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Eldritch Moon Limited Set Review: Red

Previous Set Reviews

Limited

White | Blue | Black | Green | Colorless, Lands, and Gold

Constructed

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Colorless, Lands, and Gold

Eldritch Moon is here, and it’s time for me to review each and every card, starting with Limited. A few quick notes before I get to the reviews:

The grade on each card is much less important than the analysis. It’s a good shorthand, but what I write about each card gives a lot more context to the grades, and goes deeper on cards that defy a simple grade (such as situational cards).

Some set specific mechanics (emerge, escalate, and meld) are hard to understand until you get to see them in action. It’s also not completely clear how Eldritch Moon will change Shadows over Innistrad’s existing mechanics (delirium, madness, tribal synergies, etc.). I’ll provide my best estimate as to how good the cards that relate to these abilities are, and I like to assume that all of a set’s themes are well-supported.

LSV’s are some big shoes to fill, but I’ll do my absolute best. He’s a genius when it comes to evaluating new cards on the fly, but I think I can do well enough to give you a solid starting point with Eldritch Moon. He’s also a great, entertaining writer when he’s not making us all cringe. Sorry (but not sorry) if I can’t continue his proud tradition of a pun in every single card review.

Ratings Scale

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of Secrets. Avacyn’s Judgment.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Burn from Within. Devil’s Playground. Elusive Tormentor.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Declaration in Stone. Breakneck Rider. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Graf Mole. Dauntless Cathar. Niblis of Dusk.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nephalia Moondrakes. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Expose Evil. Inspiring Captain. Lamplighter of Selhoff.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Convicted Killer. Militant Inquisitor.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Vampire Noble. Seagraf Skaab.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Ethereal Guidance. Open the Armory.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Vessel of Volatility.)

Abandon Reason

Limited Rating: 2.0

This card is a reasonably good combat trick. I wouldn’t expect to actually kill two creatures with Abandon Reason more than about 10-15% of the times you cast it. But you’ll often kill one, and getting an extra damage from an unblocked creature, plus the potential for extra value from madnessing it out (plus the chance that you actually do kill two creatures!), results in a solid card.

I expect this to make the cut in most aggressive red decks, but not necessarily be a high draft pick.

Alchemist’s Greeting

Limited Rating: 3.0

When you hardcast it, Alchemist’s Greeting is a bit worse than Reduce to Ashes, but still a perfectly fine card. Throttle and Reduce to Ashes weren’t exactly premium cards in Shadows over Innistrad, but I think virtually all decks are happy to have a piece or two of 5-mana removal.

What really makes Alchemist’s Greeting awesome is the ability to madness it out. This isn’t 2-mana removal in the sense that you can cast it on turn 2, but it will create devastating tempo swings in the midgame by allowing you to remove an opposing creature while casting another spell in the same turn. If you have the right madness outlets, you can even get some amount of card advantage when you use the madness cost.

This card will range from about a 2.0 (when you only have 0-1 way to discard it), all the way up to about a 4.0 (when you’re confident you can discard it at will). Note that it’s a lot easier to make good use of Alchemist’s Greeting in RU and RB than it is in RW or RG. Early in the draft, you might not know exactly how valuable it will be in your finished product, but I think this is worth picking up early and speculating on.

Assembled Alphas

Limited Rating: 2.5

Assembled Alphas is annoying to attack into, and has a reasonable approximation of unblockable. But it’s a 6-mana creature in a format where 6-mana creatures aren’t at a premium. Compared to a vanilla 6-drop like Kessig Dire Swine, its biggest advantage is that your opponent won’t have the option of gang-blocking to try and take it down. Beyond that, though, I don’t envision this winning many games that a common 6-drop wouldn’t have been able to win anyway.

If you’re looking for a top-end creature, this is a great one to have. But I don’t think you need to spend a first pick on this.

Bedlam Reveler

Limited Rating: 4.0

In an average deck, you should count on Bedlam Reveler costing about 6 mana, but playing it out as the last card in your hand, getting a reasonable body, and drawing 3 cards gives you a phenomenal effect.

In a dedicated spells deck, you’ll cast it on the cheap and make better use of the prowess. While it does get better the more spells you have, I think Bedlam Reveler is simply a great card that you don’t have to go too far out of your way to make great use of. The more important “build-around” aspect of this card is avoiding permission spells and situational cards that need to sit in your hand for a long time (since you’ll always want to be empty-handed when you cast it).

