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Battle for Zendikar Limited Set Redo – Red

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Ratings Scale

5.0: The best of the best. (Citadel Siege. Wingmate Roc. Dragonlord Atarka.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Tragic Arrogance. Whirler Rogue. Icefall Regent.Hangarback Walker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Abbot of Keral Keep. Jhessian Thief. Ultimate Price.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Separatist Voidmage. Fiery Impulse. Epic Confrontation.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Deadbridge Shaman. Skyraker Giant.Watercourser.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Read the Bones. Silumgar Butcher. Dragon-Scarred Bear.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Throwing Knife. Chandra’s Fury. Artful Maneuver.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Vastwood Gorger. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Cobblebrute.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Thornbow Archer. Deep-Sea Terror. Akroan Jailer.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Vandalize. Vine Snare. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Fascination. Infinite Obliteration.)

Belligerent Whiptail

Original Rating: 2.5

Assuming you are interested in attacking, this does a fair job. Some turns you will have to keep it back, because it trades down too easily if you haven’t hit your land drop, but that’s more than made up for by the times where your opponent can’t effectively block it until turn six or seven.

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Updated Rating: 1.5

As it turns out, Whiptail being completely non-themed makes it a lot worse than it appears. It doesn’t fit into Ally or devoid strategies, and even in the landfall deck this isn’t a payoff. I mostly avoid this card, and recommend that you do the same.

Boiling Earth

Original Rating: 1.0

This is more of a sideboard card than anything else, despite the awaken ability. Cards like this always come in when the opponent has tons of small creatures, and adding a 7-mana mode doesn’t change that. Granted, this is good when you want the effect, it’s just not common enough to want it in game 1 for you to start it.

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Updated Rating: 2.5

Boiling Earth lines up well against most main decks, and as such is a card I’m happy to play.

Firemantle Mage

Original Rating: 2.0

In an aggressive deck, this can justify itself even without other Allies. In a deck full of Allies, it provides a body early and a good way to get around blockers late. It’s very similar to Chasm Guide, and your curve will likely determine which one you want more (though it’s usually going to be this, given that it’s a mana cheaper).

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Updated Rating: 3.0

Firemantle Mage is just a solid aggressive card, and does well even without much in the way of support. I’d play this in any deck that’s interested in attacking with ground creatures, though it does help a lot to have a few Allies as backup.

Nettle Drone

Original Rating: 3.0

Speaking of aggressive cards that are good enough, Nettle Drone is the perfect example. It is an aggressive card, but it’s strong enough that you can confidently take it early, and will often include it even in decks that aren’t purely beatdown. This trades well on defense, doesn’t have to risk itself in combat if the way isn’t clear, and can often shoot the opponent multiple times a turn. This is the sort of thing that I’m happy trying to build around, as it doesn’t really have a fail case; you would play it even if you could never untap it.

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Updated Rating: 3.5

This is somewhere between a 3.0 and 3.5, but let’s just say I’m rounding up. Nettle Drone is a fantastic addition to any devoid deck or any aggro deck, and it ends games surprisingly well. I called this card good to begin with, and it turns out even that was underrating it.

Outnumber

Original Rating: 3.5

Outnumber is one of the higher-variance cards in the set. I suspect it’s got more upside than downside, and have given it a rating which reflects that. It just seems like it’s not that hard to build a Shock, and Shock is quite good, even a Shock you can’t cast on turn one or two. If you play a 2-drop into a 2-drop + Outnumber, it’s done its job, and later in the game this can easily deal 3 or 4 damage. I’m going to have to play with and against this more to see how often creatures stick around, but my initial impression is that this is a premium removal spell in most decks. I will admit that some decks won’t be able to make use of this, and opposing instant-speed removal makes it risky, but even factoring all of that in, I still think the card is strong.

I’m open to the idea that this is best-case scenario thinking, so I’ll keep an eye on Outnumber and report on my findings in a few weeks.

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Updated Rating: 2.5

I was indeed too optimistic about Outnumber, and I’m comfortable calling it a good card that not every deck will play. It can overperform, as it is truly excellent in a creature-heavy deck, but this isn’t a card I want to take in the first couple picks.

