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Scars of Mirrodin Set Review – Red

For those of you who missed my first couple reviews, here are white, blue, and black.

Ah, red, the color I never play. Well, that isn’t true, but I certainly don’t play mono-red very often, and mono-red seems like the flavor of the day here. Red has a bunch of cards for different mono-red decks, which is cool, and a couple of decent burn spells for other decks. Plus, who doesn’t like expensive planeswalkers?

As usual, the ratings scales are as follows:

Constructed

5.0: Multi-format All-Star. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf.

4.0: Format staple. Vengevine. Mana Leak.

3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. Raging Ravine. Lotus Cobra.

3.0: Archetype staple. Cultivate. Goblin Guide.

2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. Rampant Growth. Khalni Heart Expedition.

2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this 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.)

Limited

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%)

Arc Trail
Arc Trail

Constructed: 2.5

The obvious competition for Arc Trail’s slot is Pyroclasm, but the differences here are significant enough that the two cards are able to appeal to different decks. In a control deck, like Valakut Ramp, I would always play Pyroclasm if that sort of effect is what the deck needs. Ramp has nothing that dies to it, and being able to damage players is pretty irrelevant. The decks that are going to lean on Arc Trail are decks with their own guys that die to Clasm and aggressive decks, categories which often overlap. Forked Bolt is also clearly in the same league, and does cost less mana, but can’t accomplish the important task of killing Fauna Shaman and the Bird she rode in on. It is nice that we get to pick between Clasm, Arc Trail, and Forked Bolt, and I suspect it will not be too difficult to figure out which you want. The choice between Clasm and the other two is easy, and picking which fork on the trail you go between Arc Trail and Forked Bolt is wholly format dependent; are there decks with 2 and 1 toughness creatures, or just decks with 1’s?

Limited: 4.0

In reality, Arc Trail is more like a 4.25; better than the rest of the removal spells but not quite as good as an absurd bomb. The reason it is so unreal is just the makeup of the format; creatures are smaller than normal, due to the speed, and Myr + infect guys all give you excellent targets for the 1 damage part. When they play a Myr into a 4-drop and you clear them both out with Arc Trail, you will understand. T1 Spellbomb, t2 Myr, t3 Copper Steed is normally a sick start…

Assault Strobe
Assault Strobe

Constructed: 1.0

I understand the appeal of Berserking your infect guys, and this is a way to do so in Standard, but it’s just not gonna happen.

Limited: 0.5

There are a lot of moving pieces needed to make the Strobe playable. First, you have to have a bunch of evasive guys, since it being a sorcery makes it pretty hard to get through; it isn’t like they aren’t gonna chump your 5-power double striker with a Myr. Second, you have to have guys with power high enough to make this interesting, which usually means infect or equipment, and R/X infect doesn’t seem like a great archetype. I think Assault Strobe is going to see most of its play at the beginning of the format since people will keep putting it in their decks assuming it is an instant; I’ve seen that happen multiple times now.

Barrage Ogre
Barrage Ogre

Constructed: 1.0

I thought about giving this a 2.5, just so I could see the barrage of comments that would result. Ogre well, guess I’ll try that some other time.

Limited: 3.0

Ogres have a special place in Mirrodin Limited, both in the original and the gritty remake. They tend to be expensive and powerful, and almost never as good as they look. I’m not saying Barrage Ogre is bad; he is more on the powerful side, whereas Geargrabber Ogre and Rustmouth Ogre are more on the expensive side. Take him, play him, but realize that expensive spells are much worse in most draft games. Also, it seems like everyone correctly surmised that when I say the format is fast, I mean draft; sealed is much slower.

Blade-Tribe Berserkers
Blade-Tribe Berserkers

Constructed: 1.0

These guys are not the blade, though they probably would be if they didn’t require metalcraft to go big.

Limited: 1.5-3.0

Hill Giants are always playable, if not exciting, and getting in for six damage with haste goes a long way. RW or UR metalcraft both seem like good decks to be in, and the Berserkers is certainly worth one of the coveted non-artifact slots in those decks.

Bloodshot Trainee
Bloodshot Trainee

Constructed: 1.0

Ooh, a Future Sight reprint! It’s always sweet when one of these gets printed, just because the whole future-shifted thing was so cool. Oh, and about the card: yeah, he has no shot.

Limited: 1.5

A 2/3 for four isn’t the actual worst, and if you have any power-boosting equipment I would definitely play him. A vanilla guy that becomes Visara, the Dreadful every now and then is pretty sweet, and since they don’t know how good he is in your deck, they might just blow an Arrest on him just in case.

Cerebral Eruption
Cerebral Eruption

Constructed: 1.0

Spending four mana on a card that might just miss (even if it comes back) and might not even kill all their guys is not the way to win matches in Standard.

