Time Spiral in Constructed — Red

After dealing with the White, Blue, and Black offerings from Time Spiral, Ted turns his attention to the Red spells. Alongside Mr Card Game’s customary wit, we have one Patrick Sullivan sharing his fiery insight on the Red cards he thinks will see Constructed play. The second guest columnist, Norin the Wary, disappeared shortly before commencement of the article and is therefore unavailable for comment.

Ah Red, the color of blood, roses… what’s that? I already did that intro? Well ain’t that a bitch. Maybe I should just create a distraction and post some lyrics to the cover of “Red Red Wine” by UB40. On second thoughts, that would just be cruel, because the song would get stuck in your head all day, and you’d also start this part of the review angry, which wouldn’t be healthy for either of us. Nope, instead of all of that, I’ll just jabber about nothing for awhile and quickly segue into telling you about today’s special guest author.

That’s right kiddies, instead of the daily solo action you’ve been getting from me for the past three days, I’m going to give you a special treat today and tag team a couple of cards with the Most Diabolical Hata West of the Mississippi, Patrick Sullivan. It won’t even cost you extra. I like Red cards more than most… but to Patrick, Red cards are nectar and ambrosia. And he doesn’t just like the good Red cards, no sir. Patrick’s willing to get dirty with his babies in some sort of mutual fetish satisfaction society, the type of which you can’t get outside of Belladonna videos. The nastier the Red card that can satisfy his needs, the more he likes it. Here’s Patrick with a few words about where he’s been and what you’ll see today:

Hello readers. It’s been a while since I’ve put something up on this wonderful website, but I’ve had my reasons. I work full time as a game designer, so my urge to play a lot of Magic has diminished. I also hated both Ravnica and Coldsnap Limited, so I wasn’t drafting for fun much either. There was a point where I was drafting a lot and playing a lot of Standard on Magic Online, but a combination of burnout, crappy Limited formats, and terrible prize payout led me to not attend U.S. Nationals (the first time in my life I skipped a premier event I was Q’d for), and that was pretty much that for a few months. I attended Grand Prix: Phoenix, and have otherwise been laying pretty low. But I think I have the itch back, and so far I’ve really been enjoying Time Spiral, both for Limited and for brewing up some hot Standard decks. Most of these decks, surprisingly, have been Red.

Teddy contacted me to review a few Red cards for Time Spiral. I selected ten cards to review, and for the most part I selected them on the basis of “most Constructed potential.” That’s not to say I expect all of them to show up in Constructed, but at least some of them are obviously very good, and the others I think have some niche roles. I’m not going to hit you off with a rating system since I never really saw the point in that, but I will discuss what I think the applications are for each of these cards. If nothing else, I hope it gives you readers an insight into my mind as a deck builder, how I always end up with very marginal draft cards in my Extended decks and so forth.

Because this is a set review in the classic Mowshowitz style, I will give you ratings, both for the cards I review and for the ones that Patrick does on his own, but know that these ratings are from me alone. For those of you who have skipped the previous three days, here’s how it breaks down:

**** – A card I consider “list worthy” for inclusion in my top ten cards in the set. (Purples get their own list.)

*** – A good Constructed card that offers something you want at a reasonable price

** – This card isn’t that great a deal, but it’s worth playing in the right situation or when there are few alternatives.

* – This card is unworthy of Constructed play. It might be a first pick Limited card, but that is beside the point.

There are no halves, and the system is intentionally approximate. If it’s close, I’ll chose one side or the other. If you want the real answer, read what I have to say.

AEtherflame Wall – 1R
Creature – Wall (C)
AEtherflame Wall may block creatures with shadow as though they didn’t have shadow.
{R}: AEtherflame Wall gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
AE before Æ but not after C…

Aetherflame Wall is notable almost exclusively because it is a Defender that’s an actual wall. Also, I tend to start my days with a breakfast of dried cherries and almonds or cereal and fresh fruit, just in case you wanted to know.

Rating: *

Ancient Grudge – 1R
Instant (C)
Destroy target artifact.
Flashback {G}

The enchantment version of this card saw extensive sideboard play in Standard, as well as making occasional appearances in almost every other format at one time or another. The artifact version of this card is likely even better, since artifacts are pretty much broken in every format but Standard and Block. Standard adoption depends entirely on having consistent available targets, but Ancient Grudges will not want for appearance fees practically anywhere else, and it makes a fine Signet remover in the meantime.

Rating: ***

Barbed Shocker – 3R
Creature – Insect (U)
Trample, Haste
Whenever Barbed Shocker deals damage to a player, that player discards his or her hand and draws that many cards.