Blood Mist

Limited Rating: 1.5

The effect of Blood Mist is relatively powerful, but it’s a bit too expensive to be a great Limited card. Comparing this to Uncaged Fury, you spend an extra mana, you miss out on the +1/+1, and it’s not an instant, meaning you have to commit to which creature you’re targeting, and your opponent sees it coming. All of that leads me to believe you want something in the ballpark of four good, clean attack steps with a strong creature before Blood Mist becomes worth its investment.

Granted, there will be some games where Blood Mist is very good, and its value does depend a lot on your exact creature suite. If you have big tramplers and evasion creatures, it’s going to get better. If you curve into it on turn 4, you might put your opponent in chump-block mode pretty quickly.

Overall, I think this card is playable, but not exciting. It does nothing for you on defense, and it gives your opponent too much warning about what’ll be coming at them. I expect it to make the cut approximately half the time.

Bold Impaler

Limited Rating: 1.0

Bold Impaler is a functional reprint of Lavastep Raider, except that it has a relevant creature type. Unfortunately, Lavastep Raider was pretty bad.

This can be acceptable filler if you’re dedicated to Vampire tribal, if you’re suicidally aggressive, or if you have a lot of cheap Auras. Usually, though, I recommend staying away.

Borrowed Hostility

Limited Rating: 2.0

1 mana for 3 extra power is a decent enough rate that it’ll sometimes be fine to just cash this in for damage to the opponent. Normally, the weakness of a card that only pumps your creature’s power would be that it doesn’t help said creature survive combat. But with Borrowed Hostility, you have the option to choose first strike mode or to invest the full 4 mana when you need to.

This looks like a solid combat trick for an aggressive deck, and gets better if a lot of your creatures already have first strike or trample.

Brazen Wolves

Limited Rating: 2.5

Brazen Wolves can attack as a 4/3 and block as a 2/3, which makes it noticeably better than Howlpack Wolf, which was already a very solid card. 4 power on a 3-drop is a rate that’s not easy to find, and this looks to be a solid card that virtually all red decks will be happy to play. It would take a more brazen man than I to say anything bad about this card.

Collective Defiance

Limited Rating: 4.0

Let’s start by evaluating Collective Defiance as 4 mana for 4 damage to a creature and 3 damage to the opponent. That’s what it’s going to be most of the time, and that’s excellent. For a 5th mana, you’ll have the option to cycle the last couple of cards in your hand, which can be a great bonus if you’ve been planning for it, or if things coincidentally work out nicely for the ability. Also, look for times where you can force your opponent to Winds of Change his or her hand in order to ruin his or her well-laid plans.

Conduit of Storms // Conduit of Emrakul

Limited Rating: 3.0

Conduit of Storms has average stats to begin with, and generating an extra mana is a good enough bonus to put it well into the realm of solid filler just on the front side. But it can also transform into Conduit of Emrakul, making it a powerful monster in the mid- and late-game.

Unlike many of the other Werewolf horrors, Conduit of Storm’s transform cost is extremely affordable, and you can transform it as early as your turn-4 post-combat main phase by using the extra mana it generates.

With a card like this, the threat of transformation often does as much work as the actual transformation itself. Attack with Conduit of Storms on turn 5, and how is your opponent supposed to block with a 3/3 when you can transform at instant-speed? He or she will be forced to take the damage, leaving you the option to transform if you like, or spend your mana playing a creature post-combat if you prefer.

Overall, this is a premium creature that will make the cut in any red deck.

Deranged Welp

Limited Rating: 2.0

Deranged Whelp is a solid 2-drop with a relevant creature type. 1 toughness isn’t ideal, but having menace will help it get in some damage, and avoid trading down against tokens and weaker creatures.

Distemper of the Blood

Limited Rating: 1.0

At sorcery speed, Distemper of the Blood is quite bad to hard-cast. It becomes good if you’re playing an aggressive deck that can usually count on having a madness enabler. Overall, it’s hard to make this work, and you shouldn’t be picking it highly.

Falkenrath Reaver

Limited Rating: 2.0

My analysis of Falkenrath Reaver is much the same as Deranged Whelp (the Whelp is a little better, however). Red wants 2-drops, and the Vampire creature type on this makes it fairly desirable.

Furyblade Vampire

Limited Rating: 2.0

Furyblade Vampire can help you to have some extremely powerful curve-outs, but I wouldn’t jam it in just any deck. For a 2-drop, this thing hits incredibly hard, but you won’t simply want to start dumping your hand to it starting on turn 3. In a deck with no madness, you’d rather have Falkenrath Reaver. In a deck with a solid amount of madness, or a couple of Uncaged Furies, this becomes scary very quickly.

