Previous Set Reviews
5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
Abbot of Keral Keep
2-drops that are good early and good late are a scarce resource, and should be valued accordingly. Playing cheap cards is a necessary evil, or at least that’s how I’ve always seen it, because you have to do something before turn five or you get run over. The drawback is that they are often dead draws later in the game, but that’s a price you have to pay. Cards like this are so good because they are great at any point, making it no cost at all to run them. If you need to fill out your curve, play the Abbot on turn two and smash. If you have other cards to play or draw this late, play it and profit. Either way you are happy, and as a result this is a good early pick. Make sure not to play your land before playing this, and if you keep a land-light hand, feel free to run this out and pray.
Acolyte of the Inferno
The disadvantage of 3/1s is that they trade for anything, but this has a hot new ability that gets around that. By burning any creature foolish enough to stand in its way, Acolyte of the Inferno forces the opponent to either take a bunch of damage or trade a real card for it.
Act of Treason
There is a minor sacrifice theme in this set, so Act can sometimes be an engine with cards like Nantuko Husk, Fleshbag Marauder, and Fiery Conclusion (plus a couple other cards). Outside of that deck, Act is only good in an extremely aggressive deck, which makes this a card you aren’t playing very often. People tend to overplay this card in general, so make sure you have a plan if you put it in your deck.
Back in my day, 2/2 first strikers for 3 came with a drawback. This is a far cry from that, as it comes with a sizable advantage. This isn’t easily blocked when it comes out early, and once it becomes renowned, it becomes big enough to rule the board for at least a few turns. It pairs well with pump spells and removal, and is the kind of creature any deck is happy to include.
This card is extremely swingy. It’s an awesome card to cast as the last card in your hand, and a horrendous one to run out on turn four. I think that the power level is high enough that I’d run it in almost every red deck, but it’s situational enough that I’m not taking it very early. Put another way: this is a 4.5 when it doesn’t die, and pretty close to a 0.0 when it does. That isn’t exactly the kind of card you want to see in your opening hand, though I know I’m going to lose to someone just getting greedy and playing it on turn four. It even dies to Disperse, as the opponent can bounce it with the trigger on the stack! This could also be an insane card against opponents with no removal, so sideboarding it in or out depending on what you see is a potential approach. I like high variance cards, and this really is powerful, so in a deck that can naturally empty its hand I think this is a gamble worth taking.
The only application I can really think of is to side this in against a deck full of 2/1s, which is significantly bellow average.
You do nominally need to be attacking before this is great, but a 3/2 trades well enough on defense that even a control deck could play this to fill out the curve. Menace is a nice ability with tricks, and this gets to attack effectively most of the early game. Overall this is a very solid card.
Call of the Full Moon
I’m not a fan of this card. I’m not going to call it straight unplayable, but it restricts how many spells you can play (it even counts for one the turn you play it, which is a very real drawback) and it opens you up to getting 2-for-1’d by any removal spell.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
Chandra is a strong play at almost every point in the game. You do need to either attack with her or play two spells in order to flip her, but that’s not that hard, and even by herself she can sit there pinging the opponent. Once she flips, she becomes even better.
Chandra, Roaring Flame
Her planeswalker side is often going to pick off a small creature right away, and if you can protect her can sit around and deal a fair amount of damage to the opponent. The ultimate is very good too, and dealing 2 a turn while threatening an ultimate is a good clock. All of this potential is well worth paying 3 mana, especially since the fail case of a 3-mana 2/2 that pings the opponent for 1 a turn is a pretty high ceiling.
My favorite use of this is as a sideboard card against a deck full of 1-toughness creatures, but as a Lava Axe with a bit of utility it can also make its way into aggressive red decks.
Kaboom! This is like an Arcbond without a huge setup cost, and just requires that you successfully resolve a sorcery targeting one of your creatures. That isn’t really that hard to do, and dealing 3 damage with this is very realistic. It doesn’t quite get to 4.0 because it does demand that you have a creature with good power and that your opponent has no interaction, but the top end of this is very high.
If you need a 4-drop, Cobblebrute delivers. The downside of dying to 2-drops is limiting, but at least there’s a big upside: if you have a removal spell or two, all of a sudden your opponent has taken 10 damage. I also like siding this card in against big ground monsters, as it does block quite effectively, though I’ll usually save it for that rather than maindeck it.