I’m confused — against a lot of decks the damage ability on this card is actually a liability. Why then am I paying four mana for a 2/2, even with trample (Ell Oh Ell) and haste? Is there some secret Fire Whip combo I’m missing out on here? Come to think of it, there are a surprising number of Megrim mini-combos running around — should a card get an extra star based on Megrim synergy alone?

Survey says?!?

Rating: *

Basalt Gargoyle – 2R
Creature – Gargoyle (U)
Echo {2}{R}
{R}: Basalt Gargoyle gets +0/+1 until end of turn.

If you are just paying the base cost for the Gargoyle, he’s an exceptional deal. If you have to pay the echo as well, he’s unplayable. Not least of which because he pumps the wrong end. And don’t give me any guff about Thick-skinned Goblin sitting in the corner, giving you a “come hither” look.

Rating: *

Blazing Blade Askari – 2R
Creature – Human Knight (C)
Flanking (Whenever a creature without flanking blocks this creature, the blocking creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn.)
{2}: Blazing Blade Askari becomes colorless until end of turn.
“This can’t be Jamuraa. We could not have failed her this badly….”

If you just want the damage, Red can obviously do better than just a Gray Ogre. If you want the damage, plus a problematic attacker plus a way around Circle of Protection: Red, then you may be interested.

Rating: **

Bogardan Hellkite – 6RR
Creature – Dragon (R)
Flash (You may play this spell any time you could play an instant.)
When Bogardan Hellkite comes into play, it deals 5 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.

It’s easy to dismiss eight-mana creatures, even when they can be put into play at instant speed, but to do so in this case would be a mistake. First of all, the comes-into-play ability attacked to the Hellkite is a hot one. Second, savvy players aren’t generally planning to pay full price for our friend here, making him either a versatile removal spell or a Lava Axe attacked to that 5/5 body. Additionally, there’s a lot of mana acceleration in the environment, meaning getting him into play normally is easier than it might first appear. Then again, the best idea, and I can’t believe I’m even suggesting this, might be to just use him as part of a storm-based combo deck.

Bah, never mind. That can’t possibly be good.

Rating: ***

Bogardan Rager – 5R
Creature – Elemental (C)
When Bogardan Rager comes into play, target creature gets +4/+0 until end of turn.

Tangle Spider had similar stats without the benefit of pumping another creature. The benefit is almost certainly irrelevant in Standard, but it’s worth nothing that you are at least getting a reasonable deal.

Rating: *

Bonesplitter Sliver – 3R
Creature – Sliver (C)
All Slivers get +2/+0.

Ahhh, here we are, something that turns slivers aggressive. As a spell, you get charged three mana for this effect, so getting a 4/2 in the bargain is pretty good. Once again, I don’t know if slivers will actually be any good, but assuming it doesn’t stretch the mana too much, Bonesplitter Sliver is a nice incentive to mess around with the deck.

Rating: ***

Coal Stoker – 3R
Creature – Elemental (C)
When Coal Stoker comes into play, if you played it from your hand, add {R}{R}{R} to your mana pool.
“The day is mine! I sent three such creatures against my foe, then watched as my magefire popped her soldiers like overripe spleenfruits.” -Dobruk the Unstable, pyromancer

You don’t normally (like, ever) play Hill Giants in Standard, but you start to consider it when they effectively cost you one generic mana to cast. Putting this out on turn 3 via some acceleration and then following with Stone Rain in the same turn is strong ju ju. Unless he gets countered or immediately outclassed by elephants, of course. It might be a reach to rate this guy at three stars, but I’m doing it anyway.

Rating: ***

Conflagrate – XXR
Sorcery (U)
Conflagrate deals X damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.
Flashback – {R}{R}, Discard X cards. (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)

Patrick says: This is the card on which I’m probably the most off-base, but I can’t get the idea out of my head that this card has some value. In Standard, this card has some stiff competition from Demonfire, and to a lesser extent the other X spells, but the flashback on this card makes it an entirely different animal. The best applications for this card are likely in combo decks where either a) you can generate infinite (or close to infinite) cards, allowing you to both blow away your opponent and all of his guys (if they have Worship or some other card that prevents you from winning with a straight X effect) or dodge a redirection effect by chopping up the damage between you and your opponent, or b) you can draw a ton of cards and kill someone with the Conflagrate out of the bin for RR, which is a pretty cheap kill, mana wise. In the realm of normal decks, Conflagrate is likely too expensive on both ends to see play, especially when the burn in Standard is at a very high quality, but I think this card could have a niche roll in certain combo decks that have ways to ignore the prohibitive costs.

