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Artifact Deck Tech: Mono Red Aggro Decklist

January 3rd, 2019 | jscaliseok


The nerfs are well under way, and boy did they shake up the Artifact meta. Mono Blue has risen as one of the top decks, and many of the previously popular builds have fallen by the wayside. While some people shy away from open metas, it is the perfect space to run new decks. There are several different lists that can crack through a new world, but the one I’ve been having a lot of success with is a Mono Red list built to tackle late and mid-game decks.

The ideas here are simple. You want to use cheap cards and powerful early game bodies to get after your opponent’s towers as quickly as you can. It is not necessarily that you’ll win the game by round four, but that you'll get to a point by five or six where your opponent cannot keep up with your push. Aggro operates a bit differently in Artifact than it does in other card games because you do often have to go into the later game. Even so, there's a lot of firepower here.

The Heroes

Mono Red is an interesting space because there are quite a few heroes you can run and play based on the play style you prefer. In this one, we have Axe, Bristleback, Legion Commander, Centaur Warrunner, and Tidehunter.

You’ll find many of those heroes in the standard red decks, and that’s because they have an extremely strong ebb and flow others cannot match. You open the game with three strong, beefy bodies and then back them up with two high-health units that provide extra longevity.

That strategy works well because it enables you to both press early and recover if something goes wrong. Killing or challenging your opponent’s opening heroes is important, as is ensuring you can do something if you don’t get the quick tower kill you want. The inclusion of the back-end separates this build from more dedicated aggro push decks because you have more versatility as the game goes on.

A lot of this deck centers around buffing up your units or modifying them so they come back stronger than ever. Tidehunter and Warrunner are perfect for that plan because, while they start out a bit underwhelming in the power department, a few permanent changes can turn them into massive beaters.

In addition, the three opening heroes all work extremely well with Duel. The two mana spell is one of the best cards in the deck, allowing you to shut down early plays and stop your opponent from building the board they want. However, it is only as good as the red heroes you use it with. Axe, Bristleback, and Legion Commander are all strong enough to kill opposing units and live.

All in the Signature

The heroes in this deck have beefy bodies that play right into the aggressive gameplan. However, with the exception of Bristleback ( Viscous Nasal Goo is a filler card more than anything else) they all make the cut for their strong signature cards.

Duel is still one of the strongest cards in Artifact, giving you ample versatility throughout all parts of the game, while Berserker’s Call provides you a way to shut down or bash through multiple heroes in a single lane. These two cards act as your main removal options, and they are what enable you to keep your opponent's heroes off the board. Try to save them for situations when you need to get the jump on your opponent or when you need to finish off a protected tower.

When it comes to Centaur Warrunner, Double Edge works with the theme of the deck to give you surprise damage out of nowhere. In fact, it is one of the best ways to close out games because it only costs one mana. You can lull your opponent into a false sense of security and then blast them with eight damage they didn’t think you could get to on one mana. The minus eight armor does hurt, but it doesn't matter if your hero is unblocked or you need to trade up.

Also note that Double Edge can be used on opposing red heroes to make them vulnerable for a turn. This doesn’t come up as often, but it is still something to keep in mind.

Finally, there is Kraken Shell. The one mana spell may seem weak at first glance, but extra armor is always powerful, as is the ability to get and utilize initiative. Not only does shell ensure you can save a hero or drop a creep before your opponent has their go (or removes your heroes), but it also works extremely well with Enough Magic! to set up surprise wins.

Resolve and Anger

There are many interesting aspects of this deck, but one of the most intriguing is that it seeks to power out a lot of cheap cards to great effect. Many of the cards in this list (including Double Edge and Kraken Shell) cost one or two mana. The payoff to playing so many of those cheap spells are Heroic Resolve and Rising Anger.

These cards are two sides to the same coin. They each modify a red hero with the “after you play a non-item card costing two or less” clause, they just do it in a different way. Resolve provides two extra health (strong but not incredible) and anger gives an extra attack.

The reason these two mana spells are so strong is because they stack and grow out of control in no time. Even three cards can suddenly turn your Tidehunter into a 6/18 machine or morph your Bristleback into a 8/18. Those modifications are with them the whole game, making them nearly impossible to take out through traditional means. While they can be sniped with things like Coup de Grace, a chain of cheap red spells can make your heroes practically invulnerable.

As you want as many buffs as possible, drop these down early and often. The quicker you can get them going, the better off you will be. These are typically your first round plays and what you do with your opening mana. Just be sure that you have a solid reason for putting them on a hero. It is easy to play them whenever you can, but you want to have a target in mind. For instance, Anger is great with the high health heroes, while Resolve works much better on things like Legion Commander.

The Infantry

Let’s face it, creeps aren’t what they used to be. Most of the early decks in Artifact don’t rely on them, and if they do run them it is through a spell or item. This deck breaks from that mold by leaning on some of the most efficient units in the game.

The first two we'll break down are Stonehall Elite and Bronze Legionnaire. It is easy to lump these two together because they are extremely similar in both form and function. They each come with four attack, two health, and two armor. Elite costs a bit more because it has the power to grow out of control, but beyond that ability they are the same card.

