Theros Beyond Death Limited Set Review – Red

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Theros Beyond Death Limited Set Reviews


Welcome back to the MTG Arena Zone Set Review with Drifter & Compulsion! Today, we’ll be doing the color of impulse and anger; it seems as though those emotions are going to feed the nightmares we saw from Black yesterday and make them even wilder and more ferocious…

Legend

The Akroan War

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Drifter: A

This saga is very weird to evaluate for Limited, but everything it does is very good and I suspect it will demand Enchantment removal. The second and third ability synergise incredibly well, and will be an absolute blowout if it doesn’t get removed by then. The first ability helps a lot in surviving until then, you can set it up so the creature you steal dies also, and it’s great with the bunch of common and cheap sacrifice effects in Black, ensuring you get a lot of value even if the saga itself is removed. This is a fantastic splash in Golgari, and probably good enough to splash in any green/x combination.

Compulsion: A

This isn’t as situational as it may seem. Stealing a creature for two turns is a powerful effect even if it can’t attack right away. If that leaves your opponent with an empty board and they keep it empty, that means you get two turns of attacks with no blockers. Best case scenario it forces your opponent into bad attacks, their board gets wiped, and you are able to either trade or sacrifice the creature you stole before they get it back.

Anax, Hardened in the Forge

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Drifter: B

It’s a shame the Satyrs can’t block, but other than that Anax is fantastic. He will often have 4 power himself, ensuring you get two Satyrs when he dies and he’s great with any other 4/x creatures. He’s especially good in Gruul and Rakdos – Gruul because there are more 4/xs, and Rakdos because it makes best use of the Satyrs in sacrificing them, and can sacrifice Anax if he gets some nasty opposing Enchantment put on him also.

Compulsion: B

Anax is an ideal creature for a deck that wants to lean in to Red and put on some serious early pressure. There could very well be many ‘durdly’ decks in the format, especially early on until players are able to refine some of the more intricate archetypes. Adding Black provides removal support and great sacrifice outlets that make use of the satyrs. Green provides 4+ power creatures but you will mostly be relying on the Red removal. Boros also looks to be Aggro (as usual) with a go-wide strategy supported by Auras. It will be interesting to see how that fares against the arsenal of removal Black has available to it. Anax, at least, gets you a ‘one up’ over removal even if it comes out immediately.

Arena Trickster

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Drifter: C+

The obvious home for this card is in Izzet, where it’s nuts, but Red has 5 instants and flash cards of its own at common to choose from, most of good quality. If you are in Izzet already, you should take this card at B-, as it will practically always demand removal and you’ll be able to protect it well.

Compulsion: C+

This is only a good card in UR, but I think it will be almost as good as Spellgorger Weird. Most colors seem to have gotten a four mana 3/3 with an ability at common, and this is the best one.

Aspect of Manticore

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Drifter: D

Aspect of Manticore is very expensive for what it does. If it granted first strike permanently, the card would be quite strong but as is it’s going to be pretty easy to play around and the payoff isn’t great. Even in Blue, I don’t think this will be really what you’re looking for. I consider this a high D, since some aggressive decks will be okay to have it especially in White where it triggers the heroic mechanic, but it’s still not great. Be careful not to run into this card yourself if they have 3 mana open in Red!

Compulsion: D

Here is yet another combat trick to be aware of. This is not a card I am trying to play, though. It is basically a more expensive Sure Strike that provides one less power. Keeping the +2/+0 is not that exciting since the First Strike goes away.

Blood Aspirant

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Drifter: C+

This is strong with the Omen cycle, an exceptionally good playable in Rakdos, with tokens, or if you have recursive auras like Sentinel’s Eyes, but you should have a clear plan for getting +1/+1 counters on this card – it’s not a great playable in every deck certainly. I still think taking it quite highly is reasonable, however.

Compulsion: C+

This is a good playable in Rakdos, but I think he might be more trouble than he is worth unless you have some ways to get counters on him without activating the ability.

Careless Celebrant

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Drifter: B

This card is about the best 2 drop you can get. It can attack into x/4s, it threatens to 2 for 1 very easily with small creatures, it’s fine sacrifice fodder, and it remains relevant in the late game.

