Understanding In A MODO Crash: Legions Red

…and the Onslaught Limited analysis continues with StarCity’s latest Featured Writer! Tim says:”Red isn’t too exciting, but any cards that can attack and block for a decent price are good enough to make the cut. The playables extend almost all the way to the bottom of the list. And also like green, there isn’t much difference in power between a lot of the cards, so you’ll be using this set to fill in the holes that Onslaught left in your deck.”

Hewwo Morgy. Hewwo Dirky. And a bewy special hewwo to the other people who read and enjoy my articles. Before I get down to today’s business – which is, of course, Homelands White’s implications for type 1.5 Highlander – there are a few things I’d like to mention.

For starters, I’ve seen Ferrett write in a few places that he wishes I’d write more often. Well, I’m calling his bluff. I expect to write an average of an article per week for awhile… But since I’m writing six within a two-week span, they should be a little more sporadic over the weeks to come. Regardless, I’m sure you’ll find that if you enjoy my articles, the novelty wears pretty thin after a short while, and I’ll be run out of town on a rail and left to die cold and lonely on the mean streets of Cleveland, playing solitaire DC-10 with a stack of fireballs and drinking paint thinner through a Mickey Mouse straw.

(Insert transitional word here), I don’t know how to show people that my limited reviews are a worthwhile read. After all, I’m not on the train or anything. How can I convince you that I’m different from a Jamie Archdekin – especially without sounding arrogant? On the internet, even buffoons (or, some would argue, especially buffoons) have an equal voice… I guess if I’m right about what I say in these articles, more people will come around.

Next, I have to discuss some responses to my Ti Esrever dna Ti Pilf article. In general, the response was pretty good. Some people didn’t like it, obviously. Reading some of the people’s posts made me feel like Jay in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Ya know,”This guy calls himself MementoFan.” For the record, I’ve never seen Memento. Or heard anything about it other than that it’s very good. My muse was Missy Elliott. Derrrrrrr.

And now for my top 5 songs of the week:

1. (HED)pe”Blackout”

2. Audioslave”Like a Stone”

3. Missy Elliott”Gossip Folks”

4. Red Hot Chili Peppers”Can’t Stop”

5. RA”Do You Call My Name”

Yes, I realize something like that is reminiscent of a Theron Martin article. But there are several important differences between myself and Mr. Martin.

  • Whereas”Master T” thought people cared what he thought, I make no such pretenses. You are a captive audience. You just had to read what music I’m listening to this week. If I wanted to tell you what I had for lunch today, you’d have to read it, too because you don’t know when the strategy part of the article starts.

  • I am 6’2″. Theron Martin is 3’5″.

  • I am going to play some sanctioned Magic at my local card shop tomorrow. Theron Martin is spending time in a federal prison for some sort of bank transfer scandal.

  • Theron is a huge dork. I, um…

Hm. Moving right along…

Late-breaking news: Patron of the Wild is better than I gave it credit for. I was just in a two-on-two where three of us had it, and it’s a little better than I initially thought.

I just realized something really weird. Legions is all creatures. There’s like, not even one spell in it.

Oh. My. God.

Red isn’t too exciting, but any cards that can attack and block for a decent price are good enough to make the cut. The playables extend almost all the way to the bottom of the list. And also like green, there isn’t much difference in power between a lot of the cards, so you’ll be using this set to fill in the holes that Onslaught left in your deck.

1. Imperial Hellkite

The Hellkite is fairly easy to appraise. It morphs for a lot, and it usually isn’t worth trying to trick people by playing it face-down. If you happen to have another dragon to fetch, you are a sheer master, but this ability will very rarely be used. So we’re left with a 6/6 flyer for seven mana. Good enough for the top slot.

2. Rockshard Elemental

The Rockshard Elemental is extremely difficult to trade with – and since it morphs, it can be a very cruel trick on your opponent. Since its power is essentially doubled if it’s left unblocked, it can do obscene amounts of damage in a short time. There’s a reason why double strike is so expensive.

Its only shortcoming is its low toughness, making it easier prey for Lavamancer’s Skill, Solar Blast, soldiers that deal damage to attackers, and so on. I’d imagine this would be best in red/white because of the aforementioned combat tricks, but you should take it regardless.

3. Kilnmouth Dragon

Like the Imperial Hellkite, this dragon has an ability that you aren’t likely to use… Although I have not only heard some stories about dragon amplification, but I have experienced it first-hand. I managed to win since it was essentially his first play of the game – but I’m getting off track, since you’re dreamin’ if you think this is ever going to be an 8/8 Kamahl, Pit Fighter. It is a 5/5 flyer at a reasonable price, meaning it will rule the sky and probably end the game quickly.

