Understanding In A MODO Crash: The One-And-A-Half-Headed Red Review

While flavor was the primary motivation for Form of the Dragon, and while it did end up being rather flavorful, it’s also ridiculously powerful in Limited. The”non-flying creatures can’t attack you” gives you an excellent way to”not lose,” while the”five to any target each turn” provides you the complimentary way to”win.” In case this is too complex for you all, I’ve enlisted my friend Joey Bags to help round out advanced strategy like this.

Okay, here it is:


I’m the completely unpresentable one in the middle. Now you all know what I look like… But not really. You’ll be looking for my trademark unruly mop at Grand Prix: Detroit or wherever, but it will be nowhere to be found, as I have since shorn me noble locks. I also act exaggeratedly passive and disinterested at big events (a bit of an oxymoron) for whatever reason, but I digress.

I’d like to discuss my feature match for a moment. It was nice to have the exposure and to beat one of the best teams in the world and all… But why did I have the Feature Match to begin with? Part of it was Hunka, I’m sure, since it’s always great to give the has-beens another moment in the spotlight. (Hunka, you know what I mean). But I’m sure that over half of it was because of me.

On one side of the table, 2020, the Masters/PT Boston finalists. On the other, writer-makes-good Tim Aten and his ragtag group of misfits. Will the goofy feature writer who has no talent whatsoever beat the insurmountable odds and claim the victory?

Poppycock. (That’s not really what I meant to say, but this is a family site.)

In my Legions white review, I wrote about not wanting to be known as StarCityGames writer Tim Aten. I really actually have no problem with being associated with the site; it’s a wonderful site with an excruciatingly attractive editor-in-chief. I just don’t want to be recognized in the gaming community as a writer first and a player second. I write because I like entertaining and/or boring people with my lists and stories, but also because I know what I’m doing and want to contribute information to the community.

Now that I’ve brushed across the topic of the Grand Prix, I’ll tell you that there won’t be a tournament report. I’m good at Draft and Sealed and such, but I really don’t know that much about Team Rochester. I don’t remember enough specific details about matches, we didn’t save our decks, and I really don’t know what to say about strategy. The draft against 2020 was my second serious Team Rochester draft. We held our own, of course. I can hold my own in, for instance, chess, since I’m reasonably intelligent; hence, I was competent in Team Limited because I know the ins and outs of individual Limited. If you want to know about Team Limited, read Rob Dougherty articles.

Before I get to Scourge Red, I would like to regale you with some stories from the Grand Prix, though.

Toward the end of Sunday, Richie Hoaen called me a barn. That’s like calling me 5’8″. It may have been true a few years ago, but I’ve long since grown out of it.”Normal” people look up to rock stars and athletes.”Barns” look up to Magic players, follow them around, and such. Who do I look up to? Funny people.

The only gamer I actually believe I”barn” is perhaps the funniest man alive, Kyle Rose… And you would, too, if you got the chance. Wandering around in a drunken stupor with his southern drawl, his delivery and absurd comments have made him the idol of everyone who knows him. When the judges were informing people that if they used a certain exit at a certain time of night, they would be arrested, Kyle shouted as loud as he could”F*** the Po-lice!!!”

But that, of course, is the tip of the iceberg. It’s hard to accurately convey the full extent of the humor if you don’t know what he looks like and know what he sounds like for a frame of reference. Hence I don’t know if him saying”Dingo, assert yourself!” when trying to get his friend to get into a game of poker is funny if you weren’t there. Think about it, though. The man has a nattily-dressed friend who, as far as I can tell, is named, simply, Dingo. And”Assert yourself?” No one talks like that! It’s like a cartoon or something.

Since we’re on the subject of barns, I should say that if he wanted it, my brother could have the Barn Story of a Lifetime. In fact, that’s what I said as the play happened. He was playing against (omg) Pro Player Jeff Cunningham! Jeff was playing blue/green, and at the end of Mike’s turn, he thought for literally five minutes before choosing to cast his famous pet card: Trickery Charm. Hoo hoo. As an aside, ffeJ did not win that game.

As an aside to the aside, he may have had a better chance if he had saved the Charm, as Mike cast a Cruel Revival the next turn. Either way, I have yet to see a player win a game where he played the Charm. But I did find out that he wasn’t joking when he said he played the card. What a weirdo.

