Standard Mono-Red Eldrazi Primer

Jeremy gives us a primer on his Mono-Red Eldrazi deck, complete with a sideboard guide. Let's burn our opponents out and smash some realities.

thought knot seer artwork

Every now and again when Standard is open to brewing, I try to build a deck that’s both fun to play and competitive. I may not always succeed, but this season I combined my two of my favorite things in Magic: mono-red and the Eldrazi.

The first few iterations leaned more towards a control or a bigger “Red-Deck-Wins” archetype with cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Goblin Dark-Dwellers and all the playable burn spells. Since we were straight red, I figured I had room to jam a set of Thought-Knot Seer, because, “Why not?”. After some more tinkering, I realized that I could fit an Eldrazi package alongside a suite of red spells, and Mono-Red Eldrazi was conceived.

I tracked statistics across 20 competitive Standard Leagues and recorded an overall record of 56-36, for a 64% win rate. (seven 4-1’s, ten 3-2’s and three 2-3’s.) Let’s break down the deck section by section and explain some choices, as well sideboard plans.

Mono Red Eldrazi by Jeremy Lichtenberger

Lands (25)
Aether Hub
Hanweir Battlements
14 Mountain
Crumbling Vestige
Westvale Abbey

Creatures (19)
Glorybringer
Hanweir Garrison
Matter Reshaper
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher

Planeswalkers (4)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Instants & Sorceries (12)
Incendiary Flow
Harnessed Lightning
Collective Defiance
Magma Spray
Sweltering Suns
Sideboard (15)
Chandra, Flamecaller
Collective Defiance
Dragonmaster Outcast
Eldrazi Obligator
Hope of Ghirapur
Magma Spray
Release the Gremlins
Sweltering Suns

In total, we run 11 colorless sources. Aether Hub is no stranger to Standard, and fits right in with the deck. Getting random energy to power up your Harnessed Lightning’s and being able to kill 4 toughness creatures is key, especially since we run less energy sources than a lot of other decks that play Hub. Additionally, sometimes you just don’t have the double red, so Aether Hub fills the role of a colorless, energy, and occasionally a red source.

Crumbling Vestige is a little wild, but it has been surprisingly good. We’ll sometimes have hands with two colorless sources and a Crumbling Vestige. Playing it on three to cast Hanweir Garrison, or on turn two to cast your Incendiary Flow is perfectly reasonable. It becomes a colorless source the following turn, so playing it the turn before we need and sequencing lands properly is something to be aware of. Note: one nice thing about Vestige is that it will still produce colored mana through a Thalia, Heretic Cathar which can be relevant sometimes.

Hanweir Battlements has seen some play in W/R Humans, and it is literally a monster of a land. Other than being a colorless source, this land ensures that we can pressure the opponent at later stages of the game by giving anything.  It also obviously pairs with Hanweir Garrison and puts your opponent to the test. Six mana with both pieces means that we can meld and swing for 13 damage. We’ll talk a little more about this later.

You should be familiar with Westvale Abbey, but if you’re not, it’s a great utility land. I had one more slot to fill with a colorless land, and Westvale Abbey fit the bill. Other than using it for a colorless source, it makes tokens for either blocking or attacking if our board has been wiped out, but it also transforms into Ormendahl rather quickly if we can get in with Hanweir Garrison. We want to get a couple triggers off Garrison, and then be able to threaten Ormenadahl for the rest game, or just bust the Profane Prince out when our opponent taps out/goes for removal.

Additionally, when games against control decks go long, I can make a token, then give it haste with Hanweir Battlements. It’s not ground breaking, but it does push through damage and can stress their removal.

Collective Defiance is a fairly versatile card in this deck. A single copy feels correct given the current meta. Four damage to a creature for 1RR isn’t super-efficient, but sometimes it’s needed to keep the board state in check. The three damage to a player option gives us a slight amount of reach, as well as being able to pressure planeswalker.

It’s most common for me to escalate and do four damage to a blocker, three damage to a walker, and push through the rest of the damage with my creatures. The discard your hand and draw that many clause doesn’t come into play very often, but it’s a powerful effect and have used it a couple times. Sometimes we just need to dump our hand and look at some fresh cards.  I’ve also had a few occasions when I cast Thought-Knot Seer, and my opponents hand is essentially unbeatable. In weird corner cases like this we can still target our opponent and give them a fresh grip of cards.

Harnessed Lightning is one of, if not the best removal spell in Standard, and for good reason. While we don’t have anything other than Aether Hub and Harnessed Lightning itself to generate energy, it’s not very often that we need more than that. Once in a while, we don’t have a red source and have to cast Harnessed Lightning via Aether Hub, which of course feels bad, but given the utility of our manabase it’s fine.

Against undead hordes of zombies and the ever-present Scrapheap Scrounger, the exile clause on Incendiary Flow’s can make or break a game. I’d run more than a playset if I could. The fact that it can also smack your opponent in the face means Incendiary Flow is always a live draw.

