A Whole New World: MTG after rotation – Red

How the mighty have fallen. I remember when Mono red decks dominated the metagame. During the Scars of Mirrodin block and M12 metagame last year, a lot of people used cards like Shrine of Burning Rage, Stormblood Beserker, and Grim Lavamancer, but since late 2012 they have fallen off the map almost entirely. M13 has gutted Red and very few amazing red cards were printed in the Innistrad block. Sure there are some really useful cards like Faithless Looting and Thundermaw Hellkite, but overall red has been ‘meh’. I’m really hoping that Return to Ravnica will regenerate Red.

Here are the top 10 cards that red will be losing come October:

  1. Gut Shot
  2. Inferno Titan
  3. Combust
  4. Slagstorm
  5. Whipflare
  6. Incinerate
  7. Stormblood Berserker
  8. Grim Lavamancer
  9. Arc Trail
  10. Galvanic Blast

1. Gut Shot

Bye bye Gut Shot. You’ll be missed. Being able to put you in absolutely ANY deck because of your Phyrexian mana cost is what put you at #1. This card will still see a lot of play in Modern and Legacy decks I think, but without this on turn 0/1, red is going to be lacking a lot of cards that can get rid of mana acceleration or cards like Delver of Secrets before it flips. We are also losing Galvanic Blast and Shock, making it even tougher for red to deal with first turn trouble. There aren’t any cards that can take over for this card before you have mana on the table, but once you do get one mountain on the table, your 1 mana burn spells are going to be limited to Geistflame (ISD) and Pillar of Flame (AVR). Those spells aren’t bad, but they aren’t as good as Gut Shot. Hopefully we’ll get some more 1 mana burn spells in RTR to beef up red again.

2. Inferno Titan

Scary scary scary scary. This card still sees a decent amount of play, usually in Naya or GR Pod or Beatdown decks. So much raw power built into one card, and being able to get him out on turn 3 with a mana dork, 3 mana, and a Somberwald Sage is just insane. I loved this card and he was my main beater for many months in 2011. Red is going to lose a  lot of power when he rotates out, and there are very few cards that can take over when this big guy goes. Thundermaw Hellkite does the 1 damage to all flyers when he enters the battlefield and has haste for a quick 5 damage, and Balefire Dragon does 6 damage to all creatures if it hits your opponent, but Inferno Titan is great because he can redirect that damage to planeswalkers as well and has an instant effect on the battlefield. GR and Naya decks will be affected by his absence, but they should be able to find other heavy beaters in green with no problem. With their focus more on green cards after the rotation, you might find some luck with cards that give protecting from green or target green permanents. Just a thought.

3. Combust

Combust really didn’t see much use until Restoration Angel entered the metagame. It was great against UW Delver decks, as well as Naya Pod decks that used it as a creature with evasion. Giving +X/+0 and trample to a 3/4 flyer is sick, but killing it before that damage hit is great. It couldn’t be countered and it dealt 5 damage (which kills just about every flyer in the metagame), but it’s draw back was being only able to target white and blue creatures. I’d like to see this reprinted in the future, and I think there is definitely a chance we’ll see it again, but maybe in a different form. There aren’t a lot of cards that can deal that much damage to a flyer, but Thunderbolt (AVR) is close, and also lets you target a player. Plummet (M13) from green will straight up kill a flyer without damage, and Crushing Vines (DKA) would also be a good replacement in a GR or Naya beatdown deck in the sideboard. They can be countered, but those cards would still work well in a sideboard.

4. Slagstorm

Red just keeps losing it’s board sweepers! The Titan will be gone, and so will Slagstorm. Most creatures sit at the 3 toughness or lower range and nothing was more effective at clearing the board in a BR Control or UR control deck than Slagstorm. Sword of War and Peace sorta took the wind out of Slagstorm’s sail against Delver decks, but it’s still one of the best red board damage spells out there. It hits everybody, which is more than what Rolling Temblor (ISD) does. Magmaquake (M13 will also be a good substitution for Slagstorm, and it has the bonus of killing planeswalkers, but do to the same amount of damage you’d have to put 5 mana into it (X=3 + RR). Bonfire of the Damned could also do the same amount of damage for about 4 mana, but who wants to spend $50 for a red damage spell? Not me. This card hasn’t seen much play lately because of Bonfire, but I think it will get some play in Grixis decks before the rotation. I think there is a good chance we’ll see this card again in a future set, so hold onto your copies.

