The Comprehensive 8th Edition Draft Review: Red

I like the simplicity of Red. For a lot of cards in this article you will notice very short write ups, simply because there is nothing complicated about the card. Normally it burns something, or it repeatedly turns sideways until either it or your opponent is dead. Not that this is a bad thing of course. The bad thing about Red is that it contains a large number of great cards, but also a large amount of rubbish. Look down the list to Anaba Shaman and see how quickly the quality drops off after that.

Welcome to part four of this article. Once again, thank you for the feedback I have received on previous parts. It is always interesting to see differing opinions on certain cards. Also thank you to the editor(s) for giving me the chance as a Featured Writer. I promise to wear the badge with pride. If you missed any of the previous parts you can read them by following the links below:

Black is located here, Blue is located here, and Green is located here.

8th Edition Red

I like the simplicity of Red. For a lot of cards in this article you will notice very short write ups, simply because there is nothing complicated about the card. Normally it burns something, or it repeatedly turns sideways until either it or your opponent is dead. Not that this is a bad thing of course. The bad thing about Red is that it contains a large number of great cards, but also a large amount of rubbish. Look down the list to Anaba Shaman and see how quickly the quality drops off after that.

  • Because of the above, Red is often used almost as a splash color to your main color, normally for burn. W/r or U/r decks will use Red removal to clear early threats away and then make a path for their flyers. When paired with Black or Green however, Red can play the part of a stronger second color, as some of its more aggressive creatures can come into their own.

  • Burn is plentiful and efficient in this format, and fills out most of Red’s top common and uncommon slots. Given that most creatures in this format are small, burn can be a godsend in dealing with threats or clearing the path to victory.

  • Lots of Red’s best non-rare cards (such as Shock Troops, Pyrotechnics, Lightning Blast, and Blaze are splashable. Therefore, don’t expect to be passed too many strong Red cards, even if your neighbors are not playing Red. In fact, you will often have to fight tooth and nail for every piece of removal you get. On the other hand, if you aren’t playing Red, feel free to splash some of the better Red cards, especially if your mana base is not very color demanding.

  • Red is very weak against flyers. As you don’t want to be wasting burn on every two-bit flyer that hits the table, you should be drafting flyers and flying defense in your other color higher than usual.

  • Red is a very aggressive color with most of its creatures being attack-minded (although there are a couple of exceptions). Red-based control decks are possible, but they will normally use the defensive creatures and evasion from your second color while Red provides removal plus a few generic creatures such as Hill Giant and Anaba Shaman.

With all this in mind, let’s move on to the pick order:

Shivan Dragon (r)

The Dragon asks two questions of your opponent. Do you have a relevant removal spell, or do you have five power in flying creatures? If the answer to both of these questions is no (as it often is in the mid to late game), that is pretty much game over. Your opponent may be able to chump block for a couple of turns, but given there are no flying regenerators (through normal means), they will eventually run out. Once it goes unblocked, the dragon will typically kill your opponent in a couple of turns. Even if your opponent does have enough flyers to kill the dragon, then all is not lost as this will result in at least a two-for-one in your favor.

Obliterate (r)

The ultimate answer. It answers almost everything, even more so than the beloved Wrath of God. The only thing it won’t answer is an enchantment but of these, few are likely to be a problem once everything else is gone. Even Worship and Grave Pact will require frantic topdecking to get active. The problem with this card of course, is its symmetry. If both players have empty hands when this is played, then it turns the game into a mising contest, but fortunately you know it is coming.

Even if you topdeck it randomly, at least you know it’s in your deck and so may be holding back. Just holding back one land will turn the odds heavily in your favor. I guess the other issue here is mana cost. If we are saying you want to hold at least one land back then this effectively costs nine mana. Therefore Obliterate is not an early answer like Wrath of God can be. However, in the right circumstances, it is far more devastating.

