Kaldheim Limited Set Review: Red
Remember to check out Introduction and White first, for all the background and specifics behind this review!
I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began playing Magic, almost ten years ago now. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 40k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic many times. Self-reflection and forming good habits are paramount to Limited improvement, and those themes feature in many of my articles and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide; consider booking a session today if you’d like feedback tailored to you that you can really put into practice!
Ever since my first draft in New Phyrexia, I’ve been hooked on Limited – there’s no feeling quite like cracking, even virtually, those first packs of a new set to see what deck you can put together. Since then, scarcely a day has passed by in which the game hasn’t been on my mind. Most of my experience has been in paper, where I drafted every set extensively on release, and entered as many competitive events of it as were available, often doing rather well for myself! Online, I’ve scaled the climb to Mythic in Limited and Constructed alike, and earned a fair few trophies over on MTGO. Limited is one of the hardest things to pick up in Magic, given the innumerable deck combinations and the sub-game that is draft itself, but learning it has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had playing the game.
- S: Ridiculous bomb: has a huge immediate impact on the game and threatens to dominate it if unanswered. (Emeria’s Call, Elder Gargaroth, Luminous Broodmoth)
- A: Very powerful card: approaches bomb status, pulls you strongly into its colour. (A+: Maul of the Skyclaves, A: Scute Swarm, A-: Jace, Mirror Mage)
- B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its colour. (B+: Journey to Oblivion, B: Deadly Alliance B-: Kargan Intimidator)
- C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut. (Sea Gate Restoration, Deathbloom Thallid, Dead Weight)
- C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut. (Farsight Adept, Alpine Watchdog, Honey Mammoth)
- C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time. (Living Tempest, Legion’s Judgment, Raugrin Crystal)
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot. (D+: Inordinate Rage, D: Utility Knife, D-: Sizzling Barrage)
- F: Mostly to totally unplayable cards. (Forsaken Monument, Miscast, Blazing Volley since it’s a sideboard card)
Grades are based on maindeck power level; if a card is good in the sideboard, we will mention it in the review. Every grade can have a sub-grade, but the differences are most pronounced in the C-Category, so they have their own description. Beyond that, a B+ means it’s almost an A, but not quite.
It’s going to be hard to have a creature that’s bigger than Arni in play for most of his attacks, and to have them unable to block him, but Red does have Giants and Gruul will certainly have some beefy bodies to pair with him. The fact that Arni can immediately attack for 4 or 5 with the combination of his abilities is pretty nice. Treat it like a very minor and conditional ability on a 3/3 haste for 3, which is a fine statline to begin with. Arni is a pretty high C+ but I don’t think the ability matters enough to make it to B-, at least for now.
I don’t expect the boast ability to come into play much, but a 3/3 haste is a very good rate anyway, and the boost isn’t too unreasonable with Red’s fair share of giants. It doesn’t force you into Red but it’ll often be welcome.
This strikes me as a powerful and frightening 2 drop, because the ability is so free on it and means it retains value even in the later game. Everything having haste means that a lot of creatures will deal chip damage, your opponents will be forced to hold back stuff, even fliers if they’re on a low life total, and the cost of not attacking with your 2/2 that might not have a good attack anyway is low, since whatever you give haste will usually be an upgrade.
You do need to be a beatdown deck (not necessarily aggressive deck, I do mean something different by that!) and to be ahead to make good use of this card, and while that seems to align well with what Red is doing, remember that you won’t always be able to bank on that in Draft, and that you can still win many games where you’re initially behind, even in those decks. That does harm this card’s grade a little, but it has an okay statline so it will still be doing something in those games.
Red’s common get a strong start – Goblin Motivator came out of m19 as a key component of many Red decks and this card is poised to do the same, although there will be some tension about the 2 power and mana cost more closely competing with the value of haste. However given the stat line is much more relevant later in the game I’ll be happy to take the stats early then give a few giants haste as the game progresses.
Ironic. He could give others haste, but not himself.
A 4 mana 4/2 that pings for 1, which is the floor of this card, is already quite good in Draft – it comes in and takes out a damaged creature or mops up an x/1. Obviously the goal is to get to 2-3 damage, though, at which point you’re straight up killing a very important creature and don’t need prior damage, and the card is totally absurd if you can do that – it’s an easy 2 for 1 and huge tempo swing. Also, do note that this can hit players – many of these effects can’t, and it’s a fantastic upside!
This card’s most natural home is in Izzet, since Blue has a lot of other Giants and Wizards at common – there are only two other Giants in Red that’ll be easy to pick up in every draft, and one of them costs 7 mana. If you’re in any other Red pair, you actually want to be counting Berserkers rather than Giants or Wizards – Red has five of those at common, and there are a bunch more in Black, so this card is still great but you need to do more work outside Izzet to get it to two or three damage. Still, I think it should be easy enough to make it work naturally with so many Berserkers, and most of the common ones are pretty good, so I’m giving it a high grade – I think whatever colour pair you play, there will be a decent plan for it, since this set has a lot of the same creature types.
Flametongue Kavu leaves it’s long lineage of similar cards, and this is one you should be excited to pick. Even at one damage this can pick off something after combat, and your average deck should have at least some tribal crossover to power it up to 2 or 3 damage, especially if you can get some changelings in tow. You don’t need to prioritise tribal synergies unless you get a few of these, but if two cards are equal and one trends towards a tribe, having picked this card makes for a good tiebreaker.
