Brewed Up: Mono-Red Prowess

Admittedly, we were not sure whether we should put this one in the Brewed Up series. Mono-Red Phoenix is a powerful but inconsistent deck, which is strange for a mono-colored deck. This has led a few players, including myself, to throw a wrench in the works. Our finding, controversially, is that the deck should not even be playing Arclight Phoenix. This change only required a dozen-card swap but the effect on how it plays has been dramatic. Today we will present the decklist, the reasoning, and a card-by-card breakdown for Mono-Red Prowess.

Decklist
Lands (18)
15 Snow-Covered Mountain
3 Sunbaked Canyon
Creatures (14)
2 Abbot of Keral Keep
4 Blistercoil Weird
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Soul-Scar Mage
Spells (28)
4 Crash Through
3 Gut Shot
3 Lava Dart
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Light Up the Stage
4 Manamorphose
2 Reckless Charge
Sideboard (15)
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Abrade
2 Blood Moon
2 Shrine of Burning Rage
2 Dismember
1 Shattering Spree
2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
75 Cards Total

Why not Mono-Red Phoenix?
Do you like playing Snare Thopter in Modern? No, nobody does. But when you play Arclight Phoenix in Mono-Red, that is what you will often be doing. Izzet Phoenix is very suited to playing the long game and can get by with Snare Thopters. When the game goes late, Izzet will still have enough spells to reanimate a Phoenix because 25% of their deck is card advantage neutral. Mono-Red is looking to tank every turn so if your Phoenix is not in the grave by Turn 2, it is probably a Snare Thopter even if you found the Looting. So when you do not have an early Looting, Phoenix is awful in this deck. On the flip side, Looting is underwhelming in the deck when you do not have Phoenix in hand. The majority of the threat base is made up of Prowess creatures; whose value is reliant on how many spells you can cast. Looting is negative card advantage so you are often limiting the potential of your prowess creatures with each use. No, discarding Lava Dart is not a positive thing. It just makes it less bad because you still get half of the value. Do not get me wrong, Faithless Looting is obviously a powerful card but we need something better than Phoenix to justify its inclusion.

Furthermore, both of these cards are awful with Light Up the Stage which is secretly the best card in the deck. It is almost always a two mana Divination in red. However, these cards are not in your hand. Casting a Light Up lowers the number of cards in your hand, making your Looting discard choices even worse. Of course, you cannot discard a Phoenix from exile; it truly is a Snare Thopter in that situation. Once you cut Looting and Phoenix, Light Up becomes truly busted. The only thing I miss post-transition is Bedlam Reveler. His discard almost made Phoenix consistently good, but Turn 4 Phoenixes just will not cut it. Abbot is not quite as good but making the deck more consistent and immune to graveyard hate is a worthwhile trade. I know Phoenix players will not want to make the change. Turn 1 Looting into Phoenix generates the decks most busted draws but it is simply inconsistent. It will be worth revisiting if and when we get another cheap discard outlet but Reveler and Seasoned Pyromancer are just too slow. We do intend to test a prowess build with Looting and Reveler and no Abbots though.

The Build
This iteration of the deck focuses more on getting a prowess creature onto the board early. We have twelve, one mana creatures that have a variant of the prowess mechanic on them. Monastery Swiftspear enables the decks most aggressive draws. Soul-Scar Mage makes blocking profitably incredibly difficult for the opponent. Blistercoil Weird rounds out our one drops. Generally this deck wants to cast it’s spells pre-combat to grow it’s prowess creatures, but in a pinch you can do it post combat to give Blisercoil pseudo-vigilance. The only non-one drop in the deck is Abbot of Keral Keep gives the deck a little bit of card advantage. Kiln Fiend was also a strong consideration for this spot. This deck wants to be casting as many spells as possible and Abbot enables that. Kiln Fiend can end he game very quickly, but our spells give us the reach to do that with this build as well.

Lightning Bolt would be banned if they printed it today.”
-Tanner Bromer

Moving on, three copies of Gut Shot help to give us free prowess triggers and enable spectacle. Light Up the Stage is one of the key engines of this deck. It was always awkward to hit Arclight Phoenix. You were almost never going to cast the four mana spell, so you basically exiled a copy of your own Phoenix. Every card in the main deck is reasonable to cast of of Light Up the Stage. That card does so much for this deck that even one landers with it and Gut Shot are even reasonable to keep. With that combo, there’s a 69.5% chance you’ll hit your second land by Turn 2 on the play. That shoots up to 79.9% on the draw. Lava Dart is another way for us to enable spectacle. One neat interaction is that we can float mana from our Mountain, flashback Lava Dart to enable spectacle, and then use the floated mana to cast Light Up the Stage. Manamorphose is the premier free spell in the format so it should be no surprise to see it here. Crash Through ensures that our prowess triggers aren’t wasted by being chump blocked. Keep in mind that it doesn’t target so it can be cycled in a pinch as well and cannot be fizzled by removal. Finally, Reckless Charge is a now Modern legal and is fits in super nicely with this deck. Charge gives the deck back a little of the explosiveness it loses without Phoenix or Kiln Fiend. It does not happen often but finding it on top after an Abbot feels amazing.

Graveyard based strategies are incredibly prominent right now so we are loading up on them. Currently we have a two-two split of Tormod’s Crypt and Ravenous Trap. Both of these are “free” spells which helps to enable our gameplan. I can very easily see arguments for things like Leyline of the Void or Surgical Extraction as well. Once they ban something from Vengevine, feel free to go down to two pieces of grave hate. Blood Moon always has the ability to steal games. It is still a 3 mana enchantment which is why we can only find room for two copies. Shrine of Burning Rage is awesome for grindy matchups where the board will be stalled. Another card for grindy matchups is Saheeli, Sublime Artificier. Both of these cards allow you to still get value off casting your spells when you can’t take advantage of prowess triggers. Abrade is particularly good against Aether Vial decks where it is able to pick off a key creature or Vial itself. Dismember is available for the matchups where we need more removal. We don’t take much damage from our manabase outside of the canlands so the life loss is fairly irrelevant. Finally we have a one of Shattering Spree for the artifact heavy matchups. As always, replicate is nice against things like Welding Jar and multiple copies of a hate piece.

The Verdict
 I think this deck has a lot of legs. It’s one of the cheapest fully fleshed out decks that you can build in Modern. The deck doesn’t have those incredibly explosive draws where you bin two Phoenixes on Turn 1 but is faster overall. This deck can be had for close to $250. That is ridiculous for a very, very viable Modern deck. Even if you feel the Phoenix version is better, this deck can easily transition into it for basically the cost of Phoenixes and Lootings. With that said, I do feel like there will be a lot of people who prefer this build of the deck. It runs incredibly smooth. There is even some ability to tweak the deck based on your meta. If you’re expecting a ton of copies of Lightning Bolt, Mutagenic Growth is a great way to defend against that. You could also swap Abbot for Kiln Fiend if you need to add more explosiveness to the deck. I would wholeheartedly recommend that you pick this deck up. This will be my deck du jour for a while.

Wrap-Up
I do hope that you enjoy this deck as much as we have. We may have a soft spot for 8 Whack here but this does seem to be the superior deck. It is more expensive but at only $250, it is quite the bargain considering the power level. This is not a budget version of Mono-Red Phoenix. We believe it is the future of the deck. So what are your thoughts on the build? Are we nuts for cutting the deck’s namesake card? Let’s talk about it in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back on Monday with even more to share. Until then my friends.

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