Mono Red. An archetype that has been hated by many and loved by some ever since its first appearance as Sligh in 1996. The last time Mono Red was very good in Standard was after Joel Larsson crushed the competition with it at Pro Tour Magic: Origins. This season, it reemerged, and has been putting up consistent results in the new form of Ramunap Red.

Red aggro decks have been historically looked down upon by many players who believe that they take absolutely no skill to play, and only win because of their good draws. Today I am here to talk a little bit about the deck, and a copious amount on why it is hard to play and some tips to overcome challenges with the deck.

Lets start with a list:

Ramunap Red by Yann Lee Teoh at French Nationals 2017 – 2nd

Creatures (23)
4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
4 Bomat Courier
4 Earthshaker Khenra
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Hazoret the Fervent
3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

Non-Creature Spells (13)
2 Abrade
1 Collective Defiance
4 Incendiary Flow
4 Shock
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Lands (24)
15 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
1 Scavenger Grounds
4 Sunscorched Desert

Sideboard (15)
2 Abrade
1 Chandra’s Defeat
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Glorybringer
1 Pia Nalaar
2 Sand Strangler
1 Scavenger Grounds
2 Sweltering Suns

I think this list is a perfect example of what Ramunap Red should look like right now. Some players have a few changes such as playing 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance and cutting the fourth Hazoret the Fervent, a change that I believe to be pretty incorrect. Many inexperienced players with the deck will give you the reasoning that because Hazoret is a legendary creature, it does not make sense to play the full playset. What I consistently tell these players is that because Hazoret is your best card by a margin, (a fact that some people may disagree with but I feel extremely confident in) you want to increase your chance of drawing it every turn, especially in the late game. As good as Chandra is, she doesn’t exactly do much to help you catch up on the draw, whereas Hazoret, if you play your first turns accordingly, can turn the game into your favor almost instantly. Hazoret also has a built-in way to get rid of your redundant Hazorets and turns them into real cards.

 

Something that sets Teoh’s list apart from the other Ramunap Red lists is the presence of a single Collective Defiance in the mainboard. I think this was a great meta call by Teoh, as Thought-Knot Seer has become very popular recently, in both decks such as Mono-White Eldrazi (against which Defiance is very good to begin with) and Jeskai God-Pharaoh’s Gift. The most overlooked part of the card is the first ability, which can actually be surprisingly relevant. One great play which I have come across is using it against a Fumigate deck. Often, players will telegraph that they have a Fumigate by not answering your threats or playing in a way that forces you to go wide. One of the best ways to combat this is on the crucial turn, deal 3 damage to them and make them discard their hand and draw. You always run the risk of them drawing another Fumigate, but you significantly better your odds of not facing one the following turn, giving you the advantage naturally, as a deck that punishes stumbles.

Aside from interesting card choices, this deck is one of the most interesting decks I have watched or played with in a long time. I played the Jeskai Gift deck in Washington D.C., but I did not actually feel as though that deck was as hard to play as people made it out to be. Truth be told, I do play that style of deck almost always, so I may just be used to the mechanics and playing a few turns ahead when it comes to a non-linear combo deck.

On the other hand, watching players on Ramunap Red, a deck that in many peoples’ mind easy to play, was fascinating. Each turn presented the pilot with paths to take, and each small decision and each point of damage was absolutely crucial to the end result. I watched more than one player miss 2 points of damage by taking one line over a less conventional line, which could have easily lost them the game. People tend to dismiss the deck as skill-less when they see the deck’s insane curve-outs. While turn one Bomat Courier into Kari Zev, Skyship Raider into Ahn-Crop Crasher can be very tough to beat, that sort of curve only happens in a fraction of games played with the deck.

Oftentimes, games are decided by the Ramunap Red player making a call on how they will finish the game in the last few turns. A surprisingly large amount of times, the plays are very unintuitive. For example, this past week, I did not play creatures for 3 turns against my B/W Control opponent, who was at 6. Instead, I finished him off with 3 Ramunap Ruins activations. Why you may ask? While my copies of Falkenrath Gorger and Kari Zev, Skyship Raider would have killed my opponent a turn earlier, they also would have enabled him to gain life with Fumigate or Desert’s Hold. These are not common scenarios, but a more inexperienced player might try to go for the quicker kill. It is here that I think the line is drawn with skill in the Ramunap Red deck.

Very experienced players with Red can think about their draws and the gamestate 2 or 3 turns ahead, which gives them an insane advantage over players who are just starting out. While I am not one of these very experienced players, I have begun to appreciate the planning and skill-intensity that comes with playing the deck. If you are trying to get better at playing Ramunap Red, after a game ends, try to go two turns back in your head. Could you have done anything differently? Did you do something that left you dead or vulnerable to an opponent’s cards? If you can determine what you did wrong and improve on that, (something which applies to someone who has just won their game as well) then you will quickly learn how to pilot the deck at a much higher level.

While these scenarios may seem very fringe, and some may very well be so, every single percentage point you can get, just like every point of damage you can squeeze out of your cards, is crucial to playing Ramunap Red. After all, small percentage points add up. Even if you only win one match more than you would have in 3 events, that match can be the difference between a Pro Tour invite or just a couple Pro Points.

Overall, while Ramunap Red may seem like a deck that is easy to play on the surface, it is truly complicated and fascinating when you put time into learning it. I know some of the deck is rotating soon, and it will likely change, but if you have time, make sure to try it out and attempt to understand some more about the archetype. If nothing else, it will help you learn how to beat the deck better, especially since it is sure to be a player in the coming format.

Ramunap Red is sweet, and honestly, outside of the finesse, I just really want to cast indestructible 5/4s with haste on turn 4. Don’t you?

Hope you enjoyed and see ya next week,

Riccardo Monico

If you’re already itching to get started with Ixalan Standard, read my article from last week, where I got over which spoilers I think will shape the format, and which spoilers are flying under the radar.

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