Bloodshot Cyclops (r)

Most people who draft 8th Edition regularly know the terrible feeling when the game is locked up then your opponent drops Fodder Cannon. Well Bloodshot Cyclops is the Red colored equivalent. Whether it is better than the Cannon is debatable. The fact that you can fire it to the head is very useful, meaning sometimes this will win you the game as soon as it is active or a couple of turns later. Also you can take down large creatures that you may not be able to with the cannon by sacrificing your own large creatures, and it doesn’t cost mana to activate.

In addition, when the dust has settled and this is the only thing left on the board, it can swing for four points of damage per turn. On the minus side, it costs two mana more (including one colored mana), it’s easier to remove than the Cannon, and small creatures can’t be sacrificed to much effect. To sum up, if this and Fodder Cannon are in the same pack I will take the Cannon purely because it doesn’t require colored mana. If it’s in the pack with any other fourteen cards though, I’m taking the Cyclops every time. I don’t care whether I’m currently in Red or not, I’ll splash it if need be.

Hammer of Bogardan (r)

Removal is good. Even as a Volcanic Hammer for 1RR this would be a strong card. Once you get to five mana, this becomes recursive removal, which can be very annoying for your opponent. Once you get to eight mana it is completely ridiculous. Remember, don’t be afraid to start throwing this at the dome if you think you can win the game faster that way.

Two-Headed Dragon (r)

Is this really much worse than Shivan Dragon? No. The only reason this is so many places below is that there are just so many good Red bombs that all fall at a similar power level. Fortunately, the ranking of these top six rares is fairly arbitrary, as you will never have to choose between two of them. Two-Headed Dragon will end the game actually faster than Shivan Dragon if left unchecked because it can pump more efficiently with a multicolored mana base.

The reason for its lower ranking though is that all-important one less point in the toughness box. Given nearly all the good common flyers in the format have a power of two, having four toughness instead of five means it takes two flyers to kill this Dragon instead of three. Given a well-timed gang block is probably the best way to remove either Dragon, this can make a difference. It is also in range of a couple of extra Red removal spells such as Pyrotechnics and Lightning Blast.

Inferno (r)

The first time I saw this card, I started mentally comparing it with Starstorm from Onslaught. Although it lacks the versatility of Starstorm, it is still without doubt a card of the bomb-ish variety. It is a symmetrical card, but one where it is easy to break the symmetry. Holding back a creature or two and then playing this in your opponent’s end-step can mean game over.

Playing this with regenerators in play can be game over. Playing this when your opponent is at six life or less is almost certainly game over.

The only problems with this card are when your opponent has regenerators out or if you yourself are low on life. However this certainly shouldn’t stop you taking this card as a first pick.

Blaze (u)

This card is just a bit unfair. As a finisher it is completely insane. Sometimes the game will be close and then you will just untap, tap all your land and point this baby straight at the dome, winning instantly. If this was all it did then, this card would be more than playable, but the fact it can be used as very efficient removal pushes it over the edge. It can be used as an offensive card to remove blockers, a defensive card to remove troublesome threats, or a finisher, all very efficiently. That’s a bomb, ladies and gentlemen.

Pyrotechnics (u)

In a format of small creatures, this is always going to be a good card. As a Sorcery speed Lightning Blast this would still be a good card, and indeed this is what you often use it as. However, it can be so much more. The potential to take out two, three or even four weenies in one hit is colossal and remember that any”spare” damage you have can always be fired straight to the head.

Seismic Assault (r)

This card reminds me of Words of War from Onslaught. Once in play it gives you the option of using any land as a Shock. In the early game this can set you up for the quick win by killing a key blocker, or even firing the last few points of damage at the head. In the late game this is also powerful, turning all your excess lands into a slowly ticking clock or, if you prefer, removal.

