Wednesday, 28 December 2016
RDW Archetype Breakdown
Red deck wins has always been one of the defining decks in not just cube but in magic in general. Being so linear and pure combined with a very effective game plan and deep card pool makes the deck consistently perform well. It has decent matchups across the board and punishes inconsistency yet is itself one of the most reliable decks going. It is a deck that is difficult to master yet it is still very potent if played poorly and thus offers something to all skill levels. Most cubes support the archetype, red isn't really doing much if you don't! You can make RxDW decks with each colour combination, sometimes even two. You can go pure burn, you can go wide with a token theme, you can up the power with a tribal goblin theme and these are all good options. Most cubes only support a more middle of the road good cards RDW option, perhaps one of the others as well which is pretty sensible. Too many options for one thing leads to too many dead cards in a cube. The middle of the road version tends to be the best all round and that is what you are aiming for with a deck like this. In this article I am going to look at how you want to construct a good middle of the road RDW list with a focus on the individual cards that are strongest in the deck. I did a similar one for affinity a while back and found it very helpful for my own purposes in understanding the archetype. I will rate each card out of 10 specifically for how good it is in a cube RDW list.
As a rough guide for what to aim for when building the deck I will try and get a curve that has 12 one drops, 8 two drops and 4 three drops or there abouts. This will give you a nice average CMC of 1 per card. Typically I play 16 land although there is occasion to drop that lower if you get below an average of one mana per card (obviously including lands). Lower curves are nice but really hard to pull off in most cubes. It is not worth playing weaker cards that are a little off theme just because they are cheap. There are not quite enough top quality things in the one slot to get a deck that ends at two mana and that is well above 60% one drops. Curve is one thing, you also need to know what ratios of stuff you want. I like to be about 1/2 to 2/3rds threats and about 1/3rd to a 1/2 burn. This means you have some wiggle room to include up to 1/6th "other" cards should you wish. Generally these are more situational burn or threat cards as you really don't want to have much that isn't helping directly with your main plan of doing damage to face. Both these ratios and CMC curves are very much guides and the makeup of your deck will allow you to warp these things as you see fit to do.
One Drop Dorks
Goblin Guide 10
Just the best of the one mana threats, he hits hard and fast with no real drawback or support needed. Absolute auto include every time and one of the most important picks ups. There is less redundancy in the good one drops that are good on turn one than any other area of RDW and so these are the cards you should prioritise in draft.
Monastery Swiftspear 10
Arguably better than Goblin Guide. He can hit for more and is way more awkward to block. The thing is he does need a bit of support. In a super creature heavy deck Swiftspear loses some value, equally, off the top in a more grindy matchup and Swiftspear can look a lot like Raging Goblin. On average this is about as good as Guide, perhaps a little better but it is not quite as consistent and that is a thing you want.
Figure of Destiny 8
You almost always play Figure when you have it but it is a little overrated. As a one drop it is a bit of a Goblin Patrol and can hurt your curve. The more one drops you have the better this gets, the more even your curve is up the CMCs (as in 8x1, 8x2, 8x3) the weaker Figure is. It is very mana intense and not very efficient in terms of damage for mana investment. Its strength lies in being a potential attacking 4/4 on turn three or just an unstoppable 8/8 flier in a game that has gone long. Figure really encourages you to play land heavy decks as it only really comes to strength when you have spare mana. It is one of the best of a group of one drops which are fine cards but not exactly the sort of thing you want to make on turn one.
Zurgo Bellstriker 9
The dash aspect of this card does make it scale very well into the late game. Not quite so effectively as a Figure of Destiny but none the less it is a good mana sink, can have immediate impact as a late game top deck and can be immune to sorcery removal. This is great from a card which is one of your best turn one plays. Just a one mana 2/2 gets a lot done.
Jackal Pup 7
One of the worst cards in the cube in terms of power but it does what you want. It is a no strings attached two power beater you can play on turn one and get the ball rolling in a nice aggressive mana efficient way. You really would have to have the nuts deck not to play this and even then you probably still should be. Pup can be a liability in the creature heavy grindy games but generally not, you have enough control over the Pup for it not to be a disaster. It is one to watch when you have a lot of self hurting effects and is often a card you board out.
Firedrinker Satyr 8.5
The slightly better Pup is actually a lot better than it looks. What makes it so good is that you can usually attack with it into 3 and 4 toughness dorks and either get a good trade or sneak in free damage. If they don't block you don't have to pump and as such can carry on curving. The Satyr can also just do a whole lot of damage should it be sat unchallenged on the board with some spare mana. Good early, fine late, and a stand alone proactive one drop threat.
Grim Lavamancer 8.5
Grim is a great card but a one drop he is only in spirit. Sure, you flop him out on turn one when you have a bad draw and perhaps he gets in for the odd one with conventional attacks. Perhaps you are lucky with sacs and he can kill off an early play instead of having to use burn from hand. Lavamancer is slow, a little mana intense and requires support. He is value and reach rather than tempo. In creature heavy decks without much cheap burn, card filter effects and sac lands the Lavamancer is at his weakest but is still probably something you always play.
Kird Ape 8 (when you can fairly reliably have a forest, ie over half the time)
Red is so starved of robust one drops that I commonly find myself splashing for this golden oldie. If I have Taiga or Stomping Ground with a couple of sacs to find them I will more than happily run this card and be very glad of his addition to the ranks. As a 2/3 you can carry on safely attacking into stuff with Kird Ape for longer than you can with most other one drops. Rather than trade as some do the Ape just bounces off a lot of the bigger stuff and either ties them up or carries on getting in for two. Green is presently the best splash for RDW as it is and so Ape is more common in RDW now than ever before despite being the oldest of the viable one drops. Obviously when you can't search up a forest that taps for red this card is unplayable and isn't even worth rating!
Rakdos Cackler 8
The weak version of Zurgo Bellstriker is pretty weak but a two power attacker with no further mana investment and no strings attached is the ticket. One of the weaker one drops in the late game. Past about turn five I see this cast without unleash closing on half the time just for a chump blocker! On turn one it is still quite significantly better than Figure of Destiny and any other card of that nature. Given that you want about 6-8 one drop threats that are good on turn one in your deck and there are only about that many of those the Cackler remains on the auto include list despite me thinking it is ugly!
Lightning Berserker 6
Good card and a good stand in for not having a "real" one drop. This is in the same sort of camp as Grim Lavamancer and Figure of Destiny in that it does more later in the game and needs more mana to do so. One of the best late game top deck cheap dorks and a great card to have in a flood. Some decks can fold pretty hard to this. It has the potential to do more damage per card than most of the things in your deck. It trades well and is a bit awkward to play around. It is exactly the sort of thing you should replace your four drops with. It will do far more work in the early game for your consistency and sneaking in a few extra points of damage yet it will also be a heavy card in the late game. It is cards like this that means playing 16 lands is a sensible thing to be doing.
Frenzied Goblin 3
Kind of the red version of Gideon's Lawkeeper. A tapper that only works on the offence but that does get to nibble in as well to make up for that. The issue with the Goblin is that he has to attack to deny a blocker and as such is pretty easy prey to kill. He is also rather too mana intense for a relatively low value effect. Mostly you just want to burn things out the way, pay your mana once and be done with it. This requires and ongoing cost to be like removal. Sure, it is great against the massive things you can't burn but early game it is not good and late game it is not powerful. It scales the wrong way for how you want your cards in RDW. As with so many things, I'd just rather be playing a proper threat or a burn card.
