The Compleat R/W Drafter’s Guide

W/R is near and dear to my heart, constant reader, because there are some things you just don’t forget. Your first kiss, your first sexual experience, the time you decided to cram some excitement back into your life by diving out of a moving plane – these are all memories that linger at the forefront of your mind. And one of my most cherished Magic memories is the time I qualified for the Pro Tour by playing R/W in the Top 8.

With the strong positive response to my first Limited strategy article, a guide to drafting U/R, I’ve decided to try my hand at penning at least a couple of additional articles with the same thing in mind – taking a color combination from Onslaught Block Limited, and discussing everything there is to know about it. This time, we’re going to do White/Red, one of my favorite mixed marriages for Onslaught/Onslaught/Legions draft. Grab yourself a beverage, stick close to me, and we’ll see this pile of paragraphs through ’til the end. I think we’ll both come out the better for it.

And, if nothing else, you’ll no longer be thirsty.

W/R is near and dear to my heart, constant reader, because there are some things you just don’t forget. Your first kiss, your first sexual experience, the time you decided to cram some excitement back into your life by diving out of a moving plane – these are all memories that linger at the forefront of your mind, long after most day-to-day trivialities have packed their bags and departed. One of my most cherished Magic memories is the time I qualified for my first Pro Tour at a PTQ in Garden City, Michigan. I did so by playing R/W in the Top 8.

The W/R of yesterday is a lot different from the W/R of today, of course. I’ve learned a lot about it since I qualified, and I’ve also stopped forcing it. Back in the days following my PTQ win, I was so enamoured with R/W that I was taking Crown Of Fury over much better cards just to force the archetype. (The worst example? Smother, an infamous example that was unfortunately witnessed by Elijah Pollock, who proceeded to spread the legend of that terrible pick far and wide.) I was also letting Gustcloak Runner make my decks, which you should never do, and playing sixteen land and passing Pinpoint Avalanche because it was”too slow,” which you should also never do.

Yes, I know – my way of drafting R/W sounds like a train wreck. Just bear with me – that’s the way I used to draft it, back when I was a mediocre Limited player (and keep your smart remarks to yourself!). Since then, I have over two hundred drafts under my belt, both”real life” and digital, and I have improved exponentially. Saddle up – we’re going to go over some guidelines for drafting W/R the new and correct way. The first step to knowing how to draft a color combination is knowing how the deck wins.

How do W/R decks win? Well, there are many paths to victory, but W/R specializes most in creating unfair combat situations. Provoke, first strike, damage prevention, direct damage and tricks, morphs that bend you over a rail if you block… W/R has it all. Many games end with four creatures on each side entering combat, and three creatures from the W/R deck emerging after all is said and done.

Your goal, as a W/R drafter, is to create a deck that can force the enemy into those unfair combat situations as often as possible – and the quicker the better. A R/G deck might play out a 4/4 and a 5/5 to dominate the game, but a W/R deck can play nothing but 2/2s for five turns and still laugh all the way to the bank. Your creatures are like surgical tools – scalpels that cut the enemy to pieces. You’re at your best in a stalemate, though most of those will end with your white fliers taking it down.

With that information in hand, let’s go sit down at a draft table.

Drafting W/R – Setting Up The Right Seat!

Before you go out and draft W/R religiously (and I draft it often – it is my second-favorite combination after U/R), you should know what signals to look for. We know from our experiences discussing U/R that early signals are key to deciding whether or not you should camp out in your favorite colors or weigh anchor and set sail for Greener and Blacker pastures. W/R is much the same, and much of the same advice applies, but there are some quirks to the combination that can, at times, make it an interesting trip through pack one!

Here are some guidelines:

1. Your Early Picks Will Likely Be Spent On Red Cards – But Keep Your Eyes Open!

The red commons are better than the white commons – and as such, you will probably start piling up red cards when the time comes to embark on the mystical journey through pack one. Ideally, the signals will then come loud and clear, and they will tell you to go into white. It could be a fourth-pick Gustcloak Harrier in a pack with nothing else good, or a third-pick Whipcorder in a pack that also has a Nantuko Husk. The signal could be any number of things – just watch carefully and once you get it, pounce on it.

