(Dan is a regular reader and a heavy contributor to the various projects I throw up my hands in despair and dump on you guys.  When I threw out the call for some guest content, Dan was very quick to oblige with this piece; I was intrigued by it because I can honestly say it ends up so far away from my EDH comfort zone that I almost need a translator to read it, so I decided to give him a shot. 

I hope you enjoy.

—>Cass)

It’s probably best to start with an introduction-  

It was a dark and stormy night…
No…wait. My name is Dan.  I’m one of the guys who contributed to Cassidy’s call for help with an aggro Sharuum deck, as I play one myself. I had a good time writing my (overly) long responses, so when he sent out a second call for people who have “Nothing Better to Do and Would Love to Write Something,” I jumped at the chance. Little did I realize that with work, two sports leagues, the various time requirements that go along with being a responsible adult (to this day I still hate folding laundry), I actually had little free time left to write.


Well, I simply have to make time.
Allow me to ramble a bit before I get to the main point of piece here, which is an overview of my favorite deck and favorite general. I probably fit the mold of most EDH players – I’ve been playing for a long time, have a collection of powerful cards from the early days of Magic (minus the Power 9), and am pretty much into multiplayer/casual play. When I first heard about EDH, I was immediately intrigued. The constraints of playing 100-card singleton and designing a deck in color to synergize with a specific legend were too appealing to pass up.
There was a certain legend that I had an immediate affinity for, due to a solid deck I had back when I played 60 card multiplayer – Teneb, the Harvester. Yes…shocking. Even before ever hopping online to read EDH blogs or message boards, most people realize W/G/B is going to be a strong combination due to access to ramp, removal, and graveyard interactions. I loved this deck, but as I started expanding my EDH play to newer groups, I kept running across other Teneb decks. As you probably know, at least 60% of the non-land cards in many Teneb decks are the same. Acidic Slime? Check. Angel of Despair? Check. Mirari’s Wake? Check. Demonic Tutor? Check. Survival of the Fittest? Check. Maybe a Sword of X and Y? Check. There’s nothing wrong with this of course; people want to be able to play with their powerful and pricy cards. 
But I quickly became bored.
I built more decks, such as the aforementioned Sharuum aggro list and a Memnarch deck among others, but something was missing. A series of events made me realize that what I was missing was the color RED. One trigger was sitting down to a four-or five-player game where everyone had a multicolor general, and not a single one had Red in the color identity. BLASPHEMY!
You see, I love Red. I need Red. It is my favorite color, though initially I bought into the stereotype that Red was the worst color in EDH. Its weaknesses are apparent – lack of unconditional removal, limited draw, few true tutor effects (such as Gamble), and so on.  But Red has abilities and the kind of big splashy effects that make EDH games amazing.
Goblin Guide is my favorite creature. In my opinion, Lightning Bolt is the best instant ever. Warp World is the most fun sorcery ever printed, and my all-time favorite card is the greatest of enchantments – Sneak Attack. I’ve heard that “there are two kinds of people in the world – mountain people and ocean people.” Let me tell you right off – I’d rather spend my time off in Upstate New York than at the local beach (JerseyShore! /pumps fist… nope, not me). Islands? ScrewIslands. Mountains are the most exciting basic lands in Magic.
As I continued to read more EDH content online, – set reviews, power breakdowns…anything really – Red was always dead last. I got tired of seeing so many lists broken down into Blue, Black, Green, White, and finally the “unplayable in EDH” Red. 
I decided to do something about it.   First, make a kick ass mono Red.  Second, write about it. Now that I have a good amount of experience with the former, I’m doing the latter.
My general is the amazing Ashling the Pilgrim. Yes, we’ve all seen the joke deck: Ashling and 99 Mountains. No, this is not what I play.  (Can you tell someone mentions this every time they see her on the table?)  The deck did go through a number of iterations; I started with 70 lands and 30 spells. While it had a surprising success rate in three-player games and duels, it was ineffective in games of four or more. So I kept playing, kept adjusting, and have settled on a 45 land, 55-spell list I love.
Before I get into card selections and strategies, here’s the deck list:
ASHLING THE PILGRIM




Lands
Haunted Fengraf
40 x Mountain
MadblindMountain
Terrain Generator
Spinerock Knoll
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

X-CMC Spells
Banefire
Comet Storm
Devil’s Play
Earthquake
Fault Line
Ghitu Fire
Molten Disaster
Volcanic Geyser

Hosers/Utility
Anger
Blood Moon
Furnace of Rath
Flaring Pain
Gratuitous Violence
Price of Progress
Repercussion
Ruination
Sulfuric Vortex
Vicious Shadows

