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Introduction to Magic Arena with Red Deck Wins

Hey guys, I am George, a Masters tier player on Magic Arena! Today I will be trying to give you some advice to get you prepared to play Magic: the Gathering Arena. Magic Arena is different from paper or Magic Online in that you can't simply buy the cards you need; you'll need to make due with your starter collection and whatever cards you happen to open in your packs. I'm here to make the process of starting on Magic Arena a little easier. If you aren't already part of the Beta, you can sign up here. So, let’s get into it.

Earning Cards

Magic Arena Wildcards

First, one important aspect of the Magic Arena is the economy. Currently, we have three ways to get more cards: opening packs, winning up to 30 games daily to get random cards, and opening the Vault. Each pack gives you 8 cards: 1 Rare or Mythic Rare, 2 Uncommons and 5 Commons. There is a low chance that each one of those cards be a Wild Card (WC), which can be transformed into any card of its rarity. For instance, you can transform a Common Wild Card into a Magma Spray and a Mythic Wild Card into a Hazoret the Fervent! In order to do that, make sure to select the filter “Unowned” in your collection/deck page if you don’t have a copy of  the card you want. Packs can be obtained with gold which can be earned by doing the daily quests and winning your first four games. Beyond that, you can obtain three free packs each week by winning 15 games and three more each Friday just by logging in once a week. Each one of your first 30 wins gives you a random card, the fourth card being always a rare. After that, most of the cards obtained will be commons.

I recorded most of the cards that I was able to acquire while grinding to Master Tier 1 last week: from 289 cards, 69.6% were commons, 19% were uncommons, 9% were rares, and 2.4% were Mythics Rares. Since the cards are completely random, I don’t recommend trying to get those wins only for them, but if you like the game and are having fun with it, go grab them! You can open the Vault when it reaches 100%. Those percentages points are obtained by getting a 5th copy of a card and by opening packs. Do not focus on filling the vault, currently its progress is really slow. 

Mono-Red Aggro Build

Now, as you probably already noticed, most of the ways to get cards involve winning. So, that’s what we are trying to do with this article: help you win to get more cards. Since getting WCs and specifically Rare WCs is difficult, people will be mostly transforming them into non-land cards. For that reason, decks with two or more colors will be slow due to tapped lands. You know what kind of deck takes advantage of that? A Mono-Red Aggro Deck! That was the kind of deck I used to climb the ladder to Master Tier 1 in one week. Mono-Red also has the benefit of finishing matches quickly, earning you more cards per time spent playing. So, let’s start on how to build this deck. You will be getting 10 pre-made decks and 12 initial packs (and free common lands) which will get you started on building our Mono-Red deck. Note that Arena doesn't support "full Standard" (only Rivals of Ixalan and Amonkhet blocks are available) and the Standard banlist doesn't apply, so Ramunap Ruins is completely legal. So, without any more delaying, let’s get to a budget version of the deck:

Priority Order with Substitutions

Cards Substitutions
4x Hazoret the Fervent Combat Celebrant, Captivating Crew, Charging Monstrosaur, Etali, Primal Storm
4x Earthshaker Khenra Harsh Mentor, Fathom Fleet FirebrandNest Robber, Captain Lannery Storm
1x Glorybringer Combatant Celebrant, Charging Monstrosaur, Etali, Primal Storm
4x Lightning Strike Cartouche of Zeal, Dual Shot, Buccaneer's Bravado, Hijack
4x Ahn-Crop Crasher Fervent Paincaster, Nef-Crop Entangler, Captain Lannery Storm
4x Daring Buccaneer Nest Robber, Rigging Runner, Goblin Trailblazer, Raptor Hatchling
4x Rigging Runner Daring Buccaneer, Harsh Mentor, Fathom Fleet Firebrand
2x Abrade Cartouche of Zeal, Dual Shot, Buccaneer's Bravado, Hijack, Puncturing Blow
4x Ramunap Ruins Mountain
4x Fanatical Firebrand Nest Robber, Raptor Hatchling
3x Magma Spray Cartouche of Zeal, Dual Shot, Buccaneer's Bravado, Hijack
4x Sunscorched Desert Mountain
4x Goblin Trailblazer Nest Robber, Raptor Hatchling, Harsh Mentor, Fathom Fleet Firebrand
14x Mountain  

The cards were sorted by rarity and, inside each rarity, by the most important to the least important. I've also included cards that you can use to replace the recommended ones while you work your way towards them. I tried to recommend replacements that you are going to have with the starter collection or common cards. I don’t advise you to use your WCs to transform into those replacements; save them for something more important. For instance, your first Common WC should be transformed into Fanatical Firebrand, but while you don’t have them, you can use Nest Robber or Raptor Hatchling. Your last common WCs should be going into Goblin Trailblazer and your Mythic WCs should be going into Hazoret the Fervent. “But George, you are recommending four Hazoret the Fervent! I don’t have that many mythics!” Neither do I; I reached Masters and I am still getting a lot of wins with 2 Hazoret the Fervent and 2 Charging Monstrosaur! We work with we have; that’s our motto, right? About which packs to buy, actually it does not matter that much since the probability of getting what you want is low, but, to maximize it, I’d recommend getting Amonkhet for Hazoret the Fervent, Glorybringer, Ahn-Crop Crasher, Magma Spray and Sunscorched Desert.