Stromkirk Noble 7
Basically the worst late game top deck you can play in the archetype and generally pretty weak after turn one. It is the Black Vice of creatures! That said it is likely the best one drop you can make. While it only catches up with Goblin Guide on turn five for damage dealt to face assuming both goldfish from turn one the Noble has several perks over Guide. Noble will be a 4/4 by that stage that can far more easily attack into things and is a much more serious thing itself that needs dealing with. Noble also has part evasion, human is the most common type in my cube with just over 25% creatures being them! That in combination with burn and getting bigger makes Noble very dangerous and quiet liable to get out of hand. He will often draw pretty hard removal like a Vindicate as a result. Noble is good if you are creature light as he can be such a weighty threat. He is also improved if you have card filter mechanics such that you can toss him should he turn up too late.
Bomat Courier 5.5
Fine little card that has a surprising amount of utility. I was very happy to be able to use this to Fog a Wurmcoil attack rather than turn it into cards. As a one drop threat this is weak, it is a raging Goblin which just doesn't pack nearly enough punch. It does a good job of filling in for a one drop when you miss your two power cards like the Lightning Berserker. It is also quite a lot better late game than I realised. At worst it cycles and usually as it is such a low damage threat you can sneak in for a couple of exiled cards. Some nice reach, some nice value, some nice utility but at the cost of a very low level threat. In a list with any artifact synergy the value of this rises quite a lot. It is the kind of thing you play over a Wheel of Fortune rather than a real one drop card. Very good filler too. I would always run this over a poor cheap card or an average to good mid cost card I think now.
Legion Loyalist 2
The other raging Goblin! This thing is only good in very creature heavy list and even then it is a bit hit and miss. Sometimes the battalion trigger is a complete beating and other times it does nothing at all despite them being a creature deck! As a utility card this is too unreliable and as a threat it is too low impact. This has a home in some of the more go wide tokens style of aggro red but for most conventional builds steer clear of this one.
This is basically a weaker version of Lightning Berserker. It does nothing on its own, it a weaker late game top deck (as no dash). He doesn't even do much attacking himself for fear of death and doubling up on firebreathing is very much not twice the value. Where he is good is when you have a supply of small dorks and a bunch of mana. Then you can very efficiently trade up your dorks and gain great value. Slowly and situationally gaining value is not RDW aim and so this isn't really the thing. In the tokens go wide versions I like it a lot more. There are also lands and equipment that do the same thing this does better. Sure, you might get to beat in for a few free damage with this if you miss a real one drop but there are better cards to do that with.
Falkenrathe Gorger 8
Just a Savannah Lions. Do not expect to madness out free dorks with this. Sure you might and that is nice but mostly just expect this to be a 2/1 for R and be very happy with that. One of those auto include by default cards.
Foundry Street Denizen 2
Another card that is pretty good in a token heavy go wide style of deck but a bit too weak and inconsistent for normal RDW. In the deck with Dragon Fodder etc this is your best one drop. In normal RDW it is the kind of low power low consistency one drop that scales the wrong way into the late game to be something you ever really want.
Mogg Fanatic 5
Still a damn fine card but much more of a burn spell than a threat. It is like Seal of Lava Dart! You pop it down, it might nibble in for a bit and then it pings the thing you need it to when you need it to. Self sacing dorks are always nice as is burn you can instantly and freely use. This does not greatly improve your aggressive early starts but it will give you good consistency. Being pretty low powered you do want to be on the careful side. Too much low powered stuff and you simply won't get there sometimes.
Vexing Devils 1
These never do what you want, either they do four to the face at the cost of some tempo or they come down and do nothing on the board. Much improved with things that can give it haste that your opponents don't know about. Still, this isn't reliable as direct face damage nor is it a proper threat. For the deck that thrives on consistency this is not the thing. Don't be fooled by those few times it does look really efficient, remember the times it does nothing.
Goblin Bushwhacker 3
Really the least one droppy of the one drops. Make this as a one drop and it is so sad. It might still get in for four or five damage if you do but that rather highlights the importance of one drops rather than saying anything good about this. In a creature heavy deck this can be very strong but it is a bit too conditional for my liking. I will avoid this in my conventional RDW lists. For the go wide red weenie lists it is a mainstay however.
Goblin Cadet / Orcish Conscripts etc 0
Much as I harp on about the value of the one mana two power dorks there are plenty in red that are just too unreliable to be worth it. Pain is fine, inability to block is fine but the cards that fail in the attacking department are just not viable. We are looking for one drop threats and these are not really threats...
Two Drop Dorks
Abbot of Keral Keep 8
Great card but much more of a curve topper than a 2 drop. You only make this turn two, even three, if you have to. It is a pretty good threat for the mana as well as a fairly reliable two for one but the card is not a two drop. Really it is a three or higher drop. It is still a decent enough tempo card and threat and this is well worth it for a rare proactive two for one in red. Best with a low CMC deck and obviously also good with any of the things that shine with prowess.
Eidolon of the Great Revel 9
Probably the best two drop you have but a little polar in performance. Generally it does you more damage than it does them but you have control over that damage and are overall taking a lot less in the game so that is all fine. It is the fact that they almost always need to kill this eventually as it will just sit back doing free damage if not that makes it good. Usually the removal spell used on it will trigger it so you get some value from it even then. A high threat card for low cost that has late game reach and can get in for free extra early game nibbles is a pretty big all round win. The fact that it pretty much hard counters some decks like storm is nice too! It is the best two drop yet I only give it a 9 and this is simply because there are so many good two drops that it is no big deal not getting this.
Ash Zealot 7
Great body that gets in right away and has a lot of control over other small dorks. The ongoing effect is minor and again, tends to hurt you more than them but any source of extra free damage is welcome and makes the Zealot that little bit more awkward. One of the worst things about Zealot is that he is RR. As you are already so heavy on one drops you are an incredibly colour intense deck. If too many of your two drops are double red then you really need to start avoiding colourless lands and there are a bunch of those that add quite a lot to the archetype. This is not only one of reds most robust two drops it is also one of its highest tempo ones as well.
Young Pyromancer 8.5
Super strong but a little slow and vulnerable. Despite having a strong statline given his cost and abilities the value of the card is in having it in play and this often means not attacking with him. This means he just sits in play making free 1/1s as you cast spells. That is obviously great but also very slow. Value is nice, you can absolutely grind out games as RDW but not in all matchups and it is not your primary play. Pyromancer also isn't a prowess trigger and can suffer from not having enough things in the deck to consistently make dudes, cards like Vortex and Ankh don't trigger making a token.
This new comer has performed surprisingly well. It offers reach, good scaling with spells, some rare defensive capabilities and a relatively robust body for surviving removal. Generally it feels like a 2/3 unblockable vigilance that loses its power when it blocks. Your opponent not knowing exactly how much damage to expect from it at any given point makes it annoying to play around too.
Kargan Dragonlord 7
The Figure of Destiny of two drops. A pretty weak threat for two mana but after a further four it becomes decent and after the next four it is utterly game ending. This is a little more convenient to level up than Figure as you can do it bit by bit. This can be annoying for broadcasting instant burn but generally is better. Being able to have this get to ultimate without needing to hit six lands to do so is very significant. Dragonlord is a good reach card and a good mana sink. It is not a good replacement for a good two drop threat but it is a fantastic replacement for a four or more mana threat. The more other mana sinks you deck has the weaker Kargan gets but I think he is one of the better sinks you can play.
Keldon Marauders 2
Really this is a face spell that does either two or five. It is not ongoing and as such isn't a threat in the same way. It is a little like Vexing Devils, condemning as that may be. Not something you can rely on having in play so not a threat yet not a great damage effect either as also a little unreliable on that front. These used to see a lot of play with effects that gave haste to things so as to milk extra value from them but needing synergies to make your cards sufficiently powerful is not what RDW wants to have to do and so these barely ever see play now.
