The Daily Shot: Onslaught Red Review, A-F

Geordie won his PTQ this weekend drafting W/R. No less a figure than Kai Budde says that W/R is the way to go in Onslaught Draft. And what card is key to the W/R archetype? Well, you know it’s not a card that begins with”G” or later, but maybe you oughtta read the article to find out.

Hi, all – and welcome back to the Daily Shot, where today we’re reviewing the most resurgent color in Magic – Red. Already the darling of the Onslaught Limited scene, this pile of cards might well bring about a shift in the”redless” Constructed status quo. I’m not sure if I can figure it out by myself, though. Why don’t you help me? Come on, we’ll check it out together, throw a few back, tell a few stories, make fun of a few cards.

Before we begin, I should note that I’ve looked back through my reviews of White, Blue, and Black, and the reviews seem to be increasing in strategic quality as my understanding of the set slowly grows over time; each draft is a new learning experience, after all. Hopefully, as we all take this trip, we’ll collectively begin to understand things a little better.

And, actually, while the set review has a few strategic holes that begin to show once hindsight is invoked, I hope the day doesn’t come when they are no longer funny.

Then I’d really be wasting my time. If I wanted to do a set review that no one reads, I’d drink a case and write it in the snow.

Off we go!

Aether Charge

This looks to be an important card for limited play. The limited game in Onslaught is slower than molasses, of course, and dominated by big monsters and bomb rares, so Aether Charge has plenty of time to come out and start working towards the game-ending twenty damage.

I’m sure you’ve all read overviews of the Tribal mechanic by now. Or maybe you haven’t; such reviews are invariably pretty boring (not unlike this column). Anyhow, if you haven’t, let me let you in on what hipsters my age call “The 411”. Beasts are the most common creature type in the set. You’ll end up with as many of them as you like, almost without fail, in either Sealed or Draft.

Aether Charge can be devastating in Sealed. Will it be fast enough for draft, where you can put together a more aggressive, focused deck? I can only tell you what I saw at the Prerelease, and that was a lot of Aether Charge damage in the late game.

Aggravated Assault

It’s not just for Latrell Sprewell and Randy Moss anymore.

Here’s the thing about Aggravated Assault… It’s way worse than Gratuitous Violence – an enchantment in the same set, an enchantment with the same converted mana cost.

The Assault only surpasses the Violence if you have some reason to attack twice that doesn’t involve damage – like Hystrodon or a Silent Specter. Otherwise it’s slow, mana-intensive, and clunky when compared to a card that states, in simple and elegant terms, that your creatures are going to deal two times the combat damage.

Aggravated Assault could also become a combo card; I’m not going to go too deep into it right now, but in one example, two thresholded Krosan Restorers and an Aggravated Assault can produce infinite mana (and infinite attack phases, let’s not forget that one), either serving for the win over the course of ten attack phases or, if the way is blocked, powering up a lethal Firecat Blitz. Isn’t that a sad perversion of a card that was designed to let Timmy swing?

Swing Timmy! Swing! His face lights up like it was Christmas. He’s got a Multani in play and there’s no end in sight to the fun he’s going to have once his turn rolls around.

Then some jackass shows up and uses Timmy’s new card to Stroke the poor kid to death. All of the sudden people are ripping him off in trades just to get it. Disillusioned and despairing, he grows up and enters into a series of unhappy marriages. At the age of 35, Timmy hangs himself in his closet.

Macabre, but stranger things have happened.

Airdrop Condor

Poop jokes in the flavor text – at least now I know that I’m not too low-brow to work for Wizards. This is a good card that will make your limited deck almost every time out – a 5CC 2/2 flyer with a good ability – not unlike Hunting Drake, my favorite 5CC, 2-power limited flyer of all time.

Did you know that I ripped Hunting Drake off the top in Detroit when I was one loss away from elimination? This guy had Tahngarth and he was going to wreck me with it, right? So I’m all like “Damn, that Tahngarth is going to, you know, wreck me, and stuff. Maybe it’s time to pull a Van Cleave and start shelling out unmarked bills?”

I’m sweating it, but I didn’t have to worry since I ripped the Drake off the top on the pivotal turn, sent the big ugly home and I had enough gas to come over for the final points the turn before Tahngarth was going to take me apart. It’s all in my GP Detroit report from way back when.

Anyhow, Airdrop Condor is great, particularly in B/R when you can pick up a bunch of Festering Goblins, one of the strongest one-drops in Onslaught Limited. I’d say trading a Festering Goblin for a 3/3, or even for two creatures, is a good deal. That’s how you use this guy. It doesn’t seem to fit in well with the type of W/R decks I like to draft, but with more Goblins and a higher landcount, it’ll be killer in a midrange deck, that has both early and late-game options.


