For players who have been following me over the past year or two, you've likely noticed my interest in playing Mono-Red Aggro in Standard. I don't always choose to play it, but when it's good I do gravitate towards that strategy—and right now, it is indeed a strong deck choice! I played Mono-Red Aggro at last year's World Championships, and it propelled me to a third place finish. The cards in the deck are no joke, but Kaldheim improved the deck even more, giving me good reason to pick it up again. 

Predictably, I'm not the only one who believes in Mono-Red Aggro being great again. As we sift through tournament results over the past couple weeks, it has arguably been the best performing deck. I'm going to dig into the deck further, starting with my favorite list from recent tournaments. This one was piloted by Christoffer Larsen to a first place finish in a recent SCG event.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Red Aggro by Christoffer Larsen

'Mono-Red Aggro' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Christoffer Larsen

Event: $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier

Rank: 1st

Standard

Market Price: $122.55

Cards

Ox of Agonas

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $5.94

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206651_200w.jpg

When Ox of Agonas enters the battlefield, discard your hand, then draw three cards.
Escape—{R}{R}, Exile eight other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Ox of Agonas escapes with a +1/+1 counter on it.

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Embereth Paladin

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198420_200w.jpg

Haste
Adamant — If at least three red mana was spent to cast this spell, Embereth Paladin enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.

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Roiling Vortex

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221923_200w.jpg

At the beginning of each player's upkeep, Roiling Vortex deals 1 damage to them.
Whenever a player casts a spell, if no mana was spent to cast that spell, Roiling Vortex deals 5 damage to that player.
{R}: Your opponents can't gain life this turn.

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Shatterskull Smashing

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $3.03

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222030_200w.jpg

Shatterskull Smashing deals X damage divided as you choose among up to two target creatures and/or planeswalkers. If X is 6 or more, Shatterskull Smashing deals twice X damage divided as you choose among them instead.

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Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.51

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199556_200w.jpg

If a red source you control would deal damage to an opponent or a permanent an opponent controls, it deals that much damage plus 2 instead.

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Fervent Champion

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198973_200w.jpg

First strike, haste
Whenever Fervent Champion attacks, another target attacking Knight you control gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
Equip abilities you activate that target Fervent Champion cost {3} less to activate.

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Phoenix of Ash

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206851_200w.jpg

Flying, haste
{2}{R}: Phoenix of Ash gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
Escape—{2}{R}{R}, Exile three other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Phoenix of Ash escapes with a +1/+1 counter on it.

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Robber of the Rich

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $4.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198777_200w.jpg

Reach, haste
Whenever Robber of the Rich attacks, if defending player has more cards in hand than you, exile the top card of their library. During any turn you attacked with a Rogue, you may cast that card and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to cast that spell.

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Frost Bite

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230127_200w.jpg

Frost Bite deals 2 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If you control three or more snow permanents, it deals 3 damage instead.

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Redcap Melee

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199300_200w.jpg

Redcap Melee deals 4 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If a nonred permanent is dealt damage this way, you sacrifice a land.

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Castle Embereth

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.23

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199286_200w.jpg

Castle Embereth enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Mountain.
{T}: Add {R}.
{1}{R}{R}, {T}: Creatures you control get +1/+0 until end of turn.

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Anax, Hardened in the Forge

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206843_200w.jpg

Anax's power is equal to your devotion to red. (Each {R} in the mana costs of permanents you control counts toward your devotion to red.)
Whenever Anax or another nontoken creature you control dies, create a 1/1 red Satyr creature token with "This creature can't block." If the creature had power 4 or greater, create two of those tokens instead.

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Rimrock Knight // Boulder Rush

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199534_200w.jpg

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Faceless Haven

Market Price: $1.62

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230188_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{S}{S}{S}: Faceless Haven becomes a 4/3 creature with vigilance and all creature types until end of turn. It's still a land. ({S} can be paid with one mana from a snow source.)

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Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.79

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199035_200w.jpg

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The Akroan War

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.23

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206150_200w.jpg

(As this Saga enters and after your draw step, add a lore counter. Sacrifice after III.)
I — Gain control of target creature for as long as The Akroan War remains on the battlefield.
II — Until your next turn, creatures your opponents control attack each combat if able.
III — Each tapped creature deals damage to itself equal to its power.