Hellspark Elemental 3
Again, this is just a burn effect masquerading as a dork. It is high damage output per card and not too inefficient on mana. This is doubly the case as you can cast it in halves making it very easy to use. The problem with Hellspark is that it lacks reach. Trample is all well and good but a wall will stop this in its tracks, as will most midrange dorks. Burn to the dome is the finisher and this isn't reliable at that. As an early play being a one shot thing makes it a terrible tempo card and as such it isn't played much any more either. A deck with a lot of discard synergies might still play this for the mild value but you can probably do better.
Plated Geopede 6
This is very powerful even without any sac lands. Just a 3/3 first strike on the attack is well worth 1R. The issue with the card is of course when you don't have lands to make. This is best in decks with more draw and more lands. It is also a great card to hedge with if you fear your deck may be a little below par. As it is so powerful when it is good it can carry you a lot. The risk of it being a 1/1 isn't nearly as great in your weaker deck. If you have a good deck and more consistent options than this then you should probably go for them instead.
Stormblood Berserker 4
Really really good if you can pull off the bloodthirst but that is quite hard to do on curve which is when you want this dork. The more cheap burn and one drop threats you have the better this gets but I would consider it more often a three drop than a two drop. It is unplayable garbage without the bloodthirst and this can occasionally lead to a dead card which in turn makes this something I would avoid. It is along the same lines as Geopede but a little worse all round, worth playing in a weak deck but only if you have lots of cheap cards to power it out.
Porcelain Legionnaire 7
Surprisingly good in several ways. Being non-red can be a help against things, particularly hate cards. Being a 3 power first strike beater with no conditions or prerequisites makes it basically the hardest hitting and best turn two tempo play you can make. As you are the red player it is less vulnerable to ping and burn as you should have a lot of that yourself. It also powers up any artifact synergies you may have which is minor but nice.
Torch Fiend / Hearth Kami 2
Back in the day a generic 2/1 for 2 with some ability was enough, it would get in some damage and offer valuable utiltiy without compromising your tempo. Now a 2 mana 2/1 is a pretty big compromise to your tempo. So many 2/3s and ping effects negate the relevance of a 2/1 body. They do less damage than one drops do too! If you fear artifacts then you should probably run artifact removal. You are generally best off ignoring potential artifact threats and just sticking to your game plan of killing people. That tends to be the best route.
Lightning Mauler 4.5
Can usually have haste and can usually haste up other dorks. The issue with this is that a lot of dorks in RDW already have haste and a bunch of those that don't come out before this. Being a 2/1 for 2 he isn't a great presence on the board and cannot attack into that much without just putting him in the bin and getting little value from him. RDW are not even that creature heavy compared to most aggessive cube decks. This is a good card but it offers more to other colours than it generally does for red.
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser 3.5
Still relatively early days for Grenzo but I fear he is not going to last the test of time. He has the issue of both Kargan Dragonlord and Eidolon of being a RR 2/2 that affords little control over the board and low tempo. He has further troubles of his own too in that he is rather a win more card. When you are ahead he can get some insane value and options but when you are behind he does nothing much at all to help you recover. He scales well with lots of one drop dorks and evasive dorks. He is a card like Abbot of Keral Keep that gets you some value but it is less reliable at doing so than Abbot. His greater potential for value does not come close to offsetting this. I'd rather an 80% on one card than 40% chance on 1-5 cards in a deck like RDW.
Stigma Lasher 3
The other Sulphuric Vortex! This guy gets killed on sight and barely ever gets through. The wither isn't even very often a bonus and so again this is just another RR 2/2 that is poor tempo. With lots of good removal and ideally some things that give haste this can be quiet good. Life gain is the only real counter to RDW and so turning it off is a big deal. Doing so on the back of a threat is nice in theory but in practice it is super unreliable. Far more unreliable than a Grenzo! Some direct damage spells have now really replaced Lasher but he still lurks around as an option that is just about viable.
Ember Hauler 5.5
The bigger Mogg Fanatic. Although this is less efficient as cards go it is a somewhat more relevant card overall. The attack damage from this is fine and the shock is also fine. They both do a lot more work and have a lot more impact than the one damage version. Ember Hauler is the perfect example of good filler. It does a bit of everything. It is a little below par at it all but at just the right price that it is still suitable. It is a threat and it can then be some reach or removal as the 2/2 body becomes ineffective. In your typical game this will do way more than most other "utility" two drops. It might not be flashy but it is one of the most appropriate cards on offer.
Three+ Drop Dorks
Eldrazi Obligator 5 (when you can support the colourless)
This is a bit of an odd one as it has so many facets. A 3/1 haste for 3 isn't great but it also isn't awful. Better than a 2 mana 2 power dork at least. You don't ever want to play this if that is your only mode of action with the card but it may well still be the most commonly used mode. If you have at least two colourless sources in your deck this starts to becomes quite good. By the time you have five mana you have a decent chance of seeing a colourless source. It might not be consistent but the effect is so brutally powerful and the card is otherwise playable that it is often worth it. Being able to steal something in cube that cannot be countered is a massive swing a lot of the time. Frequently it ends games and frequently it is the only out the RDW player has for the situation. It is one of the most potent save or comeback cards red has. It is one of the harder cards to include, it makes a lot of the RR cards awkward and it is only a great card in the late game and only occasionally. Somehow, despite all of this it still feels more worth it than a lot of the options in the 3 to 5 range. Being a card that is game winning in some situations yet appropriate and never dead at worst is pretty ideal.
Chandra's Phoenix 5
Low damage output for the mana but evasive and persistent. It is easy to get this back in RDW and so there are not than many good answers to this. Exile or a better flier is about it. For a deck that is light on reach this is a great tool. It is also a nice value enabler should you have much in the way of discard effects in the deck.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh 6.5
Quite vulnerable and relatively easy to respond to however she has so much reach and damage output that she is one of the premium three drop dorks. Her utility is actually quite impressive more in how you can apply her damage to face rather than the ability to kill dorks. Occasionally that is ueful but mostly she is just going face. It is her ability to evade removal by easily becoming a planeswalker or to stay a creature and avoid being attacked to death that makes her such a good threat. She typically does more than three each turn cycle as soon as she is active and it is very hard to stop. The big sister of Thermo-Alchemist in a a lot of ways.
Goblin Rabblemaster 6.5
Rabblemaster is the other premium three drop dork. It starts hitting right away, hits increasingly hard and almost always affords some bonus value. He is such a dangerous threat that he baits a lot of removal but you still usually have a 1/1 goblin for your troubles and that is much better than it sounds. Especially when they don't have removal and you 1 them, 6 them, 8 them, win! With an army Seige Gang would be proud of!
Brazen Scourge 5.5
Turns out a 3/3 for 3 with haste is just good. While much less flashy than the Phoenix and offering far less reach in a longer game the Gremlins are a substantially better curve play. Likely they are one of the best things you can play on turn three. It will safely attack into most things most of the time and will still usually do some damage before removal can hit it. Good tempo, decently meaty and entirely on theme.
Pia Nalaar 5.5
This is the calm and safe Rabblemaster. You get your 1 guy but that is it. Pia offers some value and a surprising amount of both reach and utility. For these perks over Rabblemaster you lose some of the snowballing potential and tempo. The thing that pushes her a little over the edge is her synergy with artifacts. There are a number of playable artifact dorks you can pump and some others you might have than can be useful to make things unblockable. She can even help you turn metalcraft online! Pia is good in a lot of decks and RDW is not an exception.
