This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Red In My Ledgers
By Gibson aka KaipaLin

Hey guys and gals! As the end of the season approaches, my previous Nephilim-centric column has come to an end as well, so I thought I’d give you all a taste of what lies in store from me for the next season- a series of wildly divergent decks with one unifying factor, the color red.
Before you can understand the why of this new article series, you must know several things. Firstly, that I love the color red, even and especially in EDH, to a totally irrational degree. I’m a fan of underdogs, of making big risks every game, and, ultimately, seeking that fiero moment  of winning a game against technically “better” decks is why I play Magic. To my way of thinking, red does all of those things better than any other color, despite its traditionally perceived weakness. This ties into my second point: in my local playgroup, with some thirty or forty decks, only eight contain red, and six of those are mine. That’s right- without factoring in my decks, there would be two whole decks that had any sort of red in them at all. The number of decks containing green is, unsurprisingly, much higher. Most of the people I play against regularly spout the same well-worn lines found on EDH forums elsewhere, that red is “the worst” or “incredibly weak” or most damning of all, “boring”.Perhaps the answer to some of these accusations can be found with a little help. Perhaps people just aren’t looking, or aren’t willing to expend the energy and time necessary to put together a red deck. And so, because I’m bored with my current decks and need something to write about, I’ve decided to get into the Red Zone for serious and provide some decks that show off the many different strategies available to one who taps Mountains.What To Expect:

  • At least ten decks, one of each color combination containing red. Today will be an exploration of mono-red, and a 5-color deck may make it in as well.
  • Each deck will contain at least an even percentage of red cards; so, for example, in the Naya deck at least ⅓ of the non-land cards will be red.
  • A variety of deck types. Red is not limited to pure attack-attack-attack aggro, and neither will these decks! Besides, I’d get bored playing the beatdown all the time.
  • A deck tentatively titled “The Tap-Happy Merfolk Combo Explosion”
  • A dinner party with vampires
  • A creatureless deck
  • A how-to guide for building your own Death Star
  • A deck to make the tryhards weep
  • And, of course, some really stupid theme decks
Hopefully, some of these possibilities intrigue you- tune in next season for Red In My Ledgers!So You Want To Go Red

So you want to build a mono-red deck. So you’re interested by the challenge or just woefully underprepared by the internet tryhard establishment. So you’ve decided that cutting out all the “good” colors is the way to go. Well, my friend, you have chosen a select path. Not many dare walk it, but I admire your discernment. Some things to know going in- you’ve got the smallest slice of the color pie, which for some reason contains basically no card drawing or selection. You will probably have to rely somewhat on artifacts, just like every other mono-color deck. You will likely have difficulty dealing with large creatures. You will almost certainly have fun playing the game. Know these things, embrace them, and you are welcome in the Red Zone!

Depending on your general, mono-red tends to do very well in a few select archetypes. Most commonly, mono-red tends toward swarm or voltron aggro, mana-heavy, artifacty decks reminiscent of Big Red, or fairly specialized value-driven control decks. Example lists that I like are contained in links in the next few paragraphs, give them a look if you want some references.

Swarms- The Goblins!

Generally, a mono-red swarm deck is going to be based on the production of goblin tokens, then making them huge and threatening to take the table in short order. Members of the Ib Nation will recognize this archetype, which tends to be about the most brittle of glass cannons. Ib Halfheart, as pioneered on this site, can produce an absolute flood of damage out of nowhere, but also tends to finish games with few permanents in play and can fizzle spectacularly. A potentially safer but slower option is newcomer Krenko, Mob Boss, who, if left untouched can overwhelm a board all on his lonesome. Running a swarm deck is all about finding the perfect time to strike, all the while pressuring opponents to DO something rather than durdle about. The Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician deck I’ve built is my absolute favorite deck to play, even if it wins only rarely. If goblins aren’t your style, you might want to try Marton Stromgald, a terrifyingly effective power-booster.Voltron – Getting the Most from your GeneralEveryone knows how Voltron decks work by now, yes? You have a big aggressive dude as your general who smashes faces until you achieve the 21 points of necessary combat damage to put your opponent(s) on the mat. Red’s got good bets in this category, leveraging its great swathes of mass land destruction to hold a lead and its redirection effects to next-level a political game with more savvy opponents. While Godo, Bandit Warlord is the poster barbarian for this sort of strategy, Adamaro, First to Desire can also put some serious pressureon opponents.Big Red – Mana, machines, and mayhem

The Big Red archetype is primarily based around getting out large quantities of mana, often artifact-based, and using it to make some big, game-ending plays. Whether Comet Storms for lethal or just Inferno Titan and Wurmcoil, Big Red plays into that “classic EDH” feeling with big monsters, big spells, and often a lot of fun interactions. Where the deck goes is often dependent on the general, with Bosh, Iron Golem promoting large artifacts and recursion, Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer mind-tricking an entire table into ignoring your little interactions and building an unstoppable death machine, and Kumano, Master Yamabushi playing more traditional control, sweeping the board and providing a meaningful mana sink.Control – A different way to playRed is notorious for having very little in the way of card advantage outside multiples-for-one burn and land destruction, which tend to be less effective or politically viable in EDH. In order to play a controlling deck in red, we need to be able to fix that problem or make it irrelevant. Crowd favorite Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is probably the single best mono-red general for generating card advantage. With the increasing tendency of people playing EDH as Enters-the-Battlefield: the Gathering, free hasty copies of things provide a constant stream of value for the otherwise value-starved red player. Meanwhile, an oddball classic, Norin the Wary can be truly terrifying in the proper context (just ask Gaka). If you do feel compelled to play a controlling mono-red deck, remember that while getting value out of your cards is important, strong synergistic cards in a deck designed to use its general will serve you even better.

Wrap Up

MTGSalvation has a plethora of helpful resources for the aspiring mono-red player, including the top 50 cards list and quite a few primers. If you are in need of some more specific help, especially on a deck with no provided list, feel free to contact me, I’d be glad to help! And as I’m sure I’ve missed out on some key strategies or favorite generals, let me know in the comments.

Until next time, may you find the courage to love that which you wish to love.

Oh, and here’s my first alter, cuz I want to show it off. It’s no great portrait, but with GUDoug’s excellent tutelage at least I think it’s better than Stasis.

Series NavigationRed In My Ledgers 02 – An Evening at the Tipsy Angel >>