Seeing Red: the Mono-Red Prowess guide

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Standard hype is in full swing, with a brand new post-rotation format being explored from all angles. I’ll be hard at work bringing you up to date with the hottest strategies in this week’s Goblin Guide, but for today, I’ll be taking a break from the land of three-mana planeswalkers to drop an update to the Modern Mono Red Prowess deck that I used to win a Toronto MCQ last month.

Despite the set being brand new and hardly even in stores, Throne of Eldraine has already had an impact on the Modern format thanks to the egregious Emry, Lurker of the Loch giving the existing Paradoxical Outcome Urza shell a huge boost in power level and consistency. Allowing that deck to play extra mana rocks in Mox Amber makes it faster, and the ability of Emry to loop stuff like Mishra’s Bauble and Engineered Explosives reminds of the absurdity of Krark-Clan Ironworks combo decks. I’m not a combo scholar, however, and I leave it up to the brain geniuses of the world to concoct the optimal builds of complex decks like these. I’m more of a simple man, a humble farmer growing 1/2s into beautiful, flowering plants, grinding out enough damage for the proletarian Lava Dart to be able to settle the score. With nothing but draft commons and a couple Fiery Islets on our side, I can show you how to defeat these bourgeois decks full of expensive rares and mythics. Let’s take the power back.


I explained the differences between the stock maindecks and my own version last time I wrote about Prowess, so I’m not gonna re-litigate the 2016 electio– I mean, Kiln Fiend. If you’re comfortable being wrong, you can play whatever mediocre creature you prefer over the powerful Elemental, and I’ll only judge you a bit for it. Likewise, Firebolt can easily be Burst Lightning, but don’t you dare put a single copy of Risk Factor anywhere near this, or any other, deck. Respect yourself. Reckless Charge gets the axe due to the proliferation of Jund and Shadow decks over Path to Exile strategies in the reactive slice of the metagame, and the sideboard has changed significantly.

I spoke last time about the redundancy of Alpine Moon in a deck already so adept at killing Tron decks on turn three, and feel much more strongly about that now. We don’t need sideboard cards for Valakut or Tron with Kiln Fiend in our maindeck, and so those slots go towards what I’d call additional copies of Bedlam Reveler in Seasoned Pyromancer. It’s dangerous to fill your deck with too many copies of creatures that you want to be the last card in your hand, so two copies alongside the maindeck Revelers is enough. I’m confident that Pyromancer is a better place to be than Shrine of Burning Rage, but not confident enough to just jam four copies and lose the benefits of threat diversification.

After mostly losing only to Urza variants in the matches I’ve played since the MCQ, I’ve stumbled across a notable revelation: artifact removal is garbage against Urza variants. It wouldn’t matter if I had an Abrade or a Smash to Smithereens for a Thopter Foundry. Because holding the card up or even just casting it put me at such a tempo disadvantage that my opponent could recover easily. Between Welding Jar, Goblin Engineer and Whir of Invention, Thopter Foundry always found its way back into play before I could kill them, so I was off to the races to find a new way of interacting with Urza decks. I concluded that Pithing Needle on Thopter Foundry was simply the best thing I could be doing, and then a wrench was thrown in my work by Emry pushing the Paradoxical Outcome version of the deck to the forefront. Pithing Needle does nothing against that deck, and neither does anything else I was considering, like Harsh Mentor.

So we’re back to the drawing board in finding a powerful hate card to help us beat PO Urza, though I’m pretty confident that our Kiln Fiend build can already give us enough of an edge for the matchup to not be a disaster, even in the face of Engineered Explosives. I settled on two options: Chalice of the Void on zero, which I didn’t like because of how narrow an application it was, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Eidolon is weird, because it’s extremely powerful against our deck, but is still effective as a prison piece against PO Urza. Just remember not to jam it on turn two, but instead to try and unload your hand to apply life total pressure, then play it before they’re able to combo you.

Well, that’s all I’ve done to the deck, so it’s time for a much-maligned sideboard guide. Before we go in, let me remind you that as with all linear decks, less is more when it comes to sideboarding. Be wary of watering down your deck too much:

Sideboard Guide

vs Burn
IN
2 Kozilek’s Return
3 Dragon’s Claw
OUT
3 Kiln Fiend
2 Lava Dart

This matchup sucks to play so long as either player has Kor Firewalker or Dragon’s Claw. Hate it. If you have a ton of Burn in your metagame, either switch decks or play more ways to beat Kor Firewalker.

vs Jund
IN
2 Shrine of Burning Rage
2 Seasoned Pyromancer
OUT
2 Lava Dart
2 Kiln Fiend

vs Tron, Valakut, Dredge
no changes

We have no dedicated cards for these matchups, so the only reason to bring anything in is if you see something that you need to Abrade in game 3. Just mulligan into hands that kill them quickly.

vs Whirza, Amulet Titan
IN
3 Abrade
OUT
3 Light Up the Stage

These are both very different decks, of course, but our approach to them is similar: kill them as quickly as possible, only pausing to react to the cards that stop us from doing so. Light Up the Stage is unnecessary bloating in a matchup where we’re trying to go as fast as possible.

vs Eldrazi Tron
IN
3 Abrade
OUT
2 Firebolt
1 Lava Dart

vs UW Stoneblade
IN
2 Shrine of Burning Rage
3 Abrade
2 Seasoned Pyromancer
OUT
1 Kiln Fiend
2 Lava Dart
2 Firebolt
2 Crash Through

This is an example of over-boarding, but in a matchup where it’s more acceptable due to their inability to kill you or otherwise lock out the game in any reasonable pace.

vs Shadow
IN
2 Shrine of Burning Rage
2 Seasoned Pyromancer
OUT
4 Lava Dart

This plan is very similar to the one for Jund, but accepting that Kiln Fiend is a superior card against Shadow due to it both having less removal on average and needing to win in large bursts of damage rather than smaller chunks.

vs Humans
IN
2 Kozilek’s Return
3 Abrade
OUT
4 Light Up the Stage
1 Kiln Fiend

vs Mirror
IN
3 Dragon’s Claw
3 Abrade
OUT
2 Kiln Fiend
4 Lava Dart

Kiln Fiend and Lava Dart just really aren’t getting anything done here. Focus on keeping their creatures off the board.

vs Paradoxical Outcome
IN
3 Eidolon of the Great Revel
OUT
3 Light Up the Stage

Good luck with the deck, and make sure to let me know if you have any questions!