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Artifact Deck Tech: Mono Red Midrange Decklist

December 12th, 2018 | jscaliseok


First, we covered Mono Black, last week was Mono Blue, and now we get into Mono Red. Most of the popular Artifact decks these days tend to focus on two colors. However, we’re not here to go with the flow, we’re here to break the mold.

There are a few solid Mono Red builds floating around right now, but the one we’ll focus on today is a midrange list from Reddit user Boltsnapbolts. This build is unique because, where most Mono Red decks trend towards being aggressive early, it has a much longer game plan that works quite well. Though you can end things quickly, that is not the main goal.

The Heroes

Though there are a vast range of heroes to experiment with in Mono Red, this list goes with what many have taken to be the stock five. You have Axe (arguably the best card in the game), alongside Centaur Warrunner, Bristleback, Legion Commander, and Tidehunter.

All of those cards have large bodies, which enables them to trade well, resist removal, and push the board. This deck, while a bit slower than other Mono Red lists, still wants to attack early and often. Every hero in this list allows that.

Axe is raw power. He has the best body in Artifact, combined with potentially one of the strongest signature spells in Berserker’s Call. The ability to battle three enemies at once can decimate lanes and constantly keeps your opponent on their toes. If you can keep priority in the later turns of the game, the card is one of the best ways to kill your opponent’s heroes before they can react. It also does a great job of clearing out multiple creeps to make way for damage.

Right behind Axe, are Bristleback and Centaur Warrunner. While neither of those heroes are quite as bulky as Axe, they are incredibly hard to kill. Viscous Nasal Goo is one of the weaker signature cards in the game, but it’s worth the tradeoff for the 8/12 body.

Warrunner’s ability makes him effectively a 6/14, which is good enough on it’s own. However, the ability to give your own heroes +8 attack from Double Edge pushes surprise damage and can quickly finish off a tower when you need pressure. Also note that the signature spell can be played on your opponent’s red heroes as well. That is a great way to kill off an opposing Axe or Bristleback.

Finally, Tidehunter is yet another great body that many decks have trouble dealing with. Though two attack is not great at first, an item can morph him into a powerhouse. His ability is also fantastic, and works incredibly well with initiative against single-hero lanes.

Also note that Kraken Shell giving initiative is a big deal and works wonderfully when you move into the later turns of the game when setting up things like Duel or Berserker’s Call.

A Hot Pot of Seafood

One of the most important cards in this list is Burning Oil. In fact, the one mana card is one of the key elements that separates the deck from more aggressive builds.

This is a midrange deck, and midrange decks need to be able to stay in long games. Red has limited options when it comes to dealing with wide boards because they are so offensively oriented. However, Burning Oil ensures that you can stave off early creeps effectively and efficiently.

One oil on a tower does a great job of preventing your opponent from keeping any foothold in that lane. Two or more ensures that creeps won’t be able to attack you for long. In fact, this is one of the best cards to play in a losing lane. Though it won’t keep your tower safe forever, it can make it so that your opponent needs an extra turn or two to get it down. In that time, you might take the game in another lane.

All of those reasons, combined with the popularity of Blue/Green token decks, makes this one of the best red plays in the current constructed environment.

Just watch for single burst. Good opponents will wait back against an oil and try to set up a huge push with something like Prey on the Weak to finish off a tower at once. If you see that happening, play creeps or heroes into that lane to force out your opponent’s resources.

Another card worth discussing in detail is Kraken Shell. This looks like an early game card (you need to get that armor going after all) but that is not always the case. There is a lot of value in gaining initiative, especially when you need to pull the trigger on your more important late-game spells.

A lot of Artifact comes down to initiative. Losing a key hero to a Coup de Grace or Annihilation before you can play your big finishers can lead to a quick loss. Being able to snatch back turn order, especially when your opponent thinks they have it locked up, fixes that issue.

The Creeps

Units make up midrange decks, and this list is no exception. There are a wide range of creeps in red, and many of the stronger ones are peppered throughout this build.

