Luckily for red, Lightning Bolt is back, since otherwise M11 would have been an almost complete bust. The loss of Siege-Gang Commander is big, and there is no good creature to step and take its place.
As usual, the grading system is as follows:
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this “maybe” category, although explanation of why 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.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)
Act of Treason
I’ve never really been impressed with Threaten effects as sideboard tech. The circumstances under which they work seem way too narrow, since you don’t actually kill anything. If you board in Act of Treason to “deal” with Baneslayer Angel, but don’t kill them the turn you Act, you didn’t really accomplish much. I do think that Act is safer than [card]Traitorous Instinct[/card] though, since needing the fourth mana is just asking for trouble.
This may seem like a low rating, especially for those of us who just came off drafting Rise and know how good Traitorous Instinct was, but it really is all about context. There are no giant annihilator guys to take, and the black-red tokens deck with 2-3 Bloodthrone Vampires is not an archetype anymore. The only decks that really want Act of Treason are the super aggressive decks, decks with Bloodthrone Vampire and Viscera Seer (both of which I would rather not play most of the time), and decks that side in Act for racing matchups.
Hellkites don’t have a great Constructed track record, though we did use Hellkite Charger at the Block Pro Tour. Any creature that costs 5+ mana better do a good job of protecting itself or end the game if not dealt with, and this does neither.
Another pricey Limited bomb, Ancient Hellkite is certainly worth seven mana. There seem to be a lot of variants of the “attack and kill their guys” Dragon, which I guess is a good way of representing firebreathing. All I know is that they are all pretty absurd in Limited, and Ancient Hellkite is no exception.
I would just like to ox you a question: Why aren’t you playing Ball Lightning?
I would be surprised if I ever played this card, but that doesn’t mean nobody will want to. Even in a very aggressive deck, this is not an efficient way to get damage through, since it just trades 1 for 1 with any creature without trampling over or anything.
Berserkers of Blood Ridge
Now that Siege-Gang is gone, maybe Jund needs a five drop”¦
The Berserkers are fine, though the must-attack clause can get awkward from time to time. The abundance of large creatures that kill Berserkers without dying is a cause for concern, since now blue has two guys that eat Berserkers and black has one, making the Barbarians a little worse than they were in M10.
Bloodcrazed Goblin is definitely a step up from Jackal Familiar, since Bolting them or whatever isn’t all that hard to accomplish. Call me crazy, but I still don’t think it will see much play, since having your 1-drop need help to attack is just too situational. I’m sure people will try and make it work, but the upside of attacking for two isn’t worth the risk of not being able to attack, and red has a ton of good options nowadays.
Maindecking this is surely a mistake, but it could come in out of the board to block their bears. There is no way to reliably attack with this, but a 2/2 wall for R is playable in some matchups.
I’m just waiting until the critical mass of Minotaurs is reached and the Didgeridoo deck begins to dominate Legacy.
I have never been happy to have random Hill Giants in my deck, but they do their job well enough. If you get to the point where you are cutting Canyon Minotaurs, you are in a very good spot.
Like Liliana Vess, Chandra shows up now and then in sideboards, and also like Liliana, she is just a little too expensive to be good. Theoretically, red decks can use her to answer big guys like Baneslayer Angel or Obstinate Baloth, but she never works out all that well.
Chandra is the best planeswalker in the set, and one of the best cards overall. She comes in, eats a guy, and now they have to make bad attacks or she will continue to kill creatures. Alternately, you can go for the ultimate if you have enough of a board presence to protect her. She only costs five, and even when you are very far behind she kills a guy and gains you some life. Being good when you are ahead, even, or behind is one of the qualities that makes a bomb a bomb, and Chandra certainly is.
The comparison between this and Searing Blaze is pretty outrageous: double the mana for 2/3 of the important effect, and the slight bonus of not needing landfall.
Lightning Blast was always pretty sick in Limited, and Chandra’s Outrage is going to be better most of the time. Even without the 2 damage to the controller, this would be a high pick, and as a bonus for red drafters, it isn’t splashable.
