Artisan Brewery: Mono Red Seagulls

Howdy all, and welcome back to Artisan Brewery! This time, we're continuing our inversion of Mono colored decks, coming to color number four: Red! Red is known to be passionate, quick to act or respond, not caring for the opponents' plans because the plan is to just be faster than anything they can muster. It's known to hit hard, and hit fast, oftentimes scaling to astronomical levels of power in almost no time flat. This time around, it's going to be quite the opposite. We're going to be slow and methodical, and we're going to care very much about our opponents' resources since we're going to steal as many of them as we can. That's right, this go 'round we'll be like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, because everything we can manage to steal will belong to us.

We'll also have to think about the challenges that Red usually faces in the average four-player game, such as ramp, card draw, and long term endurance. Mono-red, unless it's playing an artifact-centered strategy, typically peters out in the later stages of a game due to a combination of board wipes and a crippling inability to replenish it's resources. While Mono-White will likely always be the greatest challenge we ever face, compensating for these particular weaknesses while sticking to our base plan will definitely be a bit of a puzzle to solve, but as always, we wouldn't be doing this if we didn't relish a puzzle.

Threatening our Opponents

The first thing we'll do is lay the groundwork for our main plan, beginning with our commander, the creature representation of stealing opponents' resources in Red, Etali, Primal Storm. This bad boy not only gives us access to four extra spells per turn, three of them belong to our opponents, and we get to do so for zero mana of our own. The fact that we get to do this on each of our own turns is what makes it the best visible representation we could hope to have represent our deck, which relies almost entirely on our opponents playing creatures. Now, there's no shortage of "gain control of target creature" spells, ie: the Threaten effects, so we're not going to discuss every single one. Instead we'll put extra focus on the ones that carry with them a little extra pop.

One solid example is Besmirch, which lets us use whichever creature we steal twice, once on our own turn, and once on its owner's to attack a separate player. There are spells that give additional abilities, such as Lose Calm, which gives menace, and Traitorous Blood, allowing trample to be added. We also want to use as many with alternate modes or options, like Mob Rule to be able to edit the number of creatures we're hijacking, Traitorous Greed to give ourselves some mana back after casting, or Grab the Reins to give us a removal outlet via sacrifice. If we're looking to deal some extra damage before we even attack with the creature we're stealing, a phenomenal choice would be Bond of Passion.

While we're busy trying to steal every efficient creature we can, why not slap some spells that can do that, as well as something completely different or something equally useful into the deck? An amazing example is Limits of Solidarity, which has the option of drawing a card instead of casting as normal. Disharmony lets us take a threat out of combat, and gives us the option to politic with an opponent who's against the ropes but can still do us a favor. Seeing as ramping is one of Red's larger challenges, using Song-Mad Treachery // Song-Mad Ruins as a potential land in a pinch seems to be a pretty good idea for us. Speaking of ways to get additional lands, Conquer is the exact type of card we'd want to use to try to get around that flaw, not to mention the fact that it gives us access to any utility land our opponents have that we can use for ouselves. Another challenge we'll have to watch out for is having these steal spells countered, so Word of Seizing is an absolute unit, since the only way it can get countered is through a morph creature like Kheru Spellsnatcher, or Silumgar Spell-Eater, as well as having the ability to gain control of any permanent, not just a creature. As a quick aside, Split Second spells are always good if we have an option that fits in with our deck strategies.

Strangely enough, Conquer and Word of Seizing aren't the only "gain control" spell that give us access to potential extra mana. In the Commander 2018 set, we were gifted with Treasure Nabber, a card of wide potential in a Mono-Red control deck. Not only will it give us immediate access to any mana rock our opponents try to use, it can also cause them to delay their own game plans as long as possible while they try to find an answer, and it has the added bonus of being an extra body on our board that we can use to block between casting steal spells. In that same spirit, it's hard to overlook Conquering Manticore and Zealous Conscripts, both of which do double duty by taking control of something helpful while being a solid blocker (or extra attacker) when needed. It's important to remember that while we're primarily using everyone else's creatures to our benefit, having a few extras of our own that we don't have to give back wouldn't hurt too much.

There are also a good amount of spells that grant additional power to the stolen creature, such as Malevolent Whispers, which also has a Madness cost if we are ever forced to discard it, or Traitorous Instinct, which is practically the same card as Malevolent Whispers, only without the Madness ability. Unwilling Recruit grows the targeted creature as much as we choose, or can afford, which could mean all the difference if we use it to take control of an opponent's commander. One that is a bit less likely to grant it's power, but is still a good spell for it's mana cost, is Goatnap, which only gives additional power if we steal a Goat creature. As unlikely as that is, we can take relevant Changeling cards to still gain the bonus, and even if we don't get that benefit it's still a three-mana control spell, and that's our bread and butter for this deck.