Magma Spray is good for all the same reasons that Incendiary Flow is, but also 2 toughness is very common in Standard right now, not to mention this is an instant and a mana cheaper. The two maindeck copies of Magma Spray do a great job at clearing out early creatures so that we can play and threaten with our own. Seeing how our curve is more midrange, having cheap, early interaction is vital until we can drop a Reality Smasher.

Sweltering Suns is good enough in this deck, regardless of our smaller creatures and tokens that may get incidentally swept up. Matter Reshaper usually doesn’t mind hitting the bin post combat, and you’ll find that your opponent will rarely block if you swing into them on turn 4. Because Sweltering Suns cycles, it’s never completely dead. It’s also an easy card to cut for games 2 and 3 if it’s actively bad.

She’s everything we want for this deck. All of her options are useful in a variety of situations, and many decks just have an issue dealing with a Chandra, especially given the amount of removal and threatening creatures we have. If you’re drawing dead, exiling the top card gives us more card advantage as well as pressuring our opponent’s life total. Sometimes you have multiple Chandra’s in hand and can afford to minus to do 4 to a creature, or you have a board that can protect it. Her ultimate, while usually irrelevant, is a game ender as well.

Matter Reshaper is a great value creature. At 3/2, it’s a good, aggressive body that draws a card when it dies. Deciding to play this over the Garrison can be a difficult choice though. If your opponent plays Grasp of Darkness, Harnessed Lightning, and has open mana, play Reshaper first. Attack into tradable creatures, or play when you suspect removal. If your Reshaper dies turn 3, it’s completely possible to hit a land off of the trigger, then play a turn 4 Reality Smasher or Glorybringer. Be very careful about Magma Spray post board (or even in the maindeck like us), as that really sucks. Garrison is much better if you’re suspecting a Spray. Speaking of which:

Hanweir Garrison has spent much of its life under the radar, and arguably still is. Woe unto my oppoents who underestimate this card, it should be the #1 target when it comes out. It’s capable of going wide very quickly, and demands a real removal spell or a reasonable creature to trade with. Fortunately our deck is adept at removing opposing creatures.

Against control decks, an unchecked Garrison can single handedly win you the game. Of course, this is all pre-meld, and coupled with the singleton Westvale Abbey it gives the deck a couple of unique axes (yeah I had to look up the plural of axis to make sure) to battle on that not all decks will be equipped to handle.

Thought-Knot Seer sees very little Standard play at the moment. A lot of the removal lines up well with TKS, but it’s still a helluva card in this meta. Being able to rip apart our opponents hand gives a lot of reach to an aggressive red deck since we don’t have access to cards like Lost Legacy or Transgress the Mind. They usually won’t win us the game on it’s own, but being able to curve early removal into a Reshaper/Garrison on 3, followed up with a Thought-Knot means that we’re firing on all cylinders. It’s just a generically good card in almost every matchup.

Reality Smasher is the card that surprises a lot of people. It is a very difficult creature to handle, especially considering all the different avenues of attack we have. It forces our opponent to prioritize their removal, and using it on Smasher means they’re going to 2 for 1 themselves. Smasher and Glorybringer are the top of the curve, and by time you get to the point of casting them, it’s all about whose cards are better 1 for 1. Torrential Gearhulk is about the only creature that gets in the way of smashing, and even then we have some sideboard tech for that.

glorybringer mtg card

 

Glorybringer is a phenomenal creature. It not only gives us an evasive 4 damage in the air, but it also scorches any creatures that would be in the way (besides opposing Glorybringers) We’re usually exerting unless there’s no way to garner additional value, in which case we’re probably winning the game anyway. I try to get any extra value from exerting just in case it gets removed, but each situation is unique.

Sideboard

Our sideboard gives us some flexibility, but not a ton since we’re mono red.

The second Collective Defiance is usually for matchups with Planeswalkers and an abundance of 4 toughness creatures. The additional copies of Magma Spray and Sweltering Suns also come in against the decks they’re good in (read: Zombies).

Chandra, Flamecaller broke onto the scene in a big way during Pro Tour Amonkhet. Marvel decks were jamming multiple copies mainboard and sweeping away any shred of a board presence their opponents might have. We use our lone copy in the same way, but seeing how we have to cast it and not cheat it out, one copy will have to suffice.

Dragonmaster Outcast is yet another must answer card in the late game. At a single R to cast, it’s perfectly reasonable to cast three spells in a turn, having the first two countered, and landing the Outcast. Hanweir Battlements can give the dragon token haste, so don’t forget about that!

Eldrazi Obligator is for that ‘gotcha’ factor. It doesn’t come in too frequently, but I have stolen an Ulamog and Gearhulk on more than one occasion. Note that it is a cast trigger, not an enter the battlefield trigger, so even if it gets countered you can still borrow a creature for a turn.

