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It's been a long time coming, but I'm beginning to have some hope for red.
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 2 Eldrazi Obligator
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 2 Glorybringer
- 2 Reality Smasher
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 3 Thought-Knot Seer
- 1 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
I think a part of the reason that I have that feeling is completely unrelated to "red" per se, and related more to the obliteration of certain problems.
Sure, there are two other banned cards, but from the perspective of a "Red Deck," the world is more able to be addressed in a straightforward way. No longer is a red deck pressured to make sure that they never let their guard down lest they die to an infinite combo. No longer is a red deck stuck in a position where they have to attempt to put down a clock and disrupt a "free" double-Desert Twister. No longer is a red deck in need of absolutely killing the opponent quickly enough that the world doesn't end when the Spaghetti Monster arrives.
There are still powerful things going on in Standard. They just are more straightforward than they once were.
The Mission Statement
Now, as with all of my red reviews, it's important to recognize what I mean by "a red deck" for the purposes of this review. Essentially, I'm talking about a base-red deck that isn't actively a multicolor deck. If a deck could be said to be "barely" another color, it would definitely count as a "red deck" for the purposes of this article, but if you feel stronger about it as a R/X deck, that isn't the realm of this review.
In other words, I'm not looking at "red cards." I'm looking at how the red cards in Hour of Devastation would fit into a red deck.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
The Card to Watch
Not every set has a "card to watch" – a card that does something so interesting with so much potential to make a change that you just have to think differently. A lot of times, this card doesn't do anything. At other times, it does quite a bit. To give you a sense of prior "cards to watch," here is a sampling:
None of these cards really ever took off into the prime time. In all of this time, though, the world has been very antagonistic to "a red deck". We did see many of these cards take side-gigs in numerous decks, but none of them took off. And Glorious End didn't do anything. Being a card to watch doesn't mean you are certainly a world-changer, just that you might be one. Cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer aren't here on this list because they are on the simple list of "The Excellent," clearly doing impressive work without really shifting the world on its axis.
This Hour of Devastation card makes me think of that border between prospectively world-changing or simply great.
This card might well be the best card in the set, or it might simply be a powerful card that doesn't really end up making the grade.
For a red deck, Hour of Devastation is clearly at its best home in the Big Red archetype. That being said, it has some major problems.
First of all, it kills all of the Chandra planeswalkers we might play – or at least it usually will. Furthermore, a red deck isn't going to be a deck that plays a Bolas planeswalker. So playing the card, despite it being able to clean up the battlefield from a Gideon planeswalker, will almost certainly be a play that gets rid of one of your best weapons on the battlefield
Second, in the Big Red archetype at large, the most likely path to that archetype is Eldrazi Red, and Hour of Devastation nukes all of your best cards. In a non-Eldrazi Big Red, only Combustible Gearhulk is a likely survivor of the card, which means you're really talking about making a decision to do "Damnation." Unfortunately, it really isn't that either, failing to kill Torrential Gearhulk, many Bristling Hydras, and Metalwork Colossus. While you do have alternate solutions to the artifacts, this still means you're talking a reactive card.
For Big Red, reactive cards are not typically the place you want to go. When you have "solution" cards, typically you're looking for these cards to also be threats. This is largely because if you're facing another control deck, you need to be able to take the initiative in the fight and end a game. Especially in a world with Glimmer of Genius and Torrential Gearhulk, any time you spend not ending the game can turn into a lost game.
All of that being said, this card is a real game-changer. Anything that reduces the power of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Archangel Avacyn; and the Amonkhet Gods is a big deal. Ultimately, for a red deck, this might end up just being a sideboard card, but I still see this as a potentially format-shifting card.
This card is clearly good on its face. An instant for three damage is serious business, and having the ability to take out a Heart of Kiran makes it a big deal as well. Further, as a card that can guarantee on some big creatures like Torrential Gearhulk, Verdurous Gearhulk, and Metalwork Colossus, it has some huge upside. This doesn't mean that Harnessed Lightning is done, but with fewer reasonable-to-play energy producers in a red deck, Abrade is most likely going to be the go-to card, though it does require dealing with its inability to ever solely take down a card like Glorybringer.
A 2/1 haste creature can help put on the early pressure, but knowing that you have a late-game hasty 4/4 to bring around is deeply significant. While the non-Eternal version of the card isn't incredibly likely to stop a blocker, it still can, and the 4/4 Zombie Jackal Warrior will almost certain stop a blocker. To my mind, in a short game, Earthshaker Khenra is likely good for two to four damage at least, and in a long game, you can likely put it down for six to eight damage at least, total. If you have anything else going on, this card could make the difference, especially if people are less likely to be running Sweltering Suns in the new world.