Not So Deep Thoughts: One Guy’s Look at Red Torment in Limited

First of all, these reactions are generally going to be aimed at Sealed play, since most of us are going to be playing Sealed at the Prerelease. I’ll occasionally muse about drafting – but on the whole, this is for Sealed. I reserve the right to blather more over the commons and uncommons, since you’re…

First of all, these reactions are generally going to be aimed at Sealed play, since most of us are going to be playing Sealed at the Prerelease. I’ll occasionally muse about drafting – but on the whole, this is for Sealed.

I reserve the right to blather more over the commons and uncommons, since you’re going to be playing them more often than the rares.

Since I’m a teacher, I’m using the good ol’ elementary school grading system. If you’re American, you know the drill:

A is for the crème de la crème. Absolutely top notch, and almost certainly worth splashing even if it’s not a main color, these cards make you want to get down on your knees and praise the gods for their benevolence. A-level cards force you to splash that color if you’re not running it in the main, and nag at your conscience if you leave them in the sideboard.

An A- grade is for cards that will always make it into your deck, provided you’re playing that color. If you’re splashing a third color for one A level card, A- cards will also be sure to go along with it. You’ll feel less guilty if you play A- cards, but you might still have a pang of remorse.

B+ cards are always going to be played in your primary colors, and will probably have a good shot in a four-spell splash.

B cards demonstrate a good effort, though something is generally lacking. Either that, or they’re remarkably good, yet lack versatility or wide application.

B- cards are strictly all right. They do the job, but you’re not going to be singing their praises. Grey Ogres in Odyssey/Torment are usually B- cards, though the actual special abilities pump the rating up.

C+ cards are fairly lackluster, but they’re passable filler. You won’t ever want to be playing them, but they might be the right alternative.

C cards are filler, but sometimes you just got to deal with it and take your lumps.

C- cards are very limited in scope. But even within the most wretched looking C- card might lurk a game-breaking draft combo, so they’re not beneath our attention… In theory, anyway.

D cards, on the other hand, are not going to be worth your time at all. And if they’re truly, truly rank, they might even be demoted to a failing F.

Torment maintains Odyssey’s theme of red as being fully immersed in chaos. While other Magic sets have represented chaos with silly coin flips, the ‘Opponent chooses’ cards really make your decisions a crapshoot. On one hand, if you play your head games right, you can really sock it to your opponent with surprise burnout after they decide to soak up a Salvo instead of ditching their Hallowed Healer. On the other hand, your opponent may decide to let the Salvo do its job, which puts you in the long-term advantage. This inconsistency is damned fun and actually got me back into the red camp. With the introduction of Madness, though, these cards improve slightly. (And get even more chaotic!) Rosewater should keep the good work up.

Anyway, enough mooning over the mechanics. Red gets a little support to its weak combat line vis-à-vis green, but is nowhere near getting put over the top like it was in Tempest Block.

90. Accelerate C, Instant, 1R, Target creature gains haste until end of turn. Draw a card.

Haste for two mana? That’s kind of expensive, sir. Sure, you draw a card, but you’re not going to be playing this in the early game, and that’s where it counts. I preferred Maro’s earlier stab at haste, Mark of Fury, particularly in a U/R flier deck. On the other hand, this actually cycles. I’d rather play Reckless Charge. C.

91. Balthor the Stout R, Creature – Dwarf Legend, 1RR, 2/2; All Barbarians get +1/+1. R: Target Barbarian gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

Didn’t I see this guy on one of the Lothar, of the Hill People sketches? Decent enough if you’ve drafted enough Barbarians. Problem is, how many playable Barbarians are there, aside from the Loonie? You won’t know until you hit Torment in draft, since all the other good Barbarians are here. B-, probably bumping up to a B in draft. In a Torment-only draft, he jumps up to B+.