Compulsion: B

This is a high quality 2-drop that threatens to trade with 4 toughness creatures or destroy two weaker ones by itself. The downside is worse 1 or 2 drops can shut it down to some extent, but I would still be happy to run this in any Red deck.

Dreamshaper Shaman

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Drifter: C

This card is expensive and understatted enough that many decks won’t want it, and that there are better 6 drops like Blight-Breath Catoblepas you can get in Rakdos, its natural home. That being said, the ability is very powerful and upgrading even the 2 drops you have lying around is strong.

Compulsion: C+

Okay I think this is a pretty insane effect to Ramp in to if you are playing Gruul. It is probably too expensive for other decks but if this card isn’t removed quickly it will completely take over the game, and that is exactly what is required from cards that cost this much mana.

Dreamshaper Manticore

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Drifter: B

There are enough instants and flash cards at Common in just Red to make the Manticore a solid card in most decks. The ability to ping things down for free is really strong against a lot of decks, and there are plenty of solid targets for it in the format. Remember that you can also block with a creature, ping the attacker, and trade up. This coupled with the fact that it’s busted in Izzet, and triggers 4 power synergy means that the Manticore is really solid.

Compulsion: B

Dreamstalker Manticore is a tool for Izzet, and seems pretty good. 4/2 is an awkward body, but getting it for 3 mana is a fine deal. Consistent 1 damage pings are a nice bonus in Limited as well. This is one of quite a few cards that dish out 1 damage, so I would be wary about playing 1 toughness creatures in this format.

Escape Velocity

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Drifter: D

This card is really bad in the average deck, and you should only consider playing it in decks with a lot of heroic triggers in Boros, or decks that really want the repeatable source of Enchantment/Enchantment sacrifice synergy. If you don’t know your deck is one of these, you’re better off avoiding this card.

Compulsion: D

This is a lot like Crystal Slipper in that it is generally not worth a card.

Fateful End

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Drifter: B

This is good and efficient removal, and it’s nice that it can also hit players.

Compulsion: B

Fateful End may not scream ‘premium removal’ but you have to consider the whopping number of important creatures that die to this and how well it punishes Auras. It is more expensive and a higher rarity than Jaya’s Greeting for that reason! Blue decks would love to splash this card as well.

Final Flare

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Drifter: C+

This card is strong if you have a good number of tokens, enter the battlefield enchantments like Omens, and recursive enchantments with low escape costs. It’s also great against enchantment removal, allowing you to still make use of your locked down creatures and if you happen to have 3 mana up in Izzet for example, you can use it in response to hard removal. All in all, this is going to be a solid card in most decks and I would take it pretty highly. You do need to have a plan for playing this card wherein you’re not sacrificing a real card to it, but that should be easy enough.

Compulsion: C+

This is better than it looks due to all of the enchantments and creature tokens in the set. It’ll probably do the best in Rakdos but should be able to find synergy within any Red deck.

Flummoxed Cyclops

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Drifter: D

Reach on a creature that can’t block a lot of the time is not very relevant. The power of 4/4s for 4 is in their ability to block. This card only belongs in aggressive decks or those that want extra 4 power synergy. I considered high D or low C, but the downside is bad enough that I prefer this for now.

Compulsion: C

A 4 mana 4/4 that usually can’t block seems like a decent deal in Red, as for the most part you don’t want to be blocking. The ability may lose you some races but an Aggro deck curving out into this seems pretty scary.

Furious Rise

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Drifter: C+

This is mostly a Gruul card and it’s very strong there, but I would play it in any deck where I had at least five or six 4+ power creatures and it is entirely dependent on that. There are plenty at Common, and if you can get just one trigger you’re doing well and with two triggers, it’s a complete blowout. You should take this card even higher if you’re already in Green and looking for your second colour.

Compulsion: C

I like this card more in Sealed as long as you have several cards that trigger it. It is a fine playable in Draft as well, but requires some building around. If a Gruul deck in particular is coming together and this shows up I would happily draft it, but I can imagine a lot of Red decks that will not want this card.

Hero of the Games

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Drifter: D

There are some Boros decks where this card will be fine, but the base rate is dismal. 3 mana 3/2 is a statline that trades for most 2 drops, and the ability, while okay if you can go wide, is not incredibly exciting in most decks. I would consider this a high D though.