Hanwier Garrison 4.5
The other other Rabblemaster. This one is a little meatier but has to attack before any value commences. The extra toughness helps no end with this but the card is slow and does risk getting blown out easily to removal costing you a lot of tempo. Being on the top of the curve, lacking reach, being on the slower side and being a bit of a tempo risk to play all add up to make this significantly the weakest of the three like it. It is still a very powerful card but middle of the road RDW is not the archetype in which is shines most. A more positive way to look at this is as a good Hero of Oxid Ridge!
Ball Lightning 3.5
This golden oldie is about the highest damage per card you can play in RDW. Unlike most other high damage output cards this one also keeps a sensible amount of mana efficiency. It can help to allow a turn three kill without any ramp. Where Ball Lightning falls down somewhat is that it is very easy to disrupt. Both halves of Fire / Ice efficiently stop it! A first strike dork shuts it down. It is also RRR which makes colourless land even worse than the many RR two drops. When this is good it is great but when it is bad it does little to nothing. It isn't a dud too often but it is still too much for such a weighty top end card. Oddly Ball Lightning now seems more playable than Hellspark Elemental despite the Hellspark seeming like it was the better card for several years right after release. Hitting for six all at once is better burst and allows for more overspill damage. Broadly one mana for two damage is a lot more what you are looking for than one for 1.5 damage.
Boggart Ram Gang 4.5
Even if you splash green these are hard to cast, you almost never run any land that are green and not red as well. They make it unwise to play any colourless land at all in a 15 land deck and they are still uncomfortable in a 16 land deck. Wither isn't even that relevant. It is a liability sometimes. This is just a 3/3 haste for 3 which is good and solid but not exciting. Play this if you need to and it doesn't hurt to, otherwise don't bother.
This is the premium four drop. There are others that are playable but Hellrider is just so much the best of the bunch that I'm not even going to look at them. Much as I avoid even playing four drops this one is of sufficient power that I am happy to go to four and play it rather than play a weak or off theme card in my deck. Obviously Hellrider is best with a higher creature count but he is still the best four drop in the low end dork count RDW lists. Hitting for your CMC in damage right away does tend to be a theme for the more expensive playables in the archetype. Goldknight Castigator is one of the better four drops after Hellrider! Hellrider offers some reach, some good burst and if he doesn't end the game on his first attack he is a must kill threat. He is great for sniping off planeswalkers efficiently and he can even sit back and let you milk extra value from chump attacks without chump attacking himself.
Koth of the Hammer 4
Being such a direct planeswalker Koth is very much a creature like threat rather than a utility card. He does afford some utility but mostly he is a 4 power haste thing. Aggressively speaking he is one of the best planeswalkers able to output loads of hurt very fast. Compared to actual creatures however he is still pretty average in cube terms for his hurt bringing potential. There are plenty of four costed red things that will do four off the bat and something else as well. That means you do have to expect to get some bonus value from Koth to want to play him. That could be playing him as well as four manas worth of other stuff right away for a huge tempo swing and threat diversification move. It could also be protecting him for a couple of turns and going ultimate so that you have basically infinite reach. It might just be because you are super creature heavy and are trying to avoid Wrath ruining you. To do either of the first two of these options well you need a deck with lots of mountains. This in turn makes any sort of funky land quite weak. Koth is good but not so good that you are happy to warp your build around him and as such he isn't any sort of priority for the deck, just an option.
Thundermaw Hellkite 6.5
The only five drop I ever play in the archetype. Thundermaw is the reach card. It does its five more reliably than almost any other haste dork is able to do damage. It is a Lava Axe. Sometimes it is also a Simoon for their fliers. Mostly it is a 5/5 flier in play still after having done five. It is the heaviest card a RDW list should ever play but it is so reliable, direct, efficient and powerful that is is worth going two over your ideal cap to play it. Certainly you have to consider your mana ratios a bit more carefully when playing this. Five is often the soft CMC cap in RDW lists anyway. Cards like Firebolt and Burst Lightining do the most work for you once you hit five and so you are often happy enough playing a land count that will get you to five lands in most games that go long (long for RDW is past turn four or five). The optimal decks don't play this but that is rare to see. It is very much one of the first cards I look to whenever I don't have a perfect list and that is almost always.
One Mana Burn
Lightning Bolt 9
Seems a bit odd only giving this a 9 as it is clearly your best burn spell and the "best" card that the deck plays. The reason being that there is way more redundancy in burn than in dorks. You need less one drop burn cards than you do dorks. The dorks are important to make turn one while the burn is not. If you do need to use burn on turn one then any old Shock will almost always do the job. If you need it later then a simple Searing Spear is probably fine. Obviously always pick and play this however do be mindful that it is more important to get your count of one drop threats than it is for burn. You may want to pick an average beater over this if you expect neither to table. As a general rule the chaff dork will table if you have drafted well while the Bolt will not so you probably still usually take the Bolt but it a lot closer than it might seem.
Chain Lighting 8.5
Likely your second best burn spell. Sorcery does make it weaker but you tend to have a nice mix of burn with some doing 2, some doing 3 and the odd one doing 4 with an evenish split between instant and sorcery speed effects. Being able to kill a 3 toughness thing for 1 mana is a huge tempo swing. Very few cards do that and even fewer do it without drawback, prerequisits and other issues. Probably the second most valuable burn spell to pick up.
Seal of Fire 5
Underrated card for sure. A turn one Grim Lavamancer is closer to a turn one Seal of Fire play than it is to a Goblin Guide in terms of putting you ahead and gaining tempo. Seal is not a threat but it is none the less a great thing to have in play. It is not giving away information as your opponent can sensibly assume you have burn and should likely assume you still have more in hand. Generally seal is the best non-threat card you can play on turn one as it often lets you recover a tempo lead a turn or two down the line. A prepayable Shock is a lot lot better than a Shock. The few things that work against Seal of Fire are that it powers up enemy Tarmogoyfs and doesn't trigger your own Young Pyromancer. Not a huge deal but still. Overall Seal of Fire is a fair burn spell that helps you be mana efficient and helps your consistency.
The first burn spell! You typically cast this first over other burn when you have a target as it has no other utility. For that it is nice, you don't have to chose between using say a Chain Lightining or a Burst Lightining which is hard is either can be right. Fire Bolt is a great way to increase the range of your deck. It is enough of a card when you just play it for R. If the game goes longer and you run low on gas then you are very happy to have the second use option even if it is an extortionate 4R. In a super low curve deck without much upper range this would be one of the burn spells you would look to lose. Those you expect to go a little longer and higher with then Firebolt is one of your better burn cards. Four total damage is a lot, able to get a 2 for 1 and still a good early card.
Burst Lightning 6
The other Firebolt! This one is a little better early as it is instant, it is also somewhat better late as it is still instant and only five mana to return four damage rather than the six from Firebolt. The difference is that Burst Lightning loses any late game value if you use it early. Equally, if you feel you need to hold it for four damage to something specific then it is dead weight in hand until you hit five. One of the harder burn spells to use but certainly a strong and versatile one.
Forked Bolt 5.5
This is either a non-landfall Searing Blaze. A Firebolt without a flashback option or it is a game ending two for one. It is low powered and fair for the first two options however for the latter it is pretty unreasonable. A card with such high swing potential at the top end yet a completely acceptable bottom end of its performance range is usually a bit of a winner (see Eldrazi Obligator). Particularly good against green decks and aggressive white decks. It doesn't get a two for one very often at all but again, it really doesn't need to in order to carry its own weight in RDW.
