Limited Lessons – Black/Red in Shadowmoor Draft

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Tuesday, May 6th – Last week, Nick Eisel brought us his thoughts on the strongest color pairing in triple-Shadowmoor Limited – Blue/White Aggro. This week, it’s the turn of the flip-side of that particularly powerful coin – Black/Red. Is drafting the under-drafted a viable Shadowmoor strategy?

This week I’m throwing a bit of a curveball.

“Does that mean you’re going to write about home gardening, politics, swim-suit models, and interior design?”

Unfortunately no, nothing quite that exciting.

Last week I wrote a strategy guide for what I believe to be the best color combination, Blue/White, so this week I want to flip it and talk about the color combo that is likely viewed as the weakest by a lot of players. That color combo is, of course, Black/Red, and it is positioned oddly in Shadowmoor. From my experience so far, one of two things will happen with Black/Red in triple Shadowmoor.

1) The other decks snipe the good BR commons (Burn Trail, Gloomlance, Puncture Bolt, etc) and nobody ends up drafting the color combo.
2) BR relies on more cards from other guilds than from its own if it wants to succeed.

Because this happens so often, it makes it difficult to actually write about Black/Red as a color combination. What I am going to do is highlight the cards you should be looking for if you happen to find yourself in the second situation and actually plan on playing Swamps and Mountains in your deck. I do want to caution that you shouldn’t read this article and then head out and “try out the new strategy” like so many people emailed me about last week. BR is not UW in this format, and while it’s a perfectly good idea to force UW when possible, BR is an archetype that you should only get into when the packs are breaking that way, or when you open a bomb like Demigod of Revenge that would be best suited in that color combination.

I’m going to do this a little differently this week and try to group the cards better by type. Like I said, a lot of the best cards in BR are actually from other color pairings (specifically GR), so those will be mixed in here as well.

The overall theme behind BR is somewhat similar to UW in that you want to be aggressive whenever possible. The difference, of course, is that you have access to more removal in these colors, and also a lot of the “plan” will revolve around fat creatures with Haste.


This card makes me miss Weed Strangle.

The funny thing is that I was never a huge Weed Strangle guy to begin with. I’d see it in the pack, and look for other options if there were any. This isn’t Lorwyn though, and this time around the removal is pretty shallow and also not so great, so this card is actually an all-star.

Burn Trail
This is yet another reason that card values can go way up just based on the format they’re in. This card is seriously nothing to get excited about in the grand scheme of Limited Magic. Yes, it can go two for one, but you have to have two guys out and then you don’t get to attack that turn. It’s certainly no Jagged Lightning, though it does function well as a Lava Axe when the game gets stalemated. In the average Limited format this would be fine but unexciting, but due to the low removal count in ‘Moor this card ends up being a windmill first-pick. It’s kind of sad considering we just had Lash Out and Tarfire, both of which are leagues more efficient than this.

Hopefully I don’t come off as being whiny here, because a burn spell is still a burn spell as far as Limited is concerned, but we’ve certainly come a long way from the days of Firebolt and Arc Lightning… and it’s depressing.

Puncture Bolt
A friend and I were laughing about this when we first saw it on the spoiler because it just seemed like a pathetic excuse for a Shock. Little did we know how awesome Persist was in Limited (this was early in the spoiler so we didn’t know much yet) and also how lackluster the removal base was in this set. Puncture Bolt is an A++ in Shadowmoor, and it’s sad that you have to take Burn Trail over it.

I’ve played with this card a couple of times now and I have to say that using it actually is torture. This is cumbersome, slow, and inefficient, yet it still finds a place in this archetype due to the lack of better options.

I’m a fan, but not a huge one.

This can act as removal or as a combat trick and it’s solid as both. I wouldn’t go picking this highly, but I usually want one in my deck.

Power of Fire
This is probably my favorite card in the set overall, though this is the archetype where I least want it. I’d rather be attacking with my guys than pinging, though obviously I’m going to take it highly and hope to get some Pili-Palas to assemble the gun. There just aren’t many creatures in these colors that have the Q ability, and when you combine that with the fact that you want to just kill stuff and be aggressive, Power isn’t at its best in BR.


Sootstoke Kindler
As far as BR is concerned, this is the man of the hour.

You want a reason to end up in Swamps and Mountains? Here he is. And yes, you want multiples.

This card enables some truly sick starts for a BR deck, and is extremely good at what he does. Turn 3 haste Ashenmoor Gouger? What about turn 5 haste Scuzzback Marauders? There are some neat tricks you can pull as well, such as a hasty Cinderhaze Wretch.