Rating: **

Empty the Warrens – 3R
Sorcery (C)
Put two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens into play.
Storm (When you play this spell, copy it for each spell played before it this turn.)
“They’d pour out of the warrens to make war (and to make room for the littering matrons).” -Sarpadian Empires, vol. IV

It’s not a “goblin” per se, so Mr. Warchief won’t be reducing any mana costs here, and that’s a good thing for other environments. With regard to Standard, this is still pretty expensive, but that’s what happens to storm cards because they have the most potential of brokenness for any spell type in existence. It would take a far braver man than I to call this unplayable.

Rating: **

Firemaw Kavu – 5R
Creature – Kavu (U)
Echo {5}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
When Firemaw Kavu comes into play, it deals 2 damage to target creature.
When Firemaw Kavu leaves play, it deals 4 damage to target creature.

For six mana what you actually get is a 4/2 that does 2 when it comes into play, stays around to block for a turn, and then does 4 when it leaves play. That is a perfectly reasonable return on your investment. If you want to pay six more mana to keep it around, like Bobby Brown, that is your prerogative. This Kavu isn’t its format-dominating cousin, and it is expensive, but it has good upside.

Rating: **

Flamecore Elemental – 2RR
Creature – Elemental (C)
Echo {2}{R}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)

Nothin’ to see here, nothin’ to see.

Rating: *

Flowstone Channeler – 2R
Creature – Human Spellshaper (C)
{1}{R}, {T}, Discard a card: Target creature gets +1/-1 and gains haste until end of turn.

Most spellshapers have some potential in Constructed, though it’s frequently very small. I don’t believe this one does.

Rating: *

Fortune Thief – 4R
Creature – Human Rogue (R)
Damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.
Morph {R}{R} (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

Considering how amped the creature kill appears to be in the format, I have no hope Fortune Thief will live when you need him to. Besides, I miss the suave look and giant nose of Ali from Cairo.

Rating: *

Fury Sliver – 5R
Creature – Sliver (U)
All Slivers have double strike.
“A rift opened, and our arrows were abruptly stilled. To move was to push the world. But the sliver’s claw still twitched, red wounds appeared in Thed’s chest, and ribbons of blood hung in the air.” -Adom Capashen, Benalish hero

The ability is a smashing, but so is the six mana it will cost you to put it into play.

Rating: *

Ghitu Firebreathing – 1R
Enchantment – Aura (C)
Flash (You may play this spell any time you could play an instant.)
Enchant creature
{R}: Enchanted creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
{R}: Return Ghitu Firebreathing to its owner’s hand.

Rating: *

Goblin Skycutter – 1R
Creature – Goblin Warrior (C)
Sacrifice Goblin Skycutter: Goblin Skycutter deals 2 damage to target creature with flying. That creature loses flying until end of turn.
He takes out his fear of heights on anything above his head.

In Soviet Russia, Goblin burns you!

Now this is new. A solid body, cheap price, and useful ability is nothing new to Goblins, but one that deals specifically with fliers? Verrry Interestink. He’s solid — nothing great, but certainly nothing bad. I do get a slightly ominous feeling knowing that Mogg Fanatic will arrive next summer and Tivadar already exists to keep the peace. Do we need to prepare for another invasion by the Red Army, or are there simply a smattering of Goblins around to keep fans quiet?

Rating: **

Grapeshot – 1R
Sorcery (C)
Grapeshot deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
Storm (When you play this spell, copy it for each spell played before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.)
Mages often seek to emulate the powerful relics lost to time and apocalypse.

Remember the part earlier where I said storm spells has easy potential to get retarded quickly? This is the card you really need to watch out for. I’m not suggesting what to do with it really, but I know for sheezy that I don’t want to see this under an Eye of the Storm, nor do I want to see some cutesy Enduring Renewal combo smash me in the face with this as the brass knuckles. In fact, this new Standard seems like it is now rife with combo pieces and enablers — it’s simply up to some enterprising deckbuilder to put together all the pieces. It’s not as good as Tendrils in other formats.

Rating: ***

Greater Gargadon – 9R
Creature – Beast (R)
Suspend 10 – {R}
Sacrifice an artifact, creature, or land: Remove a time counter from Greater Gargadon. Play this ability only if Greater Gargadon is suspended.