Galvanic Bombardment

Limited Rating: 3.0

You’ve always known Shock to be a good (though not outrageous) Limited card. Shock rarely wanted to target players in Limited anyway, so the small possibility of dealing a third damage easily makes up for not being able to hit the opponent. I pick Galvanic Bombardment to be the best red common in Eldritch Moon Limited.

Hanweir Garrison // Hanweir, the Writhing Township

Limited Rating: 3.0

Much like Goblin Rabblemaster, Hanweir Garrison runs away with a game if it gets to attack uncontested for more than 1 turn. Even if it attacks and trades off, you might get some tokens and some extra damage for your troubles.

Once you have a creature that wants to attack as badly as Hanweir Garrison, combat tricks, tempo spells, and removal start to go up in value.

Harmless Offering

Limited Rating: 0.0

This is what my teammate Andrew Cuneo would call “a sideboard card.”

Me: But Andrew, when would you sideboard this in?

Andrew: I wouldn’t. I’d rather have it in my sideboard than in my deck.

Impetuous Devils

Limited Rating: 3.0

Ball Lightning meets Asphyxiate. Impetuous Devils will typically come down, kill an opposing creature, and leave behind a couple of points of trample damage. That’s a great effect! It’s true that the Devils can’t kill a tapped creature, but hopefully your aggressive red deck will be more concerned with killing blockers than anything else (especially when this gives you a bunch of hasted damage to help win the race).

If your opponent’s already on the back foot, Impetuous Devils might just kill him or her on the spot. On the other hand, this isn’t quite as reliable as a removal spell because of the possibility that the opponent might have an instant-speed way to deal with it. In particular, the threat of an untapped Sigardian Priest is very annoying.

All told, though, the power level on Impetuous Devils is high, and I’d be happy spending a first or second pick on it.

Incendiary Flow

Limited Rating: 3.0

Incendiary Flow is likely even better than Galvanic Bombardment in the cheap burn spell department. It also has flavor text that would make Jaya Ballard herself proud.

The ability to exile a creature can be easy to ignore, but in a format of graveyard recursion and creatures like Dauntless Cathar, it’s more than just a minor bonus.

Insatiable Gorgers

Limited Rating: 2.5

Insatiable Gorgers is one of the hardest-hitting beaters you’re going to find in Eldritch Moon. 4 mana for a 5-power attacker is powerful, and dropping this at the end of the turn via madness might have the opponent taking a lot more damage than he or she was prepared for.

On a smaller creature, “attacks each turn if able” can be a substantial downfall, since it’ll wind up suiciding into bigger blockers sooner or later. When it comes to a 5 power creature, you want to be attacking every turn anyway! Sure, the opponent can trade off if they’re lucky, but it’s going to take quite a monster to actually beat Insatiable Gorgers in combat.

Make Mischief

Limited Ratingg: 2.0

In a color of flashy burn spells and 4 and 5 damage attackers, Make Mischief is a bit of an unassuming card. If you’re counting on this to be your 3-drop creature, it’s going to be pretty bad. But if you’re using it to kill a 1 toughness utility creature, then it’s a beating!

Main decking this card is optional, but you should go out of your way to pick up 1 or 2 as sideboard cards against players with a lot of weenie creatures. Against white decks with Spirit tokens or red decks with fragile creatures, you should be making as much mischief as possible.

Mirrorwing Dragon

Limited Rating: 4.5

Mirrorwing Dragon isn’t unkillable, but in a lot of situations it might as well be. Using a removal spell on this is going to cost the opponent a lot more than 7 years bad luck. If your opponent wants to cast Reduce to Ashes on your dragon, he or she needs to be prepared to Plague Wind themselves along with it.

On the other side of the coin, Mirrorwing Dragon offers you the same ability that Zada, Hedron Grinder did in Battle for Zendikar, making a single combat trick lethal in most situations. Especially with Borrowed Hostility and Distemper of the Blood being commons in Eldritch Moon, Mirrorwing Dragon can help you unload an absolutely massive amount of damage under the right circumstances. You can even set up a combo turn by targeting the Dragon right away when you cast it. Just be careful, because your opponent can also use your Dragon against you to pump up all of their creatures!

An affordable ⅘ flyer with upside that’s also resilient to removal definitely fits my criteria for a Limited bomb.