Birgi, God of Storytelling
One of the rare Gods in the set being a powerful combination of two good cards anyway? Wow, say it ain’t so. Birgi is a fantastic card which makes some of the boast commons like Tuskeri Firewalker and Hagi Mob much more frightening – when Hagi Mob is dealing two damage or you’re getting two cards per turn with Tuskeri Firewalker, things’ll get out of hand really quickly. The extra mana you gain will allow you to drop your hand sooner, but you will be out of gas quickly without Firewalker or some other way to convert your boasts into card advantage – it’s a good effect in Limited, but not nuts or anything, since you do need to cast at least two spells a turn to make good use of it, or have something to sink spare mana into. This is the mode you’ll play when you have any Boasts at all or want to be applying pressure/blocking early on.
The other mode, Harnfel, is absolutely amazing in the late game and will quickly bury them in card advantage, converting all your topdecks into live draws and often multiple cards. It’s very difficult to imagine an opponent beating Harnfel if they don’t kill you or produce some bomb you can’t beat in short order. In best-of-three, you should expect them to bring artifact hate for it, in which case you might just want to cast Birgi more, and in best-of-one, it’ll just run away with the game.
This is another modal card where the good cases cover each other really well, since Harnfel would be awkward in games where you’re being beaten down or you’re trying to attack yourself, or when you want to support your Boast cards that are already winning the game, but Birgi does all that while still giving you access to Harnfel whenever you need it. In a dynamic format like draft, where games go so differently and are so hard to predict, versatility is king, and this card really delivers.
Birgi is a great example of why the new form of modal cards are so powerful. The horn is a very, very powerful ability but at five mana – Turning your bad cards into two new ones literally never gets old until you run out of cards as a perpetual card advantage machine. It would be a little clunky to add to your deck considering it doesn’t do anything when it comes down until you lay in further investment. But when the going gets tough, the tough get Birgi and having an option to improve your board state as a fail-state for the artifact or to fill the curve is incredible. And she’s still a strong card with a solid statline, an ability that can help you dump your hand and the mana to use those boast abilities you’re now doubling up. She comes together very well and it’s hard pressed to find a time one side won’t help progress your game plan, even if neither is an A by itself..
This isn’t a card I’m super excited about, because 3/2 is a really bad statline on a 3 drop, even with haste. You’ll be trading down with a 2 drop some of the time with this, or just won’t want to attack. However, it’s true that in a Foretell format, your opponents can usually afford to play fewer 2s, so maybe you’ll be able to exploit that fact – it is pretty devastating when they have to trade their Foretell creature down with this, to avoid taking too much damage. This is a pretty low C for me – I would’ve given it a C- in most sets, but I’m a little more hopeful for it here.
Arni’s Younger brother, the loss of 1 toughness really hurts as you’re much more likely to risk trading down on turn 3. This cards power will depend in part on how often we see the turn 2 foretell, as without meeting resistance this is just what your aggressive Red deck wants if you can build around it.
This is a 6/4 for 4 that has an immediate impact with some of the other cards in the set, but there aren’t actually that many at common outside of Izzet (the 7 drop is hard to set up with this, but they better have a removal spell at that point). Still, if you’re Izzet and have Berg Striders or you have some of the uncommon Giants, specifically Doomskar Titan or Basalt Ravager, this will absolutely slaughter them, and the failcase is still pretty good.
The ability essential means you get a 6/4 for 4 mana which is an amazing deal in Red, and any other Giant threatens to end the game in short order. If you see this early consider pairing with Blue or Green due to their multiple changelings at common, although Red still has enough Giants that you can find him a friend.
This card is really expensive and being at 7 mana makes your Giant synergies really awkward – when you’re having to wait four or five turns to enable those, they’re not nearly as exciting. Remember that the difference between 6 and 7 mana will often be multiple turns in Limited. Still, when I do play my 7 drop, I really want it to have a massive impact and this delivers – they will really want enchantment-based or exile removal, or they’re in a lot of trouble, because this will 3 for 1 on most boards.
A lot of Red decks will end up cutting this if they’re trying to be aggressive (though, as per my distinction between beatdown and aggressive, this will be a fine curve-topper as a 1-of in some beatdown decks) or lower curve, or when they just have other high end – if you have 2 6 drops that are better, you probably just want to rely on those, and certainly if you have 3 – but some decks will be happy to have it, especially when you throw ramp in Gruul into the equation.
7 mana places this a little out of reach of the average Red deck as the colour possesses zero ways to get there faster or more consistently, but this is one of the best uses for the mana at common you can find. The body demands an answer if you can resolve it, and once they do whatever you hit is going to make it a painful process. This type of mana cost is usually steeply opposed to Red’s game plan, and certainly a lot of Red decks need to steer clear, but this is one a strong reason to go big Red in this set.
4 mana 4/4 is a good statline in Limited, and not being able to block alone is very different from just not being able to block, since you can just leave a 2/2 or whatever back the turn you play this and force them to trade down. I expect this to make the cut in most decks, even if they’re not thrilled about it. It does incentivise you to play more 2 drops if you have these and are debating between your final cuts.
Restrictive blocking is a sizable downside as his body won’t be stopping any aggression against you, but if you’re attacking or late in the game it’ll do you well. The restriction does harm the grade, but a 4/4 at 4 tends to do enough even with this difficulty.
Crush the Weak
Generally, this kind of effect isn’t super exciting outside of specific sets and decks – the problem is that plenty of your opponents won’t have significantly more x/2s than you, and attacking first to enable this is a really awkward thing to do – what if they play around this or a different burn spell, and trade 2 drops off rather than blocking with their bigger guys? When you’re making obviously bad attacks, it’s not hard for an opponent to figure out that you probably have something!
