Usually when a new set comes out it’s pretty clear which color came out on top with all of the new goodies. This time it didn’t seem so clear at first, but after playing a bit, I think I have the answer to the question: Which color got the biggest boost from Betrayers?
My vote goes to Red, and this week I’ll tell you why.
I also want to talk a little about a new archetype that is now viable, as well as some Red cards from Champions that have increased in value due to the shift in the format with the inclusion of the new set.
What a way to start out the commons…
This guy will end up being playable in the new hyper aggressive mono-Red archetype (which I’ll talk more about later) if you need a 23rd card or end up playing a few Crack the Earths. He’s also a Goblin, so if you manage to get the Red Patron it’s not horrible to run the Herder simply because you can pay the offering cost then and ambush them with your 5/5. Other than that he’s pretty bad and I wouldn’t advocate running him in most of your decks.
This two-drop is the first of many reasons that Red has improved from the simple splash color it was in Champions an actual base color.
The basic idea here of course is to get a ton of damage through with a little two-drop. This can happen either early in the game or through some manner of unblockable maneuvering. Blademane combos well with the standby Champions Red commons Glacial Ray, Lava Spike, and Kami of Fire’s Roar. It goes without saying, then, that this is also good with Mirror-Guard and Minamo Sightbender if you end up U/R.
Another nice feature about the pumping ability is that you can remove any amount of counters for only one mana and trade him off for a Green fatty like Moss Kami relatively free of charge. This is nice, since Red normally can’t deal with fatties except through the nearly unplayable Crushing Pain.
I’d pick this guy relatively highly and they certainly get better in multiples and with more ways to trigger the Ki counters.
Kinda, but better. This card has a place in the super aggro Red deck at times, since you can kill their land with it and sac off something like a one-drop Goblin or Hankyu without much loss to your side while putting your opponent far behind.
It does have Arcane which also allows you to Splice Glacial Ray in the midgame when Crack the Earth will likely do little else. With all of that being said, it’s still not a maindeck worthy card in most drafts. It’s worthwhile in certain situations and a possible sideboard card against an opponent that won’t appreciate a hiccup in his already mana-dependent deck.
Shower of Sparks was relatively worthless in Urza’s mainly because most of the creatures were bigger and it didn’t really have enough viable targets to make the maindeck. First Volley on the other hand is actually a very desirable card because of the overwhelming number of X/1’s in this format.
Splicing Ray onto this also feels downright dirty, somewhat like Shower of Coals, which was sick in Limited. I have no problem running a bunch of these either, as there are very few situations in which they aren’t valuable.
One thing that was lacking in Champions Red was an efficient beater.
Frost Ogre steps up to the plate to fill that gap, and I think he does a pretty good job. The five power is excellent as well, since we all know how good Red is at getting creatures through. Kami of Fire’s Roar just got that much better.
In case you didn’t get the memo, the theme this week is “reprints.”
While some of you may argue that this guy is infinitely worse than Mogg Fanatic, as far as Limited is concerned the difference is not as big as you’d think. If you were to argue that point in Constructed I’d be more inclined to agree, since not being able to damage players is a huge deal against control decks that don’t have any creatures as targets.
Frostling has a few important things going for it that more than makes up for the fact that it can’t damage players. First we have the overabundance of one-toughness guys, like I already mentioned under First Volley. Second, is the Soulshift and Spiritcraft mechanics. Frostling is a excellent addition to both of these mechanics, as he’s cheap and can be Soulshifted by everything, plus he’s a simple turn-on for Teller of Tales, Kami of the Hunt, or whatever you’d like.
As far as Limited is concerned, I’d say this guy isn’t far off from his old cousin the Mogg Fanatic and another great common for the color.
The nice thing about this card is that it can still block if you don’t have a man to let it attack, and it won’t be completely useless most of the time like Orcish Conscripts was. He will also go semi-late since he isn’t worth much in a slower deck and no one else will really want him.
I generally like Frostling over this guy in most decks just because it’s a better all around one-drop, and also a Spirit, but there are certainly decks where my curve would dictate that the Cohort will be better.
I’ve been referring to a new archetype that is now possible, and I wanted to give you guys a list from last week’s pool of drafting so you can get the idea what to be looking for if you want to try it. The deck is just a hyper-aggressive mono-Red build that takes advantage of all of these new quick creatures in Betrayers in combination with the unblockable effects, some Land Destruction, and burn. Take a look:
3 Goblin Cohort
Crack the Earth
2 Lava Spike
2 Blademane Baku
2 Hearth Kami
2 Brutal Deceiver
2 Kami of Fire’s Roar
The deck should be pretty self-explanatory. You generally end up having to run a couple of “trashy” cards like Crack the Earth, but as you’ll find they actually work pretty well in the deck.