92. Barbarian Outcast, C, Creature – Barbarian Beast, 1R, 2/2. When you control no swamps, sacrifice Barbarian Outcast.

Is R&D that nostalgic for Invasion block already? Seriously, though, these Ironclaw wannabes often have trouble being dropped on turn 2, and that’s the only time you’d want to play them. Strictly C.

93. Crackling Club C, Enchant Creature, R, Enchanted creature gets +1/+0. Sacrifice Crackling Club: Crackling Club deals 1 damage to target creature.

For one mana, we get a creature enchantment that gives a little benefit and can possibly kill off a Hallowed Healer or other 1/1. If you’re running a very mana tight R/G design with evasion, this might be quite playable. However, since the odds of that happening are kind of slim, I’m rather inclined to follow one of Wakefield’s principles and play cards that have a big impact on the table. B-, but just barely.

94. Crazed Firecat U, Creature – Cat, 5RR, 4/4 When Crazed Firecat comes into play, flip a coin until you lose a flip. Put a +1/+1 counter on Crazed Firecat for each flip you win.

Chance Encounters, anyone?

Back to the realm of actual serious discussion here, folks. In a color starved of common or uncommon fatties, the Firecat might offer some very late-game beef, but it will probably be a case of ‘too little, too late’. C- at most, leaning towards demoting it down to a D.

95. Devastating Dreams R, Sorcery, RR; As an additional cost to play Devastating Dreams, discard X cards at random from your hand. Each player sacrifices X lands. Devastating Dreams deals X damage to each creature.

One can’t help but notice that when you’re done blowing up the world, the other guy has a handful of cards, and you don’t. On the other hand, with a wide array of green fat on your side of the table, using a bit of discretion and reserve might pay handsome dividends. Limited in scope, you betcha. But I’m going to have to give it a B, just because blowing up the world is all right in my book.

96. Enslaved Dwarf C, Creature – Dwarf, R, 1/1; R, Sacrifice Enslaved Dwarf: Target black creature gets +1/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.

A dork that can really muck with the other guy’s blocking, if you’re loading up heavily in red/black. Not really an Invasion reject, but close. But 1/1s for 1 mana are still a decent deal, so I give it a B-.

97. Fiery Temper, C, Instant, 1RR; Fiery Temper deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Madness R

Do you think a common Urza’s Rage without the uncounterability or kicker option is still playable in Limited? Yes, I know this is really a Madness Lightning Bolt, but I think of it in comparison to other cards in Standard. If I’m making a serious commitment to Red, I’ll load up on as many of these as I can get my grubby little hands on. Madness just makes it spicier. A-.

98. Flaming Gambit U, Instant, XR; Flaming Gambit deals X damage to target player. That player may choose a creature he or she controls and have Flaming Gambit deal that damage to it instead. Flashback XRR

Really chaotic, but more than not likely to kill two of your opponent’s weak men if you play it in the late game. If they’re playing White, a Pilgrim of Justice or random pro-red guy will ruin your day, but those odds aren’t very likely. But no matter what, two-for-one is still a great deal. B+

99. Flash of Defiance C, Sorcery, 1R; Players can’t block with green and/or white creatures this turn. Flashback-1R, Pay 3 life.

Some believe the unprecedented color hate setup of Torment is illogical and robs the Brainburst spoiler of its credibility. Some don’t appreciate the new R&D’s willingness to buck tradition. When drafting, pick this up late to complement your Demoralize. C- in your maindeck, but gets much, much better in some matchups.

100. Grim Lavamancer R, Creature – Wizard, R, 1/1 R, T, Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Grim Lavamancer deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Color me a heretic, but I don’t like this guy in the early game, and I don’t see him as being that much of a bomb in the late game. He mucks your threshold up good. In very, very fast decks (possibly packing Rites of Initation?) he’ll be decent, but in Limited I just don’t drool over him like some people do. A very unsure B.

101. Hell-Bent Raider; R, Creature – Barbarian, 1RR, 2/2 ; First strike, haste; Discard a card at random from your hand: Hell-Bent Raider gains protection from white until end of turn.