You’re probably not going to lose a topdecking war under these circumstances especially as, unlike with Words of War, you can hoard lands and use them to take out larger creatures. The only real problem with this card is its mana intensity. RRR can be very demanding on your mana base especially early in the game and this is probably not going to help you until the mid-game unless you are running at least ten Red mana sources. Fortunately, because this card is useful at any point in the game this is not as significant as it is with, for example, Underworld Dreams.

Pyroclasm (u)

You won’t find a more devastating piece of removal for the low, low cost of two mana than Pyroclasm. True, it is symmetrical, but if you have this in your starting hand it is very easy to play around. Simply slow-roll your creatures and play this at the right time and you will regularly get a two, three or more for one, especially against creature rush decks or decks packing lots of flyers. Let’s be fair, a good proportion of the creatures in the format have a toughness of two or less. This can also be a useful trick in the mid to late game for wiping out air forces and getting rid of annoying utility creatures such as Master Decoy, Samite Healer, Anaba Shaman and (tapped) Nantuko Disciple. Given you will see this coming while your opponent won’t, you will of course be in the best position to prepare.

Orcish Artillery (u)

In case you haven’t noticed, reusable removal is good, even when it comes at a life cost (see Sparksmith). True, this comes at quite a large cost but, to be honest, two or three activations of this could win you the game, especially in an aggressive deck. In the late game it can be used to take down opposing flyers and annoying creatures that you can’t otherwise get rid of. The fact that it comes with a three-toughness body that can be an effective blocker is gravy.

Lava Hounds (r)

This is a format where a 3/3 for four is good because it will be larger than most creatures on the table. This is a 4/4 for four with haste! True it comes at a cost of life but, for a tempo jump like this, is it more than worth it. It will nearly always get the life back immediately with it’s first swing if played on turn four and often your opponent will simply have no answer to it especially as most of the cards considered to be good early blockers (such as Horned Turtle and Standing Troops), only have a toughness of four. As the game goes on, this will be less and less useful especially if your life total is low. However if you can afford the life, it will always be at least a good ground blocker.

Lightning Blast (u)

This is the top end of the removal scale, and very nice it is too. To be honest, there are only a few cards short of rare bombs that have a toughness higher than four, so this will do all kinds of donkey work killing Craw Wurms, Nantuko Disciples and Air Elementals as well as smaller creatures causing you trouble. This is the one-stop answer to most of the creatures that might be troubling you, and can also be pointed at the head. Because it doesn’t take out regenerators and can be stopped by damage prevention, this isn’t as good as Dark Banishing, but it’s close.

Shock Troops (c)

Finally, after working through all the rare and uncommon bombs and excellent removal, we find ourselves at the first of the colors commons. Shock Troops is a great creature that serves double duty as a 2/2 body as well as a Shock on a stick, which works out to be incredibly versatile. You can use this to beat down or to block, and when the troops eventually die, you can take out a small creature. Alternatively, you can combine both abilities to take out a Craw Wurm or the like. Remember, if your opponent has no juicy targets, you can always point the damage at their head putting you two damage points closer to victory.

Volcanic Hammer (c)

There is no long discussion necessary for Volcanic Hammer. At sorcery speed, it deals three damage to the creature or player of your choice. That is enough to remove the majority of creatures your opponent is likely to be playing, or finish him off if his life total is low. Removal is good and this is good removal.

Shock (c)

Once again, not a lot to say here. When compared to Volcanic Hammer it costs one mana less and works at instant speed, but does one less damage. The instant speed thing is very useful as it will occasionally allow you to do things such as get a two-for-one from a gang block, or use a spare mana on a creature just played at the end of their turn. However, I rank Volcanic Hammer ever so slightly higher as there are a lot of common creatures, such as Hill Giant, Serpent Warrior, Coastal Hornclaw and Trained Armodon that can’t be removed with Shock alone, but are prone to a”good hammering.”

Guerrilla Tactics (u)

The last of the good removal, this is basically Shock costing one mana, more with an obscure ability tagged on. Two mana for two damage at instant speed is still very playable, but obviously the only time the special ability is likely to trigger is if your opponent is playing Ravenous Rats or Mind Rot or you are playing on Magic Online V2.0.