Mark”Cameron Frye” Zajdner wanted me to write about the worst play of the weekend. Again, the story is better if you hear him say it. Each time he told the story, and as each recounting of it progressed, he grew louder and louder, building up to a crescendo for the last line.

Mr. Zajdner (pronounced ZIDE-ner, I think) was playing against someone who controlled a Graveborn Muse and Severed Legion. During that player’s upkeep, Mark used his Imagecrafter, slamming on the Severed Legion and saying,”I’ll make it a FISH.” Thus, his opponent only drew one extra card.

In his main phase, the opponent thought for a long time. He then played Clutch of Undeath on his Severed Legion and attacked for five. When he tried to do this, Mark shook his head and shouted”FISH DEAD!!!!” Needless to say, the loss in tempo, card advantage, and morale resulted in an easy win for ScrubbyZ.

And I have to get this out of the way now so I’ll never have to mention it again: I was on a hot streak last week, so for some reason I was keeping track of matches won in a row in any format. I won five at the GP trial at which my team received byes, six in assorted MODO matches, six more in various side drafts, both matches in my money draft against Munk and Gerry Thompson, and the first four matches I played in the GP itself. That’s twenty-three in a row. The streak was broken by none other than Mr. Thompson in round 7 of the GP. (Bla bla Alanis Morrissette bla etc) I actually just included this anecdote because I wanted to mention what good men Gerry”G$” Thompson and his sidekicks the Zieglers are, but there was really no other way to do it contextually. Plus what’s wrong with a nice Barry Horowitz-style pat on the back every now and again?

And now for your regularly scheduled programming…

What a hackneyed segue. I can do better. Look for an improvement next time. At least I tried, as opposed to my last few articles.

I guess I might as well (or”mise,” for those of you who have completely degenerated into lingo-spewing idiots) tell you now that I decided to make this set review two-headed, as has become all the rage these days. It was such a good idea, and a second person contributes so much – how can one person possibly hope to see both sides of an issue? – that I enlisted Joey Bags’s help, for one time only.

1. Form of the Dragon

While flavor was the primary motivation for this card, and while it did end up being rather flavorful, it’s also ridiculously powerful in Limited. The”non-flying creatures can’t attack you” gives you an excellent way to”not lose,” while the”five to any target each turn” provides you the complimentary way to”win.” If you’re red, it’s an automatic first-pick, but don’t feel obligated to try to splash or hate it. Let’s see… You end each turn at five life. This means you’re susceptible to other red decks’ Torrent of Fire and Searing Flesh, as well as the occasional enormous flier, like Quicksilver Dragon or an Improvised Armored Aven Soulgazer. If you have less than five life when you are able to play it, there’s obviously no reason not to. However, if you’re in decent position board-wise with a fairly high life total against a deck that could conceivably burn you out, use your better judgment.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

2. Siege-Gang Commander

This guy is ridiculous. If it had either one of its abilities it would still be pretty strong, although it would probably have to cost one less. As it is, though, we have an obvious bomb. It’s an automatic eight points of direct damage, divided how you choose, and it becomes even more if you happen to have other goblins in your deck. Of course, on the turn you play it, it’s susceptible to being removed before you can use it to its full potential. Even in that worst-case scenario, your opponent still has to deal with a few pesky 1/1s. One game, I actually played this fourth turn thanks to the Goblin Warchief. I won that one.

Joey Bags: I agree.

3. Dragon Mage

I hate this card so much. It will probably only be able to hit once, since a fresh hand of seven new cards will likely give your opponent some sort of answer for the Mage. Also, I’ve found myself in danger of decking with it. On the positive side, you get a new hand too, and you get the opportunity to use the new spells first, since the effect will happen on your turn. Just make sure to play anything you don’t want to lose before attacking, as you will obviously have to discard your hand if the Dragon hits. Despite its possibility of backfiring, a dragon is still a dragon, and 5/5 fliers will end the game in a hurry.

Joey Bags: I agree.

4. Carbonize

Three damage, any target, no questions asked. Unfortunately, this will not kill a Daunting Defender. Fortunately, it will permanently handle nuisances like Krosan Warchief, and particularly Twisted Abomination. It seems as though this card may be a direct foil for the black landcycler. Removal that can double as the last few damage to the nug’ has always been and will always be good, especially as an instant for a reasonable price.