The reason this pair is so strong is because four damage is quite a lot for an aggressive, and two armor means they can take down melee creeps with ease. Being able to push without worrying about your opponent's smaller units goes a long way and can help you press a lane you would normally lose over time. You normally want to spread out into two different lanes with this deck, but do not be afraid to stack multiple Elites and Legionnaires together to create a headache for your opponent.

As Elite can grow out of control, do your best to put it down against opposing melee creeps when possible. You might not always have the opportunity to do so, but it is one card you want to get away from opposing heroes when you can. If you see that your opponent will be able to down your Elite, put them onto the end of lanes where you have a bit more flexibility for upcoming turns.

Rounding Out the Creeps

Stonehall Elite and Bronze Legionnaire are the core creeps of this build, but they are not alone. You also have the specialized bodies of Legion Standard Bearer and Red Mist Pillager.

These two units perfectly encapsulate what this list wants to do, but they do so in their own way. Standard Bearer may seem a bit underwhelming at first glance, but it provides a lot of attack power in many different areas. Two of the strongest things you can do with this list are trade up and push damage. Standard Bearer helps you do both with extreme efficiency.

Though you will not often be able to place Bearer in between two units right away, you do want to try and slot it into a spot where it will do damage. The eight attack is almost never going to be wasted, but trading up is the main goal. From there, try to keep it protected and out of harm's way as much as possible. The ability is great, but the zero attack leaves it vulnerable. Always stack Bearer against a melee creep when possible. That will ensure you'll have it for at least a few turns.

Finally, we have Red Mist Pillager. The 4/2 is one of the best aggressive cards in Artifact for two key reasons. Not only does it put your opponent on a clock, but it catches people off guard in a big, big way.

Your opponents will often abandon a lane early when facing this deck on the assumption that you can't push for the 80 damage kill. It may not look like you have a lot of strength in one area, but a single Red Mist changes that tune. Even one unanswered 4/2 spirals out of control in just three turns. That then makes your opponent react to that lane or forces them to pile up their resources in others.

Use that to your advantage as much as you can by forcing them into where you want them to go. Either they race and hope they can outrun the steadily growing army, or they answer it and give you priority in other lanes. You do not always need to use Pillager in this way (it is fine when making a push for a lane as well) but this is one of the more nuanced uses for the unit.

Sick of these Spells

Out of every card in this deck, none is responsible for more wins than Enough Magic!. The five mana spell started off as a one of, then grew to a two-of, and now sits at an easy three-of. The reason is that it completely destroys slower decks, and does one of the most unfair things you can do in the game: stop your opponent from taking a turn.

Good players in Artifact will always plan for the future. They will move heroes around, shuffle the board, play for the fountain, carefully set up items, and try to get initiative. This card invalidates all of that. Good ability? Don't get to use it. Strong finisher? Next lane. The ability to skip right over a lane and ignore your opponent's plays is invaluable for a deck like this.

You can use Enough Magic! aggressively to end the game when your opponent thinks they have a chance to respond, or you can use it to prevent your opponent from taking a lane by forcing them to attack before setting up damage. Each use comes up quite often, and you always want to be on the lookout. As always, just be sure to track initiative. Nothing is worse than losing because you gave up initiative and your opponent got the jump on you before your Enough Magic.

The Item Deck

The items in this deck, predictably, fall in line with what it wants to do. To be aggressive in Artifact you need to push early, but you also need a few tricks up your sleeve. The items are where you get those tricks from.

Phase Boots are powerful because they enable you to choose who your beefy heroes attack. They can also be used to get a lot of damage into a clear path, or move something like Legion Standard Bearer out of harm's way. Flipping around may not seem like a big deal, but in a deck that cares about regulating damage, it is a nice bonus.

Stonehall Pike is another way to power up hero attack and, like Red Mist Pillager, it will grow out of control if unchecked. This is not the most impactful card in the list, and you could tinker with other strong items, but the cheap cost and fast ability work well with things like Tidehunter.

The final two options here are Blink Dagger and Claszureme Hourglass. The dagger is one of the strongest cards in the game, helping you catch people off guard when they think you have a hero stuck somewhere, while the hourglass simply provides a bit of extra health and slows your opponent down. The glass could be replaced with more attack-based items, but the three Daggers are a must have for this style of deck.


Aggro is not something we've seen too much of in Artifact, but it is powerful in its own way. This list has a lot going for it, and can rely on the strength of its units to win the day. Making an early push for a double tower kill is viable, as is smashing your opponent down with a slew of huge-bodied heroes. It's all about adapting to the current board and seeing what your opponent gives you.

Just be aware that, unlike other card games, you do not need to sell out in order to win right away. Taking things slow is rarely the right answer, as is going into the later stages, but there are times where you need to do that to win.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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zkatom's Avatar
zkatom Posted: January 4th, 2019 | 1:55 AM
I find Timbersaw much better than Tidehunter, but Tidehunter is good for initiative against Blue so yeah I would say both are good in Mono Red decks, it is just preference.
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