I liked Cinderclasm a lot more, because it had two big upsides over this: a) at instant speed, you could set it up by blocking first, and you just had a lot more general utility. b) Cinderclasm gave you the option to deal 1 damage if that was better for you – and it often was. While I do see this belonging in a Giants or Gruul deck where almost none of your creatures die to it, and Foretell is a nice small upside (maybe you can chain it with haste creatures or other burn spells that way), I’m not excited to take it very highly and expect to cut it in most of my decks. This is a nice sideboard card in best-of-three, but worse in a set with Foretell and lots of big creatures.
Only some Red decks are going to want this, and you’ll need to sideboard it out in a reasonable amount of matchups, but this type of effect can’t be replaced and Red has more toughness this time around than the average set. You need to make sure a good portion of your creatures survive the hit so not every Red deck wants this which does harm the grade, but it’s an effect that tends to deliver.
3 mana 4 damage is a fantastic rate, more so at instant speed, and Foretell is strong upside that will enable some really devastating turns. This is a strong splash card, so you’re going to have some competition for it, and this is a great reason to pick up red snow duals in other colours.
4 damage is a great place to be in this format, only failing to kill 7 commons in the set. The mana cost is also very attractive with the addition of foretell, meaning it won’t be hard to fit this into any gameplan. Standard Red removal, although notably doesn’t hit the face. Red doesn’t seem to have the reach it does in other sets, forcing you to find other ways to close the game out.
A 6 mana 5/4 haste that pumps your team is a fantastic rate – it enables a ton of damage out of nowhere and will often end games in one swing. This is a card that if you’re far ahead against Red in Limited, you really want to play around to avoid having the game snatched out from under you! Foretell is especially good here, because sometimes you won’t have that 6th land drop, or you’ll have a 2 drop to play first on turn 7 (or another Foretell card to flip up!) and then that will gain haste and be buffed up too, to make for even deadlier swings.
This is the kind of card you can get a lot of value from holding onto and waiting for the right moment for, if you’re in a stalled board or somewhere else where the body isn’t doing much – it’s worth taking some time to set it up, if it just wins you the game. If you have to draw some creatures and play them first, then so be it.
6 drops tend to be a little costly in Red but you do play some, and foretelling for 5 hits the curve just right. Pumping the team and swinging for haste on turn 5 will threaten to end a lot of games in a swift fashion, and if you get to play another cheap foretold card, the double haste can be backbreaking.
This card is the total nuts – it dominates the board on turn 2, and then it forces them to leave something pretty big back on turn 5 onwards, at which point you can cash it in for a Dragon anyway. If you have ways to push it through (e.g. end of turn burn their blocker, untap and attack), it’ll just win you the game, but even the base case of great 2 drop that upgrades into a Dragon is fantastic. Realistically, they must kill this card as soon as they can.
This grade might be a little high but this does everything I want a Red card to do. The first strike means it’s going to get through a lot of blockers early game, especially given its synergy with burn spells (you can deal first strike damage then cast a frost bite before getting hit back). Then, when the body starts to wane in usefulness, you can trade it in for a dragon that’s going to cause even more problems, even if you accept the Berserker is dying in the process. And if it somehow survives an attack and untaps, the game is basically over. This works especially well with the cheap foretell cards, as if you can attack and have a plethora of options to support it, being left at 1 mana gives this more chance of surviving than in most sets.
But really, I expect on turn 5 that this will be suiciding pretty often, and I’m more than happy with that.
I think Dual Strike demands too much of your deck to be a consistently good card, especially in a set like this which is rather creature-dominated – even Blue has more creatures here than in most sets. With this sort of card, it’s easy to imagine the great case of copying a premium removal spell, and forget all the times in rots in your hand and doesn’t do anything. The number of good spell targets in the average deck is pretty low for this sort of effect, since expensive spells and counterspells don’t work, and there’s also the fact that sometimes they won’t have two good targets for removal or you won’t want to copy the spell right now, but you’ll be forced to since the card isn’t doing anything otherwise. Ultimately the payoff for doing all of this work is you get a copy of one of your spells – it’s a 2 for 2, not like you’re comboing off or gaining a massive advantage as opposed to just casting a creature (which this will usually replace in your deck) alongside your spell.
The Foretell cost is really good on this card, because it would be straight up uncastable some large proportion of the time otherwise – you’d need triple Red to copy a Red spell with it. Ultimately, I think some rare decks can play this card, like those that have multiple copies of Dwarven Reinforcements or Demon Bolt alongside several other spells (minimum 7-8 spells total, preferably more) that fit these requirements, but the vast majority should stay far away.
The default state is never playing this in your deck, but it does represent another copy of a few powerful spells that mean it has to be at least worth considering. I want at least 9 good spells this can copy before I consider it – not just targets. It won’t be often but some decks will at least be content with this card, but assuming you’re never going to play it in Kaldheim will be a good place to start.
I’m not nearly as fond of the creature half of this card as the other equipment in the cycle – a 5/1 Trample is really not good for 5 mana, so a lot of the value has to be in the equipment. Luckily the equipment does perform, making anything a very real threat, but it costs a full 6 to play and equip. Still, I think this will overperform as a strong curve-topper for a beatdown deck, giving it longevity in the late game and making use of the creatures it has on the board that aren’t quite as useful anymore. I have it at high C+ and could see moving it up, but I think Red has a lot of good high end this set, so I’m not sure I would prioritise it enough for B-.