Compulsion: C

I like this card quite a bit in Boros. There are a multitude of combat tricks to save this thing in combat which mitigates the 2 toughness downside in the stat line. I still don’t think it is an early pick but you could do a lot worse than this at 3-drop if you are playing Aggro.

Heroes of the Revel

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Drifter: C

Heroes of the Revel goes well in any aggressive deck that doesn’t already have too many 5 drops, and badly in any other deck. The Satyr is only good upside if you are able to attack with it, and that will usually mean your opponent is on the backfoot – not blocking is a huge downside.

Compulsion: C

It looks like Red gets two heroes along with White. I am not sold on this one due to the five mana cost, though. This is a borderline D for me.

Impending Doom

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Drifter: F

This card is a combination of a bad buff for your creatures, and a really bad way to get blockers out of the way. Any creature you put this on is going to be a major threat that you likely won’t be able to deal with that easily so that mode is a huge desperation play. If you buff your own creatures with it, you open yourself up to being 2 for 1ed by removal and take a bunch of damage if you are. I think this card is too situational even for aggressive decks, too much has to go right for it to do anything.

Compulsion: F

This card is really bad. Vanilla +3/+3 Auras for 3 are bad filler and this is even worse.

Incendiary Oracle

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Drifter: C

The Oracle is a pretty solid 2 drop – firebreathing means it threatens to trade up and will be able to do some free damage, and it stays semi-relevant in the late game. The ability to turn off Escapes is some nice upside.

Compulsion: C

Grizzly Bear with an okay ability? C. I think it interacts pretty well but try not to get baited into attacking with it and activating when your opponent has mana untapped or you are likely to get blown out by a combat trick.

Infuriate

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Drifter: C+

This is an efficient trick, and synergises well with the heroic cards Red and White have and the “cast your first spell on your opponent’s turn” mechanic Blue has. As with all tricks, it’s better in aggro decks but it’ll be a fine playable in any deck.

Compulsion: C+

Infuriate was a fine playable in Core Set 2020 and I think it is going to be even better in this format. It will be tricky to balance the number of creatures and the number of combat tricks in the deck that wants this, but if done properly there is a lot of potential value.

Iroas’s Blessing

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Drifter: B

4 damage for 4 mana is a solid rate, and this has upside on top. It’s great with flicker effects, enchantment recursion and Heliod’s Pilgrim, and the small boost to your creature is nice.

Compulsion: B

This is a very good removal spell but I see being an Aura as a potential downside as you will ideally need to cast this when your opponent is tapped out even if they aren’t running Islands.

Irreverent Revelers

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Drifter: D

There aren’t enough artifacts in the set for this to be more than a medium sideboard card. 2/2 haste for 3 is a really bad rate, and you shouldn’t be looking to play this unless you’re desperate.

Compulsion: D

This is not a creature I ever want to include in my main deck. Gray Ogre with haste is just bad, and the artifact clause will almost never be relevant.

Nyxborn Brute

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Drifter: D

This is a really bad use of 5 mana – a 7/3 will generally just trade down for a 3 drop. It’s nice that it triggers your Enchantment synergies, but I still wouldn’t be happy to play this.

Compulsion: D

This is not a card I ever want to include in my deck. It isn’t unplayable but is still a low D for me.

Omen of the Forge

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Drifter: C+

Omen of the Forge is a really high C+ – it’s an efficient rate, especially great in Izzet but good in any deck and the scry is nice upside in the late game. There aren’t a lot of ways other than Shimmerwing Chimera and Flicker of Fate to bounce/flicker enchantments, but it is great with the few there are.

Compulsion: B

I like this a lot and think it is the best Red common. 2 damage hits a lot of powerful things, instant speed gives it blowout potential with all of the Auras running around, and it leaves behind an enchantment that there are numerous ways to derive value from.

Oread of Mountain’s Blaze

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Drifter: C+

This is a really solid 2 drop for any non-aggressive deck. It prevents flood in the late game, it triggers your Enchantment synergies, and it has a fine defensive statline. This is pretty low as C+s go, however.

Compulsion: C

Basically Red offers Incendiary Oracle at common if you are Aggro, and Oread of Mountain’s Blaze if you are not. At this point I think Aggro is more where you want to be if you are running Mountains. I do like this card in an Izzet deck that can utilize the Rummaging if spells on the opponents turn are not needed. However, this card would have done better in Throne of Eldraine Izzet due to the ‘draw second card’ mechanic.