Hulking Cyclops (u)

Finally we get down to some creatures, an area where Red is traditionally pretty inefficient, and 8th Edition is no exception. In fact this is the highest ranking non-rare creature except for Shock Troops, which is really more removal than a creature. Hulking Cyclops is certainly very strong though.

A 5/5 for five is good in this format, especially for a Red creature. Its inability to block is not that much of an issue because Red decks are normally aggressive, and blocking with a 5/5 in an aggressive deck is not normally in the plan. If played on turn five (or even turn four in a G/R deck), your opponent may not have an answer, or even if they do it may involve you getting a two for one. Obviously the value of this guy goes down in a control-ish deck or if your opponent has regenerators, but he is always fairly good regardless.

Rukh Egg (r)

A rather oddball card to put in the base set, given that it creates tokens, but we’ll let that pass for now. Rukh Egg is a strange card for Red in so far as it is defensive in nature. Even as a 0/3 for four, it can be used as a rudimentary wall, which will cause headaches for an opposing aggressive deck. It will nullify the attack of one of their two-powered creatures, while making them think twice about attacking with anything bigger on the ground.

Obviously if your opponent does crack the egg, you have a 4/4 flyer for four, which is very cheap in this or any format, especially in a color that lacks much flying.

The problem with this card is getting the egg cracked. You obviously don’t want to be using your own removal for this, so you have to rely on your opponent to do it. While some decks will be forced to break it eventually, others attack mainly with evasion and won’t bat an eyelid at leaving the Rukh Egg undisturbed while they beat down elsewhere. Therefore this is not exactly a bomb, although it moves up the list significantly if you have mass removal or a way to sacrifice creatures.

Lesser Gargadon (u)

Gargadon is a big butt for four mana. It can swing far earlier than your opponent can deal with it, and if it goes unanswered this will take huge chunks out of his life total. The drawback is quite a large one, which stops this being a real bomb. In the early game, you won’t really want to be sacrificing lands (unless you have a very aggressive deck whose mana curve maxes out at four anyway), and in those late game stalemates this just becomes another Craw Wurm that your opponent will almost certainly have a way of dealing with. When this is best is in the mid-game, when the first few creature exchanges have taken place, and the Gargadon will likely trump anything left. At very worst it should trade for two of your opponent’s creatures.

Anaba Shaman (c)

A versatile card that it is very difficult to find fault with. Merely at a 2/2 for four it is obviously unexciting, but the pinging ability is certainly a boon in this format. There are lots of X/1 creatures around that will fall to the Shaman, like Dusk Imp, Crossbow Infantry, Canyon Wildcat, and Coral Eel. It can also assist your creatures in taking down larger creatures, meaning for example, your Hill Giant can trade with a Craw Wurm. If there is nothing better to do with it then you can always point it at the dome giving your opponent a slowly ticking clock.

This guy is always good, especially in multiples, so if you already have one or two, move them up the pick order a little. The only downside is that, unlike Prodigal Sorcerer of yore, it requires a constant mana investment to activate. I don’t really mind taking these first pick in packs 2 or 3 when I am already established in Red, as I know they will never be a dead card.

Searing Wind (r)

Clearly when they made this card, someone sat down and decided to see how big, expensive, and destructive they could make removal. The effect is certainly immense, unfortunately it is not quite enough for a card that costs nine mana. For nine mana I want either a card that wins the game outright (like Plague Wind), or that can stop you from losing in an otherwise hopeless situation (like Obliterate or Avatar of Hope).

Sure, Searing Wind can do either but does neither reliably. It will certainly win you games you have no right to win just by pointing it at the head in the late game, and it is also very good as a surprise”I win” factor that your opponent just won’t take into account. You alpha strike with all your creatures dipping your opponent below ten life and then Wind him to death.