Nahiri’s Wrath

Limited Rating: 4.0

The cost is large, but the effect is massive. With a bit of setup, you can use Nahiri’s Wrath as a one-sided board wipe that can decide the game in short order. It poses a little bit of a dilemma in that you’ll have to discard your better cards to deal more damage. But it should be easy in the late game to discard a 5-drop and a land or 2 in order to get the desired effect.

This isn’t one of the best Limited cards ever due to the fact that it sometimes won’t be a great topdeck. Red decks empty their hands pretty fast in this format, and it’s hard to hold a grip full of spells just on the chance you draw Nahiri’s Wrath on turn 10.

Should Nahiri’s Wrath encourage you to raise the mana curve of your deck? Maybe a little bit. It could be a fine tiebreaker in favor of adding 1 or 2 5-mana spells to your W/R Beatdown deck that might normally only curve up to 4 mana. Certainly don’t go crazy, though—this card doesn’t need much help to be a gamewinner. Naturally, look for madness cards to pair with it for bonus value.

Otherworldly Outburst

Limited Rating: 2.0

Otherworldly Outburst requires a little bit of setup, but the payoff is a 3/2 creature for the low price of 1 mana. The best use comes when you cast this before trading with your opponent’s 2-drop on turn 3, and then use your remaining mana to cast another 2-drop post-combat.

When everything works out perfectly, this card is very exciting. But for practical purposes, I’d usually just as soon have another solid 2-drop or 3-drop creature in its place.

Remember that you can target your opponent’s creatures, so you’ll almost always be able to cash this in sooner or later. Otherworldly Outburst is slightly less powerful than Skin Invasion, but being an instant makes it a lot more reliable.

Prophetic Ravings

Limited Rating: 1.0

Prophetic Ravings lets you build your own Mad Prophet, and there are some madness-heavy decks that win a tremendously high percentage of the games that they can stick a Mad Prophet.

I always preach caution when it comes to auras since you risk getting 2-for-1ed. But I do think that Prophetic Ravings is a useful card for decks that really need to enable their madness spells.

Savage Alliance

Limited Rating: 3.5

For 4 mana, Savage Alliance can deal 3 damage to a creature and pick off all other 1 toughness guys your opponent might happen to have. It’s instant speed, and can even give your team trample to unload damage on the opponent (you’ll get even more damage if you pair trample with dealing damage to your opponent’s creatures).

Savage Alliance does it all, and I consider this slightly better than even the premium removal spells of the format.

Shreds of Sanity

Limited Rating: 1.5

Shreds of Sanity is a late-game card, and requires a bit of setup. You’ll be looking to play with this in your U/R Spells decks, and it’s not insane to play it in your slower Sealed decks, either. The discard clause will wind up being a plus just as often as it’ll be a minus since you have the option to pick up a madness card from your graveyard and use it again right away (say, Alchemist’s Greeting, for example).

The setup costs are high, and the payoff isn’t huge, so Shreds of Sanity is a card you should ignore in a lot of your average decks. But when you have enough to go with it (say, 8+ other spells divided pretty evenly between instants and sorceries), then it can be a great way to restock a couple of removal spells and take over a game.

Smoldering Werewolf // Erupting Dreadwolf

Limited Rating: 3.5

Eldritch Moon and Shadows over Innistrad have enough 1 toughness dudes that Smoldering Werewolf will often be able to kill a creature upon entering the battlefield. If you make the right attacks before casting it, you might be able to kill a weenie and finish off a bigger creature that your opponent blocked with!

The front side of this card alone would be excellent, but the ability to transform into a giant monster that can start killing even bigger stuff makes Smoldering Werewolf a very scary Limited card.

Spreading Flames

Limited Rating: 2.0

Some aggressive Limited decks aren’t interested in 7-mana spells at all. When you do choose to play with a 7-mana spell, you want to be winning the game a very high percentage of the time that you cast it. Thankfully, Spreading Flames passes that test. 6 damage divided as you choose can kill a troublesome bomb, massacre an army of tokens, or just take out 3 creatures for value. Any way you look at it, it ought to be a huge swing in your favor.

Red is an aggressive color, so Spreading Flames won’t go in just any deck. But if you happen to have a U/R or B/R controlling draft deck, you’ll be happy to play 1 copy. In a Sealed deck, this is quite powerful, and can even be splashed if you have the right mana fixing.

Stensia Banquet

Limited Rating: 1.5

A cantrip can never be that bad in Limited, but I don’t like this one very much. Dealing the opponent 2 or 3 damage and drawing a card usually won’t be worth 3 mana.