The reason that most R/x drafts start this way is simple – Red has the best cards in the first two packs, when your colors are being decided. You essentially start out red, and then decide which color to add. Let me give you some example packs that illustrate this process:

Pack 1: Cruel Revival, Shock***, Pacifism, Thoughtbound Primoc

Shock and Cruel Revival are on a roughly equal power level – but since I’m aiming to draft W/R if at all possible, I take the Shock. I make this pick all the time, and I usually don’t regret it, since decks that play Shock tend to fit my style more than decks that play Revival. Passing these cards, I can expect my neighbor to go take the Revival most of the time. This is all I need be concerned with – my one-seat cushion for White and for Red in pack 2 is going to be there for me.

Pack 2: Solar Blast***, Mistform Wall, Nantuko Husk, Vitality Charm, Glory Seeker (rare missing)

This is an easy one: The right pick here is Solar Blast. I’ve already passed Cruel Revival, so there is no way I’m taking a Husk. Probably the best reason to take the Solar Blast is that it is the best card in the pack. We want to draft W/R, yes – if at all possible. And sure, we have already passed a Pacifism, and Glory Seeker is a nice card to have… But the power level is not even close. So we have Solar Blast and Shock in our pile, we’ve passed two very good Black cards, and two fairly good White cards…

Pack 3: Riptide Biologist, Severed Legion, Whipcorder***, Elvish Warrior (two commons missing, rare is Dream Chisel)

BINGO. I take Whipcorder and off to the races we go. The guy on my right might be red (he passed Solar Blast, true – but there was a rare was missing from that pack), but it doesn’t really matter, even with that player yanking the best red cards in packs 1 and 3. Why? Well, first of all there is almost no chance he is white. So while he’s taking the red, I’ll take the white he passes. Also, I’ve cut red extremely hard, passed great black, and I’m in good shape to get excellent red cards in pack 2.

2. You’ll Most Often Be Heavy On White, Light On Red.

With the red cards being as good as they are in Onslaught, and white poor by comparison, you see more red drafters than white drafters at any given table. What does this mean for you? It means that there will be less red and more white to go around. The packs themselves seem to manufacture red drafters – and though one or two might abandon a strong red first pick, read the signals and switch, many of them stick to their guns even if they’re getting cut off by three guys on their immediate right.

In the packs described above, if we were to continue that hypothetical draft, I’d most likely get three to four additional solid white playables, and maybe one playable red card, if that, in the rest of pack 1 – something like Daru Lancer, Glory Seeker, Daunting Defender, Gravel Slinger, and if I’m lucky maybe a Piety Charm and a Crown of Fury. Salt that with a Secluded Steppe and you’ve got yourself a very nice pack 1 that you can plan to build on while you collect the Break Open and Spy Network duo that will stay in your sideboard.

The point of this entry was just to let you know that when I talk about W/R, I’m really talking about a bunch of efficient white creatures and combat tricks, along with all the red removal, bombs and gift picks I could get my hands on.

3. You Can Play W/R With Clerics Too!

Almost all good W/R decks are built around Soldiers, but it is quite possible to build a good W/R deck with many Clerics. If you find yourself getting shipped Daunting Defenders and so on, don’t go Black just because you saw a Profane Prayers go by and you think it will come back. Your removal will serve you well as Aven Redeemers and Daunting Defenders smash the face. Just a friendly reminder – just because they’re all holy and sanctified and such doesn’t mean they can’t get down and boogie in the red zone.

Drafting W/R – Changing Card Values With Legions!

Some classic Onslaught W/R cards have changed in value now that Legions has arrived. Let me give you a rundown of the new and improved!

Crown Of Fury

The Crown is so much better in W/R now that it’s not even funny. Why? Well, can’t you guess? Deftblade Elite! The Elite is a machine when enchanted with a Crown, first striking a two-toughness guy to death every turn and then living to tell the tale against larger guys by preventing all damage dealt after the first strike damage has resolved. Turn 1 Elite, turn 2 Crown is unbelievably strong – and if you are W/R, you should grab as many Crowns as you can, and then grab as many Elites as you can. Like the guy with two Sparksmiths, you’ll find yourself getting unfair starts that just roll people – How good does second-turn Stonewood Invoker, third-turn Timberwatch Elf look when you’re staring down a 2/1 first-strike provoking guy on turn 2? Not very good at all!

