If you're like me, one of the first things that you do when you're looking at a new set is look for the tools you require to burn down the world.
It's not the only thing I want to do, but it is right up there.
I always look at these red cards through the same lens: what can we do with these in mono-red or nearly mono-red decks. Whether it is as an aggro deck or as the much-rarer Big Red decks of yesteryear, I want to think about whether we have cards that can be played in decks that play mountains, and a lot of them. This isn't to say that they might not also be cards that can go somewhere else, but I'm most interested in those cards that push decks leaning towards something we'd call "a red deck" rather than "a deck playing red cards."
Some sets give us more than others. In M15, we got a few things, many of which are frankly irreplaceable.
In some ways, that's a pretty long list of important cards. I know that they aren't going to be gone tomorrow, but I can feel their end coming close and it makes me a little sad.
Perhaps I shouldn't get all that sad, though, because Magic Origins will be legal by the time you read this... and it is packed so full of red cards that frankly it is a bit mind-blowing.
Without any further ado, let's get to it!
The Card To Watch
While technically an artifact, this is so clearly a red card, let's not be too fussy about it.
When I first saw this card, I started immediately looking for ways to break it. After playing with it a bit, I'm not convinced that it (currently) can be broken, but that doesn't change the fact that this card is crazily powerful. Casting a Fork on one red spell a turn for "free" is an impressively powerful ability, and it isn't hard to imagine scenarios where your opponent is dead the turn after you cast this.
That said, R&D didn't muck around with this one. "Legendary" is not meaningless text, nor is the fact that it costs five mana. You can't just shove this into an aggressive red deck and expect that it will simply work out. This is a card that might simply be held down by the few constraints that the design has put on it.
On the other hand, it might just be completely busted.
Watch this card.
For only four mana, now Thunderbreak Regent can have yet another friend in Avaracious Dragon. This isn't a card that messes around, though. Grafted Skullcap was a very powerful card in the past, but what it wasn't ever confused with was a safe card. An extra card a turn is frighteningly powerful.
On the other hand, losing your hand every turn is no picnic. Unless your hand is already empty, that means you're going to be throwing away cards, and if you're just dropping this on turn four there is a better than even chance that you'll be losing a lot of cards.
In addition to just the potential to lose cards, you also lose the ability to perform a key power in the arsenal of red decks: the double-threat. Running out a burn spell at the end of the turn has long been a powerful thing to do in red decks, allowing you to use twice as much mana as a more-controlling opponent by getting an untap step in the middle of some multi-spell volleys. Without a hand at the end of your turn, you lose the ability to pull of this sort of maneuver.
Of course, you're still getting a "Khans" side of Outpost Siege attached to a 4/4 flying body. That, in and of itself, makes this card an incredible tool - albeit one that not all decks will be able to use.
This card is another potential game-changer. Not only is the damage-to-mana rate on the card incredibly good, but it doesn't really feel as though Spell Mastery is a very difficult thing to achieve. For the most part, red is not only not using its graveyard as a resource all that often, but a ton of red builds are simply playing a lot of spells even as a part of their beatdown plan. Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst are fuel for this card, pure and simple.
Now, against a large number of opponents, that fuel doesn't matter. But, with decks that are actually running countermagic - and they exist - this can simply mean that you can't rely on your deck's normal plans to last through a long game. This kind of threat is deeply dangerous for decks that were normally able to even drop down to eight (or even three) though they might prefer not to do that.
Against most decks, Spell Mastery won't matter so much. The thing that makes this card so noteworthy is just that damage potential, especially when in conjunction with other cards that also output that much damage, like Stoke the Flames. Expect to see even more players frying than ever before.
When I first saw that this was back, my jaw dropped a little.
Goblin Piledriver. What the hell?!?
Immediately, the world becomes a search for all of the legal Goblins (while this review is strictly related to Standard, as a brief aside, I think this little fella could have a real effect on Modern as well). If you do look at Standard Goblins, it quickly becomes apparent that there are so many different kinds of Goblins you're probably going to have your work cut out for you figuring which ones to run.
A part of what makes this card so exciting is imagining it in a world with Dash (Mardu Scout and Goblin Heelcutter are both Goblins) or with Goblin Rabblemaster. Once you add on the tokens (Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst) and the miscellaneous Goblins already seeing play like Foundry Street Denizen, you can easily have a 90-card Goblin deck.
Eons ago, Goblin Piledriver was one of the scariest cards out there. I have a feeling it may singlehandedly make it so that decks that were planning on completely stepping away from Drown in Sorrow in favor of Languish might have a lot to think about.
This has been called the second coming of Siege-Gang Commander. Well, that is a bit of an overstatement. However, just because it isn't the best thing since sliced bread doesn't mean that this card isn't a powerhouse.
This card isn't Siege-Gang Commander because Ma and Pa Nalaar cannot throw their own bodies at the opponent for three mana. This means that a late-game Pia and Kiran Nalaar is only immediately worth four damage instead of Siege-Gang's possible eight. That does matter.
On the other hand, creating fliers is pretty great. Additionally, being able to get rid of ancillary artifacts - cards like Darksteel Citadel or the like - is very powerful, especially since you don't have to actually worry about a lot of artifacts dying to creature removal.
