Monored Anax primer & sideboard guide

Lucas Giggs
25/08/2022 · 15 min read

Who am I?

Hello there!

I’m Lucas Giggs, and this time I'm going to do a detailed explanation about one of the decks I've had the most success with lately on Pioneer: Monored Anax. It appeared almost as a meme, but ended up becoming one of the most powerful decks in the metagame.

About the deck

The combination of Anax and Embercleave has been used since the Standard days, and in Pioneer the deck gets even better, thanks to the power level of cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel and Kumano Faces Kakkazan.

This is my current version of the deck:

Mono Red Anax. Builder: Lucas Giggs.MTGA - Magic Arena
1st in 25-Aug-2022
Maindeck (60)
Creature [30]
2  Torbran, Thane of Red Fell   $1.79
2  Monastery Swiftspear   $0.25
3  Anax, Hardened in the Forge   $0.35
3  Kari Zev, Skyship Raider   $0.35
4  Kumano Faces Kakkazan   $0.29
4  Fanatical Firebrand   $0.25
4  Bonecrusher Giant   $0.35
4  Eidolon of the Great Revel   $16.99
4  Burning-Tree Emissary   $0.25
Artifact [3]
3  Embercleave   $13.99
Instant [4]
2  Play with Fire   $2.49
2  Lightning Strike   $0.25
Land [23]
1  Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance   $3.99
2  Ramunap Ruins   $0.69
2  Castle Embereth   $0.35
4  Den of the Bugbear   $8.99
14  Mountain   $0.01

Sideboard [15]
1  Hazoret the Fervent   $4.99
2  Rampaging Ferocidon   $8.49
2  Redcap Melee   $0.35
2  Lava Coil   $0.25
2  Unlicensed Hearse   $15.99
3  Rending Volley   $5.49
3  Goblin Chainwhirler   $1.49
Buy this deck:

$138.59 Tix @cardhoarder   $3.46 / Week @cardhoarder   $191.83 @tcgplayer   $244.41 @cardkingdom  


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Card breakdown

Fanatical Firebrand

It is one of the weakest creatures on the deck, but it still has its utility. Pioneer is a format where Llanowar Elf is a key card for many decks and being able to kill it on turn 1 can really slow down our opponent's plans. Also, depending on the deck, he can deal extra damage to the opponent before being sacrificed or targeted by our opponent's removal spells.

Fanatical Firebrand
0.02 Tix
$0.25
$0.25

Monastery Swiftspear

Monastery Swiftspear is without a doubt one of the best turn 1 drops in red (at least in Pioneer). It may seem odd to be playing only 2 copies, but it will allow us to apply more pressure in the early turns. At the same time, in some matches where you need to deal with your opponent's creatures in the early game, it ends up being worse than Fanatical Firebrand. That is why we are not using the full playset in the deck.

Monastery Swiftspear
0.18 Tix
$0.59
$0.99

Kumano Faces Kakkazan

This Kamigawa's enchantment has become one of the strongest 1 drops in red in a short time. All its  three abilities are quite relevant, dealing 1 damage and finishing planeswalkers, saving our x/2 creatures from opponent’s Stomp and similar removal, and becoming a creature that exiles everything we deal with, in a format where the graveyard is heavily used. It has certainly raised the bar for red decks in the format.

Kumano Faces Kakkazan
0.01 Tix
$0.29
$0.32

Play with Fire/Lightning Strike:

One again we’re splitting the slots in 2+2 for the same reason: being able to deal with multiple scenarios.

Play with Fire is not the best card in the deck, and it is hard to justify the use of the full playset, but it is great at killing creatures in the first turns and slowing down our opponents. On the other hand, Lightning Strike can deal with key creatures for many archetypes like Graveyard Trespasser, Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Bonecrusher Giant.

Play with Fire
0.03 Tix
$2.49
$1.99

Lightning Strike
0.02 Tix
$0.25
$0.25

Eidolon of the Great Revel

I have seen some mono red lists that do not use Eidolon of the Great Revel and I believe it is a big mistake. Eidolon is one of the best red creatures across multiple formats, and it is a real nightmare for many decks when it is played on turn 2.