If you find yourself in BR, getting at least two of these is your best bet if you want to win. Thankfully this isn’t hard since they are only okay in GR and nobody else really wants them.

Tattermunge Duo
Wait, this guy isn’t a BR card! It’s true, he’s actually GR instead but the fact of the matter is that he’s way better than the BR Duo and the pump ability is triggered by Red spells anyway. Yeah, he can’t gain Forestwalk very often, but big deal.

Scuzzback Marauders
This guy is the nuts in BR.

He hits hard with Trample and then comes back to hit hard again. Give him Haste and see how long the game lasts. I don’t think I could possibly have enough of this card in a BR deck with some Sootstoke Kindlers.

Cultbrand Cinder
Scar on a 3/3 you say? Deal.

Not a super-amazing card, but almost always playable and solid.

This is a very odd card for a couple of reasons.

First off, it’s likely to be worse than the other creatures in the cycle since BR usually plans to kill as many creatures as possible and Sootwalkers will just be a vanilla Hill Giant. The second part is that BR doesn’t really have great creatures in this format, and so this guy actually fills a nice hole simply by being a Hill Giant.

There are times where there is one non-White guy in play and you can kill it and then swing for the win with evasion.

Rattleblade Scarecrow
I usually want one or two of this even though it’s the top of the curve, unless I have Din of the Fireherd or something. This guy is a Scuzzy without trample most times, though of course you don’t have to have Sootstoke Kindler out to get the haste. Again, you’ll get this late because you’re likely the only one who would ever want it.

Cinderhaze Wretch
Overall this is a very good card. The only problem is that it is a five-drop, which this archetype has plenty of already, but giving it Haste is certainly desirable and this is really the only archetype that will do that. I’m usually happy with one of these in my deck even if it isn’t the greatest attacker for its cost.

Mudbrawler Cohort
While it’s not as good as the Blue or White Cohorts, this is certainly third best and fits the plan of the archetype well.

Intimidator Initiate and Smolder Initiate
While I haven’t been able to test this enough yet, I have a feeling that the Intimidator is the better of the two here in BR. Draining life is certainly good, but in an aggressive archetype like this one the Intimidator should usually do more damage by letting a fatty get through in the mid-game. Both are certainly playable.

Boggart Arsonists
This guy has evasion against UW, which is nice, and also kills a lot of random Scarecrows like Scuttlemutt. I like this more in Sealed than in Draft but it’s still perfectly acceptable as it’s a guy that does something.

Emberstrike Duo
I usually end up playing this just because it counts as both colors and works well with other cards in the archetype. That being said, I try to be heavier Red when I’m in these colors, so this card isn’t very exciting and I’d be happy to leave it on the bench if I could. BR seriously got the shaft in this cycle.

Gravegill Axeshark
This is an excellent man for the BR deck as long as you don’t already have enough top-end with Scarecrows and Scuzzbacks.

Rustrazor Butcher
This is an okay man to turn on both BR and GR Haste Scarecrows, but he just doesn’t hit hard enough for the likes of an aggressive BR build.

There are lots of other creatures I could single out but it’s easier to just focus on the really important ones or the ones that fill a role in BR. Faerie Macabre is obviously an excellent flier and can also shut off a Persist creature. The Bladethorn Scarecrow is also fine in this archetype if you don’t get Sootstoke Kindlers to give your guys Haste.


Splitting Headache
Again, it’s sad that I’m excited to pay four mana for Coercion, but so it goes I guess.

Traitor’s Roar
If only this were an Instant. If I had a nickel for every time I looked at a mediocre common and said that, I’d have a lot of nickels.

I haven’t seen anyone have success with this card yet, though it could be a good sideboard option for a more burn-oriented deck. If anyone has used this effectively please explain in the forums as I’m not seeing it as far as maindeck considerations are going.

Fists of the Demigod
I’ve heard some talk that people don’t really like this card since neither of the abilities is that spectacular. I still think this is pretty good since it’s a mana cheaper and the two abilities work well in conjunction. What I usually like to do is give a few guys Haste via Sootstoke and then armor him up with this in the later turns and make him into an actual attacker.

Runes of the Deus
This is also solid in BR since Scuzzback and Tattermunge are both very good, and even if you just get the Red ability, +1/+1 and Double Strike is an okay deal for five mana.

Aphotic Wisps
The Red Wisps is likely better in GR and I haven’t really found a great use for it in this archetype yet, mainly because I value Soulstoke Kindler so highly. This one is decent, though I’d rather have actual spells in BR, and since the curve tends to be high you usually want at least 17 lands. Boarding this in could be fine if you somehow can’t get through (unlikely with Scuzzback Marauders).

