One of the first and foremost theories of draft is to be picking the colors your mates are not. Whether or not a color is good, drafting the same color as your neighbors often leads to a substandard deck. Regardless of this basic fact, people are always happy to declare the colors in a new set in some sort of picking order. The idea of”pick orders” and ranking colors is something that gives people a sort of foundation to argue. It doesn’t matter that the choices rarely come up or that the pack is often more complicated than Arc Slogger vs. Spikeshot Goblin. It’s just something people like to write about and something people like to read about. Who am I to complain?
But wait up a moment. One of the things posted recently in response to an Eisel article on Red pick orders was that when you argue with someone, you’re saying they’re”stupid and wrong.” I feel Ken is wrong in his observations – but I don’t feel Ken is the least bit stupid. The man is known for being somewhat unorthodox and at times even a little ahead of the curve; neither of which are attributes I personally find offensive in writing. That being said, I do disagree.
Though not heavily.
The argument is pretty simple. Which is the best color in Mirrodin draft? Ken claims it’s Green, while much of the Magic community is of the opinion that it’s Red. My job in this article is to convince you that Red is the stronger color, and that White isn’t anywhere near Black in power levels.
Wait, no. I’m not going to talk about that. We all know Black sucks. Why is White considered close to Black in Ken’s mind? Well only he knows, since he never talked about it. Come on Ken, spit it out!
The first thing is to get a good grip on what the best commons in the two colors are. Most players of reasonable playskill and the ability to read cards would likely agree that Spikeshot Goblin is Red’s best common. For Green, most players feel that Fangren Hunter – due to its size, colored status and trample – is the best common. There’s some argument there, as the odd player feels Tel-Jilad Archers is the best green common in the set. Or Deconstruct. Or so on. I think it’s the legacy of Sparksmith that makes Spikey so invariable in people’s mind. Now, Spikeshot Goblin isn’t Sparksmith by any means, but the question,”Is he better than Fangren Hunter?” is pertinent in this discussion.
The simple question is whether or not the two are really comparable in use. Generally, they are not. Spikeshot Goblin is more of a control-ish card that can allow you to dominate the board, while Fangren Hunter basically goes with the oldest Green philosophy: he who smashes last, smashes best. The problem here is that while the Spikeshot Goblin gets around the whole flaw in combat steps by avoiding them, Fangren Hunter can be double-blocked, or controlled in a thousand other ways that Spikeshot Goblin can not.
Spikeshot Goblin can completely destroy an opponent’s game once equipped with a Bonesplitter or worse, while Fangren Hunter is still – despite his great prowess in the field of battle – just another man. You put a Bonesplitter on him and he’s hoping to be a Yavimaya Wurm, not a reusable Lightning Bolt. One of those two is more powerful, and it’s the Red card.
Then we get to the next two cards in the common pile. One Green’s side we have Deconstruct and Tel-Jilad Archers, and on Red’s side we have Electrostatic Bolt and Shatter. Shatter and Deconstruct compare directly, and simply put, Shatter is better. While Deconstruct can be a powerful tempo tool, it often ends up being used to remove an inferior artifact because its mana”bonus” often goes sour. You want to use it to boost out your tempo and get ahead on board position – something that often requires being a little less patient with your targets to get the full kick of the mana ability. Beyond that, Deconstruct is simply not an instant – it’s a sorcery with all the trappings of a sorcery. A sorcery has to be a lot more powerful than an instant to overcome that basic trait, and frankly, given the effect Equipment has on combat, Deconstruct simply doesn’t manage that. Shatter offers opportunities for getting above card-parity, something that puts it slightly ahead of Deconstruct in my books.
Tel-Jilad Archers versus Electrostatic Bolt is a bit trickier an argument – their purposes intermix at some points, but overall they are very different cards. Archer is basically a man meant to put the nix on fliers kicking your dome in – if you’re losing to artifact men on the ground your deck probably isn’t doing too well for a Green deck. Basically, you are looking for a way to deal with evasive men or problematic artifact men. Bolt often fails to deal with some of the nastier flying men in the format, while Archers is a passive response that can’t block a Neurok Spy. So you’re left with a somewhat even argument there; they both have failings in their duty.
However I think Bolt is better simply because, while both happily deal with artifact men and fliers, Bolt is more flexible and less likely to be choked out. Archers can’t deal with a Neurok Spy, they can’t deal with a Spikeshot Goblin, and they do get Arrested or Blinding Beamed from time to time. If you need men, sure the Archers is the better card. But overall, Electrostatic Bolt fills in 75% of what the Archers does and then does a couple things more. Lastly, if nothing else it’s a one-mana solution, not a five-mana one.