Unlike most of the cards in this cycle, I’m not terribly happy with the rate I get on first cast – a 5 mana 5/1 trampler is a card I would play 0% of the time, and with the hefty equip cost, it’s rare you won’t want the free dwarf. However the equipment it leaves behind does enable any card to be threatening enough that I’m still going to be happy to put this in my deck initially.
This is a solid rate, and token generators are hard to come by this set. Beatdown decks always like go-wide cards, even if it’s not their primary plan, since you want to set up that legendary and devastating “attack with all”, and so I think they’ll want this card quite a lot. Foretell is a really nice addition to this card, and I think you’ll often want to Foretell on turn 2 and play this on turn 3, since 2/1s are at their best earlier in the game and you’ll probably just get value trading with their 2 drop.
If you already happen to have a Doomskar Titan, then you want to take these a little higher – that is a devastating 7 mana combo. White has some group buffs that really help this card, and it’s especially good with equipment, so I think this is an unusually good set for it all in all. It’s still a low C+ and I could see moving it down, however.
There aren’t many cards that give you multiple bodies in this set so this does offer a unique effect with flexibility in casting. The one toughness does hurt but there’s a minimum amount of token generators in this set to punish it, so I can imagine a copy fitting into most of my Red decks.
This card strikes me as very solid, because just getting one free 2/1 and trading with their 2 drop is something I’m very happy to do on turn 3. If you can’t set up decent attacks for it, then it’s pretty mediocre, but it’s really not that hard to do that in a Foretell set – if you can Foretell a Demon Bolt on their blocker and then make a free 2/1, I think you’re coming out really ahead on that exchange. The ability is inefficient but really it’s only asking 1 more mana than you would pay for a 2 drop, and the 2/1 can trade for those/attack about as well as one, even if you wouldn’t actually play a 2 mana vanilla 2/1.
Still, this does take some set-up, and it’s really doing nothing if it gets blanked by a blocker – but then at least they’re holding a bigger creature back than it. Like all good Boast creatures, it’s especially good with Raven Wings and Rune of Flight (yes, I know, you’re getting sick of hearing that!), but the rate on the card is just good anyway.
A two drop that generates advantage each turn is exactly where I want to be, and you’ll rarely have anything better to do on turn 3 than make a free 2/1. If you trade with the attack that’s still great value early in the game, and if you survive a few attacks it will take over the game.
This is a perfectly serviceable one drop, and I’m happy to play it in my aggressive decks (better in the more dedicated aggressive decks than midrangier beatdown in this case, but I’ll still play it in the latter sometimes) – it will chip away for a few points of damage, hold equipment well, and then this ability is legitimately quite scary in the late game. A 3/1 first strike is pretty hard to block, and they’ll often be forced to double or triple block it, in which case your tricks and burn spells will kick them into next week.
Threat of activation is a big deal with this sort of card, but remember that a savvy opponent will sometimes decide to waste your mana if their 1/2 or 2/2 isn’t doing anything anyway – it isn’t always a good idea to attack with this and set yourself up for that, because a late game deck doesn’t always mind going down a card if it means you have to spend your entire turn. It’s also worth noting that there are a bunch of common haste creatures in Red, which make this a little worse – you can’t attack with it and get value from that ability.
I think this is a solid C in beatdown decks, but most decks are not that in Limited, and you really won’t want to play this that much in your big midrangey Red decks, which I think is a solid path for the colour to take in the Giants/bigger creature/slower format I expect this to be.
While this pup will happily eat any dwarf it sees for breakfast and I’d go so far as siding it in if I saw a few (say against other Red decks, since there are a lot of 2/1s in this set). Still, its mana ability is a little too costly in a set with a lot of ways to spend your mana. Aggressive decks will be boasting and looking to cast a spell and, if your boasts add up, you’re left without mana to do anything else. 3/1 first strike on the offensive is hard to block once the mana is spare and the threat of activation will let you get 1 damage in for quite a few turns early game, but the one damage isn’t quite relevant enough.
I think to get a lot of Boast activations off requires too much work of you for me to give this a really high grade. Every time I attack with a Boast creature and activate its effect, I am incentivising my opponent to block and trade stuff off. To keep that up, I need trick after trick or removal spell after removal spell, and I need to pump all my mana into that, and it’s not like there are millions of Boast creatures at common in Red. Still, this starts off with a decent statline and only needs one counter to be above rate, so I am definitely happy with it.
Boast is a mechanic that’s not really that aggressive, because it forces you to use your mana in some awkward inefficient ways – it’s actually a value mechanic, and it rewards you for being ahead and not needing to add that much to the board. I don’t think the payoffs are a naturally powerful inclusion in aggro decks as a result – a card like Fearless Pup, which is an aggressive card, and this don’t play that well together because you don’t actually want to spend 3 mana to deal 2 extra damage – they’re just not going to block and you won’t have that lying around until the late game where you’ve already exhausted your other cards, and your aggro deck is at its weakest.
Most of the boast abilities in the set are relatively cheap, and taking a turn to activate two or three at once will make this reap a lot of value for a two drop at more or less any point in the game. If you manage to boast on curve the raider will often grow ahead of whatever curve your opponent is able to throw at it, forcing some unfavourable blocks you can take advantage of. I consider this a pretty low B.