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Embercleave

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $8.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198755_200w.jpg

Flash
This spell costs {1} less to cast for each attacking creature you control.
When Embercleave enters the battlefield, attach it to target creature you control.
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and has double strike and trample.
Equip {3}

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Fireblade Charger

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222150_200w.jpg

As long as Fireblade Charger is equipped, it has haste.
When Fireblade Charger dies, it deals damage equal to its power to any target.

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Snow-Covered Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.64

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230150_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

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Scorching Dragonfire

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.09

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215894_200w.jpg

Scorching Dragonfire deals 3 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If that creature or planeswalker would die this turn, exile it instead.

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This is pretty close to the version I have been playing, and you should see a lot of the same cards the deck has been playing for a while now. However, there are also some major additions. 

Adding Snow

The most significant change brought to the deck by Kaldheim is the snow cards. Now, on the surface this may not look particularly important. Switching your basic Mountains to Snow-Covered Mountains doesn't add value unless there is a way to capitalize on it. In this case though, there are two cards added to our deck because of this change. 

The most important new addition is the inclusion of Faceless Haven. Faceless Haven is a land, and an incredibly powerful one at that. Since this is a monocolored deck, it's easy to include the Faceless Haven while still having a pretty consistent manabase. This means that monocolored aggressive decks have a big incentive to be snow based, only because of Faceless Haven

You might be thinking that getting to add Faceless Haven to the deck isn't a huge deal, but you would be wrong. This is another four mana card to attack the opponent with, and you don't need to invest a spell into playing it. Furthermore, it gives you some protection against sweepers, as well as some lategame inevitability. Oftentimes Mono-Red Aggro would run into situations where it gets the opponent down to a low life total, but then has no more gas to close the game out with. Faceless Haven provides that closing power the deck was desperately looking for. 

The other snow card in the deck is Frost Bite. Earlier versions of this deck often played fewer than four copies. However, as the format has gotten more aggressive, having a cheap removal spell that can kill opposing creatures is more important than ever. This is basically a replacement from Shock. It scales up to deal with something like a Kazandu Mammoth, so sometimes three damage really is much better than two! Overall, Frost Bite isn't as important as Faceless Haven, but it's still a really nice removal spell, and the best one the deck can play. 

Now you have a manabase that is mostly Snow-Covered Mountains and Faceless Havens. You don't want too many other red sources that aren't Snow-Covered Mountains, since they won't be able to activate your Faceless Haven. Chris has still found space for two Castle Embereth and a Shatterskull Smashing. Before the Snow-Covered lands, this deck usually played four Shatterskull Smashing, but you can't anymore, and that's okay. 

Curving Out

The deck is still all about having a good curve of creatures backed up by an Embercleave. You really aren't looking to get into a long game, so it makes sense to play the best creature at each point in the curve.

Turn One: Fireblade Charger, Fervent Champion

I'm still getting used to Fireblade Charger in the deck, as I do think it's a little bit less powerful than Fervent Champion. Fervent Champion has haste and can potentially hit for more damage, if you are lucky enough to have another Knight attacking. Faceless Haven is a shapeshifter, so there are actually more Knights in the deck than there used to be. In the case of Fireblade Charger, there are ways to pump up its power, to deal extra damage when it dies, and it gets even better if a Torbran is in play. It is the next best one drop, and this deck needs 8 one drop threats to function properly. 

Turn Two: Rimrock KnightRobber of the Rich

This pair of cards has always been great in the two drop slot. As the format moves away from creatures like Lovestruck Beast, Rimrock Knight serves as a solid one drop threat isn't as vulnerable to cheap blockers. It's going to be best as a threat against slower decks. Robber of the Rich is naturally better when you are on the play, as you are more likely to get it to trigger. 