And here’s some food for thought: When you have 3, 4, or more Vampires sticking on the battlefield, how many other cards could you find that would win you the game from that position?

You’d have to be virtually mono-vampires before Stensia Banquet would threaten to actually be good, and even then it wouldn’t be great. I’d hope to play with this card less than half the time. Like I said, a cantrip can never be that bad, and I think you’ll mostly turn to this when the draft hasn’t gone well, and you just need to get to 22 playables without stretching into those 0.0 and 0.5 rated cards.

Stensia Innkeeper

Limited Rating: 2.0

Stensia Innkeeper is a hill giant with the upside of forcing your opponent to play off-curve for a turn. The value of its effect will be largely random. Sometimes your opponent was going to play two 3-drop creatures in a row anyway, and locking down their land will do nothing. Other times they’ll be missing land drops, and you’ll force them to pass the turn without doing anything, which is absolutely huge.

Overall, this is a slightly-above average card, and you’ll stay with the Innkeeper well over half the time. Especially when you’re looking for more Vampires to help with your tribal synergies, you’ll be happy to have this.

Stromkirk Occultist

Limited Rating: 3.0

Stromkirk Occultist is yet another premium, aggressive Vampire. With only 2 toughness, it’s relatively easy for the opponent to trade with, but trample means that you can still get value from triggering the ability.

Stensia Masquerade, or any other card that makes it hard for the opponent to block, will help the Occultist go nuts, and this card is absurdly punishing against a player with a poor draw.

Tack madness onto an already-premium creature and you have a card you’re thrilled to play in any red deck.

Thermo-Alchemist

Limited Rating: 2.5

Thermo-Alchemist is very comparable to Lobber Crew, which was a solid Limited card. It doesn’t block as well, which is a downside, but it costs 1 less mana, which is great.

At first glance, this looks like a build-around card, where you’ll have to play tons of spells to take full advantage. But I think simply pinging the opponent for one-and-a-half unblockable damage per turn is a good effect, and you don’t need to go crazy to make Thermo-Alchemist do work for you.

If you have very few instants and sorceries, Thermo-Alchemist is cuttable, but I think it’ll be a solid card more often than not. Once you pick up 2 copies, you can start prioritizing average-quality instants and sorceries a little bit more than you normally would.

Vildin-Pack Outcast // Dronepack Kindred

Limited Rating: 2.0

Vildin-Pack Outcast is better than Thornhide Wolves, but probably a bit worse than Gatstaf Arsonists. This makes it a 5-drop creature that’ll usually make the cut, but might not require a high draft pick. Having trample on both the front and the back is excellent, but having to invest so much mana to transform is annoying when compared to the tradition Werewolf template.

Weaver of Lightning

Limited Rating: 3.0

Weaver of Lightning has the potential to be an extremely powerful card. It’s a great payoff for drafting a UR Spells deck, and even out of more average decks, certain opponents will have a very hard time beating Weaver of Lightning.

As a 1/4 reach, Weaver of Lightning stands as a strong blocker even without its triggered ability. Most decks have some 1 toughness creatures, so even the occasional spell might take out a weenie creature or finish off a weakened blocker here and there. Where Weaver of Lightning begins to get really insane, though, is when you can reliably cast multiple instants and sorceries in the same turn in order to shoot down 2 toughness guys.

I’d still err on the side of picking premium burn spells over Weaver of Lightning early in the draft. And in your aggressive red decks without a lot of spells, Weaver of Lightning will be relegated to being a strong sideboard card. But this is an extremely good, powerful card that’s worth picking highly.

Top 5 Red Commons

  1. Galvanic Bombardment
  2. Alchemist’s Greeting
  3. Brazen Wolves
  4. Thermo-Alchemist
  5. Falkenrath Reaver

2 efficient burn spells top the rankings of red’s commons. After that are Brazen Wolves, which simply has great stats for a 3-drop, and Thermo-Alchemist, which is a unique creature that dishes out unblockable damage directly to the opponent.

To round things out, red has plenty of solid bodies and decent combat tricks. Overall, a good color for aggressive decks, madness decks, and spells-matter decks. Red has the ability to pair nicely with any other color in Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad Limited.

Red doesn’t mess around too much with the graveyard. Instead, its cards tend to be stand-alone cards that have good effects on the battlefield (or the opponent’s life total) immediately when you cast them. You know exactly what you’re paying for, and that’s a good quality to have for Limited.

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