This is technically a sideboard card, but it’s so bad at killing artifacts that I can’t really even recommend that. It’s a shame, because demolishing your opponent sounds sweet, if unrealistic, given how inefficient this card is.
Like in Dragons, this is playable without synergies and good with them. I won’t always run this if I have no combos with it (things like sacrifice cards or Nantuko Husk), but if you need a 2-drop, this does the job.
Red is happy enough with a 4/5 trample for five mana, and this gives you a little maw for your money. “Red sources” include red creatures, so this effectively gives all your other red creatures +1/+0, which is not a bad line of text. That plus making your burn spells better makes this a very solid high-end threat.
Abs of steel aside, this doesn’t bring much to the table. He will often steal a 2-power creature and whack the opponent for 2, but a 3/2 for four that deals 2 to the opponent isn’t very exciting. I am enthralled with the idea of taking creatures and sacrificing them, so the rating goes up significantly if you’ve got a couple Nantuko Husks to devour the poor fools who wander over.
If this were an instant, I’d be all for giving it a higher grade, but sorcery speed plus double-red make this “just” premium removal instead of a flat-out exciting first pick. It’s still great, and you will still take it early and always play it. The spell mastery part is cute, but unlikely to matter much in Limited (though when it does, you will be very happy).
As powerful as it is to deal 5 damage for just two mana, I’ve concluded that you can’t just run this without a few ways to enable it. Token-making is going to be the most common way to make this work, though Act of Treason is a pretty nice one too. Once you have a couple ways to make the drawback less painful, go nuts. You can also run this if you are really removal-light, though obviously that’s not a great spot to be in, and it is a passable sideboard card if your opponent has a 5/5 flier that you just can’t deal with otherwise.
The potential to deal 3 damage just pushes this over the top. There are a lot of cheap renowned creatures that you really want to kill early, and later in the game this will take down 3/3s as needed. The combination of efficiency and power is what I’m looking for, and every deck can use cards like this.
This attacks for 3 immediately, which is already solid, and if it gets a hit in it becomes a very real threat. Unless your deck is incredibly defensive, this will always be a welcome addition.
In a creature-heavy deck, this is not a bad way to get some value. You should be taking creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities to maximize it, though creatures with good ETB abilities are usually just great cards to take regardless. I don’t like that this doesn’t advance the board at all, but a couple Separatist Voidmages later and you will be laughing all the way to the bank. You can even play Voidmage, target itself, and make a copy to bounce the opponent’s best creature, which is kind of the hard lock.
Ghirapur Æther Grid
If you can draft a deck with 10+ artifacts, this is a powerful way to take advantage of that, but for the most part I’m just off the Grid. It’s a lot of work to set up, and needing multiple artifacts before this does anything is a very big cost. If you want this, you will know, and you can be sure nobody else will be taking it.
Red has some nice commons this time around. Sandsteppe Outcast was the best common in Fate Reforged, and this is essentially the same thing. It gets better with token and/or artifact synergies, but that doesn’t matter: you should take this if you can. It’s just too efficient and too much card advantage to pass up.
Goblin Glory Chaser
I’m not a fan of 1-drops that do nothing when drawn late, and this fits into that category. It may get a shot at glory if it’s in your opening hand, but it’s not even broken then, and you’d have to be incredibly aggressive for this to be an appealing card (though maybe “appealing” isn’t the right word, because everyone seems to love 1-drops no matter how bad they are).
Despite being a big player in Constructed, Goblin Piledriver is more of a sideboard card in Limited. The least relevant text in Constructed is the most relevant in Limited, as siding this in against blue decks is not a bad idea. Actually trying to draft a Goblin deck is, however, as the two common Goblins and the bad uncommon Goblin aren’t exactly the support you need.
How about instead of collecting them all I go ahead and collect none? I don’t want any of these in my deck, much less multiples, and the reward of getting to chain these just doesn’t entice me to change that. If you have a bunch of these, drawing multiples is very bad, and you still get destroyed by bounce or cards like Claustrophobia. I’ll pass on this, though if I had a couple Blightcasters I could see drafting a real nice combo deck.
Lightning Bolt this is not, but playable it is. It will kill most of your opponents creatures, and even give you a scry to boot. It’s not exciting, but cards don’t need to be exciting to be playable.
I don’t think people understand just how bad the “must attack” text really is, based on how many people loved Valley Dasher and how many people seem to like this. It is very bad text, near the worst, and will make you chump attack a large percentage of the times you draw cards that have it (or be unable to cast them, which is effectively the same). Plus, aggressive decks don’t tend to have a ton of spells, which all adds up to this getting the polar opposite of a ringing endorsement.
