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When the last set came out, I wrote about how I was deeply hopeful for a resurgence in red. It came that very first weekend, pioneered by Jonathan Job.
- 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
Now, of course, there was a lot in Hour of Devastation to change the world. Earthshaker Khenra and Ramunap Ruins were the two big earthquakes that shook the land, but the potential for an actual red aggressive deck also opened the doors for a previously called killer card, Hazoret the Fervent, to actually emerge and show what it could do.
Let's be frank:
There aren't world-shaking cards like that in Ixalan.
Not for red decks, anyway. One big problem is that Hazoret the Fervent actually strongly limits how you can build a red deck; slower Big Red decks get devastated by a red creature that they can't kill, and then the game can go all to hell. This places a lot of constraints onto what actually is going to matter and what won't.
The new world of red is going to be a world of rotation. Fully four sets are rotating out. At the same time, one of the top decks in Standard is currently a mono-red deck, Ramunap Red. This puts Ixalan in an interesting position: red is one of the top dogs, so the bar is high, but with so many cards leaving, there are opportunities for cards to shine that might not otherwise.
It's going to be interesting watching red develop in the coming weeks.
If you've not read my red reviews over the past many years, you should understand that they are focused on the concept of "red decks," by which I mean those decks that are base-red instead of actively multicolor. B/R Aggro is not a red deck. Mardu is not a red deck. W/R Aggro is not a red deck. If a deck barely splashes and is, in essence, a red deck a la "R/x," then it is in the realm of this review, but if it is a dedicated truly two-color deck, that isn't the basis for what I'm looking at.
In other words, I'm not looking at "red cards" so much as I'm looking at how the red cards of Ixalan fit into a red deck.
Let's start, as always, with the card to watch.
The Card to Watch
Like another "card to watch" from Magic Origins, Primal Amulet is an artifact and not a red card, but it very neatly fits into something that a red deck can go bonkers with.
Back in "The Magic Origins Red Review," I lauded Pyromancer's Goggles because of the incredible effects that you could have with it. It took a while, but eventually the card found its way to the top of the Pro Tour during Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad.
Doubling a spell is a huge ability. While it takes a bit of work for a Primal Amulet to double a spell, the cost reduction effect is pretty huge. With cards like Cathartic Reunion and Tormenting Voice as possible fuel to flip Primal Amulet into Primal Wellspring, it actually feels like a red deck can do something really scary with this.
Note that a Primal Wellspring can potentially be responsible for more than a single copy of a spell. If you have two Primal Wellsprings involved in the casting of a spell, that makes for three copies of that original spell. In terms of payoffs, any burn spell, particularly one that goes to the head of the opponent, is a worthwhile card to use. Even fairly middling burn spells like Shock get intense when you get an extra copy just because!
While other colors are also going to enjoy Primal Amulet // Primal Wellspring, there is a huge home for the card in red.
Three damage for two mana as an instant is so much more powerful than as a sorcery. Being able to go right to an opponent's head is deeply important. Now, with Shock and Lightning Strike, it won't be surprising to see people simply die if they fall to single-digit life totals versus red. Abrade will likely see a little less play, and, if history is any judge, most red decks will either run four copies of Lightning Strike (if they think the card is worth it) or zero copies (if they don't) as opposed to the twos and threes we've been seeing with Abrade and the rotating Incendiary Flow.
This card coming back is a big deal.
Menace is huge in an aggressive deck as is incidental damage. 3/3 for three isn't crazily overpowered, but this card is very likely get in some licks. Shutting off lifegain won't matter very often, but it will often enough to be a frustration for opponents. Much like River Boa's original printing way back in the day, this has enough relevant abilities that altogether add up to a very relevant card.