Red-Black Midrange at Pro Tour Dominaria

Pro Tour Dominaria was another success for me, and I feel blessed for having done so well over the last year of Pro Tours. I finished in 20th place, securing Platinum and in a great position to qualify for Worlds in September.

Standard is still a hot topic, with RPTQs coming up next week for many of you. So today I’ll share the testing results that made myself and most of my team play B/R Midrange at Pro Tour Dominaria.

This is what Lee Shi Tian and I registered at Pro Tour Dominaria.

R/B Midrange

Andrea Mengucci, 20th place at Pro Tour Dominaria

Why Play B/R Midrange Over B/R Aggro?

As you know, Goblin Chainwhirler is taking over Standard. We identified that very early in our Pro Tour playtesting, and it was just a matter of whether we wanted go with Bomat Courier + Hazoret the Fervent or Heart of Kiran + Karn, Scion of Urza.

Hazoret the Fervent is a crazy good card, especially now that Vraska’s Contempt is being played at an all-time low. The problem with that, though, is that Bomat Courier is also being played at an all-time low. Playing X/1s is made very hard by the existence of Goblin Chainwhirler, and a card like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner went from “the best Standard card” to “hard to play in the main deck”.

That’s why for Pro Tour Dominaria we decided to leave Bomat Courier at home. We then started exploring the R/B Midrange deck that Simon Nielsen used to win GP Birmingham.

The deck was doing great things versus green, and had a plan to beat the Red deck. Control was tougher, being almost unwinnable game 1 and slightly favorable post-sideboard, which still makes the matchup unexciting.

While brainstorming, Lee Shi Tian discovered Ruin Raider, a card that didn’t see play in Standard at any point but is perfect to fight control decks as it is a cheap card-draw engine. I was skeptical, but Master Lee Shi Tian proved me wrong.

After a long session of testing we ended up loving Ruin Raider so much that we started sideboarding it even in the mirror match, and it didn’t take long for us to put two copies in the main deck, as we expected many mirror matches and control decks.

Another card highlighted in our testing was Karn, Scion of Urza. Most people see Karn as a bad card advantage generator, only good in a deck that can exploit Constructs. We believed instead that the key to beat the Red deck was to load up on removal spells and follow them up with Karn.

Between ten rounds at Pro Tour Dominaria and five at Grand Prix Copenhagen, I ended up playing against only three Red decks, and played against a huge number of various and different decks. I did not expect that going into those events.

For Copenhagen, I tuned my list to be better against Hazoret the Fervent, but by doing so I lost ground to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and ended up not making Day 2 for the second Standard GP in a row.

I think my choice to tune my deck to beat R/B Aggro was still correct, as the top tables were infested by the archetype.

This was the list I registered.

R/B Midrange

Andrea Mengucci, GP Copenhagen

I maximized the number of ways to exile creatures and still avoided playing Vraska’s Contempt because of its double-black cost. I replaced an Unlicensed Disintegration with Doomfall, and a Fatal Push with Hour of Glory.

I also added Cut // Ribbons to the main deck to be better against aggressive decks and trimmed Heart of Kiran down to three copies. While Heart is great versus U/W Control, it’s not at its best versus Mono-Red.

Sideboard Guide

Red-Black Aggro/Mono-Red



Karn, Scion of Urza is the key to this matchup. You want to draw a steady stream of removal, especially the cheaper spells, and you want to make sure that Karn goes unchecked.

If your opponent passes with mana up, don’t give them a window to play their removal spell. If your hand is Abrade, Heart of Kiran, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Karn, Scion of Urza, never ever play Heart or Goblin, just pass the turn back and wait for their play, kill it, and start to get card advantage with your planeswalker.

If you deploy your Heart and they follow with Abrade + Pia Nalaar, then you’ll be behind and won’t be able to answer everything in time. You’ll get overrun. Play the matchup as a control deck. Don’t tap out if it’s not needed and most importantly, never play Goblin Chainwhirler as a Nessian Courser. Keep it in hand for Rekindling Phoenix’s Elemental, or Pia Nalaar’s Thopter in order to always get value out of it.

We ended up cutting Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the matchup mainly because of Chandra’s Defeat. Mono-Red plays up to 4 copies, and you don’t want to give them easy targets. You already have Karn, Scion of Urza and Rekindling Phoenix as sources of card advantage.

Keep Doomfall around for Hazoret the Fervent and Scrapheap Scrounger. Use it as a Thoughtseize rarely if you are sure that they don’t have Hazoret in hand and want to clear the path for a Glorybringer.

The matchup is positive. Play tight and don’t get overrun.

U/W Control



As I mentioned before, this matchup is close to unwinnable game 1 but becomes a favorite post-sideboard. It reminds me of the days of Grixis Energy versus U/W Approach in the previous Standard, a matchup I loved to play.

At the Pro Tour I played against control decks five times, and I had great matches against all of them. I ended up 3-2 there, which isn’t bad.

I believe that this deck is worse than R/B Aggro in this matchup, but you get those extra points back in the Red matchup.

You want to cut a land and go down to 25 since there’s no desperate need to reach your 4th and 5th land drop like in every other matchup. You have a ton of cheap threats and cheap interaction.

Ruin Raider is great since it’s a cheap threat they have to answer. You’re not going to win the matchup with late-game cards like Angrath or The Eldest Reborn—you need discard spells, pressure, and card advantage.

Sorcerous Spyglass is here to name Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Their deck is much worse without it, and a Cranial Extraction effect is what you need.

Steel Leef Stompy



Red has had a good green matchup ever since Chandra and Glorybringer. Playing against green might be tricky though, since Blossoming Defense is huge and can blow out your whole turn and steal the game.

If you had the chance to watch my feature match against Loic Le Briand in Round 8 of GP Copenhagen, you saw the strength of that card in the matchup.

By playing around it in game 1, I fell too far behind and ended up losing a game I would have won if only I knew they didn’t have it in hand. And in game 3 I got blown out by a topdecked Blossoming Defense that countered my 4-mana removal spell and stole the game.

Despite how that match went, I still believe that red is a favorite against green, and the results clearly show it.

Don’t be afraid not to dedicate too many cards to this matchup. Your main deck is configured to beat it.

Goblin Chainwhirler is dominating Standard, and Wizards might just have made another huge mistake. In the meantime, it’s our job to find the best home for it.


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