Pillar of Flame 5
Low power and relatively situational to get value from the non damage aspect but rather like Forked Bolt it is game winning when it does come good for you. Also like Forked Bolt the low end performance of the card is totally acceptable. Basically this is reds answer to Kitchen Finks, the worst counter card for the archetype. It helps out with a lot of recursive dorks or on death triggers which is nice but more of a luxury than a necessity other than the Finks.
Just a Shock. No delirium needs for RDW and no silly tribal shenanigans in the conventional RDW so this is literally a Shock that might power up a Goyf... just not for you. Play it if you need more one mana burn but otherwise don't. It might still be better than a Firebolt if you really doubt you will ever see 5 mana in a remotely recoverable game.
Galvanic Blast 5
Also pretty much just a Shock but at that it is still better than Tarfire, often better than Pillar of Flame and Forked Bolt and still totally fine within the deck. It is increasingly common to find a couple of artifacts littered about a RDW list. If you can ever hit for 4 with this it is off the charts good and a little unfair all told. It is increasingly common to have 3 or more things that are or produce artifacts in RDW and as such the value of this is steadily rising.
Lava Dart 4
Great against other weenie decks but much more awkward against midrange decks. The Dart is a fantastic card to go with prowess creatures. You can much more easily get value with it as a split damage effect than things like Pillar of Flame as you can do the pings on different turns. Where dart falls down is when you need a bit more damage to control the board right there and then but cannot afford to throw lands away. You will always get your two damage out of this card should you win the game as you won't need mountains after having won. It is just the little bit harder getting to the position of winning if you have a half Shock in your hand. Highly versatile card with a variety of cool synergies going on. Let down a bit by having a lower top end expectation than a Forked Bolt as well as a lower bottom end potential than all the other one mana two damage cards.
Gut Shot 1
Not enough punch is basically the issue here. RDW doesn't play Memnite, Raging Goblin or this for all the same reasons. There is such a thing as too quick! The power trade off simply isn't worth it. You have to compensate with heavier cards which in turn cost more mana and just result in a either and inconsistent deck or a low powered one. Got Shot is best suited to an Izzet deck with more card draw and filter and with more prowess triggers to abuse. The only time Gut Shot is good in RDW is when you can use it to kill something such as a Bird of Paradise yet still play a threat of your own. When this happens it is a massive tempo swing in your favour but it happens sufficiently rarely that it isn't worth including. A very good choice when on the draw against a green deck with loads of 1 toughness mana dorks or a white aggro deck that has the same. If you are certain you are going to kill a creature worth killing with your Gutshot it is a fine card. Overall you are much better off with a Forked Bolt.
Wild Slash 5
The effect on this is surprisingly good. It gets round protection effects (assuming you can get damage on them without targetting them). It a lot of ways it is like Pillar of Flame except that it is instant which just makes it better all round. The payoff for this is that the already narrow effect is only when you have ferocious rather than all the time as with Pillar. Very few playable RDW dudes have 4 power, it is generally only level up creatures or pump effects than can help trigger this. As such is is another one of those basically a Shock cards that is mostly just fine. The difficulty in getting ferocious is why Flamewake Phoenix is far weaker in RDW than Chandra's as well.
Lava Spike 2
This is a do nothing card and although a very efficient one it is a low impact one. If I am going to play a do nothing I want it to do a huge chunk of face damage. This is fine in a pure burn deck but in one with dorks as well the more versatile burn that can go face is where you want to be.
Shard Volley 3.5
This is actually a lot better than it looks. It is somewhere between a Fireblast and a Lightning Bolt and while a whole lot worse than either it ticks all the boxes you want for your burn. You don't want to use it early but you can if you have to and you will be a whole lot better off than you would be with a Fireblast Play. As reach or midgame removal it is very close to just another Lighting Bolt.
Two Mana Plus Burn
Searing Spear / Flame Javelin / Incinerate all 7
Not very much regenerates in cube. Mildly countering Experiment One is not enough to separate these cards in my rating although technically Incinerate is the best. These are all good cards. They are cheap enough to be good tempo and they hit hard enough to get a decent amount done. With them you trade a bit of mana efficiency over one mana burn for some card efficiency (lower burn per mana but more burn per card). With burn it is both removal and finishing reach. As such it is far less important for it to be cheap as it is with threats. You want to make a threat and then remove a blocker, you want to attack them down and then end with the burn. The fact that you want your burn later means you can afford to up its overall potency a bit at a slight increase in cost. My burn is typically fairly evently split between one and two mana burn but I am happy enough running more in the two slot provided I have a really high number of one drop dorks to be proceeding it. I find I am cutting these cards from my RDW less and less these days. Not quite auto includes but very close to.
Incendiary Flow 7
To Pillar of Flame as Searing Spear is to Shock. This is a very strong card indeed. It solves some of your Kitchen Finks style troubles and is still quite a meaty burn spell that you can throw wherever you fancy. Being sorcery is a fair price to pay for the situational but highly valuable exile option.
Arc Trail 8.5
The most reliable of the two for one cards at actually getting a two for one. It is almost impossible to lose a game if you get that two for one with this on the first couple of turns and that makes it well worth it. Even when you are not getting a two for one you are getting a bit of bonus face damage in on top of a removal spell. Absolute worst case scenario you have to do yourself for one in order to shock them but in that case you are probably finishing them off anyhow. Arc Trail has an acceptable yet unlikely low end performance, a solid average performance and an unreasonably high chance of getting its top end performance and just winning the game. Very much one of the premium all round burn spells and other than Lightining Bolt this is one of the only burn spells I might take over Chain Lightning.
Avacyn's Judgement 3
Poor man's Arc Trail. Often Fire / Ice or Twin Bolt is just better. The madness is near impossible to pull off in RDW and isn't very exciting when you do, you have to have four mana before it even does more than the 2 mana cast mode. Having some split damage in your RDW list is nice, it keeps people honest and gives you some great blowout potential. I wouldn't play this if I had Arc Trail and Forked Bolt, I may not play both of them! If I had nothing like that I would be looking at this at least.
Fire / Ice (Chanra's Pyrohelix etc) 4
Instant is pretty good. Who knew!? Enough so to make Lightning Bolt a whole point above Chain Lightning and enough for the same difference here with Avacyn's Judgement. All round quite an inefficient card when you don't split and so not something you want much of. The number of 2 mana 2 damage things you have in your deck wants to be kept to a minimum but a couple is fine.
Sudden Shock 2
Never found the split second to be useful unless my opponent wasn't aware of it. You don't feel like you really won just because they misused Zuran Orb simply because they didn't think of what silly weak cards you might be playing. The downside of this card is unavoidable yet the upside seems to do nothing far more often than the upside on all the other burn discussed here.
Magma Jet 2.5
Overrated card. Scry is nice but it costs you tempo and as such it is not nice. This is never better than Shocking the same thing and playing a 1 mana card or using a 1 mana effect. Sure, it is better when your draw is bad and you don't have those things. My experience of this card is that it hurts you more when things are fine than it does help you when they are not. I would much rather have a Faithless Looting and a Shock in my list than try and cram those into an awkward card and play a Magma Jet.
Punishing Fire 1.5
This isn't as punishing as you might like. The general rate of lifegain in the cube wildly outpaces 3 mana for a 2 point change. You are not countering a Zuran Orb, you are turning each of their lands into inverse Black Lotus's! Basically this card is not a good answer to lifegain. The value is nice but if they are gaining life in order for you to get value you are getting less overall and that is a losing plan. This is not just a poor counter card but it is also a poor burn card, 2 for 2 is not the going rate for cards without and perks. This is a card you play when you have Grove of the Burnwillows, otherwise you shouldn't. If you want to do that sort of thing you should play Cursed Scroll instead, it is better in almost every way for RDW.
