Coldsnap In Limited: The Red Cards

ColdsnapYesterday saw the Black cards take a pounding… today, it’s Red’s turn under the spotlight. It seems that the color of fire packs the removal suite of choice… but do the anaemic creatures bolster a burn-happy strategy and lead to success? Julien shares his views on the Coldsnap color of chaos…

Thanks for tuning in again. The Red cards are next!

Balduvian Rage
Blaze has always been a Limited bomb, both because of its game-ending abilities as well as the fact that it can be used as a removal spell. Balduvian Rage has a similar game-ending effect… but it’s riskier because your opponent might be able to get rid of the target creature. The upside is that you can play the Rage earlier if you need to, because you’ll get another card anyway. While it’s not quite as good as Blaze (because it’s not a removal spell), Balduvian Rage is a good finisher that doesn’t sit dead in your hand when you’ve not yet reached the point where it can be lethal.

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Balduvian Warlord
When I read this card, I asked a friend “What does this do? I don’t want to read it again and still not understand what it does.” He replied “Oh, it’s the same as that beta rare…” Well, that didn’t help me too much. Now that I finally get what it does, I’m not too impressed. I think that most of the time you will use it as a four mana 3/2. Still, the ability does come into play sometimes, and the body isn’t that overcosted.

Braid of Fire
More and more Red mana… in your upkeep. Nope, this card isn’t even remotely playable.

Land destruction spells are always mediocre in Limited, simply because you can’t build your deck around them as you do in Constructed. It won’t fit into your game plan most of the time, and when you draw it after the early game, it’s virtually useless. Cryoclasm does have the added effect that it deals three points, so in very aggressive Red decks you might consider boarding it in sometimes. Still, it’s marginal.

Earthen Goo
As with every creature with cumulative upkeep costs, if you want to use it as an early drop you will need to have cheap spells in your hand that’ll be castable after you’ve put yourself at three mana maximum. Earthen Goo can be very good in a deck that has a lot of early drops; it’s hard for your opponent to keep up with this guy when you play it on turn 3, especially when playing first. Sometimes you will want to keep hold of it until you’ve played your spells first, and then it will take some turns for it to be anything impressive. Depending on how many cheap spells your deck has, Earthen Goo can reach from a playable to a good card.

Fury of the Horde
Unless you’ve come out of the starting blocks very, very quickly, don’t expect to ever cast it for its alternate cost. This leaves us with a seven-mana sorcery that might deal some damage to your opponent, but it’s a very situational effect. Sometimes you just need a crazy winning condition, or you want to board it in against Blue/White flying decks (although they might tap down your creatures), so I can see playing it sometimes.

Goblin Furrier
A 2/2 for two mana with a very relevant disadvantage doesn’t seem playable, but you have to consider that it’s Red’s only two-drop. You won’t always have another choice. If it were a snow creature itself it would have been much better, but now it should only make your deck if you’re really in search of a two-drop and you’ve got some removal to destroy the snow creatures.

Goblin Rimerunner
If you have a tight curve, this card can make it amazingly hard for your opponent to deal with your forces. He probably won’t be able to attack at all, because he needs to keep plenty of men back if he wants to have a good blocking situation. This card has become one of my favorite cards of the format, just as Kami of Fire’s Roar – the only downside is its Gray Ogre stats, which makes him bad when he’s on his own.

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Greater Stone Spirit
If you’ve got some other guys out already, this guy can make them unstoppable. The effect is expensive, but most of the time you just need the threat of using the ability. You don’t necessarily need to use it, because there are no good blocks for your opponent. That way you can just continue to cast your spells while making blocking and attacking hard for your opponent, until he’s found a good solution.

You know how I feel about land destruction, and destroying an artifact isn’t any good in this format. Worse than Cryoclasm.

Karplusan Minotaur
Purely statistically speaking, the effect is just as good for your opponent as it is for you, which would mean that you’re paying four mana for a 3/3 creature (which is a fine deal). But I dislike cards that don’t allow you to control your own game plan. Would you be willing to flip a coin for the game, on turn 4?

Karplusan Wolverine
One mana 1/1 creatures need a good ability to make them worth it, because otherwise they are easily nullified. Karplusan Wolverine has two useful abilities: it’s a snow creature, and in a tight curve it can help you get more favorable blocking situations. The last bit hasn’t been very relevant in any game I’ve played, because your opponent will just take one and block the other attacker.

Lightning Serpent
This card is similar to Balduvian Rage, but slightly different in three ways. Your opponent will see this coming before he’s decided on his blocks, so now he might be able to prevent getting killed. It does have trample though, and Balduvian Rage isn’t always able to get through to your opponent. The main reason why I like it less than Balduvian Rage is because you can’t cycle it when you don’t need it, resulting in it often being stuck in your hand in the early and mid game.

Lightning Storm
I’ll first explain how Lightning Storm works with priority and different turns, because you do need to understand the rules clearly if you want to use it optimally. Whenever a spell or ability resolved, the active player gets priority. A spell or ability resolves when both players pass priority in succession. When a player puts a spell or ability on the stack, he will get priority.