People are running around with all sorts of near-monogreen decks now, packing something pathetic like one Swat and one Crown of Suspicion for removal… And my W/R deck is here to tell those guys that they damn well had better draw their Crown, or she’s all over but the shouting.

Sheesh. Give a guy a Timberwatch Elf and he thinks he owns the place. Now, give a Deftblade Elite the Crown treatment on turn 2… And he really does own the place.


Because of the way this card interacts with provoke, it is now a maindeck card and a higher pick than it was. Previously, it was seen maindeck maybe 50% of the time in W/R, usually in a very beatdown-oriented build. Now, Threaten will invariably find a place in your W/R deck – when I’m holding one, seeing third-turn morph, fourth-turn Krosan Vorine is my favorite play in the world.

Custody Battle

Don’t laugh! Custody Battle is terrific in aggressive W/R decks – and with the addition of provoke and late game all-stars like the Invokers, it now qualifies as a sleeper powerhouse that you’ll get very late. In a way, Custody Battle is a combination Pacifism/Control Magic for only two mana, and it’s even better than it should be because so many players make poor decisions when it hits the table. Prior to Legions, the Battle lost a lot of utility in the late game, but with the addition of the Invokers (especially Smokepew) it now has applications after turn 7 as well.

Fast W/R decks love the way Custody Battle works. In the early game, you can force through damage while the enchanted creature switches sides like a restless sleeper. Once the big beaters arrive on the enemy side and they want to race, just sacrifice a land and throw your new friend in front of Barkhide Mauler and friends!

Nosy Goblin

As I mentioned last week, the Nosy One has improved a little in Legions with the introduction of morph trigger murderers like Skinthinner, Chromeshell Crab and Skirk Marauder. Believe it or not, a third-turn Nosy Goblin when you’re at the helm of a slow draw can be fairly strong – just trade one-for-one with the morph, whether they like it or not! He’s still a 23rd card, to be sure, but when you run into that guy who always, always has his Aphetto Exterminator ready to roll on turn 4, you might want to give this little guy a test run.

Battlefield Medic

Damage prevention is a more powerful ability now than it was in triple Onslaught for many reasons, but in R/W, the best reason to run Battlefield Medic in your otherwise-aggressive deck is Crested Craghorn, a powerful provoker with a glass jaw. A capable Medic with three fellow Clerics can see that the Craghorn, normally a one-hit wonder, survives to see additional uses. R/W decks that are saddled with multiple Battlefield Medics, Daunting Defenders, Daru Healers, Daru Sanctifiers and so on instead of the Gustcloak Harriers they really wanted will want to try this out!

A large amount of damage prevention is needed to keep a Craghorn alive to strike again, and that is just what a Battlefield Medic provides – the drawback is that it can’t prevent damage to you. That’s no problem when every opposing creature has been assassinated by a Craghorn.

Piety Charm

You have one less pack to get these, and now they can function as a sort of pseudo-removal with the help of Deftblade Elite. It wasn’t fun to fear blocking on turn 3 because you just knew a Piety Charm would come out and get you… And it’s even less fun now that you get no choice. Time to block. Time to die. You’ll get them fairly late – grab ’em when you can.

Gravel Slinger

Remember the days when 3/1 guys didn’t have to block with Slinger on the table? So much for that. Deftblade Elite is almost Orwellian. You will block Battering Craghorn. And you will like it.

Grassland Crusader

I never used to play this 2/4 trickster, and now I almost always include him. Great in the late game with (you guessed it) Deftblade Elite, I’ve also found that turn 5 Lowland Tracker, turn 6 Grassland Crusader turns two fairly mediocre cards into a killing machine. I mean, you don’t want to load your deck up with Lowland Trackers or anything, but the combination is quite strong. Anyhow, the interaction with provoke (and the fact that this guy is always in hand when Daru Stinger needs that turn 4 boost) mean that this guy is better than he was.

Catapult Squad

Obscene before Legions, Deftblade Elite elevates this monster uncommon from”awesome” to previously unreachable heights of brutality. True story – I was playing a game down in hell the other day, and I had this out with Deftblade Elite. Genghis Khan is watching the game, leans over and says to me “Dude, that’s harsh, even for me.”