Eidolon of the Great Revel
6.51 Tix
$17.99
$16.63

Burning Tree Emissary

Burning Tree Emissary is another card that, at first glance, may seem weak in the deck, but in certain situations it's actually quite important, doubling up our turns, whether that's to increase your devotion count, board presence, or also to reduce the casting cost of an Embercleave.

You can't ignore the fact that making multiple plays like this in the early turns can put a pressure on your opponent that many decks can't handle, opening up the space for other cards in the deck to shine. The only downside is not being able to play Eidolon with it, but even so, its presence is important for the purpose of the deck.

Burning-Tree Emissary
0.03 Tix
$0.25
$0.35

Kari-Zev, Skyship Raider

Kari-Zev, Skyship Raider is the best creature to play with Burning Tree Emissary on turn 2. She can put a lot of pressure, being very difficult to block in the early game and also making a Ragavan token that puts the opponent in a hard position: either block and potentially lose a creature in the process, or take a "Shock" each turn.

Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
0.13 Tix
$0.49
$0.57

Anax, Hardened in the Forge

It is the soul of this deck and the main reason the deck is so resilient. It's a very powerful creature that in combination with Embercleave has a devastating offensive power.

However, I prefer to only run 3 copies of it because it is a legendary creature and its converted mana cost can be a problem because the mana curve is already overloaded at that mana cost, mainly due to the creatures in the sideboard.

Anax, Hardened in the Forge
0.03 Tix
$0.35
$0.28

Bonecrusher Giant

Bonecrusher Giant: Not much to say about one of the best red creatures to ever be printed. It really shines both as removal and as a creature that is hard to deal with.

Bonecrusher Giant
4.43 Tix
$0.35
$0.78

Torbran, Thane of Red Fel

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell: Another key card, just like in the Standard version of the deck. After it is transformed it is very difficult to lose the game, since it amplifies almost all the other cards in the deck. The main reasons to only play two copies of the card in the deck are its high mana cost and its vulnerability to Fatal Push with revolt.

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
0.07 Tix
$1.79
$1.47

Embercleave

Embercleave: the bane of many decks, making the combat phase a true nightmare when playing against it. It is a powerful card that can swing the game in your favor, making your creatures much more powerful. This allows you to win matches that you might otherwise lose.

Embercleave
3.68 Tix
$13.99
$9.5

Lava Coil

Lava Coil is an excellent removal spell that can take care of creatures like Old-Growth Troll, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. Exiling these creatures is a great bonus in a format where graveyard matters.

Lava Coil
0.03 Tix
$0.35
$0.39

Rending Volley/Redcap Melee:

Having a versatile card like Rending Volley or Redcap Melee in your deck is key to being able to adapt to different situations. You never know when you'll be up against a Mono Blue Spirits deck or a UR Phoenix deck, where having access to them really shines. That's why I really enjoy having that option when planning my sideboard. Sometimes we will sideboard both of them in, and other times only one.

Rending Volley
1.06 Tix
$5.49
$3.48

Redcap Melee
0.03 Tix
$0.35
$0.25

Goblin Chainwhirler/Rampaging Ferocidon

Goblin Chainwhirler/Rampaging Ferocidon: This is again a choice based on their versatility. In some matches we will turn the deck into a Big Red Midrange, combining removal with bigger creatures. Specifically, they do their job well in matches like Rakdos Midrange/Sacrifice and against WW/CoCo decks. Our plan for those matches is to do a transformational sideboard.

Goblin Chainwhirler
$3.99

Rampaging Ferocidon
0.02 Tix
$8.49
$5.81

Unlicensed Hearse

As mentioned before, Pioneer is a format where the graveyard is heavily used. That is why Unlicensed Hearse ends up being very really good against decks like Phoenix, Greasefang, and in addition to being a very efficient graveyard hate tool, it also becomes a very large creature after doing its job.