Limited: 4.5

One of the worst parts about this set is the number of Plague Winds available. Between Cerebral Eruption and Contagion Engine, it feels like you are always one card away from getting your board destroyed. Yes, it might be delayed for a turn, and yes, it might hit a spellbomb, but most of the time you are just going to get your board wiped. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this is one of the better cards in the set. It does get a little awkward if you are trying to slowroll and you miss, but unlike Wrath, you can just keep playing your own guys, so you shouldn’t be too far behind.

Embersmith
Embersmith

Constructed: 1.0

Just hire a Cunning Sparkmage and save yourself the trouble if you want to ping them, and if you want to beat down there are much better options than Emmet Smith here.

Limited: 4.5

In the metalcraft deck, there are very few cards more valuable than Embersmith. Not only is he a pinger, he also can do multiple damage in a turn, and there is no way for the opponent to know what is coming. Do they play their 2-toughness guy, or do they wait and hope you play all your artifacts? If they choose wrong, you either kill their guy for free or they give you enough time to draw in to multiple artifacts, and either way the wrong decision punishes them harshly. Early in the draft, I would take him over almost anything, and late in the draft you can make a reasonable estimate of his effectiveness.

Ferrovore
Ferrovore

Constructed: 1.0

HAUMPH!

Limited: 2.0

Will Ferrelvore isn’t an all-star, but he does threaten to bash for a lot, and is particularly sweet with Furnace Celebration. If you have toughness-boosting equipment, you can often get into the situation where they trade guys 1 for 1 with your worst artifacts, making Ferrovore an iron-clad threat.

Flameborn Hellion
Flameborn Hellion

Constructed: 1.0

This is as close to a functional reprint of Iron-Barb Hellion as it gets, and there was no way in hell that saw play.

Limited: 2.0

The same caution regarding Ogres applies here: expensive cards suck in this format, even ones that look pretty good. I still will play the Hellion more often than not, but I wouldn’t take it over most of the cheaper cards. Even a random off-color replica will be more useful in metalcraft decks, and in non-metalcraft decks you still need low drops.

Furnace Celebration

Furnace Celebration 

Constructed: 1.0

Lightning Rift really scared R&D, since every other similar card has been vastly less powerful. I guess Rift and Slide were pretty dominant, but by the end of the Block format they weren’t even in the best deck, and they were just one of many solid t2 decks (unless you ask Gabe Walls). Anyways, even with all the easy ways to trigger this (fetchlands in particular), it just isn’t powerful enough.

Limited: 2.0-4.0

Much like many cards, there is quite a range here. Early in the draft, it isn’t hard to build around Furnace Celebration, and you don’t even need to play terrible cards to do so. Spellbombs, Replicas, and things that eat artifacts are all playable in their own right, so Furnace Celebration is a sweet addition to decks that naturally would play a bunch of those. Once you start Celebrating good times, you get to rack up a bunch of 2 for 1’s, so I wouldn’t mind high-picking the Celebration early in the draft (or late, if my deck was set up to take advantage of it).

Galvanic Blast
Galvanic Blast

Constructed: 2.0

If there is an artifact red style of deck, this should galvanize them pretty well, even if it will lose to [card]Burst Lightning[/card] in the vast majority of red decks. Four damage for one mana is hard to pass up, and if it does that even half the times it is definitely worth playing (since you can always slowroll it if need be).

Limited: 4.0

I wouldn’t count this as a metalcraft card; it is awesome without metalcraft and awesomer with it, so the metalcraft doesn’t really change its value all that much. I guess if you are deciding between Galvanic Blast and [card]Grasp of Darkness[/card] and have a ton of artifacts, the Blast wins, but it is only relevant in extremely narrow situations like that. Take it, play it, and have a blast.

Goblin Gaveleer
Goblin Gaveleer

Constructed: 2.0

If Boros is poised to make a comeback, this is one of the cards that it’ll use; they really hit the nail on the head with this one. A 3/1 trampler (or more, if you double-equip) is sick, and the trample is quite relevant, since it lets you run over Sea Gate Oracles or Khalni Garden tokens. It might be a little less consistent than Steppe Lynx or Plated Geopede, but it offers redundancy, and might even fit in a mono-red deck along with Spikeshot Elder.

Limited: 1.0

It takes a ton of equipment in order to make Gaveleer playable, and even then you probably would rather have an evasion guy or another artifact. The fact that he can’t take advantage of Barbed Battlegear is pretty big too. Also, non-artifact, metalcraft, etc.

