I’ve long maintained a belief – justifiable, in my opinion – that mono-red was the second worst color or color combination you could play in EDH. The worst being mono-white, of course. Maybe that’s not entirely fair – maybe those colors are just the worst for my preferred playstyles, or worst for my particular metagame. I don’t know. The issue with both colors, of course, largely revolves around questions of card advantage and late-game reach.
You know me – I love the grind; I love to bury my opponents in an inexorable flood of card advantage. I hate running out of cards, running out of things to do. I really hate being in top deck mode. My early experiences with mono-red and mono-white decks definitely tended more toward my being ground out, rather than me doing the grinding. Boo-urns.
While I have yet to find a mono-white deck that doesn’t flat-out require Skullclamp to function, red decks have, meanwhile, been given some nice tools to shore up those weaknesses. Red slowly got better and better, it just took me a while to notice. I tried to make Daretti work – a Planeswalker commander that casts Faithless Looting and Trash for Treasure seems pretty sweet. Daretti set up his Trading Post and declared himself the new mayor of Value Town. Problem there was, he didn’t do much but durdle around with artifacts for value. Occasionally you got the T4 Myr Battlesphere and ride that to a slow, awkward victory, but usually you just produced a few threats, one at a time, and had them eat removal. Then you ran out of gas as Daretti got trampled into the mud.
So Daretti was good at getting value engines going and could do some fun things, but I had a lot of trouble finding ways to win games that were reliable and effective, yet not anti-fun. Blightsteel Colossus, Lattice + Vandalblast, etc. were effective and functional but royally piss off people, meanwhile stuff like Myr Battlesphere and Hoard-Smelter Dragon are sociable enough, but hardly reliable, in my experience.
I’ve seen Daretti decks get there, for sure. It’s not a terrible deck by any means, it’s just that the deck requires you to play a little too rough for my tastes to have any real shot at an acceptable win %. Plus, even for me, the value train has to lead somewhere, but I felt like with Daretti I was just grinding value, not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. Amusing for a while, but not fun enough to keep me interested for long.
Enter Feldon of the Third Path, mono-red necromancer, newly-elected Mayor of Value Town.
Feldon of the Third Path
Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer
Magus of the Wheel
Tuktuk the Explorer
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Chancellor of the Forge
Scuttling Doom Engine
Bosh, Iron Golem
It That Betrays
Wheel of Fortune
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Reforge the Soul
Blade of Selves
Anvil of Bogardan
Rings of Brighthearth
Valakut, Molten Pinnacle
Temple of the False God
So, what have we got here? First and foremost, this deck wants to be a fairly traditional reanimator deck – you use stuff like Faithless Looting and the like to get some big, fun things into your graveyard, and then as early as possible, Feldon starts reanimating things. Of course this plain isn’t foolproof for a number of reasons, so there are of course alternative lines of play. You can always just use your mana rocks to ramp into hardcasting things, then using Feldon more as the backup plan for when things inevitably get blown up. And, finally, as a “Plan C” we’re a Scrap Mastery deck as well – if reanimating things one at a time doesn’t get the job done, reanimating a lot of things might do the trick.
Going for the reanimation win, there are multiple lines. It that Betrays is pretty much a winning line all by itself. Purphoros plus token-producers, especially Chancellor, is our out to things like Aetherize or pillowfort decks that make swinging with creatures difficult. Molten Primordial, Bogardan Hellkite, Scuttling Doom Engine are all strong finishers when you can just repeatedly make token copies and swing with them every turn.
Valakut can help you punch through blockers and, if things get really desperate, just go straight to the dome.
Gaining card advantage is pretty easy with this deck. There’s outright draw in the form of Wheel of Fortune and it’s descendants. Getting a Magus of the Wheel into the ‘yard early for Feldon to recur can rapidly accelerate the Scrap Mastery plan. Hoarding Dragon, a card I have pretty much loathed up until the moment I built this deck and goldfished it, is actually an MVP, being able to tutor up multiple artifacts over the course of a game, thanks to Feldon. It’s best if you have a sac outlet handy, to prevent Exile-based removal from ruining your plans.
Alhammarret’s Archive makes your draw spells better, while Pyromancer’s Goggles or Dualcaster Mage can copy them. Dualcaster Mage and Wild Ricochet can lead to some late-game blowouts but during the early game they’re still fantastic when used to copy an opponent’s card draw or ramp spell.
Of course, Feldon himself is a form of card advantage, since his “reanimation” ability doesn’t actually put the real creature card into play, rather just makes a token facsimile of it. So you can use him to get basically unlimited rebuys on any ETBF trigger you might want, from Solemn Simulacrum to Spitebellows. One of the problems of this deck, though, is having blockers. Since Feldon is best when used proactively/offensively, but the tokens he makes are short-lived, creatures that leave behind more lasting reminders of their brief existence are highly valuable – Wurmcoil Engine is the poster-wurm for this category – has considerable impact while it’s in play, and leaves behind some very useful tokens when it dies. If you need fodder to chump block flying threats, Pia and Kiran’s thopters can help.
I also want to talk a bit about this little trio of artifacts: Strionic Resonator, Rings of Brightheart and Illusionist’s Bracers. These guys have some amazing interactions that are a big part of what motivated me to build this deck. Obviously, Rings and Bracers let you double-up on Feldon’s activated ability, recurring two things a turn, instead of one. But the beauty is, they have triggered abilities themselves, so the Resonator can copy those triggers for even more fun. However, it’s usually best to use the Resonator instead to copy the ETBF or Dies triggers of whatever you’re brining back. Or, if you really want to get shit poppin’, try copying Blade of Selves’ myriad trigger!
