While I’ve focused on other formats for the past few months, I’m now diving with both feet into Explorer and Pioneer. I want my first piece to help others get a crash course into both formats, and set them up for quick success.
Mono-Red Aggro is one of the top-tier decks in both Pioneer and Explorer. And while I wouldn’t call it easy to pilot, it’s at least a straightforward deck that’s easy to understand, and can make for a convenient entry point to either format. It’s even a bit friendlier to the wallet than some of the many-colored, mythic-heavy decks out there!
Consider this Deep Dive your one-stop-shop for Mono-Red across Pioneer and Explorer, whether you’re playing on MTG Arena, MTGO or tabletop, Best-of-One or Best-of-Three. The core of the article will be updated from Frank Karsten’s Explorer Mono-Red Deck Guide, but I’ll also include links to further reading, and plenty of suggestions for customizing the deck.
Explorer is effectively Pioneer lite, available only on MTG Arena. It allows all cards that are both available on Arena and legal in Pioneer, and nothing beyond that.
Martin Juza outlined the format exceptionally well here:
Additionally, Frank Karsten noted some key differences between Pioneer and Explorer here:
We recently got an Explorer Anthology set that closed the gap slightly. A few important cards newly added to the format include Elvish Mystic, Supreme Verdict, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Mausoleum Wanderer, Favored Hoplite, Siege Rhino and Tireless Tracker.
As it concerns Mono-Red, these are mostly cards for enemy decks, with Kalitas, Siege Rhino and Supreme Verdict being the main ones to worry about. In the transition from Pioneer to Explorer, the archetype loses out on Monastery Swiftspear, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Rending Volley and Mutavault.
Since Pioneer is slightly faster and more powerful than Explorer, it makes sense that the Pioneer version of Mono-Red is a bit lower to the ground, with a greater emphasis on efficiency and double-spelling on key turns. Relatively new printings of Den of the Bugbear, Kumano Faces Kakkazan, Play with Fire, Spikefield Hazard and Chandra, Dressed to Kill contribute to this, and also make the typical Pioneer version more burn-heavy as a result.
Here’s Evart Moughon’s Pioneer Mono-Red Deck Guide:
It’s also possible to build a burn-heavy Mono-Red Aggro deck in Explorer, which goes out of its way to support Wizard’s Lightning. Here’s Martin Juza’s Explorer Mono-Red Wizards Deck Guide:
This version really does miss Monastery Swiftspear and Eidolon of the Great Revel. These red creatures are cornerstones of the Pioneer build, but they’re not legal in Explorer. Instead, Frank and I agree that a harder-hitting, creature-centric version of Mono-Red is better in Explorer. We believe in the Embercleave, and you should too!