Now that I’m done with Limited Fate Reforged reviews, it’s time to move on to Constructed. You can find the Limited reviews here:
I also did the Limited Resources review of every card in the set:
For Constructed, things work slightly differently. First of all, I don’t review every card in the set, just the ones I think have Constructed applications. If I missed a card you think is awesome, feel free to post it in the comments or ask me about it on Twitter. I try to evaluate cards without using best-case scenario mentality (I gotta start using LR slang, right?), but I’ve certainly missed cards in the past, and if you can think of a good reason a card could be great, I would like to hear it.
Previous Constructed reviews:
Red doesn’t have quite as many standouts as some of the other colors, but its got a nice combination of interesting new build-arounds and solid cards that fill necessary roles. You can’t ask for much more, especially not from a color that is not always the most subtle when it comes to where its power lies.
Here is the ratings scale I’ll be using:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage. Dack Fayden.)
4.0: Format staple. (Siege Rhino. Courser of Kruphix. Delver of Secrets.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Stormbreath Dragon. Seeker of the Way.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Chained to the Rocks. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Perilous Vault. Heir of the Wilds.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Naturalize. Savage Knuckleblade.) 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.)
The power level of this card is high enough that it could sneak into sideboards here and there. It can kill every creature in play or sweep away all the small ones, whichever you prefer, and all it asks is that creatures fight in some capacity. That’s easy enough to accomplish that some deck may be interested in it.
The first application I can think of is using this in an aggressive red deck to wipe a bunch of green creatures off the board while shooting the opponent for 4 or 5 damage, setting them up to get burned out. None of your creatures will live, but that’s probably fine. Alternately, a red/green Monsters deck can use this to clear away a bunch of tokens, leaving their 4/4s-and-up alive.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
It looks like 3 is the new 4 when it comes to incredibly dangerous card-advantage machines. Alesha joins the ranks of Monastery Mentor, Goblin Rabblemaster, Anafenza, the Foremost, Mardu Strike Leader, Brimaz, and of course Courser of Kruphix as the latest 3-drop that will win the game if unanswered.
Alesha fights very well by herself, and will beat most other 2s and 3s in a brawl. Given that her size is about what you’d be interested in for three mana, how good is her ability? The fair way is to play her in a deck with other aggressive creatures—cards like Seeker of the Way, Rabblemaster, or even something like Mardu Skullhunter. That isn’t bad, but isn’t broken either. She ends up being a 3/2 first strike with a decent upside, which is a fine card but not a deck-defining engine.
The unfair way to use Alesha is to dump cards like Hornet Queen into your graveyard and just go off. Also, when I say “cards like Hornet Queen” I really just mean exactly Hornet Queen, as most other 2-power creatures you can cast the hard way. I guess in Modern we do have Golgari Grave-Troll now, so there’s something interesting besides Queen to investigate.
This is the most interesting way to take advantage of this card, and the power level is there. Red even has some nice enablers, like Tormenting Voice in Standard and Faithless Looting in Modern, so I could see Alesha smiling all the way to the bank.
Break Through the Line
If this breaks through to Constructed, it will be in conjunction with Goblin Rabblemaster exclusively. There’s just no other creature with 2 power that you want to get through that badly, and Rabbles lines up with this perfectly. Whether that is actually good enough is unclear, as Break Through the Line doesn’t do anything by itself, and Rabblemaster dies so often, but it’s an interaction worth noting.
I do not believe this is playable. The amount of extra work you have to do compared to Lightning Strike, or even just Magma Jet, makes this not worth it and no amount of tokens are going to change my mind.
I will admit that there may be some angle involving taking your opponent’s creatures and sacrificing them, but even then I don’t see that being better than putting Chained to the Rocks or Murderous Cut in your deck.
When you evaluate a Magic card, you have to imagine what happens when you draw it in non-optimal scenarios and how good the high end is. For Collateral Damage, it is horrible in the first case and only marginally better than Lightning Strike in the second.
Chandra’s Phoenix was a very strong card, and this is going to carry its tradition on, albeit surrounded by different allies. Instead of a deck full of burn spells, Flamewake Phoenix asks that you play at least a couple creatures with 4 power, which is a very reasonable request. Red/green aggro is a good fit, and even mono-red may have enough between Ashcloud Phoenix and Stormbreath Dragon to make this a card.
Paying this little mana for such a consistent source of damage is a good deal, and there will be decks that take advantage of it.
Hopefully this does combine well enough with Jeskai Ascendancy or even something as simple as Searing Blood to make it playable, because the card is awesome both in flavor and gameplay. The idea of drawing two cards and then killing the Defector is pretty appealing, and if you can assemble the Ascendancy + Defector combo, you get to draw an extra two cards for every instant you can cast.
I like the sound of that, and the power level here is high enough that it is worth putting some work in (unlike Collateral Damage).
I like this in a tokens deck, especially out of the sideboard for a grindy matchup. It plays the part of a Chandra (it’s the +0) but can’t be attacked, which is a nice upside. If you have a board of tokens, naming Dragons gives you a sort of inevitability, where every creature you make is guaranteed to deal at least 1 damage. Those are both powerful abilities, and in particular the first one is good enough to see sideboard play out of any red deck, not just token-based ones.
Shaman of the Great Hunt
Hellrider’s legacy also lives on in red. I suppose this is way more Hero of Oxid Ridge than Hellrider, but given that Paul Rietzl’s Hero of Oxid Ridge beat me playing for Top 8 of a Pro Tour, I’m going to go ahead and compare this to Hellrider instead.
In any case, Shaman bashes for 4 immediately, grows itself along with the rest of your creatures, and can sit back and draw a bunch of cards if all else fails. Even when you’re winning you can use the ability to avoid committing more to the board for fear of a wrath, and when this ability draws two or more cards it’s incredible.
Shaman does have a very low toughness, but the immediate utility plus the long game potential makes me think it’s great.
Having access to Shock is nice, and a 1-mana removal spell that kills most 2-drops is a good thing in this format. This will never be absurd, but it will show up in plenty of decks throughout its tenure in Standard.
Top 5 Red Cards
Red actually has way more combo action going on than normal here. Alesha, Outpost Siege, and Humble Defector all look like interesting build-arounds. It may not have the same depth as some other colors, but red usually doesn’t, and it has some real cards here.
I’ll be moving on to green next, followed by everything else!