Journey into Nyx: Playing to your Weaknesses – Red
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
Red has the best instant speed removal in the set, but it also has some of the weakest/slowest creatures. It also has a problem dealing with larger creatures in green. As a support color it’s pretty good, but it also has the distinction of being part of the worst color combination in limited: blue and red. Will Journey into Nyx change that at all now that Keranos has been added into the mix? Hmmm, let’s see . . .
Journey into Nyx seems to have added more raw power to their red cards, pushing the color more into the midrange strategy than the past sets that had more heroic cards. Wildfire Cerberus is a neat card that has a Pyroclasm effect when it goes monsterous. This can be extremely powerful against a deck with a lot of 2 toughness creatures like a heroic deck, and it also can also hit an opponent for two damage which can be important later on. The cerberus would fit in a GR deck perfectly with a little bit of ramp from a Voyaging Satyr or Golden Hind, but it would be a solid card in a red/x midrange deck like BR or UR as well. The only red strategy I’d be hesitant to use it in is a heroic one. Five mana makes it harder to cast when you’re trying to keep your mana curve down. Red’s aggressive creatures are usually drafted early for RW heroic decks, but if you’re goal is to go midrange then you could probably take this as pick 6 or 7. It would be a decent finisher.
The Sigiled Skink is a roleplayer card. It fits well in heroic, midrange, control . . . just about any strategy. It fits perfectly on your mana curve, gives you scry when it attacks (he’d be pretty good in a R/x heroic deck), and his power level is well balanced. It’s not a first pick in draft, but I would take him as my 6th card because of his utility. Building up useful 2 and 3 drop creatures in draft lets you put pressure on opponents early while also giving you targets for cheap bestow creatures. A decent choice for a two drop in sealed too.
Red finally gets an aggressive 1 drop to match white’s Hoplites. Akroan Crusader sometimes saw play in fast red decks, but that 1/1 body never made investing too many spells to trigger his heroic worth it. The Satyr Hoplite on the other hand works really well with a turn 2 Dragon Mantle or Ordeal. This card makes RW heroic even more dangerous. If you have the tools in your sealed pool to build a decent Red/x heroic deck, you should definitely play him. Otherwise he’s better left as a 22nd-23rd card to help lower your curve. As for draft, get your hands on some other strong heroic cards before getting him. I could see him being a 7th-8th pick, if not later depending on what you manage to draft by that choice.
Another good strive card for limited. Aside from the black one, I think they are all solid cards. Red isn’t traditionally a trample color (I see it more as a green ability). Not that I’m complaining of course. This card is going to help you push through A LOT of damage the later in the game you play it. It’s amazing in heroic decks, and also not a bad addition to a red midrange deck if you’re lacking evasion or other ways to push damage through. If you’re stuck with all those 5/2 and 6/3 creatures that repeatedly get chump blocked, try this card out. It’s a decent 8th-9th pick in draft if you’re setting up a heroic deck, but otherwise you can pick it up later.
The fact that it’s a “bear” (a 2/2 body for 2 mana) isn’t the reason this card is good in limited, the reason it’s good is because you can bestow it for a VERY aggressive 3 mana. Deathbellow Raider is a 2/3 minotaur that has the draw back of having to attack each turn, but he still sees a decent amount of play, especially in red aggro decks. Playing this on turn 3 can really hurt an opponent, especially if they had a slow start. The Warhound adds another dangerous card to RW heroic’s arsenal and makes having decent 2 and 3 drops in your deck even more important in order to combat it. I think it’s a great card for draft despite its drawback if only because it gives you so much raw power early on in the game. Suddenly a bestowed Deathbellow attacking for 4 on turn 3 doesn’t seem so bad!
There isn’t anything as scary as Voice of Resurgence in Theros limited play, but Magma Spray still gives you incredible value for 1 mana. It’s much better than the 1 mana Spark Jolt from Theros, and makes Bolt of Keranos much worse at 3 mana and sorcery speed. It hits quite a lot of creatures; Agent of Horizons, almost all of the Archetypes, Nimbus Naiad . . . the list goes on and on. The draw back is that it only hits creatures. In limited there are plenty of targets to hit this with, so I think its worth playing if you’re in red. I wouldn’t draft it higher than black removal if you were going BR, but sometimes it could act as a combat trick of sorts. If you’re playing a fast deck, play this so you can remove your opponent’s blocker early. It works great on mana creatures in a ramp deck, such as Voyaging Satyr and Opaline Unicorn. Not amazing, but worth a spot in your 23 if you don’t have a Lightning Strike or Magma Jet.