Ire of the Kaminari
I’ve heard plenty of talk about this card, and I’m not sure it’s going to live up to the hype as far as Draft is concerned. A few people are calling it the new “Dampen” if you manage to draft a version of the Arcane deck and get a few copies of this Lava Axe as your finisher. The only problem with this idea is building up the critical mass of Arcane spells while hoping that a few of these are opened as you can get them really late if they are actually in the packs.
As far as normal decks go, this won’t see a huge amount of use just because you really need a volume of Arcane to make it work. I can say that I would probably run this in anything with multiple Lava Spikes though, because it gives you a better chance of just burning someone out. So it’s more of a niche card but nothing to get real excited about and usually won’t make the cut.
I honestly can’t think of a situation in where I’d want this piece of junk in my deck.
I’m just gonna come out and say that I’m really not a fan of this guy.
While I’ve only played it once and had it played against me a few times, it never seems to have any real impact on the board as in the mid-late game you can’t be blocking with it as you’ll just get extremely far behind in the race.
That leaves us with the question of whether or not it’s worthwhile playing this card in the hopes that it will get in some early beats and possibly make a decent trade-off in the early game. I’d say this is fine in a deck like the aggro one listed above, but not exactly what I’m looking for in a three-drop in a normal two-color deck unless I’m just trying to be really fast. Play him at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Torrent of Stone
Finally we arrive at what is by far the best Red common.
The splice ability actually won’t be used as much as you’d initially expect, unless you have a ton of Mountains. Unlike Magma Burst, you can’t just pick and choose which lands you get to keep so you have to be careful with it. You’ll still get plenty of chances to splice it though, and when you do, it is nuts. Even disregarding the splice idea, it’s still a splashable Pinpoint Avalanche for one mana less, which is quite good in draft.
For those of you at home keeping score, a general Red pick order for the top commons would look something like this..
Obviously the Volley can also move up if you’re shy on removal and neither Blademane nor Cohort fits your deck correctly.
Pretty generic 2/1 for two here. His ability is nice with Akki Avalanchers, Torrent of Stone, or any kind of land destruction. A fine card for most red decks though he isn’t a Spirit like Hearth Kami.
When this guy gets through for damage though, boy does he hit hard. It’s like the old Searing Flesh to the dome. Sadly, the ground gets plugged up usually in this format and he’s unlikely to find a way through. I still think he’s relatively playable though as he can come out of nowhere and create a big problem for someone who’s not ready for him. Don’t take him high, but play him if you’re short on late-game options.
Moving along, I can’t see this one doing anything. Maybe I should draft a deck with this and a bunch of Kumano’s Blessings and see what happens. I don’t think I’ll like the outcome though, just a guess.
This guy is exactly what the doctor ordered in the Red uncommon slot. Notice of course that his ability doesn’t give the creature Haste, keeping him from being absolutely broken, but don’t worry, we can get around that. The Bandit quickly becomes a 5/2 that makes it very hard for your opponent to attack you or block since you can just take all of his good blockers away from him for the turn.
The real way to abuse this guy though is to take your opponent’s Spirits and sac them off to Devouring Greed or Rage. Or maybe if you’re feeling frisky just take all of his guys and sac them to Blood Rites or Soul Blast? At any rate, he’s one of the best flip guys and you should pick up these sac options in Champions in case you’re lucky enough to open or get passed one. Easily better than all of the Red commons unless you have few Spirits and little removal and would rather have Torrent. This will be a rare situation though as Red is generally based around spiritcraft.
Flames of the Blood Hand
To the dome!
This is a fine card, just like Lava Spike has been gaining appreciation lately. It’s good in aggressive decks, and also a good sideboard against damage prevention. Unfortunately it’s not Arcane, but we can’t have everything can we?
I wouldn’t take this very high because it tends to make its way around the table at least once and most people will have little use for it. I’d usually take the good commons over it unless I had a specific deck that really wanted it.
This card is simply insane. Since we’ve been talking about reprints, I guess it’s only fair to call this our new Ball Lightning, since it basically is. Except… it’s reusable. That’s a pretty fair trade off for the loss of trample. I’m fairly confident you’ll find a way to get it through too, possibly via Kami of Fire’s Roar?
I think this could end up being one of the sleeper cards of the set, as I haven’t seen it get too much respect yet and it’s actually quite the pain to deal with. The drawback on this guy is rarely relevant as only Blue has lots of common Instants that will stop him from barreling in there. Sure, he can’t block if they play a guy before combat, but why in the world is he staying back to block anyway unless he’s summoning sick? This guy is a beater and definitely a high pick. Much better than Frost Ogre too, if you were wondering, and sometimes better than some of the midrange commons depending on your curve and removal.
This is another candidate for underrated card in the set. I’ve barely seen this being played at all, and it certainly has its uses. It’s solid with any big creature, especially in R/G where you can really put the hammer down with a Moss Kami or other trampler. Frost Ogre is a fine target too, if unblocked. Try it out, I think you’ll like it if you have enough big sources of damage to make it work right.