Unlicensed Hearse
26.02 Tix
$15.99
$12.57

Hazoret the Fervent

It has had its glory days before cards like Aether Gust and The Wandering Emperor even existed, but it still has its place in match-ups like UW control, and it can also be great against Rakdos Midrange.

Hazoret the Fervent
0.1 Tix
$4.99
$4.21

Sideboard Guide

Let's get an overview of the top 10 decks in the format and how to sideboard against them.

Mono Green Devotion

Play

- 1 Anax, Hardened on the Forge

- 2 Lightning Strike

- 4 Burning Tree Emissary

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 3 Rampaging Ferocidon

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

Draw

- 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

- 2 Lightning Strike

- 1 Anax, Hardened on the Forge

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 3 Rampaging Ferocidon

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

This is an unfavorable match-up, but it is possible to win, especially if you hit a Old-Growth Troll with Lava Coil or get an Embercleave out early. Fanatical Firebrand is good here, as it kills elf turn 1, essential to prevent the opponent from making too many absurd plays in the early turns. As we are adding more 3-mana cards post-sideboard, we take out an Anax to avoid overloading the curve. Lighting Strike is not very interesting here, as it does not kill the Troll and there are not many interesting targets for it. Eidolon is much better on the play, so we make the swap with Burning Tree Emissary depending on the situation, as it allows us to play more threats per turn when we are behind on the board,  it can also help by taking same damage as a blocker when the opponent gets a turn 2 Troll, for example.

Rakdos Midrange

OUT:

- 4 Fanatical Firebrand

- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary

IN:

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 3 Rampaging Ferocidon

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

+ 1 Hazoret, the Fervent

This is another unfavorable match-up, but one that can be won. I've actually been winning more than losing lately. The key here is to turn our deck into a midrange deck and include creatures that can't be dealt with as easily. So we cut weaker cards and bring up Chainwhirler, for example, which is a creature that our opponent can't block very well. Ferocidon, Torbran, and especially Hazoret really shine here.

IZZET PHOENIX

OUT:

- 4 Bonecrusher Giant

- 2 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

- 1 Play with Fire

- 3 Embercleave

IN:

+ 3 Rending Volley

+ 2 Redcap Melee

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 2 Unlicensed Hearse

+ 1 Hazoret, the Fervent

I believe this match is fairly balanced, depending on the number of Ledgers/Things we can't remove early on. Because of those cards, we run more removal and try to put as much pressure as possible. Hazoret is very good here, since it makes  Aether Gust or Otawara less efficient. Bonecrusher is very slow, so in this match he's out. Play with Fire is also very good due to its low mana cost, allowing us to play two play two threats per turn or kill a creature in combat. If he happens to play Young Pyromancer, we can use Goblin Chainwhirler to clear the tokens.

UW CONTROL

OUT:

- 2 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

- 1 Play with Fire

- 3 Embercleave

IN:

+ 3 Rampaging Ferocidon

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

+ 1 Hazoret, the Fervent

This is a very favorable match-up; the deck usually can't put up much pressure, especially with early Burning-Tree Emissaries. Try to play around Censor as much as possible, but only if you don't have anything else to do. Anax is very important against Supreme Verdict. Normally the manlands can finish the game, so hold on to as many as you can in your hand to avoid them being taken early by a Field of Ruin and try to surprise with an activation of Castle Embereth or Ramunap Ruins. After sideboarding we will cut Embercleave, as we'll rarely face our opponent creatures during the combat phases. Torbran is also very slow, and we will remove him in favor of Rampaging Ferocidon to help against lifegain. Chanwhirler is there to finish off their planeswalkers, like The Wandering Emperor, and Hazoret as a threat that can come back from sweepers.