Hoard-Smelter Dragon
Hoard-Smelter Dragon

Constructed: 1.0

Need I explain again why six-drops that have to untap aren’t good in Constructed? I probably do, since people still like Geth, Lord of the Vault and compare him to Grave Titan. Clearly the Dragon is worse than Geth, but the comparison is pretty close. Basically, if you pay six mana for a spell and they bounce/remove it, you better get something for your troubles. The Titans deliver; Dragon and Geth don’t.

Limited: 4.5

Oh, a 5/5 flier for six that kills them and their best permanents when you untap? Sure, why not? Might as well give it a ridiculous name too.

Koth of the Hammer
Koth of the Hammer

Constructed: 3.5

I want to give Koth a 4, but the fact that you have to play so many Mountains gives me pause. I don’t think you have to be mono-red to use Koth, nor do I think you have to be aggressive, but both of those things certainly play to his strengths. If you aren’t interested in bashing for 4, you are just playing a vulnerable mana engine that might survive to ultimate (but won’t without help). If you don’t have a ton of Mountains, he doesn’t generate much mana or do that much when ultimate, though he still bashes for 4 a turn. He will show up in almost every incarnation of mono-red, just because of how powerful he is, and I don’t think he is all that over-hyped. Not only do they have to stop his ultimate, even just sending for four a turn is a huge threat, and adding six mana to your mana pool certainly comes in handy too. Rightfully one of the best cards in the set, and more like a 4 on power level alone, if not broad application.

Limited: 4.0

The biggest problem with Koth in Limited is how bad he is when you are behind. Yes, he is ridiculous when you have a decent board presence; bashing for four and threatening ultimate in two turns is absurd. However, you can’t be a true bomb unless you also help win games where you are losing, since that is one of the most important qualities of an awesome Limited card. If you are on the defensive, Koth does stone nothing besides gain you a couple life as they kill him, and that makes him not as good as most people will probably assume. All that being said, there aren’t many cards I’d take over him since he is a planeswalker, and they are always sick.

Kuldotha Phoenix
Kuldotha Phoenix

Constructed: 2.0

4 power of haste for five mana is pretty good already, though not quite enough to make the cut by itself. Coming back most games is, and if there is an artifact red deck, Kuldotha Pheonix will likely be a part of it. Red is already good at killing planeswalkers, but more assistance never hurts, and some decks will have a very difficult time dealing with this guy.

Limited: 4.0

Even if your deck literally can’t assemble metalcraft, this guy is awesome, and most decks will be able to bring him back at some point. His metalcraft ability isn’t even relevant until the lategame anyway, giving you plenty of time to put together three random things.

Kuldotha Rebirth
Kuldotha Rebirth

Constructed: 2.0

This could bring back Goblins, at least if Great Furnace all of a sudden becomes legal. The hoops you have to jump through don’t seem worth it to me, though I’m sure someone will put together some Memnite plus Goblin Bushwhacker deck and prove me wrong (though note that I still marked this as potentially playable).

Limited: 0.5

I have seen this card in action, and color me unimpressed. There aren’t many ways to take advantage of having a whole mess of tokens, and sacrificing an artifact is a significant cost.

Melt Terrain
Melt Terrain

Constructed: 1.0

I liked this better when it was called Molten Rain, and if you say it fast enough it even sounds the same. Sadly, the extra mana melts any chances of it seeing play; good land destruction like Goblin Ruinblaster has already poisoned that well.

Limited: 0.5

If you find yourself facing the 5-color deck filled with six drops, I guess you could side this in. Or, alternately, you could save yourself the time and beat them without it. The speed of this format makes it even worse than it would be normally, and normally it would be terrible.

Molten Psyche
Molten Psyche

Constructed: 1.0

Ok, so once you have three Temple Bells out…you could just cast Runeflare Trap.

Limited: 0.0

By the time you get metalcraft active, they won’t have all that many cards in hand, so you are trading –1 card for the potential to maybe do three damage? You would have to be psycho to think that is good.

Ogre Geargrabber
Ogre Geargrabber

Constructed: 1.0

If only this triggered Argentum Armor when it attacked…

Limited: 1.0

When I pay six mana in this set, I expect something a whole lot better than a 4/4. The ability isn’t even that awesome, though you do get to loudly say “shiiiiiiiiiiiip” when you attack, which is definitely value. You also have to quickly grab their card instead of letting them pass it to you, just to keep the Ogre happy.

Oxidda Daredevil
Oxidda Daredevil

Constructed: 1.0

Only a true daredevil would play this and damn all the consequences!

Limited: 1.0

Haste isn’t the most interesting of abilities, especially at the cost of an artifact, and having 1-toughness is pretty bad.

Oxidda Scrapmelter
Oxidda Scrapmelter

Constructed: 1.0

I don’t see why you would ever play this piece of scrap over Manic Vandal; the difference between 3 and 4 casting cost is huge in Constructed, and the difference between a 2/2 and a 3/3 really isn’t.