Demystify, Nova Cleric

Don’t take them over anything better anymore – there are Daru Sanctifiers in pack 3, and they are a hundred times better than either of these two. Used to be I would see Lay Waste and Demystify and wonder if I should pick up the sideboard card. Not anymore – take the Lay Waste in case you’re low on playables – the Sanctifier will be there for you. Also, there’s one less pack of enchantments for you to kill.

Improvised Armor

Any guesses as to why this already amazing card is even better now that Legions is out? Yes, it’s Deftblade Elite again. You’re a good guesser. I wish I was like you. Will you be my friend? We can draft W/R together and tell stories that begin with”Dude, I had Lowland Tracker out and he just scooped!”


Already fairly strong, this card will be a good fit for your W/R deck if you manage to snag a Starlight Invoker. Time was, you needed to start drafting Renewed Faiths if you had Aurification in your pile. No longer – Starlight Invoker, which is usually pretty bad in W/R, will serve you very well on those lonely nights at sea. It works like this – any time you get attacked, you take the damage, and then… Never get attacked by that creature again. Later on, you sit around gaining five life a turn and humming the theme from”Cheers” while Gustcloak Harriers fly over to say”hi” to an enemy who is now surrounded by more gold than Midas. It’s easy to race when your opponent has more walls than Wallerson.

Wallerson, by the way, had many walls. So, like, having more walls than him – that is some trick.

Pearlspear Courier

A great card in conjunction with…. yes… Deftblade Elite. Also Lowland Tracker and Swooping Talon. Any Soldier with provoke makes this guy public enemy number one – wanted on charges of aiding and abetting his fellow soldiers. An occasional jailbird because there are times when he’s criminally good.

Drafting W/R – Changing Card Values In W/R!

No card has an absolute value in a Limited environment; the Lavamancer’s Skill that the U/R drafter jumps on is just a bad 23rd card in a W/R deck, and the Daru Stinger that is the bread and butter of a W/U drafter might not make the cut when your Soldier-laden creature pile is also 40% Goblins. There are many cards that change in value when your colors are W/R:

Skirk Commando

It’s no secret – Skirk Commando is better in W/R than in any other color combination. Daru Lancer? Gravel Slinger? Liege of the Axe? Battering Craghorn? Daru Sanctifier? All five of these commons punish you for blocking an early morph with one of your own, and four of those five commons are white. This means that your Commando is probably going to get through if you have untapped Plains and Mountains when you swing – and that, in turn, means that your Commando is going to assassinate something. The game typically goes downhill from there for your opponent.

Crown Of Fury

No color combination likes the Crown more than W/R, and it is the best combination when it comes to making use of multiple Crowns. Hunter Sliver, Deftblade Elite, Crested Craghorn, and Goblin Grappler are all solid Crown targets, though you wouldn’t play Hunter Sliver or Goblin Grappler without the Crowns in your deck. More than any other card, Deftblade Elite makes W/R the true home of the Crown. The combination is as strong as any in the environment.

Frenetic Raptor

You’ll find that your W/R decks are sometimes

a) Short on big beaters

b) Unable to break through Needleshot/Spitting Gourna defenses

This guy is a terrific answer to those deficiencies, and the drawback will almost never hurt the W/R deck. Pick it much higher than you would in R/G, and laugh when you rip it off the top, plunk it down, and serve for six in the air right through that damn Gourna’s cheese-eating grin.

Commando Raid

People block less against W/R than against any other deck. Commando Raid is slightly more playable because of this, and should generally make your W/R deck. The Raid has been good to me over the course of the last few weeks – one minute that Timberwatch Elf is alive, the next minute… BAM, ZIP! Operation Delta Force!

Drafting W/R: Cards That Change The Way You Draft!

This section will be short and sweet. You can’t draft in a vacuum, no pick order is absolute – the choices you make have to be based on what you have already chosen for your deck. By this, I mean that you have to adjust as the draft goes on, and earlier picks will influence your later ones. Here are some of the cards in W/R that have synergy with other cards, and thus affect your pick orders:

Lightning Rift

The grandpappy of all pick order disruptors, you’ll find yourself wanting to take cycling cards as often as possible once the Rift hits your pile. In W/R, this means that Gempalm Avenger moves way up once you hit the Legions pack, and a chain reaction begins once you have that foreknowledge. Since you know you’ll likely be playing multiple Avengers, you’ll want to pick Soldiers over Clerics (and other creatures, like red beasts) whenever possible, and Deftblade Elite (which is great with the Avenger) a little higher. Because you know that you’ll be picking Soldiers over Clerics whenever possible, you’ll want to draft cards like Piety Charm a little higher when you can. It all fits together in the end, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – it’s really quite simple.