I don’t mind including this in all but very fast Red decks, just because it wins games you would otherwise lose. It is also a good Splash card in a control deck as it requires a measly one colored mana. Remember that at a pinch this can be used as (expensive) removal to get you out of a tight spot. Not a first pick card, but I will certainly pick this if it starts going round the table.

Hill Giant (c)

This guy is pure simplicity; a medium-sized creature with a reasonable cost. I’ll happily draft as many of these guys as I can and, unless my deck is insane, I will play all of them. Against many decks, 3/3 is a large creature to have to handle especially if backed by removal. Or, if you prefer, you can leave it back as a blocker and be able to at least one-for-one with all but the largest creatures.

Ogre Taskmaster (u)

Very similar to Hill Giant in terms of cost and P/T, it costs the same for one more power and can’t block. While in very aggressive decks I would take this over Hill Giant, in most decks I would prefer the increased versatility of being able to block. When used to attack he is just as easy to take out as Hill Giant anyway, as he has the same three toughness and so only trumps the Giant if he is getting through for damage.

Relentless Assault (r)

It sounds good on the surface doesn’t it?”It’s like Time Walk!” the peasants cry. Well no not really, this is a lot less useful than it first seems. If your opponent has active blockers then he can use them on both attack phases and if you can’t break through, this won’t help you. However that’s not to say that this card is without uses.

It can capitalize on a fast start by allowing your early creatures to serve twice before your opponent can get a defense up. It can speed up a clock by one turn. It can allow tapping creatures such as Anaba Shaman to serve double duty. It can allow all your creatures to attack and then untap to prevent the counter-strike. Or maybe you want to take advantage of your opponent giving you an attack window and attack with double damage. It really is a pretty versatile card. Unfortunately, sometimes it will be dead and you will fervently wish it was a creature, so don’t pick this over something more universally good. Don’t shy away from it either.

Canyon Wildcat (c)

I have no problem maindecking this guy at all. As a vanilla 2/1 for one he would be just about playable especially given Red’s aggressive nature. However, in 40% of games he will be much more than that, as he turns into an unblockable two-powered clock. In 8th Edition, your two-drop slot is hardly hotly-contended, so chuck these guys in and don’t feel guilty about it.

Balduvian Barbarians (c)

An efficient creature at 3/2 for three mana, this makes good filler, especially in a fast deck where it may get to swing unmolested once or twice. Unfortunately, in slower decks this will normally just trade with one of your opponent’s creatures. Do you notice the power drop off here? Half a dozen picks ago we were still talking about potential first-pick cards, now we are talking about”filler.” That really is the way Red runs in 8th Edition. Hopefully, most of the cards in your deck will be better than Balduvian Barbarians.

Panic Attack (c)

Very much like Wave of Indifference from Onslaught, this is a card that you always want one of in your deck but never any more. This ranking is assuming that you don’t already have one. If you do, move it down below Goblin Raider.

This is a card, very much like Wave, that will sometimes win you a game out of nowhere and other times will sit dead in your hand. Too many players sit on these, waiting for a point when it will win you the game when sometimes, with an aggressive deck, you should play this early to force through seven or eight points of damage while you have the chance. Once the game gets locked up and the evasion comes out, sometimes you won’t get the chance to use it, especially if your opponent knows you have it from previous games.

Lightning Elemental (c)

A strange card that I seem to value lower than most. On the face of it, it is a very aggressive card, and certainly a 4/1 hasted creature for four is nothing if not aggressive. For this reason, in fast G/R and W/R decks, this card finds a nice home. However, unlike in Sligh type decks in Constructed, you don’t have enough burn to force this guy through. More often than not, he will just end up trading for your opponent’s worst creature or, worse still, be eliminated by a one damage effect from Crossbow Infantry or Anaba Shaman or come up against a first-striker. Funnily enough, he is quite an effective blocker though, being able to trade with any common creature in the format. Sometimes I have used him for this, although I must admit, more often I ship him along to someone who values him more than I do.