Now let’s see what happens when you play Lightning Storm. If you play it on your own turn, you will get priority first. You can choose to discard a land or pass priority. If you pass and your opponent does as well, the spell resolves. If your opponent chooses to discard a land, an ability will go on the stack that adds two counters and changes the target on resolution. You should always let this ability resolve first before discarding a land card yourself, otherwise your opponent will be the last to change the target! So if you let that ability resolve, you will get priority because you were the active player, and you’re back in the same situation only the Storm now has four counters on it.

If you play it in your opponent’s turn, you will get priority first because you’re the one who put it on the stack, but if a spell or ability resolves now; your opponent will get priority first. So if you discard a card to it, let it resolve, your opponent will get priority. Or even if a random effect resolves, like regenerating a creature or tapping one to make another creature not block, your opponent will have to act first.

Now that we’ve got all the rules technicalities out of the way, we can analyze how good it actually is. It’s a decent removal spell but a bit risky, because if your opponent has some useless lands in his hand you’re giving him exactly what he wants. Just be sure to communicate clearly when you play this spell, otherwise things might get messed up.

Lovisa Coldeyes
There are quite a few creatures that Lovsia Coldeyes boosts up, and if you get to pick it up early, you can adjust your picks accordingly. On its own, it’s not that good of course, and when it’s not on its own you will rarely send it into combat, so in that aspect it’s a bit slow for its cost. A big downside to it is that the effect works for your opponent’s creatures as well as yours, which might mean you’ll have to sideboard it out in some matchups. This card’s quality obviously depends a lot on your other cards, so I’ll give it an average rating, see it as a rating when you don’t yet have anything really good or bad with it.

Magmatic Core
It’s quite slow and expensive, but if you get it up and running, some decks will have a lot of their guys killed as long as those guys don’t kill you first. This definitely includes most blue/white decks, the less aggressive red/black decks and also some other none-green decks. Against almost every green deck you will have to sideboard it out though, as you just won’t be able to keep up with their huge creatures when you put this on the board, unless you’re able to combine it with other damage-based removal spells, but that just depends on your deck.

Martyr of Ashes
While the text may confuse you, this is not a creature, and you should almost never play it on the first turn. It’s a situational mass removal spell, that can wreck some decks (Black/Red, for example) and leave other decks mostly untouched (Blue/White). A potential mass removal spell is still to be taken seriously, and Martyr of Ashes seems good enough to maindeck in most decks and sideboard out in some matchups.

Ohran Yeti
In the very worst case, it’s a Hill Giant… but it’s rarely just that, as its abilities are both very useful. In most Red decks, this is the best common four-drop. It’s very close with Simian Brawler (in Red/Green), depending on how much your deck is oriented on snow permanents.

Orcish Bloodpainter
By itself it’s just some dorky creature, but its value increases with every creature entering play. Against some decks you can really threaten to make some unfair trades when you keep this untapped, and it helps you to get rid of nasty Squall Drifters and Disciple of Tevesh Szat. A nice utility creature that will fill out your mana curve, but there are definitely better alternatives.

Rimescale Dragon
Seven mana, cast this, untap, win. That’s pretty much how good this is, and if you want to know exactly how good it is you’ll have to ask yourself how often you’ll have time for that. I’ve had to make the pick between this card and Stalking Yeti once, and I think it’s very close, just because it’s such a fast format. I picked the Yeti, because I was drafting a snowy Red/Green deck and I didn’t have any acceleration yet, but if you already have some Boreal Druids or Into the Norths, the Dragon is probably better. Anyway, if you open either, you should be very happy, and opening both is just a luxury problem that we won’t encounter often.

Rite of Flame
Better than Desperate Ritual!

This card is often talked about to be the best Red common. Of course, it depends on your deck… but I mostly agree. Removal doesn’t come more efficient than this, and unless you’ve intentionally not picked snowy permanents, it’s going to deal with the creature of your choice most of the time.

Stalking Yeti
It’s not quite Flametongue Kavu, it’s more like a 3/3 Keening Banshee in a format in which double-colored in the casting cost doesn’t really matter and it’s got three nice abilities to top if off. I’ve not been able to fully exploit the rebuy ability yet, but the fact that it’s snowy is always relevant, and it can also kill bigger guys than Keening Banshee could. It’s the best four-drop in the format I can think of, and I also think that most of the time it’s better than Skred.

Surging Flames
Unlike the other Surging spells, Surging Flames is a good card regardless of how many copies you’ve picked. There have been many Shock effects for two mana with a small ability, and all of them have been good. Don’t expect to get too many copies of this, since every Red drafter will want to pick them up. Then again, you don’t need to pick up many copies for it to be good; that’s just a nice added bonus.

It’s Red’s only common or uncommon five-drop, and that’s the reason it’s been in some of my decks. It’s a fine creature, but doesn’t quite match up with some cheaper, more efficient drops. You can’t always have all-stars throughout your squad.

Red looks to be quite a powerful color, mostly because of its many great removal effects. The creatures are a bit disappointing, so you should try and combine Red with a color that offers good creatures, like Green, or combine it with Black for a controllish deck with even more removal effects.

Tune back in tomorrow for the last and most powerful color, Green, and next week for the remainder of the set and a complete overview!