Rift = good. Draft cycling cards. Draft many of them.

Aven Brigadier

An early Brigadier (and really, there is no other kind) will take you along a pretty straightforward path, one that dictates you pick Birds and Soldiers whenever possible – and, preferably, both at once. Gustcloak Harriers and Gustcloak Skirmishers get picked over comparable cards, and you may want to take a second look at that Airdrop Condor. Aven Redeemer is going to be nuts for you – grab as many as you can get. I’ve heard it said that”this guy is a deck,” and I couldn’t have put it better myself. 4/4 Gustcloak Harriers aren’t easy to stop, to say nothing of Swooping Talon and Aven Redeemer.

Crown Of Fury

Having one or more copies of Crown of Fury will influence how you draft your Legions pack. With a Crown, you want to make sure you get a Deftblade Elite and Crested Craghorn, possibly at the expense of something like Aven Redeemer. With two Crowns, I’ve said it before – go nuts on the provoke guys. Deftblade Elites are top priority, but even Goblin Grappler and Hunter Sliver will do in a pinch.

Erratic Explosion

The same warning that went for U/R goes doubly here, because W/R decks can easily get into trouble. You want to play Goblin Sledder, Deftblade Elite, Goblin Taskmaster, Piety Charm, and Shock… But you really have to watch out! W/R more than any other color is tempo-based, and a misfired Erratic Explosion on turn 3 or 4 will take you right out of the game faster than you can say Hundroog. (Hundroog! – The Ferrett) If you’ve got too many one-drops, take a comparable card over the Explosion. If you already have the Explosion, try your best to pass those Piety Charms and Goblin Taskmasters and find alternatives. You don’t want to give up your Shocks and Deftblade Elites, obviously.

Drafting W/R: Important Cards From Onslaught!

The important cards for W/R in Onslaught remain much the same. Since we’ll be looking at Legions in just a moment, I want to give you a quick refresher.

Top 5 Red Commons:

1. Sparksmith

2. Shock

3. Solar Blast

4. Pinpoint Avalanche

5. Erratic Explosion

Skirk Commando, excellent in W/R, is very close in relative power to Erratic Explosion – and depending on my mood on a given day, I may take either one. All things considered, the Explosion probably gets the nod because it is removal, whereas the Commando is sometimes nothing but another dead morph. You’ll notice, actually, that the top five cards are all removal spells, and this is no accident; the red portion of your deck will be where you house your firepower – the white portion will serve to beat down once the combat conditions are right.

Shock is at its best in W/R, a deck that is always looking for inexpensive ways to gain battlefield advantage. Games that start Glory Seeker on turn 2, morph on turn 3, Shock your morph, lay another morph on turn 4 – those are the bread and butter of a W/R deck. I can confirm that nothing takes the wind out of your sails faster than a pile of Soldiers pressing the attack, backed up by the cheapest, most efficient removal in the format.

Top 5 White Commons

1. Pacifism

2. Gustcloak Harrier

3. Daru Lancer

4. Glory Seeker

5. Gravel Slinger

This area is close, because there are a number of strong Clerics that might be a good fit for your deck as well – most notably Daunting Defender. Some people have said that Gustcloak Harrier is tough on the mana… But that is only true in B/W decks that are trying to play Swat and so on. In a W/R deck that is heavy on the W – the kind that we expect to have – the Harrier is a perfect fit. You’ll come to appreciate many other white commons as well – Piety Charm as a mini-growth that kills those pesky Lavamancer’s Skills, Grassland Crusader for that late game pop, Crown Of Awe to knock off the Skill and protect your key creatures from the removal in a B/G deck. Just remember that these are the main five, though, and you’ll do fine.

You can pencil in Dive Bomber at #6 – it’s a fine card and should always make your deck.

And before I forget, just to brush you up on your Gravel Slinger theory – a Gravel Slinger can kill a 2/3 creature and live to tell the tale if it is morphed. Block, stack damage, unmorph, shoot. Simple as that. This is kid stuff for most of you, sure, but intermediate players have to learn this stuff somewhere. White has redundant three- and four-toughness morphs for you to stack damage and have fun with.