Ox of Agonas

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Drifter: A

The Ox’s Escape cost is very expensive, but the base rate is incredible and will often just draw you three cards and if you don’t have many other Escape cards, the Escape will be great in the late game too and is easier to enable in Rakdos. It’s not as great in Izzet, where you’re more likely to have cards in hand. The Ox is a high A and if you have it, you want to value other Escape cards a bit lower (as with any powerful Escape that’s costly in terms of exiled cards).

Compulsion: A

I see this as a 5 mana 4/2 draw 2-3 cards. I like that the Ox can help itself escape later if your hand is garbage when you cast it. I like this a lot more in Rakdos or Boros than in Gruul, where it may get stuck in your hand if you have good stuff higher in your curve.

Phoenix of Ash

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Drifter: S

This a great 3 drop, it’ll keep coming back bigger for a very reasonable cost and it gives you a solid mana sink which will kill them very quickly. You can’t really ask much more from your bomb rares.

Compulsion: A

This reminds me of Arclight Phoenix but is likely even better. It drops a turn sooner, can pump itself, and is often going to be easier to recur than its Arclight brethren. This is close to an S for me and I would happily first pick it.

Portent of Betrayal

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Drifter: D

This is a very conditional D because the Portent is bad in most decks. If you have loads of cheap sacrifice outlets though, that is a very real combo and that’s a theme of the set – Blood Aspirant, Skophos Warleader and Final Flare (but that last one requires you to have 7 mana) are the main ways to do this in red but it’s much more likely to happen in Rakdos. There, you have access to Lampad of Death’s Vigil, Slaughter-Priest of Mogis, Soulreaper of Mogis and Dreamshaper Shaman as well. Again, don’t play this without those – it’s too situational to be worth maining in aggro decks but you can board it in if you’re against a deck with just a few beefy creatures.

Compulsion: D

This is only an option in Rakdos sacrifice, but I don’t even love it in that. Threaten effects are very situational and almost never good in Limited.

Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

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Drifter: A

Purphoros relies on his body a lot more than the other Gods – his abilities aren’t actually that exciting unless you can kill them or get sacrifice value – you don’t want to just Sneak Attack in stuff randomly, since you’re losing cards each time. Thankfully, his body is enormous and unkillable and 5 Devotion isn’t that hard to reach in Limited, but unlike other Gods, I wouldn’t be looking to splash Purphoros in nonred decks and since Red is best suited to being a support colour, there will be decks that can’t reach five devotion very easily.

Compulsion: A

This is the worst God in my opinion. Haste is fine but the ability is hardly ever going to be relevant since you should be able to cast your Red creatures (remember they have haste) by the time you have landed Purphoros on the board. Still, a 7/6 indestructible creature is no joke provided you are Red enough to reliably hit 5 Devotion.

Purphoros’s Intervention

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Drifter: A

This is efficient at every point in the curve – from 2 mana 2 damage to 3 mana 4 damage to 4 mana 6 damage. It’s easy hard removal and has another mode that you won’t use much, but can be nice if you can kill them with it.

Compulsion: A

That is a weird way to spell Fireball! But seriously, this is similar but ends up being a little worse against players and a little better against creatures. I like that it is splashable as well.

Satyr’s Cunning

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Drifter: D

I haven’t been too impressed with Red’s Escapes at common and uncommon. This would be a solid card if the Satyrs could block but only belongs in go-wide aggro decks (mostly in Boros) as it stands. This is a low D, and I considered F on it but it does have a weak niche.

Compulsion: F

I really don’t see this as being playable at all. There are some ways to get value out of 1/1’s but you will get more out of any ‘normal’ creature instead.

Skophos Maze-Warden

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Drifter: C

The Maze Warden is reasonable with an okay 3/4 for 4 statline and a strong pseudo-Firebreathing ability. It’s very difficult not to block this, as it can threaten as much as 6 damage and it’s really strong against 2/4s which can’t block or attack into it.

Labyrinth of Skophos is a rare (and not a really high pick one), and if you have it then you should take this card higher but you won’t often enough to affect the grade.

Compulsion: C

This guy isn’t going to do much fighting, but there are a lot of ways to get favorable combats out of him. If you have an Infuriate in hand he threatens 10 damage if he goes unblocked the turn after you play him (assuming you have 5 mana available).