There's Mutiny Afoot

So far, we've seen cards that only get us one creature when we cast it (aside from Mob Rule, but that's an exception anyway). But sometimes, one creature just isn't enough to sate our thirst! Therefore, we'll just have to find some spells to get us even more creatures. Something like, Harness by Force, for example. This is a spell that lets us get as many creatures as we can afford, and since each additional target costs us three mana, it's like casting a Threaten multiple times in a row! This line of play also leads us to some fairly popular spells, such as Molten Primordial, and Mass Mutiny, both of which get us one creature per opponent all at one time, helping push through even more damage, or cause our opponents to have to kill their own creatures by blocking or using their removal spells. Captivating Crew works in a similar fashion to Harness by Force, but with a slightly higher cost in exchange for an additional creature we don't have to give back to our opponents. Finally, we come to the "gain control" spell that could win us an entire game, or get us darn close to it: Insurrection. This card is a powerhouse of a spell, spoken of in the same breath as Expropriate, or Craterhoof Behemoth as a one spell game ender. Using this, we gain every creature on the battlefield all at once, and can overwhelmingly swing out to finish our opponents in one wide attack.

One of the holes in our plan is that each of these spells, with the exception of Etali itself, is a one-shot trick and there's a non-zero chance that will peter out on us. Thankfully, we have available to us some very good options to duplicate some of the spells. Fork, and Reverberate are both classics in this vein, letting us duplicate not just our core strategy spells, but our to-be-seen removal spells as well, or copying an opponent's timely counter spell so we can use it for ourselves instead. Charmbreaker Devils is another good fit for us, letting us get back the perfect spell every turn, and giving us a powerful beater of our own in the process. Last, but certainly not least, it seems like we can fairly easily find a spot in the deck for Finale of Promise. The ability to re-cast two spells easily, and all for a reasonable mana cost of our own.

We've got the core of our plan worked out, so let's address how we'll use one of Red's strengths to support it: removal. This is the part where Red's classic traits can shine, using some of the greatest hits like Mizzium Mortars, and Blasphemous Act. Each of these deal massive amounts of total damage, and can help us compensate for our low number of creatures that are our own. Two other tracks on this particular Greatest Hits album are Red Elemental Blast, and Pyroblast, both of which can not only remove problematic blue cards on the opposite sides of the board, like Omniscience, or Rhystic Study, they have the potential to save us from a massive blowout in the form of a counter spell. Chaos Warp is a spell that needs nearly no explanation, as it's also among the most commonly-seen spells in Red. Equally useful, yet not as common, Volcanic Offering provides us more political leverage as it allows us to partner with one, or more, opponents in removing both problematic lands and creatures that otherwise would be frustrating, and has the plus side of taking attention away from ourselves.

If this is the first time you've joined us when building one of our brews, welcome, it's a pleasure to have you! Something that should be noted right away is that when we're in the midst of brewing, one of the things we always try to include is at least one or two off-beat cards. This is worth noting here specifically, because there's a removal spell that would normally be questionable, at best, that fits our deck perfectly: Telim'Tor's Edict. Due to its unusual wording, we don't have to own the card we're trying to exile, just control it. In the average deck, these would almost always be the same thing, but for us, we get a free draw out of exiling an opponent's permanent that we've stolen. As said, not a fantastic card in most circumstances, but if we don't want to give something back, this is a phenomenal choice.

Adding Rockets to Seagulls

Now that we've hammered out how best to use Red's primary strength, we need to make sure we fairly cover up for its weaknesses; namely: steady ramp, and efficient card draw. A large amount of Red's card draw tactics carry with them an additional cost of discarding, such as Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded (which is also here for it's "ultimate" ability to steal everyone's creatures), or Incendiary Command. A newer spell that has a very similar result, but one that's slightly more positive, is Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge. It's nothing but a net positive to have dead cards in our hand put on the bottom of our library and getting even more cards back into our hand in exchange. Burnout works to help prevent one of our spells from being countered, and guarantees us an extra card on the next player's turn, which is just a one-way ticket to Value Town. But one of the best options we could want for a deck in which we'll mostly be casting low-cost spells is Mindmoil. A card that lets us go through our entire deck simply by casting spells we need is a slam dunk for us, especially when so many of our spells do a variant of the same thing.

We've already addressed one potential source of ramp in the form of Treasure Nabber, and we'd be absolutely foolish not to run Caged Sun or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, but why stop there? And why use ramp sources that just ramp, and not take advantage of our game plan, when we can run absolute gems like Ashnod's Altar and Thermopod? It seems silly to not use a removal source to fuel even more spells that can steal our opponents' resources, especially when it's so readily available to us. And since every other part of our deck is running at least one classic, we wouldn't want to break the pattern, right? Right! So let's use one of the most renowned Red ramp spells in the game, Mana Geyser. This spell is at least two absolute units, nearly guaranteed to grant us at least twice as much mana as we put into it by the time we cast it (especially if we can manage to get Caged Sun into play), opening the door for powerhouse cards like the aforementioned Finale of Promise, or Apex of Power.

The final spell of note we'll address is one that can easily win us the game, especially when we've managed to take our opponents' heaviest hitters. Aggravated Assault is the tank that can be the final nail in the coffin when we have it, especially when we've already cast Mass Mutiny or Insurrection. It's a bit of a mana-intensive strategy, but provided we get no interference and can afford to activate it at least once per turn, we're almost certainly getting nothing but benefit from its presence in the deck. If we wanted to sacrifice some of the less efficient theft spells, like Claim the Firstborn, we could find room for other additional combat spells, such as Fury of the Horde. That, however, is not how this version of the deck will be built (as seen below).

That about wraps us up for this edition of Artisan Brewery! Thanks for sticking with us throughout the journey, and as always, please feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions. Until next time!

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