I think this card is mostly just Shock, but you can get there if you’re Izzet (which is looking increasingly like the colour pair that Red wants most anyway) or Gruul, and Lightning Bolt is still great in the late game while Shock is pretty medium. I would ordinarily give Shock a B- but I’m giving this a C+ because I don’t think this is that great a set for it – many of the creatures outsize it, from Giants to all the Foretell cards, 2 drops at their worst in a set with Foretell, and I don’t expect to have the Snow requirement on until the late game, even in Izzet.
This is a high C+ and I could see moving it up if Shock is better than I think right now.
Red has a grand total of zero snow permanents in the set other than mountains so I wouldn’t count on getting to three when I pick this card. 2 damage is enough that I want a few and if you do happen into some snow lands or team up into a snow deck and hit the magic three this rises up to a B and is a reason to take snow mountains over something mediocre at any point in the draft, just in case you do get a few of these. There isn’t much demand for Snow in Red, other than to fuel this card, so you’re a little more likely to be passed Snow Mountains and Red duals.
This is a truly absurd card, having one of the best offensive statlines of any card in the set, and leaving people trying to race you totally in the dust. It immediately refunds 2 mana off itself, allowing you to double spell the same turn you cast it and get even further ahead, and it fixes for your splashes. Then they must immediately kill it, or you untap and have up to 9 mana next turn… I doubt there is a better turn 5 play in the whole set.
Between Boast and Foretell, I think you’ll be using your mana for longer in this set than most, and this card is nuts even if you’re out of gas.
Once you get to 5 mana, the treasures are doing a little less in limited than you might be able to abuse in constructed, but suddenly jumping to 7 or 9 mana on turn 6 is going to throw any boastful issues out the window and set up a turn that’s hard to recover from, and even enable a third colour. And at worst if you’re at turn 12 and the mana is useless, 4 power with haste in the air is going to be welcome in all but the rarest of scenarios.
This is a solid Boast card, with a fine attacking statline, and the ability to ping down annoying creatures, otherwise improve your attacks, or enable your burn spells to kill bigger things. It’s worth noting that these pair quite well, since getting to shoot down x/2s is far better than x/1s, but there are only so many 5 drops you’re going to want to run, and Red has a lot of competition this set.
This card gets truly absurd with one specific uncommon, Rune of Mortality in Rakdos, where it can kill a creature every turn and enable its own attacks. You should certainly take the Mob higher if you already have a Rune, but you can’t expect to get one specific uncommon in most Drafts (so don’t do it the other way round). I think this is a pretty high C.
The body is a strong rate for Red and the boast ability threatens to seriously mess with most combat situations – getting one damage wherever you want enables a lot more attacks than you might think. You need to make sure when you attack that you don’t need that 1 damage in multiple places, but it’ll do work. Remember that you can activate boast abilities at any point, so if you’re not killing something immediately, you have until the end step to activate as long as Hagi doesn’t die, so you can make sure your damage goes through first.
Fissure Wizard is a fine card, but worse in a set with Foretell because it gets blanked so quickly and 2 drops in general are weaker. It’s nice to enable your Berserker synergies for the few uncommon payoffs, but other than that I suspect this card will get cut a lot.
I think he’s still angry that you have to discard before you draw compared to Blue. Despite this card feeling out of place it does at least make your bog-standard 2 drop have some versatility late-game, just remember to hold a land when he’s in your deck if you don’t need it.
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
With three Red Dwarves at common (two of which are good, and one which is medium – which is important, you don’t want to put bad cards in your deck to enable narrow synergies) and a fourth in Dwarven Reinforcements (which this card is great with), and three more in White, I’m pretty excited for this card – it just makes all of those cards decently more threatening attackers.
Getting some free treasure tokens is nice for fixing and to enable splashes, but I wouldn’t count on that last mode doing much all that often – even if you get to five treasures, there are no dragons at common or uncommon, and even the best artifact in your deck is likely to be decent rather than busted (and it’s not a guarantee that you’ll have one – it’s mostly just equipment, and the common ones are just okay). I think it will happen sometimes though, since there are just so many Dwarves, and it’ll be pretty sweet.
I’m a fan of Magda when she’s alone – if she attacks, trades and lets you play a 4 drop that’s a win. Boosting up other dwarves and benefiting from that will lead to a lot of mana very quickly. Five treasures will likely never happen unless you have another source, as if you’ve attacked 5 times, your opponent is probably already in a bad place. Plus you actually need a good artifact or dragon, which aren’t in the largest supply. Still without the last ability it’s still sweet and if you ever get a Goldspan dragon with the ability it’ll be a day to remember. (It’s the only dragon in Red!)
Open the Omenpaths
Oh hey, a modal car- nope, neither of these modes are worth playing.
Two bad options can often make a playable card from flexibility alone. Two terrible options don’t add up quite the same.
Provoke the Trolls
This is kind of like a split card with three different modes – three to a creature, 5 damage to the face if you have a big enough creature to survive and you’re not worried about your creature being killed, or 3 damage to the face. Mode A is almost always the one you cast, but having access to the other two modes is great, and offers you unconditional reach which Red doesn’t have access to much of this set (by which I mean the ability to finish off a weakened opponent, not the keyword). It’s rather inefficient in everything it does, and 3 damage might not always kill what you want it to in a Foretell/big creatures set, but I think you’ll still want to take it reasonably highly.
I need you to promise me something right now. Before you cast this card into open mana, make absolutely you can deal with whatever you target if your opponent boosts its toughness. This is not the card you want as your last line of defence against an attacker. However, 3 damage to anything for 4 mana is still an okay rate compared to the rest of the set, and enough cards in Red have 3 toughness that you can employ this as a surprise finisher. I would never take this card over say, Demon Bolt, but it can provoke some interesting gameplay patterns!