So Strionic Resonator is an activated ability that copies triggered abilities, and Rings of Brighthearth has a triggered ability that copies activated abilities! This creates some interesting and slightly mind-bending feedback loops of copying copies that copy copies, but fortunately they both require mana to use and Resonator taps itself, so at least the way I have it built, they don’t go infinite. They probably can, but I have no idea how that’d work. For me it’s just about getting more and more value.
Bracers and Rings also work really well with a few other very important cards – Kiki-Jiki, Goblin Welder, and Bosh are all great targets for Bracers, while those guys plus Daretti, Trading Post and Sneak Attack are great at enabling Rings of Brighthearth. I can definitely see scenarios where you might even Rings a Myriad Landscape or Burnished Hart. As for Resonator… well this deck is just loaded with triggered abilities; too many to count.
Another thing I like about this deck is that I can run Gamble with very little fear. Typically, I foresee being perfectly happy if I wind up discarding the thing I tutored up. So far my most frequent targets for Gamble are either Faithless Looting or Hoarding Dragon. I’m sure there will come a day when I have to make a desperate Gamble for Scrap Mastery and then make a sad face when I immediately discard said Scrap Mastery, but overall, you’re likely to be in good shape regardless of what winds up getting pitched.
As for the deck’s weak points, we’ve already talked about how it doesn’t play the most robust defensive game. You can of course use Feldon’s ability in response to attacks and get emergency blockers, and you definitely should do that if you have no alternative. But this deck really wants to use its graveyard for offence, and rely more on spells in hand for defense. Obviously we’ve got a few gems in Blasphemous Act, Mizzium Mortars, Chaos Warp, and Volcanic Offering. FTK and Spitebellows also do good work here. So far, though, I feel like your best defense is a good offense – if someone starts getting a little bellicose, you can usually just pummel them relentlessly with your token copies, since they’re going to die anyway EOT. You don’t care so much about attacking profitably, you just want your opponents to have to make costly blocks. Eventually you’ll likely grind ‘em down and they won’t be able to put forth much aggression.
Failing that, there’s a touch of lifegain – Wurmcoil, again, is one of the all-stars of this deck, and Loxodon Warhammer is surprisingly good too.
An early Tuktuk is actually pretty good for fending off a few turns worth of attacks. And if you draw decently, you can always just hardcast something beefy and intimidating. Typically, if I hit six mana, I will almost always just cast Wurmcoil or Scuttling Doom Engine, given the option to do so.
The big bogeyman, though, for any graveyard-based deck, is always the Tormod’s Crypt effect. Crypt, Bojuka Bog, Nihil Spellbomb. Anafenza. REST IN PEACE. Oh, god, do we dread seeing Rest in Peace! That said, I’ve been up against a few Bojuka Bogs already and so far my opinion is that GY hate is definitely, absolutely something you should respect, but if you respect it, you don’t need to fear it. RIP is really about the only thing that truly just hoses us, because we basically only have Chaos Warp to answer it. I mean, we could get lucky and Wild Ricochet an opponent’s Disenchant or something, but realisitically, Rest in Peace means we are 100% on the “hardcast everything” plan, which honestly isn’t a great spot for us.
That’s not to say it’s unwinnable, but it definitely puts us at a disadvantage, barring some lucky draws. But the most common forms of GY hate that I see are the one-shot effects like Bog and Crypt. Those hurt, but again, you just need to play around them and keep them in mind. I’ve successfully played through them more than once, so they’re not the end of the world.
Beyond that, I’m not yet sure what else this deck might fear. I don’t have to worry about the combo boogeyman in my meta, so maybe that’s a big one, I don’t know. I’d be pretty nervous going up against a really fast aggro deck like Rafiq, probably. I really just need more experience to know for sure.
As for potential changes or notable exclusions, I only have a few other cards that I really want to include. Warstorm Surge is one such card. While some people might consider it win-more, I heartily disagree. That said, I haven’t been able to find room for it, so I guess it’s not essential, but I feel removal-light and Surge can definitely double as both removal engine and win-condition. I’m also very close to cutting Ruby Medallion in favor of Mind Stone. Medallion doesn’t help much with casting Artifacts and I also like self-sacrificing artifacts for Scrap Mastery purposes. Going back to that removal thing, I actually had Incite Rebellion in the deck at one point, and reluctantly cut it for something, don’t remember what, but it was something critical.
I considered Sword of Light and Shadow as a way to rebuy dead guys if we get priced out of Feldon or something, but so far that seems too niche and unlikely to pay dividends. Meanwhile, I am missing a much bigger piece of tech in Sundial of the Infinite. Reason being, I just don’t own one, and haven’t felt the need to go find one. However it is a cute piece of tech and does help with that “no blockers” problem. If I just happen to stumble across one at an LGS or in trade binder, I’ll happily snatch it up, but again, I just don’t feel like I’m crippling the deck by not having it.
I tested Knollspine Dragon, but too often I found that I had no way to deal damage prior to reanimating him, so I was unable to get value of his draw ability reliably. So I swapped him out for Dragon Mage and have been happier with that. Finally, I looked at Kurkesh, Onnake Ancient for a good long while, but ultimately I just felt he was sorta “meh” since a lot of our key activated abilities are on non-artifact permanents.
Well, that’s about all I have for today. Enjoy!