This card is certain to make a big splash.
Prowess pushes this card from maybe being playable to being definitely playable. There are some real tensions between this being an early drop and the real possibility that the card revealed by it won't be usable. That being said, this is a great addition to many red decks.
I've already talked about Chandra as my favorite of the new planeswalkers, but what I really love about this card is that it can very quickly turn on and come at an opponent sideways. The abilities of the card are excellent at contributing to a dead opponent, so it is likely to be on plan.
It may look unremarkable, but the Menace this card provides when it is Renowned is a big deal. While this card is competing with a lot of cards at the one-mana slot, I expect that it will still be a part of many red decks' game-plan, especially if they are either burn-heavy or Goblin decks.
We've already seen Hammerhand used to great effect, and while this is more expensive, the additional power it provides and the fact that it replaces itself upon the creature's death both combine to make a card that is going to likely be seeing a home in aggressive red decks.
This is a card that I expect to see as a one-of in red decks that are occasionally prone to a little bit of mana flood, or simply have to run, say, 22 lands instead of the impossible 21.2 lands. Turning an extra land into a Wild Slash is a powerful effect. In a Big Red deck with a ton of lands, this is going to be very powerful as well, making sure you still have things to do once you've gotten the number of lands you need. This won't be a card we should expect to see a lot of copies of, but it is a card we will certainly see show up and it will be powerful when it does.
Eidolon of the Great Revel has a friend!
Scab-Clan Berserker is going to be an auto-include for a lot of people in their attempts to make Burn or burn-heavy Red Aggro decks work. However, this card is not exactly a mixture of Chandra's Phoenix and Eidolon of the Great Revel, as I've seen some people claim.
Not having flying is important. There will be games where a Scab-Clan Berserker sits on the table looking pretty anemic. Evasion is a big deal for a card like this, and without it Scab-Clan Berserker is merely a "good" card instead of a "great" one. Still, I expect that this card will end up being fairly effective against some opponents, and it will definitely see a lot of play - particularly early on.
Goblin Shortcutter used to be a very solid card to play in small numbers. This is often better and a much more likely candidate for a potential four-of. Beware of Piledrivers and Rabblemasters making it to your face!
While this is more likely to see play in a white-based deck, a solid double striker can be dangerous, particularly with so many solid ways to build up our creatures.
The Sideboard Cards
If you're playing Big Red, you might end up with this in your maindeck, but it is incredibly easy to imagine in your sideboard. Following up a Dragon with this card will likely nuke a table.
We all know how powerful this card is; now we get to bring it back to Standard (if we need to).
Are your spells not quite enough to take out opposing monsters? Embermaw Hellion can come to the rescue by pumping them all up, helping your wimps do even more in battle.
Adding an extra creature, however temporary, can be a powerful way to push across damage, especially if you have comes-into-play affects.
Perhaps there is a Thopter Red deck in all of this, likely supported by the Parents Nalaar?
Balancing your draw is not something red is well-known for, and the point of more than a few red decks is to play as few lands as possible (debating amongst themselves whether that number can go as low as eighteen or needs to 'make the sacrifice' to find room for the twenty-first land). Others, such as the Big Red archetype, have to play a lot of lands to support hefty cards – but extra lands turn dead very quickly. For either, having the ability to cash in an extra land for new cards might prove fruitful, and it's hard to beat the low price of this card. Especially since its casting cost is exactly how much your turn-five Goggles tap for.
A ton of tiny blockers have you down? Not anymore!
As a sorcery speed Giant Growth, this isn't great, but should it stick around...
Have a ton of mana? Hate x/1s? Here you go!
Do you need card economy to go with your Threaten effect? Victor is here for you!
While we're now entering the risky "must attack" world, a two-toughness two-drop which is also pumped by Prowess can make that not so problematic.
If you're going to end up with a lot of mana, this can be frightening. I'm looking at you, Big Red.
Incredible if you don't mind your Seismic Stomp costing five; the bonus body is not irrelevant.
There might not be a R/B deck to take advantage of this card, but I can easily imagine this card being used as a part of the top end in such a deck, though it would probably happen after we've already used the four Brutal Hordechief.
If your Big Red deck splashes green, this could be a potent body for your deck.
Several of these cards are actually good, but they are reprints, so, for now, they don't really matter. The rest of them are simply wildly outclassed by other cards.
Magic Origins has a ton of weapons for red. I simply cannot nail things down to one archetype that looks like "the red archetype." Instead, I can picture Boss Sligh, I can picture Big Red, I can picture Artifact Red, I can picture several varieties of Goblins, and I can picture a traditional Atarka Red deck (a la Dang). And I can picture many more, as well.
That's actually quite a shock to the system. I think the sheer volume of great cards for such a narrow part of Magic is a testament to WotC really wanting to make sure that things get shaken up by Magic Origins. And I think that they are going to have their way!
For my part, even though I'm still working on U/B Control, I'm also turning little red critters sideways.
This weekend I'll be checking out the action at the Open Series in Chicago. Good luck to everyone duking it out down there, and may a red deck win!