Top 5 Red Uncommons

1. Slice and Dice

2. Lightning Rift

3. Chain Of Plasma

4. Thoughtbound Primoc

5. Searing Flesh

Just keep these in mind. The first two listed here, first-pick, first pack, are more powerful than any red or white common and they are great anchors for you to build your deck around. Chain Of Plasma is good removal – I am sick of seeing people with this card in their sideboards because it has the potential to damage them. Come on guys, I know you’re better than that! The Primoc is an amazing turn 3 play of course, and last but not least – we have Searing Flesh.

I have won more games than I can count with Searing Flesh, and I was drafting W/R for a good number of those games. You play some guys, make it really inconvenient to block, sneak thirteen points of damage through and BAM! Pack your bags, fellas – the war’s over. Try Searing Flesh out in your W/R deck – you’ll be pleased with the results.

Top 5 White Uncommons

1. Improvised Armor

2. Whipcorder

3. Catapult Squad

4. Inspirit

5. Aven Soulgazer

You’ll sometimes see these cards floating around in packs long after they should be, and you can take that as a signal to go into white. Obviously no one else is, so that means it is your job – and it pays well. Onslaught/Onslaught/Legions draft is replete with amazing uncommon white creatures for two mana, and two great examples can be seen here. Catapult Squad and Whipcorder both personify the R/W credo of”combat control” – and indeed, with cards like those on the table you will find yourself master of the combat phase more often than not.

Despite the potential for card disadvantage, Improvised Armor is nuts and deserves the number one spot on this list. I have seen turn 3 Gustcloak Harrier, turn 4 Improvised Armor take many games, and that sort of power and speed isn’t to be taken lightly. Echo Tracer worsens the card somewhat, but not enough to make it anything less than an utter beating.

People pass Inspirit late all the time for whatever reason, and they are wrong to do so. Don’t be one of those people. The Aven Soulgazer coasts in at #5, but there are many other solid white uncommons, such as Gustcloak Sentinel, late-game lothario Crowd Favorites, and the”trickier that Tony Hawk” Sunfire Balm, that will easily make your deck.

Anchor Rares

Now we get to the anchor cards – rares that you can build a W/R deck around. The tier 1 cards are absolute bombs that always make your deck and will often win you the game by themselves. The tier 2 cards are rares that are still very good, but not on par with the power level of the true bombs.

Tier 1, WhiteJareth, Leonine Titan, Akroma’s Vengeance, Exalted Angel

Tier 2, WhiteAven Brigadier, Glarecaster

There are many other rares of course, such as Convalescent Care, Aurification, True Believer, and so on… They’ll make your deck, but none of them are what you would consider an”anchor” card. All of the cards listed above would be an easily defensible choice over the premier red common, Sparksmith – any white rare not listed should not be taken over the ‘Smith… And to be fair, I’ve taken Sparksmith over Glarecaster before and gone on to play R/W. There are no common or uncommon cards in the set that I would take over the Tier 1 rares listed.

Tier 1, RedRorix Bladewing, Starstorm, Goblin Sharpshooter

Tier 2, RedButcher Orgg, Dragon Roost, Blistering Firecat, Words Of War, Tephraderm, Insurrection, Menacing Ogre, Gratuitous Violence

Man, red has a lot of bombs! This is the same list from the U/R article, and little has changed because it still reads like a who’s who of bomb high culture. The Sparksmith test: I’d take all the Tier 1s over him, and Butcher Orgg from Tier 2. Maybe. I’ve never been presented with that choice. Anyhow, all of these cards are great places for your W/R deck to start – but beware Gratuitous Violence! That casting cost is rough, and Gustcloak Harriers don’t just cast themselves, you know! (But wouldn’t that be nice?)

Before we go on, there’s one land card that makes my W/R maindeck when I draft it… And that land is Daru Encampment. You’ll find this helpful land very useful with cards like Swooping Talon and Lowland Tracker, so don’t pass it along – it is strong enough to be played and helps you create those unfair combat situations. Daru Lancer loves this card – the difference between a 3/4 first striker and a 4/5 first striker is considerable.

Drafting W/R – Important Cards From Legions!

Now we look at the important Legions cards. In W/R, you don’t really have any”super bombs” to hope for when you crack your pack, so you hope for something solid.

