Since its release in Lost Caverns of Ixalan, Amalia Benavides Aguirre has established itself as a powerful combo piece in one of the most efficient archetypes in the current Pioneer, in a deck that aims for interactions with life gain and a fair beatdown plan alongside an explosive combo capable of winning in a single turn.
While the debate over the logistical problems that Amalia brings to in-person and digital events and her position in the Metagame continues to expand, players have no other option and adapt their lists and strategies around the new combo and the new nuances of the competitive scene - for example, Control decks started to consider Change the Equation as a maindeck-worthy counterspell.
One of those looking to adapt is Mono Red Aggro, whose resurgence came from the need to play under attrition strategies, but which, in theory, should suffer significantly against Abzan Amalia and other lifegain pieces like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. However, the archetype continues to produce results event after event and establish itself as one of the top ten Pioneer competitors today.
In this article, we dissect the new version of Mono Red to understand how it also adapted to the format's standards!
What is Mono Red Axonil?
Mono Red Axonil is the most recent variant of the Mono Red Aggro, an archetype as old as the Pioneer itself and which had its place in the format at different times in history.
Carrying the same essence as its predecessors, this version runs the format's main Mono Red staples, such as Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear alongside cheap spells such as Play with Fire and Monstrous Rage to start an aggressive approach that puts pressure on the opponent from the first turn onwards.
Its difference is found on its curve-topper, Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might. The god of Lost Caverns of Ixalan has a powerful interaction with noncombat damage, whether through spells or abilities. Therefore, Mono Red now has more permanents to deal recurring noncombat damage to the opponent as means of punishing them for taking actions during the game.
Thus, the current version of the deck can attack on several fronts, with the initial pressure already well recognized in Pioneer being complemented by effects that “tax” the opponent's actions to progress in the game through damage, in addition to now resorting to a 4/ 4 with Trample whose skill set makes it difficult to destroy permanently.
This is the list that I have used in both Pioneer Leagues and Magic Arena ranked, with two specific differences on this platform: Roast and Wild Slash aren't available in Arena - while Wild Slash was easy to replace with Shock, the lack of equivalent options for Roast in its main function led me to Nahiri's Warcrafting, capable of offering card advantage in addition to maintaining its purpose at destroying Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
The rest of the deck is essentially the standard of what we see in current lists, with no major changes and with three copies for each option in the Sideboard as Mono Red Aggro must bet on redundancy instead of coverage, given the low opportunities we have to find one-ofs and/or cards for more specific situations at the right time.
The one-drops that became the mainstay of red aggro in Pioneer.
Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear are ideal for starting the game with aggression and board control or aggression and burn, where we can exert pressure and make our opponents waste the first turns seeking answers and interaction.
Kumano Faces Kakkazan is an excellent follow-up as it triggers the prowess of our creatures and, on the next turn, amplifies the power of Rampaging Ferocidon or Eidolon of the Great Revel, in addition to placing another body on the battlefield when transformed, and its first ability interacts well with Ojer Axonil.
Our non-combat damage package.
Eidolon of the Great Revel was a mainstay of Burn in Modern and Legacy, but never reached that stage in Pioneer due to the higher costs in the format. Now, with Ojer Axonil and the partial cost reduction in the post-Smuggler’s Copter Metagame, in addition to making the effects Abzan Amalia's life gain less punishing for our clock.
Speaking of life gain, Rampaging Ferocidon in the maindeck is our ideal adaptation and answer to a Metagame where Abzan Amalia continues to grow. Furthermore, alongside this version's key card, the dinosaur means that opponents need to meticulously choose which creatures they want in play, as four damage for each of them escalates quickly.
Chandra, Dressed to Kill is another piece that interacts with Ojer Axonil and offers ramp to cast the red god, or to activate cards with higher mana value, such as Ramunap Ruins or Den of the Bugbear. Chandra is also responsible for giving the deck more reach, being one of its main sources of card advantage.
Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might was the main card that revitalized Mono Red Aggro as an option in Pioneer by giving it a way to take advantage of indirect sources of damage to punish the opponent, as well as offering a decent and evasive body from the which, if destroyed, also accelerates our mana and can return to the battlefield in specific conditions where we can sequence multiple damage sources.
Monstrous Rage grants more range to our creatures in addition to contributing to the surprise factor with Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage. We can also use it to increase Rampaging Ferocidon's power and make it deal with its two blockers in a favorable and/or equal trade.
Light up the Stage remains one of the most efficient ways for Burn decks to gain extra steam, given that the difference in mana between it and Reckless Impulse or similar is very relevant in a list that seeks to take make the most of your mana.
Ramunap Ruins is another card that exponentially grows in this version, where Ojer Axonil transforms its effect into a Flame Javelin, the land is also responsible for guaranteeing more reach at the late-game.
Our removals package.
End the Festivities is an excellent option against go-wide decks like Boros Convoke, as well as growing as a source of damage alongside Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might and having excellent interaction with Soul-Scar Mage.
In addition to being another means of preventing life gain, Roiling Vortex works as an excellent card and extra reach in longer games, such as against Azorius Control, or some Midrange decks.
Unlicensed Hearse is the most efficient graveyard hate for our strategy and works greatly against Izzet Phoenix, as well as dealing with occasional graveyard interactions from Abzan Amalia and Rakdos Sacrifice while growing as a threat on the board.
That's all for today!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.
Thanks for reading!