Turn Three: Anax, Hardened in the Forge, Bonecrusher Giant, Phoenix of Ash

I like having nine three drops here. The Phoenix of Ash gives you a real plan against Rogues game one, if things do happen to go long, while still being a serviceable threat regardless. Bonecrusher Giant can be your turn two play, in order to cast Stomp, but as far as a threat, I consider it a three drop. I oftentimes don't even worry about using the Stomp, because having a creature on time is more important! Anax is still great, and pairs nicely alongside Embercleave

Rounding the Deck Out: Frost Bite, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, Embercleave

After turn three, you want the cards you cast to close out games. Torbran works nicely as the best four drop to curve into, and is probably the most difficult threat for opponents to answer. Black removal like Eliminate and Shadows' Verdict doesn't answer it, and neither do the inexpensive red burn spells. My advice? Don't play less than three Torbran. I would rather play four than two, but I'm okay with three for now. Of course, Embercleave is still Embercleave, and gives the deck the amazing closing power it needs. Without Embercleave, this deck likely wouldn't exist. I have seen copies of Goldspan Dragon make their way into some lists, but I haven't liked them—they're just a little bit too expensive for me. 

The Sideboard

While I have been using the same maindeck as Chris, my sideboard is a little bit different. I'm going to break down some of the more important matchups, to help explain my card choices. For starters, here's what it looks like.

3 Ox of Agonas
2 Redcap Melee
3 Embereth Shielbreaker
2 Roiling Vortex
2 The Akroan War
2 Embereth Paladin
1 Soul Sear

VS Mono-White Aggro

I have found this to be the most difficult matchup for Mono-Red Aggro. This is unfortunate, because Mono-White Aggro has quickly become one of the top decks in the format. However, there are a gew things you can do to try to improve the matchup. Embereth Shieldbreaker has performed well for me, as you lose a lot of games to their artifacts—especially after sideboard when they often bring in Glass Casket. Soul Sear gives you a potential answer to Seasoned Hallowblade that you wouldn't have otherwise. The addition of the Embereth Shieldbreakers is the main difference between my sideboard and the ones I have been seeing recently. 

OUT: 4 Rimrock Knight, 1 Embercleave, 1 Fireblade Charger
IN: 3 Embereth Shieldbreaker, 2 The Akroan War, 1 Soul Sear

VS Sultai Control

OUT: 4 Frost Bite
IN: 2 Roiling Vortex, 2 Embereth Paladin

This is going to be a pure race. Here your Frost Bites are, quite frankly, garbage. Luckily, there are some great cards we can swap them out for after sideboard! Roiling Vortex will deal your opponent damage while also preventing them successfully casting an Ultimatum, unless they are willing to take even more damage. Roiling Vortex is especially nice with a Torbran in play, as then it deals three to the opponent instead of one. The Embereth Paladin is another techy card that shines in this matchup. The Sultai deck really doesn't have any removal that effectively answers it, between Heartless Act, Shadows' Verdict, and Eliminate.

VS Rogues

OUT: 2 Embercleave, 1 Fireblade Charger
IN: 3 Ox of Agonas

Since I added cards for some other matchups, it has meant cutting the Phoenix of Ashes you usually see in the sideboard. We do still have the one maindeck though, which gives us four total. I still believe that's enough to get the job done against Rogues. This matchup is still great, and with multiple copies of Ox of Agonas after sideboard, you rarely run out of gas.

VS Gruul Aggro

You'll likely notice that we sideboard out Rimrock Knight quite often. It's just the worst card we have against opposing creature decks that have good blockers against it. There is an option to sideboard in some Shieldbreakers, although the number is going to vary depending on if you expect The Great Henge to make an appearance. 

OUT: 4 Rimrock Knight
IN: 2 The Akroan War, 1 Soul Sear, 1 Embereth Shieldbreaker

VS The Mirror

Playing more copies of Redcap Melee is going to help here, and if Mono-Red remains super popular, we might just need the full playset in the sideboard, even though they don't come in elsewhere. Still, right now I'm settled on two copies. This is largely a race, but the removal after sideboard definitely means you need to be careful about setting up your Embercleave turn. 

OUT: 4 Rimrock Knight
IN: 2 The Akroan War, 2 Redcap Melee

Wrapping Up

Mono-Red Aggro is easily a top three deck in the format. It's still what I consider to be a 'cookie cutter' aggressive style deck, perfect for someone looking to attack their opponents. The snow lands have really allowed it to reach the power level it had been left craving previously. I'm interested to see how the metagame breaks down, as this deck has been crushing it lately. It's also one of the decks that I play against most frequently on the MTG Arena ladder! Players need to adapt to this format, because the aggro decks have become the decks to beat.