Big, beefy, brutal. He’s a finisher, simple and easy. This guy is going to be on the top end of your GR, BR, or UR deck. He’s much better than having the 5/2 cyclops or other equally as fragile beater. I’d say he’s a solid 6 or 7th pick in draft if you’re going midrange. He’s very difficult to block, and also difficult to kill.
Yikes, this card can get out of hand in the right pool. It has a nice 4/2 body, but also lets you ping your opponent or their creatures each time an enchantment enters the battlefield. I really like this in Red/Blue because blue has a lot of creatures that return enchantments to your hand such as the 3/4 Riptide Chimera, and a card like Hubris lets you load somebody up, return them to your hand, then drop the enchantment creatures afterwards to finish off the other creatures. You could do some need combat tricks with this card. Your opponent will have to be very careful when blocking or they just might get taken out by a 1/2 Nyxborn Shieldmate! This also combos well with cards like Heliod that put enchantment creatures into play. Each time you make a cleric you can can ping your opponent for 1 damage! Great card in sealed, maybe a 3rd or 4th pick in draft.
When one card gives you 2 creatures, it’s considered a good card to play in limited, especially if they are 2/3 creatures with haste. Even a card like Trostani’s Summoner in RTR block could be considered a powerful limited card because it put FOUR creatures into play with 10 power in all. It’s not a card you’d want to play in a heroic deck, but it’s very good in other red midrange decks. The card is absolutely bonkers if you can get any of the Minotaur anthem effects like Felhide Petrifier, Rageblood Shaman, or Kragam Warcaller. I think it will be powerful in both sealed and draft, and would probably take it as my 4th or 5th pick.
It’s not as cheap as Purphoros’s Hammer, but the cyclops isn’t too shabby either. A 5/3 with haste for 6 mana that gives everybody else haste. The more large creatures you have, the more dangerous it becomes. That means he’s a good card to have in Green/red, but also in UR if you have some flyers that can attack right away. Giving everybody haste also allows you to time when to play cards with Inspire as well. You can attack when your opponent is open, then get the benefit of the inspire trigger next turn. A solid 7th pick in draft, good card for sealed.
Intimidate on a red creature isn’t as good as having it on a black creature, but it’s still evasion nonetheless. If you’re opponent isn’t running GR midrange or RW heroic, you should have no problem ripping the other player apart. It’s fairly costed and aggressive, and I’d recommend it in both your sealed and draft deck.
Alpha Strike for the win! It’s amazing in heroic decks, letting you trigger everybody very cheaply, but it’s main use is to clear a path for your attackers. Most of the time you’ll find it very effective at 4 mana. If you curve out well in an aggressive red deck, this could end the game on turn 4 or 5. I’d recommend it for aggressive decks, but it wouldn’t be bad in a GR or BR deck either when you want to push your finisher’s damage through.
Other Cards that Might see Play
- Font of Ire – It’s 5 damage to a player for 4 mana, that’s not too bad. However, I’d rather have a creature in its place unless I knew my opponent was playing a slow deck.
- Riddle of Lightning – it could be really good if you scry and find a 5 mana card! It could also be bad if you only drew land or a 2 mana cost card.
- Rollick of Abandon – this could be a board wipe against smaller, weaker decks, but it could also act as a red Overrun of sorts. It’s a double edged sword. I think it’s better in a midrange deck than a heroic deck though. Heroic creatures tend to top out at around 2-3 toughness.
Coming up Next
Red gives us a lot more burn to work with and much better creatures than Born of the Gods. I think BR, GR, and UR will be more playable in this format than before. Red isn’t quite on par with blue, but I feel it is much better than black this time around. It’s not strong enough to be a main color, but its creatures and spells fill their roles nicely as support. The color has a fun bag of tricks that will add a lot more flavor and trickery to the limited format.
I realize that it’s hard to discern which cards are better than others in draft, especially when I said that a number of cards would be a 4th-6th pick. I think it would be easier to just categorize each recommendation high, mid, or low draft priority. That way you should be able to recognize if you need to take it out of the pool early, let it go around, or to leave it until the end. If you can suggest any better way at rating cards, I’m all ears. Next time I’ll be covering green, and by Friday I should have the remaining cards evaluated as well. Thanks for reading and check back soon for the next article!