4. Skirk Marauder

The Marauder appears quite versatile, since you can choose between dropping it on turn 2 and morphing it later in the game. Truth be told, the occasions when you want to play this face-up are probably rare. It’s best to wait a turn and Shock one of your opponent’s men. Three is a reasonable morph cost for what this does, and it will often result in card and/or tempo advantage. Red hasn’t been too interesting to write about so far, since you probably all know that big flyers and direct damage are both good things.

5. Lavaborn Muse

In the land of men with no hands, the man with one hand is king. And in the land of Grey Ogres, the Hill Giant is king. 3/3s for four mana can block and kill morphs (or make them spend all their mana, possibly only for a trade) and can attack into them with impunity.

Its second ability is very good as well. In the later game, both players will have dumped a great deal of their cards in a struggle for the upper hand. And now, with the Invokers, people have more incentive to play all their lands; without threshold, there was less inclination for players in all-Onslaught to hold onto many extra lands anyway. If you play this early, your opponent will think twice before playing spells or dropping land. When the opponent has one card in hand, this becomes a free six damage; it really adds up.

6. Goblin Dynamo

Seven mana is a lot. If you’re paying seven, you had better be getting something special… But fortunately, the Dynamo fits the bill. It’s sufficiently large to deter many attacks, it can deal one damage per turn to the target of your choice, and when your opponent gets into range, you can sacrifice it to Fireball him out. If necessary, of course, you can deal X damage to a creature, too. The fact that it’s a goblin could even come in handy with Sparksmith, Gempalm Incinerator, and the like.

7. Clickslither

The triple red in Clickslither’s casting cost is a nuisance – in this format more than any. Usually, that many coloued mana in the upper right means that a spell can’t be played reliably early on – in this case, turn 4. Since there will be four or more red drafters at a table, red will be spread out somewhat thinly, and will usually be your secondary color. Sometimes the red filters through and you end up with a mostly red deck, but this occurs infrequently. Regardless, its size is right, haste can really screw up your opponents’ math, and any spare goblins you have lying around can turn this card into a wrecking ball. Sometimes I worry about being overly enamored with playing rares in Limited; however, in this case, since nearly every card in the set is average, the Clickslither really does rise above.

8. Gempalm Incinerator

Never cast this card unless you are truly desperate to get a body in play, or unless you control a Sparksmith. This card always cycles for the reasonable cost of 1R; any goblins you or your opponent happen to control naturally make this all the better. With one goblin, you have a cheaper Zap that hits creatures only, and with two goblins, you’ve reached the Ability to Kill Morphs Threshold. As an added bonus, the Incinerator will always kill opposing Sparksmiths without costing you a card. Removal is still good.

9. Goblin Clearcutter

Still in the top ten, and we’re already at the point of Hill Giants with marginal abilities. It’s a large goblin, and there’s the possibility for some 5th turn craziness, like dropping an Enormous Baloth or flipping over a Krosan Colossus. But you can’t appraise cards based on unlikely hypotheticals; the Clearcutter probably will not act as acceleration.

10. Magma Sliver

Yet another Hill Giant with a marginal ability. This and the Clearcutter actually cost exactly the same as Hill Giant, making the comparison all the more apt. You’ll only probably use its ability if you have Mistforms – and even then, it will be pretty pointless. Once it’s active, if you’re forced to leave it on defense, it becomes the equivalent of a 4/3 blocker, though.

11. Ridgetop Raptor

As I said, double strike is a very strong ability. They had to balance it out by making the Raptor a four-mana one-toughness creature. It’s a beast for your Wirewood Savage, it gets crazy with pump spells… Pretty much everything I said about the Rockshard Elemental applies here, only half as much so. Or twice as much, in the case of its fragility.

12. Crested Craghorn

I like haste a lot; it makes creatures attack the same turn as if they cost one less. This guy is very easy to kill, and he often won’t get his provoking job done. A lot of the time, he’s like a sorcery-speed Pinpoint Avalanche… Unless they have a Gravel Slinger, Sparksmith, or God forbid, a first-striker. It’s a decent removal spell, but the potential for things to go awry keeps it from being better.

13. Flamewave Invoker

On turn 3, your opponent will breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to try to guess what sort of monstrosity lurks under the surface of your colorless, typeless 2/2. Turn 6 or 7 is a different story altogether. Unchecked, this can end the game very rapidly since eight mana is totally attainable, even in draft.

I know not all games will come down to that; sometimes, speed and tempo will rule the day. But a good portion of games simply reach a stalemate. If your draw is as fast as your opponent’s, the board can get cluttered, and this makes a solid finisher.

14. Frenetic Raptor

This is as large as red creatures get. The Frenetic Raptor is pretty bad in red/green because your beasts can no longer block. Defensive red/green can be very slow, and the last thing you want to do is clear a path for your opponent’s Glory Seekers to finish the job. Not to mention the fact that green itself has a plethora of other monsters you could be playing. It’s good against green, of course, and it’s a very big beast that will finish the job in an aggressive r/x deck.