Searing Blaze 8
I am still a little wary of this card as creature light decks where still very much a thing when it first came out. It is probably an 8-8.5 card now given how rare it is for this not to have a target. While this is a burn card it is also the most situational of such cards you play in RDW. Yes, it does face damage and yes it kills dorks and so it does do all the things that the Mighty Lightning Bolt does. The issue is that they have to have a dork. This is not reach when they have no targets, it is in fact dead and RDW hates a dead card. Landfall makes it is a little bit more situational and awkward but not really. The card is still wildly above the curve for power and is very easy to have deal 6 for a mere 2 mana. It is the most efficient burn card you can play and as such you just always do. For a very small risk you get to greatly increase the power of your deck.
Stoke the Flames 7.5
There are not that many viable burn spells for RDW that do four damage and so those that that there are are premium. Stoke is better in creature heavier decks but it is still decent in lighter ones. It goes especially well with Young Pyromancer and Rabblemaster. It has similar burst game ending potential to the mighty Fireblast yet it is far less painful to play in the midgame when you need to take out a high toughness dork. The variable costing is a delight, it gives you deck range and power yet doesn't do too much to hurt your curve and CMC. A heavy card that feels like it is cheap and easy to play with.
The Force of Will of the Red mage. All the super quick kills involve this card. It is one of the heaviest cards you can play yet it is typically also the cheapest. Absolutely amazing finisher but a little bit awkward to have from too early in the game. It makes too much funky land or things that want you to empty your hand rather week. I have won plenty of games with an emergency midgame pitch cost to remove a dork. It is uncomfortable but viable. Both Stoke and Fireblast are top of the curve cards that you shouldn't really consider as anything less than 3 drops for curve purposes however their contribution to the average CMC of the deck is far lower. For Fireblast you might as well call it zero and for Stoke I would go for about 2.5 CMC.
Collective Defiance (and other weaker 3 mana burn) 4
There is a lot of 3 mana burn on offer. Char is the most consistent. Brimstone Volley is probably the most potent but I like Collective Defiance the best. All of them are pretty comparable, three mana burn generally just isn't the thing. The extra damage over two mana burn that you get really isn't worth that extra mana. Three mana burn is clumsy. Defiance is relatively weak burn even compared to other 3 mana burn cards but it offers utility and value which is a rare thing on a card that is otherwise suited to the RDW game plan. Collective Defiance is also kind of hard to rate as a burn spell as so much of its value comes from the utility and versatility it brings, some of which is in non-burn form! As a burn spell it is fairly weak but you can consider a small part of the card as a utility effect and this makes it more decent. Defiance is nice as it one of a few playable cards that lets you go one for one (or better) with a four toughness dork.
Rift Bolt 3
I don't get on well with this. In a more pure burn deck where most stuff is just going face ASAP then this is top notch. In RDW this becomes very awkward. It is not a nice prepaid burn spell like Seal of Fire as it controls when it fires not you. This makes it easy to play around with you rather broadcasting it. Sure, it is efficient but it is a turn too late so who cares? The number of times I have had to use this for three mana just makes me hate it. Play a reliable cheap burn spell or a powerful heavy one rather than this half mast try for both.
Fiery Temper 1
Unless your deck is rammed full of discard outlets this is unplayable. As a three mana burn card it is very inefficient. Not dead, just super weak. There are not enough good discard outlets that you can put into a deck that would be enough to make this even comparable to Lightning Bolt in potency. Even when it costs one mana it is still more of a two or three drop in terms of when you can actually use it. It is probably acceptable filler at best if you have most of the playable dicard effects.
Cursed Scroll 3
This is far far from a one drop. You are lucky if this is a four drop. You rarely use it before turn five. Cursed Scroll is the original RDW late game, it offers both reach and value but it is slow as all hell in all areas. Scroll is good if you lack many mana sinks or reach. It is good if you have artifact synergy. It is also good if you just want to empty your hand quickly but still want some heavier tools to work with. The card is also nice for helping out with stuff that preys upon red cards and damage sources. Scroll typically sees more play outside of red decks in the cube these days as red has much more efficient burn itself while other colours don't!
Anhk of Mishra 7.5
This is hard to rate as it is so polar, like many older poorly designed cards. If you are on the play and you make a turn two Ankh you probably win. Like really probably! It is brutal, it punishes sac lands and shock lands and slow draws and so many things! The damage is hard to avoid, the Ankh is hard to remove and the card is just savage. A few turns later however and the card can be pretty much dead weight. It is a good choice for a weaker list, especially one that is cheap and weak. It is also a good choice if you have some filter or potential uses for spent artifacts. The kind of card that works very well as part of a dynamic sideboard and certainly powerful enough to maindeck. Threat diversity is nice and Ankh brings that better than most cards.
Chrome Mox Diamond 1
These are not totally unplayable in the deck but you want to avoid it. I might use them as problem solving tools for dodgy decks. Perhaps you have a lack of one drop threats, perhaps you have a little too much in the way of cards that want artifacts or that need to be in play asap to be effective. Generally you are quick enough and tight enough with RDW that you do not want to incur card disadvantage for ramp. Lots of heavy spells can change that pretty easily though.
Faithless Looting 5
While this is also card disadvantage is it also a huge amount of dig and filter. It even has some reasonable synergies with some cards you might play that can make it seem more like it was card neutral. Looting is typically a late game card in RDW where you turn excess land and now worthless one drops into some useful action. Being cheap on its first cast means you can also use it to sort out poor hands. You pay quite a lot of overall power to include a Faithless Looting but doing so gives you much more wiggle room in your construction. You can play lose with lands, situational spells, polar cards and some higher CMC stuff. A great deck shouldn't need this but most other qualities of decks will likely be improved with a Looting.
Titan's Strength 3
Combat tricks are usually just inferior to burn in RDW style decks. They are a bit riskier and with a lowish creature count compared to most aggressive decks they can be dead for too much of the game. On the flip side you can scale pump with creature abilities and get more value than you would with burn. You can also create bigger tempo swings with combat tricks than burn. Titan's Strength can often be a Lightning Bolt and that is great. It also comes with a scry which unlike those on Magma Jet doesn't really cost you. It is a very tempting card and a very good one but I do still favour simple burn for the consistency. I would consider this if I had lots of good synergy with it. I would also consider it if I felt my deck was weak and I needed some higher powered swing cards despite the risks they bring.
Gitaxian Probe 7
Seven seems low for this as it is one of the best cards going for the deck. Here, have complete information for free and sure, play a 39 card deck that is fine too. Oh, not enough value. OK, have half a Lavamancer shot, a 1/1 elemental token and a prowess trigger. Deal? Sure. If you have all the self hurt things you may consider not running this but it is still probably just worth it.
The answer card. Baneslayer, dealt with. Pretty much all the tedious stuff this will go 1 for 1 with and for the bargain price of a single mana. You have to be pretty scared of creatures to want to run this so either you know you are facing some hate or your deck is weak and slow and you expect to still be playing the game on turn six. I don't like running things that don't do my opponent damage if they don't also draw me cards but in magic we don't always get what we want! Sometimes this is just a necessary evil.
Mutagenic Growth 3
A bit meatier than Gutshot and so more playable on that front but it is also more situational and harder to get the desired value from it. Against other creature decks and when I have some things it will trigger I am happy running this but it is certainly not a go to card.