Patrick says: In a Mono-Red mirror (or similar matchup), this card could be a real breaker. In RDW mirrors, or Sligh mirrors, guys just kind of trade. You play a guy, it dies. They play one, it dies. Basically, both players try to sit around and set up whatever trump they have available (Cursed Scroll in the olden days, Giant Solifuge in more modern times) and ride it out. With the Gargadon, you can Suspend it and just sit around for a while. Whenever a guy of yours dies (which they will), you remove a counter. Your opponent can’t exactly kill you quickly, because they can’t get any offense going either. Eventually, both you and your opponent are out of gas and you get to play a 9/7, which obviously requires a ton of work to get through. Against a lot of Wildfire-based strategies (not the ones with bounce, of course), similar rules apply. Now of course, the value of this guy goes down quickly once your opponent has some sort of way to deal with it (a pro-Red dude, a bounce spell, a “banish” spell), but assuming both you and your opponent can only deal with creatures via damage, Greater Gargadon deserves some serious sideboard consideration. If it existed a few years ago, I would have possibly sideboarded this guy over Fledgling Dragon in my Extended RDW, which is high praise from me indeed.

Rating: ***

Ground Rift – R
Sorcery (C)
Target creature without flying can’t block this turn.

Now that we’ve done this for a few days, I assume you don’t really need me to tell you this is bad in Constructed anymore.

Rating: *

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician – 3R
Legendary Creature – Goblin Advisor (R)
Whenever another Goblin you control becomes blocked, sacrifice it. If you do, it deals 4 damage to each creature blocking it.
Sacrifice two Mountains: Put two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens into play.
“Everybody but me-CHARGE!”

This probably isn’t great in Standard (yet), but could certainly serve as a spicy one-of in any deck running Goblin Matron. For the most part, gobbos just win combat anyway, which makes it nice that Ib has a second ability that features taking Mountains and converting them into more goblinsh! If there’s one thing a Red mage always needs, it’s more goblinsh! Hang on to your extended art Rakdos Guildmages, they may get more use now than ever before. Oh, and great flavor text, per usual.

Rating: ***

Ignite Memories – 4R
Sorcery (U)
Target player reveals a card at random from his or her hand. Ignite Memories deals damage to that player equal to that card’s converted mana cost.
Storm (When you play this spell, copy it for each spell played before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.)

Breakdown time. Say the average casting cost in most decks is around three. If you storm this twice and a person only has spells in hand, you will do an average of nine damage for five mana plus whatever it cost you to cast the earlier two spells. That’s pretty reasonable. Now say your opponent has half spells and lands in hand, you now do an average of 4.5 for five mana, putting this more in the Lava-Axe-with-some-work range. Moses called me up today to inform me that God must hate us because, while during his time the world was flooded with merely water, our world is flooded with f***ing flames (some of which might even be Blue). “Bad beat, my man. Stay cool.” Of course, back in his day they didn’t have asbestos hot pants (key tech for set review periods), so it’s not so bad.

In a world flooded with excellent burn, why would you play this?

Rating: *

Ironclaw Buzzardiers – 2R
Creature – Orc Scout (C)
Ironclaw Buzzardiers can’t block creatures with power 2 or greater.
{R}: Ironclaw Buzzardiers gains flying until end of turn.

I’m onto you, Wizards. You’re using the whole nostalgia thing to trick me into looking at new cards and thinking they might be as useful as the old ones. Well I’ve got news for you — creatures these days are better than in 1995. These silly flying orcs just won’t cut it… except maybe in Block, and even there we’d have to be a bit desperate.

Rating: *

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage – 1RR
Legendary Creature – Human Spellshaper (R)
{R}, {T}, Discard a card: Destroy target blue permanent.
{1}{R}, {T}, Discard a card: Jaya Ballard, Task Mage deals 3 damage to target creature or player. A creature dealt damage this way can’t be regenerated this turn.
{5}{R}{R}, {T}, Discard a card: Jaya Ballard deals 6 damage to each creature and each player.

Patrick says: I’ve heard a lot of varied opinion on this card, none of which I’m sure is backed up by a single played game. I’ve also heard a lot of debate on this card framed as “Magus or Jaya”, which to me doesn’t make any sense. You can, you know, play both. They even have a queer sort of synergy (early use of Jaya accelerates setting up your Scroll), they don’t really conflict with each other in the costs you have to pay to use them, and they are both individually very powerful. The issue, of course, is that you need an untap for Jaya to do anything, and that is asking an awful lot out of a three-mana creature. It is likely that Jaya is going to be either a sideboard card or a card played in very specific metagames, where you are confident that Jaya isn’t going to die the second she hits play.

Make no mistake though, Jaya is absurd once she’s online. Even the fattest of creatures will have a tough time sticking around, she will get Magus online very quickly, and she’s also very good at killing your opponent. Also noteworthy is that she blows away Blue permanents, so if a Blue enchantment becomes prevalent (Rising Waters and Future Sight are some “recent” ones, Battle of Wits is maybe the most realistic one), Jaya will give your Mono-Red deck some way of handling them. Blurring the color wheel is awesome!

