Do Your Worst - Mono-Red +1/+1 Counters
Down for the Counters
Hello, everyone! Welcome to the sixth installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we'll be looking at decks that should not be – or should they?
The subject of our study today is +1/+1 counters or, in other words, accounting in game form! Part of Magic since the very beginning, this mechanic has gained such overwhelming support over the years that it became its own archetype. Selesnya (white-green) is the most popular choice for this strategy, with ~4,500 decks, followed closely by Simic (blue-green), at ~3,800 decks. Mono-green is not far behind, at around 3,200 decks, and just ahead of Witch-Maw (white-blue-black-green), nearing 2,800 decks. That last color combination might give you a hint about the color we're going to choose here, if the title of the article didn't already give it away.
is the most popular commander for this archetype, and understandably so: good stats, good abilities, and Proliferate each turn; it's the dream. is the most common pick for the Selesnya version, and for the Golgari one. Mono-green has and fighting for dominance. There are always new toys for +1/+1 counter players, which we've seen recently with the release of a few Commander decks: (Midnight Hunt) and (Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty). Right on their heels, Streets of New Capenna reinforced Bant's place in this archetype as well, with cards like and , the last of which is already helming 500 decks at time of writing. Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate also gave us some nice cards to play with, like and !
I would say, of all the colors, mono-red has had the least support for +1/+1 counters, even though Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty just introduced the Modified mechanic. It's not in my habit to cheer when deckbuilding gets easier, but I must say, some of the cards are really good additions to a mono-red +1/+1 counters deck, and are really fun!
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. How do we brew this mono-red strategy?
Seven mono-red legendary creatures have the text "+1/+1 counter" on them, so we have some options! hints at a sacrifice subtheme but is fairly underwhelming. I'd love to build one day, but I think she wants a spellslinger deck more than a counters deck. might be a two-card combo with a few spells, but without a Partner, he's not much to look at, and besides, there are no Sharks in mono-red. Boo. (No, Changelings don't count. Fight me.)
Things get interesting with, although this might just turn into a Goblin deck without me knowing, and seems more about dice-rolling than profiting from counters.
This leaves me with the difficult decision of choosing betweenand . Ashling has wonderful art and lore, of course, and having a board wipe in the command zone can be powerful. Despite all that, the sheer amount of card advantage that Laelia provides and the threat that she represents is why we'll choose her to helm this deck. Big spirit lady with a sword, I choose you!
Let's get brewing!
Mono-Red? Count Me In.
All right, we won't be asking much, just stuff that puts +1/+1 counters on things, and stuff that cares about +1/+1 counters! Easy, right?
Thank goodnessis colorless. It's going to be hard to generate a lot of counters, so being able to reuse them will be very useful. is interesting. Having trample is nice when it grows big, and it can 'combo' with provided we have a bunch of mana to spare. will kind of help our opponents, but we'll benefit from the counters a lot more than them. Hopefully, at least. Plus, goading is annoying. , , and are pretty slow, but we're running them anyway! can give menace to ; scary! and have the keyword Big. Big is good. We even have a Proliferate package: , , and ! We're doing it!
Now that we have a bunch of counters everywhere (I've already lost count), what can we do with them?
rebuilds our board when we get wiped. is a nice haste-giver and can generate some Dragons. , and can dish out some damage. We won't be using 's first ability much, as is our only other Shaman, but the second line of text is pretty aggressive. I like it! will be very punishing if we can get a large board of Modified creatures.
We also have some sweet finishing power.is, like, basically , but much weaker and more conditional. Awesome! can be a deadly surprise for our opponents and win us the game outright. Alternatively, we can double down on combat steps with , probably the strongest addition to this deck from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
Don't Count Your Decks Before They're Brewed
We always advocate for strong deckbuilding basics here, even if our deck ideas are pretty terrible.
We have 24 cards with activated abilities, so it's safe to say thatwill be useful in some way. has been waiting for this deck its whole life. might seem a little weak in a mono-colored deck, but we'll take all the counter-generators we can get. Trading counters for colored mana is sweet, and we can save the mana in counter form until our big explosive turn. Really neat.
Our commander "draws" us a card each turn, so we're off to a good start on card advantage. What's more, she grows every time we exile a card from our library or graveyard, and red is very good at this., , and lets us play the cards until the end of our next turn, while , , and (just reprinted!) only exile cards for the current turn. looks like it was designed specifically for this deck. Counters every time we cast a spell from exile? And it exiles cards itself? Am I dreaming!? Lastly, will actually draw us a card each turn rotation for free if we're doing our job correctly.
Creatures are going to get huge, and people will, understandably, want to kill them. While we can shrug off some removal (, , - no, I am not running and I don't want to talk about it), we can't really prevent that from happening at some point. That's when , , and come in handy! Interaction, you say? How about I interact with your face? I love and I don't see it played enough! is an over-costed , but we gladly pay the two extra to Proliferate.
We're going to be on the board a lot, so we don't run many wraths. It would be blasphemy to not include(...sorry), and we already talked about . Our last one is , a huge, slow that everyone can see coming. Look at it! It's a dino bathing in lava! Intense.
I think we are now ready to gaze upon the decklist.
🧮 Who's Counting? | Laelia | Mono-Red +1/+1 Counters
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What Counts Is What Is on the Inside (of Our Decks)
Honestly, this deck slaps. Am I a mono-red player at heart? Yes, but that has nothing to do with it. We struggled a bit to find red cards that generate counters, but we managed to fill in the blanks with colorless cards. We did find a lot of payoffs, though. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty helped a ton, of course, but we were getting there without the set as well. What I like about exiling stuff from the library is the non-question, "Should I play this now?" Of course! You always play it now! Red deck goes brrr. And don't be like me: remember to play your land after you attack with.
Random Trivia Because I Want To!
Did you know that Hydras were first printed as red creatures?appeared in Alpha, followed by in Ice Age, and then and came in Stronghold and Nemesis. It took until Ravnica: City of Guilds to see green with . The first mono-green Hydra was , but that doesn't count because it doesn't have anything to do with +1/+1 counters! finally appears in Shards of Alara as a true +1/+1 counters creature. Hydras have, for the most part, been green ever since (#bringbackredhydras).
How would you build your mono-red +1/+1 counters deck? Did I miss any spicy card or interaction? Am I really bad for choosingover ? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!