Another trick with this card is if you manage to get the rare Heartless Hidetsugu in combination with it. Once you get him active, simply manaburn yourself to an odd life total when you’re ready to go. If you’re at an odd life total and your opponent is at an even one, you just cast overblaze on the Heartless one and kaboom you have an insta-win. Cool, eh?
For some reason I thought this thing was riding a Pig when I first saw it.
So it is now referred to exclusively as the Pigmaster at our local CMU drafts.
The Pigmaster is a fine 22nd card to your deck, while clearly worse than Yamabushi’s Storm, but still able to get the job done in the right spots. He’s better if you don’t have many spells in the top end of your curve as you’ll be sure to drop him on turn five instead of having something better to cast. Obviously he’s good again because of the abundance of one-toughness guys.
Despite what your Mother may have told you, destroying Non-Basic Lands is not cool, and certainly not playable in this Limited environment. Need I say more?
While I wouldn’t go out and say this thing is a “bomb” or anything, it’s definitely a high pick and a great card. The fact that it has Arcane and the free mechanic make it that much better, though often you’ll find that just a hardcast Howl will be good in this format, especially since it triggers your spiritcraft.
Clash of Realities
If it takes me the whole season, I’ll find a deck that breaks this card, because I definitely see the potential in it.
My first idea would be to run it in a deck with lots of X/4’s, and just hope to nuke all of your opponent’s good men with it. I haven’t had a chance to assemble said deck yet, but I’ll certainly post it if I do and it has any success. Anyone else have any ideas?
Fumiko, the Lowblood
This one, however, is definitely a bomb in every sense of the word.
He’s like the black hole that just sucks up your opponent’s men. Wonderful. Try putting Lure on him and shipping in a massive amount of guys. I assure you that the aftermath isn’t pretty.
Clearly he’s a two card “I Win” combo with Overblaze, but what else? He’s generally good in decks with any significant amount of burn (Lava Spike, Flames of the Blood Hand, etc). Another thing that I’ve seen people missing with him is that you usually don’t wanna use his ability until you can with the game with it. Put damage on the stack first and then use it, or set it up so that you can win the next turn. Don’t be a sucker and cut your life total in half so somebody can just Greed you out in a game they otherwise couldn’t win. The ability is strong, but you have to use it with caution.
In the Web of War
I believe this is gonna be another one that takes a while to catch on.
The effect is actually huge, it’s just a matter of paying the five mana to get it out there. It’s quite good with Blue fliers and Green fatties, and I think it’s a solid pick in anything with a solid amount of late-game creatures that can be enhanced by this reusable “combat trick.” I’ve only played it once, but I really liked it when it was out, and I’ve seen some other people use it to good effect.
Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot
The hits keep on coming here in the rares, as this guy also has bomb stamped all over it.
The format essentially revolves around Spirit and Arcane triggers, and this guy just destroys any idea your opponent had of playing any kind of spiritcraft game and still winning. If you play this on turn two and they can’t remove it, you’ll be packing up for the next game rather quickly more often than not. Don’t pass this guy if you can cast it.
Mannichi, the Fevered Dream
Interesting ability, and Tim Aten did a nice analysis of the situations where it would be good in his corrections section of last week’s Black review. I suggest reading that if you’re still unsure how it works.
He also said that he thought he may have rated it a little low, but I don’t think he was off by much as I’ve tried the card out a couple times and it really doesn’t do enough to warrant playing or picking up usually. Damage on the stack tricks are cute and all, but they don’t change a card from being bad to good.
Patron of the Akki
If you had any doubt as to what to do with this card, just take a look at the artwork. Clearly it’s dying to eat someone. I think your opponent is the best choice on the menu, don’t you?
Oh, and yeah, he’s tied for best Patron with the White one. They’re really too close to call, and if you feel like debating about it then I’ll calmly remind you that you’ll never have to choose.
This could be a nice addition to the new Ire of Kaminari / Dampen archetype. You aren’t gonna have many guys in play, if any, so why not take your opponents team and whack him upside the head with them? This is another situationally powerful card that you should be aware of and pick up if it’s going to be of use in your deck. Don’t automatically assume it’s always going to be unplayable, because that’s simply not the case.
So Red has really come a long way with the addition of the new set to the already existing Champions cards.
A lot of the Red Champions commons have also gone up quite a bit in value due to some other format changes. As a whole, things have slowed down with the introduction of Betrayers. This makes Frostwielder that much more valuable. There’s also the addition of more X/1’s to the batch, and a number of other reasons that this once-maligned pinger is now a top notch pick. This is important because nobody was picking them early in triple Champions because Red wasn’t really considered to be a base color outside of possible U/R or W/R with just a little bit of Red. Frostwielder is a strong creature and you should start drafting him accordingly.
I’m pretty sure that everyone is also aware of the power of Kami of Fire’s Roar, Lava Spike, and Yamabushi’s Storm, but if you still aren’t, these are great cards and you need to be picking them accordingly.