Core Set 2021 Constructed Set Review – Red

Constructed_Red

I’m ready to see what red mage’s have to look forward to in Core Set 2021. Keep in mind that this review highlights only cards that are likely to see play in Constructed.

Grading Scale

When reviewing cards I will be using a grading scale. This is basically the same letter grading system you might find at school.

  • A: This grade is rare, because it will only be used on cards that look like they will be heavily played, possibly even dominant in a format, or ban worthy. These cards often go beyond Standard, and see play in older formats as well.
    Examples: Teferi, Time Raveler, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.
  • B: Format staple that’slikely to see plenty of play in multiple different archetypes, both in the sideboard and maindeck.
    Examples: Rotting Regisaur , Light Up the Stage.
  • C: This could be a card that is only played in single, but popular archetype. It could also be a heavily used sideboard card.
    Examples: Cindervines, Absorb.
  • D: Cards that see some play from time to time, but aren’t a major part of the top tier archetypes.
    Examples: Ajani’s Pridemate, Genesis Ultimatum.
  • E: Cards that don’t see play, but people might think are good when they are first printed. These cards have some hype but end up being duds.
    Examples: Luminous Broodmoth, Happily Ever After

Brash Taunter

Brash Taunter

Grade: D

You aren’t playing this for its power and toughness stats, that much is obvious. It shines against large creatures of the opponents, because not only can it block and deal them a ton of damage, you can also fight to deal your opponent lots of damage. Rotting Regisaur is exactly what you want to see on the other side of the table when playing Brash Taunter. There are some big creatures that trample, or this doesn’t block at all, like Questing Beast. I don’t see this as a maindeck card, because it’s too bad against control.

Chandra, Heart of Fire

Chandra, Heart of Fire

Grade: B

Five mana is on the expensive side for planeswalkers, as it’s rare you want to put a full four copies of a five mana planeswalker in your deck. In the case of Chandra I think it’s more likely we see it as a one or two of as a top end play. Being able to churn through your deck in the lategame and continue casting spells is really nice, which makes its first ability very important. However, the turn you cast Chandra, Heart of Fire you often are tapping out to play it, so you will be dealing two damage to something. This can be the opponents face, so if Chandra gets cast and the opponent is at a low life total it will finish them off quickly. This is perfect for a Big Red sort of strategy.

Chandra’s Incinerator

Chandra's Incinerator

Grade: C+

This card has potential. Burn decks have gone out of style in more recent formats, as red decks have become more creature oriented. Chandra’s Incinerator could change that, as a card like Risk Factor looks really nice alongside Chandra’s Incinerator. It’s still going to be difficult to get this down before turn five or so, which kind of makes its ability to have a reduced casting cost less relevant. However, it will be more powerful in Modern Burn decks. If you have a Rift Bolt suspended, you can untap and the opponent will have already taken three damage. Then it is easy to see this coming down as early as turn two!

Conspicuous Snoop

Conspicuous Snoop

Grade: B

Whoa! Goblins you say? This is an amazing card in a Goblins deck, and only in a Goblins deck. You need for essentially all your creatures to be Goblins. I would love to see Goblins in Standard, as Goblin Ringleader is still legal, and another excellent payoff card. We have already been seeing it some in Historic, due to bringing back Goblin Matron, and I only expect that trend to continue. Conspicuous Snoop is really the perfect two drop in a Goblins deck. It is a bit of a downside the opponent gets to also see your top card, and I’m not sure how many Goblins have activated abilities you want to take advantage of. The most important aspect of the card is being able to cast goblins off the top of your deck.

Crash Through

Crash Through

Grade: C+

Crash Through can go nicely into red prowess based decks we see in Modern and Pioneer. It also plays well alongside Runaway Steam-Kin. The other direction you can take this is an Arclight Phoenix and Crackling Drake style deck where all you really want is a one mana cantrip. This is a role players type card, but it definitely can be useful in the right deck.

Double Vision

Double Vision

Grade: D

Well we want a deck that has lots of instant and sorceries in it for starters. You want to have an instant to copy on the opponents turn, and sorcery or instant to copy on your own turn. This is actually quite a powerful card that can be built around, but the problem is you need to make significant sacrifices in order to build around it. This makes the fact that it’s a five mana enchantment that can be dealt with fairly easily by an opposing Elspeth Conquerors Death or countersell more pronounced.

Fiery Emancipation

Fiery Emancipation

Grade: E

It’s basically the evolution of Furnace of Wrath. The problem is that Furnace of Wrath never really saw play. You want your six mana enchantment to make an impact on the board, and in this case it doesn’t. Not only do you need to be able to cast this, but then also need additional burn to follow it up with, which is a huge ask once getting to the later stages of the game.

Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge

Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge

Grade: C-

I’m impressed by how well designed this card is. First of all, we can always block, which makes Gadrak a reasonably sized blocker against any green creature deck. Then if we are able to start fueling up the graveyard by either sacrificing creatures, or having them trade in combat, we get a bunch of treasures, which is definitely useful, and allows Gadrak to be able to attack. Despite how sweet of a card this is it isn’t obvious what the home for it is, which means it might not see much play. A synergistic place for it is a sacrifice deck, but it has a lot of card it needs to compete with there.

Heartfire Immolator

Heartfire Immolator

Grade: C

Heartfire Immolator is very close to being good enough to become a staple two drop in Mono Red Aggro, and maybe after the next set rotation it will be. This card wants to be played alongside lots of noncreature spells, so it would fit well alongside Crash Through for instance. Being able to actually cash it in as a removal spell provides some nice flexibility.

Sanctum of Shattered Heights

Sanctum of Shattered Heights

Grade: D

In a shrine focused deck this is actually a very important card to play, because it allows you to discard your excess shrines. The Sanctums are legendary so normally drawing two of the same one is really bad. In this case being able to use extra lands and shrines as cheap removal is pretty nice. This is all of course tied to the Shrine deck gaining some popularity, which I’m skeptical of.

Scorching Dragonfire

Scorching Dragonfire

Grade: B

Scorching Dragonfire is already a prominent removal spell in Standard, so this gives us a good idea of what the card is capable of. It has enough value to maindeck, because it can target planeswalkers, but is more often used as a sideboard card against creature based decks.

Shock

Shock

Grade: B-

Another burn spell reprinted. Shock is an all-time staple, that sometimes sees play in Standard, as we have most recently seen it in red aggro and Blue-Red Drakes style decks. If you want a cheap and inexpensive spell to kill a small creature this is it. You don’t really want to be using Shock to deal damage to the opponent most of the time.

Soul Sear

Soul Sear

Grade: B-

Soul Sear can scale up to deal with larger creatures which is going to make it better against green creatures than the more inexpensive burn options. Also, being able to pick off something like a Teferi, Time Raveler on five loyalty can definitely come up. Soul Sear is definitely in the mix of burn options worth considering, and could end up being played over a card like Scorching Dragonfire if green creature decks are popular.

Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner

Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner

Grade: C-

This is one of those cards that’s trying to do a lot of different things, but it also doesn’t line up particularly well in any specific deck. You have to craft a very specific board position where loading up your hand on cards by getting through with multiple creatures is going to work out. It may be at its best in straight up Mono Red Aggro decks as a way to break through a board stall, and deal those last few points of damage.

Terror of the Peaks

Terror of the Peaks

Grade C+

So, we have a dragon that is going to make the opponent lose three life for casting a spot removal spell on it, and then if left unchecked it can get pretty out of control. Not only do you have a big dragon to attack your opponent with, but additional creatures are going to allow you to start dealing damage to things, which could certainly end up being the opponents life total. I can only imagine what having two Terror of the Peaks in play would feel like. Part of me wishes it did have haste, but it would be a little too good if that was the case.

Thrill of Possibility

Thrill of Possibility

Grade: D

Thrill of possibility is already Standard legal, and sees a bit of play in Izzet Arclight Phoenix decks. This is a card we won’t see a ton of, but it has its uses as a discard outlet, if you are looking to put something in the graveyard.

Traitorous Greed

Traitorous Greed

Grade: D-

Whether Traitorous Greed is better than Act of Treason or not is debatable. Act of Treason does see play in the sideboard of Rakdos Sacrifice and Mono Red Aggro from time to time. Taking away a big creature of the opponents to attack for the win is the key here. I think I prefer Act of Treason to Traitorous Greed, though if you do have four lands in play you would almost always rather cast Traitorous Greed.

Transmogrify

Transmogrify

Grade: C

This card is very reminiscent of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast. I think decks that play this will be trying to cast it on one of their own tokens a lot of the time. It can be used on an opposing threat though which provides some nice flexibility. You could actually play Lukka and Transmogrify in the same deck to have more ways of getting a key creature onto the battlefield. I don’t see it replacing Lukka though, since Lukka being able to be activated multiple times over the course of a couple turns is really nice.

Volcanic Salvo

Volcanic Salvo

Grade: C-

If I’m playing a Gruul mirror match I’m going to want this card to potentially blow my opponent out in the middle of the game. Against control though it’s not particularly exciting. Oftentimes control and combo decks won’t let you flood the board with a ton of powerful creatures, and even if you do, there might not be anything you want to deal six damage to on the other side of the board.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield

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