The White Commons

Aven Redeemer


Deftblade Elite

Wingbeat Warrior


Gempalm Avenger

—23rd CARDS—

Lowland Tracker

Daru Sanctifier

Starlight Invoker

—WILD CARDS!!! (can move way up)—

Daru Stinger

Whipgrass Entangler


Wall Of Hope


Plated Sliver

There are some interesting things going on here. First, let me explain the position of Daru Stinger and Whipgrass Entangler: Both cards are fiercely tribe-dependent and fluctuate wildly in value depending on how many of each creature type you have. In R/W, the Stinger is usually going to be better, though Whipgrass Entangler could find use as a Falter effect. I find, actually, that the Entangler is a card most often used by B/W decks to screw over R/W decks that are heavy on provoke. You tap 1W, target your own creature, and decline to pay.

Since I can’t really accurately place either card, let me just give you some guidelines for the Stinger, which is the one you will most often play in R/W. It’s simple advice – you always want your Stinger to be 3/3 – a 2/2 Stinger is pretty awful, like a bad Gravel Slinger, and Gravel Slinger doesn’t exactly tear it up to begin with. I recommend you play it only with ten other soldiers, or more. Ideally, you want to have something like fifteen, and then it starts to become extremely powerful. If you only have, say, nine other soldiers, try to leave it in the board – it won’t be good, and nothing is a worse draw off the top when you’re on an empty hand and looking for gas.

Though I’ve been singing the praises of Deftblade Elite throughout this article, Aven Redeemer is the better card – a fact that I know to be true because I shrug my shoulders when I draft triple-Elite (and one usually stays in the board), and yet when I get 3x Redeemer for my deck, I dance a jig. You need a good reason to draft the Elite over the Redeemer, such as double Crown of Fury, or double Catapult Squad, or something of that nature.

I personally hate Wall of Hope and never play it, but some seem to like it. My recommendation is that you find something better – with R/W, you’re not there to stall, you’re there to kill. Leave the wall in the board. And don’t play Plated Sliver; I don’t care if you have ten of them.

The Red Commons

Skirk Marauder


Crested Craghorn


Flamewave Invoker

—23rd CARDS—

Shaleskin Plower

Macetail Hystrodon

Bloodstoke Howler

Goblin Grappler

Skirk Outrider


Hunter Sliver


Goblin Lookout

Goblin Firebug

Same as last week. Crested Craghorn and Skirk Marauder are the real prizes; the rest are just window dressing. You’ll find that W/R decks generally have to play fewer bad red cards that U/R decks – they have mediocre white ones to play instead. Again, a reminder: If by some miracle you have two Crowns and you are low on playables, you can run Hunter Sliver.

The White Uncommons

Stoic Champion

White Knight


Swooping Talon


Akroma’s Devoted

Daru Mender

Liege Of The Axe


Ward Sliver

—WILD CARDS!!! (can go way up)—

Cloudreach Cavalry

Aven Warhawk

I don’t like Swooping Talon as much as some people do, but it is very hard for some decks to deal with – like a better version of Needleshot Gourna. I think White Knight and Stoic Champion get the nod because they can win games by sheer force of tempo alone. Stoic Champion is the better creature in general, but White Knight has the great side effect of giving black decks fits. Further down the list we see Akroma’s Devoted, a great card to have in conjunction with Daunting Defenders and (especially) Aven Redeemers. Turn 4 Redeemer, turn 5 Devoted is a strong play in any deck, including W/R. Daru Mender is a solid trick almost on par with Patron of the Wild (but not quite) and Liege Of The Axe fills a deck slot nicely when you need a soldier.

Cloudreach Cavalry has Daru Stinger disease. If you have the birds, this guy is a huge beating; if you don’t, he is awful. I have seen people run this guy with four birds and I just shake my head. You need many. I’d say seven, minimum. With nine or ten, you’re looking at beatdown city. Aven Warhawk is a bit different; if you have to raw dog this one as a 2/2 flyer for 4W, it isn’t the end of the world. As it stands, it’s fairly easy to ensure that he comes into play as a 3/3 most of the time.

Ward Sliver is bad – don’t play it unless you also have Essence Sliver and Blade Sliver or something.