Joey Bags: I agree.

5. Skirk Volcanist

Another excellent removal card. I like Carbonize better than this since it doesn’t have a drawback and since you can’t Skirk Volcanist your opponent. That said, the Volcanist can always be a 2/2 for three mana, and it leaves a 3/1 man in its wake once you morph it. You can block an Elvish Warrior, and deal one to a Wellwisher and two to a morph; you can kill a creature in response to Improvised Armor when your opponent thinks the coast is clear; the possibilities are endless. If you have a good mana curve, feel free to make the sacrifice early to keep pressure on your opponent. Obviously, it’s situational when you can afford to use the ability, so use your better judgment.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

6. Extra Arms

Recent years have made us appreciate the Enchant Creature in Limited more, with cards like Improvised Armor and Psionic Gift. While Extra Arms is rather expensive and doesn’t make the creature any more difficult to kill, its ability is powerful enough that it warrants”early-pick” status. Make sure you play this at a time where you’re certain to at least maintain card parity; that is, at least take out one creature before the enchanted creature dies. Also, I think this works as a deterrent if you put it on one of your opponent’s creatures, but that seems like a waste of this card. If left unchecked, this can be about as powerful as Lavamancer’s Skill; however, it’s no substitute for the real thing, and its position on the list is indicative of red’s overall weakness in this set.

Joey Bags: I agree.

7. Torrent of Fire

The Torrent is an excellent card, even though people sometimes pass it around the table like Silvia V. It’s obviously best in a deck with high-end cards that make it hit for greater damage (specifically, red-green), but it truly is good in any deck.

Direct damage to any target. Unless you’re new to the game, you should have that down by now. Even with an Aven Liberator as your only creature, you can take down a Treespring Lorian or Barkhide Mauler. A lot of the time, this ends up serving as a Searing Flesh-like finisher, but its versatility makes it more than just a glorified Lava Axe. Remember that this checks on resolution, so play accordingly; don’t try to use this to squeak out a victory if your opponent’s at exactly seven if you think he can kill your Macetail Hystrodon in response, and whatnot.

Joey Bags: I agree.

8. Chartooth Cougar

The landcyclers are all very good. They fix your mana or come into play as a large monster. As far as I can tell, these don’t really alter your land base one way or the other. They certainly do help with splashing, though, as I mentioned a few articles ago. One landcycler plus one (or maybe two) appropriate basic lands should be enough to splash an off-color card like Rush of Knowledge or Aphetto Exterminator. Landcycling is a little different from regular cycling (durr) in that you know just what you’re going to get. If you already have enough land to cast them, unless you’re building up to Scion of Darkness or something, there’s usually little point in cycling them just to thin your deck. Play the huge man and win with it. Yeesh.

Joey Bags: I agree.

9. Scattershot

While you unfortunately cannot damage players with this, it’s nevertheless a good draft card. It’s roughly on par with Erratic Explosion; it deals less damage on average, but it can’t”miss.” It’s another reliable way to kill a face-down creature. And of course, it can kill Sparksmith and Wellwisher and such, but hold onto it until you can get the most out of it. If you’ve seen one red damage spell, you’ve seen them all. Moving right along. You have to go forward to get back. Better press on.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

10. Spark Spray

Not even out of the top ten, and we’ve already reached the subset of cards that are good, yet possible to cut from the maindeck. There are a number of solid creatures that make this more than just a cheap cycler: Battering Craghorn, Crested Craghorn, Sparksmith, Goblin Sledder, Catapult Squad… The list goes on and on. If it looks like it’s gonna be useless, just pitch it for a new card. This is a perfect cycling card: A situational effect at a reasonable price with a cheap cycling cost.

Joey Bags: I agree.

11. Goblin Warchief

This card is deck dependent, of course. One criterion is amount of Goblins; another is the amount of mountains. If you have enough mountains in your deck, like ten or so, you can feasibly play this with no other goblins. And it can’t hurt you, since the Warchiefs are for your use only. The double-red in the cost hurts, as does the fact that it’s a 2/2 for three mana without much of an ability in a format full of those. So if you have about five other good goblins and/or are able to support this with you mana base, it’s a fine card.

Joey Bags: I agree.