This is a 5/4 for 5 that shoots your opponent for 2 a turn while in play, and then sometimes you’ll actually have a Giant, and then it’ll do that even when killed or milled. That’s a lot of inevitability for free on a fine body! A lot of the removal in the format outside Red is enchantment-based, which isn’t that good against this, since the ability is a really rough thing to have in play for more than a turn or two. Not letting them gain life is nice, and will be relevant in a few spots, but doesn’t change the grade.
You can raise this to an A if you have a few giants or changelings as alone the stats are about par for the mana cost, but the persistent damage adds up very quickly – if you get to have this active in your graveyard there aren’t many games that will last long. There isn’t much lifegain for me to care about the first line of text, but the consistent damage on a good body is strong and it’ll feel downright unfair if this triggers in your graveyard, which isn’t too hard in Gruul or Izzet.
I don’t think this is a playable card in Limited – even if 1 in 10 games, you happen to have two Vehicles and Equipment in play, it’ll do nothing or just make one 2/1 for 4 mana in the other 9. Really, even getting two Dwarves is not worth the risk of it doing nothing if you did have a crazy number of Vehicles and Equipment – you would need to get three before you were really happy, and that’s just not happening. Cost reducing your equip costs really isn’t worth that much either.
You need to have at least 2 of equipment or vehicles on board for it to be better than a common, which means about 6 or 7 in your deck to have any realistic hope. And no deck wants that many vehicles or artifacts. Don’t play this.
I think some of the decks with lots of boast creatures will want this card, just because they’ll want tricks, but this is a weak one – it doesn’t do anything when you’re behind, it’s vulnerable to instant speed removal, and the payoff is you get a 1 for 1 and a little damage through. Perhaps a double spell beatdown deck in Boros or Rakdos will want it too, but this is a bad card without a lot of synergy or unless you’re a dedicated aggro deck. This is a low D+, which is probably overrating this a little.
Restricting combat tricks to attacking and costs 2 mana isn’t where you want to be most of the time. It is a good rate in Red if blocking is off the menu, but in the games where your opponent is slightly faster (which happens in even the best aggro decks), this will drag you down and isn’t enough of an advantage when you’re the aggressor, over just another creature. If you end up low on removal, I would reluctantly play one or two to get through but I’m not excited.
Rune of Speed
With Foretell cards, I think you will be able to get the upside of playing a creature on the cheap and giving it haste often enough, and at that point this is sort of like deal 4 damage, give a creature +1/+0 permanently, and draw a card for 2 mana, which is decent enough. The failcase on this, where you don’t use the haste, is quite bad and iwll come up a lot, but giving something +1/+0 permanently is at least an effect that will help your fliers and first strike cards out a little. I see this as being okay filler in beatdown decks with foretell creatures, fliers, and Fearless Pups, but never really that exciting.
What raises this from D+ to C- for me is the ability to put it on an equipment, at which point something like Goldvein Pick or Raven Wings is giving +2/+1 and haste, which is really scary – equipment gets a ton better with power buffs. Still, this is by far the worst Rune.
Requiring two extra mana to gain haste is pretty unexciting and the power doesn’t make up for it. If you can put this on a goldvein pick it gets more exciting with the ability to grant haste to multiple things, but combining two mediocre cards to make a decent one isn’t really where I want to be – especially when there’s a common that is better for giving things haste, so most decks will already have access to this effect! The power boost means it should always be at least respectible but still a lower value compared to the other runes on average.
Seize the Spoils
So this is better Tormenting Voice (since you can just use the Treasure right away) that gives you some free fixing – sure, you can’t cast it when you’re stuck on 2, but whatever. I’ve never been that excited by Tormenting Voice, because it’s the sort of card that rots in your hand until the late game when you’ve been saving up a land, and then it has a really medium effect for all that investment.
Still, I think fixing your splashes and the fact that this ramps you to 5 the turn after is enough upside that I’m kind of into playing one of these in my slower, midrangier Red decks with splashes – I think it does enough to warrant actually a filler rather than bad grade, at least in terms of where I’ll be picking it. Remember that your splash sources being one-shots is pretty awkward – you can’t count this as a full source and will still need lands alongside it (sometimes you will absolutely need to spend the Treasure on other stuff), but if you have two Treasure producers, that can be close enough to one source.
The extra mana doesn’t really matter most of the time when the creature lets you ramp or fix into another colour, which is nice. It also makes pitching lands easier as, if you do fail to draw a land, you still have the free mana to play with. However, it’s still card parity and I’d only really be excited to play this if I needed just a few extra pseudo-sources for a third colour.
Shackles of Treachery
This isn’t a playable maindeck card, outside of very rare Rakdos decks with like four or five ways to sacrifice things (which is hard in a set with so little fodder, but maybe doable since Red has more token generation than the other colours).
This is a really strong sideboard card, since it has a lot more common cases than Act of Treason – which you can board in against Green decks with big creatures (importantly, you need them to have big creatures and not a lot that can stop them dealing damage – if they also have tokens and can chump, or those creatures don’t have trample, then it’s a lot worse) as a beatdown deck, or against matchups where you’re sure the game will come down to a race (say against fliers), but is never that great. In this format, Act of Treason gets a bit better anyway, since you get to use boast effects, but using this as an equipment hoser alongside all that is legitimately very real.
This is the weirdest act of treason we’ve seen in a while. There isn’t a sacrifice theme in this set which is what these cards need to be good, but if your opponent shows you a good equipment or two it becomes a very powerful sideboard card – stealing an opponents creature can be a good tempo swing but often isn’t worth the loss of the card. Kill an equipment and it’s just great.