Yet another chaotic guy, the Hell-Bent (For Leather) Raider is a damned fine Grey Ogre. Certainly playable in red, he can shine against white and can combo well with burn and green’s instant pump spells. Not a gamebreaker by any means, but you’ll rarely kvetch about drawing him. B+

102. Kamahl’s Sledge; C, Sorcery, 5RR; Kamahl’s Sledge deals 4 damage to target creature. Threshold – Instead Kamahl’s Sledge deals 4 damage to that creature and 4 damage to that creature’s controller.

I have trouble recommending a removal spell that costs seven mana. But on the other hand, I love spontaneously busting into Peter Gabriel lyrics in the middle of games. C+ all the way.

103. Longhorn Firebeast C, Creature – Beast, 2R, 3/2, When Longhorn Firebeast comes into play, any opponent may have it deal 5 damage to him or her. If a player does, sacrifice Longhorn Firebeast.

At times, it’s a three-mana Lava Axe. At other times, it’s a 3/2 for three mana, which probably beats a Grey Ogre. Not anything to go ga-ga over, but it’s certainly playable in a deck that has 16+ creatures. If you’re running less than twelve, you’ll want to have a creature on the board regularly, so give him a miss. B

104. Overmaster, R, Sorcery, R The next instant or sorcery spell you play this turn can’t be countered by spells or abilities. Draw a card.

Er, how many counterspells are running around in the environment right now? In Sealed, this is a one-mana cantrip and little more. (Though one-mana cantrips get you to threshold that much faster, so they’re still all right.) A bit better in draft, but either way it’s a B-.

105. Pardic Arsonist U, Creature – Barbarian, 2RR, 3/3; Threshold – When Pardic Arsonist comes into play, it deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

Ah, finally a Hill Giant. His Threshold ability is solid, but very often you’ll just want to have a 3/3 on the table on turn 4, since Red’s men generally lack the toughness to stand up to Green. B+.

106. Pardic Collaborator; U, Creature – Barbarian, 3R, 2/2; First strike; B: Pardic Collaborator gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

Hoo boy; now we’re getting to some serious, blatant beats. The sheer power of this guy in B/R is patently obvious, and even if you’re just splashing Black he can get abusive. B/R might appear to have almost too much creature kill at the expense of good, hardy troops, but the Collaborator will certainly rectify that situation. A- in B/R, B- in everything else.

107. Pardic Lancer C, Creature – Barbarian, 4R, 3/2; Discard a card at random from your hand: Pardic Lancer gets +1/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.

Compare to Dwarven Strike Force, a widely respected heavy-hitter for Red. The Pardic Lancer at first seems inferior, since he doesn’t get haste and is smaller. On the other hand, Lancer can throw away multiple cards to get its first strike stabs up to Rabid Elephant-stopping status. And Lancer is much more likely to come your way, since the Strike Force is uncommon. A solid B+.

108. Petradon R, Creature – Nightmare Beast, 6RR, 5/6; When Petradon comes into play, remove two target lands from the game. When Petradon leaves play, return the removed cards to play under their owners’ control. R: Petradon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

Ah, yes. The obligatory eight casting-cost red fattie. This guy’s land removal isn’t that big a deal, as the other guy’s probably hit at least six mana at this point. Firebreathing is a handy ability and all, but I ain’t going nuts over this guy. Rosewater needs to work on making a new expensive red fattie with impact. B as in Boring.

109. Petravark C, Creature – Nightmare Beast, 3R, 2/2; When Petravark comes into play, remove target land from the game. When Petravark leaves play, return the removed card to play under its owner’s control.

Cousin to the Avalanche Rider, Petravark lacks the haste and permanence of its Legacy predecessor. But it doesn’t have echo, it’s common, it mucks with your opponent’s tempo quite well, and it’s a warm body. I wouldn’t ever complain about playing him. B+

110. Pitchstone Wall U, Creature – Wall, 2R, 2/5, Whenever you discard a card from your hand, you may sacrifice Pitchstone Wall. If you do, return the discarded card from your graveyard to your hand.