Reckless Cohort

Original Rating: 1.0

You need to be in a deck that cares about Allies before this pulls its weight, as having to attack each turn (if able) is too big a drawback and a 2/2 for 2 is not enough of a reward. In the Ally deck, this both triggers other Allies and conveniently enough isn’t forced to attack, making it a solid addition.

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Updated Rating: 2.0

As loathe as I am to admit, a 2/2 for 2 with a drawback is good enough to play in some decks. The typeline of “Ally” makes this a little more than it looks, and in an Ally deck, it not only doesn’t have the drawback, but often triggers one or more beneficial effects. Add to that the lack of 2-drops in the format and you have the recipe for a playable (if still unexciting) card.

Retreat to Valakut

Original Rating: 1.0

Aggressive decks won’t often want to take a turn off to play this, and control decks certainly aren’t interested. I don’t think this does quite enough to warrant inclusion, so I’ll stick with using Scapeshift when I’m planning any travel to Valakut.

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Updated Rating: 2.0

This is another card I underrated. I’m still not super excited by it, but it does enough work in aggressive decks that I’ve ended up playing it more often than I thought I would.

Rolling Thunder

 

Original Rating: 4.5

When I first saw Rolling Thunder was going to be in this set, I thought it was going to be unbeatable. I then realized that there were going to be a bunch of Eldrazi, so maybe it was just going to be good. After seeing the full set, I’m leaning more towards the first conclusion, though it stops a little short of being completely ridiculous. Enough of the creatures in this set have 1-3 toughness that Rolling Thunder is going to be amazing. It kills a couple creatures in the midgame, lots of creatures in the lategame, and can be used to finish off your opponent in any kind of close game. It also plays nicely in decks that can generate Eldrazi Scions, and even if you have to just use it on their big creature, it’s still a removal spell. Rolling Thunder may not be as absurd as it was in Tempest, but don’t go thinking that this isn’t an awesome early pick.

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Updated Rating: 4.0

Rolling Thunder ended up being worse than it looked, but still quite good. I think some people moved the needle too far in the other direction (Complete Disregard over Rolling Thunder pick 1 pack 1 isn’t something I would recommend), but I do think this is enough worse than I first thought to mention it here. It’s not even the best uncommon, which is a far cry from being one of the best cards in the set (which it was back in Tempest), and in a format of monsters, it ends up killing one thing all too often. Again, this card is still great, and you will still take it early, but it’s behind plenty of other cards.

Turn Against

 

Original Rating: 3.5

Against an opponent who isn’t playing around this, it’s easily a 4.0. Against one who is, it can drop to much lower than that. The ideal use of this is to grab a creature that can trade for one of their other attackers, and pick up a nice two for one. If your opponent is careful enough to not attack into five open mana, you may end up having to settle for less, but the blowout potential plus the ease of getting a 1 for 1 makes this a very strong card. I could see upgrading this rating to start with, but I do think as people get more used to playing against this, it will settle closer to just being good instead of absurd.

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Updated Rating: 2.0

Costing 5 mana was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and Turn Against has not impressed me. It’s too hard to set up, and is bad against wary opponents. Ray of Command this is not.

Vile Aggregate

Original Rating: 3.5

Even though this is a miss in some decks, it will be very good in others. It’s a 1/5 by itself, and it isn’t that hard to get it to a 3/5 by the time you want to attack. It works with processors, and the upside is high enough that I’m happy taking it early. 5 toughness is just so much, and the potential to hit 4-5 power means that this has a very high aggregate power when you look at all the different cases.

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Updated Rating: 4.0

Vile Aggregate is a key card in devoid decks and has a very high power level. The synergy is real, and this is one of the best uncommons in the set.

Top 5 Red Commons

5. Valakut Predator
4. Outnumber
3. Stonefury
2. Touch of the Void
1. Nettle Drone

Not much changed here, besides Nettle Drone moving up and Outnumber moving down. I replaced Vestige with Valakut Predator, though I don’t really want to take either early. Vestige does go in better decks, but Predator is more important to aggro than Vestige is to devoid. Red didn’t play as differently as black did, in terms of cards changing, so this was mostly tweaking numbers instead of huge swings.

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