Giving Kiln Fiend flying is nice, and I guess it triggers off Cunning Sparkmage if that’s important, but the extra mana just kills it. At three mana, Hell’s Thunder is just going to be better most of the time, and more importantly, more consistent.
I don’t expect this to actually spit fire most of the time, but a 1/3 flier for 2R is a fine blocker, and even pings them for one when the board is stable. I suspect that this would get played better if it didn’t have its ability, since people are going to be tempted to Bolt their opponent or whatnot when they really shouldn’t.
Combust dealing with Baneslayer Angel is nice, but not answering Kor Firewalker is kind of rough. Between Baneslayer Angel, Kor Firewalker, and Leyline of Sanctity, red decks have a lot of cards they need to be concerned with, and playing a sideboard card that only deals with one of them is a bit narrow. Splashing black for Doom Blade handles multiple problems, though if you can correctly figure out what your opponents will be sideboarding, Combust can be a good answer.
A little worse than Celestial Purge all told, but still essentially the same card. Being uncounterable can be pretty sweet, though the ability to kill non-creature permanents is probably better.
Do you like decks about Gladiators? I don’t think I do, since once again we have hit the magic number 4, and the Cyclops here doesn’t measure up. He isn’t too far off, since a 4/4 for 4 that presumably eats a guy when he attacks (Wall of Omens seems like a good target) isn’t bad, but how can you compete against the current crop of four drops without doing something absurd? Even though Mono-Red doesn’t play any of those four drops, spending four mana on a vastly worse play than the opponent made is not how you win games.
The triple-colored mana cost is a cause for concern, since playing this on turn four isn’t going to happen all that often. The Gladiator does a decent job of complicating the board for your opponent, though you usually will only get a two for one, since almost any two creatures can team up to kill him. Of course, if you happen to have some removal to pick off their untapped guys, things could get ugly. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a guy.
It doesn’t seem too overpowered to reprint Pillage, since Demolish sure isn’t making any waves.
Demolish is definitely worse than Naturalize, but you still want one for your sideboard if possible. Being able to kill some broken equipment or a Platinum Angel is crucial, and every now and then you can demolish their ability to cast spells if they are land-shy.
I was never a fan of playing against Wildfire, mostly because it was in that stupid UR Magnivore deck a few years back, but it definitely was a good card. The extra mana is worth the slight upgrade in numbers, making this a force to be reckoned with. Planeswalkers work quite well with this, and some sort of Destructive Force/planeswalker deck might be on the horizon (either UWR or WRG would be my guess). There are very few creatures that can hope to survive this (five damage is conveniently enough to kill Baneslayer Angel, among others), and by making them sacrifice five lands you severely cut down on their ability to get back Vengevine. Seven mana is a lot, and the return of Mana Leak certainly makes this worse, but it has the power level necessary to have a deck built around it.
This has all the same problems as a normal Wrath, but with the downside of costing seven mana. It seems difficult to really get an advantage out of casting this, though there are a few ways to do so. Finding guys with 6+ toughness isn’t too realistic, but regenerators aren’t impossible to come by. Cudgel Troll and Reassembling Skeleton both work, and you can always just try and slowroll creatures. Of course, losing 5 lands makes it hard to play the slowrolled guys, and surviving to hit seven mana without playing too many creatures is a challenge too. The card in undeniably powerful, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a bomb.
Even if it got +1/+1 for each Mountain, this wouldn’t make it. In fact, even at +2/+2 it would still not nearly be good enough. I don’t know how on earth they could make this playable without changing it massively.
Here’s a guy that survives Destructive Force, assuming you can keep two Mountains when all is said and done. He also is a 4/6 or 4/7 (or more), which is always going to be good enough.
I wonder if this guy would have been better before M10? Even so, he is just efficient enough to see play, since at worst he gets to Shock something. Wall of Omens is annoying, but if they don’t have it then they probably need to do something about Ember Hauler, since getting hit for two every turn isn’t really an option against red. Once they do use a removal spell, welcome to value town!