If you’re going with a late game deck that needs to set its defenses up, Pitchstone Wall is never going to be a bad play. The Wall makes playing cards like Acceptable Losses that much more palatable, and is able to stop all but the most monstrous of fatties. Not for the aggressive, but otherwise a B+ card.

111. Possessed Barbarian R, Creature – Barbarian Horror, 2RR, 3/3, First strike, Threshold – Possessed Barbarian gets +1/+1, is black, and has”2B, T: Destroy target red creature.”

This wayward cutthroat is a first-striking Hill Giant that can get awfully funky with threshold. Killing red creatures doesn’t light up my world as much as killing white or green guys, but he’s a mighty fine card. B+ for the non-threshold version alone.

112. Pyromania, U, Enchantment , 2R. 1R, Discard a card at random from your hand: Pyromania deals 1 damage to target creature or player. 1R, Sacrifice Pyromania: Pyromania deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

DEF LEPPARD ROCKS!! Pour some sugar on me, baybee!

For such a great album, as a card Pyromania sure fails to impress me. Four mana for a half-strength Seal of Fire that makes you randomly discard to get extra ping out of it is not my idea of a good deal. Go the extra two mana with Meteor Storm and get the job done right. (Of course, you can’t do that in Odyssey Limited.)

This card is still decent enough though if your opponent is playing with a swarm of 1/1 guys in the late game. Despite my initial dismissal, I’ll mark it up to a C+.

113. Radiate R, Instant, 3RR; Choose target instant or sorcery spell that targets only a single permanent or player. For each other permanent or player that spell could target, put a copy of the spell onto the stack. Each copy targets a different one of those permanents and players.

Uh, at least you can use Mirari over and over again, and actually choose targets with it. Symmetrical but relatively uncontrollable, this truly wild card warrants a C-.

114. Skullscorch; R, Sorcery, RR; Target player discards two cards at random from his or her hand unless that player has Skullscorch deal 4 damage to him or her.

Red does its imitation of”My Dinner with Tourach,” with silly results. In the early game, this is only four damage, since the other guy will want to keep his cards. Later on, he might not have the cards to discard – and if he does actually discard, they’ll probably be just lands. And, it helps the other guy get threshold! Thank god it’s rare, cause I hope not to open this D+ card very often.

115. Sonic Seizure; C, Instant, R, As an additional cost to play Sonic Seizure, discard a card at random from your hand. Sonic Seizure deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

Straightforward burn that helps you build to threshold. What’s there not to like? Best in Blue or any madness-heavy deck, but you’ll find yourself playing this a lot. Much better than the wretchedly-slow Acceptable Losses. B+

116. Temporary Insanity U, Instant, 3R, Untap target creature with power less than the number of cards in your graveyard and gain control of it until end of turn. That creature gains haste until end of turn.

Red tries to shove its peanut butter into blue’s chocolate, and comes out with this inconsistent Ray of Command. Frankly, I love this card and think it matches Red’s new flavor perfectly. One of the most fun Torment cards, and possibly my favorite card in Red. You’ll often get a two-for-one with this gem, so I’m giving it an A-, with serious thoughts about curving it up to an A.

117. Violent Eruption U, Instant, 1RRR; Violent Eruption deals 4 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players. Madness 1RR

Considerably better than Volley of Boulders, and it’s uncommon. Triple red in the casting cost makes it tricky, but the cheap flashback makes it decent in decks that have a lot of ways to get cards into the graveyard. And if you happen to be running a heavily red deck, using it twice in a game is going to be truly vicious.

Final Grade: B-

Red gets some of the competitive beef to handle the rampant monsters of Odyssey, and has some of the tools necessary to take out the newly vicious Black. But don’t be expecting wonders out of Red in Sealed.

Comments, criticism, and further inquiries? Go for it.

Eli Kaplan

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