Removal
Aftershock
Blasphemous Act
Chain Reaction
Chaos Warp
Hoard-Smelter Dragon
Shattering Pulse
Shattering Spree
Viashino Heretic

Threats
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Balefire Dragon
Charmbreaker Devils
Dragon Mage
Heartless Hidetsugu
Inferno Titan
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Rapacious One
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

Tutor and Draw
Gamble
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Hoarding Dragon
Howling Mine
Knollspine Dragon
Scroll Rack
Winds of Change
Wheel of Fate
Wheel of Fortune

Mana Boosters
Caged Sun
Extraplanar Lens
Gauntlet of Power
Koth of the Hammer

Powering Ashling
Basilisk Collar
Darksteel Plate
Lightning Greaves
Nim Deathmantle
Strata Scythe
Sword of Fire and Ice


Keep in mind that these are just general labels; Hoard-Smelter Dragon destroys artifacts, but also swings in for decent hits; Rapacious One makes tons of Eldrazi Tokens which can be used to power your high cost spells; throw that Collar on Kumano after someone kills Ashling, and you have a machine gun.  And so forth.
First, why run Ashling? Whenever people actually do write positively about Red, they always have Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Godo, Bandit Warlord, or Jaya Ballard as their general. Well, you can have Godo; by the first time you cast Godo, I’ll probably have already cast Ashling three times, and probably have dealt some solid general damage and burned out some armies.
Ashling is fast and versatile- aggressive when you need her to be, and a wrath effect (admittedly with limitations) the rest of the time.
You may notice that this deck features many of the heavy hitters of Red EDH- Balefire Dragon, Vicious Shadows, and a preponderance of X-casting cost damage spells. I’ve never built a deck so single-handedly focused on the general. All of those cards are there strictly to support Ashling. There is no other game plan other than play Ashling and start wrecking life totals. “Hur, hur, the only point of life that matters is the last~”, you might say.  Right…let’s see those attitudes when everyone is down into the teens life-wise really early. Just remember, you have to be aggressive and attack if you want to win. If you’re the kind of player who likes to sit back because you don’t want to provoke anyone, Ashling (and Red in general) isn’t for you.
Ashling is mana intensive. You constantly want to feed her activated ability, and should expect to pay to play her over and over. There have been multiple games where I’ve cast her for fourteen or sixteen mana – and I’ll gladly keep doing it. To support that, though, we need mana doublers. I run Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens, and Gauntlet of Power.  (I’d run Gauntlet of Might as well if I had it.) With the ability to generate so much mana, the damage spells are obvious inclusions. The ones that hit numerous targets, like Earthquake, Molten Disaster, and Comet Storm, replicate Ashling’s own ability; my favorites are the instant-speed ones. With this deck, you want hold your mana open when you can. Just in case it isn’t obvious, the way you play Ashling is to attack with her, pass, and activate her ability on other peoples’ turns. If you have enough lands (or doublers) to hold six aside to nuke her in response to anything while still adding two counters to her during the other turns, you’re in good shape. Holding that mana open allows you to cast those instant speed X-spells for a kill more often than not, since you’ve already been aggressively knocking down life totals.
How can we make Ashling better? Easy – we make her more lethal and resilient. For the former, I run Gratuitous Violence, Furnace of Wrath, and Basilisk Collar among others. These help her kill opposing armies. The Collar has the added benefit of Lifelink;  if you nuke Ashling with a decent amount of counters on her, expect a huge swing in life totals. Since so many creatures should be dying en masse, the power of Vicious Shadows is obvious.
To protect her, we can make her Indestructible (Darksteel Plate), give her protection from Red (Sword of Fire and Ice), or hope to put her toughness above her own burn threshold (Strata Scythe). The Sword acts as a potential draw source (which is nice), and the Scythe makes any of your creatures into giant beat sticks. My Akroma’s Memorial is in another deck right now, but it really shines in this deck.  Also, Godo is in there to find the equipment.
Speaking of draw, you’ll see I run different various effects. Scroll Rack is most likely my favorite card drawing artifact, since it lets you stack the top of your deck and pull new cards as needed.  If you don’t like what you put on top, MadblindMountain shuffles the deck. I usually don’t like Howling Mine effects in EDH, but here I love them because I really don’t care what anyone else is drawing. (I’ll get to that in a minute.) Wheel of Fortune effects are useful for restocking your own hand and disrupting the kinds of players who painstakingly sculpt their ideal hands.  Since you do have 45 lands, often you’ll be able to use the cards above to turn excess Mountains into something better late game.
You know how I said I don’t have another deck so dedicated to the general as this one?  Let me tell you something – the real secret of this deck, and the real reason why this deck does well in multiplayer:
Everything is designed to draw attention.
I expect to have only a few non-land permanents on the table. I expect people to throw removal spells my way. I expect to play from (at least in appearance) behind. I relish the “Archenemy” feel of this deck. What do we do to play to that role? We make as many cards as possible in this deck scream, “Deal with me or die!” Balefire Dragon, Dragon Mage, and Heartless Hidetsugu? Insane if they stay on the battlefield. The best part is they’re diversions. I run them to draw kill spells. Nobody is going to point Go for the Throat at Ashling if they think Dragon Mage is going to mess up their hand. 
I also play up to the role. When they kill my stuff, I moan and lament the losses. I tell them, “I NEEDED that card!”
And I’m lying. That’s also the reason I don’t care what my opponents draw either. Draw extra kill spells? Whatever…Ashling is cheap. Draw a counter and keep my Balefire from hitting the field? That just means my Blood Moon will then hit the table and wreck your mana base. If you like playing chaotically, where you don’t care what lives or dies so long as you have fun (and maybe win), Ashling is your general.
Now, this doesn’t mean this deck plays on auto-pilot. It’s not all ‘I’m-going-to-burn-you-to-death-and-not-make-any-concious-or-thoughtful-decisions-ever’; you still have to play smart. You have to read the table, and know when it’s appropriate to attack, who to attack, and when to play your spells. You can’t just vomit your hand on the table in the hopes that you assemble the proper doublers and nobody reacts to them. You want hate, but you have to control the hate. You have to use your opponents’ cards against them.
An example: a few weeks back, I sat down to play a five-player game against some of the more notable generals: Teneb, Progenitus, Glissa the Traitor, and some other faceless green deck.  The problem was that I just couldn’t get Ashling to stick; my creatures kept dying as soon as they hit the board. (To be fair, I think the guys at my LGS realize how bonkers this deck can get if given the chance.)
And I still won. Even though I kept attracting heat, I knew the cards in my hand had to be played at the correct time. If I threw them down turn by turn, they’d just get destroyed. So I sat there, down to 14 life, and watched the table. Finally, someone cast a Wrath effect, and the next player dropped a Tombstone Stairwell. On my turn, I dropped a Furnace of Wrath, Vicious Shadows, and said ‘Go.’ Nineteen creatures leaving the battlefield on my end step were enough to immediately kill all four other players – even those who life were at more than 40 life. That prompted the Teneb player to give me a high five and say, “And mono Red sucks in EDH, right?!?!”
Before I go, I quickly want to cover the support cards in this deck. One strategy completely wrecks this game plan, and another is annoying but manageable: life gain and ‘tuck’, respectively. There have been numerous games where I was within a point or two of killing someone when they assembled some kind of recursive life gain (Sun Titan and Behemoth Sledge for example) and it put them quickly out of reach; that’s why I added Sulfuric Vortex and Flaring Pain. Pain is nice, since it has Flashback and gets around your opponents’ tricky plays (like a Pariah on Cho-Manno.)  Don’t forget Leyline of Punishment if you want to add more of this type of effect.
Tuck effects are something you’re going to have to deal with. Red doesn’t have the creature tutors of Green, pure tutors of Black, or the draw power of Blue. Luckily, everything else in the deck can be brought to bear against the bastard who tucks Ashling. Attaching Strata Scythe to Rapacious One and then sacrificing those tokens to feed a Banefire is…well, quite gratifying.
As for the hosers, we have the usual suspects. We don’t run many non-basic lands, so Ruination, Price of Progress, and Blood Moon are quite powerful in the deck. I haven’t had the need to run Stranglehold yet, but it’s certainly something to look into. I’m saving my Snow-CoveredMountains, Scrying Sheets, Skred, and Rimescale Dragon for another Red deck, but those would all be quite powerful in here as well (especially since that angle can cut off other players from seeing the benefit from Extraplanar Lens). If you choose to run a build with more lands, it might be a good idea to look into Explorer’s Scope, Horn of Greed, Devastating Dreams, Firestorm, Seismic Assault, and Crucible of Worlds.  (And perhaps more land destruction effects? /Maniacal laughter…)

That’s about it, folks. It’s not the best deck ever, but it is powerful. If you like Red, aggressive play, or just want something different while still giving yourself a chance to win, hopefully this gives you a bit of inspiration. When everyone throws their generals down, Ashling will never cause your opponents to groan the way Sharuum, Arcum, or Zur might. In fact, I’ve been told the deck is fun to play against, and whenever I’ve lent it out, my friends have all had fun piloting it. There’s probably some “tech” I’m missing, so shout outs in the comments would be appreciated. I don’t use or Facebook, Twitter, so if you want to reach me with questions, comments, or critiques, e-mail me here.  (If possible, put something like “Magic” in the subject)


-Dan