Limited: 4.5

The comparison to Flametongue Kavu is again relevant, and unlike Skinrender, the Scrapmelter is easily splashable. It would take a pretty good deck for me not to splash the ‘Melter, even if I opened it in pack 3. It might not be as good against every deck (when compared to Skinrender), since every deck will have creatures, and not every deck will have good artifacts, but against the vast majority of decks it will be excellent.

Scoria Elemental
Scoria Elemental

Constructed: 1.0

Another unplayable! Score!

Limited: 0.5

It’s expensive, it dies to literal anything, and it isn’t an artifact. It doesn’t get much worse than this, but I can’t give a creature a 0.0, since some deck somewhere will need it.

Shatter
Shatter

Constructed: 1.0

It has been a long time since Shatter was a viable sideboard option (and it was never maindeckable as far as I know), and I don’t think the reprinting of it will change that. Manic Vandal is once again just too much better, and shatters any chance of this seeing play.

Limited: 4.0

When Shatter was first reprinted in Mirrodin, the whole joke was that it was as good as Terror, and how out of ordinary that was. Surprise, the same thing is true here, and you should take the premium removal spell early. Shatter is one of the few ways to take away metalcraft mid-combat, and is often going to be a 2-for-1 as a result.

Spikeshot Elder
Spikeshot Elder

Constructed: 2.5

This definitely has a shot at being good in Constructed, and most Spikes would agree. If you drop this turn one, it makes their Birds of Paradise and Lotus Cobras pretty terrible, and can even threaten to kill bigger things with the aid of Adventuring Gear. The pieces for an aggressive red equipment deck are definitely there, and Spikeshot Elder seems intrinsically powerful enough to see play even without any support cards beyond Teetering Peaks.

Limited: 4.5

I’m pretty glad they didn’t make this one common, since it is just obnoxious in Limited. With the aid of equipment, it can threaten to take down almost anything up to and including your opponent. Even the threat of it will change their plays, and once you hit six mana you can pick off 2-toughness guys without using any other cards.

Tunnel Ignus
Tunnel Ignus

Constructed: 2.5

I have more faith in this than in Leonin Arbiter, mainly because there is no way around the ability. They can slowroll fetchlands for a turn, but that still slows them down, and it definitely punishes Cultivate and the like. Plus, it has a real nice name…

Limited: 0.5

Look, another card that goes into the “2/1 with no ability” pile.

Turn to Slag
Turn to Slag

Constructed: 1.0

I don’t know what it would take to turn this from unplayable slag into something awesome. Maybe if it was two mana cheaper…and nope, that still isn’t good enough.

Limited: 3.5

Ah yes, Brainspoil, the classic “bad removal”. Even as just Brainspoil, Turn to Slag is fine, and the easy 2-for-1s it offers make it actually quite good, if a little unwieldy.

Vulshok Heartstoker
Vulshok Heartstoker

Constructed: 1.0

He was pretty stoked about getting printed, and it’s gonna break his heart to find out that he’s never getting played.

Limited: 1.0

Much like Neurok Invisimancer, this guy works best with infect but also doesn’t do anything past his EtB ability, making him pretty awk. Even in a normal deck, the ability and body aren’t really worth the card slot, much less the cost.

Top 5 Red Cards for Constructed

5. Kuldotha Phoenix
4. Tunnel Ignus
3. Spikeshot Elder
2. Arc Trail
1. Koth of the Hammer

Red did pretty well for itself, though Koth certainly is a big part of that. Mono-red looks like it can be built in a number of interesting ways, which is definitely a change (both in the number of viable red decks and them actually being interesting). Besides the obvious mono-red burn, there are pieces for equipment beatdown, big red with or without artifacts, and some hybrid of the three styles (though burn is going to be a big part of any of them).

Top 5 Commons for Limited

5. Galvanic Blast
4. Arc Trail
3. Embersmith
2. Koth of the Hammer
1. Hoard-Smelter Dragon

Wow, red’s commons really blow all the other colors out of the water. I see no reason to draft any other color, and in fact would force red regardless if these are the commons one can expect to see.

Top 5 Commons for Limited

5. Ferrovore
4. Blade-Tribe Berserkers
3. Turn to Slag
2. Shatter
1. Galvanic Blast

Wow, red is not deep at all. The top three commons are respectable, and I wouldn’t be unhappy first picking Shatter or Galvanic Blast, but the past the three the pickings are real slim. I think in an artifact-heavy deck, the Berserkers are better than Ferrovore, and you really shouldn’t play either unless your deck has a bunch of artifacts. Much like black, red looks like more of a support color than anything.

Join me tomorrow as I wrap up the colors with green!

LSV

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