12. Goblin Brigand

Grizzly Bears are good. This is not a Grizzly Bear. It’s close, though. The drawback of having to attack every turn is substantial unless you can somehow (removal cough cough) ensure that it won’t be blocked by anything with toughness greater than two. If your deck is fast, this will compliment it nicely; if your deck is slow, this may be able to help slow down the bleeding a bit. This will rarely have any impact in the late game, except maybe to serve as a chump blocker for a turn. As always, I’ll encourage you to look at the line of text between the picture and the rules text, and let you consider whether this information has any bearing on your particular deck.

Joey Bags: I agree.

13. Rock Jockey

This goblin is best in a deck where you don’t care whether you make your 6th land drop on time. Like the Brigand, it is best suited to aggressive, often red/black decks. Turn 2 creature, turn 3 morph, turn 4 Rock Jockey, turn 5 resume playing lands. So in that sort of deck, the Jockey can be an early-to-midgame powerhouse. In any deck, this is a fine late-game card, as you don’t need to be dropping a land anyway. So this is best in a black or white deck, so-so in a blue deck, and probably marginal in a green deck.

All with red, of course. I figured that was implied.

Joey Bags: I agree.

14. Decree of Annihilation

Let’s address the cycle trigger first: Armageddon isn’t as abusable if it costs seven mana. Once you’ve reached the seven-mana mark, the game state will often be leaning toward one player or the other. If that player is your opponent, you’re going to need your land to get back in the game. If that player is you, you can cement a win, but this won’t necessarily be needed. If the game is a stalemate, toss this out there if you think you can recover more quickly or if you think your opponent is about to start dropping some more serious threats.

At ten mana, this effect is sort of random. You probably won’t be able to float mana – and even if you could, you’d just end up burning, since your hand gets removed from the game. It’s a desperation measure, and you’re hoping to recover more quickly than your opponent. If you have a solid enough early game where you can reliably recuperate better than your opponent, the game shouldn’t be reaching the point where you’re able to cast this. It’s a powerful reset button, but it will sit dead in your hand a lot of the time. I guess this would be best in a deck with acceleration like Goblin Clearcutter, or powerful global enchantments like um…

Hmm. I dunno.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

15. Enrage

There are only two good uses for this card. First, it becomes a pure X-spell on an unblocked creature, which is excellent. Second, you could boost the power of a high-toughness creature to turn a”bounce” into a casualty for your opponent. You don’t really want to use it to let a morph trade with a Barkhide Mauler, since that’s obvious card disadvantage. Naturally, you have to be careful of instant removal or bounce. So Enrage is a solid finisher if you don’t have cards like Searing Flesh or Torrent of Fire already. This is a”mise” card, really; sometimes, you can steal wins off superior decks or opponents with a surprise trick like this.

Joey Bags: I agree.

16. Dragon Tyrant

One of the most powerful creatures in the game, the Tyrant is accompanied by one of the most prohibitive costs. Eight mana is somewhat tough to come by, but for creatures like Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Flamewave Invoker, the mana investment is worth it. This costs two more than either of those, plus it has an upkeep of RRRR and hence can’t really be splashed. If you have multiple ways to accelerate this out, however, it becomes almost a bomb.

Joey Bags: I agree.

17. Bonethorn Valesk

The Valesk’s ability is useful and can be annoying to your opponent, but it doesn’t really warrant playing a five-mana, two-toughness creature. This card is naturally deck-dependent. In red/blue, and especially red/white, there are a lot of tricky morphs with low morph costs that will allow you to make the most out of this. This card is a little slow for what it does in red/black, and would be better replaced by something tougher in red/green.

Joey Bags: I agree.

18. Dragon Breath

I’ve never actually seen this used, but its applications are obvious. This is only playable in a deck with lots of six-mana men, since the first use of it is likely to be unimpressive and result in the loss of a card. That means it’s a marginal card for a specific archetype, and it’s likely to spend a lot of time sitting in your sideboard.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

19. Pyrostatic Pillar

There are still lots of cards left, and we’ve already dipped into the chaff. This is a suboptimal card that may ironically serve to strengthen a janky deck. If you find that you’re short on cheap spells and even morphs, you could play this and hope to draw it early. It will keep you in the damage race until you can start dropping Krosan Tuskers and Spitting Gournas. Ideally, though, you’ll have a nice enough curve and enough playables where you won’t have to run this.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

20. Misguided Rage

This is pretty good on turn 3 or 4, but it’s worthless at any other time, since your opponent will sacrifice an unneeded land or perhaps insect token. In a hyper-fast deck, often red-black, when your plan is win fast or don’t win at all, this card has a home. That’s not really the type of deck you want to be playing, and even if you are, there are better cards for it than this.

