Welcome to the third part of our Limited set review, and the third-best color in the set. I originally had Green here, but the lack of depth (as well as the fact that Red has some unreal, format defying uncommons) made me put this color above Green, despite the fact that Green’s commons seem slightly better.
Red is one of the, if not the most popular color to splash, because of the insane removal. This means that you will have to decide to go Red early for a very good reason, because the middle of the pack is just a bunch of mediocre Grey Ogres and the like. The good part is that you will easily be able to move out and just splash the first couple of picks if the Red dries up, just like everybody else.
The Early Picks
As usual, these are in order:
One of the best removal spells the color has to offer. It is cheap, efficient, can go to the head, and it kills a large majority of the creatures at card equity. The suspend ability is gravy, and despite the fact that you can sometimes use it, isn’t one of the most played abilities. The more this card is around, the more I see people anticipating and actually using the ability that makes it a Lightning Bolt.
The only reason I chose Rift Bolt above this is the fact that in some decks, the card advantage can really hurt. In Blue decks with a bunch of Seers, or in Black decks with a lot of madness, this is better than the Bolt… but in most of the decks you would rather have the three-mana spell. It is very close, and can easily be the wrong way around here. Let’s be honest: if you are choosing between these two, you are in good shape.
Great removal at a cheap price, and it doesn’t cost you a card. It has a hidden cost, which means you can’t really play more than two or three in a deck. Three life is a lot, and that’s good, otherwise this card would be ridiculous. I wouldn’t first pick it, but I’d be happy to have it in my deck. Note that this will also come a lot later then the first two, simply because you can’t splash it.
The daddy of all tempo spells, this guy is the best turn 4 play around. He is also Storm’s best friend, meaning he will fit perfectly into your average Red deck, since those are exactly the things you are looking for. Sure, sometimes he’ll bite you, but most of the time he will launch you into a spectacular turn that will win you the game. I once played a turn 3 Totem, and then turn 4 was a pair of Stokers followed by a Grapeshot killing two creatures. Yep, I won that game.
Being an aggressive two-drop is what this guy does best, and he is also the only one in the color (in the common slot), which means you should take him fairly high. The ability is also fairly relevant, being a removal spell if you need it be, without being hampered by summoning sickness. Basically, he is your only aggressive two-drop, which is why you should make sure to take him early.
That is where it ends for the really good commons. Red has a lot of fillers, that are all okay in their own right, but are basically just Grey Ogres.
The Middle of the Road
The best of the Grey Ogre squad, simply because he can also kill little annoying guys. In all my testing I have yet to see this guy actually haste something up, but I guess I could see that happen sometimes. Killing the little guys still costs you a card and two mana, which means that most of the time this will just be a 2/2 for three.
I know, I know, I said Skycutter was your only two-drop, and despite the fact that this is fine in its own right, and it does cost two mana, I still don’t really count him in that category. The thing with Red is that you want to always be aggressive. This thing doesn’t help you with that, meaning it is a sideboard card most of the time, despite being very decent by itself. In U/R, with the flyers/groundstallers plan, this is a very nice card.
A very good creature for four mana, this is really hurt by the fact that the format is so tempo oriented, making the echo a lot to pay most of the time. Other than that, despite it being as slow as anything, there isn’t a whole lot not to like.
Mogg War Marshall
Goblin tokens, best suited with White for Fortify tricks. This guy is… well, two 1/1s for two mana, and it would be a lot better if 1/1s were actually relevant in this format. With all the flankers around, you will never really have the opportunity to block effectively, or really attack, making this good enough to play (two power is still fine if they don’t have a blocker), but seldom special.
Empty the Warrens
Here we have the key card of the suspend storm strategy. As you can see, this card combos very well with the various suspend cards (coming into play later and upping your storm count). That draft deck would actually be spectacular if 1/1s were very good, but as it is, I have seen multiple people lose while getting eight guys off this on turn 5. You can also guess that such a deck is not very reliable and consistent.
I actually like this guy very much, never feeling bad for having to play him. Sure, in the early game he is just a Grey Ogre that can’t chump-block, but he is great at dealing a point here and there midgame, when your initial onslaught has been stopped, making it so you can finish up with a burn spell.
Blazing Blade Askari
Another one of those guys I don’t mind playing at all. He combo’s perfectly with the Coal Stoker, just like the Buzzardier, by giving you something to drop (or a mana sink). Flanking is actually very good, since there are a bunch of annoying 1 toughness blockers around, and he trades for a three-toughness blocker! I mean, it’s only a Grey Ogre, but at least it’s a decent one.