Skophos Warleader

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Drifter: C

5/5 Menace is a strong rate and as long as you’re not sacrificing real cards to this, you’re doing great (see my Final Flare comment for more info). 5 mana 4/5 isn’t that bad a body either; I consider this a fairly high C.

Compulsion: C

I like this guy. The stats are fine and the ability isn’t going to be too difficult to activate without losing much value. He also checks the 4+ Power box for Gruul decks.

Stampede Rider

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Drifter: C

This is another card that’s mostly good in Gruul, but that I would play in any deck if I had 6+ creatures with 4 or more power. It’s worth noting it’s also a 3/4 on blocks – it says each combat, not “each of your combats”. C+ if you’re already Green, bad if you don’t have 4+ power creatures.

Compulsion: C

This Satyr pairs really well with Auras that provide at least 2 power. Note that it also gets the buff on your opponents combat.

Storm Herald

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Drifter: C+

This set is full of common auras, but red’s are really bad except Iroas’s Blessing. If you have a couple of that card or auras with good Enter the Battlefield effects in your other colours, then this is nuts, but it’s not very exciting without those and Iroas’s Blessings won’t be going late. 3/2 haste for 3 is an okay body, but not very impressive. Overall, this is a decent pick early on but not that exciting.

Compulsion: C+

I like Storm Herald in Boros but wouldn’t take him early in any other Archetype. This is one of those rares that will result in players missing out on better uncommon (or even common) cards.

Storm’s Wrath

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Drifter: A

Storm’s Wrath is great in every deck, but especially good if you aren’t aggro/have creatures with more than 4 toughness. Gruul is the ideal place for this.

Compulsion: A

Wrath effects can be a little awkward in Red, but this is sure to be a devastating spell in Theros Beyond Death and something I would always like to have in my deck.

Tectonic Giant

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Drifter: A

Tectonic Giant’s second ability is busted, and the card resists removal really well. The main problem with it is you won’t always have a clean attack, but assuming you have tricks or removal to get it through, it’s insane.

Compulsion: S

This card is ridiculous. There are a lot of options for supporting it in combat, and it is yet another spell that comes out ahead against removal, likely by an entire card!

Thrill of Possibility

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Drifter: C

Thrill is great in Izzet, with the “when you cast your first spell on your opponent’s turn” cards in red, and if you have several Escape cards. Still, the base case isn’t fantastic and it will just be okay in most decks; it’s card filtering rather than card advantage. I consider this a very high C in general, but would take it at C+ if any of those factors apply. Remember if you have a couple of Thrills, you should consider running an extra land.

Compulsion: C

This is fine but probably should have just stayed in Eldraine where it was a perhaps better with the Draw 2 mechanic. I do like that this somewhat enables Escape and can be cast on the opponents turn if you are in Blue, so it still fits in here.

The Triumph of Anax

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Drifter: C+

This Saga wants you to be ahead and beating down, but is pretty good if you are – it adds up to a lot of damage over the course of the three turns, and makes your tokens into real threats. At the end of that, you get to fight something, and hopefully by then you’ll have a good creature to fight with but do remember that your opponent will know when that’s coming and might well be prepared! With fliers or just big creatures, this can add up to a lot of damage. I don’t think Red’s aggro tools are amazing in this set, and the go-wide mechanic strikes me as not that well supported, but I’ve still given Triumph of Anax a low C+.

Compulsion: C+

I wouldn’t call this card a triumph, as it gives your opponent every opportunity to play around it. However, this is a lot of potential value for three mana, so I wouldn’t count it out.

Underworld Breach

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Drifter: C

While it’s sweet to consider the wacky things you can do with Underworld Breach, I fear the stars have to align way too much for it to do anything really busted. That being said, you can use it as a weird Regrowth where you have to cast the spell immediately in the late game, and if you have enough good cards in your deck then the Breach may well improve it or if your deck is on the cheap side, you might get two or three cheap spells. Breach works especially well in Rakdos, where it’s easier to load up your graveyard. The dream is really if you can get two cards at any point. I might be overrating this by giving it a very low C; the fact that your deck already has to be good for it to be good is a ding against it, but it is sweet and I really want to try it!

