The Top 25 Red Cards Of All-Time: #5-1

Well, red mages. This is it. The best red spells ever put to print are here, and Patrick Chapin is happy to provide you with insight and historic decks! Which spells made it to the top of the Mountain?

Now that we’re into the top five red cards of all-time, we’ve got to be
dealing with some real heavyweights, the creme de la creme Vintage has to

#5: Inferno Titan

No really!

Inferno Titan is a truly messed up Magic card.

What people Oath of Druids up speaks volumes. You’ve got access to every
creature in Magic (well, except Timmerian Fiends and Tempest Efreet), and
you don’t have to pay for it. What do you Oath up?

Inferno Titan is that big of a game.

In addition to being such a powerful game piece, it’s obviously far more
castable than most game-winning threats we could play and the ability to
clean up the left over Spirits from Forbidden Orchard is actually very

Inferno Titan enjoyed immediate Standard success, most notably in the G/R
Wolf Run Ramp deck we discussed
last week
; however, this was only the beginning of what would prove to be a long and
illustrious career dominating the format in no end of different archetypes.

Everything from Grixis Control…

To Temur Birthing Pod

Inferno Titan sets a high water mark that is going to be hard for “meant to
be cast normally” fatties to reach again, a very deserving “best real red
creature” of all-time.

Honorable mentions to Grim Lavamancer and Goblin Welder. There are plenty
of worlds where either of these two could finish pretty high on the list,
depending on what you’re measuring most on that day.

#4: Burning Wish

Now we’re really getting to the heart of it. Burning Wish was merely a
pushy, and at times abusive, tutor when it was Standard-legal, but its
interaction with Storm combo decks is what it will be best remembered for.

There was a sustained period in Vintage where Yawgmoth’s Will was arguably
the best card in the game and when resolved, generally meant the game was
over. Burning Wish being able to find Yawgmoth’s Will was just too insane
for allowing Vintage to slide back into the degenerate turn one kill space
that it had been known for from time to time.

Long.dec and the numerous descendants like Grim Long derive their name from
the archetype’s original architect, legendary deckbuilder Mike Long (which,
of course, led to Burning Wish’s restriction). Dark Rituals and draw-sevens
to build mana, looking for a way to access the Yawgmoth’s Will sitting
safely in the sideboard. Then replay everything and find the Tendrils.
Nothing to it!

While Burning Wish is the premier red tutor of all-time, Gamble definitely
deserves an honorable mention, particularly for finding Life from the Loam
or Sneak Attack.

#3: Lightning Bolt

That’s right, Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt’s generational efficiency
translates even into Vintage, where it’s particularly good at killing
Deathrite Shamans, Dark Confidants, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Standard, Draft, Lightning Bolt is one of the best
cards in every format that comes in contact with the card. It’s one of the
pillars the game was originally balanced around. By the time of the first
Pro Tour, Lightning Bolt already had enjoyed widespread success, and PT 1
was no different.

Lightning Bolt was especially important at PT 1, as it was the best clean
answer to Black Knight, Order of the Ebon Hand, White Knight, Order of
Leitbur, and so on (since both Swords to Plowshares and Terror had giant

Justice’s list was an early precursor to the prison archetype, built to
slowly and methodically achieve a near complete mana-lock.

Notably, Justice played Shatter, rather than Disenchant, because it was
only minutes before the event started that he decided to splash Balance and
Swords to Plowshares.

He didn’t realize in time, that this meant he could replace his Shatters
with Disenchants, a mistake that would end up proving costly in a top 8
with Land Taxes and Sylvan Libraries.

As amazing as Lightning Bolt was, not everyone was convinced…

The original eccentric deckbuilding success story, Erim Tam’s deck is best
remembered for splashing Zur’s Weirding, despite seeming like a Naya deck;
but I’ll never forget the moment I learned that he really did play just one
Lightning Bolt and two Incinerates.


In those days, a popular sequence was to open with Dark Ritual into a Black
Knight or pump knight, with a Thrull Retainer to make an immediate threat
that beat both Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt.

#2: Goblin Recruiter

I had to give the nod to Inferno Titan for best real red creature, because
Goblin Recruiter is just not a real red creature. It’s not even really a
real Magic card.

“When Goblin Recruiter enters the battlefield, stack your entire deck.”

Yeah, that makes sense on a two-drop…

…Or it’s unbelievably stupid, ruining any hope of playing a game (to say
nothing of being completely busted).

Goblin Recruiter was eventually banned from Legacy because of its
interaction with Food Chain and Goblin Ringleader.

Nevertheless, this combo has enjoyed occasional success even in Vintage.

Once you stack your deck, every Ringleader will hit four more Goblins,
meaning you can basically just draw whatever sixteen Goblins you want (and
that’s not even factoring in Goblin Matron). Every Goblin can just pay for
another Goblin and turn a profit.

Okay, funny, but seriously, it’s not just that the Dwarf tribe isn’t in the
same zip code as the Goblin tribe. The difference between costing three and
costing two is a lot.

#1: Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune taking the top spot probably comes as no surprise, and for
good reason. Wheel of Fortune is a true classic, a Timetwister that
actually had the decency to stick around long enough for us Revised babies to get to have our fun with it, right from jump

Wheel of Fortune has long been associated with turn 1 kills, refilling
after a flurry of Moxes. While Long.dec above is a pretty perfect example
of the kind of Draw-seven deck that has historically been the most common
source of turn 1 kills the format was once known for, the most extreme
example since the advent of the four-of rule is without question the
following Broken LED deck from the 1999 Duelist Team Challenge at Origins.

I played our team’s Vintage portion (at the time, called Type 1), and only
three of my opponents survived even a single turn against me in the entire
tournament, and that was despite most of my opponents knowing they had to
mulligan any hand without Force of Will when on the draw. To begin with,
this tournament was held during the month where Lion’s Eye Diamond was very
nearly as good as Black Lotus (except you could play four!).

Fifth Edition
rules changed how spells and mana worked, allowing players to declare
spells, then pay any associated costs. This meant you could declare you’re
going to play Wheel of Fortune, then sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond to pay
for it.

The Lion’s Eye Diamond insanity would have been historically crazy,
regardless, but the deck was also completely filled to the brim with cards
that went on to get restricted. I had been crushing the Type 1 scene for a
few years at that point, primarily running Hurkyl’s Recall “combo decks,”
that just built up mana and drew cards. For years, I had been able to just
clean up against opponents relying on The Deck and Zoo. Finally, enough was

For starters, Lion’s Eye Diamond was officially power-level errata’d, in
order to restore some semblance of sanity to the format. Of course, reading
the above list should make it clear that fixing LED wasn’t going to be

When the next restricted list announcement rolled around, a pretty unheard
of number of cards were simultaneously added to the Vintage Restricted

This list included most of my deck (every card but Force of Will, Defense
Grid, and City of Brass would end up restricted at some point), as well as
lots of other cards that were part of other broken decks that were feared
to be the next to rise up.

You think a lot of cards get banned these days?

Imagine a Banned/Restricted List announcement where they hit basically
every single card in your deck…