Not being able to stack damage hurts way worse in Limited, since there is infinitely more creature combat. Ember Hauler still does his job well enough, but you usually won’t get all that much of an advantage out of him. Your opponent is likely to have some creature to trade with him, and is much less likely to have to point a removal spell at him. Obviously he is still a great card, but isn’t going to get a 2-for-1 without some very odd circumstances happening.
Oh, hell no!
The mana shouldn’t be a problem in most decks, which makes this doggie a fine playable. He is actually stronger on defense, since firebreathing lets him trade with almost any ground creature, instead of just any two-power guy they feel like throwing in his way.
This guy isn’t a very good servant. You ask for something and he brings you twice as much instead! He also is just going to die in Constructed, making him not very playable at all.
There’s nothing wrong with a five-mana 4/3, and doubling [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] or [card]Lava Axe[/card] can get out of control. Even if you have few ways to take advantage of the [card]Furnace of Rath[/card] ability, your opponent probably won’t feel comfortable while this is in play, and take steps to remove it.
It has been quite a while since X-spells were good in Standard, and we even have Banefire, which looks like an awesome finisher. If for some reason you wanted a Fireball effect, Comet Storm does it for much less mana (and continues to be good in Block).
I would be hard-pressed not to take Fireball, regardless of what pack it was or what colors I was in. It’s splashable, it finishes them, and unlike Blaze, when you need to use it as removal it can hit multiple guys. If you aren’t sure whether to take Fireball or a sweet rare, just take the Fireball.
If Soul’s Fire was still good enough, Fling would take its place, since Fling isn’t countered by removal. Unfortunately, the rotation of Mirrodin out of Extended has eliminated the need for either, since Arcbound Ravager and Master of Etherium are no longer around to get flung.
This card is a trap. It looks decent, but there are so few ways to avoid getting 2 for 1’d, and its use as a finisher is somewhat dubious (doing 2 damage isn’t all that exciting). In order for Fling to be decent, you want a few Act of Treasons, which is already kind of sketchy, or a bunch of 5+ power guys. In a RG deck it is ok, but the average R/x deck won’t have enough power to really make it a reliable finisher. It definitely is a fine sideboard card, and I would bring it in against decks with a lot of removal, particularly those of the Pacifism/Ice Cage variety. I suspect this is going to be a card most people play when they shouldn’t, simply because “it’s removal”.
Goblin Balloon Brigade
Luckily, Legacy Goblins already had this available as an out to Moat, so reprinting it wasn’t that important.
Even as a straight up 1/1 flier, this would be almost unplayable in a normal deck. In the mythical Mono-Red beatdown deck, it does get damage through, so it’s possible that you want a balloon full of Goblins. It is also a very situational sideboard card against a deck with multiple Stormfront Pegasi.
I have never been impressed with Standard Goblins, since it felt like the only good cards it was playing were Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Guide, so Chieftain is kind of a bust there. Where it does have value is in Legacy, since it is like a hard-hitting Warchief, and if you have Vial going is often even a little better.
There are a fair amount of Goblins in the set, but for the most part they are pretty bad. Making Goblin Piker a 3/2 while your vanilla 2/2 is in play is not exactly what I want to be doing during a draft. Playing bad cards to make other bad cards less bad has never been a successful strategy (unless there is a critical mass of said cards, which there isn’t in M11).
Have I ever mentioned that the 1R 2/1 hasn’t been Constructed playable for almost 10 years?
I like this one a little more than Silvercoat Lion, though I would avoid playing either. At least red decks can play a bunch of Lava Axes and Flings and commit to burning the opponent out, a strategy in which Goblin Piker fits well. Unless you are that deck, you really won’t want to play this.
The current crop of Goblins has not done much to change my opinion about playing them in Standard. Maybe this is tech for the Legacy deck? Search up this with Matron to make yourPiledriver unblockable!
I find it funny that they put all the important cards for the Bloodthrone Vampire deck in the set but the token generators, which are really the backbone. I suppose with enough Act of Treasons and Vampires you could get something going, at which point the Tunneler is ok. He is actually even fine in a normal deck, since if the board ever stalls, he has to get dealt with, and of course fits well in the super aggro red deck.