Rating: ***

Keldon Halberdier – 4R
Creature – Human Warrior (C)
First strike
Suspend 4 – {R} (Rather than play this card from your hand, you may pay {R} and remove it from the game with four time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter. When you remove the last, play it without paying its mana cost. It has haste.)

Say you skip your Red one-drop (or just didn’t draw your Magus of the Scroll), and cast this instead. Well, on turn 5 you get a hasted 4/1 first striker. Yippee!

Rating: *

Lightning Axe – R
Instant (C)
As an additional cost to play Lightning Axe, discard a card or pay {5}.
Lightning Axe deals 5 damage to target creature.
“A gargoyle’s meat can be carved with an ordinary cleaver, but for its petrous hide . . .” -Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, The Underworld Cookbook

Patrick says: I tried to warn you guys about doing a set review with me. I go into the gutter to get my Constructed cards. Seriously though, this card kills really big creatures for very little mana, at any point in the game. Flores can’t keep quiet about Skred being the best card in Standard, but Skred can’t kill Wall of Roots on turn 2, or Caryatid on turn 3 (talk about an excellent exchange right there!) For additional filth, combine with Fiery Temper for some madness action. Also, it uh, sets up Magus. Before the forums blow up here, keep in mind that I’m not encouraging you to put four of these into every deck you build (although I wouldn’t be upset if you did), just that it is important to be aware of cards like this. If you have to kill a big creature very quickly, and cards are a sacrifice you are willing to make, Lightning Axe does an admirable job of chopping down the big boys. [It’s also a cheap reanimation enabler… – Craig.]

Rating: **

Magus of the Scroll – R
Creature – Human Wizard (R)
{3}, {T}: Name a card. Reveal a card at random from your hand. If it’s the named card, Magus of the Scroll deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Patrick says: Ding! The best Red card in the set by a mile, and the best Red one-drop since the Tempest guys, Magus of the Scroll will be a staple in multiple formats for a long time. Now, this card is a lot worse than Cursed Scroll because it dies to more maindeck type cards than an artifact, and it isn’t a colorless source of damage, but these are minor quips. Magus is awesome, but it requires a certain build of deck. Unlike Cursed Scroll, you can’t really play this card in decks with six or seven dudes and a lot of control elements (mono-Black control decks from Rath/Urza Standard as an example), since Magus is going to be a huge target for removal. Also, since Magus is likely to die as soon as your opponent can kill it, you can’t really mess around getting your hand empty. Outside of understanding what the shortcomings of this card are and the minor deckbuilding restrictions that go along with it, this card is one of the best cards in the entire set, one of the best Red creatures ever, and he will force people to build their decks differently to combat the treat he presents.

Knutson says: I like Magus of the Scroll a lot, but it’s really fragile, so much so that it deeply hampers its effectiveness. The card is excellent, but it’s a 1/1… Then again, it’s a 1/1 that’s an excellent topdeck in the late game, which makes up for the fragility.

Rating: ****

Mogg War Marshal – 1R
Creature – Goblin Warrior (C)
Echo {1}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
When Mogg War Marshal comes into play or is put into a graveyard from play, put a 1/1 red Goblin creature token into play.

For 1R you are guaranteed to get two 1/1 goblins. For 2RR you get three 1/1 goblins, but one is on tape delay. The former seems about average, the latter is just a bad deal. Is there some Zerg rush strategy to be found? Or maybe goblins are meant to use their Wondertwin powers to combine with slivers for real ultimate power.

Rating: **

Norin the Wary – R
Legendary Creature – Human Warrior (R)
When a player plays a spell or a creature attacks, remove Norin the Wary from the game. Return it to play under its owner’s control at end of turn.
“I have a bad feeling about this.”

I’m sorry, Jackal Pup. All the other colors these days seem to get versions of you that are at least playable, while Red gets cards like Norin the Wary.

Rating: *

Orcish Cannonade – 1RR
Instant (C)
Orcish Cannonade deals 2 damage to target creature or player and 3 damage to you.
Draw a card.
“Crispy! Scarback! Load another volcano-ball.” -Stumphobbler Thuj, Orcish captain

I’d give this a second thought if there weren’t about fifty other good removal spells in the format. This is especially true since Electrolyze does the exact same thing, better, without the drawback, at effectively the same price in today’s world of easy mana.

