Beating Ramunap Red

by Lee Shi Tian on 07 August 2017, Monday

Lee Shi Tian

Beating Ramunap Red


Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is now in the books. Although there are a lot of decks in the Standard format, Ramunap Red was the deck which ruled the weekend. One of the reasons was that the metagame contained too many decks and being the fastest deck can simply ignore the slower decks in the other end of the spectrum. During our playtesting, we knew that beating Mono Red was one of the most important criteria in choosing decks.

Today, I would like to share the key points to note if you wish to beat Mono Red.


A Reasonable Early Game


Beneath the Sands

Ramunap Red is the fastest deck in the metagame. It has the most powerful early game of the format. To match well with the deck, you need a reasonable early game to make sure you have a chance. It is highly unlikely that you can cast Beneath the Sands on turn 3 and expect not to die by turn 5 especially if you're doing nothing relevant.

By the definition of early game, it can be either blockers or removals. The size of creatures in Ramunap Red is not particularly huge. Most of them are with 2 toughness except Hazoret the Fervent. While most of the playable creatures and removals can match them effectively, you do need to have enough quantity of cheap cards to do that.



Having the Ability to Race


Ramunap Ruins Sunscorched Desert Scavenger Grounds

One of the reasons that Ramunap Red is such a good deck is because it has lots of reach thanks to the Desert package. Land flood has always been the natural enemy to any aggressive deck. However, Ramunap Ruins enabled 8 to 10 of your lands become 2 damage each over a few turns. This makes playing a long game against Mono Red a bad idea.

A two-turn clock is the best as it leave the least room for Red to set up second wave of attack. Keep in mind that they do need 4 mana and tap Ramunap Ruins to deal 2 damage. It consumes quite a lot of resources. If that is the their plan to close the game, their mana is tied during those crucial turns.



Don't Make Unnecessary Attacks


Earthshaker Khenra Ahn-Crop Crasher Cartouche of Zeal

Ramunap Red has lots of “stun” effects from Earthshaker Khenra and Ahn-Crop Crasher, and occasionally Cartouche of Zeal. Leaving up one or two blockers usually becomes extremely ineffective, especially when they combine those effects with burn spells. Making unnecessary attacks can lead to you taking a lot of extra damage. After making a bad attack, you'll usually end up at a backfoot and later on it makes racing much harder.

If you let your opponent attacking you with Ahn-Crop Crasher without exerting, you are forced to cast your removal spell on the turn after. This will mess up your own sequencing and game plan. Also, the free damage become “not free” and snowball into disaster during later turns.

The ability to identify when to start the clock is a key to success in against Mono Red. Try to leave up more blockers in early turns and set up big attacks later instead of chipping in small damage.



Ability to Answer Hazoret


Hazoret the Fervent

Hazoret the Fervent is the “late” game of Ramunap Red. It is an extremely powerful card where you have to trump it every turn if you cannot remove it from the game. With Hazoret the Fervent in play, there are no bad topdecks for the Mono Red player. While Mono Red have the strongest early game, Hazoret will normally be enough to close game.

The answer to Hazoret does exist in the format in terms of Soul-Scar Mage with 4 damage of burn, Grasp of Darkness, Dark Salvation and Hour of Devastation. If your deck does not have any of these answers, the other way to go round is to have chump blockers every turn while applying enough pressure at the same time.  Liliana's Mastery and Cryptbreaker might do the trick, as does Whirler Virtuoso.


Choosing a Deck for Pro Tour

If you want to beat Red, it is not hard to get a deck with all life gain, or an Aristocrats-style deck. The real problem is that those decks can only beat Mono Red and not the other decks. I won’t expect Mono Red to be over 30% of the an average metagame. Giving up all the other matchups for one matchup is not the best way to show up at the Pro Tour. While Ramunap Red was the deck to beat, this is not Eldrazi Winter. We do not need to exaggerate or panic and play unplayable decks to get wins.

What our playtesting group wished to find was a deck which can fulfill a few criteria, and that was why half of team MTG Mint Card and team MTG Bent Card chose to play Zombies. We can get cheap two-for-ones with Dark Salvation by turn 3 and leave up enough blocker to stop the aggression. We also have removal for Hazoret. We can normally stack up enough creatures on the board and do one big attack to close the game.

Although nothing fancy was added from Hour of Devastation, Zombie still got its own character as an aggro deck that can go long and taking over the game with Liliana's Mastery and Cryptbreaker.

The other two options are Black-Green Constrictor and Temur Energy Aggro. The problem of these two decks is that the one-drops are not as powerful as what Zombies has. The top end of Black-Green Constrictor is Walking Ballista and Verdurous Gearhulk which are answered by Abrade easily. Temur Energy Aggro is better with Blistering Hydra but the mana base is way worse. Also, Zombies is slightly ahead against both Black-Green Constrictor and Temur Energy Aggro thanks to the premium removals (such as Fatal Push and Grasp of Darkness), which puts us in a better position in the “anti-red” metagame.

Here is the list half the team played:



We played Scavenger Grounds in the fear of White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift being a threat but it seemed like Mono Red adapted to the deck well within a short window of time.

During the Pro Tour, I won most of the matches where I did not get stuck at 3 lands. This seems to be the unsolvable problem of the deck because it happened to me two Pro Tours in a row. With additional utility lands, we added the 25th land but it does not help enough. I can see going up to 26 lands so you can cast Liliana's Mastery reliably by turn 5 most of the time.

So, these are some of the tricks I have for you if you are interested to beat Ramunap Red in the next few months. I have got lots of emotions after the Pro Tour, but I think I should have it covered that in another article.

See you next week.


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