Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin EDH Set Review, Part 2d: Red

Red. Red is my least favorite color in Magic. I use the term "least favorite" because I don't dislike Red. I just like it less than the other colors. There are many reasons why this is, and just to highlight one of them, Red is probably the worst at drawing cards, and as you all know by now, drawing cards is my favorite thing to do in Magic.

Red is also among the weakest colors in EDH. Red is overloaded with one-shot direct damage spells and other card-disadvantage type effects. A famous M:tG axioms states "Card advantage wins games". A typical Red strategy is to say "Screw card advantage, I will just kill you before card advantage has time to win out" and throws everything it's got at an opponent's face until that opponent is burned to a crisp.

Red doesn't like a long game, and EDH is all about long games. It's simply a mismatch of philosophies. That said, sometimes Red does draw cards. Wheel of Fortune is one of my favorite spells ever. Sometimes it can even do card advantage; Flametongue Kavu is a good example of how Red handles CA. And nothing wins the long game on the spot like a massive X-spell like Fireball or Comet Storm. So Red CAN do all the things it needs to do to compete in EDH.

The problem is that for every Wheel of Fortune or Flametongue Kavu or Comet Storm, there are a hundred little burn spells or other such incremental one-shot effects. Lightning Bolt is the gold standard of Red direct damage, and is fan-friggin-tastic in 60 card decks as a 4x. But in EDH? Nope. Lightning Bolt is HORRIBLE in EDH. That's what is so neat about EDH. You have to evaluate cards so differently. It can be disconcerting to some players to realize that in EDH a Prophetic Bolt is a wonderful and highly-playable burn spell, whilst Shock is utter crap. FTK is still good, but it's not quite as good as it usually is. Spitebellows is generally better than FTK. That's the kind of world EDH is.

The sad truth is that EDH is a world that, when you evaluate cards appropriately Red's #1 claim to fame, the one thing that it does better than any other color, is virtually useless in EDH. As such, the vast majority of Red's spells in any given set are going to be largely unplayable in EDH. Red just brings fewer desirable cards to the table, when compared to other colors. Mono-R decks exists, and they work. You just have fewer options to choose from without dipping into sub-par cards.

Anyway, this was all a very long way of explaining that this review will likely be noticeably shorter than others, as Red tends to get the shaft in EDH. But I also just wanted to throw out my little essay on Red and why it is my least favorite color (but I do still like it!).With that out of the way, let's get the review started.


This is one of those little one-shot effects I mentioned that usually suck in EDH. An equipment or aura that does the same thing is usually better. I only include this one because it can sometimes help you win through General Damage. This could find a home in Uril decks and some Mono-R decks. However, it IS a Sorcery, not an Instant, so that weakens the card considerably.

I’m iffy on this. It requires a lot of luck, but the effect is potentially devastating. It helps that EDH is the land of high-cost fatties, so you stand a decent change of getting a one-sided Wrath with a direct damage bonus. Still, if you’re in a position where you NEED to Wrath, you don’t want to spend four mana to MAYBE Wrath. I’d like to give this a shot though, because when it does work, it will seriously own face. Maybe use Jace, the Mind Sculptor to help time this right?

 I can only see this being playable in Sek'Kuar Deathkeeper or Kresh the Bloodbraided builds that already like sacrificing their guys. It could be the nuts in those decks, but it's pretty narrow outside of that niche.

A very decent Dragon, indeed. Repeatable artifact kill can be a powerhouse against some decks, and it’s a decent beater even when the utility aspect isn’t relevant. Still, an opponent almost always has at least a Sol Ring or something you’d be happy to smelt. The front pump angle reminds me of Drana, but for artifacts. Against Esper, he’s actually better than Drana. I definitely see this guy getting some play.

Mono-color EDH decks bore me to tears, and Red is the LAST color I’d consider if I did go mono, if you couldn't have guessed.Putting my own tastes aside, this guy seems very solid in a mono Red EDH. His -2 Ability will be the most useful, most often. The +1 ability is pretty weak in EDH, and the Ultimate will rarely kill an opponent due to the high starting life total, unless it’s really late game. But if I were the type to run Mono-R I would be happy to run this guy in my deck.

Maybe it's me, but the ability Metalcraft and the color Red don't seem to mix well. There are certainly a number of good Artifacts you'd be happy to run in a mono-R deck... the question is: is that number high enough to support a card like this? Then, the follow up question: Is a 4/4 Flyer good enough to worry about making Metalcraft work? My opinion is "no" on both counts, but I'm willing to be proven wrong here.

I really like this card in 60-card Magic, but I don't see it doing a whole lot here. Take the Metalcraft keyword off the card, and this would suddenly be VERY playable in some decks (Niv-Mizzet). Much like the Phoenix, though, Metalcraft just kills it in the crib. Niv-Mizzet decks already have Wheel of Fortune for this anyway.

Another card that I am uber-excited to play in 60-card formats, but it does very little for me in EDH. However, I can see this guy being playable in Mono-R. Godo + Strata Scythe + this guy = Awesome!

There are enough effects like Skyshroud Claim, Harrow, Kodama’s Reach, Fetch Lands , etc, that this guy could conceivably do quite a bit of damage before he gets wiped off the board. However, you pretty much have to drop him turn two for that to work, and in a 100 card singleton deck, that seems really unlikely to happen most of the time. I really don’t see this guy being viable.

See this is the kind of burn spell that is playable in EDH. Five damage will kill a fair number of relevant creatures, and there are some Equipments that are huge staples in EDH - both Darksteel Swords, Jitte, Skullclamp, Lightning Greaves, etc. The problem is that Sword of Fire and Ice and Lightning Greaves actively mock this card to its face. Five mana is a perfectly reasonable cost, if you're getting 2-for-1 out of it. The problem is with it being a dead card in your hand if your opponent isn't dropping Equipment. Because if your NOT getting a 2-for-1, then suddenly 5 mana seems a bit steep.

So, as I expected, Red is quite shallow. For me, the Dragon is the only imminently playable card in Red. A couple of cards will be good in Mono-R, which I will never build. And a few that I'm eager to play outside of EDH. But not much love here. Sorry! Maybe green will be a bit deeper? Spoiler: My #1 fav card in the set is Green, and it's not very good in EDH.  :(

Next post: Green.

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