Technically this is burn but it is face only burn and therefore performs a very different role in your deck. It is better to think of this like a Smash to Smithereens. It is an answer card that also comes with a free three damage to make it more suited to your decks aim. Smash answers artifacts, Skullscrack counters lifegain effects which are basically the only thing you care about as a RDW player. RDW only really loses to decks that can kill it quicker than it goldfishes or with lifegain. Few decks can outpace you and so taking measures to improve your other weakness is a good call. Skullcrack is also never dead as it will always deal 3 and that is great. A cheap on theme card that counters your biggest counter is a huge win. An issue with it is that it is neither a threat or an answer. Draw it in a game where your threats are evenly matched to their answers and you will wish it actually did something involving the board.
Reckless Charge 4
Part Hellspark Elemental and part Lightning Mauler this little card offers huge value. Assuming you get in extra damage with the haste you should be getting about 10 damage out of your single card and mere four mana. This ranks it as about the most efficient card you can play. The reason you rarely do is that it is relatively counterable and somewhat tricky to set up. With no trample the buffed dork is often chumped. Being sorcery it is often removed in response as well. It is a bit awkward to curve out with dorks you want to buff and also have the mana up to Charge them. This is another one of those cards I move away from as I am more happy with my deck. A creature heavy deck with a low average power level will greatly benefit from Charge. A well rounded deck should probably just play another threat or burn spell.
Sulphuric Vortex 10
Hard not to give this a 10. Although not as important as having your one drops there is some redundancy in one drops and there is none in Vortex really. You can afford to give up a decent one drop if it means securing this for your deck. Vortex is threat diversification and quite hard to remove from play once there. Being an enchantment is not that far off having shroud in cube! It is a hasting unblockable two power dork as well as a blanket prevention on lifegain. It is amazing reach combined with almost complete safety! It is your most feared and hated card and not without good reason. It should really be in the three drop dorks section as it functions very much like one. It is a threat and should be considered as one. It does not take up your 1/6th allowance of "other" cards but contributes to your aim of having 1/2 to 2/3rds threats.
Smuggler's Copter 8
Not had loads of opportunity to test this out specifically in RDW but the card is obviously good there as it is pretty much everywhere. It is a high power evasive threat that is both resiliant to removal and offers card quality. Deal. RDW actively wants most of those things and will happily take the rest. Generally you have enough dorks that crewing this isn't hurting too much. Early game it may cost one or two damage per attack (still gaining a net of 1.5 damage per Copter attack and so still very much worth it) however it the late game the odds are much more that if you can crew the Copter it will cost you no damage to do so. This card has all the synergies going for it as well from graveyard through to metalcraft. I might think twice about playing this if I was creature light but I imagine I still would...
This is pretty much a Faithless Looting that doesn't filter away lands as well as dorks in the late game! That is unfair, the card also has decent application in making chump attacking far more profitable. The thing is it is a very slow card. You pay two mana to get an extra damage in if you get a dork in. You really don't want to be Clamping off your early threats until quite late in the game. As a late game tool to offer some reach the card is good. The more chaff one drop dorks you have the better it gets. It is perhaps best looked at like a Cursed Scroll. By all means cast it early but probably don't start using it much till later down the line. Useful for some artifact synergy boosts but not a direct card, not a quick card and not really even an on theme card.
Umezawa's Jitte (and bigger equips) 3.5
Really slow and far too much risk to be worth the return. I avoid playing these kinds of equipment. Think I would much rather have a Bonesplitter. It is lower risk and has an impact much sooner for much the same sorts of damage return on mana investment. You neither have enough dorks or enough of a range of dorks to get loads back from equipment. It is not even the sort of game you are trying to play. There are more direct, more efficient and speedier ways of applying damage to face than making a dork and an equipment, equipping it and swinging... If you want more power then play a more powerful threat or a more powerful burn spell. Don't try and upgrade your existing threats in a convoluted way.
Wasteland (Stripmine) 8 (9)
These are fantastic tools for the deck. You can play them as spells or as lands, more so with Stripmine than Wateland. These slow the pace of the game and elongate the value period for your one drops and your ongoing effects like Ankh and Vortex. When playing these as a spell you need to have a high number of good one drop threats as well as a suitably low average CMC and a low CMC cap. Things like Firebolt and Burst Lighting lose their value somewhat as you are that much less likely to ever see five mana. If using them more like a land you want to be more careful with your double red cards and ensure a decent number of your two drop proactive plays are 1R to play. As a general rule the better your deck the better these cards are.
Chandra Pyromancer, Torch of Defiance, the Firebrand 3.5 /4.5 / 3
Rishadan Port 7
Port is somewhat of the Stripmine that costs you twice as much to use but gives you the option on having the mana yourself back later. One drop into turn two Port is a good line of play and it lets you cast a three drop the next turn if you like. Port is better than Wasteland style cards when you have a longer range of CMC effects. Cards like Firebolt want you to get to five and Port will let you do this but it will also let you disrupt your opponent on the way there. If you are mostly one drops and cap out at 3 then the Port is not as useful, your mana is far better spent casting your own stuff then.
Three mana is a little late to start up on the mana denial. It is good on the play if you can cast it and if you make other things before it. That is rather too many ifs for a consistent card. Sure, it is nice to have the option on an artifact removal spell but at 3 mana it isn't exactly a tempo or value play. Better with cards like Port and Ankh so as to exploit a bit of a theme but I really wouldn't unless I had good knowledge of the meta.
Molten Rain 3
Some LD with a bit of free damage tagged on. This makes it more on theme for RDW than other LD as it is not a dud even when they are totally flooded. It is the best of the Stone Rains but that is a route I try and avoid. You already have a plan, the deck is good enough that you really don't need a backup. You take it when it comes free on lands but actually devoting spells to it is bordering on being a different archetype. A worse one.
Tangle Wire 2
Although very powerful this is a double whammy problem card as it is never a damage dealing threat on top of doing little to nothing if you draw it late. RDW is fairly fair in terms of natural game progression often making one land and one thing per turn. Against other fair decks the Tanglewire is good but against something like affinity or any other deck capable of developing a board quickly it is a complete liability that does way more to hurt you than them.
Barbarian Ring 8
A great way to keep a nice high reliable land count while also packing loads of gas. This land comes in untapped and gives red so it is basically as good as a mountain. Then late game it is a free and fairly cheap two damage unless you got loads of value from a Lavamancer instead! There is little reason not to include this if you have it. Not being a huge impact card a lot of cubes don't bother with this but it is an auto include in the deck as free value, no matter how small, is worth having.
Mishra's Factory / Mutavault / Blinkmoth 7/7/5
The colourless man lands are all fine. They are usually what you play when you can have a colourless land in your deck but didn't get anything you specifically wanted. You might get the odd couple of damage out of one of these. They help out in a flood or if you miss a curve play. I like Factory most as it hits hard for the mana, can block well and affords some artifact synergy. Mutavault is basically as good but not quite. Blinkmoth I feel doesn't return enough damage per turn or per mana for it to really cut it. In the slow grindy games it will contribute more at least.
Ghitu Encampment 2.5
Coming into play tapped just kills this. It isn't that efficient in damage output either when compared to the colourless options. In a land heavy deck expecting to go on longer than normal and that also has a predominantly R casting cost requirement with very little colourless you may find this to be the best man land. Pretty rarely in other words.
Lands that come in tapped are trouble for RDW. While you do get a "free" two damage out of this land and those like it fairly often it is almost never free. You pay a R mana for it. It is good value because it doesn't cost you a card but it is poor tempo as you can do way more for a red mana than the effects these lands offer. As they are lands you need to be laying them for the most part and so you don't have the luxury of holding the card until it has maximum value. In the thinner decks, ones with lower power levels, or larger ranges of CMC things going on then I quite like one of these in my deck however they are very minor. Most cubes don't bother with these lands as they are so marginal and quite narrow.