Elsewhere Flask
This is one of the best spots for the Flask because both Corrupt and Jaws of Stone get a huge benefit from it. Jaws of Stone for six is far better than Jaws for three, if you get my drift. You also have time to cast this in BR, while you’d rather be casting early drops in a deck like UW.

If you have questions or thoughts about a common not on this list, feel free to post them in the forums. To sum up the overall gameplan of BR, you want to kill stuff, be aggressive, and be hasty.

I’m only going to cover the best of the group here, as well as ones that I have specific thoughts on. Cards from other color pairings are likely good here as well, but a lot of that depends on the direction of your deck and your manabase. I could mention cards like Wasp Lancer and Boggart Ram-Gang for this archetype, but they won’t always fit your deck and that’s up to you to decide in the actual draft.

Spiteflame Witch
Not quite as good as the UW Witch, but this guy is certainly excellent in BR and can end games very quickly. Since you should usually be ahead on life it’s only a matter of time with this guy out.

Incremental Blight
Definitely one of the best cards in the set. This is like a toned-down Shower of Coals which is still pretty insane. It’s also much better than Incremental Growth, which was a bomb itself.

Beseech the Queen
I really like this in BR because you usually have one or two game-winning bombs, and this lets you get to them more reliably. It’s also nice to be able to search up whatever answer you need to the board.

Ashenmoor Gouger
Fits the archetype well and a great attacker for the cost. Seriously, who cares about blocking in BR, you want haste, big men, and removal.

Crowd of Cinders
Even though the archetype is usually centered around Red creatures, this guy is still pretty good in most BR decks since he’s impossible to block if he gets bigger than 3/3. This one and the Blue one have been the best for me so far.

Torrent of Souls
I had this at the prerelease and it was always a blowout when I paid both colors of mana. The best is when your opponent thinks he’s finally dealt with your Scuzzback Marauders after killing it twice and taking some trample damage, and then it comes back as a 7/2 haste from the graveyard. This is another reason to want both Swamps and Mountains in your deck.

Grief Tyrant
This is like an odd version of Spitebellows unless you have some way to get the counters off or move them around. A solid man, but I’m not totally excited about it.

Kulrath Knight
This card is unreal. The only problem here is that other archetypes will be stealing this from you since it’s not difficult to cast in UB or GR, and you practically have to open it or have a UW or GW guy feeding you to get it second.

Jaws of Stone and Corrupt
Both are high picks and certainly go up in value with Elsewhere Flask somewhere in your pile. Jaws has been reminiscent of Rolling Thunder for me so far.

Murderous Redcap
What can I say except that this is much better than Ghitu Slinger, and it suffers from the same problem of Kulrath Knight in that other archetypes will be snatching it off of you.

Here’s the best straight BR list I’ve had so far.

Intimidator Initiate
3 Sootstoke Kindler
Spiteflame Witch
Puncture Bolt
Fists of the Demigod
Tattermunge Duo
Beseech the Queen
Boggart Arsonists
Ashenmoor Gouger
Burn Trail
Slinking Giant
Mudbrawler Raiders
Puppeteer Clique
2 Scuzzback Marauder
Torrent of Souls
Incremental Blight
Midnight Banshee
9 Swamp
8 Mountain

This deck looked so sick on paper but I ended up losing in the finals of the draft to a much less powerful UW deck simply because I couldn’t keep up with his tempo and also his large amount of evasion men.

Intimidator Initiate
Tattermunge Maniac
Sootstoke Kindler
Rustrazor Butcher
2 Mudbrawler Cohort
Puncture Bolt
Pyre Charger
Boggart Arsonists
Boggart Ram-Gang
Tatermunge Duo
Ashenmoor Gouger
Knollspine Invocation
Murderous Redcap
Blistering Dieflyn
2 Sootwalkers
Horde of Boggarts
2 Burn Trail
Scuzzback Marauders
Cultbrand Cinder
2 Jaws of Stone
16 Mountain

This deck is a perfect example of why you won’t end up in both your colors as often as you will in the other pairings. I was headed in a BR direction for most of the first pack until I opened Jaws of Stone and got passed one in pack 2. Clearly at that point I decided it was in my best interest to be mono-Red if possible, and so I ended up cutting a couple of Black cards I’d already taken. Like I said earlier, don’t force the BR issue, simply take it if it comes to you and otherwise just follow the best path you can in the draft.

Any suggestions on which color pairing I should cover next should be posted in the forums, as I’ve covered the best and the worst now, and everything else is in between and fair game.

Nick Eisel
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