First, you have a full set of Bronze Legionnaires to go with two Stonehall Elites. These cards pack in damage and eat melee creeps for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also do a decent job against heroes and help you control lanes early on. Though Elites can get out of hand, you only need two because they are often just a Legionnaire that comes down later.

Beyond that early push, you also have triple Legion Standard Bearer. This is one of the more interesting choices, but it is important to in this list for a variety of reasons. Eight health is hard to deal with, making it an effective blocker, and the extra attack often enables you to buff up creeps or heroes to kill your opponent's units.

Always think about placement when putting down the bearer. You want as much choice as possible when playing it. As such, do your best to either open up or fill the middle so you can stack this on heroes when needed. Always think a turn ahead for this one.

There is also a single Red Mist Pillager here. Though this deck is not going all in on the 4/2, it exists here as a way to randomly push lanes. You can often drop this down on an abandoned lane as a surprise to either push for a win or force your opponent to react.

While the original list ran double Ogre Conscript, I much prefer Marrowfell Brawler. This is a personal choice, but I find that the sixteen health on Brawler is much more useful than the two armor on Conscript. Surviving creeps is nice, but I enjoy being able to resist hero attacks.


The above cards make up the deck’s core, but there are a few necessary support plays worth discussing.

First, we have New Orders. This may only be a two of, but it is a great way to take advantage of your large heroes. The ability to direct a strong creep or powerful hero into an opposing unit without taking damage can swing games in certain situations.

When Orders is in your hand you always want to think about the different ways you can take advantage of it. It can be used early to clear out a lane right away (depending on hero placement) but it can also be saved later on when trying to set up a finishing push. This largely depends on game state, but know that you don't have to burn this right away. Like Kraken Shell, it can take time to use.

Smash Their Defenses! is an easy two-of that may be able to go up to a three-of depending on the meta. There are a ton of different improvements in the meta right now, and many of them are extremely powerful. The ability to clear one out and draw a card for a low mana investment is fantastic.

Perhaps the most important card in this list is Enough Magic!. In fact, you could likely make a copy for a third one. Artifact is a game about planning ahead, and that often means opponent's build towards carefully set up plans. This card does away with all of that. It is a great way to skip over multiple-hero lanes, and it is a great way to ensure a victory when you have an open lane. Easily the best reason to care about initiative in this build.


No midrange deck is complete without its finishers. This deck runs two incredibly powerful top-end cards in Spring the Trap and Time of Triumph.

Spring the Trap gives you two strong centaurs that you can place into any lane. That type of versatility is not something often seen with creep placement, especially for ones with such big bodies. As a result, this is one of the best cards in the deck. You can suddenly lock down a lane your opponent thought was wide open, or you can add pressure out of nowhere.

Never underestimate surprise. People often think about lanes in a set way, and that leaves them vulnerable to plays that can manipulate lane placement. If your opponent's entire plan hinges on running away with a lane or ignoring a seemingly non-threatening one, two extra bodies can blow them out.

Beyond that, there is Time of Triumph. There's not much to say about this card. It's one of the strongest plays in the game, and for good reason. Red bodies are already solid, which means they are likely to stick around. Once you buff them with this, they should be able to run over anything standing in their way.


Your items in this deck are cheap and fairly straightforward. Though some popular lists want to go big or get tricky with their shop, all you care about is buying cards that are strong, efficient, and affordable.

To make that happen, you get two copies of Traveler’s Cloak, Demagicking Maul, Phase Boots, Blink Dagger, on top of a single Claszureme Hourglass.

The cloak, which should be played early on, helps make your already-strong heroes even more resilient, while the boots and dagger allow you to better control combat. The maul gives you yet more ways to deal with improvements, while the hourglass offers a bit of extra utility.

You can shift these items around based on your playstyle, but they give a good balance. The only change that could be made is finding a way to slot in another Blink Dagger.


Mono Red is a deck that pops up now and then, but it is not something that often comes with a slower plan. That alone makes this list so interesting and worth a break down. Add on the fact that the build is quite powerful (and has had a lot of success in expert constructed) and you have a real winner.

If you're looking for something different that packs on an immense amount of power at all parts of the curve, this is the way to go.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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