Pyrostatic Pillar 2
The original Eidolon of the Great Revel that comes without legs. This moves it from the realm of well rounded threat to a hoser card. Some decks this won't do enough against and you won't be able to chump with it and it will kill you itself! Sure, it is game winning and brutal in some other matchups but that isn't he sort of card you ever want to maindeck. I would rate this quite highly as a sideboard option but that is only relevant in quite specific cube formats. Drafting cubes are unwise to include sideboard cards in them.
Price of Progress 2.5
This is another hoser card that is way better in my cube than in most because of the sheer number of dual lands I offer. This will consistently hit for four or more by turns three or four against most decks out of my cube. There are still those mono coloured decks where this does little to nothing against and there is also the fact this is just an efficient finisher card. You can't get this out early and nibble away, you can't move something out of the way with it. A card like Skullcrack may do less damage but it brings more of what you want. If you play too many cards like this your one drop threats will stop getting through as much and your draw quality will go down.
Wheel of Fortune 3.5
This is only playable in the lowest to the ground decks. Play this and you probably only want one other three drop maximum. Even Fireblast starts to look worse if you want to play Wheel. The issue with Wheel is that you just have one (good one). If you make your deck low enough to the ground so that Wheel is good then when you don't draw Wheel you will just run out of gas and lose. There are some solutions to that problem, there are some backup Wheel options or just things like Skullclamp. As you do that however the deck moves away from being consistently burn and threats and you don't always gain from doing so.
Fiery Confluence 5
Hard hitting and versatile. This lets you clear out a board, deal with problem artifacts or just go to the face for 6. Four mana for six damage isn't super damage per mana but it is fantastic damage per card and it is much more reliable than the other cards capable of doing comparable dome burst. This is now my go to card if I am afraid of certain artifacts. A bit clumsy but utility is nice and very rare on otherwise suitable cards for the deck.
Shrine of Burning Rage 3.5
Slow and heavy but very hard hitting and hard to stop. The Shrine does have a good amount of inevitability about it but it is a poor tempo play when you want it early and a pretty weak top deck. It is also very much a curve topper in terms of its cost to use overall.
Black Vise 4
A more extreme version of Ankh of Mishra. A turn one Black Vise on the play is more damage more reliably than most one drops will put out. There are two issues with Vise that make it no longer the kind of thing you really look to. Firstly it is weak against decks that can easily dump their hand and secondly it is a poor late game card. Vise is a powerful punisher card but it typically punishes things you are decent against and not things you struggle with. Being a proactive one drop with no further investments required it is one of the better artifact cards you can use to support synergies. It works very nicely with Goblin Guide and Wheel of Fortune. It also works well with any mana denial effects you might have. As such it can actually get enough of a synergy boost from your build that it is a good inclusion. A viable stand in for a low one drop threat count.
This, Volcanic Fallout, Flamebreak and other cheap global damage dealing effects are all viable hedge cards in RDW. Should you have a lowish creature count and fear weenie decks in the meta then these are relatively on theme. You can do some face damage while Wrathing them both of which will help you win the race. The issue is of course most of these spells are inefficient mana for face damage and have super poor synergy with your own small dorks. Things like Smugglers Copter and dash cards ease this somewhat but still, aggro decks don't typically want Wraths in them! Slagstorm is nice as it gives the option on not killing all your stuff when you want to go face with it but that isn't as big a deal as it sounds. The big deal is that these are awkward to use as removal and low face damage in every respect. Play these things only if you need them and ideally in your sideboard.
Boros Charm 5
Very efficient face damage and some other bonus utility as well. This is about the only thing you really gain by going white and that usually isn't worth it. If it costs you picks to get the mana base or consistency because you didn't then Boros Charm is not the way to go. In a sealed pool where you just have it and the mana base support then you can fill out your list with it and replace a weaker card then sure but it isn't so good you actively want to splash for it. In the pure burn decks that extra efficiency is more important but with dork support it is just so so. The anti mass removal effect is obviously more useful then but that is just an occasional bonus rather than a reason to play it. Doublestrike on a 5+ power dork is more of a reason!
Lightning Helix 7
A rating of 7 is very misleading. You will note that is the rating Searing Spear got. Helix is actually worse than Spear because it is hard to cast. Three life is good for the control deck but there are very few matchups indeed where RDW cares about its life total. You play Helix because Searing Spear is a great effect. Sometimes the three life is nice. You certainly are not playing it because it is a good value card.Three damage and two poison would be insane value for 2 mana but the poison would still always be an irrelevant bonus and that is pretty much where Helix sits in RDW. Do not splash for this card. Play it IF you are already white. Perhaps splash if you are super short on playables but don't expect good things.
Atarka's Command 9
Now this is a card to Splash for. Either it says counter their only relevant spell and deal them three damage or it says deal them something like 5 for 2 mana. It is even a naughty combat trick that can gain value. Put a land into play, trigger my Geopede, cast another spell and get a second prowess trigger. Use the other ability on the Command to pump everything and shit got out of hand. The card is one of your highest possible face damage tools, your best answer and has some utility beyond those two things, any of which would be enough to see play on their own.
Kessig Wolf Run 7
If you have some access to green this is a very potent land that you can run. It has the effect of Faithless Looting or Skullclamp of turning you chaff one drops into threats in the late game. Clamp is a weak early game RDW card and Looting is painful card disadvantage. They are also more limited in terms of the threats they can generate. Clamp in that situation can only really dig into burn which isn't very efficient. Looting can only replace 4 dud cards. Wolf Run however physically makes each crap dork you have a serious threat. It means your lands, burn and dorks are all still good draws. The cost of a colourless land is also less than card disadvantage or early game duds. Wolf Run's biggest issue in RDW is that it is very mana intense. It is not worth playing in the decks that really don't want to see more than 3 lands, there you play Wasteland instead. In the more typical cube RDW where 5 is a common land count to reach then Wolf Run starts to become the best utility land you can run. Green is the most common splash in RDW these days not just because it has some of the best things for the archetype but also because both Wolf Run and Kird Ape to a lesser extent are useful without any green mana.
Raging Ravine 5
This isn't great but it is enough. Hitting as a 4/4 means it will get to attack unscathed and the damage will be meaningful. It is five to use for four damage first time round which is just about acceptable. What makes this playable in the archetype is that it fixing as well as offers an OK late game threat. If you have Wolf Run to activate and Atarka's Command to cast then you almost always run this. You don't bother to splash for it however.
Bloodbraid Elf 5
Not worth splashing for and not an ideal card to run just because it is four mana but it is still very powerful and it is also nicely on theme. One of the few cards that benefits from a higher curve. If you always hit a three drop this is batty. When you just hit Shocks the card is pretty average and that is somewhat the norm for this in RDW. Fine filler but not the bomb you are used to in the archetype.
An example of a pretty optimal list for RDW that has little need of filtering or mana sinks as it is so refined.
Abbot of Keral Keep / Thermo Alchemist
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Stoke the Flames
4x red x saclands
I would like to give some other examples of RDW lists that are not optimal and show how I have compensated for their failings. I am not sure how exactly to do this, likely it involves me using a real example of a sealed pool or something which I don't presently have recorded. As such I shall leave this for now and try to do that in a separate article. I am sure I will also remember some relevant cards I have forgotten that I will feel compelled to add on at a later stage as well!
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Awesome work! Loving this type of analysis!ReplyDelete