There are a few things that keep this card from being good. It is definitely interesting, but the problems it has are too difficult to overcome. The first problem is that there aren’t really any artifacts that give you value, so tutoring one up isn’t all that awesome. Second, even if there were an artifact you wanted, you don’t get it until the Dragon dies. The last problem is that much of the removal in Standard exiles, and gets around the graveyard trigger. The flavor on this card is awesome, and it’s pretty close to being Constructed-worthy, but until artifacts get way more awesome it won’t make the cut.
The text is irrelevant; this is a 4/4 flier for five mana. Of course, value is value, and if I had a Hoarding Dragon, artifacts would move up slightly in my pick order. Might as well pick up a free Juggernaut if it’s on the table!
How about instead of making it attack I make it dead? There isn’t much more incite I can give you on this card; it’s pretty bad.
No self-respecting red deck should be so low on removal that it needs to rely on this. It doesn’t even kill Blinding Mage! I think it is technically a sideboard option if you really need a way to target something to combat Phantom Beast or Ice Cage, but that’s about it.
This passes the value test (if it dies immediately you still got value, in case that wasn’t clear), and is a solid threat in its own right. The effect isn’t as powerful as its undead cousin, and red isn’t very well set up to play six-drops, but as a card it is good enough to consider. Finding a deck might be difficult for this, since it doesn’t fit into any of the existing archetypes.
There aren’t many cards better than Chandra, but this is one of them. Coming into play, eating a guy, then bashing for a ton of damage plus another guy (or two, if they are small) is ridiculous no matter which way you slice it. I find it kind of funny that Yavimaya Wurm can stop the Inferno by itself, though likely with some collateral damage.
Sometimes I axe myself if I make too many puns, but the truth is that I lava them too much.
This clearly helps an aggressive deck, though I don’t hate it as much as you might expect. Five damage is a lot, especially if they don’t know that it’s coming. It isn’t a great card in most midrange decks, but you could do worse. Stealing games is pretty fun, and Lava Axe does that quite well.
Leyline of Punishment
The whole red shell game is getting pretty funny. You have Kor Firewalker, which gets shut down by red Leyline, Baneslayer Angel against Combust, and white Leyline against burn spells. A big part of red’s success is going to depend on picking the right counter-answer for their sideboard cards, with wrong guesses being punished harshly. Leyline of Punishment does at least stop Baneslayer’s life gain, though it gets shut down by Leyline of Sanctity pretty hard. I could see this as a 2 or 3 of, but 4 is definitely too many, and it all depends on how common Firewalker/Baneslayer are vs. Leyline of Sanctity.
In the rare circumstance that you find yourself playing against a dedicated lifegain deck, I suppose you could bring this in after you win game one.
Vintage is the only format where Bolt doesn’t see much play, and even there it pops up from time to time in bad decks. Lightning Bolt is one of the highest power level cards in the format, with only nostalgia and flavor really making this acceptable to be reprinted. I don’t think it breaks the format by any means, but if it wasn’t so iconic it would not be printed.
This isn’t quite as good as Doom Blade on the splash, but it is close enough for the difference to be irrelevant. Take it high, and don’t expect even non-red players to pass this very often.
Unwieldy and slow card advantage engines are a thing of the past; even if Forbid was around this wouldn’t be a consideration.
The Phoenix isn’t as good as it looks, in my experience. While it is powerful and hard to stop, don’t be so focused on getting value out of it that you fall behind on the board. It damages you too, and that damage adds up quickly. I have seen multiple games where someone tries to ride the Phoenix to victory but ends up extra crispy. If you are planning on blocking a 4/4 and they kill the Phoenix and bash, you just took a ton of damage and probably don’t have time to buy back the Phoenix, leaving you in a bad spot. I’m certainly not saying it’s bad; I still stand by my rating, but be aware that it can be dangerous to depend on it.