Another one of those fine midrange creatures that will never actually be great. Even when this guy is suspended on turn 1, he might not have all that much impact with all the tappers and removal around. Errant Doomsayers eats this guy for lunch, and he combos horribly with the next card…
One of the more surprising Red guys, this man can actually have a very devastating effect on some boards, and win games by himself. The really bad part is that he doesn’t combo at all with most of Red’s commons. Red seems to have the most one-toughness guys in the set, meaning that despite this guy being good by himself, he will seldom make your deck as he kills all of your own guys.
In the beginning I was usually hesitant to play this card maindeck, as the effect seemed a little weak. Now that I know there are so many one-toughness guys around, I will always play it main, and sometimes I’ll even play multiples. One of my favorite cards to combo with the Stoker.
As you can see, all of Reds guys are so incredibly little, and the fact that this is the only decent-sized creature in the color means he will make the maindeck a whole lot more than usual. The effect can be useful with all those little men, making this actually a decent guy that can even do what was previously only reserved for Green cards. A monkey drop on defense.
As you can see, a lot of filler cards aren’t spectacular. This does mean that you will most often get enough playables when going for Red, something colors like Blue can’t really say. Of course, the power is a lot lower…
The 23rd Cards
Ah Viashino Scout. How we missed you. Well, actually, we haven’t, and you still die just as easily as you used to. This is clearly a card that you can play if you have to, but it’s really only for sliver decks.
A mediocre trick at a very awkward mana cost that leaves you with close to no relevant body. Red has so many better Ogres for three mana that I would rather avoid play this guy. Sometimes you do need the trick, like in R/G, and well… maybe if you have a bunch of Bonesplitter Slivers? That sucks, dude…
Two heads still mean you are a 1/1 for two, bro… no matter how hard it is to block you. (It isn’t really.)
Not enough artifacts around for you, sir.
Landkill isn’t viable in Limited at three or four mana. Same with five.
That’s a lot of Red “activating thingies,” and still not much of a card. Pumping power is not worth the card and the effort, let alone the fact that you get two-for-one’d so easily with this thing, and that is with its bounce effect.
That’s it for Red’s commons, where there isn’t much next to the couple of removal spells.
The real power comes now.
Like I said, these are the real reason why Red is the third color in the set. Normally, uncommons don’t really count in determining color strength, but Red has so many format-defining offerings.
Okay, so in trying to make Flametongue Kavu again, because that is the theme of the set and such – they once again made it the best uncommon of its set. I guess Kavus that shoot fire from their mouth are broken by design, as this might be even better in Limited, despite being unplayable in Constructed. An almost guaranteed two-for-one, killing a guy on the way in and the way out. Keep in mind that you can also just do four damage the first time around by targeting the Kavu itself with the flames.
Only slightly worse than Savage Twister, I am sure you can see how sweeping the entire board can be good. You can even time it in such a way that you will be the one with the best result. Arguably the second best uncommon in the set, and that makes two in one color.
Despite not being quite a Moldervine Cloak, this comes might close. The fact that it doesn’t work on defense hardly every matters in your average aggro Red deck, and it bounces to your hand, which pushes it over the top. It might even be a better Rancor.
As far as Shocks go, this is close to being top dog. It is not as devastating in Limited as it is in Extended, but it is still very good at tricking your opponent into doing all kinds of wrong things. Removal is never bad in Limited, obviously.
It is no Rolling Thunder, and it is no Fireball, but trust me, it is still a good spell. This is the first of the X spells that doesn’t seem completely broken in Limited despite still being playable. This did make it close to unplayable in any other format, but still… good effort, Wizards! I see people picking this as if it is a Fireball, when at most it will do three or four damage, so it’s not that good. It is still removal that can combo out in some decks to kill from almost nowhere.
In a color that has so few good offensive two-drops, a lot of echo, and spells that hurt your own men, this guy basically has it all. The more echo you have, the better he gets (of course), but I would never mind having this fella in the deck.
Red is not supposed to have creatures this big, so having to pay the echo sucks, but whatever. You will most often not have a lot of spells to cast after this guy. A solid man that gets better if you are R/B, or another color combination that doesn’t normally have decent-sized men.
As far as flyers go, this is right up there for Red, as it is basically far too good for the color of Bird Maiden. The echo sucks, but it is also a very good creature, so just suck it up and pay it!
If a sliver has a decent ability, but might even be a little too expensive for a sliver deck, you know you shouldn’t be playing it in regular decks. Despite that fact, double strike is a very scary ability that could get out of hands mighty fast. I could see playing it, but it isn’t very good in a format where most removal eats three-toughness dudes.
Random effects that might not even actually do damage is not what you want, and the storm doesn’t actually do anything either… On top of that, it’s a horrible topdeck. A bad Lava Axe is even worse than an actual Lava Axe.
