Previous AKH Set Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
The ratings scale is slightly different as well:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Adding 3 power to the board while getting their best blocker out of the way is a swing that I can get behind. Red-based aggro has languished recently (I’m not counting Mardu Vehicles in that category), and Ahn-Crop Crasher is the kind of card that can help bring it back.
This is pure sideboard material, and dubious ammunition at that.
This is probably going a little too deep, but a 1-drop that can give your bigger creatures haste could be kind of sweet. You need to find a deck that wants 1/1s and has big enough creatures that the haste part is relevant, which is a tall order.
The stats here are substantial, and Bloodrage Brawler can deliver quite the beatdown. Discarding a card is a high cost, but an all-in red deck can live with that, especially given that this doesn’t make you discard when it’s the last card in your hand.
Barring the emergence of an Affinity-style deck, this is worse than Release the Gremlins, but it’s worth mentioning.
Cartouche of Zeal
This may be a little too all-in for my tastes, but it does add a lot of power while removing a blocker, and thus receives a tentative rating.
Getting a 4/1 for 3 mana isn’t worth celebrating, but getting to relentlessly assault the opponent can add up to a ton of damage. This seems like a bit of a win-more, but I can respect any creature that threatens 7+ damage on its first attack.
Red is just chock-full of suspect aggro cards in this set, isn’t it? Like Cartouche of Zeal and the rest, this seems not quite good enough, but adds enough power to the board that it’s got to be in the conversation. “All terrible cards that deal damage” is a strategy that’s worked before, and card advantage doesn’t matter when your opponent is dead.
Prowess fits into burn decks a lot better than discard/cycling bonuses, but this could be part of a Noose Constrictor/Shadow of the Grave deck. Playing this as purely a threat doesn’t interest me quite as much as making a combo deck with it.
This is an interesting one. I don’t have it rated highly, but there’s a lot to talk about. First of all, how does it look to play Glorious End straight up?
It counters a sweeper against control, and can be cast on upkeep so they miss their draw and land drop. It’s vulnerable to instant-speed removal that can prevent you from winning on your turn, and takes a very specific set of circumstances where an extra turn (though with their creatures untapped) is enough to win you the game. I’m medium on Glorious End by itself, though could see it out of the sideboard in hyper-aggro red decks if control decks have a specific inflection point where they sweep the board or make a big sorcery-speed play.
Getting around the drawback is the other way to approach Glorious End. In Standard, Gideon of the Trials makes an emblem that prevents you from losing, and in Modern, Angel’s Grace does the same. That’s intriguing, especially in decks that would already play those cards (W/R Aggro in Standard and Ad Nauseam in Modern). It’s got potential, and the final fortune of Glorious End likely depends on how well this interaction plays out.
This dominated in the day after the first ban announcement and before the second one, but the glory days will last much longer for this particular Dragon. A 4/4 haste flyer for 5 is already kind of a beater, and eating a creature immediately is huge upside. This munches on most creatures in the format, can attack planeswalkers, and does so at reasonable cost. If you plan on paying 3+ mana for a creature, it needs to interact well against Glorybringer, or you are going to find yourself far behind once turn 5 rolls around. Ishkanah looks like a good candidate, and Archangel Avacyn plays nicely against Glorybringer as well.
I expect to see tons of Glorybringers, and even if this is a victim of its own success, it’s still going to be a staple of the format.
I’m not in love with the idea of Modern Burn getting more tools, but here we are. This punishes a variety of decks and cards (taste it, fetchlands), and does so at a cheap cost. I prefer my Mentors to be of the Monastery variety, but I anticipate facing Harsh Mentor often enough. This could also be a solid sideboard card against combo decks that rely on activated abilities.
Hazoret the Fervent
Despite an unfortunately-titled Invocation (Invocation Hazoret is definitely on a list somewhere), this is a solid threat in aggressive red decks. It can even discard additional copies, though it strikes me as a 1- or 2-of more than a card you want 3-4 copies of. If your deck is low-curve enough, Hazoret is a huge threat that’s hard to remove, and offers non-combat reach as well. I like that combination of abilities, and they make Hazoret a legit way to close out games.
Heart-Piercer Manticore is beefy enough to not feel embarrassing to cast, and has embalm, making it a 2-for-1 by itself. What it needs to be good enough for Constructed is to have good creatures to throw, and that’s the deck-building cost you must pay. That seems doable, especially with other embalm creatures or creatures with death triggers, and even something as simple as high-power creatures can be used to finish the opponent off.
Magma Spray is quietly one of the most impactful cards in the set for Standard. That’s not a huge shock, since the interaction with Scrapheap Scrounger is an obvious and relevant one, but it does put control decks back on the map. It’s especially convenient that there’s no longer a need to Shock Saheeli Rai, so Magma Spray should be a 3- or 4-of in any red-based control deck like U/R, for example.
Monastery Slowspear trades a relevant ability for one that seems highly dubious. This might see play as a 1/2 prowess for 1, but I’m not holding my breath.
An efficient sweeper that cycles when it isn’t needed is exactly what control decks are looking for. Sweltering Suns is going to be strong, and I expect to see 1-2 show up in every red control deck.
Trial of Zeal
If there is somehow a Cartouche deck, maybe this works as a recurring source of damage. It really needed to cost 2 to be awesome, and I don’t think it’s going to get there at 3.
Insult // Injury
While this is a powerful card, it’s pricey. If there’s a deck relying on damage prevention, Insult can get around that strategy (cards like Fog come to mind). Casting both halves in the same turn is a beating, but at 6 mana you are asking a lot for Constructed.
Top 5 Red Cards
Red really did it this time. Glorybringer is just a house, and Magma Spray adds a new dynamic to the format. Harsh Mentor even throws older formats a bone, and both Hazoret and Sweltering Suns are going to see a good amount of play.