Red has got some very nice uncommons. How sweet is having two or even three Avarax in your draft deck? That’s just the nuts. Of course, unlike Daru Lancer and (probably) Screaming Seahawk, Avarax is easily good enough to play if you only have one copy.

He’s a Beast. He’s a 3/3 with Haste for 3RR – and if it was good enough for that kickered Kavu dude, it’s good enough for me. Sure, the Kavu dude had first-strike, but Firebreathing isn’t bad, either – we have to kill those enemy Treespring Lorians somehow, and since rolling them around in unwashed British hamburger patties isn’t an option, I figure the Avarax is a good idea.

Did I mention Crown of Fury is good?

Battering Craghorn

Strictly better than Halberdier because of the Morph, the fact that it’s a Beast, and the fact that no one would bother to splash Halberdier anyhow. Still not any great shakes, it probably won’t matter. Have you got Wirewood Savage? What about the Beast Arena? Aether Charge? You’re playing him.

The best part about Battering Craghorn is that people will sometimes block him because they’re afraid of Skirk Commando. Then you unfurl and strike like the Halberdier-cobra that you are!

Blistering Firecat

I like a few of the Morph cards with Ancient Tomb/City Of Traitors in Extended. Turn 3 Blistering Firecats (in Mono-Red, mind you) might be strong enough for that burgeoning format. Likewise, you can start swinging with Grinning Demon on turn 3.

This card is pretty simple – they set out to create a new Ball Lightning -and just like they did with Skizzik, they’ve succeeded. It’s nice to see the design team kick some ass, and this guy will swing for seven on turn 3 in Standard (Birds, Elves) and even Block (Elvish Pioneer) as well. Big, trampling power numbers are going to be good with Gratuitous Violence, as well… Though I’m not sure if the Violence will see heavy play.

I’m not even sure if I’m wearing pants.

Okay, I am. (Thank God – The Ferrett)

Break Open

Step 1
: Find large, meaty guy who is playing. Check for sweatpants held up by frayed drawstring.

Step 2: Whenever the fat guy passes priority, launch”Break Open” at exposed buttcrack from a distance of seven feet.

Step 3: Award 1,000 points to the first player to lodge”Break Open” firmly in the butt crevice of the aforementioned trencherman.

As you get better, try aiming for any cleavage that catches your eye. Then run.

Brightstone Ritual

This is bad. Dark Ritual was card disadvantage almost all of the time – the reason it was good was because it could produce more mana than it cost to cast, and it could do it on turn 1. Brightstone Ritual requires you to have three Goblins in play to accomplish exactly as much as Dark Ritual, and that just isn’t going to be conducive to any sort of workable deck.

It’s funny, but Dark Ritual is dangerously close to being a bad card. Amazing, isn’t it? One of the most powerful staples ever printed, and it’s almost a bad card. Dark Ritual is card disadvantage, and often useless in the late game. Without the pure power it boasts, it would be nothing. If you don’t believe me, look how bad every other non-creature mana producing card ever printed has been. They try to make Dark Ritual again, in a balanced way, but there is no way to do that, because Dark Ritual itself is too close to sucking. Add one mana to it and it blows. Add more conditions to it, and it blows.

Either you can use it in a combo (High Tide, Bubbling Muck), or it’s Dark Ritual, or it’s garbage.

First turn or bust!

Butcher Orgg

The first good Orgg since the original (which wasn’t any great shakes, actually), Butcher Orgg is a dynamite limited rare that simply wreaks havoc. This thing smokes entire armies, and has an effect that is easily powerful enough for Constructed if you can get it on the table. I’ve already suggested that Riptide Shapeshifter could do it – and there are probably other ways as well, not the least of which is mana acceleration.

It’s too bad Butcher Orgg doesn’t cost 3RRR, because that would make a big difference. In Constructed, you generally get your seventh mana about three turns after you get your 6th (in Limited it’s that way too, actually, though with a higher landcount you don’t have to use any library manipulation to make it so), and that means the Orgg is just damn slow.

Might the Butcher Orgg have a place in an Oath deck? Or an Extended or T2 Reanimator? Maybe even a Block Reanimator with the Tribal Living Death, or Doomed Necromancer? It’s not too likely with no Entomb, but Doomed Necromancer does let you play with what amounts to eight copies of Zombify as long as you cast Buried Alive for Anger.

How about Buried Alive for Anger, Butcher Orgg, and Symbiotic Wurm? Next turn Zombify the Orgg and wipe the opposing side. Later on, Recoup the Zombify and grab your Wurm. Then send over a 20/20 Nantuko Husk for beatings (you can get an 18/18 Nantuko Husk with just the Symbiotic Wurm).

