A Whole New World: MTG After Rotation – Innistrad Block Red Cards
Note: “A Whole New World” is a series of articles that I do before each block rotates out of standard. In these articles, I take a look at all of the cards that will no longer be standard tournament legal, and speculate whether or not they will be returning to future sets or have no chance of being reprinted any time soon. I will also talk about which cards to hold on to, and which cards NOT rotating will be affected by these changes.
With the Theros pre-release just 11 days away (and the full spoiler due out in less than a week), it’s probably a good idea to speed through these last 3 articles. In today’s article I’ll be talking about red cards we will be saying good bye to. How will control decks be affected? What about GR blitz decks? Is mono red still going to be viable? I’ll be covering all that in more, so read on to see what red is losing and how it will affect the metagame.
The Top 10 Rotating Red Cards from Innistrad Block
- Searing Spear
- Thundermaw Hellkite
- Pillar of Flame
- Bonfire of the Damned
- Lightning Mauler
- Stromkirk Noble
- Blasphemous Act
- Volcanic Strength
- Vexing Devil
I believe the biggest loss from red after rotation is going to be Searing Spear. I don’t understand why they keep taking cards like this away. We had Incinerate in past core sets that was deemed to powerful thanks to it’s “no regenerate” clause, and even when you take that way Spear is still deemed to playable. Yes we have Shock and Magma Jet at instant speed post Innistrad block, and there is also Mizzium Mortars to hit for 4 damage, but I feel like we’re losing a key part of aggro strategies here. We might see a reprint in the future when Wizards deems Incinerate too strong for the metagame, so don’t get rid of your copies just yet. I think it will cycle back in occasionally. Annihilating Fire is another instant speed burn spell that could see more play, but I think decks like mono red will just go with x4 Shock and x4 Magma Jet instead. Burn strategies will see a slight dip in power, or will become slower in order to accommodate powerful two color spells like Warleader’s Helix.
The loss of Thundermaw Hellkite is going to really hurt midrange red decks like Big Red, Naya, BR midrange, and Gruul midrange. It routed Lingering Souls out of the last 3 months of standard, and punished players that didn’t run flyers in their deck to block it. Thundermaw Hellkite saw tons of play in the Return to Ravnica block, and was a dominant force since October of last year. I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of him though. Dragons seem to be making a comeback in standard now with cards like Scourge of Valkas, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a reprint in the next block to keep building on this archetype. M15, or the next block after Theros seems like a good time for a comeback. If not, I still think we’ll see him again in a few years, so if you haven’t sold your copies yet, hold onto them. If you want to replace him in your red midrange deck, Stormbreath Dragon from Theros is a good choice. The Theros Dragon just might end up being better, even without Hellkite’s enter the battlefield ability and one less power. We’ll see!
The most obvious replacement for Hellrider is Thorncaster Sliver, but that limits you to only playing Sliver decks (which I think will rise in popularity after rotation). I believe that Ogre Battledriver will be the best replacement for him in red decks, especially if you’re playing with a token producer like Young Pyromancer. The red god, Purphorous would also be a good choice in the 4 drop of red decks, but his price tag might limit how much play he’ll see in mono red decks. I think decks like GR blitz, BR aggro, and mono red will be struggling to find their new identity post rotation because of all the choices they have. Hellrider seems like it could be reprinted in the future, but I don’t think he’ll be back any time soon. He doesn’t necessarily have to be reprinted in another Innistrad block, so we could see him back in as little as 3 years. Might be a good idea to hold onto your copies.
The main reason Pillar of Flame is on this list is because of Voice of Resurgence. Sure all of the undying cards like Geralf’s Messenger and Strangleroot Geist are rotating out and the Pillar won’t be as effective at sorcery speed, but without it the Voice could run rampant. Shock or Magma Jet will be able to kill the Voice before that first attack phase, but your opponent is still going to get an Elemental token. Most people probably won’t want to play it, but if Voice of Resurgence dominates the metagame, Annihilating Fire might see some play in standard. There’s a good chance we could see this in a future core set, so don’t despair that you pimped out your previous red deck with foil and promo ones. This should make playing red control decks like UWR or Grixis (UBR) a little trickier, but I think players will get around it.