Rating: *

Pardic Dragon – 4RR
Creature – Dragon (R)
{R}: Pardic Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
Suspend 2 – {R}{R}
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, if Pardic Dragon is suspended, that player may put a time counter on Pardic Dragon.

This is clearly a push on the suspend mechanic with a nasty failsafe built in. Figure most Constructed decks are designed to make plays on turns 2-6, thus suspending this on turn 2 will likely mean he finally comes out to play on turn 7 or so. By that point, you probably just want to play it from you hand. Good, but not great, and the four-butt once again appears to be a downside in the modern world.

Rating: **

Plunder – 4R
Sorcery (C)
Destroy target artifact or land.
Suspend 4 – {1}{R} (Rather than play this card from your hand, you may pay {1}{R} and remove it from the game with four time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter. When you remove the last, play it without paying its mana cost.)

Yar, a piratey name for a card that won’t be getting ye rich any time soon. Land destruction that resolves on turns 5 or 6 at the soonest is a key to Davy Jones’ locker.

Rating: *

Reiterate – 1RR
Instant (R)
Buyback {3} (You may pay an additional {3} as you play this spell. If you do, put this card into your hand as it resolves.)
Copy target instant or sorcery spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.
“Echoes of the Mirari’s power yet linger.” -Zyd, Kamahlite druid

Patrick says: Very versatile and a maindeck card in many formats, Reiterate should see a healthy amount of play. You can “counter” other counters, draw some cards with an opposing Compulsive Research, or even ship a lethal Demonfire back to the noggin. The buyback feature can get pretty devastating as the game progresses, and you can even start doubling up (Send your Demonfire back at you! Twice!) once you hit a bazillion mana. It is a little rough to play this in a really aggressive deck, since holding up three mana kind of stinks, but in decks without the tightest of curves, Reiterate can do a lot of different things, and a lot of different things well. In very aggressive decks, I could see playing this card over, say, the fourth best burn spell or something if the burn in the format was worse, but Ravnica has so much excellent burn (Char, Seal of Fire, Demonfire) that this card will probably not see much play in aggressive decks until the rotation of Ravnica at the earliest. Still, this is one of the stars of Time Spiral Red, and a card that will see a good amount of play.

Knutson says: Very versatile and a possible maindeck card in many formats, the buyback makes it a good deal in the late-game, though it probably won’t see as much play in decks with tight curves. Expect this to come on a bit late, and remember that it still costs three mana to cast the first time, which is a little short of amazing.

No longer reiterating, I don’t think it’s quite as good as Patrick does.

Rating: **

Rift Bolt – 2R
Sorcery (C)
Rift Bolt deals 3 damage to target creature or player.
Suspend 1 – {R} (Rather than play this card from your hand, you may pay {R} and remove it from the game with a time counter on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter. When you remove the last, play it without paying its mana cost.)

I’m a dork, because I think I like this spell a little too much. I don’t like any of the specific parts, meaning the fact that it costs three to cast, or that it’s a sorcery, or that if you suspend it, you give your opponent a whole turn to set up. However, I actually approve of the whole package, and this is in spite of what I’ve been saying about how much good burn there is. It’s still a niche/goofy card though, and hence only two stars.

Rating: **

Sedge Sliver – 2R
Creature – Sliver (R)
All Slivers have “This creature gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Swamp” and “{B}: Regenerate this creature.”
Their flesh is as sodden as the fens in which they live, oozing to fill any wound and squishing to absorb any blow.

Sedge Sliver is bueno by itself and a reason to play slivers. Now you just have to figure out what the rest of the deck looks like.

Rating: ***

Subterranean Shambler – 3R
Creature – Elemental (C)
Echo {3}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
When Subterranean Shambler comes into play or leaves play, it deals 1 damage to each creature without flying.

I’m not even sure this is good in Limited.

Rating: *

Ding Dong, the Tog is Dead!

Sudden Shock – 1R
Instant (U)
Split second (As long as this spell is on the stack, players can’t play spells or activated abilities that aren’t mana abilities.)
Sudden Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Patrick says: This card actually changes Extended. Entire matchups get turned upside down by Sudden Shock, which addresses some of the biggest problem cards for Red decks in Extended. Psychatog, Wild Mongrel, Arcbound Ravager, Sakura-Tribe Elder… basically every cheap creature that is excellent against burn/other cheap creatures gets blown away by this card. In Standard, this card doesn’t really have any natural victims (Guildmages, I guess?), but in Extended this has no end of excellent targets. I wish that I had more to say on this card, since I think it will be one of the most format-impacting cards in the entire set, but it’s pretty simple. Every cheap creature that used to be good against aggressive Red decks are now just other dudes. To put it into context, I put Pithing Needlemaindeck – to address these exact same creatures at Pro Tour: LA last year. Now, I just add another burn spell.