Enrage (u)

This is a card that wants to be Blaze when it grows up, but right now is strictly inferior. It can be a good”I win” card if you are managing to get a creature through for damage, and for this reason it is often worth a maindeck slot, particularly if you have evasion. It can also be used as emergency removal, but to be honest it’s probably going to create a two-for-one in your opponent’s favor, so what you are removing had better be really good. Too often this is a dead card when the board is locked up, and there is always the potential for the targeted creature to be removed at instant speed too.

Sabretooth Tiger (c)

A decent filler creature but I won’t run these if my deck is good. A 2/1 first-striker for three will sometimes cause your opponent significant problems on attack or defense, but given the number of 3/3’s and 1/4s in the format for three or four mana, it will be irrelevant too often. Any of the pinging or one-damage effects in the set will kill it.

Boil (u)

Another testament to the adage that a good sideboard card is better than a bad maindeck one. This is automatically gets boarded in against any deck packing a reasonable amount of Blue, and can be devastating for your opponent. Although the temptation is to wait until your opponent has five or six Islands on the board before playing this, sometimes that is the worst course of action. Playing this in your opponent’s fourth- or fifth-turn end-step, when they have three Islands in play is actually far more harmful, as it will cripple their mana development right when they need it most.

Flashfires (u)

See above, although for some reason it was deemed that while Islands could be removed at instant speed, Plains have to be dealt with as a Sorcery. I’m sure there is some quirky Constructed reason for this. [Plains don’t cast Counterspells. – Knut]

Furnace of Rath (r)

On the surface this is too symmetrical to be playable, and indeed there are times when this will just sit in your hand and be dead. However, remember, you make the choice on when to play this, so you may be able to drop it and attack for the win on an unprepared opponent. Or maybe, if you get a fast start, you can drop it on turn 4 and just overwhelm your opponent before they can get ample defenses set up. Unfortunately this works out as a”win more” card a lot of the time but is worth consideration in aggressive decks.

Goblin Chariot (c)

More decidedly-average filler that, once again, fits into decks that like to deal damage quickly. Apart from the fact that it may get to sneak in for two quick damage, this is really just a 2/2 for three, which doesn’t really cut it.

Thieves Auction (r)

With any symmetrical cards you have to look at inherent asymmetries within the card and these will determine if the card is playable or not. For example, Wrath of God is a bomb because you can break the symmetry if you know it’s coming. Intruder Alarm, on the other hand, is unplayable because there is no good way to break the symmetry meaning that you end up down a card and some mana for no benefit.

Thieves Auction is an odd card in so far as the symmetry is broken in several ways. On the minus side, after this resolves, your opponent can untap and get a free swing at your head, so if there are a lot of creatures on the board or you are low on life (as is often the case once you get to seven mana), this is unplayable. On the plus side, you get first pick of all the cards in play, and you can play the proceeding turns with this card in mind, holding back permanents (especially bombs) and trying to trade as much off the board as you can.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Well there is no good answer to that, it depends on the game state, what’s in your deck, what’s in your opponents deck, etc. In my opinion I wouldn’t maindeck this, but would bring it out of the board if my opponent had a bomb that I just couldn’t handle such as Worship, Ensnaring Bridge or Tidal Kraken.

Lava Axe (c)

I don’t think I have ever lost a game where my opponent has played Lava Axe. Not that it is a bad card exactly, but I think there is a large syndicate of bad players on Magic Online that first pick these or something. Five damage to the head can certainly be a good thing, but on my fifth turn I want to be playing something that affects the board position.

Many is the time where I have done more than five damage to my opponent just because he tapped out to play Lava Axe, when he really needed to play a blocker instead. I guess in a deck with no evasion and a lot of early attackers, you could maindeck these as a way of winning games once they have locked up. However, normally it won’t make your main deck, probably because you never got to pick them in the first place, due to the aforementioned syndicate. [The Bad Player Mafia will get to you eventually, my friend. – Knut]

Goblin Raider (c)

The best thing you can say about Goblin Raider is that it sits at a casting cost where you won’t have much else and it can sometimes swing for two or four damage. Almost always useless in the late game, I only run these in my deck when I am short of playables.