I like that red and white each have a clean and simple comes into play guy. Having access to such options makes Constructed better, and both this and War Priest of Thune are going to be sideboard-worthy for the duration of their stay in Standard. Right now, there is no need for the Vandal, but if Temple Bell gets a little too frisky, or there is a Tier 1 deck that crutches on Everflowing Chalice, we could start seeing vandalism return.
I find it funny that there is no “may” on this guy, which fits the flavor perfectly. If you have a few good artifacts, you probably don’t want to start this guy, but in a deck without any he seems fine. In Sealed I would always play one, just because odds are they are playing at least one good target.
If only he was a little more cunning, maybe he would find a way to see play.
Pingers are always awesome, even if there isn’t much chance of getting two. Some decks get completely wrecked by this, and some only get partially wrecked. Either way, it is hard for a board containing a pinger to be on the losing side.
As crappy as this card is, it is still a ritual, and the only one most formats have to work with. That alone makes it very interesting, and a little bit dangerous. Fast mana in a format without it can break some rules, and even if there is no deck built to use it now, that doesn’t preclude such a thing happening. This is better for the new Extended than Standard, since Extended still has a few combo cards available to it (Hive Mind being the chief suspect).
Please, just play a Mountain instead.
Forked Bolt has mostly taken over for Clasm, since there isn’t a Spectral Procession in the format to worry about, and all the targets have one toughness instead of two. It is comforting to know that Clasm is around, but for now I don’t see a need for it.
Most red decks won’t have many guys that live through this, but that’s what playing around Pyroclasm is for. It shouldn’t be too hard to get even, and ideally you do better than that. Clasm isn’t ridiculous, but it is a fine card.
I hope I don’t get berated for this, but I just don’t see this seeing any play. At least Twincast was blue, the color of combo. Copying spells for value just isn’t where it’s at.
With five or more cheap spells, Reverberate seems playable. Much less than that and you are risking a dead draw too often, though keep in mind that it can be a very good sideboard card. If you have two or three spells to copy and your opponent has three or more, it all of a sudden is more than fine.
I find it kind of funny that none of the other Embraces came back, not that any of them would have been relevant for Constructed. Would losing to this be getting Shivved?
A good way around the potential aura disadvantages is to kill them, preferably rapidly. Shiv’s Embrace does that very well, with two hits usually enough to end things in your favor. It also is better the longer you wait, since they are less likely to have removal and you will have more Mountains, giving them less time to answer it.
Pumping creatures is the first strike, only doing extra damage it the second, and giving an almost useless ability is the third. On second though, maybe giving first strike should be the first strike, since that’s more poetic.
Any deck with a normal creature count won’t mind one of these, and maybe even two. Without damage stacking, this isn’t really worse than a normal giant growth, and with low toughness creatures it will often be better.
Making guys unblockable is not a very useful ability, and having it only work against a deck full of instant-speed removal is even worse.
+2/+2 is right on the border between playable and good, which is why this is much higher than Holy/Unholy Strength. I still don’t like the card disadvantage, but at least here you are getting something good for the risk. Plus, it is awesome in the red mirror, and I would side in as many of these as you can when playing against Mountains.
Shockingly, this isn’t good enough.
Turn three Vulshok Berserker was always an awesome play in Mirrodin draft, and the power level of that format was much higher. Even a turn four Berserker is pretty good, and will often put them on the back foot from the beginning of the game.
I would be surprised if I needed to defend this, but stranger things have happened.
Top 5 Constructed Cards for Red
There is more speculation here than in other colors, with only Lightning Bolt as a solid bet to see play. I do really like Destructive Force, and think it is one of the number of interesting cards red has to work with. RDW got Ember Hauler and some potential sideboard cards, with Combust also a consideration. Lastly, Pyretic Ritual is on the short list of cards combo might be able to incorporate in the new Extended. Overall, not a bad set of cards for red.
Top 5 Commons for Limited
Red’s commons are not very deep at all. When Canyon Minotaur cracks the top five, you know you are in trouble. Red seems best as a splash color for removal (made difficult by Chandra’s Outrage costing RR) or as a janky aggro deck, which puts Lava Axe and Goblin Piker to good use. Either way, I think I’ll be staying out of it if possible.
Next up: green!