By Jason Parker
November 17, 2019
Oko, Thief of Crowns was recently banned in MTG Arena’s brawls, and that’s all well and good. This doesn’t change that he’s extremely problematic for the overall meta of the game. Oko is a powerful planeswalker, but his deck isn’t the only option. Right now, MTG is divided up into “Food decks” and “Not food decks”. One of my favorite ways to win quickly right now is “Red Deck Wins”. There are a few options for mono red aggro in MTG Arena right now, but today we’re looking at a “Cavalcade of Calamity” deck.
mono red was already powerful before the advent of Cavalcade of Calamity. Now those goblins and dwarves have a new lease on life. The idea is that you start slapping your opponent in the face with 1 or 2 drop creatures immediately. Get Cavalcade on the board, then finish up with one of your 3 drops. If you can get Torbran on the table, fear will settle in. His ability to add +2 to any red damage makes every attack deal at least 3 damage. That’s before the blocker phase! Combine that with Chandra’s Spitfire, and your opponent’s resolve will dissolve. There aren’t too many things more deflating than being forced to take 17+ damage from one creature.
You can win without Cavalcade on the board, but it is tremendous in your starting hand. One of the benefits of it being a mono-colored deck is in the type of lands you run. You need mountains, Castle Embereth (Rare) and Dwarven Mine (Common). Compared to some other deckbuilds, this one is budget-friendly. I do run a couple of rare cards, but the vast majority are Common-Uncommon, with zero Mythic Rares. You can run lots of MTG Arena rares with mono red aggro, but it’s not a must.
You are going to want a few turn 1 to 3 options, such as one drops like Fervent Champion and Scorch Spitter. Scorch Spitter increases the power of Chandra’s Spitfire. When coupled with Cavalcade of Calamity, that flying ⅓ can go all the way to 9+ attack power. If you manage to get the Spitfire out, bear in mind any flying or reach creatures, and see them destroyed. That’s what Scorch and Skewer the Critics are for. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice a creature to get that 1-cost Skewer. For 1 mana, you can also make that Gingerbrute unblockable (except for creatures with Haste). Dealing even one point of damage gives Skewer the Critics a 1 cost due to Spectacle. Now it’s a 1 drop 3 damage spell.
This 2-drop enchantment churns out damage with no effort attached. Creatures with 1 power or less that attack immediately deal 1 damage to the opponent or planeswalker you targeted.
Having multiples out will make this effect stack. This means you can be far more aggressive and push attacks through. It’s even better if you swing with something (mostly) unblockable, like Gingerbrute.
Scorch Spitter might be a 1/1 common, but when it declares an attack, it deals 1 damage immediately. This is another “pair with Chandra’s Spitfire”, turning that ⅓ flyer into a minimum of a 4/3, before Cavalcade.
The best time to swing with creatures like this as early as possible. When you want to force your opponent to block with a key creature that only has 1 toughness, he also shines.
Chandra’s Spitfire is a ⅓ flyer for 3. This deck doesn’t have any real mana ramp so this isn’t something you’re going to get early. If Cavalcade is on board, and the opponent has no flyers, it’s a major threat.
You can win a match in one round of combat by declaring a huge attack. Even if those 1/1 ground creatures die, if you batter someone for 15+ with this creature? It’s worth it in the end.
Torbran is the highest cost in the deck, and I seldom see him on the board. But when he does, he speeds things up exponentially. Adding +2 to all red sources of damage you control makes even the weakest 1/1 a thing of terror.
Now your Cavalcade cranks out 3 damage a creature. At that point, you don’t even have to get attackers through. Declaring a wide attack can finish the job.
mono red aggro is incredibly satisfying when you go first and swing hard. Is it the best deck in the meta right now? No, that’s probably still Oko. But mono red almost always has a high win percentage in MTG Arena thanks to the absolute mad speed it has. You can churn out damage turn after turn. Of course, there are decks that can snuff you out before you even get going. The biggest weakness to mono red aggro is going second. The faster you can spill blood, the better after all.
Dealing damage before your opponent has played is safer. But what hurts your deck type?
The charm of this deck is dealing mountains of damage quickly, spread out over a few turns. If your opponent starts forcing you to discard, exile, or board wipe, that ends your ability to fight back. Your mainboard option is the Chandra planeswalker. You can create creatures that last for a turn and can activate Cavalcade.
In the sideboard, I have Legion Warboss, to make goblins that attack every turn. Board wipe is your biggest enemy, other than simply being out-aggroed.
Another common deck archetype right now revolves around sacrificing creatures. Mayhem Devil deals damage to a player sacrifices a creature. Priest of Forgotten Gods makes opponents sacrifice. This, coupled with having Chandra on the board can have you dealing damage to yourself.
Always remember, not having creatures in an aggro deck does not a victory make.
Mono-White’s big deal is having lots of small creatures, and gaining tons of life. This is made worse by splashing in black. White-Black Lifegain will have more life points than you can deal with, while also harming you. Is that not annoying enough? Pair this with Ajani’s Pridemate, so every time they gain life, it gets bigger.
This deck can gain life every turn without any honest difficulty. This deck also tends to pack plenty of flyers to deal with Chandra’s Spitfire. White-Black lifegain has answers to almost everything you can do. If you start faster, they won’t stop your domination, so bear it in mind.
Multi-colored Knight decks are a bit pricier to run but are fast and deadly. Most of these knights can equip heavy artifacts on the cheap and will kill anything you attack with. If I weren’t focused on this MTG Arena mono red aggro deck, my second choice would be Knights.
Get them before they get you, or prepare to eat 6+ damage per Knight.
I may lower the creature count or special land count, just to splash in more direct damage to deal with inconvenient creatures. That having been said, here’s my current decklist.