Compulsion: D

I don’t like this at all. You are going to be hard pressed to cast two spells with it and just as often you will cast zero and be scratching your head as to why you put this in your deck.

Underworld Fires

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Drifter: F

This is a sideboard only card and not that exciting of one, don’t play it in your main deck.

Compulsion: F

Yikes

Underworld Rage-Hound

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Drifter: D

This is a high D – I’m not overly happy with this card. I don’t think Red has great aggressive tools in this set, and I don’t think Boros will be great because both White and Red want to be support colours. It is good that you can recur this in the late game, but it has to be costing your opponent something for you to be accomplishing anything, and it often won’t do that. If you’re looking aggressive already, take this card at high C and be happy to play it.

Compulsion: C

I like this in an Aggro deck. Sometimes it is going to be a fairly dead draw late, but if it comes out early it is either trading or getting in for 3 until your opponent can stabilize. Having a potential 4 mana 4/2 in reserve puts it over the top, even if it has to attack.

Wrap in Flames

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Drifter: D

This is another weak aggro-only/sideboard card. It’s potentially playable in some decks and in some matchups, but I won’t be that happy to play it even in aggro. Good aggro decks don’t need to rely on really situational cards like this and I would rather just have an okay creature or trick in them. It’s easy to focus on the games in which this saves you, but there’ll be plenty of times where it rots in your hand or it just speeds up their demise a bit. This is another good sideboard card against x/1s, but just killing one with this isn’t good enough – you need to have seen 3 or 4.

Compulsion: C

Cosmotronic Wave was playable as a one of, and I think this might be as well. There are some pretty good 1 toughness creatures to kill, it opens up a free or mostly free attack, and can even trigger your Heroic creatures. It is a risk/reward sort of card to have in your deck, but this kind of effect can end some games.

Conclusions

Drifter

Red looks to be a strong support colour this format, since its cards aren’t that individually powerful but have great synergy with the green, black and blue mechanics. I think Boros will be pretty weak, as the power level and the support for the go-wide strategy/for aggro in general don’t strike me as fantastic, but any of the other three colours will be happy to have red as their counterpart. Red’s aggro cards are weak and seem like a trap. The best approach will be to be in one of the stronger main colours and then lean on Red for added removal and synergistic cards.

Compulsion

Red is a mixed bag for me. Some of the cards are quite good, but overall I don’t think I want to end up with a mostly Red deck. Red and White seem to be the most Aggro colors, and it will be interesting to see how well the go-wide creatures supported by Auras and combat tricks approach goes. I think it will be a better idea to target only the better Red cards and pair them with Black for a sacrifice/value approach, Blue for an Instants-based ‘draw-go’ gameplan, or Green for a midrange 4+ Power creature beatdown. If some of the commons (creatures in particular) we have pinned as C’s overperform, Red may end up being better than it looks.

mtgazone

Terence

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Jay
Jay
5 months ago

I was just wondering, do you guys possibly have an excel type sheet where you have all of the cards in the set and your grades? I’m a newer player and love your guys’ articles, was hoping to bring your grades along as a guide at pre-release. Thanks!

Sam
Sam
5 months ago

Fires of invention was totally unplayable? You have zero credibility

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago
Reply to  Sam

I haven’t found it to be that good in limited. Obviously it’s fantastic in constructed.

Compulsion
5 months ago
Reply to  Sam

It is unplayable in Limited, my friend. Constructed is a completely different story!

lauera9482
Andrew
5 months ago

LR gave impending doom a B, why did you guys give it an F?

Compulsion
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

Was this on the LR podcast? I just checked CB and he is only through Black so far. F may have been a little harsh but against any kind of removal or deathtouch you come out very behind. I would be surprised if he has it at more than a 2.5 in his Red article. I am open to the possibility I am sleeping on it but there is just too much removal in this set for me to feel comfortable about drafting it.

goat_token
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

Impending Doom is terrible. You don’t really want it on your creature, because you lose control of its attacks, opening yourself up for being 2-for-1’d AND bolted in the face. But you don’t really want it on your opponent’s creature either, cuz it makes them big enough to be a threat and force you to kill it, thus, again, 2-for-1’ing yourself. All for what? To bolt them? There’s much better ways to spend three mana.
I’d give it an F as well, as I can’t really see any situation where I’m picking this card in a draft.