Why would you ever want to give your opponent a new hand? Ever?
As you can see, Red has three uncommons that are pretty silly, as well as some fine others. If you open one of these, think long and hard about going Red. (Or don’t, and just go Red quickly!)
Word of Seizing
Ray of Command has been good for so long, and has been coming back with all kinds of trickery that only served to make it worse. It couldn’t grab legends, it was a sorcery, it was six mana… but now they made it with an actual solid advantage. Split Second is very good on this effect, because not being able to respond will just completely blow people out sometimes.
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
If this girl lives, the game should be over very fast. You don’t really need me to tell you how this is a bomb in Limited, do you?
FTK, eat your heart out! Sure, it’s expensive, but once you get to play it, it should win you the game just like that. This is one of the few reasons I would want to play the Storage Lands in Limited, as I think they are pretty unplayable otherwise. (So slow…)
Ali is back! Adding morph to this guy makes it even better than the original, as now you can surprise people with the Worship effect… and even if they have that sorcery removal spell, you will still have gained another turn, fog style.
This guy looks a lot worse than he is, as usually (in Limited) creatures should be dying left and right. A couple of sacrifices here and there, and a land or two on the final turn, and this guy could be yours in only a couple of turns. I guess that a 9/7 is pretty good for one mana, huh…
Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician
This looks like a fixed Goblin Trenches, and despite the fact that it isn’t as good as the original, turning a couple of late-game lands into useful chumpbait that is also very hard to block is nothing to sneeze at. Not exactly a bomb in every sense of the word, this is still a fine guy and a fine body, and he will always make the deck.
Dragon. Don’t suspend it – it’s just a full-blown dragon. It’s funny how this is clearly very good, and blue has a common (!) that is almost as good.
If you are Red and Black, and there is no removal to be taken, this will be the best card in the pack most of the time. If you are slivers, this becomes just unreal. A 3/3 for three mana with regeneration? Now that’s a creature!
The Not-So Nuts
Wheel of Fate
Your opponent will see this coming, and will be dumping his hand just like you. Symmetrical effects that your opponent sees coming are not good.
Norin the Wary
Sure, the effect ain’t bad, and I am sure in Constructed this and Early Harvest will make for some sort of combo, but in Limited it’s just a card that does nothing on its own. Leave it for some sideboard plans.
Wow. As you can see, most of the time when you open a Red rare, it will be very good. Not that that says anything about the color in draft, but it’s always nice to know.
That leaves us with the Timeshifted cards of note:
Red’s purples are a nice overview of what makes the color great. Lots of fire, and some fine men.
Back in IPA, this guy was not so good. It was impossible to draft an effective Red/White deck, what with the Allied colors themes and such, and that made the mana-cost pretty hard to overcome. This time around, Red/White is one of the best draft decks.
Thanks Wizards. You just had to do it. This will just win games by itself, and it spoils the format. First pick over anything.
Listen to me very carefully. Browbeat is not a playable card. It never was, and it never will be. It will not do what you want it to do, either deal damage when you want cards, and vice versa. It will not be worth a slot in your deck ever. Worst Lava Axe ever.
Yus, ORGG! I love me an Orgg. Too bad he is nothing special. Sure, sometimes he’ll be the nuts, and he will attack for millions, but sometimes he’ll also just sit there for a while, doing much of nothing. A playable card, but nothing more.
Eron the Relentless
If you manage to slip this guy into play when your opponent has no creatures untapped, or actual blockers, this will just be a ball lightning that keeps on coming over for more. High power, regeneration, and haste make this guy a monster that should be taken fairly early, as he will often perform very well. Who knew Homelands cards could be decent, eh?
I don’t really know what to say about this guy. He seems unimpressive, but he also can make sure that you will draw nothing but gas the rest of the game. I definitely need more practice with this guy, but he seems very maindeck worthy, and might even be very good.
That’s it for notable Red cards. As you are used to by now, here’s a decklist I drafted to a 2/1 record. It’s very short on uncommons and rares, which means it was not as good as it could be with a little pack-opening luck, but it is basically a good blueprint of the R/G archetype.
- 2 Blazing Blade Askari
- 1 Bogardan Hellkite
- 1 Bogardan Rager
- 1 Clockwork Hydra
- 3 Coal Stoker
- 1 Havenwood Wurm
- 1 Ironclaw Buzzardiers
- 1 Nantuko Shaman
- 1 Penumbra Spider
- 1 Phantom Wurm
- 1 Spinneret Sliver
- 1 Thick-Skinned Goblin
- 1 Viashino Bladescout
See you all tomorrow, with the color of Monsters!