Heck, it could be the new Rec/Sur. This is a VERY rough conceptual listing, so don’t lynch me…

4x Oversold Cemetery (to infinitely recur the Doomed Necromancer and use it same turn)

1x Anger (to allow the use of the Necromancer and others on the same turn)

1x Arcanis The Omnipotent (why not?)

4x Buried Alive

3x Recoup (engine to stock the graveyard)

3x Entomb (also to stock the graveyard…remember that with a Cemetery in play and three dead creatures, this is like Eladamri’s Call for B)

1x Butcher Orgg, Symbiotic Wurm, Ancestor’s Chosen (utility creatures for removal, lifegain, and so forth)

4x Nantuko Husk (the kill, and allows infinite re-use of any creature in the grave, with a Cemetery)

1x Wormfang Manta (infinite turns with a Husk, Necromancer and a Cemetery with four creatures – or just with a Husk, Cemetery with four creatures, and seven land)

4x Doomed Necromancer (part of the engine)

3x Diabolic Tutor (find what you need)

1x Zombify (redundancy is good)

5-6 other miscellaneous cards (Duress? Chainer’s Edict?)

The land would be 4 of those new fetch lands and 4 mountains (not Tainted Peaks, to allow for the use of Anger), and 16 swamps. I should have talked about this deck when I was talking about Doomed Necromancer, but I sorta skimmed over him and missed the significance. It happens.

Now, if you play Butcher Orgg and Pyroclasm in the same deck… Does that make it Orggasm.dec?

Chain of Plasma

The theory behind these Chain cards is tough to grasp. You have to view it not like Chain Lightning, but like Standstill – the better the board and hand position, the better the chance this spell will reach its full potential.

I’ll explain. Say you play your second land, and cast this, leaving you with five cards in hand. If you went first, your opponent will probably have seven cards in hand, and one land in play.

You: 5 cards in hand, 2 land in play, 1 CoP on the stack (total: 8)

Him: 7 cards in hand, 1 land in play, 0 CoP on the stack (total: 8)

It’s totally even, though any number of factors can tilt it. If you and your opponent were to go nose-to-nose, Mexican standoff-style, and just Mind Twist each other with the darn thing, it would end thusly:

You: 0 cards in hand, 2 land in play, 3 life.

Him: 1 card in hand, 1 land in play, 3 life.

You used six cards to deal 18 damage, and so did he. He gets to keep another card, but you get to play with an additional land.

Even, right?

Not if you build your deck a certain way.

If your hand is set up correctly, there is no way an opponent will play the back-and-forth game with you… Unless he or she has a death wish.

With G/R for example, you can discard Firebolts, Call Of The Herd, Basking Rootwallas, Roar Of The Wurms, Fiery Tempers, Reckless Charges and Violent Eruptions. If your opponent is playing a deck with few discard targets, there is no way he or she can hang with you. They will have to take three, and like it… Even if you have several juicy targets on the table. Who wants to discard a card just to attempt some Herd-murder, when it’s possible to get drilled with a Fiery Temper and the returning Plasma Chain? Ouch.

It’s not so good, though, when your opponent is the one with the Fiery Temper. Double ouch. You feel that pain all the way down to the tailbone.

It’s an interesting card, I’ll give it that much.

Charging Slateback

This card reminds me of Kavu Aggressor. I played in a Sealed Deck sneak-preview yesterday, and I had two Slatebacks, neither of which made my deck. The Aggressor was better. So was Jay Leno’s autobiography. So were the 1982 Cleveland Indians. Heck, a case of measles is better. Maybe death is. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Commando Raid

If this replaced the combat damage, it would be a middling card… But since the damage is still dealt to the player, it can be a great tempo card. If I draft it, I’ll play it, but I won’t cry about it if I don’t get one.

When I play this card, I will call it “Operation: Delta Force.”

Why? Because that’s the name that ex-baseball star Wade Boggs used to describe the time he and a teammate broke into fellow Boston Red Sox player Bob Stanley’s hotel room to photograph him in bed with a stripper.

Like Wade’s “Operation: Delta Force,” getting hit by Commando Raid can shrivel you in a hurry.

Crown of Fury

The key card.

I’ve found the Crown of Fury to be especially useful in drafting W/R Beats decks. First strike is a great ability to give a creature when you have a common mini-Growth (Piety Charm) and Fever Charm floating around, and I used this combination with Gustcloak Runner to take out a duo of Hill Giants. It’s also great with the pumpable Goblins, and pingers like Sparksmith. If you have a 2/1 first striker and a Sparksmith on the table, there is no way the enemy can block effectively. The scary part about this is that you can set it up, with ease, by the third turn, when most decks are barely getting on their feet.

