force your opponent to have to choose whether to lose creatures, or lose life. If blocks are declared, don’t let you creatures die without purpose. Combat tricks are your best friend here. If those fail, or you don’t have any in your hand, burn spells are a good second. Keep in mind while playing with a mono-red deck, using two cards to remove their one, is a good trade. This goes for blocking as well. I am a fan of the double block. Setting up a double block is a great removal tool for the red player. Blocking a 4/5 with a 2/2 and a 3/1 while letting a 3/3 slip by, is a regular scenario. X/3s are much easier to remove with a burn spell, then a X/5. Plus, combat tricks still work great hear too. As long as you still have some in hand.
The last thing you want at this point is to run out of cards. Unfortunately, this is what mono-red does best. Running out of cards right before you can close out the game is very common. The top deck is where you will find many of your wins. Luckily, we get cards that have the text, “Exile the top card of your library. Until end of turn, you may play that card”. I would definitely recommend at least two of these cards in your sideboard. I bring in these cards almost every post-board game. Good examples are Outpost Siege and Chandra, Pyromaster. Having the ability to have that extra card a turn will often be the difference between winning and losing. By this point in the game, you should have the mana available to cast anything you exile. One of the big advantage you get from this is that it gets you past your lands. Letting you draw something you can use. Don’t let these card go to waist. Your opponent will know what that card is, use that to your advantage.
These are just the basics when playing mono-red. Of course, the best play tip is to practice with you deck. While doing that, keep in mind these final notes. Game one is almost always in your favor, own it and end it. The longer the game, the shorter the chance of winning. Sometimes it takes two cards to remove one. Creatures start the game, Burn spells finish them. If your losing a creature, make it count. I hope this is helpful to those trying mono-red, and I hope you can enjoy it as much as I.