Tormenting Voice was a fine card, but part of the reason that it made the cut was because it could get you out of mana screw. A 2-land hand with Tormenting Voice was usually a solid keep, so it smoothed out your awkward draws nicely. This doesn’t do that, and really only helps mana flood, which is a narrow enough ability that I’m not that interested. Saving a mana off a card that wasn’t exciting to begin with isn’t very impressive, so I’ll be avoiding this one.
Even though this is card disadvantage, at some point excess lands become blanks. Being down a card to make sure it is impossible to get mana flooded is a tradeoff I’m willing to make, and unlike the previous card, this actually solves mana flood instead of just making it a little better. I’ve enjoyed playing with Seismic Assault in Limited, and this is easier to cast (if slightly less powerful over the course of a game). This could easily be better than I’m giving it credit for, especially in a deck that is intentionally constructed to need only four lands at a time.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Chandra’s parents are where the real power is, apparently. This card (I’m not typing out that full name, sorry. Instead, I’ll type out this much longer parenthetical explaining that) is an incredible play early or late, and offers a 3-for-1 for a very low mana cost. It trades favorably with removal, and even has extra synergy if you pick up more artifacts. This card is excellent, and not very many steps behind Siege-Gang Commander, which was also an incredible bomb.
As the top of the curve in an aggressive deck, you could do worse. It doesn’t block well, but attacking as a 5-power first striker is a fine consolation prize. My real question is if Prickleboars make snuffling noises, and if not, what sound do they make?
Red has a lot of burn spells in this range, and I’m not entirely sure what I’m taking if I see a pack of Exquisite Firecraft, Fiery Impulse, and this (though I think I’ll just take the Firecraft). Either way, this does a good job killing things at any point in the game, even if it isn’t very efficient, and later in the game it will hit the opponent for a ton. That’s a couple good things at reasonable cost, which makes this both powerful and flexible.
Costing double-red is an obstacle, but I’m willing to put up with that for the upside this offers. It may need a little help getting through, but once you do, you can sit back and watch the opponent keep punching themselves in the face. This does reward aggression, though I’d be fine playing it in just about any red deck with 9+ Mountains.
Adding a 4/4 body to a powerful situational effect is a huge upgrade. Magmatic Chasm is a good finisher with the drawback that it’s dead when you can’t kill them, and Seismic Elemental offers the same upside with a backup plan of just casting a 4/4. You can even play this on curve and get a few extra damage for free, since paying five mana for a 4/4 is never bad. There are a lot of reasons to play Seismic Elemental, and very few not to (though in a creature-light deck it isn’t quite as good).
I’m never going to be unhappy playing this, and I even don’t mind that red is carving out new territory in the color pie. It might seem like a bit of a reach to add new keywords at this point, but this plays well, and is good on both defense and offense.
Smash to Smithereens
Not only is this strictly sideboard, it’s not a card you should bring in against the Thopter deck. If they have real artifacts, go for it, but don’t go thinking you are making a profit by Smashing 1/1 fliers that didn’t cost a card.
If you need a 2-drop, this suffices, and it even does something later in the game. It’s also a way to guarantee renown, which is nice.
Two Sandsteppe Outcasts?? Who decided it was red’s birthday? This is even better than the 2/1 version, as it gives all of your artifacts haste, and has slightly more stats overall. A 2/1 does attack better than a 1/3, but if you have a 1/1 flier out and are playing more potentially hasty artifacts in your deck, I’d rather have the 1/3.
This isn’t the most impressive combat trick, but it does get the job done. If you plan on attacking early and often, the first copy of Titan’s Strength will help you win some fights, and at the very least it forces a trade.
If you ever have to run this, you should be unhappy. It’s expensive, has a bad stats-to-cost ratio, and has a very anemic ability. There’s an element of inevitability here, but it’s buried deep under the inefficient costs.
Top 5 Red Commons
Red has some excellent commons. Both 1 and 2 are cards I’d be satisfied taking early, even if it trails off a bit after that. Red is undeniably aggressive, and many of its better uncommons reinforce that, so keep that in mind while drafting. The artifact subtheme seems light, but every now and then you will draft around it, which is kind of cool. Red didn’t do that badly here, and it has a good mix of burn spells, token makers, and powerful rares.