The Crown is strong on defense as well – but that’s not the main power of Crown of Fury. Remember that red card from Invasion, the one with the Green kicker? Savage Assault, I believe it was called? That card gave a bunch of guys first strike and +1/+1, and sent them on in. It was an underrated card until it got semi-spotlighted on the Sideboard by a limited player of some repute.

The reason that card was good – and the reason that Crown of Fury is also good – is that you can put an opponent into a terrible blocking dilemma. Say you’ve beaten him down to ten, but he’s got two 3/3 creatures in play, holding off your 2/1, 2/2, and 2/3 Soldiers? If you play Crown of Fury and just swing, the enemy is put into an awful predicament: Block and lose guys? Or don’t block, and get smoked for nine?

I think Crown of Fury is the best of the Crowns for an aggro deck, better than Crown of Vigor (which doesn’t give first strike, and therefore doesn’t create those tough situations). I think W/R Soldiers with Crown, Piety Charm and red removal is going to be a very, very strong decktype in Onslaught draft. (And he won the PTQ with it, and Kai likes this combination, so he should know – The Ferrett)

Stick a Crown on Gustcloak Runner. Go ahead. Then, when he starts throwing blockers in the way, use Piety Charm (or Fever Charm, if you’ve got the Red for it). Use Shock. Use your Catapult Squad (with is insane with Gustcloak creatures, by the way… Have you noticed that?). With first strike all up in the area, nothing much can stand in the way of a W/R Beats deck.

Custody Battle

Blah blah blah, bling bling bling blah. I keep the car. You get the house in the hills. I want the Lotus, honey. You keep the kids. I got this 15th pick in the Top 8 Rochester, and played it. It worked like a charm – no one playing five or six 5-6CC spells is going to sacrifice a land. The creature is in limbo until the late-game, and if you should need it, you could always sacrifice the land and swing.

Dragon Roost

A fun rare for Limited – just ask [author name="Laura Mills"]Laura Mills[/author]. I’m glad it exists – cards like this give Magic the flavor it needs to ensure the continued existence of the game. I play the game, you play the game, he plays the game, she plays the game.

Timmy buys the packs.

Timmy, keeping hope alive!

If you’re drafting a fast W/R deck, don’t take this. Seriously. It is slower than the United Nations. I took a Glory Seeker over it during the Top 8 draft, and never looked back.

Dwarven Blastminer

Kibler wrote about it here. [author name="Oscar Tan"]Oscar Tan[/author] wrote about it, in part, here. I won’t try to add anything to what those two have to say.

Embermage Goblin

Like Avarax, a useful creature alone, and even better if you can somehow snag two of them! Red got the best of the”Search for friends!” creatures, though both are uncommon. I can’t wait to hear stories of”triple Embermage” and”triple Avarax” drafts. Embermage Goblin is a Wizard, which is notable for two reasons – you can put Lavamancer’s Skill on it if you don’t have anything else, and it can help you keep your Thoughtbound Primoc.

Erratic Explosion

Like many, I underestimated this card at the Prerelease (though I didn’t open any, so it was pretty moot). Simply put, Erratic Explosion is a fine card that serves as solid removal and direct damage – especially in Sealed where the mana curve climbs to seven or eight in some decks, particularly R/G varieties. I saw an Erratic Explosion turn up Symbiotic Wurm and send eight damage to the dome. WHACK!

Gary Wise spoke thusly about Tainted Pact:”This, to me, reads ‘Remove any and all lands on top of the deck, take the first spell” – and Erratic Explosion is similar in that it does a good job of plowing through those landclumps as well. Of course, it sends the first spell to the bottom of the library, but you can’t have everything.

Fever Charm

he second-most maindeckable of the charms (after Vitality), the Fever Charm will let you trade a 2/2 for a 4/4, and that’s always desirable. The other abilities are just icing on the cake. Don’t forget that Embermage Goblin, Bloodline Shaman, and the like are Wizards.

Flamestick Courier

The couriers are way better in draft than in Sealed, where you might not get the creatures you need to go with ’em. With a couple of Flamestick Couriers, it’s easy to justify playing that stupid Goblin Bird Maiden – it’s the best target for an ability like this. 3/4 flyers are pretty good.

The problem with all five of the couriers is that they are fragile; if they get removed before blockers are assigned, you can easily lose two cards to an opponent’s one – what happens when the Goblin Sky Raider shrinks and gets eaten by a Dive Bomber or the like? You weep like it was The Rapture, that’s what.

See you later, all.

Geordie Tait

[email protected]