Rating: ****

Sulfurous Blast – 2RR
Instant (U)
Sulfurous Blast deals 2 damage to each creature and each player. If you played this spell during your main phase, Sulfurous Blast deals 3 damage to each creature and each player instead.

I’m starting to think we may have a removal overload, and that creatures are simply meant to die. The closest analogue I can think of in recent times for this is Flamebreak, but that card killed Troll Ascetic outright and this needs some help. Regardless, the fact that you can cast it as an instant and that it gives you options and acts as a finisher is nothing short of swell. (Can you tell I’m running out of nice words here?) The Beav will like this one just fine, and even that scoundrel Eddie Haskell approves.

Rating: ***

Tectonic Fiend – 4RR
Creature – Elemental (U)
Echo {4}{R}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
Tectonic Fiend attacks each turn if able.

No haste and a drawback gets you a 7/7 for twelve mana distributed across two turns

Rating: *

Thick-skinned Goblin – 1R
Creature – Goblin Shaman (U)
You may pay {0} rather than pay the echo cost for permanents you control.
{R}: Thick-Skinned Goblin gains protection from red until end of turn.

Patrick says: I’m not here to talk about his Echo power. Maybe there is something there, but I didn’t really look. A Red creature with protection from Red obviously changes the dynamic of a lot of matchups. A lot of control decks lean on Wildfire to sweep away little beaters, and Thick-Skinned doesn’t care too much about that. A lot of Red mirrors are going to be defined by Solifuge, and this guy makes for a pretty excellent answer. In fact, I would say he was one of the better Red cards in the set except for one little reprint: Serrated Arrows.

Serrated Arrows is going to define a lot about what is and isn’t viable in Standard. If you show up to States with something like the Boros deck Flores and I advocated last year (no Glorious Anthem, better creatures) you are going to be ruined by Serrated Arrows. If you play a Rakdos deck without Giant Solifuge, you are going to be ruined by Serrated Arrows. If you lean on Thick-Skinned Goblin to beat other Red decks…you get the point. Anyone who shows up to States with a “cheap Pro ‘whatever-my-opponent-is-playing’ creature” plan will probably get a rude awakening in the sideboarded games, and possibly in game 1. It’s an artifact, and it’s very powerful, so prepare for it. (I know that my Thick-Skinned Goblin preview sort of became a Serrated Arrows preview, but the Goblin is related to the overall point. The Goblin would have actually been insane in a lot of Standard formats, but I don’t think this is going to be one of them, even if there are a lot of Red decks floating around.)

Knutson says: I’m really uncomfortable with the thought that Darwin can just be a four-mana 2/2 Stone Rain with haste, especially when this little guy doesn’t hinder the curve at all

Rating: ***

Two-Headed Sliver – 1R
Creature – Sliver (C)
All Slivers have “This creature can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures.”
“That which would be a fatal mutation in any other species is merely a source of new powers. I am intrigued, yet too fearful to examine it more closely.” -Rukarumel, field journal

Make it a 2/1 and I buy. As it is, this stinks, not least of all because the ability warrants a fat “Meh.” Two-Headed Sliver is only saved if sliver decks need bad two-drops to be good, and if that’s the case sound deckbuilding principles are getting tossed right out the window.

Rating: *

Undying Rage – 2R
Enchantment – Aura (U)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and can’t block.
When Undying Rage is put into a graveyard from play, return Undying Rage to its owner’s hand.

This might see play in block for aggressive decks that want a way to beef up creatures, and who want to use this as part of an attrition war.

Rating: **

Viashino Bladescout – 1RR
Creature – Viashino Scout (C)
Flash (You may play this spell any time you could play an instant.)
When Viashino Bladescout comes into play, target creature gains first strike until end of turn.

Rating: *

Volcanic Awakening – 4RR
Sorcery (U)
Destroy target land.
Storm (When you play this spell, copy it for each spell played before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.)

I have faith that R&D is not going to print a new broken land destruction spell. I’m also pretty sure if you are going to mess with storm, you just figure out how to break Grapeshot, though this could potentially see play in an Eye of the Storm deck that wants to wipe out an opponent’s entire manabase as part of the combo. You just have to be careful because your lands are also vulnerable. This finding much use is a long shot.

Rating: *

Wheel of Fate
Sorcery (R)
Wheel of Fate is red.
Suspend 4 – {1}{R} (Rather than play this card from your hand, pay {1}{R} and remove it from the game with four time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter. When you remove the last, play it without paying its mana cost.)
Each player discards his or her hand, then draws seven cards.