Ridgeline Rager (c)

I just don’t like these guys. Obviously a 1/2 for three is bad, and the pumping ability is just never that useful. In the early game you probably won’t have the mana spare to activate it and in the late game your opponent will either have a regenerator or, if not, will just trade it for a creature they no longer need.

Wall of Stone (u)

I might play this card if I had a lot of late-game bombs and not a lot of early game, but how often does that happen with a Red deck? Most of the Red commons were designed with early-to-mid-game face smashery in mind.

This card will end up nullifying one of your opponent’s early attackers, which is not a bad thing, but you have to think in terms of your deck. Horned Turtle is a reasonable Blue card, but it would be bad in Red because early ground defense is not what you need. Wall of Stone might even be worse, as it contributes nothing in the power box to gang blocking attempts. Sometimes when playing Red going into the mid-game you need to topdeck threats to keep the pressure on. When you topdeck this you will be sorely disappointed.

Viashino Sandstalker (u)

I don’t care if this is a four-powered creature for three, when I play a creature I want it to stay on the damn table! You basically pay three mana and your opponent either trades it for one of his creatures, or takes four damage, his choice. It’s like a cross between Chainer’s Edict and Lava Axe, but your opponent gets to make the choice.

When you consider there are a number of common creatures cheaper or the same cost than the Sandstalker that can handle it indefinitely (Master Decoy, Drudge Skeletons, Horned Troll) plus loads more that can trade with it, you realize how often this card will do nothing. My deck would have to be faster than the speed of light with a sh**load of removal before I would even consider maindecking this.

Demolish (u)

It’s Stone Rain at one more mana and Shatter at two more mana, and as a result is more versatile than either. If you want a land destruction spell then Stone Rain will be better, as hitting on turn three rather than turn four can be important. However, it is a good spell to bring in versus artifacts as you always have the potential to hit a land if your opponent has mana trouble.

Stone Rain (c)

This is a card that shouldn’t make the maindeck, as if you draw it after the first half a dozen turns, it is generally pretty useless. However, it can be boarded in more times than you think. Any deck playing three colors is a good target, especially if they have color-intensive bombs. The key question is if you have anything that is worth boarding out.

Sometimes you will be playing a 23rd sub-optimal card or a Canyon Wildcat, and your opponent is not playing Red. These are good targets to take out. If your deck is strong though, you may not want to risk destabilizing it with a card like this that is only circumstantially good.

Cinder Wall (c)

This is a bad creature in a color that is nearly always played aggressively. Nick Eisel pointed out in an article a while back that this can be an effective sideboard card against aggressive decks, as it can take down Serpent Warriors, Trained Armodons, and other such creatures for a significant gain in tempo. If you are playing a more controlling Red deck (normally R/U) then this can be a viable strategy, although I have never had a marked success with it myself.

Shatter (c)

I guess if one or more artifacts are causing you big problems, then you sideboard this in. There aren’t that many dangerous artifacts in the set though, so for the most part you won’t get a lot of use out of this. Still, I would rather have one in my pile at the end of the draft than not.

Goblin King (r)

Like Elvish Champion, this is another Lord that just doesn’t have the creatures present in its race to make it any good. The Goblins in this set are Goblin Glider (bad), Raging Goblin (bad), Goblin Raider, and Goblin Chariot (both unexciting). It may be worth picking this up late to sideboard in against other Red decks when you are already running multiple Goblins, but given your opponent may also be running Goblins even then it is scarcely worth it. I suppose when worst comes to the worst, it is still a 2/2 for three.