Joey Bags: I agree.

21. Dragonspeaker Shaman

The cost-reduction ability of this is less likely to come into play than that of the Goblin Warchief, plus it doesn’t have haste. That leaves this squarely in”worse-than-an-off-color-morph” range, which means unplayable. If you have two dragons, first of all God bless you since you’re probably going to be winning anyway, but second, this may make the cut.

Joey Bags: I agree.

22. Sulfuric Vortex

I wouldn’t maindeck this card in most cases unless my deck was extraordinarily fast. It’s an uncontrolled Shepherd of Rot for two; fortunately, it strikes your opponent first. As long as you’re ahead in the damage race, this is your friend, but it has the potential to backfire. The one time I played this, I’m pretty sure my deck wasn’t fast enough to support it, so the data is inconclusive. Bring it in if your opponent has Wellwishers or an Exalted Angel for which you have no other answers.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

23. Goblin War Strike

Don’t play this unless you have roughly a dozen goblins. It doesn’t even count goblins your opponent controls! I played one of these in the same deck I played the Vortex in. Don’t ask.

Joey Bags: Pls.

24. Dragonstorm

Don’t play this even if you have two dragons. It’s far too expensive. Just Fierce Empath ’em into your hand and play ’em the old-fashioned way.

Joey Bags: I agree.

25. Uncontrolled Infestation

The worst common in the set. If you don’t have a Lay Waste or Shaleskin Plower, you may not regret getting this 14th when your adversary drops a Cliffs or a Grotto.

Joey Bags: I agree.

26. Goblin Psychopath

Why bother making this card? Do some people actually like coin-flippers, even in casual? Anyway, never ever play this unless you have like four Joydrop Condors.

Joey Bags: I agree.

27. Grip of Chaos

I suppose you could side this in against a deck with a lot of removal, or against a deck or player that you otherwise have no chance against. I don’t like to be in that position, – and even if I were, I wouldn’t want to add any more embarrassment to the loss. In sum, awnaw hell naw.

Joey Bags: I disagree.

I hope you enjoyed my one-time-only Two-Headed Scourge Review!!! And now, as a special bonus, here are a few song parodies MattR and I (mostly MattR) have been working on, with sample lyrics where applicable. These may be amusing if you know who the lyrics refer to, but probably not even then.

-“Sonne Came Home” (originally by Shawn Colvin)

-“Hey Drood” (originally by The Beatles)

sample lyric:”Ca…va…ca va cava va! Ca va ca va! Heeeey Drood!”

-“Tamblyn Man” (originally by the Allman Brothers)

sample lyric:”Lawd, I was booorn a Tamblyn Man!”

-“Osyp Folks” (originally by Missy Elliott)

-“L.C.G.” (originally by Naughty By Nature)

sample lyric:”Who’s down with LCG?/Every last ho-mie!”

-“Ms. Kastle” (originally by Outkast, remade by Opalka)

sample lyric:”I’m sorry Ms. Kastle (woooo), I had to peeeeeel. Never meant to make your Darwin cry…”

I’m sure there are enough of these to make an album. MattR and Opalka have both actually said that. Then again, each one of them is completely relying on a single hook to comprise the whole song without considering further lyrics, but I digress.

Or am I digressing? Every part of this article that isn’t about Scourge red cards is like one continuous, evolving digression.

Maybe I should trademark”digressionism” as my own signature style. Or”non-sequiturism.”

Speaking of non-sequiturs, I encourage y’all to read one of the best articles I have ever read, Thomas Rosholm 2003 Nationals report. It’s on decklab.com and it’s called The Thug Life. If you knew what this guy looked like (and I intend no offense to Mr. Rosholm), the article just gets that much better… Assuming he still looks the same as he did at Pro Tour: San Diego.

Well, I guess I’ll retreat to the sofa to look through the cushions for change with which to buy three bottles of sleeping pills. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]