Bonfire was downright oppressive during it’s reign in the Innistrad/Scars of Mirrodin block. GR aggro with Primeval Titan and tons of other ramp spells was already not fun to play against, but the addition of Bonfire of the Damned just made you want to quit Magic. It went up as far as $50 in value and held that price well into the new set thanks to UWR midrange’s use of it, and it wasn’t until Gatecrash came out along with faster strategies and different playables that it went down in price. The card is down to the $10-15 now and dropping, but it’s still seeing a decent amount of play in Red control decks and Jund control. Luckily for those of us who don’t play with it, it won’t see a reprint for more than 8 years, if at all. Mizzium Mortars will be the new board wipe of choice for red, but it tops out at 4 damage and doesn’t hit the player. This is going to make it tougher in a standard format with tons of monstrous creatures, and it will lead to more drawn out games without the direct damage to players as well. I think Jund will be hurt the most by this card rotating out, but Naya midrange will be hurting a little bit too.
The loss of these next two cards is going to greatly diminish the power of mono red and GR decks. Without the speed of Flinthoof Boar or Lightning Mauler to let you attack for 6+ damage on turn 2, it’s going to be really difficult for aggro decks to push through early damage. Stromkirk Noble frequently became a downright killer when dropped early and not blocked, and his semi-protection from humans was useful in a human heavy format. Rakdos Cackler or Experiment One might see more play in GR without the Noble in standard anymore, and I think we could also see Ash Zealot make a comeback in red aggro decks without the Mauler taking up the two spot. Without the full Theros spoiler list to look at, it’s hard to say if GR blitz is still going to be a viable deck, but from my viewpoint it looks like the decks are going to get slower and add in more beefy creatures. Ghor-Clan Rampager is still legal, so GR will in no way fade away. The Noble might see a reprint in the future, but I don’t think that Lightning Mauler will be back again due to its Soulbound keyword.
Blasphemous Act initially saw little play and was a junk rare for the longest time, but with the printing of Boros Reckoner in Gatecrash it became a game winner. I don’t know how many times I thought I was safe sitting at 17 life when my opponent dropped this with a Boros Reckoner in play to end the game. I don’t know if you really need to replace a card like this, but the closest thing you’re going to get is a Mizzium Mortars overloaded now. Wait and see what comes out for Theros. I think rotation will hurt RBW decks, but not as much as the other cards they are losing like Olivia Voldaren and Lingering Souls. It’s possible that we will see it in a future set, so hold onto your copies for the future. I’d give it 3-5 years.
The loss of Volcanic Strength is going to be felt the most in mirror match ups between various red decks. Theros will be adding in a lot of Bestow creatures that will help you to power up your creatures and to hit hard with them, but it looks like it will be lacking ways to push that damage through. Less trample, no land walk abilities . . . this isn’t going to be a huge loss for red, but it’s going to slow down mirror aggro battles a bit and make them more grindy or turn it into a game of luck where whomever draws the best card first wins.
The last card on my list today is Vexing Devil. He saw a little play in mono red decks, and even enjoyed flirting in Jund aggro decks alongside Varolz, the Scar Striped, but never really broke out of the sidedboard. He seems to be becoming more popular in older formats so it might be worth holding onto your copies of him. He’s not totally barred form ever returning to standard either. It will be a while, but I bet he’ll show up again in the future in a set that can support his ability more than Avacyn Restored did.
It seems like aggro strategies will be hit the hardest with the rotation of these red cards. We’ll see less powerful spells, but more powerful creatures taking center stage in October, and these weaker red cards left in standard might not be able to cut it. It might be time for Gruul’s Clan Defiance or Boro’s Aurelia’s Fury to shine since Mizzium Mortars just isn’t going to cut it against monstrous creatures and gods. Green and multicolor are coming up later this week, so check back before the weekend for the next installment of A Whole New World. Feel free to leave any comments/suggestions about other cards I might have missed in this article!