Mono-Red Aggro Starter Build

So, how de we start? From the starter collection, you can obtain some playable cards, I built a deck skeleton from them which looks like this:

You can copy and import this list into the game by clicking the "Export to Magic Arena" button in the decklist above. This skeleton has only 54 cards and it is far from good, but hopefully with your 12 initial packs you will get enough WCs to complete the 60 cards. I am sure that with this list and with the improvements you will be making with your initial packs, you will be able to get some easy wins. Your goal should be completing the daily quests and getting at least four wins per day. That way, you will be able to build a good version of the deck and grind the ranked ladder well enough! Oh, one important tip: there are some quests which ask you to win two games with a two-color deck. To easily complete them, put some card with in-color mana cycling from the quest’s color into your deck and that’s it, problem solved! For instance, if you get a quest asking you to win two games with a red and blue deck, include a copy of Countervailing Winds in your deck and now your deck it is considered a red-blue one. If you get the card during the game, just cycle it and it is all good.

Playing the Deck

Ok, that’s a rough version of deck, but a deck is a living thing. You can and should modify it constantly according to the decks you are playing against. For that, I will give a brief explanation about what you can do depending on the decks you are facing on your current rank. At the moment, the most common decks on Magic Arena metagame are:

  1. Mono-Red Aggro (Red Deck Wins, RDW)
  2. Blue / Black (UB) Control
  3. White / Black (WB) Vampires
  4. Blue / White (UW) Tokens
  5. Green / Red (GR) Midrange
  6. Blue / Green (UG) Merfolk

I've included some sample decklists; they're not optimal or perfect, but are here to give you an idea of what kind of cards these decks play.

Versus Mono-Red

A mirror match against another RDW is kinda hard, since the player starting the game has a big advantage. If your are on the play (starting the game), you want to put your creatures down and take the initiative. You have to keep the aggression going because your opponent will be behind. On the draw (when you start second), you need to leave some creatures to block and use removal to try to efficiently destroy theirs. What is “efficiently destroying." It is when you trade one of your cards for one (or more) opponent‘s cards using the least amount of mana possible. If you are facing a lot of RDW’s, you can try to use bigger creatures on your deck. Try including more Charging Monstrosaur (or Glorybringer or Rekindling Phoenix), that way you will outscale them, and they will have a hard time trying to pass your creatures.

Versus Control

Playing against control decks in general is a game of patience and poker at the same time. Patience because you can’t commit too many creatures on the field to prevent being swiped by a mass removal (ex: Golden Demise, Fiery Cannonade, Settle the Wreckage). Poker because you want to bait them to counter your weaklings (Goblin Trailblazer) instead of your big bombs (Hazoret the Fervent, Glorybringer, Ahn-Crop Crasher). With that said, against any blue deck, pay attention to not get countered on turn 2 by a Censor. Against UB Control specifically, pay attention on turn 3 to not get a lot of creatures destroyed by a Golden Demise. “But hey George, what is a lot of creatures?”. Well, that answer is kinda hard. Depends on how much damage you are going to put with them before they die, depends on how much mana they cost together, depends how many creatures you will still have in hand, and so on. As a rule of thumb, try trading at most 2 creatures. Another nice thing to do against control decks is CAREFULLY using your removal (Magma Spray, Abrade and Lightning Strike) on your own creatures to prevent the opponent recovering HP with Moment of Craving. For us, every one point of damage matters. Every single one. Keep this in mind, but think three times before doing that, because you are trading two cards for one. If your are facing a lot of decks with Scarab God like UB Control or even UB Midrange decks, try running a copy or two of Puncturing Blow and save it to burn the overpowered bug. I’ve got some easy wins this way, hopefully you will get them too.

Versus BW Vampires and UW Tokens

The matchup against BW Vampires and UW Tokens is almost the same. It’s a difficult match without sideboard and on the draw. Depends a lot on your hand. A fast hand with cheap removal is the best one. You just want to end the game as fast as possible without giving them a chance to take control of the battlefield with 317 vampires/cats/horses. Save your Magma Spray for cards that have value in the graveyard like Sacred Cat, Adorned Pouncer and Martyr of Dusk. Rigging Runner against them is gold. Since he has First Strike, you can use him to destroy those creatures and tokens efficiently. Goblin Trailblazer is pretty good as well because they have to commit more than one token to block it. If are getting a lot of those decks against you, I would recommend trying to get a copy of Rampaging Ferocidon (I know, I know, it’s rare...).

Versus GR Midrange and GR Dinosaurs

Decks like GR Midrange or GR Dinosaurs rely a lot on the early mana generation. Keep the pressure going and remove their ramping creatures (Drover of the Mighty, Naga Vitalist, Channeler Initiate, Otepec Huntmaster). If they get their big creatures on the field, the game becomes a lot harder. Are you losing a lot against those decks and they are a big fraction of the metagame? No problem, remove some (two or three) cheap creatures and use bigger ones like Charging Monstrousaur, Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix.

Versus Merfolk

Merfolk! They were a lot common when I was playing below Diamond. This matchup is pretty easy for us either on the play or on the draw. Just put everything on the field and keep beating them! Remove key creatures like Merfolk Mistbinder, Deeproot Elite and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca or creatures with auras (Curious Obsession and One with the Wind). With that, you will win most of these matches.


That’s it folks! Hope you liked the article and have a lot of fun with the Magic Arena! See you on the battlefield!

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