The Trouble with Red

Posted in Feature on November 27, 2013

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

Once again, I find myself drawn to Owen's aggressive monocolor lists (although this one does have a splash of a splash). I find it very interesting just how many distinct-feeling mono-red decks can be build in this Standard environment, and I imagine that most people would be surprised at the amount of depth here. I wrote about Tom Ross's Akroan Crusader Heroic deck, and Team CFB tested one for Pro Tour Theros, but the deck Owen's been working on is remarkably different from either.

Toil // Trouble

It is closer to the "standard" Standard list, with an aggressive curve of early drops backed up by burn spells, a strategy mono-red has employed for more than fifteen years, but a few choices make it noteworthy. First of all, Owen departed from the normal lineup of creatures, choosing to include not only four Foundry Street Denizens, but cutting two Ash Zealots, which most people seem to regard as a staple of the archetype. Owen is more interested in maximizing the deck's best draws, most of which involve three or more one-drops and Burning-Tree Emissary, which is why he chose such a low curve of creatures. In fact, Fanatic of Mogis and Boros Reckoner even live in the sideboard, showing exactly how dedicated Owen is to focusing on one- and two-cost creatures.

The other big change Owen credits to Pascal Maynard (who I've had some good matches against on the Pro Tour). Toil & Trouble is a rarely played addition, and explains the Blood Crypts in the main deck and sideboard. Even though it's just a sideboard card, Toil (plus the rest of the sideboard) dramatically changes how the deck plays in the matchups where these cards come in. As Owen explains in his article, Toil is exactly the kind of burn spell this deck wants post-board, and vastly outpaces Skullcrack when it comes to effectiveness. Instead of sitting around and waiting for opponents to cast Sphinx's Revelation, just get them into Trouble on turn three and enjoy the massive amounts of damage. It's especially funny that a Revelation in response does nothing to change how much life an opponent ends up at, assuming the Trouble is lethal to begin with (which isn't much of a stretch). Besides Toil & Trouble, Boros Reckoner and Fanatic of Mogis support the go-big sideboard plan, a type of plan which is often very effective. As control decks board in removal spells, you get to board in massive burn spells, which definitely gives you the edge.

Owen Turtenwald's Mono-Red

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