Can Red Be Beat?

Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is in the books and my-oh-my did the red decks make a statement at that event. Red deck wins? Yes, yes it did…

Red was everywhere, and dominated the tournament on every axis possible. It was the most played deck. It packed the Top 8 with a staggering 6 copies. It won the Pro Tour. Red is great.

Despite the fact that the event was dominated by red decks I still have high expectations and aspirations for the newest Standard format. I know a lot of people are going to say, “Ugh, Standard is bad again.” I’m not even willing to agree based on what happened at the Pro Tour.

The key is to see what happens now that people know that Red is clearly the deck to beat. A lot of people underestimated the deck in the first weeks of the format leading up to the PT and the result was obvious.

The question becomes: Is Red beatable? I believe it is.

What the Heck Happened in Kyoto?

We have to start at the beginning and ask, “Why and how did Red dominate the event?”


Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, 1st Place at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation

There are a few factors at play. The first is that people obviously underestimated it. The deck is unquestionably the most powerful in Standard and the format should now shift to strategies that are inherently good at interacting with it.

The reason the deck is so good is that it has a lot of extremely fast and efficient creatures that can run away with the game early but also has a ton of grind.

You would expect that a deck full of 1-mana 1/1 and 2/1 creatures would run out of gas quickly, but Ramunap Red can really grind with the best of them. The deck can steamroll an opponent by curving out, but it can also generate card advantage and power through blockers via Chandra, Hazoret, and eternalizing Earthshaker Khenra.

A lot of people (myself included) underestimated how much grind the Red deck actually had post-sideboard. Typically, you would assume that boarding in some Magma Sprays and a few life gain spells would put an “all-in” red deck away.

The problem with this logic is that a lot of people were sideboarding in such a way as to beat the “game 1” red deck and not the “post-sideboard” red deck. A bunch of Magma Sprays is good in game 1, but the red deck always boards for a more grindy scenario, bringing in more robust threats and card advantage.

If the plan is to board some Shocks, you risk running out of gas and having the red deck go over your head.

I think the best way to beat this deck in the near future is to play strategies that are strong against it.

What’s Good Against Red Decks?

Well, it seems to be the consensus opinion that Zombies has a close-to-favorable matchup against Mono-Red in the head-to-head. The problem with playing Zombies is that while it may be favored against Red, it tends to have weaker matchups across the board. Nonetheless, with Red driving some of Zombies’ bad matchups out of the format and presumably gaining a huge market share of the metagame next week, Zombies could be a really nice call for next weekend.


Yusuke Sasabe, Top 8 at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation

Zombies has a fast board presence and can go big enough to push through Red’s grindy cards. In general, I like the deck against Red and expect it to become more popular in the coming weeks to combat the Red menace.

Here is a rogue idea if you are trying to find new strategies that beat Red Decks:

White Life Gain

l1nt84, 5-0 in an MTGO League

The deck is basically a hate deck for Red. White beats red in the head-to-head.

The red decks can deal damage in a hurry but this deck really has the ability to ignore it and put the game out of reach:

It will be hard for a red deck to trade damage (since the white deck will just gain it back with lifelink).

The deck can also go pretty big with the Horse, which has a ton of synergy with all of the life gain effects.

A few suggestions:

Perhaps Authority of the Consuls is an effective weapon again Red. The life gain is great, but taking haste away from their creatures saves a ton of damage.

It is also worth noting that Authority and Crested Sunmare is a combo since if your opponent gains life on their turn you’ll be getting a Horse for their trouble.

Crypt of the Eternals is another card that I would consider playing in the deck. It gives you a way to gain life on turn 5 while casting the Horse. Sunmare says: “At the beginning of your end step if you gained life this turn: HORSE IT UP.” Obviously, the deck has lots of lifelink creatures to trigger Horse on 5, but this is just another way to make sure you get full value. The deck has a million white sources already.

It’s an interesting deck that has a lot of room for innovation and improvement moving forward in a Red Deck meta.

Last but not least, I still think that G/B is a great deck. It just needs to be finely tuned to press its advantages against Red.

The matchup is close, but black decks could easily position themselves to be much better against red than they have been in the past:

With red decks being all the rage in the coming week, adding these cards to your main deck is a strong move. I also like that black decks have access to Grasp of Darkness, which is a fantastic answer to both Hazoret and Glorybringer.

The sky is not falling. If anything, I’d much rather see a red deck dominate the Pro Tour than another midrange combo deck. I believe that a good red deck keeps the format honest and I’m excited to see how players approach the metagame knowing how well Red Deck Wins performed in Kyoto.

This weekend, I would be shocked if Red put up another performance like last weekend. I feel confident that players will have much better plans and a better understanding of what the Red deck can do to them after sideboard.

I’m seriously considering something like the White Life Gain deck for a variety of reasons, one of which is Cliff Noble’s “The Horse” is my #1 jam of all time. I’m not giving up on Standard, but there’s a lot of work to do to get the rest of the decks caught up to where Red is out of the gate.


Scroll to Top