15. Unstable Hulk

I’ve heard enough foolish puns about Hulkamania running wild or whatever from Joey Bags to last me a lifetime, so I’ll spare you. Like the Tribal Forcemage, I really can’t gauge this so well because I haven’t played it. It seems like it can be a pretty nasty trick that can steal wins off unsuspecting opponents. It’s pretty bad face up, it costs quite a bit to morph, and you have to ask yourself,”Is it worth it… Should I morph it?” whenever you consider flipping it and reversing it, because the drawback is a little steep.

16. Blade Sliver

Three power for three mana is good. Your opponent knowing that he doesn’t have to pay any mana or use any cards to let his morphs trade with it is not good. Once you get two Blade Slivers, you can begin to contemplate drafting and using such cards as Hunter Sliver and Quick Sliver… But that’s kind of sketchy.

Wow, is red ever boring to appraise. The black list is going to be a lot trickier.

17. Macetail Hystrodon

The Hystrodon is a little higher than its green counterpart because of its more offensive nature. Its casting cost is almost fair for Limited, it’s difficult to block, and it materializes out of nowhere to deal the last few points of damage. Obviously, it costs a lot and is expensive to cycle, but I see no problem with playing one of these maindeck.

18. Skirk Outrider

In order to list this card in some semblance of a pick order, I averaged where it would be if you have a lot of beasts and where it would be when you don’t. If you can reliably make this a 4/4 trampler for four, pick it higher. If not, don’t pick it at all. It’s really that simple.

19. Shaleskin Plower

This is boring face-up and passable face-down. A wide variety of different morphs, even including an off-color morph, can really keep your opponents guessing. Sometimes its ability comes in very handy, particularly if you’re lucky enough to go first and have mana acceleration. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much bigger for your additional 4R investment. A solid 22-23rd card for your deck.

20. Goblin Goon

If you have the advantage in creatures, this guy will end the game in short order. And yet this is what many pros would call a”win more” card… If you have more creatures, you should be winning anyway. If you don’t, this is a worthless draw. In a hyper-aggressive goblin deck with lots and lots of early drops, this could be nice.

21. Skirk Drill Sergeant

A two-power creature for two mana this low on the list? Here’s why. First, there are many two-drops to choose from now… Either in red or your other color. You’d have to both have a lot of goblins in your deck and want one enough to leave mana open to use its ability. Unlike the Stonewood Invoker and Gempalm Strider in green, it’s pretty bad late game. That said, if you have a Sparksmith or need a two-drop, take this considerably higher.

22. Bloodstoke Howler

Yet another card you probably won’t be playing face-up if you hope to win. Its morph cost is a little on the expensive side for something that makes already large monsters larger. Since I never mind having one morph that I simply cannot turn face-up, I don’t mind playing this guy at all… But taking cost into consideration, this is not a very good trick.

23. Warbreak Trumpeter

Useless face-up unless you have Sparksmith, its morph cost is again too expensive. Sound familiar? If my opponent taps five mana with a morph in play, and when all is said and done he has two goblin tokens in play, I breathe a sigh of relief.

24. Goblin Grappler

I forget who it was – Gary Wise, probably – who said that the true test of a one-drop is whether it can trade with a morph. This guy does not; hence, he is low on the list. Still, he can trade with summoning-sick utility creatures or can effectively neutralize a key blocker for a turn in the late game. And blah blah Sparksmith etc.

25. Skirk Alarmist

I haven’t used this one yet either; it seems that in some situations it could be insane. If you have several morph creatures with expensive costs, this may be playable. But since you have to sacrifice said morphs at the end of the turn, it’s card disadvantage, so you’d better get a really good effect. I could only imagine flipping over a Cloudscraper with this.

26. Goblin Lookout

A 1/2 for two mana is poor, and its ability will rarely come into play. You would have to have a very heavy goblin tribal element to make this worthwhile; we’re talking like twelve goblins, so that each sacrificed goblin would be good for over six damage.

27. Hunter Sliver

As I’ve said, any given sliver will probably be the only one you control in a given situation. If, God knows how, you have a heavy sliver element, this gets better… I guess.

It’s not even really good with Mistforms, as they tend to be low in power and/or toughness. An overcosted Goblin Grappler from a worse tribe.

28. Goblin Assassin

This is slightly valuable in that it won’t cost you major card disadvantage; you can always sacrifice it to its ability. The true test of a coin flip card is:”Would I still play this card if I knew I was going to lose the flip every time?”

29. Goblin Firebug

A two-mana 2/2 with a horrible, horrible drawback. The drawback is less costly later in the game, at which time this card becomes useless.

That’s it for now. On the next show: Hilarity ensues when I try to trick Cole Swannack into saying”mungrel;” I review Legions black for Limited; and six words: Pirate Songs, Pirate Songs, Pirate Songs!!!

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]

“This is the worst kind of wasted.” – Joydrop,”This Is Not Real”