So, basically, Red’s three best commons are better in most, but not all situations than Green’s three best commons. Generally that’s enough to make a color look better than another, but perhaps we should consider the issue of depth. Red has generally a full list of relatively playable cards to match up to Green’s, but there’s the issue of Green’s”artifacts”. Spellbomb, Golem, Replica and Shard (though that is a common). In each case, Red’s artifact cards are utterly playable – its spellbomb is a Shock, its golem a firebreathing man, and its replica another piece of artifact removal. Green on the other hand, gains access to… a 5/3 piece of overcosted junk, the ability to make a temporary 3/3, and enchantment removal. Of those three, I only want the Elf Replica to end up in my pile, and that’s in the sideboard part of my pile. Green’s shard is absolute garbage, as well.
So basically, Green has somewhat worse commons and much worse artifact commons as well. Once you journey into uncommons it again goes completely to Red – although Green’s spells are quite solid, with the powerhouse Viridian Shaman, the potent One Dozen Eyes, and everyone’s favorite giant tank, Trolls of Tel-Jilad. Actually that may not be anyone’s favorite, but there’s no doubting mass regeneration is good. There’s also of course Creeping Mold.
Unfortunately, Red rather outclasses Green in the uncommon department overall. Grab the Reins is one of the best cards in the set for Limited, it’s often simply ridiculous. You also have Shrapnel Blast, a highly playable Slith in the Firewalker and very decent Atog. Rustmouth Ogre provides an uncharacteristically large man for Red decks, and his ability to shatter-or-be-chumped is often quite hard for opposing decks to deal with. Lastly, Detonate is typically better than Creeping Mold. Not always, but I’d say it’s better than Creeping Mold much of the time.
So overall Red and Green are very tight when it comes to commons, but Red is clearly a bit better. Green is outright weaker in the uncommon slots, as Red has ridiculous card one after another. Ken’s argument was that Red was weaker in the commons, but I personally don’t see that as true. Just for reference, we had the argument in IRC and Ken happened to ask Kai Budde which of the two were better. Kai didn’t agree with Ken.
Ok I feel bad about referencing that. But hey, you gotta reference Kai shooting Ken down when you can, right?
Rare-wise, you will generally find yourself agreeing that Red is taking it from Green in that department. Molder Slug trumps anything Red has and then some. Glissa Sunseeker is probably around the same power level as Megatog; while she can win a game by herself she’s easier to deal with and Megatog … ends games by itself. Discussing rares is kind of pointless, since you usually don’t get passed packs with more than one rare in them unless somebody is employing the cheats. If Glissa and Megatog show up in the same pack, you’ve got more problems than figuring out which one to pick.
Now, returning to the first point of the article, the power of your deck is not necessarily founded in the power of the colors you draft. It’s founded in the colors the people feeding you are not drafting. It has often been mentioned that Red possesses several cards that players will draft, without being in that color, that they will splash into their decks. The list is usually Shatter, Electrostatic Bolt, Grab the Reins and Goblin Replica. It becomes a question whether or not this would reduce the power of Red as a color?
In reality, the fact that people are willing to splash Red cards doesn’t make Red a weaker color – people do splash for Deconstructs and Tel-Jilad Archers from time to time, as well – it simply makes it weaker at your table on occasion. This is one of the dangers of drafting”the best color,” that everyone wants to go into it. Both Green and Red are colors that many players naturally go towards to begin with, and their position in this format in some ways resembles the Black and Red situation of triple Onslaught last year.
The splash problem is somewhat balanced against the Green rare problem. Whenever a color has more bomb rares than another, people will”stick” to that color even when signalled to get out of it, as the bomb rare will often keep them in it. So while Red might lose a couple of its high picks from time to time, Green will generate players who stay in or switch into Green illogically from time to time just as well. Though perhaps not quite so often.
Anyway, after all is said and done, it’s pretty clear Red is still the better color. You have a run of better commons and absurdly superior uncommons, both of which generally give you a somewhat stronger deck. As I said, Green beats on Red in the rares, but rares aren’t what make Limited decks go around. It’s the commons.
So, in my book, Red is still tops. What’s your opinion?
Oh and by the way, I would have felt White was the best color in the set if not for the fact that a White deck needs Equipment, and can run into using substandard cards just to get its Leonin Den-Guards and Skyhunter Cubs going. That problematic situation, especially given the whole Skyhunter Patrol + Bonesplitter combo in the print runs, keeps White decks down. Red is better simply because you don’t really need anything else to have good cards, and even if you get forced out of the color, as I said before, many of its cards are splashable – so you’re alright later on anyway.
Taeme on IRC, where KKrouner will probably yell at me for arguing.
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