5. Whipflare

My baby! No! What have you done!! I loved this card. Whenever I played against fast decks like UW Delver or humans I had 3 of these in the main deck. They could put out 5 creatures by turn 2 and it didn’t matter. It was also really useful against decks with multiple mana dorks to help accelerate their deck. Being red damage, it also took out Mirran Crusaders. Geist of St. Traft also succumbed to its fire. 2 mana to kill all small creatures is incredibly useful in the current metagame which is domianted by Delver and GR/Naya ramp decks. It does have problems against cards like Quirion Dryad in UG Delver decks, and also has no use whatsover against Dungrove Elder, but it’s still a good card. There aren’t any cards for 2 mana that will deal damage to such a wide range of creatures. Rolling Temblor (ISD) sits at 3 mana and doesn’t hit flyers, and all of the other red damage spells I mentioned above all cost too much. This is the best early board sweeper there is in the metagame right now. Hopefully something similar to it will be reprinted in the future (maybe changing the text of artifact creatures to something else?). We’ll see. Just like Slagstorm, it hasn’t seen to much play lately, but if you see any X/R control decks before October, there might be 1 or 2 in there.

6. Incinerate

“Hey, Incinerate? Pfft, that’s no problem, we got Searing Spear in M13 that does pretty much the same thing, right?” Well, you’re wrong. There is one line of text that makes Incinerate the best 2 mana burn spell in the metagame right now “creature CAN’T be regenerated this turn”. Searing Spear does only 3 damage, but if you burn a Wolfir Avenger (AVR), it can regenerate and keep slashing at you the following turn. Regenerate became a lot more important in M13, and I think it will also become important in Return to Ravnica. We’re losing the better card. Just like Wrath of God is better than Day of Judgment (because they can’t regenerate). Incinerate was in the sideboard of some Naya/GR decks, and also a mainstay of Mono Red decks in the past, and I’m sure Searing Spear will see some sideboard play, but it just wont’ be as good as Incinerate. Hopefully it will get reprinted in the future.

7. Stormblood Berserker

Stormblood Berserker was one of the main cards of Mono Red. It would drop in on the 2nd turn as a 3/3 after you pinged the player with a Goblin Fireslinger and suddenly on turn 3 you were getting an easy 3 damage each turn until your opponent got two creatures in play. It also worked great with Volt Charge (NPH) that added a counter to it with proliferate. The loss of the Berserker will only hurt Mono Red, but boy will it hurt it. Mono red is going to have to be totally redesigned with RTR since it’s losing about 80% of it’s cards with the rotation. Stormkirk Noble (ISD) has some evasion against Humans, but it’s going to be hard to replace a potential Turn 2 3/3 that has to be blocked by 2 creatures. Bloodthirst might be back in the future, so he might be back as well, but it might be a while until he graces Mono red again.

8. Grim Lavamancer

Grim Lavamancer was a great alternate 1 drop in mono red instead of Goblin Fireslinger. As you started to Shock, Incinerate, and burn everything that hit the battlefield, you could then exile the useless cards from your graveyard and deal 2 more damage with them. This card was also found mainly in mono red decks, and without out it the deck will have to find some more equally good 1 mana creatures to replace it. I guess Vexing Devil will see more play in mono red once this card rotates out (and it already has in most Mono red decks), but you usually only get one use out of him before having to sacrifice him in response to your opponents decision. He might be back in the future as well I think.

9. Arc Trail

Arc Trail has already been replaced somewhat by Flames of the Firebrand, but the draw back of that card is that it costs 1 more mana to play. It can however take care of 3 1/1 creatures at one time, which is something that Arc Trail can’t do. This was a good card and saw play mostly in Mono Red during the Scars/M12 block. I don’t think it will be back in the future, but cards similar to it (like Pyrotechnics back in the OLD OLD times) will be printed. I still don’t think cards like this will be too useful in a metagame full of big creatures, but you never know. We’ll have to see where the metagame goes when we suddenly lose all these choices when making decks.

10. Galvanic Blast

The whole reason nobody used Shock  was because of this card. It did the same thing for the same mana and at the same speed, but with metalcraft you would do 4 damage instead of 2 for 1 mana. This card was crazy useful during the Scars of Mirrodin/ M12 block but has fallen out of favor due to the current metagame and it’s army of creatures. Just as a stated up above about Gut Shot, there are going to be very few fast acting red damage spells post rotation. There will be Pillar of Flame and Geist Flame at 1, and Searing Spear at 2 mana and that will be it.

Wrap Up

Mono Red is going to be absolutely gutted with the rotation and is the deck that is going to be in the worst shape when the current red cards rotate in October. Grixis and BR control decks should be able to absorb the loss of the cards be putting in more black spells like Mutilate, and I’m sure Inferno Titan won’t be a problem to switch out with another equally bulky green 6 drop creature in ramp decks. Overall I think most decks in the metagame won’t be affected by these red cards leaving. Not having Gut Shot and red damage sweepers like Whipflare will make decks more creature heavy I think, and Mono red will probably have to focus more on creatures in the future instead of spells to get the job done. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mono Red goblins make a comeback with Krenko, Mob Boss.

I found it kind of hard to make my decisions with red in this article, so if you have any other opinions about other cards that should have been included I’d like to hear about them. Thanks again for reading today. I hope to get another color done by Sunday, and soon after that the spoilers from Return to Ravnica should start trickling out. Hopefully we’ll see some of the cards I featured in these articles come back, but don’t hold your breath.

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