Here’s where we get really spicy. Hope of Ghirapur might be having you scratch your head, but hear me out. Control and Marvel are very common in Standard right now. Our main source of disruption in Marvel decks is Thought-Knot Seer, but even when we have an amazing hand, we can still obviously just lose to a turn 4 Ulamog. Hope of Ghirapur buys us much needed time against Marvel, and the goal is to stall them playing a Marvel until we can take it with TKS, or just beat down. Against control, it basically gives you a turn to cast uncounterable spells. Resolving a Chandra on turn 4 might just win you the game against U/R control. It’s pulled it’s weight for me.

I chose Release the Gremlins over By Force because the 2/2 is more relevant than the one less mana. Very seldom is there two artifacts we need to kill with only enough mana for one. It’s perfectly reasonable to run By Force over Release the Gremlins for efficiency, but the matchups it would come in usually are ones in which your creatures can’t stick around.

Matchups

Marvel: The top dog in Standard right now. This is tough matchup for nearly every deck, which is why it is so dominating. All the removal that can’t hit face comes out. There are some games where you might need a Sweltering Suns if your opponent decides to go wide with Thopter tokens, but for the most part we can beat their creatures with ours.

One Smasher comes out for an Eldrazi Obligator as they are both essentially 5 mana creatures, and being able to steal an Ulamog to swing for 13 is too good an opportunity to pass up. Hope of Ghirapur will prevent them from casting Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot, Nissa’s Renewal, Aetherworks Marvel, etc.

Out: Harnessed Lighting x3, Magma Spray x2, Sweltering Suns x2, Reality Smasher x1.

In: Hope of Ghirapur x4, Release the Gremlins x3, Eldrazi Obligator x1.

Zombies: both mono black and W/B is a favored matchup. We pack so much mainboard removal and exile that they can’t stabilize. Pre-board we have 20 cards that do damage to creatures, and six of those exile. I board out Collective Defiance because the 4 to a creature isn’t efficient enough vs lower toughness zombies.

Thought-Knot Seers come out because not only are the zombie decks redundant, but the only really high impact card we care about taking is Liliana’s Mastery. If you keep the board clear, them paying 5 mana for two 3/3’s is great. They also play Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation, so TKS isn’t the greatest here.

We want more copies of Magma Spray because it’s fantastic in the matchup, and the same goes for Sweltering Suns. Chandra, Flamecaller does well to clean up any messes you haven’t already taken care of.

Out: Collective Defiance x1, Thought-Knot Seer x3.

In: Magma Spray x2, Sweltering Suns x1, Chandra, Flamecaller x1.

Mardu Vehicles: Although the deck hasn’t been performing too well, I expect to run into it fairly often. The matchup favors us slightly, but it’s not a run away. Heart of Kiran is the main card to worry about, as our only way to kill it is a Harnessed Lightning with an additional energy.

Gideon/Chandra can be a problem if they stick around, but for the most part we have more than enough pressure to take them out quickly. While Release the Gremlins CAN come in to take out Heart of Kiran, I’ve found myself just trading Glorybringer for it.

We want a second copy of Collective Defiance here, as it is very good against board states with both creatures and ‘walkers. I pull the Sweltering Suns because the biggest threats here aren’t affected by it. The one copy of Magma Spray comes out, and while they tend to run Scrapheap Scrounger, I’ve found that it hasn’t been too relevant having the extra Spray.

Out: Sweltering Suns x2, Magma Spray x1.

In: Dragonmaster Outcast x2, Collective Defiance x1

Jund/BG: Jund may not be super popular yet, but it is a fantastic deck and a tough matchup to boot. They play Unlicensed Disintegration, Heart of Kiran and Blossoming Defense, which makes for a very difficult time. Some lists also run Glorybringer and Bristling Hydra main, and those cards are difficult to deal with.

This is one of the few decks that can go bigger than us. It winds up being a slugfest, and my games tend to be around 45/65 in favor of Jund. This is a game where Dragonmaster Outcast quickly becomes the best creature on the field. Eldrazi Obligator can steal a powerful blocker and swing the game back in our favor. Chandra, Flamecaller can do 4 points of damage to creatures that would otherwise gain hexproof, but sometimes can feel too slow. The same will generally hold true for most G/B decks as well.

Out: Sweltering Suns x2, Collective Defiance x1.

In: Dragonmaster Outcast x2, Eldrazi Obligator x1.

And last but not least, here’s me running it through a league if you want to see it in action. Subscribe to the YouTube channel for more good content!

And that’s about it. If you have suggestions, additional comments or questions, reach out to us on our Facebook page or give us a shout on Twitter about anything.

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Jeremy Lichtenberger

Jeremy Lichtneberger has been playing Magic since the mid 90s. He loves to brew in all formats – especially Standard and Modern – but is more than happy to just talk decks and game theory. He also writes for MTGStocks.com.

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