Battle for Zendikar is out, and everyone is scrambling to make a new decklist. This post will be a comprehensive guide on playing monored in standard for the next few months. We will cover planning for your meta, sideboarding, maybe-boarding, and other statistics.
You might here some talk about how RDW/Burn is gutted, but I'm here to show you that those claims are overblown. To put it bluntly, those people can't play burn in the first place. If mono red was as easy as people think, then every scrub would play it (instead, scrubs play Rhinos).
Burn lost three important cards: Lightning Strike, Searing Blood, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Of the three, Eidolon is going to hurt the most. Searing Blood will hurt a little, and you won't miss Lightning Strike at all. Here is my decklist for this expansion, and it has already gone 4-0 at one event; this is how we do it:
4x Monastary Swiftspear
4x Hangarback Walker
4x Abbot of Keral Keep
4x Thunderbreak Regent
2-3x Chandra, Fire of Kaldesh
2-3x Mage-Ring Bully
Xx Rest of your Titan's Strengths, Temur Battle Rages, Chandras, Smash to Smithereens, Mage-Ring Bullies
4x Infectious Bloodlust
The Thunderbreaks are your coffin nails. Keep four in the mainboard for most matches. He's that good (the same goes for Swifty, Abbot, Wild Slash, and Exquisite). Chandra, the Bully, and the Phoenixes can all be adjusted in the sideboard phases. You don't want the phoenixes if your opponent has a lot of fliers. You don't want bullies when your opponent can force you into bad combat (actually not as common as you think). You don't want Chandra when your opponent is packing too much burn or counters. I always keep at least 2 Chandras in my deck online (via Cockatrice), but at FNM I play with 3. Against a very aggressive counter deck, I might drop even more in favor of phoenixes.
Hangarback and the Bully fill the void left by Eidolon of the Great Revel. At least he finds a home in modern burn, but actually Hangarback is exactly what we want. First, he drops for 2, which the curve here really needs. Second, he can mana-sink, which means you don't need Lightning Berserker. I like Lightning Berserker, but he's very bad right now and doesn't play nice with the deck. Third, the flying tokens put extreme pressure on the opponent, and can save the game when Radiant Flames would wipe your board. Just run the fucker, it is a beast. Learn to tap him for a counter in response to stuff that would kill him and at end of turn.
The Mage-Ring Bully seems like a bad card, but he isn't. Two mana, solid 2/2, and prowess is a force to be reckoned with. His downside is only a downside if your opponent has creatures. We solve this problem with our slashes and impulses.
You can't play Abbot on Turn 2, as it is almost universally a bad move. Statistically, you want to use him to mill through more of your deck so that you draw and can use more of your cards.
Fiery Impulse and Wild Slash give you 8x 1-mana removals. You will shred them. De-board an impulse or two if your opponent isn't running creatures, but I don't know of any standard deck without creatures.
Exquisite Firecraft is best saved as a finisher. Generally the rule of thumb is you don't want to be using these guys on removal, but this will depend upon the math of the board state and your intuition. Of course there are exceptions: you have to clear something like Soulfire Grandmaster, and you should do it quickly. All hope is not lost if you have to use all your Firecrafts, you just push the game into topdeck mode, hoping to pull Hangarback, Flamewake, Firecraft, or Thunderbreak.
Titan's Strength, Infectious Bloodlust, and Temur Battle Rage are all great cards even if they aren't as straightforwardly awesome as Searing Blood (which, also good for modern). I have dropped Infectious Bloodlust from my deck, but I don't think it's a bad card or choice. I just found the instant-speed combat tricks to be more useful in practical application. Play both tricks at once, on the same guy, and you swing your Bully for 14. Swifty for 12. This is turn three. Your creature is probably buff enough to survive the blocker and trample over plenty of damage. Or, if prowess will be enough to survive the block, play them on the unblocked creature.
Arc Lightning can be your savior. If they play elves, tokens, Jeski, aggro, goblins, thopters, whatever, then bring these into play. You probably have to drop a bully and some combat tricks.
Pilot the Deck
Prowess lets you stack aggro damage. If you get an opening (i.e. unblocked creature) Go ahead and play Titan's Strength if the scry would be useful and you don't also have Temur Battle Rage. Those two cards are your god-combo, so don't throw away half of the set lightly. Likewise, you want to always kind of hope for a Thunderbreak swing with Temur Battle Rage.