Tremor (c)

Sort of like a mini Earthquake (hence the name I guess), but a card that seems to be bad by design. Of the commonly used creatures that this can kill, Blue has only Coral Eel, while Green has Rushwood Dryad. Black’s X/1 ground creatures regenerate, so that only leaves Red and White that will really be affected. Therefore you are probably going to hurt yourself more than your opponent unless you set this up well.

Red doesn’t really have a problem dealing with ground-based creatures, it’s flying ones that give it problems. This card attacks an area where Red is already strong. In short, don’t maindeck this card and only sideboard it in if you are sure you can use it to good effect.

Dwarven Demolition Team (u)

Obviously not a maindeck card, this has applications out of the sideboard, but they are very rare. Certainly don’t bring this is just because you saw a Vine Trellis in game 1. The only times I would bring this in is if I saw a number of decent walls (not less than two, preferably three) on the opposing side, or one or more walls that totally wrecked my strategy such as Wall of Swords against your R/W flyer deck or Carrion Wall against a ground-based stompy deck.

Goblin Glider (u)

While evasion is good, a 1/1 flyer is just not large enough to impact the game. Even Suntail Hawk, which is a 1/1 for one mana, is still only borderline playable. This not only costs one more mana, but also can’t block, so sinks deep into the waters of unplayability.

Sizzle (c)

It’s like Lava Axe, except it does less damage and is a bit cheaper. As I would only ever use Lava Axe as a finisher, and even then only if my deck was bad I can’t see me ever playing this or even siding it in.

Orcish Spy

1/1s just don’t affect the board enough to be worthwhile unless they have a great special ability, and this is not a great special ability. If you have Call to the Wild in your deck then you may want to take a second look at this card, but probably not.

Raging Goblin (c)

See above. Haste is not a great special ability either.

Sudden Impact (u)

Another rubbish”direct damage to player” card that manages to be worse than Lava Axe in almost every way. Although it’s one mana cheaper, by turn 4 your opponent will probably only have three or four cards in their hand. If you draw this late game, you will probably net about one damage.

Reflexes (c)

A general rule of thumb about creature enchantments is that you should be very wary of them if they don’t make the creature harder to kill. That’s why Holy Strength, Blanchwood Armor, and even Regeneration aren’t too bad, but should be boarded out when you see Black removal or bounce. On the other hand, cards like Flight and Fear are just plain bad. Sure, there are exceptions like Curiosity, but that’s only playable because it can immediately gain the card advantage you can potentially lose.

Reflexes is a classic example of a bad creature enchantment. First strike is a good ability for a creature to have, but not at the expense of a card. There is kind of a Catch-22 that means this card can never be good and it goes like this. For a creature to really benefit from first strike (enough to warrant wasting a card on it), it would have to have high power, but low toughness. However, if a creature has low toughness, you certainly don’t want to be putting an enchantment on it, as it will probably die to burn. In short, don’t pick or play this card.

Mogg Sentry (r)

This card looks okay at first glance, and then you think about it and realize that the Sentry’s special skill has almost no practical application whatsoever. All good players normally play their creatures in the second main phase, so this isn’t a good blocker. On the other hand, your opponent will almost never play spells in your turn before you attack so it is also a useless attacker. So what we have here is a 1/1 for one mana ladies and gentlemen.

Mana Clash (r)

If you have played Magic for long enough, you will know that you only have to read as far as”flip a coin” on this card to realize it will be bad. Red has a history of having these complicated pointless cards that might as well read”Flip a coin. You do nothing of value whatsoever (and waste a card).”

Okk (r)

An absolutely awful card that nobody in their right mind would play. Apart from Green, each color only has a handful of creatures that will even allow this to attack or block, and even if you did have a lot of such cards, what’s the point of a 4/4 for two that can’t attack or block until turn six or seven at the earliest?

Blood Moon (r)

The most non-basic lands I have ever played in an 888 draft deck is two. Even in that deck I certainly wouldn’t have cried a river if they had wasted a card and their third turn to play this card.