BOROS PROWESS

OUT:

- 3 Embercleave

- 2 Torbran, Thane of the Red Fell

- 1 Anax, Hardened on the Forge

- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary

IN:

+ 3 Rending Volley

+ 2 Redcap Melee

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

+ 1 Hazoret the Fervent

This match is all about who can keep their creatures alive and who can get rid of the other player's creatures. The first game is quite unfavorable, you don't have a lot of removal and your best plan is to try to win with an Embercleave. Post-side our removal count gets higher. Kill the Favored Hoplite as soon as possible, for each turn that it passes without being dealt with your defeat is a bit closer. Don't hesitate to use your Fanatical Firebrands to help kill a creature, they're there for that purpose. Chainwhirler helps kill Illuminator Virtuoso, a creature that can be quite problematic and Hazoret is often a good blocker when you don't have any other protection and a nice threat when exchanging resources.

LOTUS FIELD

OUT:

- 2 Torbran

IN:

+ 2 Chainwhirler

Hands with Eidolon are excellent, the key to win this match is putting as much pressure as possible. When your opponent starts with Arboreal Grazer turn 1, things will be a bit harder, since it can give him enough turns to get the combo running, so when you have the opportunity to remove it, do it! After sideboarding, Chainwhirler is really useful to speed things up. A tip is to hold your Stomp in hand, because some lists are running Nine Lives and the fact that the damage can't be prevented can give you the victory in a game that otherwise would be lost.

RAKDOS SACRIFICE

OUT:

- 3 Anax, Hardened on the Forge

- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary

- 2 Fanatical Firebrand

IN:

+ 2 Redcap Melee

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 3 Rampaging Ferocidon

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

If it weren't for the fact that Rakdos uses Claim the Firstborn, I could consider it a good match for the deck since we run Embercleave. But the existence of that card totally changes everything, because a stolen Anax does a lot of damage. But even so, Embercleave makes the combat phase a nightmare. After sideboarding, Ferocidon helps against their Cat/Oven plan.

MONOBLUE/BANT SPIRITS

OUT:

- 2 Torbran

- 3 Embercleave

- 2 Anax, Hardened of the Forge

IN:

+ 3 Rending Volley

+ 2 Redcap Melee

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

I've seen some people keeping Embercleave in this match after sideboarding, but I don't think it's very good. Both decks have cards that make it very hard to have a large number of creatures in combat, making Embercleave much worse. Mono-blue is an easy match, their plan usually involves enchanting a creature with Curious Obsession, but against Mono-red that plan is not very effective, especially after sideboarding. Bant is a bit more difficult to win due to Collected Company, but even so I think it's favorable.

MONOWHITE HUMANS

OUT:

- 4 Burning Tree Emissary

- 2 Embercleave

- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

- 1 Anax, Hardened on the Forge

IN:

+ 3 Rending Volley

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 3 Rampaging Ferocidon

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

This is another match that I think is favorable, but it has cards that are very efficient against our plan, like Extraction Specialist, Adeline and Brave the Elements. Even though it's a creature deck, Thalia makes Embercleave a little worse, so we don't focus on that plan and we take out some copies. Ferocidon and Chainwhirler have relevant bodies and abilities in this match, so they come in and Anax goes out, so we don't overload the curve.

MONORED AGGRO

OUT:

- 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

- 3 Fanatical Firebrand

IN:

+ 2 Redcap Melee

+ 2 Lava Coil

+ 2 Goblin Chainwhirler

+ 1 Hazoret, the Fervent

The mirror is pretty straightforward, being on the play or on the draw matters a lot. Best opening is Kumano/Kari Zev 2/4 on turn 2. I think this version has an advantage over the traditional one, because the fact that you're putting pressure with creatures and not with spells makes it so you don't run out of gas as easily. Chainwhirler comes in because it has a body that wins combat most of the time. And it doesn't matter if we're on the play or on the draw,  Eidolon always comes out.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it is useful to you. See you next time!

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Lucas Giggs
MTG Streamer
Hi, my name is Lucas de Almeida Hervás. I'm 31 years old, married, and I live in Indaiatuba/SP, Brazil. I've been playing Magic the Gathering since 2009, but I've been making a living off of it since 2019 through leagues and tournaments on Magic Online. For those who don't know me, I'm 2.17 meters tall, hence the nickname "the tallest Magic player in Brazil."

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Published: 2022-08-25 00:00:00

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