M13 Set Review: Red

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Arms Dealer: Dealing four to a creature is nice, but it would have to go to the dome to be Constructed playable. Nice in Limited though.

Bladetusk Boar: I cut this from Alex Ullman’s pauper cube, so you can guess how excited I am to see this Boar back in Standard.

Canyon Minotaur: Is Hill Giant on vacation touring Europe or something?

Chandra, the Firebrand: What is it with underpowered Red planeswalkers? I understand Chandra is a reprint, so she is what she was, but perhaps there could have been someone new? Actually, it doesn’t really matter since Red has much better things to do, but let me say this: The single best Red spell to cast is a miracle Bonfire of the Damned, and this does nothing in that scenario.

Chandra’s Fury: You’ll note that Red and Green are pretty hostile to Lingering Souls. More on that in a bit. Chandra’s Fury is a reasonable effort, but it will never be your best option in Constructed, and in Limited you’ll want this as a finisher, not a situational sweeper.

Cleaver Riot: Why is Red trying to copy Overrun? Anyway, I’d much rather Burn at the Stake.
Addendum: Not referencing the Ax Gang from Kung Fu Hustle seems like a misplay.

Craterize: I am going to flip a coin. If the coin is heads I am going to make a joke about Demolish being overpowered and move on. If the coin is tails I am going to totally apeshit about how Demolish was an insult compared to Pillage, and that Craterize can crawl into someone’s crater in Seattle.

Tails. In truth heads would have been more amusing, but that is not what the fates had in store.

At one time Red was given a 2/2 haste creature along with destroying target land (3R, Avalanche Riders). Sure, the creature had echo, but even if you didn’t pay,  that was much better than this. Alternately the far from broken Stone Rain killed a land for three mana. If you were willing to change a colorless mana into a Red mana, you could cast Pillage and kill an artifact instead of a land (your choice). When Red was actually playable as an aggro-control color Pillage and Stone Rain were key parts of the strategy. I could love Craterize if it were 2RR instead of 3R and gave you a 2/2 creature. It wouldn’t be broken, but it would be useful. Also, can someone please tell Chandra that “utterly” is not the best way to destroy something…“efficiently” is.

Aaron Forsythe: Craterize is bad and you should feel bad.

Crimson Muckwader: A 3/2 regenerater for two mana is pretty sweet. If B/R aggro is a deck, this lizard will be useful team member. Remember, this is best in a Black deck that splashes Red, not the other way around.

Dragon Hatchling: You’d be surprised at how unimpressive flying + firebreathing has been lately. I don’t know why I assumed Hatchling would be a 1/1, but I did, so discovering it to be 0/1 pretty much ensured my disappointment.

Fervor: I was in the room when Zvi saw that Fervor was in M13. The face he made was the same one he made when he lost round two to the Midori Sour. Fires of Yavimaya is the enchantment we are waiting for.

Fire Elemental: What a random reprint. Of course, there are better ways to spend 3RR.

Firewing Phoenix: I’m surprised this isn’t getting more publicity. A four power flyer for four mana isn’t bad, and when you add inevitability that is a sweet package. Is this too slow? Too vulnerable to Pillar of Flame? We’ll see. For now it deserves a chance be tested in R/G.

Flames of the Firebrand: Is this functionally different from Arc Lightning? If not, why the silly name? Stunningly good art though.

Furnace Whelp: I’ve actually played the Whelp in a few decks but that was years ago in a different era. Now it is outclassed.

Goblin Arsonist: Mogg Fanatic was nerfed by the removal of the stack, so can you please reprint him? He isn’t overpowered these days.

Goblin Battle Jester: 3R for this? Surely you jest.

Hamletback Goliath: Something I’ve been thinking about for a while: Large vanilla creatures are consistently unimpressive. Targeted removal or chump blockers generally shut them down.

In other words, even if you dropped the casting cost of Hamletback Goliath it would still probably be irrelevant.

Kindled Fury: Another combat trick to keep in mind.

Krenko, Mob Boss: I like the effort. You eventually overwhelm the opponent by doubling every turn. This isn’t good enough because you get wrecked by both targeted and mass removal. Also, your supply of Goblins is pretty weak right now. The one thing that could make him work is haste via Goblin Chieftain, and try to go nuts. A pity Chieftain is not in M13.

Krenko’s Command: Tokens in need of a lord.

Magmaquake: Missing flyers is strike one. Missing players is strike two. Being double Red is strike three. Take a seat Magmaquake.

Mark of Mutiny: As always, a decent way to borrow a creature. Unfortunately, Zealous Conscripts is more efficient, and the creatures to steal are less impressive these days, with the possible exception of Griselbrand.

Mindclaw Shaman: This is a potential 2-1 or even 3-1. Red has a plethora of great options at five mana, and sometimes this will be the best one. A sweet sideboard card.