Keep clearing those creatures with wild slash and fiery impulse. Don't use wild slash for face damage unless you know for sure that you can win. You will lose the game if you opponent keeps his Soulfire Grandmaster, Seeker of the Way, or Drana for too long.
On that note, don't neglect spell mastery for fiery impulse. It's often best to use wild slash first, even though it can attack the face, because impulse will now clear mantis riders and other strong dudes.
Don't let managorger hydra suvrive at all. Same for Hangarback, Chandra, Nissa, Jace, Lilliana, anything with lifelink, etc. Really don't let anything live. Maybe a token. You might have to let elves live too, if you think they have a better elf.
Planning for Your Meta
Because I'm thinking of many different metas here, you'll want to tailor your deck for your own environment. For example, no one ever runs Abzan at my local game shop, so I don't even sideboard roast. If you know there are rhino decks, even a mainboarded set of 2x roasts wouldn't be out of the question.
First, if your meta is very powerful, I would run two Chandras and 3 Bullies. I run 3 Chandras and 2 Bullies at mine, as it is a much weaker environment than cockatrice (see; www.woogerworks.com).
Knowing a store's meta is usually not too hard for mono red, as you will have plenty of time to glance at other players' games with all your free time. Don't think about it too hard, however, and don't neglect to run the essential cards (including Hangarback walker and Chandra) until the next set.
Expect fiery impulse and wild slash to always be in the deck as well, there will be plenty to burn in this meta. Not sure there is anything wrong with packing the Hangarbacks Walkers through this set and reaping the rewards of victory. The card is stupid good.
Your Worst Nightmare
Radiant Flames. Board wipes. Other Thunderbreak Regents. You don't want to overextend yourself to getting wiped. Similarly, sometimes it might be better to ping them a few times without your combat tricks instead of inviting the kill-spell early on. This, however, is all in the mind-reading aspect of MtG, so judge your opponent well and don't play into his/her hand.
With that said, don't be afraid to take a chance! You are MONO RED! The red deck always wins*
Putting It all Together: Robot's Red Deck Wins
Here is the deck I play online. At FNM I used 3 Chandras and 2 Bullies in the mainboard, anticipating being able to flip her (which happened often, leading to many wins).
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Exquisite Firecraft
4 Abbot of Keral Keep
4 Wild Slash
4 Fiery Impulse
4 Thunderbreak Regent
2 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
3 Titan's Strength
3 Temur Battle Rage
3 Mage-Ring Bully
4 Hangarback Walker
SB: 4 Arc Lightning
SB: 2 Smash to Smithereens
SB: 1 Mage-Ring Bully
SB: 1 Zurgo Bellstriker
SB: 1 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
SB: 4 Flamewake Phoenix
SB: 1 Titan's Strength
SB: 1 Temur Battle Rage
I wonder if the extra tricks are useless, however, and if I would be better off with roast. I just can't see myself swapping roast into the deck, same for draconic roar--I'd rather have fiery impulse. If they pack hate for artifacts and have strong fliers, however, I could see needing more combat tricks.
The other reason for the inclusion of the 4th Temur Battle Rage is that I'm not sure if this card is actually just fucking broken or what. I feel like it probably is really amazing, but I don't know what to take out.
I am confidant that this amount of creatures is needed in order for the deck to go off. Two less creatures and losing a dude becomes losing the game very often. Hangarback gives us some lingering effects, which we really wanted. Hangarback is just good fun and solves many problems for us. He's also a 4-drop if we have the mana, so no longer do we just rely on topdecking a dragon. It really is perfect. Bully gives us some cheap, serious threats that also works very, very with every one of our spells.
Zurgo doesn't do enough for us. He can't chump, so he basically has to attack to be useful. Bully also has to attack, but he has prowess. Your opponent might also let the bully slide, knowing she can kill it in two turns, but it will be two late. You slap down Titan and Temur for 14 dmg and your Swifty swings for 3.
We aren't going to have an delusions of winning on T3 most of the time. We will have the momentum, but the win will have to come on T5-6 for most games. That's just standard, and it's the price we pay for Thunderbreak Regent.
*the red deck does not always win, but it wins a lot.
Duck Tales is great, but it has a huge design flaw that proves glaringly obvious after years of absence--the pogo mechanic.