This doesn’t hit enough good targets to ever be worth maindecking – destroying lands is not good in Limited, because you can’t massively and immediately capitalise on the mana advantage you gained, like you can in Constructed. It’s a pretty mediocre sideboard card too, but you can bring it in as an efficient answer to really important artifacts (make sure they have at least 2-3 decent targets, and preferably that one of them is an actual bomb).
Somebody over at wizards R&D had a good chuckle naming such an inefficient card as a literal success. Sideboard in against game-winning artifacts and avoid otherwise. It’s worth noting that some of the best artifacts in the sets are the modal DFC’s that have a creature half as well, so if you sideboard this in and your opponent just casts the creature half you’ll be very sad, so even a sideboard grade might be too generous.
I suspect this card will be 5 mana 6 damage in most cases, since there are only two common Giants in Red (and one of them costs 7 mana so it doesn’t actually combo with this), so you really need to be Izzet (which has changelings), have uncommon ones or have multiple copies of Craven Hulk. Still, when you do get there, it’ll be totally absurd – 2 mana 6 damage is the best rate you can get for a removal spell – and when you don’t, it’s still much better than Turn to Slag or Fiery Intervention since instant speed, the former which was a C and the latter which was a C+.
5 mana for 6 damage is a new territory for Red and while not terribly efficient it’s a rate I’m happy to pay. And considering there are 8 common giants and changelings casting this for 2 mana isn’t out of the question which becomes very efficient. However one of these is 7 mana and 6 aren’t in Red, which means you should prepare to cast this for 5 mana most of the time. Four of those are in Blue which does restrict you a little, so lean towards that colour pairing if Squashes are flowing.
I can only imagine they have this weird mill ability so that you can’t set this card up in Constructed by countering your own spell.. this card is awful in Limited, will put you a card down, and potentially leave you with a scarier problem. If it were actual removal rather than a counterspell, so you didn’t have to hold it up and wait for the right spot, it would be bad but not unplayable. As it is, don’t let Tibalt trick you into putting this in your deck.
When they gave Tibalt a good card in this set panic quickly set in at r&d about Tibalt not having a bad card – and thus his trickery was born. Although a unique effect in Red with some amusing constructed applications, in limited it’s just as likely to make the situation worse as it is better.
Toralf, God of Fury
Wow another modal God that’s really good, I know it’s a real shock to you folks at home. A 4 mana 5/4 Trample that makes your Squashes terrifying is really good, and then the equipment gives you a reasonably efficient 4 mana way to keep blowing away your opponent’s creatures or burning their face turn after turn. You’re not going to have many Legendary creatures, so you should probably basically never play this for the +3/+0 – if the Legendary dies, you won’t have a second one to carry the buff.
I suspect you’ll play Toralf most of the time, as a big threatening creature, and then the Equipment will be a gamewinning late game play that forces them to win soon or lose almost every longer game.
Red has a two higher-damage spells at common which make Toralf’s front half not terribly unlikely to earn you two for ones left and right – curving into a Squash will make for a hard game to lose. It’s efficiently costed at 4 on curve even without the synergy, and if you get late enough in the game 6 mana a turn to deal 3 damage to anything is the perfect game ender. The +3/+0 section will probably be flavour text in most games as legendaries won’t be at hand most games, but even then the activation is probably more powerful regardless. The combination of these synergies however makes for a very potent card wherever you are in the game, and I especially like that returning to your hand lets you aim to seal out the game quickly once the coast is clear by re-casting the creature.
This isn’t a great set for Short Sword, since it’s full of big creatures and high power low toughness units – often the buff won’t be enough to get you through unless you’re putting it on literally Fearless Pup (these two cards have pretty good synergy, but you do have to draw them both very early in the game for the Helm to be doing that much as later on, you can just use the Pup’s activated ability anyway). Still, you don’t need to enable that many attacks for this to be good, it’s good with fliers or anything that’s hard to block, and it’s one of the best targets to put Runes on in the set, so it’s a much better pick if you already have a couple of those.
Short sword doesn’t gain much from the additional one damage, but with the low equip cost you might be able to make it add up and it certainly helps. It can do just enough to justify it’s existence but I’d never want to play two and there are better equipment at common.
This is a bit hard to cast compared to Demon Bolt (which I’m realising is a pretty weird name for a card, how do Demons and Lightning Bolts interact?), and sorcery speed makes it a good deal worse.
If you’re in Izzet or Gruul, this mana refund ability is pretty nice if you have easy to cast stuff to immediately put it into – remember it only gives you colourless mana, so to run this into a Red spell will cost you triple Red, which you won’t have most of the time, so it’ll more often be Foretell costs artifacts, equip costs, or spells of your other colour, and sometimes it just won’t do anything. Still, the base case is good and sometimes this will cost effectively 1 mana, at which point it can be a real blowout.
Don’t worry about being snow – this is just efficient removal regardless. Only the first sentence will matter most of the time, but if you do get a free mana or two from the snow it will be pretty efficient but it still doesn’t match Demon Bolt’s foretell utility and even has to be sorcery speed for the privilege. That said, it’s still well priced removal so I’ll always play it.