The Red Uncommons

Gempalm Incinerator


Frenetic Raptor

Goblin Dynamo

Goblin Clearcutter

Blade Sliver


Ridgetop Raptor

Skirk Drill Sergeant


Goblin Assassin

Gempalm Incinerator isn’t as good here as in U/R, but it is still a great card. This list is stolen from my last article, and little has changed – though Goblin Dynamo is less exciting without Riptide Shapeshifter to bring it out. Nonetheless, it still makes a fine high-curve baddy. Skirk Drill Sergeant is needed less in W/R and drops in value accordingly, though as a 23rd card you could do much worse (Firebug anyone?).

Before I forget, Ridgetop Raptor is, like all one-toughness creatures, better in R/W – Battlefield Medic can turn him into quite the persistent little problem.

Anchor Rares

The rares from Legions aren’t as strong as those from Onslaught, but there are still some nice anchors, cards that say “Aren’t you glad you’re in these colors?”

Tier 1, WhiteAkroma, Angel of Wrath, Windborn Muse

Tier 2, White – Sunstrike Legionnaire, Essence Sliver, Defender Of The Order, Celestial Gatekeeper

Yes, Akroma is slow, and she isn’t as good as the Windborn Muse, but she is still very, very good. If you play eighteen land (as you should), there will be plenty of games where you semi-stalemate, drop Akroma, and just win. I wouldn’t take Skirk Marauder or anything of that nature over her, nor would I take any white card.

People play Invokers that are sub-par before you reach eight mana (and this is true of all them with the exception of Stonewood) – and Akroma is like an Invoker, if you can think of it that way. Until you hit eight mana, she’s a 0/0 creature that does nothing. Once you hit eight mana, she does six damage a turn and kills an opposing creature every time you get attacked.

That’s not too shabby – don’t listen to naysayers that defend speed as the be-all and end-all of W/R. W/R is about surgical strikes. Speed is sometimes involved – often, in fact – but if you can keep the enemy at bay with first strikers, Deftblade Elite in defense mode, and Pacifisms, beating down with a huge Angel is a better way that most to end a game.

And here’s some info on a card that people pass way more than they should – Sunstrike Legionnaire is ridiculous – just try it and see! Crazy with Skirk Commandos, this guy makes racing impossible and is just an amazing card, probably better than any white common or uncommon, and possibly better than Skirk Marauder.

As for the rest, Essence Sliver and Defender Of The Order are both great additions to a R/W deck, and though Celestial Gatekeeper is more of a B/W card, it is still very playable in the right R/W deck. The Defender in particular deserves a second look – you’ll find that the ability can turn an innocent combat into a massacre when an opponent attempts to trade, and as I’ve said throughout this article, turning seemingly innocuous combat steps into complete face-smashings is what W/R does best. The Defender has the nice side effect of foiling the occasional Bane Of The Living or Starstorm attempt, as well.

Tier 1, RedImperial Hellkite, Lavaborn Muse

Tier 2, RedKilnmouth Dragon, Clickslither, Rockshard Elemental, Goblin Goon, Magma Sliver

Goblin Goon is better in W/R than U/R, and Clickslither is worse – it’s hard to pile the mountains into your deck when you’re hoping to cast Gustcloak Harriers and morph Daru Lancers on turn 4! In other news, Lavaborn Muse and Imperial Hellkite remain ridiculous and should meander their way onto your pile as soon as you’re done dancing your little jig. Rockshard Elemental was nothing super-amazing in U/R (still very good), but he’s much better in W/R – damage prevention means that your opponent has got a big problem on his hands that gang blocking probably won’t solve.

So There You Have It!

Successful W/R drafting is within your grasp – you just need to go out and do it. Remember the basic idea, keep the essential pick orders in mind, and your deck will have no problems taking shape.

A mission statement:

Your goal is always to keep your opponent on his heels, and, more than any other color combination, to force unfair combat situations on the enemy. You want to punish them for blocking with Daru Lancers and other first strike and provoke guys. You want to punish them for not blocking with Skirk Commandos and Commando Raids. You want to drill their blockers with Gravel Slinger and similar effects, ruin their math with morph shenanigans, Inspirit and Piety Charms.

Oh, and:

If all else fails, just open an Akroma’s Vengeance and slow roll it.

That works too.

I hope you enjoyed this article; chime in on the forums if you have any thoughts. I’ll see you guys next week!

Geordie Tait

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