Before I get any further, I want my games to be tough as coffin nails, but I also want some standard of living: customizable controls, decent options, good hitboxes, etc. Duck Tales offers none of this. At the other end of the spectrum we have Super Meat Boy, an amazing game with incredible difficulty, but extreme care taken to ensure that the experience (often called "quality of life" in a game, is extremely high). In Duck Tales, the hit boxes are far too large for most things, but even this can be worked around. I'll leave the hit boxes alone for now, and get back to the point.
There is no reason to have to press down on the D-pad to activate the pogo stick. You only have to do this on the first bounce, then you can just hold B. This causes problems when you are pressing diagonal-down and the pogo stick disappears at the last minute causing you to take a hit. The only thing this does is make the game worse, if you think this adds challenge or difficulty...not sure what to say. They could have used controls similar to Castle of Illusion, just hit B in the air to start the pogo. Instead they copied Commander Keen, and the game is worse for it.
If B actually did something in the air, I could see the need to press down. But it doesn't. If B made you run, like in Super Mario, then this would make sense. But it doesn't. Again, you have to press an extra button for no reason.
I like my difficulty to come from level design, insane challenges, and precision timing. Not much of that here.
This problem is easily fixable if playing on a PC emulator, but it is a little complicated. You have to map the down arrow on your keyboard to the down arrow for your emulator, then, using Joy 2 Key assign both the down arrow on your d-pad and the B button to also activate the down arrow on the keyboard. If you did it correctly, you should be able to bounce without ever pressing down on the d-pad. This isn't without one small change: if your pogo stick misses a ledge, but only slightly, Scrooge will stick to the ledge and be ducking down. Not a huge deal.
Before you say this is cheating, just be aware that in the speedrunning/highscore community choice of controller, monitor, button mapping, control configs, etc. are all perfectly legal and fine. I consider this customizing the controls, but you might not. If you like how the game is now, then by all means, just ignore this topic. If you've ever been frustrated at the pogo stick disappearing milliseconds before you make contact with thr ground, however, then you might want to try out this trick.
If you don't like this setup, however, this is another option if you have some trigger buttons. It's much easier to activate the pogo if you map the right trigger to down as well. Now you can't say there is an advantage in mapping two buttons to the same button, and you are firmly in the realm of customizing the controls. The major downside is, of course, having to play on an emulator and not being able to use your cartridge.
It appears that the creators of the remastered version also agree with me, by the way, as it appears you do not have to press down in the new version to activate the pogo stick.
Warning, some of the ending to the game is shown in the screenshots down below.
Not that I think many people are concerned about Dragon Warrior spoilers, but if one were I'd had to be the guy that ruined this game for someone else.
When I was five I only had a few NES games: Mario/Duck Hunt, Zelda, Friday the 13th, Karnov, Adventure Island II, and Dragon Warrior. I might like other games more than these, but somewhere deep in my subconsciousness these things are permanently etched into my brain.
So it's always fun to go back and re-explore the kingdom of Alefgard. This time I didn't even stop to take names, just grabbed all the Erdrick equipment at level 14 and then grinded my way to 20. I tried to beat the Dragonlord at 17, 18, and 19. No dice. Although certainly possible to do, it was absolutely impossible to defeat the Dragonlord without relying on at least 2 "coinflips." Essentially I was looking at something of a 25% success rate given my characters stats. I decided I'd rather spend the 30 minutes grinding from 19 to 20. If I had just done that in the first place it would have been much faster, but less fun.
If you want to complete the game quickly, you need to skip about 40% of the purchasable upgrades. As far as weapons go, avoid the bamboo pole; it's too weak and the club is better. Also avoid the Flame Sword, you do not need it; instead buy the Silver Shield as soon as you can, because you will use this for the rest of the game.
You also do not need to buy the Chain Armor or Full Plate. Instead only get Leather, Half, Magic. You could get Full Plate instead of magic armor, but I found that the extra 5000 gold was not too hard to get when fighting Goldmen and Wyverns south of Rimuldar.
The Axe Knight can be difficult, but I got a crit on him which gave me the armor early. I would suggest several attempts at him using repel water, and reset if you die. Rumors exist that sleep can work, but good luck with that.
Adding more party members to the game just slows down the formula. I wish more RPGs actually felt like you were the character, not some Starcraft Overmind issuing commands to an army of wizards and warriors.
These are some images of the Mandelbrot set I generated this weekend using Fractal Explorer. Although it's a great program, it relies on double math and so can only achieve precision in zooms of about 10^15, which is really terrible to be quite honest.
If anyone knows of some better software it would really help me out; I'm looking to break the 10^200 zoom barrier in Mandelbrot zooming.