This is a strong red common, which compares pretty well to Grotag Night-Runner – you always get to exile a card even if you don’t deal damage, and even if you trade then you’re hopefully still getting value. I suspect most of the time, you’ll just be trying to get a 2 for 1 with this, since it’s pretty expensive to use a removal spell or trick to get it through and then hope to cast whatever you get, but you can at least exile first and see if you want to – if it’s a land, which you can play off this (which is huge!), then you might be able to do that whole sequence after all. I think you should be able to get a 2 for 1 enough that this is a very solid card, though it being a 3/2 in a set with lots of 2/1s means it’s going to trade too much for me to put it in the B range.
This is a fantastic card to put Raven Wings and Rune of Fli- okay, you get the point.
This is a pretty exciting boast ability. Make sure you don’t play your land before attacking or you’ll feel very sad, but a 3/2 that promises to replace itself in most situations at some point is pretty enticing. Make a conscious effort to ensure you can afford the mana costs with whatever mana you have before you trade as it’s worth holding back to get that free card. I expect this will replace itself most of the time, but it’s a little awkward on the activation given you don’t know what you’ll hit – if you’re at turn 6 and hit a 2 drop and you have a 4 drop in hand is that worthwhile tempo? It’s still good enough to be a great addition to any red deck but think before you trade and activate.
This is mostly a 2 mana 1/3, which can be an okay blocking statline against more aggressive Red and White decks in the format, but is pretty underwhelming. The ability to fix you is nice, but takes a while to set up and only really makes this worth playing if you have good some splash cards or really need more defensive 2s. It’s a shame it can’t exile from your opponent’s graveyard, since it would at least hose some Black decks a bit that way.
I think this card will play a lot worse than it looks. The body isn’t what Red wants most of the time and by the time you have creatures in your graveyard skipping ahead a turn on mana will matter a lot less. There are a few treasure themes so picking a Magda, Brazen Outlaw does make me more excited to play this, as it can make her final ability more likely to resolve. You might also have a powerful splash that this can help enable if you have a few sources. Overall, you need to be looking for a good reason to play the dwarf before it makes your deck.
Red kind of has the space to do whatever it wants this set, since it has powerful burn spells and good common quality, meaning it’s well-prepared for lots of different games. I see beatdown and slower decks as both viable and potentially strong. Red’s burn spells are exceptional this set, because it has the tools to cover big and small creatures alike – there aren’t as many sweet spots for toughness against it for other colours to exploit. I suspect 5 is still a sweet spot, since only Squash hits that (and Squash will often cost 5 mana) so perhaps the 5 toughness creatures in other colours will be tough to handle (not that there are all that many).
I think slower Red decks will want to incorporate Boast, since it’s Red’s most powerful value tool. There’s kind of a weird dynamic with the slower Red decks, since Boast encourages them to have cheap and efficient tricks, but it doesn’t really have good ones, and tricks don’t generally go that well in slower decks. Still, removal will get the job done well enough, even if it’ll sometimes be too costly to remove something and then use a boast ability (though not with Frost Bite, and sometimes not with Demon Bolt!).
Boast doesn’t seem as good in beatdown decks, since it’s an inefficient form of value generation, but they’ll certainly still play the Boast cards with decent statlines. Aggressive Red this set looks it’ll be exploiting a bunch of common haste creatures to apply a lot of pressure very quickly, and then back it up with fliers and reach from other colours, or the uncommon burn sources it has access to. Boros seems like the natural home for aggression, benefitting from Red’s good cheap spells with second spell per turn payoffs, and some strong evasive Foretell creatures.
I fear one issue that Red has is that, though it has a Giants theme in theory, it doesn’t actually have very many and you’ll often have to venture into Izzet or incorporate Green’s changelings to have enough support. This wouldn’t normally be that big a problem, but a lot of its creatures this set are kind of understatted – most of them are 3/2s or 2/1s, or have abilities that hamper their blocks, so I think a big Red deck might want to get most of its creatures from colours with better blocking statlines on turns 3 and 4 (which notably Blue is good at this set).
Izzet seems like far and away the best colour combination for Red, since it has the most direct synergy in the form of the Giants deck and covers some of its weaknesses – such as that the slower Red decks don’t have all that much card advantage if they’re not getting Boast creatures through repeatedly (which will be pretty hard to do). Gruul also seems pretty strong, since Green will provide a much stronger creature core and better statlines, and has the potential to drive aggressive and slower Red alike.
Red is another colour that I expect to be defined by its common removal, with Demon Bolt at B+, Squash at B, and Frost Bite at B- all vying for the top common slots. Red does have quite a few cards at C+ this time around, meaning you should get decks with higher overall card quality. These cards are spread a little around various strategies, and although they will all be competing for the same removal, there’s a bit of flexibility around which ones they want specifically.
Red has the tools to be aggressive this set, but also has a few ways to generate value at common such as Tuskeri Firewalker & Hagi Mob, and access to some larger creatures, meaning Red has more of the tools necessary to support a longer gameplan than it does most sets. Between Foretell letting you set up to do more things on a later turn than normal and some powerful uncommons that take advantage of that, I expect some explosive turns later in the games, but turn 3 and 4 generally aren’t Red’s time to shine. Overall, with the good selection of removal, payoffs in the later game, and foretell + haste’s ability to set up explosive turns later on, Red seems well set up to play flexible and dynamic games this set, which has me more excited to play mountains than normal.
This does mean you want to know your gameplan and stick to it though. Cinderheart Giant & Breakneck Berserker are both reasonable cards by themselves, but they will rarely want to occupy the same deck – one wants to finish the game quickly and the other is a hedge to those later turns. Limited is always a flexible beast and every draft or sealed pool is different, but be aware what your decks overall game plan is like, more than normal when playing Red, and pick accordingly.