Patrick says: I think this is the most interesting of the cycle of insane Suspend cards. For starters, once you suspend this thing, your opponent’s game changes dramatically. Now, their plan should change into “empty my hand as fast as possible”, and they know up front that’s what they have to do. Of course, in theory your deck is going to be better prepared for that sort of game.

The question is going to be “is this a maindeck card?” and for now I think the answer is no. For starters, it almost messes up your curve, since you should try to set it up as soon as possible. That means doing nothing on your second turn, and for an aggressive deck, that’s a pretty big cost. Also, if you are playing a deck as aggressive as yours, the results of using this card can be pretty disastrous. Last, as long as Remand is a prevalent card (that is, as long as it’s legal in any format), this card is going to have a hard time. All that said, in some matchups this card is awesome. If you play against a non-permission control deck like the Rock, this card should be pretty powerful. And unlike Wheel of Fortune, you aren’t committed to spending three mana in your main phase, meaning that you get the first “crack” at using the cards. I think this card will likely be an excellent sideboard card, but probably too risky to have as a maindeck card.

As a sidenote, notice how every time a card is “good against a deck like The Rock” (and there are always a few in every set) it’s always slow, unwieldy, and might net you a few cards over the course of a thousand turns? I guess you fight them by playing their own game. I hate The Rock.

Rating: ***

Word of Seizing – 3RR
Instant (R)
Split second (As long as this spell is on the stack, players can’t play spells or activated abilities that aren’t mana abilities.)
Untap target permanent and gain control of it until end of turn. It gains haste until end of turn.

Patrick says: I’ve Grabbed some Reins and I’ve Blinded some people (non-legends, of course) with Anger, and I’ve gone so far as to Threaten some dudes. This card continues the “addressing creatures I can’t really address” role for Red decks. Since four mana has traditionally been what you pay for Ray of Command, the issue is if the extra mana is worth the Split Second. In a lot of instances, it is. Obviously against permission it’s a big boost (if you have eight mana, you can even take and then kill a Morphling!), and it cuts off sac outlets and killing their own guy in response and all that sort of stuff. Most of the matchups where you want this sort of effect are slower matchups where you try to overpower a single large blocker after getting in some beats, or against mid range fatty decks for the full blowout, so the additional mana shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Again, this is all sideboard stuff, but I think the additional mana is worth the versatility. [Don’t forget that it’s “target permanent”… I’d quite like your Circle of Protection: Red or Worship on my side of the board, thank you very much. – Craig, loving hasted enchantments.]

Rating: **


Patrick says: So there it is, ten Red cards that jumped out at me as Constructed cards. You’ll notice that my analysis on the better cards (Magus, Sudden Shock) was pretty brief. That’s because… well, I think they’re pretty obvious. A lot of what I think makes someone successful at building decks or adapting to metagames is being able to identify cards that do what you need them to do, as opposed to finding whatever the most powerful cards are in an abstraction. In the end, everyone will know what the “best” cards are, so one spot where you can get an advantage is identifying niche and sideboard cards ahead of time so when the appropriate metagames show up, you’ll be ahead of everyone else.

Also, keep in mind that my perspective is a little biased. I tend to look things through the Mono-Red beatdown perspective, and so my first instincts when I see Red cards is “how does this fit into aggressive decks?” But you’ll see that I break down cards into various roles, such as, “This card is naturally good for what I’m trying to do” (Magus, Jaya, etc), “This card is good for addressing mirrors or similar matchups” (Greater Gargadon, Thick-Skinned Goblin), or “This card is good at addressing other sorts of decks or shortcomings in my deck” (Lightning Axe, Wheel of Fate). Once you start looking at cards from a more broad perspective, as opposed to Good/Bad (which is why I hate a rating system), I think you’re more prone to find hidden gems that others might have overlooked.

Knutson says: Red made out very well, with both all-stars and exceptional depth. Sudden Shock is a card that changes how Magic is played in almost every single format. A pair of excellent slivers exists in this color, as do a number of cards with intriguing new abilities (Ib Halfheart, Jaya, Bogardan Hellkite, Thick-Skinned Goblin, Greater Gargadon) or new spins on old favorites (Ancient Grudge, Grapeshot, Magus of the Scroll, Sulfurous Blast, Wheel of Fate). It’s possible that Patrick and I simply like Red cards too much, or it’s (more likely) possible that Red really is awesome in Time Spiral. Feel free to make up your own mind on this topic and tell us about it in the forums.

Teddy Card Game
[email protected]