Mogg Flunkies: A great creature, but utterly dependent on having the right teammates. You need aggressive one drops, and hasted three drops. If the stars align Mogg Flunkies will ride into battle again.

Reckless Brute: Oh shut up, you are not the three mana haste creature I am looking for.

Reverberate: What am I copying? The Red “copy spell” mechanic has fallen flat on its face after Fork was restricted.

Rummaging Goblin: To a human value is based on casting cost, power, toughness, and abilities. I vaguely remember Mark Rosewater saying something about “Red getting a little cost savings for its recklessness.” (referring to Red discarding before drawing when it loots). Cost savings relative to what? Does Blue have a four mana looter?

Searing Spear: If Lightning Bolt’s sweet spot is 2.5 damage, should two mana burn spells deal 3.5? If so, why do we always round down? In any event, Red will have to play this since it needs reach, no matter if the current options are strictly outclassed by historical options. Also, I agree with the decision to stop picking on regeneration

Slumbering Dragon: I wonder if the Dragon is a good sideboard card. One problem is that the Dragon is completely irrelevant or something that an opponent will simply trade with a piece of removal. I figure I can get decent value if I sacrifice an otherwise useless dragon to Disciple of Bolas. There is one card in Standard that works perfectly with Slumbering Dragon: Increasing Savagery. Of course, if you go that route, why is the Dragon your choice of target, as opposed to any of your cost efficient hexproof creatures? My best guess is the Dragon is roughly as useless as Tibalt, but at least in the case of the Dragon there is hope. We’ll see.

Smelt: Cost efficient! Don’t blame Smelt for Ancient Grudge being better.

Thundermaw Hellkite: Ah, the so-called Red Baneslayer. Ok, first things first: Yes, it’s fantastic. Sure, it loses value to Vapor Snag, Doom Blade, and Go for the Throat. Fine, but all of those cards rotate soon. In the brave new world post-rotation The Hellkite looks poised to bring a Red resurgence. Clearly someone in the WotC FFL (future-future league) really hated Lingering Souls tokens. This also crashes past Restoration Angel and friends. As an additional bonus, it clears the way for Firewing Phoenix.

It is pretty obvious that this is what Red aggro decks will want to do when they hit five mana. Yes, Zealous Conscripts and Mindclaw Shaman shine in various matchups, but they lack the all-around brutality of the Dragon. Things get a little trickier for R/G since this and Thragtusk are both insane, and you can only run so many five drops. In any event, yes, Thundermaw Hellkite is far enough above curve to have value as a Baneslayer without also being a Mulldrifter (Chapin, Pat).

Torch Fiend: Not good enough as a creature. Not good enough as removal.

Trumpet Blast: Only play around this if you have probable cause to believe your opponent has it.

Turn to Slag: It’s a shame this never works against Sword of War and Peace. Sadly, will rarely work against Runechanter’s Pike, because, well, you know, hexproof. Also, five mana is a ton in matchups decided by tempo.

Volcanic Geyser: This isn’t a miracle. It isn’t even a Fireball. It will swing games in Limited but that’s about it.

Volcanic Strength: There is a very small chance this will eventually matter in Red mirrors. It would take a fairly resilient creature that hits like a truck, but has difficulty getting through. Unlikely, but such a beast could see print.

Wall of Fire: A firebreathing wall is still amusing. Also, sweet art.

Wild Guess: This is something Reanimator decks can use. It, along with Faithless Looting, gives you plenty of non-random discard outlets. At this point, the bigger issue is finding the right creature suite. It is also possible this is good enough to see use with Firewing Phoenix or just as something to smooth out your draws.

Worldfire: It is possible there is a combo here with Spelltwine. Apart from that, I see no good way to abuse this. I mean, when a new mythic can be purchased for $2.50 or less, that shows how little impact it is expected to have.

Red has received an excellent pair of mythics over the last two sets. Bonfire of the Damned proved its excellence fairly swiftly. Thundermaw Hellkite will do the same. Where Red struggles is filling out the rest of the team. Most likely Red will be paired with Green in a midrange deck, as it has been for a while. It is not uncommon to see 32 Borderland Rangers in the top 8 of an ISD premier event. There will be real tension at the five mana slot between Thundermaw Hellkite, Thragtusk, Garruk, and Wolfir Silverheart. And that is discounting Zealous Conscripts, Mindclaw Shaman, and Acidic Slime. It is unclear if Birds of Paradise will be returning in Ravnica. Given Hellkite and Silverheart are fighting for the same space; it is difficult to predict which is the right choice before we know.

One other quick note: My friend had Magmaquake in his Prerelease sealed deck, an average number of Red cards, and Red was still strictly unplayable. I found that interesting.

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